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    Re: Wisconsin Maritime Museum
    From: Ark Shvetsky
    Date: 2009 Nov 9, 18:33 -0800

    Yevgeny Korchagin
    Head of Central Naval Museum 
       This year marks the tricentennial of the Russian regular naval forces. 
    Three hundred years have elapsed. Each century and every passing year have 
    opened a new page in the history of the Russian Navy.
         Where should one go today to gain an idea about the evolution of the 
    Russian Navy? The Central Naval Museum is the only place for people 
    interested in learning about Russia's naval history. The museum dates back to 
    Peter the Great's written instruction for Admiralty official A. Kikin to set 
    up a ship-model house. The letter of instruction required that drawings and 
    mockups of ships constructed at Russian yards should be collected and stored.
         By the summer of 1709, a ship-model house was erected right in front of 
    the Admiralty building, where a fountain can be found today. It was actually 
    a cottage built from daub and wattle. It marks the origins of the Central 
    Naval Museum. It is merely six years younger than Saint Petersburg and twelve 
    years younger than the Russian Navy.
         Regulations passed as early as 1722 prescribed: "As each ship is laid 
    down, a scale mockup shall be put on a plank and then handed over together 
    with the drawings to the Admiralty Collegium upon the launching of the ship". 
    In this way the collecting pursuit of the ship-model house was legitimized, 
    with the original collection shortly transferred to the Admiralty building. 
    Naval battle trophies were also brought in. Battle colors, ensigns and 
    pennants from the defeated Swedish warships were displayed in the Admiralty's 
    banners room.
         In April 1805, the ship-model house was elevated in status to become the 
    Naval Museum. The ruling was welcomed by the sailors. As they returned from 
    their long-duration or round-the-world voyages, the seamen would always bring 
    assorted artifacts of interest for the museum. It was considered as honored 
         The museum also began to receive paintings, drawings, commemorative 
    medallions and small arms. A collection was made of celestial navigation 
         The museum had an in-house drawing and modeling workshop. It also 
    operated a large scientific library that was constantly enriched with books 
    released at home and in foreign lands. The museum had grown into a Russian 
    primary scientific center where the nation's best naval officers could often 
    be found working.
         The museum collection was considerably enlarged at the close of the 19th 
    century. Naval families contributed to the museum long-held historical 
    relics. Numerous materials were brought by Russian sailors returning from 
    long sea voyages. More paintings were acquired.
         In 1909, Russia grandly celebrated the bicentennial of the Emperor Peter 
    the Great Naval Museum, as the museum was then known. The jubilee coincided 
    with a large-scale patriotic public drive to rebuild the Russian Navy, 
    following the Russian-Japanese war, as well as spirited propaganda of past 
    heroic exploits and warfighting traditions so excellently treasured by the 
    museum. To mark the event, a book on the museum's history then was published.
         In August 1939, a decision was taken to move the museum to the former 
    stock exchange building designed by Thomas de Tamone and erected in 
         In 1810, in front of the building two monumental rostral columns were 
    raised on the crescent, with granite-paved slopes leading to the water's 
    edge, serving as beacons for ships cruising into the harbor of the old days. 
    Two huge figures were seated on each of the column pedestals hewn from stone 
    to collectively represent the four great Russian rivers: Volga, Dnieper, Neva 
    and Volkhov. Like the Russian Navy, the museum has a great history of almost 
    three centuries, lasting from the ship-model house to one of the world's 
    largest naval museums?truly the treasure house of Russia's naval glory. This 
    is the story of the Central Naval Museum.
         Today, the Central Naval Museum maintains disparate and huge collections 
    estimated at over 600,000 artifacts and documents. They comprise 2,042 ship 
    models, including the nationally-prized relic?Peter the Great's boat that 
    marks the beginning of the domestic fleet.
         Peter the Great used that boat on the Yauza River in Moscow to hone his 
    sailing skills. In 1723, the boat, dubbed "grandfather of the Russian fleet", 
    was brought to Saint Petersburg for careful storage. The museum's ship-model 
    collection includes a multitude of vessels from a Maltese Order galley built 
    in 1568 and owned by Magistrate of the Order La Valetta all the way through 
    contemporary nuclear-powered warships. The museum keeps a dugout hollowed out 
    of a 360-year-old oak log more than 1,000 years B.C.
         Considerable interest is paid to the museum's prized model of the British 
    100-gun warship Royal Sovereign constructed in 1695 and presented to Peter 
    the Great by British King William the Third.
         The domestic vessels are fully represented by a broad range of models, 
    with some pieces hewn from ivory and rare woods to make genuine works of art. 
    The museum has retained since the first years of this century a unique 
    collection of ship models hewn from tortoise-shell. All of them were created 
    in Japan at the turn of the 20th century by the Nagasaki-based Emiro Ezaki 
    firm. Unfortunately, the Japanese workshop was destroyed by the 1945 nuclear 
    bombing. The expertise of crafting such models has never been regenerated.
         The oldest and most precious Russian ship model is the 30-gun frigate 
    built by Peter the Great on his return from the Netherlands in 1698.
         The museum owns a collection of sea navigation instruments, equipment and 
    weapons, numbering in total 8,300 articles reflecting different seafaring 
         The museum also maintains a large collection of authentic documents on 
    the Russian Navy of the 18-19th centuries. Museum collections also include 
    the most unusual shipbuilding artifacts?ship-laying and ground-braking 
    commemorative plaques deeply rooted in history. As in the old days, today's 
    ship-laying ceremony includes a procedure whereby a plaque is normally placed 
    in or attached to the middle of the keel?the ship's principal section, with 
    the moment considered as the beginning of the ship's construction effort and 
    always celebrated. Most of the museum's ship-laying plaques are replicas of 
    those carried by the ships in their keels. Interestingly, both the original 
    and replicated plaques were fabricated from precious metals by the best 
    craftsmen. To provide an example, at the Paris and London international shows 
    (1993-1994) we displayed the cruiser Ryurik and armor-belted destroyer 
    Tsesarevich ship-laying plaques fabricated from silver by Faberge craftsmen.
         The museum has plaques of nearly all classes of ships. The most 
    invaluable exhibits are represented by plaques of the warships that 
    distinguished themselves most throughout the Russian Navy's history: the 
    armor-belted cruiser Pyotr Veliky, cruiser Ryurik, destroyer Novik, gunboat 
    Koreyets, and warships of WWII era: the leader Minsk, minelayer Marti, 
    destroyer Nezamozhnik and other vessels.
         Museum rooms are embellished by ship ensigns and battle colors of naval 
    units and formations. The collection includes 2,613 ship ensigns and over 400 
    battle colors of domestic naval units, as well as flags from enemy ships 
    defeated in numerous naval battles.
         Visitors are invariably drawn by the unusually large flag (measuring 4.6 
    by 4.3 m) suspended high under the main room's ceiling. This is the "Flag of 
    the Czar of Moskovy", with a tricolor (white-blue-red) cloth featuring an 
    embroidered double-headed eagle. Under that flag, Peter the Great sailed into 
    the White Sea in 1693. In the same year the flag was presented to Archbishop 
    Afanassy, who kept it in his cathedral in the city of Arkhangelsk. In 1910 it 
    was moved to the Naval Museum in St. Petersburg.
         One of the most treasured relics of the Russian Navy is carefully 
    preserved the St. George Flag from the battleship Azov that was the first 
    warship to receive that high award. Captained by M. Lazarev, the battleship 
    covered itself with glory October 8, 1827 in the Navarin battle. The 
    dedicated script of December 12, 1827 read: "The battleship Azov shall be 
    awarded the St. George Flag and Pennant to honor the superb deeds of 
    commanders, the courage and intrepidity of officers and the bravery of 
    sailors". It is the museum's largest flag measuring 14.5 by 9.5 m.
         The impressive collection of trophy flags clearly speaks for the valor 
    and heroism of Russian sailors, with naval flags, battle colors and ensigns 
    reflecting events from the Russian-Japanese war, Civil War and WWII.
         The museum's armory holds nearly 10,000 firearms and cold steel weapons. 
    The art collection includes about 2,000 paintings, over 4,000 engravings and 
    drawings, as well as 821 sculptures. It represents the nation's largest 
    collection of paintings dedicated to the history of Russia's Navy, including 
    at-sea battle scenes, seascapes, portraits of distinguished seafarers and 
    fleet admirals. These works of art include great paintings by I. Aivazovsky, 
    A. Bogolyubov, A. Beggrov, N. Krasovsky, L. Lagorio and rare sculptures by M. 
    Antokolsky, N. Pimenov, P. Klodt and others.
         The museum also boasts an extensive collection of military decorations, 
    medals and medallions, uniforms, documents, manuscripts and films.
         Visitors display considerable interest in the collection of utility 
    articles, including snuff-boxes, cigarette-cases, wine-bowls, cups and wine 
    glasses made from precious metals, jewelry and souvenir gifts normally 
    displayed in the officer's wardrooms. The museum personnel carefully store, 
    study and display whatever was owned by Russian sailors and do their best to 
    preserve memories of the seamen's courage, heroism and dedication to their 
    military duty.
         In the year of the Russian Navy's tricentennial, the Central Naval Museum 
    is in the focus of public attention. We receive requests for topical 
    exhibitions and disparate reference materials from Russia and abroad. This 
    year we plan to conduct dedicated exhibitions in Moscow, St. Petersburg, 
    Tyumen, Kaliningrad, Pskov, Vyborg, Helsinki and Turku (Finland), Halle 
    (Germany) and Greece.
         The museum continues to receive large numbers of new artifacts from 
    different parts of Russia and abroad. We have been maintaining close links 
    with the Union of Museum Workers of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, 
    Russian Committee of the International Congress of Museums (ICOM), 
    International Congress of Naval Museums (ICNM) and other public 
    organizations. The museum is run by a highly-experienced and totally 
    dedicated staff who have brought fame. These enthusiasts continue to work 
    untiringly to preserve the Russian Navy's history in the form of artifacts 
    and documents for generations to come.
         As long as the museum retains such people, it will survive despite current hardships.
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