THE MILITARY-HISTORICAL MUSEUM OF ARTILLERY, ENGINEER AND SIGNAL CORPS
The Military-Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineer and Signal Corps is one of the most significant military-historical museums in the world having precious collections of artillery armaments and ammunition, rifles and cold steels, military-engineering equipment, signal means, banners, military uniforms and insignia. The Museum holds impressive collections of paintings, drawings and sculptures.
The official date of its foundation is August 29, 1703, when by Peter the Great’s decree a special Zeughaus was built on the territory of the St. Petersburg (Peter and Paul) Fortress for the purpose of storing and preserving old guns and cannons. The opening of the Zeughaus followed a serious amount of work collecting “memorable” and “curious” guns and cannons throughout the Russian Empire.
The collection increased rapidly. By the late 18th century the whole floor was provided for it in the building of a new arsenal on the Liteynyy Prospect and called Dostopamyatnyy Zal (Memorable Hall). Later on its collection returned to the territory of the Peter and Paul Fortress where a Hall of Memorable Things of the Main Artillery Administration was arranged. Just this one was called the Artillery Museum, and since 1903 it became the Historical Museum of Artillery. In 1963, the Museum merged with the Central Historical Museum of Military Engineers, and in 1965 – with the Museum of Signal Corps. Since that time it is called the Military-Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineer and Signal Corps.
The Museum collection occupies 13 rooms with a total area of over 17,000 square meters and 850,000 exhibits. Many of them are undoubtedly monuments of science, art, and a part of Russian cultural heritage. These include, for example, the oldest specimens of Russian artillery from the 14th–16th centuries that shot with stone, lead and iron balls. Richly decorated guns from the 16th–17th centuries show the craft of Russian cannon founders, to include talented master Andrey Chokhov, the most notable from them. The inventions of designers in the 19th–early 20th centuries, such as A. Engelgardt, N. Maievsky, V. Baranovsky, A. Plestsov, S. Mosin and V. Fedorov were an invaluable contribution in the development of Russian technique. There is also a great collection of rifles and cold steels, including assault arms designed by M. Kalashnikov and personally handed over by him to the Museum.
The Museum rarities include a unique ceremonial kettledrum chariot for carrying the colors of the artillery of 1760 recently returned from the restoration, small cannons of the poteshnye regiments of boys-soldiers under Peter I, military awards of Russian Emperors, gifts to regiments of the Russian Army, artistically designed silverware and goods made of crystal, including those produced by the Faberge Company, personal arms of Alexander I, Nicholas II, Ottoman Platov, Napoleon Bonaparte, Marshal J. Murat, Russian and Soviet military commanders.
Lovers of the Soviet history will admire Austin armored car from which Vladimir Lenin made a speech near the Finland Railway Station on April 3, 1917.
Amongst the World War II exhibits are e.g. a Katyusha multiple-rocket launcher, anti-tank cannons that secured the victory near Stalingrad, anti-aircraft guns used for the defense and raising the siege of Leningrad. A diorama of a combat on the Kursk Bulge shows an episode from the greatest tank battle in world history.
The Museum holds a rich collection of blank weapons, firearms and defensive armament from Western Europe of the 15th–17th centuries. Among others it includes knightly swords and daggers, two-hand swords, a war cross bow and pavese-shields for archers in the 15th century, pole-hammers and horseman-hammers, maces, staff-weapons for the infantry.
Visitors are particularly interested in the Museum’s outdoor display. Its collection is located on a square of more than two hectares. More than 250 units of artillery and rocket launch systems, military engineering and signal equipment are on display on open platforms. It includes Russian and foreign artillery units, both ancient and the most contemporary ones: self-propelled, towed and antiaircraft artillery units, including those that use nuclear ammunition.
In 2008, the Museum acquired its biggest exhibit, intercontinental Topol missile complex, also displayed from the outside of the Museum.