Alla Albertovna Weit

Candidate of Philosophical Sciences, senior lecturer at the Department of Philosophy of the Perm State Pharmaceutical Academy Russia, Perm

The 75th Anniversary of the Roerich Pact

In everyone's life there are many secrets and mysteries. Life itself is the greatt mystery which reveals mysterious things with each step, defining the future as a new riddle, and the next step as a secret.

The question on the grounds and reasons for the birth of the Pact will remain a secret forever. We can only guess ... It is certain that in his numerous journeys N.K. Roerich not only saw and learned things, but tried to pass his discoveries and diverse feelings induced by them on to people. Never imposing interpretations, he offered people to find, to feel something on their own, sincerely rejoicing and taking new things.

N.K. Roerich was well aware that a person will never be able to transfer and even more to save hidden symbolism of culture (as opposed to nature) created by mankind. This is the lot of the efforts of many, if not all. But only those who appreciate and are able to preserve a pure origin of creativity (nature) and to uncover the veil of secrecy can create culture.

Everything has its beginning and ending. "The final is death". Death is natural. This is its major difference from a murder. The murder is destruction. The Unnatural is "against nature." And when it’s "against nature", then it should not happen. It should not. So the duty is not to allow destroying but to save, which is simple. Brilliantly simple, like the Pact itself, including 8 articles that are understandable to everyone.

The preamble to the Roerich Pact reveals the purpose of this act. It is about the two motives of the Pact: firstly, about the "sacred duty" of negotiating sides "to promote the moral well-being of their nations and the development of science and art in the common interest of mankind", and secondly, about "art and science institutions that educate young people and are the common treasury (extremely valuable) for all the nations of the world". These words stress the importance of culture for the mankind. It should be emphasized that the idea of ​​the world runs through the whole Pact.

The Pact states that "the historical monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational and cultural institutions should be considered neutral, respected and protected by people even at wartime. The staff of such institutions should be provided with the same respect and protection. The same respect and protection should be provided and maintained for historical monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational and cultural institutions both during peace and wartime. I would especially like to emphasize "both during peace and wartime" thought the Hague Convention of 1907 provided protection only at wartime.

Clause 2 binds states to take necessary measures to protect the monuments and institutions in their legislation. Besides "protection should to be provided to all the monuments and institutions, located on the territory of the state, regardless of the country they belong to and without any discrimination".

Clause 3 provides for the introduction of the logo (the Banner of Peace), developed by N.K. Roerich. It should be posted on the monuments and institutions to protect.

Clause 4 binds each state to make a list of protected sites and send it to the Pan American Union.

Clause 5 states that "the providing of protection according to the agreement is terminated, if the monuments and institutions will be used for military purposes".

Clauses 6 - 8 stipulate the conditions for signing and denunciation of the Pact.

These clauses are unconditional. They are without reserve of military necessity, which reduce the effectiveness of the protection at wartime. This is the greatest advantage of the Pact, as compared with the Hague Conventions of 1907 and 1954. This fact was noted by M.M. Boguslavsky in his article "Roerich Pact".

Along with the Pact, the flag "The Banner of Peace" was presented in 1931.

N.K. Roerich believed it’s necessary to do, and explained it: "It is the times of hunger and cold, when the sign of culture lights upon the people who hunger for culture as well as the sign of the Red Cross lights upon the seriously injured people.

"No one will deny that the Red Cross flag has greatly served and reminded the world of humanity and compassion. That’s why the project of the International Treaty, protecting the treasures of art and science under the internationally recognized flag, was presented to foreign governments...". It should be placed on all the sites to be protected. The Banner of Peace symbolizes eternity (closed red circle) and the continuity of reality - past, present and future (they are enclosed in the circle). However, this symbol can be interpreted differently, to which Nicholas Roerich did not object. He pointed out that any interpretation, included in the notion of synthesis of life, is close to the inner meaning of this sign. In his writing "The Banner of Peace" Nicholas Roerich wrote: "The flag of the Red Cross does not need explanations even for the most uneducated people. It is the same with the new banner, the guardian of the cultural treasures that speaks for itself".

It should be noted that 40 years later the representatives of the delegation of global peace campaigners placed "The banner of peace" on the spire of Izvarsky Home Museum of the Roerichs.

The idea of ​​the Pact came to N.K. Roerich right from the start of the twentieth century and he announced it at the meeting of the Russian Archaeological Society. It wasn’t supported by the society as it was the time of Russian-Japanese war, which, according to Bezobrazov, was to distract people from the revolution.

N.K. Roerich came back to this idea only in 1929, when the results of the expedition "Altai-Himalaya" aroused universal interest, as well as the interest in the discovery of a new museum building in New York, held on October 7, 1929. It was impossible to miss such a moment, and N.K. Roerich raised the issue of protection of cultural treasures again. Many people predicted this mission to fail but N.K. Roerich did not lose hope. He appealed to the professors of the University Of Paris G. Shklyaver and Joffre de la Pradelle to develop the project of the Pact in accordance with the international law. The project along with the appeal of N.K. Roerich to the governments of all the countries was published in the same year.

In 1930, the project of the Pact was introduced to the Committee of Museums at the League of Nations, which endorsed the project and handed it to the International Commission of intellectual development.

Along with the above measures of the League of Nations, and numerous community organizations and famous people in the world of culture and science joined Roerich′s appeal.

There is one more fact which has played a major role in favour of N.K. Roerich - it was the time to nominate him a candidate for the Nobel Prize. The candidacy of N.K. Roerich was proposed by the University of Paris and supported by academic institutions in many countries. N.K. Roerich knew all the utopianism of this idea...

After N.K. Roerich became certain that his Pact will not be put aside, he decided to return to India.

It was very difficult to come back to India - Britain refused to give him a visa. So he had to go to the French colonial territory. But even that did not stop N.K. Roerich. He returned to Asia. His wife lived in Kullu, and he lived in Pondicherry, and only a month later the British government gave him a visa, after which N.K. Roerich was able to continue its work in the Himalayan Institute.

At that time the number the Roerich Pact supporters was growing.

In 1931 the First International Conference of the Roerich Pact was organized in Bruges. At the conference the plan that promoted the Pact in schools and institutions of higher education was created. The contacts with the International Committee of the Arts and Conference Bureau on arms control were established. According to the clauses of the I International Conference, the Roerich Museum in Paris and the International Union of Roerich Pact in Bruges actively advocated the adoption of the Pact of the world in seven countries. N.K. Roerich was fascinated by the idea of ​​convening the conference in Bruges. He was obliged to Tyulpinke Shamil with this. N.K. Roerich sent his "warmest greetings to you all", without hiding this admiration.

In 1932 the II International Conference was held in Bruges. The Conference announced the decision to appeal to all countries of the world to recognize the Pact as an international document. At the same time the greatest exhibition dedicated to the protection of monuments took place. People from 22 countries participated in the exhibition, which had more than 6,000 photographs of various monuments to be protected.

In November of 1933 the III International Conference took place in the United States. The conference was attended by representatives of 35 countries who recommended signing the Pact to all the countries around the world.

In April 15, 1935 the Pact was signed in the White House. In his speech, Roosevelt said: "By offering this Pact for signature to all the countries in the world, we wish international recognition to become a vital principle for the conservation of the modern civilization. This Pact has a deeper meaning than the text of the document itself".

In October of 1936 the International Center of the Roerich Pact in Bruges arranged the International Day of Art in the struggle for peace.

The promotion of the Pact was closely associated with cultural and educational activities of N.K. Roerich. At the end of 30s. there were more than 80 societies, museums, clubs named after N.K. Roerich. As a rule, they worked in programs that were connected with fine art, literature, music, choreography, protection of ancient monuments, East studies, and in the largest associations they published books. But all those activities suffered from grave shortcoming: once those societies or clubs lost contact with N.K. Roerich, they ceased their operations.

But the most grievous blow was caused by the Second World War.

In 1940, N.K. Roerich wrote of the paralyzed "Urusvati": "At first we were cut off from Vienna, then Prague. Warsaw renounced... Gradually, the relations with the Baltic states became difficult. Sweden, Denmark, Norway disappeared from his correspondence. Bruges was silent. Belgrade, Zagreb, Italy became silent. Paris was finished with. America was far away ... It's sad to see how the events cut off all your activities. And nothing new can grow. There will be something new, but when?"

You may think that N.K. Roerich was confused and depressed. No, he wasn′t. It is not for him. And, although in wartime N.K. Roerich's state of health became poor (in 1940 he was 66 years old), he continued his activities. In "Homeland Defense" he wrote: "If a man loves his Motherland, he will do his best in making achievements anywhere in the world. Nobody and nothing in the world will prevent a person from expressing what his or her heart is willing to". He was far from the homeland, but was helping it as well as possible. He organized exhibitions, sold paintings and sent money to Soviet Russia. N.K. Roerich appeared in print. And once again, he painted, sold his pictures and sent money to his Motherland.

"Ideas do not die, they sometimes sleep, but they wake up even stronger than before their sleep. The banner of peace is not dead. It rolled up until the war finishes. But the time will come when people turn to caring for the Protection of Cultural Property, the true basis of peace. And not only are the cultural values important. The Banner of Peace cares for the human heart, the greatest treasure, where our future is being built. The human heart yearns for peace, and may be this world is coming. <...> The people will remember the works of past and recall their achievements. Ideas are alive! Once the Banner of Peace will be waving high!"

After the war, N.K. Roerich immediately resumed his Pact activities. December 6, 1945 was the date when the Pact and the Banner of Peace Committee in New York, officially proclaimed the renewal of their work - establishing old ties and attracting new ways in the committees′ activities. N.K. Roerich dreamed to return to his Motherland, Russia. However, that did not happen as in December 13, 1947 Nicholas Roerich died.

N.K. Roerich died, but his Pact stayed. In 1950, all documentation for the Roerich Pact was handed over to the chief of UNESCO Dr. Torez Bode, to promote it with the help of this international organization. The new phase of making Nicholas Roerich ideas true to life was the adoption of the Hague Convention in 1954 "On the Protection of Cultural Property during Armed Conflicts". The Convention consists of 40 articles. Its components are executive regulations, defining the procedure for applying of Convention and Protocol and banning the export of cultural property from occupied territories.

The following year, this pact was ratified by all 39 countries that have signed the Final Act of the Conference in The Hague, including the Soviet Union.

"...Enthusiastic people, not fearing the work and the obstacles are actively involved in cultural development. They create new cultural centers, museums, clubs and fight for the preservation of historical monuments".

Since the beginning of perestroika in the Soviet Union the work on the investigation of the Roerich heritage has become possible. They have started to publish his articles and books, and Roerich museum has been founded at Izvara, near Leningrad - St. Petersburg. "No substitution, created by ignorance should be taken as reality. And the duty of our science, our cultural community is to clear the legacy of N.K. Roerich from speculations and distortions of the self-appointed "commentators" and "educators".

N.K. Roerich′s precept is alive: "This is my will to everybody. Love your Motherland. Love the Russian people. Love all people in our country. Let this love teach us to love all the mankind...".


•  The Roerich Pact and the Banner of Peace as a Remarkable Phenomenon of the World Culture
Reports and Speeches at the International Social and Scientific Conference.
Delhi – Kullu – Shimla – Kalimpong October 22– November 5 2010

© The International Council of Roerich Organizations by name of S.N. Roerich.