“Moscow is Greek. From Theophanes the Greek to the present day” – this is the name given to the exposition presented recently at the site of the State Central Museum of Modern History of Russia, dedicated to the contribution of outstanding Hellenes to the formation and development of the Russian capital. Chronologically divided into several time periods, it covers more than seven centuries of Greek presence in Moscow, which is represented by three hundred exhibits from three dozen museums, archives, libraries and private collections.
The starting point of Hellenism on the banks of the Moskva River is 1390, when the talented Byzantine icon painter Theophanes the Greek arrives in Belokamennaya. He became the author of murals of the cathedrals of the Moscow Kremlin and other churches. The fateful “Greek trace” in the history of the capital and the whole of our country in the 15th century is left by the niece of the last emperor of Byzantium, Sophia Palaiologos, who married Tsar Ivan III. A detailed reconstruction of the face of the Byzantine princess is presented at the exhibition. The theologian and ascetic Maxim the Greek was already noted in Moscow in the 16th century for his works and translations. The rapid development of spiritual ties between Russia and Greece soon led to the fact that Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich in 1669 granted the Nikolsky Monastery near the Kremlin to monks from Mount Athos. At the exhibition, you can get acquainted with a detailed model of the restoration of Nikolskaya Street, where, as they said at that time, “the Greeks stood.” Soon, enterprising immigrants from Hellas, who flooded Muscovy, mastered the space near the capital’s Yauza River, called the Greek Sloboda (it existed until the end of 1671).
“The Nikolo-Greek Monastery was a place of attraction for metropolitans, priests and scientists, and ordinary people settled in the Greek settlement,” Dimitris Yalamas, cultural attache of the Greek Embassy in the Russian Federation and scientific consultant of the exhibition, conducts an excursion for the “RG”. Who provided several rare exhibits from his personal collection for the exhibition. To my question, where did he get the ancient folios of the 18th century from, the diplomat modestly explains: “I found them in Moscow second-hand bookstores.”
One of such successful finds were the books of the Greek brothers Likhudov, who arrived in Moscow in 1685 and opened the first higher educational institution here. Thus giving, according to Mr. Yalamas, “the start of higher education in Russia.” It is known that the Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy was founded at the suggestion of Likhudov, which in 1814 was transformed into the Moscow Theological Academy.
If from the 14th to the 17th centuries the Hellenic presence in Moscow is inextricably linked with church and spiritual life, then since the 18th century Greek merchants and patrons have come to the fore. The exhibition tells in detail about the outstanding representatives of this galaxy. To which, for example, the actively engagedand the brothers Zosima are engaged in charity and educational activities in the capital.
Moscow life of the Soviet era is represented by a wide variety of outstanding Greeks. In particular, the exhibits of the exposition tell about the famous social worker Angelina (Pasha) during the USSR years Praskovye, Soviet military theorist Vladimir Triandafillov, legendary test pilot Vladimir Kokkinaki, collector and owner of a unique collection of the Russian avant-garde George Kostaki and many others.
Needless to say, it is impossible to imagine the modern history of Moscow without the significant contribution of the Greeks. Such, for example, as the famous cosmonaut of Greek origin Fyodor Yurchikhin, the first mayor of the capital Gabriel Popov, People’s Artist of Russia Elena Kamburova, director of the Bolshoi Theater Mikhail Chulaki. Many of them are still united today by the Moscow Society of Greeks, to the 30th anniversary of which this exhibition project is also timed. At the same time, the executive director of this public organization Inna Sheff acted as the curator of the exhibition.
“This exhibition is part of the events within the framework of the Russia-Greece Year of History. This initiative gives us the opportunity to learn more about the fact that Russians and Greeks are connected by the depths of centuries. And also to realize how much unites us, – says the Greek Ambassador to the Russian Federation Ekaterina Nassika. – Here you can also get acquainted with the history of outstanding patriots of Greek origin who took root here and for whom Russia has become a second homeland. The main message of the exhibition is to show how organically and harmoniously the Greek heritage was included and enriched the history of Moscow and Russia. I am very proud of my compatriots represented at the exhibition and I am very glad that Russia has always received them in a friendly way. All this gives us a solid foundation for good modern relations between our countries.”
The exhibition “Moscow Greek” runs until November 21, 2021 at the State Central Museum of Modern History of Russia (GTSMSIR), organized by the “Moscow Society of Greeks” together with the GTSMSIR with the support of the Embassy of Greece in the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Culture of Russia and the Committee of Public Relations and Youth Policy of the city of Moscow.