The Museum of Political History in St Petersburg
The Museum of Russian Political History in St Petersburg, located next to the Peter and Paul Fortress, contains amazingly informative exhibitions of Russia’s political history since the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. It is very impartial, lays events out in the clearest of light and even the building itself is of importance in relation to the foundations of the Soviet Union!
The museum is comprised of three floors, all of which cover different parts of Russia’s political spectrum from the late 19th century to the early 21st century. The Kshesinskaya Palace is where the museum is located, a grand mansion built for the one-time lover of Nicholas II and famous ballet dancer Mathilda Kshesinskaya. However, the building serves a historical purpose as in between the February and October Revolutions of 1917, the Bolsheviks used it as their headquarters to wage their war against the Provisional Government, and Lenin made several inspirational speeches from the balcony of the palace. It became the Museum of the Revolution during Soviet times, and a lot of the collection is still based on the artefacts that were on display in the now-defunct museum. Part of the museum is Lenin’s temporary study, almost unchanged since Soviet times!
The museum is dedicated to being as transparent as possible, especially when analysing the goings on behind the scenes of Soviet rule throughout the 20th century. The main exhibition, ‘The Soviet Epoch: Between Utopia and Reality’, contains over 1,000 exhibits and scrutinises the development of the Soviet state formation from 1917-85, paying particularly close attention to Stalin’s ‘invasion’ of all spheres of life in the country and the repercussions of his rule. From the reconstruction of a communal flat to the document written by Nikita Krushchev signalling his resignation as Chairman of the Politburo, this part of the museum is a fantastic insight into the life and soul of the Soviet state.
The museum has many different exhibitions of various sizes. The only bad thing I would have to say about it is the organisation. The rooms are not laid out in chronological order, meaning that you can really get into the repercussions over the Second World War on Soviet society, only to find yourself fast-forwarding to 1999 and the handover of power from Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin!
Another exhibition, entitled ‘Man and Power in Russia in the 19th-21st centuries’ analyses the relationship between man and state throughout this period, exhibiting heroes of domestic Russia during the two centuries and looks at the events and heroes of the Soviet and post-Soviet era.
Other exhibitions closely analyse the fall of the Soviet Union, the political actions taken by the Bolshevik party, and if your brain needs a break from the intense analysis of Russia’s political history, you can pop into the exhibition which details the role that national sport played in Soviet society!
I have been to the Museum of Political History twice now and I still have been unable to see all the exhibitions due to its size and my interest in the subject. However, the museum costs 30 RB to enter with an ISIC (International Students’) card, so I will definitely be going again, and I suggest that you do so too!