Russian Museum in St. Petersburg

There is a Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. The Russian Museum, my personal favourite cultural sight in St. Petersburg, houses the biggest collection of Russian art in the world and you would not be surprised given the size of the exhibitions on display! The collection of the Russian Museum is so big that it actually spans over four buildings. Мраморный Дворец (The Marble Palace), Михаиловский Замок (The Mikhailovsky Castle), and Строгановский Дворец (The Stroganov Palace) are three subsidiaries of the Russian Museum, each of which houses a small amount of exhibitions connected with the museum, but I will focus on the core of the Russian Museum, located inside the beautiful and enormous Михаиловский Дворец, standing on Площадь Искусств (The Square of Arts) just off Nevsky Prospekt.

The building itself, the Mikhailovsky Palace, was completed in 1825 and designed by an Italian architect, Carlo Rossi, for Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich, son of Tsar Paul I. The palace is next to the Mikhailovsky Theatre and used to be used for balls and many theatrical productions. Parts of the museum have retained the palace’s beautiful interior. For example, there are two enormous halls in the museum, where all balls and grand events were held, which happen to contain my favourite paintings in the museum, such as ‘The Last Day of Pompeii’, depicting the chaos during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, by Karl Briullov.

The museum was commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II to commemorate his late father, Tsar Alexander III. The museum was officially opened in 1898, and only contained around 1,500 items at first! The original collection comprised of certain paintings and works of art transferred from the Hermitage and the royal palaces. Throughout the museum’s history, many different institutions from all over Russia have transferred their collection to the Russian Museum in order to increase its size and calibre. Nowadays, the museum houses over four hundred thousand works of art, and it has the Bolshevik party to thank for the enormous collection.

After the October Revolution of 1917, all private collections found by the Party were nationalised and sent to the Russian Museum to be put on display, increasing its size by almost seven times! It now covers ‘the entire history of Russian fine art from the tenth century until the present day’, from Old Russian icons from Novgorod to the world’s finest collection of Russian avant-garde! The museum’s excellent connections with the Hermitage mean that the collection inside is always improving and getting larger.

I would recommend that the Russian Museum is one of the priorities when it comes to a trip to St Petersburg (I have been there three times!), as the beautiful palace interior coupled with the amazing collection of Russian art is most definitely a must-see in St Petersburg.

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