On 25 March 2017, the Meeting of representatives of the international community on the issue of preserving Nicholas Roerich and the Roerich family heritage was held at the Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich (the ICR, Center-Museum).
The Meeting organizers: the International Commonwealth of Roerich Organizations and the International Council of Roerich Organizations named after Svetoslav Roerich.
Information support: the newspaper Commonwealth and Light of the Morning Star, the website of the International Council of Roerich Organizations named after Svetoslav Roerich, website Save the Roerich Museum, Interregional Information and Analytical Center, online forum Realm of the Roerich – Shield of Culture, cultural and educational portal Adamant, Internet resources of non-governmental organizations.
308 civilian representatives participated in the Meeting, including delegates from 75 non-governmental organizations from 14 states: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Finland, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Colombia. Russia was represented by delegates from 8 republics, 29 regions and territories, 64 cities.
The Meeting was attended by representatives of scientific intellectuals, cultural and art workers, teachers, doctors, experts in other areas.
Representatives of the International Center of the Roerichs, the International Committee for the Conservation of the Roerich’s heritage, media were invited to the Meeting. Invitations to participate in the Meeting were also sent to representatives of the authorities and parties. Of those invited to the international public Meeting only a representative of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation attended.
The meeting was opened with the video speech by Lyudmila Shaposhnikova, General Director of the Nicholas Roerich Museum, delivered on 11 October 1997 at the press conference dedicated to the opening of the non-governmental Museum of the ICR.
Anatoliy Karpov, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich addressed the Meeting (video message). He noted that for nearly three years the Ministry of Culture and the State Museum of Oriental Art (SMOA) have been waging a provocative war to destroy the ICR and its Non-governmental Museum. Karpov drew attention to the results of the barbaric developments of March 7-8, 2017, regarding the seizure of the ICR property and considered that the Meeting should express its attitude to what happened and make appropriate decisions.
Alexander Stetsenko, the Vice-president of the International Center of the Roerichs, spoke to the Meeting. He elaborated on the events of 7-8 March 2017 which took place in the Non-governmental Museum and outlined the main problems artificially created around the ICR by the authorities of the Ministry of Culture and SMOA.
The representatives of Russia and other countries of the international community spoke in an open microphone mode: I.V. Ivanov, a branch of the International League for the Protection of Culture (Russia, Obninsk); N.M. Surnina, the Ural Center of Spiritual Culture, Doctor of Economics (Russia, Ekaterinburg); M.R. Ozolinja, the Latvian branch of the International Center of the Roerichs (Latvia, Riga); A.I. Govorova, candidate in physics and mathematics, Omsk State University (Russia, Moscow); S.L. Okuneva, Association of humane-personal pedagogy “Pedagogy of Culture in Estonia” (Estonia, Tallinn) and others.
In the course of the Meeting the participants discussed the existing threats and risks to the Roerich heritage and the ICR; they expressed the views reflecting today’s realities, and outlined possible solutions.
The participants expressed their deep concern about the further fate of the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR as well as the heritage stored in it, and expressed abhorrence of the anti-cultural policy led by the officials of the Ministry of Culture regarding the largest non-governmental museum in Russia.
The Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR was founded at the initiative of Svetoslav Roerich, the famous artist and public figure, the younger son of Nicholas and Elena Roerich, an Indian citizen. He passed his heritage over to Russia to create a museum in Moscow named after his father under mandatory terms accepted then by the government: the museum had to be non-governmental lic and owned by a non-governmental organization founded by Svetoslav Roerich and placed at the Estate of the Lopukhins which he personally chose in Moscow from a range of proposed premises.
The Meeting participants shared the view that, having no legal grounds for the Roerich heritage seizure from the ICR, the current officials of the Ministry of Culture with the active participation of the SMOA have actually pursued a destructive policy since 2013 aimed at the Roerich heritage seizure and eviction of the Center-Museum from the Lopukhins’ Estate restored on private funds. By its actions the Ministry of Culture, in fact, creates intolerable conditions for the ICR staff and undertakes zero tolerance towards the independent non-governmental status of the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich.
In accordance with the requirements of the First Deputy Minister of Culture Aristarkhov, the ICR was subjected to five unscheduled inspections in 2015, reaching up to 17 in 2016. The inspections were carried out by different state agencies on the most absurd charges including extremism. In 2015, two lawsuits were initiated against the ICR, and in 2016 due to the actions of the Ministry of Culture the ICR was forced to participate in 13 (!) trials. The Meeting believe that the Ministry of Culture seeks to destroy the Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich and make it a branch of the SMOA using an array of methods, such as discrediting the ICR to the non-governmental and highest levels of government, using economic blockade, information war in the media. The current leadership of the Ministry of Culture is trying to convince the society that the ICR which received the world’s well-deserved recognition for the preservation and popularization of the Roerich heritage marked by numerous awards and notes of gratitude from the Russian leadership, the UN and UNESCO, is not a cultural organization carrying out museum activities. However, the Meeting participants testified that for over 26 years the ICR and its non-governmental museum have carried out exclusively humanitarian, educational and peacemaking activities in an international scope, having a significant impact on the preservation of cultural foundation, both in Russia and in many countries around the world.
They are also trying to convince the society that the ICR does not fulfill its obligation to maintain the Lopukhins’ Estate in due condition. These accusations are made at a time when the leading experts assess the condition and usage of this unique monument as one of the best in Moscow.
The Meeting emphasized that the policy pursued by state authorities against the unique non-governmental blic Museum named after Nicholas Roerich led to the unprecedented events occurred at the Museum premises in Moscow on 7-8 March 2017. It was on these days that Russia and other countries of the world were shocked by the news of the encroaching on the Center-Museum by the armed representatives of power structures: the doors of the Museum housed in the main Lopukhins’ Estate house were cracked and searches were carried out; the museum staff, being neither untried nor suspects, were subjected to psychological pressure, intimidation, physical harm, moreover so, they were prevented from using a telephone and moving freely, left without food and water for actually 20 hours.
According to the eyewitnesses, the Roerich paintings in the museum halls were taken from the walls, packaged and transported with gross violations of regulations. Meanwhile, the experts of the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich responsible for the safety of property were not allowed to be present while the paintings were removed, packaged and taken away.
As a result of the forceful operation led by Senior Lieutenant of Justice of the 11th Investigative Division of the MIA in Moscow Zaitseva, about 200 artworks by Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerichs, as well as the contracts of donation for paintings since 2002, valuable historical documents and other inventory items, which are the legal property of the ICR, were taken away from the Museum collections and storage facilities!
The Meeting particularly noted that the seizure of a significant part of the heritage of the Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich took place with the active participation of the adviser to the Minister of Culture Rybak and the Deputy Director General of SMOA Mkrtychev who were invited as “experts” by investigating authorities. According to the witnesses, they pointed out for the investigators what kind of painting and documents had to be seized. Investigating authorities stated that the seized property was related to the criminal case on the Master-Bank bankruptcy (2010-2013). But based on the opinion of the advisor to the Minister of Culture Rybak, there were seized the paintings donated to the ICR from 2002 to 2010 as well as archival documents of the 1980s and 1990s. Such actions of the engaged “experts” of the Ministry of Culture and SMOA undermine the credibility of the investigation, because these organizations are stakeholders and act as opponents of the ICR, including in trials on eviction of the ICR Non-governmental Museum from the Lopukhins’ Estate.
The Meeting also noted that the information coverage of the investigations on 7-8 March 2017 strongly linked the ICR, a NGO working in the area of culture, to the case of Master-Bank thus compromising the Center, which is the owner of the paintings donated to it by Bulochnik only for the purpose of the Roerich heritage promotion. The donated artworks have not been sold, stolen or subjected to any kind of damage for the time of their keeping in the non-governmental Museum of the ICR.
The meeting paid special attention to the fact that the items seized from the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich were said to have been taken to the SMOA. However, according to experts, the investigative officials had no legal basis for taking away 200 stored items belonging to the ICR. Also, there was no need to take Roerich paintings away from the storage facilities of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich, endowed with state of the art equipment, to the back rooms of the SMOA unfit for this.
Seizure of the property of the non-governmental Museum which is owned by a non-governmental organization is an outrageous fact. These actions violate the provisions laid down in the main law of the country – the Constitution, which has the highest legal force. No laws and other legal acts may contradict the Constitution. It guarantees freedom of non-governmental associations (art. 30). Article 35 of the Russian Constitution provides that everyone has the right to own property and to possess, use and dispose of it either individually or jointly with others. No one shall be deprived of his property otherwise than by a court decision. Expropriation of property for state use may be made only subject to prior and fair compensation. Article 8 guarantees freedom of economic activities and protection of equally private, state, municipal and other forms of ownership. Thus, the action of seizure violates the constitutional rights of the ICR, and hence the society, set forth in Art. Art. 8, 15, 30, 35 of the Constitution.
The Meeting reminded that for a quarter of a century the civilian representatives together with the ICR have gone all the way of creation of non-governmental forms of culture in Russia, They know for a fact how the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich was created, its extensive international work developed, the Lopukhins’ Estate restored from the ruins under the leadership of General Director of the Museum Lyudmila Shaposhnikova (1926-2015), the trustee of Svetoslav Roerich. Archives of non-governmental organizations and individuals contain many documents confirming financial and labor participation of volunteers in the life of the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich. Despite this, a version is voiced of financing the non-governmental Museum of the ICR with funds received through the alleged financial fraud. At the same time, the evidence of thousands of people still alive – participants of the International Center of the Roerichs and Museum developing – are ignored. All these years, the Ministry of Culture of Russia has remained aloof from popular cultural building of the Lopukhins’ Estate and creating a non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich, and now it encroaches on something that it has neither the moral right nor the legal basis for. We believe that such a policy of the Ministry of Culture in relation to the ICR and the society does not only contravenes the history and common sense, but it creates a lot of tension in the society and does not serve the interests of Russia.
The Meeting emphasized that the project of creating the State Roerich Museum on the “ruins” of the now existing and successfully working non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich lobbied by the Ministry of Culture is contrary not only to the Svetoslav Roerich’s instructions and terms set forth when he donated the heritage to Russia, but also to the guarantees given by the government to Svetoslav Roerich. We consider it unacceptable to exert force and take advantage of its official position by the Ministry of Culture to rebut the very possibility of the existence of the Museum named after Nicholas Roerich in its non-governmental status counter to Svetoslav Roerich’s clear and well-articulated position: “As I told you, the subordination of the Center to the Ministry of Culture, and even more so to the Museum of Oriental Art would lead to unjustified, in my opinion, deliberately narrowing the tasks and capabilities of the Center. The Center should, in my opinion, have considerable independence, flexibility, ability to operate over departmental barrier….”(Svetoslav Roerich. We must not tarry! // Sovetskaya Kultura. 07.29.1989).
Another flagrant violation of the will of the legal heritage owner – Svetoslav Roerich – occurred on 20 March, 2017. On this day, the Moscow Arbitration Court, not having, in our opinion, any legal grounds, satisfied the suit of the SMOA on termination of free usage agreements with the ICR and its eviction from the Lopukhins’ Estate in which the Center-Museum has been placed for over a quarter of a century. In this regard, the Meeting supported the decision of the ICR to defend the will of its founder Svetoslav Roerich and to appeal the court decision through a procedure established by law.
Under these circumstances, the international community has given its assessment of what is happening around the ICR and its non-governmental Museum:
– the events occurred on 7-8 March 2017 at the Center-Museum is a flagrant illegal act, degrading treatment in regard to the museum staff, and through them to all members of the museum community, cultural workers, and broader – to each person who care for culture;
– actions of the “experts” from the Ministry of Culture and SMOA on 7-8 March 2017 is an abuse discrediting authorities that they represent, and the use of force against the cultural institution – the Museum – is bringing a great damage to the image of Russia;
– the policy of the Ministry of Culture in relation to the ICR poses an obvious threat not only for the existence and development of the Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich, but also fatally undermines the country’s civilian movement endeavors to preserve and develop culture in Russia;
– lack of desire for constructive dialogue on part of the Ministry of Culture and SMOA with the ICR and the society, and replacing it with the command-administrative approach to solving the issues, destroy the very idea of an equal and mutually beneficial cooperation between the civil society organizations and the state, on which the foundation of civil society is built. The leadership of the Ministry of Culture does not understand and does not accept the form of non-governmental culture, based on a voluntary initiative of people uniting their efforts in the cultural area. These associations are independent, free of the command-administrative regulation, as well as other negative phenomena of modern civilization, and therefore have the ability to “operate over departmental barriers”, as Svetoslav Roerich masterminded.
The developments of 7-8 March 2017 have once again demonstrated that the leadership of the Ministry of Culture and the SMOA are not interested in a dialogue with the Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich and non-governmental organizations, thus it effectively excludes itself from the modern reality asserting new forms of thought, activity and relationships.
In view of the above, the Meeting considered it necessary to take all measures for the preservation of the Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR and to stop the looting of its funds.
To this end, the participants of the Meeting took the following decisions:
- Pursue the efforts to defend the right of the ICR and the Non-governmental Museum for their life and cultural activities, laid down by the prominent figures of culture, science, art back in the 90-s of the XX century, whose position was clearly expressed by Dmitriy Likhachev: “…We cannot assert one cultural formation (the State Museum of Nicholas Roerich) destroying the other already viable and prolific cultural creation”; “…culture should be managed by the societyin the first place and, in the second one, be the responsibility of the State” (Dmitriy Likhachev’s letter to Yury Luzhkov of 17.07.1997), we consider it necessary to appeal to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin with an open letter in which the following requests are to be placed:
– to instruct the Federal Property Management Agency and the Ministry of Culture to stop the eviction of the International Center of the Roerichs from the Lopukhins’s Estate and restore its right to use it;
– to instruct the Investigative Committee to investigate the legality of the search at the Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the International Center of the Roerichs on 7 and 8 March 2017, involving armed riot police and with the active participation of the representatives of the Ministry of Culture, followed by the seizure of paintings and other museum exhibits, as well as archival documents not related to the investigation of the criminal case regarding the Master Bank bankruptcy;
– to instruct the MIA to return all the seized museum values, all donation agreements and archival documents, which don’t serve as material evidence in the criminal case conducted within a certain time period (2010-2013) to the Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of International Center of the Roerichs;
– to instruct the Council on development of civil society and human rights under the President of RF to establish an independent commission to work out proposals aimed at developing the Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the International Center of the Roerichs in the light of keeping the promises made to Svetoslav Roerich.
To authorize Anatoliy Lysikov send a letter to the President of Russia.
- Demand of the leadership of the Ministry of Culture and SMOA stop long-term persecution of the unique Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich in Moscow, the apotheosis of which was forceful seizure of its property by the investigating authorities on 7-8 March 2017.
We stand for equal cooperation with governmental cultural organizations in order to create and maintain museums with different forms of property, in which the Roerichs’ heritage would be preserved, exhibited, studied and popularized, on the grounds of their equally recognized activities in the common cultural space of Russia, without any infringement of the rights and freedoms.
- Apply to the Prosecutor General’s Office of RF with a request to conduct a thorough investigation into the legality of actions of the investigating authorities under the leadership of Lieutenant of Justice of the 11th Investigative Division of MIA in Moscow Zaitseva on 7-8 March 2017 at the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the International Center of the Roerichs
- Based on the constitutional law, and based on the fact that “the bearer of sovereignty and the only source of power in the Russian Federation shall be its multinational people, who exercise their power directly and through bodies of state power and local self-government” (Art. 3 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation), apply to the President and the Government of the Russian Federation for:
– the dismissal of the Deputy Minister of Culture Aristarkhov as we consider his activities in relation to the Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich as destructive and leading to the loss of non-governmental trust. We believe that Aristarkhov is responsible for violation of obligations given to Svetoslav Roerich by the state when transferring the heritage to Russia;
– the dismissal of the advisor to the Minister of Culture Rybak, as we believe that he also lost the non-governmental trust, since his position and actions are aimed at destroying the Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the International Center of the Roerichs. According to numerous statements made by witnesses, direct eyewitnesses of the search and seizure of the heritage, actually it was him who on 7-8 March 2017 acted as one of the main figures managing the seizure of artistic, historical and documentary values of the ICR, pointing out which painting had to be taken away and which documents had to be seized;
– the dismissal of the Deputy Director of the State Museum of Oriental Art Mkrtychev for the loss of non-governmental trust, in the opinion of the Meeting. Mkrtychev is declared as a director of the State Museum of the Roerichs (the SMOA branch), which is supposed to be established essentially on the “ruins” of the Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR. We believe that Mkrtychev intends to destroy the Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich Museum and is blatantly discrediting the ICR. It was he who on 7-8 March 2017 together with Rybak actively participated as engaged “experts” in the seizure of the cultural property of the Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR.
To authorize Anatoliy Lysikov to submit the requests to the appropriate state agencies.
- Assessing the activity of the current leadership of the Ministry of Culture in relation to the International Center of the Roerichs as aimed at the destruction of the Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich Museum, as well as the eviction of the ICR from the Lopukhins’s Estate, to consider the possibility of:
– filing a class action of the society participated in the creation and work of the Non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich of the ICR and restoration of the Lopukhins’ Estate, in order to protect their rights in accordance with the current legislation of the Russian Federation;
– appealing to international organizations for help to save the Non-governmental Museum from its destruction.
To this end, for the International Council of the Roerich Organizations named after Svetoslav Roerich together with the ICR to establish a working group.
- To continue providing financial and other forms of charitable support to the ICR, aimed at ensuring its functioning and multifaceted cultural and educational work.
- To widely popularize through the media and Internet resources the Roerich family heritage, cultural and educational activities of the ICR, its scientific and peacekeeping projects.