The War Theater on "120 Dozen Paper Curchifs"
Once the historian and publisher P.I. Bartenev wrote that “for someone who does not love Russia it is only necessary to read the description of the Patriotic War to fall in love with it, and for someone who loves it to strengthen his love, make it more sincere and thank God that Russia is like this”. And what if not only just “read the description” but make the events that took place 200 years ago closer with the help of documents and military and everyday household objects connected with the history of that war? It seems that then we will be able to engage with the time without an intermediary. But it only seems this way. There is an intermediary: it is someone who collected, preserved and shared these treasures with the public sparing neither effort, nor his own time or money.
The topic of the heroic past attracts the attention not only of researchers but also collectors. Regarding the history of the Patriotic War 1812, a unique collection of Dmitry Gennadievich Burylin (1852—1924), a merchant, a patron of arts and a collector from Ivanovo-Voznesensk who founded the local Museum of Industry and Art is a matter of great interest
In 1912, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Borodino Battle, an exhibition with which the Museum of 1812 should have started was being prepared at the Emperor’s Russian Historical Museum. A special committee to oversee the establishment of this museum was set up on 26 January, 1908, and on 19 March, 1908 its first meeting was held. From that time on the Museum started actively building up its collection of objects and documents.
Unfortunately, the establishment of the museum was delayed because no decision was reached about allocating a building for it or building a new one. Only in 1911 the problem was finally resolved after a decree on allocating part of the Arsenal in the Kremlin to the museum was issued. The inspection of the building revealed that it required a general overhaul. The members of the committee clearly understood that there was practically no time left to complete the overhaul and put up the exhibition by the start of the anniversary celebration. That is why the decision was reached to organize the exhibition by the time the anniversary of the Patriotic War 1812 would be celebrated.
Burylin collected “rarities” and “antiques”. The museum he established contained paintings and graphic works, archaeological finds and everyday household objects, arms, a collection of coins and medals, a “Masonic collection” (Masonic symbols from different countries) and a collection of objects of faith, household and art of Japan, China, India, Persia, Siam, Middle Asia and the Caucasus. Together with his wife, D.G. Burylin visited Egypt and bought a mummy there. He owned an excellent library and a collection of manuscripts.
In the end of the 19th century the manufacturer from Ivanovo succeeded in gathering a collection in the traditions of universal museums of the beginning of the 18th c. However, he was not omnivorous in his strive to create a universal collection but keen on showing the world in all its variety and sharing his collection with the public. Another feature of D.G. Burylin’s collection was that it included the items of textile industry created by him or his contemporaries. They included printed and painted linen, decorative and furniture satins and headscarves. Using the modern language, he created exclusive items: among them there is a collection of headscarves created in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Patriotic War 1812 which became museum pieces and not only in Burylin’s collection.
In the 18th c. following traditions of universalism and enlightenment the industrialist D.G. Burylin who did not receive any special education established a unique Museum of Industry and Art in the provincial Russian city Ivanovo-Voznesensk and built a special building for it
Some experience in organizing such exhibitions was accumulated. In 1909, more than 1000 museum pieces connected with the history of the War of 1812 were put on display in the Imperial Russian Historical Museum (Moscow). They included paintings, engravings, documents and arms. Several well-known collectors, including Bakhrushin, Shchukin, Tsvetkov as well as some regiments of the Russian army, which managed to preserve the relics of the Patriotic War 1812, took part in organizing the exhibition. Since it was impossible to place the exhibition in the building of the Arsenal that was offered to the Museum of 1812, on the committee’s request and with the permission of the Great Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich the halls of the Imperial Russian Historical Museum were allocated for the exhibition.
“The salvation of Russia from enemies both numerous and angry and with fierce intentions and actions...”
A special bureau from the committee members was created to organize the exhibition, with the members of the Museum of 1812 in Moscow construction committee, members of the Group of the Patriotic War memory zealots and two representatives from France among others becoming its members. The bureau’s active work started in March 1912. At the request of Grand Duke N. S. Shcherbakov, the committee chairman, objects that personally belonged to the Emperor Alexander I and included war trophies and other relics of the epoch of the Patriotic War and foreign campaigns of 1813—1815 were borrowed from the Emperor’s Hermitage, the Winter Palace and Moscow Armoury for the exhibition.
The exhibition was divided into seven sections and included the Alexander Hall, the Jubilee Hall, Borodino, Moscow 1812 and the halls devoted to the French army and its retreat.
Such great attention devoted to France fighting the war on the opposite side can be explained by the political realities of the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th c. From the beginning of the 1890s, a number of political treaties bound Russia and France, laying the ground for the military union between the two countries which lasted until 1917. In summer 1912, on the eve of the exhibition opening the Franco-Russian Naval Convention was signed stating that they would cooperate in all the cases stipulated in the agreement which required joint operations of the land forces”. From 1911 meetings of the Russian and French general headquarters were held annually in the wake of the escalating military conflict in Europe. Such domineering presence of Napoleon and a detailed coverage of the military campaigns of the French Army became Russia’s act of political and cultural courtesy towards France which had become the Russia’s ally.
To collect the exhibits the bureau decided to continue the tradition of the exhibition which took place in 1909, so in 1912 it appealed to a wide circle of private collectors. The members of the bureau sent out about 350 letters with a request to supply the exhibits for the exhibition. Ivanovo-Voznesensk manufacturer and collector Dmitry Ivanovich Burylin, who had already exhibited his collections both in Russia and abroad, was one of the recipients of this letter.
Having a rather limited time for the organization of the exhibition, the bureau gave up its original intention for it to give an exhaustive idea about all the military campaigns and battles and made a decision to provide a more or less complete history of the Patriotic War of 1812 and foreign military campaigns in 1813—1815, touching upon the social and public life of the Russian state. In addition to including the objects directly connected with the history of the Patriotic War of 1812 in the exhibition, this decision allowed D.G. Burylin to present part of his collection of Masonic symbols which had become quite well-known by that time.
“For the preservation of eternal memory…unprecedented zeal, devotion and love to the Faith and Motherland”
The museum pieces from D.G. Burylin’s collection were exhibited in five halls of the exhibition. Dmitry Gennadievich contributed more than 320 objects for it, including a cast-iron bust of Alexander I, a number of portraits and bas-reliefs of the Emperor Alexander I of various sizes made using different techniques; Kutuzov’s crook stick he made himself; a porcelain dish and cup with Kutuzov’s image; a painting depicting the St. Basil’s Cathedral; three displays with the symbols of the Masonic lodge; Russian and French service medals dedicated to Alexander I and Napoleon Bonaparte; Russian silver rubles minted to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Patriotic War of 1812; two wooden tobacco cases with the profiles of the French emperor; the badge of the order of the Legion of Honour; Napoleon Bonaparte’s personal letter to Josephine. Among the exhibited objects “120 dozens of paper napkins attracted special attention. They depictied the European war theater in December 1812, with the image of a pamphlet of the German origin” of different shades of colour manufactured at Burylin’s factory and presented to the Museum by him in 1812. When giving this present to the Museum, D.G. Burylin pointed out that these napkins were not for general sale. Also, D.G. Burylin made a gift of 5 cotton printed kerchieves with the images of historical personages and events of to the Patriotic War and the epoch of Napoleonic Wars to the future museum. For his contribution Dmitry Gennadievich was included on “The list of titled families and persons of the Imperial Russia, official and private persons and organizations which gave a gift of things and documents to the Museum which laid the foundation for the Museum collection” published in the exhibition catalogue.
On 29 August 1912 the grand official opening of the exhibition attended by Nicholas II, Great duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, Great duchesses Olga, Tatyana and Maria, Great dukes Boris and Kirill Vladimirovich, princes Alexander Petrovich and Petr Alexandrovich Oldenburg took place.
The exhibition attracted a lot of attention from the public: of the total number of 68 628 visitors of the Historical Museum in 1912, 42 194 came especially to attend the exhibition devoted to the Patriotic War of 1812.
“To honour the days of the jubilee celebration…”
The year 1812 was special for the industrialist D.G. Burylin. Already in the 18th century Matvei Ivanovich Burylin was involved in fabric manufacturing, which considerably increased in the beginning of the next century. It was connected with the beginning of the War of 1812: in the fires that overtook Moscow many textile factories burnt down, giving way to the growth of textile manufacturing in the provinces. In 1812 the grandfather of Dmitry Burylin, Diodr Andreevich, built a stone cotton-printing factory in the centre of the Ivanovo settlement. The decade from 1812 until 1822 became “a golden century” of sorts for the Ivanovo cloth printers who made a fortune in textile manufacturing allowing the most businesslike of them to receive freedom. In 1831 Diodor Burylin too managed to buy himself out of serfdom under the count Sheremetiev.
Thus in 1912 the Burylin family celebrated the centennial anniversary of their industrial activity. Dmitry Gennadievich decided to mark the occasion by starting the construction of a special building for the museum the design of which was commissioned to the architect P.A. Trubnikov. The date 25 of August for the ceremony of breaking ground for a special building for the museum was not an accidental choice. It took place on the eve of the centennial anniversary of the battle of Borodino: on August 25, 1812 the battle for Shevardino redoubt took place.
The industrialist D.G. Burylin decided to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Patriotic War of 1812 not only by participating in the exhibition in Moscow and breaking ground for the museum building but also arranging special festivities on such a great occasion. In the middle of August 1912, D.G. Burylin appealed to the Ivanovo-Voznesensk chief of the city police N.L. Chervyakovsky with a special petition to allow setting up a merry-go-round, arranging fireworks and “the lights” as well as the “music on the boulevard and the distribution of jubilee kerchieves“.
The chief of city police took the task very seriously and completed it very thoroughly. Already on August 17 he ordered the police warder to find out from D.G. Burylin “precisely where and when” the event would take place. However, not all the suggestions for the celebration of the event were immediately and unconditionally approved. For some reason the chief of the police was especially concerned about the distribution of jubilee kerchief. He asked Burylin to supply samples of all the prints each for such kerchiefs. The drawings were thoroughly examined for a long time; however nothing suspicious was discovered.
On 26 August, 1912 outdoor festivities took place on the boulevard by D.G. Burylin’s house. The distribution of “gift tickets to the cinema” was almost a failure because the theater owners who were very practical did not quite like the idea. In the end, what helped with the ticket distribution was the letter from the Ministry of Trade and Industry to the industrialists with the suggestion to organize special reading sessions and other kinds of entertainment for the workers “to honour the jubilee celebration”. D.G. Burylin’s idea was supported by Ivanovo-Voznesensk Charity Society which had its own electric theater “Vecherny Otdykh” (“Evening Relaxation”). The decision was made to distribute 1000 tickets among workers for a free demonstration of the film about the Patriotic War of 1812 to be shown from 12 until 7 pm.
“The museum is my soul, while the factory is the source of financing my life and enlarging the collection”
The opening of the Museum of Industry and Art in December 1914 coincided with the beginning of the WWI, the Second Patriotic War as it was referred to in the society then.
The revolution of 1917 not only put an end to “D.G. Burylin’s partnership of manufactures” but to the unique museum collection of Dmitry Gennadievich. In 1919 the Ivanovo province museum was established on the basis of Dmitry G. Burylin’s collection who was made its custodian. In 1924 Burylin was stripped of his duties, and 13 September the same year he died. After the museum had been nationalized in 1919 the unity of Burylin’s collection was disrupted: its items were either redistributed among the museums of the whole country or recognized as having no museum value and thus destroyed as “being of no use.”
The State Hermitage, the Tretyakov Gallery, the State Russian Museum, the State Historical Museum, the State Historical Museum of Religion, the Museum of Oriental Art, museums of Vladimir, Kerch, Kursk, Yuriev-Polsk and many other large and small cities became the keepers of the collection put together by Ivanovo industrialist and collector Dmitry G. Burylin.
As for the collection of objects associated with the history of the Patriotic War 1812, they were only occasionally exhibited and for the most part were represented by figurative works of art.
In September 2012, when the 200th anniversary of the Borodino Battle was celebrated, Ivanovo State Museum of History and Local Lore (D.G. Burylin) presented a large exhibition project “Nedarom pomnit vsya Rossia!” devoted to this bright episode in Russian history. It was the first time when the collection of items associated with the history of the Patriotic War 1812 put together by D.G. Burylin was displayed in full.
The history of the Patriotic War of 1812 separated from us by 2 centuries is becoming closer and clearer through the description of the fates of particular people. The Museum of 1812 the opening of which did not occur a hundred years ago opened in Moscow in autumn last year. Among others it owes its birth to the Russian industrialist Dmitry G. Burylin who contributed to its establishment and development. Infatuated by history, which he learned through the study of its specific episode, Dmitry G. Burylin kept his unique collection open to the public and enlightened not only his contemporaries but also the present day visitors of many museums which preserve his collection now dispersed around many museums.
Baldin K. E. Vystavochnaya deyatel’nost’ D.G. Burylina v 1903—1913 gg. // Materialy nauchno-prakticheskoi konferentsii «Metsenaty russkoi provintsii: istoriya i sovremennost’». Ivanovo, 2008.
Vystavka 1812 g. / pod red. V. Bozhovskogo. Moskva, 1913.
Dodonova A. A. Dmitrii Gennad’evich Burylin. Ivanovo, 1997.
Shchavelev I. I pomnit vsya Rossiya pro den’ Borodina // Rabochii krai. 31 avgusta 2012 g.
The author and the editorial board would like to thank the administration of Ivanovo State D.G. Burylin Museum of History and Local Lore for providing the illustrations