The State Russian Museum (formerly the
Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III) is the
largest depository of Russian fine art in Saint Petersburg.
The museum was established on April 13, 1895, upon enthronement of Nicholas II
to commemorate his father, Alexander III. Its original collection was composed of
artworks taken from the Hermitage Museum, Alexander Palace, and the Imperial
Academy of Arts. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, many private collections
were nationalized and relocated to the Russian Museum. These included Kazimir
Malevich's Black Square.
The main building of the museum is the Mikhailovsky Palace, a splendid
Neoclassical residence of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich, erected in 1819-25 to a
design by Carlo Rossi on Square of Arts in St Petersburg. Upon the death of the
Grand Duke the residence was named after his wife as the Palace of the Grand
Duchess Elena Pavlovna, and became famous for its many theatrical presentations and
Some of the halls of the palace retain the Italianate opulent interiors of the
former imperial residence. Other buildings assigned to the Russian museum include
the Summer Palace of Peter I (1710–14), the Marble Palace of Count Orlov (1768–85),
St Michael's Castle of Emperor Paul (1797–1801), and the Rastrelliesque Stroganov
Palace on the Nevsky Prospekt (1752–54).
The Ethnographic Department was originally set up in a building specially
designed by Vladimir Svinyin in 1902. The museum soon housed gifts received by
Emperor's family from representatives of peoples inhabiting various regions of the
Russian Empire. Further exhibits were purchased by Nicholas II and other members of
his family as State financing was not enough to purchase new exhibits. In 1934, the
Ethnographic Department was given the status of an independent museum: the Russian
Museum of Ethnography.