'Quarter million' Russian museum items missing: official

8th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Nearly a quarter of a million of Russia's museum items are lost or stolen, amid growing concern over the mysterious disappearance of national treasures, media reported Wednesday.

Lyubov Molchanova, a museum consultant with the ministry said, "242,000 items are missing across Russia," citing a three-year review by the culture ministry.

"There are search warrants for 24,500 items and 219,000 are missing for unknown and undocumented reasons," she was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti news agency.

Russia's museum collections often suffer from lax security and corruption amid staff members, most of whom have low salaries.

Another reason for the disappearing museum items was the practice of giving them to various government officials and regional leaders, Molchanova said.

"Some governors enjoy saying things like: Give us something from the museum stocks. Where workers don't know their rights or lack persistence, it happens," she said.

The cultural ministry checked 1,881 museums in Russia, or 97 percent of all museums in the country. The revision was ordered in 2007 after a check in the renowned Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg uncovered gaping holes in its stock.

Police later said that the quiet theft of over 200 jewellery articles and icons stretched over several years and was orchestrated by an Hermitage employee.

The employee, Larisa Zavadskaya, died of a heart attack before the revision while her husband is currently serving a five year jail sentence.

Some missing articles were subsequently found as they were put up for Internet auctions abroad.

© 2010 AFP

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