"Novye izvestiya", November 2, 2005
TISSUE OF LIES.
WHEREFORE MR SHVYDKOI
WANTS ROERICH HERITAGE?
Ludmila Shaposhnikova, General Director of Nicholas Roerich Museum,
Vice-President of the International Centre of the Roerichs,
I shall not explain in details what happened with the state when our tremendous multinational country fell apart and perished. In this tragic process there exhibited a tendency easy to see. It was a removing part by part and plundering by state officials of high level and by their constant and temporary allies the state property and state money. Not only state functionaries but officials of all levels and ranks were indulged in it. They were doing it impudently, publicly and openly.
I couldn’t have describing one scene of those days. It had impressed me deeply and I will remember it the rest of my life. I was walking along Kropotkinskaya Street by the mansion where the District Committee of Communist Party was accommodated. The people running into and out of it attracted my attention. They were carrying typewriters, telephones, and packages of high quality paper, hard boxes and what not they could ever take away with them. This disorderly movement at some moment turned into unprecedented procession crowned by an elderly man with a bunches of toilet paper rolls around his neck like bubliki bunches around the neck of a marketplace salesman in old Russia. In spite of all the bitterness and shame of all what was going on, people began to laugh at first not loudly, then louder and at last all the street was shaken with laughter.
After a while my business interests brought me to the Marx-Engels Museum in Znamenka - Street. I was struck to the innermost of my heart by the scene I saw in the museum halls. Expensive panels and parquet were torn off. Instead of the floor one could see only beams. Marble mantelshelves disappeared, antique copper door handles were torn out and one could see holes instead. In the middle of the ruined hall there was a broken W.C. pan.
Namely not long before this sorrowful time Svyatoslav Nikolayevich Roerich transferred to the Soviet Roerich Foundation (afterwards renamed into the International Centre of the Roerichs) abundant heritage of his parents Nicholas and Helena Roerich containing hundreds of paintings, vast archives, invaluable library, unique relics. All this was to serve as a basis for Nicholas Roerich Museum. At the period of massacres, monstrous inflation and anarchy when organizations and institutions seemed to be inviolable fell to the ground and disappear we had kept the Roerich Foundation safe and sound. When pilfering and thieving somewhat ceased, at least outwardly, the Ministry of Culture and machinery of the new government paid its attention to the International Centre of the Roerichs (hereinafter, the ICR) in storerooms of which the Roerich heritage, costing millions of dollars, was kept. It was then, when they waged their first attack upon the ICR.
In January 1993 the grantor Svyatoslav Nikolayevich Roerich died. It lightened much for the state functionaries and state departments of culture. In October 1993 there was prepared as a result of various machinations and juridical equilibristic the regulation of the government. Due to it the Lopukhins’ Estate, which had been granted by the former Moscow City Council, was to be taken away from the ICR and transferred to the State Museum of Oriental Arts. It was there the government planned to establish the state museum against the will of the late grantor, having asked to create the public museum. There were enclosed secret instructions to take the Roerich heritage from the ICR and to pass it to the state. This was V. S. Chernomyrdin, the former Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, who had signed this illegal decree; and this was with him we were at law for the first time. We had won this case in the Supreme Arbitrage in its three instances.
But the more successful and popular the Public Museum became, the stronger the ring of new state functionaries tightened around us. And Ministers of Culture played here not the last role. Our situation was aggravated by one more circumstance. If the law space in 1993-1995 was not notable for some special perfection either in theory or in practice, by the end of the 90-es and the beginning of the XXI century it had been decreased as shagreen leather. I won’t write about the details of the trials we had undergone. The absence of the true law space prevented us from upholding our positions. At the time of ruling of the Minister of Culture M.E.Shvydkoi, by a number of reasons there occurred the idea to take away the Roerich heritage from the ICR and Nicholas Roerich Museum. And what is more the value of the Roerichs paintings on the international auctions was going up in price and this fact urged on the dashing minister. As for us we aspired to keep the heritage for Russia and not to give it to plunder.
All our appeals to the higher departments and even to the President of Russian Federation V.V.Putin for help were to no avail. In answer the Power was keeping silence. Having understood that we had nobody to rely on we had taken steps to protect the Museum and the heritage.
In summer 2002 the ICR handed in an application of special proceeding into the Khamovnichesky District Court for it to confirm the ICR coming into possession of the heritage handed down by Svyatoslav Nikolayevich Roerich according to his testamentary disposition. There is special procedure to confirm on the basis of certain documents and testimonial evidence the accomplishment of one or another action, event or fact. On August 6, 2002 according to the Khamovnichesky District Court decision where the ICR application was considered there was established the fact of acceptance by the ICR the heritable property. This judgment of the Court had produced the reaction of the former Minister of Culture M.E. Shvydkoi, unexpected for us. He or his assistants, lawyers and functionaries began to run from instance to instance to obtain, as they said, “justice”.
What did this “justice” mean? The Minister wrote: “I ask you to reverse the judgment of the Khamovnichesky District Court of Moscow of August 6, 2002 and shelve the ICR application”. The Minister had not gained his ends right away. On the level of the district law machinery his petition had been disallowed. But in winter 2003 it was taken by the Presidium of Moscow City Court. Madam Yegorova, notoriously famous for a number of publications, was a President of the Court. From these publications the general public came to know about the conflict situation in which Madam Yegorova herself played an important role. Mr Shvydkoi, having analyzed the judgment of the Khamovnichesky District Court of Moscow of August 6, 2002, wrote in his reviewing appeal: “The judgment mentioned infringes directly upon the interests of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation as a representative of the owner of the state federal property constituting the Museum Fund of the Russian Federation. The Ministry of Culture considers this judgment to be wrong and liable to disaffirmation”.
Having resorted to various extralegal casuistry and having proved his statement by none document, Mr Shvydkoi in his appeal had constructed a conception fastened with downright lie. But either the Ministry of Culture with its Minister as “a representative of the owner of the state federal property constituting the Museum Fund of the Russian Federation”, or the Russian Federation itself had not and have not been the owners of the Roerich heritage as a whole or any part of it, for the owner of which to be the ICR. And now some words about the part, which had already been in Russia by the time of the heritage assignation to the ICR. Here is its short story.
In 1974 at the days of the great Russian painter N.K.Roerich’s centenary his younger son Svyatoslav Nikolayevich Roerich brought the collection of paintings of N.K.Roerich and his paintings from India to the USSR for jubilee exhibition. This very collection, which according to S.N.Roerich’s direction had for a long time been in the USSR, was in the charge of the Ministry of Culture. In 1990 when S.N.Roerich handed down the ICR his parents’ heritage he inscribed in his testamentary disposition register this collection, still having been in the charge of the Ministry of Culture. On March 19, 1990 this trusteeship came to an end. But the functionaries at the last gasp of the great Power did not recognize this circumstance. The collection was on short time housing at the State Museum of Oriental Arts. Whatever efforts had the ICR undertaken, the collection of N.K. and S.N.Roerich paintings was not returned to its legal holder. In April 1992 S.N.Roerich sent a letter to the President of the Russian Federation B.N.Eltsin asking to help to pass the collection to the ICR. This had also been unhelpful. Ministers of Culture changing each other on their post persisted in holding the collection. Our meetings with them brought to nothing. There was a feeling that the state functionaries after making off with the state property set to pilfer the public one. Unfortunately this feeling has not been over up to now.
The last Minister of Culture we met in autumn 1999 was V.K.Yegorov. The Minister in a high tone that didn’t become for cultural behaviour towards visitors explained us that the Roerichs collection had been included into the state part of the Museum Fund of the Russian Federation. We asked to show the appropriate documents. The lady from the Ministry of Culture, assisting at our meeting, began to burrow into her document case in business-like manner. Her search came to nothing. Somewhat embarrassed she said that there were no documents. Slightly dumbfounded Mr Yegorov declared our visit to be over and sent us away what we did.
At the end of September there came the order of the Minister № 633 of 13.09.1999 to confirm the lawfulness of including the Roerichs collection into the state part of the Museum Fund of the Russian Federation. In addition we came to know a number of circumstances, about which the Ministry of Culture had not informed the ICR.
It appeared that some days after S.N.Roerich’s death in February 1993 the Director of the State Museum of Oriental Arts V.A.Nabatchikov registered the collection, housing on short time at his Museum, as the permanent one. He made it under his own order and under the determination of their Fund Commission. Say nothing of the fact that all these documents were legally ineffective without the order of the Minister of Culture (even if the order was issued in 1999, six years later) they were legally worthless for the term of these actions validity was illegal. But V.A.Nabatchikov could begin to appropriate (or not to appropriate) the Roerichs collection, that was not his rightful, only six months after but not in two weeks as he did. The Museum Fund could not, of course, register the given collection in terms of such documents. This was confirmed in the letter of the Head of the Department of Cultural Heritage, Art Education and Science of the Federal Agency of Culture and Cinematography, Madam A.S.Kolupayeva. The Director of this Agency after a strange bureaucratic reform remained the former Minister of Culture M.E.Shvydkoi. Madam Kolupayeva wrote in her letter in response to the inquiry of our lawyer: “The data concerning the Museum exhibits and the Museum collections, belonging to the State Museum of Oriental Arts, were not incorporated into the State Catalogue of the Museum Fund of the Russian Federation which is formed and administered by the Federal Agency of Culture and Cinematography”. Thereupon there enumerated technical reasons why this had not taken place.
I’m sure that the fact of non-incorporation the Museum exhibits and the Museum collections of the State Museum of Oriental Arts into the State Catalogue of the Museum Fund of the Russian Federation has on no account influenced on the content of the whole Museum. As for N.K. and S.N. Roerichs collection, belonging to the ICR, here the case is somewhat different. Here is the conclusion of M.N.Repnikov, the lawyer, given by him in response to the supervision appeal of Mr Shvydkoi. “ The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation in its supervision appeal refers to the fact that the decision of the Khamovnichesky District Court touches his interests as the representative of the owner of the state federal property, constituting the part of the State Museum Fund of the Russian Federation. But in violation of dispositions of the clause 56 of the State Code of Practice of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation had furnished as proofs neither documents on the right of property of this collection, nor of its incorporating into the state part of the Museum Fund. Therefore the Ministry of Culture had not confirmed the availability and legal validity of its interests and can not be the person to whom the right of appealing can be empowered”. So far as the data given in this document is true there is a question: under what legal ground this appeal had been taken.
There is no answer on it so far. When one reads the appeal of Shvydkoi, one more question is occurred: why in the appeal the property itself (namely 288 paintings of N.K. and S.N.Roerich) had not been specified. That is the property the Director of the Federal Agency of Culture and Cinematography M.E. Shvydkoi has an interest. I think the answer is that it is possible to hide under vague wording of the appeal not only paintings but also the whole heritage, the owner of which is the ICR. Shvydkoi had already, to a considerable extent, gained his object. City courts of arbitration in 2001-2002 three times dismissed the ICR. The question was about the return of the collection to the legal holder. Shvydkoi and his judges with the help of confusion of the subject of the judicial procedure proved nothing but stated that the ICR was the wrong organization to hand down the Roerich heritage. And all this passed happily in all three instances of city courts of arbitration.
When we addressed the Counting Chamber to solve our question the officials there disregard our documents but took into consideration the letter of Shvydkoi where he had given the false data about the ICR. Being under the spell of this data the leaders of the Counting Chamber had ignored our written notification that a great number of the Roerichs paintings had already been disappeared from the collection and some of them could be substituted.
But let’s return to the supervision appeal of Shvydkoi to the Presidium of the City Court. This appeal, falsely stating that the Ministry of Culture represented the owner (state), had been taken. And what is more - the claim of Mr Shvydkoi had been satisfied. On December 18, 2003 the Presidium in presence of Madam Yegorova, the President of Moscow City Court, pronounced such a judgment: “The judgment of the Khamovnichesky District Court of Moscow of August 6, 2002 is to be reversed and the case to be directed at the same Court but in differently constituted bench for a new investigation”. The legal execution of the ICR entering into legacy, handed down to it by S.N.Roerich, had been reversed. There had left only a little piece of shagreen leather of legal space. And this piece implicated the reconsideration of the Khamovnichesky District Court judgment. Legally this reconsideration could be decided in favour of the ICR, but it could be decided in favour of Shvydkoi. The first sitting of the court to hear this case, began in February 2004; the last one took place on October 13, 2005. The procedure lasted one year and eight months. For this period the positions of contending parties clarified themselves. The ICR had produced such documents as testamentary disposition of S.N.Roerich, the supplement to the given document made by S.N.Roerich, running that the ICR to be the legal successor of the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs, according to this S.N.Roerich conveyed the ICR the right of disposition of Roerich heritage, and also expert's report of the superior barrister of the Supreme Court of India Mr D.Sharma concerning the S.N.Roerich’s documents. The legal competence of the documents had been confirmed. There was also delivered the corroboration, running that 282 paintings of the Roerichs collection had not been registered as State part of the Museum Fund of the Russian Federation. As for Shvydkoi, there were delivered no documents to confirm the right of ownership of the Ministry of Culture on any part of the Roerich heritage.
As a result in the Court by the autumn 2005 there had been considered procedural questions only and there had been no discussion in essence. There arose one more question that demanded the explanation of the Indian side. The sitting of the Court, appointed on October 13, couldn’t be attended by our lawyer for he left for Indian Supreme Court for the explanation. The Khamovnichesky District Court had been notified about it, but this fact was not taken into consideration. Some days before the October sitting of the Court, the judge was substituted without any reasons, and the motion of the ICR to put off the date of the sitting had been disregarded. The actions of the Khamovnichesky District Court, committed one by one, had illegal character. The remains of the shagreen leather of the legal space had disappeared completely by the October 13, 2005. The sitting had been held without the lawyer or any other representative of the ICR. There was an impression that someone strong and formidable had meddled in the normal course of the trial and turned it in the direction, wanted by this someone. The last sitting was ended by the threatening phrase of the decision. “The civil case № 2-227/05 on the application of the International public organization “The International Centre of the Roerichs” concerning the fact of heritage acceptance to abandon without consideration”. That’s the way! It was not clear from the decision why “to abandon without consideration”. And only the stating part of the decision was clear. Here it is. I cite it for it enables us to understand what had happened in fact. It runs:
“The International public organization “The International Centre of the Roerichs” applied to the Court with an application to establish the fact of acceptance of the heritage after the death of S.N.Roerich.
In the written statement the applicant explained that by the Decision of the Council of Ministers of the USSR № 950 of November 4, 1989, the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs was established. Its regulations were ratified by the Constituent Conference of the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs of October 2, 1989.
S.N.Roerich handed down the Fund all the property of his parents and his brother, kept by him, including paintings, diaries, books. The property had been conveyed on the base of the written direction of S.N.Roerich and act of receiving and assignation of April 23, 1991. It was stated in clause 5 of the written direction that all the parts of the property, listed in the enclosures, are to remain in the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs and post-mortem are to belong to the Soviet Fund of the Roerichs exclusively. The property mentioned in the written direction and enclosures was transported to the USSR in 1991 and placed in the archives, museum, library and another premises of the Fund. As S.N.Roerich had been the citizen of India and lived there permanently, his testamentary disposition was certified by an Indian notary and Consul of Consulate General of the USSR in Madras, India.
In fact all the property of the Roerichs family during their life, having been in the boundaries of the former USSR, had already been transferred to the Fund of the Roerichs.
In September 1991, in connection with the changes having happened in the country and its legislation, the International Fund of the Roerichs was reorganized into the International public organization “The International Centre of the Roerichs”. During the life of S.N.Roerich no other testamentary disposition, except the one mentioned in clause 5 of the written direction, including any in other form, had been drawn up. Though in fact the ICR had accepted the heritage, disposed of it, protected and saved it, but this had not been processed legally. The applicant asks the Court to establish the fact of acceptance of the heritage after the death of S.N.Roerich by the International public organization “The International Centre of the Roerichs”.
What on earth had happened in the Khamovnichesky District Court for it reversed not only its decision without any reasons, but cap in hand carried out all Mr Shvydkoi demanded from it? Yes, I’m not mistaken; it was not the reviewing authority of Moscow City Court to give in its judgment the alternative of the second decree, but none else than Mr Shvydkoi. Hardly he acted here openly. By intermediaries as he always does. As for the fragment of the second decision, having been cited above, it becomes clear from it that the decision of the same Khamovnichesky District Court concerning “the fact of acceptance” by the ICR the heritage from S.N.Roerich has been altogether legal.
I am reading very attentively the decision of the same Court and see that the considerable part of it is devoted to the justification why the sitting of October 13, 2005 came about without the lawyer and representatives of the ICR. I dare say that all this seems to be unconvincing. Here is the example of the judicial argumentation: “The representative of the applicant, lawyer Repnikov M.M., handed in an application to put off the hearing of the case in connection with his mission in India. However the Court can not consider this to be a valid reason of his absence at the sitting of the Court“. The Court regarded this reason as unreasonable in spite of the fact that Mr Repnikov’s mission in India was connected with the procedural problem of the given at-trial procedure. And as this problem was being solved by consultations in the Supreme Court of India, it would be improper and impossible to dictate them the date of this visit. If the new judge of the Khamovnichesky District Court didn’t understand it, nobody could help him. The only reason, if it is possible to call it so, for pronouncing the above mentioned decision was the fact, that the “privy (now this was Mr Shvydkoi and the Federal Agency of Culture and Cinematography – L.Sh.) considers the disputed property to belong on the right of property to the Russian Federation”. Having used the words as a cover, which is not the proof, the judge who at the last moment replaced his predecessor, even being ill-informed about the case, for all that understood that the right of property had been proved by no document. So, at the given moment with the help of tricks and even downright lie, first of the Ministry of Culture, then in reviewing authority of Moscow City Court, then again in the Khamovnichesky District Court, the legal implementation of the ICR accedence into possession, given it by S.N.Roerich, had not been considered and confirmed. And if so, the ICR has illegally been deprived of its rights not only to the collection of N.K. and S.N.Roerich paintings, including 288 canvases, but it can be deprived of all the heritage. The heritage, according to the so-called “right”, could move on into the hands of unprincipled and greedy functionaries among whom Mr Shvydkoi played not the last role. In his time S.N.Roerich handed down invaluable heritage of his parents to Russia and Russian people. It was done to enrich and develop our country but not shvydkois who, having appeared by chance in the space of this culture, are guided by the interests having nothing to do with this culture.
I think that after publishing this article Mr Shvydkoi brings in an action against us. The facts witness that the adherence of Mr Shvydkoi to the actions against cultural organizations and workers of culture has not grown weaker, especially in time, when law and judges lose their true predestination to fight for justice. Who are we to appeal to? To nobody, except Russia itself and Russian people. Who are we to rely on? Only on ourselves and the hope that in any case there comes the time when our culture at last gets rid of functionaries – destroyers and expands in its space its creative potential. And at that time the ICR and Nicholas Roerich Museum on legal grounds gets the opportunity to work, to develop creatively and forget at last as a nightmare about the shvydkois, existed once upon a time but sank into oblivion with all the evil that long-suffering Russia and its unique and rich culture had to experience and to go through. But until this happens let us struggle for Russia and hold it against the unworthy and after all uncultured functionaries throughout our country.
"Novye izvestiya", November 2, 2005
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