Interview to the Information Agency Interfax
Since 1996 the Council for Culture and Art under President of the country has been acting in Russia. On 16 March, 2010 Dmitry Medvedev signed the Order “On Approval of the Scope of the Council fro Culture and Art under President of the Russian Federation”. Director of the State Hermitage Mikhail Piotrovsky was again appointed as Vice-Chairman of the Council. About the results of work of this consultative body, acute problems in the sphere of culture and upbringing of “a new person” Mikhail Piotrovsky told in the interview to the Information Agency Interfax North-West.
– Mikhail Borisovich, for 14 years you have been in the scope of the Council for Culture and Art under President of Russia. What are the results of work of the Council and what is necessary to be brought up for discussion at the present moment?
– I am Vice-Chairman of the Council and Chairman is President. The most important thing that the Council gives is the opportunity for representatives of cultural community to meet President directly once or twice a year and discuss these or those acute issues: both strategic and making specific reference to this or that sphere. I think that this form of direct communication is very important. The Council itself is being rotated all the time, in the result, as you know, there are very different representatives of culture: from craftsmen of national trades to songstresses. And in the middle – serious actors, artists, painters, museum staff and etc.
One of the results of the Council work we are all proud of, not just the Council is creation of the channel “Culture”. This issue was well-discussed with President Yeltsin. The channel “Culture” appeared right at this Council.
Another issue of our discussion is the problem of children upbringing, upbringing through culture. By the way, this issue is of eternal character. It seems that at the nearest session we will return to it once again. To some extent creation of the children channel “Bibigon” on television is also the result of intercourse with cultural figures.
The last meeting of the Presidium of the Council for Culture was combined with the session of the State Council. There we discussed the issues of historical past, historical and cultural heritage. Unfortunately, situation with preservation of cultural heritage in Russia is rather grave, not only in the material part but also in ideological understanding what it is. So it is very important to return to this issue at the Council.
The next Council will be devoted to upbringing of “a new person”, creation of cultural sphere in which the person is able for innovations, not only for modernization.
Moreover, there are working groups, a wide circle of culture figures are attracted to the discussion. We prepare recommendations which are sent to different Ministries. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they are not. For example, we discussed the issues of national trades and what to do with them. It is a rather difficult problem in conditions of mass production and copyright. Well, some measures were taken based on the results of the working group.
Besides that, the Council advises President on candidates for premiums. We have three premiums in the sphere of culture and we have worked out the following scheme: one is given for great achievements in Russian culture, another is for preservation of heritage in different forms, and the third one is given to a young talent, so to say recently sparkled star. We are to award them this year as well.
Together with the Council for science we award the premium for exceptional humanitarian achievements. I would like to remind that this premium was given to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Patriarch Alexy, President Jacques Chirac, Valentina Tereshkova. I hope this list will not become exhausted before our eyes.
– What are the plans for candidates to award this year?
– We will tell about it later.
– You have already mentioned the creation of the TV channel “Culture” at the moment there are a lot of public discussions dedicated to modern Russian television and its content component. In particular, many critics give their opinions about demonstration of the series School. They also say that some children programs popularize violence. Do you think this problem really exists on television? Perhaps, censorship must be introduced or some other measures taken?
– No censorship is needed. In no case, as it makes everything attractive. Censorship should be only internal and such cases exist. We can have a look at the American press, they have strong internal censorship, they know what to write and what is not acceptable, as they do not write about everything. A classical example is Brothers Kennedy. They led rather a riotous life, which has nothing in common with manners and Protestant-Catholic moral. And nobody wrote about this, however everyone knew. The press must have internal brakes. That is why it is necessary to educate and educate with culture.
To improve what television has is impossible, as it reflects preferences of people. It must be understood that television educates politically, but culturally, it reflects the level of viewers. So it is necessary to introduce as much real cultural material as possible. It is necessary not to speak about something that is bad, but to put all efforts to popularize what is good.
Let’s take the same channel “Culture”. It is said to have poor ratings, narrow audience. But it is necessary to create right product and make it interesting. It is necessary to widen the circle of cultural people in the country.
– Medallion of Nicholas II, one of the exhibit items stolen from the Hermitage has been recently transferred to Russia from the USA. Has it arrived to the Hermitage yet? Will it be displayed or got into museum funds?
– This medallion is mass production. They were produced by thousands. It is necessary to say, that among things, stolen from the Hermitage, many of them belonged to mass production. The medallion has not passed our Hermitage inspection yet. Basically, it has been brought to be investigated. If it turned out to be the one, which has been stolen from us, then it will be transferred to the storage as it is not an extraordinary art achievement.
It is necessary to be very careful with the expertise. Not long ago a cup was found which seemed to be from the stolen exhibit items. It was brought, measured, weighted and appeared to be the wrong cup. It must be said that photographs of such kind of items do not mean anything, but what has the meaning is a description and the weight.
– How can you assess the prospect of returning of the rest of the exhibit items into the Hermitage?
– Among the stolen items there were many different forks, knives, silver spoons – they certainly will not come back. Dishware as it was is certainly important for the science, as there were different years of manufacturing, but the artistic value of such items is not high. It will be very difficult to find them. But as for the rest part, it will return piece by piece, as everything returns. We only need to search constantly.
Experience shows that there has been a lot of thefts here and in the world. And all of them have been detected except for the one famous theft in Boston. It is just necessary not to close the case but to search. In such case, you do not need to make bustle and run with lanterns. The circle of people who may be accessorial to the theft is rather defined. These people are under surveillance and control.
– On 26 June holding of the Gay Parade is planned in St Petersburg. What do you think about the idea of such event holding in the cultural capital?
– I have got an idea that sexual minorities as all minorities in general are different and they have their right for existence. But nobody – neither minority, nor majority – should flaunt. Everybody should have their internal life. But parades should be hold for the things which are national-wide. For example, military parades, or cheerful parades during the carnivals. Absolutely everybody can take part in them. All kind of things with provocation are culturally counter-productive.
– You claim for attribution of a special safeguard status to Palace Square. At what stage is the project now?
– A worked-out regulation of Palace Square exists but it is not always executed and do not satisfy us completely. There is a special working group established under the Social Council of St Petersburg which works on the alteration of this regulation. Moreover, we are in constant touch with the city authorities, in particular with those who organize festivals and holidays at Palace Square. We constantly coordinate everything. We are working on the idea that the things happening on Palace Square will correspond to our concepts of what should happen on Palace Square. We and military men live on Palace Square as we know better than anyone else what is good here and what is bad. It must be mentioned, that solve all the problems constructively. The Square has acquired a special status in people’s heads to a great extent thanks to our activity.
– The project on promotion of culture “en mass” is being carried out in Perm. Many painters, designers, directors are engaged to increase the interest of the city inhabitants to art. How would you evaluate such initiative? Does St Petersburg need such “popularization” of culture?
– Perm is a remarkable city with remarkable cultural traditions. It has an outstanding school of wood carving, it has wonderful writers and a lot of admirable things happen there. It is great that Perm has become such center, the center of new art in particular. As for launch of culture en mass, then we do it from morning till night, applying various forms for this purpose.
It must be mentioned that the Hermitage is not afraid of the things which sometimes seem to be not very traditional. We have been pioneers in many ways. We were the first who put pictures in place of advertisement. Sight of people must get accustomed to the good. It is necessary to give alternative to everything bad. Good people will reach out to the good and there must be a different conversation with bad people.