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Stanowisko ICOM POLSKA wobec rosyjskich kandydatur do zarządu DEMHIST

Polski Komitet Narodowy Międzynarodowej Rady Muzeów ICOM wyraża głębokie ubolewanie i stanowczy sprzeciw wobec kandydatur Alexandra Belousova oraz Nadii Kulakovej, obywateli Federacji Rosyjskiej na członków zarządu DEMHIST. 

Komitet Narodowy ICOM Rosja reprezentuje Federację Rosyjską. Nie odciął się w sposób jednoznaczny od zbrodniczych działań rządu tego państwa związanych z napaścią i prowadzona wojną w Ukrainie, w tym przestępstw przeciwko dobrom kultury. Z informacji uzyskiwanych od naszych ukraińskich kolegów wiemy, że rosyjscy muzealnicy biorą czynny udział w grabieży i niszczeniu ukraińskich muzeów i dziedzictwa kulturowego tego kraju. Działania te stanowią jednoznaczne zbrodnie wojenne oraz zbrodnie przeciwko ludzkości. W naszej ocenie odpowiedzialność za te działania spoczywa na całym Rosyjskim środowisku muzealnym. Jego członkowie w związku z tym powinni być co do zasady wykluczeni z funkcjonowania międzynarodowego środowiska muzealnego. Tym bardziej karygodne jest dopuszczenie kandydowania przez nich do władz organizacji muzealnej, jaką jest DEMHIST. 

Domagamy się niezwłocznego wycofania wyżej wymienionych kandydatur do władz DEMHIST. Zdajemy sobie sprawę, że wielu muzealników rosyjskich w istocie nie popiera prowadzonej wojny, a nie wyraża swoich przekonań z obawy przed represjami. Jednak ICOM Rosja, nie potępiając przestępstw przeciwko dziedzictwu kulturowego, w tym muzeom, łamie podstawowe zasady etyczne przyświecające naszej organizacji. Ponadto w jego zarządzie zasiadają osoby powiązane z władzami Federacji. Niestety, po ponad roku wojny ICOM nie wyciągnął wobec komitetu rosyjskiego konsekwencji polegających choćby na zawieszeniu w prawach, co postulowały liczne komitety europejskie. Ubolewamy nad tą inercją, tym bardziej uważamy, że należy przynajmniej uniemożliwić członkom ICOM Rosja zasiadanie we władzach komitetów międzynarodowych. 


The Polish National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) deeply regrets and strongly opposes the candidacies of Alexander Belousov and Nadia Kulakova, citizens of the Russian Federation, as members of the Board of Directors of DEMHIST.

The ICOM Russia National Committee represents the Russian Federation. It has not unequivocally disassociated itself from the criminal actions of its government related to the aggression and ongoing war in Ukraine, including crimes against cultural heritage. We know from information obtained from our Ukrainian colleagues that Russian museum professionals are actively involved in looting and destroying Ukrainian museums and the country’s cultural heritage. These actions constitute unequivocal war crimes and crimes against humanity. In our view, the responsibility for these actions lies with the entire Russian museum community. Its members in this regard should be excluded at present from the functioning of the international museum community as a matter of principle. It is all the more reprehensible to allow them to run for the authorities of a museum organization such as DEMHIST.

We demand the immediate withdrawal of the above-mentioned candidacies to the DEMHIST board. We realize that many Russian museum professionals do not actually support the ongoing war, and do not express their beliefs for fear of reprisals. However, ICOM Russia, by failing to condemn crimes against cultural heritage, including museums, violates the basic ethical principles guiding our organization. Moreover, its board of directors includes people with ties to the Federation authorities. Unfortunately, after more than a year of war, ICOM has not drawn consequences against the Russian committee involving even suspension, as many European committees have called for. We regret this inertia, all the more reason to believe that ICOM Russia members should at least be prevented from sitting on the authorities of international committees.


Odpowiedź DEMHIST:

ICOM Poland October 7 2023


Odpowiedź na odpowiedź DEMHIST:

Warsaw, October 13, 2023

Dear Yvonne Plum,

Dear Muthoni Thangwa,

We address the both of you with this letter, since you both expressed your opinion on the statement on the participation of our Russian colleagues in the DEMHIST board elections, that was issued by the Polish national committee.

Continuing this discussion, we would like to stress again our concerns and explain some points which could not be clear for colleagues from other regions. We will refer to quotes from your mails sent to us, to clarify to which issues we refer to.

Muthoni Twanga wrote as Spokesperson for National Committees: The statement from ICOM-Poland is shocking to me as a person who lives and works in Africa – where heritage and the lives of women and children are destroyed indiscriminately, in politically instigated conflicts. I do not understand why European countries cannot ask NATO whom they are members to intervene in ONE conflict – while they sit mum and watch as the same NATO is regularly involved in military action in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where heritage and human life is extensively destroyed and looted. Many people in the world accept words such as ‘collateral damage’ – when women and children are killed in these regions. NATO is 29 European countries and two North American countries. They have failed/refused/ or been unable to stop this conflict, (I have no idea which is which).

Please understand that by no means would ICOM Poland present the case of Russian participation in ICOM bodies and ICOM Russia responsibility as unique or exceptional. Quite contrary, we strongly hold the position that all important allegations and doubts should be discussed openly in our organization, whatever country or region concerned. We are perfectly aware that there are different points of view, depending on local experience and knowledge. Our direct experience, as Central Eastern Europe, is that of Russian colonialism, still alive, of which the war in Ukraine is a sheer proof. We all know that ICOM Russia does not react to illegal and unethical actions of many museum professionals in the country – and probably to the actions and statements of members of their national committee in this very extreme situation of war and occupation. Furthermore, we did not raise the tragedies of women and children or indeed whoever that suffers from wars worldwide, but to the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage, i.e. world cultural heritage, and the institutional and individual practices and behavior within the Russian museum community. This is strictly the ICOM business, and not NATO or any other military alliance.

We would rather encourage colleagues all around the world to raise similarly difficult matters and serious irregularities, to say nothing about the crimes again cultural heritage which can happen everywhere. ICOM ethical values, if we want to treat them seriously, oblige us to protest again their breaking. Expressing concerns is obvious but also basic step; avoiding responsibilities and taking no real actions we risk falling into hypocrisy. We are now facing new and extremely brutal war in Middle East where not only human lives but also heritage and – probably – museums are in danger; we have troublesome news from Chinese Xinjiang. We should address many difficult issues from the point of view of museum community ethical values, clearly expressed in ICOM documents, not from the position of superficial neutrality.

Last but not least, we would like to ask everybody involved to consider the language used in our communication. You wrote Yvonne “all members in good standing have the same rights, I think it is on the members of Demhist to vote on them or not, what the hell is wrong with our colleagues in Europe?”  Thus we would add at the end of this letter, that if a representative of our committee would use in public correspondence expression like “what is wrong with our African colleagues” it could be – and quite rightly should be – received as offensive. We hope we can expect non-confrontational language too.

Since this matter is of concern for a wider part of the ICOM community, we feel it is appropriate to share this discussion with those to whom the destruction and robbery of cultural heritage in Ukraine was of importance. A serious discussion on museum ethics is indispensable and we truly hope our voice will rejuvenate it.

Kind regards,


For the Polish ICOM National Committee

Piotr Górajec, Jolanta Gumula, Robert Kotowski, Piotr Rypson, Jarosław Suchan, Joanna Wasilewska Hanna Wróblewska,