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St PETERBURG, December 2. /TASS/. Vladimir Putin has thanked Mikhail Piotrovsky, the Director-General of the State Hermitage Museum, who is a notable expert on oriental history, for the efforts to restore historic and cultural monuments in the city of Palmyra. The ancient Syrian complex survived the ordeal of a ten-months-long occupation by the Islamic State.
As Putin addressed a joint session of the Council for Culture and the Arts and the Council for the Russian Language, he promised to continue rendering assistance in the Palmyra restoration project.
"To a big degree, this is your profession and one might think there was nothing unusual in the fact you went there [to Palmyra] but still I’d like to thank you for this," Putin said. "The air as hot as 50 C, the artillery guns still firing… That was a special mission, of course, together with conductor Valery Gergiyev and his marvelous orchestra."
"We’ll certainly do everything in our power to help you and will take the necessary steps for the upkeep of the monuments of world culture," he said.
In July, Putin issued a decree on decorating maestro Gergiyev with the Order of Prince Alexander of the Neva, who organized a concert of the Mariinsky Theater symphony orchestra in Palmyra shortly after the Islamic State units had been driven out of the city.
By the same decree, Putin decorated Dr. Piotrovsky with the Order of Friendship for "particular achievements in preparing and conducting international humanitarian actions that facilitate the strengthening of peace and friendship between peoples.
Dr. Piotrovsky steered the restoration of Palmyra’s cultural heritage after the Islamic state forces had been squeezed out of there.
Palmyra, known in Arabic as Tadmur, was a blossoming oasis city at the crossroads of trading routes in the Syrian Desert. The peak of its flourishing fell on the 1st century BC and the first three centuries AD. Location between Damascus and the Euphrates assured its importance in terms of commercial, military and religious influence.
Like many historic sites of early antiquity, Palmyra sprang to fame in the 18th century. Regular excavations there began in the 1920’s.
The artefacts founds on the territory of the city and in its necropolis are on display in the Palmyra Museum, as well as in many museum collections of worldwide significance. UNESCO placed the Palmyra architectural compound on its official World Heritage List.
Islamic State militants have destroyed or severely damaged many sites in historic Palmyra.