In the latest high-level museum departure in Russia, Marina Loshak has resigned as the director of Moscow’s Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. She has been replaced by Elizaveta Likhacheva, the current director of Moscow’s Shchusev State Museum of Architecture.
The ongoing shake-up of the Russian museum world is being linked to ideological repression following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Incidentally, Loshak's daughter and nephew are both opposition journalists who left Russia after the invasion. They have both been labeled “foreign agents” by the ministry of justice.
The appointment of Likhacheva comes just weeks after the ouster of Zelfira Tregulova from the State Tretyakov Gallery. Tregulova was replaced by Elena Pronicheva, the daughter of a former head of the Federal Security Service associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In 2013, Loshak, who left Odesa, Ukraine for Moscow in 1986, replaced Irina Antonova who ran the Pushkin museum for over 50 years. Like Antonova she was known for organising major international projects. Most recently, she was in charge of staging exhibitions of the seminal pre-1917 Shchukin and Morozov collections of Modernist art with the Fondation Louis Vuitton and the State Hermitage Museum—even as they became harder and then impossible to organise against the backdrop of war.
On Tuesday the Pushkin museum released a statement by Loshak and credited her with a long list of accomplishments, including digitisation, restoration, building expansion, and regional development projects.
Loshak stated that “moving on” was her credo: “I was the director of the museum for ten years. You need the next person to come with new energy, with new thoughts, and with new ambitions to continue what others have started.”
Likhacheva's appointment as director of the Shchusev Museum in 2017 was met with protests by some museum staff. A petition was launched in which the employees criticised her for having insufficient educational credentials and management experience for the position, among other issues.
But she ended her term as director with positive reviews for having modernised its facilities, opening up the collection and attracting young visitors. A statement by the ministry of culture on her appointment to the Pushkin said the number of visitors at the architecture museum had quadrupled to 110,000 annually under her management.
However, Agentstvo, an investigative news site created by opposition media, reported on Monday that according to leaked tax documents, in the early 2000s Likhacheva had been a salaried staffer of a pro-Kremlin youth movement known for targeting liberal cultural figures. Agentstvo also pointed out a 2017 interview with Likhacheva in which she said she used to work for Russia’s Ministry of the Interior before joining the museum in 2006.