“Such people are never forgotten...” This is how Yuri Gagarin, the world’s first astronaut, spoke about the Soviet writer Nikolai Ostrovsky, author of the novel How the Steel Was Tempered. For many years, this man’s name was a symbol of our country and the pride of our nation. Millions of visitors came to the writer’s memorial museums in Sochi, Moscow, Shepetovka and Novorossiysk. In the list of such museums, the writer’s house in Sochi was the first to open.

The N.A. Ostrovsky State Literary–Memorial Museum in Sochi was established by Decree of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR № 262 dated 15 February 1937 “On perpetuating the memory of the decorated writer N.A. Ostrovsky” where it stated: “To organise in the house of N. A. Ostrovsky in Sochi (in the writer’s personal rooms) a museum in his name as a branch of the State Literature Museum.” The first director of the house–museum was the writer’s sister Yekaterina Alekseyevna Ostrovskaya, assisted by her elderly mother, Olga Osipovna. Both of them lived in the house and received visitors as hospitable hostesses of welcome guests, often serving tea and showing family photographs. It was as if the spirit of Nikolai Ostrovsky was still present in his house.

In 1938, an exhibition pavilion was opened with the first literary exposition entitled “The life and works of N. Ostrovsky.” Through the efforts of the writer’s friends and museum staff, an archival collection was organised and the first biographical materials about the author, and brochures and booklets about the museum were published. The museum’s guestbook was filled with entries such as: “The museum is one of the brightest chapters in an unwritten book about Nikolai Ostrovsky. F. Volkov, member of the Komsomol since 1930, Karl Liebknecht School, Moscow”. The number of museum visitors grew rapidly.  

During the Great Patriotic War (1941–1945), the Sochi museum of N. Ostrovsky was associated with military units belonging to the 1st Ukrainian, 2nd Ukrainian and 1st Belorussian fronts, the Black Sea front and the Special Black Sea Group of Forces of Malaya Zemlya (landing forces at Novorossiysk). The crews of a tank, an aircraft, and two warships – a minelayer and a gunboat – fought on the front lines while bearing the name of Nikolai Ostrovsky. Some 65 thousand people visited the museum during the war and 2600 tours were undertaken. “Be able to live when life becomes unbearable; make it useful.” These words uttered by N. Ostrovsky helped thousands of crippled war veterans find a new life for themselves.

In 1956, a new building housing the literature section of the museum was built beside the memorial house and in 1957 the historical–literature exposition “Life is exploit” was opened. The fame and recognition of the moral exploit achieved by the author of How the Steel Was Tempered spread beyond the borders of the USSR. Entries in foreign languages appeared in the guest books: “The life of N.A. Ostrovsky is one of the greatest victories of will over the body, of collectivism over individualism. His cause is immortal. 3 July 1957. Dushenov, Balatskaya (Bulgaria).”

In 1972, following a large-scale reconstruction of the literature section of the museum, a third historical and literary exposition on “The life and work of N. Ostrovsky” opened. Artistic design for the exposition was the responsibility of the talented Moscow artists V. Osokina and V. Kholmogorov. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a real museum boom was experienced in Europe and – of course – in the USSR. It may be hard to believe now, but a new tour for 30–35 people commenced in the museum every twenty minutes. Sometimes, having greeted each other in the morning, it was not until closing time that the museum guides – now quite hoarse – were able to see each other again. And each story was unique and inspirational.

In the late 1980s, the museum began a new and not every easy chapter in its history. The country was changing its political orientations and the artistic board was faced with the task of preserving the museum and finding its place in the coming new realities. An entry in the guest book from 19 August 1991 reads: “We hope very much that despite all the changes in our country, this museum will not suffer the fate of the monuments to Lenin, Dzerzhinsky, etc. People must know their history whatever it may be. And the tragedy of human life will always arouse respect whatever the political winds may be. Moscow, I. Stepanova, N. Korneyeva”.

The activities of the museum today are the work of four generations of museum employees: there have been 7 million visitors, 250 thousand tours, 12 thousand lectures and 450 exhibitions, and there are more than 20 thousand museum artifacts in the main (state) archive. The museum’s collections include rare books, household items and decorative and applied works of art from the late 19th and early 20th centuries; documents, iconography, and numismatics from the Soviet era; and paintings and graphics representing such names as A. Ya. Kravchenko, Ye. Kibrik, S. Brodsky, S. Adamovich and others.

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