Posted 24 ноября 2022,, 10:23

Published 24 ноября 2022,, 10:23

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:38

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:38

The abduction of the Mother of God: why is no one looking for a unique icon from the Historical Museum?

24 ноября 2022, 10:23
In 2018, a theft occurred in the very heart of Moscow. The Shuya Icon of the Mother of God was taken out of the State Historical Museum on Red Square. Over the past 4 years, neither the museum, nor the Ministry of Culture, nor the police can clearly answer where the icon went and who stole it.

Yulia Suntsova, Natalya Seybil


November 15 (November 2) was the day of the creation of the icon of the Mother of God with a baby in her arms, especially revered by the Russian Orthodox Church.

In 1654, during the worst plague in history, which reached the central part of Russia, a resident of the city of Shuya in the Ivanovo region offered to paint an image and put it in the Resurrection parish church.

While working on the icon, a miracle happened - the icon painter put a trace on the board, and in the morning he discovered that the position of the hands and feet of little Jesus had changed. The master corrected the image in accordance with the canon of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, but the next morning the story repeated itself. The icon painter Gerasim Ikonnikov no longer dared to correct the image, and announced to the townspeople about the manifestation of Divine Providence. After prayers before the new icon, the plague left the city. In the future, commissions from various clergy more than a hundred times testified to the “authenticity of healings”, which created “miraculous painting”.

It is believed that it was this icon that more than once saved Rus' and the Russian Empire from epidemics and pestilence.

In 2018, this icon returned to the State Historical Museum after being exhibited at the Murmansk Museum. In December of the same year, the curator was supposed to give it away for the planned exhibition "Russian North" in Moscow, but the image was not found in the museum's funds.

The senior researcher of the department of ancient Russian painting and the responsible custodian of the fund, after reconciling the collections, stated that the icon was missing.


The general public learned about the disappearance of the value only two months later - on January 24, 2019. after the release of news in the media. Vladislav Kononov, director of the Department of Museums of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, told the press that the director of the museum had brought him information about the theft from the depository. At the same time, Vladimir Medinsky, then the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation, commented on what happened for the first time. He said that Alexei Levykin, director of the State Historical Museum, filed a complaint with the police on the fact of the theft of the icon. Law enforcement agencies opened a criminal case under clause b, part 4, article 158 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“Theft on an especially large scale”).

“The statement came on Wednesday from the museum's security service. Arriving law enforcement officers found that the icon was not exhibited at the exhibition in December, as it was not in the depository. Responsible persons could not explain the absence of the icon in the depository. An inspection has begun", interfax quoted an unnamed law enforcement source on January 25, 2019.

According to the estimates of the scientific team of the Central Museum of Ancient Russian Culture and Art. Andrei Rublev, the insurance value of this exhibit should be at least 4 million rubles.

- Perhaps everything would not be so deplorable if it were not for the criminal conspiracy of a group of people. Recordings from the museum cameras of the State Historical Museum for the period from August to November 2018 were erased, due to which the police could not identify the intruders in hot pursuit and lost extremely important evidence. The director of the State Historical Museum Alexey Levykin and the head of the department of ancient Russian painting Lyudmila Tarasenko informed Vladimir Medinsky and law enforcement agencies not immediately after the discovery of the loss, but only after a commission check, that is months later. All this together minimizes the hope for a successful outcome , - our source from the Museum of them. Andrei Rublev.

The interlocutor lists a whole list of legal acts that may have been violated by employees of the State Historical Museum at the first stage of detection of the loss:

- Federal Law of the Russian Federation "On the Museum Fund of the Russian Federation and museums in the Russian Federation",

- Regulations on the Museum Fund of the Russian Federation, approved. Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of February 12, 1998 No. 179,

- Decrees of the Government of the Russian Federation of February 12, 1998 No. 17,

- Instructions for the accounting and storage of museum valuables located in the state museums of the USSR, approved. Order of the Ministry of Culture of the USSR dated July 17, 1985 N 290.

For some time, the deputy director of the State Historical Museum for stock work, Marina Chistyakova, reassured the worried public with promises - the icon would be found after the revision, it would take no more than two months to reconcile 30 thousand items of storage, she said.

“There is cause for concern, let’s put it this way, but there is no talk of any theft and, I hope, it won’t,” Chistyakova told a TASS correspondent on January 24, 2019.

According to the interlocutor of the agency, the situation is complicated by the fact that repairs are being carried out in the stationary depository, so the funds, including where the missing icon was, had to be moved to another place.

“The façade of the Nikolsky shopping malls was being renovated, the windows were taken out, so, you know, there was no question of storage. Three premises were found that could be adapted for temporary storage. But since there are areas that do not meet the requirements necessary for the placement of the fund then there the icons are stored practically in a warehoused form - that is, there are racks, boxes on them, icons in them. Therefore, it is not possible to say that there are no icons in the fund at all, it is not possible at the moment", - explained Chistyakova.

In other words, the museum did not ensure the safety of its collection during the renovation? And anyone could climb into the window openings and take what they want?

But two months passed, and then four months. On May 17, 2019, the director of the Historical Museum , Alexei Levykin, finally told reporters: "The work carried out did not bring a positive result."

Since then, for almost four years now, the loss has been investigated and investigated, but there seems to be no special progress. Nothing is known about the fate of the icon.

Today, the form of the State Historical Museum mournfully stores only the remaining codes from the exhibit: “Icon. Mother of God Shuiskaya of Smolensk. Second half of the 16th century Size: 40.5 x 32.2 x 2.7 cm. Material, technique: wood, gesso, tempera. Inventory number: I VIII 4512, GIM number 54627/799, GK number 5353497.


Over the years of searching, various assumptions have been made about who might need an exhibit from the collection of ancient Russian painting. Father Alexander (Saltykov) from the Orthodox St. Tikhon Humanitarian University, for example, believes that the icon has long been abroad, most likely in the United States.

Rosokhrankultura expert, member of the Association of Art Critics Alexander Samoilov is sure that Our Lady of Smolenskaya Shuiskaya could not have been accidentally lost in the storerooms of the State Historical Museum:

“If one thing disappeared, then it was ordered. For a specific person. She will be in someone's private collection for life and will not see the light of day. He will not sell it, ”the art historian believes.

Novye Izvestia asked the State Historical Museum to report on the results of the investigation, internal and official.

Representatives of the museum turned out to be not at all talkative on this score, but the fact of the theft was once again confirmed.

“In response to your request, we inform you that law enforcement agencies are currently carrying out relevant work. If the museum has additional information on this issue, we will definitely inform the media about it ,” commented Maria Lemigova, head of the public relations, advertising and marketing department of the State Historical Museum.

To our questions about whether there are at least suspects or accused in the case file and whether the current location of the icon has been established, the representative of the GIT dryly answered: “We answered your question within our competence,” which, of course, suggests thoughts about the sad outcome.

How is it that a masterpiece of ancient Russian icon painting is stolen without a trace meters from the Kremlin and no one, even professional detectives, can find evidence? The answer lies, most likely, in the special status of the customer, who was considered an honor by professionals to serve.


The theft of Our Lady Shuiskaya of Smolensk is not the first high-profile theft of cultural and art treasures from religious institutions in the country.

In 1994, after the restoration of the Kolomenskoye Museum-Reserve, the icon “Liberation of Moscow by Grand Duke Ivan III Vasilyevich and the procession with the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir” of the middle of the 19th century was stolen. The theft was committed at night, the thieves entered the museum building through a broken window and stole only this one icon from the exhibition. Then it was smuggled out of Russia and soon found itself in a private collection abroad, from where it came to the world art market leader, Christie's auction house.

In the 2000s, the whole world followed the investigation into the robbery of the Hermitage. During the siege of Leningrad, not a single exhibit disappeared from the museum, although the temptation to steal and exchange for bread was then much stronger ...

The main culprit - 46-year-old keeper of silver and enamels Larisa Zavadskaya did not live to see the trial, she died of a heart attack right during the revision. The audit revealed the theft of 221 valuable exhibits from the collection. Two pantries were cleaned out: 70 kilograms of jewelry were missing XVIII - early XX centuries, chalices, crosses, church utensils, icons in frames made of precious metals, including the favorite icon of Nicholas II "The Cathedral of All Saints", which hung in the imperial bedroom. The damage was estimated by different experts from $5 to $100 million. The investigation found that the deceased keeper carried the valuables entrusted to her in her purse for at least 15 years. In the dock were her husband, son and friend, who handed over the stolen goods to antique shops, pawnshops, commission shops. The husband, who pleaded guilty and made a deal with the investigation, however, argued that the wife endured no more than a third of the values imputed to her. “She didn’t take super-masterpieces and unique things.” Indeed, many questions remained on the list of the abducted. Large church chalices for communion, just like bulky icons in silver frames, simply could not be taken out in a lady's purse. So in the case there was a clause that some of the valuables could be stolen by "unknown persons."

After the scandal, part of the stolen goods returned to the Hermitage. According to various sources, from 30 to 50 exhibits were voluntarily brought by collectors and owners of antique shops in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Icons and silver sets were thrown up at the doors of the police, sometimes even placed in the nearest dustbins.

A little later, in 2010, a royal silver medallion of the 18th century with a portrait of Peter I was returned from the United States; enthusiasts accidentally discovered it on one of the online auctions.

After the theft in the Hermitage, a government audit inspected about 500 museums, where about 20 million items were registered. Of these, 160 thousand exhibits were lost!

Changes have also taken place in the museum protection system in Russia. Installed security cameras. The entrances to the vaults were equipped with metal doors with complex locks and further planned to be gradually equipped with biometric access systems.

The incident with Our Lady Shuiskaya of Smolensk, however, clearly proves that it did not help ...