State Hermitage Refuses to Return Works of Art

The State Hermitage has declared that it will not return works of art to their countries of origin. As a Rosbalt correspondent reports, this was announced on Monday, December 16, at an ITAR-TASS press conference by Director of the State Hermitage Museum Mikhail Piotrovsky.

In Mr Piotrovsky's opinion, various countries' demands that works of art held in museums abroad be returned to their countries of origin amounts to "stealing stolen property", an old Bolshevik slogan. 'We are not talking about those works of art that appeared in museums after the Second World War or which are now being smuggled out of their countries of origin,' said the director of the museum. However there are a lot of 'foreign' works of art located in museums, which were acquired in different circumstances.

Mr Piotrovsky said that if we were to 'globalize the problem' then the whole of the Louvre's Egyptian section would have to be returned to Egypt, all Greek works of art, scattered across the globe, would have to be returned to Greece and the Hat of Monomakh, which is kept in the Kremlin, would have to be returned to Kazan as it was made by Tatar craftsmen. 'It is only worth talking about restitution when works of art have special national value,' he emphasised. However, he is sure that there could be different interpretations of this: the Parthenon did not have any special value for Greeks of the Middle Ages, their work has "returned" to them via Europe, after the Renaissance.

'In large museums like the Hermitage, the Louvre and others which don't specialize in any area of art, there are many works of art that have been removed from their historic and territorial origins. At the same time the collections of these museums display culture that is common to all humankind,' he emphasised.

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