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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

Wednesday, Sept. 17


AmChams Investment and Legal Committee Meeting convenes this morning in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center at 9 a.m.


Learn more about the science of teaching English at todays EFL Seminar hosted by the British Book Center. Revolving around the topic of learning styles, the workshop will help attendees better understand the different effective learning methods that can be implemented to learn English more effectively.



Thursday, Sept. 18


Get your nerd on at Boomfest, St. Petersburgs answer to the United States popular ComicCon. Starting today, this international festival of comics will take over venues throughout the city center and includes exhibitions of comics and illustrations, film screenings, competitions and the chance to meet the genres authors, artists and experts.



Friday, Sept. 19


SPIBAs newest addition to their Cultural Discoveries events is Handmade in Germany, an exhibition featuring unique handmade objects of a significantly higher quality than mass-produced items. The work of over 100 German manufacturers will be displayed during the event, which opens today in the Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and Paul on Nevsky Prospekt and runs through Sept. 28.



Saturday, Sept. 20


Starting on Sept. 18 and ending tomorrow is the Extreme Fantasy Wakeboarding Festival in Sunpark by Sredny Suzdalskoye lake in the Ozerki region of the city.


Those after something more laid back can instead head to Jazz and Wine night at TerraVino with legendary jazz guitarist Ildar Kazahanov. 12/14 Admiralteyskaya Emb.



Sunday, Sept. 21


Learn more about African culture and get some exercise during todays Djembe and Vuvuzela, a bike ride starting in Palace Square that includes several stops where riders can listen to the music of Africa or watch short films about the continent. The riders plan to set off at 4 p.m. and all you need to join is a set of wheels.



Monday, Sept. 22


Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK-Fest, a five-day festival that starts on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.



Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of todays round table discussion on Interaction with Trade Unions being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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