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Culture news, 10.03.2006 13:12

A Hospital in the Winter Palace. 1915-1917

winter_palace The exhibition in the Foyer of the Hermitage Theatre is devoted to the history of the "field hospital for lower military ranks" which existed in the Winter Palace during the First World War.

A large hospital unit with surgical facilities and room for 1000 patients was organized with the permission of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. It took all of the state rooms of the Palace. The opening of the hospital took place on 10 October 1915 and it was closed down on 28 October 1917.

For many decades it was not considered acceptable to talk about the hospital which was situated in the Winter Palace and created with permission of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. Its existence was almost forgotten. Publications on the history of the palace at most mentioned the hospital in one line. Over the course of the past 30 years, the Archive of the State Hermitage collected a small documentary fund which makes it possible to recreate the history of the hospital and to hold a real exhibition.

The first materials to enter this fund were the Memoirs of Nina Valerianovna Galanina, a nurse in the hospital of the Winter Palace. This came to the museum in 1975 with the permission of Director of the State Hermitage Boris Piotrovsky. He was the one who, in the mid 1980’s, brought from Stockholm the first six photographs donated to the museum by G.G. Alekseev-Langhof, whose mother served as a nurse in the hospital.

Later the collection received various photos and reproduction materials from the collection of R.A. Molotkov. In 2003, the Hermitage received as a gift (via the Procurement Commission) a set of photos and documents belonging to Ludmila Vasilievna Somova, a nurse. After her death, her collection was given to the Hermitage by her colleague T.I. Moldaver-Cherdzhieva. This addition was very important in terms of the number of documents involved: they are mostly group photographs which reflect the different aspects of hospital life.

All the materials from the fund (photos, documents, printed publications) are, with few exceptions, originals and date from the period of the hospital’s existence. Some of the photographs were made by the well-known photographers Ya. M. Steinberg and the brothers P. and I. Otsup.

Besides the basic archival fund, the exhibition also presents materials from the State Hermitage’s departments of history of Russian culture and numismatics: etchings, icons, soldiers’ uniforms, articles of applied art, medals and badges. All of these items are evidence from the period which round out the exhibition and provide additional weight.

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