Cover Osteuropa 1-2/2006

In Osteuropa 1-2/2006

Legitimised Pillage
The Treatment of Artistic Treasures in the Soviet Union, 1917–1938

Waltraud Bayer

Deutsche Fassung


The October Revolution unleashed an extensive campaign of expropriation in the art world. Nationalisation affected the court, the nobility, the middle class and the church. Army, police and museum experts confiscated art, antiques, jewels and interiors. The Bol’sheviki legitimised these requisitions by claiming they were economically and culturally relevant to the construction of the new society. Archival material made available since the late 1980s shows that the ideological component of settling up with the “class enemy” was a key factor. Receipts from the export of cultural assets were insubstantial. Today, Russia is keen to make up for this cultural blood-letting: Valuable national cultural assets are being bought back.

(Osteuropa 1-2/2006, pp. 55–70)