Nowadays a respectable district in downtown Moscow with a surprisingly turbulent history, PresnyaRussian: Пресня was considered Moscow’s industrial periphery only a century ago. The district now boasts its own museum, mostly devoted to the armed uprising that took place in December, 1905, one of the dramatic episodes of the first Russian revolutionincluded worker strikes, peasant unrest, and military mutinies. The Presnya Museum is famous for its collections devoted to the participants in these historical events and for depicting the everyday life of early 20th-century city dwellers. The museum is also known for its grandiose sound-and-light diorama known as The Heroic PresnyaRussian: Героическая Пресня, 1905.
THE PRESNYA DISTRICT AND THE UPRISING OF 1905
Moscow’s Presnya District has witnessed important and tragic events in Russia’s recent history, such as violent clashes between the rebels and government forces. Presnya was in the thick of the armed uprising in Moscow in 1905. A series of clashes took place here during the Russian Revolution of 1917, and, in 1991 and 1993, protests occurred near the House of the Government of the Russian Federation to the sounds of artillery salvos.
After Emperor Nicholas II (1868-1918) introduced a controlled parliamentary system, radical left-wing political parties took an armed stand against the new system and defied legal norms, resulting in an uprising in Moscow which lasted from the 7th to 18th December, 1905. Workers, students and the city’s underclass participated in it, and the Bolshevik party members and socialist revolutionaries led the armed workers’ detachments. Presnya, one of the uprising’s major centres, was at that time a poor working class area where a number of large factories were located, the largest of them being the Trekhgorny textile manufacturing companyRussian: Trehgornaya tekstilnaya manufaktura or Трехгорная текстильная мануфактура. The insurgents turned Presnya into a fortress, building barricades in the streets and setting up their own command units, hospitals, armament depots and improvised ammunition plants. After fighting for days, government forces were finally able to eliminate the uprising, but not without heavy loss of life and destruction.
THE FOUNDATION OF THE MUSEUM AND THE DIORAMA
The Presnya Museum was founded in an old timber house typical of the area in 1924. In Soviet times, the uprising of 1905 became a slogan which represented the history of the Bolshevik party, and it is no coincidence that this particular building was chosen for the museum, given that a Bolshevik district committee and Presnya’s Military Revolutionary Committee had their headquarters here in 1917. A two-storey monumental building erected next to the museum in 1968-1975 was intended to house new museum collections, and it was there that a dynamic diorama, The Heroic Presnya, 1905, was inaugurated in 1982. The diorama is the museum’s main attraction, and its sound and light effects along with its large dimensions make it one of the world’s best dioramas. The museum is currently a branch of the State Central Museum of Contemporary History of RussiaRussian: Muzey sovremennoy istorii Rossii or Музей современной истории России.
The main showpiece here is the diorama created by Efim Deshalyt (1921-1991), a renowned panoramic painter. The diorama, depicting an episode of the Presnya battle, which the painter reconstructed in detail, is the largest in Europe. Just as any diorama, it has a thematic foreground and a picturesque background. The spectator sees himself behind the insurgents’ defensive frontline. In the foreground, workers behind the barricades open fire on the approaching Preobrazhensky regimentRussian: Preobrazhenskiy polk or Преображенский полк. Interestingly, the painter depicted himself over the barricade holding a revolver in his hand.
One can easily see a theatre billboard among objects shaping the barricade: Deshalyt made an effort to examine the surviving theatre bills of the time with a view to find out which shows were playing in Moscow theatres in December, 1905. In the background, another barricade can be seen next to the Gorbaty BridgeRussian: Gorbatyi most or Горбатый мост, where the House of the Government of the Russian Federation is located nowadays. The surviving postcards and photographs also helped to reconstruct the general view of the city.
Let us mention another interesting detail illustrative of the scrupulousness with which the artists worked in creating the diorama; to guarantee the authenticity of the image, Efim Deshalyt studied the weather records for December, 1905 in order to reconstruct the weather and even the wind direction flying the insurgents’ flags. A visit to the diorama is accompanied by a sound track and a voice guide by the famous Russian actor Mikhail Ulyanov. Visitors are also welcome to make a brief excursion and get familiar with the history of the December uprising, of the diorama’s creation, as well as with Efim Deshalyt’s life. Excursions are available in English. The accompanying text is in English, German, French and Spanish. The Chinese version is also underway.
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THE MUSEUM’S PERMANENT COLLECTIONS
The museum exhibits collections devoted to the history of early 20th-century Presnya. They are located in the old memorial house, where the interiors of two rooms that had housed some Bolshevik institutions have been reconstructed.
Photographs, documents, political cartoons and leaflets are on display here along with weapons and personal belongings of the participants in these historical events. A small piece of bread on display in the showcase stirs up particularly strong emotions in the visitor: it was given to the mother of one of the insurgents on the day he was killed on the barricade; it was kept as a relic by the woman and later passed to the museum. Literary works on the uprising are also on display. It is also worth mentioning an exhibition on everyday life in 20th-century Russia, which features reconstructions of typical Russian interiors from the early 20th century up to now. One can see, for example, the reconstructed room of a female worker at the Trekhgorny textile manufacturing company in the early 20th century, the office of a Soviet upper executive manager from the forties and fifties, a flight control desk and a concession stand from the nineties.© 2016-2019 moscovery.com