By Hannah Chapman
Hannah Chapman is majoring in Russian Studies, International Business, and Political Science at Stetson University. She spent spring semester, 2009 studying abroad with The School of Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS) in Moscow on the Translate Abroad Program.
Dedicated to the works and ideas of the Nicholas Roerich and his family, the International Centre of the Roerichs stands out from its famous neighbors (it’s next to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts) in both style and philosophy. Roerich was a widely-travelled painter and free thinker in the artistically and politically turbulent first half of the twentieth century. The museum strives to document the key stages in Roerich’s life and journeys through his paintings as well as manuscripts, books, maps, and models.
Roerich is best remembered for his paintings, which play with light, color, and subtly simplified shapes. His acclaimed Architectural Studies was one of the first comprehensive works documenting the architecture of Russia. He was also heavily interested in Eastern religions and mysticism and even established his own school of occult thinking known as “Agni Yoga.”
His legacy also spans politics. It is rumored that he was one of the first picks of Bolsheviks to lead a new Ministry of Culture in 1917 (a position which he apparently declined). He also authored and championed an international treaty known as the Roerich Pact, which was signed by the US, the USSR, and dozens of other countries who all pledged to protect cultural property wherever it may be in times of peace and war.
Each room of the museum documents a different philosophical ideal, stage of travel, or accomplishment of Roerich and his family. Consequently, every room is unique while still blending together into a harmonious display.
While the pricing is more expensive than one would expect (it costs more than either the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts or the Tretyakov), its uniqueness makes it worth the still-affordable cost. Great labeling in both English and Russian makes navigating the museum easy. Incense and music lend to a soothing atmosphere, so that you often forget you are in a museum. The old ladies hired to keep an eye on the exhibits, however, are particularly annoying and may follow you from room to room. Because of its wide-range of exhibits, the museum will appeal to art-lovers, adventurers, and tourists alike.
Details: Tickets range from 110 rubles (around three dollars) for a student ticket to 800 rubles for an advanced-ordered English-language excursion. Photography is not permitted. The shop downstairs sells a wide variety of crafts and philosophical tracts. Find out more from the museum website.
Directions:The museum is located at Malyi Znamenskiy Lane, 3/5 (Малый Знаменский пер., д. 3/5). Exit metro Кропоткинская (Kropotkinskaya) by the Church of Christ the Savior. Cross the street and head right. Take a left into the alley before the Pushkin Museum and directly after the Museum of Private Collections. Go to the end of the alley and take a left (there is a large sign pointing to the entrance of the Roerich Museum). Enter the main yellow building which houses the museum and ticket office.
View Moscow Guide from The School of Russian and Asian Studies in a larger map