The Tretyakov Gallery during World War II

Tamara Kaftanova

Magazine issue: 
#2 2005 (07)

May 2005 will mark the 60th anniversary of the reopening of the Tretyakov Gallery after a four-year break when the museum was compelled to evacuate its unique collections out of Moscow. This article, presenting for the first time the Gallery's history during World War II, draws on so far little-known - or completely unknown - events and documents; it is dedicated to those individuals who worked unselfishly to evacuate its treasures, and save them for future generations able to appreciate, and enjoy the major achievements of the country's art.

"22 June, 1941. Sunday. I am on duty: in charge of the whole gallery. Walking around ... the gallery's rooms, - everything is immaculately clean and in perfect order ... A red carpet runs down the stairs. Everything looks festive, Sunday-like and peaceful. Suddenly there is a telephone call for me. I receive the order to summon the Director and Party Secretary urgently, and to get everybody present in front of the radio at noon. An important government statement is expected to be broadcast."[1] Such was the Sunday morning that opened the pages of the Great Patriotic War in the history of the Tretyakov Gallery, according to the Gallery's senior research worker Maria Kolpakchi.

The Museum was put on a war footing: air defence executives were appointed, with a blackout of all buildings and an air-raid shelter provided. By Order No. 200 of 28 June 1941, signed by director Alexander Zamoshkin, a round-the-clock air-raid shift system was set up.

It was decided by the government to evacuate the collections to the centre of the country. The work began immediately: the unprecedented, colossal work of conservation and transportation of thousands and thousands of exhibits, urgently and over a short period, became one of the first examples of its kind in world museum practice.[2]

Under the supervision of Zamoshkin, as well as chief curator Yelena Silversvan and head of the restoration department Yevgeny Kudryavtsev, the paintings were removed from the walls, taken from their frames and then off their canvas-stretchers. The Russian State Archives of Art and Literature have lists dated 27 July 1941 of the works of art from the Gallery which were authorized to be evacuated primarily. Some of the pages bear the inscription: "High-priority. Unicum. Crates have been ordered." One page in the list of the Ancient Russian Art collection sounds a little strange: in black pencil are marked "Shestodnev [The Six Feast-Days]" by Dionysius (no.12058), "The Transfiguration" by Theophanes the Greek (no.12797), "The Holy Trinity" by Andrei Rublev (no. 13012), "Our Lady of Vladimir" (no.14243), with a short but imperative resolution: "Do not touch!" The lines at the bottom of the page are a list of precious metals: they are outlined, with the approving "Yes!" below.

The packaging began on 4 July. Undoubtedly, the tricks of conservation of different works of art were derived from the enormous experience of Zamoshkin, who had been in charge of the decoration of the Soviet Pavilion at the 1939-40 World Fair in New York. If such jobs as the removal of one painting, like "The Appearance of Christ to the People" by Ivanov, to another room were normally preceded by a number of meetings and consultations among the specialists involved, the mass evacuation under such difficult circumstances had to be carried out promptly and under pressure.

Large-size canvases were reeled up on a special roll, put inside a metal capsule, sealed and packed in a well-insulated crate. Paintings of medium and small size were also packed in well-insulated boxes (veneered or pasted up with American cloth).[3]

"While preparatory work for evacuation was going on, we did not stop exhibiting our collections. People would come to the Gallery every day. That was dictated, on the one hand, by the secrecy of the evacuation operation, and, on the other, by the fact that many military personnel came to the Gallery before being sent to the front," remembers Sophia Goldstein.[4]

The Gallery rooms on the ground floor and in the basement were filled with hundreds of tagged and sealed crates and boxes. Each contained a description of the work of art (a "specification"), the catalogue information being taken down hastily, on pieces of cheap paper, often in pencil. The Tretyakov Gallery Manuscript Department keeps hundreds of such "specifications".

While the Tretyakov Gallery as well as the other museums were trying to keep a sober head on the task of packing their treasures, the Committee for Arts were carrying on a secret correspondence with top-level officials about possible dates, destinations and - most importantly - methods of transportation. According to Sergei Kuzakov, who was the first to publish this correspondence in the weekly "Novoye Vremya" [New Time], the matter, allegedly, was not decided without intervention from Stalin himself.[5]

The government insisted on transportation by water. One letter bears Molotov's resolution: "To Comrade Shvernik. To discuss the matter again trying to avoid transportation by a railway."[6]

'To give the members of the Committee for the Arts and its chairman Mikhail Khrapchenko their due, they had the grace to disagree with such a resolution. A fact unprecedented in wartime and with the tough centralization of power in the USSR at the time," noted Kuzakov.[7] On 9 July the Committee sent another letter to the government with a counter-proposal to allow transportation of the most valuable works to Novosibirsk by rail.[8]

At last, on 13 July, there came an executive order signed by Shvernik (unclassified at the request of the Tretyakov Gallery in 2002) to authorize the temporary removal of works of art from Moscow by rail.[9] The document also stated the destination - Novosibirsk, and the number of the allotted cars - 24.[10]

A procession of cargo vehicles started from Lavrushinsky Pereulok towards the Kazan station. The first train took 12,000 works of art, as well as 18,312 folios from the archives and 579 books from the Gallery's library.[11]

Air raids were occurring quite often in Moscow in the middle of July and in August, and the transportation of valuables was far from safe. Mikhail Alexandrovsky, restorer of the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum, remembers it was a mere accident that the train with the precious cargo remained undamaged: "We were waiting at the sorting depot for two days, for the troop trains were, of course, sent to the front without any delay. On the third day our train set off at last and it happened to be quite on time. The next day we heard on the radio that the place where we had been waiting was attacked and bombed."[12]

An official report said that the train (17 cars, eight of them Pullman) which left Moscow on 15 July was transporting 235 crates and boxes with the Tretyakov Gallery exhibits.

The evacuated museum collections held by the Committee for the Arts were transformed into a branch of the Tretyakov Gallery, with a composite staff representing different Moscow museums and Zamoshkin as director.

The train with this secret cargo arrived in Novosibirsk in the last week of July. They were met by pouring rain as assisted by soldiers the museum workers unloaded the exhibits from the train and drove them to the city's Opera House, then still under construction. It was also called the House of Science and Culture at the time, situated at 38 Krasny [Red] Prospect.

At first, they stored the works on the ground and first floors. The first floor was assigned for canvases, pastels, gouaches and drawings as well as for restoration work. At the same time the museum's storage had to be isolated from the stage and auditorium of the theatre building. As soon as the group had settled down in Novosibirsk, from the very first days routine museum work commenced: everyday rounds of the storage, round-the-clock duties, opening the crates and examining the condition of the works of art.

While Zamoshkin was at the head of the Tretyakov Gallery branch in Novosibirsk, the Gallery in Moscow was led by his deputies Milda Bush and Stepan Pronin.

Later in July the air raids on Moscow became more and more regular. The air- defence teams were on duty day and night. Their main fire-bomb-fighting instrument was the so-called "golden sand", or bank sand, indispensable for putting out a possible fire. The first such "incendiary" hit the gallery room with the Nikolai Ghe collection. Despite the coverage of anti-aircraft batteries, two demolition bombs crashed into the Gallery's main building on the night of 11 August 1941. Yelena Kamenskaya, the museum worker who was one of the team on duty that night, will never forget that dramatic event: "... plangent and canorous was the sound of the dropped bomb ... it crashed thudding and pounding through the asphalt outside the Gallery's front door and exploded underground, in the cloakroom in the basement ... In a few seconds another, more thudding and powerful sound of the second bomb was heard ... coming down through the glass roof of the first floor, it landed in one of the rooms of 18th century art and exploded there."[13]

The next day the Tretyakov Gallery counted the damage: the main entrance, the floors in the cloakroom of the basement, the glass roof, the floors and ceilings in some rooms were destroyed or badly damaged. The heating and ventilation did not work.[14]

The initial havoc made the officials hurry up with the arrangement of the second transport of works. This time, mainly pieces from the Gallery's Reserve were to be moved from Moscow. Thus, in mid-August, a huge barge, said to have been built in 1913, set off down the Moskva River, with 85 safely- packed boxes full of works of art - paintings, sculptures, icons, drawings as well as the archives.[15] Among them there were two large-scale works: Vrubel's panels and Mark Antakolsky's marble "Ivan the Terrible". Responsible for their transportation were Maria Kolpakchi and restorer Ivan Ovchinnikov.

They managed to reached Gorky (today, Nizhny Novgorod) where an art collection of the State Russian Museum, including the large-size "The Last Day of Pompei" by Karl Brullov and "Brazen Serpent" by Fyodor Bruni, was taken on board. The barge went up the Kama River to its destin-ation, the town of Molotov (Perm, today) and pulled over at the landing place on the high bank on 14 September. The collections were to be housed in the local picture gallery, but its director, Nikolai Serebrennikov, refused to close the permanent exhibition. The dispute was to wait for resolution at the level of the Committee; meantime the precious cargo had to remain on the barge. At last Serebrennikov agreed to host the collections of the Tretyakov Gallery and the Russian Museum. The other ones were sent further, to Solikamsk.

Only late in September, when it was dirty and foggy outside and either raining or snowing, were the crates taken from the barge to the Holy Trinity Cathedral, which had no heating. "Every day brought us trouble or disappointment to which we could see no end," remembers Maria Kolpakchi. For example, they were told that there was neither a lorry, nor hands to transport "Ivan the Terrible". For five days "Ivan" stood lonesome on the bank, guarded only by Ovchinnikov and an old man with red beard who consented to keep vigil over the sculpture in exchange for bread: they had no choice but give him their daily ration.[16] It was not until 18 October that a command from Moscow came, the local picture gallery was closed and the crates were moved to its rooms.

Right through to the end of the evacuation period Kolpakchi and Ovchinnikov worked in Molotov with the associated branch of the Russian Museum, headed by Pyotr Baltun. Their sole and prior responsibility were the Tretyakov Gallery exhibits according to a telegram of 1941 which runs: "Independent of name of branch responsibility for observation of conditions of storage and conservation of Gallery valuables remains yours and Ovchinnikov's... Signed by Deputy Director Bush."[17] From May 1942 Kolpakchi and Ovchinnikov were officially enrolled on the staff of the Tretyakov Gallery branch, in charge of the Gallery's funds within the Russian Museum.[18]

Little by little the staff of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow trickled away. First, it was considerably cut down in summer 1941 due to the evacuation of the museum to other places. Then, a large group of the Gallery's workers joined up in the first days of war.

The autumn of 1941 was a troubled time in Moscow. Some members of the Gallery staff left for Novosibirsk; they also took with them some materials necessary to do research, to arrange exhibitions and popularize the collection of the Gallery. At the head of the group was Nikolai Morgunov, the famous historian of art. It took them three weeks to get to Novosibirsk, so difficult was the railway traffic in those days. "We were moving like in Catch-22," remembers Yelena Kamenskaya. "For the first day we managed to get from one side of Moscow to the other one."[19] That, by the way, enabled Olga Gaponova, head of the library, to get off the train, as she decided not to leave Moscow.

In December a cable was received from the Committee for Arts stating that two cars in a train destined for Novosibirsk had been allocated for the Tretyakov Gallery, as well as for the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of New Western Art.[20] The cargo, accompanied by Stepan Pronin and Sophia Bityutskaya, was delivered to Novosibirsk on 3 January 1942, completing the third stage of the evacuation of its collection. By that time the staff of the Novosibirsk branch of the Tretyakov Gallery numbered 29 people, all of them real professionals with great experience of work in the field.[21]

From late 1941 to early 1942 the Novosibirsk Opera House was a unique place where a huge number of artistic and cultural valuables of world importance were accumulated: exhibits from the museums of Leningrad, Gorky, Smolensk and the town of Sumy. There were also the cultural treasures from Ukraine, which had been previously evacuated to Abakan and then brought there.

In winter 1941, the thermometer often registered five or six degrees centigrade inside the Opera House. Besides working to improve and stabilize the temperature, and against the extreme seasonal dryness or humidity of the air, a time-consuming examination of the condition of the unique works of art went on. Taking into consideration the importance of such work Yevgeny Kudryavtsev, the chief Gallery restorer, was allowed to stay on to work in the Novosibirsk branch until practically the end of the evac-uation period.

At the same time the Tretyakov Gallery's main base in frost-stricken Moscow of 1941 had a miserable appearance, with its shattered glass roof and windows open to the icy wind. There was an attempt to shutter the roof and windows with veneer but it proved of little effect. It was difficult to conserve the exhibits in good condition under the circumstances. So, it must have been at some date in the first six months of 1942 that the two Gallery principals, Pronin and Silversvan, addressed Shkvarikov, Head of the Administration of Fine Arts Institutions attached to the Council of People's Commissars, a letter containing a table and description of the Gallery stock both evacuated and left behind in Moscow. The letter was to draw the attention of the bureaucrat to the remarkable items, such as 11th century murals and icons, including some by Andrei Rublev, sculptures by Mukhina, Antakolsky, Trubetskoy and Konenkov, which were being kept in improper conditions.[22]

True, there had been an attempt, made shortly after a bomb hit the Gallery, to receive authorization to keep the large-size sculptures temporarily in underground stations, but to no result. The appeal in the above-mentioned letter, surprisingly, was heard and in September 1942 the fourth evacuation of the Tretyakov Gallery treasures started. The destination: Novosibirsk.[23]

Beside paintings, icons, sculptures (which were the most numerous part of the evacuated stock) and drawings, the cargo contained frames.[24] The sculptures were placed in the spacious rehearsal room in the basement of the Opera House.

Thus, the number of works of art, not counting library books and archives, which were evacuated for the Gallery during World War II, reached 18,399 pieces.

Not that it left the rooms of the Tretyakov Gallery on Lavrushinsky Pereulok empty: as before the war, the practice of daily routine duties and night inspections went on - there were no less than 26,784 valuable exhibits left.[27] For two years, from 1941 to 1943, Gallery workers were busy not only looking after the works of art left, but also scrupulously registering, systemizing and keeping safe and in order a few thousands unique frames and canvas-stretchers for the paintings evacuated. The small group of workers, mostly elderly women, who stayed behind, was wellknit. They were sisterly, charitable and thoughtful of others. [28] They lived with news coming from the front and from their colleagues working in the regional branches. Some news was sad: their coworker Silayev was dead; Fyodor Sokolov, Mikhail Panin and Vasily Kavkazsky were the first to be killed in action. Dmitry Bassalygo was wounded and sent to hospital for convalescence in Tashkent, but on the way he came to visit the Gallery - good news. With the appointment of Stepan Pronin to head the Gallery, its activity boosted; he was full of new plans and ideas trying to revitalize the Gallery's war-weary organism, to breathe life and enthusiasm into its war-worn workers.

Simultaneously, in the centre of the country, the curators and restorers were fighting against uncommon enemies: moths, rats, mice, cement dust, leakage from the heating and water supply systems, inflammation caused by the wrong use of household devices in neighbouring rooms belonging to the theatre. The gallery workers had to guard their stock from intruders who showed up occasionally. But the most serious trouble came in the autumn of 1942 when the Regional Committee for Arts decided to accommodate the Belorussian Opera House in their venue. The Tretyakov Gallery branch found itself in a situation of either having to move to another building, or to share the territory with a mass entertainment company (the auditorium seated 2,000 people). In September, despite the loud protests of Moscow's Committee for Arts, the Novosibirsk Regional Executive Committee insisted on their decision. As soon as the performances commenced, the Gallery storage was put under real peril; urgently, part of the reserve had to be moved to another place, while new temporary walls had to be built, and regulations made stricter. The administration of the branch did not stop sending protests to the authorities.[25] Performances in the Novosibirsk Opera House were brought to a halt thanks to Mikhail Khrapchenko who had to solve the matter in the government.[26] By mid-1943 the building of the Opera House was shared, beside the Tretyakov Gallery branch, by the troupe of the Novosibirsk Opera, a concert tour agency, a theatre school, a Tonfilm storage, an Electromontage storage, an Avioglavsnab storage, Mechanical and Smithcraft plant No.5. The latter seems to have been of military purpose. The list shows how difficult and tense the life of Gallery workers was in such conditions. At least, in 1943, the Gallery had its reserves on all three floors of the building.

The restorers attended to the safety of all the collections. In December 1942, Stepan Churakov, an expert known for his accomplishment in the field, arrived to assist Kudryavtsev and Fedorov in the very difficult job of restoring the utterly disfigured canvas of the "Defence of Sevastopol" panorama by Franz Roubaud that had been rescued from the Black Sea stronghold at the last minute. Everyday examination of the many-thousand-piece collection enhanced the research workers' experience, and helped to develop new ways of restoration and conservation for different kind of works of art - from papyri, Oriental masks and ancient Russian icons to modern paintings, sculptures and drawings.

Back in Moscow, the Tretyakov Gallery started to show its collections again despite the severe cold winter and the damages that its building had suffered. It was as soon as late 1941 that a small group of museum workers headed by Herman Zhidkov and Stepan Pronin, in collaboration with workers of the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum started preparations for the exhibition "Works by Moscow Painters during the Great Patriotic War" which was held at the Pushkin Museum 15 July to 15 September 1942. Although it was smaller in scale than those of pre-War years, the work accomplished deserved great praise, for it became the first large exhibition (with even a catalogue published) since the beginning of the conflict.

The rebuilding of the Gallery began in 1942: the heating and ventilation were repaired. By the autumn the windows and lanterns had been paned in 13 rooms, the parquet floor mended, and the walls painted. "Repaired like in pre-War time," wrote Stepan Pronin proudly.

On 7 November the restored rooms welcomed visitors to the first nation-wide art exhibition "The Great Patriotic War". Practically all staff of the Tretyakov Gallery took part in the organization of that show, including its regional branches (Alexander Zamoshkin was a member of the selection committee). The Direction of Art Shows and Panoramas as well as the Fine Arts Museum were among the organizers. The opening of the exhibition became a major event in the cultural life of the country, still at war; it even appeared in news film, while newspapers wrote about the exhibition. For three days the Association of Soviet Artists discussed the exhibition. The catalogue of the show was released by the Gallery's publishing house only in 1943.

Before and during the War the Tretyakov Gallery was the leading centre for the study of art history. In 1942 Gallery workers continued working on the six- volume "History of Russian Art" which, after the war, was taken over by the Institute of Art History named after Igor Grabar.

In 1942 the Gallery saw another glorious jubilee - the 50th anniversary of the date of Pavel Tretyakov's donation of his collection to the city of Moscow. The national papers published very interesting articles by Antonina Arkhangelskaya and German Zhidkov devoted to that event, while a special album illustrating the Gallery's collection of paintings appeared.

The Novosibirsk regional branch of the Gallery also organized exhibitions, but for the lack of space in the Opera House they were shown in other places. The first was arranged in the Novosibirsk House of the Red Army (3-18 January 1942). It was dedicated to Moscow's "Windows of TASS". Furthers followed, whose posters have survived. As another activity that the Gallery had always been involved in was publishing catalogues for the exhibitions they organized, there was a very busy correspondence between the centre and its branch for catalogue information that they, in Novosibirsk, lacked. From the letters we learn that there were plans to show five exhibitions in 1 942.[29] The first of them, "Best Works of Soviet Fine Art", opened in the auditorium of the Novosibirsk Town Hall in May 1942. It was the most important and representative show which, according to its catalogue, included paintings by Mikhail Nesterov, Alexander Gerasimov, Boris Ioganson, Martiros Saryan, Igor Grabar, Irakli Toidze, Kukryniksy, Pavel Sokolov-Skalya, as well as sculptures by Vera Mukhina and Nikolai Tomsky.

In autumn 1942, as had been planned, the branch opened the exhibition "Russian Realist Art of the 18th-20th Centuries" in the venue of the Opera House and Siberians were able, for the first time in their history, to see major canvases from the Tretyakov Gallery collection, including masterpieces by Vladimir Borovikovsky, Ilya Repin, Vasily Surikov, Viktor Vasnetsov and the sculptures by Fyodor Shubin.

During the period of late 1941 to the autumn of 1944 the Gallery's Novosibirsk branch showed about 20 exhibitions which were attended by over 500,000 people. For most there were published catalogues, published on coarse grey paper, the result of the intense work of the exhibition team: A.I. Leonov, Milda Bush, Esfir Atsarkina as well as Sophia Goldstein and Yelizaveta Zhuravleva who joined the team later, in summer 1942. Their permanent advisers and art experts remained Nikolai Morgunov and Olga Lyaskovskaya.

It was in May 1942 that the enormous work of developing exhibition activity and boosting artistic propaganda by the research workers of the Tretyakov Gallery branch, and Alexander Zamoshkin personally, received a special mention in the decree of the Committee for Arts. Their experience was recommended for adoption by other evacuated museums.

Along with that kind of activity both the Gallery in the capital and its branches in Novosibirsk and Molotov were involved in a public education programme. From the very first days of the evacuation lectures were read in "agit"-centres at railway stations, in military units, hospitals, in schools and collective farms during the harvesting and seeding time. Lectures, presentations and discussions were not only held in Moscow and Novosibirsk, but also in Tomsk, Solikamsk, Krasnoyarsk, Molotov and surrounding areas.

During the evacuation period the staff of the Novosibirsk branch gave 1,500 lectures on Russian art which were attended by over 80,000 people. Later the idea of wandering exhibitions took root and 23 sets of exhibits were prepared for such shows, two of which were meant to be shown exclusively to soldiers at the front.

Throughout the long months of evacuation the museum workers never ceased their research and in Moscow, Novosibirsk or Molotov. Four dissertations were defended. Yevgeny Kudryavtsev completed a bulky oeuvre, a practical course of painting restoration[30] - a timely subject, considering how many works of art would need restoration after having been moved from their usual place.

But life in evacuation was far from easy: a cold climate, bad living conditions, malnutrition and worksheets for logging or harvesting, which were obligatory for all - from director to ordinary worker. In war time there was nothing unusual in that.

The year 1943 was critical in the history of the Great Patriotic War. The defeat of the Nazis at Stalingrad boosted the activity of the Tretyakov Gallery both in Moscow and in Novosibirsk. It brought about a dramatic change in Alexander Zamoshkin's personal career too, for in the spring he was summoned to the Kremlin where Voroshilov made him a proposal to organize an unusual exhibition, a show of captured German armaments and materials to be held in Gorky Park in Moscow.[31] Machine-guns, long-range guns, smaller tanks, Mess- erschmitt and Junker aircraft and heavy tanks were to be placed on the park embankment of the Moskva River. "Oh, if you only knew our feelings when we were working on this exhibition! It was as if we could hear the flutter of the wings of Victory!" wrote Zamoshkin in 1976. In the event of good organization of the military show Zamoshkin bargained for the opera performances to be ended next to the Tretyakov Gallery reserves in Novosibirsk - and they were. But the story was not that simple. Few people know that on the night before the opening of the exhibition that was composed so that the large war-like engines followed small arms, the exhibition site was visited by Stalin, according to Zamoshkin's daughter-in-law. Without saying a word, he went round the exhibition, and only getting into his car said: "Everything the other way round." Words cannot describe what the organizers felt at the moment. The people worked like mad all night, and the exhibition opened on time.

As the former personnel were coming back - some from evacuation, others from the front, the Gallery found it possible to organize more exhibitions. The All-Union "Heroic Front and Reserve" became a large project. It was open in Moscow from November 1943 to October 1944. Practically all the shows were illustrated and popularized by catalogues.

The centenary of Ilya Repin was widely celebrated in 1944. Beside the exhibition in Moscow anniversary conferences were held in Moscow and in the town of Chuguev, in the Kharkov region, from where the artist originated. Since the front was moving further and further to the West, ties and exchange between the centre and its branches were becoming easier and more regular. One of Kudryavtsev's telegrams from Novosibirsk dated 7 July 1944 runs: "Atsapkina sent baggage Repin on the fourth by train car 87"

In 1943 the Gallery started preparatory work for recovering the evacuated collections. The art historians and restorers raised the question of making a new Tretyakov Gallery permanent exhibition and of allocating the half-ruined (because of bombing) building of an art school to a permanent exhibition of Soviet-era painting.

The problem was rather pressing, since the collection of Soviet art had grown considerably over the past few years. Early in October 1944 came a government decree sanctioning construction during 1944-45 of a new pavilion attached to the main Gallery building - an unprecedented decision at a time when the war still continuing. In the Tretyakov Gallery Manuscript Department there is the initial project of the architect Alexei Shchusev, while the final one was not officially approved until 1946. Meantime, the church of the former Marfo-Mariinky Cloister of Mercy on Ordynka Street was allocated for the Gallery's reserve storage.

On 9 October 1944 the Committee for Arts issued Resolution No. 545 that allowed the return of art collections to the museums of Moscow and the Moscow region. Consequently, 30 workers of the Gallery branch in Novosibirsk were authorized to return to Moscow.

In November 1944, 41 boxes arrived from Molotov at the Kazan station in Moscow, followed by 572 crates from Novosibirsk a fortnight later.

Their arrival was awaited: a couple of days before the event the temperature in the Gallery rooms was especially lowered to five degrees centigrade to eliminate any sudden drop. The boxes were opened only a few days later to allow the paintings, which came from a cold wet climate, to adapt to the new atmosphere of a dry, warm room. At last the boxes were opened and the canvases unrolled. None of the paintings was damaged. Even Repin's "Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan 16 November 1581" that had always been threatened with crumbling of its paint layers showed no signs of decay; it had been packed between two sheets of plywood, planked with veneer and cased with shock absorbers inside.

The ceremonial opening of the Tretyakov Gallery took place on 17 May 1945. From early morning a large crowd filled Lavrushinsky Pereulok, with representatives of the city's diplomatic corps, the military, distinguished scientists, and well- known authors, famous actors, painters and sculptors. The ceremony started in the Surikov room at one o'clock in the after- nooon, and a sense of general elation was felt when Igor Grabar addressed the audience. "The opening of the Tretyakov Gallery is a true festival of Soviet art", he said.[32] It was the first of the national museums that reopened after the war.

The damage suffered by the Tretyakov Gallery as a result of the Nazi invasion, including ruined buildings, destruction and harm to property came at a cost of 3,182,635 roubles (at the rates of 1945). Expenses caused by the evacuation and return of its collections were set at 3,349,920 roubles.


  1. Kolpakchi, Maria. "Nezabyvayemye dni [Unforgettable Days]" in: The State Tretyakov Gallery and Its Workers during the Great Patriotic War (1941 - 1945). Dedicated to the 30 th Anniversary of the Victory. Preprint. Moscow, 1975, p.4
  2. See: Druzhinin, Seraphim "Memoirs" in: Iskusstvo [Art], 1980. No.5, p.43
  3. Archives of the Tretyakov Gallery. For details see note 3 in the Russian.
  4. Goldstein, Sophia. "Gosudarstvennaya Tretyakovskaya Galereya v Novosibirske [The State Tretyakov Gallery in Novosibirsk]" in: The State Tretyakov Gallery and Its Workers during the Great Patriotic War (1941 - 1945). Dedicated to the 30 th Anniversary of the Victory. Preprint. Moscow, 1975, p.16
  5. Kuzakov, Sergei. "Operat- siya "evakuatsia". Kak spa- sli muzei vo vremya voiny. [The Evacuation Operation. How Were Museums Rescued during the War]." In: Novoye Vremya, No. 19, 1997, pp. 40-41.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. The State Archives of the Russian Federation. For details see note 6 in the Russian.
  10. Ibid.
  11. The Russian State Archives of Literature and Arts. For details see note 8 in the Russian.
  12. Alexandrovsky, Mikhail. "Memoirs." In: Musei [Museum], No. 3, 1982, p. 232.
  13. Kamenskaya, Yelena. "Vospominaniya o Galereye v dovoyennyye I voyennyie gody [Memoirs of the Gallery in the Pre-war Years and during the War]" Xerox copy of the manuscript in the archives of the Tretyakov Gallery. For details see the note in the Russian.
  14. See: Kolpakchi, op. cit, note 1, p. 7.
  15. The Russian State Archives of Literature and Arts, op. cit, note 11.
  16. See: Kolpakchi, op. cit, note 1, p. 13.
  17. Archives of the Tretyakov Gallery. For details see note 18 in the Russian.
  18. Archives of the Tretyakov Gallery. For details see note 19 in the Russian.
  19. Kamenskaya, op. cit., note 13, p.10.
  20. Russian State Archives of Literature and Arts, op. cit., for detail see note 21 in the Russian.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Archives of the Tretyakov Gallery. For details see note in the Russian.
  24. Archives of the Tretyakov Gallery. For details see note in the Russian.
  25. Russian State Archives of Literature and Arts, op. cit., note 9.
  26. Archives of the Tretyakov Gallery. For details see note 27 in the Russian.
  27. See: op. cit., note 2, p. 43.
  28. Archives of the Tretyakov Gallery. For details see note 30 in the Russian.
  29. Russian State Archives of Literature and Arts. For details see note 33 in the Russian.
  30. Kudryavtsev, Yevgeny. Tekhnika restravratsii kartin [Techniques of the Restoration of Paintings]. Moscow, 1948.
  31. Archives of the Tretyakov Gallery. For details see note 36 in the Russian.
  32. Grabar, Igor. Prazdnik russkogo iskusstva [The Festival of Russian Art]. In: The Trud, 18 May 1945.
An exhibition poster from 1942. Novosibirsk
An exhibition poster from 1942. Novosibirsk
Konstantin Fedorov, Stepan Churakov, Yevgeny Kudryavtsev working on the restoration of Franz Roubaud's panorama “Defence of Sevastopol”. Novosibirsk. 1942
Konstantin Fedorov, Stepan Churakov, Yevgeny Kudryavtsev working on the restoration of Franz Roubaud's panorama “Defence of Sevastopol”. Novosibirsk. 1942
An exhibition poster from 1942. Novosibirsk
An invitation to the opening of “The Great Patriotic War” exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery. 1942
An invitation to the opening of “The Great Patriotic War” exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery. 1942
The Tretyakov Gallery branch storage in the Novosibirsk Opera House. 1942
The Tretyakov Gallery branch storage in the Novosibirsk Opera House. 1942
Mikhail Alexandrovsky, a restorer, at the “Russian Realist Art” exhibition in the Novosibirsk Opera House. 1942
Mikhail Alexandrovsky, a restorer, at the “Russian Realist Art” exhibition in the Novosibirsk Opera House. 1942
The floor plans of the Novosibirsk Opera House. 1943
The floor plans of the Novosibirsk Opera House. The territory occupied by the Tretyakov Gallery branch storage rooms are marked in red pencil. 1943
The exhibition of painting, drawing and sculpture marking the anniversary of Lenin's death at the Regional House of the Red Army. Novosibirsk. 1942
The exhibition of painting, drawing and sculpture marking the anniversary of Lenin's death at the Regional House of the Red Army. Novosibirsk. 1942
At the “Best Works of Soviet Art” exhibition in Novosibirsk. 1942
At the “Best Works of Soviet Art” exhibition in Novosibirsk. 1942
An exhibition poster from 1942. Novosibirsk
An Invitation to the opening of the “Heroic Front and Reserve” exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery. 1943
An Invitation to the opening of the “Heroic Front and Reserve” exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery. 1943
The workers of the Novosibirsk branch
The workers of the Novosibirsk branch: (standing left to right) Karshilova, Zonova, Cherkasova, Zhuravleva, Savelova, Karpelina, Zhivova, Goldstein; (seated) Lyaskovskaya, Rudnitskaya-Morgunova, Sidorova, Rumyantseva, Bush, Bityutskaya, Kamenskaya. 1942
The Gallery's Central Entrance. The exhibits return to Moscow. 1944
The Gallery's Central Entrance. The exhibits return to Moscow. 1944
Unpacking the boxes with the paintings which arrived from evacuation. State Tretyakov Gallery. 1944
Unpacking the boxes with the paintings which arrived from evacuation. State Tretyakov Gallery. 1944
Hanging of Ilya Repin's canvas “Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan. 16 November 1581”. 1945
Hanging of Ilya Repin's canvas “Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan. 16 November 1581”. 1945
Hanging of Vasily Surikov's painting “Boyarynya Morozova”. 1945
Hanging of Vasily Surikov's painting “Boyarynya Morozova”. 1945
The initial project of Alexei Shchusev for the Gallery extension. 1944
The initial project of Alexei Shchusev for the Gallery extension. 1944
An invitation to the Tretyakov Gallery Opening Ceremony on 17 May 1945
An invitation to the Tretyakov Gallery Opening Ceremony on 17 May 1945
An invitation to the Tretyakov Gallery Opening Ceremony on 17 May 1945
Lavrushinsky Pereulok, 17 May 1945. The opening of the Gallery after the re-evacuation
Lavrushinsky Pereulok, 17 May 1945. The opening of the Gallery after the re-evacuation
The Tretyakov Gallery Opening Ceremony in the Vasily Surikov room on 17 May 1945
The Tretyakov Gallery Opening Ceremony in the Vasily Surikov room on 17 May 1945





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