Irina Korobina, chairwoman of the Russian Commission for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, likened the reports in favour of the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles to a “sign of common sense.”
She stressed that their repatriation would increase Britain’s global prestige.
What is her proposal to both Greece and the British Museum?
And suddenly, while Partygate, the much-acclaimed scandal that shakes the British political scene but does not intend to oust the political stuntman Boris Johnson, still holds the international Western press hysterically monopolised by the certainty of the “Russian invasion.”
But even amongst all that noise, The Guardian published an article titled: “The Parthenon marbles belong in Greece – so why is restitution so hard to swallow?” by Charlotte Higgins, the newspapers chief culture writer.
The award-winning journalist, who emphasises that “repatriating the spoils of empire is stuck in all manner of legal and historical impasses that preserve the status quo,” strengthens her view by referring to the existing history of returning antiquities to their place of origin, as happened with the Benin bronzes held in Aberdeen and Cambridge that were returned to Nigeria.
At the same time, Higgins noted that in the latest YouGov poll, the majority of Britons are in favour of the reunification of the Marbles.
But what is really going on in the stagnant case?
For the constant Greek request and its prospects, but also for the unexpected change of position of the British press, we spoke with the director of the Russian Commission for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures and professor of the Moscow Architectural Institute, Dr. Irina Korobina, who submitted a proposal to both Greece and the British Museum.
– Why did the Times, and most recently the Guardian, decide to drastically change their stance in favour of the return of the Parthenon Marbles right now as the Partygate scandal monopolises British news? Is there a political background, are they bluffing or has the issue of return really matured and do they accept that one way or another the Marbles will eventually return to their country?
I think the question is already overdue.
The world cultural community, starting with Lord Byron and going through history, condemned the action of Lord Elgin and called on Great Britain to correct historical injustice by returning the extracted fragments of the Parthenon to Athens.
And so Great Britain must show its understanding, generosity and dignity.
The prestige of the country will increase significantly when this happens. The fact that the Times, the most respected and influential newspaper, is asking for this seems like a sign of the prevalence of common sense and broad perception.
And yet will the Trustees of the British Museum, the “legal” owners of the Marbles on British soil, accept and comply with this “common sense”?
They remain intact and immovable.
So is there a risk that The Times debate will remain nothing but a “firework”? Will the Marbles ever return even though the British Museum does not even discuss it?
The problem is far beyond the British Museum, it has long exceeded its limits.
It is a matter of image and prestige of the country, the decision of which cannot be left to the Trustees of the British Museum.
Perhaps the Trustees also turned out to be hostages to “British pride” – after all, the agreement to return the marbles to Athens would mean an indirect acknowledgment of the guilt of the British side, which does not want to admit guilt.
Most likely, the Trustees are running through false ideas about how to defend the “honour of Britain ” and this prevents them from making the right decision.
A Times article, however, breaks the inertia of this position, demonstrating the breadth of Britain’s views today.
– What are the “weapons” that the Greeks have in their request for repatriation?
The main weapon of the Greeks is the great Greek culture, which was so important for the peoples of the world, the genius creators of the Parthenon, who created a masterpiece that became world heritage, important for all mankind.
The monument should be complete and indivisible in the environment where it was erected. It is a place of strength and harmony.
Not only is its destruction criminal, but it is also an obstacle to its reunification and rebirth. This is a crime not only before the Greeks, but also against the world’s cultural community.
– Can the example of the recent “acquisition”, as elegantly characterised, of ancient fragments (Fagan) from Palermo be a model for the return of the Marbles?
The fragment from Palermo remains the property of Italy, and in order for Greece to be “deposited”, it sent other Greek antiquities to Sicily.
However, this model could be a trap because it would mean that the Greek side accepts the legality of British ownership?
I think any form of return is acceptable now.
Over time, the conditions can be adjusted and corrected.
It is important to make returns as much as possible, even for the Greeks to resort to clever compromises.
The best solution to the problem would be for the Greeks, in exchange for the Parthenon Marbles, to regularly send a traveling exhibition of ancient artifacts to the British Museum.
If it were to be exchanged for other museum treasures, this would be a less beautiful compromise.
– What should the Greek government do at this moment? What has not been done yet?
I believe that it will be effective to organise a World Forum at the Acropolis Museum, dedicated to the loss of the cultural heritage important to all mankind due to human error in various countries.
The main event could be a traveling exhibition on this topic, prepared by the participating countries, together with the Greeks.
A tour of this exhibition around the world will make the problem practically apparent in a global context.
It is also worth proposing a new idea for the British Museum entitled: “Elgin: The history of the export and return of the Parthenon’s teasures as an act of goodwill and an indication of the breadth of the consciousness of the new Britain.”
It implies the conceptual replacement of the original fragments of the Parthenon in the British Museum with their copies from the Acropolis Museum and the projection of the whole history with the use of additional data and documents.
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