Coins and Medals Department, Pushkin
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History of the Coins and Medals Department

The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts has one of the best and oldest numismatic collections in Russia. The collection originally came from the Imperial University of Moscow where courses in numismatics and heraldry were thought as early as 1757. The organization of the separate Munzkabinett dates from the period after the Patriotic war of 1812. In the middle of 19th century the Munzkabinett was included within the structure of the University Department of Fine Arts and Antiquities. Greek, Roman and Western European coins and medals from the Munzkabinett then made up the basis of the collection of originals in the future Alexander III Museum of Fine Arts.
At the University the coins and medals served mainly as educational aids for students. As well as lessons for the students in the 1803/04 academic year the University opened classes for the Moscow public in the history of trade paying detailed attention to coins.
By the end of the 1880th Munzkabinett contained approximately 20 thousand items. In 1888 the Russian part of the University numismatic collection was transferred to the Moscow Historical Museum.
In 1912 a new museum building on Volkhonka street was opened as the Alexander III Museum of Fine Arts. The collection of Classical, Byzantine, Oriental and Medieval coins and medals of the University's Munzkabinett now came under the Sculpture Department of the new museum.
The year of the First World War, the revolution and the Civil War saw the appearance of a large number of charitable paper tokens given out by both State and charitable organizers including committees, unions and societies. All of this proved rich material not on both a historical and an artistic level. In the Museum collection there are around 4,000 paper tokens and stamps. In 1924 approximately 1,500 Greek and Roman coins from the Institute of the Classical East were acquired, which had been formerly belonged to the professor of philosophy Vasilii Rozanov (1856-1919).

Ivan Tzvetaev, foundator of Museum of Fine Arts (1847-1913)

Decadrachm of Syracuse, by Euainetos, c. 400 BC-370 BC (in museum since 1920-s)

In 1937 the museum was renamed as the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and became independent from the University of Moscow. It has continued to grow. A notable donation to museum was the collection of Alexander Golikov (1865-1940), which was exceptional both in size and quality since it numbered 10,618 coins and gems. Golikov collected coins for more than 40 years. Whilst gathering his collection Golikov was guided by the highest of principles. He wrote that "it is essential to collect only those examples which represent scientific interest and could serve me in the future as a topic of scientific research and in-depth study.
In 1945 Munzkabinett was reorganized into the Numismatic Department. At that time the department was headed by Lev Kharko (1899-1961) - art historian and numismatist. He initiated and supervised archaeological excavations in the Taman peninsula on the Black Sea Coast. Since 1930s the excavations at the city sites of Panticapaeum and Phanagoria were a regular source of additions to the collection.
In 1958 around 150,000 exhibits from a unique numismatic collection of Saxon kings, replaced to the Pushkin museum in 1945, was returned to Germany.
An entire row of other interesting collections were received by the museum from owners who had specialized in the collecting of a specific groups of numismatic memorials.
An interesting collection belonged to the artist and expert in Central Asian antiquities, Anatolii Smirnov. The collection was made up of coins and various objects, gathered by the collector during his travels around the historic memorial sites of Khorezm. After Smirnov's death his sister (Olga Smirnova) gave his collection of ceramics and bronzes to the State Museum of Oriental Arts in 1967 and the numismatic part of the collection (around 3,000 exhibits) came to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in 1965.

Alexander Golikov, collectioner and donator (1865-1940)

Alexander Zograf (1889-1942), keeper in 1918-1922

Vladimir Stepanov (1893-1963) left to the Pushkin Museum what was to became a vital input into the completion of the Soviet numismatic section. In 1978/79 the museum acquired more than 3,000 coins. V.Stepanov was an entomologist and a forestry specialist. His outstanding entomological collection of more than 18,000 specimens, amongst which were many new types of beatles (more than 16- specimens) went to the St.Petersburg Zoological Institute of the Academy of Sciences.
In 1966 and 1971 museum purchased a part of the Evgenii Pakhomov's (1888-1965) collection. He was a known archaeologist, numismatist and a member-correspondent of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaidjan, he headed the Archaeology and Numismatics Faculty of Baku University and was one of the organizers of the Azerbaidjan Museum of History. Numismatics was Pakhomov's passion and the subject of his scientific works. He gathered his collection over a period of 65 years. This collection, exceptionnel in the size and scope of the various fields of numismatics, was given out according to the last will and testament of the owner to four museums: the Azerbaijan Museum of History, the Georgian State Museum, the State Hermitage and the State History Museum in Moscow. Museum of Fine Arts acquired around 10,000 Russian and 2,000 Oriental coins from the collector's widow (Evgenia Batalina). For the most part Pakhomov had identified his collection himself. Amongst the exhibits received from his collection there are rare coins and several hoards.
During the period 1971-1975 the Pushkin Museum obtained duplicates from the collection of the Numismatic Department of State Hermitage (approximately 11,000 coins). It was a normal practice in Soviet times. In 1960s Museum obtained as duplicates about 800 Russian and European medals from the Historical Museum in Moscow.
From 1931 Konstantin Golenko (1929-1975) worked in the Numismatic Department of the museum and from 1969 to 1973 he ran the department himself. His work on the coins from the Northern Black Sea area is well known by Russian and foreign specialists, as is the work on Greek epigraphy by another research colleague from the Numismatic department - Nina Rozanova (1898-1973). Others also contributed a great deal to the study and systematization of the collection such as Ludmila Kazamanova who worked from 1951 to 1953 and ran the numismatic department from 1973 to 1979; Margarita Kamera - a curator of Oriental Coins from 1953 to 1979; Alexander Beliakov - a curator of European coins and medals from 1965 to 1972; and Alla Kosareva - a specialist in the art of modern medal-making. Kosareva also ran the department from 1955 to 1969.
Among recent acquisitions attention should be turned to the purchase of 401 medals on the events of the epoch of Peter the Great from Alexander Stakhovich (Paris). Museum has also acquired some interesting hoards of Russian and Oriental coins.

Evgenii Pakhomov, collectioner (1888-1965)

Alexander Stakhovich, collectioner (1884-1959)

The reserves of the department subdivide into 4 main sections: Ancient, European, Russian and Oriental.

At the present the collection of Coins and Medals Department of the Pushkin Museum totals about 200 thousand items - both originals and plaster-casts:

  • Greek 11,000
  • Roman/ Byzantine 15,000
  • Parthian 2,000
  • Medieval, Medals, Decorations 38,000
  • Russian, Soviet, Medals, Decorations 57,000
  • Oriental 25,000
  • Plaster Casts 50,000