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State Maintains Firm Grip on Pilfered Treasures

Published: February 27, 2013 (Issue # 1748)



  • The Mouravieff-Apostol house and museum was restored by a Swiss descendant of its pre-revolutionary owner.
    Photo: MA-HOUSEMUSEUM.RU

MOSCOW President Vladimir Putin said last week that returning a Jewish book collection confiscated after the Bolshevik Revolution was impossible because it would open a Pandoras box of claims on such property.

[If Russia] starts satisfying these sorts of claims, there would be no end to them and no telling what the consequences might be, Putin said at the vast new Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow.

But some formerly communist countries have passed laws voluntarily giving back seized assets, and observers note that Russia has already opened this box by returning properties to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Schneerson Library of thousands of religious tomes and manuscripts, which Putin proposed placing in the Jewish museum in Moscow, is among scores of cultural artifacts claimed by descendants of their former owners.

The Soviet government appropriated huge amounts of property after the 1917 revolution, including factories, banks and assets of the Russian Orthodox Church, and withdrew from Germany after World War II with trucks full of war booty.

One of the most prominent assets in Russia to be claimed by a foreign government is a collection of gold known as Priams Treasure, discovered by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870s on what he thought was the site of ancient Troy.

The collection of Trojan gold headbands, earrings and other jewelry was pilfered in 1945 by the Red Army from a bunker under the Berlin Zoo. Certain items from the treasure, including the Large Diadem, a headband made of shimmering gold leaf, are on display at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.

According to the terms of a 1990 treaty, Russia was supposed to return all the art and artifacts the Soviet Union took from Germany, including Priams Treasure, but it hasnt done so.

The Pushkin Museum and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg are also home to a valuable set of impressionist paintings claimed by someone else. Art collectors Mikhail and Ivan Morozov put together the collection, which includes works by French impressionists Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley, among others. Descendants of the Morozov family have claimed the paintings as their rightful property.

A spokeswoman for Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky said the museum is against all forms of restitution.

Unlike Russia, certain central and eastern European nations have adopted laws stipulating the return of nationalized properties to their original owners. Some Russian pundits believe that Russia should now follow suit, but they warn of the difficulties involved.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, July 24


Liliana Modiliani, a well-known Russian stylist, will talk about choosing clothes that fit during her lecture at 7 p.m. at the Pryamoy Efir art club, 13 Viborgskoe Shosse.



Friday, July 25


Discuss Russias economic and political prospects for 2014 during a Business Breakfast organized by SPIBA at 9.30 a.m. in the Bank Saint-Petersburg office at 64


Malookhtinsky Prospekt.


Start your weekend with adorable miniature pigs at the Squealing Pig festival at 7 p.m. this evening in the Karl & Friedrich restaurant, 15 Iozhnaya doroga, on Krestovsky Island.



Saturday, July 26


Hundreds of brand-new and retro cars, drag and drift shows, test drives and karting are planned for the Avtobum-2014 festival, which will take place in front of the RIO shopping center at 2 Fuchika Ulitsa.


Participants in todays SaniDay Summer competition will impress visitors with their hand-made, unusual and hilarious boats, which will race at the Igora Resort near the 54th kilometer on Priozerskoe Shosse.


Metro Family Day will include both serious lectures for adults and master-classes for children, making the event interesting for the whole family. To participate, come to Kirov Park on Yelagin Island.


Photography will be the focus of todays Photosubbota, which features lectures by famous photographers, meetings with photo schools and studio representatives, and participation in a photography competition. The event starts at noon at Petrokongress, 5 Lodeynopolskaya Ulitsa.


If you like cycling, make sure to visit the Za Velogorod Festival with its retro bike exhibition, market and live music. The second round of the Leningrad Criterium race will also take place during the event at Petrovsky Arsenal in Sestroretsk.



Sunday, July 27


Navy Day will be celebrated with a weapon and military transportation exhibition, self-defense master classes and concerts. The event starts at 1 p.m. in the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburg.



Monday, July 28


Dont miss a chance to see the latest achievements in robotics during the RoboDom interactive show, exhibiting more than 150 robots. The show will be at BUM center, 22/2 Gzhatskaya Ulitsa, until Aug. 3. The entrance ticket costs 350 rubles ($10).



Tuesday, July 29


A video of a Queen concert from 1986 will be shown today at 8 p.m. in Yaschik, 50/13 Ligovsky Prospekt.



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