The Kunstkamera (or Kunstkammer; Russian: Кунсткамера) is the first museum in Russia. Established by Peter the Great and completed in 1727, the Kunstkammer Building hosts the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Russian: Музей антропологии и этнографии имени Петра Великого Российской академии наук), with a collection of almost 2,000,000 items. It is located on the Universitetskaya Embankment in Saint Petersburg, facing the Winter Palace.

Kunstkamera SPB
View of the Kunstkamera across the Neva


Kunstkamera in 1740th

The Kunstkamera was established by Peter the Great on the Neva Riverfront. The turreted Petrine Baroque building of the Kunstkamera designed by Georg Johann Mattarnovy was completed by 1727. The foundation stone for the Kunstkammer was laid in 1719. The name Kunstkamera is derived from German Kunstkamer, literally meaning "Art chamber".

Peter's museum was a cabinet of curiosities dedicated to preserving "natural and human curiosities and rarities", a very typical type of collection in the period. The tsar's personal collection, originally stored in the Summer Palace, features a large assortment of human and animal fetuses with anatomical deficiencies, which Peter had seen in 1697 visiting Frederick Ruysch and Levinus Vincent. The underlying idea of their kunstkammers was to acquire full knowledge of the world. The Dutch word "kunst-kamer" seems to be introduced by the surgeon Stephanus Blankaart in 1680.

The Kunstkamera of Peter the Great is often seen as a haphazard collection of incoherent rarities, but it seems they were collected systematically subject to a well defined plan. Peter's main interest was in "naturalia", rather than the so-called "artificialia". Peter encouraged research of deformities, all along trying to debunk the superstitious fear of monsters. He issued an ukase ordering malformed, still-born infants to be sent from all over the country to the imperial collection. He subsequently had them put on show in the Kunstkamera as examples of accidents of nature.[1]

In 1716 Peter established the mineral cabinet of Kunstkamera, depositing there a collection of 1195 minerals which he had bought from Gotvald, a Danzig doctor. The collection was enriched with Russian minerals. It was a predecessor of the Fersman Mineralogical Museum, now based in Moscow.

Many items were bought in Amsterdam from pharmacologist Albertus Seba (1716) and anatomist Frederik Ruysch (1717) and formed the basis for the Academy of Sciences. The Kunstkamera was specially built to house these two extensive collections. A third acquisition came from Jacob de Wilde, a collector of gems and scientific instruments. Head-physician to the czar, Robert Erskine, and his secretary Johann Daniel Schumacher were responsible for the acquisition.[2]

Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography

In the 1830s, the Kunstkamera collections were dispersed to newly established imperial museums, the most important being the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, established in 1879. It has a collection approaching 2,000,000 items and has been known as the Peter the Great Museum since 1903 (in order to distinguish the older museum from the Russian Museum of Ethnography).

Originally there were separate museums for anthropology and ethnography, but on 5 December 1878 it was decided to merge them into a single museum with Leopold Schrenk being appointed on 10 November 1879. It was not until 1887 that the museum was finally provided with its own exhibition premises attached to Kunstkamera in Tamozhennyi pereulok. On 23 September 1889, the first exhibition of the unified Museum was opened.

One of the most gruesome exhibits is the head of Willem Mons, brother of Anna Mons. In 1747 some objects were lost in a fire. The museum houses 78 watercolours by the Peruvian artist Pancho Fierro, the largest collection outside Peru. These were brought back by Schrenk following his visit there in 1854.

List of directors


  1. ^ Driessen-Van het Reve, J.J. (2006) De Kunstkamera van Peter de Grote. De Hollandse inbreng, gereconstrueerd uit brieven van Albert Seba en Johann Daniel Schumacher uit de jaren 1711–1752. English summary, pp. 335–336.
  2. ^ Driessen-Van het Reve, J.J. (2006) De Kunstkamera van Peter de Grote. De Hollandse inbreng, gereconstrueerd uit brieven van Albert Seba en Johann Daniel Schumacher uit de jaren 1711–1752. English summary, pp. 337–338.
  3. ^ Kunstkamera

See also


External links

Coordinates: 59°56′30″N 30°18′16″E / 59.94167°N 30.30444°E

Fersman Mineralogical Museum

Fersman Mineralogical Museum (Russian: Минералогический музей им. А. Е. Ферсмана) is one of the largest mineral museums of the world, located in Moscow, Russia. Its collections include more than 135,000 items. Among them natural crystals, geodes, druses and other kinds of mineral treasures. The museum was named after Alexander Fersman.

Georg Gsell

Georg Gsell (Russian: Георг Гзель; 28 January 1673 – 22 November 1740) was a Swiss Baroque painter, art consultant and art dealer.

Gsell was born in St. Gallen where he married his first wife in 1697, Marie Gertrud von Loen of Frankfurt am Main. They moved to Amsterdam in 1704 where their fifth daughter Katharina was born in 1707. His wife died and he remarried Anna Horstmans, but divorced her in 1715, when he married a third time to Dorothea Maria Merian, the daughter of Maria Sibylla Merian. The couple was recruited by Peter the Great in 1716 and went to Russia, where he became first curator of the Imperial art gallery founded in 1720. His wife, Maria-Dorothea, became the curator of the Kunstkamera. Their daughter Katharina married mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1733.

Gsell died, aged 67, in St. Petersburg and his wife survived him by three years. He is known for his catalog of the Kunstkamera in manuscript form, that has recently been rediscovered.

Globe of Gottorf

The Globe of Gottorf (German: Gottorper Globus or Gottorfer Globus, Danish: Den gottorpske kæmpeglobus or Gottorpsk kæmpeglobus) is a 17th-century large globe of the earth in the Kunstkamera museum in St. Petersburg in Russia. It measures 3.1 meters in diameter.

The globe details a map of the earth’s surface on the outside and a map of star constellations with astrological and mythological symbols on the inside. Turned by water power, it demonstrates the “movement” of the heavens to those seated inside in candlelight.

It was a predecessor of the modern planetarium.

Irina Konstantinovna Feodorova

Irina Konstantinovna Feodorova (28 November 1931, Leningrad, USSR – 7 December 2010, Saint Petersburg) was a Soviet historian. Her field of expertise was the ethnography, culture, folklore and language of the people of East Polynesia. Feodorova was doctor of historical sciences and a leading scientist of the Department of Australia, Oceania and Indonesia at the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Russian Academy of Science) at the Kunstkamera, St. Petersberg, the first Russian museum that was named after Peter the Great. In 1981, Feodorova was given the honour of being named N. N. Miklouho-Maclay Laureate of the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Science.

Kim Chae-guk

Kim Chae-guk (Korean: 김재국), also known as Jae Kuk Kim, was a late 19th-century Korean writer and teacher.

According to the British diplomat William George Aston Kim Chae-guk was already his Korean teacher during the period the British Embassy was briefly located in Jong Dong in 1885.

Lebedev Physical Institute

The Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (LPI RAS) (in Russian: Физи́ческий институ́т имени П.Н.Ле́бедева Российской академии наук (ФИАН)), situated in Moscow, is one of the leading Russian research institutes specializing in physics. It is also one of the oldest research institutions in Russia: its history dates back to a collection of physics equipment established by Peter the Great in the Kunstkamera of Saint Petersburg in 1714. The institute was established in its present shape in 1934 by academician Sergey Vavilov. It moved to Moscow and was named after a prominent Russian physicist Pyotr Lebedev the same year. It is also known as P. N. Lebedev Institute of Physics or just Lebedev Institute. In Russian it is often referred to by the acronym FIAN (ФИАН) standing for "Physical Institute of the Academy of Sciences".

The wide range of the research activities includes: laser technology, dark matter structure, nanostructures, superconductivity, cosmic rays, and gamma-astronomy. The institute developed a technique of crystallizing cubic zirconia (which was called Fianit in Russia, named after FIAN).

Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences

The Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Russian: Библиотека Российской академии наук (БАН)) is a large state-owned Russian library based in Saint Petersburg on Vasilievsky Island and open to employees of institutions of the Russian Academy of Sciences and scholars with higher education. It is a part of the academy and includes, besides the central collection, the library collections housed by specialized academic institutions in Saint Petersburg and other cities.

The library was founded in Saint Petersburg by a decree of Peter I in 1714 and subsequently included into the structure of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Since 1747 all academic institutions and since 1783 all publishers in the country have been legally obliged to provide the library with a free copy of each published item.

In 1728-1924 its collections were stored in the building of Kunstkamera, with which it had formed a single academic institution until 1803. In the 1920s the library received many items confiscated during nationalization in Soviet Russia.

In 1924-1925 the collections were transferred to the new building built for the library in 1914 and occupied by a military hospital during the First World War.

During the siege of Leningrad in 1941-1944 the collections stayed in the besieged city and the library was open.

On February 15, 1988, the library suffered the most catastrophic fire in its history which destroyed or damaged a considerable part of the collections.

Before the fire, as of October 1, 1986, the collection of the library and libraries subordinate to it consisted of 17,288,365 items.

List of museums with major collections in ethnography and anthropology

This is a list of museums with major collections in ethnography and anthropology. It is sorted by descending number of objects listed.

Canadian Museum of Civilization, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

3.75 million artifacts

Musée du quai Branly, Paris, France

1,170,495 objects in 2014 including an iconotheque of about 700,000 pieces (plus a mediatheque of 260,000 and archives)

Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), St. Petersburg, Russia

1 117,000 objects

University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, UK

800,000 objects

Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, California, USA

634,000 objects (In addition to Africa, Americas & Oceania, the museum embraces holdings from Europe, Ancient Mediterranean, Ancient Egypt, Asia and a large media collection)

Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, UK

500,000 objects

Musée de l'Homme, Paris, France

500,000 objects

Ethnological Museum, Berlin, Germany

500,000 objects (In addition to Africa, Americas & Oceania, the museum embraces holdings from Asia (South, South-East, Far-East and North Asia), the Islamic World, the Children's Museum and the Museum for the Blind.)

Russian Museum of Ethnography, St. Petersburg, Russia

500,000 objects

British Museum, London, UK

350,000 objects

National Museum of Ethnology (Japan), Osaka, Japan

335,000 objects

National Museum of Ethnology (Netherlands), Leiden, Netherlands

200,000 objects with 500,000 pieces in the image and multimedia libraries and 40,000 books.

Museum für Völkerkunde, Vienna, Austria

200,000 objects

Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, Munich, Germany

150,000 objects

Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Museum of Anthropology), Mexico City, Mexico

120,000 objects

American Museum of Natural History Division of Anthropology, New York, USA

119,000 objects

Horniman Museum, London, UK

80,000 objects

Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

36,000 ethnographic objects and 535,000 archaeological objects

Powell Cotton Museum, Kent, UK

30,000 objects

Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

30,000 ethnographic objects, 10,000 photographs

Museo de Antropología de Xalapa, Xalapa, Mexico.

25,000 objets

Museu Antropológico Diretor Pestana (Brazil), Ijuí, Santa Cataria, Brazil,

29.000 pièces

Berndt Museum of Anthropology, Perth, Australia

11,500 items

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, New York, USA

11,000 objects

Municipal Okrug 7

Municipal Okrug #7 (Russian: муниципа́льный о́круг № 7) is a municipal okrug of Vasileostrovsky District of the federal city of St. Petersburg, Russia. Population: 39,168 (2010 Census); 45,696 (2002 Census).It borders Sredny Avenue, 25 Line, Bolshoy Avenue, Detskaya Street, and Kosaya Line in the north and in the west, the Neva River in the south and in east.

The eastern side of the okrug is old. The majority of the tourist sights, such as the Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange and Rostral Columns, Kunstkamera, Saint Petersburg State University, Imperial Academy of Arts, and the Menshikov Palace are located there.

The central part is mostly financial and is home to the Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange. The western side is mostly industrial and houses the port of Saint Petersburg.

Pushkin House

The Pushkin House (Russian: Пушкинский дом, Pushkinsky Dom) is the familiar name of the Institute of Russian Literature in St. Petersburg. It is part of a network of institutions affiliated with the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Robert Erskine (doctor)

Robert Erskine (1677–1718) was an advisor to Tsar Peter the Great. He became one of the Tsar's most powerful advisors.He is the first cousin of John Erskine, Earl of Mar (1675–1732).

He engaged in medical studies in Edinburgh, Paris and Utrecht and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1703. He arrived in Russia in 1704. Head of the entire medical chancellery, he was the Tsar's chief physician. He was so influential that he was appointed the first director of the St. Petersburg Kunstkamera and library. In 1716, the Tsar elevated him to privy councillor.Robert Erskine was a part of masonic network of Scottish Jacobites that influenced the Russian court.

Russian Museum of Ethnography

The Russian Museum of Ethnography (Российский этнографический музей) is a museum in St. Petersburg that houses a collection of about 500,000 items relating to the ethnography, or cultural anthropology, of peoples of the former Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.The museum was set up in 1902 as the ethnographic department of the Russian Museum. It is housed in a purpose-built Neoclassical building erected between 1902 and 1913 to Vasily Svinyin's design in the proximity of the Old Michael Palace (which accommodates the art collection of the Russian Museum). It occupies the place of the eastern service wing, the stables and the laundry of the palace.

The museum's first exhibits were the gifts received by the Russian Tsars from peoples of Imperial Russia. These were supplemented by regular expeditions to various parts of the Russian Empire which began in 1901. Further exhibits were purchased by Nicholas II of Russia and other members of his family (as state financing was not enough to purchase new exhibits). A collection of Buddhist religious objects was acquired for the museum by Prince Esper Ukhtomsky. Prince Tenishev, a wealthy industrialist, donated to the museum the archives of his private ethnographic bureau that had been documenting the life of Russian peasants since the 19th century.The collection was not officially opened to the general public until 1923 and was not detached from the Russian Museum until 1934. When the Museum of the Peoples of the USSR in Moscow (successor to the Dashkov Museum) was shut down in 1948, its collections were transferred to the Ethnographic Museum in Leningrad. This museum should not be confused with the much older Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, popularly known as the Kunstkamera.

Savva Chevakinsky

Savva Ivanovich Chevakinsky (Russian: Савва Иванович Чевакинский) (1709 – aft. 1774) was a Russian architect of the Baroque school. He worked in St. Petersburg and Tsarskoe Selo.

Chevakinsky was born into a noble family in the village of Veshki in the Novotorzhsk district of Tver province. In 1729 he entered the Naval Academy in St. Petersburg, from whence he was assigned to the Izmaylovsky Life Guards Regiment in 1734. At the request of the Admiralty board he was discharged for unauthorized absence from the Academy and apprenticed to the architectural company of Ivan Korobov, under whose direction he worked for seven years.

In 1739 Chevakinsky began his independent career. From 1741 to 1767 he was chief architect for the Admiralty Board. From 1745 to 1760 he was an architect at Tsarskoe Selo, supervising the reconstruction of the palace and surrounding park. Here Chevakinsky erected two buildings (a church and a hall) connected by galleries to the central part of the palace, erected the "Monbizhu" pavilion (which housed palace officials), and participated in the creation of the "Hermitage" pavilion".

Chevakinsky's largest building in St. Petersburg was the St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral (1753–1762) with a separate tiered bell tower (1756–1758). He also rebuilt the Kunstkamera, the museum of anthropology and ethnography established by Peter the Great.

Chevakinsky also designed large private homes. For the Sheremetev family, he built the Fountain House (1750–1755) on the Fontanka Embankment, which building now houses the Anna Akhmatova Literary and Memorial Museum. For the Shuvalov family, he built a mansion at the corner of Malaya Sadovaya Street and Italyanskaya Street (1749–1756, rebuilt in the 19th century), which building later housed the Imperial Ministry of Justice (1802 to 1917) and is today home to the Museum of Hygiene.

From 1755 to 1758 Chevakinsky was an architect for the Imperial Academy of Sciences. During those years he taught Vasili Bazhenov and Ivan Starov.

According to some sources, Chevakinsky died between 1774 and 1780; according to other sources, he died in 1783.

Siberian Yupik

Siberian Yupiks, or Yuits, are a Yupik Eskimo people who reside along the coast of the Chukchi Peninsula in the far northeast of the Russian Federation and on St. Lawrence Island in Alaska. They speak Central Siberian Yupik (also known as Yuit), a Yupik language of the Eskimo–Aleut family of languages.

They are also known as Siberian or Eskimo (Russian: эскимосы). The name Yuit (юит, plural: юиты) was officially assigned to them in 1931, at the brief time of the campaign of support of indigenous cultures in the Soviet Union. Their self-designation is Yupighyt (йупигыт) meaning "true people".

Sirenik Eskimos also live in that area, but their extinct language, Sireniki Eskimo, shows many peculiarities among Eskimo languages and is mutually unintelligible with the neighboring Siberian Yupik languages.

Universitetskaya Embankment

Universitetskaya Embankment (Russian: Университетская набережная) is a 1.2 km long embankment on the right bank of the Bolshaya Neva, on Vasilievsky Island in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Starting at the Spit of Vasilievsky Island, it spans between Palace Bridge and Blagoveshchensky Bridge.

The bank was lined with granite in 1805-1810 (eastern part), 1831-1834 (western part) and the 1850s (near Blagoveshchensky Bridge). It features an ensemble of Petrine Baroque buildings of the early 18th century, including the Kunstkamera, Twelve Collegia, Menshikov Palace, as well as the neoclassical building of the Academy of Arts.

The embankment was formerly connected to the left bank through Isaakiyevsky Pontone Bridge, constructed in 1819-1841 in front of Senate Square.

One of the campuses of Saint Petersburg State University (hosted in the Twelve Collegia and several other buildings), Saint Petersburg branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (hosted in the Kunstkamera) and Zoological Museum are all situated along the embankment.

The embankment was named after the university in 1887.

Valentin Vydrin

Valentin Feodosyevich Vydrin (also spelled Vydrine; Russian: Валентин Феодосьевич Выдрин; born February 6 1961, Belogorka, Leningrad Oblast) — a Russian Africanist. Until 2011 — the head of the Department of Ethnography of African Peoples of the Kunstkamera, Professor, Doctor of Philology. Graduate of the Department of African Studies of the Faculty of Eastern Studies of the Saint Petersburg State University, where he was later a lecturer. An author of numerous scientific works on Mande languages.

Since 2010 lectures in France, as a professor of Mande languages in the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales in Paris.

Willem Mons

Willem Mons (1688 in Russia – 1724) was the brother of Peter the Great's long-time mistress Anna Mons, who later served as private secretary to Peter's wife Catherine.

After his sister's fall from favour, Willem joined the Russian army and took part in the Battle of Poltava. In 1711, he was appointed personal adjutant to the tsar. His other sister Matryona Balk had in the meantime become the closest friend of Catherine, whom Peter married in 1712.In 1716, at Catherine's behest, Peter entrusted Willem with administering her estates. After Catherine's coronation as consort in 1724, he was promoted to the rank of imperial chamberlain. A few months later, however, Willem Mons was arrested on charges of peculation (embezzlement) and breach of trust and, after a brief and brutal inquiry by Pyotr Tolstoy, he was publicly beheaded on November 27. His head was preserved in alcohol and is still kept in the Kunstkamera. There is a legend that Peter forced his wife to contemplate this gruesome exhibit for hours.The true causes of Willem's downfall are obscure. It was rumoured that Peter was enraged by his intimacy with the Empress. Many courtiers regarded Mons as Catherine's lover and his sister Matryona as their matchmaker. The affair did not affect Catherine's position as empress, however.Just months after his execution, Catherine succeeded to the throne and lavished honours on Matryona (who had been publicly flogged during her brother's trial) and her Lutheran daughter, Natalia Lopukhina, who would later give her name to the Lopukhina Conspiracy (1742–43).


A Yaranga is a tent-like traditional mobile home of some nomadic Northern indigenous peoples of Russia, such as Chukchi and Siberian Yupik.

A Yaranga is a cone-shaped or rounded reindeer-hide tent. It is built of a light wooden frame covered with reindeer skins or canvas sewn together.

The word yaranga comes from the Chukchi word for house: jaraŋə (Cyrillic: яраӈы). In Russian use, the terms chum, yurt and yaranga may be used interchangeably.

Zoological Museum of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences

The Zoological Museum of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences is a Russian museum devoted to zoology. It is located in Saint Petersburg, on Universitetskaya Embankment. It is one of the ten largest nature history museums in the world.Peter the Great's Kunstkamera collections included zoological specimens. In 1724, the museum became a part of the Russian Academy of Sciences. A printed catalogue of the contents was published in 1742. It listed the zoology, botany, geology and anthropology specimens and contained an album of etchings of the building and plan of some of its parts.

In 1766, Peter Simon Pallas, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, was appointed curator of Zoology. In 1832, the zoological collection was split from the Kunstkamera and, in 1896, moved nearby to its present location in the former southern warehouse of the Saint Petersburg bourse (constructed in 1826-1832). In 1931, the Zoological Institute was established within the Academy of Sciences, which included the museum.

In the front hall of the museum is a monument to Karl Ernst von Baer by the entrance, as well as skeletons of cetaceans, including the enormous 27-metre-long (89 ft) blue whale, and mounted pinnipeds. In the gallery above the front hall, the entomological collection is displayed. The second and third halls form a long passage with systematic collections and dioramas dating back to the early 20th century. The second hall hosts the collection of fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and invertebrates, mounted or preserved in formalin, and their skeletons or shells. The collection of mammals, including woolly mammoths, is displayed in the third hall.

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