MUSEUM IN THE 20TH CENTURY

Close

The February Revolution of 1917caused public’s rough interest in the treasures of the Moscow Kremlin. Well-known historians and critics developed plans of its transformation into a city-museum. However, events of autumn 1917—the transfer of the Soviet Government to Moscow and the Civil raised questions of the museum’s organization and preservation of the valuables of the Moscow Kremlin in a new way.

During November fights in Moscow, curators and employees of the museum managed to save the treasures stored there. In the early 1920s, the concept of the museum changed—under new social and political circumstances, the museum was to present the history of Russian and foreign decorative and applied art, to show work of imperial workshops, etc. Such restriction in displaying museum treasures might have been compelled or dictated by the aspiration of the heads of the museum M.S. Sergeev and D.D. Ivanov to show exhibits not depending on their historical importance but to the skill of execution.

In July 1922, the Museum complex included the Armoury Chamber, the Assumption, Archangel, Annunciation Cathedrals, the Church of Laying Our Lady’s Holy Robe and the Patriarchs Palace of the 17th century. So, the museum complex repeatedly changing the name and submission appeared on the Kremlin territory.

In the second half of 1929, the situation in the museum became extremely tense. On 1 December 1929 director of the museum D.D. Ivanov was taken off the job, and he died on 13 January 1930. The 1930s were tragic years in the museum history. All leading research assistants were discharged and many of them suffered repressions. Deputy director on science V.K. Klein was arrested in 1934 on the so-called “Kremlin Case”. After D.D. Ivanov has left, people without either education or skills of museum work were appointed directors one by one. Research work in the museum practically stopped then. Access of tourists to the museum in the off-limits area of the Kremlin became extremely restricted. In early 1938, the managing of the museum complex was transferred to the Commandant Office of the Moscow Kremlin.

In June 1941, the stuff of the museum, with the active help of the Commandant of the Kremlin General N.K. Spiridonov was promptly demounting the display at the Armoury Chamber and packing the exhibits into boxes in a hurry. At first, the valuables were to be hidden in the cathedrals, towers and basements on the Kremlin territory. But as the situation at the front line was getting worse, on 30 June 1941 General Spiridonov took a decision to evacuate the treasures of the museum to Sverdlovsk. The director of the Museum N.N. Zakharov received a prescription to leave Moscow with the most valuable museum items that very day. That evening, three wagons with exhibits departed from the North (Yaroslavsky) Station; they arrived in Sverdlovsk on the night of the 5th of July. Three days later V. Valuev brought the second part of the exhibits, and on the 10th of July A.A. Starukhina (Goncharova) reached Sverdlovsk with the last part of the collection from the museum’s fund.

Being in the evacuation, the stuff of the Armoury Chamber continued their work on creating the inventory which would unify all the museum collections. They were preparing a new display at the Armoury as well. Despite heavy conditions, the team was making conservation and restoration work. One of the restored treasures was the coronation dress of Empress Elizabeth.

In 1944, when the victory was obvious, the staff of the Armoury Chamber started preparing the museum’s items for the re-evacuation. All the exhibits were classified and packed so that they could be placed in a particular hall next to the required showcase.

The collection returned to Moscow on 20 February 1945. N.N. Zakharov, Director General of the State Armoury Chamber was personally responsible for the transportation. Due to accurate preparation for the transfer, the first exhibition at the Armoury Chamber after the war was open as early as on the 17th of April. The halls of the museum greeted the first visitors—soldiers of the Kremlin garrison, who helped to evacuate the treasures.

In June, the marchers of the Victory Parade, the renowned commanders and the Heroes of the Soviet Union visited the oldest Moscow museum. The future President of the United States, General Dwight D. Eisenhower also visited the Armoury Chamber.

The new display was highly praised by the museum staff, Moscow and St. Petersburg scientists and other visitors, who were thankful to know that the priceless monuments of history and decorative and applied arts were saved for future generations.

In summer 1955, the Moscow Kremlin accepted first tourists. The process of the museum’s revival began. In the mid-1950s, the new expositions in the Armoury Chamber and the cathedrals in the Kremlin were created, techniques of guiding were developed. The museum staff considerably increased.

On the Order of the Government on 5 February 1960, the management of the Armoury Chamber and the Kremlin cathedrals was given to the Ministry of Culture of the USSR and the museum received a new name—the State Museums of the Moscow Kremlin.

1970s-1980s became a time of rapid development of the museum in all the directions of activity. The end of the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s was marked by the largest in the museum history research and restoration works both in the cathedrals of the Kremlin and in the Armoury Chamber. In 1986 a new display in the Armoury Chamber was open, and in May 1987 the Museum of Applied Art and Life Style of the 17th century Russia has appeared in the Patriarch’s Palace.

In October 1991 the museum received the status of the Moscow Kremlin State Historical and Cultural Museum and Heritage Site. The Charter of the Federal State-financed Institution “The Moscow Kremlin State Historical and Cultural Museum and Heritage Site” was confirmed on 19 July 2001. The post of the general director was established for the general management of the museum. In April 2001 Elena Gagarina was appointed a general director.

The management of research, exhibition and methodical activity has been assigned to the science director of the museum.