Memorial Museums

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Memorial Museums


museums devoted to noteworthy historical events, to government officials, and to figures prominent in political, social, and military affairs, science, literature, and the arts. Memorial museums are usually created as part of a memorial complex maintained by the state. They are organized on sites where historical events took place or on the estate or in the home or apartment associated with a particular historical figure’s life and activities. Some museums arise from collections of objects memorial in nature.

There are several types of memorial museums. In some, such as the Apartment of V. I. Lenin in the Kremlin, lasnaia Poliana, and the House of P. I. Tchaikovsky in Klin, the original furnishings have been preserved. Other memorial museums are reconstructions of formerly existing structures, such as the Pushkin Museum-Preserve in Mikhailovskoe, the Underground Print Shop of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (1905-06) in Moscow, and the Museum of the First Congress of the RSDLP in Minsk. Some memorial museums were built specifically to house collections, for example, the M. I. Kalinin Museum in Moscow and the Museum of S. M. Kirov and G. K. Ordzhonikidze in the city of Ordzhonikidze.

Memorial museums preserve, conduct research on, and bring to the public’s attention highly valuable collections of objects and pictorial and written materials. One of their purposes is that of cultural enlightenment. Guidebooks and research papers are published by the museums.

In Russia a forerunner of the memorial museum was the Imperial Cabinet, which in 1729 formed part of the Kunstkamera and served to house materials concerning Peter I. The first specialized memorial museum, the Museum of the Defense of Sevastopol’, was founded in 1869; it housed materials that are now in the Museum of the Black Sea Fleet. In prerevolutionary Russia only 22 memorial museums were established: six were devoted to military and historical events, and 16 to figures prominent in science, literature, and the arts. Six of these museums received small subsidies from the state; the remainder were supported by the public and by individuals who also initiated their founding.

Since the first days of the October Revolution of 1917, the Soviet government, while preserving already existing memorial museums, has preserved sites, houses, estates, and materials associated with noteworthy historical events and persons. Soviet times have witnessed the establishment of a network of memorial museums in all of the Union republics. In the USSR and abroad museums devoted to V. I. Lenin and to the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45 are widespread. As of 1971 there were 239 state memorial museums in the Soviet Union. In addition, there are a great many people’s memorial museums, which operate on socialist principles.

Well-known memorial museums outside of the USSR include those dedicated to the victims of fascism in Buchenwald and Oswiecim (Auschwitz), the Shakespeare Museum in Stratfordon-Avon, and the Goethe National Museum in Weimar.


Kononov, lu. F., and V. M. Khevrolina. “Memorial’nye muzei, posviashchennye deiateliam nauki i kul’tury SSSR (1917-1956).”In Ocherki istorii muzeinogo dela v SSSR. Moscow, 1963.
Razgon, A. M. “Istoriko-revoliutsionnye memoriaFnye muzei i kommunisticheskoe vospitanie trudiashchikhsia.”In Rot’ muzeev v kommunisticheskom vospitanii trudiashchikhsia. Moscow, 1966.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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