March 9, Novie Izvestiya. Now the Moscow Museum named after Nicholas Roerich works on its normal schedule. Employees decide how to rebuild the exposition as the security forces took away about 200 works of art. The vice-president of the International Centre of the Roerichs Alexander Stetsenko is sure that this intrusion was guided by the management of the Ministry of Culture. The Ministry does not give any answer.
Did you know that the security forces will come to the Museum to perform search procedures?
Of course no. They decided to intimidate us. And in this case the main thing is suddenness. They treated us as gangsters. There was a takeover, about 50-60 people rushed into the Museum. Their groups ran in the different directions, OMON was ahead… They captured and separated people in different rooms. They did not wait for me, broke the door with a sledgehammer. Why are all these facts of intimidation? In our organization 70% of employees are women. But they ignored all that considerations. Young people arrived who were very cynical, talked rudely, attacked us with accusations. They did not wait for the lawyer. They deprived us of legal protection. Nobody explained us our rights. The Museum remained without any supervision. They could take out anything. And this is the behavior of the Ministry of Culture. What a shame.
So of this intrusion you accuse the Ministry of Culture?
Staff of the museum of Oriental arts and the adviser of the minister of culture Kirill Rybak actually specified what paintings will be taken away. Totally they took away about 200 Museum items. They were brought to the museum of Oriental arts. Mr. Rybak withdrew from us the documents and the contracts of donation in which the donator, the donation recipient and the name of the work of art are specified. They took away the Museum items according to these documents. And all this madness was headed by the Ministry of Culture. Though it declares that it has no relation to these events, as their representatives performed during the search only as experts. But this is a lie. They commanded at this intrusion into our Museum. All this was just presented as if a part of the criminal trial that goes on Master-Bank.
What aim does the Ministry of Culture pursue?
This aim does not change for more than three years. Their main goal is the only one – to destroy our organization, to take away all Roerich heritage and take ownership on the Lopoukhin estate. And for the sake of this the officials are, probably, ready for everything. What is worth one of their statements that we have no rights on the heritage. But if Dr. Svetoslav Roerich himself repeated hundreds of times, wrote, declared, that he gave the heritage to the ICR, what claims from their side can be made? The most powerful pressure is put on us. All administrative resources of the state – the power, legal, tax authorities – are used.
What do you mean?
We passed through 17 unscheduled inspections during the last year that turned into 13 trials. What does it mean? Accusation of extremism, of failure to pay taxes, threat of eviction, also withdrawal of the rolling certificate on one of our films for a demonstration of swastika though it is shown in the film only as a part of an archival newsreel to emphasize the heroism of the Soviet people. With the help of various charges they want to take away the building of the Museum. Each opportunity is used. Fabricate, inflict, declare that I store tons of money here, carry out frauds… So ruefully. But we will survive this.
Will you appeal in court?
Of course. Now we investigate the situation. We will estimate the intrusion results. We will submit claims and complaints. But if nothing changes, we will be forced to apply to the international authorities. To the UN. We are an associated member of the public information department of the UN. Our organization has a consultative status in the economic and social council of the UN. Let’s appeal to the international community – to raise funds and to pay a tax of 52 million. And what a shame all this has to be for Russia. When, on the contrary, in other countries the state helps the museums, but does not demand from them.
How do the employees live through all this?
We continue to work. We brought the Museum in order a little bit. So far empty paintings frames are hanging… We will think how to change the exposition and how to return the withdrawn items. It’s just a mockery of us. And it lasts for more than three years. Employees work for a meager salary, many receive nothing at all, but continue to work, keep the Museum, conduct lectures, tours, organize new exhibitions. And for all this we get 17 hours of prison during the search. And nobody thought what the people will eat, drink, where and if will they sleep. Our territory was completely blocked. This is terrible. This happens near the Kremlin. Silent destructions to which the higher authorities so far do not pay any attention. And the culture is the source which gives life to the state. A museum is the energy center of culture. That’s why Nicholas Roerich also said that destruction of a museum is destruction of the country. But who thinks about this? Officials come, steal and leave. And we have to continue the work. We came here not for money. Employees work here for more than 20 years. They brought and put their work, hearts, and health into the Museum. Officials cannot understand how people can work for free. Inspection after inspection. Every week. But we survived all this. Now is the new stage. To tell the truth, I do not exclude that now they will attempt to start criminal cases on the ICR employees. But we will continue to fight for our Museum as always.