Inetrnational Centre of the Roerichs

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M. P. Kutsarova, T. P. Sergeeva. Banner of Peace of the Roerich's World

Ideas of the author of the Roerich Pact on protection of treasures of culture and their meaning in the past, present and future

It is well known that it was Nikolay Roerich who initiated the first international treaty to protect treasures of culture in time of war and in peace. This treaty, known as the Roerich Pact, laid down the foundation for today's international legislation on protection of treasures of culture. The foundation that is solid, alive and strong.

The Roerich Pact, embodying the ideas of its author, was the first piece of international legislation to introduce the following rules and principles:

• cultural values, despite of their ownership, are cultural heritage of all humanity;

• they shall have unconditioned protection and respect in time of war;

• treasures of culture cease to enjoy the privileges stated in the treaty only in case they are made use of for military purposes;

• treasures of culture shall be protected both during international and local armed conflict;

• treasures of culture shall be protected in time of peace;

• treasures of culture shall be registered and added to the list in order to be protected in time of war and in peace;

• in order to identify treasures of culture to be protected in time of war and peace a distinctive and compulsory symbol shall be used, that is Banner of Peace;

• to protect foreign cultural treasures national instruments shall be used.

It should be added that the Roerich Pact ensures equal protection to both treasures of culture and educational and scientific institutions. It ensures protection of the personnel of museums, artistic, scientific, educational and cultural institutions.

As it often happens in history, goals accomplished by initiators of great beginnings are not always met by the next generations. It is known that at the moment universal international conventions in this area do not ensure unconditioned protection but only in case of the exigencies of war. International legal protection in time of peace and war does not cover educational and scientific institutions as well as their personnel, i.e. creative workers.

However, one thing is undoubted and this is that the future belongs to the strong and solid foundation laid by the Roerich Pact! Since both today's and future generation will never tire of looking for better and more effective ways of protecting culture. Sooner or later, in one way or another, the principles of protection of all Cultural elements under Banner of Peace set by the Roerich Pact will enter our life.

Only by laying a foundation of a building one can proceed to constructing its walls and columns. The 1920-1930s were the time of struggle for protecting Culture. Roerich understood that under the condition of severe financial crises and imminent world war there was a need to hurry and enact the idea of protecting cultural treasures from aggression and vandalism in law. Without this foundation it would have been impossible to insist on future construction, for example, on international legal protection of historic areas and intangible cultural heritage in time of peace.

Yet, one could create and act. Roerich foresaw that construction of the foundation would be followed by construction of a solid building of Culture protection. So he left us a treasury of ideas for its best construction.

Upon signing the Roerich Pact, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "This agreement has more profound significance than the text of this document"1. Indeed, the Roerich Pact is a door to inexhaustible ideas of peaceful cultural cooperation and construction of the Roerich World, the World of Culture! These ideas are reflected in literary, publicistic and scientific heritage of Nikolay Roerich.

Many times art, science and social formation have seen creators who saturated whole epochs with their talent of a genius. Nikolay Roerich was this kind of creator, particularly due to his dedicated public activity in the field of Culture protection.

By the early XXth century he was one of the most authoritative activists in the field of culture protection in Russia. Roerich was a founders and a member of the Council of Society for Historical Sites Protection, a founder and the leader of Society of Revival of Artistic Russia, an initiator of the Ancient Russia Foundation for studying and preserving ancient monuments, a board member of the Society of Architects and Painters2.

Understanding great significance of ancient monuments for the future, in 1903 Roerich wrote, "Make a monument look alive, give it back its whole, the ensemble which used to make it shine, give at least something of it! Don't erect commercial buildings in front of monuments, don't hide them behind barracks or sheds <...> It is so old and at the same time so new"3.

Decades later the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Safeguarding and Contemporary Role of Historic Areas said, "Historic areas and their surroundings should be actively protected, against damage of all kinds, particularly that resulting from <...> unnecessary additions and misguided or insensitive changes such as will impair their authenticity"4.

It is important to note the contribution made by N. K. Roerich into developing the ideas of protection of the beauty and nature of landscapes. As early as in 1901 when he emphasized the role of a beautiful landscape and its natural harmony for restoring one's physical, moral and spiritual strength and laid down "the requirement for taking care of nature and preserving its character" in his article Towards Nature, N. K. Roerich wrote about the necessity "to take into account the surrounding landscape when starting any construction"5, about "preservation of the places blessed by nature, preservation of historical sites and areas"6 and that attention and measures to preserve landscapes and sites should be taken throughout the country as there are beautiful and unique landscapes everywhere.

The above was later reflected in UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Safeguarding of Beauty and Character of Landscapes and Sites7 and a number of other international documents of UNESCO.

In his literary and publicistic writing Roerich never tired of emphasizing that the most important aspect of protecting culture is teaching people to respect and love its treasures.When writing about it, he based on his long experience. We should not forget that in the 1920-1930s the Roerich Societies and the Roerich Pact Committees were founded in more than 80 countries of Europe, Americas and Asia to pursue the main goal of attracting public attention to great value of treasures of culture and the need to protect and respect them. "Love for artistic and scientific expression of the nation," Roerich wrote in 1935, "sacred attention to unique creativeness should not belong to random officials and overseers. The whole country should be able to both enjoy and share concern for the fate of people's treasures"8.

Today we find the affirmation of the necessity to teach people to understand and respect treasures of culture almost all the international documents of UNESCO: recommendations, declarations and conventions. Recommendation concerning the Preservation of Cultural Property Endangered by Public or Private works, 1968, says that the surest guarantee for the preservation of cultural property rests in the respect and the attachment felt for it by the people themselves, and persuaded that such feelings may be greatly strengthened by adequate measures carried out by Member States9.

Roerich was convinced that art can not and should not be owned by the elite. He believed that art, science, spirituality, in other words Beauty and knowledge, should penetrate and fill the entire people's life and, by doing this, change it. He wrote, "Give art to the nation it belongs to. Not only museums, theaters, schools, libraries, stations and hospitals should be decorated; prisons must be beautiful as well. Then there will be no prisons any more..."10 When he was writing these words, Roerich said in 1931, "some friends smiled at each other and whispered: wonderful dreams but how will life respond?"11 Life affirmed the highest importance of the Roerich's idea. The Preamble to UNESCO Constitution says that the wide diffusion of culture, and the education of humanity for justice and liberty and peace are indispensable to the dignity of man. In 1976 UNESCO adopted Recommendation on Participation by the People at Large in Cultural Life and their Contribution.

Speaking about Roerich's activities aimed at preserving and developing Culture it is necessary to mention his expedition to the Central Asia, one of the major scientific expeditions of the XXth century, and Urusvati Himalayan Research Institute founded by the Roerichs. During the expedition the Roerichs identified, documented, studied and preserved a lot of materials, including the richest folklore of the Central Asia states, legends, myths, customs as well as knowledge of their peoples that date back to ancient times and are related to nature and the Universe. Thus the Roerichs made a great contribution to protection of intangible cultural heritage of Asian countries. This contribution, however, has not been fully appreciated by the world so far. In conditions of dominating Eurocentrism, the Roerichs' expedition to the Central Asia helped to win respect for intangible cultural heritage of India, Mongolia, Russia, Tibet and China throughout the world. They drew not only local or national but also international attention to it. Through Urusvati Institute the international scientific community got involved into studying this unique heritage. Speaking about protection of intangible cultural heritage of Asia, teaching people to respect it, attracting attention to its importance and international cooperation in studying it, we actually list all the objectives of UESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, 2003,12 which was enacted in life by the Roerichs as early as in the 1920-1930s on a large scale through engaging scientific and NGO potential. The latter, namely the role of scientific potential for preserving intangible cultural heritage as well as the role of non-governmental scientific, cultural and community organizations has not been fully appreciated or reflected in contemporary international documents, we believe.

Main lines of an action plan for the implementation of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, 2001, says that the Member States commit themselves to cooperating to achieve the objective of "respecting and protecting traditional knowledge, in particular that of indigenous peoples; recognizing the contribution of traditional knowledge, particularly with regard to environmental protection and the management of natural resources, and fostering synergies between modern science and localknowledge"13. The great contribution made by the Roerichs and Urusvati Institute they founded includes cooperation between modern science and traditional knowledge as early as in the 1930s. This cooperating covered not only environmental protection but also medicine, pharmacopoeia, philology and the list is by no means exhaustive. Urusvati experience in studying traditional knowledge of the peoples of Central Asia requires special study as a means of a possible solution to the problem of preserving intangible cultural heritage of peoples. It should be noted that the work of scientist from the West and representatives of local traditions in Urusvati was carried out on the basis of methodology of knowledge acquisition of the Living Ethic and cosmism. This methodology recognizes two equal ways of knowledge acquisition: scientific and meta-scientific that is knowledge acquired empirically and knowledge acquired from the inner spiritual space of man. It was this methodology that made it possible to approach Asian traditional knowledge without bias or prejudice and win cooperation of local bearers of this knowledge and ancient traditions.

Those familiar with Roerich's works know how much he wrote about Culture being the engine of development, including the empirical one14. Culture being not abstraction or entertainment for the privileged or a burden for the budget. It is the culture that represents knowledge and Beauty can lead to prosperity of states. There are periods in history that prove it. This Reorich's most important idea is slow to appreciate but gradually it is becoming an asset of modern life. Culture as the most significant aspect of development is mentioned in many UNESCO documents: UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Preservation of Cultural Property Endangered by Public or Private works15, Recommendation concerning the Protection, at National Level, of the Cultural and Natural Heritage16, Recommendation concerning the Safeguarding and Contemporary Role of Historic Areas17, Recommendation on Participation by the People at Large in Cultural Life and their Contribution to It18, Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity19, Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions20. However, the most important aspect, the most important side of this Roerich's idea has not been fully appreciated on a large scale. We mean the following: "Someone may ask," Roerich writes, "is it appropriate to talk about art and science today, during the global financial crisis? It is indeed appropriate.

The flowering of art and science is the resolution of everyday crises. It turns the decaying overproduction towards higher quality. It makes people think about problems of life that can be solved through the bridge of beauty"21.

When studying Roerich's works, the cultural projects he accomplished on the one hand and international UNESCO documents on the other hand, one may be surprised and joyous time and again about the concordance of their ideas. Below are some examples.

First, this is the role of woman. Roerich is known to be highly appreciative of women's creative potential. He believed the next epoch would be the epoch of Culture and epoch of woman: "Who but woman must now rise and unite for the sake of Culture and Beauty? It was woman who was the first to bring good news of the Resurrection. To list what was done or inspired by woman would mean to tell the history of the world. If we speak about bringing beauty to the fullness of life, if we know the destined evolution rests on the cornerstones of Beauty and Knowledge, then who will be the most devoted ally and guide of these basics in the depth of human conscience?"22 Second, it is the situation, the living conditions of artists which Roerich took a lot of care about: "Many times I had to speak for protection of treasures of culture and improvement of living conditions of artists and scientists," he wrote in 1931, "But nobody thought my words were something supernaturally divine. On the contrary, to my deep satisfaction, many times I was able to help my fellow artists and scientists."23. Thirdly, it is the significance of national culture as well as dignity and value of the culture of each nation, "No doubt, our main action plan is to exchange artistic achievements in all areas and scientific knowledge and get to know each other's spiritual values of all peoples"24. Finally, this is diversity of cultures and forms of cultural expression.

If we go on with the metaphorical comparison with a building, with a wonderful temple of Culture, a temple to protect and develop it, than we can say that Roerich believed the dome of the temple was all-encompassing, enveloping all the cultures, languages and expressions, gave an opportunity to all flowers of culture to blossom and ensured stable peace throughout the world. We should not forget that during Roerich's lifetime these ideas, ideas of achieving peace in the entire world through culture, were often considered to be utopian. Yet, today there is no doubt that it's culture that paves the way to peace. We can find this greatest idea in UNESCO Constitution, UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Most Effective Means of Rendering Museums Accessible to Everyone25, UNESCO Declaration of Principles of International Cultural Co-operation26, UNESCO Recommendation concerning the International Exchange of Cultural Property27, UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity28, UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage29, UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions30 and a number of other international documents. Following Roerich, we reaffirm his other greatest idea, idea that peace in the entire world is possible with Culture being its strongest foundation. Banner of Peace reminds young people and the general public of the necessity to protect, respect and love treasures of Culture. Banner of Peace teaches tolerance, goodwill and respect for culture of any people, any language and any individual. As Roerich wrote, it "has already attracted attention of those of the highest intelligence and now goes from heart to heart to again bring people the idea of Peace and Goodwill"31. The Banner of the Roerich World, the World of Culture is indeed Banner of Peace. As "[w]here there is culture, there is peace"32.

N. K. Roerich's creative heritage is of the highest value to everyone who works in the field of Culture, in the field of its protection and development. It has a depository of ideas, suggestions and solutions to better protection of cultural treasures, intangible cultural and natural heritage.

The viability of these ideas made them a spring to have been saturating all aspects of work aimed at protecting culture worldwide for the last 75 years.

However, some of Roerich's ideas are still not reflected in modern international legal documents concerning culture. Many of them, as well as very concrete proposals, are still waiting for their time. Besides, it is necessary to remind that Roerich not only wrote but also built fortresses of Culture in Europe, America and Asia under the harshest conditions. His service to Culture, his experience of the talented and successful enacting of ideas of cultural treasures protection in life deserve closest attention. Conscious study, research and application of N. K. Roerich's creative heritage will help to make protection of Culture more effective and indeed create better conditions for its flourishing.

1 Знамя Мира.: Сб. ст. М.: МЦР, 2005. С. 192.

2 See: Рерих Н.К. Берегите старину. М.: МЦР, 1993. С. 4–5.

3 Рерих Н.К. Памятники // Рерих Н.К. Берегите старину. С. 7–8.

4 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Safeguarding and Contemporary Role of Historic Areas (26 November 1976). Article 4.

5 Рерих Н.К. К природе // Рерих Н.К. О старине моления. Листы. Сказки. М.: МЦР. 1999. С. 81.

6 Ibid., p. 86.

7 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Safeguarding of Beauty and Character of Landscapes and Sites (11 December 1962).

8 Рерих Н.К. Неотложное. 1935 год. Пекин // Рерих Н.К. Листы дневника. В 3 т. Т. 1. М.: МЦР, 1995. С. 193.

9 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Preservation of Cultural Property Endangered by Public or Private works (19 November 1968). Preamble, § 12.

10 Рерих Н.К. Корни Культуры. К десятилетию Института Объединенных Искусств Музея Рериха // Рерих Н.К. Держа­ва Света. Священный дозор. Рига: Виеда, 1992. С. 43.

11 Ibid.

12 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (17 October 2003 г.). Article 1.

13 Main lines of an action plan for the implementation of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. Article 14.

14 For example, see: Рерих Н.К. Восстановления. 1908 г. // Рерих Н.К. Берегите старину. С. 27.

15 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Preservation of Cultural Property Endangered by Public or Private works. Preamble § 11; Article 19.

16 UESCO Recommendation concerning the Protection, at National Level, of the Cultural and Natural Heritage (16 November 1972); Preamble § 2; Articles 7–8.

17 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Safeguarding and Contemporary Role of Historic Areas; Article 33.

18 UNESCO Recommendation on Participation by the People at Large in Cultural Life and their Contribution to It (26 November 1976); Preamble, § 4.

19 UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2 November 2001); Articles 3, 11.

20 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (19 October 2005); Preamble, §3, 6; clauses 5–6 Article 2, Article 13.

21 Рерих Н.К. Мудрость радости. 1931 г. // Рерих Н.К. Держава Света. Священный дозор. 1992. С. 50.

22 Рерих Н.К. Женщинам. 1931 г. // Рерих Н.К. Держава Света. Священный дозор. С. 39. See also: UNESCO Recommendation on Participation by the People at Large in Cultural Life and their Contribution to It; Article 4 (с); UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions; Preamble, § 10.

23 Рерих Н.К. Наскоки. 1931 г. // Рерих Н.К. Листы дневника. Т. 1. С. 34. See also: Рерих Н.К. Лихочасье. 1934 г. // Рерих Н.К. Листы дневника. Т. 1. С. 48; UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist (27 October 1980).

24 Рерих Н.К. Духовные сокровища. 1931 г.// Рерих Н.К. Держава Света. Священный дозор. С. 31. See also: UNESCO Declaration of Principles of International Cultural Co-operation (4 November 1966); clause 1 Article 1: "Each culture has a dignity and value which must be respected and preserved".

25 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Most Effective Means of Rendering Museums Accessible to Everyone (14 December 1960); Preamble § 5.

26 UNESCO Declaration of Principles of International Cultural Co-operation; Preamble; Article 4; clause 2 Article 7, Article 9.

27 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the International Exchange of Cultural Property (26 November 1976); Article 11.

28 UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity; Preamble, § 7.

29 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage; Preamble.

30 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions; Preamble, § 4.

31 Рерих Н.К. Знамя Мира. 1930 г. // Рерих Н.К. Держава Света. Священный дозор. С. 70.

32 Рерих Н.К. Знамя Мира. Конференция в Бельгии. 1931 г. // Рерих Н.К. Держава Света. Священный дозор. С. 74.