All museums resemble one another a little. It often happens they represent a collection of things united by this or that principle and displayed in glass cases. This is not relevant to our museum. It is different. It is interactive. It is hard to determine what it resembles more – a museum or an entertainment park.
The information which the exposition is meant to communicate to its visitors is presented in different ways. It has volume. It envelopes people penetrating into their consciousness, it influences almost all senses. This became possible thanks to the use of modern computer and audiovisual technologies. The architectural constructions are designed to complete the exposition and to intensify the involvement of a visitor into the atmosphere of an excursion, they create the sense of immersion into the past.
The permanent exposition of the museum consists of 12 themed spaces each of which covers a certain period of the world and Russian history. Here, one can have rest at Fanconi, an Odessa café, to visit a local market, to study the biographies of Mikhail Romma, Gregory Zinoviev and other representatives of the Soviet politics and culture, to listen to kitchen talks and dissidents’ stories, to honor the memory of the fallen during the Great Patriotic War.
The static elements of the exposition will take on life once touched, and our assistants will answer any questions about the way museum exhibit items work.
The Jewish shtetl is a central space of the Museum, from here one can visit the halls dedicated to the life of Jews in big cities of the imperial Russia and Soviet Russia during the period of revolution and the civil war. Passing by a cemetery of the shtetl you will move immediately to the postwar time. In such a way some of the routes used by the representatives of the Jewish community of Russia are indicated.
The borders of the shtetl are outlined by two lines of stands of the section ‘The Jew Religion is the Live Religion.’ They guard the shtetl from the external influence. If one turns back to them, one will discover a newsreel ribbon crossing the perimeter of the Museum; it features the main events of the Russian, Jewish and world history starting from the 4th century and up to nowadays. So two threads of exposition can be singled out in the Museum, time is the core of each of them. One thread is dedicated to the linear time, history, the second one – to the time of traditions: a sphere of life and circle of Jewish holidays.
The historic thread includes seven blocks: IV–1794, 1795−1913, 1914−1921, 1922−1941, 1941−1945, 1946−1984, 1985 — our days. Analytical maps, Jewish Lives monitors telling the history in the persons as well as interactive installations hidden in the side naves behind the stands with the historic annals describe each of the epochs.
Following Torah the world was created in 3761 B.C. So now it is a bit younger than 6000 years.
The movie hall is the first thing which attracts visitors’ attention. It screens 4D movies dedicated to the Biblical events and ancient history of the Jewish people – from the creation of the world to the appearance of diasporas.
The Jews started to wander around the world when the Second Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed. It happened in 70 B.C., during the Jewish war – the rebellion against the Roman domination. By the way it was the first time when that land was named Palestine, in such a way Rome tried to force out the memory of the Jews there.
The history of the migration of the Jews is shown on a huge interactive table. Touching certain parts of the table you will be able to discover life of the Jewish communities in different parts of the world – from America to China.
The Jew Religion is one of the most ancient monotheistic religions of the humanity. One of the external symbols of this religion from the 19th century is the hexagram star of David. A seven-branched candlestick (menorah) is a more ancient symbol of the Jew Religion, which, according to Torah, stood in Tabernacle and Temple of Jerusalem.
This thread of exposition allows to get acquainted with the religious Jewish traditions and to observe how they were kept throughout the centuries. The unique collection of items of judaica will disclose the world of symbols and images of the Jewish culture – both authentic and the ones appeared under the influence of the neighboring countries. Here one can learn how the principal Jewish texts – Torah and Talmud – are arranged and get to know the main landmarks of the traditional style of life and circle of Jewish holidays.
The Imperial police saw to the pale of settlement not to be violated. In Moscow, for example, passers-by with semitic faces were caught in streets and on railway stations and forwarded to police-stations for document checks.
From Yiddish “a shtetl” is translated as a small town or borough. The places of the Jews residence were called so in imperial Russia when the ordinance forbidding the Jews to live in large cities and bordering the pale of settlement was adopted. A typical shtetl with its squat houses, market, synagogue, and school is reconstructed in this thread of the exposition. Unique photos from the life of the Jews of that time – of salesmen, rabbis and musicians – are projected onto the huge showcases.
“Maybe, there is no country yet where religious freedom and religious hate would encounter to such a degree as in Poland.” Solomon Maimon
Small Jewish communities (Mountain Jews, Georgian Jews, the Krimtchaki, the Karaites – separate ethnoreligious group) lived for a long time along the South borders of the Empire. At the same time there existed rather large communities of Jews on the west – in Poland; their forefathers came from France and Germany. In the end of the 18th century when Poland was divided, imperial Russia received the lion’s share of the Polish lands together with the Polish Jews. Till now the Ashkenazi – the European Jews – make the bigger part of the Jewish community in Russia.
Till the end of the 19th century Zionism has a narrow and rather practical interpretation and meant a movement for creation of agricultural settlements in the territory of Palestine.
When the Bazel program was adopted at the First Zionistic Congress which took place in 1897 the notion acquired the meaning we imply nowadays as well.
We’ve restored a typical city coffee house of the end of the 19th – the beginning of the 20th century – Fanconi, a famous Odessa café. All the tables here are interactive with their help one can operate information: choose movies and participate in surveys. You will learn about the things which were of interest for the Jewish community of that time – assimilation, emigration, Marxism, Zionism, ways of integration into the Russian society.
In 1917 the Provisional Government abolished the pole of settlement – the tsarist ordinance limiting the freedom of movement of the Jews lost its power.
Jews actively participated in the political life of the country joining different parties and creating their own political map on which everybody found the right place – from social-bundovsty to Zionists and liberals. The hall dedicated to this period displays evidences of political and everyday life of the Jews as well as the stands dedicated to the Jewish Avant-Garde Art. The social Jewish culture during that period enjoyed a considerable boom. Supported by the official powers it counterbalanced Zionism and Judaism. At the same time the Jews created their own ethnography – the expedition of Semen Ansky to the shtetls of former territory of settlement.
Jewish agricultural communes in the Ukraine and Crimea originated following a joint initiative of the Soviet powers and foreign Jewish charity organizations. All together 200 communes were founded with the population of more than 200 000 Jews. An image of a Jew-farmer occupied the central place in the Soviet propaganda against anti-Semitism.
When the Civil War finished and industrialization started the Jews together with other nationalities of the USSR became part of the united Soviet nation. The Soviet state provides the Jews with plenty of those possibilities which they were deprived of in the times of imperial Russia in exchange for some elements of their identity: Judaism became twice an enemy – both as a religion and a basis for the national, that is, bourgeois self-awareness.
The integration of the previously separated nation into the life of a young state are demonstrated on an interactive table shaped like a five-pointed star. The details from different spheres of the society are connected by five colored lines: a yellow one represents art and culture, a green one – science, a red one – agriculture, a white one – politics, and blue one – a religion. Clicking on a photo of any hero one can get information about his/her life and achievements. The columns surrounding the star feature several newsreel movies describing the epoch – the struggle with religion, Jewish collective farms as a part of the collectivization process, quick industrial development of the country and many other stories.
“Hitler thought of making a target from the Jews, the Jews proved that the target could shoot. “…” A long time ago the Jews were dreaming of the Promised Land – the forefront. There they could revenge the Germans for women, seniors, and children.” Ilya Ehrenburg
The first section of the hall tells about the participation of the Jews in industry and military operations. A landscape under a three-screen monitor shows the order of the seasons. The evidences of the Holocaust and armed resistance in the territories of occupied by the Nazi countries are displayed in the left wing of the hall.
Audiostands are standing in the hall containing songs and poems of the war period including the record on which Eugenie Evtushenko read Babi Yar. One of the stands broadcasts the same-name symphony by Dmitry Shostakovich. The displayed private letters and stories show how historic events reflected in the lives of individuals.
The names of the people perished during the World War II and Holocaust complete the silence of the hall. Two monitors with an access to the database of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the integrated bank of data Memorial and People’s Act of Bravery are located in the hall. Every one can light a candle to pay a tribute to the memory of the perished.
“…To our Jewish generation… the world has changed after the Six-Day War, it became different – a new center appeared in the world, a new core of our live – Israel.” Elazar Yosefi
40 post-war years is the period of unrealized dreams. After the Stalin’s anti-Semitic campaigns many Jews previously loyal to the Soviet system felt they were deceived. The space is organized to help to dive into the gloomy atmosphere of that period, visitors find themselves at a ward of the Lubyanka prison. When the Soviet Jews suffered from the Doctors’ Plot, Zhdanov’s report, the execution by a firing squad of the anti-fascist committee, a new state was created on the other corner of the planet – Israel, which promised to become a home for all Jews.
Then a visitor finds himself at a typical Soviet flat of the 70s. The inhabitants of this flat maybe were not aware they were Jews but their communal apartment neighbors could remind them of that. They lead their regular life: listened to Voice of America, read Sholom-Alejhem, told anecdotes in the kitchen and waited for parcels from their emigrated relatives.
The third installation shows different Soviet Jews – the minority, which in contradiction to the official ideology wanted to return to their routes – to study Hebrew, to know more about the national culture. Those lessons of course were secret. Many of those who wanted to emigrate became escapists. This story is told by the heroes of Voice in the Forest movie.
For the Soviet Union 1985 became the start of the political liberalization headed by M.Gobachev. The state censorship and other means of control were considerably weakened and that contributed to the revival of the Jewish culture, education, and religion.
The themed pavilion – From Perestroika to Our Days – is a logical end of the interactive exposition of the Museum, it is a movie hall with special effects, and inside one can watch the movie about the critical stage of the newest history of Russia. The events enveloping the new state formation are shown on the panoramic screen – starting from the epoch of Brezhnev to the period of Perestroika and later to our days. The overthrows of 1991 and 1993 led to the dramatic changes in politics and economy of the country which were inspiring ones and distressing others. The following people share their memories of that period of history of Russian and its Jewish community in the movie: A. Adamskaya, V. Vekselberg, A. Venediktov, Y. Vinokur, B. Gorin, F. Dector, M. Idov, S. Klebanov, A. Macarevich, L. Rubinstein, N. Svanidze, M. Chlenov, etc.
The project is realized with funding from German Borisovich Khan.