Vladimir Tolstoy, the great-great-grandson of Leo Tolstoy, has been appointed a cultural adviser to the Russian President Vladimir Putin. The appointment was made in May, shortly after Putin returned to the Kremlin as president after serving as the prime minister for four years.
Since 1994, Vladimir Tolstoy has been the director of Yasnaya Polyana, the writer's estate and museum. Situated near the city of Tula, south of Moscow, the writer's house and grounds were turned into a museum in 1921. Leo Tolstoy's daughter, Alexandra, was the first director of the museum, where the writer is buried. The house and grounds are famous for preserving the atmosphere of pre-revolutionary Russian country life.
In his new role as a cultural adviser to the president, Vladimir Tolstoy told The Art Newspaper that he will be addressing a range of cultural issues, from literature to music, theatre, cinema and museums, especially those in protected zones such as Tolstoy's museum.
While he was the director of the museum, he made it more accessible to tourists, scholars and Tolstoy family members, whom he gathers there regularly for reunions. Tolstoy's wife, Yekaterina Tolstaya, who has worked at the museum for years, has been named its new director. She told the Russian media that one of her first tasks as the director will be to build a store for the estate's collection. Museum stores have become a sticking point for Russian museums, and the question has been addressed by Putin at meetings with museum directors and the minister of culture.
Tolstoy told The Art Newspaper that stores are “a ripe, even over-ripe topic”, as so many museums are forced to keep their collections in poorly equipped memorial buildings. He said that he had managed to get Yasnaya Polyana on a federal funding programme to help build a museum store and visitor centre by 2018.
Tolstoy said he did not take on the role of adviser solely to advance the Tolstoy museum's cause, but that he will be keeping a close eye on the situation there. Vladimir Gruzdev, the regional governor of Tula, visited the estate in June and said that Leo Tolstoy must be promoted as the region's greatest brand for developing the local economy through tourism.
One of Vladimir Tolstoy's suggestions, supported by Gruzdev, is to unite the towns and villages surrounding Yasnaya Polyana into a single administrative entity, which would make it easier to gather support for the Tolstoy brand and to build hotels and transport links to bring more visitors to the estate.
The main house alone has reached its maximum capacity of 100,000 visitors a year (no more than 30-35 groups a day of no more than 15 people each are allowed in). Overall, 300,000 people a year visit the estate, but a museum store open to the public would increase visitor numbers.
“This way, while preserving the house and not subjecting it to any additional stress, we'll be able to increase the number of visitors to Yasnaya Polyana by almost five times, that is from 100,000 [people a year] to half a million over the next five to seven years,” Tolstoy told The Art Newspaper.
© The Art Newspaper. 28 June, 2012