Rendering unto Caesar

Two recent presidential decrees by Boris Yeltsin would seem to strengthen the position of the Russian Federation's major museum collections against restitution claims. At the same time a workable compromise has been reached with the Orthodox Church in which the monastery at Zagorsk will be almost entirely ceded to the church, with separate facilities provided for the Zagorsk museum.

As the museums of Russia attempt to find a new identity as public rather than state institutions, their position has been a 'particularly exposed one, open to ownership squabbles and impoverishment through the withdrawal of state funding. 'The decrees do something to assuage the sense of uncertainty left by the lapse of the old Soviet laws on. museum holdings,' says Tamara Igoumnova, deputy director of the State Historical Museum on Moscow's Red Square.

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