The State Hermitage Museum has its fair share of interesting history. Established in the late eighteenth century by Catherine the Great, the Hermitage is now home to over three million works of art. The State Hermitage is recognized in the Guinness Book of Records as having the world’s largest collection of paintings.
The Hermitage Museum also contains a sizable amount of Trojan treasures, which were apparently unearthed from Troy by Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870s, and in turn unearthed from Berlin museums by the Red Army in 1945.
Despite gifts from artists and ‘donations’ of private art collections seized from the Tsars’ palaces during the early Soviet period, the years pre-1945 are regarded as a time of shocking loss for the museum. During the 1920s and 1930s, when art was smeared with the label ‘bourgeois and decadent’, many thousands of priceless masterpieces were sold internationally or redistributed to other museums across the Soviet Union in a process of nationalization.
Maybe you are familiar with the regal exhibition halls of the Winter Palace (part of the Hermitage collection’s complex of buildings) without even having set foot in the museum. The film Russian Ark is an ambitious attempt by Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov to chart the three-hundred years of life in the Winter Palace, albeit, filmed as a single-shot walkthrough period piece.