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    RUSSIA DOES NOT HAVE TO RETURN ANYTHING TO GERMANY, SAYS HERMITAGE DIRECTOR

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    MOSCOW, March 1 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Culture Minister Alexander Sokolov recently declared that Russia did not intend to return the so-called Baldin art collection to Germany. Instead, it would hand over to it, as a moral compensation, silver items which belonged to the family of the German Prince of Anhalt, repressed by the NKVD, which are being kept in the Hermitage.

    For his part, Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky stated that he had not received any notifications or instructions from the Culture Ministry on this score.

    In his opinion, Russia should preserve normal friendly relations with Germany and for this, it may share what has been left since the post-war times with it. However, Mr. Piotrovsky specifies: "We must not return anything to anyone, we may only hand over."

    Apart from this, he thinks that "the talk about handing displaced valuables over to Germany in the year of the 60th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War is inopportune and provocative" and "is fraught with the aggravation of the situation, rather than stronger friendship" between the two countries.

    As for the collection of the Prince of Anhalt, these objects of art can hardly be referred to displaced valuables. Mr. Piotrovsky believes that before raising the issue of handing these masterpieces of jewelry over to Germany, it is necessary to find out their history. In his opinion, political decisions on the transfer of these valuables may be made only on the basis of law.

    If these things are handed over to Germany relying on "the good will" of the executives guided by populism, rather than law, then, Mr. Piotrovsky believes, a dangerous precedent will be created in the country. The present-day treasures of Russian museums are largely a result of nationalization or confiscation and very many people will have grounds to file similar requests on the return of family relics to them.

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