A Birthday Gift

Throughout the history of the Hermitage, its treasures were removed from the museum only three times. In 1812 – during the war with Napoleon, in 1917 – the year of the Revolution, and in July 1941, when the Second World War broke out.

In 1941, workers did not manage to secure all of the museum’s objects in a safe place. Only two of the three trains made it out of the city for Sverdlovsk (present-day Yekaterinburg). The staff continued to work and live in the museum. They celebrated the anniversaries of the Medieval Eastern poets Navoi and Nizami. For the birthday of Hermitage director Boris Piotrovsky, the staff presented him with a tiny cup, engraved with his initials. Maybe today a cup would not be considered a very extravagant gift, but during the Siege the museum staff had to live without heat or light for a whole week to save up enough fuel to be able to fire the cup in the muffle furnace.

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