Russians late XIX – early XX century
Russian Traditonal Costume late. XIX – early XX c.
Belarusians. Late XIX – early XX cc.
Moldavians. Late XIX – early XX century
Ukranians. Late XIX – early XX cc.
The peoples of North-West Russia and the Baltic region
The peoples of Central Asia and Kazakhstan
The peoples of the Volga and Ural regions
The unique collection of Tatar culture
The peoples of South Caucasus. Late XIX – early XX cc.
The history and culture of the jews of Russia
The treasures of the Special Storage

Russians late  XIX – early XX century

The permanent exhibition starts with photographs of Russian people of various ages and social groups taken in their everyday environment. They introduce visitor to the atmosphere of life in provincial Russia in turn of XIX-XX centuries.  

The introduction section presents the map of settlement and shows the main stages of ethnic history of Russian people.

Peasant labor       

The first hall of permanent exhibition tells about economical occupations of Russian peasants– the techniques of traditional agriculture, husbandry, fishing, apiary, and treatment of fibers.

Agriculture, the base of Russian peasantry’s economy is represented by complete cycle of works– ploughing with wood ard and harrow, manual sowing from bast basket, and harvesting.  All the stages of agricultural works were accompanied with magic and church rites aimed to influence the earth’s fertility.  If men generally ploughed and seeded, harvesting of cereals was almost completely women’s task. 

They harvested manually during all the daylight hours. They came to field with breast-feeding babies, who were under supervision of older children. Many beliefs and rites, “harvest songs”, and magic formulas were related with hot harvest time. Women put on special shirts and in the last day of works performed the ancient rite of tying the “St Nicolas beard”. Woman belted with towel several non-harvested rye ears, and then bent them to land as if returning the force taken from the earth by mature harvest. It should be put bread and salt under the “beard” to please the Saint Nicolas in hope of abundant harvest. This rite is reproduced in the scene “Harvest”.

Another scene shows various stages of flax manual treatment: crushing of coarse shive with help of wood flax hand brake, scutching — the first fibers’ cleaning of crushed shive and final cleaning of yarn with metal brush or comb.

In the same hall transport means and harness are placed:  a dugout flatboat, a low wide sledge decorated with wood carving and pattern of hammered iron, a yoke, painted bow and other articles of travel daily life.  On the first plan one can see the dugout flatboat with complete equipment for “shooting” fish made of the entire log. It is one of archaic methods of fishing in the shallow water in night time.  A fisherman lighted the river water with burning oakum tied to metal “luchnik” and shot with metal pointed wood harpoon large fish attracted and detected by his torch.

Crafts and craftsmen

The second hall is dedicated to Russian traditional crafts where central place is given to wood treatment. Because of abundance of forest Russia was called “the forest country”. Houses were constructed of wood; all kinds of tools, furniture, chests, transport means, toys, and musical instruments were made of wood. Lapti (traditional footwear) were woven of bast and birch bark, cracked earthenware was wrapped in birch bark for firmness.  Wood, clay and metal utensils of various shapes and functions are demonstrated on the central podium.

From time immemorial painted and patterned stamped textiles were broadly used in Russia. Manual dying and colored patterning was made by rural craftsmen dyers in special workshops. The home-made textile was dyed in vats with pigment. Fabrics with patterns covered with wax, which after removing wax remained unpainted were also put in them. This method of making pattern was called “vaplenie”. Textile was more frequently decorated with print stamps with relief pattern.  A plank covered with paint was put on the fabric and beaten with mallet (therefore the name of craft –“naboika”).  Also blue fabric was put on plank painted with oil pigment and rolled with a wood roller.  For obtaining multicolored print fabric the number of planks should correspond to the number of colors.  Significant place is given to metal work – smithery and casting. One can see door brackets, fancy locks, lighting devices, bow bells, veterinary buckles.   Most of these casual objects are splendid examples of Russian metalwork art.

The Russian  log house izba

The third hall of permanent exhibition dedicated to dwelling introduces visitor to the world of Russian folk architecture and house daily life. Architectural carving endowed   the Russian village in northerner and Volga areas of Russia with unique specifics.  It decorated the frontal side of izba, cornices, prichelinas − concave planks, platbands, shutters, balconies and porches. The old examples of house carving were picturesque and elegant: lions, Sirin birds often with human faces, mermaids, vines and grapes, rosettes.  Decorative details of peasant log houses were closely associated with practical needs: frontal planks prichelinas covered the holes between log cabin and roof, platbands – between log cabin and window frame, the corners of log cabins were covered with carved planks. The roof gable was completed with ochlupen – a voluminous figure of horse or a bird that from old times had sacred meaning of house guardian. Not only living facilities, but also chapels, barns, gates and wickets were decorated.  

In the same hall the conventional interior of northern peasant house with the Sacred Corner and strictly established by tradition arrangement of home utensils and implements is shown. In the center of hall one can see various peasant utensils: copper samovars, containers for sbiten’ (a sort of nonalcoholic hot honey drink), salt cellars, wood ladles, endovas − copper cups for beer and honey beer medovukha, lighting sticks of various shapes. Many of these objects served as indispensable attributes of family rites.

The permanent exhibition “Russian traditional costume” opened for the public on December 27, 2008. It  presents  32 women, men and children costumes as well as the separate items of clothes and jewelry dated to ХIХ – early ХХ cc.

The permanent exhibition “Russian traditional costume”, the fifth hall of the permanent exhibition "Russians XIХ – early ХХ cc" is devoted to traditional costume. In general the exhibition shows the costumes of peasants and urban residents of modest fortune in ХIХ – early ХХ cc. 

The clothes were sewn of flax, hemp and wool homemade textiles, as well as of manufacture fabrics: silk, moire, damask, velvet, brocade, half-brocade, cashmere,  cotton satin, chintz. Traditional Russian costume was distinguished by its beauty and elegance of its shapes; it corresponded to ethic concepts of Russian people and their notions about woman and man beauty.

The peasant costume of XIX-early XX cc. was varied; there were many types and versions of it. Woman costume was especially diverse. The researchers usually distinguish four of its varieties:  the costume set with sarafan, the set with poneva, the set with wool skirt and the set with kubilek. 

The set with sarafan included shirt, sarafan, breast clothes /false sleeves, jacket dushegreya, shugai/ kokoshnik for women, crown for girls, leather or bast footwear. Apart of northern and central governorates of the European Russia it was widespread in central and lower parts of Volga region, in the Urals, Siberia and Altay. 

The set of clothing with poneva consisted of shirt, poneva (wrapped skirt), breastplate / navershnik, shushun, kastalan/, complex headdress called magpie soroka for women, a headband for girls, leather or bast footwear. It was widespread in many governorates to the south of Moscow. These two costume sets differed in number of costume articles, way of wearing clothes, and combination of colors, character of adornments, peculiarities of ornamental motifs and details of cut.

The costume with wool skirt also including shirt with turn down collar, sleeveless jacket, sash and kokoshnik was known in several villages of southern Russia (The governorates of Tula, Kursk, Orel and Voronezh) among the descendants of the men of service sent from western lands to protect the Russian State against steppe nomadic peoples in XVI-XVII centuries.

The set of clothes with kubilek –a tight fitted dress under which shirt with broad sleeves was put on, together with hood-like headdress fixed on the hairdo and long thin veil was widespread among the Cossak women of Lower Don and Terek.

Festive dress of girls and young women was richly decorated with embroidery, patterned woven stripes, laces, ribbons, cord, sparkles, gold and silver thread. A set of jewelry including earrings, rings, necklaces, metal chains in north Russian costume and gaitans – long breast beads adornment in the South Russian one were Indispensable supplement to clothing.   

The characteristic feature of men’s costume was its relative uniformity in the entire territory of Russian people’s settlement. Regional or local differences were insignificant and consisted in location of ornament on shirt, its color gamma, technique of belt braiding and form of headdress. It was comprised of skewed-collared shirt with low stand-up collar or without it. The shirt was usually worn over narrow pants and belted with narrow belt. The costume was supplemented by hat made of sheep wool, leather boots or bast footwear.

In winters the upper dress of woman and men consisted of fur coat sewn fur inside, fur hat, combined with kerchief in case of women. In summer time wool caftans, home spoon coats zypuns, azyams and loose overalls   were worn.

The peculiarity of Russian traditional costume was that it divided people in accordance with their age, family status, and social position. The costume helped easily distinguish rich from  poor, not betrothed girl from  bride, old maid or married woman, young  bachelor from married man, solitary man from  man with family, widow from soldier’s wife, shepherd from miller, miller from potter, potter from smith etc.   Moreover, costume always corresponded to concrete situation or particular event in human life. The clothing put on at home in working days differed from the clothing in which people went to harvest, hay-making or sowing. The Sunday costume differed from the costume put in the Easter or Christmas; special “mourning” costume was required at funerals or mourning, in church groom and bride stand in front of altar in wedding costumes.  Clothes were attributes of many rites. Such ancient articles of clothes as shirt, wrapped skirt poneva and headdress had especially strong semantic meaning.  .

At the turn of XVII- early XVIII cc. the upper classes of Russian society started to wear the clothes of general European type. It occurred due to changes in economical, social and political spheres of Russia’s life and the decrees of Peter I of  1700 and 1702 prohibiting to wear national dress for nobles, merchants, officers and city craftsmen Traditional costume which passed long way of development became predominantly  the peasants’ clothes. In large villages situated near governorate and district cities and towns,  craftsmen settlements and  Cossack villages traditional clothes were replaced by the costume of European type as early as in  XIX–XX cc. In more remote areas, in Siberia, southern areas of European Russia it remained as late as 1930s. In the Old Believers’ villages of Siberia one can see traditional costume in use still in 1950s.

The permanent exhibition on ethnography of Belarusians opens with the map of this people’s settlement and gallery of photographic portraits of Belarusian peasants from various governorates at the turn of XIX-XX cc.

Traditional Belarusian house

The central place occupies a full-size model of log house. Traditional Belarusian house consisted of two rooms – a living khata and a cold anteroom.  The gable roof was covered with straw, the floor was earthen or mud. The Sacred Corner with icon and lamp was decorated with festive towel; the table was covered with home-made mantelpiece.  People slept on the plank platform behind the oven. The lighting of room with lighting stick remained until XIX century. The heart of the house was the large Russian oven, which occupied particular place in daily life of the East Slavic peoples.  It warmed the house, people cooked food, baked bread in oven, and they dried their clothes near it oven, children and old persons slept on the oven.  In some areas of Belarus people bathed in still warm oven and rural potters fired clay utensils in it. Many beliefs and rites were related with oven.

Men’s and women’s occupations

Traditional agriculturalists Belarusians dedicated themselves to many supplementary occupations and crafts, mostly to wood and flax treatment; the division into male and female labor was related to these materials.   Not only living, economical and cult constructions but also work tools, furniture, transport means, musical instruments and all kinds of utensils: cooperage, dugouts, basketry were made of wood, roots, bast, rods, straw, and reed.

Instruments and devices for treatment and spinning fibers and the weaving loom ready for using tell about women’s occupations. 

The Belarusian costume

The Belarusian clothes presented by festive and ritual costumes were almost entirely sewn of home woven textiles.

The woman costume consisted of shirt with neck-band or standup collar, striped or checkered skirt, apron and sleeveless jacket. The shirt and apron were decorated with embroidery, patterned weaving along the sleeves and the hem. Married women hid their hair under a bonnet, previously having wrapped them on a bast hoop, and over the bonnet they put on nametka – an ancient headdress in form of long flax towel. In XIX century nametkas were gradually replaced by manufacture-produced kerchiefs.  Girls plaited their hair in braids, didn’t cover their heads or wore wreaths leaving the top of head uncovered. In wedding the bride also put on a wreath of paper flowers decorated with silk ribbons and silk lace. The favorite adornments of Belarusian women were glass necklaces and strings of beads.

The base of men’s costume was flax shirt with straight cut of collar, always belted, which was worn over narrow pants. On their heads men put on wool cone-shaped caps, felt hats or hats with ear flaps. In XIX century   beaked caps appeared in Belarusian village.  The main men and women footwear were bast shoes of straight weaving. Instead of socks and stockings calves were wrapped with canvas stripes and tied atop with ropes. The ancient clothing of East Slaves was sewn without pockets; small objects were worn in hats, under clothes, in putties or in bootlegs. The outdoor clothes were sewn of canvas, wool or sheep skin. Men’s and women’s coats and jackets were identical and were always buttoned up to the left “woman” side. 

Honey and wax in folk life

The archaic apiary complex is also interesting. Honey was favorite delicacy; traditional merry-making beverage medovukha was made of it, it was commonly used in folk medicine. Wax was applied for candle-making; propolis was used as a glue substance and for curing. The exhibition present the ancient way of beekeeping which has its origins in ancient honey hunting – collection of wild bees’ honey with their previous smoking out of tree hollows. Later peasants started to catch the swarms of wild bees in forest and settle them in artificial hollows or hollowed bee-hives – the borts. Borts were hanged on high trees with help of special wheel device, and a beekeeper climbed up by lezivo – a rope device with hook and wood seat. From XIX century the bort beekeeping was gradually replacing by more productive apiary beekeeping with use at first hollowed and then frame beehives.


The winegrowers and winemakers

Soft and humid climate, abundance of sun, fertile black soils, and peculiarities of valley and mountain relief favored development of intense agriculture and livestock breeding among Moldavians. In the late XIX century the former Bessarabia Governorate occupied one of the first places respecting the square of vineyards and Moldavian wines were highly demanded in interior and exterior markets. Only in the Ackerman District there were more than 800 vineyards and 40,000 buckets of high quality were annually produced.

The exhibition shows primitive tools for cultivating vine which Moldavian peasants used for centuries: light axe and vine knife “kosor” and baskets woven of vine, wood buckets to store grapes during harvesting. Growing and cultivation of vine required much  labor inputs of work  and time.

The permanent exhibition on Ukrainians, the second in number East Slavic people shows both traditional culture of Ukrainian people as a whole and local particularities of their separate groups.

The exhibition presents picturesque gallery of traditional festive costumes, among which the outdoor clothing of Hutsuls, Boykos and Lemkos– the ethnographic groups of western areas of the former Malorossiya is distinguished by special decorative effect and archaism of cut.


The exhibition is dedicated to twelve peoples of the region and arranged in format of four cultural-anthropological reviews - "The People of Sea”, “The People of Land”, “The People of Forest” and “The People of Tundra”. They reveal the brightest aspects of ethnic tradition and give examples of historical and cultural mutual influence of the peoples of region. 

The exhibition of the Russian Museum of Ethnography “The Peoples of North-West Russia and the Baltic Region in XVIII – XX cc. is devoted to twelve peoples of this vast region  which since times immemorial played an important role in history of Russian state. For many centuries these lands were specific crossroad between Eastern, Middle and Northern Europe. Here Baltic, Finnish-Baltic, Germanic and Slavic peoples lived, traded and not infrequently waged wars. Early cultural contacts of eastern areas of Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were dealt with neighboring Russian lands; local population paid tribute to certain Russian princedoms. The Finno-Ugric peoples Chud’, Vod’, Ves’, Lop’. Korela, Izhora – the indigenous population of territories to the east of the Narva River in the areas of Volkhov and Luga Rivers and the Lake Ladoga were included In the sphere of allied, cultural-economical and later state-economical relations with Rus’.

The raids of Crusaders started in XII c. C.E.в. incorporated Finns, Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians in the sphere of development of the West-Christian culture and history. In many aspects the specific of cultural tradition determined by coexistence of various confessions– Orthodox, Lutheran, and Catholic. 

With time two cultural zones appeared in these lands; The East one with evident influence of Slavic culture, and the West zone with equally evident influence of Germanic and Scandinavian cultures.

The permanent exhibition “The Peoples of North-West of Russia and the Baltic Region in XVIII-XX cc.” is the first experience of recreating by museum means history and culture of the population of Baltic and Barents regions throughout XVIII-XX cc.  Arranged in format of cultural-anthropological reviews it consists of 4 sections: The People of Sea”, “The People of Land”, “The People of Forest” and “The People of Tundra”. Every section includes the subjects that help to highlight the brightest and the most original aspects of ethnic tradition of peoples-neighbors, to demonstrate genetic relation of a series of cultural phenomena, and to show examples of    historical-cultural mutual ties and influences both in past and present.

The exhibition presents more than 700 authentic artifacts of traditional culture of XVIII – XX cc and about 200 rare photographs on ethnography of the Baltic-Finish peoples of North-West and Swedes, Latvians and Lithuanians.  Several generations of ethnographers of XX century worked in museum or cooperated with it as correspondents participated in formation of these collections. The visitors of exhibition can know the way of life of region’s population, their spiritual life, traditional family and calendar rites and festivals, to see various objects of daily use, everyday, festive and working clothes.  For the first time the unique collection on daily life and culture of Saami is exhibited.

The exhibition shows ethnographic films, reproduces records of music folklore (working songs, wedding wails, funeral chants, songs related to calendar rites). In frames of this permanent exhibition organization of temporary exhibitions dedicated to particular interesting aspects of culture of these peoples is planned.  

Fishman O.M.
Ivanovskaya N.I.
Zadneprovkaya A.Yu. .

The cultural specifics of region were determined by coexistence of two different civilizations – the settled one and the nomadic one which reflected in structure of permanent exhibition embracing two main sections.

The cultural specifics of region were determined by coexistence of two different civilizations – the settled one and the nomadic one which reflected in structure of permanent exhibition embracing two main sections.

The cultural specifics of region were determined by coexistence of two different civilizations – the settled one and the nomadic civilization which reflected in structure of permanent exhibition embracing two main sections. The first section is dedicated to traditional culture of Tajiks and Uzbeks who were mainly settled agriculturalists. The second section characterizes the culture of semi-nomadic peoples of region – Kazakhs, Karakalpaks, Kirghizes and Turkmen who settled in the areas unfitted for agriculture, in general dedicating themselves to livestock breeding.

The first section is devoted to traditional urban culture of the central part of region – the territory of Central Asian Interfluve, which creators in equal degree were Uzbeks and Tajiks. In Bukhara, Samarkand, Khiva and other cities they formed trade and craft population and had many features in common in their ritual and daily life.

On the exhibition on can see examples of traditional crafted textiles, copper utensils with fine engraved patterns, painted ceramics, original jewelry, skilful silk embroideries. These objects are shown included in daily life scenes helping to demonstrate the context of their use.

One of scenes presents the rite of initiation of a craftsmen guild apprentice to mastership. The head of guild ties the initiated apprentice with a belt – the sign of his new status. In acknowledgment the apprentice presented his teacher a set of clothes.

The exhibition recreates traditional interior of gala room in city house. Here the ancient rite of the first putting of baby to cradle is shown which was accompanied with magic actions for his health and well-being.

The unique exhibits are theater dolls – the glove puppets and the common ones shown in the section dedicated to the culture of urban shows.

The objects related to Islam a Quran manuscript on a stand, prayer rug, circumcision knife and vessels for ritual ablution are shown in separate section. The costume and attributes of dervishes who were the adherents of Sufism – the mystic- ascetic movement of Islam comprise special complex.

Separate subject is dedicated to culture of semi-nomadic Uzbeks whose traditional occupations were livestock breeding and crafts related to treatment of wool and leather.

The rare exhibits characterize the peculiarity of culture of mountain Tajiks and Pamir peoples which for a long time conserved archaic features in condition of mountain isolation. Among these objects one can see hand-made ceramics, wood utensils with carved ornament, inflatable leather sack for crossing highland rivers. The wedding face curtains of Mountain Tajik women which embroidered patterns include ancient magic symbols are unique.

The second section. The image of steppe space creates special atmosphere for demonstration of exhibits, telling about the culture of livestock breeding peoples of regions. Its specific forms were determined by mobile life of nomads, the most explicit testimony of which is frame dwelling – yurt, which construction and picturesque interior are reproduced on exhibition. The furnishing of Kazakh yurt is enriched by the scene of guest’s reception characterizing the custom of hospitality –the most important norm of nomadic etiquette.

The special importance of moving for the entire nomadic lifestyle is reflected in the theme in which the preparation for departure, movement of livestock by shepherd, loading of home belongings on a horse are conventionally represented on example of Kirghizes. Movement, freedom, space are the primary welfare for nomad, therefore in their view the notions of movement and life were almost inseparable

The Turkmen daily culture is represented by famous carpet products which surrounded man throughout all his life. The role of carpets was great in Turkmen wedding ritual, which is represented on the exhibition by the ritual of meeting bride in groom’s house. Here so rare exhibits as camel festive harness of wedding train and wedding tent of bride put on its back are shown. A complex set of silver adornments played special role in Turkmen woman wedding costume.

The bridal costume is also in the center of the complex of Karalpak exhibits. Every element of this costume is unique, first of all it’s gorgeous headdress in form of ancient helmet, and dress with rich embroidery which was named “a pattern of chain armour”.

The separate theme is dedicated to production of wool textiles and felt — the materials which helped nomads of the region to adapt to severe climate conditions of mountain-steppe stripe of Eurasia. The colorful ornament of felts encapsulate the world picture of their creators, symbols of fertility and prosperity, producing the feeling of joy and harmony.

The authors of permanent exhibition tried to how not only traditional culture of every people separately but also the specifics of multinational region in a whole.

In spite of differences in languages and origins the culture of peoples inhabiting the Volga shores has many similar features related to common territory, unity of historical fate and economical development.  The common features in culture of people of the region are characterized in the introduction part of exhibition.

The main part of exhibition telling about culture of each people is arranged by thematic principle. Featuring every people the most typical for traditional culture of this people sets of artifacts were selected from huge diversity of ethnographic topics. Particular attention on the exhibition is paid to central scenes which recreate unrepeatable, expressive images of every people through unique authentic material. These are: “Hunting log house” (Komi-Zyryane), “On the porch” (Komi-Permyaks), “Barn-kenos” (Udmurts), “Wedding” (Mordva), “Chimneyless log house» (Mari), “Making of sacks and mats” (Chuvashes), “In movement” (Bashkirs), “Woman’s side of Tatar house” (Tatars).

The Komi-Permyaks often passed warm season on the porch facing the yard. Here under the shelter peasants made necessary utensils and clothes: wove baskets and belts, embroidered.


The Huntsman’s Log House

The hunting log house of Komi-Zyryans served as lodging for the night and a temporary housing. It was low (on the level of human height) construction of cut poles or thin logs with shed roof covered with sod, tree bark, fir branches.  Bull bladders were inserted in small side windows; the interior of log house had plank beds, benches and table.  Oven was fired without chimney and log house was lighted by birch splinter. The utensils used by huntsmen were made of wood or birch bast.

The Supplementary Construction – "Kenos"

The typical Udmurt outhouse building was barn (kenos) often two-stored. The lower room served as food storage and on the second floor where woman was absolute mistress the instruments of woman crafts – spinning and weaving and clothes made by women’s hands were kept. Here the meetings for sewing dowry were organized and at wedding bride was dressed in clothing of married woman. In kenos the newlywed spent their first wedding night in any season.

The Putting of Bride’s Dowry

Among the Mordva all the important moments in human’s life were accompanied by various rites. Most of rites were related to wedding. Some researchers count more than 30 rites. Special ritual was dedicated to putting bride’s dowry in special chest-vat. This vat hollowed out of entire trunk of a lime-tree and decorated with carving the father-in-low presented to his future daughter-in-law before wedding. Previously the vat was incensed against with lighted chip, silver coins, a loaf of bread, cakes, a pair of bast footwear and then clothes were put on the bottom.  Married woman relatives of bride put her dowry in vat and she was sitting near with “mourning” handkerchief and wailed. The wailing of bride accompanied the entire wedding rite. It was believed that the more tears would be shed by girl leaving her parents’ house; the more fortunate would be her marriage.  

The Chimneyless Log House – “Kudo”

Among Mari outbuildings the ancient type of dwelling kudo – a chimneyless log house with shed roof and earth floor conserved. In XIX century these constructions were used as summer kitchens. The furnishing of room was very simple – wood benches and shelves with wood utensils. In summer time in kudo a cast iron pendant cauldron hanged to the ceiling by wood sliding hook was used to cook food at the open fire.  The smoke of fire freely emerged through slots in a ceiling or through an opened door.

The Sack Weaving – Making of Sacks and Mats

Among Chuvashes land deficiency was one of the reasons of development of supplementary crafts generally related to use of region’s forest resources. Significant place among them occupied the sack weaving – production of mats of lime-tree bast. They were woven on primitive vertical and horizontal looms which in winter were stood in log house and in summer on the yard near the house wall.  All the members of family participated in work. The Chuvash weavers provided with packing materials numerous owners of trade ships in Volga.  

The Woman’s  Part of House

The specifics of interior furnishing of Tatar dwelling was plank platform situated along the entire frontal part of log house. There people slept, ate, received guests.  Rugs and doormats were put on plank platforms, wools near platforms were decorated with patterned towels, gaudy textiles and prayer rugs.  Blankets, pillows, mattresses, featherbeds were put on plank platforms. There was a table sometimes in the Tatar dwelling, but it wasn’t used for dinner, it was stood for samovar and kitchenware. On the line of joist a curtain was usually hanged which was drawn in presence of outsiders separating woman’s side from man’s side. The presence of woman’s side in the Tatar house was due to Muslim custom of women’s seclusion.  

The Roaming of the Steppe Bashkirs

At the turn of XIX-XX cc. the livestock breeding as the main occupation remained only among the Eastern Bashkirs who continued to live semi-nomadic life in mountain and steppe areas. Their traditional nomadic dwelling was felt cart. In war, weather the livestock breeders passed most of their time on the spread felt rugs before the cart.  Here they received guests entertaining them with playing kurai–old musical instrument and serving them kumuss. Kumuss the beverage of fermented mare milk was valued because of its high nutritive and healing qualities.  Slightly foaming, perfectly appeasing thirst and hunger it was especially esteemed among nomads from times immemorial.

The Art of Embroidery

The clothing of the peoples of the region is abundantly represented at the exhibition in all diversity of its separate elements and local variants.  Its embroidered examples provoke particular interest. Embroidery is one of the oldest ways to ornament clothing occupies leading place in daily art of Volga women. Composition of ornamental elements on the articles of clothing, its distribution on flat surface, embroidery technique, color gamma are quite  sophisticated and perfect.    Girls were started to be taught embroidery since the age of 8-10 years and by coming of age they became masters, best of them were considered to be the most desirable brides.

The closing section tells about spiritual culture and people’s education. Deals with creation of writing among the peoples without writing and the role of the Kazan University as the main center of education, culture and science of entire region.

Tatars of Volga and Ural Regions. XIX – early XX cc.

The permanent exhibition “Tatars of Volga and Ural Regions. XIX – early XX cc. is a part of thematic complex “The Peoples of Volga and Ural Regions.XIX – early XX cc.”

The goal of exhibition is to show the specifics of multifacetous Tatar culture outlining its uniqueness, distinguishing common and exclusive features of various groups within one ethnos.

In frames of exhibition space museum objects reflecting peculiarities of cult attributes, products of traditional crafts and occupations, costume sets, utensils, working tools of various ethnic, territorial and ethnoconfessional groups of Tatars of the Volga and Ural Regions of the Russian Empire are presented. Most of the exhibits date to the second half of XIX − early XX cc.

The introductory section of exhibition is dedicated to humanitarian mission of the Kazan University– the center for study and enlightening of all peoples of region. The illustration to this section is research works of the members of university and the members of the Society for Archeology, History and Ethnography. The publications of the translation commission of the Saint Gurias Fraternity explicitly demonstrate the role of this society which united two directions of activity – Christianization and enlightening. Tens of schools were opened, where children of local peoples studied not only the Scripture knowledge, but also reading and writing in their native languages and Russian, arithmetic and other subjects. Conventional scene demonstrating this topic represents country school.

The introduction also reflects particularities of Islam which is dominating religion and the base of worldview for the most of Tatars of region and determining the uniform norms of behavior in respect of ritual and daily life of various ethnic groups. In the exhibition space every thematic block showing the culture of Muslim Tatars includes characteristic religious attributes, for example shamaili − wall panel with quotations from Quran made in different styles.

Kazan was the center of spiritual life. Here religious literature was published, shamaili with images of saint places, quotations from Qurans, etc, distributed far beyond the region were printed. A miniature case with Quran, amulets with Quran surahs are not only religious attributes, but also the works of art of Tatar master craftsmen.

The cultural specifics of Volga and Ural Tatars were determined by city or country lifestyle, which is reflected on the exhibition.

The first section is dedicated to traditional culture of Tatars –urban residents lived in Kazan, Kostroma, Kasimov, and other cities. The thematic blocks Shop of Kazan merchant, Workshop for ichegi production, Jewelry production demonstrate the trade and craft specifics of the population of city.

In this section of exhibition the interior of room in city house is recreated. The scene with characters is illustration of tradition to receive guests on the women’s part of house. Costume sets show the peculiarities of woman festive garments of the late XIX century.

The symbolic boundary between culture of urban and rural population is the scene showing the celebration of Sabantuy. In present time this holiday continue to unite all the present no matter their ethnic affiliation and religion.

The section dedicated to economical occupations of Tatars living in countryside is represented with working tools, mainly livestock breeding instruments.

In the same section the interior of the women’s half of rural house of Mishar Tatars with conventional scene showing one of the stage of the name-giving ceremony of baby is recreated.

Especial ethnoconfesional groups of Tatar villagers in late XIX – early XX were the Orthodox Kryashens and Nağaybäks , the latter received the status of small-numbered indigenous people of the Russian Federation in 2000. The ethno-cultural particularities of Tatars professing the Orthodox Christianity are illustrated by the scene The Orthodox Festival: Procession.

Traditional headdresses, jewelry, examples of embroidery are represented on the exhibition as separate thematic blocks. These unique objects of museum collection of the middle XIX – early XX cc. show originality of Tatar traditional crafts and occupations.

The themes Men’s and women’s space, Motherhood and childhood, Culinary traditions etc, are shown with help of conventional scenes and complexes of objects. Particular role on the exhibition is given to traditional costume which is the brightest symbol of every ethnolocal group.

The photographic panel organically included in artistic design of exhibition help to create an idea about specific features of urban and country landscapes of region.

The historical photographs from the Russian Museum of Ethnography collection are additional source to show a series of topics in the frames of exhibition Traditional culture of Tatar of Volga and Ural Regions XIX – early XX cc.


On December 28 2019 the Russian Museum of Ethnography opens new exhibition dedicated to traditional culture of Tatar people. It will become a part of regional section of museum permanent exhibition about the culture of the peoples of the Volga region and important stage of developing museum’s relations with regions of country.

The unique museum collections on the culture of Tatar of the Volga and Ural region of XIX – early XX cc., many of which are exhibited for the first time, reveal expressive and original features of territorial and ethno-confessional Tatar groups, traditions  of house furnishing,  peculiarities of national costumes, economical occupations and crafts, rites and festivals, customs of rearing children, education,  and  religion.

The authors of exhibition pursued to build and upgrade the ties of ancient history with modern culture of Tatar people – one of the most numerous peoples of Russia, whose representative also comprise significant part of Saint Petersburg population. Rare historical photographs from museum collection, multimedia content on the history of Tatar collection and modern life of Tatarstan help to show continuity of traditions and uniqueness of region

The exhibition was made in close cooperation between the Russian Museum of Ethnography and public, cultural and educational institutions of the Tatarstan Republic, Tatar national communities and groups of Saint Petersburg. In the solemn inauguration of exhibition the administrative board of museum, the curators of exhibition, official representatives of Tatarstan Republic and the museum sponsors will participate.


The movement along the permanent exhibition is arranged  as a road discovering to visitor various cultural landscapes: bystreet in city, rural farmstead, monastery courtyard, picnic, etc.

The permanent exhibition "The Peoples of South Caucasus. Late XIX – early XX cc." is a part of the complex “The Peoples of Caucasus” which is still under construction. The artistic design of the exhibition “The Peoples of South Caucasus” allowed to create an image of region situated to the south of the Greater Caucasus and to restore the architectural layout of museum halls elaborated in early ХХ c. The movement along the exhibition is arranged as a road consequently revealing to visitor various cultural landscape:  bystreet in city, farmstead, monastery courtyard, picnic, etc. The theme of road is emphasized by the visual row situated in the upper part of walls composed of historical photographs. The right side of halls is mainly dedicated to men’s occupations, the left side– to women’s ones.

According to general idea, the existing scenes and object complexes form the so-called exhibition of regional type, which reflect both common cultural elements of the entire South Caucasus and materials on ethnography of separate peoples of region.

The exhibition opens with the section reflecting economical-cultural adaptation of the region’s population. It contains the following thematic units: "The ethnic territory and settlement”, “Economic activity: agriculture, husbandry, viniculture, cooking and utensils, wool   treatment”, “Settlements”. The displayed tools and costumes of various ethnic groups of region reflect the specifics of lifestyle in different landscape zones of South Caucasus. One can get idea about settlements and dwelling using authentic photographs and architectural models. An introduction to exhibition serves also the section dedicated to daily life of South Caucasian city: conventional scene represent the workshop of a Tiflis jeweler. 

The core of exhibition forms the sections showing the ethnic culture of Georgians, Armenians and Azerbaijanis. The interior of the Abkhaz smithery-shrine is presented near them.   Screens in every sections offer to visitor’s attention reference historical-geographical information, photographic materials, representing landscapes, variations of folk costume, and sets of objects.

The characteristic of religious traditions of the peoples of South Caucasus is already given in introductory part to sections and regarded as the base of their worldview, identity and many features of cultural specifics of the peoples of South Caucasus.

In the section “Armenians” brief information about history, main dogmas and practices of the Armenian Apostolic Church playing special role in conservation of ethnos in other confessional and other ethnic surroundings is given. The attributes of official church practices, religious objects used in daily life outside the church and the memorial stone-cross khachcar unifying official-clerical and traditional-mundane aspects of Armenian culture are destined to show this idea. In term of the topic “Dwelling” the sacred complex is exhibited, which base form so multi-significant element of Christian culture as the manuscript containing the Holy Scripture.

In the section “Georgians” two aspects are emphasized in this topic; on the one hand, early conversion of Georgia to Orthodox Christianity and important role of the Autocephalous Georgian Orthodox Church  in spiritual consolidation of people, and on the other hand  – the synthesis of Orthodox orthopaxy  with local religious cults. The latter are characterized by objects associated with the cult of Saint George, praying and sacrificial sacred objects and elements from highlanders’ shrine.

In the subsection Azerbaijanis the role of Islam in the South Causcasus is noted and the specifics of the Shia Islam consisting in existence of the feast-mistery  Ashura in the honor of the Shia saints Ali and Husayn, stronger  than in Sunni Islam materialization of cult symbols, special role of amulets and divination objects are shown.

Male occupations are represented by complexes of Armenians’ artistic and industrial activities in such specializations as masonry, smithery, coppersmithery print, jewelry, fabrication of music instruments. The scene “In tea-house” of the subsection “Azerbaijanis” shows elite culture of wealthy population of eastern city. For male socialization of Georgians the importance of the arms and personal military courage of Georgian high lands is stressed.

Woman subculture of South Caucasus in the subsection “Armenians” is presented by woman figures: “maiden”, “older mistress”, “daughter-in-law” put in context of house and house space. In the subsection Azerbaijanis, one of the wedding circle rites «Farewell of bride with her parents’ house” is represented. 

Ethnic subgroups are presented at the exhibition as much as it’s possible. The most relevant it’s done in the subsection
“Georgians” emphasizing particular complexity of this ethnos.
The exhibition ends with them of folkloric-musical unity of the peoples of South Caucasus.

The objective of exhibition complex is to show the components of historical process of formation of specific spiritual-religious culture of Jews and to demonstrate ethnographic realities of Russia’s Jews daily life in XIX century.

The sources indicate early II millennium B.C.E as the time of Jews’ appearance in the Western Asia. In history of Ancient East Jews resembled their neighbors, but among the ancient Jews the concept of monotheism appeared and the formation of the Bible text started which later determined the nature of spiritual life not only of Jews, but also of Christians and Muslims.

The Jews were the people who still in antiquity suffered collapse of their own state, elimination of their main sanctuaries and hardship of life in alien land, however, they didn’t disappear as many peoples of the past in similar situation, rather they elaborated mechanisms of survival in diasporas. In the Middle Ages the life of Jews in small-numbered groups became historical norm. In many countries Jews actually turned into an ethno-confessional group with their own customs and norms important for economical life of every country and its international relations but surrounded by the atmosphere of prejudice. Not insignificant for ethnic survival of the Jewish people was strict following the spirit and letter of their own religion with its specific prescriptions and prohibitions; the adherence to literary culture which helped man to feel living where his books were was important.

In course of formation and territorial extension of the Russian empire in the late XVIII – early XIX cc. the areas of Baltic, Dnieper and Visla Regions inhabited by the European Jews alongside Caucasus and Central Asia populated by the Eastern Jews became parts of its territory. In all the places of settlement Jews were small but influential part of local population respecting the character of regional landscape.

The objective of exhibition complex existing at the Russian Museum of Ethnography is to show the components of historical process of formation of specific spiritual-religious culture of Jews and to demonstrate ethnographic realities of Russia’s Jews daily life in XIX century in accordance with circumstances evolved in different national environment. The cultural specifics determined exhibiting of several Jewish ethno-territorial communities: Ashkenazi, Caucasian (Mountain and Georgian) Jews, and Central Asian (Bukharan) Jews. Due to their prevailing number the Ashkenazi collections are applied for complex display of daily and religious particularities of the Jewish culture; the objects of the Eastern Jews help to attract attention to certain aspects of material and religious life.

One of the precondition of formation of this collection which in fact is the core of the Museum of Jewish Culture in broader perspective was the fact the by early XXI century the Russian Museum of Ethnography became the institution which concentrated collections on the ethnography of the Russia’s Jews. The museum collections were forming by collecting work of museum personal as well as by handovers from museums of Russia and neighboring countries. In the Russian Museum of Ethnography the objects obtained in course of expeditions of the Jewish Historical-Geographical Society realized in the early XX c. including the famous collection of An-sky on the Ashkenazi Jews ethnography were preserved.

New complex with its broad chronological scope supplements the established tradition of organizing monothematic and regional exhibitions at the Russian Museum of Ethnography which material covers only the chronological period of late XIX - earlyXX cc.

The determining factors for creation of the permanent exhibition “History and culture of the Russia’s Jews” are development of museum work in Russia and research of national culture which led to appearance of museums of Jewish culture already in the early XX c., and also new understanding of problem’s relevance after long chronological gap.

Not insignificant is the fact that idea of creating this exhibition complex was among initiative of the President of Russian Federation. Realization of this initiative is contribution to further role of development of Petersburg as cultural capital of Russia.

Why the Special Storage? What does comprise the uniqueness of this storage? The necessity of special storage for particularly valuable objects appeared from the very beginning of museum collections’ formation.   The donations to the Royal Family from the nobility of peoples inhabited the Russian Empire were ones of the first “dwellers” of the room-safe. These are the Buddhist cult objects, austere Caucasian arms embellished with silver, luxurious glittering with gold and precious stones weaponry  and harness from  the gifts of  Emir of Bukhara and presentation dishes for bread and salt made by talented Russian jewelers.  Later in the Special storage the collections on various peoples given to museum by the Emperor Nicholas II in 1902-1915 appeared.

Further with formation of collection valuable objects from well-known collectors acquired by museum personal in expeditions or bought from private persons came here for preservation. From 1930s the objects containing precious metals were constantly starting to be given to the collection from all the museum storages. From that time the presence of precious metals, gems, and pearls is the only criterion for admitting an object in collection. That’s why the artifacts of the Special Storage are so diverse both in respect of their ethnic affiliation and importance of separate objects in culture of various peoples. These are jewelry, utensils, cult objects, festive harness and arms.

Judaic Cult Objects

The museum has unique collection of the Judaic cult objects, the most valuable of them one can see on exhibition. The set of objects related to the ceremony of reading the Torah (the sacred scroll) – the main relic for Jews are particularly interesting. They include the Crown of Torah, crowning the scroll of the sacred book, the shield of Torah tass – silver plate with hole, where inscription explaining which chapters of the Bible should be read in certain festive days was inserted, and pointer for the Torah yad made in shape of hand and richly decorated with niello ornamentation.

Moreover, the collection includes ritual goblets, boxes for relics, mezuzah, godeses – chests for incenses, which are used in the end of the festive day of Shabbat. At first such chests appeared in the Middle Ages were made in shape of small Gothic towers, and from the XVIII century in shape of flowers, animals and birds. The Hanukah candelabrums with eight  lamp branches  are also displayed in the Special Storage. The lamps were of different shape from simple spoon-like ones to complex filigree construction.  They were used for the Feast of Fires Hanukah lasting eight days. Many of these objects have seals (most frequently Polish) and date to  XVIII – early  XX cc.

Russian Pearl

The collection of the Special Storage helps to know all the diversity of the jewelry of the peoples of the Russian Empire. Most of the adornments of Russian collections are buttons, earrings, and headdress embellished with pearl. The fresh water pearl got in Varzuga, Kem’, Pinega and other rivers in North Russia was the favorite material for adornments. All the woman and maiden headdress of our collection are richly embroidered with fresh water pearl and golden thread, some are decorated with gems and string of pearls stringed on horse hair or flax thread. Headdresses have a lot of variants typical for certain governorate or district of the north-western part of the European Russia.

In collection all the types of Russian earrings of XVI-early XX cc. are gathered. In XV–XVII cc. the type of earrings in shape of interrogative sign was the most widespread.   Depending on number of small bars they were called "odintsi", “dvoichatki” and “troichatki”. The massive silver earrings were related with culture of Novgorod in XVI-XVII cc.  The convex relief images on the both sides are covered with filigree ornament, enamel, inlays of colored glass or stone.  The earrings in form of small basket appeared in late XVIII – early XIX cc, under the Barocco style influence.  The earrings in form of butterflies or bows with pear-like and grape-like pendants were also popular. Small fresh river water pearl was also used for making these earrings. In folk adornment gems were replaced with colored glasses, beads rhinestones; however, pearl was preferred in all times. 

Buddhist Rarities

The Russian Museum of Ethnography has unique relics of Buddhist art.  These are the objects of ritual small-sized sculpture, vessels for consecrated water, prayer drums, shells decorated with silver and used as musical instruments and other elements of the Buddhist altar furnishing.  Most of these artifacts were presented to the members of the Royal Family by Kalmyk and Buryat deputations. They include such masterpieces of the Buddhist sculpture   as the images of goddess-saviors— White Tara and Green Tara, the goddess of longevity Usnisavijaya — the mother of all Buddhas, conventional images of the Universe — mandalas. On the exhibition the mandala in shape of metal dish also used for gathering alms during temple service is presented. The collection of gifts there is an exclusive silver presentation dish, indispensable attribute of gala state solemnities. It was presented to the Emperor Alexander III by the day of his coronation from the Don Kalmyks.

Jewelry of Kazan Tartar

The jewelry of Kazan Tartar is extremely diverse. These are all kinds of earrings, braid adornments, bead strings, necklaces, clasps, belt buckles, shoulder bands, and rings.  Kazan was the center of jewelry production.  This art reached its golden age by middle XIX century. The jewelry was made mainly of silver, sometimes gold was used. Gilder, embossment, casting, engraving and filigree technique were widespread. One of the most specific adornment of Kazan Tartar was should band. It was worn by both young girls and old women putting it on the left shoulder under the right hand. Small box with a prayer –extraction from Quran was often sewn to the shoulder band. Своеобразны и изысканны воротниковые застежки — непременное украшение богатой мусульманки. The indispensable adornment of rich Muslim woman – the collar clasps are original and exquisite. In these adornment apart of the topazes, amethysts, turquoise, malachite, corneal, agate beloved by Tartars large number of colored glass in-lays were used.  

The Gifts of Bukhara Emirs to the Royal Family

The diplomatic relations between Russia and the states of Central Asia were forming throughout centuries. They implied indispensable exchange of ambassador gifts and presentations. The set of gifts was constant: robes, belts, costly fabrics, horse harness, and gala arms. These were the best examples of the high Central Asian applied art. One of the most prestigious gift was the robe — the sign of particular respect to receiver. The exhibition presents velvet upper robe decorated with genuine pearl. These robes were worn without belt and the lower was belted with luxury belt with gold plates and inlays of turquoise and gems.  The filigree chest completely covered with small inlays of turquoise and almandine cabochons is also displayed here. Among the festive horse harness the exhibition demonstrates horse blanket decorated with gold embroidery and silver small buckles. In the court of the Bukhara Emir men made gold embroidery which considered to be very respected profession.   

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