Prison Museums

Museum of the History of Political Police in St. Petersburg, Russia


In 1955 the Museum got two buildings: Kshesinskaya and Brandt’s mansions. In 1955-1957 these two buildings were joined (architect N. Nadezhin), and now they make up a complex where the Museum had been situated.

The mansion belonging to a timber merchant Vasily Emanuilovich Brandt was constructed in 1909-1910 after the design of Roman Fyodorovich Meltser, an outstanding Petersburg artist and architect of the late 19th-early 20th centuries. It represents a sort of interaction between different architectural styles of the beginning of the 20th century – Neoclassicism, Art Nouveau, and Symbolism (this style is represented by relief images which decorate the building).


Some other buildings in our city were also erected after R. Meltser’s projects, for instance, V. Kochubey’s mansion (24 Furshtatskaya St., 1908-1910) and the palace of Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich (55 Galernaya Str., 1908-1910). These buildings, like Brandt’s mansion, rightfully belong to the most remarkable achievements of St. Petersburg architecture in the period of Art Nouveau.

The owner of the mansion, Vasily Brandt, was a manager of the trade company “Brandt E.G & Co.”, hereditary freeman of St. Petersburg, member of the Board of Petersburg Discount and Loan Bank. He specialized in timber trade, was member of the Board of Partnership of Belomorsky timber manufactory and the director of the Partnership of Kemsky saw-mills.

In 1917, immediately after the revolution, Vasily Brandt left Russia, and a children’s boarding school was situated in his mansion. In 1918 some rooms were occupied by Michael Kalinin, Commissar of city economy of Petrograd Labor Commune. Later the city Committee of the LYCLSU (Lenin’s Young Communist League of the Soviet Union) was situated here. Since 1957 Brandt’s mansion has been part of the Museum complex.

The front entrance, main marble staircase, and an extremely beautiful oak staircase with stained-glass windows have been preserved in Brandt’s mansions. The walls are decorated with bas-reliefs on Antique subjects. On the first floor there is a conference-hall where the Museum administration gives an opportunity to arrange temporary exhibitions and carry our seminars, round-table discussions, etc.

The second mansion, former property of Prima-ballerina of the Mariinsky Theater Mathilda Felixovna Kshesinskaya, was built in 1904-1906 by architect Alexander Ivanovich von Gogen. (A. Suvorov’s Museum was also erected after his project in 1901-1904). This building is attractive due to its asymmetrical composition, strict elegancy, graphical definition, diversity of shapes, and a variety of decorative materials. It can be even called a model of Art Nouveau style.

Mathilda Kshesinsksya is believed to be one of the brightest representatives of Russian Academic Ballet School. Her performances were distinguished by bravura, cheerfulness, and at the same time by virtuoso technique and classical perfection. When she was the owner of the mansion, a lot of outstanding people connected with the world of music and dance visited her. Among her guests there were Fyodor Shalyapin, Anna Pavlova, Sergey Dyagilev, etc. Also Grand Dukes Kirill Vladimirovich, Konstantin Konstantinovich and Andrey Vladimirovich visited Kshesinskaya’s house.

M. Kshesinskaya was rather close to the Imperial family, and this fact made her leave the mansion during the February Revolution of 1917.

In 1920 she left Russia for ever. The building was occupied by soldiers of Petrograd armored battalion, and later several revolutionary organizations were situated here. The mansion became one of the centers of political life in revolutionary Petrograd. Some prominent figures of the Bolshevist Party worked here: The Party leader Vladimir Lenin, members of the Central Committee Josef Stalin, Grigory Zinovjev, and others. In the course of July crisis of 1917, Bolshevistic organizations had to leave the mansion, and the Provisional government’s troops occupied it.

After October 1917 different state institutions were located in this building. In 1937 it was given to Sergey Kirov’s Museum. In December 1954 the Executive Committee of Leningrad Soviet made a decision to place the State Museum of the Great October Socialist Revolution in the mansion. Later, in 1991, the museum was renamed and since that time it has been called the State Museum of Political History of Russia.

The central hall of the mansion is the White Hall where Mathilda Kshesinskaya arranged her receptions. The hall is executed in classical style with some elements of Russian Empire style (inserts of artificial marble, crystal ceiling lamps and lamp-brackets, parquet and mirrors). The adjacent room is called the Banquet Hall (№ 12), a round hall – rotunda.

You have got a unique possibility to take the advantage of the interiors of the mansion – a gem of the Russian Art Nouveau style - for arranging different kinds of events such as conferences, seminars, presentations, corporative parties (with banquets), excursions, and also a good deal of children’s festivals and exclusive adults’ programs.

The White Hall is provided with sound equipment and has very good acoustics. 


Gorokhovaya, 2 – The History Of Political Police In Russia In the 19th-20th Centuries

The Museum is situated in the building of former Saint Petersburg City Municipality (Gradonachalstvo) and City Police Administration. Centers of the Russian intelligence agencies were situated here in the 19th – first third of the 20th centuries.

The exposition covers the activities of secret services that ensured the political security in the Russian Empire and USSR, the suppression of dissent, and the role of secret services in the political society. The historical interior of the office that belonged to Felix Dzerzhinsky, the first deputy of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission (Cheka), who worked there in 1917-1918.

The Museum branch “2 Gorokhovaya Str.” carries out intensive expositional work. In the last several years the following exhibitions have been opened: “From a Blue Gendarme Uniform To a Black Mask Of Special Units”, “All-Russian Cheka, KGB and Federal Security Service Against Terrorism And Espionage”; "Cheka Agent’s Shoulder Straps On Women’s Shoulders”, etc. The characteristic features of the branch “2 Gorokhovaya Str.” are unique documents and objects given to the Museum by participants of the events which the exhibitions are dedicated to.

The permanent exposition is arranged in three halls.

In the 1st hall there is the exhibition "KGB in the USSR: People, Events, Actions"

The exhibition is based on the materials from the collection of the State Museum of Political History of Russia, archive documents of  foreign intelligence service, Federal Security Service, State archives of Russian Federation, and private collections of KGB men. Main directions of KGB activities are traced with an example of KGB men’s fates: Foreign intelligence, struggle against espionage, economic crimes, internal opposition (dissident movement), terrorism.  The main attention is paid to the creation of special subdivisions of KGB in the USSR: “Alfa”, “Vympel” (“Pennant”),  “Grad” (“Hail”).  A lot of unclassified documents are displayed at this exhibition for the first time. Among them you can find secretnbsp;service reports on the situation in America during the period of Caribbean Crisis; documents concerning the exchange of R. Abel for the pilot F. Powers; photographs depicting the moment of arrest of the USA vice-consul Lon David Augustenborg; materials taken from criminal cases of people condemned for economic crimes. Also medals, orders, and other objects are widely represented.

A video film about KGB men activities is shown at the exhibition. It is based on documentary materials from the archives of St. Petersburg Department of Federal Secret Service.


In the 2nd hall, visitors may find the exhibition “Cheka and Activities of the Petrograd Cheka during the Civil War” representing a history of formation of the political police and secret services in Soviet Russia. Authentic leaflets, departmental instructions, documents issued during the Red Terror (extracts from records of the sessions of the Petrograd Cheka panel, letters of political prisoners of 1918-1920, portraits of the chief officers of the Cheka and Petrograd Cheka) are displayed here.

The exhibition “History of the Political Police in Russia in the 19th – early 20th century” organized in the 3rd hall is dedicated to activities of the political police before the revolution. Nicholas I structured the political police and established the Third Department of the Chancellery of His Own Imperial Majesty as a governing body for the political investigations by his Imperial edict of July 3, 1826. Dossiers and documents of the Third Department that reflect the fight against revolutionary ideas in the Russian Empire and suppression of the first clandestine groups and revolutionary parties, as well as portraits of persons who used to control the political investigations in Russia in 1826-1917 and clothes that used to belong to the political prisoners are exhibited here. Watercolors from the anniversary album of the gendarme corps, issued in 1876, may be of a particular interest for the visitors.


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