View from the Hermitage. Rising above the Wall
Lately there have been a lot of talks about the fall of the Berlin Wall. Reminiscences about this developed into festivities and that is not quite clear in the context of the events from which everything had started.
Indeed, creation of walls is a historic event. Suffice it to mention the famous Chinese Wall that was built so that nomads did not penetrate into China and the Chinese did not change their settled mode of life for nomadic. For some time the obstacle was working effectively and later turned into trading, customs place. The wall did not stop those that were coming to conquer China. Now it has become a remarkable tourist object and, in essence, has been rebuilt.
A wall is one of the ways to resolve critical conflicts. There is a recent example - the wall erected in Palestine. For the Israeli it is a way of protection from terrorist actions. It arouses confrontation but it works.
It is appropriate to remember that the Berlin Wall was a reliable way of control over the situation in Germany in the course of several decades. The western mass media has been pointing this out at various times. This wall stopped a lot of negative consequences of the war. It did not loose its efficiency at once.
The Germans understand that it was not just the process of consolidation
of people of one nation. The Second World War was carried out for the purpose
of separation of Germany. Each of the allies in this war pursued
its own policy. But separation of Germany was an important and advantageous
The role of Russia in unification of Germany may be evaluated differently. We considered that for us united Germany is better than separated. Letís see what future holds. So far the Germans are grateful to us. I often visit Germany and see that. They perfectly understand that an important decision has been made and that decision to some extent contradicts wishes of the most western states. We shall see how wise this decision was. The wall was destroyed and the key to consolidation of Germany was given.
Nowadays Germany is the main political and economic ally in Europe for us. Our museum projects succeed in many instances because we work together.
I shall repeat myself, a wall is probably not the best but the most effective political method. It was implemented in Germany and so far it works in Palestine. I am not talking about such extremities as apartheid in Africa. It is horrible. But temporary separation might be one of the ways to solve problems arising in critical situations. When such situations appeared with black population in the USA most leaders of the blacks were saying that it is necessary to erect a wall and live separately. In connection with conflicts in the Caucasus we start thinking that it might be worth living separately with minimum contacts. Such approach is possible at the moment of strained relations. íLetís put up a wallí and break up for a while. It is understandable that this recipe can not be implemented everywhere and at any time.
Walls can be real and virtual; they can exist as such and in our imagination,
in memory, in psychology. Museums are working rising above such obstacles.
Not long ago a meeting within the framework
The idea of another exhibition - One Thousand Years Together -
is to tell about connections between Russia and Germany. We have a reason
to remember that we have not always been at war with Germany and that
The topic Cultural Environmental Conditions of Historic Medieval Cities was also discussed at the meeting in Velikiy Novgorod. There was a talk about Novgorod in comparison to cities of Europe. This is a subject that also builds a bridge above the wall of incomprehension. We are looking for similarities and balance in our relations with each other.
A while ago we opened an exhibition dedicated to the Battle of Poltava at the Moscow Kremlin. It specifies the opinion that the Russians and the Swedes were eternal enemies. The exhibition tells an epic story about the battle of the heroes. That battle had its own consequences going back in history for each party. At the opening of the exhibition a representative of the Swedish Embassy was referring to it as a wonderful example of overcoming Russian-Swedish wall. When participating in our exhibitions Swedish museums provide us with articles that also include trophies that were captured by the Swedes from the Russians. The representative of the Swedish Embassy reminded that one hundred years before the battle of Poltava the Swedes helped the Russians to protect their unity during the Time of Trouble. Indeed, Swedish mercenaries together with Vasily Shuisky were fighting against the Poles. One can find a period of time in history when interests coincided.
Recently I have been at the seminar in Korea dedicated to the museums
of the 21st century. This is one more country in the world that was divided.
Historic memory is very strong there. The Koreans take the division of the country
as hard as Japanese and American occupation. Dramatic events
in historic memory stimulate the development of their own
We were telling our colleagues about the Hermitage centres, they were telling us about their exhibition policy. They told how much they are doing so that Korean art and culture are recognized everywhere. Approximately in forty museums of the world there are Korean rooms where articles from the National Museum of Korea are given for temporary use. Korea finances maintenance of such exhibits, presence of Korean curators.
Very often we are being asked why shall we organize exhibitions from our collections somewhere. We should keep in mind that people all over the world should know and remember about Russia, its art and culture. Among other things, there are very few museums in the world that have departments and rooms of Russian art. It is not impossible that there are much less of them than the rooms of Korean art. And we should really think about that.
We should organize exhibitions abroad, help those who collect Russian art on the West so that their collections gain museum character. It is extremely important to bring out our own cultural presence in the world. Cultural approach allows overcoming the walls, both present and past.
Sooner or later the walls will fall but other walls might replace them. Mission of culture remains invariable.