The State Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia

This week, I finally made it to the Museum of Contemporary History of Russia. I was impressed. I spent two hours there, but only had a chance to see about half of the museum. I exited from the room which covers 1940-1945. So, I have to return to see Stalin and World War II, Khrushev and the Cold War, the Space Race, Brehzhev and Afghanistan, two boycotted Olympics and finally Gorbachev. Should be excting!
But, first, my comments on the museum and the period from 1900 to 1940.

The museum is on Tverskaya, one of the big and well-known streets of Moscow. I walked there from home, stopping at Pizza Hut along the way. (It’s cheap and fast.) While I was there, a guy – looked american – came in, sat along the wall and orderded. I heard him say “Gimme a BIG Pepsi” using hand motions to emphasize big. I wanted to go over there, strike up a conversation, see what brought him to Moscow, what he had seen, what he still wanted to see, etc., but I thought it would be weird. As I left, I saw him preparing to take a picture of his pepsi and table decorations. Hey, if you read this, send me a copy of the picture!

Anyway, I had my own plans. Luckily, the weather was not as cold as it was last week. Soon enough, I was at the museum. I paid the “foreigner” fee of 150 roubles vs. 60 roubles for russian adults, checked my coat and bag (required) and walked up the stairs to the entrance.


Marble Mural on staircase to entrance

There is a stand with mimeographed pages in english telling you a bit about the museum. They have pages for each room, but only in Rusisan. The english language museum maps which are available next to the coat check briefly describe each room.
The first room is called the Introductory Room. It’s an organized mess in there. Immediately to my right were artifacts and paintings of Czar Nicholas. Immediately to the left, there was a small Soviet Union flag with a letter from the US Embassy attesting that this flag had flown with Apollo 15 and was in possession of one astronaut at all times. It may have even been on the moon. The rest of the room had artifacts from all former Soviet Republics, including a hat from Kyzyl, which I learned of from “Tuva or Bust!”. Oh, and lots of pictures with President Vladimir Putin and some vestigal ones with Boris Yeltsin. There were some nice pieces in this room, but it didn’t really make a lot of sense as it was the first room.

The next seventeen rooms chronicled Russia and the Soviet Union from mid-19th century up to the beginning of World War II. Everything was displayed nicely, but there was no “color” for any items. Instead, just a perfunctory description of what you were looking at, like “oil on canvas”, “cigarette case”, “photo of Arbat street”, and whose work it was, and the year. When I would see a picture with Lenin and Trotsky and others, I would think “What’s the occasion? Why are they gathering for a photo here and now?” My questions would go unanswered.
Maybe this is why they offer guided tours, to provide the color, but you should still be able to learn something just by wandering through. Better of course would be some electronic device with brief spoken text for certain noteworthy items.

After two hours, it was time to go home. I was really impressed with what they had, how it was displayed. There are some really beautiful things and some really interesting things, too. Very happy I went. Can’t wait to finish the second half, 1940 until 1989.

Explore posts in the same categories: Museums

One Comment on “The State Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia”

  1. Steve Fowler Says:

    I have been to Moscow many times and I always want to visit this museum. In Feb of 2012 I went there but it I had a meeting so soon a Mayakovskaya Metro that I could not stop.
    On the same trip I went to the Memorial Synagogue and Holocaust Museum. I really did not want to go to the Synagogue but as a tour planner for Moscow visits, I felt like I should.
    To my surprise the whole visit was fascinating! Definitely worth a visit especially if you are going to Victory Park anyway.

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