Collections of Relics of Culture of Western and Southern Slavs, the Albanians, Hungarians and the Romanians

Natalia Kalashnikova

The Museum's archives has preserved documents of the relevant correspond museums of ethnography in Warsaw, Belgrade, Prague, Sofia and elsewhere, grounds to conclude that the Museum's initiative met with a lively response, and the colleagues actively contributed to the creation of the collections.

In 1907—10 a group of researchers from Slovenia and what is today the Czech Republic, headed by the famous archaeologist Lubomir Niderle, accumulated a most interesting collection of pottery and objects made of wood and metal. Foreign artists and students undergoing training in St. Petersburg were also encouraged to take part in the collecting. Thus, for example, a sizeable collection was made up in Montenegro owing to the participation of  a student from that country, Mirko Madenitsa, who himself handled the registration of the newly-arrived exhibits, as well as of everything received from Montenegro. In the 1920s there was a certain lessening in this activity. The only noteworthy developments were the take-overs of two exhibits from the Gatchina palace-museum (children's suits) and of painter K. Dalmatov's collection (about 100 painted eggs made by Slovak craftsmen).

In 1948 the Museum's holding was considerably augmented when it took over the possessions of the Museum of the USSR Peoples. Its most valuable part was the stuff from the 1897 Ethnography Exhibition, which included, among other things, some Slavonic collections. A large number of prominent figures, including M. Rayevsky (1811 —1884), rector of the Russian Embassy church in Vienna, had been invited to participate in the procurement of exhibits and photographs for that exhibition. M. Rayevsky corresponded extensively with famous scholars and leaders of Slavs' liberation movements. He sent 300 invitations and translated into German a programme for the selection of exhibits and photographs for the exhibition. It was on his request, for example, that the editor Abel Lucshich of the Serbian magazine Slavine Blattes paid visits to the cities of Novi Sad, Vukovar, Zagreb and Ljubljana  in May, 1866, to have talks about the sending to the Moscow Ethnographic Exhibition of  objects characteristic of the culture and life of Southern Slavs. The Zagreb Society for Studies of the History and Languages of Southern Slavs and Belgrade's Serbian Academic Society set up special committees and commissions for collecting appropriate materials. Considerable assistance was also given by the Illyrian, Serbian and Slovenian educational organisations of Matitsa. Within a very short period of time (1865—67) fine collections of the material cultures of the nationalities inhabiting Slavonic countries were prepared.

Of particular interest among the 1867 exhibits are complete national costumes from different regions of Slavonic countries, some of which date from the 18th—early 19th centuries. They are all the more valuable now that many Slavonic museums have lost their collections as a results of the disasters that shook Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries.

In 1953 the Museum's holding was further enhanced when it received some exhibits from the Museum of Gifts to Stalin, which had been set up in the post-war period to keep presents from the working people of Socialist countries.

In 1960—90 there were less significant additions received as presents from private individuals and museums or from temporary exhibitions shown in the USSR.

At present the Museum's collection of foreign ethnography comprises sets of men’s, women's and children's garments, details of interior decoration (of textile, wood and metal), household utensils, attributes of public and family holidays and rites, objects of folk arts and crafts, decorative and applied arts and indigenous souvenirs (18th—20th centuries).