Christie’s International has removed two lots from their Nov. 29th auction of Russian books and manuscripts. John Varoli has an account at Bloomberg, and Reuters has a story as well. In total, 41 Russian army documents were removed, most once belonging to Marshall Georgi Zhukov. It seems “a cultural watchdog agency said they were stolen.” Varoli speculates that:
Prices for Russian art, books, manuscripts and historical memorabilia have risen rapidly since 2000, and this has been accompanied by an increase in thefts from Russian museums and archives. In August 2006, the Hermitage disclosed that 226 Russian works of art had been stolen by staff over the previous decade.
Will any charges ensue? Someone made up a provenance for these objects somewhere between their theft in Moscow and consignment to Christie’s. I’d imagine it wasn’t the final consignor though, these letters probably passed through a few hands first, and were “laundered”. Perhaps not enough to justify their sale, but probably enough to preclude criminal charges or an investigation.