History of the Museum

Discussions about the creation of the Chuvash National Museum began after the February Revolution of 1917. At the All-Chuvash National Congress, which took place on June 20-28, 1917 in Simbirsk, the resolution was adopted on the need to create a museum, which was subsequently opened in March 1919 in Kazan.

At the same time, in 1919, the idea of creating a museum arose among the teachers of the Proletarian (People’s) University. Pavel Evgenievich Martens and some other teachers put forward a proposal to create a «museum of antiquity» at the university on March 20, 1919 at a meeting of the executive committee of the council Cheboksary People’s University. In the documents, the museum began to be called «The Cheboksary Museum». The employees of the museum, which was located in the House of the merchant P.E. Efremov, in 1919 and during 1920 were N.P. Neverov, P.E. Martens and N.A. Ginzel.

During 1920, the Chuvash Central Museum was being prepared for the opening. The formation of the Chuvash Autonomous Region on June 24, 1920 accelerated the process of preparing for the opening of the Chuvash Central Museum. The regional section for museums and the protection of monuments of art and antiquity of the Regional Department of Public Education of the Chuvash Autonomous Region decided to open the museum on February 12, 1921. N.P. Neverov became the Head of the Museum, A.V. Vasiliev became a curator (he was also the head of the department of ethnography), E.M. Yurovskaya became the head of the department of history, P.A. Uspensky headed the Department of Archeology, S. A.  Kukarnikov headed Department of agriculture and natural history, M. S.  Spiridonov headed the Art department.

On April 17, 1921, the Society for the Study of the Local (Chuvash) Territory was created at the Museum. It consisted of the best representatives of the Chuvash scientific and creative intelligentsia. The Museum and society were intensively engaged in the search and collection of visual materials, organizing various expeditions. They were the first scientific institutions that laid the foundation for a systematic study of the history, culture, life and nature of Chuvashia.

The museum was located in five rooms on the lower floor of one of the best architectural building in the city (built in 1884 by the Chuvash merchant P.E. Efremov). At that time it was called «The People’s House». In June 1921, a Letter of Protection was received, which guaranteed the museum that «the premises, collections, library, furnishings and other inventory are not subject to requisition, confiscation, compaction and occupation by anyone in any case». The museum was also given two gardens of merchants Sergey and Nikolay Efremov (sons of P.E. Efremov) for the construction of an educational and demonstrative Botanical Garden. But in 1923, the gardens were transferred to the disposal of other organizations and were plundered and ruined.

The museum was opened to the public on November 19, 1922. The ethnographic, historical and archaeological, industrial, natural, artistic, and medical departments worked.

In 1930, the museum was transferred to the building of the former Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Cheboksary, built in 1763. It had been in this building for 50 years.

The decline in the activities of the museum in the 1930-s reflected general changes in the socio-political sphere in connection with the violation of democratic principles. Mass unreasonable repressions caused heavy damage to the museum work and local history. It is noteworthy and tragic that the NKVD (People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs) prison was located in the basement of the former museum building. Among the victims of the totalitarian regime were the former director of the Chuvash Central Museum M.P. Petrov-Tinekhpi, former head of the department of history and archeology I.T. Tikhonov-Mikus, head of the industry department M.N. Lentovsky. Many objects, books and manuscripts of persecuted authors were removed from collections and destroyed.

Since 1937, the Museum became known as the Chuvash Central Museum of Local Lore, and since 1940 – the Local Lore Museum of the Chuvash ASSR. In 1939, the works of art stored here were allocated to a special fund, on the basis of which the Chuvash Art Gallery was organized. During the Great Patriotic War, the Museum was under conservation. The building also housed the archive of the military unit. In November 1944, the doors of the Museum were opened to visitors again. The Museum was further developed in the post-war years. At this time, new expositions were created, based on extensive scientific research. The collection of new interesting materials, active search, works on exhibitions and expositions continued.

In 1980, because of the construction of the Cheboksary hydroelectric power station and the rise in the water level in the Volga, the Chuvash Republican Museum of Local Lore was transferred from the former Assumption Church to a building built at the end of the 19th century by merchant M.E. Efremov. In a short time here on an area of 800 square meters were opened new expositions.

In 1991, the building in which the Museum began its activity in 1921 was returned to the Museum. The Museum and Exhibition Center was located here. In April 1993, another significant event took place: the status of the museum changed. By the Decree of the Council of Ministers of the Chuvash Republic, it became the Chuvash National Museum.

By the 100th anniversary, the Chuvash National Museum is the largest repository of monuments of spiritual and material culture of the Chuvash people, nature, history, economy, etc. It includes the Museum and Exhibition Center, which houses the Museum of Military Glory of the Chuvash Republic, the Literary Museum named after K.V. Ivanov, the V.I. Chapaev Museum, the Museum of M. Sespel (Kanash District), the Museum of M. Sespel (Cheboksary) and the Museum of Chuvash Embroidery. The structure of the museum includes administrative and managerial, scientific and fund, scientific and exposition departments, departments of marketing, cultural and educational activities, sectors of new and recent history and information technology sector.

The reconstruction of the main building of the Museum, carried out in 2003–2005, significantly expanded the exposition areas. Today the museum has a technically equipped conference hall with 80 seats and a small conference room with 20 seats for meetings. Since 2007 and 2008 the permanent exhibitions «Nature and Man», «Ancient inhabitants of the Chuvash region according to archeology and paleontology», «History of the Chuvash people and the Chuvash region from the 9th to the beginning of the 20th centuries», «Chuvashia in the 20th century» receive visitors.

The Museum is actively engaged in holding scientific and practical conferences, seminars at various levels, in which leading museum employees of Russia take part. The scientific and educational work of the Chuvash National Museum is displayed in published literature. Collections of scientific and practical conferences are published annually – «Chuvash National Museum. People. Events. Facts» and «Natural scientific research on the territory of Chuvashia and adjacent regions».

The museum exhibits up to 100 exhibitions annually. Over the past decade, the largest exhibitions have been «Sounds of Fashion» by A. Vasiliev, «Romance of the Revolution. Propaganda Soviet Applied Art» from the Decorative, Applied and Folk Art Museum, «Amazons of the Don Steppes» from the Rostov Regional Museum of Local Lore, «Painting with a Needle…» from the Russian Museum of Ethnography and many others. More than 175 thousand people visit the museum every year.

Currently, the museum and its separate divisions employ 86 people, 32 employees are members of the scientific staff: including 4 Honored Workers of Culture and 1 Honored Ecologist of the Chuvash Republic. 3 employees of the Museum have a PhD degree.