Mikhail Borisovich, what measures do you think should be taken to prevent the possible theft of art works from museums? Can we rely on the latest security technologies? But that's just the same as building some new kind of Maginot Line, since we all know that you can get around such things. Perhaps it's better to pay attention to the way staff is recruited, to having a lot of staff and giving them good incentives. Only people can stand in the way of thieves.
You are perfectly right. If I may speak openly, what happened in the Hermitage was, from the standpoint of personnel, a lack of loyalty. Absence of loyalty as a risk factor. I must say that museums have always taken pride in high levels of loyalty. And I can say confidently that loyalty in museums is even today many times higher than elsewhere in our country. Despite all the difficulties, over the course of the past 15 years museums have managed to protect their collections from attack coming from all sides. From every angle people have tried to get around the museums' Maginot Line. And it has happened, because we built many technical defenses protecting the entry to museums, but what goes on within museums was dealt with on another level. We have to train people and strengthen discipline. But here we come up against a problem: a museum is a fortress and should be a fortress. But you have to arrange things so that this fortress does not become a prison, even though military discipline is needed. There is one other subtle factor here which our recent audit has highlighted. We all tend to forget about nationalization, when all sorts of things were taken in if only to save them. After all what did not land in a museum was often lost and destroyed. Alexander Nevsky's shrine was saved, while the ikonostasis of the Kazan Cathedral was destroyed. Staff of the Hermitage and the Russian Museum tried to save them and with respect to one they were successful, while on the other they lost the fight. Therefore we became accustomed to taking strong measures to defend things from the state. When auditors come from outside to make inspections, our books are opened to them and they ask: "You've got tens of thousands of items. Where are they hidden?" Everything that was sold by the state continues to be carried in our books. After the war there was a big verification procedure and we were told to remove from the inventory a number of items, but we refused. What was lost in the war in various museums around Russia was crossed out, but what was sold by the state still figures in our inventory books. For example, not long ago we transferred to the Armenian Church wooden parts of a remarkable silver case we have containing the relics of Armenian saints. They are now in Echmiadzin, where they are visited by crowds of pilgrims. People say that this was accidentally found in the storerooms of the Oriental Department where it was not listed in the inventory. Of course, there was nothing accidental about it all. When the item was brought here from the Church and everyone saw that it contained relics, they understood that if they inventory it then sooner or later they will be ordered to destroy it. Therefore, they just hid it away. That's the psychology - conceal things a bit. Therefore, there is more to the story of what a curator is. You have to give a whole series of such educational examples and acts to train people. We are now working on courses to raise qualifications and for use in training curators in the university and in museums.