11 march 2012

Vladimir Putin meets with Minister of Culture Alexander Avdeyev

They focused on Russian museums. The prime minister instructed the culture minister to prepare a meeting on the issue within 10-14 days, acting in compliance with the requests from museum employees made during his numerous meetings with culture professionals. They also considered the renovation of the Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theatre and the construction of the Mariinsky Theatre Second Stage.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Mr Avdeyev, I have held many meetings during my presidential campaign, including with people who work in the field of culture. Some museum employees have asked me to meet with them separately and to convene a government meeting on museums. You and I have discussed this issue several times. I have asked you to prepare this meeting, which I will attend, within 10 to 14 days.

Alexander Avdeyev: Yes, thank you for asking, because we need such a meeting and have a rich agenda to be discussed. Honestly, many museum directors have asked me to organise such a meeting too, where we would not only discuss issues but also speak about our achievements. There have been many examples of positive progress, especially in the past three years. Despite the economic downturn, we continued to reconstruct and renovate museums.

I was in Tula recently, where they have a wonderful weapons museum. It is also an interesting building architecturally, in the form of a traditional Russian spiked helmet. Furthermore, the museum’s concept makes it unique worldwide.

We are working consistently to renovate and expand the Hermitage museums. Now that we have completed the architectural concept for the Pushkin Museum, we will start the reconstruction and renovation.

Several provincial museums have been renovated as well. Many governors now understand that the quality of life in their regions can improve with the development of museums. Judging by my visits there, most governors not only help local museums but are also their active visitors. However, there are some exceptions.

There is a very good museum of military history, Prokhorovskoye Polye, opened at the initiative of Nikolai Ryzhkov. It will be one of the best museums in Russia.

We are grateful to you for approving the opening of a national museum of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It’s now open and is successfully operating. We had problems with funding, but its status as a federal museum will resolve these problems.

Vladimir Putin: A museum in Peredelkino has become federal property.

Alexander Avdeyev: It would be wonderful if the decision also applied to other Peredelkino museums. All of them have problems that go back to the Soviet period, the Literary Fund (Litfond), which have not been solved to this day. 

Vladimir Putin: I am pleased with the decision regarding the museum of Bulat Okudzhava. Our colleagues have been asking about this for a long time.

Alexander Avdeyev: Yes, his widow, Olga Okudzhava, asked for this, and so the decision has made them happy.

We are now renovating a museum in Vladikavkaz. The reconstruction is also underway in Tsarskoye Selo and in Saransk, where the project should be completed in time for the celebrations of the 1000th anniversary of the unification of the people of Mordovia and Russia.

The footprint area of our museums has increased by 43,000 square metres in the past three years, despite the crisis. More people now go to museums; the number of visitors has increased by 2.5 million people, including young people.

We are preparing a great gift for people, a museum of contemporary art, because a great country must have a big museum of contemporary art. We don’t have such a museum in Moscow. We have improved a project, a large, wonderfully designed building. You signed the government resolution, and Sergei Sobyanin is searching for a good site for the museum. The necessary funds have been allocated.

Vladimir Putin: We should stop the debate concerning the renovation of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.

Alexander Avdeyev: Yes, we should.

Vladimir Putin: We must launch the project and ultimately complete it.

Alexander Avdeyev: Acting in compliance with your instructions, we are holding public hearings and have published the project on the net. Opinions vary, but it is a fact that just like many other museums, the Pushkin Museum has an insufficient storage area.

Vladimir Putin: Yet I suggest that you listen to the opinion of the museum’s employees and director. Don’t tighten the funding on this project. We must improve the working conditions in the museum.

Alexander Avdeyev: We will, Mr Putin.

Vladimir Putin: I also have a question that is not related to museums. We have launched the reconstruction of the Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theatre. How is it proceeding?

Alexander Avdeyev: The project is in full swing. The work to prevent emergencies there has been completed. The reconstruction decision was not only correct, but also taken at the right time. The project involves much more work than we initially believed, because everything, from the foundation to the walls, has been infected with rot and there are huge cracks. According to an inspection held late last year, the project will require additional 3 billion roubles. I have written to you that if we are issued the money, we will complete the theatre’s renovation in December this year.

Vladimir Putin: Of course, we will certainly find the funds for such a renowned theatre.

Alexander Avdeyev: We will also complete the construction of the Mariinsky Theater Second Stage, Mariinsky II. Valery Gergiyev (Artistic & General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre) has asked me to tell you that the project is proceeding as planned, and that he is satisfied. I have visited the site several times. We sent back to the Finance Ministry the 2 billion roubles we did not spend last year, so if we get that back this year we will complete the project in 2012.  

I have recently visited the Ipatiev (Hypatian) Monastery in Kostroma. The reconstruction has been completed. The money was allocated as you promised. It is a wonderful monastery. All the museum quality pieces have been removed from it, excluding those which the monastery authorities have asked for. The museum is very good, possibly as good as and maybe even better than some of our traditional museums. The storage facility is 90% completed, we need to finish the construction of that and install modern equipment. I have a letter from me and the Kostroma governor on this issue.

Vladimir Putin: It is good that you buy modern equipment. In general, we should help all museums to complete such projects like the one designed for the Russian Museum. Vladimir Gusev (director of the Russian Museum) has done a lot of work, for which we should thank him.

Alexander Avdeyev: We are extremely grateful to him for creating a system of virtual museums.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is what I was referring to.