Inetrnational Centre of the Roerichs

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Since April 28, 2017, the Non-Governmental Museum Named after Nicholas Roerich went defunct with the illegal seizure of its building and territory.

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03.03.2021

“The Karabakh Conflict” Round Table: to Peace through Culture

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The fate of world cultural heritage sites, which are destroyed in the course of hostilities and clashes, is of utmost concern to the public in many countries.

The armed conflict in Nagorny Karabakh is among the recent events which led to the loss of ancient cultural monuments. The International Center of the Roerichs (ICR) and a number of public organizations appealed to the leaders of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan to prevent the destruction of precious monuments of the past, not only of their people, but those of the opposing side, and to remain in the history and memory of people as the defenders of cultural values but not as their destroyers.

On November 26, 2020, the ICR wrote to UNESCO requesting to take urgent measures to protect Nagorny Karabakh cultural property. This letter was signed by many international public organizations and cultural figures. The letter supported UNESCO's initiatives to implement the preliminary mission (subject to the consent of Azerbaijan and Armenia) to compile a list of the most significant cultural sites of the region in order to protect them. The ICR also proposed to UNESCO a number of concrete measures to protect cultural sites of Nagorny Karabakh, in particular, to ensure the places of worship and museums remain accessible to the people during armed conflicts and in peacetime.

On February 24, 2021, the ICR was invited to participate in a Round Table entitled “The Karabakh Conflict: to Peace through Culture”, which was initiated by the Armenian public organization of sociological and political initiatives “Khachmeruk”. The event was held online.

Vice-President of the ICR Sergei Skorodumov and the head of the ICR Branch in Bulgaria Marga Kutsarova, an international lawyer in the field of cultural values preserving, took part in the round table discussion on behalf of the ICR as observers. The role of observers in this event has enabled the representatives of the ICR to learn more about Nagorny Karabakh cultural heritage destruction problems which were raised in reports and communications of the organizers and participants. The representatives of the Armenian intelligentsia outlined the vision of these problems including political ones and the ways to solve them. Some of the speeches were devoted to the importance of cultural property protecting.

Ksenia Brodatskaya, the head of the library-branch No. 10 of Kalinin district of St. Petersburg, in her report spoke about the peacemaking initiatives of the great Russian artist and philosopher Nicholas Roerich and the Roerich Pact, the first International Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments in history.

Sergei Skorodumov stressed that the destruction of cultural monuments is a blow to the soul of the people to whom these monuments belong. The historical thread linking the past, present and future is torn. Cultural heritage protection issue is one of the main areas of the ICR work. Here is the public that plays a huge role.

In 1990, the world-famous artist and educator Svetoslav Roerich through his confidant, the famous scientist-orientalist Lyudmila Shaposhnikova, transferred the legacy of his family from India to Russia. Svetoslav Roerich became the Honorary President of the non-governmental organization, that of the International Center of the Roerichs, which was founded in Moscow on his initiative. Svetoslav Roerich entrusted the International Center of the Roerichs to create a museum named after his great father. The International Center of the Roerichs established the non-governmental Nicholas Roerich Museum in Moscow without a penny of governmental funds but thanks to the considerable efforts of the public. This Museum carried out a broad international cultural, educational and scientific work throughout 20 years of its activities.

Unfortunately, in 2017 the Museum was barbarously destroyed at the initiative of the leadership of the Ministry of Culture headed by V. Medinsky. And now the staff of the Museum with the support of the international community is fighting for its restoration.

Today, the idea of Nicholas Roerich about “Peace through Culture”, which was the basis of the Roerich Pact, is becoming especially relevant. It is very important to realize this idea, as it helps to bring peace to our planet torn by military conflicts and clashes.

Since 2012 the International Center of the Roerichs has been holding a large-scale international exhibition project “The Roerich Pact. History and Modernity”. The general public of 19 countries where 104 exhibitions were held got acquainted with the ideas of the Roerich Pact. More than 160 exhibitions were held in Russia. The exhibition was supported by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

The experience of holding exhibitions has shown that culture and ideas of its protection represent a universal international language that can lead to mutual understanding and peace between peoples.

Marga Kutsarova drew attention to the enormous significance of the Roerich Pact from the point of view of international law and contemporary problems. The Pact unconditionally protects cultural, scientific and educational objects, as well as their personnel, both during armed conflicts and in peacetime. In no other covenants there is such high level of protection as proposed by the Roerich Pact. This imposes inevitable restrictions on the possibilities of protection, including those on the part of large international intergovernmental organizations in the field of culture, science and education.

In her speech, M. Kutsarova paid special attention to the formation of public opinion. Nicholas Roerich, the initiator and author of the Roerich Pact, never tired of repeating that it is public opinion that plays the most important role in the preservation of cultural heritage sites. The entire experience of the XX and XXI centuries confirms the validity of Nicholas Roerich's ideas in this matter. No modern politician of a civilized country now won't dare be proud of destructing cultural heritage of any people or nation by reason of public opinion. That’s why, systematic cultural and educational work aimed at making people understand the urgent need of preserving cultural values of all people is of great importance. The dialogue of cultural figures of different countries, including those between which there is an armed conflict, is highly crucial. Only in dialogue and cooperation one can find the ways of solving the most difficult problems of national cultural values preserving. The practical application of the idea of Peace through Culture is extremely difficult, but it has no alternative both to preserve priceless cultural objects and to build lasting peace and good neighborliness.

At the conclusion of the round table discussion the representatives of the International Center of the Roerichs emphasized that they are ready for comprehensive cooperation in the field of culture.



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