A look back at the canon of Russia’s great and good

Portraits of the Tsars of Russia and secretary-generals of the Soviet Union, paintings depicting memorable events, and personal belongings of the great and good…

A riveting exhibition dedicated to the men and women at the helm of Russia and the USSR has opened in Moscow.  

The joint project between the Historical Museum and the Russian Museum has united thematic artworks and rare artifacts from various museums’ storerooms. Brought together, these objects offer a chance to reflect on the fate of peoples and their rulers. .

It is the great leaders who take center stage. The display covers many periods of history, recalling the era of Ivan IV the Terrible and Peter I the Great. However, the main focus is on modern history. An in-depth look at the cult of personality begins with the last emperor, Nicholas II, and proceeds through successive Soviet leaders – Kerensky, Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev.

A little-known portrait of Joseph Stalin created in 1937 by artist Vasily Meshkov didn’t see the light of day for many years because it was “too detailed” for the Soviet canons. Stalin never posed for artists – they had to create his portraits based on strictly-censored photographs.

Lenin was a different matter. He enjoyed posing, as the exhibits on display clearly show. Three different paintings of Vladimir Lenin are accompanied by photographs and even the leader’s coat with a gunshot hole in it.

Alongside the personal effects of the great leaders, the exhibition features many more interesting objects, such as a dress belonging to the famous revolutionary, Aleksandra Kollontai, the great musician and conductor Evgeny Svetlanov’s concert suit, and Galina Ulanova’s ballet costume and pointe shoes.

The display closes with an emotionally charged exhibit – the USSR state flag that was dropped from the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet in 1991.

The exhibition will continue until October 24 at Moscow’s Historical Museum.

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