The Smirnoff Family Museum in the “Caucasian House”

(A brief Review)

 

In the 50s of XIX century, Yagor Tamamshev, a merchant and the head of an extended family, decided to build a new house in Tbilisi. He consulted a young architect of Swedish descend, Otto Simonson about his intention. The architect coped with the task excellently and managed to design a building, which is a perfect match of the local and European architectural traditions.

In 1876, Yagor Tamamshev married his granddaughter, Elizabeth, to Mikhail Smirnoff and dowered her with the house. Mikhail Smirnoff was the youngest child of Alexandra and Mikhail Smirnoff.

Since then the house has been referred to as the Smirnoff House. It was home for three generations of Russian noblemen, whose names are closely connected with the history and culture of Russia. They have made an outstanding contribution to the formation and development of Caucasiology. The tenants of this house were in correspondence with many prominent scientists and public figures worldwide. What guests has the house not had!  Anyone, who happened to stay in this house, felt its unique atmosphere. Along with the relics of Pushkin’s epoch there was a microscope brought from Leipzig in 1903.  The shelves abounded in books of XVIII-XIX centuries in Italian, French, German, Russian and the latest issues of literary magazines. The history of the house is also noteworthy. If at the close of XIX and early in XX centuries the house was possessed first by the Tamamshevs and then by the Smirnoff family, after the establishment of the Soviet power in Georgia (1921) the house was placed at disposal of the city municipality, which turned it into a tenement house with many families residing there. The time came and even the Smirnoffs  had to leave their house. Before the 1950s, the Smirnoffs had lived in the adjacent building at 22, Galaktioni Str., on the third floor.

The original large rooms were partitioned and turned into communal flats. At that time, it was impossible even to think about the eviction of tenants and returning the house to its original structure.

In 1975, the Council of Ministers of Georgia enacted a decree on establishing a house of literary relations and the Pushkin Memorial Museum at the Smirnoff house.

 

The Literary Salon of Alexandra Smirnova-Rosset

 

The Smirnoff family collection mainly includes the exhibits of Pushkin’s epoch – the furniture and other household things of the literary salon well known in Saint Petersburg.  The mistress of the salon, Alexandra Smirnova-Rosset (1809-1882), made a great contribution to the culture of XIX century; her memoirs were published four times in XX century. The last edition (1989) was included in the “Literary Monuments” series of the Academy of Sciences. The work is a 600-page exposition, in which the reader can alight on many celebrated contemporaries of Alexandra Smirnova-Rosset.

Alexandra Smirnova-Rosset, according to recollections of her contemporaries, had infallible memory. She had a perfect command of the French, German and English languages.

In addition, she independently studied Greek and Yiddish to read the works of holy fathers in the original.

Alexander Pushkin thought highly of her knowledge of the Russian language.