War in Ukraine threatens the survival of the Russian Museum in Malaga

by Lorraine Williamson
Russian museum -https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Last_Supper_by_Nikolai_Ge_in_the_State_Russian_Museum_IMG_4816.jpg

MALAGA – Whether or not the Russian museum in Malaga continues to exist is a cause for political controversy. Mayor Francisco De la Torre wants to continue the collaboration with the Russian State Museum, but culture alderman Noelia Losada is strongly against it. 

The municipality pays €400,000 annually to the Russian Museum for the organisation of exhibitions in its annex in Malaga. Therefore, Losada wants to immediately stop this payment to Russia, as this money comes from the Spanish government coffers. Furthermore, this would mean that future exhibitions in the Russian museum would be cancelled. 

Pushkin Medal 

The PSOE also got involved in the matter last Wednesday. Like Losada, the party wants De la Torre to stop payments immediately. It also wants him to return the Pushkin Medal received from President Putin in 2018. Regional president Juan Manuel Moreno of Andalucia has also asked the mayor to reconsider keeping the medal. The Pushkin Medal has been awarded by Russia since 1999 for achievements in the arts, science, and education.  It is named after the Russian writer Alexander Pushkin. 

Distinguishing between culture and political leaders 

Despite the criticism, De la Torre wants to continue the upcoming exhibitions in the Russian Museum, because otherwise his city will suffer great cultural loss and that culture is “the best antidote to all barbarism”. He believes a distinction must be made between the Russian people and art on the one hand and the Russian rulers on the other. According to De la Torre, the continuation of the cooperation can coexist with the current economic sanctions imposed. The collaborations in the cultural sector could even contribute to a speedy restoration of peace. 

Cogesa Expats

The decision whether or not to continue the cooperation will be taken soon. Currently there are 4 exhibitions on the program, including ironically one entitled “War and Peace in Russian Art”. The current exhibitions will run until April 24, for the exhibitions after that, the municipality of Malaga has to transfer another 400 thousand euros to Russia. Mayor De la Torre is confident that the war between Russia and Ukraine will be over at that point. 

Another possibility is that the cooperation with the Russian State Museum will in any case be terminated by the sanctions that European countries have imposed on Russia. Any new payment will be problematic anyway now that Russia is cut off from the international Swift payment system. 

Cultural city of Malaga 

In March 2015, the Municipality of Malaga entered into a partnership with the State Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg. That was almost at the same time as the opening of the annex of the French Center Pompidou. Initially, an agreement was signed for the duration of 10 years, but in 2021 a clause was included for extension until 2035. Before the pandemic started in 2020, the museum had more than 80 thousand visitors annually. A highlight was the year 2016, when no fewer than 116,897 visitors visited the museo Ruso. 

The Hermitage in Amsterdam has since severed ties with the state museum in Saint Petersburg. The museum stated that it had long remained aloof from political developments in Russia, but that the country’s recent attack on Ukraine no longer makes the non-participation tenable. 

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