Collections

The Russian Museum of Ethnography situated in Saint-Petersburg is one of the largest  ethnographic museums in the world.  The objects of traditional cultures of Russia and  neighboring countries are kept in its walls.  The museum has more than     700,000 artifacts    and  photographs,  which represent the cultural heritage of 157 peoples of European Russia, Siberia, Far    East, Caucasus and Crimea and embrace the period from 18th century to present times.

The Russian Museum of Ethnography has  more than 100 years of existence and   its    foundation is related with the Alexander III, the Emperor of Russia. By his decree The Russian museum was established in the  April  of 1895, in structure of which  in  the January of 1902 Nicolas II the last emperor of Russia organized Ethnographic Department in memory of his father. The museum was conceived as grandiose imperial project which main objective was to  show the picture of ethnographic dimension of our fatherland, the picture of peoples living in Russia and in close neighborhood with it.  only by appointment It was exactly the project, because museum was created and its collections were forming not on the base of random sample or materials gathered for exhibition, but from the  absolute zero following the concept elaborated by its founders which concerned both external characteristics of museum's activity (architecture of building and its exhibition galleries) and    internal ones (collection gathering, structural organization, etc). This moment forms the uniqueness of the Russian Museum of Ethnography. External context was also in harmony with ideas of its founders, because  the late 19th  - the Golden Age  of the  world exhibitions  which in significant degree determined our vision of the world as the series  of  representation,    was  marked by rapid increase of ethnographic museums in Europe and North  America, which was part of effort to  put culture in order from  top to toes. Scientific and ideological interests happily united in conceptual argumentation of necessity to create Ethnographic museum: the new museum not only started to meet demands of rapidly developing  ethnography but partly becomes a showcase of the state colonial expansion and at the same an instrument of forming society as colonial force.     The partial reason was that Russian peasantry -the main object of museum interest occupied ambiguous position in orientalistic paradigm.  On one hand they played a role of dominating force, assimilating other peoples with different  degree of success. On the other hand Russians themselves in the eyes of intellectual elite were  almost unknown in ethnographic respect nation  requiring detailed description, “inventory making” and classification.    

On one hand as imperial museum (its curator was the Grand Prince Georgy Michailovich) it must represent all the peoples of Russian empire, on the other hand it must show dominating role of Russian people. Therefore its main objective was formulated as study of    “Russian race” and demonstration of its “ethnic individuality.  The museum's fields of interests included not only the peoples of Russia and neighboring territories, but also “the Slavic ethnography” - the tribute to Slavophilic inclinations of museum's founders and the emperor Alexander III by whose decree the museum was established.

First time museum exposition was opened to public view in 1923,  it was the result of ethnographers' effort to unite the picture of the USSR ethnographic dimension. The entire  museum exposition  was a sort of space model of state, therefore the peoples were arranged as much as possible in the way they actually lived.  In 1934 the Ethnographic Department of the State Russian Museum was reorganized in the independent State Museum of Ethnography which  in 1992 received its present name -The Russian Museum of Ethnography.