Inetrnational Centre of the Roerichs

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The Roerich Pact. The treasury of the world’s culture

Results of the International Socio-scientific Conference “75 Years of the Roerich Pact”.


It was Nicholas Roerich who launched the first international treaty on protection of the artistic and scientific institutions, as well as historical monuments, known as The Roerich Pact. This document, signed in Washington in 1935 by representatives of 21 countries of the North and South America, set the standards for the international law on protection of the world’s cultural heritage. This year's 75th anniversary of the Roerich Pact was marked by the international conference “75 Years of the Roerich Pact” hosted by the International Centre of the Roerichs. This event brought together in Moscow more than 500 participants, with 40 foreign guests among them, representing established international organizations dealing with protection of the world’s culture. Such countries as Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Estonia, Latvia and several other were represented. The conference prompted discussion of the most vibrant issues connected with protection of the cultural values all over the world.

One of the most remarkable events of the conference was the bestowal of the European Union Prize for cultural heritage / Europa Nostra Award upon Lyudmila Shaposhnikova, First Vice-president of the ICR, Director General of the Museum by name of Nicholas Roerich, academician of RAEN and RAKZ, Honored Art Worker of the Russian Federation. The prize for “Dedicated Service” was awarded by the vice-president of Europa Nostra Alexander zu Sayn-Vittgenstein who came to Moscow specially in order to complete this honorable mission. While giving the award – an honorary diploma and a statuette symbolizing the common house of Europe – he emphasized that it is a great honor for him to be able to give the prize to Lyudmila Shaposhnikova in person and that he is especially glad that the ceremony takes place at the International Centre of the Roerichs.
“This institution keeps the memory of the Roerich Pact – a document of tremendous value that not only contributed to signing the Haague convention, but also had a great impact on forming of the civil society. The pact laid the basis for multiple organizations and private initiatives, the example of which is, among others, Europa Nostra”. Lyudmila Shaposhnikova thanked the jury for the high evaluation of her service and noted that this is a merit of the whole museum's collective.

The conference received a lot of greetings from well-known public figures and organizations both from Russia and from abroad, such as: Sergey M. Mironov, Chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, A.A. Avdeev, Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation, Evgeniy M. Primakov, President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation, A.M. Kadakin, the ambassador of Russia in India, and others.

A.V. Kibovsky, head of the Federal Department for observation of law in the field of cultural heritage (Rosohrankultura), emphasized in his speech that the Roerich Pact is not just a declaration but an evidence of the moral maturity of our civilization. For his department's officials, the Pact is much more a working methodical instruction that supports their position in complicated situations than a plain historical document.

Galina I. Malanicheva, Chairman of the Central council of the All-Russia Society for Protecting Historical and Cultural Monuments, member of the the Presidential Council for Culture and the Arts, adressed Lyudmila V. Shaposhnikova: “You have always been an example for other public figures dealing with protection of the world's cultural heritage. Your artistic and scientific activity is a constant pursuit “against”.

Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen, President of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield, congratulated Lyudmila Shaposhnikova with the award: “I am convinced that this award is completely deserved, because you represent the opus magnum – the family quite unique to this world”. He also expressed hope that the forum will be a significant step on the long and hard path of protecting the world's culture.

“You managed to capture the beautiful reflection of the miraculous spiritual elements of the past that must be saved for the present and transferred to the future by all of us. And I think that the work you have done here is absolutely fantastic,” - said Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen.

Lyudmila Shaposhnikova was also honored by Maria Theresa Dutley, Head of the Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law of the International Committee of the Red Cross (Switzerland): “I am astonished by the great effort you are pursuing in restoring and saving the Lopukhin estate which is now home to the Museum by name of Nicholas Roerich”, - said Mrs. Dutley.

In her report, Lyudmila Shaposhnikova spoke about the meta-historical sense of the Roerich Pact. B. Andreeva, Executive Director of the ICOM-Russia, also shared her thoughts on the subject. In her opinion, one of the most important notions in the doctrine is harmony, and cultural heritage IS this harmony that unites people.

A discussion of the modern issues connected with protection of the Roerichs' heritage took place in a roundtable format. The International Centre of the Roerichs and the public Museum by name of Nicholas Roerich have been working for 21 years without any legal safeguards of their existence and the existence of the very Roerichs' heritage bequeathed to them. The sad fate of the first part of the Roerichs' heritage, brought to the USSR by Yuri N. Roerich in 1957 and situated in the Russian Federation, causes great anxiety and concern.

The participants of the conference discussed the problems that represent a real threat to the cultural heritage in the situation of insufficient legal protection on the part of state. The discussion brought together Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen, President of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield, Maria Theresa Dutley, Head of the Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Galina I. Malanicheva, Chairman of the Central council of the All-Russia Society for Protecting Historical and Cultural Monuments, member of the Presidential Council for Culture and the Arts, and many others.

Concluding the conference, the participants unanimously adopted a resolution that stated the necessity of international protection of the Roerichs' heritage.


INFORMATION

The European Union Prize for cultural heritage / Europa Nostra Awards 2010 is awarded for outstanding achievement in the field of protecting the European architectural, natural, archaeological and artistic heritage. This year saw 140 nominees from 26 countries and 29 laureates from 15 countries in the categories “Conservation”, “Research”, “Dedicated Service by Individuals or Organizations”, “Education, Training and Awareness-Raising”.

Founded in 1963, Europa Nostra (translated as “Our Europe”) is a pan-European Federation for Cultural Heritage consisting of more than 400 non-governmental institutions operating in more than 47 European countries in the field of protecting cultural heritage and establishing connections between international organizations in the EU, European Council and UNESCO.


The Roerich Pact

The preservation of historical and cultural heritage is the most topical issue for the whole world community nowadays. It should be reminded that the year 2010 is proclaimed the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures by the United Nations. And it is this year that the world celebrates the 75 years anniversary of the Roerich Pact.

The significance of the Roerich Pact and its contribution to the protection of the world's cultural and historical monuments cannot be overestimated. President of the USA, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the speech upon the signature of the ‘Roerich Pact’ Treaty at the Oval Office of the White House in 1935 said: “In opening this Pact to the adherence of the Nations of the world, we are endeavoring to make of universal application one of the principles vital to the preservation of modern civilization. This Treaty possesses a spiritual significance far deeper than the text of the instrument itself”.

The Roerich Pact would not have come to life if it was not for the strong humanistic ideas of the outstanding Russian scientist, thinker, artist and public figure Nicholas Roerich. His ideas reached the widest circles of the world's intelligentsia and settled firmly in the common conscience. Foreseeing the disasters of the verging Second World war, Nicholas Roerich called the public for actual deeds in favor of protecting Culture and therefore consolidated the world's progressive community.

The historical significance of the Pact lies in the fact that it laid the basis for the judicial and organizational system of the international protection of cultural heritage that started to form after the Second World war. It was designed as a universal international law act, with treaties to be signed both on the universal and regional levels.

The major merit of the Roerich Pact is that it grants cultural objects with universal and unconditional protection that is not weakened by any “military necessity“ and stays in force also during military conflicts. The signature of the Roerich Pact, that gave the principles of the unconditional protection of the cultural values legal strength, was a grand victory. Such a high level of protection of culture was reached only in 1999 by the Second Protocol of the Hague convention adopted in 1954.

Within the framework of the Roerich Pact a distinguishing sign for recognition of the cultural objects was designed – the Banner of Peace. It is a white cloth with a red ring and three red circles inside it, symbolizing Science, Art and Religion within the ring of Culture. According to Roerich's idea, the Banner of Peace must wave upon the cultural object as a guard of the true spiritual values of the humanity, a sort of Red Cross of Culture.

The banner was erected on both the North and South Pole, on the highest mountain peaks. It was even brought to space by Russian cosmonauts A. Balandin and A. Solovyev and “visited” the “MIR”(Peace) space station. “We have raised the Banner of Peace in the space upon the planet, so that the space of culture would supersede the space of conflict and war on it”, - said cosmonaut P. Vinogradov at one of the press-conferences.

Every time the norms of international law are broken and a threat to the cultural monuments appears, one recalls the words of Nicholas Roerich: “The Pact should by no means get lost in the law archives”. Now, after seven and a half decades, the Pact has acquired special topicality. The history has confirmed that neither the Hague convention nor its two subsequent protocols don't guarantee sufficient protection for the cultural heritage. The cultural values are still threatened by war and ignorance. It is therefore important to remember that ignorance sometimes does damage no weaker than the one done by war. It is enough to remember a few facts, such as destruction of the Buddhist sculptures and other historical artifacts in the Bamiyan valleyby Afghan mudjahids, blowing up of orthodox churches by muslims in Kosovo, ejection of unique items of Buddhist culture from theKabul museum by Islamic religious fanatics.Let us remember the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad that possessed the masterpieces from Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian,Parthian, Sassanian,Muslim cultures, - and was severely plundered in 2003.And all this is just a small part of what our culture has recently lost.

However sad it may be, it in is our civilized hi-tech century that the cultural objects are in jeopardy. These objects preserve the spiritual values that form the basis of the world and guarantee its development. As Nicholas Roerich wrote, “where there is Culture, there is Peace.” It is especially obvious now that in order to protect and preserve the cultural heritage of the world we need to develop the concept of global responsibility, consolidate the efforts of the international community, including both governmental and non-governmental organizations, and to activate private initiative. “Let the Banner of Peace wave over every hearth of culture. It will tell the vandals imperatively: “Hands away – it is national endowment!” - wrote Nicholas Roerich. How immensely important it is that these words reach the heart and mind of every man on our planet!


Exhibitions dedicated to the anniversary

Just before the conference the Museum by name of Nicholas Roerich saw the opening of several exhibitions - “75 Years of the Roerich Pact”, “The Lopukhin Estate. Past. Present. Future” and “The Perishing Collection”, all three united by common subject – topicality of Nicholas Roerich's ideas and the protection of cultural heritage.

The exhibition “75 Years of the Roerich Pact” was inspired by the words of Nicholas Roerich: “Destroyed by human delusion and restored by human hope”. Thematically seen, it consists of two parts. The first one is dedicated to the history of the Pact and shows unique documents and photographs from the 1930s. The second part deals with the events of the last several decades. The saddest part of it is a set of photographs showing unique monuments destroyed during military operations in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The second exhibition, “The Lopukhin Estate. Past. Present. Future”, tells the story of the historic-cultural monument of the 18-19th centuries, the city estate of Lopukhin, one of the most interesting monuments in Moscow. What is especially unique about the estate is its architecture combining styles of different epochs.

The story of the estate, that counts over 300 years, is connected with Peter I and Catherine II, the Lopukhin house, the Protasov counts, the Bakhmetyevy princes, the famous architector M. Kazakov and other personalities that played an important part in the history of Russian state. In 1989, an outstanding artist and public figure, Svetoslav N. Roerich, visited the estate and chose her as the place to locate the International Centre-Museum by name of Nicholas Roerich created by him. Thus, the destinies of the Lopukhin estate and the house of Roerichs became closely entwined, enriching each other ever since.

Protection of the world's cultural heritage has become an even more topical issue in the times of globalization. Even the heritage of Nicholas Roerich, the man behind the first international treaty for protection of cultural values, stays now under threat. It is documented by “The Perishing Collection” exhibition coincided with the conference, that tells the story of plunder of the first part of the Roerich family's heritage that belonged to Yuri N. Roerich who brought it to the USSR in 1957.

It is well-known that Nicholas Roerich, a great Russian painter, left a heritage of over 7 thousand paintings. His works have very high estimates at the international art-auctions. Not that they were cheap in the beginning of the 20th century. These highly valuable paintings by the great Russian painter, artifacts and collections were plundered from Yuri N. Roerich's Moscow flat and sold illegally. The location of many of these masterpieces is at the present time unknown. Reproductions of the paintings that were located in the Yuri N. Roerich's flat on the Leninsky avenue in Moscow before the 2000s, are also part of the exhibition.

As far as the exhibition “The Perishing Collection” is concerned, it consists of stands telling about the coming-up sale of the paintings by Svetoslav N. Roerich from the stock of the New-York Roerich Museum. A collection of paintings, that once belonged to Catherine Campbell, the Roerich family's friends and collaborator, is about to be sold by auction, according to the plan of the Museum's director Daniel Entin. This rare collection of the works by Svetoslav N. Roerich that reflects different stages of his artistic development is about to be immured in private galleries.


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