Gulzada Rudenko: ‘Museums teach you to love the history of your country’
The director of the Yelabuga Museum-Reserve, who received an award from Putin, spoke about new projects and big plans to attract tourists
“In the future — the creation of a museum of modern history of Yelabuga. We talk so much about the past centuries, but modern history is no less interesting, and it also needs to be preserved," Gulzada Rudenko, the director general of the Yelabuga State Museum—Reserve, shared her plans in an interview with Realnoe Vremya. A few days ago, the Tatarstan cultural worker received an award from the president of the country, Vladimir Putin — the state prize for her contribution to the study, preservation and popularisation of the historical and cultural heritage of Russia. In the interview with our publication, she told how museums have become the “third place” for young people in the city, what new projects await the guests of Yelabuga, how the reserve overcame the coronacrisis and the impact of geopolitical events, and what needs to be done to attract tourists.
“We would show Putin our museums”
Ms Rudenko, recently in the Kremlin you have received an award from the hands of the president of the country and invited him to Yelabuga. What would you show him in the city that you hoped to impress?
We would definitely show Mr Putin our museum and exhibition facilities, first of all, the I.I. Shishkin Memorial House Museum and the historical and archaeological complex “Yelabuga settlement”, from which all guests need to start getting acquainted with the city.
I am glad that the large-scale work of the Yelabuga State Museum-Reserve has received such a high assessment. We are the custodians of 184 cultural heritage sites, we develop 17 museum and exhibition facilities. With the population of Yelabuga of 74 thousand people, we receive about half a million tourists annually! In addition to carrying out projects at the international and All-Russian levels, we work with our Yelabuga children — almost 3 thousand of them annually become participants in monthly museum classes. Children literally grow up in museums, and we create all conditions so that they feel comfortable and want to return to the museum with their friends and parents. And this is only a small part of what we do with great pleasure and love every day.
We would show Mr Putin our museum and exhibition facilities, the Yelabuga Settlement complex, from which all guests should begin to get acquainted with the city
“We are working on the creation of the museum of modern history of Yelabuga”
There are already 17 museums and exhibition complexes in Yelabuga — is this enough or are there plans to open new facilities?
For several years we have been working on the creation of the Children's museum and educational centre, which will become the centre of attraction for children and teenagers of the entire Lower Kama region. In May, we opened one of its four modules — the Intelligence Centre, where we hold quizzes, lectures, seminars, chamber concerts for young people, and also meetings with interesting people within the framework of the Pushkin Card project.
In the future — the creation of a museum of modern history of Yelabuga. We talk so much about the past centuries, we talk about ancient Bulgars, merchants, and famous figures and events of the 20th century, but modern history is no less interesting, and it also needs to be preserved.
How will the traditional Yelabuga projects go this year?
We are actively preparing for the Boris Berezovsky music festival “Summer Evenings in Yelabuga”, for the Spasskaya Fair, according to tradition, we will hold a Bell Ringing Festival and organise a Craftsman's Yard in the city of Yelabuga. This year, a novelty awaits the guests of Yelabuga — from July 22 to 24, an All-Russian traditional archery tournament will be held in our city.
Last year, we received 487 thousand visitors, which is more than twice the figure of the pandemic 2020 year
“We see an increase in the tourist flow”
How much has the tourist flow to Yelabuga changed? Did you manage to recover from the coronacrisis?
Last year, we received 487 thousand visitors, which is more than twice the figure of the pandemic 2020 year. This year we are seeing an increase in the tourist flow — domestic tourism is becoming more popular, people are happy to choose cultural and educational trips to Russian cities. We have a rule in our museum-reserve for a long time — we meet every visitor as the most precious guest. Therefore, we work almost all summer and on a day off — Monday: we accept groups from cruise ships.
How have the events in Ukraine affected your activities?
We had a small number of foreign tourists — in this sense, there will be no sharp decline in the tourist flow. We postponed the “Descendants Ball”, which we planned to hold in June, because most of the descendants of famous Elabuzhans live outside of Russia. As for the rest, the work continues in the same format.
How much can a museum business be commercially profitable?
In 2004, we created the tourist information centre as one of the divisions of the museum-reserve. We have a tour operator's license, we are a member of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia, and Yelabuga — of the Association of Small tourist cities. I do not stop repeating the phrase that every tourist who come to Yelabuga is hard-fought by the staff of the museum-reserve. Of course, this expression is somewhat exaggerated, but they really come to us for a reason, but because we do a lot for this. Our employees go to tourist exhibitions, where they represent our full potential, cooperate with hundreds of advertising and travel companies for promotion, with transport companies, with numerous accommodation and catering facilities.
We, as an institution subordinate to the Ministry of Culture of Tatarstan, have budget funding, but at the same time, we earn well, and then we spend: 50% on the salaries of employees, the rest on the maintenance of buildings and structures (we have 32 of them!), estates, on the purchase of equipment, machinery, the implementation of exhibition projects, purchase of items in funds and much, much more.
Each museum has its own audience, which is getting bigger and more interested every year
“Among our guests there are already those for whom the museum is the 'third place”
You have repeatedly said that the museum should become a place where children would like to come. How things are going in achieving this goal?
Most of the visitors are representatives of the older generation. And the Pushkin Card helped us attract young people to museums, so in my speech at the award ceremony in the Kremlin I thanked our president for it. We carry out a large number of bright projects for young people, and the existing classical excursions and classes have been revised, updated, made more dynamic and interesting for the younger generation.
Among our guests there are already those for whom the museum is the “third place”. Children come to our museum classes every month, young people are happy to attend language clubs every week, creative intelligentsia — a literary lounge, medical workers — the “Kind Hearts” club and so on. Each museum has its own audience, which is getting bigger and more interested every year.
Many underestimate the impact of culture on life. How do you assess her role for yourself?
Everything in our life begins with culture. The appearance, behaviour of a person, order in his home or workplace, relationships with others, and more — this is all the culture within a single person. Museums, theatres, libraries and other institutions bring eternal values to the masses, teach them to know and love the history of their country, their city, their family, and help form vital interests. In each of our events, whether it's a theatrical tour of the museum or a children's fairy tale, there is an educational moment. The museum is a place where people gain knowledge, become kinder and more cultured, and not just have fun.
As the head of not just a museum, but a museum-reserve, I am concerned about the preservation of buildings
“There are simply no investors here who are ready to invest a lot of money in restoration”
What problems in the museum industry are paramount for you now? Have you managed to voice some at the federal level?
As the head of not just a museum, but a museum-reserve, I am concerned about the preservation of buildings — objects of cultural heritage, in particular — former apartment buildings. There are obstacles in the legislation itself that do not allow us to quickly decide the fate of these objects. In the cities like Yelabuga, remote from the capital, there are also other difficulties — there are simply no investors who are willing to invest heavily in historical and cultural expertise, restoration, repair of these buildings.
Last year, in Yelabuga, we held a joint meeting of the Commission of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation on the Development of Culture and the Preservation of Spiritual Heritage and the Public Chamber of the Republic of Tatarstan, where we discussed these pressing issues and ways to solve them. This year, a meeting of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation is planned in Kazan, where we will raise this issue again.
As for museum activities, in my opinion, the main thing for the museum is its stock collection, and one of the main tasks is to replenish it, to finance such purchases by the state.
You have a difficult job, how do you manage not to burn out?
You need to love your job very much so as not to be afraid of burnout. Yes, there is fatigue, because we work intensively — not only in the hot season from May to September, but also all year round. But it is such happiness to do what you love every day — to open exhibitions, meet guests and conduct excursions, create new expositions, see the burning eyes of children who travel in whole groups to Yelabuga and museums, hear warm words of gratitude from tourists from all over Russia. I get tremendous pleasure from all this and always tell my employees that their eyes should shine, no matter how difficult a project we start. There should not be an extinct look when you work in culture, with people.