Defending history: how public organizations preserve the cultural heritage of Moscow

April 7

Moscow has more than 8,5 thousand objects of cultural heritage — unique monuments of history, culture and architecture. Along with Moscow’s Department of Cultural Heritage specialists public organizations are engaged in the professional study and care of monuments and works of monumental, fine and applied arts. Their goal is not only to restore the historical appearance of the objects but also to draw attention to the restoration work and educate a new generation of craftsmen.

The Russian Association of Restorers

Founded in 2004 the Russian Association of Restorers (RAR) now has dozens of restoration companies and design institutes across the country.


The participants of the association implemented a large number of projects, their high skill is confirmed by numerous awards of the Moscow Restoration competition.

Specialists of one of the companies were awarded for restoration of the Friendship of Peoples and Stone Flower fountains at VDNKh. The best restoration projects of another company were the palace of the 17th century (10, Arkhangelsky Lane, building 2) and the Zimin mansion (8, Degtyarny Lane, building 3). Another team of restorers was awarded for restoration of the historical appearance of 50 works of the Kuskovo manor house museum-estate landscape sculpture (2, Yunosti Street) and 23 tombstones of the Don Monastery 18th-20th centuries necropolis. (1, Donskaya Square).

One of the most important activities of the association is educating young people, preserving and strengthening the traditions of previous generations of restorers.

"We had a big gap in the 1990s: our architects, restorers, designers — amazing specialists aged over 70 — are still alive, and the middle-aged ones are quite a few. The link is lost. Therefore, we are putting a great deal of effort on working with educational institutions, students and young people. We have programs even for children," says Tatyana Chernyaeva.

For example, teenagers are told about industrial professions and specialties, such as an artist-restorer, architect-restorer or restorer-builder at the meetings of the vocational guidance lessons Let’s Save. Children are invited to classes that take place in restoration workshops and in specialized educational institutions.

Сount Sheremetev's legacy: restoration of the old busts in Kuskovo Museum Estate completed

Among other things, RAR supports the activities of volunteering in the field of cultural heritage preservation (including Volunteer Restoration Center in Moscow), participates in the development of school programs for volunteers.

Another project of the association is Little Restorer intended for children of 6 to 11 years old. Interesting classes and master classes are arranged for them, and they are introduced to the city's architectural monuments. According to Tatyana Chernyaeva, the results of this work are obvious.

"I see that our little restorers become more interested in the heritage when they feel a sense of interconnectedness, when they understand that they can participate in its preservation, take care and protect, telling parents and friends why one must not rub the monuments "for luck". Every year they participate in the preventive care of the sculpture. Also, when I work in volunteer schools, I see people who want to help preserve monuments in their spare time. When I ask what motivates them, many reply: the desire to be involved in something very important and valuable. Probably, it is genetically present inside us — a sense of self-preservation. It is not only about preserving life, but also about preserving our ‘"cultural code", our connection to the past and the future," she says.

The association's cooperation with foreign colleagues also yield some dividends, thanks to which the position of the national restoration school in the international stage is strengthened. The exchange of experience takes place during exhibitions and conferences. The organization, in particular, holds thematic events within the framework of the St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum (SPICF), as well as the Denkmal international exhibition. One of the last such events was a panel discussion within the framework of the SPICF-2019 Theater and Heritage, where Russian, French and Italian architects talked about the restoration of theater buildings, including the example of the Moscow musical theater Helikon-Opera. Previously, roundtable discussions were held within the framework of the SPICF and Denkmal, dedicated to the repair and restoration of houses-monuments, professional education and certification of restorers.

The Union of Russian Restorers

The Union of Russian Restorers makes a significant contribution to the preservation of Moscow's cultural heritage. Thanks to the representatives of this Union, the monuments that are considered to be the city landmarks and included in the UNESCO World Heritage List were given a new look.


According to Vyacheslav Fatin, the mission of the union is to unite specialists who can positively influence the situation in the field of cultural heritage preservation, and popularize the restoration business.

"The most important thing is to unite restorers of all generations, not only experienced long-serving ones but also young people who will learn from the experience and bear the main burden of the future restoration of Moscow cultural heritage objects. Based on this, we try not only to popularize the restoration business but also promote its development in every possible way. In particular, we organize various events for young people, for example, visiting restoration field schools for students of various regions, or we invite them to Moscow and carry out the restoration of icons, paper, cultural heritage objects, show the basic techniques that will be useful for their future work," he says.

There is also the Coordination Center for professional training that is functioning on the basis of the Union. The Union of Russian Restorers has signed cooperation agreements with a number of specialized educational institutions where the training groups directed by the Union can gain knowledge and skills to work on the restoration and preservation of cultural heritage objects.

The Union of Russian Restorers the operator of two largest Denkmal international forums on restoration and preservation of monuments which traditionally brings together experts from different countries, promotes the exchange of experience and the establishment of professional contacts.

Interaction with foreign colleagues also takes place within the framework of restoration schools, where specialists can exchange knowledge and learn new technologies.

"The most methodically similar practices are the Russian and Italian restoration schools. We have the closest cooperation with Italian specialists. As part of the joint restoration school, our teachers went to give lectures in Italy, and the Italian ones, respectively, gave lectures here, " says Vyacheslav Fatin. - “ Our colleagues are very interested in our wooden architecture. Speaking about Moscow, everyone is certainly interested in St. Basil's Cathedral. We introduce our European colleagues to domestic restoration technologies very often, and recently we familiarized them with restoration of VDNKh. A great deal of work is being done there, and our colleagues are aware of this and are trying to get there. We organize excursions, tell them and show them. All this is done in close cooperation with the Department of Cultural Heritage."

The Union also pays great attention to legislative activities: participates in the development of projects related to the restoration work, protects related to the interests of organizations and individual specialists, and develops public-private partnerships in the field of restoration.

Head of the Union of Russian Restorers remarks that over the last years the situation with cultural heritage objects in Moscow changed for the better. A large number of monuments were restored and new objects taken under protection, and it is very important to continue this work.

"Cultural heritage is our history, our roots. We must preserve it and pass it on to future generations, otherwise we will have nothing left. If we neglect this, in the twinkling of an eye not a single historical object will remain alongside with the past that we need to pass on to the future. Many of our objects belong to the world heritage, so we have a responsibility to our descendants," he concludes.

“Remember everything”

Another example of the successful participation of a public organization in the life of the city is the work of the “Remember Everything” movement. The organization appeared in Moscow in 2012. Its first project was the restoration of the old signboard “Pharmacy” at 22, Malaya Bronnaya Street. It was discovered quite accidentally during renovation of the facade. The issue of permission for restoration was resolved very quickly and the required funds were raised. In the future, the team of like-minded people implemented 14 more projects raising funds through crowdfunding.

As a result, the facade of house 1/2, building 1 in Pevcheskiy Lane was decorated with a rare brick brand of the 1920s of one of the largest Soviet enterprises for bricks production —“M. S. N. H. Mossilicate”. And on the Sadovoye koltso (Garden Ring) (Bolshaya Sukharevskaya Square, house 16/18), restored pre-revolutionary luxphere windows were reinstalled, originally invented for lighting city basements.

The civil society movement “Remember Everything” is mainly engaged in the search and restoration of historical signboards. Restoration of one piece takes an average of a month and a half but specialists do not take on all projects, but choose the most interesting ones.



It happens that the restored objects bear traces of previous alterations or unsuccessful attempts to disguise them are specially left. So it happened, for example, with the paired signboard of the famous House of Porcelain of M. S. Kuznetsov Partnership on Myasnitskaya Street (house 8/2). After the revolution, the letters covered with gold leaf stamped on the granite slabs were hidden under shields, and then painted over. After more than 100 years, during the renovation of the building, the letters were decided to be plastered and sawed through them with a sander. After restoring the signboards, specialists left these incisions intact.

A similar case was with a cast-iron pillar adjacent to the house 6 in Bryusov Lane. This is a part of the fence of the 18th century now non-extant manor house. Since then it was repeatedly repainted, the restorers counted ten layers of paint. Once the rust was removed from the pillar, the cracks were repaired and the interior was filled with expanded clay, the surface was covered with a protective layer of varnish, but in two places they still left layers of paint in memory of the difficult fate of this architectural detail.

The main goal of the “Remember Everything” movement is to preserve the history of old Moscow. Specialists regularly contact Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage for approval of the restoration, and, according to Natalia Tarnavskaya, in most cases everything can be solved without much difficulty.

"Counteraction may arise where we incorrectly set the task, but we have already learned to understand what can be done and what can not. We don't come to the Department and say: “Let us do the restoration without a project." We think together with them how we can break down the work into small stages that require a more simplified approving system. And this is their help — they do not force us to go to the one-stop service and communicate there without understanding who is talking to whom, but look at the work that we do, understand it and direct it to specific people who can answer our questions," she notes.

In the near future, experts plan to start restoring the inscription that crowns the building of the electrical substation built at Mira Avenue at the beginning of the last century.


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