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Museum employees told RG about the heroism of their predecessors during the Second World War – Rossiyskaya Gazeta

Date: May 28, 2024 Time: 20:27:38

“RG” invites you to remember the museum workers who preserved for us monuments of history and art. These stories were shared with us by current museum employees who have preserved the memory of their heroic predecessors.

Historic museum

In besieged Moscow, Moscow’s only museum, the Historical Museum, did not stop its activities, functioning even when the subway stopped working and many factories and institutions closed. During the four years of the war, the State Historical Museum was closed to the public only 8 days, from October 30 to November 6, 1941, when, after the terrible bombing of Moscow on October 29, the window panes of the building were broken by a shock wave. On November 7, 1941, the museum was inaugurated. On that day, a parade of troops took place on Red Square, which became a symbol of confidence in victory.

During the war, not a single exhibit was damaged, because the museum staff sent the most valuable objects to be evacuated, and the rest were moved to the basements, replacing them with dolls. This hard work fell mainly on the shoulders of older women and men, soldiers of military age went to the front and in the summer to the people’s militia. Of the museum’s staff of 250 people, 98 people were mobilized, 30 of whom never returned to their native walls (their names are written on a memorial plaque at the museum’s main entrance).

When German troops were actively advancing towards the capital, employees of the Historical Museum regularly went to military units and hospitals to give lectures to raise the morale of soldiers with stories about the exploits of their ancestors. It was necessary to remind them that Russian weapons always rise to defend the weak and achieve victory. They remembered the Livonian War, the Ice Battle, the Battle of Grunwald and the commanders Suvorov and Kutuzov.

In their diaries from the war years, museum researchers wrote that the salaries they were given were enough for a small amount of potatoes and, at best, a liter of milk, and only in the first six months. each one lost between 15 and 20 kg. of weight. Even in such conditions, excursions were constantly carried out. For example, in 1941 the museum was visited by 379 thousand people and more than 4 thousand excursions were made. Already in the fall of 1941, the GIM team created an exhibition dedicated to the defense of Moscow, which in 1942 was called “The defeat of Nazi troops on the approaches to Moscow.” Its main visitors were the Red Army soldiers who were going to the front.

Return of the State Historical Museum from the evacuation. Photo: cultura.ru

Tretyakov Gallery

The enemy had already practically approached the capital, and work was in full swing in the Tretyakov Gallery to prepare the evacuation of priceless paintings. Already in July 1941, a train with exhibits of the first stage was sent to Novosibirsk. “Boyaryna Morozova” by Surikov, “The Appearance of Christ to the People” by Ivanov, “Ivan the Terrible” by Repin and many other paintings familiar to everyone went to a safe place. For three long years, museum workers said goodbye to a total of 18 thousand works.

The first collections were very timely, because already in July the first bombs fell on the gallery. In August, the bombing of the capital intensified. Then the projectile hit directly the gallery patio, destroying several rooms. Wartime repairs could not be done quickly, so museum staff had to work in knee-deep snow or in a room flooded by rain.

Even in those days they found the strength to give lectures during the day to those who went to the front and plan exhibitions, and at night prepare charcoal and firewood to heat the other pieces exhibited in the museum. They believed that the power of art can heal and maintain the strength of the spirit even in the most difficult moments.

Return of works of art to Moscow. November 1944. Photo: Courtesy of the museum’s press service.

Pavel Tretyakov’s granddaughter, Marina Gritsenko, who worked in the gallery in those years, recalled the difficult preparations for the exhibition “The Great Patriotic War” in 1942. By then, almost the entire male part of the team had gone to the front, and the weakened and hungry women undertook the preparatory work with renewed vigor. The exhibition opened just in time to demonstrate to everyone the steadfastness of Moscow and its intrepid inhabitants.

Pushkin Museum

The day after the declaration of war, an emergency meeting was held at the museum, at which it was decided to draw up lists of two evacuation lines, dividing all the museum’s treasures into unique and valuable monuments. In the shortest possible time, each department provided a list of several dozen documents attached to each of the censuses. The evacuation order came on July 4 and in just ten days the museum workers managed to prepare more than 108 thousand exhibits for shipment.

Understand that this was the museum’s first evacuation experience, and the restoration department figured out on the fly how to move everything, from fragile antique vases to huge bas-reliefs, over hundreds of kilometers without loss. Paintings, sculptures and historical objects were brilliantly prepared for the long journey, at that time mainly by the museum’s female team.

Molds moved from the museum exhibition to the basement. Photo: Courtesy of the museum’s press service.

In those turbulent days, the 16 investigators who remained on duty did not leave the walls of their homes even at night. After all, there were more than 200 storage units left there, which were difficult to transport. For example, large molds and the famous sculpture of David remained in their places.

The guards were not established in vain, because already on July 22, 1941, during the first massive air raid on Moscow, an incendiary bomb pierced the roof of the famous Greek courtyard. An employee of the antiques department, Nadezhda Pogrebova, saved it from destruction by extinguishing the lighter with her own hands. This was just training for the courage of the museum workers, who on the night of August 6 had to see 150 incendiary shells fall on the native walls of the Pushkin Museum. That day all of Moscow was burning, so it was difficult to put hope in the speed of arrival of the firefighters. There were not enough fire hoses, so they carried buckets of water to the second floor along a human chain and were able to defend the building on their own.

However, the most terrible test awaited museum workers on October 14, when a shock wave from a highly explosive projectile completely destroyed 85% of the glass ceiling. Only in mid-December were employees able to install a temporary roof made of boards and cardboard with a layer of tar. For another three years they had to live with constant leaks and prevent it from collapsing under the snow cover. It was a real daily war for the future of Moscow culture.

Darwin Museum

The founder of the museum and its first director, Alexander Kots, firmly faced the sad day of the beginning of the war and immediately began to work to save the most valuable pieces. Already in the first days of July, some employees signed up as volunteers, thus reducing the museum’s already reduced staff. More than a thousand rare stuffed animals and paintings were moved to the lower floors and basements. At that time, the museum was located on Malaya Pirogovskaya Street, in a historic building, the windows of which had been darkened and covered with paper before the first major bombing of the city. The firebombs caused only minor damage, thanks to the strength of the museum workers, who did not leave their post on the roof for a single night.

Alexander Kots and Darwin Museum staff cover museum objects. 1941 Photo: cultura.ru

Everyone wanted to contribute to the support of the front, so the museum staff sponsored six Moscow hospitals, where they came with a cultural and educational program. In total, the “Darwinians” gave more than 700 lectures and 1,000 film screenings for the wounded. In record time, materials on military topics were prepared: “Exposing the false fascist theory of racism”, “Animal camouflage and military camouflage” and many other practical topics.

Especially for hospital exhibitions, the museum’s main artist Konstantin Flerov created the “Animals at War” series of 50 battle paintings. Rightly so, in 1944 the merits of the Darwin Museum and personally of its director, who sought to “help defeat the enemy… on the front of “combat ideas”” were officially recognized.

Yasnaia Poliana

Museum workers under German occupation suffered especially terrible ordeals. On the estate where Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy was born and where “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina” were written, the Nazis ruled for 47 days. Even in the summer it became clear that war was approaching: air raid alarms began to sound and the basements of buildings became air raid shelters. The employees became concerned about the fate of the museum and its exhibits and contacted the Tula party committee. On October 9, 1941, 2 cars were sent to the train station to evacuate the museum’s most valuable pieces; On October 11, 1941, 110 boxes with museum objects were evacuated to Tomsk. Therefore, most of the writer’s personal belongings were saved, as well as portraits of Serov, Repin and Kramskoy.

On October 29, 1941, the Germans invaded the farm. In the Kuzminsky wing there was a hospital, and in the house LN Tolstoy set up barracks for the wounded fascists, who began to heat Dutch ovens with furniture and museum books and, using master keys, opened cabinets and drawers with the remaining valuables. And in the famous room under the vaults, where “War and Peace” was written, the Germans installed a smoking room.

The museum’s curator, Sergei Shchegolev, who actually remained in charge after the director left for evacuation, personally came to the occupied building every day and literally retrieved things from the destroyers. Unfortunately not everything was saved. Thus, the sofa on which Tolstoy, his brothers, almost all of his children and even two granddaughters were born, caught the attention of one of the Germans, who decided to sleep on the legendary piece of furniture. When the German units withdrew, he even tried to take the sofa as a military trophy, but the guide Maria Shchegoleva literally covered the exhibition with her body. They managed to recover the commemorative object, but the angry fascist left several knife cuts on it. The sofa has not been restored to this day, in memory of the difficult times and the brave museum workers who overcame them.

Great Patriotic War 1941-1945 Museum-estate “Yasnaya Polyana” of the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. The dining room of the writer’s house, destroyed by the Nazi invaders. Photo: Oleg Knorring/RIA Novosti

While hastily retreating, the Germans managed to light fires in three rooms of the Tolstoy House. They instantly burst into flames, filling the memorial space with acrid black smoke. With the help of local residents and museum workers, the fire was extinguished before it could cause critical damage to the building. Museum workers risked their lives to save the exhibits.

During the occupation of Yasnaya Polyana, 1,233 objects of a material and figurative nature were lost, and 99 commemorative objects were irretrievably lost in the Tolstoy House itself. Already on December 16, 1941, employees gave a guided tour of the writer’s house for the Red Army soldiers who liberated Yasnaya Polyana from the Nazi invaders.

* This website provides news content gathered from various internet sources. It is crucial to understand that we are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information presented Read More

Hansen Taylor
Hansen Taylor
Hansen Taylor is a full-time editor for ePrimefeed covering sports and movie news.
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