Deutsch-Russischer Museumsdialog

The Deutsch-Russischer Museumsdialog (German-Russian Museum Dialog) is an alliance of museums in Germany that are affected by the relocation of cultural assets as a result of the war. It unites their interests, reinforces the exchange of expertise between fellow librarians in Germany and Russia, and helps account for cultural assets in both countries lost as a result of the war.

Note: Since the beginning of the Russian war against Ukraine, the cooperations are on hold.

A Platform for Regular Exchange between German and Russian Museums

One goal of the Deutsch-Russischer Museumsdialog is to foster existing contacts between German and Russian institutions. This is achieved through joint research projects and exhibitions. Such projects also improve the state of information about which cultural assets from German museums are still in Russian institutions.

The office of the Deutsch-Russischer Museumsdialog is located at the Kulturstiftung der Länder (Cultural Foundation of the German States). The Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) is one of six permanent members of the steering committee. The Foundation’s president, Hermann Parzinger, is the German  spokesman of the Museumsdialog. On the Russian side, the spokesman is Mikhail Piotrovsky, general director of the State Hermitage museum in Saint Petersburg and president of the Russian museums’ association.

Dialogue on the Relocation of Cultural Assets as a Result of the War

The Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz has long been working on the professional level with the issue of how to approach cultural assets that have been located in Russia since the end of the Second World War. In the context of a general meeting of all the museums in Germany concerned in 2005, it coinitiated with the Kulturstiftung der Länder the Deutsch-Russischer Museumsdialog. This alliance of more than eighty German museums has since been joined by a large number of Russian institutions, which has produced an intensive and open dialog. The Russian museums’ association, chaired by the general director of the State Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, Mikhail Piotrovsky, is also an active member of the Deutsch-Russischer Museumsdialog.

German-Russian Exhibition Projects

One goal is to develop and implement joint exhibitions. Successful examples include the exhibitions “The Age of the Merovingians: Europe without Borders”, which was shown in Moscow and Saint Petersburg in 2007, and the 2013 exhibition “Bronze Age: Europe without Borders” at the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg and the State Historical Museum in Moscow. Both presentations were developed and curated jointly by German and Russian experts. A third exhibition, about the Iron Age, is currently being prepared.

For reasons of international law, both exhibitions were shown only in Russia. They included holdings from the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte (Museum of Prehistory and Early History) of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin) that had been removed as a result of the war and are still in Russia today. Both exhibitions were supplemented by loans from Berlin and objects from the participating Russian museums. These cooperative projects show how the support of the Deutsch-Russischer Museumsdialog can help to create a lasting network that the professional world will be able to rely on successfully in future projects.

Research Project: “Russische Museen im Zweiten Weltkrieg”

The research project “Russische Museen im Zweiten Weltkrieg” (Russian Museums in the Second World War) examined the destruction and losses in various Russian museums during the Second World War and the first attempts to reconstruct the museums and their collections during the postwar period. The project, which began in 2012, was untertaken jointly by German and Russian scholars. The results are due to be published in 2016. The project was largely financed by the Volkswagen Foundation.

Supporting Dialogue on the Political Level

Monika Grütters, Minister of State in the Federal Chancellery and Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media, has welcomed the German museums’ initiative to organize close cooperation with Russian museums on a professional level. Government  policy-makers consider agreements between museums helpful in the task of reconciling the two sides’ different expectations in the matter of “looted art” on a basis of trust.