Inetrnational Centre of the Roerichs

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The situation of the Nicholas Roerich Museum of the International Centre of the Roerichs (Moscow) in the light of the international standards, the international best practices and traditions related to non-governmental museums

The international standards on the protection and promotion of museums and their collections represent the most important basic principles that have been elaborated on the basis of long-term experience in the field of culture. Clearly, their thrust is evolutionary in nature.

I. The Roerichs’ Contribution

Nicholas and Helena Roerich were directly involved in the elaboration of these standards. It is well-known that the Roerich Pact is the first international treaty on the protection of cultural property – including museums – in peace-time as well as in time of armed conflicts. The Pact established rules of considerable importance which will be touched upon further, in part III of the present paper.

However, as regards the non-governmental museums in particular, and the non-governmental cultural organizations, it was not only the Roerich Pact that was of import. The public activity of Nicholas Roerich and especially the initiated by him International movement for the protection of cultural heritage under the Banner of Peace was equally of significance. The Movement gave a powerful impetus for the development of non-governmental cultural organizations in many parts of the world and for the elaboration of the corresponding rules. Nicholas Roerich regarded the Banner of Peace as the Red Cross of Culture, and therefore he introduced for the Roerich cultural organizations that worked under its symbol the rules that were already applicable to the Red Cross and Red Crescent non-governmental organizations. One of the most important of these rules was the independence of the non-governmental cultural organization. It meant that governmental bodies should not be founders or members of such organization; moreover, they should not interfere in its decisions and activity. Nicholas Roerich oftentimes wrote on the significance of the two principles or the two bases – the governmental and the non-governmental – in the field of cultural property protection; he drew a clear dividing line between them and was adamant that they should cooperate [1]. However, such cooperation is possible only when there is equality between them. In other words, the non-governmental organizations should not be subordinated to the government authorities. Nowadays this rule is a basic international standard, and it relates to all non-governmental organizations regardless of the field of their activity. The rule on the independence of the non-governmental organization – its non-subordination to the government – is enshrined in the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (including the Russian Red Cross) [2], in the Council of Europe standard-setting instruments [3] and in the Russian legislation [4]. One can find it also in the acts of UNESCO – in its directives on the partnership of UNESCO with non-governmental organizations [5]. It is stated there that the organization which may qualify as a non-governmental organization-partner of UNESCO, should not be established by a government and its purposes, functions, structure and operation should be non-governmental, democratic and non-profit-making in character [6].

The Roerichs made a valuable contribution to the elaboration of the international standards that relate not only to cultural non-governmental organizations, but also to non-governmental museums. Thus, in the Resolution of the Roerich Museum in New York, dated July 24, 1929, it is stated:

“In proclaiming the Roerich Museum as the property of the American nation, we, the Trustees of the Roerich Museum, do hereby declare it an unalterable condition thereof, that the Roerich Museum shall never be dissolved, sold nor change its name or its original purpose as a monument to the art of Nicholas Roerich; <…>

Fuгther, be it resolved that in order to insure the perpetuation of the aforesaid aims and purposes of the Roerich Museum, and in order that the desire of its Trustees, who are elected for life, shall never be altered, that each of the Trustees shall, during his lifetime, nominate his successor to office, with the confidence and purpose that the appointed successor shall carry into the future the ideals with which the founders brought the Roerich Museum into being. And, further, that each future Trustee, so appointed, and who shall himself hold his office for life, shall in turn designate his successor, thus perpetuating the destiny of this shrine to art. <…>

We, the Trustees of the Roerich Museum, do hereby make this gift to the people of America <…>” [7].

The above 1929 Resolution of the Roerich Museum in New York contains a number of important principles that later became generally accepted for all museums, including the non-governmental ones. They are as follows: the observance of the will of the donor (donors) is a must; the museum belongs to the whole nation (cultural heritage of the nation) irrespective of the fact whether it is non-governmental or state-owned; permanence of the museum as an institution – the perpetuation of this shrine to creative work. These will be considered below (in part III).

It should be added that a Permanent Committee for the advancement of the Roerich Pact was established with the non-governmental Roerich Museum in New York. The Permanent Committee was equally non-governmental, it was the coordinating centre of the International Movement for the Roerich Pact and the Banner of Peace.

Thus, owing to their work of coordination of the International Movement for the Roerich Pact and the Banner of Peace and to their public museum activity, the Roerichs made a considerable contribution to the elaboration of the principles and rules concerning the non-governmental cultural organizations as well as the non-governmental museums.

The above said should be borne in mind, and there should be the according understanding of the decision of Svetoslav Roerich as regards his heritage. When Svetoslav Roerich transferred the heritage of Nicholas and Helena Roerich to his Motherland, i.e. to the founded by him in Moscow non-governmental International Centre of the Roerichs (ICR), it was not by chance that he insisted on the non-governmental status and on the independence of the ICR and its museum, on their non-subordination to the government body in charge of culture. Furthermore, when Svetoslav Roerich made this decision he also took into account the difficult destiny in the USSR of the heritage given in the late 1950s to the Soviet government by his brother, the outstanding orientalist George Roerich. George Roerich’s heritage comprised hundreds of paintings by Nicholas Roerich and due to the decisions of the respective Soviet government authorities these works of art turned out to be inaccessible to the public at large. Thus, Svetoslav Roerich gave to his Motherland in 1989 not only the heritage of his great parents, but also the evolutionary non-governmental organizational form of culture, which was capable to accept this heritage, to preserve it and to develop it in the name of the future of Russia and the Culture of the world.

II. Some problems of the contemporary International Roerich Movement in light of the international standards concerning the non-governmental organizations

Since the issue of the international standards relating to non-governmental organizations was touched upon in the preceding section, let us point out here to some important aspects.

The so called “non-governmental organization” National Roerich Committee (NRC) envisages inter alia governmental bodies as its founding members, including the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation [8]. In other words the NRC (in the making) complies neither with the Russian legislation nor with the international standards concerning the non-governmental organizations, since this organization – regardless of its name – is in effect under the control of the state and is not non-governmental in the true sense of this word. It is worth drawing the attention to this fact because of two reasons. First, since the second half of 2015 there have been continuous attempts to oppose the NRC (in the making) to the International Centre of the Roerichs as the focal point of the International Roerich Movement. In the second place, the NRC itself (in the making) claimed to be the best form or the best platform for the cooperation between the non-governmental cultural Roerich organizations and the state in the field of the preservation and study of the Roerichs heritage. It is not a mere chance that these ambitions of the NRC have not been realized until now. An organization (NRC) which is not non-governmental cannot serve as the focus of a non-governmental movement. As regards the cooperation between the state as such and the non-governmental Roerich sector as such, this cooperation cannot possibly be accomplished by way of merging them both into a single organism, a single organization – the NRC. This itself is a contradiction not only with the international standards and the legal norms, but also with the long-term experience of many generations.

Particularly striking is the contradiction of the NRC status (in the making) with the UNESCO requirements concerning the non-governmental organizations [9]. Certainly, the NRC is not obliged to cooperate with UNESCO and therefore it is not obliged to meet these requirements. Nonetheless, we can draw the conclusion that those who decided to establish the NRC and keep promoting it have never actually planned to advance the ideas of the Roerichs, of the Roerich Pact and of the Banner of Peace at the international level.

Since the end of 2015, the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation has been actively promoting instead of the International Centre of the Roerichs the State Museum of Oriental Art (SMOA) – and in particular the new branch (in the making) of the SMOA designed to become a state Roerich museum – as the coordinating center or the focus of the International Roerich Movement. This has already been done several times in the answers prepared by the office of Minister Vladimir Medinsky that have been received by many Roerich organizations. Thus, in the spring of 2016 the Roerich organizations of Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Germany, and Latvia received an answer to their joint letter in support of the International Centre of the Roerichs from the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation which consisted entirely of a quote of the text prepared by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. It is said in this text of the Ministry of Culture:

“The advanced by Nicholas Roerich concept of achieving Peace through Culture enjoys undeniable support and respect amongst sections of the public of many countries.

The widening of the network of non-governmental Roerich organizations in Russia and abroad, and the support of Nicholas Roerich’s idea by international organizations (first and foremost UNESCO) attest to this.

The philosophical views of Roerich have always been a successful catalyst for humanitarian regional and international projects, aimed at uniting the representatives of politics, culture and science, of various nationalities and religions.

Assuming the role of the coordinator of the Roerich Movement it is possible to demonstrate the historic continuity in the support for the cause of peace, which will certainly be of significant assistance to the efforts of the Russian diplomacy. There will be a positive response to this amongst the foreign “Russian World” as well.

At present there exists the real possibility to unite the heritage of the Roerichs and to establish a single professional centre – a state-owned museum of the Roerich family – for the study and the popularization of the Roerichs’ heritage. Its housing in the Lopoukhin Mansion would become a well-deserved realization of the initial plan of Svetoslav Roerich about a museum and centre of the Roerich heritage” [10].

Svetoslav Roerich’s plan to establish a non-governmental Museum in Moscow was realized in accordance with his will by the founded by him International Centre of the Roerichs. For 26 years now this world-class Centre-Museum, which is non-governmental, is housed in the Lopoukhin Mansion in Moscow and it works for the building up of the prestige of Russian culture throughout the world by way of advancing the understanding within the international community of the creative heritage of the Roerichs – the great figures of Russian and world culture. An important part of this heritage is the Roerich Pact as well as Nicholas Roerich’s idea about Peace through Culture, which the International Centre of the Roerichs jointly with the International Roerich Movement promote for so many years now at the international level.

The leadership of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation prefers not to notice the objective fact of the existence of the International Centre of the Roerichs and its successful activity, and it disseminates in its texts information which does not correspond to reality at all. The reason? The Ministry aims to misappropriate Svetoslav Roerich’s heritage which he himself transferred to the International Centre of the Roerichs, as well as to take away from the non-governmental Museum of the International Centre of the Roerichs the Lopoukhin Mansion. The latter was restored literally from ruins by the International Centre of the Roerichs with funds raised from the public, without single pence from the government.

Obviously, from the point of view of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, the misappropriation of the property of the International Centre of the Roerichs (ICR) would result in the dissolution of this non-governmental organization, while the state museum, which is supposed to be established as a result of this misappropriation, would also receive all the other ICR “assets”, including the International non-governmental cultural Roerich Movement that cooperates with the ICR. The above said approach however led this government body to a gross mistake from the point of view of international law and international standards. The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation seriously plans to make a subordinated to it governmental structure – the State Museum of Oriental Art, with its designed branch of state Roerich museum supposedly to be housed in the Lopoukhin Mansion – the coordinating centre of the Roerich Movement.

Is it possible for a system of government bodies to have as its leading centre a non-governmental organization? The answer is obvious: it is not possible. It is equally impossible for non-governmental movements, including international ones, to have as their coordinating centres governmental structures. The opposite would mean for example that the government of Switzerland could offer Swiss governmental structures as the coordinating centre of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. It is well known that the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have always been non-governmental. Despite the fact that Switzerland is in many ways the symbol of the neutral state, if such an absurd step were undertaken and government structures were accepted as coordinating centre of the international humanitarian movement – that would result in the loss of trust to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in the whole world; as well as to Switzerland itself.

The examination based on international standards requires us to say: the attempt to establish the designed state Roerich museum as the centre or the coordinating body of the Roerich Movement is untenable. And what is more, the issue itself is too serious and it should not be further treated so ignorantly and carelessly by the ideological “technologists” from the management of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation who are obviously experimenting with the International non-governmental cultural Roerich Movement!

In Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 of the Committee of Ministers [of the Council of Europe] to member states on the legal status of non-governmental organisations in Europe it is said (Para. 28 of the Explanatory memorandum):

“Although subject to the law like everyone else, the freedom from direction by public authorities is essential to maintain the “non-governmental” nature of NGOs. This freedom should extend not only to the decision to establish an NGO and the choice of its objectives but also to the way it is managed and the focus of its activities. In particular, there should be no attempt by public authorities to make NGOs effectively agencies working under their control”.

What can we say about the present leadership of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation which is trying to become “the coordinator” of an entire non-governmental movement consisting of non-governmental organizations?! This attempt is particularly striking taking into account the international character of the movement.

The desire to subordinate certainly goes hand in hand with disrespect. When you receive letters informing the Roerich organization that from now on it has a coordinator designated administratively by government officials and it can just forget about the one chosen by it – you cannot but feel the incorporated in such a message complete disdain towards the non-governmental organization. Disrespect for the status of the non-governmental organizations as equal partners in the field of Culture is expressed clearly and undisguisedly.

The leadership of the Russian Federation has always insisted on the necessity to observe international law. Surely this position strengthens the authority of Russia and commands respect.

But what is the message of the above said actions of the leadership of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, since they display direct and flagrant violations of the international standards concerning the non-governmental organizations?

III. The non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich and the international standards

What is a non-governmental museum? It is a museum, which belongs to a non-governmental organization and is managed by it.

On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the International Centre of the Roerichs (ICR), Lyudmila Shaposhnikova, the Director-General of the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR, said:

“The establishment of the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich as a non-governmental organization was directly related to Svetoslav Roerich’s views on culture. What is a non-governmental museum? It is an organization which unites enthusiasts on a voluntary basis, preserves cultural heritage, carries out research, organizes various activities related to the subject matter of the museum, and is not subordinated to the state. In his concept of the non-governmental museum Svetoslav Roerich expressed his understanding of culture. He believed that culture is not governmental, and it should be without any ideological borders. He was of the opinion that governments should support culture only financially, without interfering into its inner life. The fact that we established precisely such a museum was one of the reasons why the horde of officials and first of all the Ministry of Culture attacked us. We demonstrated clearly that a museum which is not subordinated to the government can exist. The Ministry of Culture perceived this as a threat to itself, as a threat to the traditions established by it, as well as to the trends in the field of culture that were supported and developed by the government during the period when there was no culture as such and only certain elements of it existed. This is a question of world view, and it was the reason for the collisions that started. Dmitry Likhachev, the patriarch of Russian Culture, was also of the opinion that culture should belong to society, that it should not be governmental. He defended us, and he wrote to President Yeltsin on this issue. However, the President did not give any reasonable response to his letter… To conclude, I would like to point out that the situation surrounding the ICR is not favourable for its work. Nevertheless, we have done a lot during these 15 years and I will not list it all. We have been disseminating widely information on our activity and you know about it. All these years we have never had any peacetime. And we do not have it now. Despite all, we shall continue our struggle for the existence of the Centre-Museum named after Nicholas Roerich not only because we care about it, but also because its significance for the culture of Russia is growing year by year” [11].

The non-governmental museum in the post-Soviet era.

Independence and non-subordination

The quoted above words of Lyudmila Shaposhnikova are very important. The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation perceived the existence of a museum not subordinated to the government as a threat to itself, to the traditions and trends established and supported by it during the Soviet period. She points out that this is a question of world view. Many facts today prove that her conclusion is exceptionally relevant.

In the interview for Rossiyskaya Gazeta from January 26, 2016 Mr. Tigran Mkrtychev – deputy director of the State Museum of Oriental Art and one of the initiators of the establishment of a state Roerich museum in the Lopoukhin Mansion by way of destroying the existing there non-governmental museum – says precisely that the basic problem is the exposition of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR [12]. These words are undoubtedly striking. Out of necessity for some kind of decency he adds that the exposition does not comply with modern requirements for displaying, but that addition cannot not possibly hide the true sense of his words. In the interview T. Mkrtychev frankly presents the essence of the future exposition of the planned state Roerich museum; he stresses that the art of Nicholas Roerich is to be severed from the philosophy of the Roerichs and bluntly states that the philosophy is of no interest to him. Mr. Mkrtychev emphasizes: “We leave for the ICR the possibility to engage with it [the Roerichs’ philosophy]. But there is also the huge artistic legacy of Nicholas Roerich. There is a truly large collection gathered by his family. And all this gives us the possibility to carry out other studies and to make the Roerichs’ family creative work accessible to the general public interested in oriental and Russian art. I shall not deceive you: I do not follow the literature on Roerich published by the ICR” [13]. In other words, T. Mkrtychev is not familiar with the achievements of the leading school of Roerich studies, founded by the outstanding scholar, thinker and cultural figure Lyudmila Shaposhnikova. He simply severs the Roerichs philosophic legacy – the Living Ethics (the philosophy of Cosmic Reality) – from the Roerichs’ art and believes that it is possible to understand Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich’s art despite such dissection.

Let us remind that the stance of Mr. Mkrtychev once used to be the official position of the state ideological machinery of the USSR: in accordance with the latter Nicholas Roerich was acknowledged as a painter in the Soviet Union, even though with some reservations, while Nicholas Roerich as a philosopher was never accepted. At that time there existed a clear legal basis for the practical implementation of this position. Thus, the USSR Constitution (as well as the constitutions of other former “communist” countries in Eastern Europe) enshrined the leading role of the communist party and of the Marxist-Leninist philosophy; the activity of all governmental and non-governmental organizations had to comply with these provisions. Article 6 of the 1977 USSR Constitution provided that “the leading and guiding force of the Soviet society and the nucleus of its political system, of all state and non-governmental organisations is the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The CPSU exists for the people and serves the people. The Communist Party, armed with the Marxism-Leninism teaching, determines the general perspectives of the development of the society and the course of the home and foreign policy of the USSR, it directs the great constructive work of the Soviet people, and imparts a planned, systematic and theoretically substantiated character to its struggle for the victory of communism”.

These days there is no legal basis for a single and obligatory for everyone ideology of the state. On what grounds does Mr. Tigran Mkrtychev wish to sever the Roerichs’ philosophy from Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich’s art, thereby making impossible the true understanding of this art?

In one of his subsequent interviews from May 2016 [14], Mr. Mkrtychev continues with the said above separation, although he changes somewhat his position and claims that in the planned state Roerich museum there will be place for the Living Ethics after all. He promises to present in the museum the role of the literary and philosophic legacy of Helena Roerich – the Living Ethics – in the art of Nicholas Roerich. This is supposed to be done by way of exhibiting the first books of the Living Ethics, of objects which belonged to Helena Roerich, etc. There is no doubt that this approach is a manifestation of the school at the State Museum of Oriental Art of Mrs. Roumiantseva: according to her own statements she has invested so many efforts and time trying to separate the Living Ethics from Nicholas Roerich. Thus, following the prescribed ideological course Mr. T. Mkrtychev chooses to ignore the numerous evidence given to us by Nicholas Roerich himself who insisted that his creative work and the creative work of Helena Roerich were united by their shared ideas, by their common world view, by the same Teachers. The words of Nicholas Roerich addressed to his wife Helena Roerich – “we created together…” – reflect the depth of the unity of the creative work of these great people. Precisely this unity of the creative work of the elder Roerichs as well as of their sons is presented in the unique exposition of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR. This unity however is of no interest to Mr. Mkrtychev – the ideologist for the establishment of a state Roerich museum instead of the non-governmental one.

Non-subordination of the non-governmental organizations and of the non-governmental museums to the Ministry of Culture, the inadmissibility of any ideological control over them – these obligatory and generally accepted today international standards are simply rejected by the present leaders of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and of the SMOA. However, times have changed and one cannot openly speak about such rejection. It is for this reason that in his interview from January 2016 Mr. Mkrtychev invented the following argument: “The exposition of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich does not comply with modern standards of museum display” [15]. However, in those countries where the international standards concerning the non-governmental museums are reality and not mere words, the governmental bodies in charge of culture would never even think of interfering in a museum exposition. The non-governmental Teylers Museum in the Netherlands is proud of the fact that it has succeeded in preserving the world’s only authentic museum exposition of the XVIII century [16]. No Dutch official in charge of culture has ever tried to make the Teylers Museum “a modern one” and to change its exposition, despite the fact that the Museum receives funding from the Dutch government.

It is doubtful that anyone with even minimum education in the field of culture would ever take Mr. Tigran Mkrtychev’s ‘arguments’ seriously. It seems that he understands it himself: in his interview from May 2016 he tells us openly why the State Museum of Oriental Art is in the position to dictate to the International Centre of the Roerichs what should happen to the exposition of its non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich. He informs us: the reason is that… the legal right of operative management of the buildings of the International Centre of the Roerichs has been transferred by the government at the end of 2015 to the State Museum of Oriental Art! [17] Surely, this is another striking interview of Mr. Tigran Mkrtychev. He says: “Indeed, when the government transferred to us the right to operative management of the buildings of the Lopoukhin Mansion we tried first of all to interact and to cooperate with the leaders of the International Centre of the Roerichs. We have met many times and we have had numerous discussions. However, it turned out that we have completely different positions. Our position is the following: we establish a state Roerich museum. On the basis of this state museum we create an entirely new museum exposition – and this is the platform for any kind of cooperation” [18]. In other words, the message of T. Mkrtychev is the following: “we plan to do away with the exposition of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich in the Lopoukhin Mansion – and we offer to you, the International Centre of the Roerichs, to cooperate with us in this destructive activity”.

This is quite a valuable and sincere statement, as it sheds light on the understanding of Mr. Mkrtychev of the notion of cooperation, which obviously corresponds entirely with the lack of understanding on behalf of this government cultural official that state ideological control over a non-governmental museum is inadmissible, let alone the coercion of such museum.

The problem is also that such government cultural officials – in charge of the SMOA and of the Ministry of Culture itself – do not understand what is a non-governmental museum, and it seems they have never tried to do so.

Fully-fledged and equal member of the museum community.

Custodian of national heritage

Since the second half of 2015 Alexander Losyukov and his associates from the so-called National Roerich Committee (NRC) have voiced several times the following position. In their opinion, Svetoslav Roerich was forced to propose the establishment of a non-governmental museum in view of the Soviet Union collapse. It follows that Svetoslav Roerich would have never offered that, if there had been a normally operating and stable state. Hence, the proposal by Alexander Losyukov and those who share his position is to transform the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich into a state museum, as this is the proper thing to do in all countries marked not by chaos and collapse but by order and development.

It follows that in the understanding of these people a non-governmental museum is something interim, it is not a fully-fledged and genuine museum. Alexander Bondarenko, director of the State Museum-Institute of the Roerich family in St. Petersburg, has expressed the same viewpoint. In fact, this is the stand of the Russian Ministry of Culture, for it is now clear that Mr. Losyukov and his associates are merely voices of the Ministry.

Of course, these "arguments" do not stand up elementary logical analysis, not to mention the expertise in museology. It is well known that currently Russia is not the only country where there is no chaos and ruin, and the state operates in a stable manner. There are other such countries as well, for example, the Netherlands. The first and the oldest museum in the Netherlands is non-governmental, it is the Teylers Museum. It is over 200 years old. According to the logic of Mr. Losyukov and the leaders of the Russian Ministry of Culture, the Dutch had to close it and turn it into a state museum long ago, since the time they set the country in order. However, for some reason they did not do it and they are even proud of this non-governmental museum. And for the record, non-governmental museums exist not only in the Netherlands, but also in many other countries, whose governments do not close them but instead fully support them [19].

A few words about the Teylers Museum. It was established at a time when the church sought a total control over the world view of people. Its founder Pieter Teyler, an entrepreneur and in fact a figure of the Enlightenment, wanted to give an opportunity to his fellow citizens to form their own understanding of the world based on the best achievements of art, science and theology. Therefore, the collections and the work of this non-governmental museum have developed in these three areas. Two centuries of the Museum’s existence were marked by turbulent events in Western European history, including the confrontation between the two denominations (Catholicism and Protestantism), and the young European science and the church. Nonetheless, nobody encroached on the non-governmental museum "created by the citizens for the citizens". This is a true Cultural achievement, therefore it is fully understandable that in 2011 the Netherlands nominated this museum for the status of UNESCO cultural heritage.

Let us go back to the ideas of the Russian Ministry of Culture. Over the past four years, and in particular over the last year, there could be heard – from the minister of culture Vladimir Medinsky [20] to the deputy director of the State Museum of Oriental Art Tigran Mkrtychev [21] – the same refrain in different versions. These high officials in the field of culture made statements to the effect that the International Centre of the Roerichs is a private organization, a bunch of people who pose a threat to the Roerichs heritage, who can plunder it at any time, deprive the Russian people of its national heritage and then flee away in all directions. These statements are in fact a kind of apotheosis of reviling against the non-governmental museum as a phenomenon!

In essence, the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation is trying to exercise leadership with outdated ideas whose groundlessness was proved by the entire XX century.

Of course, in Russia and in the countries of Eastern Europe there existed state ideological control in the field of culture for many decades, which absolutely precluded any real experience with non-governmental museums in the actual meaning of the term non-governmental. The museums referred to as non-governmental during the Soviet period [22] had museum funds that were state-owned in accordance with the legislation [23]. Moreover, a museum called non-governmental in the Soviet period would never have works of art of national or world significance. In other words, at that time there never existed a non-governmental museum owned and managed by an independent non-governmental organization. That is why in Russia and in the countries of Eastern Europe government authorities had no real experience of work and cooperation with non-governmental museums until the end of the 80s and the early 90s.

It is deeply regrettable that today, in the XXI century, the leaders of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation do not enhance their knowledge on the non-governmental museums and do not establish a new practice of constructive relationship with them, thereby ensuring the freedom for creative work for the independent culture of the society. Instead, they pursue an unjust fight aimed at the annihilation of the largest non-governmental museum in Russia – the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR.

In this situation, recourse to the international standards, international experience and traditions in this field is a matter of necessity.

In the UNESCO Recommendation on Museums adopted in November 2015, the term museum is defined as a “non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purpose of education, study and enjoyment. As such, museums are institutions that seek to represent the natural and cultural diversity of humanity, playing an essential role in the protection, preservation and transmission of heritage” [24].

It is worth noting that the essential characteristics which define the museum as such are in no way related or dependent on whether or not the museum is owned by the state and subordinated to it.

In the history of human culture state museums and non-governmental museums have equally proved their benefit to society. It is for this reason that the international standards do not differentiate between museums on these grounds. These two forms of museums – state and non-governmental – are equal in value. And therefore they are equal in rights. This is extremely important.

Another important point. Article 23 of the UNESCO 2015 Recommendation refers to museums as custodians of heritage. What does this mean? Surely, the state museums are owned by the state. The non-government museums are owned by non-governmental non-profit organizations. The meaning of this reference is related to the significance of the cultural heritage. It is of utmost importance for society, and therefore the right of its ownership is not absolute. The owner of the heritage – be it the state or the non-governmental non-profit organization – has to preserve this heritage for the benefit of the society and to transmit it to the future generations.

In 1964 the Cottesloe Report was published in the United Kingdom. It relates directly to the role of the museums in the UK as custodians of cultural heritage for the public benefit. It says: "The basic principle upon which the law rests is that when private persons give property for public purposes the Crown undertakes to see that it is devoted to the purposes intended by the donor, and to no others. When a work of art is given to a museum or gallery for general exhibition, the public thereby acquires rights in the object concerned and these rights cannot be set aside. The authorities of the museum or gallery are not the owners of the object in the ordinary sense of the word: they are merely responsible … for carrying out the intentions of the donor” [25]. This applies to all types of museums in the United Kingdom – national (state), independent (non-governmental), municipal, and university museums.

We could say that the aforesaid principle is universally accepted. The reference of the 2015 UNESCO Recommendation to museums as custodians of heritage attests to this.

In light of the foregoing we can see the true value of the mentioned above statements of the leaders of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and of the State Museum of Oriental Art; they alleged that Svetoslav Roerich’s heritage preserved and displayed at the non-governmental Museum of the ICR is not “in good hands” since at any time “private persons” can “misappropriate” it. Statements like these attest not only to the lack of knowledge in the field of museology and nun-governmental museums, but, as has been said earlier, they are in fact reviling against the non-governmental museum as a phenomenon! Further still, such statements go against the facts, and are a defamation of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the International Centre of the Roerichs, since this Museum has not only preserved the entrusted to it heritage of Svetoslav Roerich in its entirety, but has also increased it, thereby becoming the museum with the largest collection of paintings by the Roerichs in the world!

In a quarter of a century, the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR – founded and created by Svetoslav Roerich and Lyudmila Shaposhnikova – clearly demonstrated the immense potential and the success of the non-governmental forms of cultural activity in Russia.

As for abuses – the violations of the will of the donor who has given an object of art and culture for the benefit of the public – both modern times and history provide ample proof that no museums, be they in the hands of the municipalities [26] the state [27], the non-governmental organizations [28] or the universities [29], are spared such violations. It is important to note that what is always violated in such cases, as pointed out in the Cottesloe Report, is the society's right for access to these works of art in compliance with the will of the donor.

The best achievements and the best practices of countries in this field are as follows. States seek to employ all possible measures (legislative, administrative, judicial) in order to help museums – non-governmental, state-owned, university, and municipal – to fulfill the will of the donor, and to carry out their function as custodians of the entrusted to them heritage for the benefit of the present and future generations.

In the light of the best international practices and achievements we can draw certain conclusions about the actions of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. The International Centre of the Roerichs rigorously fulfills the will of Svetoslav Roerich, the owner who transferred his heritage to the International Centre of the Roerichs for the benefit of his Motherland. The International Centre of the Roerichs has established a world-class Museum which at present is a remarkable and full of life cultural centre that works in accordance with the concept of Svetoslav Roerich. Instead of supporting the non-governmental Museum of the ICR in its mission of carrying out the will of Svetoslav Roerich, the leaders of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation undertake actions aimed at its annihilation. Thus the Ministry itself violates completely the international standard on the mandatory execution of the donor’s will – in this case this is Svetoslav Roerich’s will to establish a non-governmental museum.

The leadership of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation has done nothing in order to establish the reasons for the loss of the invaluable Roerichs’ paintings which the state had the duty to preserve – I mean of course the paintings left in George Roerich’s memorial apartment in Moscow [30]. It has done nothing in order to put an end to the violation of the will of the donor George Roerich and to ensure – by way of establishing a state-owned Roerich museum – permanent access of the public to the artistic heritage of the Roerichs that was transferred by George Roerich to the Russian state (at that time – the USSR). We can see again that there is a breach of the will of the donor – George Roerich – by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.

Protection of the intangible characteristics of the non-governmental museum

Let us now turn to one of the most important international standards which relates to all museums, including the non-governmental ones. It was introduced by the Roerich Pact. The Bulgarian international lawyer Emil Alexandrov wrote about it in 1978. By way of broad interpretation of the Roerich Pact Alexandrov comes to the well-grounded conclusion which one cannot but support: the accorded by the Roerich Pact protection to the museums covers not only their material substance, but also their non-material characteristics [31]. We can therefore, basing ourselves on the Roerich Pact, clearly point out the following international standard:

- non-governmental museums have the right to preserve their legal status, the achieved public recognition, the nature of their activity, their place in social and cultural life, the conditions for developing their activities. The government has to ensure this right of the non-governmental museums.

It is worth noting the following: since the Roerich Pact provides for the protection of museums in any time, including times of armed conflict and periods of occupation, it is all the more obligatory for the government to ensure the required protection in relation to museums on its territory in peace time.

The stable practice and the best achievements in those countries where non-governmental museums have existed for centuries confirm the aforesaid peace time international standard. It would not have been possible for these non-governmental museums to exist if this standard had not been a reality.

Government support for non-governmental museums

We have touched upon the following important requirements: respect for the will of the donor, fulfilling by the museum of its function of custodian of the heritage, protection and preservation of the intangible characteristics of the museum. We have to add yet another one: museums should be permanent entities. There is a legitimate expectation by the general public, by visitors, students, researchers, as well as by those who donate to the museums, that these institutions are permanent. Therefore governments support the museums – state-owned, non-governmental, university and municipal – so that they can meet the expectation for their permanence. This support is provided in various ways.

There are countries which have accumulated rich and lasting experience as regards the work and development of non-governmental museums. It should be pointed out that in these countries there is legislation and the corresponding to it stable practice of support of the non-governmental museums by the government. First of all, non-governmental museums almost always receive significant tax relief, since museums work for the benefit of society. Second, non-governmental museums receive grants or other financial support from the government for the acquisition of new items for their museum collections. Besides, they are often entitled to state funding on different levels (central, regional or municipal) when they participate in educational, research or cultural programmes. Of course, the practice of financial and administrative assistance to these museums varies significantly in view of the considerable differences between the respective countries, for example, of Western Europe and the US. Despite these differences however, it is clear that non-governmental museums are always part of the overall government strategy and policy in the field of culture.

What about the support of non-governmental museums in Russia? The Government report on the state of culture in the Russian Federation in 2013 says: “The problems in the functioning of the museums which are not state-owned are the lack of standard-setting legal instruments regulating their activity <…> as well as the weak support by the government or its complete absence” [32]. Non-governmental museums are part of the used in the Report notion of “not state-owned museums”. The conclusion in the Report says it all.

Legality of items in the museum collections

Museums have to comply with the requirement to legally acquire all the objects that become part of the museum collection.

It is well-known that Svetoslav Roerich gave his heritage to the founded by him International Centre of the Roerichs in Moscow. Part of this heritage is a collection of more than 280 artworks of Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich which was given in 1978 temporarily by Svetoslav Roerich to the Soviet Ministry of Culture for the purpose of holding traveling Roerich exhibitions in the USSR. On behalf of the state it was the State Museum of Oriental Art that was responsible for the temporary preservation of Svetoslav Roerich’s collection. Upon the establishment of the ICR, Svetoslav Roerich transferred all his heritage to the International Centre of the Roerichs; the aforementioned collection of more than 280 artworks could not be given physically by Svetoslav Roerich to the ICR as it was physically held (and still is) by the State Museum of Oriental Art in Mosocw. Svetoslav Roerich insisted that this collection of Roerichs artworks – which was his property and part of his heritage – should be handed by the Russian state to the ICR. Thus, it is equally well-known that Svetoslav Roerich in his letter of 26 April 1992 to the President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin informed him that he had legally transferred his collection of paintings by Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich (over 280 artworks) to the International Centre of the Roerichs. Svetoslav Roerich also emphasized in this letter that the State Museum of Oriental Art held this collection illegally and he asked the President to assist him in order for the collection to be handed over to the International Centre of the Roerichs and for his will to be respected. It should be noted in respect of the aforesaid collection that the legal assessment made by Svetoslav Roerich is the most important, since he was the owner, and he was the only one that could determine the legality or illegality of the presence of the collection at a certain institution. Nothing can change the will of Svetoslav Roerich. The government of the country and in particular the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and the State Museum of Oriental Art have not fulfilled this will as yet.

The State Museum of Oriental Art until now holds illegally the above mentioned Svetoslav Roerich’s collection of more than 280 paintings. And what is more, the State Museum of Oriental Art aims – by way of the powerful administrative coercion exercised by the leadership of the Ministry of Culture – to forcefully and illegally take over the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR and all its museum collections. What could we possibly say about the State Museum of Oriental Art in view of the international standards?

The diversity of museums and heritage constitutes their greatest value

The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation wages a struggle against the non-governmental Museum of the ICR, aiming in fact at its abolishment. Such actions are entirely at variance with all the above mentioned international standards in this field.

In this regard it is necessary to pay particular attention to Article 23 of the UNESCO 2015 Recommendation on museums, which states: “The diversity of museums and the heritage of which they are custodians constitutes their greatest value”.

The leadership of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation seeks:

– to abolish the largest non-governmental museum in Russia

– to take out from the field of creative museum work the philosophic heritage of the Roerichs

– to take out from this same field the achievements of the best school of Roerich studies which serve as the basis for the unique exposition of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR.

It is clear therefore that the leaders of this Ministry are carrying out actions which contradict entirely Article 23 of the UNESCO 2015 Recommendation, and thereby they demonstrate – in accordance with the worst traditions of the ideological control of the Soviet period – that the diversity of the museums and their heritage is not a value for this government body. These actions are a clear sign of the intolerance of the present leaders of the Russian Ministry of Culture in relation to the non-governmental museums and to the non-governmental organizational forms of culture.

Let us remind some facts. The Russian state owns more than 300 artworks of Nicholas Roerich given to it by his elder son George Roerich. These paintings are kept in the store-rooms of state-owned museums, mainly the State Russian Museum, i.e. they are not accessible in a permanent exhibition. Apart from the collection of George Roerich the government – represented by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation – owns a number of other paintings of Nicholas Roerich, the latter are also kept in store-rooms of state-owned museums.

Taking into consideration that the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation has never shown any interest in fulfilling the will of the donor, George Roerich, and in ensuring the right of the public to a permanent access to the paintings from his collection by way of establishing a state museum named after Nicholas Roerich; taking also into consideration that the Ministry is only interested in the seizure of Svetoslav Roerich’s heritage given personally by him to the International Centre of the Roerichs and its non-governmental museum, and in the taking away from the ICR of its buildings restored entirely by the ICR with funds raised by the public, there are good reasons for us to conclude that the current leadership of the Russian Ministry of Culture:

– has mercenary interest in relation to the property of the non-governmental organization “the International Centre of the Roerichs”;

– tries by all means to put an end to the existence in Russia of an independent non-governmental museum whose activity is based on the school of Roerich studies founded by Luidmila Shaposhnikova.

At the same time, the leaders of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and of the State Museum of Oriental Art accuse the International Centre of the Roerichs of seeking “to monopolize the subject of the Roerichs’ heritage” and to “discredit” its opponents, they accuse the ICR also in “aggressive critics” of its ideological opponents.

In ancient wise India philosophical and ideological controversies were resolved in disputes. The victory in such disputes was won because of knowledge, power of thought and ability to persuade. In our region there are other “traditions”. As far back as the beginning of the last century one could be shot for “misguided” philosophical and ideological views, be they “communist” or “bourgeois”. Among ideological opponents the victory was won by way of power and brutal force.

The International Centre of the Roerichs publishes books, magazines, catalogues from which readers can come to know the Roerichs’ creative legacy. It includes their philosophical and artistic works, their scientific and peacemaking achievements. Every reader can make his or her own conclusions by reading the ICR publications and those of its “ideological” opponents.

However the leaders of the Russian Ministry of Culture and of the State Museum of Oriental Art are seeking to physically terminate the International Centre of the Roerichs and its Museum in accordance with the principle – “there is no museum, there is no problem”. May the reader make his or her own conclusions on who really pursues a policy of “monopolization” and of aggressive elimination of its opponent.

The Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation – upon the request of the Ministry of Culture – carried out in June 2016 an examination of the International Centre of the Roerichs in order to establish whether or not its activity is extremist, and it did not find any sign of extremism whatsoever in the work of the ICR. As this examination turned out to be of no avail, the last achievement of the thought of the leadership of the State Museum of Oriental Art was to declare the ICR “the centre of the radical Roerich movement”. Let us explain that according to the leaders of the SMOA this radicalism consists in the firm and unflagging advocating for the rights of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR on the basis of the Russian legislation, which guarantees the independence of the non-governmental organizations and their right of ownership, as well as on the basis of the relevant international standards.

Countries can implement international standards, they can lag behind in their implementation or they can simply undertake no action aimed at their fulfillment and ignore them. However, in relation to the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR the present leadership of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation is actively moving in the direction which is completely opposite to the one set by the international standards. Thus, in the light of international law and international standards we can see the essence of the collision of world-views between the International Centre of the Roerichs and the leadership of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.

If the management of the Ministry of Culture continues its unjust fight aimed at the abolishment of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich in Moscow, it will inevitably be losing its prestige with every day of this fight.

The non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR preserves and amplifies the Roerichs heritage – a great national heritage of Russia and the world. The ICR Museum contributes for enhancing the high standing of Russian culture. The International Centre of the Roerichs and the International Roerich Movement that cooperates with it work for the popularization of the great contribution in world culture of Nicholas, Helena, George and Svetoslav Roerich, and for the advancement of their idea of Peace through Culture.

Today the world is in great need of the work on advancing Culture and Peace that Svetoslav Roerich entrusted to the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR and to the non-governmental Roerich Movement cooperating with it! Let us hope that this most needed and noble cultural mission will meet after all not the suppression and prosecution that the leaders of the Russian Ministry of Culture carry out today, but the open hand for cooperation and support of the Russian state.

Marga Koutsarova
Legal expert in international law
Head of the Branch of the International Centre of the Roerichs in Bulgaria
Chairperson of the National Roerich Society in Bulgaria

 


[1] Rerich N.K. O kul’ture i mire molenie // Znamia Mira. Moskva: Mezhdunarodnyi Tsentr Rerichov, Master-Bank, 2005. (Nicholas Roerich. Praying for Culture and Peace. // Banner of Peace. Moscow: International Centre of the Roerichs, Master-Bank, 2005), p. 239, 240, 255, 263, 264, 277, 278, 302, 310-315.

[2] The Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement proclaimed by the 20th International Conference of the Red Cross, Vienna, 1965; Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement adopted by the 25th International Conference of the Red Cross at Geneva in 1986; Russian Red Cross Statutes, Art. 1.13.14.

[3] Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 of the Committee of Ministers [of the Council of Europe] to member states on the legal status of non-governmental organizations in Europe, Art. 6; Code of Good Practice for Civil Participation in the Decision-Making Process (adopted by Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe on 1st October 2009), p. 6.

[4] See: Art. 17 and Art. 19 of the Law on non-governmental organizations of the Russian Federation.

[5] Directives concerning UNESCO’s partnership with non-governmental organizations. Approved by the General Conference at its 28th session and amended at its 31st, 34th and 36th sessions. In these UNESCO directives it is stated that they take the fullest possible account of the principles and practices of the United Nations, as established in the relevant resolutions of the Economic and Social Council.

[6] Ibid. (Article I.1. General Principles. Definition).

[7] Prilozhenie // Elena Ivanovna Rerich. Pisma. T. IV. Moskva, 2002 (Annex // Helena Ivanovna Roerich. Letters. Vol. IV. Moscow, 2002), p. 447. The English original of the text is courtesy of the Manuscripts Department of the International Centre of the Roerichs.

[8] Cf.: Opinion of the public commission of experts concerning the draft “On the establishment with the support of the government of the Russian non-governmental organization on the preservation and study of the Roerichs heritage (the NRC)”. International Council of the Roerichs Organizations named after Svetoslav Roerich. September 24, 2015 (in Russian). URL: http://www.icr.su/rus/protection/heritage/museum/public-chamb/obshchestvennaya-ekspertiza-msro.php.

[9] See above, note 5.

[10] Written answer from the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation to the letter of the Roerich organizations of Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Estonia, Finland, and Latvia addressed to the President of Russia and registered at the Administration of the President on 16.02.2016 under No. И-13524. The written answer, as is stated in it, consists entirely of a quotation of the information provided by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. Boldface in the text added by the author of the present paper – M.K.

[11] L.V. Shaposhnikova. Prepiatstviami my rastyom. K 15-letiu Mezhdunarodnogo Tsentra Rerikhov. (Lyudmila Shaposhnikova. Obstacles make us grow. On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the International Centre of the Roerichs). Electronic library of the International Centre of the Roerichs, URL: http://lib.icr.su/node/1065. Boldface in the text added by the author of the present paper.

[12] Posle Rerikhov. O vstreche dvuh muzeev na territorii odnoy usadby Lopoukhinyh. Interview Tigrana Mkrtycheva, zamestitelya direktora Gosudarstvennogo muzeya Vostoka (After the Roerichs. On the meeting of two museums within the single Lopoukhin Mansion.. Interview with Tigran Mkrtychev, deputy director of the State Museum of Oriental Art). Rossiyskaya Gazeta. 26 January 2016. URL: https://rg.ru/2016/01/27/rerih.html.

[13] Ibid.

[14] “Discussion of the planned state Roerich museum. Video interview with Tigran Mkrtychev” (in Russian). May, 2016. Site of the infamous Andrey Luft, URL: http://www.lebendige-ethik.net/

[15] Posle Rerikhov. O vstreche dvuh muzeev na territorii odnoy usadby Lopoukhinyh. Interview Tigrana Mkrtycheva, zamestitelya direktora Gosudarstvennogo muzeya Vostoka (After the Roerichs. On the meeting of two museums within the single Lopoukhin Mansion. Interview with Tigran Mkrtychev, deputy director of the State Museum of Oriental Art). Rossiyskaya Gazeta. 26 January 2016. URL: https://rg.ru/2016/01/27/rerih.html.

[16]Teylers Museum, official website URL: http://www.teylersmuseum.nl/

[17] “Discussion of the planned state Roerich museum. Video interview with Tigran Mkrtychev” (in Russian). May, 2016. URL: http://www.lebendige-ethik.net/

[18] Ibid.

[19] Non-governmental museums have accumulated greatest experience of work in Western Europe (predominantly North-Western), as well as in North America. According to the American Association of Museums, most museums in the US are non-profit organizations. See: American Alliance of Museums: http://www.aam-us.org/; Ford W. Bell, President of the American Association of Museums. How Are Museums Supported Financially in the U.S.? March 2012. United States Department of State Bureau of International Information Programs.

[20] See, for example, the interview of 25 June 2014 of the minister of culture Vladimir Medinsky in Komsomolskaya Pravda. «Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky: Debunking heroes, we should realize what heroes we get instead». www.kp.ru/daily/26247/3127966/. In this interview V. Medinsky says: «Another example: a private fund established by foreign legal entities was trying to chop off from the state the unique collection of paintings by Nicholas Roerich (almost 250 paintings!) stored in the State Museum of Oriental Art. We have stopped this madness virtually at the last judicial instance - the Supreme Court. And then immediately followed an attack in the media with traditional petitions from cultural figures and appeals to the President. Under the slogan, you would not believe, "the Ministry of Culture destroys (!) the Roerich Museum." Everything is quite the opposite. But our "friends” do not stop here. After all, a lot of money is at stake, Roerich's paintings are sold at "Sotheby's" for millions of pounds». This statement of minister Vladimir Medinsky is notable for its assertions, since none of them corresponds to reality: starting from the one about the "private" fund established by "foreign" legal entities, and all the rest along the statement. It should also be noted that the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR has not only fully preserved the entrusted to it Svetoslav Roerich’s collection, but has also increased it! Thus, it has become the owner of the largest collection of Roerichs’ artworks in the world. As for minister Vladimir Medinsky, in May 2016 he received a remedial order from the Russian General Prosecutor's Office to the effect that the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation creates conditions for illegal export of cultural properties turning a blind eye to abuses by the government experts who underestimate hundreds of times the value of works of art. See Kommersant newspaper of 26.05.2016.: http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2996372

[21] Interview of Tigran Mkrtychev, deputy director general of the State Museum of Oriental Art in Russia, to the portal Credo of 8 June 2016: https://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=120853 . Mr. Mkrtychev says: "And they say that the Roerichs heritage will be safer with them. However, the International Centre of the Roerichs is a private organization. In any case, there are founders: for example, Ivanov, Petrov and Sidorov. And at any time Ivanov, Petrov and Sidorov can close this NGO, and may dispose of its assets in accordance with their convenience".

[22] In Soviet times the museums that were referred to as “non-governmental” or “belonging to society” were museums established at industrial and agricultural enterprises, in scientific and educational institutions, by local executive authorities, in military formations, units and subdivisions, by non-governmental organizations, etc.

[23] Government Report on the State of Culture in the Russian Federation in 2013. Prepared by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. October 17, 2014, p. 73.

[24] Article 4 of the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the protection and promotion of museums and collections, their diversity and their role in society. Adopted by the UNESCO General Conference at its 38th session on 17 November 2015.

[25]The Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Sale of Works of Art by Public Bodies (The Cottesloe Report), 1964. Cit. in: Museums and Galleries Commission (Jeremy Warren, Editor). The Legal Status of Museum Collections in the United Kingdom. 1996, р. 17.

[26] Ian Johnston. Ancient Egyptian Statue of Sekhemka disappears into private collection ‘in moral crime against world heritage’. Independent, 09.05.2016. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/ancient-egyptian-statue-of-sekhemka-disappears-into-private-collection-in-moral-crime-against-world-a7019946.html. The Municipal Museum of the City of Northampton in the UK, or rather the Northampton Borough Council which is the owner of the Museum, sold the 4,500-year-old Egyptian statue of Sehemka to an anonymous collector from the US or Qatar for 16 million British pounds. At present, despite the donor’s will, this piece of art is no longer accessible to the public. The Egyptian Minister of Antiquities has dubbed this action as a "moral crime against the world's cultural heritage," and the government regulatory body in England (Arts Council) withdrew this municipal museum’s accreditation until at least 2019, which automatically deprives it of the right to receive public funding at central and municipal level.

[27] In the second half of the 20th century, the Soviet government authorities (and, first of all, the Ministry of Culture of the USSR) allowed the criminal plundering of George Roerich’s heritage in his Moscow apartment, instead of preserving and studying it. In comparison with this crime against mankind’s cultural heritage, the sale of the Egyptian statue by the Northampton Borough Council looks like a petty transgression. Apart from the fate of George Roerich’s heritage in his Moscow apartment, there is another serious problem. George Roerich gave to the USSR, represented by its Ministry of Culture, more than 300 paintings of Nicholas Roerich, and it was the will of George Roerich as the donor that a state museum named after Nicholas Roerich should be established. This will of G. Roerich was never fulfilled by the government, state Roerich museum was never established and the general public is still denied permanent access to these priceless paintings of Nicholas Roerich. They are kept in the store-rooms of the Russian State Museum and other state-owned museums.

[28] One of the biggest crimes against culture in the first half of the 20th century is the sale of the collection of the Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York, which was a national heritage of the American people. In the second half of 1935, three of the Trustees of the Roerich Museum in New York, including its president L. Horch, fraudulently took ownership of the Museum and literally sold it thereby completely destroying it.

[29] Newcastle University sold in 1986 the George Brown Collection of Ethnographic Materials, and it is not the only university that has done so. See: Museums and Galleries Commission (Jeremy Warren, Editor). The Legal Status of Museum Collections in the United Kingdom.1996, р. 5.

<[30] See on this issue: Revyakin Dmitry. Gibnuschee nasledie: Moskovskaya kvartira Y.N.Rerikha. (Revyakin Dmitry. The Dying heritage: the Moscow apartment of George Roerich), Moscow, 2010.

[31] Emil Alexandrov. International Legal Protection of Cultural Property. Sofia: Sofia Press, 1979, p. 92. See also: Marga Koutsarova. The Roerich Pact – the foundation of the international legal system for the protection of cultural property and its future. // The Roerich Pact. History and Modernity. Moscow, 2013, p. 16.

[32]Government report on the state of culture in the Russian Federation in 2013, prepared by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. October 17, 2014, p. 74.