Inetrnational Centre of the Roerichs

The Truth about Svetoslav Roerich's Collection

At 7:00 am 27 October, 1978 an Aeroflot charter flight "Varna-Leningrad" delivered 296 paintings of great Russian artists Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich from Bulgaria to the USSR. This valuable collection of Svetoslav Roerich was sent by him to the USSR according to the agreement with the Ministry of Culture for traveling exhibitions in the cities of the Soviet Union. First on the list of museums was The State Russian Museum. Therefore from Bulgaria exhibition arrived in Leningrad.

Then it was impossible to imagine that this collection will suffer a tragic fate. Instead of being transferred to the International Centre of the Roerichs (ICR) according to the will Svetoslav Roerich as a part of the other Heritage of Nicholas and Helena Roerich and give pleasure to visitors of the museum, it will be "buried" in the vaults of the State Museum of Oriental Art (SMOA) [1] and catastrophically will start to "dissolve". So what happened?

The Ministry of Culture has ignored numerous requests to submit to the ICR documents for the collection. Explanation for such a strange silence can be found in a letter of a SMOA employee O.V. Roumyantseva to the Ministry of Culture, which is said that it is impossible to get acquainted with these documents: "Minutes of the commission meeting and further actions has not been preserved, as these documents <...> were lost (as well as the act of paintings accepatnce from India from Svetoslav Roerich)" [2]. So easy it is... Documents certainly have been preserved. The thing is that SMOA is not interested at all that they were made public.

On request of ICR lawyers the State Russian Museum submitted the Act No 4193, in accordance with which the Russian Museum on 2 November, 1978 took for temporary custody from the Representative of the Ministry of Culture of the Peoples’ Republic of Bulgaria, I.R. Zakharieva, the following items “named below”: 296 (two hundred ninety six) works of Nicholas Roerich (132) and Svetoslav Roerich (164) belonging to the latter"[Doc. 4.1. Hereinafter, see "Archival documents" on pages 401-461 of the present edition].

The collection was accepted according to the list of "Nicholas Roerich’s works named in the Appendix No 1 on 5 pages" [Doc. 4.1] and "Svetoslav Roerich’s works named in Appendix No 2 on 7 pages"[Doc. 4.1]. In compliance with generally accepted regulations in the act No 4193 the State Russian Museum did not forget to reflect rights of the owner of these works: "Accepted materials are stored on a common basis and are issued to the owner, his legal heirs or his trustee on demand "[Doc. 4.2].

In Appendix to the act of painting acceptance you can see that in the box inventory (in English) to the act <...> named works of both authors 300 (three hundred) items in total (132 - Nicholas [Roerich] and 168 – Svetoslav [Roerich]), out of which pp. 102, 163, 167, 168 of Svetoslav Roerich’s works were not received in the USSR "[Doc. 4.2].

So, in 1978 the State Russian museum accepted 296 paintings: 132 by Nicholas Roerich and 164 by Svetoslav Roerich.

In eleven years in 1989 it was issued an Order of the Ministry of Culture USSR No 234 dated 30 May 1989 "On Measures to ensure safety of Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich’s works (collection of Svetoslav Roerich)": "In order to ensure safety of Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich’s works (the owner is Svetoslav Roerich, India): 1. E. V. Vuchetich All-Union Art Production Association (Comrade A.Z. Olinov) should pass them (282 items) to the State Museum of Oriental Art for temporary custody with execution of the relevant documents transfer"[Doc. 9]. The order was issued but no one was going to transfer the collection according to this order as it had been already for 9 years in the SMOA disposal.

Here a reasonable conclusion can arise: if in 11 years after the Exhibition arrival from Bulgaria it was necessary to ensure its safety, it means that someone placed in doubt the safety of the Exhibition. At the same paragraph of the order we find evidence to this assumption: only 282 paintings were transferred but according to Svetoslav Roerich’s will made in March 1990, it is known that the Ministry of Culture of the USSR should take care of 288 paintings: "As a part of my collections and other assets I wish to hand over to the Soviet Roerich Foundation 288 paintings – of my father (125) and me (163) which are preserved in custody of the Ministry of Culture of the USSR"[Doc. 12.2].

Thus, the documents of the Ministry of Culture indicate that in 1978 in the USSR arrived 296 paintings (132 by Nicholas Roerich and 164 by Svetoslav). In 1989, they turned into 282 (122 by Nicholas Roerich and 160 by Svetoslav). The Svetoslav Roerich’s testament claims that in the USSR in custody of the Ministry of Culture there were 288 paintings (125 by Nicholas Roerich and 163 by Svetoslav). So how many paintings remained in the USSR in reality?

In a footnote to the Act of paintings acceptance No 4193 the State Russian Museum noted that 14 works of the Roerichs should be returned to Bulgaria. These are 7 paintings by Nicholas Roerich corresponding to the following points in the inventories: 37, 66, 67, 83, 104, 107, 114; and 4 paintings by Svetoslav Roerich respectively, corresponding points are 24, 29, 41, 142. As for 3 other paintings that in accordance with Appendix to the act should be returned to Bulgaria, in the act the following is said about it: "In addition, instead of pp. 1, 7, 8 in the inventory in English there are 3 (three) works of Nicholas Roerich: all 3 (three) works - 1. " Hill of Tara "; 2."Oh, future!"; 3. "Seraphim" [Doc. 4.2]. Apparently, in Bulgaria they made a mistake: instead of paintings by Nicholas Roerich “Maid of Snow" (No 1), "Alexander Nevsky» (No 7) and "the Tale of Shambhala” (No 8. This title is in Svetoslav Roerich’s inventory in Russian and under the same number in the Russian translation of the Svetoslav’s testamentary disposition, which was certified by the Russian consul in Madras. In his will in English under this number there is a title “the Tale of Shambhala”) in boxes they put completely different paintings, which did not appear in the attached inventories and should be returned to Bulgaria.

Now it is clear why in all official documents of the Ministry of Culture 282 paintings are mentioned (296 minus 14). Results of arithmetic calculations, which the Ministry of Culture and SMOA offer to us is untrue. Let's start with paintings by Nicholas Roerich. Svetoslav Nikolaevich was right –125 his father’s paintings were left in the USSR. 7 paintings which were subject to return to Bulgaria were sent there (132 - 125 = 7). But the Ministry of Culture and SMOA claim that 122 paintings are left. The reasoning is simple: 3 paintings that did not coincide with the inventory of the received canvases were also sent to Bulgaria. But the Ministry of Culture passed over in silence about the fact that the Bulgarian side, in its turn, returned "Maid of Snow", "Alexander Nevsky" and "the Tale of Shambhala" [Doc. 7.1].

According to the Order of the Ministry of Culture of the USSR No.776 dated 13 October 1978 [doc.3], exhibition which had come from Bulgaria was to be displayed not only in Leningrad (the State Russian Museum) but also in Odessa (the Odessa Art Museum), Vilnius (The Lithuanian Art Museum), Lvov (the Lvov Art Gallery), Kiev (the Kiev National Museum of Russian Art) and Moscow (showrooms of the Soviet Academy of Arts). The ICR has copies of acts of transfer and acceptance of 296 paintings with the corresponding inventories [doc.7]. All the inventories include above-mentioned N.K. Roerich’s paintings: Maid of Snows No.1, Alexander Nevsky No.7, The Tale of Shambhala No.8. Therefore, they were additionally delivered in USSR and joined the collection. Afterwards, in 1990 Svetoslav Nikolayevich added them to his testament and later he did not do any deletions in it. Shortly before his death Svetoslav Roerich made a codicil where he prйcised the heir of his passed to Russia heritage – the International Centre of the Roerichs. Once again he did not make any deletions from his will. Therefore, these paintings should be in Svetoslav Roerich’s collection among 125 paintings by Nicholas Roerich.

In June 1979 Svetoslav Roerich’s collection arrived in Moscow at the Soviet Academy of Arts. According to the order of Ministry of Culture No.766 the exhibition at the Academy of Arts was considered to be the last one. According to the same order, after the closing of the exhibition E. V. Vuchetich All-Union Art Production Association was to provide sending of the paintings back to India to their owner – Svetoslav Nikolayevich Roerich. However, the sending was not realized because Svetoslav Nikolayevich wanted his paintings to be seen in the other cities of USSR. The Ministry of Culture was also concerned that exhibition should remain in USSR. Thus, collection did not leave the USSR and strange miracles started to happen to it: collection began to decrease…

Now we should try to answer the question: how many paintings by Svetoslav Roerich remained in USSR? The documents of The State Museum of Oriental Art show that there should be 160 of them. Is that right? From the act of acceptance of The State Russian Museum on the delivered paintings it is known that 168 paintings by Svetoslav Roerich were to be delivered from Bulgaria but only 164 were delivered. Paintings which were mentioned in the inventories with numbers 102, 163, 167, 168. Paintings No. 102 and 163 are mentioned in Svetoslav Roerich’s testamentary prescription but those with numbers 167 and 168 are not. Therefore, paintings No. 102 and 163 were delivered additionally from Bulgaria to USSR as well as 3 paintings by Nicholas Roerich.

Further, in the act of acceptance on the delivery of paintings to the USSR it is said that 4 paintings by Svetoslav Roerich (No.: 24, 29, 41 and 142) were to be returned to Bulgaria. Were they really returned to the places they had come from? In autumn 2004 an exhibition devoted to Svetoslav Roerich’s 100th anniversary was held in Sophia. There was presented a document written by S.N. Roerich:

“To the People's Republic of Bulgaria Committee of Culture – Sophia.
With great satisfaction I Donate to the National Assemblies and Museums of People’s Republic of Bulgaria six (6) artworks created by my father Nicholas Roerich with following numbers:
1. No. 37 [Tibet]
2. No. 66 [The Himalayas]
3. No. 67 [Sunset]
4. No. 83 [Tanglha]
5. No. 114 [The Himalayas]
6. No. 107 [Mount Everest]
And three (3) of my paintings with following numbers:
1. The Portrait of Nicholas Roerich. No. 41
2. Kanchenjunga – the Himalayas. No.29
3. Jacob and the Angel. No. 24

I am happy that these items will be a part of the National Assembly of Bulgarian Collection. Svetoslav Roerich. 22 [May 19]78 ” [doc.2].

This Svetoslav Roerich’s deed of gift agreement for some reason differs from the Act No. 4193 in the number of paintings that are to be returned to Bulgaria: No. 104 (painting by Nicholas Roerich) and No. 142 (painting by Svetoslav Roerich) mentioned in the Act are missing. In other words, according to the Act there was one more painting of each painter to be returned to Bulgaria. Unfortunately, there is still no information on how many and which of Roerichs’ paintings were returned to Bulgaria by the Ministry of Culture of USSR. In October 2004 the question was addressed to the head of the Federal Agency of Culture and Cinematography - M.E. Shvydkoy but he did not give any reply to the lawyers of ICR. In such situation there is nothing to do but trust to the information given by Svetoslav Roerich. In the testamentary prescription he mentions 163 of his paintings left for temporary storage in the Ministry of Culture (164 + 2 (No.102, No.163) - 3 (donation for Bulgaria) = 163). The State Museum of Oriental Art in its inventories shows only 160 paintings, which means that 3 paintings by Svetoslav Roerich are missing.

Thus, from 1978 to 1989 - 6 paintings (3 by Nicholas Roerich and 3 by Svetoslav Roerich) disappear from Svetoslav Roerich’s collection without any legal foundation.

According to the Order of the Ministry of Culture of the USSR the E. V. Vuchetich All-Union Art Production Association was responsible for the organization of exhibitions while the Management of the Fine Arts and National Heritage and the Foreign Relations Management under the Ministry of Culture were responsible for the execution of an order control. The documents from the archive of Ministry of Culture show that there was the third legal body responsible for the safety of Svetoslav Roerich’s collection. One of these documents is “The reference on the exposition of Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerichs’ artworks in USSR” which says: “After long-term route of the exhibition all the exhibits were thoroughly examined by the restoration expert commission; upon its decision 81 artworks were left in the travelling exhibit. The rest was transferred to of The State Museum of Oriental Art for the exposition and for temporary custody to the E. V. Vuchetich All-Union Art Production Association”. Another document – “Office memorandum” written by a member of The State Museum of Oriental Art – O.V. Roumyantseva to the Ministry of Culture of the USSR dated 3 March 1987 is the evidence of the fact that paintings from Svetoslav Roerich’s collection were never (!) handed over to E. V. Vuchetich All-Union Art Production Association but they were kept in temporary custody at The State Museum of Oriental Art:

“Due to a flat refusal of the E. V. Vuchetich All-Union Art Production Association to accept for custody the exhibition by Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich (282 paintings) from the museum in view of the lack of facilities <…> as a custodian of the mentioned exhibition I offer the following compromise decision: 1. The exhibition remains in temporary custody (No. No. MAF) with me as a curator of the Roerichs’ collection at The State Museum of Oriental Art” [doc. 11]. And point 3 of this office memorandum says that the E. V. Vuchetich All-Union Art Production Association still remains responsible for this exhibition: “For the time of sending the paintings and for the time of passing the route the E. V. Vuchetich All-Union Art Production Association on behalf of the exhibition director or another person in charge would accept them in temporary custody with the relevant execution and subsequent duties” [doc.11].

Thus, the events happening to the collection are rather strange. According to the order of the Ministry of Culture of the USSR, after the termination of the exhibition at the Soviet Academy of Arts (autumn 1979) the collection was to be transferred to the E. V. Vuchetich All-Union Art Production Association which was responsible for its safety and was to organize travelling exhibitions. But it remained there during several days and was transferred to The State Museum of Oriental Art which started to control it. Despite the fact that the E.V. Vuchetich All-Union Art Production Association had been responsible for the exhibition up to May 1989, the collection was there neither during that time nor later. It is a major breach of the law on the exposition of the paintings of a great value. It is evident that all this was made intentionally.

Previously it was found out that according to the order of the Ministry of Culture, only 282 paintings (of 288 left in the USSR by Svetoslav Roerich) remained. Even despite Roumyantseva’s office memorandum it is difficult to insist that 6 paintings disappeared exactly from the State Museum of Oriental Art. However, there is no doubt that strange and even terrible things happened to the collection at The State Museum of Oriental Art. It is proved with the documents of this museum.

There are two acts with the same number – No.54 – ostensibly worked out by the State Museum of Oriental Art at the same time (12 March 1993) showing the same event – the transfer of 282 paintings (Svetoslav Roerich’s collection) from temporary custody to permanent. These are not a rough draft and a final version of the same document. These are not a copy and an original document. These are two absolutely different documents which still peacefully co-exist and even appear in judicial sittings upon an initiative of the State Museum of Oriental Art authorized agents! One appeared in judicial sittings in 2001 in the Moscow Arbitration Court when the Ministry of Culture was trying to prove its ownership of paintings [doc. 18.1]. Another appeared in 2004 at the second trial (at the Hamovnichesky Court) on reconsideration of the ICR application in regards of admission of the inheritance property under the will of Svetoslav Roerich when a representative of M.E. Shvydkoy, Head of the Federal Agency of Culture and Cinematography, claimed on the act as on the evidence of government’s ownership of paintings [doc. 18.2]. You would wonder whether it is possible. And we will have to answer that it is possible with The State Museum of Oriental Art.

These Acts, like classic dizygotic twins despite of having the same “parents” and the same day of delivery, differ not only in appearance, in a font type and in a number of pages but they are different in their matter – which is the most important aspect. For some reasons they were executed by different people while the names are the same. And it is only the tip of the iceberg. The inventories of exhibits do not correspond to each other: while paintings have the same index numbers and registration numbers in the Register, their names, dates and sizes, painting technique, base and description of their preservation mismatch. Fortunately, in the Act No.54 (2001) in the paintings inventory there is an author’s number of the paintings owner (in our example it is in brackets). This fact gave a chance to compile a comparison table of paintings by Svetoslav Roerich and by Nicholas Roerich from the collection that belonged to the latter and delivered to the USSR in 1978 for travelling exhibitions.

In compiling the comparison table the following documents were used. First of all, “The inventory of paintings by Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich displayed at the exhibition in the USSR” [doc. 8] which belonged to Svetoslav Roerich and was transferred to LyudmilaV. Shaposhnikova. Exhibition catalogues of Roerichs’ paintings in Bulgaria in 1978 [4; doc. 1]. Inventories of paintings attached to the Act No. 4193 dated 2 November 1978 (Appendix No.1 in 5 pages – paintings by Nicholas Roerich, Appendix No.2 in 7 pages – paintings by Svetoslav Roerich) [doc.5; doc. 5a]. Inventories of paintings from the acts of acceptance and delivery of museums where the exhibitions took place after Leningrad [doc.7]. Catalogue of the exhibition which took place at The State Museum of Oriental Art in 1984 [5]. Inventories of paintings from two Acts No 54 dated 2001 and 2004. Also in order to compile the table paintings inventories from the Act of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation (2002).

Index numbers of the Svetoslav Roerich’s inventory which match the index numbers from the inventory from the Act of State Russian Museum No 4193 dated 2 November 1978 and the acts of other museums, also saved in some other inventories of paintings worked out by The State Museum of Oriental Art gave a chance to compile the comparison table and trace the history of each painting from the Svetoslav Roerich’s collection. In the comparison table the inventories from the Svetoslav Roerich’s testament prescription (Appendix No 4 and No 5) were not used as the index numbers of the paintings considered to be returned to Bulgaria differ from the index numbers of the paintings arrived in the USSR in 1978.

The comparison table showed a lot of unexpected moments of the sad destiny of the majority of the paintings from the Svetoslav Roerich’s collection. Some parts of this table [see Table 1] show that in SMOA they changed not only titles of paintings but also years of their writing and dimentions. So the painting which Nicholas Roerich called “Tibet” (No 48 in the inventory of Svetoslav Roerich) turned to be entitled as “Monastery Brahmaputra” (1937) in the State Museum of Oriental Art and then the same painting began to be identified as the “Himalayas” (1939). Surprisingly that O.V. Ruomyantseva being the “curator of the Svetoslav Roerich’s collection” in the State Museum of Oriental Art proves in the signed document “Correspondence inventory of author’s numbers of the owner (Svetoslav Roerich) to the museum numbers under the act of admission” [6] that this is an identical painting. Another example includes the discrepancies between size and dating. [see table 2].

Svetoslav Roerich’s paintings in the State Museum of Oriental Art underwent more serious “transformations” rather than paintings of his father. The difference between the dimension of paintings in the lists of their owners and State Museum of Oriental Art comprised from 16 to 111(!) sm, is discovered in several dozens of paintings [see table 3].

Thus the discrepancy between the painting “Devika Rani Roerich” of “2004 vintage” and the original picture is 72 sm! Such a substantial difference in the painting’s dimensions which gets under the same index number 132 and same number of the accession Register 44054kp also provides evidence for the fact that different paintings seem to be shown in two acts №54. We come to the identical conclusion when comparing the parameters of the painting “Sunset over Malana” [see table 3].

The comparative table also detects the differences in basis and techniques of producing of paintings indicated in two inventories of the State Museum of Oriental Art [see table 4]. It only confirms previously deduced inference that the paintings from the Svetoslav Roerich’s collection resided in the State Museum of Oriental Art met a range of “magic” transformations.


Unfortunately Svetoslav Roerich didn’t specify the basis and techniques of writing of paintings. However the documents of State Museum of Oriental Art can impress even without this data. The above example intentionally involves the information from the exhibition catalogue of the Roerichs’ paintings which took place in 1984 in the State Museum of Oriental Art aiming to see how the same painting (under the author’s number 56) was not only changing in size but reversing its basis – from canvas to the cardboard and vice versa during its twenty-year stay in the State Museum of Oriental Art. Herewith in one case the picture was painted in distemper and in the other case painted in oils [see tables 4 and 5]. What a rich imagination does the State Museum of Oriental Art have!

The comparison approved a great number of discrepancies between the inventory of Svetoslav Roerich and inventory of State Museum of Oriental Art relating to the titles of paintings, years of their writing, contradictions in techniques and dimensions.

Analysis of all these diversities carries inherence that they resulted from the comparison of different paintings, i.e. the unlike paintings were placed in the State Museum of Oriental Art under the same author’s number and number of the accession-books. They differed markedly from those paintings which arrived at the USSSR as part of Roerich’s collection.


For 20 years the ICR management has been trying to rescue the valuable collection. Svetoslav Roerich’s address to the Russian President Boris Yeltsin [doc. 15] dated 1992 with an appeal to return the illegally withheld paintings also did not help. When in 2001 the Moscow Court of Arbitration dismissed the application of International Centre of the Roerichs to return Svetoslav Roerich’s collection to the ICR from the State Museum of Oriental Art without prejudice, the ICR President Y.M.Vorontsov together with Director General of the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich Lyudmila Shaposhnikova applied to the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation with a request “About the inspection of actual presence of paintings from the indicated collection in the State Museum of Oriental Art and their correspondence to their original right stating documents”. [7]. For making this enquiry the ICR surrendered all necessary documents to the Accounts Chamber including those testifying of absence of 46 paintings by Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerichs (at that point in time the ICR knew only about this quantity of paintings).

The Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation accepts the ICR address to execution. And for some reason by the decision of Collegium of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation dated October 25, 2002 the different object of enquiry is established – “About the inspection of use of the Svetoslav and Nicholas Roerichs’ collection of paintings in the State Museum of Oriental Art”. Of course there was no word on changing of the enquiry’s purpose for the ICR. The quote extracted from the letter by the deputy chairman of Accounts Chamber A.N.Semikolennykh says: “Then <…> the aim consisted not in the inspection of “original right stating documents” [8] but museum valuables in the State Museum of Oriental Art”. The auditor of Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation Y.M.Voronin carries out the inspection. And while the right stating documents were excluded from the enquiry’s purpose, the results were fantastic.

Eventually the work resulted in two documents. The first one “Audit report of the use of the Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich’s collection of paintings in the State Museum of Oriental Art” was sent to the ICR. We won’t pay special attention on it as the first ICR Vice-President, Director General of the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich Lyudmila Shaposhnikova in her article “We wanted the best, but things turned out as usual” performs the detailed analysis of this report [9, p.221-225]. Another document – “Inspection act of the use of Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerichs’ collection of paintings in the State Museum of Oriental Art” dated October 27, 2002 [10] was sent to the State Museum of Oriental Art. Without any doubts this most interesting document is worth noticing.

On the 21st page of the Act entitled “Carrying out expert and analytical measures for matching of presented paintings to the accounting documents” we can read the following: “The presented paintings are examined and measured, the comparative analysis of the primary description under the permanent custody according to the acceptance act of permanent custody No 54 dated March 12, 1993 is produced” [10].

Hereafter on the same page: “Following the results of the inspection the Act of carrying out expert and analytical measures for matching of presented paintings to the accounting documents is signed (Appendix No 4 to the present act) wherein the following is mentioned: <…> the series of works clarifies the names and time of their creation, found discrepancies of the titles are identified under the authority of Minutes of proceedings of Fund commission of the museum dated [July 2, 19] 96 and [July 18, 19] 96” [10]. Now let’s refer to the Appendix No 4 indicated in the act of the Accounts Chamber: “The inventory of paintings to the Act dated March 12, 1993 No 54 was used as an original document for work”. What is exactly the kind of a document, I wonder? The Appendix No 2 to the Act of Accounts Chamber gives the lists of “Display exhibits resided in the museum depository No 27” and “Display exhibits issued by the museum depository No 27”. By comparison of these lists with the lists from two Acts No 54 it is obviously hard to escape the conclusion that commission members of the Accounts Chamber while checking paintings with the lists provided by the State Museum of Oriental Art…referred to the inventories from different acts having the same number 54. Hereinabove it was proved that these lists essentially differ from each other. For some reason it did not astonish the commission members!

We only have to regret that the Accounts Chamber denied using the Svetoslav Roerich’s inventories delivered by the ICR in its work. If only it had used them, there would not have been such absurdities in its documents which are impossible with such-like inspections. We’ll cite some examples:

“Misprints and inaccuracies while dimensioning of paintings in the inventory to the Act dated March 12, 1993 No 54 are detected:

Numerical order № KP Author. Name of paintings

131 44053 S.Roerich. Pandid Dzh.Nehru.

1942, x., m., 91 x 151, 8 – objectively 76 x 61” (10).


In the Svetoslav Roerich’s inventory this painting is entitled as “Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru”, produced in 1946, size 75 x 60. One would like to know, why have the name, year of creation and size been changed? The painting with dimensions of 91 x 151,8 is presented to the Accounts Chamber of the State Museum of Oriental Art. The Accounts Chamber experts fix the actual size which is less than 15 sm and 90,8 sm respectively than the presented ones! Of course, it is fair to assume the mistake in measurements but not like this! And if it is, that’s a wholly different proposition! However the members of the Accounts Chamber commission are without responding to this circumstance.

One more example:

“numerical order No KP Author. Name of paintings

132 44054 S.N.Roerich. Devika Rani Roerich.

1946, x., m. 60 x 75 – objectively

52,5 x 57,5

The indicated size corresponds to the record card” [10]. Let’s introduce this example to the comparative table [see table 6].


If the painting was less than 72 sm in the list to the Act No 54 dated 2004 then the same painting was down by 100 sm in comparison with the original. Let us suppose that experts did not see the list of paintings of Svetoslav Roerich. And they handwrote that according to the museum act the painting’s dimensions are equal to 137,5 x 92. They were given the painting with 60 x 75 size, but experts “really established” quite different scales which are less than 85 sm and 34,5 sm respectively if comparing with those specified in the act of State Museum of Oriental Art. And this fact also does not surprise anyone. Curious things happen in the State Museum of Oriental Art: Paintings decrease in size by themselves and Account chamber experts are in evidence with this phenomenon! There are more than 30 (!) of such examples in the Appendix to the Account Chamber act.

Further this appendix has a record which appears to be the real abuse: “Minimal differences in sizes (approximately 1,5-2 sm) can be explained by the quality of a working tool and inaccuracy in measuring.” For obvious reasons, act does not mention anything about the maximum difference in sizes. What if the paintings would “shrink” during the next inspection?

Now we turn to another Appendix of Inspection Act on the use of Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich’s paintings in the State Museum of Oriental Art of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation. The Appendix No 3 is strangely referred to as “Structure of Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerichs’ paintings”. It sets a table which gives the “Names of paintings, received for 1980-1989ss” and “Names of paintings under the inspection act dated December 16, 2002.” Comparing the names of paintings we reach another interesting conclusion: names of more than 60 of the Roerichs’ paintings submitted to the state Museum of Oriental Art have been changed to distinctly different titles. The table is followed by the appendix which states that “names of paintings are specified consequently of scientific research studies conducted over the 1980-1993 period…” The question is - what do these “scientific research studies” represent within alive author and owner of paintings being in good health which resulted in changing of titles in such a substantial way when he knew nothing about this?! For example:


Initially After “research studies”

  • Oeuvres by Nicholas Roerich:

«8. “Tibet” “Evening”

20. “Sacred” “Himalayas”

55. “Himalayas” “Monastery-Brahmaputra

81. “Himalayas” “Tibet”

108. “Mongolia” “Conjurer” [10] »

- Oeuvres by Svetoslav Roerich:

«155. “Chestnuts” “Landscape”

191. “Kardang” “Sunset over Malana”

282. “Bramaputra” “Lahul. Kardang”» [10]



Now it becomes clear why the Accounts Chamber refused the original right stating documents of Svetoslav Roerich, the owner of collection. This inspection had a different object – to legitimate all the disregards of the law happened in the State Museum of Oriental Art concerning the Svetoslav Roerich’s collection. And it succeeded. And things get transparent. The unwillingness of former ministers of culture of the Russian Federation and Head of Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography M.E. Shvydkoy to execute Svetoslav Roerich’s last will and return his collection to the ICR is associated with the reason that original collection’s contents considerably diminished and varied.

By a strange coincidence following the enquiry’s accomplishment in the State Museum of Oriental Art the Accounts Chamber Auditor Y.M.Voronin who was in charge of this event immediately retired from service of his own free will. Maybe it’s an accidental coincidence. Maybe it’s not…Whatever the reason of retirement, it’s long past time for the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation to make a point of the State Museum of Oriental Art, while it didn’t’ ruin the whole collection of Svetoslav Roerich.


Six years later

Six years have passed since the publication of an article “Truth about Svetoslav Roerich’s collection” [3. p. 204-230]. However nor the ministry of Culture, nor the Prosecutor General's Office, nor the Russian Mass Media, Communications and Cultural Protection Service following the Accounts Chamber do not wish to take notice of discrepancy of paintings in the State Museum of Oriental Art to the original structure of Svetoslav Roerich’s collection. In the work of inspectors all of them focus only on the information and documents received from the State Museum of Oriental Art. Such obstinate “blindness” of government authorities responsible for the preservation of cultural heritage of the country is simply amazing.

Serious studies of this collection are required starting with Bulgaria where it had been completely exhibited and then sent to the USSR. At the same place the exhibition catalogues were issued, and all paintings were photographed. This collection had never been completely exhibited in the USSR. Nowadays the same collection is thought to have been placed in the State Museum of Oriental Art, but somehow it lost a part of paintings. The State Museum of Oriental Art would not present an inventory of original structure of the collection. It’s absent. They don’t need it as the true story of this collection began at the end of 1979 year, when its first tour of the country’s museums was completely finished. The new history of this collection with new lists of paintings much different from the original structure begins in the State Museum of Oriental Art where it arrives after the end of this tour. The collection’s lists in the State Museum of Oriental Art were driven to the requirements of those paintings being placed in the State Museum of Oriental Art at the moment of their compiling and were always variable due to some reasons.

According to the letter of O.V.Roumyantseva, the employee of the state Museum of Oriental Art and treasurer of Svetoslav Roerich’s collection, the copies of Roerichs’ paintings were being produced in the museum: “While packing the travelling exhibitions it is usually assumed that there is another (identical) copy of the display exhibit…” [2], which replaces the original during travelling exhibitions. It seems to be the explanation of the fact that State Museum of Oriental Art has a great number of paintings inconsistent with their originals. The artist will never make the painting equal to the identical size when he’s producing the unfamiliar painting. Travelling exhibitions in the State Museum of Oriental Art came to the end long time ago and the part of originals could be replaced with the “identical copies”.

For this reason the inventories of State Museum of Oriental Art keep away from the total serenity about the collection. Therefore it is necessary to go back to the original lists of the collection composed by its owner and see about the destiny of paintings arrived from Bulgaria to Russia before their transfer to the State Museum of Oriental Art and only afterwards to examine the history of the Svetoslav Roerich’s collection in the State Museum of Oriental Art. Then the whole tragedy with the collection within Russian territory would develop. The article “Truth about Svetoslav Roerich’s collection” is certainly concentrated on this. But given facts are persistently refused to be noticed. Moreover somebody tries to recognize them unfaithful.

In February/March of 2008 the Russian Mass Media, Communications and Cultural Protection Service held the unscheduled inspection in the State Museum of Oriental Art. The letters by Ukraine citizens who insisted on disappearance of significant number of the Roerichs’ paintings referring to the article “Truth about Svetoslav Roerich’s collection” became the formal grounds for such kind of inspection. However the Russian Mass Media, Communications and Cultural Protection Service under the chairmanship of the Head of Department for Preserving Cultural Values V.V. Petrakov did not examine all facts indicated in the mentioned article but the correspondence of collection’s structure to the lists of State Museum of Oriental Art. Consequently this inspection wasn’t aimed at finding out the truth about collection. Thus we have findings by commission as follows: “the Russian Mass Media, Communications and Cultural Protection Service did not prove the information about disappearance of a part of Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerichs’ paintings placed in the State Museum of Oriental Art.” In this way the truth about Svetoslav Roerich’s collection is being hidden for the twentieth time. Such inspections will never detect the missing paintings as all changes taken place in the collection correspond to the inventories of this collection in the State Museum of Oriental Art.

In effort to explain the unauthorized absence of part of paintings in the collection, the Management of State Museum of Oriental Art starts accusing Svetoslav Roerich of this fact in his own capacity, a person who donated it to Russia. The absurdity of such prosecutions is evident.

For example, the Director General of State Museum of Oriental Art A.V.Sedov writes in his article “About Roerich”: “In printed form we officially expanded the enlightening data about “lost” paintings of A.Stetsenko entitled “Alexandr Nevsky” and “Maid of Snow” which were requested to India by Svetoslav Roerich and thereafter sold to famous Bangalore collector H. K.Kejriwal where they are situated now” [11]. The declaration about paintings which nevertheless formed the part of collection in the USSR has been finally expressed.

According to the act of admission of collection to the USSR No 4193 dated November 2, 1978 the paintings by Nicholas Roerich “Maid of Snow” and “Alexandr Nevsky” belonged to Svetoslav Roerich as well as the rest ones [doc. 4.1]. This is evident from the fact that any corrections are absent. It does not give any grounds to question the property right of Svetoslav Roerich to the paintings submitted to the USSR. So the following handwritten note in the first page of list of Nicholas Roerich’s paintings printed in English and being the box inventory evokes a surprise: “No-s, 1, 7 and 8 loaned by Mr.H.Kejriwal” [doc. 5.1.]. These numbers from the list of Nicholas Roerich’s paintings exactly correspond to those paintings which State Museum of Oriental Art demonstrates as missing from the Svetoslav Roerich’s collection: No 1 “Maid of Snow”, No 2 – “Alexandr Nevsky” and No 8 – “The Tale of Shambhala”. Such adscript handled by some person is unable to be accepted as it contradicts to the act. In this case the act is the only document to establish the property rights to the paintings enumerated in Appendixes. It is signed by representative of Bulgaria, transferring party, and representative of the USSR, receiving party. Total amount of signatures is 8. A record for acceptance of “296 (Two hundred and ninety six) oeuvres by Nicholas (132) and Svetoslav (164) Roerich belonged to the last-mentioned” made in the act is strongly indicates who is the owner of collection. Besides the other thing becomes obvious – nobody notarized this handwritten note made well after the drawing up the act and it can’t give evidence for the fact that H.Kejriwal was the owner of Nicholas Roerich’s paintings Maid of Snow”, “Alexandr Nevsky” and “The Tale of Shambhala”. The concerned paintings appear on the last page before the inventories in the box inventory of Nicholas Roerich’s paintings arrived from Bulgaria [doc.5; doc. 5a], signed by the Bulgarian representative I.Zakharieva and Curator of Russian Museum Foundation E.Basner. There is no any reference to their belonging to the Indian collector H.Kejriwal. Hence we have one more confirmation that these paintings came to the USSR as a property of Svetoslav Roerich. Perhaps the postscript in the later English inventory variant was the attempt to disguise the unauthorized removal and sale of Nicholas Roerich’s paintings “Maid of Snow” and “Alexandr Nevsky” from the collection. The fate of the third painting will be referred to below.

The representatives of State Museum of Oriental Art say that Svetoslav Roerich requested the paintings “Maid of Snow” and “Alexandr Nevsky” to the USSR before their arrival to the State Museum of Oriental Art and then sold to the Indian collector H.Kejriwal. In reality these paintings are situated in India being a part of private collection of H.Kejriwal [12, p. 62-64]. Therefore these paintings were actually excluded from the Svetoslav Roerich’s collection, removed from the country and sold. But Svetoslav Roerich was not the one who did this.

Svetoslav Roerich included the paintings “Maid of Snow” and “Alexandr Nevsky” into his testamentary disposition (Appendix No 5) [doc. 13.7] legalized by a notary in India. Shortly before his death at the end of 1992 Svetoslav Roerich made the codicil where he confirmed the ICR rights to the heritage donated to Russia. Svetoslav Roerich neglected any withdrawals from his bequest. Are really the State Museum of Oriental Art and Ministry of Culture unaware of this? It turns out that ten years after the collection was transferred to the SMOA (according to official records in 1980), its owner confirmed the presence of two paintings, “Maid of Snow” and “Alexander Nevsky” in the USSR. Therefore, the claims that these paintings were transferred out of the USSR in order to be sold by order of Svetoslav Roerich are untrue. Even if we suppose that Svetoslav Roerich had demanded to return these paintings from the USSR to India before the compilation of his last will, he would not have included them in the list of properties bequeathed to him. If it happened after signing the will, then Svetoslav Roerich himself, the notary, the Ministry of Culture and the SMOA should have carried out an entire complex of actions related to changing the role of the collection owner. To illustrate, Svetoslav Roerich should have changed his will in the presence of a notary, while the notary should have informed all parties involved. Furthermore Roerich would have had to address the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation demanding the return of the paintings, the Ministry would have had to satisfy his demand etc. And all these actions should have been accompanied by relevant documents, which, naturally, should be available in the Ministry of Culture archives. But for obvious reasons they are not and cannot be there. Therefore, let us say that Mr. A.V. Sedov, Director General of the SMOA, failed to comprehend the history of Svetoslav Roerich’s collection and relied on some of his colleagues who had long been experts in the art of falsifying the story of Roerich’s heritage. The columnists of “Novaya Gazeta” who published the results of their investigation of the story of Svetoslav Roerich’s collection under the title “The State Oriental Museum Horror Tale” arrived at the same conclusion [13, pp 16–21]. Let us mention just a few of them. They include the illegal absence from the Svetoslav Roerich’s collection of two paintings by his father (“Maid of Snow” and “Alexander Nevsky”), the concealment from all inventories of the act of acquisition by the Museum of 253 paintings by the Roerichs in 1984 (Act No 6919 dated October 2, 1984) and disappearance of the paintings inventory on 66 pages attached to the act. And what is the reaction of the Public Prosecutor? He once again bases his conclusions solely on the data supplied by the SMOA: “On the basis of the documents submitted by the State Oriental Museum… at present the city’s Prosecutor’s Office has no reasons to take legal action” [14].

Unfortunately what we are witnessing is multiple acts of falsification of the history of the Svetoslav Roerich’s collection by the SMOA. And until the Ministry of Culture and the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation do not undertake a serious revision of the collection in the State Oriental Museum based on the fact of illegal absence in it of Roeirchs’ paintings and considerable difference between its original and present contents, the considerable danger of the ultimate loss of this collection remains. Meanwhile the SMOA continues to conceal the facts of disappearance of paintings from the collection of Svetoslav Roerich.


The Mystery of One Painting

According to the data of the owner of the collection, Svetoslav Roerich himself, the collection handed over to Russia should include the following two paintings by Nicholas Roerich: “Tangla” (No 6) and “The Tale of Shambhala” (No 8). However, according to the official data Nicholas Roerich’s painting “Tangla. The Tale of Shambhala” goes under No 6 in the collection of the SMOA, while the painting under No 8 is not at all mentioned. It has to be noted that according to the account of the SMOA the following paintings by Nicholas Roerich have never been kept in the Museum: “Maid of Snow” (No 1), “Alexander Nevsky” (No 7) and “The Tale of Shambhala” (No 8). This fact proves that some strange event took place in the SMOA, as a result of which two paintings by Nicholas Roerich under different titles suddenly became one, the title whereof being a fusion of the titles of the other two. Let us try to find out what really took place there and why the SMOA had to resort to such a strange doings.

In accordance with the certificate submitted by the SMOA to the Moscow Court of Arbitration ( No 268/1:00 dated August 1, 2001 [doc.10.1], 91 paintings from the collection of Svetoslav Roerich were transferred from the All-Union Art Production Association to the SMOA including item the 6 titled “Tangla” (Act No 5443 dated December 16, 1980 [doc. 10.2; doc. 10.3] and No 35 dated December 22, 1980[doc. 10.4; doc. 10.5]). The certificate attached to this document amply testifies that the moment the SMOA Curator of the Roerichs’ paintings, O.V. Roumyantseva, received the painting “Tangla” she changed its title into “Tangla. The Tale of Shambhala” [doc. 10.6; doc. 10.9]. As the official records state the title was altered “based on the research conducted in 1980-1993 and in accordance with the protocol of the museum Collection Board dated July 2 and July 18 1996.” Those in support of this argument strengthen it with the references to the “Catalogue of Artistic Creations of Nicholas Roerich” compiled and published by V.V. Sokolovsky in 1974. Let us consider all pro et contra of this bewildering rechristening of the painting and try to understand for what purpose it was done.

Before its renaming the painting “Tangla” had been in the SMOA collection for one incomplete month, which incidentally coincided with the New Year break. How is it possible to conduct an in-depth research in such a short span of time? This entails the following question: what was the reason for conducting such an in-depth research? It is rather strange but the owner of this painting Svetoslav Roerich was not even informed of the SMOA’s intention to rename the painting. Had the SMOA been concerned about the quality of research they would not have bypassed Svetoslav Roerich. Not confirming with him their “research findings” regarding the discovery of a new title of the painting belonging to him would have been simply impossible. If we consider that Svetoslav Roerich was the only living witness of his father’s creative work, the SMOA should have brought all their findings before his justice. This happened neither. In 1990 in Bangalore Svetoslav Roerich signed every page of his will, including the list of Nicholas Roeirch’s paintings which included the item “Tangla” under No 6 and the item “The Tale of Shambala” under No 8. Roerich knew nothing about the so-called research as a result of which the SMOA subjected some 60 paintings from his collection to renaming, including some executed by him [10, attachment 3]. This entails the first conclusion: what we are dealing with here with is the grossest violation of the “Regulation of the Registering and Storage of the Collections of the State Museums of the USSR.” Article 100 of the Regulation states that “The item that has arrived for temporary storage is to be registered in the Temporary Arrival Register. The purpose of the Temporary Arrival Register as a document of protective nature is to register the newly arrived item under a certain number, which is to be entered into it immediately, and to give its concise description to preclude the possibility of its substitution…” It seems that in the beginning everything was done correctly. In accordance with Act No 35 dated December 22, 1980 Nicholas Roerich’s painting “Tangla” (№ 6) kept in the SMOA was given inventory No 33418 кvp in the Temporary Arrival Register. However, several days later the item information was transferred to the Main Collection Inventory Register and a new inventory number (No 44034 кp) and title (Tangla. The Tale of Shambhala) were given to it. It has to be specially mentioned here that this time the approval of the SMOA Collection Board attested by the Director General of the Museum obligatory in such cases as per the Regulation is missing. It may be added here that renaming of the painting was also done without the approval of the SMOA Collection Board.

The references of those in favour of the renaming to the catalogue by Sokolovsky are groundless. Despite the multiple inaccuracies in the catalogue, its significance was enormous, since it was the first ever attempt in the USSR to catalogue all paintings by Nicholas Roerich. This catalogue that saw light in 1974 mentions the painting of Roerich titled “The Song of Shambhala. Tangla” in the section “1943.” As we can see, V.V. Sokolovsky changed the word “Tale” into “Song” and the added “Tangla” to the title of the painting. V.V. Sokolovsky should be given his due, for in the second edition of his catalogue (1978) he removed “Tangla” from the title, making it just “The Song of Shambhala” [15, p. 300].

Thus, there are no grounds whatsoever for renaming item No 6 from “Tangla” into “Tangla. The Song of Shambhala.” In the oeuvre of Roerich there are not more than ten works titled “Tangla.” The subject matter of these works is similar, since in all of them figures the lofty mountain range, with differences confined to the treatment of details by the artist. However, the painting “The Tale of Shambhala” is only one. It is clear from the list of Nicholas Roerich’s works kept in the archive of the International Centre of the Roerichs. Under the section “1943” of the list we find the title “The Tale of Shambhala” [16, p. 742]. In this painting the great artist depicted magnificent snow-capped peaks with an additional detail absent from all other paintings called “Tangla,” which makes the “The Tale of Shambhala” unique. All the same, Nicholas Roerich never painted a picture under the title “Tangla. The Tale of Shambhala.” Therefore, art historians specializing in the oeuvre of Roerich can make absolutely no mistake in the identification of these paintings and their titles, particularly if we keep in mind that the SMOA staff could have always contacted Svetoslav Roerich, had the problem with the identification of paintings and their titles had arisen. Ergo, if one uses a truly scientific method, the possibility of error is completely excluded. But if such a striking renaming still took place, it must have had some particular purpose.

And the purpose, most probably, was to substitute one painting for another. The matter is, the SMOA reproduction of the item No 6 that received the name “Tangla. The Tale of Shambhala” is astonishingly identical to the reproduction of another work called “The Tale of Shambhala” under No 8.

The first ever description of the subject matter of this painting is found in one of Helena Roerich’s letters written in 1948: “It has been proclaimed that there would never be another singer of Holy Mountains. He will forever remain unsurpassed in this field. Truly, who can dedicate himself so entirely to the continuous attendance to the grandeur and beauty of these peaks that embody and protect the greatest Mystery and Hope of the World – the mysterious Shambhala? One of the last impressions of his Hope and love is “The Tale of Shambhala,” which will remain in my heart forever. In the background of magnificent sunset, the Sacred Range is glowing illumined by the last ray of sun, and beyond it stretches the impassable region surrounded with snowy giants. In the foreground the Singer himself is seated on the rock of deep purple … The entire meaning of his life, his aspirations, his creative work, his knowledge and great service are depicted in this song of and by Shambhala.” [17, p.32]

So, Helena Roerich gave a detailed description of Nicholas Roerich’s painting “The Tale of Shambhala.” But the reproduction of this work that carries No 8 and is allegedly absent from the SMOA collection is surprisingly identical with the reproduction of another painting, “Tangla. The Tale of Shambhala” under a different number, No 6. Normally, such identity of images should not have happened, since there should be totally different items under these numbers. The foregoing proves that this seemingly unimaginable situation is fait accompli. Its explanation is rather simple: in the SMOA “The Tale of Shambhala” (No 8) was substituted for “Tangla” (No 6) and given a different title “Tangla. The Tale of Shambhala”(No 6). What was it all about? It was probably done with a view of concealing the presence of two Nicholas Roerich’s paintings in the SMOA collection: “Maid of Snow” and “Alexander Nevsky,” which were illegally taken away and sold.

The point is, these three paintings were of the same size and arrived in the USSR in the same crate, No 13 [doc. 5а.5]. Svetoslav Roerich paid great attention to the safety of paintings during their transportation. For this purpose he specially ordered packing crates of the size corresponding to the size of transported paintings. Therefore, the numbers of crates were put in the lists of paintings, which during their first tour of the USSR museums were transported only in the crates they were assigned to. As is well known, originally the three paintings by Nicholas Roerich kept in crate No 13 did not arrive in the USSR. That subsequently the paintings “Maid of Snow”, “Alexander Nevsky” and “The Tale of Shambhala” were delivered to the USSR and joined the collection that was exhibited in Kiev, Lvov, and other cities and subsequently disappeared, was discussed in the article “The Truth about Svetoslav Roerich Collection.” Considering that the incident of renaming a painting took place in the SMOA I assume that it was there that the painting “The Song of Shambhala” under No 8 was removed from the collection, substituted with item No 6 and supplied with a different name. It served another objective as well: concealment of the fact of accepting the paintings “Maid of Snow” and “Alexander Nevsky.” A totally unexpected event was used to completely conceal the fact of switching paintings.

Notably, sending his collection to the exhibition in Bulgaria Svetoslav Roerich compiled lists of paintings in English. In it “The Tale of Shambhala” (No 8) by Nicholas Roerich is mentioned under the name “The Tale of Shambhala.” In the catalogue of the exhibition in Bulgaria, which took place in spring 1978 its title was translated as “Приказката за Шамбала/ Prikazkata za Shambala” [doc. 1.1]. After the exhibition in Bulgaria, when the list was translated from English into Russian in the State Russian Museum, where Svetoslav Roerich’s collection was exhibited for the first time, there appeared a totally different title, “The Tale of Shammbhala.” Subsequently, it changed into “The Legend of Shambhala,” which overlaps with the totally different painting by Nicholas Roerich. This opportunity was seized by those who engaged in the business of selling the paintings from Svetoslav Roerich’s collection.

It has to be highlighted that “The Tale of Shambhala” is the original title of Nicholas Roerich’s painting. This is of utmost importance for our investigation.

Knowing not only the subject matter but also the deepest meaning of Nicholas Roerich’s painting “The Tale of Shambhala” that Helena Roerich writes about, it comes as no surprise that it was precisely this painting that received the name “The Tale of Shambhala”: “In the foreground the Singer himself as seated on the rock of deep purple … The entire meaning of his life, his aspirations, his creative work, his knowledge and great service are depicted in this song of and by Shambhala.” [17, p. 32]. The great feat of the service to the cause of common good by the greatest culture figure is depicted in this beautiful work of art. As is well known, in the times of yore, feats were glorified in lays and epics. It is not coincidental that one of the most important meanings of the Russian word “lay/song” is “poetic composition with epic or heroic contents.” Sacrificing all his talents on the altar of service to humanity, sharing the sacred knowledge about Shambhala, of its exploits, the singer himself – Nicholas Roerich – performed a great feat.

The deep meaning of the subject matter of this painting described by Helena Roerich offers a key to understanding of not only the name of the painting, but also its translation into English. After all, the English word “song” in the sense of “singing,” “vocal recital” cannot be used to translate the Russian word “pesn’” in the above mentioned sense. The words “canticle” (religious hymn), “canto” (chapter of a long poem or of a poetic composition) do not fit here either. The word “pesn’,” beautiful and compact, can be translated into English as “song,” “story” and “tale” but each of them expresses only a single aspect of this old Russian word. Thus, “song” and “story” can convey the meaning of poetic composition, while the word “tale” has no such meaning. Of all these words it is the word “tale” (Rus. skazka) that can to some extent express heroism and heroic nature. Taking in consideration the subject matter and the meaning of “The Tale of Shambhala,” and also the oeuvre of Nicholas Roerich, it is not surprising that while translating the word “pesn’” preference was given to the word “tale.”

Considering that it was one of the most favourite paintings of Helena Roerich and during her lifetime it was never exhibited and therefore there was no need to find an English title for it. For the first time Svetoslav Roerich sent it outside India in 1974, to the USSR. It was probably then that he made an English translation of its title, “The Tale of Shambhala.” For the second time the collection left India in 1978 and was transferred to Bulgaria. Then it came to the USSR and never again left the country.

Therefore, the title of Nicholas Roerich’s painting in Russian was original and its English title was a translation from Russian. On the surface this conclusion appears somewhat strange. After all, it is not a secret that Nicholas Roerich, being a Russian artist, gave Russian titles to his paintings. But in the present case such a conclusion is unavoidable, since the incorrect translation of the title from English into Russian arbitrarily introduces into the Svetoslav Roerich’s collection transferred to the USSR another painting by Nicholas Roerich, “The Legend of Shambhala.” This was taken advantage of by those who were attempting to conceal the fact of illegal absence from the collection of two Nicholas Roerich’s paintings, “Maid of Snow” and “Alexander Nevsky.” The point is that Nicholas Roerich’s painting called “The Legend of Shambhala” as well as the paintings “Maid of Snow” and “Alexander Nevsky” also form part of the private collection of H. Kejriwal [12, p. 64]. For some reason the SMOA keeps mum about it.

At the end of forties of the previous century this painting was known under other titles: “The Gessar Saga [18, р. 89] and “Tibetan Camp” [19, р. 11]. The question as to why at the end of 1970s in the USSR it started being called “The Legend of Shambhala” (there is no such painting in Nicholas Roerich lists) and later identified as “The Tale of Shambala” requires a separate study. At this moment another matter is of importance: this painting is absent from the lists of Svetoslav Roerich’s collection transferred to the USSR and subsequently bequeathed to the ICR.

To sum up, the painting “The Tale of Shambhala,” its subject matter described in the abovementioned letter of Helena Roerich, corresponds to the item No 8 in the Nicholas Roerich list. But the SMOA does not indicate the presence of such painting in its lists explaining that it never received such a painting. This is not true. It is proved by the image of “The Tale of Shambhala,” which the SMOA claims to be “Tangla. The Tale of Shambhala” under No 6. At present one cannot claim that the SMOA keeps under this number the original “The Tale of Shambala” of Nicholas Roerich (No 8) since the difference between the size of painting mentioned in the list compiled by the owner of the painting and that given by the SMOA is considerable.

After the switch of paintings carried out in December 1980-January 1981 Nicholas Roerich’s painting titled “Tangla” No 6 disappeared from the SMOA. So far it has not been possible to obtain the image of this painting. It has never been exhibited in the SMOA. Neither its image is found among the slides made after photographing the Roerichs’ exhibition in Sofia in 1978. Neither is it found in the museums of the former USSR where the first exhibition of Svetoslav Roerich’s collection was displayed. Hence the image of “Tangla” (No 6) is not included in the present catalogue.

In the illustration section the images of paintings are put in the same order as in the will of Svetoslav Roerich dated March 19, 1990: Attachment 5 (the list of 125 works by Nicholas Roerich) and Attachment 4 (the list of 163 works by Svetoslav Roerich).

In some cases the images of paintings are not published since at present definite identification of their titles listed in the attachments to the will of Svetoslav Roerich is not feasible: see catalogue No 3.1.40/39; 3.1.52/51 etc.

In the numerator of the index number of each painting one finds the number from “The List Attached to the Act No 4193” and “The List of Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerichs Paintings Exhibited in the USSR” in 1978. In the denominator one can see the number from the will of Svetoslav Roerich.

The present edition of the catalogue contains only that data, which is mentioned in the will of Svetoslav Roerich. Other data is deliberately not included since it remains inaccessible to the staff of the Museum named after Roerich.

The section “Archive Documents” contains copies of some legal documents throwing light on the history of Svetoslav Roerich collection in India, Bulgaria and the USSR.


Alexander Stetsenko

 

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