Visit St Petersburg’s fascinating Museum of Political History

Russia’s political history is a source of fascination for many of us in the West. That’s why so many visitors include the Museum of Political History in their list of ‘must sees’ when visiting St Petersburg.

This museum's remit is to trace the political history of the country right up to the present, and its collection is always kept up to date and relevant.

The building which houses the museum is itself a popular tourist attraction, as it played a significant role in the country’s history. This attractive art nouveau mansion was originally built for Mathilda Kshesinskaya, the prima ballerina at the Mariinsky before the Revolution, and Nicholas II's mistress before he became Emperor.

In 1917, the building was seized by the Bolsheviks and turned into their headquarters in the city. It became the centre of their revolutionary activities, and Lenin made a historic speech from one of the balconies. It was later used by a number of organisations, before eventually becoming the Museum of the Revolution in 1957.

Its exhibition contained artefacts gathered by key players in the Revolution long before the museum itself was established, including their own personal effects, documents, posters, pamphlets and banners. Of particular interest are the belongings of politicians, statesmen, scientists and military leaders, among them the 19th-century liberal Sergei Witte, Nicholas II, Lenin, Gorbachev and Yuri Gagarin.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the museum was renamed the Museum of Political History, and the displays were radically reworked to reveal much of the secret history of the Soviet Union, dispassionately telling the truth about even the most recent history of the country. The museum's collection covers a broad time spectrum, from the reign of Catherine the Great (the second half of the 18th century) to the political climate in contemporary Russia. Among nearly 500 000 exhibits on display, there’s a rich collection of original documents including a signed decree from Napoleon and the correspondence of Mikhail Gorbachev.

Contemporary history is also covered with such artefacts as the video camera used by Mikhail Gorbachev to record his messages to the nation during the August Putsch of 1991, and a piece of the Berlin Wall, among many other unique exhibits.

At 2-4 Ulitsa Kuybysheva, the nearest Metro is Gorkovskaya. Open daily from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm, last admission is at 5.00 pm. Closed Thursdays and the last Monday of each month. Not wheelchair accessible. For more information, visit the website.