Good day, dear colleagues!
Before my report I would like to congratulate all of you. Today is the Day of workers of Culture. This is very significant since culture is in a very difficult situation in our country. Therefore, I congratulate all of you and call for dedicated work for the protection of culture.
One very important event took place yesterday, on March 24, 2017. We celebrated the Teachers’ Day, and on this day for the first time the UN Security Council adopted the special resolution 2347 on the protection of cultural heritage. On the UN Security Council the Director-general of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, made a speech. Now I will read out some quotes of her speech: “Purposeful destruction of heritage is a war crime. It became a tactics of war targeting to split society in the long term by means of cultural cleansing strategy. For this reason the protection of cultural heritage is not only an issue of culture, it is an imperative of security inseparably linked with the protection of human lives”. And further: “It is impossible to win the victory over violent extremism only by force of arms. Building of peace also requires culture, education, protection and transfer of cultural heritage to future generations”. This is extremely important! For the first time the Security Council adopted such a special resolution. When it will be published, we will study it in more detail. This resolution is closely related to the situation we are in now. Therefore, I’m beginning my report.
The events which took place on March 7-8, as Alexander Evgenyevich [Karpov], said, is a forcible intrusion into the non-governmental Museum of the International Centre of the Roerichs with an active participation of representatives of the Ministry of Culture under the cover of investigative procedures on the Master-Bank bankruptcy. It is the second event that cardinally changes situation in the country in regard to culture: on March 20 the Arbitration court of Moscow satisfied the claim of the State Museum of Oriental Arts to cancel the free-of-charge rent agreement of the Lopukhins’ estate with the International Centre of the Roerichs and to evict the International Centre of the Roerichs from this estate. If anybody still might have had doubts, if someone still might have had thoughts that all this is a game, just some manipulations, now the picture is clear enough. The Ministry of Culture, to be more precise, its current management (I do not want to connect these actions with a huge number of workers who work in this ministry), and so, the actions of the management of the Ministry of Culture prove its real goals: complete destruction of the non-governmental Museum, withdrawal from the International Centre of the Roerichs of all heritage, its eviction from the Lopukhins’ estate and actually the seizure of all results of work, property, huge monetary investments that had been spent on the creation of the museum complex. That is an illegal enrichment and the violation of all long-term work of a big community of workers of not only the International Centre of the Roerichs, but also of the international societies of Russia and many other countries who participated in the reconstruction of the Lopukhins’ estate and in the creation of the non-governmental Museum.
I directly have to say that never before there was such a cynical, lawless and cruel treatment of the International Centre of the Roerichs by the management of the Ministry of Culture using blasphemous lies towards it and involving all law enforcement services, supervisory, juridical and control authorities for its destruction. To understand this let us look back into history.
Our Museum was opened on February 12, 1993, and in 1997 the permanent exposition was opened in these restored halls. And so, on October 9, 1997, as you see, together with Lyudmila Vasilyevna [Shaposhnikova] the ribbon was cut by Natalya Leonidovna Dementieva, the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation. She was delighted when she walked through the halls of the Museum and saw its exposition. Here is what she said, I quote: “I would like that courses would be opened here for many other cultural workers on how it is possible to work without a state budget”. To the right of Lyudmila Vasilyevna you see the chairman of the Committee on Culture of the Moscow Government, I. B. Bugaev who said: “Today it is a celebration day for us. The celebration of the birth of a Museum. This event is unique. I do not remember anything equal to it when the Museum was created without a single rouble from the state funds”. Thus said in fact the Minister of Culture of the Moscow Government about our Museum.
Next slide, please. In 2006, the Minister of Culture A. S. Sokolov gave the General Director of the Museum named after N. K. Roerich, L. V. Shaposhnikova, a State Award. By decree of Presidium of the State Council of the Russian Federation No. 797 of July 27, 2006, the General Director of the Museum Lyudmila Vasilyevna Shaposhnikova was awarded the Order of Friendship for her contribution to museology development and cultural heritage preservation.
And in 2011, the Minister of Culture A. A. Avdeev nominated the General Director of the Museum L.V. Shaposhnikova for the State Award “For Merits to the Fatherland”, and by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation this high award was given to her for her large contribution to the cultural heritage preservation and the long-term educational and public work.
It should be noted that by 2011 the non-governmental Museum and the International Centre of the Roerichs got a deserved recognition both in Russia and abroad for its multi-sided cultural activity. This fact is confirmed by a large number of congratulatory addresses to the Centre and by many acknowledgements addressed to the ICR and its Director. There are a lot of them; I will only quote some of them.
Here you see the congratulatory telegram of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev which was sent to the International Centre of the Roerichs, if I am not mistaken, in 2009, on occasion of its 20th anniversary. I read out: “I am glad to congratulate you with the 20th anniversary of the International Centre of the Roerichs. During these years the Centre has become widely popular in Russia and abroad. The Centre is conducting a broad work on studying the rich heritage of the Roerichs, and the permanent exposition and the touring exhibitions attract the visitors to the creative, research and public work of the remarkable family. Widely popular are also your humanitarian and educational activities, as well as contests of young artists. The projects on protection of cultural heritage which the ICR is conducting with the UN, have received the deserved public attention. I wish you all success, wellbeing and all the best!” This was spoken just 6 years ago.
And here is what was written in 2011 by the deputy Minister of Culture, the secretary of state of the Ministry of Culture E. E. Chukovskaya, congratulating Lyudmila Vasilyevna Shaposhnikova on her 85th anniversary, I quote: “With the creation of the International Centre of the Roerichs and the Museum named after N. K. Roerich the dream of service to high ideals, conducting of a broad public and cultural work on preservation and the research of the Roerichs’ heritage was realized”.
We could provide further acknowledgements and recognitions of merits of our organization. Still, I will refer to the Visitors’ book of our Museum, where we can see remarkable words not only written by ordinary visitors, but also from high-ranking officials. I will quote one of them. Alexander Alekseevich Avdeev, when he was appointed to the post of the Minister of Culture, just several weeks later visited our Museum. Gentlemen Medinsky and Aristarkhov did not visit our Museum, but they successfully destroy it. And so, A. A. Avdeev was delighted to see the Museum: “I thought, here are just several rooms as some tried to convince me, – just some private museum, not worth paying attention to it”. But here, he saw the beauty of exposition where everything is perfectly thought out, where not only the works of art, but also the life of the Roerich Family is presented. In the visitors’ book the minister wrote (please, show the slide), I quote:
“A remarkable Centre, restored by caring hands of devotees and followers of the Roerichs. It is needed by everybody, not only as a museum. It is an important spiritual Centre bringing the ideas of goodness, justice and intellectual search of ideality into the world”.
All these recognitions, awards, acknowledgements that I only briefly mentioned were connected, of course, with the most important merit of Lyudmila Vasilyevna – the creation of the non-governmental Museum and that huge public cultural work in Russia and in the world, which our Museum conducted and continues to conduct.
What had happened in the ICR and its Museum that, with the appointment of Medinsky and his companions to the management of the Ministry of Culture, the attitude to our non-governmental organization radically changed from the second half of 2012? Did the ICR stop its work, the preservation and spreading the cultural heritage of the Roerich family in Russia and abroad? No, on the contrary. Even with loss of funding in November, 2013, the International Centre of the Roerichs by assistance of a huge number of Russian and foreign non-governmental organizations succeeded in conducting a grand international exhibition Project that still does not have analogs in the world. It is named “The Roerich Pact: History and Modernity”. This cultural and educational project dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the Roerich Pact, widely celebrated in 2015, was started by the International Centre of the Roerichs in 2012 with the support of the Minister of Culture, A. A. Avdeev. The new management of the Ministry of Culture did not participate at all in this project, but in these years their fight against us to destroy us just began.
The project was supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Rossostrudnichestvo and we are very grateful for that. We carried out Projects in 16 countries all over the world, as well as in 150 cities of Russia and we received numerous official grateful addresses, including those from the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon and the Director-general of UNESCO, Mme. Irina Bokova. I quote an excerpt from her letter:
“Your initiative is even more important because it contributes directly to the achievement of UNESCO goals to establish peace in consciousness of people. Therefore I am glad to welcome such international projects as yours as they strengthen promotion of culture of the world and its achievement through education and culture. The goal and the international scope of the initiative proposed by you, emphasizing with the help of Roerich’s heritage the essential role of education and culture for achievement of stable peace as well as your original approach combining deep historical vision, culture and art demonstrates that your activities directly correspond to the priorities of the United Nations on education, science and culture”.
Nothing similar was ever done by either the Ministry of Culture, or the State Museum of Oriental Arts, which make war against us for total destruction. The question is: In whose interests is this fight? Is it really for the benefit of the Russian Federation? Of course, no. This fight is conducted on the destruction of an important component of culture – the non-governmental form of culture, represented by the International Centre of the Roerichs and its non-governmental Museum. Even if we compare what was achieved by our Centre and the Museum during 25 years of their existence and, for example, by the State Museum of Oriental Arts, we will see clear incompatibility and the low level of the latter. The International Centre of the Roerichs has held more than 670 touring exhibitions across Russia and countries near and far abroad. According to the Museum of Oriental Arts, it held only 35 exhibitions. What a disparity! If we speak about the publication and promoting of the Roerichs’ heritage, the International Centre of the Roerichs has published more than 250 books with a total circulation of more than half a million copies. The Museum of Oriental Arts published books, too. Not more than 10, but among them there are books containing slander against N. K. Roerich and that present him as a political adventurer who tried to organize an armed movement and to seize power in Tibet, to create a state on parts of the territory of independent countries. What a shame! A name that is so important for understanding culture, which is a flag for Russia – his ideas – and then humiliate it in such a way! Now they tell us that the Museum of Oriental Arts will do all for promoting the Roerichs’ heritage, – what a lie!
The merits of the ICR to Russia and the whole world are obvious. Then, once again the question arises: Why do Medinsky and Aristarkhov for more than 4 years conduct a massive campaign to discredit and destruct our non-governmental Museum? There is only one answer: We are facing this nightmare and destruction not because we work badly, but exactly because we work very well. The officials cannot understand this. And I will add: We are guilty to the Ministry of Culture only because we do not want to break the will of the founder of the ICR, S. N. Roerich, who transferred the heritage for creation of a non-governmental Museum. We do not want to break all long-term selfless efforts of Lyudmila Vasilyevna Shaposhnikova. This is all our guilt to the Ministry of Culture which wants to seize everything and possess it all.
Let us review the main complaints of the Ministry of Culture for the last 4 years when Mister Medinsky became the minister. Before that, as you saw on the previous slides that have been shown to us, all the facts of rewarding and attention from the country leaders to the merits of Lyudmila Vasilyevna and our Centre, testify for themselves. However, with the appointment of Medinsky and Aristarkhov as management of the Ministry of Culture rumors began to spread that the ICR allegedly illegally disposes of the Roerichs’ heritage. For that goal, in the mass media and among the power authorities a slanderous campaign has been started, the effect of which was the forcible intrusion, and about which I will tell later.
The second accusation is that allegedly we do not conduct cultural activity. We heard this scandalous accusation during the court hearing on the eviction of the ICR from the Lopukhins’ estate in the Arbitration court of Moscow. One of the arguments of the Ministry of Culture, the Museum of the Oriental Arts and Rosimushchestvo is that we are actually not a cultural organization. According to Aristarkhov who continues to send letters to the court and puts ardent pressure on it, a cultural organization is only an institution of culture, you understand? It means they completely discarded all huge activity of non-governmental organizations that may not even be registered as legal entities and which conduct enormous work in the country on the preservation of the cultural heritage.
So, we are not a cultural organization, otherwise the court would not have taken the decision on eviction because the state must, in exchange, provide a cultural organization with another location. However let’s not nip ahead, when we receive the motivation part of the judgment, we will file an appeal it and prove the contrary.
The next accusation is that the ICR does not preserve and maintain the monument of culture we are in right now and that ICR brought it to a catastrophic state, so that the intended state museum needs to take urgent measures, however, it is not able to do so, because here is the ICR. Therefore, the ICR urgently needs to be evicted and the restoration to be started. It is a shocking moment of judicial procedure when solid state organizations gave the court false documents and even made false accusations. The court completely deprived us of protection, we even demanded to perform due diligence, but the court refused us twice.
Those are the accusations to the ICR. Thanks to Medinsky and Aristarkhov, our collective work for more than 25 years, our service to the Motherland within several years was turned into nothing, and the ICR – into a harmful and dangerous for Russia organization. Therefore, it needs to be destroyed as soon as possible and its activity to be stopped. It is so difficult when you are in all this negative and you feel how far the ignorance of high officials has gone! They are willfully, to the detriment of Russia and for the sake of their mercenary goals, ready to accuse people and an organization that have done so much for Russia and the whole world of anything
Let’s retrospectively consider the issue: Perhaps, the Ministry of Culture is right, indeed, and the ICR has no rights to possess the Roerichs’ heritage?
First, you know that Svetoslav Roerich handed over the heritage in 1990, and it was already the Roerichs’ second attempt. The first one was made by George Roerich who brought his family’s heritage in 1957. And where is it now? Only a few dozens of these paintings are on permanent display, however, more than 300-400 or even more are in the vaults of museums. The rest of the painting collection and research archive from George Roerich’s apartment was ruthlessly looted. This already happened in the new Russia – in the 1990s and 2000s. Anticipating that, Svetoslav Roerich insisted on transferring the heritage to a non-governmental museum: “You create a non-governmental museum, and I will then hand over to it. Provide appropriate premises for the museum in Moscow.” And the Soviets through the Soviet government fulfilled Svetoslav Roerich’s conditions. After arrival in Russia (please, the next slide), he held a press conference, gave respective instructions, invited Lyudmila Shaposhnikova to Bangalore and based on the will, the testamentary prescription, signed on March 19, 1990, he handed over the Roerichs’ archive and heritage to the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs in Moscow.
It is important to point out that in the testamentary prescription there is a paragraph to which the Ministry of Culture is persistently unwilling to pay attention to. Under this paragraph, Svetoslav Roerich obliged the Ministry of Culture to hand over to the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs the 288 paintings which were then and now still are, I believe, on temporary use of the Ministry of Culture.
And secondly, Svetoslav reserved the right to enjoy the property throughout his life. These are the two points that the Ministry of Culture ignores. After Lyudmila Shaposhnikova had brought the Roerichs’ heritage to Russia, as we know, based on the Svetoslav Roerich’s testamentary prescription, two appeals were written to the Minister of Culture of the USSR with a request to return his collection. It is yet to be returned. Svetoslav Roerich’s representative in Europe, Ingeborg Fritsch, personally addressed to the Minister of Culture providing all the powers of attorney, proving her right to act on behalf of Svetoslav. Still, they didn’t give the collection away!
Now the reason is clear for us: the collection has been partially looted. And I say this with full responsibility; we can talk separately on this issue.
You know that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in September 1991 the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs was transformed into the International Centre of the Roerichs upon the request of Svetoslav Roerich. By the end of December 1991, the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs, based on the first law on non-governmental organizations in the Soviet Union, would have to register. Now, among those documents of the Soviet Fund which K. E. Rybak withdrew with the help of investigative bodies (may he look) for the month of June, if I’m not mistaken, there is a protocol of the SFR Management Board meeting in which the decision has been taken that before registration, it is necessary to amend the Charter and approve these amendments at the Conference of the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs which took place in September 1991. The Conference adopted the decision to transform the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs into the International Centre of the Roerichs, which they are trying to cross out. But you can’t throw words out of history; this fact is mentioned in the minutes of the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs available in various agencies, including the Ministry of Justice.
Thus, in December 1991, it was not the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs that registered with the Ministry of Justice but the International Centre of the Roerichs. But the Ministry of Culture immediately came up with the idea: let us not recognize the ICR to be the successor of the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs and let us not return the collection to it. Officials always rush in greed. If they had waited for Svetoslav Roerich’s passing away, then the ICR would really have had no chance. But they started their campaign on non-recognition of the ICR a successor during Svetoslav Roerich’s life, and he reacted accordingly.
First, he wrote a letter to the President of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin. This letter is available in the archive of the Presidential Executive Office. In this letter Svetoslav Roerich stated that, together with the rest of the heritage he had given a large exhibition of paintings to the International Centre of the Roerichs, which had long been in the possession of the Ministry of Culture and was then illegally withheld by the State Museum of Oriental Art. And he requested help from the President in returning this part of the heritage to the International Centre of the Roerichs. That was the will of the paintings’ owner.
In the Act of Acceptance of this collection received by the Soviet Union in 1978, first of all, Svetoslav Roerich’s ownership rights were recognized which has never been questioned by anybody, and also it was stated that it shall be returned ON FIRST DEMAND of the owner, inheritor and his legal representatives.
Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin] gave the corresponding orders; there is a draft decree of the Russian Federation Government. By order of Boris Yeltsin, the Ministry of Culture was given the respective governmental order. The Ministry of Culture recognized the ICR rights to this collection. But Svetoslav Roerich was already in a rather advanced age, ill, and on 30 January 1993 he passed away. As a result, no order was executed. But! Before his passing away, on 22 October 1992 Svetoslav Roerich, honorary President of the International Centre of the Roerichs in addition to his testamentary disposition certified by a notary in Bangalore, confirmed the property rights of International Centre of the Roerichs for the heritage transferred to the Soviet Fund. That is, once again, he called the ICR the legal successor of the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs. Under the law of India this document is an assignment deed. In effect, with the signing of this document, Svetoslav transferred his ownership of the property to the ICR. It was his decision but the Ministry of Culture is unwilling to pay attention to this document.
There is one more thing. In 2004, if I am not mistaken, we, being already in litigation with the Ministry of Culture, appealed to the senior lawyer of the Supreme Court of India, Jiterma Sharma, for clarification. He conducted research and made his conclusion (please, show the document of Mr. Sharma). In the conclusion you can read that the addendum to the Svetoslav Roerich’s testamentary disposition dated as of September 22, 1992 is the transfer of rights, as Svetoslav Roerich transfers the ownership of the heritage to the International Centre of the Roerichs instead of the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs.
Taking into account that there was already a court case on the will in progress, and our claim to the court was filed in 2002, why did we use this document as the codicil to the will? Because, given that the country changes under the will, Sharma came to the conclusion that this document could serve as a codicil.
India has case law. What does this mean? It means that if some legal relations in the country are not regulated by law, court decision on certain matters has the force of this law. Sharma didn’t know and we didn’t know, and only six months later the Supreme court of India, reviewing some other court cases on the will, stated that a codicil must have a second signature.
You see, there is one signature on this document by a witness, a notary, who legalized the signature of Svetoslav Nikolayevich Roerich. But the court found that there had to be a second signature. The Ministry of Culture used it to challenge the decision. So, suppose it’s not codicil. But Sharma did not claim that this document was the basis of codicil, that is, ownership transfer instrument. It is a movable property of an Indian citizen, which was transferred from India to Russia, and therefore we take the ownership under the Indian law.
The intrigue of the Ministry of Culture lies in the fact that, using the court decision of 2014, it spreads the rumor everywhere that the ICR illegally, please note, owns the heritage handed over by Svetoslav Roerich, because the court denied it the right of inheritance. In 2015, the Ministry of Culture organized five audits by the Prosecutor’s Office claiming that the heritage was to be withdrawn from the International Centre of the Roerichs, as it is not the proper owner. But it is a very simple thing, because every normal lawyer understands that the ownership is taken not only on the basis of a will. There is sale, purchase, donation, and in India there is transfer of rights. And here another question arises: if the Ministry of Culture believes that we have no rights on this property, it should go to court, like in a civilized country, file a lawsuit, claim it in court, but not through the riot police and investigating authorities as has been done by the Ministry of Culture.
In June it will be three years since the Moscow Court ruled to deny the ICR of the right to the inherited property. But the court decision does not say a word that the ICR owns the heritage illegally. Moreover, this court decision does not say that the state shall own this heritage. Such are the conflicts of law! The document that you have been shown indicates that the ICR legally owns the heritage transferred by Svetoslav Roerich, and what has the Ministry of Culture got? Is there at least one property document confirming the right of the state to this heritage? No! On the contrary, all the documents confirm that the state illegally owns the heritage. So, that is the situation.
The intention of the Ministry of Culture to prove that we illegally possess the heritage, that we are not the successor of the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs, has a long history, it’s a great intrigue played by the Ministry of Culture. Many organizations founded in the Soviet Union went through the carve-up of property, heritage and litigation in the 1990s. The point is that the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs did not own the heritage under the property right. Its ownership was based on the power of attorney by Svetoslav Roerich who was the sole owner of this heritage. Therefore, that was the decision of the heritage owner. And it doesn’t matter whether we are the legal successor of the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs or not, we are the owners of the transferred heritage because it was decided so by the heritage owner. The intrigue here collapses, it is often repeated but it has no ground.
Next I would like to turn to very important issues. But before I want to note that part of the heritage owned by the international Centre of the Roerichs was donated to it. All the given donations, including those given by Boris Bulochnik, since the late 90’s and early 2000s have deed of gift. And the right of transfer from an owner or an owner representative to the International Centre of the Roerichs has never been questioned. There are no court decisions that a transfer was void or illegal. None of the donated artworks has been wanted. So what happened to us on 7-8 March when the investigating authorities seized paintings donated by Boris Bulochnik until 2002, under the pretext that they had been allegedly bought with stolen money, and are, as Anatoly Karpov said, a serious abuse of investigation rights and the laws of the Russian Federation. Why? Because, if the investigation is carried out in the framework 2010-2013, what right has it got to say that already in 1992, 1999 and 2002, respectively, the seized paintings were bought with “stolen” money? It is clear that this was done in the interests of the Ministry of Culture.
Interestingly enough: when the investigation began, it was well-known that the International Centre of the Roerichs had never hidden the fact that Bulochnik donated paintings to us, on the contrary, we were proud of it. Where else can you find such an art patron in Russia: over 400 works of the Roerichs have been returned to Russia – what other art patron can boast of it? Boris Ilyich did not spend money on football clubs. And our Museum was not the only one he helped. He helped many non-governmental organizations; I am not going to list them now. And he helped state organizations as well. So the country should be proud that this heritage has been returned to Russia from abroad. And it is not hidden in the vaults of some private person, but exhibited in a museum, but alas… We know that the last lot of nine paintings by Svetoslav Roerich hanging in this hall was donated in November or October 2013, a few weeks before the Master-Bank license revocation. Master-Bank allegedly issued a credit for purchasing these pictures in the amount of 45 (or something like that), which allegedly was not fully returned. That is why the investigation got interested in these paintings.
In 2016 an investigator came to us, explained the situation, we showed and told him everything. He beforehand in a call gave notice what particularly interests him. When he arrived, and we talked to him, he said, “I’m forced to withdraw paintings as evidence, because there is investigation. Well, what can I do? I will deposit them with you, and they will be with you until the court decision on this case.”
When the assault began on 7-8 March here, I thought that investigators arrived for these paintings. Oh, no… They came for the others, too. The Ministry of Culture played the master here – to the fullest! We have already held a press conference on this occasion, I would not like to return to that issue, just want to draw your attention to this: why are my colleagues and I convinced that it was organized by the Ministry of Culture? First, the investigators who came exclusively work on banks and have nothing to do with art, creativity or museums. On the other hand, it is understandable: at a sudden, they asked at the Ministry of Culture for experts. But I repeat: it’s a Museum, not a gangster formation. If they had called, told us, and then would have come! If they had had pure intentions, they would have acted quite differently in the framework of their investigative actions. For example, as it was last year when one of investigators came, and we sorted it out together. But taking into account that OMON forces and about 50 investigators came here, that the timing of their choice was just before the beginning of the working day, that representatives of the Ministry of Culture were at the head of the crowd entering the Museum, and that the investigators had already known who they were to cut off, we came to the conclusion this was done on the initiative of the Ministry of Culture. Mr. Mkrtychev, the great expert, was also there. They already knew who they needed to remove and not allow into the Museum. The Museum management was immediately cut off, no one of the keepers or staff was let in. There was a security guard sitting in the corner, who had nothing to do with the display or paintings. All the halls were empty: neither I, nor Natalia Cherkashina, nor Pavel Zhuravikhin nor a keeper was allowed in. They were playing master here on their own. We came in when the paintings had been all taken from the walls and packed. When we said, “We are not going to sign any act of withdrawal,” the investigator responded, “we do not need it, a witness has already signed it.” Not a witness, but a representative, and who appointed the representative? They themselves. Do you realize it? It’s awful.
When they started to break into the Museum and the security could not see who forces his way, and since the staff without permission of the head of security, the General Director or the Vice President of the Museum had no right to open the door, they started to shout: “Open the door!”. After that, Mkrtychev’s voice could be heard: “Slam the door; they are of no cultural value”. Words spoken out by the deputy director of the Museum of Oriental Art! And the Ministry of Culture seriously wants us to cooperate with such people? Is that representative of the Museum of Oriental Art at all able to create anything, not speaking of anything similar to Roerichs’ heritage? You cannot be talking seriously…
All roles had been outlined, completely! Mr. Mkrtychev was responsible for the paintings, while Mr. Rybak took care of the archive documents. They were here in December 2015. They knew where everything was and he [Rybak] deliberately seized the archive documents from the Soviet Roerich Foundation dated 1998-1991. What does it have to do with the investigation? Nothing! Do you understand? It is a crime, it is banditism, and it was the Ministry of Culture, which used the investigative authorities, the Ministry deceived them and I can assume why they did so.
I would like to add some more, if you give me some time. I am not ruling it out, but I am even convinced that search and seizure of the exhibits were conducted based on the letter of the administration of the Ministry of Culture to the investigative authorities. The letter was misleading and contained falsified information that ICR could hide, take away or sell the paintings. And, most likely, because of the tax authorities, which said: “Well, we counted 52 million roubles of debt. They now will start selling paintings in order to raise money.” You see, what point of mockery can be reached in accusations of the organization, whose staff, receiving a small wage or not being paid at all, has been working for the idea of preservation of the heritage for a long time. They were accused of intending to loot, take away and sell the heritage that they had been collecting, despite all the difficulties, with selfless devotion for a long time. Only those, who do it themselves, could invent such accusations. Do you understand? He looks different at the world with his own mind and understanding, and he is governing our culture. What if we recall all warnings of the Prosecutor’s office concerning smuggling of cultural heritage addressed to Mr. Medinsky? You see, we live in a certain time: criminals are governing us and they are destroying culture. It is awful.
However, we are alive and we will continue our work. It is clear that the seizure was carried out under the initiative of the Ministry of Culture. At the beginning of my report I have quoted some examples of acknowledgements and recognition of ICR activity from the President, the Government, from a number of ministries and agencies from remote regions as well as from other governmental bodies. They recognized that we were working well and that we achieved success. However, the new administration of the Ministry of Culture realized that it was necessary to discredit our organization and our administration, so that it would be possible to carry out the seizure, which took place on 7-8 March 2017. And so they started doing it! In fact, it is a complot, a violent corrupt complot against a non-governmental organization, which has done so much for Russia.
I will just give a few examples. For example, in 2013 the administration of the Ministry of Culture initiated a campaign aimed at defamation of ICR. I mention 2013 (perhaps it started before) as I have the documents proving it. You know, that in 2013 “Master-Bank” collapsed and we lost our funds and there were some appeals. Here I have a letter (please, show the letter, which Mr. Aristarkhov addressed to the Office of the President). In July 2014, Mr. Aristarkhov addressed a letter to Mr. Mikhailovsky to the Office of the President. I will quote only the main point: “The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation does not know whose interests are behind ICR. It is necessary to realize that fulfillment of demands of ICR would encourage the transfer of the Roerichs’ paintings from the State Museum of Oriental Art to unknown persons, who could dispose of this part of cultural heritage of the Russian peoples, as they wish.” Do you understand?
It might seem that there is nothing strange. But how can it be: the Ministry of Culture does not know who is behind the Centre? These allusions, these lies that were brought to the mind of the Office of the President are very significant. Now we understand why the Office of the President, getting our numerous applications, sent them all to the Ministry of Culture.
It is the beginning of a disastrous march of lies coming from the Ministry of Culture. In the same year, on 22 October 2014, Mr. Aristarkhov sent a letter to Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), which is directly related to the events that took place on 7-8 March 2017. I will show it right now. This letter clearly shows, what methods the Ministry of Culture and Mr. Aristarkhov in particular used. “The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation addresses to MIA the statement of Mr. Litvinov on the destructive and anti-cultural activity of the International Centre of the Roerichs in order to verify the information presented in Mr. Litvinov’s letter, considering a potentially illegal activity.” If we take a look at the letter of Mr. Litvinov, we will find out that it is very illustrative. I will present a quote from the letter: “If tomorrow Shaposhnikova for some reason, for example, deserving to retain control over the heritage, orders her sectarian followers to take up arms or Molotov cocktails, they might execute this order, too. This would result into unpredictable consequences for our State and society.”
The investigators from MIA, who came to ICR, realized all the absurdity… I see some people smiling. Dear colleagues, they knew what they were doing; they were putting this lie in the minds of the officials. At first, they did not perceive this lie but when there was a lot of it, the doubt appeared: “What if it was true?” And here we have the result: an armed seizure, approved by MIA. And further they will take the heritage away and start selling it. It is ridiculous. When you realize, against whom all this is going, it makes you fear for the future of Russia.
That is why we were attacked by armed OMON; it was the consequence of the letter mentioned above. By the way, when we started to check, we found out that Mr. Litvinov does not exist at the address, it is a fake. So what? Did the first deputy Minister of Culture not know about the activity of our Museum after all I said? It was in 2014. I have already read out the letter of Madame Bokova from 2014. We have already realized the large project “The Roerich Pact. History and Modernity.” We asked the Ministry of Culture to support us but they refused. They knew about our activity. However, they spreaded the lie are further spreading it.
In 2014, by request of the Ministry of Culture, a criminal case for ostensibly illegal renovation of the Lopukhins’ estate was initiated. It has not been decided yet, you see. It is absurd, when there was litigation with our neighbor The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. If we present all the facts… No paper that could bear this. It would burn because of all the hatred and all the lies about our non-governmental organization, which we have faced during these three or four years of the administration of Mr. Medinsky and Mr. Aristarkhov.
The year 2015. After the death of Lyudmila Shaposhnikova the Ministry of Culture started to attack us more actively. Evgeni Primakov, who was our close friend, a member of the Board and the Board of Trustees for many years, passed away earlier that year. During his life no one dared to humiliate, offend and rob us. We used to be slightly attacked and criticized… And now the Ministry of Culture, planning to get everything, is doing the following. The Ministry started sending ultimatums “urgently transfer the heritage” (show the letter of Mr. Medinsky). At the same time the seizure of the estate started. How did it start? Did it start with the letter of the Minister of Culture Medinsky to whom? To the President? Please read it. He says that he wants to execute Svetoslav Roerich’s will, considering the Lopukhins’ estate and for this purpose demands to transfer the estate to him, as if we had not executed the will. Does he really not know that there is a working non-governmental Museum in the estate?
Just imagine, several weeks later the estate was transferred to the Russian Federation. It used to take officials several years to divide the rights of ownership to the monument in Moscow, while in this case the transfer of the estate to the Russian Federation and later to the operational management of the State Museum of Oriental Art took several weeks. What for? Under the request of Mr. Aristarkhov in order to establish here a State museum. The State Museum of Oriental Art received such present and then was probably planning to win back. Well, they managed to win back, as you know.
It was a real seizure of the estate and then the eviction procedure. It is not just about the illegal takeover, it is about a fight against corruption of the officials, while in this case there are a number of corrupt officials. Can you imagine? If one governmental body makes another one carry out such actions, it is a very dangerous gang. Moreover, it is carried out under the cover of governmental interests, which is the most interesting thing.
Further, they are trying to force our staff to turn our organization into a governmental one. When the staff, the Board, the conference refused, saying: “No, we will remain faithful to our Testament, to our Charter and aims”, the true nightmare of 2016 began. Mr. Aristarkhov sent letters to all governmental bodies aiming to discredit the International Centre of the Roerichs and its administration. I will quote one more letter, I do not know, whether there was enough time to scan it, in order to show everything. The letter to the Chairman of the Committee on Culture of the State Duma Mr. Govorukhin. In this letter Mr. Aristarkhov writes, I quote: “The consistent, systematical position of the ICR administration which is hostile to the governmental bodies and aiming at support of active opposition of the Roerichs community to the State is a matter of concern.”
The State Duma and the Committee on Culture have always supported us but how can we trust them in this case? I would like to consider my speech to be the official complaint filed with the Prosecutor’s Office and the Investigative Committee. Let them look into this case. And if I am calumniating the officials, let them charge me with criminal offences, but I am ready to present all the documents proving that we are right.
I repeat that at that time our large project “The Roerich Pact. History and Modernity” is in process. It is embarrassing! And 17 unscheduled inspections at the same time, which were initiated at the International Centre of the Roerichs by request of Mr. Aristarkhov. There were many governmental bodies, which inspected us, including tax office and labor inspection, the Investigative Committee, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Justice, MIA, while the Prosecutor’s Office of Khamovnichesky district carried out about 5 or 6 inspections in response to all complaints and claims. Our staff had to go through it. How can one work under such conditions? It is an obvious humiliation and abuse of power by the Ministry of Culture. We are not subordinated to the Ministry of Culture. Then they were especially creative, just imagine: under the request of Mr. Aristarkhov the Ministry of Justice initiated an inspection in order to check whether ICR was an extremist organization! After our cultural projects were recognized at the highest level they are trying to accuse us of extremism! The Ministry of Justice did inspect but we should pay tribute to the officials from the Ministry of Justice, they did not surrender under the pressure of Mr. Aristarkhov. However, they quoted examples: you see, Mr. Bulochnik had been a member of their Board and they were defending him. The representatives of the Ministry of Justice responded: “He is member their organization, so they have the right to do it. Moreover, there has been no judgement yet.”
Finally, the Ministry of Justice issued an order confirming that we were a cultural organization carrying out broad cultural activity, which it even listed.
However, the representatives of the Ministry of Culture did not consider it to be enough and you know, how we were attacked by the media, accused of extremism; there were even complaints filed with the General Prosecutor’s Office. It is horrible. The tax authorities spent a year inspecting our organization. They asked me about the financial flows. You see, how much disinformation was published in the media in order to make the tax office initiate an inspection. They accused us of receiving lorries full of money from Mr. Bulochnik, while Mr. Stetsenko was ostensibly concealing the money. I cannot show you the bundle of letters by Aristarkhov, where he writes that I am “manipulating financial flows of the organization”. Well, show me these flows; I will make them flow in the right direction. Now we need money for our cultural activity. And all these things are caused by the administration the Ministry of Culture. Thus, it is awful, when such officials are governing culture in the country. It is terrible!
You know about the distribution certificate of the movie “Call of the Cosmic Evolution”. The distribution certificate was revoked because the movie used a documentary footage, some pictures from the well-known film “Ordinary Fascism”. They referred to the law etc. And now just look: even cultural personalities are worried.
However, the most interesting fact is that during the court proceedings nothing was said about our position and no word was said that it was only footing from the documentary used in the film. Why? What for? The aim was to impose the use of the Nazi symbols, you see. As if we were promoting Nazi symbols. Dear colleagues, it is true extremism, but on the side of the Ministry of Culture. Thus, the officials are mainly fighting not against ICR but against the Roerichs’ heritage, their peacemaking ideas. The officials hate them and they are not interested in them. Just remember the statement of Mr. Rybak. They make people think that the Roerichs’ ideas are dangerous. Where are we going? What is the danger of the appeal “Peace through Culture”?
We know that the value of any idea depends on the activity of the originator of the idea. Just look at Nicholas Roerich’s creative work and art. They are full of the ideas of the Living Ethics and are in demand in our country now. However, the officials from the Ministry of Culture are trying to erase the Roerichs’ peacemaking ideas. While such activity of the officials is hostile towards Russia. I cannot call it in any other way.
And what about the Buddhist festival? They wanted to compare its organization with criminal activity. They are watching us, fixing each step, each action and wondering: how? We have already organized Buddhist festivals as well as festivals of the Indian and Mongolian culture. We explained that Eastern culture and its religious ideas are indivisible. They do not have paintings there; there are religious ideas everywhere unlike in the Western culture.
If I tell you, you will not believe: about six letters were sent in order to make the Prosecutor’s Office of the Khamovnichesky district initiate a criminal case. Those letters were written by the State Museum of Oriental Art and by Mr. Aristarkhov as well and the letters were presented to the court by the prosecutor’s office. There is a colossal pressure! They are just making use of the judicial power, trying to accuse us of extremism as well, in order to destroy our organization. Finally, the court of the first instance dropped the administrative case.
What can be said about the decision of the collegium of the Ministry of Culture, considering the establishment of the branch of the State Museum of Oriental Art at the Lopukhins’ estate, dated February 2016? Do you think that the court has examined this issue? The court said: “Sorry, but the interests of ICR are not violated in this case.” We said: “Your Honor, how can that be? Is it not a violation of our interests, if in the building where the exposition is located and in which the Museum is working for 26 years, a State museum will be established?” “No.” Do you see? This is the judicial power ruled by the Ministry of Culture.
Another interesting fact: in 2013 or in 2014 the Ministry of Culture appealed the judgement of the Khamovnichesky court dated 2011, according to which we were recognized as the heirs. The judge asked the representative of the Ministry of Culture, its attorney, because the judgement came into force and the Ministry stood in court. The judge asked: “Why have you not appealed the decision when you stood in court? You could have protested.” Do you know the answer of the representative of the Ministry of Culture? A remarkable response. He said: “Your Honor, at that time there was another minister with his opinion and now there is a new one, thus, with another opinion”. You see they are manipulating the law in order to satisfy their own interests. There is no doubt that those are their personal interests as they contradict the interests of our country. Here you have the examples.
One can tell a lot more about it but I should finish my speech. To conclude, I would like to add that Lyudmila Shaposhnikova used to say that life is a struggle. We do understand it. Life is an endless struggle between the old and the new, a struggle in overcoming; no achievement is possible without struggle. Only the ignorant mind can be afraid of the struggle. Life is a struggle; it is an axiom without need to prove. However, the struggle has different levels. The more powerful the struggle, the more important the new idea is. A great idea always faces resistance. The fact that the Roerichs’ cultural and educational ideas are facing active resistance proves their importance and significance not only for Russia. Otherwise, it is impossible to solve the problem threatening the whole world, without unity of peoples based on cultural cooperation.
I would like to return to the question considering that the last representative of the great Roerich dynasty, Svetoslav Roerich, had clearly defined the conditions of transfer of the Roerichs’ heritage. The first condition implied that the heritage should be transferred to a non-governmental Museum only, and the second one implied that the Museum was to be accommodated at the Lopukhins’ estate.
Now the Ministry of Culture is in a great battle to breach Russia’s obligations granted to Svetoslav Roerich, and it already breached them. In the latest case the court decided that ICR and the Museum shall be evicted from the Lopukhins’ estate. I really want to hope that it is a judicial error and as soon as we get the statement of reasons, we will appeal the decision. But if not, then there will be no legal basis for the heritage to remain in Russia. And that is extremely dangerous. Thus, let us hope that the heads of government realize the significance of the situation and value it properly. We really would like to hope so. Otherwise, we will have no other opportunity but to seek the support of the international community, the UN, as we are an associate member with The United Nations Department of Public Information, we have special consultative status with UN ECOSOS; we will approach these organizations. We will have no alternative unless the situation changes for the better.
And the last thing I would like to mention. Several days ago, RIA-Novosti published a statement of Mr. Aristarkhov. I am quoting: “We are ready to consider proposals for coexistence in this building, provided that we would preserve the right to this building”. He was talking about the right of the State Museum of Oriental Art as well as of the Ministry of Culture. Thus, I wonder who has ever denied the title of the State to this building. We? We never ever did it. It is State property despite the fact that enormous non-governmental funds have been invested into it. But we are not challenging the State’s title to the building. Therefore, it cannot be understood why Mr. Aristarkhov states the following: “The judgement made the day before yesterday confirms it, but the International Centre of the Roerichs does not agree with it. We are not aiming to destroy the non-governmental Museum; we are aiming to make the Roerichs’ heritage preserved without any violations of law and available to all citizens.” Do you understand? Was the situation different before? Again, they make people see only the lies.
The following remark of Mr. Aristarkhov is interesting as well: “The Ministry of Culture is looking forward to any form of cooperation with the International Centre of the Roerichs”. Dear colleagues, what a lie! I would like to repeat once again so that everyone understands: it was not them, who proposed cooperation; it was the International Centre of the Roerichs, who proposed cooperation. At first, it was officially communicated to Mr. Rybak in December 2015, when I said: “Do you want to cooperate with us? So, let’s cooperate. We are not against it. Do you want to establish a State museum here? We are ready even to discuss this topic, but, please, find money and invest it. There are plans for the renovation of the estate, build something new, another museum building instead of the garages. Then, we will see whether your thoughts are unblotted. Alright, let there be accommodated a State collection, while here the non-governmental one will remain.” I was ready to do so. I knew that they would reject it. But they are not talking about it. On 27 October 2016, there was a working meeting that took place at the Federation Council under the chairmanship of the head of the Committee on Culture, Madame Dragunkina. The working meeting was organized under numerous requests of the community, and the administration of the Ministry of Culture and the administration of ICR were invited thereto. During that meeting, we tried to discuss the situation. We are grateful to Madame Dragunkina for this working meeting. There is the minutes of the meeting, in which everything was clearly recorded, including our proposals for resolving the question and for further cooperation.
That is why this statement of Mr. Aristarkhov is so awful! Several days ago we approached the Federation Council and the Ministry of Culture with a request to support our exhibition project on 22 March. We wanted to inaugurate the exhibition of one painting by Nicholas Roerich Ready for the Campaign, a gorgeous canvas dated 1910. It was donated to us in 2005. We restored the painting, we wanted to exhibit it for the first time, and we invited the Ministry of Culture to take part in the project. Mr. Aristarkhov, presenting his report to the Federation Council, said that the Ministry of Culture consented. Several weeks later the Ministry of Culture seized this particular painting.
And after that – the proposal for cooperation. Nevertheless, I am ready to repeat: we are ready for cooperation if the Ministry of Culture revises its attitude towards our organization. Because, if we have the same aim, namely to preserve the heritage for future generations, we must not have any conflicts. It is a very important challenge and we can solve it only by cooperating with the government. They accuse us of not having the wish to cooperate with the government. But this is not true. How could we manage to renovate the estate without cooperation, for example, with the Moscow City Government and with the Ministry of Culture? How could we turn into life our exhibition projects without cooperating with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs? We have rich experience in cooperation, but I hope that I have proven to you that since appointment of the new administration of the Ministry of Culture this cooperation has been calumniated. They tried to depict ICR as an organization hostile to our country, but this is an open lie. It does not reflect reality.
Dear colleagues, much destruction has already been allowed. However, we all understand what a complicated time we live in. Nevertheless, we should not get angry but we should continue our work. We have great projects for the future and we will bring them to life. At the same time we will preserve and save the Heritage. We will not let the Ministry of Culture destroy it.
Thank you for your attention!