by the participants in the Meeting of the International community on the issue of preservation
of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich and the Roerichs’ family heritage
(On March 25, 2017)
Dear Mr. President!
We, 308 representatives of community of 14 countries, are appealing to you in connection with the unprecedented violence and plunder of the cultural organization the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the International Centre of the Roerichs in Moscow. We are appalled by these events.
On 7-8 March 2017 the non-governmental Museum was blocked for more than 18 hours, when it was subject to the search conducted by more than 50 representatives of law enforcement authorities, including members of Central Investigation Department of MIA General Administration for the City of Moscow, General Administration for Economic Security and Combatting the Corruption and armed OMON (Special Force Mobility Unit). The investigative actions were initiated under the pretext of investigation connected with the bankruptcy of “Master Bank” and activities of the chairman of its board Mr. Bulochnik, the former art-patron of the International Centre of the Roerichs (ICR). As a result, about 200 paintings by Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich were seized from the Museum and its archive, as well as the donation agreements considering the donation of paintings to the Museum and other archival and other documents dated 1990s and 2000s, which have no connection with the investigation of the criminal case. Moreover, many documents and paintings donated by different art-patrons since 2000 are related neither to “Master Bank” nor to Mr. Bulochnik.
The most cynical fact was that the seizure of the paintings and documents was controlled by the Adviser to the Minister of Culture Mr. Rybak and the Deputy Director General of the State Museum of Oriental Art Mr. Mkrtychev. According to numerous statements of the witnesses of the search and seizure of the heritage, Mr. Rybak and Mr. Mkrtychev were telling to the investigators which paintings and documents to seize, and which of them were of no interest. In our opinion, the officials mentioned above, were not acting as experts but as parties interested in certain investigatory actions.
The flagrant violations of the rights of the non-governmental organization and its staff evoke our indignation. Despite the fact that the investigators were informed that it was necessary to wait about 15‑20 minutes until the ICR administration and the attorney arrived, the doors of the Museum housed at the historical and architectural monument of 17‑19 century, were broken with a sledgehammer. The first batch of paintings was being unhooked and packed by the representatives of the State Museum of Oriental Art (SMOA) during several hours and took place in all 11 halls of the non-governmental Museum, while the investigators did not let the staff of the Museum of the International Centre of the Roerichs to enter the halls.
The seized paintings were transported in the vehicles, which were not equipped for that purpose. The staff of the International Centre of the Roerichs, the specialists with many years of experience, working in order to preserve the national patrimony of Russia, were insulted and humiliated, their arms were twisted and they were forced to stay face to the wall despite the fact that they offered no resistance to the representatives of the law enforcement authorities. Moreover, none of the staff was criminal suspect or criminal defendant. Subjected to psychological pressure by the representatives of law enforcement authorities, they were threatened and forced to sign protocols on the investigative actions not having any opportunity to check, which paintings were being seized, packed and taken out.
The statements of the investigators claiming that the paintings, which had been returned to Russia by the art-patrons, seized from the International Centre of the Roerichs could be sold at auction in order to pay the debts to the depositors of “Master Bank,” sounded like mockery. We have many questions about the presence during the investigatory actions of Mr. Popov the chief custodian of the Roerich Museum in New York, where dozens of paintings by the Roerichs were sold out. The fact that all paintings taken out from the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich were delivered to the State Museum of Oriental Art, where, according to the independent inquiries, a number of paintings from Svetoslav Roerich’s collection, kept on temporary storage at SMOA, are missing, is a matter of a great concern. According to the experts, there was no need to take out paintings by the Roerichs from the halls of the non-governmental Museum equipped with the best modern equipment to the unadapted storage rooms of the State Museum of Oriental Art.
We tend to think that such actions of the investigative authorities are connected with the fact that the officials of the Ministry of Culture and SMOA have recently been spreading false information about the ICR. For example, they claim that ICR is intending to sell the collection of paintings of the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich and consider activity of the International Centre of the Roerichs to be extremist and anti-governmental one. These facts raise our serious concern and make us worry for the destiny of the paintings seized from the non-governmental Museum. We perceive with bitterness the events of 7‑8 March and consider them the hostile action against the International Centre of the Roerichs and the most outrageous act of vandalism in the history of the new Russia. We are outraged at such attitude towards the non-governmental cultural organization and its staff.
It is painful to see that against the background of unprecedented efforts of Russian government aimed at preservation of Syrian cultural monuments, the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich in Russia is being severely destructed. The administration of the Ministry of Culture and the State Museum of Oriental Art has been aiming to destroy the International Centre of the Roerichs for four years, trying to evict it from the Lopoukhins’ estate, which was renovated with non-governmental funds, and to take over the Roerichs’ heritage, which can be found at the non-governmental Museum. It is necessary to point out that neither the Ministry of Culture, nor SMOA contributed to the renovation of the Lopoukhins’ estate, which was literally brought out of the ruins.
At the same time, the administration of the Ministry of Culture, which is supposed to preserve and multiply the national patrimony of Russia, as well as the State Museum of Oriental Art, is steadily campaigning to discredit the cultural activity of ICR and its staff. On this purpose, under the initiative of the Ministry of Culture and SMOA, during 2016 ICR was subject to 17 unscheduled inspections, which were initiated on fabricated basis. The ICR was accused of such unbelievable for cultural organization crimes like extremism and other illegal activity. In 2016‑2017, with the active participation of the administration of the Ministry of Culture, a number of lawsuits against ICR was filed, including one aimed at eviction of ICR from the Lopoukhins’ estate.
We cannot avoid expressing our indignation because of the unpunished actions of the Ministry of Culture, which, unlike its predecessors, is aiming to destroy the non-governmental Museum founded by Svetoslav Roerich. This would show to the international community that the Ministry of Culture ignores all guarantees of our State given to Svetoslav Roerich, Indian citizen, when he was transferring the Roerichs’ heritage to Russia in 1990. These guarantees included safe housing of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich at the Lopoukhins’ estate.
At the same time, it is the International Centre of the Roerich, which is the only non-governmental organization in Russia, directly relevant to Svetoslav Roerich. He founded the International Centre of the Roerichs and he was its Honorary President. In 1992, in accordance with Indian legislation, Svetoslav Roerich notarized the transfer of all rights to the heritage of the Roerichs’ family, which he transferred to Russia, to the International Centre of the Roerichs. Thus, destruction of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich, namely its eviction from the Lopoukhins’ estate or establishment of a State museum of the Roerichs family on its basis, can lead to the disappearance of legal grounds for the Roerichs’ heritage to remain in Russia.
All this is happening against the background of the ICR work, which proves that ICR is a worthy continuer of the main Roerichs’ activity, which consisted in devotion to Russia. Diverse cultural and educational activity of the International Centre of the Roerichs as well as a significant contribution of its members to development of museology in Russia and to preservation of cultural heritage were numerously awarded by the State and also received other prestigious prizes. International activity of ICR aimed at promotion of the basic provisions of the Roerich Pact and its main peacemaking idea of Peace through Culture, were supported and highly estimated by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and by the UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova in 2012‑2015.
Dear Mr. President! In the Main Cultural Policy Postulates of the Russian Federation you have set forth that it is necessary to devolve a number of governmental functions in the domain of culture and social responsibility to non-governmental organizations. However, the activity of the Ministry of Culture, which has been trying to destroy the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich for four years already, and especially the events of 7‑8 March, show that the administration of the Ministry of Culture and SMOA do not find it necessary to develop such important for the community cultural institutions, as the International Centre of the Roerichs and its Museum. The Ministry of Culture and SMOA are obviously pursuing their own specific corporate interests aimed to take control over the Lopoukhins’ estate and the Roerichs’ heritage owned by the International Centre of the Roerichs.
On the basis of the above we appeal to you, dear Mr. President, as you are the guarantor of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, asking for protection. We also hope that Russia as the successor to the USSR will continue to fulfill its obligations to Svetoslav Roerich aimed at support of the activity of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich and at its security. In this regard, we request you, dear Mr. President, to
1. Order the Federal Agency for State Property Management and the Ministry of Culture to stop the eviction of the International Centre of the Roerichs from the Lopoukhins’ estate and to restore its right to use it.
2. Order the Investigative Committee to investigate whether the search conducted in the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich on 7 and 8 March 2017 with participation of armed OMON and the representatives of the Ministry of Culture, which resulted in seizure of the paintings and other museum exhibits and archival documents unrelated to the criminal case considering the bankruptcy of “Master Bank”, was legal.
3. To direct the MIA to return all seized museum exhibits, all donation agreements and archival documents, which are not material evidence considering the criminal case of 2010-2013, mentioned above, to the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the International Centre of the Roerichs
4. Order the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights to form an independent commission on elaboration of initiatives aimed at development of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the International Centre of the Roerichs in order to fulfill the obligations of Russia to Svetoslav Roerich.
Participants in the Meeting of the International community on the issue of preservation of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich and the Roerichs’ family heritage