Russian Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvidkoi and Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Culture and Tourism Nikolai Gubenko have decided to send the Baldin art collection for additional expert verification. The set of works was saved by Captain Viktor Baldin in 1945. The Ministry of Culture's press centre has reported that Shvidkoi and Gubenko planned a way to settle the conflict that has blown up over the Baldin Collection. The Duma Culture committee will select the experts to conduct the checks.
According the press centre's information, the ministry has provided the State Duma Council with information about the situation concerning the collection.
The ministry is also satisfied with the Council's instructions to the Duma tourism committee to co-operate closely with it.
The Ministry of Culture statement points to the positive role yesterday's meeting between Mikhail Shvidkoi and Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov played in settling the given situation. According to the press-centre's information, it was again stressed at the meeting that the ministry had in no way broken the law in its preparations to send the "Bremen works" to an exhibition in Germany.
Moreover, the Culture Ministry and Prosecutor-General's Office agreed to work together to reach a final settlement to the Baldin Collection problem.
The professional restorer Baldin, who was a Red Army captain in 1945, virtually single-handedly saved the art treasures he discovered in a German hideout. As he could not obtain the military authorities' consent to return the collection to its rightful owner, he was forced to bring it independently to the USSR.
In December 1947, Baldin presented the collection to the Museum of Russian Architecture, where he worked for many years. From 1973 onwards, Baldin made several requests to the Soviet Union leadership, including to Leonid Brezhnev himself, to return the works of art to Bremen.
Baldin died in the 1990s without seeing his hopes fulfilled.
In October 2000, the Bremen Art Society asked the Russian Ministry of Culture to return the collection of 364 pieces to the Bremen Museum. By this time, the art works were already in the State Hermitage, where it was shown to the public for the first time in 1992.
At the beginning of this March, Mikhail Shvidkoi announced his intention to send the collection to the Bremen Museum, where it was due to be opened on March 29th. However, these plans were not implemented due to a conflict with regard to the transference of valuable cultural items.
The State Duma requested that the Russian leadership block any moves to send the Baldin Collection to Germany.
The Prosecutor-General's Office issued a warning to the Culture Ministry to observe the law in connection with the plans to transfer the collection to Germany free of charge. The relevant document read that the ministry had no grounds to send the collection to Germany without receiving any compensation.
The Prosecutor-General's Office has earlier demanded that Shvidkoi take measures to eliminate any legal violations to prevent misappropriation of Russian Federation property. The Office believes that Russia has the right to the collection under article 225 (ownerless things) of the Russian Civil Code. The Office also issued a warning about possible legal violations connected to the gratis return of the Baldin Collection. However, the Russian culture minister announced that there had never been any suggestion that the collection would be returned without compensation.
Mikhail Shvidkoi told the Prosecutor-General's Office that legal violations could not be eliminated, as no order to send the items had been issued. Shvidkoi expressed the hope that he would be able to convince the Prosecutor-General's Office of the legal and moral grounds to return the Baldin Collection to Germany.
The collection is currently on show at the A.V. Shchusev Museum of Architecture in Moscow.
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