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Polytechnic Exhibition opened in Moscow

11 June 1872

May 30 (June 11) 1872, in Moscow, opened Polytechnic Exhibition - one of Russia's largest trade show of the 19th century which reflected advances in the field of industry, agriculture, transportation, military affairs, science, technology and culture. The exhibition was timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Peter I.

"Great reforms" of the Emperor Alexander II initiated a new stage of the industrial revolution in Russia and the transition to industrial production in all industries that require the extensive use of scientific knowledge. Representatives of leading scientific intellectuals proposed diverse socio-economic and humanitarian projects in an effort to unite all sections of Russian society to implement them. Members of the "Imperial Society of Natural History, Anthropology and Ethnography at the University of Moscow," headed by Professor of geology and mineralogy, G. E. Shchurovsky initiated a Moscow's first ever National Polytechnic Exhibition.

After the approval of this project by Alexander II, in letters of the Organizing Committee with a proposal to participate in Polytechnic Exhibition were sent to the largest factories of all provinces of the Russian Empire.

The exhibition had been prepared jointly by the Moscow branch of the Russian Technical Society, the Moscow Society of Agriculture, the Russian Society of acclimatization of plants and animals, the Moscow Society of dissemination of technical knowledge, the Polytechnic Society, and others, as well as the city government and state agencies. The exhibition was funded mainly by entrepreneurs, who had provided a large sum for those times - 200 thousand rubles. In addition, some of them had paid for the arrangement of some pavilions and exhibits.

The scale of the exposure required large architectural forces to solve complex construction tasks. The design of the complex and individual pavilions was contributed by D. N. Chichagov (chief architect of the exhibition), V. A. Hartmann, P. S. Kaminsky, N. V. Nikitin, I. A. Monighetti, I. P. Ropet, N. A. Shokhin, K. O. Schultz and others. The construction of special pavilions was dictated not only by the improvement of the exposition activities, but also by economic considerations. The organizers believed that the construction of temporary structures will require almost the same cost as the adaptation of existing buildings for the exhibition.

Polytechnic exhibition of 1872, which became the first experience of the pavilion building, was located in the very center of Moscow. The main exhibition area (20 hectares) stretched along the walls of the Kremlin – in the Alexander Garden (including the city riding), on the banks of the Moscow River, and also in the Kremlin - the upper terrace of Tainitsky Garden. In 86 original pavilions housed over 10, 000 exhibitors from all Russian provinces and about 2, 000 foreign exhibitors from Austria-Hungary, Belgium, the UK, Germany and other countries. One of the notable projects in preparation for the exhibition was the first in the history of Moscow construction of mounted and steam passenger lines.

The Government’s curator of the Polytechnic Exhibition was appointed Minister of Education, Count Dmitry Tolstoy.

Grand opening of the Polytechnic Exhibition was held on 30 May (11 June) 1872, in the presence of the Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich, Moscow Governor Prince Dolgoruky, Adjutant General Isakov, Prince Meshchersky and other officials. This momentous day Tchaikovsky wrote a special "Cantata for the exhibition opening," which was performed by musicians of the Bolshoi Theatre on the Troitsky Bridge of the Kremlin.

The exhibition opened daily at 11 am and up to 8 o’clock in the evening. On the opening day the price of a ticket was 5 rubles. In the following days the price was lowered to 1 ruble, and in the last month it went down to 20 kopecks.

The exhibition had its own printing press, which had issued from 1 (13) May to 16 (28) October "Herald of the Moscow Polytechnic Exhibition", a weekly magazine "Bell" and other printed materials.

Exhibition halls were illuminated by illuminating gas, produced on a specially built gas plant. New to the Russians was a turnstile at the entrance connected to the device to account for the number of visitors. Great public interest called the organization of an entertainment area - "Department of concern for the moral improvement of the workers" at the Barbara square, which had become a place of festivals. Here the architect V. Hartman built the famous National Theatre with 2, 000 seats.

The exhibition consisted of 25 departments and a number of private expositions. It presented both finished product, and the technological stages of their production, along with the scientific and technical support in the form of drawings, diagrams, instruments, scientific and reference literature. The most significant section of the exhibition was the Technical Department "Operating machines and production", it included nine subdivisions. A gem of the exhibition hall was the Marine Department, built entirely of metal and glass with an area of about 2, 100 square meters.

During the time of its opening, the exhibition was visited by more than 750, 000 people. In its framework were held numerous scientific and technical readings, debates, lectures, public educational courses, etc.

1 (13) October 1872, the exhibition completed its work. The majority of its exhibits became the basis for the foundation in Moscow of the world-famous Historical Museum and Polytechnic Museum.

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