The authorities make up laws in order to interpret them in their own favor. If things do not work out in a good way, “people in black” come and do lawlessness in the “interests of the state.” The capture of the Non-Governmental Nicholas Roerich Museum is a vivid and very sad example of this.
Numerous lawsuits, mutual accusations of the parties, the furious Ministry of Culture for whom the International Centre of the Roerichs is a sort of irritant… The Non-Governmental Nicholas Roerich Museum throughout its existence was holding down the fort, fighting off state and security officials. Finally, at the end of April 2017 the fort fell as a result of a hostile takeover. Does this mean that the Roerich Museum is destined for a sad fate and a $ 1 billion heritage to be plundered?
We are talking now with the Vice-President of the International Center of the Roerichs (the ICR) Alexander Stetsenko about how the State deals with undesirables and whose who are too independent.
– Alexander Vitalyevich, let’s begin a little with the end. So tell us about the events of the night when the museum was taken over.
– On the night of 28 to 29 April 2017 the State Museum of Oriental Art with the support of law enforcement agencies entered the territory of the Lopoukhins’ estate, where the International Center of the Roerichs was located for more than 25 years, insulated the perimeter of the estate, and seized all its buildings, its territory, all museum collections and other property belonging to the ICR, including personal belongings of its workers.
The reason for the invasion was allegedly in the fact that Arbitration Court has granted the claim of the State Museum of Oriental Art to terminate the contracts for the uncompensated use of the Lopoukhins’ estate and evict the ICR from its three buildings. It is worth mentioning that at this time the court’s decision did not enter into legal force, because earlier we filed an appeal and it was not tried by the court. It was to be tried only 4 months after the capture.
The force capture was carried out by a certain unmarked private security company. The non-departmental security service, which we called out, did not even dare to enter into a conflict with it. In order to make a certain legal status to this illegal capture a Moscow department group of Central Investigative Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs arrived at the Lopoukhins’ estate on April 29. It should be noted that this particular group has been investigating the forced bankruptcy of the Master Bank. On arrival it transferred without any reason all the buildings of the estate, the Roerich’s property and heritage to the State Museum of Oriental Art for custody. However, neither the cultural heritage nor the property transferred were mentioned in their search record. There are strong reasons to believe that, thus, the heritage might be plundered.
Actually, the leadership of the Ministry of Culture committed an obvious robbery against the Non-Governmental Nicholas Roerich Museum of the ICR in the center of Moscow, alongside the Kremlin, and the investigative bodies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs provided their cover for this crime.
It should also be mentioned that a month earlier, on 7–8 March 2017, the same investigation team at the request of the Ministry of Culture carried out its first raid on the Non-Governmental Nicholas Roerich Museum with the support of several dozens of armed riot police in masks. Having broken down the doors of the museum, the group led by the adviser to the Minister of Culture K. Rybak and the Deputy Director of the State Museum of Oriental Art T. Mkrtychev took about 200 museum exhibits from the Lopoukhins’ estate, giving them an unreasonable status of physical evidence under the guise of investigation of the criminal case against Boris Bulochnik, the former patron of the Museum.
The investigation of the criminal case is carried out within the framework of fraud allegedly committed in 2012–2013 by the chairman of the Master Bank’s board, ICR’s sponsor Boris Bulochnik, including the outstanding loan of the bank, for which 9 paintings were bought and donated to the ICR in October 2013. They were seized as physical evidence of the criminal case. Together with these ones, they picked up the pictures donated to the ICR in the late 1990-es and early 2000-es, which clearly have nothing to do with the criminal case. The ICR’s archives of the early 1990-es were also withdrawn. All this proves once again that this raider seizure was initiated by the Ministry of Culture with the purpose to take over the Roerichs’ heritage handed over to the ICR by Svetoslav Roerich and other donors.
– What preceded the open seizure of the museum? After all, “fighting” did not begin immediately.
– The seizure of 2017 was preceded by the several-year company waged by Medinsky and his first deputy Aristarkhov to discredit the ICR and its leadership in the eyes of the country’s leadership and society. During 2014–-2016 they tried to present us as militants who are trying to overthrow the government (it was in Aristarkhov’s letter to the Interior Ministry in 2014); as extremists and foreign agents (it was in Aristarkhov’s letter to the Ministry of Justice of Russia in 2015); as religious extremists (it was in the letters of Aristarkhov and the State Museum of Oriental Art to the Khamovniky Prosecutor’s Office in 2015); as fascists who distribute swastikas (this was connected with the recall of the rental certificate for the ICR’s film “Call of Cosmic Evolution” by the Ministry of Culture for demonstrating newsreels fragments); as destroyers of the object of cultural heritage of the XVII–XIX centuries, that of the “City Estate of the Lopoukhins”; as violators of lease obligations (that was carried out by the officials by means of forgery and falsification related to facts and documents, “mysteriously appeared at their disposal” which testify to the registration of 17 commercial organizations at the estate; as those who ruined the estate. Here we should mention that this was the ICR that recovered the estate from the ruins without any support of state funding in 1990-es. And when the accusations in the emergency condition of the estate were claimed we requested to carry out a forensic examination to prove its excellent state. But the ICR was denied in it and the court decided to terminate the contracts and evict the ICR from the estate.
In fact, it was a well-conceived conspiracy of high-ranking officials of the Government of the Russian Federation, carried out by the Minister Medinsky and his team to deliberately destroy the Non-Governmental Museum and illegally seize the Lopoukhins’ estate, museum collections and other property belonging to the ICR. To this end, they sicced all supervisory and control bodies on the ICR. Khamovniky Prosecutor’s Office under the allegations set forward by the first Deputy Minister of Culture Aristarkhov, over the past two years carried out about 20 unscheduled inspections. The tax inspection at the request of the same Aristarkhov checked the ICR all the 2016 trying to discover unaccounted financial flows channeled, as he considered, through the ICR.
Failing to discover any financial violations contrived by the Ministry of Culture, the Federal Income Tax accused the ICR of tax evasion for using the paintings of the Roerichs donated to us for museum activity imposing a fine totaling approximately 59 million rubles. That is nonsense! Now about fascist symbolism. One must try hard to invent such a thing. Although the goal of the Ministry of Culture is clear. If the ICR were recognized as an extremist organization, the State represented by the Ministry of Culture would confiscate all the property of the ICR. And there would be no need for them to prove any rights to the Roerichs’ heritage. They failed to destroy our organization due to the decision of the Supreme Court, which denied the Ministry of Culture to consider their complaint against the decisions of earlier courts, which had recognized the illegality of the rental certificate recall.
Now Aristarkhov is obsessed with another idea. He is bombarding the Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Justice by demands to remove from the ICR’s Statute all the references to the Roerich heritage, to Svetoslav Roerich’s will. He demands even to remove any mention that in case of the ICR’s liquidation its property should still be used for the creation a new non-governmental Museum as required by Svetoslav Roerich. The Ministry of Culture does not like even the name of our organization and much more. When it failed in one way, it tries to harm us in other one.
The Khamovniky Prosecutor’s Office, as I have already cited the examples, has been for several years following all the instructions of the Ministry of Culture regarding its illegal demands against the ICR. In September 2017 it filed a lawsuit in the Khamovniky Court of Moscow to force the ICR and the Ministry of Justice to amend the ICR’s Charter.
On December 7, 2017 the judge at the court was openly surprised while considering the lawsuit of the Khamovniky Prosecutor’s Office. How could it happen that the Charter of the ICR with amendments, having been repeatedly checked and agreed by the experts of the Ministry of Justice in May 2017, a few months later was protested by the same Prosecutor’s Office and the same Ministry of Justice?
But neither the Ministry of Justice nor the Prosecutor’s Office announced in the court the names of the true puppeteers of this show, those of the Minister of Culture and his first deputy. Then the judge found an opportunity to stop the administrative case on the Khamovniky Prosecutor’s Office suit. But I think that the Ministry of Culture will not stop and go on putting pressure on both the Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Justice. God knows how events will develop in the near future.
– But let’s step back for a moment from today’s events and focus on the start of the Non-Governmental Museum?
– Svetoslav Roerich set two conditions according to which the heritage of his parents Nicholas and Helena Roerichs was to be transferred to Russia gratuitously. The first one was that the legacy would be given to create a Non-Governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich. The second one was that the authorities were to provide the necessary premises in Moscow for the Museum housing.
These conditions were accepted and implemented by the Soviet state. In November 1989 a resolution of the Council of Ministers of the USSR was signed to establish a non-governmental organization that of the Soviet Foundation of the Roerichs and the Center-Museum named after Nicholas Roerich as its main base. And some time later the decision of Moscow authorities was signed to transfer the Lopoukhins’ estate to this public organization to create a Non-Governmental Nicholas Roerich Museum in it.
When Svetoslav Roerich was convinced that his conditions were met, he chose Lyudmila Shaposhnikova as a director of the future Non-Governmental Museum and invited her to his place in India to prepare the legacy to be exported to the USSR. In 1991, Svetoslav Roerich considering the collapse of the USSR suggested to transform the Soviet Foundation of the Roerichs into the International Center of the Roerichs.
At that time, the estate was in poor condition. The Moscow government, which earlier promised to provide the restoration of the estate financially, eventually declared that there was no money for it. The estate was on the balance of the Moscow government, but the Center was authorized to fulfill the works for restoration. And the estate was restored on public money. About 1995-1996 the first patron appeared, who financed 90% of the estate re-creation and the cultural activities of the ICR until 2013. This was the Chairman of the Master Bank’s Board Boris Bulochnik.
It is necessary to take into account one more point. Svetoslav Roerich transferred his heritage on the basis of the document “Archives and the legacy of Roerich for the Soviet Foundation of the Roerichs in Moscow”, signed in 1990 and certified by an Indian notary. In fact, Svetoslav Roerich, during his lifetime, transferred the legacy to the Soviet Foundation of the Roerichs but the Foundation was to inherit it only after Roerich’s death.
There are two important points in this document that explain all the struggle of the Ministry of Culture against the ICR. The first one is that Svetoslav Roerich included in his will a provision obliging the Ministry of Culture to transfer to the public organization founded by him a collection of his own 288 paintings. In 1978 the collection in question was granted to the Ministry of Culture of the USSR for temporary use. The Ministry of Culture was to organize their exhibitions around the country. That of the second provision was that having transferred the legacy to the Soviet Foundation of the Roerichs, Svetoslav Roerich retained all the rights to the heritage. And only after his death it became the property of the Soviet Foundation of the Roerichs.
– But as far as I understand these aspects prescribed in the documents were not realized. What really happened?
– Problems began almost immediately. Firstly, Soviet officials did not want Svetoslav to transfer his legacy for a public museum establishing. They agreed to establish the Soviet Foundation of the Roerichs as a public organization, but they insisted on transferring the Roerichs’ heritage to the State Museum of Oriental Art. Now the officials of the Ministry of Culture, in order to justify the destruction of the Non-Governmental Museum, tried to convince the public opinion that Lyudmila Shaposhnikova fraudulently made Svetoslav Roerich pass the legacy to a public organization. Naive and ignorant people think that such a lie can convince someone that Roerich could have been forced to do anything against his will, especially with regard to his parents’ heritage.
But Svetoslav Roerich put a strict condition for the heritage transfer. This was a non-governmental format of the museum. He spoke of this even with Gorbachev. His position in this respect was definitely expressed in his concept of creation and development of a Non-Governmental Museum. This concept was published in the newspaper “Sovetskaya Kultura” (“Soviet Culture”) on July 29, 1989. The article was titled “Inaction is not an option!” One of the reasons for this decision was a tragic history of Svetoslav Roerich’s elder brother George, who returned to the USSR in 1959 at the invitation of Nikita Khrushchev and brought the first part of the legacy. He asked the Soviet leadership to establish a state museum. The Ministry of Culture promised to do this, the pictures were accepted, but the museum was not established. But George Roerich insisted on the museum creating. He took the most valuable part of the paintings from the Tretyakov Gallery, where they were deposited, and placed them in his apartment in Leninsky Prospekt, and kept on demanding the Minister to fulfill the obligations.
In 1960 George Roerich died suddenly, being not married, having no children, leaving no will. His brother Svetoslav Roerich was recognized as his heir, but later he was surprisingly removed from the inheritance rights. This happened at the request of the Ministry of Culture by means of a scam carried out by the officials of the Ministry. They recognized George Roerich’s housekeepers as his dependents, who by virtue of the law of that time were first ones in line to inherit George Roerich’s property. Further, the situation developed even more strangely. These so-called dependents were entitled only to the royalties of George Roerich. You may ask who in this case got the rights to the priceless heritage, brought by George Roerich to Moscow from India. No one!
It is strange that even the almighty power did not take this valuable property to state recording. That is, there were created such conditions when the property had actually no owner. This was definitely done in order to seize everything. That’s the way it happened. It didn’t help that Svetoslav Roerich was writing a lot of letters to the ministers of culture and the leadership of the country. The proposals of the USSR Prosecutor General Sukharev how to avoid the heritage plundering were also of no use. Nonetheless the priceless heritage with about 200 paintings, the most valuable scientific archive of the Roerichs, unique collections of ancient Tibetan painting, Buddhist bronze and other cultural rarities was left in George Roerich’s apartment. And all this was openly and illegally sold out with the utter indifference of the Ministry of Culture and complicity of the Ministry of Internal Affairs by the people who had no right to do so. At the request of the public criminal procedures were initiated against the person, who was selling the Roerichs’ legacy from the apartment, that is, the national property of Russia. But the case was dismissed.
– Do you mean that Svetoslav Roerich passed his legacy on conditions to create a non-governmental museum? Did he make it in the light of the failed experience of violating by the State the obligations given to George Roerich to create a State museum?
– That’s right. Svetoslav Roerich while transferring his heritage was categorical. He insisted on founding exclusively a non-governmental museum. He had first-hand experience that the Ministry of Culture did not wish to create a State museum.
But there were some other reasons in addition to the tragic experience with the first part of the heritage, brought by George Roerich. Svetoslav believed that a non-governmental organization would have more opportunities than the Ministry of Culture in carrying out its cultural activities. A non-governmental organization is able to avoid all official barriers, and work for the benefit of Russia. And so it happened. In spite of all the difficulties, the ICR created an excellent non-governmental museum, recognized in many countries of the world. Over the past five years the ICR held a unique international exhibition project dedicated to the Roerich Pact, that of the first international Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments (Roerich Pact), in 17 countries, including the headquarters of UN and UNESCO. In Russia, this project was held in 150 cities. This is what the Ministry of Culture destroyed. This peacemaking work was so necessary for Russia. But back to our history.
Even when all the documents to found a non-governmental museum were signed, the behind-the-scenes struggle on the part of the officials did not stop. And when Lyudmila Shaposhnikova brought the legacy in May 1990, it was even intensified. A lot was written about that period, so I will not dwell on it.
The reconstruction of the estate and the creation of the museum began. Since 1992 the Roerich’s exhibitions were being organized. Since 1997, the museum has been working in full force. But greedy officials did not give up hope of taking away the legacy.
– What is the reason?
– One of the main reasons is to try to disguise the total theft of Roerich’s heritage. About looting of the first part of the heritage, brought by George Roerich, I have already said. No less tragic fate befell Svetoslav Roerich’s collection of 288 paintings, which since 1987 to 1990 was placed into temporary custody at the Ministry of Culture. Then the owner ordered to transfer it to the public organization. But the Ministry of Culture did not fulfill the request of Roerich to give it, and after his death illegally nationalized it. So the second seizure of the heritage took place. The first one, i.e. violating the obligations given to George Roerich, happened in the 60-es.
The reason was banal. The collection was partially plundered. On this occasion independent studies were initiated by the ICR. They were based on the owner’s official documents and those of the Ministry of Culture. Not once the ICR published the results of the study. Investigative journalism was also conducted. Their conclusion was unambiguous: at this moment in the State Museum of Oriental Art there are only 282 of 288 paintings. Let’s remind that the collection was at the State Museum of Oriental Art since the 1980-es. It means that 6 paintings have disappeared. The Ministry of Culture and the State Museum of Oriental Art are trying to prove that there was no loss of paintings and everything is legal. They say that it was Svetoslav Roerich who forgot to remove the pictures from his will. And that it was Svetoslav Roerich who earlier gave them to other persons. Such a blatant lie of the officials is astonishing. There were 296 paintings, which arrived from Bulgaria to the USSR. All of them in accordance with Act No. 4193 of November 2, 1978, (and the annexes to it) are listed as the property of Svetoslav Roerich. Svetoslav Roerich ordered to return back to Bulgaria a part of this composition of paintings after the completion of traveling exhibitions. This fact was recorded in the act. In 1990 Svetoslav Roerich included 288 paintings, remaining in the USSR, in his will in favor of a public organization.
The dynamics of the lie of the Ministry of Culture is very revealing. At first, they said that Svetoslav Roerich had forgotten to withdraw from his will the part of the paintings, which he had recalled from the USSR. Then the ICR demanded to produce the Roerich’s letter and the executive documents of the Ministry of Culture due to which the pictures were sent back to India. No response. Then they began to develop a myth that Nicholas Roerich’s pictures, those of “The Virgin of the Snows”, “Alexander Nevsky” and “The Song of Shambhala” never arrived in the USSR.
It is the history of these 3 pictures of 6 missing ones that is very indicative. The exhibition of the Roerichs’ paintings was held in Bulgaria. After which this collection was sent to the USSR. These 3 pictures in question were actually listed by the State Russian Museum as “not received” in the Acceptance Report of the Collection from the Bulgarian side in April 1978. Instead of these paintings, other pictures were put in boxes, as was also noted in Act No. 4193 of November 2, 1978. But in the acts of museums of Odessa, Lvov, Kiev and others, where this collection was exhibited, there were no notes that these three paintings were missing. In addition, the “Song of Shambhala” is now being exhibited in the State Museum of Oriental Art. Is this not a convincing proof that the missing pictures were still delivered to the USSR? Well, the other two are now abroad in a private collection…
– On what grounds?
– Manipulators from the Ministry of Culture made one painting of two from the list of Roerich. So the picture “The Song of Shambhala” in Svetoslav Roerich’s list was mentioned under No. 8. But according to the legend of the Ministry of Culture, it did not arrive in the USSR, and at the moment it is absent.
Just think what kind of solution the smart guys from the Ministry of Culture find! They are moving this picture to the position No. 6 in the list, where there should be a picture “Tangla” and assign to the first picture a joint name “Tangla. Song of Shambhala.” And the picture under the name of “Tangla” has mysteriously disappeared. Is it not an interesting criminal history?! The painting “Song of Shambhala” is actually the original “Song of Shambhala”, there is no doubt in it, since it was identified by the author’s lists of paintings made by Roerich himself and by a careful description of its plot made by Helena Roerich.
And this is only one example of the machinations made by the officials of the State Museum of Oriental Art and the Ministry of Culture. If one scratches beneath the surface and compares today’s composition of the collection with its owner’s lists, the facts of pictures size reducing to 100 centimeters, technique changing and other magical transformations might come to light. These facts prove that the original composition of the collection was significantly “diluted” by their copies.
For many years, the ICR required to organize the most thorough independent examination, both of the composition of the collection and the paintings themselves, in order to compare them with the original lists of the owner. The inspections carried out by the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation and Federal Service for the Supervision of the Observance of Legislation in the Field of Protection of Cultural Heritage unfortunately based their work not on the title documents of the collection owner, but on the lists of the State Museum of Oriental Art. However, their lists have long since failed to correspond to the original ones and are adapted to the existing pictures. In such state of things, the loss of paintings will never be established. Do you understand?
The attempt to find the truth with the help of the investigative authorities for dozens of years ended in banal formal replies. The last time it was like a total marasmus. The order to sort out the situation was assigned to a… neighborhood police officer. The neighborhood police officer came to the State Museum of Oriental Art and asked, “Have you lost the paintings?”. “No”, he was answered. And that is all. No criminal prosecutions were instituted.
Here is the main reason for Medinsky and his team to destroy our organization. And at the same time to put hands on the richest Roerich collection of paintings. I’m afraid that it will suffer the same fate. After all, the Illicit trafficking of cultural property takes the world’s third place after the illicit traffic in arms and drugs.
Last year I openly accused the Minister of Culture and his deputy, as well as the leadership of the State Museum of Oriental Art, of concealing the loss of paintings from Svetoslav Roerich collection, located in the State Museum of Oriental Art. Do you think they prosecuted me for slander? No, they did not. Why do you think? Because, well knows the kitten whose meat it has eaten…
– Who do you think is at the forefront of those willing to destroy the Roerich Museum and what motivates them?
– It is definitely today’s leadership of the Ministry of Culture. The biggest problems of the ICR began in 2012 with the arrival of Medinsky. This year he said in the State Duma after the museum capture, “The criminal history of how a certain public organization took away from the State its legacy in billions dollars came to an end.”
What an impudent and cynical lie! After all, it is well known that Svetoslav Roerich, the sole owner of the legacy transferred to Russia, insisted on transmitting the legacy to a public organization, but not to the State. A number of documents signed by Roerich and even certified by an Indian notary evidenced this. It is enough to read Svetoslav Roerich’s letter to the President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin to reveal all the lie of the minister. In this letter, he asked to assist in transferring to the ICR his own collection, which was illegally kept by the State Museum of Oriental Art.
If to stick to the version of Minister Medinsky, then the former president of the ICR, Yu.M. Vorontsov and Ye.M. Primakov as a long-time friend of our organization, its trustee and member of the Board; as well as M.L. Rostropovich, the trustee of the Museum; and many other prominent public and cultural figures including D.S. Likhachev, who throughout our 26-year history supported the ICR; participated in this “criminal history” (?!). How dare the Minister blaspheme openly from the rostrum of the State Duma? As Shakespeare wrote, “There is no trust, no faith, no honesty”.
– What were the methods of the Minister of Culture?
– Medinsky approached those responsibilities of destroying the non-governmental museum with zealous inventiveness. To accomplish this task it was necessary to take away the legacy from the ICR and evict the ICR from the estate.
According to the law, the legacy cannot be taken away from the ICR, since the owner himself officially transferred it to the Center. That is why in 2013 all Moscow courts refused the State Museum of Oriental Art and the Ministry of Culture to appeal against the judgment of the Khamovniky Court, which recognized the ICR as Svetoslav Roerich’s successor. Then the Minister appealed to the President with a letter in which he unreasonably accused the ICR of trying to take away Roerichs’ legacy, as belonging to the State, from the State Museum of Oriental Art.
In fact, the minister pulled the wool over President’s eyes. And President, believing the Minister, appended instructions on the letter of Medinsky, as to “Take measures to ensure the interests of the State.” Medinsky and his team interpreted these instructions of the President in their own favor and presented an obvious robbery of the ICR as serving the interests of the State. By this they have “set up” President.
Due to this document, the Supreme Court cancelled all previous decisions that rejected the State Museum of Oriental Art and the Ministry of Culture to contest the court decision of the Khamovniky Court and sent the case to the Moscow City Court for consideration on the merits of the complaint of the State Museum of Oriental Art and the Ministry of Culture. It was there where the decision in question was cancelled. Having denied us the rights on Svetoslav Roerich’s inheritance, the Moscow City Court nevertheless has not decided that the ICR illegally owns the legacy of Svetoslav Roerich, transferred to us after his signing the will. It is necessary to give a short explanation on this item.
The fact is that property rights are acquired not only on the basis of a will, but also on an act of purchase and sale, a grant and many other actions, due to which the rights to this or that property are transferred. When the Ministry of Culture launched the company to announce the ICR as not a successor to the Soviet Foundation of the Roerichs, for which a will was made, Roerich wrote letters to the leaders of the State, to President Yeltsin, to the head of the Supreme Soviet Khasbulatov and to the mayor of Moscow Luzhkov, in which he definitely expressed his will concerning the rights of the ICR to the heritage transferred to Russia.
But when he realized that this would not stop the greedy officials from taking possession of the heritage, he not long before his death legalized his signature at the notary in India on the document, which under Indian law was the document of transferring rights to the heritage to the ICR. In fact, this document cancelled the previously signed will, since Svetoslav Roerich, being the owner of the heritage transferred to the Soviet Foundation of the Roerichs, ordered to transfer it to the ICR.
The Ministry of Culture is well aware of this document importance, so now there have been pathetic calls that the signature of Svetoslav Roerich was a fake, and the Indian notary turned out to be a fraud. Their insolence is just off the charts. They are ready to question even the notarial system of another state, apparently considering that fraudsters there can act in the same way as they used to do here.
As a result, it should be said that the rights of the ICR to the inheritance given to us by Svetoslav Roerich does not result from the succession to Soviet Foundation of the Roerichs, Medinsky’s or his team’s willingness or unwillingness, but from the will of Svetoslav Roerich, the owner of the heritage. They could not change his decision in his lifetime. And much less they could to do it after his departure.
Further more. For much of 2015 Medinsky spent on making the Prosecutor General’s Office take away the legacy from the ICR. The Prosecutor’s Office checked the ICR 5 times for the legality of the Roerichs’ heritage location at ours, but it never came to the conclusion which the Ministry of Culture demanded from it. It offered the Ministry of Culture, if it deemed it necessary, to do it through the court. But how does the minister in court prove that the legacy does not belong to the ICR, and that it should be transferred to the State? In no way. That is why the Ministry of Culture committed the obvious robbery on the night of 28 to 29 April 2017.
In 2015, the founder of the Non-Governmental Museum and its permanent director, Lyudmila Shaposhnikova, the confidant of Svetoslav Roerich and the executor of his will died. Primakov, a permanent member of the Board of Trustees of the ICR died a little earlier. They both were a strong deterrent against the outrage of the lawlessness of the officials against the ICR.
And the siege of the center began. The Ministry of Culture demanded repeatedly to give the legacy. They said, “You are not the heirs, you have no right to keep and manage the collections.” In 2016 the ICR was pressured in full. There were carried out 17 unscheduled inspections from tax inspectors to the Ministry of Justice. The latest one checked whether we are extremists or foreign agents. If the organization was recognized as an extremist one, all its property would pass to the State without any documents.
There was a tax inspection, there was that unfortunate film with alleged propaganda of fascist symbols. They literally clung to everything. And Medinsky was not going to calm down. He was sending constant complaints to the Prosecutor’s Office that our organization is extremist one, that our charter and the title are incorrect. And then there was the eviction.
– And how did they succeed in it?
–- In September 2015, the minister asked the mayor of Moscow Serguey Sobyanin to transfer the buildings of the estate to federal property in order to fulfill the will of Svetoslav Roerich to restore the estate. Again, we have the Minister’s blatant and insolent lie, because the estate had already been restored. For the restoration of the estate there was not spent a penny of State money. And the will of Svetoslav Roerich had already been executed.
And in October 2015 an order was issued to transfer the estate to federal property. Almost immediately the estate was transferred to the operational management of the State Museum of Oriental Art. The ICR was not even aware of it. In 2014 Sobyanin himself gave the estate to the ICR for free use, and in 2015 he himself “on the sly” passed it to the federals.
– In general, everything was done to deprive the ICR of the right to be on the territory of the estate.
– Exactly. The State Museum of Oriental Art immediately filed a lawsuit to evict the ICR from the estate. The basis for the claim was made real “off the wall,” as “everything is bad there”, “the ICR has violated the terms of the contracts of gratuitous use of the estate”, “things are a mess” and… not a single proof for all this. Then Aristarkhov re-entered the case with a view to find compromising materials that would have convinced the court to evict the ICR. At his request, the Moscow City Department of Cultural Heritage conducted an unscheduled inspection. But six months before this, the Moscow City Department of Cultural Heritage conducted a planned inspection and everything was fine with no comments. But in August everything “suddenly turned out to be bad.” Moreover, the Federal Agency for State Property Management, as a representative of the owner, began its inspection of the estate. Then we learnt that 17 commercial organizations were registered at our address.
– Why did the officials do this?
– Everything is very simple. Because this is the grossest violation of the terms of contracts for its uncompensated use, it was an extra reason to accuse us.
We appealed to the Prosecutor’s Office for it to investigate who made this illegal registration on our territory. It was clear that without the help of the officials themselves it would not be possible to make it. We asked the Prosecutor’s Office to identify the perpetrators and punish them. But nothing was done till now. The State Museum of Oriental Art and the Ministry of Culture were trying to convince the court that the ICR brought the estate to an emergency condition. They required to terminate the contracts with us and evict us. The ICR submitted to court the conclusion made by S.V. Demidov, the leading expert of the highest qualification, that the Lopoukhins estate is one of the best in Moscow in terms of its condition and operation. The court at the request of Aristarkhov did not accept this expert conclusions.
We petitioned the court to conduct a forensic examination of the estate condition but they refused us. The version of the Ministry of Culture and the State Museum of Oriental Art was recognized as a true one, and the court terminated the contracts and obliged the ICR to vacate the estate. This was a sort of a one-way track. We filed an appeal, and at that moment, a seizure took place.
– So I understand, the cooperation with the Chairman of the Board of the Master Bank Boris Bulochnik has done a disservice to you.
– Yes, the criminal case against Bulochnik was in the opinion of the Ministry of Culture compromising the ICR. That is fundamentally mistaken. If this is the case, then the Cathedral of Christ the Savior should be taken from the Russian Orthodox Church, because many disgraced oligarchs such as Gusinsky, Khodorkovsky, Berezovsky, and others, took part in its reconstruction. There are many other examples. If the funds in question were spent for the common good, how could one question the sincerity of the people who worked for the good of the Motherland? It turns out to be possible when one has personal vested interests. Then any good deed can be discredited.
There is another point. Who has canceled the presumption of innocence here in Russia? Bulochnik was charged with a specific crime committed by him in specific terms, those of 2012-2013. Why did the Ministry of Culture claim everywhere, that the restoration of the estate, which Bulochnik started to finance since the mid of the 1990-es, the numerous Roerichs’ masterpieces, donated by him to the Museum, which thanks to him were returned to Russia and put up for public viewing, were carried out on stolen money? At the same time, Medinsky and his team did nothing to preserve the Roerichs’ heritage. I’ll tell you that, all this was another trick of the Ministry of Culture. They tried with the support of the investigative bodies to hide the seized heritage and other property belonging to the ICR and present it as the physical evidence. After all, investigations can last for decades.
– Your fate will not be envied … What do you hope to achieve in the future? What are the perspectives of preserving the Roerich Museum in its usual over the latest decade format?
– We filed complaints and applications against the illegal actions of the investigation on March 7–8, 2017 to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Investigative Committee and even the Federal Security Service. Refusals came from all of them. And all of them are within the law. We were suing. The court denied consideration. A month later, a complete seizure of the estate and the Roerichs’ heritage including the rest ICR property took place. This action was more like a bandit raid.
In fact, the Ministry of Culture conducted the liquidation of a non-governmental museum created by the efforts of the public. But the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin awarded the Director General of our Museum Lyudmila Shaposhnikova the Order of Friendship for creating and developing the Non-Governmental Nicholas Roerich Museum in 2006 and in 2011. The President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev awarded Lyudmila Shaposhnikova the Order for Merit to the Fatherland of the IV degree for outstanding services in cultural heritage preserving. The Presidents of Russia turned out to celebrate the merits of the Non-Governmental Museum, and Medinsky destroyed it and the authorities supported him. Is it not weird for a law-based State?
Now the Ministry of Culture is concerned how to eliminate the ICR altogether, so that there will be no one to reclaim everything and to call to prosecute those responsible for this crime. So it seeks to eliminate the key witness.
– Who did the non-governmental museum impede? It has never asked anything from the State.
– A few days ago there was held a meeting of the Council for Culture under the President of the Russian Federation, chaired by Vladimir Putin. Concluding the meeting, he quoted D. Granin’s statement: “Culture can not be led. It must be understood and carried within ourselves.” And if you do not understand the culture, then what? You can… take it away, cant’ you?
You know, patience is running out. For three years, we are sending letters and asking for help. The authorities do not pay attention to this. Our International Non-Governmental Organization has no more chances to find a just solution to our problem in Russia, and we will have to turn to the international community and foreign justice for help.
If for lack of truth in your country you have to turn to foreign justice with a request to protect you from the arbitrariness of your officials, then, let me ask, what kind of society are we building? And what is most painful that these words are addressed to the State in which we live. After all, in fact, it turns out that in Russia you can take anything away from anyone. But big officials from the highest tribunes are keep on talking about democracy. Only where is it?
As for the museum, it prevented the officials, because it was outside their competence. It can even be said in another way: they did not have access to immense wealth plundering, both in cultural and financial aspect. Corruption of officials, embezzlement of budgetary funds is a favorite topic of all news stories. All of this causes substantial damage to the Russian economy. Sometimes we are shown how the State is struggling with this scourge. The harm caused by the Ministry of Culture, destroying the ICR and its Non-Governmental Museum, founded by Roerich, is much more dangerous for the country, as it is undermining the foundation on which everything else rests. We mean Culture.
Who if not the top public officials should be concerned about this subversive activity? Moreover, there are powerful structures in Russia, which are able to stop any disaster.
The General Prosecutor’s Office of Chaika, the Investigative Committee of Bastrykin, the Federal Security Service of Bortnikov, after all, we have the President who can influence the destiny of the country with the stroke of a pen. But … all of them are as silent as a grave. As if that’s how it should be… Even at the Council on Culture, headed by President, which was held recently, no one raised the issue of our Non-Governmental Museum destruction, although many of those present were aware of it.
But we live in increasingly interconnected and interdependent world. The destruction of a museum entails the destruction of culture, the absence of which splits any, even the strongest State into atoms and molecules.
At the end of the Great Patriotic War Nicholas Roerich wrote even more prophetic words in his diary, “The destruction of a museum is the destruction of a country.”
Who and what will the current government lead on the ruins of lack of culture, if it is not concerned about the preservation of culture now.
Alexander Rodin was interviewing Alexander Stetsenko,
the Vice-President of the International Center of the Roerichs
Source: Obshchaya Gazeta. 26.12.2017