From ICOM Russia’s President

272394_10150693086905580_1226772_oThe letter below was sent this week to Dr. Hans-Martin Hinz, President of ICOM and addressed to him and all ICOM members and museum workers from all over the world.

Dear Colleagues:

The Russian Committee of the International Council of Museums is a non-governmental organization that works according to the National and International law, ICOM Statutes and ICOM code of ethics for museums.

As well as our colleagues from ICOM Ukraine, ICOM and ICBS we would like to express our concern regarding protection of the cultural and natural heritage in Ukraine. We would also like to point out that cultural heritage should not be used to escalate tension. We would like to underline that in our point of view all controversies should be resolved only by negotiations and according to International law. Both ICOM Russia and ICOM Ukraine should make all possible efforts to prevent development of the conflict, because one of our main aims is to preserve the heritage, institutions that keep it and the people who care for it. We would like to thank all countries and organizations that are alarmed with this situation and we hope that all these circumstances will not influence our professional relationships and connections with colleagues from Ukraine and other countries.

ICOM Russia is ready to be a part of the international work group that could monitor the situation in the sphere of cultural heritage preservation, if there is a need for this. However, we hope that this difficult situation will be resolved soon and we will be able to continue working with our colleagues and friends from Ukraine.

ICOM Russia would like to confirm that all international meetings, conferences and workshops that have been planned for this year in different parts of Russia will be held exactly on time and in accordance with the previous agreements and plans. The situation we have just faced has shown us how fragile peace is, and this, I believe, could be an issue to discuss during our meetings.


Vladimir Tolstoy,  ICOM Russia President,  Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation on culture and arts


, ,
10 comments on “From ICOM Russia’s President
  1. Dear Mr. Tolstoy,

    I fully agree with You. We intellectuals in the West should not drink the culprit of hate and attacking or boycotting our Russian colleagues, who despite their often difficult situation continue do do their excellent work.

    An international political crisis is a question of months, in worst case years. Our work is for eternity.

    Best Wishes

    Bruno De Corte,
    B-2600 Antwerp, Belgium.

  2. I am ICOM member from Poland. I agree with Mr. De Corte that our Russian colleagues and friends shall not be boycotted, because of deeds of their government, which has violated the basic rules of international law. We should continue our contacts and cooperation as intensively as possible (the same with the ICOM Ukraine). I would welcome them at all ICOM events and conferences. Nevertheless, it does not mean that we may ignore what happens on our eyes. We should not encourage ICOM members to travel to Russia just in time when its troops invade the neighboring country! That’s why I think that in case of lack of a peaceful solution of the Crimean/Ukrainian crisis the international conference “Museum and Politics” planned in September in Saint Petersburg should be rescheduled or moved to another location.

    Jerzy Halbersztadt

    Founding Director of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw
    Former Project Director for Poland of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington D.C.

  3. There’s an American saying of the ‘sixties: “You can’t pretend you’re standing still on a moving train.” Much as I respect Mr. Tolstoy’s intentions, I believe we should remember how easily the best of intentions have been manipulated in the past, especially in the field of Culture. (I find Mr. Corte’s response particularly frightening in that regard: “Fiat ars, pereat mundus.”)

    I have decided not to participate in the forthcoming conference, not because I doubt the good will of the participants, but because my participation in itself might be seen as an endorsement by silence. Mr. Halbersztadt (whose superb museum I had the pleasure of visiting in Warsaw last year) will surely understand…


  4. Dear ICOM members,

    I am addressing my colleagues and friends as the manager of the Nizhny Tagil “Industrial-Landscape Demidov-Park” project. Our project is an integral part of the forthcoming international ICOM conference “Museum and Power”. The sessions of one of its sections will take place in Nizhny Tagil – Russian Industrial Heritage Centre.
    Russia and Ukraine are inseparable in sharing their cultural and industrial heritage. We are worried about the current political situation in our countries in no less degree than the western states. I wish to support Mr.Tolstoy, Mr.Bruno de Corte as well as everyone who believes that the Heritage (in the broadest sense of the word) cannot and must not be a dividing but rather a uniting factor in international relations. We can jointly demonstrate our readiness to preserve peace and international community without borders irrespective of current politics and power.
    As the manager of the project, I am inviting you to take part in the Conference.
    We will try to do our best to make our joint work interesting and high-quality.
    Believe me, please, that it is impossible to preserve the Heritage forever
    if we stay separated from one another.

    Respectfully yours,
    Margarita Kuzovkova

  5. As a researcher in industrial history with old and good contacts with historians and museum curators in Russia, especially in the Urals, I join those who reject the idea of ​​a boycott of cultural cooperation and a suspension of scheduled conferences. I believe that a continued cultural cooperation promotes peace and security, although the current politically situation can give rise to doubts.

  6. Уважаемые коллеги, главная задача, которая всегда стояла, стоит и будет стоять перед культурой – мировой либо национальной – это объединение людей. Объединение как в рамках семьи и общины, народности и государства, так и объединение вне рамок – между – людьми, нациями, конфессиями и государствами. Внутри – этого огромного и такого хрупкого мира. И это то дело, настоящее, трудное, требующее терпения и терпимости, которое поручено нам с вами. Давайте будем бережно относится к тонким нитям, связывающим нас, и не пренебрегать ни одной возможностью, чтобы они стали прочнее. Участие в конференции ИКОМ в Петербурге, для кого-то, возможно потребует проявления мужества и ответственности. Но стать проявлением молчаливого согласия? – каким образом? и с чем?.. Гражданская позиция требует дела, высказывания, активной мысли, дискуссионного пространства. Давайте этим пользоваться, а не придумывать красивые отговорки.

    • Dear Irina Chuvilova:

      There is the courage of Achilles and the courage of Hector. In the second category, my admiration goes to Mr. Tolstoy for his weighed, sensible, and courageous statement. In his place I could have done no more.

      For me, however, it would be the foolhardy courage of Achilles, destructive of self and of others, to agree to participate in a situation where I could do no good and might, in fact, bring considerable harm to the people I would most want to support.


      Paul Werner

  7. Уважаемые коллеги!
    Я искренне благодарен все, кто участвует в дискуссии по вопросу, связанному с «конфликтом», как его называют наши российские партнеры, а на самом деле прямой вооруженной интервенции на территорию суверенного государства. Многообразие международной музейной деятельности, связанной с совместными выставками и конференциями, в том числе и под эгидой ICOM, направлено, в первую очередь, на сближение различных позиций и мнений по ряду вопросов, волнующих музейное сообщество.
    Сегодня часть украинского и мирового культурного наследия незаконными способами фактически присваивается Российской Федерацией. Выказывая свою озабоченность в отношении охраны культурного и природного наследия Украины, российские коллеги между тем, приветствуют рытье траншей и минирование памятников археологии, а умышленно затопленные корабли Черноморского флота РФ грозят экологической катастрофой целому региону. Даже не хочу прогнозировать последствия вооруженного столкновения в условиях необоснованного наращивания наступательного вооружения на границах нашего государства, в том числе с применением стратегических ракетоносцев, способных нести ядерное оружие.
    На самом деле, я не сгущаю краски, а в мягких выражениях описываю состояние дел, на фоне которых, уважаемые коллеги, говорят о «международном обществе без границ». Для Украины, границы которой самым бессовестным образом попраны, это не просто слова. Уверен, что Международная конференция «Музеи и власть», в очередной раз, будет использована для создания видимости поддержки международным сообществом политики Российской Федерации. Готовы ли Вы к этой поддержке? Ваше мнение услышат только те, кто будут находится рядом, но не российское общество, лишенное объективной информации.
    Я, как представитель Украины, государства, которое подверглось ничем необоснованной и предательской вооруженной агрессии со стороны Российской Федерации, высказываю свое личное мнение и призываю Вас отказаться от участия в этой конференции или, по крайней мере, перенести ее до вывода российских войск с территории Украины, неотъемлемой частью которой является Крым.
    Решение это не простое, но помните, что любая поддержка агрессора, лишь подогревает его аппетит. Подумайте, готовы ли Вы «объединять свои усилия» с музеями, открыто призывающими к вооруженной интервенции в Украину. Вчера это была Грузия. Сегодня – Украина. А кто будет завтра.
    С уважением
    Сергей Лаевский, президент Украинского национального комитета ІСОМ.

  8. Dear Colleagues,

    The post of the President of ICOM Ukraine Sergiy Laevskiy published above shall not remain uncommented, although some emotional words go beyond what ICOM normally relates to. The President of ICOM Ukraine thinks that the international conference “Museum, Politics and Power” in St. Petersburg “will be misused to create an illusion of support by the international community for the policy of the Russian Federation,” and calls us “to resign from participation in that conference or at least to postpone it till a withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine, with Crimea as its integral part”.

    Well, I think that the population of Crimea might want to change the nationality, and it seems that a majority wanted it, indeed. However, an invasion of military troops of another country is something completely else, even when it misuses a separatism and alleged human rights’s violations for its geopolitical games. I hope that the members of ICOM from around the world will share this opinion and help the organizers of the conference – the ICOM Russia, ICOM U.S. and ICOM Germany – to see that keeping that meeting in Russia, now (the deadline for submissions is at the end of March) is unacceptable.

    Differently than Irina Chuvilova I believe that our work shall unite us, but not in a silent approval for a military aggression against a neighboring country. A care for cultural heritage, which is so intensively stressed in comments of our Russian colleagues, cannot be limited to a care of a material and natural heritage, only. The cultural heritage does include our monuments, artifacts, our collections and museums, as well as our intellectual reflection on them. However, an inalienable part of the heritage, which we have a duty to take care of, must be also value systems, a respect for international law and rejection of instrumental lies and manipulation. We can and should meet with our Russian and Ukrainian colleagues to discuss such issues, but in other locations. At this moment such a conference in Russia should be postponed.

    When I look at the signatories of a so-called letter of support of the people of culture of Russia for its President’s policy in Ukraine and Crimea ( I was afraid to find known to me names under that document (a few dozen of such names are there, unfortunately). However, I felt relieved because of absence of signatures of many leading Russian museum people. Perhaps those of us who have never had to deal with the Soviet system do not understand what means the absence on such a list, but many of us know about it and think about such position with full respect. Also with a respect, I read a letter sent by the President of ICOM Russia V. Tolstoy to the ICOM Ukraine dated 5 March 2014 ( or the interview about the situation in Crimea given by the State Hermitage Museum General Director Mikhail Piotrowskij Such language gives a hope for a future, and will be a valuable input to a rebirth of mutual confidence, one day, but now, unfortunately, other voices do dominate and we shall not pretend to ignore them. Abraham Lincoln once wrote that “our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as a heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors”. Let our Russian colleagues and friends do not think that it applies only to Washington, Simferopol and Kiev. To the St. Petersburg and Nizhny Tagil, too. And perhaps most of all.

    With best regards,

    Jerzy Halbersztadt
    Founding Director of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw
    Former Project Director for Poland of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington D.C.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: