An Alternate History

The permanent display at the museum definitely provokes controversy. The museum is devoted to the events of the 20th century as they related to Boris Yeltsin’s family and the events of the 1990s, when he was the president of Russia. Divided into seven days, the exhibition shows how the fate of one man, Boris Yeltsin, turns into a heroic epic about the search for freedom.

Reconstructed reality from the late 1980s and early 1990s, like the neon-lit empty store shelves filled with huge jars of birch juice, is easily recognizable but instructive for the younger generation who didn’t live through this. Among other highlights is a replica of Boris Yeltsin’s apartment in Moscow on the day of August 19, 1991 coup d’etat with the television playing “Swan Lake” on a loop, just like it did that morning. Another exhibit displays the life-size trolley bus that Yelstin took when he was in the Moscow city hall to learn about the grievances of fellow Muscovites.

Given the large numbers of visitors, the Center seems to provide a version of history that is in demand. As one visitor told The Moscow Times, “Of course, the allusion to the seven days of creation around which the narrative is built raises questions, as well as the fact that Russian history and the search for freedom just stops [with Yeltsin’s resignation]. But the journey through the halls is quite exciting, especially where the exhibited items concern the events of modern history.”

And it’s not just the history section of the museum that is appealing. “It’s just as important that the center also functions as a cultural and public space, there are art exhibitions, lectures, performances,” the visitor said.