“We are trying so hard” — Kazan to assemble UNESCO World Heritage Committee

How to save neglected monuments of Russia and whether there is a place for the Russian Society for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments (VOOPIK) under the wing of the ministry of construction were discussed in the capital of Tatarstan

“We are trying so hard” — Kazan to assemble UNESCO World Heritage Committee
Photo: Maksim Platonov

In 2022, Kazan may host the 46th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The application has been submitted, now we just have to wait for the decision of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The capital of Tatarstan became a federal platform for experts on monument protection, having hosted the industry congress dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Tatarstan. How experts decided the future of Russian cultural heritage sites, argued about the transfer of powers for their protection and restoration to the ministry of construction, and evaluated the contribution of Vozrozhdenie Foundation and personally the first president and state councelor of Tatarstan, Mintimer Shaimiev, to the preservation of antiquity — read more in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

Factor of sustainable development

This year, the 19th annual Russian Congress of the Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments bodies was held in Kazan to mark the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Tatarstan. It was attended by 372 delegates from different parts of the country.

As Mintimer Shaimiev, the Tatarstan state counselor, chairman of the Board of Trustees of Vozrozhdenie Foundation noted, the greeting of whom was read by Deputy Speaker of the State Council of Tatarstan Tatyiana Larionova, respect for spiritual values of the peoples of the region is a priority and the basis of the state national policy of the republic.

The first president of Tatarstan reminded that the first state act in Russia aimed at preserving and restoring ancient buildings and monuments was the decree of Peter I of 1722 “On saving the ruins of ancient Bolghar”.

Deputy Speaker of the State Council of the Republic of Tatarstan Tatyana Larionova read Shaimiev's greeting to the guests

“Today, the republic's leadership and its multi-ethnic people consider the revival of cultural heritage as one of the most important factors of sustainable development," Mintimer Shaimiev said in his address.

Roman Rybalo, the director of the department of state protection of cultural heritage under the ministry of culture of the Russian Federation, outlined the range of tasks for representatives of the industry. The speaker said that there are a lot of objects of identified cultural heritage in the country (more than 140,000) and asked the regions to speed up the work on entering other monuments in the register.

“I would also like to draw your attention to the work of experts. A historical and cultural expertise come to you, but you refuse on legal grounds, of course. Please send us information about the reasons for your refusal. Our work with experts and specialists is at a very high level. We started working on bringing to administrative responsibility for the poor quality of historical and cultural expertise," said the official of the ministry of culture.

Roman Rybalo outlined a range of challenges for the industry

Restoration and the state protection of monuments will be transferred from the ministry of culture to the ministry of construction

Rybalo also recalled the draft bill on transferring the powers of state protection of monuments and restoration from the ministry of culture to the ministry of construction and housing.

“I don't know the purpose [of transferring this sphere to the ministry of construction] yet," he commented. “There is the draft bill 'On improving efficiency...'. It states that the restoration industry is transferred to the ministry of construction. But behind the brackets, there is also state protection. And it may happen that the next time you come to another congress of another organisation.

At the end of August, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed an order to transfer six federal state institutions that previously belonged to other departments to the ministry of construction of the Russian Federation. For example, the ministry of culture passes the directorate for construction, reconstruction and restoration and the North-western directorate for construction, reconstruction and restoration (Saint Petersburg). In this regard, the restorers sounded the alarm and sent an open letter to the Councilor to the President of the Russian Federation on Culture Vladimir Tolstoy and Minister of Culture Olga Lyubimova. Due to the transfer of functions for the restoration of cultural heritage objects to the ministry of construction, the representatives of the professional workshop stated about a crisis in the industry.

Grigory Ordzhonikidze said that there is an intention to hold the main session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 2022 in Kazan

Kazan — a platform for the world forum

Grigory Ordzhonikidze, the Executive Secretary of the Russian Federation Commission for UNESCO, Ambassador at Large of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, made an unexpected statement. Addressing the forum participants via video link, he said that there is an intention to hold the main session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 2022 in Kazan:

“The meeting will be held to discuss the place and time of the regular sessions — the 44th and 45th. This year, this nasty thing, the coronavirus pandemic, did not allow this summer to hold a session in China (it was supposed to be held in Fuzhou — editor's note). The 45th session is likely to be held in France under the chairmanship of Uganda. As for the year 2022, we are fighting hard to be the host, in the city of Kazan," the diplomat said.

At the same time, it is planned to hold a “youth model” session in St. Petersburg.

Ordzhonikidze reminded that in 2012, the 36th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee was held in Russia — in the Northern capital, and its youth version — in Kazan.

He also thanked the leadership of Tatarstan for their contribution to the comprehensive study of the unique historical, cultural and spiritual heritage. He particularly noted the role of Mintimer Shaimiev in this case.

He came to the rostrum, greeted the presidium of the congress and paid special attention to Deputy Prime Minister of Tatarstan Leyla Fazleeva

“Love for monument protection”

Chairman of the Tatarstan Committee for the Protection of Cultural Heritage Ivan Gushchin, who moderated the plenary session, asked Metropolitan Feofan (Ashurkov) of Kazan and Tatarstan to speak from the seat. However, the bishop went up to the podium, greeted the presidium of the congress and paid special attention to Deputy Prime Minister of Tatarstan Leyla Fazleeva, calling her “the most beautiful of the entire government”. Such a compliment caused a smile on Leyla Rinatovna's face and approving laughter in the audience. He also mentioned the Vozrozhdenie Foundation and its leader, once again using the favourite word “co-operation”.

“I always wonder why Mintimer Sharipovich has such an awakened love for the preservation of monuments. We often communicate with him and he responds to me: “What will we leave behind? If we don't leave it, where is our future?" It is important to develop collaboration in all areas — culture, security committees, various institutions and civil society. Our task is to preserve what we inherited from our ancestors," said the head of the Tatarstan metropolis.

According to Fazleeva, the preservation of historical and cultural heritage “can be implemented from zero to one hundred”.

“The joint process of work includes educational institutions, class teachers and cultural institutions of Tatarstan, which in joint plans build ways to preserve the heritage in the heart of every child of the republic. It is very difficult to do this, but this work is one of the most important. There is also a massive history of heritage preservation — this is the prospect of development of Russia and Tatarstan," said the deputy prime minister of the Republic of Tatarstan.

According to Fazleeva, the preservation of historical and cultural heritage “can be implemented from zero to one hundred”

The deputy prime minister added that the regional management structures (the office of the President of Tatarstan, Cabinet of Ministers) employ specialists who are “the link between the highest achievement in conservation and mass achievement”. One of these “connecting links” Fazleeva called Assistant to the President of the Republic of Tatarstan Olesya Baltusova.

“We learn a lot from each other, we criticise each other a lot. We can't do everything because of the budgets that each region has. Certainly, there should be interagency cooperation. Today, a separate region, while preserving its heritage, cannot be closed. We have something to share with you," Fazleeva stressed.

As part of the congress, Korston hotel complex had an exhibition with photos and copies of documents on the protection of cultural monuments of the Republic of Tatarstan. There were also exhibits from the funds of the Institute of Archeology of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tatarstan.

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By Timur Rakhmatullin. Photo: Maksim Platonov
Tatarstan