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N.S. Tchertkoff, 1949 –

Nst2Nicolai Tchertkoff
(1949 – )

An American Professor
Discovers His Ancestor’s Library

Nicolai Tchertkoff, a descendant of A.D. Tchertkoff, born in Paris, educated at the Sorbonne, and now an American citizen, teacher of French and Russian at Horace Mann School in Riverdale, New York is trying to preserve the books, enforce the accessibility conditions of the legacy and preserve and restore the mansion. Re-establishing the Tchertkoff Mansion as a cultural center by reopening the library, as a state-of-the-art, fully computerized library designed for the 21st century – and providing space for meetings, concerts and exhibits is one of the primary goals of the Memorial & Cultural Foundation.

As late as 1991, Nicolai Tchertkoff had no clear idea of what his ancestors accomplished over the centuries in Russia. His family, like many Russian families, became disconnected from their past by the revolution and the communist regime. He knew that his mother came from an important family: her grandfather, Michael M. Rodzianko was the last speaker of the Third and Fourth Imperial Duma under Tsar Nicholas II. His father, however, never spoke about his family. Mr. Tchertkoff discovered his history largely by accident. He was given a photocopy of an article in a journal printed in Virginia “The Russian Numismatic Society”. In that journal, issued in the Fall of 1990 was the biography of a certain A.D. Tchertkoff who was a numismatist, bibliophile, and founder of the First Public Library in Moscow. Included in the article was a picture of A.D. Tchertkoff which bore a striking resemblance to Nicolai’s father.

He began his inquiry and gradually learned about the existence of the mansion and other family properties, including a cathedral near Voronezh, built by his great-grandfather, and the village Chertkovo in the Rostov region on the borderline of Ukraine where M.I. Tchertkoff, cousin of A.D. Tchertkoff built a railroad to Voronezh in 1868. In addition, in the Voronezh region, in the town of Olkhovatka, the same A.D. Tchertkoff who founded the library in 1831, built a sugar factory on his estate in 1834. The factory is still operating today. The implications of the discovery of his own history has become his life’s work: to preserve the cultural legacy of Russia for future generations.

As a result of his four-year quest and after numerous printed articles and television and radio programs in Russia, Mr. Tchertkoff was invited by the Speaker of the Duma, Gennadi Seleznyov, to address the Deputies on December 20, 1996, on the occasion of the 125th Anniversary of the donation of the Library by G.A. Tchertkoff and to present his cultural project. This event was covered by CNN and broadcast worldwide. Later, follow-up articles appeared in the New York Times, London Times, Izvestia, and other major newspapers abroad. Mr. Tchertkoff was the second non-member to address the Duma after Alexander Solzhenitsyn. His message was simple: Communism has left no psychological, economic, or cultural legacy on which to build a country. If Russia wants to be a part of the family of nations, it must rebuild its infrastructure. Russia’s history and cultural legacy are an important part of its human infrastructure and must be nurtured and supported with the same attention and resources as devoted to business and finance, roads and buildings.

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Guest loge in the Russian Parliament reserved for dignitaries. Flowers were presented after N. Tchertkoff was introduced to the Deputies and before he was invited to address the Parliament

Duma2

N.S. Tchertkoff, first foreigner ever invited to address the Russian Parliament on December 20, 1996, presents the Cultural Project of the Tchertkoff Foundation.

On January 15, 1997 a petition was written and sent to the President of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin and signed by 43 members of the Parliament, representing 10% of its constituency. To date, President Yeltsin remains undecided about this issue.

As a result of the CNN coverage, Mr. Tchertkoff was able to secure private financing from an American corporation for the preservation of the library and restoration of the mansion. The offer of financing was withdrawn at the last minute, with an explanation that the project was “too political” and would jeopardize the backer’s ability to do business in Russia. The mansion is currently leased for a period of 49 years by the city of Moscow to Novoye Znaniye (New Knowledge), a subsidiary of a stock company corporation LogoVAZ which has done nothing to restore the deteriorating mansion, though according to the Civil Code of the Russian Federation (Part 2, Article 619), a two-year grace period is given to start restoration of a property pending revocation of the lease agreement. Plans of LogoVAZ for the Mansion included flattening the roof in order to add additional floors for office space, opening a casino, private clubs and a restaurant, thus ruining the building’s architectural and cultural integrity.

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The Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation Evgeny Sidorov greets Professor Tchertkoff after his speech to the Russian Parliament on December 20, 1996.

As a result of publicity created by the Tchertkoff Foundation, the future of the Mansion and Library has become a public issue. The power of public opinion once again proved to be strong. LogoVAZ was forced to reconsider its plans for proposed reconstruction efforts. In recognition of the activities to further promote Russian culture, Mr. Tchertkoff was made an Honorary Academician of the Academy of the Russian Encyclopedia of the Russian Academy of Science.

To date, still nothing has been done to restore the Mansion as well as the Library collection. For the 850th Anniversary of Moscow, the 5,000-square meter building was completely camouflaged.

 

 

 

 

 

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