Approximately 200 icons from the 18th through the 20th centuries will be returned to Russia in October, Mikhail Shvidkoi, Russia's minister of culture, announced Tuesday at a press conference in the State Hermitage Museum. 'In all, some 900 icons have been seized by authorities from smugglers at the Italian border,' Shvidkoi said.
The icons will be turned over by Italian authorities to the Department for the Preservation of Cultural Values, with most of the icons to be transferred to the Moscow Patriarchate. 'This is the first time that a repatriation will be done according to the appropriate UNESCO convention,' Shvidkoi said.
The return has been handled by the Department for the Preservation of Cultural Values in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.