Russian museums lose guards to budget cuts

Russian museums lose guards to budget cuts
The Winter Palace at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Image: A.Savin under a CC licence)

19 August 2015

The Russian Interior Ministry plans to cut funding for police guards at Russian museums from November, putting art at risk.

The Interior Ministry’s payroll will be cut by around 10%, or approximately 110,000 jobs, under an order signed last week by President Vladimir Putin, with police guards among those to lose their positions.

The Hermitage in St Petersburg is one of the museums that may be left without police protection from November. The museum’s director, Mikhail Piotrovsky, has appealed to the authorities to reverse their decision, citing the insufficiency of museum security systems as a deterrent to thieves.

“The police is the only organisation that can take a hooligan by the scruff of the neck and throw him out in the street, as well as bear arms,” the museum director said, “Other security organisations have far fewer rights.”

It is unclear, however, how many museums will be impacted by the cuts, as the authorities have compiled only a “very short list of cultural institutions” that will still benefit from police protection.

“We have received a letter informing us that starting on 1 November, all the police guards we have will be leaving the Hermitage,” stated Mr Piotrovsky, “I have written several letters to all the ministers, asking them to tell me for certain if this means that the Hermitage will be left entirely without police guards.”

In response to the cuts, and the vandalism of sculptures at the Moscow Manege by Orthodox activists last Friday, the Union of Russian Museums, of which Mr Piotrovsky is president, appealed to member organisations earlier this week to “urgently conduct exercises on protecting exhibitions”.