The Moscow Kremlin Museums hosts a historical exhibition to reveal the phenomenon of Russia as the largest state in the world, which has been preserving its status since the late 17th century. The exposition incorporates remarkable masterpieces of the 14th—early 20th centuries, which are to present the history of the development of Russia, full of dramatic events, wars, dynastic and political collisions, outstanding achievements in various fields.
The key exhibit at the exposition is a unique masterpiece — the map of the Russian Empire, embroidered by students of the Moscow college of the Order of St. Catherine in 1872 and presented to Emperor Alexander II. The period of Emperor Alexander II is distinguished by the expansion of the Russian Empire through the territories of Central Asia, the Caucasus and Far East. The map reveals the delicate workmanship of embroideresses as well as a monumental grandeur of the Russian state, the borders of which have extended to its maximum by 1867. It was exposed in Moscow only once and has never been on loan to foreign museums.
The famous Crown of Kazan is also on display. This precious ceremonial headpiece, covered with dense niello pattern and gems, is believed to be commissioned by Tsar Ivan the Terrible in 1553 in order to celebrate the annexation of the Kazan Khanate after the capture of Kazan. Later on the image of the crown was included to a complicated composition of the National Emblem where it appeared along with other coats of arms as the arms of the realm of Kazan.
The oldest extant item at the exposition is the stone plate of 1491 inscribed with information on the construction of the Kremlin towers under Grand Prince Ivan III and his title of "sovereign of All Rus", which reflected the growing power of the Moscovite ruler, who claimed absolute authority in his realm. The artifact relates to an important period in the Russian history, characterized by the development of the idea of sovereignty which marked the transition of Russia from a principality to an emerging nation-state. Further expansion of Russia can be traced through geographical names of the lands, stated within titles of the Russian rules, for example, that of the Tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich on the golden chain, presented at the exposition, and the title of Emperor Nicholas II, which involved over fifty names.
Maps, representing the territory of Russia during several centuries, are worthy of particular note. Two of them came from the world's first geographical atlas, created by the Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius. The other one, compiled by diplomat and researcher Isaac Massa, presents the Northern part of Russia in the first half of the 17th century, including Obdoriya region in Siberia, which has been included to the list of lands stated within titles of the Russian sovereigns since the 16th century. The growth of interest to cartography in the 17th century is revealed through outstanding artworks bearing various images of cities, maps of newly discovered lands. For example, one of the exposed items — the golden snuff-box — is decorated with a miniature portrait of Empress Catherine the Great holding a map in her hand.
Two Easter eggs, presented at the exposition, were produced by the famous Fabergé firm. The one with a model of Trans-Siberian express inside is engraved with a map of the Russian state showing the Trans-Siberian Railway. The other one, commissioned to a renowned craftsman H. Wigström to commemorate the tercentenary of the Romanov House, contains a rotating globe with silhouettes of Russia of 1613 and 1913, demonstrating the extension of its boundaries throughout several centuries.
The Map of Russia. Milestones in History Exhibition runs until 15 March, 2015, in the Exhibition hall of the Assumption Belfry of the Moscow Kremlin.
© Moscow Kremlin State Historical Museum. 03 February, 2015