MIL OSI Translation. Region: Russian Federation –
We walk around the Soviet local history museum, which has never been in Moscow, get acquainted with the history of the city and the fauna of the surrounding forests.
The Museum of Moscow has opened the exhibition “Take away the stuffed fox” – a total installation created according to the principles of organizing a local history museum that existed in the USSR in the 1930s. The exposition, on which the curatorial tandem of Sofia Gavrilova and Alisa Savitskaya worked, is transferred to an imaginary museum of local lore, which could well have appeared in Moscow at that time. The exhibits of the imaginary museum, however, are real: these are items from the funds of the State Biological Museum named after K.A. Timiryazev, the Museum of Geosciences of the Moscow State University (MSU) named after M.V. Lomonosov and the Museum of Moscow.
The co-curator of the exhibition, Sofya Gavrilova, tells about how the science of localography developed in the 19th century, which later became local history, why local history museums became important in Soviet times and what the call that served as the name of the exhibition means.
Museum of local lore: before and after the revolution
The first historical and natural-scientific communities began to appear in Russia at the end of the 18th century, when large numbers of works on the history and geography of individual regions began to be published. The museums then consisted mainly of personal thematic collections of scholars and merchants. Localography, or local knowledge, began to be distinguished as a separate branch of historical science in 1800. Representatives of the nobility and merchants played an important role in its development – many of them were members of local public committees that were in charge of local history work.
In 1909, a commission for the study of old Moscow was created at the Archaeological Society. Before the revolution, it was headed by Countess Praskovya Uvarova, a scientist, historian, wife of the famous Russian archaeologist Alexei Uvarov. In 1918, the younger brother of Viktor Vasnetsov, Apollinaris, replaced her as its leader. Thanks to the efforts of the commission, in 1921, in the building of the former English Club on Tverskaya Street, the Old Moscow Museum was housed, which was based on private collections of Moscow collectors. The commission existed until 1930, its third and last leader was Pyotr Miller, a local historian in 1923. The museum was also closed, the exhibits were distributed among several museum collections.
The heyday of Russian local history came in the 1920s. In 1921, the I All-Russian Conference of Scientific Societies for the Study of the Local Territory was held at the Russian Academy of Sciences, the concept of “local history” was introduced into wide circulation. A year later, the Central Bureau of Local Lore was created, which, in 1924, became subordinate to the People’s Commissariat of Education of the RSFSR. By the 1930s, local history became part of state policy.
One of the most illustrative examples is the State Historical and Art Museum “New Jerusalem” in Istra (until 1991 – the Moscow Regional Museum of Local Lore), opened on the territory of the Resurrection New Jerusalem Monastery. There are photographs from the 1930s that give an idea of what its departments looked like.
Until 1917, museums themselves could choose how their expositions should look like and what they should consist of. After the revolution, instructions appeared for collecting materials and compiling collections.
The structure of the exposition canon of the local history museum included three main components: it had to, firstly, reflect everything that is known about the nature and geography of the region, secondly, relate to history and culture, and thirdly – socialist construction.
Taking them into service, the curators of the exhibition “Take away the stuffed fox” began to invent their own museum of local lore, such as could theoretically appear in Moscow in the 1930s. In the capital, the function of local history was performed by the city museum – the Museum of Moscow. In the 1930s, it was renamed the Museum of Reconstruction and Development of Moscow, and the main theme of the exposition was the general plan for the reconstruction of Moscow in 1935.
From fox to water
Painting played an important role in representing nature – the theme of the landscape has always been one of the most popular in the work of Russian artists. The painting “The first snow in the forest”, created by Fyodor Ipatov in the 1950s, could well decorate one of the halls of the local history museum.
Nature can be represented not only in painting. For example, we see the Moskva River at the exhibition on a poster that tells how it became the main waterway of the capital. In 1903, the Rublevskaya water pumping station (now the Rublevskaya water treatment plant) was opened, which supplied purified water to houses. By 1922, more than 180 cubic meters of water per day were supplied to the city. This and other posters dedicated to the interaction of man and nature were presented for the exhibition by the Museum of Geosciences of Moscow State University.
The world of fauna in the museum of local lore is most often represented by stuffed animals and birds that live on the territory to which the museum is dedicated. “A scarecrow is not only one of the first associations that comes to mind if we imagine a museum of local lore, but also a provocative question. The name of the exhibition is a call to think about how we can show a land, place, region in a different way, ”says Sofya Gavrilova.
A huge collection of fauna typical for the Central region is kept in the Timiryazev Museum: stuffed elk, bear, fox, wolf family, raccoon dog and many other animals. The creators of the exhibition, having assigned part of one of the two halls for them, made up small compositions that can be seen in a typical museum of local lore: a wolf protects a she-wolf and cubs, a bear attacks an elk, and a fox is enthusiastically looking for something in the ground surrounded by a beaver, a hare and lynx.
City `s history
The second important topic for any museum of local lore is the history and culture of the place where it is located. The history of Moscow in an imaginary museum is represented by exhibits from the archaeological collection of the Museum of Moscow: architectural details of white stone dating from the first half of the 17th century, part of an oak roof from the 14th – 15th centuries, some tools – axes, forged nails, staples, knives and much more. All of them remind that at one time Moscow occupied only the territory of the modern Kremlin and separate areas next to a small wooden fortress, which was later built of stone.
For the local history museum in the 1930s, an important topic was the events of the past (at that time, recent), which radically changed life in the country. Such exhibits – paintings dedicated to the revolutionary movement – were found in the picturesque fund of the Museum of Moscow. Among them is Krasnaya Presnya. 1905 “by Georgy Savitsky,” National meeting at the University in October 1905 “by Boris Malinovsky. Here you can also see copies of the original postcards of the early twentieth century, which were published in a legal typographic or clandestine way on the eve of, during and after the events of 1905.
Demonstrated in museums and items of “unnecessary luxury” that previously belonged to the defeated class of the bourgeoisie. At the exhibition in the Museum of Moscow, this role is played by a recreated typical office of a merchant-entrepreneur with expensive furniture and a grandfather clock.
Stakhanovist room and legendary car
The third important topic that should be disclosed in the exposition of the Soviet Museum of Local Lore of the 1930s is the social life and everyday life of an ordinary Soviet person. This function at the exhibition “Take away the stuffed fox” is performed by propaganda posters from the collection of the Museum of Moscow.
On the night of August 30 to 31, 1935, miner Aleksey Stakhanov, together with his team, mined 102 tons of coal, which was many times higher than the established rate. Such a feat did not go unnoticed – soon the worker became famous throughout the country, and fellow citizens, inspired by his success, tried to repeat the feat in different industries. This is how the Stakhanov movement arose.
The Stakhanovites strove for high labor productivity – they shortened breaks at work, prepared for it in advance, and their labor exploits became the basis of communist ideology and party propaganda. Such people lived modestly, their rooms were distinguished by asceticism: a bed, a poorly laid table, one chair, a sideboard, an alarm clock – that’s probably all. You can look into a typical Stakhanovist’s room at the exhibition – the curators have collected it from items stored in the Museum of Moscow.
There was also room for a real symbol of the late 1940s, the Moskvich-400, the first mass-produced passenger car sold in the USSR. This copy was released in 1947, the year of the 800th anniversary of the city. The car, which is significant for the capital and the domestic car industry, has now been restored and remains in good condition. True, not on the move – it is parked in the Museum of Moscow.
In 1955, museums turned towards educational work. A little later, in 1961, they were also affected by de-Stalinization – the overcoming of the personality cult of Joseph Stalin, the destruction of the past ideological system. Three whales, on which museums were necessarily built, began to recede into the past, leaving the arrangement of exhibitions at the discretion of local authorities, as it was once before.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.