Renovated Turgenev House-Museum reopens on Ostozhenka Street

Renovated Turgenev House-Museum reopens on Ostozhenka Street
Photo: Photo by the Mayor and Moscow Government Press Service. Denis Grishkin
The renovated Turgenev museum collection now has 1,500 items, including the last portrait of Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883) and rare editions of his books and other items. The building’s first floor housing the great writer’s study in the mezzanine is now open for the first time.

The Ivan Turgenev House-Museum on Ostozhenka Street that reopened after a major overhaul now offers visitors a modern exhibition. A monument to Ivan Turgenev and the small sculpture of Mumu the dog have also been unveiled. Ostozhenka Street now has its own cultural and recreational area called the Turgenev Quarter; and it has opened in honour of Turgenev’s 200th birthday anniversary.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin attended an official opening ceremony of the house-museum.

“Its exhibition is unparalleled in many ways: true artefacts of the era will be showcased here, new opportunities will arise for holding exhibits, concerts, educational programmes to learn about the writer’s works. We know that he spent many years abroad: many masterpieces of Turgenev’s prose were conceived there, whereas his translations [from Russian into foreign languages] gave the world the most renowned works of Russian literature,” Vladimir Putin said.

“House of Mumu”

The Ivan Turgenev Museum is located in a historical building at 37/7 Ostozhenka Street, Bldg.1. It has federal cultural landmark status.

The two-storey wooden building with mezzanines was completed in 1818-1819. Turgenev’s mother, Varvara P. Turgenev, lived here in the 1840s and the early 1850s. Ivan Turgenev visited her quite often. The dark events that took place in this house are revealed in the plot of his story “Mumu.” Its protagonists are based on real people who lived in Varvara Turgenev’s house, so the House on Ostozhenka Street is often called the “House of Mumu.”

After the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the house was converted into a block of shared flats. It received cultural landmark status in the 1960s and was renovated for the first time in 1974 after the tenants moved out. The building housed the organisation Sportinterprom until the late 2000s.

In 2007, the Moscow Government decided to establish the Turgenev Museum, a branch of the State Pushkin Museum, here. This Museum’s total area is 992 square metres.

In July-October 2018, the building was overhauled prior to the anniversary of Ivan Turgenev’s 200th birthday. The foundation was reinforced, and the wooden walls, windows, doors, and interiors and façades were renovated. The building’s entrances and basement were expanded; and a wood staircase linking the ground and first floors was also rebuilt. A new lift was installed so people with disabilities can visit the Museum.


New electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems have all been installed, plus upgraded fire and burglar alarm systems.

The landlord’s premise interiors have been recreated on the ground floor. The building’s first, mezzanine, the floor that had housed Ivan Turgenev’s study has been opened to visitors for the first time. Specialists have recreated the Ivan Turgenev House’s atmosphere from descriptions in the writer’s works.

The surrounding grounds have also been improved. Part of a historical park with an oak dating to the times of Ivan Turgenev survives on the land plot; the oak’s sapling was delivered from the Turgenev family estate in Spasskoye-Lutovinovo in Russia’s Oryol Region.

Sponsors financed the monument to Ivan Turgenev and the sculpture “Mumu”, both created by sculptor Sergei Kazantsev.

“We are confident that the Pushkin Museum and Turgenev public garden, with this monument, will lead a vivid and eventful life. This quarter will also pay tribute to a genius, just like Gogol Boulevard with the monument to Nikolai Gogol, Chistiye Prudy with the monument to Alexander Griboyedov and Pushkin Square. I hope that, apart from visiting new exhibitions, people will date each other here; and I want them to think positively and to dream. And, of course, I hope people wishing to understand him and who like Turgenev and his protagonists will queue in front of this mansion’s door,” State Pushkin Museum Director Yevgeny Bogatyryov said at the opening ceremony.

New exhibition

The renovated round floor includes a cloak-room, ticket office, restrooms, a media screen and a touchscreen panel for visitors. It also has a place where guests can meet and relax, as well as a meeting hall with 40 seats.

The exhibit space is in 12 themed halls on the ground and mezzanine floors. The themes include The World of the House on Ostozhenka Street; Turgenev’s Story “Mumu”; Turgenev’s Travel Destinations; The Main Entrance: The World of Russia, Moscow and the Family; the Drawing Room: Mother’s World; “Varvara Turgenev’s Bedroom: The World of the Landlady; Cloakroom: The World of the Ostozhenka House’s Women; The World of Turgenev’s Moscow Childhood and his Student Years; the World of Turgenev’s Creative Work; Turgenev’s Memorial Study; and In Other Countries: Germany, France and The Last Years.

The new collection features various items and cutting-edge multimedia technology that helps expand and diversify the museum space. The museum now includes sculptures, books, documents, manuscripts, photos, pictures, drawings, porcelain, metal items, fabrics and furniture.

Visitors can see Turgenev’s lifetime portraits and books, illustrations to his works and commemorative items, including six autographs. The exhibition is supplemented with the works of modern artists and historical illustrations, still life masterpieces, genre scenes, lamps, bronze items, porcelain and furniture from the Turgenev era.

The Museum recently received several new items to be shown for the first time. The entire museum collection has 1,500 items. The city purchased or otherwise acquired 1,025 unique exhibit pieces and restored 768 museum items. The most rare items include:

-     Ivan Turgenev’s last lifetime portrait by artist Fyodor Burov, 1883, canvas, oil

-     the painting Galloping Circassian by Dmitry Tatishchev, 1872, canvas, oil. The artist presented this battle-scene painting to Turgenev who auctioned it off in 1878 along with other items from his collection

-     Turgenev’s letter to Countess Mehrenberg in French, written in December 1878 and addressed to Natalia Mehrenberg, the younger daughter of Alexander Pushkin, who owned Pushkin’s letters to his wife. Ivan Turgenev compiled a publication of this correspondence for Vestnik Evropy (Herald of Europe) magazine

-     a photo of Ivan Turgenev, taken at Nadar’s photo studio in Paris circa 1878-1883. This unique portrait is not part of the State Literary Museum’s collection

-     a retouched self-portrait of Pauline Viardot-Garcia, 1841, paper pasted on cardboard, pencil

-     a French-language edition of Alexander Pushkin’s story “The Captain’s Daughter” (Paris, 1854). Ivan Turgenev and his close friend Louis Viardot, the husband of Pauline Viardot-Garcia, translated this well-known work into French for the first time

-     The Russky Vestnik (Russian Herald) literary-political magazine, edited by Mikhail Katkov (Volume 25, Moscow, 1860), published the original version of the writer’s novel “On the Eve”

-     twelve lifetime editions and publications of Ivan Turgenev’s works in Russian and foreign languages, as well as post-mortem foreign-language publications of his works in the 19thand 20th centuries, as well as Turgenev’s favourite books.

The Turgenev House-Museum, due to open 11 November, is expected to receive an estimated 85,000 visitors in 2018-2019.

The 200th anniversary of the writer’s birth

The opening of the renovated Turgenev House-Museum on Ostozhenka Street, as well as the unveiling of the monument to the writer, will be the main event in celebrations marking his 200th birth anniversary.

This year, the city will host over 50 events on this memorable date, including exhibitions, guided tours, lectures, literary-musical soirees, concerts, film screenings, competitions, quizzes, quests and editorial projects.

Moscow will host the following events before the year is out:

-     15 November and 13 December: “Malek-Adel,” a play based on Turgenev’s stories “Chertophanov and Nedopyuskin” and “The End of Chertopkhanov” at the State Pushkin Museum (12/2 Prechistenka Street)

-     19 November: International scientific conference, Turgenev is Our Contemporary, at the Ivan Turgenev House-Museum (37/7 Ostozhenka Street, Bldg.1)

-     the exhibition Viktor Braginsky: A Sportsman’s Sketches featuring illustrations to Turgenev’s most famous work, “A Sportsman’s Sketches,” runs through 25 November at the Arbat exhibition halls (55/32 Arbat Street)

-     the exhibition Turgenev and Moscow, sponsored by the Turgenev Library/Reading Room and the Bogolyubov Art Library, runs through 15 November on Sretensky Boulevard

-     18 November: Bus/walking guided tour One Day with Turgenev in Moscow organised by the State Pushkin Museum (12/2 Prechistenka Street). 

About 40,000 people are expected to attend the events marking the writer’s 200th birthday anniversary.

History of the house on Ostozhenka Street

In 1819, Titular Councillor D. N. Fyodorov purchased a land plot from Lieutenant General K. F. Knorring whose mansion had burned down completely during the great Moscow fire of 1812 and built what is now the House on Ostozhenka Street.

Completed after the fire of 1812, the façade of the wooden Empire Style mansion with a six-column portico, mezzanines and seven windows was a typical city building in the post-war period.

Like many other homeowners of that time, Fyodorov leased the building to tenants. In 1826, members of the huge and harmonious Aksakov family headed by Sergei Aksakov, who later became a famous writer, lived in the house.

Members of other noted families also lived here. In 1829, Moscow noble N. V. Levashov, a retired Guards Lieutenant who fought in the Patriotic War of 1812 and a member of Alexander Pushkin’s inner circle, lived in the house with his family.

In 1833, Nikolai Loshakovsky, an official with the Mining Department, acquired the House on Ostozhenka Street and leased it to Chamberlain M. M. Sontsov that same year. His wife, Yelizaveta Lvovna, was Alexander Pushkin’s paternal aunt. Real estate records from the 1830s also note that Court Councillor Alexander Bakunin, who studied with Pushkin at the famous Imperial Lyceum, rented the house for a while.

In 1838, the eccentric Colonel Fyodor “American” Tolstoy, best remembered for his amazing adventures and escapades, rented the house for 12 months. He made friends with many members of Pushkin’s inner circle and served as a model for protagonists in stories by Alexander Pushkin, Alexander Griboyedov, Nikolai Gogol, Leo Tolstoy and Ivan Turgenev. The bullying Count Tolstoy nearly challenged Pushkin to a duel, but both men later mended the relationship, and Tolstoy helped him court Natalia Goncharova, Pushkin’s future wife.

Major General and Privy Councillor Andrei Bogdanovsky, a hero of the Patriotic War of 1812, moved here after the Tolstoy family left. His portrait can be seen in the famous Military Gallery, painted by artist George Dow, in the Winter Palace in St Petersburg.

On 16 September 1840, Varvara Turgenev replaced the general and moved into the Loshakovsky House. After graduating from Berlin University, Ivan Turgenev first visited the House on Ostozhenka Street in May 1841. He often stayed there while traveling to other regions. For example, he spent the springs of 1844 and 1845 in this house. Turgenev’s mother died in November 1850, and he spent over two months in the house, dealing with legal inheritance issues. His numerous friends and acquaintances and members of the city’s literary and theatrical circles, including Timofei Granovsky, Mikhail Shchepkin, Vasily Botkin, the Bakunin brothers, members of the Aksakov family and others, all called on him here. In his mezzanine rooms, Ivan Turgenev wrote articles for the Otechetsvenniye Zapiski (Domestic Notes) magazine and also conceived his story “Bezhin Meadow” and the poems “Andrei” and “Conversation.” In 1851, Turgenev left the house for good.

A year later, Yelena Krivtsova, the widow of Pavel Krivtsov, a distant relative of the Turgenev family, became fascinated with the mansion on Ostozhenka Street. Nikolai Krivtsov, the oldest brother, was a friend of Alexander Pushkin. And their middle brother, Sergei Krivtsov, a member of the Decembrist movement, was a friend of Sergei Turgenev, the father of Ivan Turgenev. Yelena Krivtsova, nee Princess Repnina-Volkonskaya, was married to the youngest brother, Pavel Krivtsov, a diplomat who patronised Russian artists in Rome.

In early 1840, Ivan Turgenev and Pavel Krivtsov travelled to Italy. “This young man is well-learned and smart,” Krivtsov wrote to his brother Nikolai, describing the future author of “A Sportsman’s Sketches.” In April 1852, Yelena Krivtsova and her children moved into the House on Ostozhenka Street and spent the last three years of her life here. 

According to Mikhail Baratynsky’s memoirs, the family of Andrei Baratynsky, the cousin of poet Yevgeny Baratynsky, lived there for almost ten years in the 1860s. All of them loved classical music and played various instruments, turning the mansion into one of the city’s musical-culture centres.

In 1891, Leonid Chichagov, his wife and their four daughters moved into the building. This Russian aristocrat and dashing army officer, a descendant of famous Arctic explorer and veteran of the Patriotic War of 1812 Vasily Chichagov, eventually resigned and decided to devote his life to serving the Russian Orthodox Church. While living here, he prepared to take his monastic vows under the name of Seraphim. Known as the Right Reverend Seraphim, he glorified Saint Seraphim of Sarov and wrote the history of the Saint Seraphim-Diveyevo Convent. In 1917, Metropolitan Seraphim was arrested and executed by firing squad; and he was canonised in 1997.

In the late 19th century, the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich orphanage opened in the House on Ostozhenka Street. The house’s interiors were altered considerably after the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution; and a block of shared flats was established there. Tenants were only relocated in 1974. The organisation Sportinterprom occupied the building from 1974 and through the late 2000s.