ENGLISH VERSION: “Trinity” again? The ROC MP once again evicts a museum out of a church — now it is Andrey Rublev museum turn
The Moscow Patriarchate increases pressure on Andrei Rublev Museum, demanding immediate and unconditional release of all premises in the territory of Moscow’s Andronikov Monastery. Attempts by museum workers to enter into negotiations and find a compromise are being ignored.
At a meeting of the Russian Orthodox Church commission of interaction with the museum community of Russia, which took place on June 13th at the Ministry of Culture, a last desperate attempt was made to preserve the unique Museum of Old Russian Art and Culture named after Andrei Rublev, which has occupied premises of the Saviour-Andronikov monastery in the centre of Moscow since 1947. Since 1989 though, the community of ROC MP has been operating on the territory of the monastery, which coexists peacefully with the museum and conducts its services in the Saviour Cathedral (XV century) - oldest building preserved in the city.
However, at the beginning of this year, in a peculiar to him imperative-impulsive manner, Patriarch Kirill suddenly demanded that “Rosimuschestvo” (Federal Agency for State Property Management) should execute the Law on “Church Restitution” of 2010 against the Andronikov Monastery and immediately transfer all buildings, towers, walls and farm development of the monastery to the ROC MP (“Novaya” published an article about that in March).
Ideally, Kirill is ready to acquire the monastery with all the “museum belongings”, hinting at the fact that the unique collection of Old Russian icon painting is also a “property of religious purpose”. But since the museum workers do not want to go "under the patronage" of incompetent in museum business “Chysty Pereulok” (ROC MP), their fate, as well as the fate of unique priceless collections that simply have nowhere to be transported from the monastery, are of no interest to the patriarch of Russia.
The fateful meeting for the museum in the Ministry of Culture was conducted by “royal confessor”, Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov), who heads the patriarchal cultural council of the ROC MP. In general, he has the reputation of a more adequate and negotiable person than his boss, so the museum staff had some hope of a compromise. Their proposal, generally supported by the Ministry of Culture, was that the transfer of the monastery should be made in stages in several years.
During this time, the Andrei Rublev Museum, with the support of the Ministry of Culture, will be able to prepare new premises and, in a civilized way, without prejudice to the funds, transport its huge collection there. At the first stage, the museum offered to hand over to the Patriarchate the Spassky Cathedral, which it already uses for 30 years, a building of the 17th century Brotherhood's House, where most valuable ancient icons are now on display, an administrative building, and the North-West Tower. Together, these objects constitute more than a third of all areas of the monastery.
The museum also has nothing against serving representatives of the ROC MP in the church of st. Michael the Archangel at any time on request. Over the past 30 years, such a model of “church-museum cooperation” has proven itself well, for example, in the Moscow Kremlin, whose cathedrals are still property of the Ministry of Culture, but the Patriarchy serves there freely when it wants, without incurring any expenses for maintenanceand restoration. Museum collections were also gradually displayed before being transferred to ROC MP from the Ryazan Kremlin, the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma or the New Jerusalem Monastery near Moscow.
But these relatively peaceful times are over now. Sensing his strength and political support for the “national leader”, Patriarch Kirill decided to speak with the cultural community in “language of war”. In the same Saviour Cathedral of the Andronikov monastery, on average 30–35 people attend the Sunday liturgy, on the other hand, on the patriarchal All-night service of the Holy Trinity Feastin the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, designed for 5000 people, only 150 worshipers attended (occupancy rate – 3 %). It is impossible to rationally explain the harshness and haste of the ROC MP requirements regarding the Andronikov monastery, despite the fact that the museum is open to any cooperation with the church and is ready to make any concessions to it.
After the meeting of the commission, the museum leaves no attempts to reach an agreement with the patriarchate. Director Mikhail Mindlin submits humble requests to the patriarchate to start negotiations almost every day. But the patriarchy, feeling itself "master of the situation," ignores all requests to negotiate. ROC’s position is simply a blasphemy in relation to the ancient Russian culture and the greatest shrines that during many years of state atheism, when thousands most valuable icons perished, Andrei Rublev Museum saved. As the leading museum researcher Marina Antypko notes, the patriarchy collapsed with all power of its political administrative machine to “a museum made general public aware of old icons that had been previously rotting in barns, or clogged posters with portraits of leading manufacturers. A museum, which for nearly half a century fought for preservation of Russian culture against "opium for the people” fighters”.
Under the Patriarchs Pimen and AlexyII, the Patriarchate thanked the museum for its noble spiritual mission, now, under Kirill, it artificially, out of nowhere, makes it its enemy, demanding: “Give us your property and go with your shrines wherever you want". Russian history did not know such - let's say carefully - inversion of a main religious organization of the country. Obviously, if the patriarchy begins to increase its pressure on the Andrei Rublev Museum, which under current conditions will undoubtedly cause a wide public response, will lose the rest of its reputation as a church, supposedly linking our people with its thousand-year cultural tradition, supposedly guarantees preservation and revival of historical spiritual values.
To all these "high matters" modern patriarchy prefers banal stealing of property, intimidation of opponents and unwillingness to conduct any civilized negotiations. It embarks on a dangerous path of open struggle with culture, and in this case, Old Russian culture. “The transfer of architectural ensemble of the Spaso-Andronikov Monastery of the Russian Orthodox Church is a disaster for the museum, - says Marina Antypko. - What historical memory can we talk about, destroying the only museum in Russia specializing in preservation, studying and popularizing ancient Russian culture?”
Utterly strange is the fact that the Moscow Patriarchate does not know how to calculate reputational losses, which are much more expensive than financial losses from the “less-received” real estate. (Moreover, church property in Russia is rarely used effectively from a commercial point of view.)
The beginning of negotiations with the museum and granting it a “postponement” to leave the Andronikov monastery for at least 2-3 years - while the Hryashchevs' mansion located opposite the cloister is being restored - would have a very positive effect on the patriarchate’s reputation. At the end it would eventually get the needed real estate, and a new focus of civil confrontation would not have arisen. But in a completely incomprehensible way, the patriarchy prefers to act according to “The worse, the better” principle. As if its leader is afraid to bring the reputation of the organization headed by him to intended negative values in the time allotted to him.
According to the report of 2018, 164 people work in the Central Museum of Old Russian Culture and Art named after Andrei Rublev, including 3 doctors and 15 candidates of science. The museum collection has reached almost 20 thousand items, over the past two years it has been replenished with 38 new storage units, among which is the icon of the Mother of God “Odigitria” (XVI century). The museum completed restoration of the building of a former religious school, where new expositions are located, conducts restoration of its towers and walls, as well as the Chryashchev estate, where funds and temporary exhibitions were planned to be transferred. Since 2016, the Museum held 31 exhibitions, including 3 in Italy, 12 scientific and round table conferences, 20 catalogs and 6 scientific collections were published, 50 concerts were held, various lectures, master classes, even classes for children were held (including a competition in children's drawing named "Journey to Ancient Russia", which was attended by more than 2 thousand children).
“NOVAYA GAZETA”, June 18-19, 2019.