Palmyra Liberated: A Win for Civilization – Part II

Yesterday we left off with a quote from Russian Antiquities specialist Alexei Lebedev, concerning the fate of the priceless relics of the city of Palmyra, obviously put at great risk when the city fell to the ISIS barbarians.  But Lebedev goes on  to offer a ray of hope.  Maybe the destruction was not as great as we fear, he opines:  “Everything that we have heard, is from the mouths of the destroyers themselves.”  The hope is that maybe, like any good Bond villain,  they were exaggerating their own evil deeds.  Also, there is evidence that several of the most valuable movable pieces were stolen and moved, rather than outright destroyed.  In which case, there is perhaps a chance of retrieving these looted treasures, eventually.  [yalensis:  Unless they end up in private collections.]

We’ve Looked At Loot From Both Sides Now

General Director of the Russian State Hermitage Museum, Mikhail Piotrovsky, also offered some practical-minded hope:  “Now that Palmyra has been liberated, the city must obviously be restored.  But this must be done properly.  The damage, obviously, is huge.  But the possibility of restoration exists.”

Hermitage Museum in St. Pete – one of the best in the world.

Russia as a nation is no stranger to the ravages of looting barbarians, and therefore has valuable experience to offer in the business of restoration.

And yes, before the Russia-haters dive in with their predictable, “Russians Loot Too!” — I have to cut them off by conceding, that, yes, there have been times in the past when Russians behaved like barbarians.  In fact, one need go no further than Russia’s national poem The Tale of Igor’s Regiment Slovo o pluku Igoreve – penned by an anonymous bard in the 12th century.  The bard bewails Russia’s defeat at the hands of the barbarian Cuman horde – aka “Polovtsy”, named after the Slavic word for “straw”, “polovo”, supposedly because these particular Cumans had straw-blonde hair.  In the poem, as in Borodin’s marvelous opera  based on this poem, the Polovtsy, albeit rampaging barbarians, sometimes come off looking better than the Russians.  I remember the very first time I read this poem, back in Russian Literature class, I was struck by the passage, in which the bard casually seems to endorse the looting committed by the “Christian” Russian forces.  This is at the beginning of the campaign, when the Russians were winning and riding high; later the tide was to turn, as the Polovtsy Khans kicked their asses all the way back to Putivl:

Съ заранія въ пяткъ потопташа поганыя плъкы половецкыя,
и рассушясь стрѣлами по полю, помчаша красныя дѣвкы половецкыя,
а съ ними злато, и паволокы, и драгыя оксамиты.
Орьтъмами, и япончицами, и кожухы начашя мосты мостити по болотомъ и грязивымъ мѣстомъ, и всякыми узорочьи половѣцкыми.
Чрьленъ стягъ, бѣла хорюговь, чрьлена чолка, сребрено стружіе – храброму Святьславличу!

Using Nabokov’s translation:

Early on Friday they trampled the pagan Kuman troops
and fanned out like arrows over the field.
They bore off fair Kuman maidens
and, with them, gold, and brocades, and precious samites.
By means of caparisons, and mantlets, and furred cloaks of leather they started making plankings
to plank marshes and miry spots
with all kinds of Kuman weaves.

A vermilion standard,
a white gonfalon,
a vermilion penant of [dyed] horsehair
and a silver hilt
[went] to [Igor] son of Svyatoslav.

Cuman Sex Slaves strut their stuff.

Okay, so some of the looting was practical – to make pontoons and stuff.  But not all of it was necessary.  Prince Igor didn’t really need that silver hilt.  Prince Igor wanted that silver hilt.  And not even to mention the “fair Kuman maidens” who were borne off.  For what?  Do I really have to spell this out?  To be sex slaves, obviously.

But those were different times, different morays.

Let’s delve into the more recent past and take a look at what the Nazis did when those modern barbarians — ironically spawned from the same race which produced Ludwig van Beethoven — occupied the Russian town of “Tsarskoe Selo” and other historic places on the outskirts of Leningrad.

[to be continued]

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7 Responses to Palmyra Liberated: A Win for Civilization – Part II

  1. Lyttenburgh says:

    “In the poem, as in Borodin’s marvelous opera based on this poem, the Polovtsy, albeit rampaging barbarians, sometimes come off looking better than the Russians. I remember the very first time I read this poem, back in Russian Literature class, I was struck by the passage, in which the bard casually seems to endorse the looting committed by the “Christian” Russian forces. “

    Forgive us, polovtsi!

    As for Piotrovskiy – personally, I don’t like him. Mainly because of his fondness of wearing muffler everywhere. But mostly because his tenure as the head of the Hermitage was/is characterised by scandals and even the occasional stealings of the paintings. He doesn’t strike me as a go to expert on things like Palmyra’s restoration or the fate of all those artefacts.

    And if we are talking Nazi’s looting during the GPW the issue of lost and still not found Amber Chamber rears its ugly head.

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      Dear Lyttenburgh:

      I’ll get to the Nazis and their looting proclivities in my post tomorrow, hopefully.
      As for Piotrovsky, that is intriguing info, admittedly I didn’t really know anything about him before, but I accept your verdict if you believe that he is a thieving asshole.

      As for apologizing to the Polovtsy, WELL, YOU GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES AND DO IT NOW BOY!
      I demand of you!

      After all, it was the weeping Yaroslavna herself who noted that “My incestuous brother, Prince Galitsky, is WORSE than any Polovtsy I ever encountered!”

      Like

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        Mikhail Borisovitch Piotrovskiy comes from a long line of (for the lack of the better term) “integgigentsia’s aristocracy”. He “inherited” his position of the Hermitage director from his father. In 2006 the whole countery was shocked, when it was discovered that 221 (!) object had been stolen from the Hermitage jewelry collection. Our at the time pro-liberast minister of culture Shvydkoi saved his bacon and Piotrovskiy remained the director. But the people still remember. From that time onward the meme “If he was truly a gentelman, Piotrovskiy would hang himself on his trademark кашне” became super popular.

        Then there were a tax evasion scandal in 2009 (about 150 mil. rubles got “disappeared”). Then in 2013 was the (in)famous conflict between Piotrovskiy and Moscow’s Pushkinskiy museum over exhibits (and where they are less likely to be stolen – hint, hint!).

        Nasty character, all in all.

        Like

        • yalensis says:

          What a jerk!
          So, did they ever find the stolen jewels, or did this burk get away with the heist?
          Better keep this guy away from Palmyra, the last thing the Syrians need now is some bigtime crook waltzing away with their remaining antiquities.

          Like

          • yalensis says:

            P.S. I added Piotrovsky as a “tag” to this post, so if anybody out there is googling him, maybe they will see your comment.

            Like

          • Lyttenburgh says:

            “So, did they ever find the stolen jewels, or did this burk get away with the heist?”

            Of course not. In 2006 the total cost of the “lost” exhibits was more than 3 billion rubles. And Rashid Nurgaliyev has been put in charge of the investigation. 2 guess how it went.

            The fact of the theaft only surfaced after a long delayed revision of the Hermitage storage funds – the last one was in 1993.


            ^from left to right: Piotrovskiy, Shvydkoi and Potanin.

            And, believe me, should anyone try to investigate or really “grab him by the balls” for all kinds of screw ups for which he was responsible, we will hear “New 37 is coming!” from everywhere.

            Like

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