Museum – Underground Typography in Moscow, the history of the revolution

Museum “Underground Printing House, 1905-1906

Museum “Underground Printing House, 1905-1906. – A historical museum in Moscow, a branch of the State Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia. Opened in 1924. It is a rare monument of Russian political history of the First Russian Revolution of 1905-1907, dedicated mainly to illegal activities of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party in those years.


History of the museum

The Museum is situated in the old Moscow district, in an ordinary three-storey profitable house of the end of XIX century which belonged to the merchant Kuzma Kolupaev. The museum occupies the first floor of the left wing of the building where an illegal printing house was located during the First Russian Revolution.

The printing house was organized in 1905 by members of the RSDLP for illegal publication of social-democratic leaflets and newspapers. At the suggestion of one of the party leaders, L. B. Krasin, and an experienced organizer of illegal printing houses, T. T. Enukidze, a printing house was opened on the outskirts of the city, near the so-called “Georgian settlement”, in a typical revenue house belonging to the merchant – a carriage case-maker – K. M. Kolupaev. A small store under the sign “Kalandadze Wholesale Trade of Caucasian Fruit” was organized as a cover for an underground printing house. Officially the store sold small wholesale lots of Caucasian fruits and suluguni cheese. A small cave was dug out in the basement of the house under the storehouse and additionally masked by a well for ground water drainage and access to the cave was provided through which. The “cave” housed a portable American printing press.

The store was opened in the name of Mirian Kalandadze, a port longshoreman from Batumi, who had experience in trade and a “clean” reputation. For reasons of secrecy, the owner himself did not officially live in the store. The “manager”, Silovan Kobidze, a revolutionary and active participant in strikes, was trading on his behalf. He officially lived in the store with his family – his wife and six-month-old daughter. M. F. Ikryanistova, an experienced underground member of the Ivanovo-Voznesensk Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, was hired as a servant to help the lady of the house. Employees of the store were also part-time workers of the printing house. Among them was G. F. Sturua, later a prominent public figure and statesman.

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The logistics of the front store were very superficially developed – often to fulfill large orders the underground workers had to stealthily buy more products at the nearby Tishinsky market, and on the whole the store was unprofitable. However, the underground printing press itself was very successful. The work of the underground printing and distribution of illegal publications (in particular, the Social Democratic newspaper “Rabochy”) was very difficult and risky. The area was literally flooded with police – nearby there was a well-guarded distillery with a policeman’s post. Contemporary building No. 61 on Lesnaya Street formerly housed a battalion of the Moscow convoy serving the Butyrsky prison. Near Lesnaya Street – on Seleznyovka Street, in the building of today’s Museum of the Ministry of Internal Affairs there was the Second Police Station of the Sushchevsky section. In addition, the Moscow government knew of the existence of an underground printing press and allocated considerable police and gendarmerie forces to its search. Nevertheless, thanks to the careful conspiracy of the underground, the printing press was never disclosed to the police and generally fulfilled its purpose. Moreover, despite warnings from the party leadership, printing house employees participated in the barricade fighting during the December armed uprising in Moscow. In 1906, based on a decision of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, the printing press was closed and the machine was moved to a new location on Rozhdestvensky Boulevard. The place was recalled again in 1922 by V. N. Sokolov (party nickname – “Miron”), former head of the Transport Technical Bureau of the RSDLP. His initiative to restore the printing house on Lesnaya Street as a museum was supported by K. P. Zlinchenko, a revolutionary, one of the founders of the Moscow Historical and Revolutionary Museum. In 1924, after the restoration of 1922-23, a museum was opened in the former store, which became one of the first museums dedicated to the political history of Russia of the First Russian Revolution. It is interesting that the organizers of the museum were mostly members of the underground resistance movement who had set up an underground printing house twenty years earlier.

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The main part of the museum is a museified room of a store, which faces the street, with a basement, hallway, living room and kitchen. A special place is occupied by the original store window, reconstructed in 1927 by N. D. Vinogradov. The interiors of the premises have been fully restored and apart from their political past, they present a model of living conditions and life of Moscow petty bourgeoisie and middle-class citizens of the late 19th – early 20th century, with elements of Georgian way of life. In particular the interior has a Russian stove and numerous household utensils such as tableware, furniture, a sewing machine, embroidered napkins and tablecloths, a samovar, family photographs and other typical household items of the time.

The interior of the basement, where the print shop was actually located, simulates a warehouse of boxes of fruit and barrels of cheese, at the bottom of which are stacks of illegal newspapers and leaflets. The print shop itself, with its authentic printing press, is located somewhat below the basement level, in a well for groundwater drainage, and can be viewed through a specially made window in the basement wall.

In the cashier’s room there are several stands with pictures, photocopies of documents and detailed descriptions of the history of printing and underground activities.

Museum activities and opening hours

The museum focuses mainly on the effect of “living history” – an opportunity to feel the spirit of the time, to present the conditions and environment in which the underground members worked. General characteristics of historical and socio-political situation of 1905-1906, the security structure of Russian Empire, methods and tactics of its counteraction to revolutionaries are given. Special attention is paid to the socio-psychological portrait of Russian revolutionaries of that time, the social moods, which dominated at that time, and the details of underground revolutionaries’ work.

In the museum an overview tour “Underground printing house 1905-1906”, telling about the history and activities of the illegal printing house, and a theatrical tour “The shop with a secret”, giving the real atmosphere of the revolutionary Russia and allowing to make a fascinating historical journey into the early 20th century.

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Entrance to the museum – from the courtyard of the building. The museum is open daily except Mondays from 10.00 to 18.00. On Sunday from 10.00 to 17.00.

The admission ticket price is 70 rubles for adults, 50 rubles for pupils and full-time students, 30 rubles for pensioners and handicapped people of all categories, and 10 rubles for pre-school children. The first Tuesday of each month – free visits to the museum for schoolchildren. Excursion visits are paid.

The museum organizes changeable thematic exhibitions devoted to outstanding personalities and memorable dates of Russian history. Unique items from the collection of the State Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia are represented at the exhibitions.

One of the most unusual museums of Moscow

The June sun was playing with the asphalt on the streets, trying to turn it into a soft plastic mass and at the same time heating up the concrete curbs along the sidewalks and roads. Moscow’s Lesnaya Street did not live up to its name – one could not see any forest or trees on it. Actually, this was not surprising, since its name was given to it when it was a peripheral part of the city, where lumber yards and markets were located, and forest thickets remained only in the distant past, in those legendary times when out-of-the-way forests where wild animals used to have their mistress were spread all over Moscow.

Maxim took me to one of the most unusual museums in Moscow, the museum of the “Underground Printing House of 1905-1906”. And here we are standing in front of a locked door, next to which is a wide showcase with generously laid out gifts of the sunny Caucasus. Above all this splendor signboard “Wholesale Caucasian fruit Kalandadze.

One of the most unusual museums in Moscow

Behind the doors and window display today hides a museum, just as more than a hundred years ago an underground printing house was hiding on the basis of which the museum actually appeared. But if no one knew about the printing house, the museum is told about it by a sign duplicated on the door.

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Everything began in 1905. Participants at the Third Congress of the RSDLP,

One of the most unusual museums in Moscow

The Central Committee of the RSDLP, held in London, discussed many questions and adopted a number of resolutions, among which was “On Propaganda and Agitation,” one of the points of which was: “…to be concerned about the establishment of a popular organ in Russia. The publication of the Central Committee of the RSDLP in August-October 1905 was an illegal newspaper “Rabochy”, published in Moscow. In the resolution “On the activities of the Party’s printing houses,” at the suggestion of Lev Borisovich Krasin, called by Vladimir Lenin the financier of the Party, it was stated: “The 3rd Congress of the RSDLP, having heard the report of the Central Committee on the organization of the Party’s printing houses in Russia and taking into account, in particular, the activities of comrades working in the main printing house of the Central Committee in Russia since 1901 Sends its greetings to the comrades named and expresses the hope of seeing them in the near future among those comrades who will join the first open legal printing house of the RSDLP.”

The resolution did not name the city where the main printing house of the Central Committee was located, but the congress participants knew that it was in Baku, and one of its founders was Krasin. The first head of the “Nina” printing house was Lado (Vladimir Zakharievich) Ketskhoveli, after his arrest the printing house was headed by Trifon Taimurazovich Enukidze (underground nickname “Semen”). Trifon Enukidze placed his printing house in a deep basement where there was an underground passage from a house in Tatar quarter which was rarely visited by policemen. The printing house employed seven people.

So when the question arose of creating an underground printing house in Moscow its organizers were Lev Borisovich Krasin and Trifon Enukidze.

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One of the most unusual museums in Moscow

By the way, there was a picture of Enukidze on the wall of the apartment and his owners said that he was their relative, a Georgian prince.

One of the most unusual museums in Moscow

After some thought an unexpected location had been chosen – two police stations and the Butyr Prison were located nearby. The choice turned out to be an ingenious one: the printing house was not discovered by the tsarist security service and was in operation from August 1905 to July 1906. If we believe the museum workers, it was the only undetected clandestine printing house during the 1905-1907 revolution.

A small apartment on the first floor was rented in the rented house, which belonged, according to some sources, to the carriage maker, or, according to others, to the merchant of the second guild, Kozma Kolupaev.

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