State Historical Museum
At the entrance to Red Square stands the State Historical Museum. It was founded in 1872 by Alexander III and opened for public viewing since 1883. It contains 4.5 million items and 14 million sheets of documents spanning from the early prehistoric period right through to more contemporary items from the 1980s. Entry for adults is 350 roubles and its free to take pictures. The museum closes on Tuesdays and the first Monday of each month.
However, there is one caveat: many of the exhibits are in Russian only. In fact, in most of the halls, the only English you see reads “Do not touch”. This is particularly true for the more ancient artefacts. Therefore, I would advise someone with a keen interest in history who wants more than to simply look at some magnificent items to purchase an audio guide. For English, this is another 350 roubles. A refundable deposit of 1500 roubles or a passport/driving license is also a requirement. Some languages such as Italian and Spanish are cheaper.
This extra cost means that to enjoy the whole museum experience is more expensive than others in Moscow. Therefore, I would only advise the full guide to those who are history enthusiasts. Nevertheless, more recent exhibits do have an English translation, including several halls containing gold and diamond artefacts, including numerous types of swords, sabres and crowns of unknown owners, and some medals from the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Finding your way through the museum
For those who are more interested in more recent history (17th century onwards), it is a good idea to spend less time in the earlier halls. Instead, go to the more recent exhibitions up the stairs (rooms 22-36). The layout of the museum is slightly confusing. This makes it easy to make the mistake of spending lots of time in the early exhibitions without realising there is much more to see. The later exhibitions have more English translations too. Therefore, I would strongly advise to spend as much time there as possible.
Even the building itself is something to be admired. The grand interior even outshines some of the exhibits!
Lawrence Toye, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz Moscow
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