Roerich Pact is a treaty on Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments. The most important idea of the Roerich Pact is the legal recognition of the fact that the defense of cultural objects is more important than the defense in its traditional meaning, and the protection of culture always has precedence over any military necessity.
* 1 Nicholas Roerich
* 2 Origins of the Roerich Pact
* 3 The Roerich Pact
* 4 The Roerich Pact Chronology
* 5 The Treaty on Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments
* 6 Banner of Peace
* 7 The Roerich Pact importance for twenty-first century
* 8 World League of Culture and World Day of Culture
Russian painter and philosopher Nicholas Roerich (1874–1947)  initiated the modern movement for the defense of cultural objects, for the idea of “Peace of Civilizations”. Besides the recognition as one of the greatest Russian painters, Roerich’s most notable achievement during his lifetime was the Roerich Pact signed on April 15, 1935 by the representatives of American states in the Oval Office of the White House (Washington, DC). It was the first international treaty signed in the Oval Office where Presidents of US are working until present days because Franklin D. Roosevelt had relocated the US presidential office in the White House. Incidentally, Roosevelt kept in his private rooms a bust of Roerich.
Nicholas Roerich was born on October 9, 1874, in St. Petersburg. His parents encouraged him to study law, but seeing their son’s inclination for painting, they allowed him to study both, which he did with much success. In 1900, Roerich went to Paris to take lessons from Fernand Cormon, the well known tutor of Van Gogh and Toulouse Lautrec. Upon his return to St. Petersburg, he married Helena Shaposhnikova, who later developed the Agni Yoga philosophy. Soon Roerich became quite a successful painter. One of his paintings was purchased by Russian Tsar Nicolas II himself. Roerich also worked as stage and costume designer for several operas and ballets by Maurice Maeterlinck and Igor Stravinsky, premiered in St. Petersburg.
In 1917 Roerich went to live near a lake in Finland, to strengthen his health. After the border between Russia and Finland was closed in 1918, the family travelled across several Scandinavian countries to Great Britain and eventually left for North America in 1920. There, Roerich founded two cultural institutions: “Cor Ardens” (Flaming Heart, a fraternity of artists from several countries) and “The Master Institute of United Arts” (an organization for education, science, and philosophy).
In 1923, the Roerich Museum was founded in New York. In 1929, it moved to a new building. Presently, the Roerich Museumis located in Manhattan, at the corner of 107th Street and Riverside Drive. After leaving America, the Roerich had settled down in the Kulu Valley at the bottom of the Himalayas where they established the Urusvati Institute. Nicholas Roerich died of a cardiac arrest on December 13, 1947.
 Origins of the Roerich Pact
An idea about the protection of cultural monuments was formulated for the first time by N.K. Roerich in 1899. During his excavations at Saint-Petersburg province, Roerich began to point to necessity of protection of cultural monuments, which reproduce a world-view of ancient people for us.
In 1903, N.Roerich together with his wife Helena Ivanovna Roerich toured through forty ancient Russian cities, including Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Vladimir, Suzdal, Yuriev-Polsky, Smolensk, Vilna, Izborsk, Pskov. In 1904, proceeding the expedition, N.K.Roerich has visited Uglich, Kalyazin, Kashin, Tver. During this travel N.Roerich created a large series of architectural studies, created near 90 paintings of the visited sites. Later many Russian churches were destroyed and these paintings remain the only documenting images.
Summarizing this travel, the painter admired the beauty of the ancient monuments. Roerich, expressing his feelings for the state of their protection, wrote in his article “Along the old times” (1903): “Last summer I had an occasion to see many our true antique and little love to it”.
In 1904, Roerich gave a report to the Emperor’s Russian Archeologist Society about the sad state of historical monuments and the necessity to take prompt actions to protect them.
During the Russian-Japan war (1904–1905), Roerich expressed an idea about the necessity of a special treaty for the protection of institutions and cultural monuments. In the course of several years after his travel in 1903-1904, Roerich repeatedly pointed out the state of antique monuments. He wrote several articles dedicated to the poor state of the churches. In the article “Silent Pogroms” (1911) Roerich wrote about the unskillful restoration of St. John the Forerunner Church at Yaroslavl: “Who would defense a beautiful antique from mad pogroms? It is grievously when the antique dies. But it is more terrible when the antique remains disfigured, false, imitation…”.
In 1914, Roerich appealed to the high command of Russian army, as well as the governments of the USA and France with an idea of conclusion of international agreement aimed on the protection of cultural values during armed conflicts. He created a poster “Enemy of Mankind” denouncing the barbaric destruction of cultural monuments, and picture “Glow” expressing a protest against World War I.
In 1915, Roerich wrote a report for Russian Emperor Nicholas I and Great Prince Nicholas Nikolayevich containing an appeal to make real state measures for national protection of cultural values.
In 1929, Roerich, in cooperation with G.G. Shklyaver, a doctor of international law and political sciences of Paris University prepared a project of the Pact for protection of cultural values. Simultaneously Roerich proposed a distinctive sign to identify the objects that are in need of protection – the Banner of Peace. It represents a white cloth with a red circle and three red circles inscribed in it.
- Regular Committee of the Roerich Pact and Banner of Peace was found in New York
- Roerich was nominated for the Nobel Prize.
 The Roerich Pact
In 1929 Roerich in collaboration with Paris University professor George Chklaver prepared a draft of an international treaty dedicated to protection of cultural values (Roerich Pact). The scheme was to be a cultural analog to the Red Cross for medical neutrality. In 1930, text of draft agreement with accompanying Roerich’s appeal to governments and peoples of all countries was published in press and distributed in government, scientific, artistic and educational institutions of the whole world. As a result, the committees supporting the Pact were established in many countries. The draft pact was approved by Committee for Museum affairs at League of Nations and also by the Committee of the Pan-American Union. A few years after the Second World War, the Roerich Pact played an important role in forming of international law standards and public activity in the field of protection of cultural heritage. In 1949, at the fourth session of general UNESCO conference, a decision was accepted to begin the work for international law regulation in the field of cultural heritage protection in case of armed conflict. Ideas of Roerich Pact still are not implemented in the international law, especially its principle of the almost unlimited preference of the preservation of cultural values to the military necessity.
 The Roerich Pact Chronology
Delegates of Second international conference dedicated to the Roerich Pact. Bruges, August 1932.
From the book “Banner of Peace” /Compilers O.N. Zvonareva, T.O. Knizhnik, N.G. Mikhailova. – Second edition, supplemented and revised. – Moscow, ICR, 2005. – (series “Large Roerich’s library”).
1930 – A project together with N. Roerich’s covering appeal to governments and peoples of all the countries was published and communicated to the governments, scientific, artistic and educational institutions of the world.
- Project of the Pact was represented to Committee on Museum affairs at League of Nations, and further it was referred to International committee for intellectual cooperation.
- Committees of the Roerich Pact and Banner of Peace were found in Paris and Bruges (Belgium)
1931 – An International Union of the Roerich Pact was found at Bruges under the guidance of a member of Belgium Committee for monument protection K. Tyulpink.
- 13-15 of September – first International conference dedicated to the Roerich Pact has been organized at Bruges. Representatives from group of European countries took part in this conference. A plan of promotion of the Pact ideas at educational institutes was developed, and contacts of International Union of the Roerich Pact with an International Committee for art affairs and Organization Committee for arms reduction were established.
1932, 7-9 of September - second International conference dedicated to the Roerich Pact had been organized at Bruges. Twenty two countries took part in its work. The Conference has resolved to found at Bruges a special institute for world assistance to implementation of the Roerich Pact ideas in public life. It also took a decision to appeal to all the countries to recognize the Pact as international treaty.
1933, November 15 – Organizing Committee of third international Conference dedicated to the Roerich Pact visited the USA President F. Roosevelt.
- 17-18 of November – Third International conference dedicated to the Roerich Pact was carried out in Washington. Thirty five countries have supported this conference and recommended the governments of all the countries to sign the Pact.
- December – 7th conference of Pan-American Union in Montevideo (Uruguay) has passed a resolution which recommended to the governments of American countries to join with the Roerich Pact.
1934, April 4 – A report of special committee of Pan-American union dedicated to Roerich Pact was approved.
Signing of the Roerich’s Pact (in centre: Franklin Delano Roosevelt)
- August 11 – USA President F Roosevelt has authorized a minister of agriculture H. Wolles to sign the Roerich Pact from USA.
- September 2 – A Committee of the Pact and Banner of Peace was formed in Harbin (Manchuria).
- A Committee for promotion of the Pact was formed at Bulgaria.
1935, April 15 – A Treaty named “international pact for protection of artistic and scientific institutions, historic monuments, missions and collections” (Roerich Pact) was signed by representatives of 21 countries in White House, Washington. A distinctive sign for identification of the protected objects (Banner of Peace) proposed by N. Roerich was approved in the frameworks of the Pact.
- July 2 – the Pact was ratified by USA Senate.
- July 10 - – the Pact was ratified by USA President.
- October 25 - – the Pact was promulgated by USA President.
President F. Roosevelt talked in his radio speech: “Presenting this Pact for signing by all the countries, we strive for that its world acceptance becomes a vital principle for preserving of modern civilization. This agreement has more profound significance than the text of this document” .
1937, October – First Congress of Baltic Roerich societies has resolved to create the committees of Roerich Pact in all Roerich societies of Baltic countries.
- First congress of international research (Paris) unanimously accepted a resolution about joining to the Roerich Pact.
1938, November 17 – the Banner of Peace was spread out in Karachi (India).
1942 – American-Russian culture association (ARCA) was formed. E. Hemingway, Ch. Chaplin, R. Kent, P. Geddes, E. Cooper, S. Kusevitsky, V. Tereschenko were its active contributors. The association’s activity was welcomed by world-known scientists Millikan and Compton.
1946, January 23 – first meeting of resumed New York Committee of the Pact and Banner of Peace has been conducted.
- April 18 – 6th Pan-Indian conference for cultural unity has supported the Pact.
Presentation of Banner of Peace from the board of cosmic station “Mir” to Speaker of Indian Parliament Sri Somnath Chatterji on the occasion of 100th S.N. Roerich anniversary. From left to right: Hero of Russian Federation S. Zalyotin, V. Afanasiev, Sri Somnath Chatterji, President of ICR Yu.M. Vorontsov.
1948, August – Indian government headed by J. Nehru has decided to approve the Roerich Pact.
1948-1949 – Italian association of Roerich Pact at Bologna has organized the work to support the Pact on a broad footing. Committees of the Roerich Pact and Banner of Peace worked in Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, France, England, Portugal, Brasilia, Columbia, Uruguay, Bolivia and Cuba.
1949 – 4th session of general UNESCO conference has taken a decision to begin a work for international-law regulation in the field of cultural values protection during the military actions.
1950 – A New York Committee of the Roerich Pact has transferred all the documentation about the Pact to UNESCO. 5th session of general UNESCO conference entrusted the general director with preparation and sending of a draft of convention. Special committee of UNESCO has prepared the draft of international convention in view of given documents.
1954, May 14 –U.N.O and UNESCO Conference in Hague has accepted the “Convention for protection of cultural values in the case of armed conflicts” and a protocol accompanying it. The Second protocol to the Hague convention was accepted in March 1999 due to initiative and close participation of UNESCO. A text of the Hague convention pointed directly on that the base for it acceptance is a principle of cultural values protection during the war established at Hague peace conventions in 1899 and 1907 and also in the Roerich Pact. This Hague convention was signed by representatives from 37 countries .
1970, November 14 – “Convention about measures aimed on prohibition and prevention of illegal import, export and transfer of rights of property for cultural values” was accepted at 16th session of general U.N.O. conference for problems of education, science and culture in Paris.
1972, November 23 – “Convention about protection of world cultural and natural heritage” was accepted at 17th session of general U.N.O. conference for problems of education, science and culture in Paris.
1974 – Alpinists from Novosibirsk hoisted the Banner of Peace on the Roerich peak near Belukha Mountain (Altai).
1988, May 6 – Banner of Peace was hoisted at Northern Pole.
1990, February 11 – Soviet cosmonauts A. Balandin and A. Solovyov took the Banner of Peace on the board of orbital station “Mir”.
1995, June 26 – Banner of Peace was presented to G. fon Moltke, deputy of secretary for political questions at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Banner of Peace over the Museum named after N. Roerich in Moscow.
1997 – Banner of Peace was given to the crew of Soviet orbital station “Soyuz-TM” in the frameworks of scientific-enlightener project “Banner of Peace”. It was delivered to orbital station “Mir” and remains in cosmos during two years (August 5, 1997 – August 28, 1999), accompanying the work of international crews.
1998, October 9 – Banner of Peace was hoisted over the Centre-Museum named after N. Roerich in Moscow.
1999, January 5 – Banner of Peace was presented to President of Kazakhstan Republic N. Nazarbayev at President Palace (Almaty). Space pilot A. Leonov and Professor S. Kapitsa took part in the ceremony. - March 26 – Second protocol to “Convention for protection of cultural values in case of armed conflict” (Hague, 1954) was signed in Hague. The document was written by six languages: English, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Russian and French.
2000, January 8 – Banner of Peace was established at Southern Pole.
- January 28 – Banner of Peace from the Southern Pole was presented to U.N.O. General Secretary K. Annan as a gift from expedition centre “Arctic”, International Centre of the Roerichs and the project “Banner of Peace”.
2003, October 17 – The Convention about protection of non-material cultural heritage was accepted by 32nd session of the General U.N.O. conference for education, science and culture.
2004, October 25 – Banner of Peace from the board of cosmic station “Mir” was presented to Speaker of Indian Parliament Sri Somnath Chatterji on the occasion of 100th Sviatoslav Roerich’s Anniversary.
The Treaty on Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments
The High Contracting Parties, animated by the purpose of giving conventional form to the postulates of the Resolution approved on December 16, 1933, by all the States represented at the Seventh International Conference of American States, held at Montevideo, which recommended to "the Governments of America which have not yet done so that they sign the 'Roerich Pact', initiated by the Roerich Museum in the United States, and which has as its object, the universal adoption of a flag, already designed and generally known, in order thereby to preserve in any time of danger all nationally and privately owned immovable monuments which form the cultural treasure of peoples", have resolved to conclude a treaty with that end in view, and to the effect that the treasures of culture be respected and protected in time of war and in peace, have agreed upon the following articles:
The historic monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational and cultural institutions shall be considered as neutral and as such respected and protected by belligerents. The same respect and protection shall be due to the personnel of the institutions mentioned above. The same respect and protection shall be accorded to the historic monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational and cultural institutions in time of peace as well as in war.
The neutrality of, and protection and respect due to, the monuments and institutions mentioned in the preceding article, shall be recognized in the entire expanse of territories subject to the sovereignty of each of the signatory and acceding States, without any discrimination as to the State allegiance of said monuments and institutions. The respective Governments agree to adopt the measures of internal legislation necessary to insure said protection and respect.
In order to identify the monuments and institutions mentioned in article I, use may be made of a distinctive flag (red circle with a triple red sphere in the circle on a white background) in accordance with the model attached to this treaty.
The signatory Governments and those which accede to this treaty, shall send to the Pan American Union, at the time of signature or accession, or at any time thereafter, a list of the monuments and institutions for which they desire the protection agreed to in this treaty. The Pan American Union, when notifying the Governments of signatures or accessions, shall also send the list of monuments and institutions mentioned in this article, and shall inform the other Governments of any changes in said list.
The monuments and institutions mentioned in article I shall cease to enjoy the privileges recognized in the present treaty in case they are made use of for military purposes.
The States which do not sign the present treaty on the date it is opened for signature, may sign or adhere to it at any time.
The instruments of accession, as well as those of ratification and denunciation of the present treaty, shall be deposited with the Pan American Union, which shall communicate notice of the act of deposit to the other signatory or acceding States.
The present treaty may be denounced at any time by any of the signatory or acceding States, and the denunciation shall go into effect three months after notice of it has been given to the other signatory or acceding States.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the Undersigned Plenipotentiaries, after having deposited their full powers found to be in due and proper form, sign this treaty on behalf of their respective governments, and affix thereto their seals, on the dates appearing opposite their signatures.
For the Argentine Republic:
April 15, 1935