International Community Celebrated the 80th Anniversary of the First Congress ot the Baltic Roerich Societies

09.12.2017 – The BALTIC International Academy hosted a round table discussion “The Roerich Pact yesterday, today, tomorrow. To the 80th anniversary of the First Congress of the Baltic Roerich Societies” in Riga (Latvia) on December 9, 2017 . Latvian cultural figures as well as representatives of the Roerich organizations from Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Estonia took part in it. The Latvian branch of the International Center of the Roerichs (ICR), the Baltic International Academy, the International Center of the Roerichs and the European Association “EURASSIM” were among the organizers of the celebration.
THE GRAND opening ceremony took place in the foyer, where an exhibition dedicated to the creation and signing of the Roerich Pact was launched. Evgeniya Dynko has performed “Prelude in C-dur” by Bach and “Waltz” by Georgy Sviridov. Marianna Ozolina, the Chairperson of the Latvian Branch of the ICR has greeted the participants of the meeting and addressed the words of gratitude to the Baltic International Academy. She has noted that the Banner of Peace, a symbol of the Roerich Pact, has a direct link to the venue of the round table. The building in which the round table was to be held a quarter of a century ago was one of the blocks of Riga Institute of Civil Aviation Engineers. An astronaut Talgat Musabaev was among the graduates of this institute. It was Talgat Musabaev who hoisted in outer space the Banner of Peace, handed to him by the Vice-President of the ICR Lyudmila Shaposhnikova.

THE VICE-PRESIDENT of the ICR, Alexander Stetsenko, welcomed the audience, noting the seminal role of the Roerich Pact for all humankind. Attacks on the communities promoting the ideas of the Covenant, as well as destruction of cultural institutions hoisting the Banner of Peace, are the attempts to stop the evolutionary process. He emphasized the necessity to pass the test of firmness and fidelity to the ideas that can play a lifesaving role for our civilization.

THE OPENING CEREMONY was concluded by the first rector, the Board member of the Baltic International Academy, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor Valery Nikiforov. He noted that Nicholas Roerich dedicated his life to pursuing the noble goals of culture promoting. He pointed to the direct link between culture and education as a way of transferring the accumulated experience and knowledge from one generation to another. That is why the Roerich Hall, opened at the Baltic International Academy several years ago becomes an organic part of the university and a venue of cultural and educational activity of the Latvian branch of the ICR.

AFTER THE OPENING CEREMONY, the participants and guests went to the conference hall, where the moderator of the meeting, Irina Markina, the teacher of Cultural Studies Department of the Baltic International Academy, acquainted the participants with the greetings on the occasion of the jubilee of the First Congress of the Baltic Roerich Societies. They were sent by the International Council of the Roerich Organizations named after Svetoslav Roerich, the ICR branch in the Republic of Belarus and the Finnish Society of Nicholas Roerich. The Chairman of St. Petersburg branch of the ICR, Eduard Tomsha, welcomed the participants in video message.

MARIANNA OZOLINA, Chairperson of the Latvian Branch of the ICR, read out the greetings of the Latvian National Commission of UNESCO, sent by the Secretary General of the Commission, Baiba Molnika, to the organizers and participants of the meeting.
THE WORK of the round table was organized in the format of a mini-conference. Marianna Ozolina, Chairperson of the Latvian Branch of the ICR, spoke about the First Baltic Roerich Societies Congress held in Riga. The Roerich Pact in pre-war Latvia was supported by the greatest figures of literature and art. People who gave their names to state cultural institutions put their signatures on appeals to state authorities in order the country to join the first Treaty that was to become the cornerstone of international law-making in the field of culture protection. The beginning of the First Congress of the Baltic Roerich Societies coincided with the opening of the official Museum of Roerich’s paintings in Riga. This public museum of the Roerichs was presented with a total of 50 paintings.

IN the 30-es, the Dvina group was a subdivision of the Latvian Roerich Society. Yelena Shmejsa, a Board member of Daugavpils’ group of the Latvian branch of the ICR told about its work. She stressed that wherever Nicholas Roerich had planned to implement his plans, he had like-minded people. And Dvinsk, (now Daugavpils), was among those venues where the group of the Roerich Pact followers was created.

THE CHAIRPERSON of the European Association for Support of the ICR and its non-governmental Nicholas Roerich Museum, the Chairperson of the Estonian Roerich Society (Tallinn, Estonia) Yelena Aleksandrova emphasized in her speech the All-European significance of the Latvian Roerich Society work in the 1930-es. She spoke about the contribution of Estonian public to the dissemination of the Roerich Pact ideas, participation of Estonian representatives in the work of the First Congress of the Baltic Roerich Societies, publications in Estonian press of that time. She cited an article from the newspaper Uus Eesti (1937) with Nicholas Roerich’s “The Old King”. This publication, in particular, said, “We can happily note that of all the foreign geniuses of our time there is no one closer to us in spirit than Nicholas Roerich”.

Yelena Alexandrova was alarmed by the events related to the seizure of the non-governmental Nicholas Roerich Museum of the ICR by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation in Moscow in spring of 2017.

THE THEME of the speech of the member of M.Ciurlionis society from Lithuanian city of Radviliškis Natalia Balkavičienė was the “Power of the Banner of Peace and the criteria of true Culture”. She turned to the ancient symbols, proving their connection with the Sign of the Banner of Peace and drew attention to the original creative mission of man. Art with its main purpose to create a human as a human is contributing much to it. She highlighted an inseparable connection of Nicholas Roerich with the philosophical teaching of the Living Ethics, as well as the significance of Culture as a means for spiritual life.

THE VICE-PRESIDENT of the International Center of the Roerichs Alexander Stetsenko (Russia, Moscow) in his speech called the Roerich Pact a message of the genius, indicating the way out of the series of armed conflicts for civilization. Nicholas Roerich saw the way out through the protection of Beauty, designed as a protection of cultural heritage. We see that all the conflicts are ultimately aimed at the destruction of cultural institutions and the people associated with the transfer of knowledge. Roerich proposed protecting the workers along with cultural objects, otherwise it will be impossible to educate the younger generation. The ideas of the Roerich Pact were the basis of the concept for the UNESCO creation.

A.V. STETSENKO emphasized that all three public museums created by Roerich were destroyed. The first one in New York was destroyed after the signing of the Roerich Pact. The second one in Riga was destroyed several years after the First Congress of the Baltic Roerich Societies. The third museum in Moscow was captured after the success of 25-year work of Lyudmila Shaposhnikova. The non-governmental museum was destroyed by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, the collections and property of the museum were seized. There take place continuing attempts to discredit the ICR. But it is the ICR that held four international conferences on the Roerich Pact and more than 300 thematic exhibitions. The highest point of the ICR’s activities was the “Roerich Pact: History and Modernity” project. With the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it was held in 2012 in 17 countries of Europe, Asia and Latin America, in 150 cities of the Russian Federation. The project was highly appreciated by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. After that, clouds began to gather over the ICR and its non-governmental museum. In spring of 2017, the Lopukhins’ estate was seized and the public museum was destroyed. We cannot but see a certain pattern in these events.

PhD, ASS. PROFESSOR at A.M. Gorky Ural State University, the Chairperson of the International Council of the Roerich Organizations named after Svetoslav Roerich Olga Urozhenko (Russia, Yekaterinburg) in her poster report, read by a member of the Latvian branch of the ICR G.V. Vdovina, turned to the subject of the Roerich Pact as an expression of the philosophy of cosmic reality. She told that the multi-complex semantic field of the Banner of the Roerich Pact includes key images, concepts, laws of the philosophy of cosmic reality, set forth in the Living Ethics.

THANKS TO THIS, the Pact becomes not only a valuable sheet of stamped paper, not only an important legal instrument, but a lever for life reorganizing; a world-wide international impulse for putting in operation the “swiveling lever” of the world”; a “pied-а-terre” that Archimedes sought to deploy the Earth to a new turn of evolution; an engine on the path of evolution; an anchor keeping from sinking into the abyss; and a “rudder” for life transforming.

KSENIA RUDZITE (Riga, Latvia), the curator of foreign fine arts collection, a research associate of the “Riga Stock Exchange” Fine Arts Museum, told about the history of the Riga collection of Nicholas Roerich paintings. The artist carefully selected the canvases for the Latvian Roerich Society, both in terms of subjects and formats, based on the peculiarities of the premises in which the museum was to be located. She dwelled on the dramatic moments associated with the destruction of the museum in 1940, the loss of the collection’s part in war years, the dramatic and tragic fate of the Latvian Roerich Society members, the confiscation followed by the disappearance of the archives and library of the Latvian Roerich Society. Ksenia Rudzite told about the “Riga Stock Exchange” Fine Arts Museum exhibition activities in our days and described how the paintings of Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerichs are stored in the museum.

THE DIRECTOR of the Academic Library of Latvian University, Venta Kotsere (Riga, Latvia), named the Roerich Pact the curator of the Academic Library of Latvian University. In 2009, when the library was threatened to be closed, there held an exhibition, organized jointly with the Latvian branch of the ICR and dedicated to the Roerich Pact. When the time of the exhibition was over, the library personnel asked to leave it for a while. The workers of the oldest book storage, founded in the 16th century, were worried about the fate of the library and perceived the Roerich Pact exhibition as a special shield. And only when the threat of the library closing passed, the exposition set off on a journey to another place where it has long been awaited. Today, the Academic Library of the Latvian University keeps rare editions and documents related to the life and work of the Roerichs. They are regularly exhibited. The thematic exhibitions are carried out in cooperation with the Latvian branch of the ICR.

TATYANA ZAKHAROVA, Minsk State Linguistic University , a member of the Belarusian branch of the ICR, (Minsk, Belarus), opened a topic of the Roerich Pact in the context of intercultural communication in her video presentation. She noted that the Roerich Pact is a focus in which all major lines related to the development of human society have converged. There are several levels in the Pact, those of evolutionary and historical, terrestrial and cosmic, philosophical and political. The relevance of Roerich’s ideas is manifested through a dialogue of cultures that can relieve tension and create a climate of confidence. Universal values constitute the foundations of the Roerich Pact, it considers the evolutionary significance of Beauty as the basis of relations of peoples.

THE SECRETARY of the European Association EURASSIM, the chairperson of the German Roerich Society Halina Schneider (Remscheid, Germany) turned to the topic of the past and the future in the preservation of cultural heritage. She stressed that not all the ideas of Nicholas Roerich were adopted by contemporary international legal acts in the field of culture. The priority issue is the Roerich Pact idea of unconditional protection of cultural property and the priority of culture over military necessity.

The lack of references to the fundamental ideas of Nicholas Roerich in international law at various levels of government testifies to a low level of knowledge and understanding the ideas of the Roerich Pact. No one remembers the concept of a struggle against the “quiet pogroms” of cultural monuments in Russia, which Nicholas Roerich put forward even before 1917. The deliberate destruction of cultural institutions, those of museums, the intentional destruction of historical monuments and inept restoration or the lack of a necessary restoration work, lead to the destruction of the part of the cultural heritage of all mankind. All this takes place in peacetime. There are a lot of such examples, but the most striking one is the destruction of the non-governmental Nicholas Roerich Museum of the ICR in Moscow.

The member of the International Committee for the Preservation of the Roerich Heritage Tatyana Zhitkova (Riga, Latvia) spoke about the activity of this international non-governmental organization. The ideas of the Roerich Pact meet the aspirations of the people of the world and do not meet the interests of the powerful. The Latvian Roerich society in the 30-es operated in conditions of regulation, that means that the work of the public museum in Riga was limited to two days a week. The Museum had to ask for permission to hold the First Congress of the Baltic Roerich Societies and open the Museum of Nicholas Roerich paintings.

IN RUSSIA, back home, the attitude toward the artist is even less favorable. There launched the struggle for the legacy of the Roerichs’ family by those who did not receive it. Realizing that the Roerich heritage is an essential part of the world cultural heritage, the ICR conference dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Roerich Pact decided to establish the International Committee for the Preservation of the Roerich Heritage. It has been created and acting in accordance with the norms of international law. The most painful point in this work is the situation around the ICR. The Committee appealed to the President of Russia V.V. Putin with the request to save the non-governmental museum of the ICR. It must be admitted, Tatyana Zhitkova noted, that the destruction of the non-governmental museum became possible as a result of a deformation of the understanding of culture in some people minds.
FOREIGN MEMBER of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, head of the branch of the ICR in Bulgaria, chairperson of the Roerich National Society (Sofia), laureate of the International Prize of Helena Roerich (Sofia, Bulgaria) Marga Kutsarova in her presentation by video link noted that the Roerich Pact is an integral system for the protection of cultural property. She drew attention to the fact that the Treaty first introduced and established a number of principles and rules in international law.
BY MEANS OF the Roerich Pact, humankind has gained an understanding that the values of culture, regardless of their belonging, are the heritage of all mankind, that they are to be unconditionally protected and respected both in an armed conflict, and in peacetime.

FOR THE FIRST TIME, a well-known and compulsory sign of cultural values protection that of the Banner of Peace was established. The personnel of museums, scientific, artistic, educational and cultural institutions are to be protected in the same way as the institutions themselves. The Roerich Pact is implementing an all-embracing approach; it provides a very high level of defense for the widest range of protected objects. The Roerich Pact is the first treaty that introduced the protection of cultural property in peacetime in international law. This is connected with one of the main objectives of the Treaty, and perhaps the most important one, that of the educational. Peace through Culture is one of the most significant ideas embodied in the Roerich Pact. Due to this idea the Pact provides for the protection of culture in peacetime and demands for the priority of culture both in legislative and executive authorities work and in the life of society.

THE PRESIDENT of the Austrian Roerich Society, National Committee of the Roerich Pact, Master of Law, Member of the Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots in Austria on legal issues Leyla Strobl (Vienna, Austria) participated in her presentation by video link considered the connection of the space of global civil initiatives and the Roerich movement. The purpose of this type of diplomacy, by her, is to unite civilian efforts aimed at satisfying the interests of all the parties involved for the benefit and prosperity of their countries and regions. Public diplomacy is much closer to people and is free of the regulated protocol of an ordinary diplomacy. Therefore, it is characterized by a simple language and a number of very simple but effective approaches to the work. The international movement in support of the Roerich Pact has been creating an effective communication space, involving more and more people for whom culture is of leading evolutionary significance. The task of this movement participants is to bring this knowledge to the world, as well as do their best for it to be perceived by our contemporaries and gain a worthy place in their life.

PhD (Soc.Sc.), the Chairpersn of Perm Regional branch of the International League for the Protection of Culture Olga Kalinkina (Perm, Russia) in her poster presentation, read by N.A. Slinko, turned to the question of the relationship of culture and civilization.

THE DEFINITION of “culture” and “civilization” for modern science remains controversial. Some scholars are opposing these phenomena, others identifying. Underestimation of the role of culture in the development of civilization, disregard for the moral side of life has already led humanity to wars, rampant crime, nature and technogenic cataclysms of a planetary scale. The whole course of historical development of society has proved that civilization without culture is barren, devoid of its essence and soul. The intellect without soul and heart has dominated in such a civilization. That is why the problem of protecting culture and world cultural heritage is vital in modern society.

CULTURE and civilization are organically connected, they can not be regarded as two parallel processes, independent of each other. Material resources of modern civilization make it possible to ensure the life of an individual, due to which a person gets more opportunities for creativity, spiritual growth, cultural improvement, but these opportunities are necessary to be properly disposed.

THE MODERATOR of the round table Irina Markina has summed up the outcome of the international meeting. She noted that the 80th anniversary of the First Congress of Baltic Roerich Societies was related to the work of non-governmental organizations that had done a great deal to ensure the protection of culture to become an all-human concern. 80 years is not much for the history of mankind, and a lot for a man. During this period, there appeared a legal basis for the States to make the protection of culture not only the concern of the enthusiasts. At the same time, the protection of culture is still the concern of those directly involved in culture. Our time is the time of global civil initiatives. The ICR is actively working to save culture per se. This is actually the matter of an enormous importance of a global scale involving various people and social forces.

AT THE CONCLUSION of the round table, the chairperson of the German Roerich Society, Halina Schneider, acquainted the audience with the draft resolution, which was adopted unanimously.

THE INTERNATIONAL meeting ended with the documentary by Latvian director Ansis Epners “The Roerich’s Banner of Peace”, produced by Riga film studio in 1986.

THE SECOND SECRETARY of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Latvia A.A. Khrapova attended this event.

(Translated from Russian by N. Shnaider)

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