The victory in the Patriotic War of 1812 was one of the most important events in Russian history of the 19th century. It involved the growth of national consciousness, the rise of the international prestige of our country and the radical change in European politics. The campaigns of 1812, 1813 and 1814 years ended in a triumphal march of the Russian army through the streets of Paris.
The Museum of the Patriotic War of 1812 is a tribute to the memory of our predecessors who succeeded in defending their Fatherland. An idea to create a museum was suggested in 1839 when at the battery of Rajewsky it was unveiled the Main Memorial – the first monument to the glory of Russian arms in the field of Borodino. Near the monument it was built a gate-house, the so-called invalid house for soldiers-veterans who took care of the monument. In the visitors’ book we read the first wishes to have a particular museum sacred to the war of 1812. Various objects concerned the events of the time were brought and sent from across Russia to the invalid house.
In the same year, on the Muscovites’ initiative the fund-raising for building an edifice destined for Museum of 1812 began. The idea to have such museum in Moscow was widely supported.
Early in the year 1908, in reply to the petition of scientists and military the Special Committee on formation of Moscow “Military Historical Museum in Memory of the Patriotic War of 1812” was approved by Imperial order. In the Committee there were representatives of city officials, nobility, ministries, Rumyantsev’s and Historical museums, Archaeological Institute, and Imperial Russian Military Historical Society.
The Committee appealed to the public for subscription and began to distribute subscription lists on edifice for the Museum of 1812. The Committee invited not only to assist with money but “with all matters on the Patriotic War of 1812”, i.e. with all the materials that could be used for thematic exposition dedicated to events and heroes of the War of 1812.
In the list of “particularly desirable” exhibits there were those of 1811, 1813 and 1814 years. Thus, the Committee intended to represent events of the Patriotic War in the context of All-European history dated to the Napoleonic wars.
The museum collection began to grow thanks primarily to donations of individuals, museums, military organizations, and archives; among the donators there were also foreigners.
The museum collection housed in the Amusement Palace of the Kremlin, on the territory of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, and even in the house of Moscow governor. Twice a week, up to 1914 in the Amusement Palace visitors were acquainted with the museum funds which collections numbered more than five thousand items.
Under the terms of the announced competition a museum edifice must have two floors and a useful area of not less than 1620 sqm. One of the possible sites for construction activities was a piece of ground near the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
However, Moscow City Council had concluded that it would disturb the design of already-existing architectural ensemble. Unfortunately, none of the museum building projects was embodied due to lack of funds and bureaucratic acrimony. So, the rooms in hand had to be accommodated for the exposition. In April, 1912 it was decided to locate a museum in the building of the Kremlin Arsenal where at that time a part of the museum collection was stored.
Facing the 100th anniversary of the Patriotic War of 1812 a jubilee exhibition was held in the halls of the Imperial Historical Museum in Red Square. By Imperial order the belongings of Emperor Alexander I, relics, trophies of Patriotic War and foreign campaigns had arrived from Hermitage, Winter Palace and Armoury. Each room was so named: Room of Emperor Alexander I, Room of Napoleon, Room of Heroes of the Patriotic War of 1812, Room of Borodino, Room of Moscow, Room of Retreat of the French army, Room of the French Army, Room of 1813 , 1814 and 1815 years. The exhibition was a great success: it was visited by over 42 thousand people.
Because of the First World War the building works at the Arsenal were suspended, and the next revolutionary upheavals had quite removed the problem of the Museum of 1812 for an indefinite period. In the early 1920s the funds of a might have been Museum began to pass to the Historical Museum that turned a guardian of the unique collection.
Nevertheless, the necessity to create a Museum of the Patriotic War of 1812 was evident. In 2009, on the eve of the 200th anniversary of the War, the Government of the Russian Federation made out an order on construction of a new museum.
Today the Museum is located on the territory of Historical Museum in the two-storey pavilion with exhibition floor space of about one and a half thousand square meters. The exposition comprises following thematic areas:
• Russia and France. Diplomacy of neutrality, 1801 – 1804
• Russia and France. Campaigns of 1805 – 1807
• Russia and France. Peace of Tilsit
• Russia and France. Continental blockade and preparations for war
• Patriotic War of 1812. Early period of the war
• Patriotic War of 1812. Battle of Borodino
• Patriotic War of 1812. Fire in Moscow
• Patriotic War of 1812. Expulsion of the enemy from Russia
• The road to triumph. Foreign campaigns of the Russian troops in 1813 and 1814
• Memory of the War