June 01, 1998

Imperial Outpost

A small museum tucked away in a working-class section of east Moscow struggles to keep alive the possibility that someday there will be another czar in Russia. It is the Museum of the Imperial Family, which opened in 1994. (1 Malaya Semyonovskaya, metro “Elektrozavodskaya,” open 11-6 Monday through Friday. Telephone and fax 963-8996. The museum has recently been closed for repairs, but will presumably be open for the summer months. Those who wish to visit are advised to call in advance.)

Like many other institutions in Russia, the Museum of the Imperial Family is not just one thing. It is a museum in the traditional sense of the word, an important outpost of the Romanov family, and an architectural monument all rolled into one.

The primary purpose of the museum, and the one most obvious to the visitor, is educational. “Children and even university students have been educated in enormous isolation from Russian history,” says Yelena Sergeyevna, the museum’s personable director. She has a point. When Soviet education didn’t simply ignore the last two tsars, Alexander III and Nicholas II, it portrayed them as reactionary monsters. To bring the past to life, and to restore something like a sense of continuity to Russian history, the museum regularly conducts tours for school children.

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