New Delhi, Azad Bhavan Gallery, May 15, 2015
It is both honour and pleasure for us, representatives of the Russian public organization, ICR, to open this Exhibition today in New Delhi, the capital of friendly India which for many decades was second home for our outstanding compatriots, the unique family of the Roerichs. I would like in the first place to say thanks to those who made this opening possible, to be precise, to the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and personally to the world’s prominent Buddhologist, Dr Lokesh Chandra, the Azad Bhavan staff and, last but not least, to the Russian Embassy and Ambassador Kadakin.
Our exhibition is timed to the jubilees when the world celebrates two important events – the 70th Anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War and the 70th Anniversary of the creation of the United Nations. One can trace an obvious relation between those two events and the theme of our Exhibition. After all the Roerich Pact was in first place aimed at prevention of the threat of war and unification of the world community in the interests of peace and preservation of the world culture.
On April 15, 1935, representatives of 21 countries of the Pan American Union signed in the White House in Washington history’s first treaty creating internationally binding conditions for preservation of humankind’s cultural heritage in the periods of armed conflicts as well as in time of peace. The said Treaty was initiated and promoted by our compatriot, an outstanding scientist and philosopher, artist and public figure – Nikolai Roerich. He was devoted to this idea since before World War I. For thirty years, he performed huge work, mostly alone, mobilizing broad circles of world public in support of this initiative. Nikolai Roerich was not the first in history to understand the necessity of joining efforts of political, public, scientific and other strata of the world community for the cause of defending cultural monuments. However, he brought this idea to practical implementation. Due to his high authority in the world earned by hard labour, persistence in reaching a goal, his spiritual power and ability to foresee the future, the international community made its first, though small, but so important step towards creating a system of saving rich spiritual and material heritage endowed to us by previous generations. Nikolai Roerich was convinced that without respect for and preservation of its history at present, the human race could not hope for a decent life in the future.
The efforts of the great man and his coworkers were crowned with success. The feat of this man was not a single surge of heroism. It was a cause to pursue and the result of his entire life. His decisiveness and persistence in pursuing the goal correlated with his philosophical comprehension of processes unfolding in the universe and their projection of the Earth’s realities.
He was one of the breed of very known and, at times, regretfully, less known human beings whom we call the Teachers, guides of humankind. The task of preserving its heritage he was solving within the context of even broader and more complicated problem that he had before him for the duration of whole his life – promotion of peace on earth through support and every possible elevation of the cultural level of people. Exactly along these lines, he saw the road towards cessation of hostilities and wars and prosperity for the human race. “Peace through Culture”, this motto of the outstanding Russian figure, remains absolutely up to date and is equally acclaimed today, 80 years later. I regret to say that almost a century since those days we are again searching for effective ways and means to combat the threat of war and for methods to settle international and interstate problems and discords. So much to say about the progress of human civilization.
Nikolai Roerich’s major efforts aimed at elaborating and signing of the Pact fell mainly on the post-World War I period. They were enthusiastically acclaimed by many outstanding figures of the world’s political scene and the public. However, it was only in 1935 that it became possible to sign it. The clouds of a next world conflict were already rapidly gathering over Europe and the world. Guided by a premonition of a looming catastrophe, Roerich, as he did it before World War I, created a series of paintings-warnings. Moreover, like in the first world tragedy – even on a much broader scale – treasures of world culture perished in large quantities. To our horror, it happens today, too, right before our eyes.
This is why exactly today it is so important to remember and learn the lessons of history and once again to pay tribute to the selfless mission of our great compatriot. We should pay tribute also to the wisdom of those prominent figures of culture and science and leaders of states who supported Roerich’s appeal in that complicated prewar environment and signed the Pact or joined it later. Now, as never before it should not be forgotten that a mechanistic civilization alone, whatever heights it may reach, cannot provide a decent future for humanity. The real road to it lies through Love, Spirituality and Beauty united by the all-embracing concept of Culture. One cannot attain genuine Culture by destroying and thinning the fragile spiritual cocoon of our life, which a cultural heritage in real terms presents. Fight for Culture not as an entertainment but as a basic component of human existence is of no less importance today than fight for peace and disarmament. We have to comprehend clearly that through enlarging the space for Culture we are reducing the space of war, and vice versa. This is exactly what the Roerich Pact story is about.
This Exhibition project was started by Moscow’s International Centre of the Roerichs two years ago with a similar exhibition presented at the Headquarters of UNESCO. A month ago, the same Exhibit was opened at the UN Building in New York. Just a few days ago, UNESCO Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova, visited our Centre and Museum in Moscow. We agreed to wind up the project at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris in April next year. We want to report to UNESCO on the show of this Exhibition in many countries of Europe, Asia and America as well as in dozens of Russian cities, too. Today in New Delhi, we open the Exhibition specially prepared for India.
By this project, we hope to contribute to the efforts of world public and international organizations aimed at strengthening peace and security. It is only in conditions of peace that we can preserve the world’s cultural heritage. Only by really preserving it, can humankind guarantee its own survival.
Let us bow again today to Nikolai Roerich and those wise people, the Teachers, who not once in human history taught us useful lessons and showed us the right direction.