Sergey Rybakov, General Director of the Vladimir-Suzdal Museum, Responded to the Diocese’s Plans for the Assumption Cathedral

The head of the museum has made it clear that he is not considering transferring the UNESCO site to the church

General Director of the Vladimir-Suzdal Museum-Reserve Sergey Rybakov said that the submission of documents to the Federal Property Management Agency by the Vladimir diocese to transfer the Assumption Cathedral to the church contradicts the protocol of the conciliation commission signed in 2019 by Metropolitan Tikhon and former director of the VSMZ Svetlana Melnikova. According to the document, the head of the metropolis promised that he would not claim the facility.

At a press conference on April 11, Sergey Rybakov said that he did not know the motives for the church to disavow its own words. At the same time, he did not deny that the document is not very enforceable and that the diocese exercised its legal right to initiate restitution.

Sergey Rybakov reminded that now the Assumption cathedral is under the management of the All-Union Ministries Museum by the decree of the Council of Ministers of USSR of September 11, 1958. Services in the temple are held under the agreement of 1996 and renegotiated in early 2022. According to the director general of the museum, services in the cathedral are “numerous” and the presence of people in the temple and the use of candles is a serious anthropogenic factor that impairs the safety of the frescoes.

According to the head of VSMZ (Vladimir Museum), the Assumption Cathedral is now in a satisfactory condition, but needs restoration. Not so long ago the Ministry of culture has allocated to the museum a subsidy of about 30 million rubles for the restoration project. In the near future VSMZ will hold an electronic auction. It is expected that by the end of the year the contractor will begin execution of the contract, and in two years the project will be ready. Another year and a half will take on the restoration work.

Sergey Rybakov has specified that the main role of the museum is not in expositions and earning money, but in the preservation of heritage. This is what the museum was created for. The organization conducts serious research with serious funding. The general director of VSMZ did not discuss whether the church will be able to monitor the site and whether restoration will take place if the Uspenskii cathedral is transferred to the church, saying that he does not comment on hypothetical situations.

The museum admits quite obvious shortcomings in the appearance of the Assumption Cathedral – blackened gilding on the domes, the unsatisfactory condition of the white stone in some places, but specifies that it does not threaten the object of cultural heritage itself. Russian legislation greatly complicates the local restoration work without a general passport object and a road map of the complex restoration. Therefore, in all appearances, the preservation of the exterior will have to wait until the full restoration of the monument.

The Russian Federation is the owner of the Dormition Cathedral. After the diocese has submitted an application for restitution, it will be considered by the Federal Property Management Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Legislatively, in favor of leaving the facility in the possession of the museum are two presidential decrees of 1992 and 1998, making it difficult to transfer any property to the Church of the Assumption as well as the special status of the cathedral as an object of world cultural heritage. 

Sergei Rybakov also refused to comment on the possible political background to the church’s request for the cathedral before the meeting between Sergei Rybakov and Russian Minister of Culture Olga Lyubimova. Director General of the Vladimir Museum said that the question of the transfer of the Assumption Cathedral was not discussed at that meeting, but correspondence with the department on this topic is in progress.

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