Exploring the center

The Yeltsin Center is much more than just a history museum; it also functions as a cultural and public space. The complex is enormous and boasts a contemporary art gallery, an independent bookstore that doubles as an education center, a theater, a concert hall, several shops and restaurants, and even a nightclub. There’s something going on every day of the week: a lecture, a film screening, a concert or an exhibition opening.

The museum’s permanent exhibition has courted controversy, as it depicts the “turbulent 1990s” as a time of true democracy, implying that the current Russian leadership does not quite provide that. It also glosses over some of the less appealing aspects of Yeltsin’s rule, such as the war in Chechnya and the president’s battle with alcohol.

The opening hall in the center is called “Labyrinth,” and it tells the Yeltsin family story within the framework of 20th century history, starting with the 1917 October Revolution and moving on to Yeltsin’s rise within the ranks of the Communist Party, including his time as party boss in the Sverdlovsk region and the impact he had on Yekaterinburg.

The rest of the museum is devoted to the events of the 1990s, when Yeltsin was Russia’s president. It is located on the second floor and rather pompously named “Seven Days that Changed Russia.” There are seven sections, all located around a circle. The fi rst is called “I Want Changes” (named after a well-known song by rock band Kino) and is devoted to perestroika and the fi nal years of the Soviet Union, when Yeltsin was the mayor of Moscow.