Alexander Tamanyan’s Russian heritage - the flooded Atlantis: Valeria Olyunina

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Currently, the restoration of the mansion for railway patients with tuberculosis in Zhukovsky (Kratovo) near Moscow, built by Alexander Tamanyan at the request of the owner of a number of railways, Baron Nikolay Karlovich von Mecca, is being completed. At the same time, the scuba divers of Russian Geographical Society 2014 winner Konstantin Bogdanov's team study artifacts at the bottom of the Rybinsk reservoir, where two years ago objects, built and restored by Tamanyan at the order of Count Musin-Pushkin, were discovered.

Today Armenian architecture historians, scuba divers, photographers should join the already developed projects, since they are conducted without the participation of the Armenian side. This sphere of life and creative activity of Alexander Tamanyan will be included in the new book of the writer, publicist, journalist VALERIA OLYUNINA.

In the conversation with HAY DZAYN, the writer presented a number of sensational, hitherto unknown to the wide reader details of the life of Alexander Tamanyan - an outstanding Soviet Armenian architect and town planner, a representative of the neoclassical direction in architecture, the people's architect of the Armenian SSR, the winner of the Stalin prize of the second degree, the author of the master plan for many buildings in Yerevan, St. Petersburg and Moscow.

Olyunina also spoke about her working on a book about Tamanyan, which will be published soon.

- How is your work on the book about Tamanyan progressing? When can we expect the presentation of your book in Yerevan? Why precisely Tamanyan? Did accidental findings in the archive prompt you to work on this book, or did you have such an idea long overdue?

- I was pushed to write a joint book about the Russian period of Tamanyan by a great connoisseur of his heritage, a journalist, film expert, designer - Pavel Djangirov. As a researcher of this topic, I am not interested in a monopoly, moreover, I want to draw the attention of the Armenian professional and amateur community to this unique layer of our cultures.

Several years ago I discovered a failure in the perception of Russian Tamanyan in Armenia. Many people think that after the restoration of the Armenian Church of St. Catherine on Nevsky Prospect and the construction of the house of Prince Shcherbatov in Moscow on Novinsky Boulevard, Tamanyan went to build Yerevan. I, of course, exaggerate, but few people know that the Russian period of Tamanyan is multi-layered, since many of the objects were conducted in parallel, and require their own periodization.

We can conditionally divide Tamanyan's creations into 3 blocks: Moscow and Moscow Region, St. Petersburg and Tsarskoye Selo, Yaroslavl, where the service to Count Musin-Pushkin should be emphasized separately, because now the objects, constructed at the latter's order, are found at the bottom of the Russian Sea, as the Rybinsk reservoir is often called.


This embankment with lions on the Mologa River was designed by Alexander Tamanyan. The temple near it is also reconstructed by him. It was discovered by the expedition of Konstantin Bogdanov.

Moreover, during this period Tamanyan built a Jubilee demonstration exhibition to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Romanovs' house. Today, we have eyewitness memories and newsreels: the tsar views Tamanyan's fabulous building in the neo-Russian style with interest.

Returning to the submerged project “Flooded Shrines of the Mologa Territory”, I would say that today they sink into the bottom of the Rybinsk Reservoir as they go on pilgrimage. Russian priests also take part in such dives. But they will not speak about the fact that the arcade of the Mologa embankment with lions was built by Tamanyan. This is more of an interest of the Armenian side, although the architect in Russia is very respected. Armenian scuba divers could connect to this project and "raise", discover the huge flooded Atlantis with the whole world.

The mansion in Kratovo (now a feature of the city of Zhukovsky), built by order of Baron Nikolay Karlovich von Mecca for railway workers with tuberculosis.

- What new and sensational can you present to the Armenian reader, which he did not know about the famous architect before?

- The walls of the Musins-Pushkins estate are preserved almost in their original form. In the place of the stone church of the 18th century of the Transfiguration of the Lord, restored by Tamanyan, there are only ruins today. But its appearance is already recreated in 3D-format, as well as the bell, which was cast at the factory of the famous master Strugovshchikov. Konstantin Bogdanov says that a large virtual museum is waiting for us, and the real one has already been created, located near Rybinsk in Breytovo.

- What did you feel while working with archive materials, the existence of which in Armenia is almost unknown.

- One of the amazing topics related to Tamanyan is his love affair that has not been continued. It is about the friendship of Tamanyan and the daughter of his friend and customer - Galina von Meck. Galina Nikolaevna could not go closer to Tamanyan, because he was married, and then she married a British citizen, an engineer. In her book, How I Remember Them, she describes her meetings with Alexander Ivanovich.

Galina von Meck in 25 years old (artist Kustodiev B.M., kept in the art museum of Yaroslavl)

Galina wrote that Tamanyan was a highly educated person. In 1918 they went for walks in Moscow with him, examined monasteries and museums. For all her life, as she confesses, she did not learn as much about architecture and art as during these walks. But both of them were soon to face severe tests: his blindness, the death of loved ones, deprivation, and Galina, who outlived him for half a century, saw her father shot by the Bolsheviks in 1929, was arrested and exiled to Siberia.

If you want to see the beloved person of Tamanyan, watch the film “Reds” («Красные») about the fate of the journalist and communist John Rid and the whole generation, shot in 1981 by Warren Beatty. Galina is still beautiful there, although it remained several years before her death.

Galina Nikolaevna in the last years of life

- Will you continue to work with archive materials? Please tell us about your plans.

- I will continue to work with the archives, I will also have trips to St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl and Breytovo. I am currently looking for a publisher, interested in my research. I very much hope that my book will be published during this year and will become something of a clue, because this topic should be taken and researched not so much by a few journalists, as by architecture historians and museum workers.

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