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    HERMITAGE MUSEUM STARTS DUTCH BRANCH

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    THE HAGUE, FEBRUARY 24 (RIA Novosti correspondent Andrei Poskakukhin) - The St. Petersburg-based Hermitage Museum is starting an Amsterdam branch with today's gala.

    Russia's largest and richest art museum, the Hermitage has close contacts with many countries, of which the Netherlands have top priority. Heartfelt mutual sympathy marks these ties, Mikhail Piotrovsky, Hermitage Museum Director, said to Novosti.

    The links date back to Tsar Peter the Great's visit to Holland three hundred years ago. "We have always been aware of special warmth toward Russia, and particularly St. Petersburg, in the Dutch hearts. It adds an unique emotional colouring to all aspects of our partnership," remarked Mr. Piotrovsky.

    The Amsterdam branch is opening with an exposition, Greek Gold. Priceless exhibits have been brought from St. Petersburg for the purpose. The oldest of them, made 2,500 years ago, were unearthed by Russian archaeologists in Hellenic colonies on the Black Sea coast.

    The exposition will be opened to the public, Saturday next, to last into August 29, when it gives room to treasures from the art collection of Nicholas II, Russia's last monarch.

    Amsterdam Hermitage Museum shows will take half a year each.

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