The Russian Room at Down House Kent: Anglo Soviet Relations with the Moscow Darwin Museum in the 1950s-1960s

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Abstract

Charles Darwin’s home at Downe in Kent, a memorial museum now owned by English Heritage, has an interesting secret. For a brief time between c1961 and 1964 it had a ‘Russian Room’.
In this room were displayed commemorative paintings, monumental sculpture busts and photographic albums all sent to Britain between 1958 and 1962 by Professor Aleksandr Kots and his wife Nadezhda Ladygina-Kots, the directors of the Soviet Darwin Museum in Moscow. As will be argued, the sending of such gifts had precedents, including connections with the SCRSS, or SCR as it was named in the 1920s.
The period in which the gifts were sent coincided with Kruschev’s ‘Thaw’, the decline of Trofim Lysenko’s power over Soviet bio-science, and the tentative resumption of Anglo-Soviet cultural and scientific relations. This talk examines some aspects of the contextual and strategic motivations for the gifts, their display and the eventual closure of the ‘Russian Room’.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2014

Keywords

  • Russian Room
  • Down House
  • Darwin
  • Lysenkoism
  • Cold War
  • Evstaf'ev
  • Soviet art
  • Aleksandr Kots
  • Nadezhda Ladygina-Kots

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