Russia split over returning war art

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A senior Russian official has angered the country's nationalists by announcing that Moscow is close to agreeing the return to eight European countries of art "appropriated" by the Red Army during the Second World War.

A senior Russian official has angered the country's nationalists by announcing that Moscow is close to agreeing the return to eight European countries of art "appropriated" by the Red Army during the Second World War.

Anatoly Vilkov, deputy head of Russia's cultural heritage department, said Moscow had already satisfied many of the claims and was actively considering others. "The claims came from Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Ukraine," he said.

Controversially, Mr Vilkov said Russia had agreed to return a collection of paintings to the Netherlands which are currently housed in Moscow's Pushkin Museum. The collection is reported to include canvasses by Rembrandt, Van Dyke, Rubens and Tintoretto, and is valued at up to half a billion dollars.

Hungary is to receive a set of rare 15th-century religious publications and Ukraine four 12th-century church frescoes currently on display at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

Mr Vilkov also made an offer to Germany to return a rare Gutenberg Bible, which may be worth up to $20m (£11.6m). Russia is estimated to have 260,000 pieces of "trophy art" acquired by the Red Army, three million archive items and 1.5 million books.

Moves to return such art remain deeply controversial in Russia. The daily Trud (Labour) newspaper commented: "It's strange to see such enthusiasm ... [for] stripping Russia's museums. It's estimated that during the war, the Hitlerites destroyed and looted 427 museums in the USSR."

Comments