Inetrnational Centre of the Roerichs

24.06.2014

STATEMENT of the International Centre of the Roerichs (regarding the recent actions of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation)

Within nearly 25 years of the history of the Non-governmental Museum of Nicholas Roerich founded by Svetoslav Roerich in November 1989, we had to endure a lot of unwarranted attacks by ill-wishers (including, oddly enough, the Ministry of Culture of Russia), whose aim is to destruct our non-government museum, to withdraw the heritage stored herein and to evict us from the Lopoukhins' estate. So, in November 1993, just a few months after the death of Svetoslav Roerich on the basis of the fraudulent "wishes" of Svetoslav Roerich' widow, Mrs. Devika Rani, made by his secretary M.Punacha, at the request of the Ministry of Culture the Government Decree No 1121 "On creation of the State Museum of Nicholas Roerich" in the Lopoukhins' estate"(p.1 / p.2) had been issued. And this is despite of the fact that the Moscow Government issued the instruction No 2248 dated 28.11.1989 (p. 1 / p. 2 / p. 3) on the basis of the decree of Council of Ministers No 950 dated 4.11.1989 (p.1 / p.2) that the Lopukhins' estate was assigned to us for placing the Non-governmental Centre-Museum of Nicholas Roerich. In 2007, the Ministry of Culture through the State Museum of Oriental Art (SMOA) with the support of Rosimushchestvo (the Federal Agency for State Property Management) again attempted through the Moscow Arbitration Court to evict the International Centre of the Roerichs (ICR) from the Lopoukhins' estate on the basis of the same Government Decree No 1121 (canceled - Government Decree of the Russian Federation No 1045 dated 17.12.2010).

From 2003 to 2011, the ICR and the Ministry of Culture hold the trial: the ICR sought to obtain legal acknowledgement of inheritable property on the basis of the Svetoslav Roerich's will, and the Ministry in every way tried to prevent it and imposed to the courts its opinion on the existence of an "issue of law" in this context. In order to justify its position the ICR has always relied on documentary proven will of the Heritage owner, Svetoslav Roerich, the Ministry did everything to prevent the execution of the testator's will using verbal gymnastics and did not submit any document signed by Roerich to the court that confirmed the eligibility of obtaining by the State the right of property of the testator.


In this way as one of the main arguments of the Ministry of Culture and SMOA that supposedly confirmed the right of State to the Svetoslav Roerich collection of paintings they constantly make reference to the order of the Ministry No 234 dated 30.05.1989. But at the same time they do not mention the fact that in accordance with this order the collection of paintings was transferred to SMOA only for temporary custody. It is clear that this type of custody does not mean the acquisition of heritage ownership by the state. Appealing to the public and the State leaders, the Ministry of Culture deliberately omits these circumstances. Under the slogan of defending the interests of the State it is thus distorts the real picture by seeking unlawful decisions and violating the true will of our great compatriot.


Ministry introduces into the public consciousness an absurd claim that the ICR is supposedly controlled by foreign organizations that are going to deprive Russia of its valuable asset. This is a bare-faced lie.


Not a single foreign citizen is in the ICR management, and not a single foreign organization has ever been its founder. That is the reason why the Ministry cannot provide any document confirming this statement. A trick with bullying of the public by foreign villains is well-known to all of us. But for the ministry, especially for the Ministry of Culture, it is undignified and indecent to distribute such fabrications, especially during litigations.


In due time - not so long ago - regarding these issues the Ministry took the other, the diametrically opposed position which apparently allowed a number of courts adopt a lawful decision in order to fulfill the will of Svetoslav Roerich. It was an honest assessment of the fact that neither the Ministry nor SMOA have and ever had lawfully sufficient rights to any part of the Roerichs' heritage (which was reflected in the memorandum of law and history by the Ministry "On the collection of Svetoslav Roerich" (p. 1 / p. 2 / p. 3 / p. 4 / p. 5), where it was given a real legal analysis of legal documents of the owner of Svetoslav Roerich's Heritage and executive orders of the Ministry regarding the heritage that they contradict with). Therefore, the decision rendered by the Hamovnicheskiy Moscow Court dated 24.11.2011 (p.1 / p. 2 / p. 3) repeatedly admitted the ICR as an heir of the Svetoslav Roerich’s heritage (for the first time it was in August 2002 but then according to the Ministry of Culture complaint decision was revoked and the case was remanded for a new trial) is a legitimate and reasonable. With the advent of a new Minister of Culture V.R.Medinskiy it again disputed by the Ministry. What made the Ministry to change its position with the new management, we can only guess. Whether it is pseudo patriotism pushing to manipulations and half-truth, or misunderstanding in regards of the care of esprit de corps. Is it in the State interest to push through non-legal solutions or "crush" another non-governmental organization? What about the problem of the development of civil society, which is expected to assume more useful work including the promotion of cultural ideas and peace in the country and abroad?


Saving priceless Roerichs' heritage primarily to Russia, which they loved and worked for the benefit of which is the main task of the ICR, and we will carry out this task in the future. That is why the part of the heritage, which the ICR has in custody at the time being, according to our initiative is registered in the non-governmental part of the Museum Collection of the Russian Federation (p. 1 / p. 2). All items in the collection of the Museum of the ICR are open to access and examination, properly registered, regularly inspected by the relevant state bodies. Who is disturbed by this? Why do that king's Men have no end with their wishing to take away all of that and pass that to somewhere under the hypocritical claim of concern for the interests of the state? Sadly enough that another surge of such "care" appeared in the Year of Culture announced in Russia.


Evidences strongly suggest that the ICR has honorably fulfilled both the Svetoslav Roerich's terms of transfer of the Heritage and the obligations to the State: an open museum was created which activities are well known not only in Russia but also in other countries. The multi-faceted Roerichs' heritage is being researched and promoted – it is another term of Heritage transference to Russia. The ICR with the support of its philanthropists managed to return to Russia over 400 beautiful paintings of the Roerichs, which supplemented our permanent museum exposition. With the support of public and philanthropists funds a unique monument of white-stone Moscow of XVII century "Lopukhins' Estate" was restored. The non-governmental Museum maintains extensive exhibition, publishing, scientific and social activities for the benefit of Russia and its great culture. Maybe the Ministry of Culture believes that these are the intrigues of foreign agents who want to take the Heritage out of Russia together with this ancient estate? Looks like that they believe in it if they tend to deprive from the non-governmental organization the Roerichs' heritage.

The review by the State Museum of Oriental Art about the establishing fact of heritage acceptance (it is being considered during the regular juridical process against the ICR initiated by the Ministry of Culture) states: “We report that the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation V.R. Medinsky informed the Russian President V.V.Putin of the current situation by the letter dated November 11, 2013 No 4704-01-07-ВМ”. In this regard President of the Russian Federation Vladimir V. Putin made the resolution for “take measures to ensure the State interests” (Appendix №10). Thereby granting of rights for Svetoslav and Nicholas Roerich’s paintings to a legal entity established by foreign legal entities would contradict with the statement expressed by the President of the Russian Federation”.

The quote extracted from the review by the State Museum of Oriental Art submitted to the court on 16.06.2014 with an appeal to reject the ICR asserted claims concerning the execution of Svetoslav Roerich’s last will and supported by the representative of Ministry of Culture appears to be quite telling. In our opinion it provides evidence for the fact that Ministry’s officers present the distorted picture of actual situation in respect of the heritage on the one hand and try to use the authority of Russian President for putting pressure on the court on the other hand. And indeed the appearance of official correspondence with President’s resolution in open judicial proceedings hardly seems to be ethic. Let’s remain it on the conscience and competence of the officials.

Considering that this letter is now essentially declared by the Ministry of Culture we’re able to afford the commentary of its contents in view of the foregoing.

The letter comprises only a small part of information which is also interpreted by the Minister in his own way. The basic and substantial part of the sidelight on the will of the owner of collection and the entire heritage transferred to Russia was left beyond the scope of a letter. As the letter by Ministry of Culture shows, he completely disregarded the right stating documents of Svetoslav Roerich for the heritage. We should complete this omission of the Minister and mention the basic facts and documents:

1. The collection specified in the letter was delivered to the Ministry of Culture of the USSR in 1978 for the temporary custody with a view to holding traveling exhibitions across the country, and Svetoslav Roerich remained the owner of this collection till the end of his life (Act of transfer № 4193 dated November 2, 1978. (p.1 / p.2). Please note that the Act states the following (p.2, paragraph 1): “The accepted materials are being stored on a regular basis and returned to the owner, his legal heirs or attorney on the first demand.”

2. This collection was also given to the State Museum of Oriental Art in 1989 for the temporary custody, and Svetoslav Roerich still was its owner (order by Ministry of Culture of the USSR № 234 dated May 30, 1989).

3. The letter by Ministry of Culture doesn’t mention that in 1992 Svetoslav Roerich personally addressed to the Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin with an appeal to render assistance for returning of this collection to the ICR as it was illegally withheld in the State Museum of Oriental Art against his will (letter by Svetoslav Roerich to the Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin dated April 26, 1992 (р.1 / p.2). The original letter resides in the archive of the Russian President.

4. The letter does not mention that the Ministry recognized the ICR rights to this collection and the pipeline of its delivery to the ICR had begun upon a decision of the Russian President Boris Yeltsin (letter by the Ministry addressed to the Russian Government № 41-01-29 dated June 19, 1992 (p.1 / p.2), letter by the State Committee for State Property Management of the Russian Federation № ВС-12/4078 dated July 2, 1992. (р.1 / р.2), letter by the Ministry of Culture to the ICR № 45-01050/1-25 dated April, 13 1993 . (р.1 / р.2).

5. The letter doesn’t say anything about Svetoslav Roerich who confirmed the ICR rights to the heritage transferred to the Soviet Roerichs’ Foundation by a notary on 22nd of October , 1992 in Bangalore (India) including the collection of paintings being in the temporary custody in the Ministry of Culture (bequest “Roerich’s archive and heritage for the Soviet Roerichs’ Foundation in Moscow”, (translation) and supplement to it dated October 22,1992 ).

6. The fact that the Ministry of Culture has most recently given the opposite historical and legal evaluation of the situation with the collection of Svetoslav Roerich and all the heritage transferred by him is absent in the letter (memorandum of law and history by the Ministry of Culture “About Svetoslav N. Roerich’s collection” dated April 9, 2012 (pp. 1-5).

7. The letter does not even mention of the owner of Svetoslav Roerich’s heritage and his right stating documents for the heritage donated to Russia. Then it lays emphasis on the possibility of the state to lose 282 Roerichs’ paintings in the case of execution of decision of Khamovnicheskiy court (it’s necessary to understand if the last will of Svetoslav Roerich is executed).

In this context the resolution by the President appears to make sense. Of course the interests of the state need to be served. However we should take the liberty to say that the letter misleads the President concerning the real situation, which decision has already been made by the Russian court and stumble at its support for interests of the Ministry of Culture’s officials in the event that it gets the objective information. We repeatedly heard the kind and fair words by the President about the assistance of the civil society and the necessity of public-private partnership in many things including the cultural sphere.

Is really the longstanding activity of the ICR so highly appreciated and supported by the UN and UNESCO (especially for the popularization of Nicholas Roerich’s idea “Peace through Culture”, which forms the basis of the Roerich Pact ), begging in Russia? Particularly now that the world again bursts with the armed conflicts and the war arrived at our borders. Maybe the ICR does not work for the authority of our country and culture abroad? Who does this peacekeeping activity in our own society which is still far from the unity, harmony and prosperity impede? Why the ICR together with the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich get the kicks and continue fighting against the officials asserting the evident rights for more than 2 decades instead of support and gratitude from the government? Is it probably time to stop this harassment and let us do the work which is necessary for the country and society? We would be very grateful for this. 


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