Domestic Architecture of Pre-Revolutionary Moscow 3

This series of posts comprises a few loosely translated extracts from Bolshoi Gorod, a fine Russian magazine of art and culture. In April last year, they did a small series on pre-Revolutionary private dwellings in Moscow, and these seemed of artistic interest in this blog. The tragedy is that it’s impossible for the average man-on-the-street to enter these residences, which are closed to the public even on the two days of the year (April 18, May 18) that are named Days of Culture, and it took nearly half a year of attrition and persuasion for Bolshoi Gorod to obtain access.

The Treasury

Nastasyinsky Pereulok, 3.

The building was built between 1913-1916 by the architect Vladimir Pokrovsky and the engineer Bogdan Nilus, and is reminiscent of the Government Bank in Nizhny Novgorod that had been constructed in 1910-1913 by the same people. On the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, an idea came up in 1913 to establish a neo-Russian tower to safeguard royal treasures. The facade of the Treasury was adorned with marble from the Urals and styled in the Naryshkin baroque. It is thought that the halls were decorated after the drawings of Ivan Bilibin, the author of the decorations of the Nizhny Novgorod house. In the vaulted halls, money was issued against deposit of gold, silver or jewellery, and the cellars were used as storage. Post-revolution, the building was commandeered for the Government to store valuables and the wealth confiscated from private parties, the church and the Kremlin. In the 1920s, the imperial eagles were torn down from the roof of the building (today, they have been restored). Inside, the two-headed eagles on bas reliefs and decorations remained untouched, the building being a secure location, inaccessible by the public. Only the portraits of Nicholas II and Catherine II were removed. After 1941, the building was taken over by the State Bank (today, the Central Bank). Printed money was brought into the building, stored in the basement, counted on the upper floors, and then distributed across the country. This function continued till 2002 when the building was closed.

There is a plan underway to establish a museum in the Treasury. Valery Malevanny, a functionary in the Russian Central Bank, says that they’d like people to be able to visit to inspect the earliest Russian money and treasury bills. They are planning to hold training courses in financial matters for the public. While the building is no longer suitable for the highly technical world of central banking, it seems that it may easily fit into a more public function.

The old hall of operations. The illustrations are attributed to Ivan Bilibin.

One wall depicts a Moscow morning, while the opposite shows a St Petersburg night.

Stairs in a pseudo-Russian style. An enormous glass cupola survives on the roof, letting in daylight.

The fireplace is currently not in use, but is planned to be operational once more.

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