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“Palmyra destroyed, but 95% of the exhibits of the Museum of Damascus was saved from ISIL”

"Пальмира разрушена, но 95% экспонатов музея Дамаска спасли от ИГИЛ"

Vladimir Tolstikov, head of the Department of art and archaeology of the ancient world, the Pushkin Museum of fine arts — on the restoration of Palmyra

Who will restore to Palmyra that can emerge abducted by militants of the exhibits and how the Syrian Museum workers managed to save 95% of the values from the Museum of Damascus, the observer of “Izvestiya” Elena Loria told the head of the Department of art and archaeology of the ancient world of the State Museum of fine arts named after Pushkin, Vladimir Tolstikov.

— Vladimir Nikolaevich, can we say that it is in Palmyra lost forever and what can still be recovered?

— I cannot say, but since Palmyra is a world cultural heritage and is included in the UNESCO list, all the drawings and photos of objects that are there, there are. Therefore, the fragments of temples that remained after the explosions, you can assemble and glue. There are technologies. But it is very tedious work, designed for many, many years.

Just like in Athens to restore the Parthenon?

— You know, all depends on the condition of these exploded objects. If you can glue the pieces and rebuild a single unit, then this one. If not, will be of the same material to do it again and to show — here is the ancient part, but this new, reproducing the ancient. So typically done. Does the Sandstone, or limestone, or basalt. In General, the stone which the built object.

— What do you think of museums of Palmyra will appear on the black market?

— Of course, terrorists don’t just blow up. And all can be exported, they are exported and sold. Private collectors and dealers. Mostly Americans.

Museums keep track of such things?

— Yes, track. And if some items appear at auction and there is evidence that they’re from Palmyra or some other monument, they are obliged to return. But all very hard — working because a network of black brokers with extensive experience. They bribe customs officials, illegally export. It is a world of bandits that destroy the monuments of art.

— There is no such practice to museums through figureheads participated in the auctions?

— The fact that the auction also ask the provenance — the origin of a particular subject. And if there are documents certifying that a thing is not stolen, that is one thing. But to go on a serious auction with a stolen thing, too risky. So black brokers sell Museum pieces to private collectors who have good advisers. And for good money, they buy it all and hide them in their private collections.

— Mikhail Piotrovsky said that the Hermitage is ready to assist in the restoration of Palmyra. What other museums could participate in the recovery effort?

— The “Hermitage” has experience of cooperation with specialists, who restored the monuments blown up by the Germans. This is Peterhof, Oranienbaum, some Pskov churches. “Hermitage” is the whole state, they have a huge staff, there are restorers. In our Museum there are no experts. We are basically restoring paintings, graphics and applied art. Earlier in the USSR was a Union production research plant, which was engaged in monuments. There are many things they’ve restored, starting from the Kremlin and ending with the colonnade in Panticapaeum, where I’m digging. But don’t forget that there’s the Louvre, there is the British Museum — they too can participate in the restoration of Palmyra. I think UNESCO will call upon relevant experts.

— Judging by photos and video footage from Palmyra, how do you assess the damage?

— Destruction is very strong — the terrorists tried to blow up the most important objects.

— But, apparently, well preserved columns?

— Columns stand along the streets, it’s just framing. But the churches they blew up. And not because these temples were contrary to Islam. These people do not know what Islam is. It’s just a killer and scum. When I was in Syria, told me an interesting thing. With members of ISIS (an organization banned in Russia. — “Izvestia”) met the greatest scholars of the Quran from Syria. Were the talks. Now, none of these members of ISIS could not answer a single question. They do not know the Quran. These are animals, mercenaries and fanatics.

In Syria you have been on the job?

— Yes, in November 2015 we went to the Department of antiquities of the National archaeological Museum of Damascus. Led the preliminary negotiations that they provided us with exhibits for the exhibition.

— Where the exhibits have not suffered?

— The staff of the Department said that managed to hide 95% of Museum treasures in a special vault. All saved. And they want to cooperate with Russia and are ready to provide these survivors the exhibits for the exhibition in the Pushkin Museum named after Pushkin.

— What will happen at this show?

— Now experts of the Museum of Damascus make lists. But the collection of them rich, there is everything — from the Neolithic period and before Islam. And all this will be exhibited at the Pushkin Museum.

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