Every year, early in May, Russian people celebrates the significant Victory Day dedicated to the glorious struggle and vistory of Russia in the World War II. All of us feel gratitude for the great exploits performed by our soldiers, heroes, who kept fighting in the rear of the war for the great peace in all the human world people. We aslo should pay tribute to the courage and selfless labour of the museum workers, who honourably performed their duties to their service and country and managed to save priceless monuments of the past preserved in the museums for future generations, for example the collection of the Armoury Chamber and museums-cathedrals of the Moscow Kremlin.
In the morning of the very first day of the war, visiting of Moscow Kremlin Museums was stopped, and on the 23rd of June, on the order of the Kremlin Commandant Nikolai Kirillovich Spiridonov the staff of the museum – director N.N. Zakharov, controller E.A. Efimov, research assistant N.V. Gordeev, guides V.S. Valuev, A.A. Goncharova (Starukhina), K.P. Naumova, E.A. Krestyannikova, conservators A.P. Kliuykova, A.N. Krivtsov, head of the Registration division M.A. Kiriltseva, secretary O.S. Vladimirova, the watchman and several technical employees – cleaners started demounting of the display and packing the Armoury exhibits into boxes. At first it was planned to save the valuables in the Kremlin territory: in the Secret Tower, in the podklet of the Annunciation Cathedral and other buildings, but the situation oat the front was getting worse, and the enemies were approaching to the Russian capital. On June, 30th, N.K. Spiridonov decided to evacuate the valuables to the Urals, and the director of the Museum Nikolai Nikitovich Zakharov received prescription to leave Moscow with the most valuable museum items that very day. The valuable cargo was accompanied by A.V. Bayanov, E.A. Efimov, N.V. Gordeev, O.S. Vladimirova. The valuables were guarded by soldiers of the Red Army. That evening, at 10 o’clock, three wagons with exhibits left from the North (Yaroslavsky) Station. On the night of the 5th of July, they arrived to Sverdlovsk.
Three days later V.S. Valuev brought the second part of exhibits, and on July, 10, A.A. Starukhina (Goncharova) was in Sverdlovsk with the last group of monuments.
The exhibits were placed in the building (c. 154 sq. m.) of the NKVD in Lenin Str., survived till our days. 75% museum items were evacuated from the Armoury Chamber. However, the collection of carriages was left in the Armoury halls, as their packing and transporting was impossible at that moment due to their large size. Because of difficulties with demounting of iconostases, the major part of icons was left in the Kremlin Cathedrals.
From the mid July, Moscow has been suffering from series of bombings. The Kremlin was also damaged, though it was under mask. Golden domes and crosses of the churches were painted in dark colours, ruby stars were switched off and masked with dark cloth, the Tsar-Bell was covered with boards. On the roofs of the buildings there were placed machine-guns. Under the walls of the Twelve Apostles’ Church there were placed tanks.
On the 4th of August N.N. Zakharov sent a report on the placing of exhibits to the Kremlin and asked to organize evacuation to Sverdlovsk of valuable icons and exhibits from the cathedrals, to send necessary packing materials for more careful packing. Till the late 1941 conditions of preservation were rather improved on.
The museum workers checked exhibits and scientific descriptions and materials of the Commission for checking the activities of the Armoury Chamber in 1939-1940. As a result, there was created a preservation inventory of the Kremlin Museums, still of importance nowadays. At the same time, a series of exhibits were restored. Thus, a part of trophies of the Poltavskaya Battle were brought in order, the coronation Dress of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna was restored.
It should be noticed, that by the Spting of 1942, when hard battles were on at the fronts and the victory was still very far, preparations for restoring of the display after evacuation were started. Precision of activities allowed later to restore the display in a very short period of time. Inspite of straightened circumstances and hunger, the staff gave a part of their salary to the Fund of defense.
Worrying about the safety of the Kremlin architectural monuments, Zakharov, Gordeev, Bayanov and Kiriltseva several times went to Moscow. The Armoury Chamber with carriages was under control of fabrics’ conservator M.G. Baklanova and watchman F.M. Barashkov during the whole war. More than 700 exhibits, icons chiefly, were taken away to Sverdlovsk by N.N. Zakharov.
In 1944, when the victory was evident, the staff of the Chamber were getting ready for the return to Moscow. All the exhibits were grouped and packed so that they would be placed in a particular hall near to each other and put near to the needed showcase.
On February, 20th, 1945, the treasures were brought back to Moscow, and by the 15th of April, on the order of Commandant N.K. Spiridonov, the restoration of the display was finished. On April, 17 th, 1945, the halls of the Armoury Chamber greeted the first visitors – soldiers of the Kremlin garrison, who helped to evacuate the treasures. In June, the halls of the oldest museum of Moscow were visited by participants of the Victory Parade, illustrious drungars, Heroes of the Soviet Union.
The future President of the United States, General Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the Armoury display. The Kremlin was open for visiting in 1955.
Years past, the persons that saved the unique treasures of the Russian people have died, but the staff of Moscow Kremlin Museums always remembers their predecessors with deep gratitude, the people who lived through hard times.