Russian Security Service Searches Hermitage Museum

Suspicions were raised after the institution spent double its budget on a Rem Koolhaas-designed facility.

The Hermitage's Staraya Derevnya Restoration and Storage Centre. Courtesy the Hermitage State Museum.

The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg was searched by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) last week, after the Rem Koolhaas-designed Staraya Derevnya restoration and repository went over budget by nearly 4 billion rubles (about $68 million).

Museum director Mikhail Piotrovsky, however, seems unconcerned about the investigation into the museum’s “operational procedures.”

“We are in constant contact with the FSB regarding construction projects,” he told Russian news agency Interfax. “They track all of our construction projects from the outset, check our documents, because there are swindlers all around, especially in the field of construction.”

In the statement by Piotrovsky, the museum confirmed that investigators working for the FSB were looking into the construction of the museum’s new restoration and storage facility. When the museum announced the project in 2015, the price for the project was given as 3.7 million rubles (about $62 million). Yet, as with many building projects, the final budget is greater than the estimated cost, and the price of the project now sits at 7.4 billion rubles (about $126 million).

The director said that the museum was always in dispute with construction firms and blamed this on the fact that there is a law which binds them to always accepting the cheapest bid for construction jobs.

But, as pointed out by the Art Newspaper, the investigation is happening at the same time as Piotrovsky spoke out against the reversion of St Isaac’s Cathedral from a museum—which it was repurposed as under the Soviet regime—to a Russian Othodox Church.

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