We Cannot Linger!
Sovetskaya Kultura (Soviet Culture) Newspaper, July 29th, 1989 Bangalore, July 3rd, 1989
Below we publish a letter by S.N. Roerich addressed to R.B. Rybakov with a detailed account of his position. The editors believe that any solution of this long overdue question can not bypass the provisions made in the given letter whose value thereby surpasses the bounds of the personal correspondence.
The great changes that are taking place now in the Soviet Union, are of great importance for the whole world. Today, under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, a path to an entirely new universal consciousness is being laid, and certainly this new consciousness eventually will take hold on minds of all the people on earth, of all mankind. I have a deep respect for the work of Mikhail Gorbachev, Nikolai Ryzhkov, and other current leaders of the country, and I believe that the fulfillment of their predestination and the utmost realization of our Motherland’s mission can be prompted by our striving to find ways to become a better person. We can not linger. Constructive steps should be taken everyday.
Dostoevsky said: “Beauty will save the world”, or, I’d rather say that carrying the beauty into our lives should be our foundation. There is no other way. Only understanding of Beauty, only the Good, only the desire to do every day something better than yesterday will be nurturing people’s lives. Bright ideas and actual deeds are needed. Only by uniting high-minded co-workers can we pave the path to the future.
In my opinion, one of these unions can be the Centre-Museum of Nicholas Roerich. You asked about my vision of it.
First of all, this should be a thriving centre, hosting not just a museum exhibition, but also temporary exhibitions constantly replacing each other – of paintings, crafts, children’s activities, illustrating not only various parts of the Soviet Union, but international activities as well. Of course, along with this the works by Nicholas Roerich should be exhibited on permanent basis.
The Centre could also allot a lecture and concert hall, and studios for young artists, and workshops for the revival and preservation of folk arts the way we have already done it here in Bangalore, at the Karnataka Arts Centre. Obviously, the Centre should also run a large library with a vast collection of books on the history of culture, art and philosophy of Russia, the East and the West, including, of course, the works by Nicholas and Helena Roerich. Over time, I could provide the Centre with their numerous unpublished works that I have been keeping. I am sure that their publication, especially in the homeland and in Russian language would further the expansion of human consciousness on the path to a better person with higher moral principles. For all their writings, after all, have always been intended for the young people of our country.
Nevertheless, I also see the centre as a scientific institution. It seems to me that its stuff can not only merely classify and study the multifaceted heritage of Nicholas and Helena Roerich, but also develop the ideas embodied in this heritage. The Russians and the East, Russia and the West, popular culture, international human values, the unity of mankind culture, value orientation, the concept of a perfect human being, man and nature, internal human capacities, science and religion – all these topics in one way or another were considered in the writings of Nicholas and Helena Roerich, but their approaches require further development as applied to the current stage of global evolution.
Undoubtedly, the Centre will not be able to cope with all these problems on its own. Nevertheless, it can operate as a coordinating principle, a sort of headquarters, and even on the international level.
Thus, if needed, the Centre’s activities would imply not only internal dimension of Soviet Union, but the international one as well. As a part of this second aspect I see establishment of ties with the Roerich societies beyond the borders of the Soviet Union, with the New York Museum, and with the Banner of Peace and Peacethrough Culture movements.
It seems to me that at the beginning the Centre’s stuff should be small, about ten people (scientists – sociologists, culture experts, art historians; librarians; secretaries-typists), but all of them, of course, must meet highest ethical and professional standards.
You asked my opinion about a possible Centre’s head. For my part, I do not see a better candidate than Lyudmila Shaposhnikova, indologist and writer, an energetic person, engaged in these issues long since and whom I have long and well known.
Several fundamental points.
I am absolutely convinced that the Centre-Museum may be located only in Moscow.
Yet the existing institutions – Nicholas Roerich’s memorial room at the Museum of Oriental Art, the Izvara Museum, my brother’s, George Roerich’s room in your institute, his memorial apartment – surely will have to establish working relations with the Centre-Museum, but at the same time maintain their independence.
In this regard, it is reasonable to consider such questions as the status of the Centre-Museum, its functioning in terms of subordination, as well as its financing.
As I have already said, subordination to the Ministry of Culture, and especially to the Museum of Oriental Art, in my opinion, would lead to an unjustified and deliberate narrowing of the Centre’s challenges and potential. To my mind, the Centre should have a considerable autonomy, flexibility, and the ability to bypass bureaucratic barriers, using new, innovative approaches, and gaining direct access to the international community. The Centre is a product of the new era, new challenges, and, apparently, it is necessary to take into account the experience of other organizations that emerged in the Soviet Union in recent years, and use this valuable experience for the benefit of the new enterprise.
The essence of the idea of Centre-Museum creation lies in the fact that it may function optimally in the status of a public organization (like the Children’s Fund).
I relish the idea of creating a public fund named after Nicholas Roerich, that would undertake financial support and overall management of the Centre. At the initial stage the capital of the Fund (that in the prospect could become international) might be made up of contributions of the founding organizations, as well as membership fees of members of the Roerich societies, the revival of which on the territory of the Soviet Union had long been in question, and finally, of the donations from the Soviet citizens and foreign countries.
In the future, the financial issue could be partially resolved by the Centre’s proceeds from the publishing activity, concerts, exhibitions and other similar events.
If some major sponsoring organization is needed until self-financing is achieved, I think this role could be played best by the Soviet Cultural Foundation, whose noble work is widely known throughout the world. On an international scale the Roerich Fund could establish ties with the widest circles of the intellectuals, that usually keep aloof from contacts with Soviet friendship societies. With the help of business circles the Fund could implement the idea of creation of an international city of peace on the territory of Moscow and Moscow region. Administering the funds received from the same business circles, and in close connection with the idea of the city of peace, the Roerich Fund could assign a certain sum of money in order to award annually or biennially International Nicholas Roerich Prize and Medal appraising cultural activities for the good of the world.
Thus, the Roerich Fund and the Centre-Museum financed by it could contribute to solving major problems both on national and international level. This could stimulate other countries and cement the Soviet Union’s pioneering role in the new universal thinking.
I think that this matter is extremely important and brooks no delay. With regard to your questions about the “Urusvati” Institute, I think that we should return to them at a later stage, after the establishment of the Central Museum in Moscow. Now the most important and urgent task is the creation of this Centre.
I think that in the future, the “Urusvati” Institute that, as you know, is storing in perfect order the unique collections, may become an Indian branch of the Centre-Museum in the capacity of the joint Soviet-Indian institution.
Of course, the final decision upon this matter will require further development of many legal issues, and the acceptance of the collections by a team of specialists (an ornithologist, zoologist, botanist, and also, perhaps, an archaeologist and a folklorist), but all of this is quite soluble. But constructively, we will be able approach this case only when the Centre-Museum and the Roerich Fund start their work in Moscow.