It is hard to amaze us with an epidemic of corruption among Russian officials. Fr om time to time the high-profile corruption scandals come to light. On the one part they give hope to the society that Authorities are not determined to put up with this “pesthole” of modern civilization, but on the other part they testify that the basis of vertical of power in Russia relies on people who lost all moral compasses in life, and this corrupted basis needs to be urgently changed. But the fact that this “infective disease” got into the Ministry of Culture’s leadership gives evidence of its complete defamation as a government official carrying out its activities in the sphere of preservation and development of the Russian culture. Four years the Russian culture has been governed by the figures who are consciously destroying it. With such an “approach” the fulfillment of Foundations of the State Policy in culture and decrees of the Russian President Vladimir V.Putin in this matter cannot be considered.
Unlike Minister V.P.Medinsky, we were not shocked with the recent arrests of heads of Ministry of Culture, accused in the thievery of particularly large sums of state funds which were allocated for restoration of monuments. They rather gave some relief and hope that authorities of the country finally proceeded to clean the most important body of executive power which employees must initially be the most honest, conscious, considerable, otherwise speaking – the most cultural. Or who else can be used as a guide for other officials of Government if not the colleagues fr om the Ministry of Culture? But if the Ministry of Culture constructed the “20 % kickback system” in the sphere of protecting the cultural monuments which allowed them to openly steal state funds, then how we can speak of any understanding of culture in their consciousness? It does not exist and it cannot exist. But thereafter comes a reasonable question: “Who is the head of Russian culture now”? The response is resolute– it is guided by its destroyers.
There is a great harm for Russian culture. Most importantly, it is not because of impressive financial losses, but the moral and ethical aspects. Huge amount of state officials, ensuring and covering this crime network of embezzlers, withdrew fr om the honest path of service to Fatherland. The bad practice of mutual guarantees (today I help you and tomorrow you will help me) which exists in the bureaucracy created “the climate of impunity” among officials who cannot be brought to justice by a common person. And the use of administrative resource by the Ministry of culture permits it to eliminate undesirable people and organizations through its law enforcement agencies and courts thus turning Russian culture into a semblance of criminal business. And this trauma of the past will not be left behind soon.
Over the last 4 years the relationships of the International Centre of the Roerichs with the leadership of Ministry of Culture have been very indicative in this regard. During the quarter of a century we got through different situations and it is not necessary to describe now all the twists and turns of our complicated mutual relations, however we never came across such unprincipled and shameless actions towards us.
Ministry of Culture and Federal Agency for State Property Management have long wanted to grab the Lopoukhins’ Estate, the unique monument of white stone architectonics of XVII century, within walking distance of the Kremlin, where the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the International Centre of the Roerichs is allocated. Neither the fact that this monument was transferred by the government to our non-governmental organization as a commitment to Svetoslav Roerich in response to his donation of his family’s heritage to Russia for the non-governmental Museum, nor that this monument was reconstructed without any financial aid from the state by means of public funds acquired by the ICR and support from the patrons of a non-governmental Museum, could stop them. There is also an important aspect: as opposed to embezzlers of the Ministry of Culture, all money received by the ICR from the mid-1990s – over 1 milliard rubles were used exclusively at recreating the architectural monument.
Since 1993 the Ministry of Culture has been intended to evict the ICR from the Lopoukhins’ Estate. But I would like to repeat that actions of leadership of this Ministry have never been such shameless and destructive as under the rule of Mr. V.P.Medinsky. Here are some examples of these actions focused on the seizure of the Estate and eviction of the ICR Museum.
In August 2014 “Baltstroy” Ltd., the prime contractor of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, under the guidance of Deputy Director General in building industry E.V.Samohodkin illegally demounted a part of the fence and tried to capture a part of the territory of Lopoukhins’ Estate land leased by the ICR from the Government of Moscow which is used for conducting of works on recreation of the Estate. Since then, the leadership of Ministry of Culture and “Baltstroy” planned to initiate a criminal case against the ICR.
On October 29, 2014 the first deputy Minister of Culture V.V.Aristarkhov sent a letter № 9388-01/кR-VА to the first deputy Minister of Internal affairs M.G.Vanichkin requesting to check ICR “for illegal activity.”
On January 29, 2015 the chief of inquiry of the second inquiry department of Central Administrative District Internal Affairs Directorate of the MIA General Administration of Russia for the city of Moscow, Major of policy A.G.Lomkina initiated a criminal case: “At the time unknown by the inquiry, the unidentified persons acting maliciously and willfully, violating the order of a land-use established by law, illegally conducted the installation works on wire mesh fencing and arrangement of a “buried wall.” The Major of policy dissembles as she repeatedly studied the appeals of Ministry of Culture in allegedly illegal actions of the ICR on recreation of the Lopoukhins’ estate which we realized in strict adherence to the plan targets of the Government of Moscow. The inquiry officer repeatedly refused the Ministry of Culture in initiating a criminal case as the documents provided by the ICR were in due and proper form and confirmed the legality of all our actions. But the persistence of the Ministry of Culture and “Baltstroy” did their job and on the pointless grounds the Major of Policy A.G.Lomkina initiated a criminal case though she knew who allowed the ICR to conduct works on recreation of the Estate, who guided these works and had copies of all permits on their performance.
The Ministry of Culture did not confine itself to suspension of works on recreation of Lopoukhins’ Estate. In September 2015 the Minister V.P.Medinsky sent a letter № 13378-01-95-VМ to the Mayor of Moscow S.S.Sobyanin requesting to transfer the Lopoukhins’ estate into the federal property. As consequence, by the decision of the Government of Moscow dated 20.10.2015 № 614-RP three constructions of the Estate №№ 4, 5 and 7, wh ere the non-governmental Museum of the ICR is allocated on the rights of uncompensated use, were transferred into the federal property. It is hard to understand what guided Mr.Sobyanin when signing this decree. Indeed, during the longstanding arbitration proceedings at the suit by Federal Agency for State Property Management supported by the Ministry of Culture, the Government of Moscow strived to prevent the eviction of ICR from the Lopoukhins’ Estate as it was required by the prosecutor. I think, due to the well-known circumstances the Mayor cannot penetrate into every document provided for signature. We have no doubt that Director of the Department of estate administration and investment policy Mr.B.D.Mazo and Deputy Minister of Culture Mr.G.U.Pirumov, now arrested on charges of corruption, assisted in this deal. They are people who were responsible for the further fate of this desirable cultural monument. Without making any efforts on restoration of this wonderful monument (and thank God it happened), they clearly intended to dispose it “properly”.
At request of Ministry of Culture by the decree of Territorial administration of Federal Agency for State Property Management in Moscow dated 11.11.2015 № 1287 three constructions of the Lopoukhins’ estate of the non-governmental Museum, were placed under the operational management of the State Museum of Oriental Art (SMOA) – organization which was trying to evict the ICR from this Estate jointly with the Ministry of Culture during a long period of time. There is not even a single word in this decree of the Federal Agency for State Property Management about the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR which is located in these constructions with rights of their uncompensated use, yet there is a firm instruction to the State Museum of Oriental Art for using them at its own discretion.
On February 16, 2016 at a board meeting of the Ministry of Culture there was considered a question of establishing the governmental museum at Lopoukhins’ Estate on the rights of a SMOA branch, wh ere the non-governmental Museum which activity is well known in many countries of the world and supported by the UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has been located for more than 20 years. It is clear that these actions of the Ministry are explicitly oriented to destroy and evict the non-governmental Museum and acquire its collections.
On the web-site of the Ministry of Culture we can find a decision of the board on this matter: “The First Deputy Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation V.V.Aristarkhov and Department of estate administration and investment policy (Mr.B.D.Mazo), within their competence, are to take the necessary steps to start work of the “Roerichs’ Family Museum” as a branch of the Federal state budgetary institution of culture “State Museum of Oriental Art” as speedily as possible”. Now we know about the “competence” of B.D.Mazo, therefore, he is arrested together with his chief, Deputy Minister G.U.Pirumov. We also know about aims of the First Deputy Minister V.V.Aristarkhov concerning the ICR: he has a vital interest in depriving the ICR of heritage transferred by the owner Svetoslav Roerich as soon as possible, and for this reason he is distributing the letters to all state authorities about allegedly illegal heritage of the ICR and like his other colleagues trying to evict the ICR and its non-governmental Museum from the Lopoukhins’ Estate.
Herewith they are totally indifferent to the interests of the culture and, consequently, to the interests of the state. Is really the Ministry of Culture seeking to destroy the largest, most important and successful Russian non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich, founded by his younger son, in the interests of the state? Is really the Ministry of Culture hiding from the leaders of the State the fact of an absolute plunder of the former Moscow flat of the distinguished Orientalist George N.Roerich, wh ere the first part of the Roerichs’ heritage, brought to Russia as far back as 1957, was placed? Did really the Minister of Culture V.R.Medinsky hide from the Russian President V.V.Putin the decrees by Svetoslav Roerich to appoint the owner of the Roeirchs’ heritage transferred to the Soviet Roerichs’ Foundation in 1990, legally represented by the ICR, in the interests of the state? Is the present leadership of the Ministry of Culture concealing the loss of Roerichs’ paintings from Svetoslav Roerich’s collection which was transferred to the SMOA for temporary storage, in the interests of the state? This list of obvious abuses of the Ministry of Culture’s leadership towards the heritage of the Roerichs family which is a national treasure of Russia may be extended and, unfortunately, we are not entirely confident that its destructive actions against national culture will stop.
To my mind the main problem is that Russian officials do not want to accept the fact that non-governmental organization can own both movable and immovable great cultural wealth. But unfortunately, there is still a widespread attitude among them – only they can properly ensure the preservation of cultural heritage. The latest corruption scandal which broke out on the last week, and former sins of the Ministry of Culture concerning the Roerichs’ heritage, that did not become the subject matter for investigative authorities demonstrate conclusively that Ministry officials are those who cannot appropriately preserve the Cultural heritage of Russia. And as regards the ICR, denigrated by them in every possible way, its activity on preservation of entrusted cultural treasures is opposite to actions of leadership of Ministry of Culture. And there is plenty of evidence. If our authorities do not understand this and change their attitude towards non-governmental organizations working in the sphere of preservation of cultural heritage of the country, high-profile corrupt scandals in the Ministry of Culture will continue and cultural monuments will be destroyed.
Source: Новые известия. 8.04.2016