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Russia, Serbia sign deal on exchange in culture heritage objects

BELGRADE, October 20. /TASS/. Moscow and Belgrade signed an agreement to hand over to Moscow seven masterpieces by famous Russian painter Nicholas Roerich in exchange for Page 166 of the Miroslav Gospel, the oldest preserved Serbian illustrated Cyrillic manuscript.

The document was signed by the two countries’ culture ministers during Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Serbia on Saturday.

According to earlier reports, the exchange is expected to take place by the end of the year.

Old Serbian manuscript

The Miroslav Gospel was written in around 1180. It is Serbia’s oldest Cyrillic manuscript, kept at the National Museum of Serbia in Belgrade. Since recently Serbia’s presidents have been sworn into office on a copy of the Miroslav Gospel.

Around 1845 Archimandrite Porphyrius (Uspensky) discovered the manuscript at the Halandar monastery on Mont Athos. He extracted one sheet from it and brought it to Russia. The Gospel was returned to Serbia in 1896, when King Aleksandar Obrenovic, of Serbia, visited the monastery. In a gesture of gratitude for paying the monastery’s debts King Aleksandar presented him with the oldest Serbian book.

Roerich’s paintings

The fate of the paintings by Nicholas Roerich in question, discovered in the collection of the National Museum of Serbia, remained unknown since the moment Nazi Germany attacked Yugoslavia in April 1941. 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 the Snow Maiden (1921). One of the paintings on the list was reportedly Roerich’s gift to the Belgrade Museum. The others had been brought there for a personal exhibition. World War II prevented the exhibits’ return to Russia.