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    THE HERMITAGE MUSEUM BRANCH OPENS IN AMSTERDAM

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    AMSTERDAM, February 24, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent Aleksander Dobrovoltski) -- The Dutch branch of The Hermitage Museum has opened in Amsterdam on Tuesday.

    "Today we have not just opened another museum abroad but a truly Russian cultural centre," Russian acting Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi, attending the opening ceremony, told reporters.

    The Hermitage branch has opened in six halls of an ancient mansion in the centre of the Dutch capital. The first exhibition is The Greek Gold, a collection of over 100 gold articles created by old Greek jewellers in the 6th-2nd centuries B.C. and unearthed in the old Greek cities on the Black Sea shores.

    The Hermitage is "the Russian main art museum, popularising Russian art abroad", Shvydkoi said.

    "We are interested in as many people as possible to be interested in the great Russian culture," he stressed. "We want the world to know the best things made and existing in Russia, which has for 13 years been following the new road of democratic development. The Hermitage together with the Russian Museum constitute the most contemporary Russian museum centre, which has fit in the world processes going on in the modern museum business." The old Greek gold exhibition will open for visitors on February 28th and last until the end of August. It will be replaced by the Nicholas and Alexandra exhibition on the last Russian tsar and his family. In February 2005 an exhibition of Venetian painting from The Hermitage museum stock is planned to be held.

    Talking to reporters in Amsterdam, Shvydkoi said he had learnt about the Kasyanov cabinet dismissal, when opening the museum. The presidential administration notified him by telephone that he is now the acting minister of culture.

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