Hermitage Robbery Was No Exception

Russia's state funding for culture dried up after the 1991 Soviet collapse and cultural institutions have been plagued by chronic money woes, with frequent reports of theft.

Hermitage Robbery Was No Exception

Russia's cash-starved museums are hard hit by staff thefts, a concern highlighted by the pilfering of some 220 pieces of jewelry, silverware and other items worth a combined $5 million from St. Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum, a culture official warned Monday.

Russian police have arrested three suspects in the case, including the husband and son of a museum curator, Larisa Zavadskaya, who had been in charge of the collection where the theft occurred until her death last October, Interfax reported. Police have identified the third suspect as an art collector.

"What happened at the Hermitage was the rule, not an exception," said Boris Boyarskov, the head of the Culture and Press Ministry's department in charge of protection of cultural values.

Russia's state funding for culture dried up after the 1991 Soviet collapse and cultural institutions have been plagued by chronic money woes, with frequent reports of theft.

Boyarskov told reporters that 50 to 100 thefts were registered each year in Russian museums, and although blatant robberies were less frequent now because of new security measures, inside jobs were increasing. The official blamed this on "the betrayal by the elite of the museum community, the curators."

Among recent such crimes he listed the theft of more than 300 masterpieces from Moscow's State Historical Museum in 2000 and the later disappearance of 180 objects from the armory of the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg.

Boyarskov's deputy, Anatoly Vilkov, presented one of the stolen items that has been returned to the Hermitage. "It is listed as an icon on mother-of-pearl depicting Serafim Sarovsky," Vilkov said, adding that the icon had been returned by a Moscow antique dealer.

The head of Russia's federal culture agency, Mikhail Shvydkoi, said the Hermitage thefts showed the urgent need to invest in modernizing the security system at museums in Russia.

The Hermitage, which began in 1999 to build an electronic catalog of the more than 2.8 million artworks in its collection, had only registered 153,000 so far, Shvydkoi said, adding that, at this rate, it would take it another 70 years to complete the task.

Shvydkoi added that only 12.5 million out of the 50 million artworks in Russian museums had been inventoried over the past 6 years.

"All major museums today in Russia, both in Moscow and St. Petersburg, need a modern system for preserving their collections. And as long as this problem is not resolved, we will remain hostage to the human factor," he said.

Shvydkoi also hinted that Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky might come under fire as a result of the theft. Since his agency deals only with museum directors, Shvydkoi said, "I can only punish directors."

Source:Moscowtimes.ru

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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