The Pushkin State Museum

Selection_253Just off Prechistenskaya Ulitsa, 5 minutes walk away from Metro Kropotskinskaya is the Pushkin State Museum. This large museum complex is not to be confused with the even larger Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts on Volkonka Ulitsa.

Many of us know the Pushkin Museum because of its classy and dramatic atrium where sizeable receptions and some trade fairs are held. However the museum is a great deal more than being a nice place to sip champagne with a cultural backdrop, although it fulfils that function very well.

This museum was opened in 1957. The history of the building had a chequered career as being the residence of a previous grain merchant, Alexandre Khruschev who moved his family, with all his 15 children to Moscow into the previous residence of the Bartynski Princes in 1814. At that time the main house was in ruins thanks to Mr Napoleon’ s excursions into Ruissia. After several years of rebuilding, the Khrushevs restored most of the property. The family held open house and receptions most weeks, and the address became popular with residents of Prechistenka for hospitable lunches and cultural evenings. There is no documentary evidence to suggest that Pushkin himself visited the residence, however as the Khrushevs were known throughout Moscow at the time, and their hospitality was legendary, it is highly likely that Alexandre Sergeyevich did call round a few times.

Selection_254Fast forward to the post-Bolshevik revolution. The buildings were used, official records say, by the State in connection with preserving culture in various ways. A museum of toys was opened here from 1924 to 1931, but the building’s cultural career temporarily ended with the outbreak of the Velikaya Otechestvennaya Voyna (Great Patriotic War). In 1949 an exhibition about Pushkin, dedicated to the 150th anniversary of his birth was held here, and eventually a permanent exhibition dedicated to Russia’s greatest poet was opened here in 1957.

The main idea of this museum is to create the atmosphere of the Pushkin era and therefore reflect on the author’s work in context of the surrounding culture. The buildings now serve as a treasure trove of details from the times, travels and epoch of Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799-1837). So this is really a history museum covering the span of Pushkin’s life. The large number of manuscripts written in pen and ink by Pushkin’s own hand, are fascinating, perhaps because one sees how the man worked. On almost every page of his notes for Evegny Onegin for example, are small cartoons of his characters. There is Zaretsky with glasses, or perhaps let’s see what he looks like without glasses. Let’s extend his nose slightly. The ability to draw is not only a refection of Pushkin’s genius, but a reflection of the fact that being able to draw was something just about every member of the intelligentsia in 19th century Russia could do, like riding horses. Which says something about education in the 21st century when education is departmentalised, perhaps, to an unnecessary degree.

There are a large number of lithographic prints from newspapers and magazines of the time. These convey the spirit of the times best of all; better than the paintings and period costume pieces which seem to reflect the official, mainstream culture of the time. But Pushkin was bigger than all of that. Certainly he was accepted by the establishment, but towards the end of his life he was increasingly attacked by the powers-to-be for his support, for example, of the Decembrists.

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For any historian, this museum is a gold mine. Apart from handwritten lists of books that Pushkin ordered, as we might do from Amazon today, there is a plethora of handwritten material not directly connected to Pushkin, which add amazing details to anybody interested in that epoch. Antique guns, porcelain, everyday household items, as well as hundreds of books owned by Pushkin; the man could read 14 languages.

If you want to see the bed in which Pushkin actually slept in, or where he worked in Moscow, you should visit the Pushkin memorial Flat on Arbat 53 or spend some time in St. Petersburg, the city which claims him as his own, although he was in fact a Muscovite. However if you wish to be immersed by a multitude of Pushkin-era artefacts, are interested in Russian 19th century history, the Pushkin State Museum is on the ‘must-see’ list.

An English language audio guide is available. Concerts are held in the museum almost every night, and major exhibitions are also held, which are usually connected to the 19th century.

Check out the museum’s website for up to date details: http://www.pushkinmuseum.ru

There is a café in the museum complex, and rooms can be hired out for events. Dancers dressed in period costumes can dance waltzes for you if you fancy a Pushkin-era event.

email: info@a-s-pushkinmus.ru

The museum is about 10 minutes walk from Metro Kropotkinskaya