History of The Russian Museum
The State Russian Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of Russian
fine art. It was opened on March 7 (19) 1898 by decree of Tsar Nicholas
II and was country’s first ever state museum of Russian fine art, which was able
to present the visitors the whole history of its development. From the very beginning the
collection was housed in the Mikhailovsky Palace, which was built for the Grand Duke Mikhail
Pavlovich, son of Paul I.
The nucleus of the Museum collection consisted of oil
painting, sculpture, graphic art, decorative and applied art. On the whole it was less than
1500 items mainly from the collections of the Hermitage, the Museum of the Academy
of Arts and from the Royal Palaces. Some exhibits came from private collectors, for example the
Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky collection was acquired from his heirs. The size of the Russian Museum
collection almost doubled during the first decade of its existence. The Academy of Arts also
transferred its collection of Christian Antiquities — five thousands items —
including Novgorod icons, wooden sculpture and samples of the middle-century religious art. The
Lobanov-Rostovsky collection donated to the Museum included 95 portraits of the Russian
statesmen of the 18-19 centuries.
Another source of acquisitions was the collection from the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo
(items from the Anichkov Palace entered the Museum much later).
Nikolai Likhachev donated his vast collection of Greek and Old-Russian icons.
A considerable part of fine artworks was presented to the Museum from the private
collections. The October Revolution caused no damage to the Russian Museum collection. All the
nationalized private collections and separate artworks were transferred to museums. During the first
decade after the Revolution the Russian Museum collection grew several times compared to its original
size. The ties of the Russian Museum with the Hermitage and the Tretyakov Gallery permitted mutually
advantageous interchange of artistic treasures.
Nowadays the collection of the Russian Museum numbers some 400.000 works and covers the entire
history of Russian fine art from the tenth century to the present day. It reflects
virtually every form and genre of art in Russia, including a unique collection of Old
Russian icons, works of painting, graphic art and sculpture, decorative and applied art, folk art and
numismatics, as well as the world’s finest collection of Russian avant-garde.
Since 1976, the Russian Museum has been a National center coordinating the academic and methodological
work of all the art museums of Russia. In 1992, the President of the Russian Federation
signed a decree acknowledging the Museum as a special object of national cultural
Now the Museum is the owner of three more palaces in the center of St Petersburg,
the Stroganov Palace, Marble Palace and St Michael’s Castle. Restoration work is
currently going on in each of these palaces. Nevertheless, all of them already house
expositions and exhibitions from the collection of the Russian Museum.