View from the Hermitage. A Favourite
Crisis was the most favourite word in the
Nowadays it is said that every cloud has a silver lining: there won’t be any money but that would save St. Petersburg from the construction of the ugly buildings. Partly, this is true, but in some mysterious way our city is able to protect itself. When Napoleon attacked Russia, he campaigned against Moscow, although St. Petersburg was much easier toìconquer. And when the revolution happened our city sent the government to Moscow thereby saving itself from the numerous perturbations and changes. The thought can be continued: by means of the financial crisis St. Petersburg protects its historical appearance from destruction.
Now it is high time to remember the role that is played by the culture in the conditions of the crisis. More than once I said that it can play the role of the ethic force that supports the spirit and helps to survive.
In any case cultural institutions would not disappear. The museums are working and will work. The theatres will continue working as well. It is not known yet what kind of misfortunes are waiting for us. Probably, they will be serious. In a general way it is clear how to come out of the crisis all the more that we will have to do it together with the whole world. In 1990s it was much harder since total hopelessness was sensed. It was possible to imagine that there was no end to the fall and all would collapse. When I say that we protected the museums from privatization and squandering, most consider this to be an exaggeration. In reality we were on the verge of a catastrophe. The cultural heritage could have as well been gone to the private hands, changed owners and not once and ended up abroad.
In the state of total hopelessness there was just one thing left and it was to work peacefully. That evoked the sensation that the backbone of culture, i.e. museums and theatres, preserved stability. Moreover, theatre and museum experiments that were created by the cultural figures in order to survive showed that there was a potential.
What does the survival of the cultural institutions mean in such a city as St. Petersburg? It means workplaces. We never fire people and are not going to. Another matter is that we have low salaries and layoffs threaten to those with very high salaries. To tell the truth, I was always perplexed that the clerk in the bank should earn more than the professor of science who works in the museum.
Workplaces are preserved in the sphere of culture while the citizens keep the opportunity to consume available values. It is sure that you can not afford to buy a car, but you can always afford to visit a museum exhibition. Theatres and Philharmonic halls offer affordable tickets. All that creates optimistic mood and the sensation that the hardships will go away as before.
There is one more very important moment. The economics of culture will
work in the conditions of the crisis because it is the economics that
combines state and private money as well as its own earnings. It is possible
that the correlation of the amounts might change. In the recent years
we have received
The museum economics is a part of the infrastructure of the city. I repeat that simultaneously it creates optimistic atmosphere, workplaces and inexpensive consumption. The museum can function in the conditions of the crisis because it does not take loans. The great economics is built on loans. All started to prosper and take large loans. Now most can not pay them back. The museums live within its means.
I think that the culture in the 21st century will influence the economics more than it does now. Roughly speaking an educated person is a better manager and makes reasonable decisions. The crisis gives the opportunity to show which decisions were right and which decisions were wrong. It is most likely that uncultured people will make more mistakes.
So, in the 20th century everyone understood that the construction of the modern engineer systems demands observation of animals and nature. At first sight everything there seems clumsy but in reality it works better than the machines created by people. It also goes for cultural issues.
Recently many favor the use of the term ‘architecture’ when discussing economics, politics or something else. There were times when the words ‘anatomy’ and later on ‘archeology’ were used in the same cases. Now the word ‘architecture’ is popular. People related to charts that are not possible to calculate arithmetically. A beautiful solution will be right. When people are being ridden roughshod over, raids are used then the decision is not nice. Such decisions cause economic crises.
In the conditions of the crisis the culture should once again show that is it the best ideology and the best national idea. It generates economic ideas which are not too profitable but still function in complicated conditions. The culture can serve as the main criteria for making the right decisions. A simple example: unpretty buildings in the city spoil tourism economics.
On the other hand, the institutions of culture risk becoming the objects
of recurrent attempts of seizure in the times of crisis. In Russia very
few are attracted by the profit of less than 100%. Those people used to large
incomes get the sensation that there are big treasures somewhere
that they should profit by. There are the ones who wish to get control
over these treasures and gain profit from that. It was the case ten years
It is obvious that we will be back to guaranteed but small incomes for employees. There should not be any global catastrophes if the state carries out its obligations. A lot of important elements of the museum economics should be improved.
What will happen in life? Now the whole
At the beginning of the previous crisis all were crying then rolled up their sleeves and got down to work. The museums became the centre of culture, leisure, ideology, commercial activity... They did not just survive but became more significant in the social consciousness.
Institutions of culture have learnt to turn problems into opportunities. The important moment is the availability of the experience. We should keep in mind that we have been through this before. Not long ago I had a talk with one of our Western colleagues about the advantages of the succession. You know what crisis is and how to behave in it. For the West the crisis is a new situation and it strikes at the sponsorship programs. We have developed the system of donors very well but it makes up a small part of our money. In the West the combination is different and now the programs are greatly reduced. To some extent it is not bad since the museums begin to organize the exhibitions from their own collections. It was always an important principle for us and it was not connected with the money. The Hermitage organizes most of its exhibitions by rotating its collections. The collections are enormous and should be presented to people. The same starts to happen in the museums of the world.
When the first crisis occurred we learnt from our Western colleagues how to find means. Now the colleagues learn from us.
Now, on the one hand, newspapers and television stir up the situation, on the other hand, we are assured that there is nothing special going on. Clearly it will be hard. None is going to create favorable conditions for us. I think we will have to proceed from the fact that we have gone through something like this before. We should live like we used to live before. We should try to do our best. It is useless to suffer and weep. We have been convinced that those who cry and suffer are not helped by the destiny or by the people. This is one of the precepts of fundraising. The poor gets small contributions. The successful that needs help gets much more.
It is not all clear now and there will be the time when we would look into those who gained from the crisis. We should be on the alert but use the situation so the culture supports the people, the city and the economy. It always does so. The culture is the ethics, the economics and the measure of efficiency of the decisions made.