The museum collection which was forming as the complex of collection on culture of multinational population of the Russian Empire also includes cultural artifacts of the peoples living beyond its borders. In general these are exhibits acquired among the peoples who populated the territory of states bordering with the Russian Empire or among the peoples culturally or linguistically related to them. The decision about inclusion of these collections in museum was made by the Commission on Elaboration of the Museum Programme in January-April 1901 and confirmed by the General Assembly of the Imperial Academy of Sciences on October 4 1903. In opinion of scholars of early XX century this material could be used as comparative one for study of ethnography of the peoples of Russia. The most of cultural artifacts of the peoples of Western Europe and Asia were collected in first two decades of XX century.
The history of formation of collections on the peoples of Central and Southern Europe
In collection of the Russian Museum of Ethnography there are more than 6000 exhibits characterizing daily life and culture of the peoples of Central and Southern Europe: Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Bulgarians, Serbians, Croatians, Slovenians, Macedonians and Montenegrins, as well as Albanians, Hungarians, Romanians. In general formation of collection on culture of these peoples took place in the early XX century.
The museum archive conserved the correspondence with ethnographic museums of Warsaw, Belgrade, Prague, Sofia, which allows to conclude that foreign colleagues enthusiastically responded to the request and actively collaborated in formation of the museum collection.
In 1907-1910 in Czechia and Slovenia the group of scholars headed by famous archeologist and ethnographer Lubomir Niederle gathered very interesting collection including ceramics and sets of wood and metal objects. Artists and foreign students studied in the higher schools of Petersburg were also involved in work of gathering exhibits. For example, the collection from Montenegro was gathered with participation of the Montenegrin student Mirko Madenitz, which registration as in case of other Montenegrin exhibits he made himself.
In 1920s certain wane in collection activities related to the ethnography of Central and Southern Europe started. It could be noted only the transfer of exhibit from the Gatchina Palace-Museum (two Montenegrin children costumes) and of the artist K.D. Dalmatov collection (about 100 painted eggs made by Slovakian craftsmen).
In 1948 the museum storages were significantly replenished by the transfer of the collection the State Museum of the Peoples of the USSR. The most valuable part of it is materials of the All-Russia Ethnographic Exhibition of 1867 which also included collections on Western and Southern Slavs.
Many famous persons were involved in gathering material and photographic collections including the head of the Russian Ambassador Church in Vienna M. F. Raevsky (1811–1884). He maintained extensive correspondence with many scholars and leaders of Slavic national liberation movement, whom 300 invitations were sent and the programme of gathering collections and photographs was translated in German. The Slavic Illyrian, Serbian, Solvenian cultural-enlightening organizations (Matice) were engaged in work. In result excellent collection of objects of the peoples inhabiting the Slavic countries were gathered in unusually brief time (1865–1867).
Especially interesting inputs from the exhibition of 1867 are the folk costume sets from various countries, the earliest of which date to XVIII – early XIX century. Their value is still high, for due to various political and war cataclysms which Europe suffered in XIX and XX centuries, many Slavic museums lost their collections.
In 1953 storages were replenished by the exhibits from the Museum of I. V. Stalin Gifts formed of the presents of laborers of Socialistic countries in the post-war period.
In 1960-1990s department collection slightly increased due to gifts of museums and individual citizens of socialistic countries as well as the objects passed from temporary exhibitions shown in the USSR.
The composition of collection on the peoples of Central and Southern Europe
Today the collection of museum on these peoples consists of sets of men, women and children clothes, dolls in national costumes, details of house interior (textile, wood, metal), utensils, musical instruments, attributes of family and calendar rites, objects of folk craft and applied arts, gift production which date to XVIII–XXcc.