Russian Arms. Treasures of the Order of Lenin State Historic Museum
The Arms Department of the Order of Lenin State Historic Museum is an arsenal of its own kind displaying weapons of all ages, from antiquity to date. They range from the bronze “coulevrines”, the prototypes of modern firearms, to the modern automatic weapons.
A considerable part of the collection consists of Russian arms. Their historic significance is truly great. They are mute witnesses of the courage and heroism of Russian troops.
Most specimens of the weapons are associated with historic events: the Kazan and Livonian campaigns of the 16th century, the Russo-Polish wars of the 17th century, the 18th-century wars, the Patriotic War of 1812, the Crimean War of 1853-1856, the Russo-Turkish war of 1877 to 1878, the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905, the First World War of 1914-1918, and the Great Patriotic War.
The Arms Department is in possession of a vast and interesting collection of various types of defensive armour: helmets, chain mail, plate mail, cuirasses. A unique relic of defensive armour is the “baidana” (mid-16th-century chain mail of large flat rings), which belonged to Dyak Ivan Vyrodkov, a prominent general and statesman of the reign of Ivan IV called “the Terrible”. No less distinctive is the ancient battle head-gear – the 16th-century helmet.
Cold steel is represented by spears, lances, halberds, battle axes, battle hammers, maces, sabres, swords, broadswords, daggers.
The broadsword of Prince М. V. Skopin-Shuisky, an early 17th century general, and the sabre of Prince D. M. Pozharsky are splendid relics of Russian weaponry. They are ornamented with gilded silver and precious stones – turquoise and emerald.
Among the weapons that belonged to the renowned heroes of the Patriotic War of 1812 are excellent gold-ornamented sabres with the inscription “For valour” made by the famous armourers Bushuyev and Boyarshinov of Zlatoust. They were later awarded to distinguished officers on the occasion of anniversary dates of the Patriotic War of 1812. Many sabres which were owned by celebrated generals bear the names, inlaid in gold, of the places where battles were fought. On the sword which belonged to D. V. Golytsin are engraved the names of towns and localities which the victorious Russian troops passed in pursuit of the enemy from Moscow to Paris: Tarutino, Maloyaroslavets, Vyazma, Krasnoye, Minsk, Berezina… On the intricate figured composition all along the length of the sabre, on both its sides, is a gold ornament of oak and laurel leaves symbolizing valour and glory. The sabre butt has an inscription “I. Bushuyev. Zlatoust, 1827”.
Another precious relic is the sabre of General Ya. P. Kulnev, a man of high military skill and great courage, whose name was famous all over Russia. He displayed great heroism in the battle near Klyastitsy, in which the corps under Marshal Oudinot of France was completely routed. Kulnev was in hot pursuit of the retreating enemy. Having crossed the river Drissa, he broke far away from his main forces and was mortally wounded in an unequal fight near the village of Boyarshchina. According to eyewitnesses under his command soldiers went forward whereas hardly anyone else would have been able to move them on! This is why we cherish the sabre of the hero of the Patriotic War. On both sides of the hilt is the inscription “For valour”.
Of great historical value is also the sword of Major General I. N. Durnovo, another hero of the Patriotic War of 1812. It was awarded to him for bravery displayed in the fierce battle between Russian troops and the corps of Napoleon’s army in the area of Soissons. On both inner sides of the hilt guard is a deep engraving “For valour”. Another engraving on the outer side of the guard reads: “Distinction conferred for holding the fortifications of the town of Soissons on December 21, 1814, with a force of five regiments against an attack by two French corps under Marshal Marmont. The battle lasted 34 hours”. This brief historical reference is evidence of the inflexible fortitude of the Russian troops.
The sabres of Generals I. S. Dorokhov, A. A. Zakrevsky, I. A. Khaletsky, M. G. Chernyayev, A. I. Baryatinsky, A. I. Chernyshov and many other prominent military leaders are of great historical and artistic value. The magnificent artistic finish of the blades and sheaths in gold and silver, the hilts studded with precious stones make these weapons outstanding relics of art. They are the pride of Russian armourers.
Weapons of the periods of the Civil War and the Great Patriotic War hold a conspicious place in the collection. Recently new relics of military glory have been added to it. These are the arms of Marshal of the Soviet Union G. K. Zhukov, the sabres of Army General I. V. Tyulenev, Marshals of the Soviet Union I. S. Konev, S. M. Budenny, Chief Artillery Marshal N. N. Voronov, General I. A. Pliyev, Major General L. M. Dovator, and many other celebrated generals of the Soviet Army.
Of great interest is the sabre of Marshal Zhukov. This is a cavalry sword with a sword-knot made after the pattern introduced in 1881. The gilded blade bears the engraving: “To G. K. Zhukov, Hero and Marshal of the Soviet Union, Knight of the Order of Suvorov”, a plant pattern and the USSR State Emblem. On the other side is a picture of a swift attack by tanks, cavalry and infantry. The sabre butt has an engraving: “Zlatoust, 1943”. A five-pointed star and the letters “USSR” are engraved on the handle head.
The museum has on display two other sabres of Marshal Zhukov. Very similar in appearance they are fancifully executed and their handles and sheaths are decorated with enamel and precious stones. On the right side the handles and sheaths are ornamented with an engraving and enamel of green-blue hues and a plant pattern.
The sabre of Army General I. V. Tyulenev is extremely interesting. Scenes from the life of the First Cavalry Army are engraved on a gold background on both sides of the blade. The sabre handle made of carved ivory is gilded. The USSR State Emblem decorates the handle head. The sheath is coated with black leather and ornamented with massive gold rings. This gold sabre was never used in fighting. But its lustrous blade seems to bear a reflection of the lightning attacks and fires of those distant and memorable days.
On the occasion of the 4th anniversary of the Red Army a plenary meeting of the Moscow Soviet of Workers’, Peasants’ and Red Armymen’s Deputies honoured the heroes of the past battles. The diploma awarded to I. V. Tyulenev by the Presidium of the Moscow Soviet reads: “Our glorious comrade, your services to the Great Russian Revolution have won you honour and fame. The Moscow workers highly appreciate them and will long remember them. Accept our proletarian gift.” This gift was a richly decorated gold sabre which is now displayed at the museum.
Of considerable interest is the collection of Russian hunting guns produced by Moscow, Tula and St. Petersburg armourers.
The shotgun made by the talented master Osip and the pair of pistols made by master Yelisei date from the 17th century. These highly artistic specimens were produced by the masters of the Armoury in Moscow Kremlin.The stocks are encrusted with mother-of-pearl and ivory, the barrels and locks are decorated with an engraved pattern on a gilded background. The pistol locks have the shape of a bird’s head. The collection contains hunting guns made by other well-known masters: Aristov, Permyak, Artarie Colomb, Trofim Dokin, Ivan Polin. A remarkable exhibit is the shotgun produced by the famous Tula armourer Ivan Lyalin. It is a flint-lock, double-barrel, collapsible gun with an ivory stock, burnished barrels decorated with gilded patterns and an ornamented lock section. Master Ivan Lyalin who created this unique gun was not only a talented gun-smith but also an innovator gun-designer.
In the collection of the Tula hunting weapons one is attracted by the excellent guns made by master Pyotr Goltyakov and the six-cartridge revolvers by Ivan Fomin.
The guns of the skilful g un-smiths F. Matsek and N.Gonnot supplement the unique samples of hunting weapons. The rich collection of weapons gives a good idea of the historical stages in the development of Russian military and hunting weaponry.
In the late 19th century, ornaments began little by little to disappear from fire-arms. Main attention was given to the design of the gun. Gunsmiths concentrated on the problems of firing speed and range.
Russian cold steel is rather widely represented in the museum. There are hunting knives made by the famous masters Ivan Bushuyev and Ivan Boyarshinov of the Zlatoust gun factory. Besides weapons to be awarded to the heroes of the Patriotic War of 1812, those masters produced many artistically designed weapons to be displayed at exhibitions of art and industry, as well as for gifts to be presented to various foreign military and diplomatic missions. Two hunting knives preserved in the collection of the Arms Department are remarkable for their artistic finish. One of them was made by master Ivan Bushuyev in 1824. The blade burnished in blue and plated with gold on pocketched metal, has on one side a scene showing a boar hunt, and on the other, a bear hunt. The style of late classicism with its idealized forms prevails in the images. The figures are gilded and convey very well the dynamics of motion. The ornament on the hunting knife made by Ivan Boyarshinov in 1833, is more naturalistic, yet much flatter.
Among the samples of the Tula cold steel of special interest are the knives and swords whose handles and blades are decorated with faceted steel pellets worked by the technique of diamond cutting. The so-called “diamond-cutting” technique of working burnished steel presents a very interesting stage in the development of the art of arms decoration. Tula masters attained amazing effects by this technique. A master cut 12-56 facets on steel pellets which were often about the size of tiniest beads. The polished and faceted pellets created an illusion of precious stones, especially in a bright light. Metal worked by the “diamond-cutting” technique sometimes surpasses precious stones in beauty. The finest specimen of this technique is the hilt of a full-dress sword made at Tula in the late 18th century and now displayed at the Arms Department. Such jewellery articles of Tula craftsmanship are a great rarity and filled a golden page in the history of world decorative art.
The Arms Department boasts a large collection of sporting weapons, including all models of sporting rifles and pistols manufactured in the Soviet Union from 1927 to date.
In addition to unique and numerous samples of Russian weapons the museum has on display samples of weaponry of most West European countries: guns and pistols of the 16th—17th centuries made by Nuremberg and Augsburg armourers, articles of the Paris and Versailles gun factories of the 18th—19th centuries.
Luxurious yet austerely finished duel pistols produced by Lepage, Dabat, Bouttet and other gun-smiths, special-purpose pistols with a rich gold ornament on the barrels and locks and exquisite carved patterns on the handles, guns and pistols made by Spanish, Czech (including Lebeda, the famous Prague master), Polish, Belgian, Italian and English gun-smiths, account for a considerable part of the rich collection of the Arms Department.
Oriental arms make up a large part of the museum collection. A conspicuous place among the weapons of the Soviet East and the Caucasus is held by the world-famous blades of Daghestan.