The Roerich Pact / Relevance

Relevance of the Roerich Pact

The Roerich Pact was presented to the international community on the eve of World War II. The world was going through hard times, with local conflicts bursting out in Spain and Abyssinia, and fascism rising in Germany and Italy. The Pact and the Banner of Peace would have helped preserve not only the irretrievably lost cultural heritage, but also human lives. But in those tragic times, not everyone on the planet heard Roerich's call for peace and protection of Culture.

The terrible tragedy of World War II that killed millions of people and destroyed cultural monuments in Russia, Germany, France, Poland, Romania, Hungary and other European countries confirmed the importance of the Roerich Pact. In 1950, the New York Committee of the Roerich Pact sent all the documents pertaining to the Pact to the UNESCO Director General, Dr. Torres Bode. On May 14, 1954, the United Nations and UNESCO conference in Hague adopted the international Convention for the Protection of Cultural Properties in the Event of Armed Conflict. The Final Act of the Convention is based on the Roerich Pact signed in Washington in 1935.

Today, in the 21st century, the issue of irretrievable loss of cultural heritage is still just as relevant. Large-scale and local armed conflicts, as well as the destruction of invaluable pieces of art and the death of their creators, have made it painfully clear how necessary it is to prevent new tragedies and learn to resolve interracial, class, and religious conflicts in a peaceful way. The ideas of the Roerich Pact, stating as they do the unconditional protection of the historical monuments and museums, as well as scientific, educational and cultural institutions, acquire special relevance in our time. “We consistently stress the necessity of active public involvement in addition to state recognition,” wrote Nicholas Roerich. “Cultural values beautify and elevate life of people in all ages. That is why everyone has to take care of them in the most active way.” 


Dresden Art Gallery building destroyed during World War II. Dresden, Germany. Photo by E. Mikulina

View of the blasted St. Florian Cathedral in Praga (Suburb of Warsaw). 1944

The Leo Tolstoy School burned down by the Nazis. Yasnaya Polyana, Tula Region, Russia. 1946

Royal Castle in Budapest after street fighting. Hungary. 1945

View of the ransacked and burned palace in the town of Gatchina in the outskirts of Leningrad (after 1991 St. Petersburg). Russia. 1944. 

Photo by R. Mazelev

Façade of the Grand Peterhof Palace destroyed during World War II. 1944

Destroyed mosque. Village Velikaya Krucha, Kosovo. 1999. Photo courtesy of Corbis Agency

Ruins of the Buddha statue in Bamiyan after its barbaric destruction by the Talibs. Afghanistan. 2001. Photo courtesy of Corbis Agency

Soldier praying in the church looted during the civil war. Knin, Croatia. 1995. 
Photo courtesy of Corbis Agency