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For week ended June 06, 1999 Posted 19 Jun 1999

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Icons to end odd U.S. trip and head home to Russia

Summarized by Vickie Speek

Icons to end odd U.S. trip and head home to Russia
Deseret News 5Jun99 L8
By C.G. Wallace: Associated Press writer

A collection of 34 religious icons will soon be moved from the evidence vaults of the US Customs office in Salt Lake City back to their homeland in Russia. The Russian government will take initial possession of the items, estimated at one time to worth $3.2 million, and will eventually transfer them to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The colorful paintings were originally brought to Utah about six-years ago by Marc Garrison, who is a member of the LDS Church and a previous owner of Aspen Books. Aspen Books, which published LDS materials, was located in Murray, Utah, but is now out of business.

Garrison reportedly acquired the icons in 1993 in a trade for medical supplies on the impoverished Russian Isle of Vlaam. He was said to have intended to auction the items off as a fund-raiser for a non-profit organization helping the Russian people and the members of the LDS Church in Russia.

US custom officials charged Garrison in 1998 with failing to obtain a permit from the Russian Ministry of Culture to take the icons out of the country. Russian law prohibits the export of any icon made before 1945 without proper authorization. A Russian expert in iconography has testified that the icons were all made before 1945.

Before their trip to the US Customs vault, the icons were displayed in an Orem shopping mall, kept in cardboard boxes by an art gallery owner, and housed for weeks in the home of a Russian literature professor.

Members of the Russian Orthodox Church hold a religious significance for icons. They are believed to be "Windows to Heaven."

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