Vladimir Putin Has Asked Two Russian Museum Directors to Help Him Rewrite the Country’s Constitution So He Can Stay in Power

The directors of the Hermitage Museum and Tretyakov Gallery have been given a big task by the Russian president.

Tretyakov State Gallery director Zelfira Tregulova gives Russian President Vladimir Putin a tour of “Roma Aeterna – Masterpieces of the Vatican Pinacotheca: Bellini, Raphael, Caravaggio” in 2017. Photo courtesy of the Kremlin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stunning plan, announced Wednesday, to institute widespread constitutional reforms will rely in part on two major Russian art-world figures.

Among those named to a 75-member working group tasked with drafting constitutional amendments are two of the country’s leading museum officials: Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and Zelfira Tregulova, the director of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

Political analysts say the plan to rewrite the constitution, which Putin revealed during his annual state-of-the-nation address, is his attempt to retain power past the end of his term in 2024. In a surprise move, prime minister and former president Dmitry Medvedev announced that the country’s entire government would be stepping down to help make way for Putin’s proposed these changes.

Putin previously counted the heads of the two state museums among his “2018 presidential campaign confidants,” according to the Art Newspaper. The working group met today outside Moscow at Novo-Ogaryovo, the Russian presidential estate.

Piotrovsky has led the Hermitage for close to 30 years, taking over in 1992 from his father, Boris Borisovich Piotrovsky, who ran the museum from 1964 to 1990. The government appointed Tregulova to her post in 2015.

Vladimir Putin and Mikhail Piotrovsky in Moscow. Photo courtesy Dmitry Azarov/Kommersant via Getty Images.

Vladimir Putin and Mikhail Piotrovsky in Moscow. Photo courtesy Dmitry Azarov/Kommersant via Getty Images.

As of press time, neither institution answered inquiries regarding the directors’ involvement with the constitutional amendment process.

When Piotrovsky turned 75 last month, Putin issued an official press release wishing the museum director a happy birthday and praising his “significant personal contribution to the development of the famous museum and the preservation of our rich historical, cultural, and spiritual heritage.”

Putin also presented Piotrovsky, whose current contract at the Hermitage runs through 2022, with the Order of Friendship in 2016.

The constitutional-amendment committee includes politicians, scientists, and other public figures, such as two-time Olympic pole-vaulting champion Yelena Isinbayeva, pianist Denis Matsuev, and Vladimir Solovyov, head of the Russian Union of Journalists.

Putin was first elected president in 2000, and served two four-year terms. He then served as Prime Minister under Medvedev from 2008 to 2012, and has since been re-elected to two additional six-year terms.

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