Kirov Museum

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The former apartment of Bolshevik leader Sergei Kirov in St Petersburg, which was preserved in (almost) its original state after Kirov's assassination in 1934. The place also doubles up as a museum about mostly the early Soviet era in general.   
More background info: Kirov's original name was Sergei Mironovich Kostrikov, but he later simplified his name to Kirov, as was not uncommon amongst Bolshevik leaders (see also Lenin and Stalin!). He took part in the Russian Revolution of 1905 (and was arrested for printing “illegal” material) and fought in the Civil War that followed the October Revolution of 1917 (see Museum of Political History for more background on these periods). He then rose through the ranks of the Communist Party and as a loyal follower of Stalin he eventually became head of the Party organization in Leningrad.
Through his position of power, his popularity and his increasingly divergent view with regard to Stalin's iron-fisted rule suppressing any dissent within the Party, he must have become a bit of a thorn in the Moscow strongman's side.
On 1 December 1934, Kirov was assassinated by a gunman at his office at the Smolny Institute. Whether Stalin and the NKVD (precursor of the KGB) were behind his murder, as has frequently been alleged, could never be determined for sure. What became evident very quickly, though, was that Stalin had no qualms about instrumentalizing Kirov's death in the Great Purge that was soon to be unleashed, when having been complicit in Kirov's murder became a standard accusation in many a show trial.
Kirov spent the last eight years of his life in this over 2000 square feet (200 square metres) large flat, i.e. from 1926 to 1934. Its lavish interior design, furnishings and amenities are a clear indicator that Kirov, despite being a key communist and revolutionary, preferred living the good life over any proletarian austerity. His living space was later turned into a typical Soviet-era house museum, or in this case rather 'apartment museum'. Whether it's a complete recreation or to what degree it's authentic isn't quite clear. I've read both.
The flat is in a grand apartment building complex designed for the First Russian Insurance Company and completed in 1914, just before WWI. It featured every modern amenity of the day, including electricity, steam heating, lifts and telephones.
What there is to see: This is actually two sites in one, spread over two floors of a large neoclassical apartment building. The Kirov apartment is on the top floor, and on the floor beneath is an additional museum exhibition.
When you've made it to the top floor, either by taking the four flights of stairs or by using the rather rickety looking small lift (I opted for the former), you come to a strange combination of a paper model of a Zeppelin (adorned with Soviet red stars) suspended from the staircase ceiling and a banner on the wall depicting a Soviet communist parade in rather childlike style.
Once inside you are greeted by some elderly Russian ladies who will explain to you the layout of the museum and send you off on your circuit through the Kirov apartment rooms first. You can also borrow a booklet with descriptions in English, which is helpful as all labelling and other texts are in Russian only here.
The first large room is filled with glass-doored bookcases, cloth-covered sofas, and on the floor two flattened bearskin rugs whose heads face each other, one brown bear and one polar bear. More taxidermy can be seen on the walls or atop the mantelpiece of the room's grand fireplace. There are also a few display cabinets with some of Kirov's personal belongings (such as his glasses), as well as various portraits of Stalin and Lenin.
The next room is the library, with – naturally – yet more amply filled bookcases as well as various globes, a radio, a record player and another Lenin on the wall. This is followed by the bedroom, with another flattened animal skin – this time a fox's – giving further evidence of Kirov's passion for hunting. By the side of one of the rather narrow-looking twin beds is a telephone. Presumably Kirov had optional contact with the Kremlin at any time of the day or night.
The dining room features a large table and twelve chairs – and yet more taxidermy on the walls. The bathroom is fitted with a modern-looking shower over the bathtub. In the kitchen you can see an electric refrigerator, an American model ironically, which at the time was absolute cutting-edge technology. The oven and hob look much more old-fashioned in contrast. The larders and worktops are filled with plastic fruit & veg, cakes and chicken, presumably to illustrate that food was abundant in the Kirov household.
You then pass through large rooms that are much more museum-like and unfurnished, except for a few display cabinets and text-panel racks (all in Russian). On one wall is a large painting of Kirov giving a passionate speech to a crowd of Party members.
Finally you get to what I found the highlight of the apartment: Kirov's lavish office (apparently a recreation of his workplace in the Smolny Institute, where he was assassinated). It's a real pompous affair with heavy leather chairs and a settee and a massive desk. Marx, Lenin and Stalin are represented in various forms here too, but I couldn't find Kirov's jacket with the bullet hole from his assassination that I had read about in some online reviews.
On the floor below is the second exhibition space. I couldn't quite determine whether this is a permanent exhibition or not, but in any case it is more an afterthought or add-on to the Kirov apartment and has practically nothing to do with it other than being about the early Soviet period of the 1920s and 30s, i.e. the period Kirov was active in.
The focus here is on children and their education (and indoctrination) in that era, but also goes a bit beyond that. Exhibits include some typical Soviet products in one display cabinet – some of the labels of which still exist today. Plenty of socialist-realist propaganda posters line the walls too.
All in all, however, it's the actual apartment and its lavish furnishings that leaves the most profound impression. Certainly worth the little detour to get to, and obviously a must-see for anyone really interested in Soviet history.
Location: in the middle of the Petrogradsky Island part of St Petersburg, Russia, three blocks north of the Peter & Paul Fortress at No. 26-28, Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt.
Google maps locator: [59.9623, 30.3145]
Access and costs: possibly a little tricky to find, despite a fairly central location; inexpensive.
Details: to get to the museum you can walk it from e.g. the Peter & Paul Fortress or the Museum of Political History, which are both less than a mile away; the walk takes about 15 minutes up Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt. If using the metro, the station Petrogradsky north of the museum is slightly closer than Gorkovskaya further south.
The museum is on the western side of the street and marked by two red signs in Russian, saying “Музей С. М. Кирова”. I had no trouble locating the museum but read in several reviews that other tourists did find it tricky to find.
You have to make your way to the top floor, either using the stairs or the small lift. The elderly ladies at the reception at the museum entrance spoke surprisingly decent English. They give you further instructions and an English-language brochure, if you want/need one.
Opening times: daily except Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission: 150 RUB (students 100 RUB)
Time required: about 45 minutes, possibly longer, especially if you can read Russian.
Combinations with other dark destinations: in general see under St Petersburg.
Two dark attractions of the city are within fairly easy walking distance from the Kirov Museum, the Political History Museum and the Peter & Paul Fortress, both just a few blocks down Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt.
Combinations with non-dark destinations: see under St Petersburg.
  • Kirov museum 01 - the houseKirov museum 01 - the house
  • Kirov museum 02 - inside - with flattened bearsKirov museum 02 - inside - with flattened bears
  • Kirov museum 03 - flat fox too - in the bedroomKirov museum 03 - flat fox too - in the bedroom
  • Kirov museum 04 - libraryKirov museum 04 - library
  • Kirov museum 05 - personal itemsKirov museum 05 - personal items
  • Kirov museum 06 - Marx und Stalin looking on in the officeKirov museum 06 - Marx und Stalin looking on in the office
  • Kirov museum 07 - Lenin is here tooKirov museum 07 - Lenin is here too
  • Kirov museum 08 - bathroomKirov museum 08 - bathroom
  • Kirov museum 09 - kitchenKirov museum 09 - kitchen
  • Kirov museum 10 - American fridgeKirov museum 10 - American fridge
  • Kirov museum 11 - Soviet productsKirov museum 11 - Soviet products
  • Kirov museum 12 - educationalKirov museum 12 - educational


©, Peter Hohenhaus 2010-2019

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