The Martial Chamber

- Library - Tsarskoye Selo -
The Martial Chamber
- Library -
- Tsarskoye Selo -

The Martial Chamber

The Neo-Russian Style building in Pushkin town holds the museum “Russia in the Great War”, that is the only museum, dedicated to the First World War in Russia. The museum was founded by Nicholas II and was supposed to be “the people’s museum of the Great War” in 1914. But the course of history has taken absolutely different direction and only 100 years after this idea came to fruition.

Construction History

Nicholas II has undertaken the construction of architectural ensemble in traditional Russian style, resembling the churches of Novgorod the Great. The complex of buildings included the St. Theodor Cathedral, administrative and residential buildings. These works started in 1913 and were never completed due to the political changes in 1917. One of the structures was the octagonal 3-storey edifice, put up to be the shrine of glory of the Russian army. It was given the name “Sovereign’s Martial Chamber” and by February 1917 the house was completed. The building has very special outlook, resembling Ancient Russian architecture. It stands out against the landscape with its white-washed walls and bright green roof. Nicholas II idolized the reign of Tsar Alexey, the father of Peter the Great, who ruled Russia in 17th century. Nicholas II wished, as his cousin has put it, “to return back to the glorious past of his House”. The complex was named “Theodorovsky Township”. During the Great War the hospital was arranged here by the Imperial family, where Empress Alexandra with her two elder daughters worked as the nurses. The building of the Martial Chamber was ready in February 1917 and began to function as the museum days before the Russian Empire collapsed. Museum existed until 1918. During the soviet years the building was used as the literature club, residential space, restoration workshop. During the Second World War under the Nazi occupation the structure was badly damaged. Restoration lasted from 2010 to 2014.

Exhibitions of the museum

In 1911 Elena Tretyakova donated her entire collection to Emperor Nicholas II. That lady came from the family of art collectors: she was related to Pavel Tretyakov, the rich philanthropist and founder of the most celebrated gallery of Russian national art in Moscow. This big set of artifacts was the truly unique collection of banners, paintings, icons, documents, arms, amassed over many years and reflecting Russian military history. Emperor decided this collection should be exhibited in the special museum, dedicated to the Russian army. For this purpose the Sovereign’s Military Chamber was built. Construction works were sponsored by Elena Tretyakova. It was just a short walk away from the Alexander Palace - the home of Nicholas and Alexandra, the last Russian royals.

When the First World War started, portrait gallery of the holders of the St. George Cross was arranged in the museum. Idea of the gallery was borrowed from the celebrated 1812 Gallery in the Winter Palace, dedicated to the victory over Napoleon. The St George Cross was the most honorable military decoration in Russia, given for the exceptional personal courage. The other exhibits arrived directly from the battlefields. Gradually the Martial Chamber turned into the Museum of the Great War. Alas, its existence was very short. After revolution it was shut down and collection items were dispersed or destroyed.

Museum-reserve “Tsarskoe Selo” has accomplished the “mission impossible” by reviving “Russia in the Great War” museum. Appeal to the entire nation was published in newspapers and online. All families who still had items related to the Great War were asked to donate them for this museum. Many exhibits came from the museum funds. During the Soviet days they were never shown to the public, since the Communist propaganda branded the Great War as “imperialistic” and it was better forgotten. Today we can officially honor all those people who sacrificed their life fighting in the Great War. In August 2014, marking the centenary of the Great War, museum was open for the visitors.

The exhibitions are as follows:

  • History of the Sovereign’s Martial Chamber
  • Russia on the eve of the Great War
  • The Triple Entente
  • The Central Powers
  • Russian Imperial Navy during the Great War
  • Russian Aviation during the Great War
  • The Cossacks – Border guards of Motherland
  • The Family of Nicholas II during the Great War
  • The Red Cross. Healthcare during the Great War
  • Military clergy during the Great War
  • Nicholas II as the Chief Commander
  • Revolution. End of war.

In one of the halls you can see the portraits of heroes, bearing St George Cross – the idea of the gallery has been reproduced. -The war museum is going to be the unforgettable experience for those who are interested in military history and Russian history in general.

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