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Visit to Russia - Part 1 - Moscow

Last Updated: 27th Apr 2011

By Jolyon & Katya Ralph

Visit to Russia - Part 1 - Moscow

I've been to Moscow twice before, but I was delighted to be invited back this year - primarily to attend two different mineral shows, but also to visit more museums that I had missed on my two previous visits. Articles about the other museums will be posted to mindat soon!

Moscow State University (MSU) is the premier university in Moscow. We visited to see a new mineral exhibition which has pride of place in one of the newest academic buildings - the new humanities building.

Moscow State University - New humanities building

A simple museum has been created to display a large number of (mostly Brazilian) specimens donated to the university.

New Mineral exhibition

These are primarily large "decorator-style" specimens of amethyst, agate and (as in this photo) petrified wood, and are arranged more to give those who have no previous knowledge of minerals some insight into the natural beauty of such things. Perfect for the Humanities building!

Here I am with Tatanya (center), curator of the museum, and Ludmilla (from Mineralogical Almanac magazine)

After a quick walk across the road we went to the main building, the iconic soviet-era main university building. This is where geology and geography are taught (amongst other subjects). And near the top of the building are no less than six floors of museum covering geology, geography and related subjects.

This was my second visit to the MSU museum (I went previously in September 2009) but even so I managed to see lots of things I had missed in my previous visit.

Moscow State University

A selection of Charoite slices showing different textures and associated minerals.

Charoite, MSU museum

Graphic granite with amazonite and quartz.

Graphic granite with amazonite

A matrix specimen of Achtaragdite - usually this is seen as isolated crystals.


This was in a display of synthetic minerals - and it's man-made phlogopite mica.

Artificial Phlogopite

A 'landscape' trapped in a quartz crystal, formed from chlorite (etc) inclusions.

Quartz Landscape

This is a huge topaz crystal from Volodarsk-Volynskii, Ukraine.

Huge topaz

The museum is a teaching museum, so there are plenty of high-quality diagrams, wall-charts, and models to demonstrate different aspects of geological theory.

This set of elements and rare earth oxides (mined in Russia) was presented as a gift to Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev.

Element collection

A globe of the moon, signed by Neil Armstrong during a visit to the University in the 1970s

Globe of the Moon

Amazing geological models

My next visit was to another museum familiar to me, the Fersman Mineralogical Museum. I visited this museum several times in 2009 and early 2010 during my previous visits to Russia, and it was great to return to one of the truly great mineral museums of the world. I have a BIG article dedicated to the Fersman museum that I was working on from photos taken on my previous visits, but I will now update it and publish it shortly.

Fersman Museum

The main purpose of my visit was to give a presentation about to russian mineral collectors, curators and scientists.

Presentation about Mindat

Fluorescent minerals at the Fersman.

Fluorescent Display

Carnallite from the Fersman Museum


This incredible 16cm silver from Kongsberg, called the "Silver Horn", was a gift from the King of Sweden to Peter the Great, in 1718.

Kongsberg Silver

Next stop for us was the Moscow mineral show, held here in the Moscow Pavilion at the All-Russia Exhibition Centre. No expense was spared in obtaining aerial shots of the venue for this article! How? see here -

The Moscow Pavillion

The show was very busy.

Moscow Show

A table at the show

Dealer Table

Dmitriy of LBL-Minerals Moscow had a great selection of rare minerals, many self-collected from his trips to Kola and to the Charoite deposit in Yakutia.

Dmitriy of LBL-Minerals Moscow

Jolyon's trip to Russia 2011 (See article)

Tinaksite from Yakutia

Jolyon's trip to Russia 2011 (See article)

Frankamenite from Yakutia

And as with mineral shows worldwide, it's a chance to meet with friends - here is Misha from Russian Minerals (left), and Dima from the Fersman Museum (right).

Meeting with friends

One of the minerals that Russian Minerals were selling - this superb cuprite from Rubtsovskoe, Russia. These cuprite specimens have been a big hit over the last couple of years, but most have a distinctly metallic lusture. This was the first large crystal I saw with some clear translucency.

Cuprite from Rubtsovskoe

Our host for this trip was Ludmilla from Mineralogical Almanac, who did an amazing amount to help us make the most of our time in Russia. Here is the Mineralogical Almanac table at the show.

Katya examing books at the Mineralogical Almanac table

Next trip was a quick visit to the Palaeontological Museum. Those of you who know me know that I'm not heavily into fossils, but I enjoy dinosaurs and weird messed-up ammonites as much as the next man. Unfortunately the outside of the museum does look more like a high-security prison. I was expecting it to be covered with razor-wire and was half-hoping it contained live dinosaurs. Unfortunately, it only had dead ones...

The Palentological Museum

A dinosaur (well, it might be something else. But I'll call it a dinosaur because it sounds more impressive).


Weird messed-up ammonites (I liked these a lot!)

Weird messed-up ammonites

As I may have mentioned, Moscow is a city of Mineral Museums. It seems everyone wants to have their own mineral museum, and even the agricultural university in the suburbs of Moscow has it's own very old mineral museum which is still in use as a teaching museum today.

Agricultural University Mineral Museum

Here I am talking with the curator of the museum and Ludmilla from Mineralogical Almanac.

Talking with the curator

Whenever we have the opportunity we open up the drawers and see what goodies they have. I'm rarely disappointed.

Rifling through drawers

This couldn't find in a drawer however, a huge smoky quartz crystal.

Smoky Quartz

A classic pisolitic aragonite from Czechslovakia.


And another classic, this time a Campylite (Mimetite) from the Dry Gill, Caldbeck Fells, England.


My next trip was an out-of-town drive, to the town of Serpukhov, about 60km south of Moscow. Here, in the Historical and Art Museum, a temporary mineral gallery has been put on display.

Serpukhov Historical and Art Museum

The specimens have been provided by a local businessman, who is building his own museum of minerals (but more about that in a moment!)

Mineral gallery at the Serpukhov Historical and Art Museum

Something interesting and unusual from the moscow region - amethyst crystals growing in flint!

Flint with amethyst

In the displays were a number of large (40-50cm) specimens showing different habits of calcite, from Kazakhstan.

Calcite from Kazakstan

After a quick visit to the gallery, we went to the offices of the owner of these specimens, he runs a construction company called 'Soyuz' (or Union).

He has big ambitions, and wants to build the biggest and best mineral museum in the world! He's already bought some land (next to the office) and intends to start building soon.

The owner of the specimens

Here are the company offices, even though it's meant to be a construction company, every office and desk seems to be filled with minerals. It reminds me of when I owned my own office!

Soyuz company offices

And he had some great specimens! Here is an emerald from the urals.


And a great villiaumite from Kola. This piece was BIG, around 40cm.


and a huge spinel crystal from the Lake Baikal region.


My last visit in Moscow was to a secondary school, here is the geography classroom.

Secondary School Geography Class

And, like everyone else it seems, they have their own mineral museum as well. The students seemed quite amused that some strange British guy had come to visit.

Secondary School Mineral Museum

Many of the specimens in the museum are collected by the students on their field trips (all over Russia). Note also the bench for weight lifting - this was put in the museum to remind those wanting to go on field trips that physical fitness is essential for collecting in the wilds of Russia! The kids have to work hard before they go collecting!

The museum

Some examples of minerals from the museum


An excellent large corundum crystal.


a great Lorenzenite crystal (still called Ramsayite by many in Russia)


Here is curator (and geography teacher) Michail Kusmin talking to Ludmilla.

Mikhail and Ludmilla

Mikhail and assistant Sergey with some of their students. Mikhail and Sergey (and possibly some of their students) will be at the Mindat Conference in Poland this July.

Russian collectors

After visiting the school, we walked the short distance to the Mining University where, of course, they have another mineral museum. But as I had visited this museum on a previous trip, this time my main purpose was to give another presentation, this time about minerals of the United Kingdom.

Giving my next presentation

Here's a view of the mineral museum.

The museum

Mikhail had brought with him a self-collected specimen to donate to the museum. This is why the weight training is important!

Mikhail donates a specimen

A boulder of nephrite jade in the Mining University museum.

Jade boulder

The next day we took the fast train to St Petersburg - a city I had not visited before, and you can read all about that in part 2!

Article has been viewed at least 26188 times.


Awesome report Jolyon. Thanks for taking the time to photograph it for us all to see. Amazing mineral specimens....biggggg !!

Craig Mercer
27th Apr 2011 12:35pm
Thanks Jolyon. Great trip report and photos! I was impressed by the synthetic phlogopite (looks just like it came from a mine) and the "landscape" quartz crystal!

Woodrow Thompson
27th Apr 2011 3:47pm
Excellent report, and look forward to seeing some more photos from the Fersman Museum. Would be interested to know where the funding came from for the humanities building at the MSU and the Mining University building - do you know if they are government-funded or is there private finance involved? And was that a private school you visited or a state school?

David Parfitt
27th Apr 2011 9:18pm
My understanding is that it is all state funded, although universities such as MSU make quite a bit of money from foreign students. The school was a normal state school.

In Russia mineral museums are usually funded through science and education budgets rather than humanities, and I think that works much better!

Jolyon & Katya Ralph
28th Apr 2011 9:17am
Great report I will look forward to seeing updates. Thank you Jolyon!

Ricardo Pimentel
28th Apr 2011 11:07am
Thanks Jolyon for a very informative article. I also appreciate the opportunity to work on my Russian reading skills. The Armstrong signature on the globe of the moon was very cool.



Paul Siegel
1st May 2011 5:20pm
My parents will go to Russia... and i can't go cause of exams grrrrrrrrrrr

Alessandro Marini
23rd May 2011 9:36pm
Really enjoyed this article, even if I did only read it 3 years after you posted it. I especially liked the amethyst in flint.

Jason Evans
27th Nov 2014 12:56pm

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