View from the Hermitage. One Cannot Say Goodbye
A lot has been said about the events in the South Ossetia. I would like to draw your attention not to the political or military aspects but to the overall cultural situation. Today we should look closely at the region where the tragic events took place and remember who the Ossetians are.
The Ossetians are one of a few peoples of the Caucasus that speak
The ancient mythology of the Ossetians underlies numerous researches
This region is important not only for the pipeline that passes through it and for bringing together a lot of political interests. It has tremendous cultural and political history that should be known and considered when reflecting upon today's events. Here a universal museum can help.
The universal museum gathers different cultures together. The war in the Caucasus for the Hermitage, if one can put it this way, started too early. We did not manage to complete the reconstruction of the Caucasus exposition. The Hall of Armenia and next to it the Hall of Georgia are already opened. The Moshchevaya Balka section is dedicated to the history of the peoples that lived in the mountains of the Caucasus, the ancestors of the Adighe peoples. They occupied the territory on the Silk Road and controlled it. The Golden Horde Halls are opened. The Golden Horde also had territories in the Northern Caucasus. The halls dedicated to Azerbaijan and Dagestan are getting ready to host the visitors.
At our temporary Palaces and Marquees exposition there are tremendous Dagestan stone relieves that are wonderful for the Muslim world. It is possible that they were made in Dagestan and brought from the Asia Minor. At the Dagestan village of Kubachi from the earliest times lived not just the excellent jewellers but also the collectors that collected pieces of jewellers art and ceramics from all over the Middle East. It was the centre of the antique market and collecting. I am saying that the cultural world of the Caucasus was very complex.
In the Special Storeroom of the Hermitage one can get convinced of the close
similarity of the Scythian gold to the traditions of the Ossetians.
Then after the Scythians came the Sarmatians, the Alanians, various
The Caucasus is the territory of the ancient civilizations. Tremendous works from bronze are stored in the Hermitage at the Department of the Primitive art of the Archaeological Department. The gallery of jewellery begins with the archaeological findings from the Maikop burial mound. A wonderful bronze plastic, the silver bowls with the images of the Caucasus mountains were created several millenniums before the new era.
The Caucasus is a block of clusters of very high
cultures. It means different languages, access to the Black
Sea, connections with Greece... The famous Colchis where the Argonauts
sailed up to is Abkhazia. The culture that allows
us to consider ourselves Europeans descends to the Black
Sea seaside. The Europeans must have
In the museum the combination of cultures begotten by various peoples blends into conglomeration. The Hermitage doesn't need to reconsider its plans and projects related to the Caucasus. All the peoples have a place in the museum expositions.
We should remember that the spectrum of cultures of the Caucasus clustered in the conditions which integral part was war. In that region the peoples repeatedly fought against each other and fought together. When talking about the Ossetians there were times when they lived independently and later on became the part of the movement of the Iranian tribes, then the Southern Ossetians found themselves under the rule of the Georgians and when they broke free they started to oppress the offenders. Georgia conquered the Ossetians together with Russia. It was the old ally of Russia, the support in the submission of Ossetia, Abkhazia and the Circassian tribes. Later on there were opponent processes with a series of the political movements with the defined historic result that was changing. We should also remember that the Abkhazians were the rivals of the Georgians during the annexation of Georgia. But there were times when Abkhazia subordinated to the Turkish and a part of the Abkhazians became Muslims.
The history of the Caucasus is very complex. We are living in the 21st century and we have different criteria but we should remember the lessons taught by the history. There is always a possibility that the history makes a turn. It happened more than once. The parties fighting against each other might get together tomorrow.
As soon as the military operations started, I think I was not the only one who took a book from the bookshelf in order to remember the history of the Caucasus wars. The modern times despite their novelty has the past. The presence of the past makes it possible to foretell future. That is why we should remember the cultural connections; tell about the Caucasus as the conglomeration of various cultures and various interests.
The tragic events should not prevent from restoring the cultural bonds. It is desirable not to interrupt such bonds. It is not just the memories of how nice it was to eat shish kebab in Tbilisi. It is also the understanding that the world of the ancient Caucasus is the world of the greatest antiquities. The Archaeological expeditions of the Hermitage continue their work in the Northern Caucasus, one of them has just returned from Nalchik.
Once again I'll repeat that the culture prevails over the political interests. Possibly now it sounds inappropriate but it is known long since that talk about culture should start on the fourth day of the war.
We have learnt one more lesson that we can not linger with the conservation of the monuments. The destroyed monuments are counted in Tskhinvali. The thing is that the historic centre of the city had been planned to be taken under the protection to save it from the modern constructions. But there was no rush so when the city was being destroyed by the tanks its centre did not have the status of the monument.
There is one more acute moment that is related to the museum life. We have talked more than once about the plans to create a Hermitage - Guggenheim museum centre in Vilnius. Now the question is whether it is possible when the President of Lithuania expresses his support of Saakashvili, and Lithuania takes a hostile position against Russia.
But as life shows political positions change faster than organized cultural connections are destroyed. We should be ready to develop the connections further on as soon as the political controversies disappear. That is why our agreements with Vilnius were drawn up for several years ahead.
Not all the Lithuanians want to have an international museum
centre in Vilnius. There are a lot of people who are against
this. Some of them do not want the presence of the imperial
Guggenheim. But there are others who say: "Why do we need
those Russians?" During one of the
I gave a direct answer saying that we would definitely like to restore the influence and the connections. Your Churlenis is our Petersburg artist. There are close bonds between our countries and they have been established for centuries and we should restore them through culture.
Our cultural presence and influence in Lithuania and in Georgia should continue. It is understandable that there are acute moments but we are living in the world with friendship and hostility. That is why we cannot say goodbye forever.
Military men say that there are things that are more important than peace. But there are more important things than war. This isėthe understanding that we live for the development ofvculture, the most important of all we have. Everyone should do their own business.