How to Cite
Rybak, K. E. (2020). Methods and Stages of Museum Fund Acquisition: Legal Expropriation in the Soviet Russia (1917–1920s). Heritage of Centuries, (1), 123-146. https://doi.org/10.36343/SB.2020.21.1.012
Museion: Exhibitions, Funds, Collections

Methods and Stages of Museum Fund Acquisition: Legal Expropriation in the Soviet Russia (1917–1920s)

  • © Rybak Kirill E. Dr. Sci. (Museology, Conservation and Restoration of Historical and Cultural Objects), Leading Researcher, Likhachev Russian Research Institute for Cultural and Natural Heritage, Moscow, Russian Federation


The article is devoted to the study of the features of the acquisition of the state museum fund in the early years of Soviet power. The methodology included historical legal, formal legal methods, a method of legal interpretation combined with a set of methods used in historical science. The materials were the regulatory acts of the Soviet government issued in the period from 1917 to 1922 and related to the expropriation of cultural and other values, archival materials, studies of lawyers and historians of law. The starting point of the study was a detailed analysis of the definitions of forms and methods of expropriation of property, common in the early years of Soviet power. The factography of the events that make up the stages of the nationalization of the banking sector is disclosed, the actions of the Bolshevik leadership aimed at revising banking cells, mastering the reserves of precious metals are examined in detail. The transfer of cultural property to Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania, which took place in the first years of Soviet power, was studied, and the range of values subject to such transfer was identified. The first steps of the Soviet government related to the acquisition of museums at the expense of seized church property are investigated, the categories of this property are determined, and the procedure for determining its value is considered. The content of individual regulatory acts on the nationalization of large collections of cultural property and unique works of art, in particular, art galleries, conservatories, private art collections, estates, individual valuable paintings, etc., has been studied in detail. The measures of the Soviet state on the nationalization of musical workshops, theater and circus property are described in sequence. Considerable attention is paid to the analysis of the powers of the People’s Commissariat for Education in matters related to the turning of cultural property into the property of the state. The mechanisms of alienation of objects of art in the case of careless treatment or in the absence of proper protection are examined, measures regarding the registration of objects of art are analyzed. The actions of the state to identify objects of art that could be used for export purposes are analyzed. The author concludes that the massive sale of cultural property abroad, done after 1922, led to the appearance of gaps in museum collections. This caused a redistribution of values along the structure of the museum network, which continued into the 1930s and beyond.

Keywords: museum fund, expropriation, confiscation, requisition, nationalization, municipalization, church property, Gokhran, People’s Commissariat for Education, transfer of cultural property