Museum of the Patriotic War of 1812: Architecture

Museum of the Patriotic War of 1812: Architecture


  • The neo-Russian building on Revolution Square, in the very heart of Moscow, was purpose-built in 1892 to house the City Duma.
  • On the first floor were public reception offices, and the second floor was reserved for grand meetings and elections; the Mayor’s office was located here too.
  • High, pointed roofs typical of 16th- and 17th-century architecture make the building stand out.
  • In Soviet times, the building was home to Lenin’s Museum that contained more than 100,000 exhibits.
  • In the early 21st century, a pavilion with a total area of almost 2,000 sq.m. was added to the building, becoming the main display area for the Museum of Patriotic War of 1812.
  • All information in the Museum is translated into English, audio guides and guided tours are available too.

112_image1_s The Museum of the Patriotic War of 1812 is located in the centre of Moscow in Revolution SquareRussian: Ploshchad Revolutsii or Площадь революции. The building itself is an outstanding example of the “Neo-Russian” stylearose in second quarter of the 19th century and was an eclectic melding of pre-Peterine Russian architecture and elements of Byzantine architecture.. It was built especially for the City DumaRussian: Duma or Дума (the highest representative body of Moscow before 1917) and afterwards reconstructed for the modern museum to architect P. Andreev’s design. Today, it is made up of two pavillions with a total exhibition space of 1800 square metres. The effect is a harmonious architectural ensemble, which works well together with other landmarks around Red Square including the State Historical MuseumRussian: Gosudarstvennyi Istoricheskiy muzey or Государственный Исторический музей, the Kremlin, and the Resurrection GateRussian: Voskresenskie vorota or Воскресенские ворота.


In 1890, the head of the city (City Mayor) Nikolai Alekseev succeeded in getting permission to have the new building constructed for the representatives of the city. By a terrible twist of fate, he was killed in this building by an insane visitor. The design of the building for the City Duma was created by famous architect Dmitry Chichagov. At the end of the 19th century, the “Neo-Russian” style was popular in Russia. It was characterised by an abundance of elements imitating Old Russian buildings – cathedrals, fortresses, and living chambers. Dmitry Chichagov’s project was fully reflective of the spirit of the time.

It housed the urban management body, the Mayor’s office, and the Duma. Critics pointed out that “in its beauty, size, and the convenience of the interior layout the new building was unparalleled among its competitors”. The building was opened with the participation of Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovichwas an influential figure during the reign of his brother Emperor Alexander III and his spouse Grand Duchess Elizaveta Fyodorovna in May 1892.

If the Russian history is a subject of your interest and you want to know, for example, what is the oldest church in Moscow, what are the famous monasteries around Moscow, which style of Moscow architecture you can see only in this town, you can read about it on our website pages “Kremlin and Red square” and “History and Architecture”.


114_image3_s The ground floor and the basement served as parlours; on the first floor there was a vast hall with two rows of windows (where receptions and elections were held), as well as the Mayor’s office. It was possible to access the first floor by climbing beautiful marble stairs. This floor is occupied by the Museum of the Patriotic War of 1812 at present. A sculpture of Empress Catherine IIEmpress of Russia from 1762 until 1796, made by sculptor A.M. Opekushin, used to be installed here (the sculpture is in the Tretyakov GalleryRussian: Tretyakovskaya galereya or Третьяковская галерея today.

The building features astonishing architectural décor: ornate red brick, an abundance of typical Old Russian elements – lopatkaa kind of semi-column pilaster strips, begunetsa bricklaying pattern in the form of a belt made up of triangle recesses with their bases turned upwards and downwards in an alternating pattern, square and saw-tooth decorative brickwork, kokoshnikan element in the form of an Old Russian head band, or a corbel arch, roll moldings, and arches with plummets. Most of these elements originate from ecclesiastical architecture and were intended to have religious meaning at the time of their construction. High peaked roofs are also typical of 16-17th century architecture, while the ridges of the roof are trimmed with bars with figurines of griffins from fairy tales.

A tent-like porch in the Old Russian style was built to serve as the entrance to the building. The porch with three arches is profusely trimmed with profiled elements from the outside. The high overhang of the entrance roof in the centre is shaped like a boat bottom turned upside down and imitates a keel-like gable. Moscow’s coat of arms used to be in the middle of it, featuring St. George on horseback fighting a dragon. Flat ramps lead to the front doors; visitors used to walk up them to enter the building.

The hefty windows on the first floor are particularly distinctive. They are decorated with fountain-like elements and window casing in 17th century style. These windows make the whole building blend with the architecture of the Historical Museum, Golitsin’s chambersRussian: Palaty Golitsina or палаты Голицына in Okhotny RowRussian: Okhotny ryad or Охотный ряд, the building of the Savvino-Storozhevskoye farmsteadRussian: Savvino-Storozhevskoye podvorie or Саввино–Сторожевское подворье in Tverskaya streetRussian: ulitsaTverskaya or улица Тверская.

461_image4_s The building of the city Duma was placed on a hefty granite base; this makes the building both festive and appropriate to its function in seriousness. The building thus became the perfect sample of the Neorussian style.

In the Soviet period (1953-1993), the building was used to house Lenin’s V.I. museumRussian: Muzey V.I. Lenina or Музей В.И. Ленина. The huge display comprising about 100,000 exhibits was fully dedicated to one person – the creator of the Soviet state. Right after the socialistic revolution, the relief “St. GeorgeRussian: Sv. Georgiy or Св. Георгий” was changed to the image of a peasant with a scythe and a worker with a hammer and a tooth gear (1918 by sculptor G. Alekseev). In this way, the patron saint of Moscow was substituted with the USSR symbol – the sickle and hammer. Right beside it there was an inscription saying “Revolution is the whirlwind casting all the resistant back”.

Nowadays, the Lenin V.I.  Museum has become part of the State Historical Museum collection while its premises are used to hold exhibitions of contemporary art. A pavilion with nearly 2000 square meters of floor space was built in the courtyard of the Lenin Museum (between the building of the Duma and the building of the 17th century mint) at the beginning of the 21st century. The pavilion has become a part of the old building and the main building of the Museum of the Patriotic War of 1812.

© 2016-2023
How interesting and useful was this article for you?
total number of grades: 8, average rating: 4.75 (from 5)
Open the map in new window

Within Garden Ring

Nearest Metro Station

Teatralnaya, Okhotny Ryad


2/3 Revolution Square, Moscow


A. Radishchev Memorial Plaque. Photo: V. Kruglova
P. A. Shuvalov
N. A. Alekseyev, Mayor of Moscow between 1885 and 1893
Napoleon Bonaparte
Moscow City Duma, now housing the Museum of the Patriotic War in 1812. An old photo
Outside view of the museum. Details. Photo: V. Kruglova
Outside view of the museum. Details. Photo: V. Kruglova
Outside view of the museum. Details. Photo: V. Kruglova

Similar places

Левая стрелка Правая стрелка

Interesting places nearby

Click to Show Map