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The story of one happiness. How the “Vyatskoye” museum complex lives in the pandemic

We spoke to the State Prize laureate, creator of the “Vyatskoye” museum complex, philanthropist Oleg Zharov, on May 9th. I accidentally saw on the web how the residents of the Yaroslavl village were congratulated by the director of the Bolshoi Theater Vladimir Urin, film director Alla Surikova, film animator Harry Bardin, actor Veniamin Smekhov, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev and many others. Suddenly, it turned out into a big conversation.

Oleg Alekseevich, on May 9th you had an online tour to the exhibition “Remember”, there were congratulations made by prominent figures of Russian culture and a concert of artists of the Volkovsky Theater. Tell us about it and about the exhibition itself.

Oleg Zharov: For me, the pride is the fact that so many outstanding people of Russia congratulated the residents of Vyatka on the Victory Day. I could not imagine that in two days there would be so many video greeting cards. We came up with this project with the Volkov Theater three months ago. 24 artists performed in our Yaroslavl Museum of Modern Art: during an online tour of the exhibition they read poetry and sang songs.

The exhibition “Remember”, dedicated to the anniversary of the Victory, is a joint project with the Zurab Tsereteli’s Russian Academy of Arts. It is a multimedia exhibition. There are paintings, drawings and sculptural works of war veterans, as well as of those who are now working side by side with war chronicles, songs and music.

And how was the Victory Day in Vyatka?

Oleg Zharov: On May 9th, according to the tradition, a memorial service was held at the monument.

This is the first thing we did in the village back in 2008 (although the museum officially opened in 2010), we restored the font, right on the Epiphany Day, we unveiled the monument to Alexander II in late April, which stood on this place since 1911, and on May 9th of the same year we opened a restored monument dedicated to the villagers who died during the Great Patriotic War. Over the years, we added another hundred names of the dead villagers on plaques. At the time of the installation of the monument there were only 300 dead on the list. Today there are 400 of them.

How many residents were there in the village?

Oleg Zharov: There were always about 1,200 people.

The situation of the pandemic, which has pushed everyone online, will force many things to be reconsidered. How does the “Vyatskoye” museum complex live during the quarantine?

Oleg Zharov: Yes, the theater, concert venue, and cinema become different. The museum is changing. In fact, the world is changing. Speaking about me personally, I’m happy. There is an opportunity to think, to implement something new. Today’s situation is happiness to me. If it only was unnecessary to pay salary to employees… (laughs). I have not cut a single person. Today, everyone is busy repairing, rebuilding, reconstructing, and finishing up what we couldn’t do before. Museums are closed, but there are individual sightseeing tours of the village. The restaurant is closed, but we make food and give it out to tourists in containers.

A wide range of ties between Vyatskoye and the Empire’s capital is something astonishing – craftsmen, entrepreneurs and unique specialists. After all, you accidentally ended up in Vyatka, what was the most touching, impressive for you?

Oleg Zharov: When I say that I ended up here by accident, this is true and not true at the same time. When we bought a house here, I still did not know much. My mother was born 40 kilometers away from these places. A fair was always held in Vyatskoye on Thursdays – a very large and wide one. Nekrasov described it in the poem “Who is happy in Russia?” Much later, my mother told me that my great-grandfather bought a Zinger machine at the Vyatskoye fair. There was a representative office of the company. I remember this machine from the childhood, it was always in our apartment in the city. And now it is in one of the museums in the Gorokhovy Trade House completing its historical circle.

But there is something more interesting that connects me with Vyatskoye. The village, where my mother was born, was called Kuzminskoe. If you remember, this is a village from the poem “Who is happy in Russia?” and, apparently, it was Vyatka that became its prototype. During the turbulent years of collectivization, everything was demolished there, the village was destroyed. And today, while dealing with Vyatka, I can say I’m dealing with my mother’s Kuzminsky. This inner experience allows you to look very differently at the whole history of these places.

What is the relationship between “Vyatskoye” and the neighboring museum-manor of Nekrasov in Karabikha?

Oleg Zharov: Since 2014, the “Days of Nekrasov in Vyatskoye” have been held twice a year – in the summer, on the second day after the celebration in Karabikha, and on December 10th, which is the birthday of Nekrasov. In 2021 we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Nekrasov. By the way, our museum was one of the initiators to celebrate this anniversary.

And in 2017, we completed the restoration of the family tomb of Nekrasov, which is located 30 kilometers from Vyatskoye. This is a fantastic story. Once riding around the Vyatskoye neighborhood, I found the family tomb of the Nekrasovs in the village of Abbakumtsevo, where his father and nephews were buried, and the poet’s mother grave was next to it. When I opened the tomb, I could not believe my eyes – it was a cesspit in which the paintings of Vereshchagin died. An absolutely remarkable architectural structure, which was plundered, destroyed – physically and spiritually. There was a drain pit, two meters of rotten swamp water, and destroyed grave of Nekrasov’s mother.

How is it possible?

Oleg Zharov: This is what I asked the head of the district. They answered me: “Neither it is in the regional balance sheet, nor in the patriarchy, nor in the department of culture, nor in the museum.” Ownerless, no one needs it. To restore it, we needed legal grounds, that is to say, the right of ownership. And I decided to provoke the situation. I was convinced that if an announcement appeared on the electronic bidding web-site that the Nekrasov family tomb was for sale, this would cause a storm of indignation among the public, the Ministry of Culture, and the governor. No one reacted. So I bought the chapel from the auction. We restored the paintings, the tomb, and the grave of the mother. When I bought it, I was sure I would immediately return it to the state. But today I do not know to who I should return it. Now we do service works, protect it, carry out some restoration works, and receive tourists. If I give the tomb to the state, it will again be useless to anyone. And here I am – the lucky owner of the family tomb of the Nekrasovs. Andrei Ivushkin, the director of the Nekrasov museum-manor in Karabikha, is dedicating himself wholeheartedly to it, but nobody needs it. And he does the best he can.

There are many places of grief near Vyatskoye. I’m not even talking about Mologa, which has become a symbol of destruction. Rybinsk, Volgolag. Does something connect you with this part of the history of the Yaroslavl region?

Oleg Zharov: My name is usually associated with Vyatskoye, but I am now creating a whole museum network. One of the museums that I am currently working on is located in Rybinsk. I am creating an Old Believer Museum in a magnificent estate of three buildings in the city center. Restoration works are underway. I have been interested in this topic for a long time. I am familiar with the head of the Russian Old Believer Church, Metropolitan Cornelius. He is ready to open his storerooms on Rogozhskaya for this museum.

I have big plans for Rostov the Great. A whole network of multidirectional and multi-format museums is being created.

Before the quarantine, you managed to sign an agreement with the Bolshoi Theater, Soyuzmultfilm, and now you will sign with the State Historical Museum. What are the obligations of the parties?

Oleg Zharov: It would seem that due to the pandemic, everything should have stopped. Not at all! Vladimir Matorin has already come to us; it was a wonderful performance and a meeting with the public. Now we are preparing an exhibition dedicated to the 180th birthday of Tchaikovsky. These are historical costumes and sketches of the Bolshoi Theater. Youth troupe of the Bolshoi Theater was supposed to perform on April 4th. If self-isolation continues, then we will make a digital version of it.

With Soyuzmultfilm we will begin to create children’s entertainment and educational park. There will be a museum collection of Soyuzmultfilm, cinema halls, models of film studios named after Gorky and Soyuzmultfilm, where children themselves will make films. It will be in Yaroslavl. And in Vyatskoye a large exposition of the “Hoffmaniada” is now being prepared, dedicated to the dolls made for the cartoon by Mikhail Shemyakin.

Source: Rossiyskaya Gazeta