ROERICH PACT: 1931 to date.  Properly known as the Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments, the Roerich Pact was the result of the suggestion of Professor Nicholas Roerich.  Roerich was deeply interested in the problems of cultural preservation, and viewed the cultural heritage of individual nations as part of an overall world treasure.  His experiences with the impacts of World War I and the Russian Revolution convinced him of the need for international action to protect these treasures in future wars, including against air attacks.

The initial version of the actual document was prepared by Georges Chklaver of the Institut des Hautes Etudes Internationales of the University of Paris at the request of the Roerich Museum of New York.  The International Museums Office of the League of Nations was involved in the preparation of the initial document, and this draft was recommended for adoption by nations at conferences Bruges in 1931 (Bruges), 1932 (Bruges), and 1933 (Washington).  On 16 December 1933 the Seventh International Conference of American States at Montevideo recommended signature of the pact, with a final version being prepared for signature by the Governing Board of the Pan American Union.  The treaty came into effect on 15 April 1935.

The treaty recognizes monuments, museums, and scientific, educational, artistic, and cultural institutions as having the status of being neutral and directs that belligerent forces should protect both the facilities and their personnel.  The signatory nations were obligated to provide a list of monuments and institutions for which they desired protection under the treaty through the Pan American Union.  A direct parallel was drawn between the protection afforded to hospitals through the Red Cross and that provided to cultural institutions, with references to the agreement as The Red Cross of Culture.  The pact provided for a distinctive flag (Roerich's Banner of Peace) as the standard marking for protected monuments and institutions. 

Signatories include: Argentine Republic, the Baltic states (countries not indicated in the sources available, but this term usually indicates Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States of America, Uruguay, and Venezuela.  The Organization of American States is the depository of the signed treaty.

The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict provides a broader reach to and more definitive definition of cultural protection.  In addition, the distinctive flag (the Banner of Peace) is generally superseded by a five sided blue and white sign as the marking for cultural properties, although the Banner for Peace remains in effect in the treaty states. 

Sources: "Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments (Roerich Pact), Washington, 15 april 1935," in International Humanitarian Law, location, accessed 24 July 2003.  Nicholas Roerich Museum, "Pact and Banner Of Peace Through Culture," location, New York, New York, United States of America, published by the author, accessed 24 July 2003.  Pan American Union, Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments: Treaty Between the United States of America and the Other American Republics, location, 15 April 1935.

Entry 0365 - posted 24 July 2003