Sergey Rybakov: "We must create the Red Book of the intangible cultural heritage’’

Sergey Rybakov: "We must create the Red Book of the intangible cultural heritage’’

The Tribune’s guest  Sergei Rybakov, the deputy chairman of the Federation Council Committee for Science, Education and Culture, the senator from the Vladimir region.

- A major parliamentary forum titled 'Historical and cultural heritage of Russia' will be held in Vladimir in June this year. Tell us more about it, who will take part, what sections are planned, and what do you personally expect, what kind of results?

- This is no ordinary regional forum, it is the parliamentary forum, which is held under the auspices of the Federation Council. Now it is held every two years. The last forum was held in 2014, and since then it is held in Vladimir. Of course, it's a pleasant thing for me, because I represent the Vladimir region. And the feature of this forum is that it is very specific. That is, unlike many other public events, it is based on a very specific agenda. And most importantly, a resolution with very specific proposals that need to be implemented is to be adopted following the results of the forum. In particular, the last forum was devoted to the problem of historical settlements. That is, it's titled 'Historical and cultural heritage', but each forum has its own title. The last one was devoted to historical settlements and was focused on small towns. As a result, several  decisions were adopted, of course, due to the fact that there were a lot of guests. And it is encouraging that people came from top to bottom, from the ground, regions, districts and various cities. For example, we invited representatives of all the small historical villages. A lot of proposals have been worked out. And serious changes to the law have been adopted on their basis. For example, a gap concerning historical settlements in Law №73 is completely filled now. The thing is that earlier 'a historical town, a historical settlement' were just beautiful words. And there was virtually no legal framework. Now there is an understanding of what it is, why, what documents should be developed and what the subject of protection could be. And the first historical settlements are being registered and getting their desired status. That is, this problem was solved with the help of the last forum.

This time the forum will be dedicated to an interesting topic 'Heritage, traditions, values, vision for the future'.

The first is devoted to the historical and architectural monuments. This is not just culture, it's a crossroads of culture, science, art and very mundane things like city planning, architecture, land and property issues. Therefore, Law №73 on the Protection of Cultural Heritage is very complex, it is constantly changing and must keep pace with the times.

The second section will be devoted to books. This is also an interesting and important topic, it is innovation for our forum. Unfortunately, somehow it turns out, and unfortunately I already said it several times, that books are leaving the functional field of our state bodies now. There is the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications, which, by the way, conducts good work to support the publication of books. But support of publishers, namely the work with writers and writers' unions, the problem of book distribution – these are important things which are often forgotten. The promotion of a book is a very important question, because we used to complain about the fact that many people don't read books anymore, but our country should not lose this banner of the country which reads the most.

The next topic that will sound in a new way is the theme of intangible cultural heritage.

- What do you mean by this term? And what problems exist today?

- The situation is that the term itself is very new for us. The fact is in the documents of UNESCO, and it is widely used in the international practice. We also use it, but, for example, we have no legal framework. I mean we do not fully understand what it is and what it's like to work with it. It requires some research. Of course, we understand what it is intuitively. This is folklore, folk traditions, customs and rituals.

It includes everything connected with the reproduction of folk culture and folk art. We discuss it a lot. By the way, a lot of things in this direction have been accomplished in our country since the Soviet era. Maybe we are ahead of the rest of the planet in support, but of course, there are new realities now. We understand that many traditional aspects are disappearing forever, and it's not because of someone's ill will, but because of a simple development of civilization and society. It's happening very fast. It's about folk rituals, traditions, songs, dances, folklore, folk art and material culture. For example, traditional village houses. Traditional wooden buildings in small towns in central Russia, in the countryside, villages are melting away.What a horrible picture, when you visit a village and the most beautiful house, which could become an object of cultural heritage, is in the worst condition. It is a strange pattern. Its roof already fell in, so it will collapse soon.

There are a lot of challenges. By the way, throwing a bridge to cultural heritage, the monuments of architecture and history, I want to say that I understand very well that, yes, a lot needs to be done according to laws. In particular, we need a law on intangible cultural heritage. Now we don't have one. A very important issue is to create a single registry, where all the objects of intangible cultural heritage would be registered. The Ministry of Culture carried out the preliminary work in folk art houses, where regional directories of the Intangible Cultural Heritage were created. The Russian Folklore Union and the State Institute of Arts Studies have done a lot for it, the Russian Institute of Arts. However, there is no single document, a single list on a single form or a single method yet.

- What is it for?

- When someone tries to interpret this register as a register of historic monuments and architecture, which we have, I disagree with them. There is another problem. In fact, it seems to me that the most successful comparison is the 'Red Book'. That is, we need to create some kind of 'Red Book' of objects of intangible cultural heritage. And it will have a gradation, as the 'Red Book' has: it has disappeared, it is on the brink of extinction, it still exists, but requires urgent help, it was already fixed. Because our task is not just to write down things in the book and enjoy them. Our task is to save the objects. And to preserve, the forms must also be very flexible. Because very often, for example, people feel the desire, especially scientists, to just preserve it somehow, so that it would live in the village. Yes, unfortunately, very often it does not live in the village, in everyday life. It differs in every region. If in the North Caucasus, in Belgorod or in Siberia things regarding this are better, in central Russia, in the areas concentrated around major cities, everything in the villages is just dying.

We can involve tourism, create demand. That is, these folklore ensembles, but not those which study it and then reproduce folklore, although it is also necessary, but those that preserved these songs in their village, they probably also need to go on stage, perform before tourists, make some money. In other words, there must be a raison d'etre for such a collective. In short, it is very serious, hard work. And certainly the creation of such a register would help us to draw attention to those points that require efforts.

- And will you  raise issues of language preservation? Russia is a large country, a lot of nations, including so-called small nations. Well, there are languages that have very few speakers left. Will you raise this issue??

- Of course, yes. It is clear that this topic is as boundless as the sea. Each of these issues requires attention. About languages, well, what can I say? Certainly, from the point of view of science, we understand that language, in one of its incarnations, is not only a communications tool, it is a cultural artifact. It is a creation of the product of culture, a product of years of work and traditions of a particular nation. And of course, these languages should not just be fixed, so that they remain, they have to live, develop, and so on. Therefore, certainly, this issue is also a part of the intangible cultural heritage.

Now we are talking about laws, about documents, about the policy of the Ministry of Culture, which is naturally often protective, prohibitive, for example, in relation to architectural monuments, which means that it cannot be demolished, it must be saved. We come up with a lot of restrictions that ... still, unfortunately, there is a huge number of users of these monuments, who, to put it mildly, do not listen to all of this and break it. And even up to criminal liability. We know that there is article 243 of the Criminal Code on the demolition of a registered monument. But it does not stop them.

The first problem is that maybe there can be, I think, a misunderstanding of this topic, including among those in the power structures, and even somewhere in society. Because I have personally experienced this, I am the co-author of several laws about changes to Law №73. As soon as it is known that you are doing work, you immediately hear such a reaction: "Well, you are trying to create an administrative barrier for owners once again.’’

What does administrative barrier mean? It is a national treasure. This is an attempt to preserve our identity, our memory and our everything. What will happen if it will not remain? And a large part of the population does not understand this idea, unfortunately. And I want to say that the situation has not been improving in recent years, it may even be somewhat worse. You see, there is no realization of the fact that it is our common cause, our treasure, our heritage.

And if we take cities with cultural, historical potential, then it is actually a way to make money. That's why every businessman who wants to demolish an old beautiful building, which let's assume is an object of cultural heritage, and build a new box instead of it, which is more convenient for him, why can't he realize that if everyone will do so, then no one will come to this city. But for some reason they do not want to think that far, everyone thinks only about their piece of land. But in the end, I'll tell you this, for example, in the historical settlements, and a historical settlement is not only an individual object of cultural heritage, it is, first of all, common construction, as we usually call it, background, environmental construction. You see, there is a sad situation. In other words, if we somehow manage to save monuments, then there is background construction, this environment disappears, and we can even lose historical settlements.