Russians. Late 19th – early 20th century
An exposition on the ethnography of the Russians, the largest East Slavic people in the territory of the former Russian Empire, has been set up in the Museum’s rooms. How did Russian peasants manage their complex households, growing various agricultural crops, raising domestic animals, building houses and stoves, making household utensils, work implements, and clothes? How did their traditional lifestyle proved by experience of many generations develop over centuries? How did everyday work alternate with merry holidays in the harmonious rhythm of peasant life? And why were holidays called “debt to God?” How could a Russian stove serve as a portal to other worlds? Why did they debark a young linden, and who had to knock blocks around? The remarkable collection on the culture of the Russian people is the basis of the exposition, which answers these and many other questions.
Belarusians. Late 19th – early 20th century
What cereals did Belarusian plowmen grow on their fields? Why did they prefer potatoes, or bulba, of all garden stuff, and what meals were made from them? The exhibits will help you to understand how the Belarusians kept wild bees, that is, took wild bees’ honey. How was it used? Why was bee wax in special demand? What trees were selected for building a house? Where in a Belarusian hut did the worshipped ghosts of ancestors, or dziady, stay? Why did Belarusians kiss the table starting on their way? Why was the national ornament a special code? What was the meaning of red ornaments on clothes? How did they tell a woman’s age by her headgear? What was shown in a puppet show, or batleika? The Museum exposition introduces you to common Slavic traits of the Belarusians’ national culture and to its original features.
Ukrainians. Late 19th – early 20th century
What domestic cares were considered men’s, and what were women’s chores? What things did artisans make? What did people take to fairs, and which of them became famous thanks to Nikolai Gogol? How did Ukrainian khatas differ from Russian and Belarusian houses? Why were towels not only for practical use, but were also believed to be sacred objects, which “took part” in various rituals? Why could a married woman not go bare-headed and “flash her hair”? How many recipes of cooking a borscht did the Ukrainians know, and from what food was it cooked? What musical instruments were played at feasts? Which of them could get in the Guinness Book of Records if it existed in those times? The household, everyday life, and traditions of the Ukrainians were similar to those of the Russians and Belarusians due to their common East Slavic roots and many centuries of neighborship. Presented in the display is a picturesque gallery of traditional festive costumes, among which the outdoor clothes of the Hutsuls, Boykos, and Lemkos, ethnographic groups of Ukraine’s western regions, are especially decorative and archaic in their style.
Moldovans. Late 19th – early 20th century
The traditional Moldovan culture developed under the influence of nations of the ancient world and northern Black Sea coast, the Balkan Peninsula, and Eastern Europe, which communicated in the country’s territory for many centuries. At the Museum exposition, you may see its colorful features. Why was Moldavia famous for its grapes and wine? What species of sheep did the Moldovans raise? Why is white cheese the main food of the ethnic cuisine? What was hominy cooked from? What gave the ethnic costume its inimitable flair? What does the Moldovan carpets’ originality consist in? What did the casa mare room look like? What was its role in a residential house? What did the staff of the wedding attendant look like? Why did they bake many kalach buns for holidays? Why did Moldovan lads stroll with a plow on a New Year night? What masks did guisers put on? What theatrical shows did rural people perform?
Peoples of Volga and Ural Lands. Mid-19th – early 20th century
Why were the residents of Perm Land tagged as “Permians the salted ears”? Which of the Finno-Ugric peoples is considered the most red-haired one on planet Earth? Why did the Moksha women wear the heavy decoration poolagai on their hips? Why were the Mari women called “blackfoot dames?” The Tatars are the region’s largest Turkic people. What crafts did they know? What did local merchants trade in? Why is the kalyapush skullcap the Tatar ethnic brand? What is shamail? When and how was the feast sabantui celebrated? Two rooms of the exposition are dedicated to the peoples of Volga and Ural Lands; the first one presents Finno-Ugric Komi, Udmurts, Mordvins, and Mari, and the second, the Turkic-speaking Tatars.
Peoples of the North-West of Russia and the Baltics in the 18th-20th centuries
The Baltic Finnish, Balt, German, and Slavic peoples lived as neighbors in the north-western areas of Russia and in the Baltic lands. The Museum exposition is dedicated to twelve indigenous peoples of the region. How did each people utilize its natural niche – waterway shores, land, forest, and tundra? How did people adapt their lifestyle to local conditions? How did the water “feed” coastal residents? Who helped them to pull seals from under ice in winter? What did “the People of the Woods” do for work? How did horse-hair gloves help them to reach an agreement with the wood spirit? What is the oldest people in European North? Where did the Saami come from, and why do they live in the tundra? Why did they unbraid the bride’s plait? When and why was it the custom to burn the straw effigy of terrible “old hag Morė”?
History and culture of the Jews in Russia
The Jews, one of the world’s oldest peoples, after the Roman conquests were expelled from their historic motherland, Judea and Israel. They have settled all over the world forming two groups, the European Ashkenazi and the Asian Sephardim. The museum exposition arranged in two rooms presents the history, religion, and culture of Russian, as well as Central Asian and Caucasian, Jews. To which group do most of Russia’s Jews belong? Why is the specific lifestyle of Jewish communities called “shtetl”? How was a shtetl, or town, organized? What was a qahal like? What peculiar feature did a Jewish dwelling place have? What is the Jewish law kashrut? How did traditional everyday meals differ from festive ones? How and why did the Jews keep the Sabbath rest day, or shabbat? What object in a synagogue is believed to be the most sacred one? How Judaism, the Jews’ ethnic religion, helped them retain their ethnic integrity?
Peoples of the South Caucasus. Late 19th – early 20th century
When did they begin to plow land there? What crops did local residents grow in valleys? How did they tend their gardens and vineries? How did the Georgians, the largest people of the South Caucasus, call themselves? Why did they celebrate grape harvesting as the rtveli feast? How did they make wine from grapes? Why were hospitality and banqueting, or supra, considered an important part of Georgian culture? What helps Armenians settled in other countries feel their ethnic unity? Why is chaikhana one of the most frequented places with the Azerbaijani? Medieval Arabs called the Caucasus “A Mountain of Languages”, because such great variety of peoples, customs, and religions can seldom be met on planet Earth. This museum exposition lets you travel in the South Caucasus and meet the traditional cultures of some peoples of the region.
Peoples of Central Asia and Kazakhstan. Late 19th – early 20th century
For centuries, the Tajiks, Uzbeks, other farmers settled in oases, and the nomadic Kazakhs, Kirghiz, Turkomans and Karakalpaks feeling at home in steppe expanse lived side by side in Central Asia and Kazakhstan. The Museum exposition is indicative of the cultural uniqueness of the region. What did the Central Asian peasants or dehkans grow in their fields, and what crop was considered the main treasure? What tilling tools did they use? Where did they get water to irrigate fields in arid areas? What animals did the nomads raise, and how was the nomadic cycle structured? How were their dwelling places, clothes, and domestic utensils adapted to nomadic life? Why is yurt considered the best house for a nomad? Why was the spring migrating considered the main event of the year? When and how did they celebrate the main feast, that is the New Year or nowruz? What is dastarkhan?
Treasures of the Rarities Storeroom
Special Storeroom is a kind of safe room where the Museum’s treasures are collected: jewelry, valuable weapons, ceremonial horse trappings, and other precious articles of various peoples of Eurasia. Some of these objects were previously owned by the Royal family; embassy gifts are also kept here. What did the Emirs of Bokhara bring to the Russian Emperors? What valuable Buddhist ritual objects did Kalmyk and Buryat delegations present? Why was jewelry trimmed with pearls popular among many peoples of Russia? Where were they gathered? What decorations were made from it? For which social strata did pearls serve as a sign of prestige and wealth? Why were holy vessels decorated with it? What earrings were especially popular in Russia? What traditional techniques did Tatar jewelers use? Why do artists and jewelers of our days come to products of traditional craftsmen?
Bone, horn, amber
Eurasian peoples continuously used gifts of nature. Household equipment, utensils, decorations, and various articles of daily use were made from ecological materials that were always within easy reach: bone and horn, shells and tortoise shell, mother-of-pearl and amber. In what kinds of carving did the originality of Russian bone carving traditions show itself? What bone carving techniques were used by virtuoso craftsmen of Archangel Pomor Land? What did Chukchi and Eskimo craftsmen carve from bone? What was mother-of-pearl valued for? What can be made from shells? The unique amber collection contains articles of Baltic succinite. What amber was valued for, and why was it likened to gold? What magic properties were attributed to it?