German National Committee of Museums to boycott Russian colleagues

At its board meeting on February 8, 2023, the new board of ICOM Germany unanimously decided to ban ICOM Russia. The German National Committee is also calling for representatives of the Russian National Committee to be suspended from all international bodies and for Russian delegations or members to be no longer admitted to events, as well as to exclude ICOM Russia from the world association until further notice.

This was reported on ICOM Deutschland’s official website.

ICOM Germany bans ICOM Russia

ICOM Germany has announced an immediate boycott of the Russian National Committee, which is the country’s official national association. The German National Committee will, in general, not collaborate with ICOM Russia or take part in activities when ICOM Russia or Russian museum colleagues are present.

ICOM Germany is also demanding that the Russian National Committee be suspended at the international level. The German Committee emphasizes that to this end, it plans to strengthen communication on this topic with all national museum committees and ICOM International.

“The aim is to completely stop working with ICOM Russia and to exclude the Russian National Committee from the world association until further notice,” ICOM Germany statement reads.

“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine mocks international law, the Hague Convention and every basic social norm. There can be no normal relations with such a state – not even in the museum sector. We cannot be a platform for the Russian flag and neither can we be common guests under one roof. We take a clear position and act in accordance with the overwhelming majority of states, associations, companies and organizations worldwide. Ultimately, museums are also political actors and have to position themselves. It can no longer be accepted that in the museum area it is pretended as if there was no war, as if ICOM Russia could act as if nothing had happened,” said the board of directors of ICOM Germany.

No more time to pretend as if there was no war or nothing had happened.

There is one important detail in this statement. It is a recognition that the silent position of many Russians can no longer be tolerated.

“The board of ICOM Germany shows solidarity with all democratic, progressive and liberal institutions and people in Russia. It is aware that the exclusion will also affect employees in Russian museums who work for peace and justice. However, the cultural sector must not permanently claim a special role or postulate a general impression of innocence. The systematic looting of Ukrainian museums, which according to current knowledge is supported by Russian museum actors and is an example of ethical transgression, should no longer go uncommented. The reports and pictures from Ukrainian museums speak a clear language.”

Such rhetoric is an extremely important indicator of changes in European consciousness, especially among the cultural community. It is important to understand that Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is not only an act of Putin and his inner circle. Years of internal Kremlin propaganda have awakened a conformist attitude to the criminal actions of the authorities among the majority of the Russian population. Even opposition activists are indifferent. They may even criticize the Russian authorities, but on a subconscious level, they share the imperial ambitions and values of the “Russian world.”

That is why the statement of ICOM Germany is so significant. After all, indifference and silence in times of great tragedy are not apolitical, it is condoning crime and complicity.

What is ICOM?

The International Council of Museums is an international organization of museums and museum professionals which is committed to the research, conservation, continuation, and communication to society of the world’s natural and cultural heritage, present and future, tangible and intangible.

ICOM is a membership association and a non-governmental organization that establishes professional and ethical standards for museum activities. As a forum of experts, it makes recommendations on issues related to cultural heritage, promotes capacity building, and advances knowledge. ICOM is the voice of museum professionals on the international stage and raises public cultural awareness through global networks and cooperation programs.

Read about how Russia is stealing Ukraine’s cultural heritage and destroying museums, which is the largest theft of art since World War II by the Nazis, in our article Russia steals the cultural heritage of Ukraine.

Photo: The ruins of Hryhoriy Skovoroda memorial museum (Ukrainian philosopher of the 18th century), destroyed by a Russian missile in Kharkiv region, May 2022, @Serhiy Kozlov

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