St. Petersburg, September 7, Interfax - Russia and Serbia are expected to swap seven paintings by Nicholas Roerich for the St. Petersburg page from Miroslav's Gospel before the end of this year, Russia's Deputy Culture Minister Alla Manilova said.
"De-jure, we have everything ready, on both sides. We are very hopeful that this exchange of artifacts of the highest level will happen before the year ends," Manilova told reporters after meeting with Leningrad Region governor Alexander Drozdenko.
The seven paintings will be handed over the Roerich Family Museum Institute in St. Petersburg and the Roerich museum in Izvar, Leningrad Region, she said. One of the works, a sketch of the costume for Rimsky-Korsakov's Snow Maiden open will be on display at the composer's museum in Tikhvin.
For his part, Drozdenko said that the region was hoping to get three of the paintings.
In July Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a federal law ratifying the agreement with Serbia regarding this exchange. Under its terms, Serbia will hand over seven Roerich paintings, which are currently at the National Museum in Belgrade. The paintings disappeared after Nazi Germany's attack on Yugoslavia in April 1941. They are: Burgustan on Caucasus (1913), Church Bells Tolling (1919), Holy Guests (1923), Berendej Village (1921), St. Sergius of Radonezh (1922), and two sketches of costumes for Rimsky-Korsakov's Snow Maiden opera (1921).
Russia, in turn, is to hand the 166th page on parchment, which was removed from Miroslav's Gospel in the 19th century and is now at the Russian National Library. The Gospel itself is also at the National Museum in Belgrade.
Miroslav's Gospel is an ancient Cyrillic manuscript created for Prince Miroslav in Kotor in the 12th century. The manuscript was kept at the Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos before its removal to Belgrade in 1896. In the middle of the 19th century, scientist and bishop Porphyry Uspensky took one page out of the book and handed it over the Public Library in St. Petersburg.
For Serbs, it is a national relic and restoring its integrity is of great significance. The Serbian authorities had repeatedly raised the issue in previous years.
The agreement was signed in Belgrade on October 19, 2019, during a visit by then Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.