The Sergei Yesenin Moscow State MuseumRussian: Moskovskiy gosudarstvennyi muzey S. A. Yesenina or Московский государственный музей С. А. Есенина is probably one of the smallest and least accessible museums in the city. There are no large permanent exhibitions devoted to Yesenin in Moscow, even though the city played an important role in the poet’s life and career. The museum was created from private collections thanks to Yesenin’s niece, Svetlana Petrovna, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1995. The poet’s personal possessions, carefully preserved by his family, became the first exhibits; some furniture, household items and other items conveying the poet’s personality and the epoch in which he lived were added later.
Despite the relative newness of the museum, the atmosphere of this small memorial located at 24/2 Bolshoy Strochenovsky LaneRussian: Bol’shoy Strochenovskiy pereulok or Большой Строченовский переулок leaves a lasting impression of Yesenin – it is almost possible to feel his presence, permeating the space with the flavour of revolutionary change and his immortal poetry. There are only two rooms, but they give a comprehensive idea of Sergei Yesenin’s life in Moscow and the influence of the city on his creative career. The museum received exhibits from all over Russia and overseas, which were often gifted to the museum as private donations. In 1996, the museum was elevated to the status of ‘state museum’.
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HISTORY AND ARCHITECTURE
The one-storey building is located inside the courtyard of a business centre, hidden behind modern buildings. This wooden structure was built in 1891 by architect M. Medvedev, and was originally designed as a dormitory for artisans, shop assistants, office clerks and other workers. A house like this must have been profitable, given its location in ZamoskvorechyeRussian: Замоскворечье District, with its active markets. The building was renovated in 1992 following a fire.
The two-bedroom apartment on the ground floor was occupied by Yesenin’s father Alexander Nikitich, who worked in Moscow for 30 years and had become a butcher’s shop manager. When Yesenin graduated from teaching school, his father gave him a job as a shop assistant, hoping he would one day make the manager position. However, having worked for almost a year in this capacity, the poet realised that working in retail was not the right fit for him. He quit and moved out of his father’s house – his father was deeply frustrated with his son’s ‘muddle-headedness’. 24/2 Strochenovsky Lane was Yesenin’s official place of residence until 1918, and he was never known to live anywhere else in Moscow.
The poet’s room, hidden behind a glass display case has become the central exhibit of the museum. It is impossible to reconstruct the exact furnishings of Yesenin’s room, but this room is furnished in the typical style of workers’ dwellings of the early 20th century with the typical standard humble decorations. There is a plain wooden table covered with a white cloth, a couple of chairs ‘à la bentwood’, and a robust stool. Nearby, there are ancient small chests, a bed covered with a patchwork quilt, an open bookcase, a china closet, embroidered rustic towels, and a small bust of Pushkin.
The walls feature framed photos, some lithographs, and an authentic family icon on a shelf in the corner. A garmona kind of Russian button accordion, a free-reed wind instrument can be seen on the bench behind the chests, and the table holds the poet’s manuscript drafts, preserved in the family archive. The room breathes middle-class comfort and the ambition to live in step with the time, typical of the pre-revolutionary period. The relaxed atmosphere in this room creates the impression that the owner has gone on an errand and is shortly going to return.
The small museum is furnished thoughtfully, with unique taste. Some interior elements allude to rural dwellings: a horseshoe above the door and wooden rafters lining the roof. There are also photographs and autographed manuscripts.
Various personal possessions are displayed here, diverse and touching in their own right; a family icon of the Mother of God, a pillow in a pillowcase embroidered by Yesenin’s mother, a wooden wall clock, a tray, a few manuscripts, etc. The poet’s face is represented everywhere, in portraits, photos, paintings, sketches, pictures, and mirrors.
Guided tours can be accompanied with audio recordings of music and poetry or lectures, at the visitors’ discretion. The information provided by the museum reconstructs the complete picture of Yesenin’s life in Moscow in a logical way. The exhibition area will soon be expanded with the addition of an open-air gallery and a monument.
This museum is extraordinary in many ways, its small area offering an exhibition, a theatre, a workshop, and the opportunity to play or have a cup of tea. Most importantly, Yesenin Museum is ultimately welcoming, open to everyone, and definitely worth having a look at.
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