Ever wondered what the museums of the largest country in the world look and feel like? Well, we are here to tell you that they are by no means minuscule, if that is what you were contemplating (wink). Today, we are going to look at some of the most exquisite Russian cultural establishments and, without sugar-coating anything, we will hereby recommend that you visit them all.
1. State Russian Museum:
Our first contestant (formerly known as the Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III), the State Russian Museum, is one of the largest establishments of its kind in not only Saint Petersburg but in the entirety of Russia. Dedicated primarily to Russian fine art, the museum was established in 1895 by Nicholas II of Russia in honour of his father, Alexander III. Housed primarily by the old Mikhailovsky Palace and its two vigilant Medici Lions, the establishment has other smaller branches in the following buildings: the Summer Palace of Peter I, St Michael’s Castle of Emperor Paul, the Marble Palace of Count Orlov, and the Stroganov Palace. What’s interesting about it is that the presence of a large number of Russian expats in the Spanish city of Málaga generated yet another wing – the Málaga wing. If you happen to be visiting south-eastern Spain, do consider visiting it (finish the collection). Important works on display include: Simon Ushakov’s “Image of the Saviour Made Without Hands”, Karl Brullov’s “The Last Day of Pompeii”, Ilya Repin’s “Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks”, Victor Vasnetsov’s “Knight at the Crossroads”, Ivan Aivazovsky’s “The Ninth Wave”, and even Valentin Serov’s “Portrait of Ida Rubenstein”.
2. State Tretyakov Gallery:
Next up, we recommend that you take a thorough look at the renowned Tretyakov Gallery of Moscow. Like the previous contestant, this one is also dedicated to fine arts and with its 1.3 million annual visitors, it has become the third most visited museum of Russia (and the 34th globally). Established in 1856 when the merchant Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov bought several works of art from aspiring local artists in hopes of building a collection, Moscow’s finest has a massive collection of religious icons as well. What’s interesting about it is that the façade of the building in which it is housed was designed by the artist Viktor Vasnetsov and it adheres to the specific standards of the Russian fairy-tale style. Important works on display include: Vasily Surikov’s “Morning of Streltsy’s execution”, Ivan Kramskoi’s “Portrait of an Unknown Woman”, Mikhail Vrubel’s “Demon Seated in a Garden”, Ivan Shishkin and Konstantin Savitsky’s “Morning in a Pine Forest” (arguably the most beautiful work of the entire museum), Ilya Repin’s “Religious Procession in Kursk Province”, Vladimir Borovikovsky’s “Portrait of Maria Lopukhina”, Athanasius of Moscow’s “Blessed Be the Host of the King of Heaven”, and many more. Definitely a must-experience if you are a fan of religious art and otherwise!
We could not have created a list of the most outstanding Russian museums without including Saint Petersburg’s Kunstkamera. Established by Peter the Great in 1727, it is the oldest museum in Russia. The Kunsthammer building, thus, harbours the renowned Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography with a massive collection of over 2 million items pertaining to the history and the culture of Russia. Besides the aforementioned items, the establishment has a collection of 78 Peruvian watercolours from master artist Pancho Fierro (in fact, it is the largest set of items pertaining to the artist outside Peru) as well. Designed by Georg Johann Mattarnovy, the building itself adheres to the standards of the Petrine Baroque architectural style. Thus both the building and its content are worth your time.
4. Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics:
As you can see, we are hopping back and forth between Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The final establishment that we are going to recommend to you is Moscow’s majestic Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics. Established in 1981, it dedicates its existence to the exploration of space and its wonders. Located in the north-eastern section of the city, within the bounds of the Monument to the Conquerors of Space, it boasts with over 85,000 items to enchant you with. There really is no better place to explore the early Soviet and Russian space models and their legacies. Oh, and let us not forget about the intact Soviet Krechet spacesuit – one of the main attractions of the museum. Be one of the 300,000 people who visit it each year!
Did you enjoy our list? How many of these fine establishments have you visited and how many of them are still on your bucket list? Have no mercy for the comment section and tell us all about your experiences for we are eager to hear all about them. Safe travels!