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KREMLIN ARMORY MUSEUM

 
 

An important building that was designed by Thon and commissioned by Nicholas I is the Armory Chamber, (Oruzheniaya Palata) built in 1849-1851 on the spot where once stood the office of tsar's equerry and the mansion of Boris Godunov, in which he lived before he became tsar. Though Thon wanted the Chamber to be a part of an architectural ensemble, where the new palace would be the central object, the new building, intended to serve as a museum, came out more sober and simpler, with considerably less stucco molding. Soon after its completion; crowns, thrones, jewelry, bibles, icons, vestments, chalices, silver, gold and enameled utensils, china, crystal objects, saddles, carriages and hundreds of various other items were moved in, in all a fabulous treasury that hardly any other country could have heaped up in such quantity and variety. Indeed one cannot but marvel at what Russian tsars and grand dukes were able to pile up and preserve through centuries. Among the most curious items is the same staff, made of ivory and encrusted with gold and silver, with which Ivan the Terrible used to punish transgressors on the spot in fits of rage. It was with this staff that he killed his son Ivan.
Despite the fact that much of the tsar's treasure trove was lost over the years in terrible fires, the sheer pace of accumulation was so great that the volume of remaining items makes this one of the great royal museums. And it is a wonder that the Romanov emperors wanted to keep so much of their heritage treasure here in Moscow when they had so many museums and palaces in St. Petersburg.
Among the most ancient treasures are gold and silver ware, church plate, and jewelry dating from the 10th century. The collection of fabrics including ecclesiastical vestments includes items to the 12th century. There is also the chalice of Yurii Dolgoruki. The remains of the helmet belonging to Yaroslav Vsyevolodovich is the earliest example of Russian armor. The collection is particularly rich with objects such as saddles, horse trappings and harness from the workshops of the Cavalry Office, which formerly occupied an area in the Kremlin.
German, English, and Dutch silverware is well represented along with Imperial regalia, thrones, crowns, scepters and orbs. The items include both those created by the numerous craftsmen who worked here and those presented to the grand dukes, tsars and patriarchs by foreign visitors. The armor collection includes personal pieces belonging to Yermak, Dmitrii Pozharski and Peter I. Of particular interest are the various examples of dospek, including zertsalo, bakterets, and baidana. (See our large section on medieval arms and armor for illustrations and descriptions.)
The earliest written inventory of the kremlin treasures dates to the will of Ivan Kalita (1325-41). The first mention of a treasure building dates to 1485 when it was built between the Cathedrals of the Annunciation and the Archangel Michael. The great fire of 1547, which leveled the Kremlin, destroyed much of the precious items in the armory, treasury and household chambers. Even so, in 1572, when the tsar's treasure was sent to Novgorod for safekeeping from the expected attack by the Crimean Tatars, it was loaded on 450 sledges. During the 16th and 17th centuries as the power of Moscow expanded the treasure poured in in increasing volume. It became the custom to display this wealth to impress foreigners. The kremlin was plundered again during the Time of Troubles (1605-1612) first by the forces of the False Dimitri and then by the Poles. But by 1620 in the reign of the new tsar, Michael Romanov, the silver collection was begun again. The production of the workshops reached a peak in the second half of the 17th century.
Peter the Great, inspired by his introduction to the museums of the West, renovated the building and turned the Armory into a public museum. In 1709 the trophies taken at Poltava were added. In 1711 most of the master artisans were transferred to the new capital at St. Petersburg. Much of the treasure was moved then also. In 1804-5 the first formal inventory was completed. In 1812 the collection was moved to Nizhni Novgorod just two days ahead of Napoleon's arrival. It was moved to the new building in 1851.
Its nine halls are a luxurious glimpse of the power and splendor of tsarist Russia. We have a few photographs below taken during our visit here in 2005. In Hall III visitors can see the fabled Faberge eggs, the gem-studded Easter gifts of the Romanovs, while Hall IV is devoted to the robes and raiment of the tsars, including the gown that Catherine the Great wore to her coronation. Hall VI displays the unusual Double Throne once occupied by Peter the Great and his brother Ivan V, the diamond throne of Tsar Alexis, the Ivory throne of Ivan III, the throne of Boris Gudonov, and a glittering throne studded with 2,000 precious stones, the gift of a Persian shah. In Hall IX is the world's largest collection of carriages. Other highlights include the fur-trimmed Crown of Monomakh, with which every tsar was crowned, and the Orlov Diamond, the gift of an ardent courtier to Catherine the Great.

 
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West European Renaissance style suites of full plate armor and arquebuses.

 
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West European Renaissance style suites of full plate armor and arquebuses.

 
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Western European Renaissance style full armor for horse and rider.

 
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Two west European Renaissance style full armor.

 
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Two west European Renaissance style suits of full armor.

 
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Full armor for horse and rider - west European Renaissance era.

 
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West European full armor for horse and rider

 
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Detail of Russian mounted warrior wearing pantsir and breastplate.

 
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Mounted Russian warrior in full armor

 
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Detail of saddle blanket.

 
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Detail of saddle blanket

 
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Detail of saddle blanket

 
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Several cases containing a variety of arms and armor including arqubus, kolchuga, zertsalo, and helmets.

 
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Several cases containing a variety of arms and armor including kolchuga, zertsalo, shields and helmets.

 
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Three types of medieval Russian dospekh - body armor -

 
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Suite of Western full plate armor for horse and rider - Renaissance tournament dress.

 
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Medieval Russian armor plus shield and seveeral swords and sabers.

 
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Close-up of the highly decorated Persian or Turkish style Russian shield.

 
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Display of Russian medieval arms and armor including full baidana and misyurka several swords and sabers and shield.

 
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Display of arms and armor including full baidana and misyurka seveeral swords and sabers and shield.

 
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Remains of 13th century Russian helmet belonging to Yaroslav Vsyevolodovich found on the Lipetski battlefield ( of 1216) in 1808.

 
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Remains of 13th century Russian helmet belonging to Yaroslav Vsyevolodovich found on the Lipetski battlefield ( of 1216) in 1808.

 
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Helmet of Yaroslav Vsyevolodovich and kolchuga.

 
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A baidana and a kolchuga and remains of Yaroslav Vsyevolodovich's helmet. These are Russian versions of the western hauberk.

 
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Helmet of Yaroslav Vsyevolodovich, two shishaks, baidana and kolchuga

 
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Detail of one of the Russian baidana (washer-shaped ring linked armor) The blue color is due to reflection in museum light.

 
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Detail of Russian schlem - helmet with barmitsa - rings linked neck protection.

 
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Russian barmitsa and schlem

 
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Detail of the ring links of the baidana

 
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Shishak with barmitsa and baidana

 
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Another kolchuga showing how the rows of round wire links are fitted so the armor fits the body.

 
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Kolchuga and shishak helmet (blue light is reflection).

 
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Detail of Russian helmet - parts of two quivers or bow cases in background.

 
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A zertslao worn over a kolchuga plus a helmet and parts of two bow cases.

 
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Zertsalo over baidana with helmet and several swords - bow case and quiver on wall in background

 
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Detail of a parade zertsalo worn over a kolchuga.

 
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Misurka - link mesh attached to helmet covering both the face and neck.

 
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Bakterets and misyurka - a steel cap with ring face protection.

 
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Bakterets with misyurka and barmitsa plus several swords

 
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Detail of bakterets showing how ring links are meshed with the rows of thin, long steel plates. This was made by Konon Mikhailov in 1620 for Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich.

 
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Detail of a hybrid mix of kolantar - a vest of armor composed of steel plates linked with rows of rings and a kolchuga.

 
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Several types of mail - the one in forground combines the large plates of a kolantar with the rings of a kolchuga. - Strictly a kolantar would be a vest composed of this kind of plates worn over a complete ring kolchuga.

 
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Display of three types of body armor and head protection. In forground is a kolchuga with a simple plate breast defense (more simple than a full zertsalo) and a simple shapka - to left rear is a misyurka steel cap with face protection and to right rear is a kolchuga or barmitsa (can't tell the shape of the rings) with a shishak and barmitsa combination head protection.

 
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A very elaborate parade zertsalo over a kolchuga. These very expensive items of parade armor were owned only by the tsar and most wealthy princes. This one was made by Nikita Davydov in 1663 for Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich.

 
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The zertsalo with a helmet and several decorated firearms.

 
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Parade zertsalo and helmet

 
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Display of several types of swords and sabers plus breast plates and shield.

 
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Parade zertsalo, several swords and sabers, bow case and quiver and firearms.

 
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Russian shields

 
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Eloborate saddle cloth

 
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Parade saddle

 
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Parade saddle

 
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Parade saddle and saddle blanket on horse

 
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Parade saddle

 
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Parade saddle

 
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Parade saddle

 
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Parade saddle

 
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Parade saddle on horse

 
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Detail of saddle blanket

 
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Saddle

 
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Parade saddle

 
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Decorative pieces at the entrance to the Armory hall.

 
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Decorative pieces at the entrance to the Armory hall.

 
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Decorative pieces at the entrance to the Armory hall.

 
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Decoration at the entrance to the main gallery

 
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Jewel encrusted altar gospel Bible cover.

 
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Jewel encrusted altar gospel Bible cover.

 
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Jewel encrusted altar gospel Bible cover.

 
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Gold gospel cover, chalice and censor.

 
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Gold book cover

 
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Several empty gold "oklads' for icons.

 
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Jewel encrusted oklad with icon behind.

 
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Gold and jewel oklad

 
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Gold covered oklad encrusted with pearls and precious stones.

 
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Gold oklad covered with pearls and prescious stones.

 
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Gold and jewel covered oklad without the icon.

 
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Gold and enamel gospel cover.

 
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Gold and enamel gospel cover

 
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Enameled gospel cover

 
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Gold Bible cover

 
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Gold gospel cover, chalice and censor.

 
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Gold reliquary

 
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Enameled chalice

 
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Two gold censors

 
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Gold covers (Zvezditsa) for Eucharist

 
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Gold covers (Zvezditsa) for Eucharist

 
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Two patens and Zvezditsa - a frame that covers and supports the veil over communion bread - chased gold and silver with precious stones and enameled and nielloed decoration - late 17th century.

 
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Gold mug

 
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Gold gospel book cover

 
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Gold gospel book cover

 
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Cover for gospel book - enamels and jewels.

 
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Cover for gospel book - enamels and jewels.

 
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Jewel encrusted Gospel book cover

 
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Imperial Romanov Throne of Michail Fedorovich-

 
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Romanov Throne -

 
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The Ivory Throne - Its origin is unknown. According to legend it was created for Ivan III. It is made of over100 ivory panels - (but the light makes the white look too yellow). The throne was used by Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich in 1645.

 
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Throne -

 
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Throne - same as above with different light

 
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"Diamond" Throne of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich ( from Persia 1659 but brought as a gift to the tsar by Armenian merchants) - Among the hundreds of percious stones and pearls are 870 diamonds. The blue color is from Persian turquoise. The gems are mounted on silver and gold plates. It was used for the coronation of the empresses..

 
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Romanov Throne -

 
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Romanov Throne -

 
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Throne -

 
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Another view of the Ivory Throne in which the low light makes the white ivory appeear too yellow.

 
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Throne -

 
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Double throne - of Peter I and Ivan V

 
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Double throne - of the boys Peter I and Ivan V

 
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Detail of upper section of double throne -

 
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Cap of Monomakh - The legend has it that this was given to Vladimir Monomakh (113-1125) and then taken by his son, Yuri Vladimirovich Dolgoruki to Vladimir. The first recorded use, however, was in 1498 when Grand Prince Ivan III used it at the corronation of his son, Dmitri. But for propaganda purposes all subsequent tsars up to Peter I wore it at their corronations and then tsar-emperors had it carried in state in their processions. The gold designs are Byzantine. The lower section is composed of 8 sections with alternating emeralds and rubies. The sable fur completes the whole.

 
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Cap of Monomakh

 
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Cap of Monomakh and several other caps and orbs and septers.

 
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Display of various royal caps and crowns, orbs and septers. In the forground is the cap of Monomakh.

 
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Another view of the display of caps and crowns. In the center lower level is one of the two similar caps made for Peter I and his half brother, Ivan V between 1682 and 1689. At the right edge of photo is probably the other one. These were the last such royal caps made as subsequent rulers changed into use of more western type crowns. At upper left is one crown, probably the diamond crown of Empress Anna (1730-40).

 
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Exhibit of several caps, orbs and septers. The Monomakh cap is in the pillow in foreground.

 
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The cap (crown) of Tsar Mikhail Romanov and part of his scepter.

 
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On the left is the diamond cap of Peter I - we have not identified the cap on the right

 
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Another diamond studded cap (possibly Ivan V) which was similar to that of Peter I.

 
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Cap of Vladimir Monomakh

 
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The diamond crown of Empress Anna Ivanovna

 
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Display of several tsarist caps modeled after that of Monomakh plus orbs and septers and on far left upper row the diamond crown of Empress Anna Ivanovna

 
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Peter's kaftan.

 
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Icon of Virgin and child with gold 'oklad' covered with pearls.

 
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Kaftan of gold cloth

 
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Kaftan

 
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Blue kaftan of Boris Gudonov

 
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Patriarch or metropolitan sakkos

 
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Metropolitan's Phelonion or cope

 
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Metropolitan's phelonion or cope

 
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Metropolitan's phelonion or cope

 
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Three metropolitan's miters - brocade with pearls and medallions

 
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Metropolitan's sakkos

 
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Highly embroidered kaftan

 
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Lady's embroidered coronation or ball gown.

 
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Lady's embroidered coronation or ball gown.

 
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Lady's embroidered ball gown.

 
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Lady's ball gown.

 
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Ball gown

 
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Ball gown

 
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Ball gown

 
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Ball gown

 
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Portrait of Empress Catherine II in elegant coronation gown

 
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Full skirted ball gown with bussle

 
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Embroidered phelonion

 
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Metropolitan's sakkos

 
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Metropolitan's sakkos

 
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Metropolitan's robe

 
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Embroidered slippers

 
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Embroidered slippers

 
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Fan and dressing table items and kaftans

 
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Fan and dressing table items and kaftans

 
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Fan and dreessing table items

 
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Fans and dressing table items.

 
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Gold plate

 
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Gold relaquery - blue color is due to poor lighting.

 
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Gold exhibits

 
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Gold object

 
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Gold tankard

 
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Silver box and gold objects

 
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Silver statue

 
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Medallions decorating around wall - ceiling and depicting Russian rulers

 
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Model of Russian Kremlin walls and towers

 
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Model of Russian Kremlin walls and towers - other side

 
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Wrought iron decorations.

 
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Russian military orders and decorations.

 
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Display of artistic firearms.

 
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Three master crafted firearms.

 
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Display of beautiful firearms

 
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Display of flintlocks and arquebuses

 
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Gold and silver objects

 
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Gold goblets and plates

 
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Large vase

 
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Large vase again

 
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Gold tea service.

 
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Silver gilt candelabra

 
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Porcelain dinner service

 
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Porcelain dinner service

 
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Wall Clock

 
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Large goblet or chalice

 
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Gold and silver object

 
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Porcelain and gold Medalions

 
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Kaftans

 
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Kaftan

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 
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Sedan chair

 
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Detail of decoration showing medieval bear hunt.

 
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State sleigh coach

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 
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State coach

 

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