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City news, 19.02.2004 15:10

Hermitage chary on trophy art

Hermitage chary on trophy art The director of the State Hermitage Museum has urged German diplomats and officials to be more sensitive and "especially accurate" when speaking about so-called trophy art being returned to Germany. Trophy art refers to paintings, sculptures and other cultural treasures that were brought to the Soviet Union after World War II.

The German government considers the treasures, many of them removed from museums, as its property. Its case is based on three Hague conventions that the Soviet Union and Russia are party to that say an army of occupation may only confiscate property that may be used for military operations. Many Russians consider the art as reparations for destruction wreaked by Hitler's armies on the Soviet Union.

"Its all right to talk about transfer of those treasures, but not about its return," Interfax quoted Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky as saying in response to statements by the German ambassador to Russia Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz.

Piotrovsky said that each transfer of cultural treasures should be based on direct negotiations. "This question can be solved only in the framework of Russian law," he said.

"All attempts to portray Russia as criminal and to equate it to Nazi Germany in relation to its handling of cultural treasures are undiplomatic, insensitive, and may only cause an adverse reaction," he said.

"Unfortunately, today Germany's arts world is divided into those who understand the delicacy of the Hermitage policy, and those who consciously don't understand it," Piotrovsky said. "We didn't commit any crimes after the war," he said. "These objects were confiscated due to the logic of the post-war period. Almost all of them were returned, while the transfer of the remainder would require thorough negotiations so that both sides are satisfied. And by no means do we accept any suggestion that Russia is guilty of plundering poor Germany," Piotrovsky said.

Piotrovsky said even when the Hermitage takes such important decisions as the return of such cultural treasures as the stained-glass windows of Frankfurt an der Oder's Marienkirche, "it often receives something like insults from some German officials."

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