The Moscow Kremlin museums’ collections total 160,000 unique exhibits, including masterpieces of weaponry, jewellery, and fine arts, as well as archaeological finds discovered at various moments on the Kremlin’s territory. The unique ensemble of Kremlin museums includes old cathedrals, architectural ensembles, and the Armoury’s treasure trove of exhibits. More than 1 million people visit the museums every year.
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Excerpts from conversation with Director of the Moscow Kremlin museums Yelena Gagarina
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: A decision on building a separate building for the Moscow Kremlin museums was made twice and concerned two different sites in Moscow. One of them was close by, between the Kremlin and the Pashkov House. The approvals process went on for 15 years, and at the end of 2010 it was finally decided to abandon this proposal. Public opinion was in opposition and people felt that it would not be right to fit a new building into the existing architectural ensemble that had already taken shape here.
As you know, we are now looking at the question of reconstructing the buildings at No.5 Red Square, the Middle Trade Rows, as the complex was called. There is quite a lot of space there, more than 40,000 square metres, and if an atrium is built this would make even more space.
I know the issue has been raised on many occasions of the need to ensure proper conditions for the Moscow Kremlin museums’ operation, give the public better access, expand the opportunities for exhibiting the collections, build decent storage facilities, and ensure proper conditions for restoration work. This would all be possible in the premises we have in mind.
Let’s agree as follows. We will entrust this work to the Presidential Property Management Directorate and other services (presidential and government), and discuss the matter with the public, including with the museum community. I think we could establish new premises for the Moscow Kremlin museums at No. 5 Red Square and this will free up the premises here for other purposes. The only thing is, we are to get a clear idea first of whether the space there will be enough for you to fit everything that is here at the moment, whether you think it necessary or not, and whether you think something should remain here. After all, the Moscow Kremlin museums include, I think, eight different buildings.
Director of the Moscow Kremlin Museums Yelena Gagarina: You are quite right. Of course we need to free up all of the wonderful [architectural] monuments here in the Kremlin of functions not properly theirs, so that we can open these historical premises to the public, who want to see as much of the Kremlin as possible, want to see all of the marvellous works of architecture that our forebears created here over the centuries.
The Kremlin is not just museum collections, but is a monument in itself. It would be wonderful, therefore, if we could free these premises of all that should not be here – storage rooms, restoration workshops and office space. Visitors to the Kremlin want to see as much of the historic buildings as they can.
Vladimir Putin: So, you think it is the right decision to transfer the main stocks of items to another site.
Yelena Gagarina: Of course. This is not just my opinion. I discussed it with Sergei Ivanov [Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office], as he is the head of our board of trustees, and with Mikhail Piotrovsky, who is Chairman of the Union of Russian Museums. The building that will house our collections should be in close proximity to the Kremlin, and so there is probably no other option than the building at No. 5 Red Square.
Vladimir Putin: It is also a historic building and, fortunately, there will be no need to demolish anything and build anything new in Moscow’s historic centre.
As for the other sites, there are eight in total, and the Kremlin itself, and they will be open for the public, for our citizens and for visitors coming from abroad, so that everyone will be able to enjoy them.
Yelena Gagarina: Thank you very much, Mr President. You have resolved a huge problem that we have faced for many years now and that has complicated life not only for those working here, but above all, for people who want to visit the Kremlin and see as much as possible here.
Vladimir Putin: Excellent.