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Putin approves swapping Miroslav Gospel page for Roerich paintings

Russian President signed a law on ratifying an agreement with Serbia

MOSCOW, July 14. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on ratifying an agreement with Serbia on exchanging page 166 of Miroslav’s Gospel, the oldest Serbian manuscript, for seven paintings of renowned Russian artist Nicholas Roerich.

The law was published on the official legal information portal.

The Miroslav Gospel written around 1180 is Serbia’s oldest Cyrillic manuscript kept at the National Museum in Belgrade. However, one of its pages was brought to Russia in the 19th century by Archimandrite Porphyrius (Uspensky) who found the manuscript in the Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos. It has been kept in Russia’s National Library in St. Petersburg.

Under the agreement, Russia will return to Serbia the page from the manuscript in exchange for seven early paintings by Roerich, which ended up in Serbia during WWII and are part of the collection of the National Museum in Belgrade. The seven paintings on the list are Berendej Village (1921), Holy Guests (1923), Church Bells Tolling (1919), Burgustan on Caucasus, St. Sergius of Radonezh (1922), and two costume sketches for Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Snow Maiden (1921).

The agreement to exchange these treasures was reached by Belgrade and Moscow during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the Serbian capital on January 17. The deal itself to hand a page of the medieval Cyrillic manuscript back to Serbia was inked during Russian then Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s Belgrade visit in October last year. In January 2020, Serbia’s National Assembly passed the law paving way for the exchange.

Before the recent developments, the issue of returning the page from the ancient Cyrillic manuscript to Belgrade had been discussed for decades. As for Roerich’s paintings, they simply vanished between 1941 and March 2017 when a TASS correspondent discovered the masterpieces in Serbia’s National Museum.