The activity of the Moscow Florentine Society is a valuable testimony of the passionate love for Florence felt by those to whom our city owes so much. Over the past years, a group of influential Russian public figures, founders of the Florentine Society (Moscow), has been carrying out several cultural projects, intended to better acquaint the people of Russia with Florence and satisfy their growing interest in our city. After the fall of the “Iron Curtain”, which had been dividing Europe for more than forty years, such public initiatives as the Florentine Society proactively participate in the organization of meetings between the East and West, assisting in the fence-mending and construction of a multinational and multicultural Europe.
Peter Barenboim, alongside with other distinguished representatives of civil and political circles of today’s dynamically developing Moscow, has played a leading part in the creation of the Moscow Florentine Society.
Being in charge of the City of Florence international relations, I could not help appreciating the reverent zeal with which the Moscow Florentine Society had been preparing the signature of the Memorandum of Cooperation between the Municipality of Florence and the Moscow Duma on March 6, 2003.
The choice of that date was very meaningful, since it was the day of the 528th anniversary of Michelangelo’s birth. The ceremony was held in the “Italian Patio” of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. This part of the Museum is an imitation of the patio of the Florentine Palazzo del Bargello. The “Italian Patio” contains a life-size copy of Michelangelo's David and replicas of other Florentine sculptures. This alone is a vivid proof of the respect the Russian capital feels for Florence, as one of the major centres of European civilization and culture.
The official ceremony was followed by a presentation of “The Road to Florence. Florence and Florentines in Russian culture”, a magnificent volume co-edited by Ekaterina Genieva and Peter Barenboim. I was amazed to discover in this book the high degree of devotion with which outstanding Russian artists and writers of the last century were engaged in the study of our city and the great people who had lived and worked there.
This book, as well as other publications of the Society, vividly demonstrates that Florentine studies still continue in Russian culture, yielding remarkable new results. It is with a great interest that we welcome a new research on the New Sacristy of the Medici Chapel, presenting an original interpretation of the sculptural images of Dawn and Night, which decorate the Michelangelo's Florentine masterpiece, immortalizing the memory of Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Giuliano, as well as an “orientalised” interpretation of the image of the mouse-like head.
If Florence is indeed a “dream city” for many Russians, it will be a great honour for us, Florentines, to realize what a deep and beneficial imprint our city has left on the minds of best representatives of the Russian intellectual élite, playing an important role in the social and cultural life of Moscow, and Russia, in general. I am deeply convinced that further strengthening of our contacts will lead to an even greater cross-fertilization of our cultures.