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The Sergei Courtyard

Authors: Yuri Grachev, Deputy Chairman of the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society (IOPS), Aide to the Chairman of the RF Audit Chamber

Oleg Ozerov, Member of the IOPS Council, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

DECEMBER OF 2010 marked two years since the Sergei Metochion [courtyard and the buildings surrounding it, a part of the Russian Compound], a symbol of its presence in the Holy Land, was returned to Russia. Since May 12, 2009, it has been flying the flag of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IOPS), an international public organization that will be in existence for 130 years in 2012.

It would be worthwhile to remind our readers what we had to do to achieve the present position.

The ownership of the Courtyard was to be transferred in 1895 to the Russian government. However, the Russian embassy in Constantinople had failed to include documents related to the Sergei Courtyard in the package of documents to be submitted to the government of Turkey by the time the sultan was to sign the edict recognizing the plot of land in Jerusalem as owned by the Russian government.

Russian national heritage in Palestine (the note of the RSFSR representative in London L.B. Krasin of May 18, 1923, the notes of March 5 and September 17, 1945).

The 4,252-square-meter plot of land for the Sergei Courtyard was purchased by the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society on May 14, 1886 for 11,469 rubles.

The situation changed after the Second World War. With the creation of the State of Israel, some of the Russian real estate objects were returned to the Soviet Union government in 1949-1950. The Sergei Courtyard, however, was not recognized as being owned by the USSR because it was registered as owned by a private individual (Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich) and thus considered a piece of private property. The Soviet Union could provide no cogent evidence that the plot of land and buildings were owned by the IOPS.

The early 2000s saw the more vigorous action on the part of the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society, including its efforts to get back the compound of the Sergei Courtyard.

The next important phase in the efforts to get back the Sergei Courtyard was the trip of an IOPS delegation to Israel in March of 2005.

This visit to the Holy Land by the IOPS delegation was constructive and businesslike. Its practical result consisted in mapping out former activities of the IOPS in conjunction with the Russian Foreign Ministry and theRussian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem to get back the Sergei Courtyard now that the negotiating process with Israel's Justice Ministry was put on the legal basis for the first time.

The question of returning the Courtyard was also raised in 2004 by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in his talks with the Israelis.

We can thus conclude that the intensive diplomatic and public work to get the Sergei Courtyard returned to Russia was crowned with brilliant victory largely because it was demonstrated to the world that Russia was able to coordinate in a due manner the actions of all its government branches, the Russian Orthodox Church and the powerful public institution which the IOPS is.

International Affairs: Summary№2 2011

Грачёв Ю.А., действительный член Императорского Православного Палестинского Общества
Озеров О.Б., действительный член Императорского Православного Палестинского Общества

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