Museum and Church of Old Believers in Kazan cost almost 100 million

Russia's only museum dedicated to the history of the Old Believers opens in Kazan

Museum and Church of Old Believers in Kazan cost almost 100 million
Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

On December 5, one more museum opened in Kazan — the Museum of the History of Old Believers opened in the building of the Pokrovsky Cathedral of the Kazan-Vyatka Diocese of the Russian Old Believer Church. It was planned to open the museum to visitors earlier, but the coronavirus epidemic made its own adjustments. The grand opening of the first museum exhibition was held with participation of Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov and Metropolitan of the Old Believers' Church of Russia Cornelius. This project was funded from several sources, and in general, the creation of the temple complex consisting of the Old Believer Cathedral and the historical museum, as it became known to Realnoe Vremya, cost almost 100 million rubles.

“Rustam Minnikhanov allocated us the necessary funds”

According to data posted on the public procurement portal back in 2018, the purpose of the museum is to “popularize the old believers of Kazan and Tatarstan as a significant cultural phenomenon of the 17th—early 21st centuries, the historical, everyday and artistic heritage of the Old Believers, the creation of a cultural, educational and spiritual centre in Kazan”.

In addition to organising exhibitions, it is planned to organise a space for cultural, educational and educational programmes on the basis of the museum. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

In addition to organising exhibitions, it is planned to organise a space for cultural, educational and educational programmes on the basis of the museum. Besides, despite the old believer spirit, the museum's activities, as stated in the documents, will include modern technologies — systems for wireless access to audio-visual information of museums, including virtual excursions, using wireless devices, as well as multimedia panels with various historical information.

For these purposes, as well as the purchase of stained glass windows, stands, digital equipment and other materials, the ministry of culture of Russia allocated 8 million rubles. But as Vasily Kirillov, the head of the non-profit foundation for cultural and historical heritage Russian Antiquity, who initiated the creation of the museum, told Realnoe Vremya, this is only a small part of the funds.

“They (the funds allocated by the ministry of culture of the Russian Federation — editor's note) were so small, insignificant that they would not be enough for the project even for a third, even for equipment — racks and so on, and since 2018, my fund Russian Antiquity has financed all construction works, the formation of expositions and the rest of the complex of works. Rustam Minnikhanov allocated us the missing funds, and now we are finishing," Kirillov said.

100 million rubles — to cathedral and museum

The idea of creating this museum belongs to the head of the non-profit foundation Russian Antiquity, Vasily Kirillov. At the end of 2016, he asked Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov, the Kazan diocese and the Moscow Metropolitan to support this initiative and received approval.

It was decided to allocate a basement for the museum, which required major repairs: due to that a river flows next to the temple, sometimes the ground water level in the basement rooms reached a height of 1 metre. According to Kirillov, funds in the amount of 50 million rubles were allocated from various extra-budgetary funds by order of the head of the republic. In 2017, the basement of the temple was waterproofed, the boiler room, water supply and heating systems were repaired.

Initially, the money was invested in the preservation of the architectural and historical monument — the cathedral, the roof and walls were redone, and the interior of the church was restored. After the renovation of the ground floor, it was decided to create the historical museum here. The total amount that was eventually spent during the repair and restoration works of both the temple and the museum is about 100 million rubles, Vasily Kirillov, the head of the foundation, told Realnoe Vremya.

Initially, the money was invested in the preservation of the architectural and historical monument — the cathedral, the roof and walls were redone, and the interior of the church was restored. Photo: Maksim Platonov

Icons of 16th century and portraits of merchants-Old Believers

Museum visitors will have the opportunity to see rare books of the 17th century, related to the era of separation of the Old Believers under the leadership of Archpriest Avvakum from the traditional Orthodox Church, the so-called raskol, ancient icons and banners, old printed books, clothing and household items of the followers of the old Russian worship — already about 400 exhibits, and most of them are originals.

The Kazan Museum of the History of the Old Believers will be unique in its essence and, perhaps, the only one in Russia with such an extensive and permanent exhibition. It will consist of several sections and will be located in three halls with a total area of 1,200 square metres: these are documents and various exhibits that tell about the history of the formation and development of the Old Believer Church — from the raskol to the present.

A feature of the museum is, Kirillov stressed, that all the museum exhibits were gathered bit by bit among the members of Old Believer communities not only in Tatarstan, but in Russia — “it was all saved in families, passed over centuries from generation to generation, this, wholly original, not dummies. We are ready to accept everything that is old.” The real gem of the museum, which will soon open to visitors, according to Kirillov, is an ancient marching iconostasis, with which the community moved from one settlement to another.

The Kazan Museum of the History of the Old Believers will be unique in its essence and, perhaps, the only one in Russia with such an extensive and permanent exhibition. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

The creators hope that the museum fund will be constantly replenished by new exhibits that are carefully stored in the families of Old Believers or other museums of Tatarstan, and due to this, the expositions will also change. At one time, a large Old Believer community existed in Chistopol, and its city museum has “large deposits of Old Believer exhibits that are not displayed, but are stored, so to speak, in warehouses, and there are many of them in the Kazan Museum of Art," Kirillov told us. It is also planned to hold various thematic exhibitions dedicated to historical events and personalities.

“Do you know taht 90% of the buildings that were built on the Bauman Street before the revolution, all of them belonged to Kazan merchants-Old Believers, starting with Shamov? A whole hall in the museum will be dedicated to the merchants-Old Believers, patrons who created the city. We do not want to lose our origins and hide, as some may think that Old Believers hide in basements, we are there, and we want to show our history, the best traditions and great personalities who the Old Believers were.”

A whole hall in the museum will be dedicated to the merchants-Old Believers, patrons who created the city. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

Historical museum will be connected to the Arsky cemetery

The museum's history, according to the organisers, should continue in the future at the Arsky cemetery, which is located almost in the centre of the capital. According to historical data, it was founded as a cemetery for the Old Believers' community of Kazan, and all Kazan merchants-Old Believers are buried just on its territory. A special smartphone app that is still being developed will tell you about their history. It will include excursion routes indicating the burial place of each historical figure of the Old Believers' communities of Kazan.

All Kazan merchants-Old Believers are buried in the Arsky cemetery. Photo: Maksim Platonov

The museum is operating in test mode, excursions are conducted on a scheduled basis or by appointment, the organisers said.

By Angelina Panchenko
Tatarstan