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Pearls of Russia

Museums and memorial estates

Pogankin House

The merchant Sergei Pogankin built this house not only to live in, but also as a place to store his incredible wealth. The house is fortress-like. Its lower part is made of very durable blocks unaffected by either damp or bitter cold. Higher up the walls are different: their porous white limestone slabs were easier to work with. The house's walls look as though they were sculptured, rather than built. Small, dark windows can be seen in the deep niches cut in the wall meant to hold iron shutters. The windows are scattered across the surface of the walls - either singly or in groups, some up high, some down low. The upper part of the walls facing the street are windowless and they have only narrow slits for defensive purposes in their lower level. The three-sided house is built around a large, rectangular courtyard with one side left open. One section has three floors, another two, and the third section has only one floor. The tall L-shaped section is the oldest part. There is a wooden porch along the wall of the house in the courtyard. It was built in our day instead of the old stone porch, which disappeared long ago. One can rest on its broad benches after a walk through the town on a summer day. Today the Pogankin House contains Pskov State Museum and is in itself one of the museum's finest exhibits. The owner of Pogankin House, the merchant Sergei Pogankin, was a leg-endary figure, and his family is traced back to the 16th century. Tradition has it that Ivan the Terrible once de-manded money of one of the members of this family during his attack on Pskov. "How much do you need, Sire?" was the reply. "You rascal (pogany)! Are you rich enough to satisfy my needs?" shouted Ivan. From that day on, so the legend goes, the merchant was called Pogany, and his children bore the name "Pogankin". There are other explanations for the name, as well. However, reality was somewhat different. (This was discovered by the outstanding scholar and curator in the Pskov State Museum, Leonid Tvorogov). Beginning as a hired labourer, Sergel Pogankin, thanks to his gifted, en-ergetic, and hard-working nature, managed to rise in life. He was the head of the Pskov Treasury (one of only four treasuries then existing in Russia). Treasury heads were appoint-ed on their ability to pay out of their own pockets any funds that might go missing from the treasury. In the late 1670s Sergei Pogankin became one of five elected members on the administrative council for Pskov and its suburbs - the "Zemskaya izba". At various times Sergei Pogankin was in charge of state tax-collecting from privately-owned drinking estab-lishments and was head of the Cus-toms Department - after all he knew all the ins and outs! He died during a plague, leaving no direct heirs. All his property passed to his nephew, Grigory Pogankin, who bequeathed it to the churches and monasteries so that the soul of sinners who accumu-lated these vast riches might "find peace". The Pogankin family ended with Grigory's death in 1711. At the beginning of the 18th century the Pogankin House was bought for a song by Yakov Korsakov, a Pskov land-owner. He added two-storey and one-storey wings to it. In 1747 the House was bought by the War De-partment and used as provisions stores. In 1900 the Pogankin House was given to the Pskov Archaeological Society, which used the building as a museum and for drawing classes. After the October Revolution the entire building was turned into a museum. Severe from the outside, the House is hospitable inside. Some of the rooms are small with cosy corners and passage-ways, and some are spacious, with high, triangularly-vaulted ceilings and win-dows in deep, but light niches, with floors located at different levels and with small staircases between them; there is a steep staircase in the wall and an enormous hall up above, the flat ceiling of which rests on a large, round pillar set in the very centre of the hall. The windows are not large, but the rooms are light enough because each has several windows, frequently set in two tiers, and it often looks very beauti-ful with the windows set into a triangular vault, although from the outside they seem irregular. The large window niches, which expand inside the house, allow light to pour into the rooms. Some rooms have windows on two, even three sides of the house. These end rooms are filled with light. Only the bottom floor, used as a storeroom, is gloomy. Two underground passages led out of the house's basement. One led to the Pogankin family chapel where Sergei Pogankin was buried. This was the Church of St. John the Precursor, which the Pogankin family built with their own funds. It belonged to the monastery which stood by the city wall, and so the underground passageway led outside the city limits.

Pskov, Russia

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