The collection of manuscripts kept in the Moscow Kremlin Museums numbers just over one hundred sixty exhibits and includes documentary materials from the late 15th to the early 20th century.

The fund itself is rather young. It was formed mainly in the 1920s. Before that time the main collection of the Armoury Chamber included only such manuscript rarities that bore a recognised significant state value along with imperial treasures. The pieces of this kind are the Approved Charter of the Zemsky Sobor (Council) of 1613 on the election of Tsar Michael Fyodorovich Romanov to the Royal Throne and the Records of 1589 on the establishment of the Patriarchal See in Russia.

A small group of items from the pre-revolutionary collection is of a commemorative nature and formerly belonged to private individuals. These are several things belonging to Emperor Alexander I, viz “Notes on Moscow Memorability” by N.M. Karamzin (1817) and two manuscript books, so called “List of Guards and Posts” (1820 and 1823), and the charter conferred on Boyar B.M. Khitrovo, surviving in fragment and entering the Armoury Chamber through K.A. Naryshkin in 1881.

The rest of the manuscript collection was formed in the 1920s due to the collecting activities of the Armoury Chamber employees.

There are three pieces in the collection that are related to the imperial family and belong to the last years of Nicholas II’s reign. These are addresses to Emperor Nicholas II and the Crown Prince on the occasion of the 300th Anniversary of the Ruling House of Romanov, the beginning of World War I, and the 1916 Easter Day. They were acquired from the imperial property in the early 1920s.

Ten charters of 1673-1718 granted to individuals distinguished for serving the Fatherland are of special interest. The documents – solemn and generously ornamented, with pendent red-wax seals occasionally enclosed in silver cases – assigned patrimonial estates and immunity rights to their owners. These charters belonged to L.S. Shishkov, G. Kondratiev and his sons, A. Tansky, S.L. Vasilchikov, I.L. and G.S. Rimsky-Korsakovs. They must have been confiscated by Gokhran (Russian State Treasury) in the 1920s along with collections of artworks. The Armoury Chamber employees managed to acquire them from Gokhran in 1926.

The largest part of the collection of manuscripts (over 1500 exhibits) comprises charters and manuscripts from the Solovetsky Monastery. The documents came to the Armoury Chamber in 1923 after the monastery was devastated by fire and converted into the Solovki prison camp. For several centuries, the Solovetsky Monastery had the right of governance and jurisdiction over the vast territory, the right to collect customs duties, and some other immunity rights, which were granted to the monastery by the Russian rulers and were reflected in special charters. The Vestry collection conserves hundreds of such charters of grant, ordinance, receiving state horses on the trip, indulgence, inquiry and other letters sent to the monastery from the Russian sovereigns and church hierarchs from the late 15th to the 19th century, as well as several household documents and handwritten books.

The scientific value of the Moscow Kremlin Museums’ manuscript collection cannot be overestimated.


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