Why doesn’t the Kremlin has a museum? Exposition areas created in public offices

The building of Public Offices in the Kazan Kremlin where a lecture room and a crafts centre opened late last year together with several cafes and restaurants will get a new function. A museum of the millennium-old fortress will open there. Realnoe Vremya’s correspondent found out what designers want to see and why the museum-reserve needs another exposition area.

I want to know everything about fortresses

The Public Offices is a long building that one sees after entering the Kremlin through the Spass Tower’s arch on the right side of the street. The first professional Kazan architect Vasily Kfaftyryov designed it, he is also the author of Kazan’s city plan of 1768. The Public Offices accommodated the Court Chamber, hosted a ball in honour of Russian Emperor Paul the First’s arrival. During the Soviet era, it had tens of offices, and even people lived underground. Nowadays Kazan citizens remember the building as a cheap canteen in the courtyard. After long repairs, good halls opened in the Public Offices for lectures, conferences and other events. New food establishments opened too. While at the beginning, almost at the entrance, the authorities want to open a Kazan Kremlin museum in a two-storey building with arched ceilings and thick walls on an area of 700 square metres.

It is surprising but one should either stock up on books or hire a certified guide to obtain information about the place Kazan was founded in. Many Kremlin museums about the urban fortress, its millennium-old history, key facilities from the guardhouse to the Presidential Palace say almost nothing. The Cannon Yard Museum is a rare exception, it is at least about military science, about the yard. The others are about art, statehood and religion. Therefore it is hard for tourists to understand that hundreds of people studied and served in the building of the Military School including a lot of museums.

A museum shouldn’t be a thing in itself

A group chaired by Director of Island Town of Sviyazhsk museum-reserve Artyom Silkin and archaeologist, Doctor of Historical Sciences Ayrat Sitdikov deal with the scientific concept of the museum. Like the Kremlin, it is also a UNESCO heritage site. By the way, as it turned out in a talk with the experts, not everybody understands the special status of the Kremlin. As it was explained multiple times during the workshop on the key message and storyline of the museum this week, the museum fortress shouldn’t be a thing in itself, it can develop and grow.

Ayrat Sitdikov has already worked with the Bolgar Civisilisation Museum, Kazan Panorama and the Wood Archaeology Museum. His PhD thesis is devoted to Middle-Age Kazan, his candidate’s thesis is on stratigraphy, chronology and topography of the Kremlin.

Other specialists — historians, guides, workers of the Kremlin and the Tatarstan City Development Institute and specialists of the GULAG History Museum, which received the European Council’s museum award last year — joined these mastodons. Why is a Kremlin museum needed besides the obvious reason that a fortress needs one? What should it look like? Who is it designed for? The authors of the concept will have to answer these questions.

What about sites or legends?

For instance, the group assumed that the exposition in the museum will be chronologically placed — from Bolgarian times, the Golden Horde, khans’ periods, tsarist, imperial, Soviet Russia and modern time. Another option is based on sites: a kind of GPS that will help then find one’s bearings on the site. Or it can be considered from different angles: Islamic, Orthodox Christian, political, military, living (let’s keep in mind that people used to live here even in the 90s, the workers recalled driver Islam who is registered in the Assumption Cathedral). Or for instance, the Kremlin can be explained through myths and legends. Perhaps, a part of the projects can be united, taking the essential things.

Every version has its own drawbacks. For instance, the sites on the territory of the museum-reserve constantly moved. You talk about today’s Qul Sharif mosque, talk about its location in the Assumption Cathedral’s place too. If you talk about the Military School, talk about half the territory. And how to choose artefacts? How is detailed history interesting and clear for ordinary tourists?

How we can talk about the tourists when the Kremlin is different even for the citizens. For somebody, it is barren and cold. For others, it is the most reliable place, like in God’s pocket. For some, it is a view from the hill. For others, it is mum, dad and sovereignty day. Somebody goes there to pray. Somebody walks at night. For some, it is the city centre, the heart of Kazan. For others, it is a thing in itself. For some it is a site where the city was seized, a psychological trauma one needs to talk about, live and reshape.

Perhaps, the most important thing that was said at the workshop is that except the Kremlin museum, the city needs a museum of Kazan again. The collections kept at Kazan national cultural centre had to be located in the building of the city council on Bauman Street after the Tatarstan National Library moved in. However, the project was obviously placed on the second burner. When people talk about the Kremlin, too many meanings appear, and the city museum could show a considerable part of them. also, it also has to reset in a new space and become a point of union and rethinking. However, like most museums of the republic.

Radif Kashapov. Photo: Maxim Platonov

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