Yeltsin Center in Yekaterinburg

Yeltsin Center in Yekaterinburg
Yeltsin Center in Yekaterinburg

Yeltsin Center in Yekaterinburg: how the first museum of the first president of Russia is arranged

On November 25, in Yekaterinburg, the Yeltsin Center opened with an art gallery, cafe “1991”, a bookstore, and most importantly a large-scale interactive museum dedicated to the controversial figure of the first president of Russia. At the request of Afisha, ETV correspondent Aya Shafran studied the new museum. Events such as the opening of the Yeltsin Center are rare in Yekaterinburg.

By the arrival of Vladimir Putin, the city’s central streets were feverishly cleared of sudden snow, and the Center was taken into the guard ring in advance in 2012, the stone Yeltsin sculpture standing in front of the building was doused with paint. However, the president’s visit was only a cherry on the cake the completion of the reconstruction of the business center “Demidov-Plaza”, where the Yeltsin Center was located, in itself turned out to be a landmark for the millionaire; as well as the appearance in the Urals of a museum of an unprecedented level before this day.

Yeltsin Museum. Ground floor
Yeltsin Museum. Ground floor

Construction history

The business center “Demidov” was founded on the banks of the main Yekaterinburg river Iset back in the nineties, but soon the object was abandoned. Years passed, the owners of the construction site changed, but the business did not move significantly forward until the long-term construction was transferred to the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company, or rather, its construction “daughter”. The giants of the Sverdlovsk industry brought the facility to commissioning in 2010. And yet the doors of the business center were never opened for tenants.

Trolleybus exposition
Trolleybus exposition

The fact is that in 2008 the Medvedev government adopted a law according to which the legacy of every head of state who left office should be preserved in special presidential centers in Russia. A year later, Moscow decided to place the Yeltsin Center in Yekaterinburg. At the same time, the Yeltsin Foundation drew attention to the business center it was planned to commission it for the SCO summit in the summer of 2009, but they did not have time. The decision to make the Center in it was obvious: a year earlier the street on which the building stands was renamed from January 9 to Boris Yeltsin, the closest objects to Demidov are the buildings of the government of the Sverdlovsk region and one of the largest theaters in the city.

The Seagull car that Boris Yeltsin drove.
The Seagull car that Boris Yeltsin drove.

Reconstruction and financing of the Yeltsin Center

In total, about 9.5 billion rubles were spent on transforming the building and equipping the Yeltsin Center. The Yeltsin fund received the first tranche from the federal budget in 2011, with this money they bought part of the business center space. At the same time, Boris Bernasconi was invited to work on the project, known primarily for the project in Skolkovo, before that his bureau was engaged in the design of the House of Popular Culture, an unusual-shaped building in Pervouralsk.

Art gallery
Art gallery

The reconstruction of the business center began in 2013. At the same time, UMMC was developing the adjacent territory, where the concept of the Yekaterinburg City is being implemented: now the unfinished Iset Tower rises here, which will become the tallest building in the city, and three more skyscrapers will appear nearby. The Yeltsin Foundation invested 4 billion 980 million federal rubles in the reconstruction of the building, another 2 billion were borrowed from the budget of the Sverdlovsk region.

About 66 thousand square meters of buildings that are not occupied by the Yeltsin Center (22.5 thousand were enough for it) were redeemed for 2 billion rubles donated by benefactors. The names of each of them are immortalized on the wall in front of the entrance to the museum: the press secretary of the prime minister Natalya Timakova is here adjacent to Sberbank, and although it is obvious that their contribution was not the same, this did not affect the size of the plates.

The exposition Labyrinth of Russian history, telling about the main events of the twentieth century.
The exposition Labyrinth of Russian history, telling about the main events of the twentieth century.

The structure of the Yeltsin Center The Yeltsin Center occupies a quarter of the building’s area: the territory, free from the presidential legacy, will gradually be populated with offices and shops. The rental income will go towards maintaining the museum, organizing events and other expenses, as well as repaying the loan. The First President’s Center itself is located on the three lower floors of the southern wing of the building.

There is an art gallery, an archive with electronic materials and a media library, a children’s educational center, a museum and a cafe “1991” (part of the menu is prepared according to Naina Yeltsina’s recipes). The open space of the first floor will be used as an area of ​​attraction for visitors: here guests can play table tennis or chess, and in the evening they will listen to a concert of piano music. The curved wall, several stories high, provides a screen where films and short videos will be broadcast.

Presidential bird cherry cake
Presidential bird cherry cake

Bookstore and Education Center

The core of the educational center is the Piotrovsky store, a bookstore known to the humanities from Perm for a long time. It was opened there in 2009, soon from selling books to independent publishers, he moved to the creation of a system of open lectures and other educational programs. In 2013, the store nearly closed, but in the same year its owners won a tender to participate in the presidential project in Yekaterinburg. Here the creators of the shop brought their idea of ​​a “Literary House”, which they failed to realize in Perm.

The Piotrovsky site will host lectures, meetings, seminars on a variety of topics from urban studies to philosophy. The executive director of the Yeltsin Center, Alexander Drozdov, publicly promised not to interfere in the affairs of the bookstore and not to influence its course. Next to the educational center there is a children’s center, where the Newton Science Park will be responsible for entertainment, and the Children’s University will take over the educational task.

Museum roof
Museum roof
A stand dedicated to the transfer of power to Vladimir Putin. In the center is a copy of the nuclear suitcase, which is being handed over to the new President.
A stand dedicated to the transfer of power to Vladimir Putin. In the center is a copy of the nuclear suitcase, which is being handed over to the new President.

One of the few Urals residents playing a leading role in the Yeltsin Center is Boris Salakhov, the art director of the Yekaterinburg Gallery of Contemporary Art, he is in charge of exhibition activities at the local art gallery. For the opening, the first project was made the exhibition “90s”, curated by the creator of the gallery “XL” Elena Selina. The subject of the exposition was not so much the era itself as the phenomenon of the emergence of the art market and the first collectors in Yeltsin’s Russia.

The exhibition presents the most famous private collections in the country the collections of Dmitry Kovalenko and Shalva Breus, Vladimir Ovcharenko and Pierre Brochet and other private funds that emerged in the nineties. Among the exhibits are works by Sergei Bratkov, Oleg Kulik, Vladimir Dubossarsky, all, of course, with a bright political color. Then the art gallery will deal with projects not related to the perestroika era.

Monument to the first President of the Russian Federation
Monument to the first President of the Russian Federation
Books from the 90s
Books from the 90s
Documentary Film Center

The conference hall of the Yeltsin Center houses a branch of the Moscow Documentary Film Center. For the opening of the presidential center, the CDC has prepared works dedicated to the nineties: the first viewers will see the films Vinogradov and Dubossarsky: a painting to order and Yakimanka. 90s ”about the artists of the gradual perestroika period. Further they are going to show broadcasts of performances, documentary and feature films; On December 10, simultaneously with Moscow, the premiere of the film “The Real Price of Fashion” will take place, a film an investigation by American director Andrew Morgan about fashion on the world catwalks and in the poorest quarters of the Third World. As part of Documentary Weekends, CDC will expand simple screenings to thematic meetings with lectures, master classes and discussions on a given topic.

Monument to Boris Yeltsin
Monument to Boris Yeltsin
Bookstore and Education Center
Bookstore and Education Center
Yeltsin Museum. Ground floor

This museum is very different from its counterparts in Yekaterinburg, in fact, they have only a common name: this is a large-scale multimedia project that should capture the viewer and immerse him in the special atmosphere of the 90s deeper than a 3D film would. This is partly achieved through an arsenal of technical means, partly due to the abundance of authentic documentary materials.

More than twenty companies, including the Art. Lebedev Studio, took part in the competition for the creation of the museum, but the victory went to the American Museum Design Agency Ralph Appelbaum (RAA), known in Russia for the Jewish Museum in Moscow. The foreigners worked on the Russian concept, in the preparation of which the director Pavel Lungin participated, their task was to tell the story of the first president in the best way using modern technical means.

Media facade of the Yeltsin Center. This is a very complex engineering structure - there are 28 kilometers of LED strips behind the perforated panels.
Media facade of the Yeltsin Center. This is a very complex engineering structure – there are 28 kilometers of LED strips behind the perforated panels.

The museum is located on the first and second floors; the tour starts from the bottom. A showcase with gifts received by Boris Yeltsin is installed near the entrance. A screen in the center shows their story for example, an orange sweater presented to the president by Boris Nemtsov. This is followed by the “Labyrinth of History” a darkened suite where guests make their way through the years marked on the timeline on the floor. The historical context of public life in Russia since 1914 is presented in documents, artifacts and videos on multimedia screens (to listen to them, you need to stand under the “sound shower”).

On the walls are photographs, and those that are highlighted from above are documentary footage of a particular period, and those that glow from the inside are examples of propaganda materials from different years. The showcases in the center of the corridor display exhibits directly related to the family of Boris Yeltsin. For example, here is a copy of a grenade, due to which the future head of the Russian Federation lost several phalanges on his left hand, or the original letter in which Yeltsin answers the readers of a children’s magazine.

Inside the Yeltsin Center
Inside the Yeltsin Center
Yeltsin Museum. Second floor

The building of “Demidov” went to the Yeltsin Foundation with a layout designed for ordinary tenants of the business center: offices and shops. The task of turning the second floor, round in horizontal section, into a museum was solved by Pavel Lungin he came up with the concept of a “rotor” that launches a circular movement of visitors: the doorways of the halls turned clockwise push guests to move from one room to another. In the middle of the second level, there is a round square with benches and a life-sized lonely figure of a bronze Yeltsin an object for a selfie. Opposite is a screen displaying photographs from the president’s archive.

The rooms around the perimeter of the square are named after seven days “Day One”, “Day Two”, etc. This is a metaphor for the week of Creation and seven historical events in the fate of the first president. So, in the first room, the meeting room of the Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPSU was recreated: guests can sit in velvet chairs and listen to how the future head of state criticizes Gorbachev’s policies.

Exposition 20th century
Exposition 20th century

In general, the museum has a lot of interiors, recreated with all the scrupulousness. There is also a typical apartment from 1991 (with crystal in the sideboard and “Swan Lake” on TV), a typical hard-to-find store (on the counter there are cans of birch sap and Dalnevostochny salad). The museum has installed most of a real trolleybus, the windshield of which has become a multimedia screen, Yeltsin’s “seagull”, the first secretary of the Sverdlovsk regional committee, and the president’s limousine from the Kremlin garage.

Entrance to the Yeltsin Center.
Entrance to the Yeltsin Center.
Cafe 1991
Cafe 1991
Second floor, Soviet market from the 90s
Second floor, Soviet market from the 90s
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