“If the White Cross cares about bodily injured and sick, our Pact protects the values of a genius and thus protects spiritual sanity”.
The idea of making a special agreement about protection of cultural heritage in the time of war was put forward by N.K. Roerich in 1904-1905, during the Russian-Japanese War, at one of the sittings of the Russian Architectural Society.
Predicting the horrors of the World War I the Artist made a series of pictures which served as a warning to the mankind. They are “The Sword of Valor” (1912), “Cry of the Serpent” (1913), “Fire” (1913), “The Condemned Town” (1914).
In 1929 N.K. Roerich appealed to the peoples and governments of all the countries with a draft of the Pact. It pretended to be an international legal act of universal importance. The Pact with its approved symbol Banner of Peace “could be use not only during the war but in “every day life, when without thunder of guns some harsh and uncorrectable mistakes are made against Culture”.
According to the artist’s idea the Banner of Peace must be raised above all cultural monuments, museums and scientific institutions. Its identification signs are a white cloth and three red circles in the centre of it. They should mean Future, Present and Past surrounded with a circle of the eternity.
In 1930s a wide public movement of adepts of the Pact began. In some countries the K.Roerich’s Pact societies were formed. In 1931-1932 in signing of the Roerich Pact took place. It was on the 15th of April, 1935 in Washington, in the White House by the representatives of 21 states of the American continent. Despite the fact that the N. Roerich’s idea was not fully realized in those years, now it is necessary to stress a large political and social effect of the Pact and its role in struggle for peace, cultural understanding and cooperation of nations. In support of the Pact such outstanding people as Franklin Roosevelt, Romen Rolland, Robindranat Tagor, Herbert Wales and Albert Einstein stood out. A large public movement was developed in three Baltic States – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in 1930s by the Roerich’s societies of those countries. With the help of R. Gudzitis dozens of best cultural workers, public figures, politicians and military servants signed the public appeal in support of the Pact. The question was even discussed at the conference of ministers of foreign affaires of three countries. But under the pressure of some European countries which were preparing for a new division of the world the Pact was not signed.
During the post war period an Italian association of the Roerich Pact in Bologna was the most active. In 1946 the Pact was supported by the All-Indian Conference of Cultural Unity, and in 1948 it was adopted by the government of India headed by D. Neru. Unfortunately the documents stating the fact were not sent to the Committee on the Roerich Pact. And only in 1950 the Roerich pact Committee adopted all documentation beginning from 1930. In 1954 the famous Hague Convention about Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict was adopted. It was based on the ideas of Roerich Pact, but the symbol of Banner of Peace was substituted for another one under the pretext of being too complex to draw in at war. It should be also mentioned that the Roerich Pact protects cultural values not only in days of war, but in time of peace as well. Unfortunately the mankind lacks the detailed analysis of both losses.