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Theft of the Soviet Union's largest private collection of Western European and Russian art

Soviet collectors appeal for protection from KGB

Moscow

There is no slackening of the excitement in collectors’ circles after the theft of the Soviet Union’s largest private collection of Western European and Russian art. The collection belongs to V. Magids. According to estimates, the items stolen should be worth some $3.5 million (£ 1.85 million) in the West. Mr and Mrs Magids were preparing to bequeath their collection to the State. The Collectors’ Club, which is a part of the Soviet Cultural Foundation, was at the head of those expressing concern at the safety of private collections. The Club believes that the primary necessity is to give museum status at least to those major collections whose owners intend to bequeath them to the State. The Collectors’ Club has sent, both to the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs and to the USSR State Security Committee (the KGB), a letter with a request for assistance in ensuring the safety of private collections. This assistance is being provided, but at a very high cost – the rate is one rouble per thousand roubles of the item’s worth. Other collections are valued at up to 5 million roubles. The question of insurance the state and public organisations could take out is debatable. The insurance premium is 1% of the value of the item owned, and they cannot afford this as yet.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Soviet collectors appeal for protection to KGB'