The trans-continental railroad connecting Siberia to the Arctic was the biggest undertaking in Russian history, and the museum has a mission to preserve and expand on its legacy.
But as Russia celebrates its centennial, the railway museum in Moscow is under fire for not celebrating the achievements of its Russian counterpart.
In January, the museum’s Russian branch announced it would shutter the Trans-Siburean Railway Museum, an organization that traces the history of the Transsiberian Railroad from the 19th century to the present day.
“I am very worried about the safety of this project, because I don’t want to disturb any of our important historical treasures,” says Elena Gagarin, a curator of the museum.
The museum opened in 2002 in Moscow, but was moved to a temporary location last year.
The decision prompted protests from local citizens who believe the museum should be relocated to a more welcoming climate.
In a statement to the press, the organization said the decision “cannot be justified” and that the museum would be “retiring” by next year.
“We are taking our responsibilities seriously, and our museum has been working on the construction of a new museum,” it added.
It is not the first time that the Trans Sibureans have faced protests.
In 2007, an anti-corruption campaign launched by former President Vladimir Putin led to the closure of the Russian branch of the institution.
The organizers of the campaign claimed the Russian government was “supporting a mafia in order to control the Trans Siberian Railway,” the local news outlet Novaya Gazeta reported.
“The Russian branch was closed by the government in response to the corruption campaign,” the newspaper quoted Igor Kaganov, the head of the local branch of Sibury, as saying at the time.
The Trans Siberian Railroad Museum’s website says the museum will continue to collect artifacts, and will be able to share its archives with the international community.
The organization has not yet announced plans for a new opening date.
Gagalin, who has been a curator at the museum since 2012, has been an outspoken critic of the closure, saying the museum needs to be open to all interested parties and “reopen” its doors for tourists.
“What we are missing is a lot of Russian history.
There are so many things we have missed.
We should have been in Russia,” she says.
“There is no way we will reopen, because we are losing our historical treasures.
We have no place to go.”