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Regular version of the site

'We Are in a Building that Has a Rich History': HSE University Opens Durasov House to the Public

'We Are in a Building that Has a Rich History': HSE University Opens Durasov House to the Public

© HSE University

Numerous locations of HSE University are buildings of great historical and cultural value, of which Durasov House on Pokrovsky Bulvar is perhaps the most famous. HSE University offers tours of the building for both visitors and students, and for the fourth consecutive year, it is participating in the Days of Historical and Cultural Heritage held in Moscow. In March, HSE University launched a programme of scheduled tours of the building in collaboration with the Museum of Moscow. Research assistants at the Laboratory for Economic Journalism attended the inaugural tour to learn about the university's efforts in preserving its historical heritage and making it accessible to the wider public.

From Lavish Parties to Scientific Conferences

Durasov House was built between the late 18th and early 19th century, originally commissioned by the nobleman Alexey Durasov. The building is thought to have been designed by Matvey Kazakov, the renowned architect who was at that time engaged in a major reconstruction of Moscow's city centre in the Classicism style. Matvey Kazakov's drawings were used for the subsequent restoration of the building to its original appearance.

The tour begins at the first entrance, where visitors are introduced to the building's history before stepping in, so they may appreciate the facade and imagine its appearance from two centuries ago. Then the tour group proceeds inside through the university's second entrance and hears a captivating narrative about the original owners of the house and the various institutions that have occupied this space throughout different historical periods.

During the Durasovs' time, the premises hosted balls, lavish parties, and gala dinners. An enfilade of rooms on the second floor were originally used to serve dinners and provide entertainment for the owner's guests. Subsequently, at various points in time, the spaces were repurposed to accommodate practical classes and lectures. Today, the rooms function as administrative offices of HSE University, with the former banquet halls now serving as venues for conferences, internal meetings, and official events.

More Than a Family Estate

From the late 18th century until the 1820s, the estate was owned by the Durasov family. In the mid-19th century, the building was acquired by the Practical Academy of Commercial Sciences and housed student dormitories and classrooms until the 1917 Revolution. After the Bolsheviks came to power and throughout the 20th century, the Kuibyshev Military Engineering Academy occupied the estate. And finally, in 2006, the building was handed over to HSE University.

Irina Martusevich

'As we prepared to move into the new campus on Pokrovsky Bulvar in 2019, we were certainly aware of its remarkable history, but no one was able to provide detailed information about its past,' recalls Irina Martusevich, Vice Rector of HSE University. She initiated and actively supported the collection and study of materials related to the history of this architectural monument.

Ekaterina Nedelyaeva

'We knew that the building had belonged to the Durasovs, but who exactly were the Durasovs and what other events took place at this location after them? We began our research, collecting the available information,' according to Ekaterina Nedelyaeva, director of the Cultural Heritage Centre at HSE University. 'The Museum of Moscow helped us with this, and we have been collaborating since 2019.'

The findings from this research informed the initial tours conducted for HSE University's staff and visitors, acquainting them with the history of Durasov House. Soon afterwards, HSE University signed an agreement with the Moscow City Department of Cultural Heritage and began to take part in the Days of Historical and Cultural Heritage of the city of Moscow.

The Days of the Historical and Cultural Heritage of Moscow are held annually and feature tours, exhibitions, performances, master classes, quests, lectures, and other activities offered by the city's museums, exhibition halls, public parks, libraries, and cultural centres. Throughout the duration of this annual campaign, members of the public have the opportunity to explore the interiors of historical buildings which house various private and government institutions with restricted access on other days.

This year, the Days of Historical and Cultural Heritage are held from April 18 to May 31. On these dates, anyone interested can join a tour group for scheduled free access to Durasov House, a cultural heritage site. Registration for guided tours is available at Get to Know Moscow.

For those affiliated with HSE University, Durasov House is not merely a cultural treasure and an administrative building, but also a subject of research. Students, faculty, alumni, and others have engaged in projects aimed at studying the building's history, designing related tours and educational programmes, as well as preserving and promoting its cultural and historical heritage.

Thus, student teams led by Alexey Rolich, Senior Lecturer at Tikhonov Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics, have developed an interactive AR-guide to Durasov House. Students and faculty at the Vysokovsky Graduate School of Urbanism and the Faculty of Computer Science have developed an urban quest of Durasov House.

HSE Pokrovka Campus Navigation

Beyond the main estate, which currently accommodates the Rector's office, adjacent buildings also form part of Durasov House. Directly across stands Building L, which was formerly the location of the stables. To the right of Building L is Building K, which once served as dormitories for students during the era of the Military Engineering Academy. The main atrium, spanning an area of 2000 m2 and situated between these buildings, was once the inner courtyard of the estate.

In total, the historical estate complex comprises nine buildings. In 2008, the complex was closed for scientific restoration to be reopened only in 2018.

During the restoration, all nine historical buildings were restored, and three additional ones were constructed. Currently, the educational complex on Pokrovsky Bulvar comprises twelve buildings, all of which are used by students and staff of HSE University. The buildings are interconnected by glass passages, allowing students to move between classrooms without needing to go outside.

The complex features a specifically designed navigation system: each building is assigned a letter designation, and the first digit in a classroom number indicates the floor. For instance, classroom Z-207 is in Building Z on the second floor. A map of the entire complex is available at the entrance of each building, and an electronic version can be accessed on HSE University's website. In addition to the signs, QR codes are placed at various locations throughout the complex, each linking to a webpage containing historical information about Durasov House.

Collaboration with Museum of Moscow

In the spring of 2024, HSE University and the Museum of Moscow signed a cooperation agreement, allowing the museum's staff to conduct regular tours of Durasov's estate. 'We assign an HSE University employee to assist during these tours by answering questions about the university and its current activities. Occasionally, they can share noteworthy stories or details, even if not directly linked to the building's history,' explains Irina Martusevich. One can access the Museum of Moscow website to select the date and purchase tickets for the tour.

HSE University and the Museum of Moscow intend to broaden their collaboration by offering a range of activities beyond tours—these may include museum classes, quests, forums, lectures, contests, and the production of educational content.

There are several options available to join a tour of Durasov House:

  1. Participate in the Days of Historical and Cultural Heritage and sign up on the Get to Know Moscow portal.
  2. Purchase a ticket for the next available tour on the Museum of Moscow website.
  3. Students and staff of HSE University can register for organised or individual tours via the Cultural Heritage Centre or by sending an email to durasov_tour@hse.ru.
  4. Virtual tours and quests are available on the Durasov House portal.
© HSE University

Durasov House is not the only historical building of HSE University. 'The University has in its operational management a total of 13 cultural heritage sites at varying degrees of preservation. It is truly gratifying to see that each year, more of these sites come out of repair and restoration,' says Ekaterina Nedelyaeva. The most recent site to become accessible after restoration is Osterman House on Khitrovka, and the Cultural Heritage Centre is now actively working to incorporate it in the tour programme.

Beyond Moscow, there are projects related to HSE University's historical and cultural heritage in St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod. 'An important objective for our entire university is to preserve and promote the cultural heritage sites that house our campuses,' Martusevich emphasises.

See also:

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