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New Law on Transfer of Property of Religious Intent Owned by the State or Municipalities to Religious Organisations.

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Russia/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.2 Heritage issues and policies

The goal of "preservation and higher accessibility of cultural heritage objects" correlates to the constitutional right and was included in the governmental list of priorities for 2009-2012. Heritage policies traditionally deal with movable (museums, archives and library collections) and immovable items. In 2010–2012, the actual budget of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation intended for the "preservation of cultural and historical heritage" made up relatively 24, 29 and 31% of the total, but was to be gradually diminished from 18 028.5 million RUB in 2010 to 16 262.4 million in 2012. The subdivision on Heritage in the draft State Programme of the Russian Federation on Development of Culture and Tourism for the period 2013-2020 aims to preserve cultural and historical heritage and to widen access to cultural values and information. The related tasks are as follows:

  • to provide for protection and use of the cultural heritage objects;
  • to improve accessibility and quality of library services;
  • to improve accessibility and quality of museum services; and
  • to ensure preservation, acquisition, and use of archive collections.

In the 1990s, the immovable heritage became a matter of a contest between the Ministry of Culture and more powerful state agencies or regional governments. Together with the unsettled responsibility issues, immovable heritage suffered massive historic and cultural losses (2.5 thousand preserved objects during the past decade), which one can easily witness e.g. in the historical centre of Moscow and other cities. On the other hand, by the end of 2010, the project of constructing the Gazprom City Tower almost in the historical centre of St. Petersburg, which became a matter of the bitter public conflict because it could destroy the panorama of the city, was rejected thus exemplifying the opposite trend.

In 2010, there were about 143 400 immovable heritage objects under state protection (of which 36 500 were archaeological monuments). There is a special Agency for the Management and Use of Cultural and Historical Monuments under the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation that tackles related property issues and supervises the protection and use of state owned immovable monuments. The general administrative reform changed the existing division of responsibilities between governmental levels and regions that gained more rights including the establishment of their own inventories of heritage monuments to be preserved. In 2006, e.g. the Yamalo-Nenets Duma adopted a regional Law on Culture, which introduced special articles on the preservation of cultural heritage of the Nordic indigenous peoples.

Privatisation of immovable heritage, namely historical buildings and attached land, began in the 1990s. In many cases, land was (and will remain) the most attractive part of the built heritage in privatisation, especially in the cities. The second privatisation wave began in 2002, the idea of which was to use privatisation as a means to prevent the ruination of the built heritage and to restore it using private money. It was based on the new legal foundation and a sound secondary regulation was needed to guarantee proper preservation of heritage items by new owners and to provide public access. On 1 January 2008, an official moratorium on the privatisation of "cultural and historic monuments" was cancelled but there was no noticeable interest among potential buyers because of the encumbrances. Recently, in order to stimulate privatisation, the culture Minister proposed the rental leasing of the ruined monuments on very advantageous terms in order to promote their restoration and maintenance.

The major actions in the field of restoration works are linked to particular events, e.g. to thousandth anniversaries of the cities of Kazan and Yaroslavl or to the "particularly valuable" heritage objects: huge investment in renovation of the Bolshoi, the Hermitage, the State Film Fund of the Russian Federation (Gosfilmofond), etc. (see chapter 6.1). Restoration of the built heritage given back to the church is presented in the budget under a separate entry. The recent increase in the volume of restoration works has uncovered the problem of renovations as a type of preservation activities: the former restoration system seems almost ruined and a lack of qualified staff and poor quality of the works are obvious all posing a task of re-establishing related educational and organisational frameworks.

In the 1990s, a search for balanced interrelations between religious organisations and cultural institutions became an important issue at all levels of cultural policy making. For example in 1999, the famous sacred icon and monument of the 12th-century Byzantine art - the Theotokos of Vladimir - was placed in the 17th century church-museum of St. Nicholas in Tolmachi, by the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Some items belonging to the Orthodox Church were included in the Museum Fund of the Russian Federation; in 2008, the Ministry of Culture gave several objects of the 16th – 19th centuries to the Orthodox Church for religious use from the Kremlin Museums. In spite of the opposing views of heritage professionals, in 2011, the Law on Transfer of Property of Religious Intent Owned by the State or Municipality to Religious Organisations passed through the parliament (see chapter 5.3.3) and in 2012, the culture Ministry organised special research on complex technical, economic, and organisational aspects of the preservation of heritage objects managed by religious organisations to provide for solutions to practical problems that have emerged.

For more information, see
European Heritage Network: Country profile Russia

Chapter published: 03-07-2015

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