The Leo Tolstoy estate museum in KhamovnikiRussian: Muzey-usadba L.Tolstogo v Khamovnikakh or Музей-усадьба Л.Толстого в Хамовниках is a historical building which used to belong to Tolstoy himself. The museum is notable for the fact that everything here is just the way it was when Tolstoy lived here from 1893—1895. Whilst it is impossible to freeze time, the team of the L. Tolstoy museum in Khamovniki have practically made it happen. For all Russian history and literature lovers as well as for those who are interested in Russian culture, a visit to the museum in Khamovniki is a unique opportunity to get in touch with the epoch which gave rise to one of the greatest authors of the 19th century.
HISTORY OF THE ESTATE
Leo Tolstoy lived most of his life in Yasnaya PolyanaRussian: Ясная Поляна, literally: “Bright Glade”, his family estate near Tulaa city located 193 kilometers south of Moscow, on the Upa River. However, Moscow was dear to his heart too. At first, during his short visits to the capital, he usually stayed in rented apartments or with his relatives. This continued until 1881, when Tolstoy’s eldest son Sergey started a university course and the younger children also needed to be educated in the big city. Thus, in 1882, Tolstoy bought a house in Khamovniki – whilst it is now a prestigious central district, in his time it was an affordable industrial district of weavers and workmen.
In those days, the house was on the outskirts of Moscow. Tolstoy lived far from the hustle and bustle of the city he did not like. He spent 19 winters (from 1882 to 1901) in his Khamovniki house, leaving for Yasnaya Polyana in summertime. Here, he went through one of the most difficult periods of his life – a time of spiritual crisis. He also created about one hundred works during this period, among which are “ResurrectionRussian: Voskreseniye or Воскресение”, “Kreutzer SonataRussian: Kreytserova sonata or Крейцерова соната”, “The Living CorpseRussian: Zhivoy trup or Живой труп” and many others. When in 1921 a decision was made to open a museum dedicated to him in Tolstoy’s former house, the great writer’s older children willingly supported the project. They were deeply moved by the fact that the display conveyed the atmosphere of their family lifestyle and household, so dear and familiar to them: “The impression is that papá and mamá have only just left the house for a minute”. However, they would have hardly believed then that the museum team would be able to maintain the incredible atmosphere for many years to come.
AUTHENTIC MUSEUM TREASUREs
A lot of things seen in the rooms of the house are reminiscent of the writer’s life. The glass in front of the flatware in the dining room marks the place where the master of the house used to sit, and a small tureen came into everyday use after Tolstoy became a vegetarian and often ate dishes which were cooked especially for him. In the great hall on the first floor, the bearskin under the piano is reminiscent of an incident which occurred during Tolstoy’s youth – he had once wounded a bear while hunting and had a narrow escape from the angry animal. On the first floor, next to his study, a pair of his high boots he made himself and his bike are kept. The study has a desk covered with dark green woolen cloth – the very same one featured in the portraits of the writer by N. Ge and I. Repinfamous Russian painters, and a chair beside it. The writer, who was a bit shortsighted, sawed a few centimetres off the legs of this chair so that he did not have to bend over his papers.
MUSEUM AS A MONUMENT TO THE PAST
The house with its adjacent plot of land in Khamovniki is a traditional Moscow mansion. It is a unique architectural monument, one of the few wooden buildings that survived the 1812 Fire of Moscowduring the war between the Russian Empire and Napoleonic France on the territory of Russia in 1812. Set centrally on a large plot of land about one hectare in size, the house is not visible from the street; it is hidden from prying eyes by lush foliage and has a vast garden at the rear. According to the writer, the garden was “as dense as a forest”, and his contemporaries’ letters mentioned that there were roses in bloom, strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, and barberries as well as apple and cherry trees. Today, the garden is tended by professional gardeners striving to keep the trees which were planted in Tolstoy’s lifetime alive and recreate the atmosphere of the late 19th century. At the bottom of the garden there is a mound which used to serve as Leo Tolstoy’s retreat and workplace. The busiest place was the area in front of the house, where in summer games of croquet were played and in winter skating could be enjoyed.
VISITING THE TOLSTOYS
As well as the house, a few detached buildings are also part of the museum: the kitchen, the annex which housed the office publishing Leo Tolstoy’s works, the coach house, and the gazebo. The main exhibition is displayed in the house, where authentic interiors in which the writer lived with his family are still intact. There are 16 rooms in total. The main entrance leads into a hall, followed by a long corridor which divides the house into two parts. On the right are the dining room, the “corner” room, the master bedroom, the nursery (the room of the younger and beloved son Vanechka, who died at seven years old of scarlet fever), and the classroom; on the left are the pantry, Tolstoy’s eldest daughter Tatiana’s room, the boys’ room (for the writer’s sons Andrei and Mikhail), and the maidservants’ room. On the first floor, accessible from the entrance hall by the grand staircase, there is a great hall, a large drawing room and a smaller one, the writer’s middle daughter Maria’s room, two rooms for servants, and Leo Tolstoy’s workshop and study.
The home has also preserved the writer’s way of life. Along with his creative work and receiving numerous visitors, Tolstoy assigned time for handicrafts and did a lot of work around the house: he chopped wood, brought water from the well on Krymskaya SquareRussian: Krymskaya ploschad or Крымская площадь and even from as far as the River MoskvaRussian: Moskva-reka or Москва-река.
Tolstoy’s house was always busy and full of life – it was visited by many famous people, the memory of whom is embodied in the autographs they left on a tablecloth (now kept in Tatiana’s room), as well as ordinary people who came to ask the writer for advice and help. Today the house in Khamovniki retains the air of hospitality and welcomes everyone who, just like a hundred years ago, wants to drop in for a visit with Leo Tolstoy.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com