2 Avril 2012

Allocution de Mme Eleonora Mitrofanova, Déléguée permanente de Russie auprès de l'UNESCO

Mister Assistant Director-General for Culture, Mister Assistant Director-General for External Relations, Your Excellency Mr Permanent Delegate of India to UNESCO, Madame Director-General of Roerich Museum and Mister President of the International Roerichs Centre, Dear Laureates of the Tree of Life Prize, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to cordially welcome at the UNESCO Headquarters the participants and organizers of the exhibition “The Roerich Pact. The Past and the Present”. Nikolas Konstantinovich Roerich was a Russian painter, philosopher, scientist, writer, traveler and public figure. His life and creative work are closely linked not only with Russia but also with India. He was interested in ancient cultures of both countries and their common origin. It is in Indian philosophy he found inspired ideas that was laid in the basis of his spiritual and cultural concept. He also was a great painter, and many of his pictures are exhibited in well-known museums of the world. On the eve of the First World War he expressed his forebodings in the pictures that’s why they called him “greatest intuitionist of the century”. The theme of a struggle between the two sides - Light and Darkness - runs through the whole Roerich’s art. After a three-year expedition in Asia he lived with his family in India. In 1928, Roerich founded the “Urusvaty” Institute of Himalayan Studies, in the Western Himalayas. “Urusvaty” means, in translation from Sanskrit, “Light of Morning Star”. In the Institute there were medical, zoological, botanical, biochemical and many other laboratories. Large work was conducted in the field of linguistics and Easter philology. Rarest written sources of centuries-old remoteness were collected and translated into European languages; half-forgotten dialects were studied. Tens of scientific institutes from Asia, Europe and America collaborated with the “Urusvati” Institute. Famous scholars, such as Albert Enstein, Louis de Broglie, Robert Millikan, Svent Hedin, also collaborated with the Institute. Roerich’s most notable achievement during his lifetime was the Roerich Pact signed on April 15, 1935. The full title of this international document is a Treaty on Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments. Pact Roerich became the first international act especially devoted to protection of cultural values. And today we can say that it was one of the most important events of the 20th century in the field of international cultural heritage protection. The whole Treaty is permeated with the principle of humanism. The main idea of the Pact Roerich is the legal recognition of the fact that the defense of cultural objects is more important than the military spending. The Pact stipulates that “historic monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational and cultural institutions” should be protected both in times of peace and war. This provision contributed a lot to the protection of the cultural values not only from ravages of war but also against vandalism during peaceful time. Moreover, the Pact Roerich played an important role in forming of contemporary international law standards and public activity in the field of protection of cultural heritage. In 1949, during the forth session of the UNESCO General Conference, a decision was adopted to begin the work for international law regulation in the field of cultural heritage protection in case of armed conflict. In 1954, the Pact was laid in the basis for the Hague “International Convention for Protection of Cultural Values in the Event of Armed Conflict”. Coupled with the Pact Roerich proposed a distinctive sign for identification of protected objects – so called Banner of Peace. The sign symbolized unity of the Past, Present and Future into a ring of eternity. The Banner of Peace is a symbol of protection of cultural heritage. In 2009, Roerich was nominated for the Nobel Prize for his international cultural activity and Pact initiation. Roerich hoped that the Pact would be of great educational value. I quote: “A pact for protection of cultural treasures is not only needed as an official body, but as an educational law that, from the very first school days, will educate the young generation with noble ideas of preservation of the whole mankind’s true values”. It would be wrong to assume that the further development of the ideas of the Pact Roerich is already exhausted. This is not true at all. Many of its provisions are still relevant in the contemporary world where military conflicts and the challenges of peaceful time are destroying the cultural memory of the humanity. It is also necessary to remember that the Roerich Pact is an outstanding public initiative. I would like to remind you that the idea of the Pact was supported by Romain Rolland, Bernard Shaw, Rabindranath Tagore, Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann. The Pact as a public Treaty was approved by the President of the United States of America Mr. Franklin Roosevelt. The Pact was also promoted by Henry Wallace, who considered Roerich as his guru. Their efforts allowed to convince the opposition which was the US State Department to sign the Treaty. As I mentioned before, the Pact was signed in the White House, in the Washington D.C., in the presence of the President of the United States of America. Originally, the document was ratified by 21 countries of the American continent. Later the Pact was validated by 15 countries more. The process of elaboration of this document showed the effectiveness of consolidating the efforts of the government and private organizations and the international community for the sake of culture protection. The elaboration of this Pact became his great service to humanity. We are justly proud of the fact that it was our compatriot who was the first not only to state that we can only preserve the humanity’s cultural heritage by common international effort, but also to bring this Treaty to the international legal field. Today, in its work in the field of cultural heritage preservation, UNESCO is also focused on the wide cooperation with the civil society organizations. In this connection, the experience accumulated by the International Centre of the Roerich in the protection and popularization of the Roerich family heritage can serve as a good basis for its further fruitful participation in the UNESCO activities. In conclusion, I would like to thank the International Centre of the Roerich, its President, Mr. Postnikov, the Director, Ms Shaposhnikova – for the wonderful exhibition and for their efforts aimed at preservation and dissemination of great humanistic ideas of the Roerich. I would like also thank to the Indian Embassy in France and the Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO for their cooperation and, through them, express our gratitude to the Government of India and the Indian public for their respect for the legacy of the Roerich. I would like also extend my thanks to the UNESCO Secretariat for its assistance in organizing this event. And finally, I would like to say cordial words to all our dear guests for the time to touch the spirit of the outstanding son of humanity. Thank you for your attention.