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Exhibition The Iron Age: Europe Without Borders Now Open in St. Petersburg

Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte

Since 10 November 2020 a significant exhibition has been showing at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The Iron Age: Europe Without Borders marks a further important milestone in the long history of cooperation between Germany and Russia. Objects from the first millenium BC – significant exhibits from St. Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum, the State Historical Museum in Moscow, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – bring an exciting and dynamic time to life. The exhibition is one of the highlights of the Year of Germany currently underway in Russia.

Exhibition Tour (German only)

Exhibition Venues and Duration

  • State Hermitage, St. Petersburg: 11 November 2020 to 28 February 2021
  • State Historical Museum, Moscow: 15 April to 15 July 2021

The Iron Age: Europe Without Borders presents cultures of the first pre-Christian millenium from the vast area between the Atlantic in the west and the Ural and Caucasus Mountains in the east. Now, for the first time, the broader public is  able to get a more complete picture, one that covers the whole continent. The objects are organised into areas according to chronological, cultural and geographical criteria. Contact zones between cultures also play an important role.

Wartime Relocation of Objects

The exhibition focuses on objects that were taken from Berlin to the Soviet Union in 1945 as a result of the war. In addition, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Moscow’s State Historical Museum, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin have made exhibits available so that the European Iron Age can be presented to a broader audience for the first time in this form. Of the objects, around 800 that were removed as a result of World War Two will play a central role.

The collection of the Department of Prehistory of the Königliche Museen zu Berlin (as it was then called) grew in size especially in the period of the German Empire, prior to 1918, and ultimately rose to Europe-wide significance. Finds from the pre- and protohistorical eras and from various regions in Europe and beyond were brought to Berlin, among them such famous pieces as the paleolithic skull from Le Moustier in France, the Bronze Age treasures from Eberswalde, the Hallstatt culture grave finds from Stična in Slovenia or Heinrich Schliemann’s collection of Trojan antiquities.

World War Two meant a deep historical caesura for the collection, as it did for Berlin’s entire museum landscape. At the beginning of 1939 the collection of the Museum für Vor‐ und Frühgeschichte in what was then the Kunstgewerbemuseum (located in what is now the Gropius Bau) was packed up and stored at various locations within and outside Berlin. At the end of World War Two, everything that had not been destroyed by the effect of bombs on the Kunstgewerbemusum was taken to British and American “collecting points” in Celle and Wiesbaden, and to the Soviet Union.

Objects From the Museum Für Vor- und Frühgeschichte on Display for the First Time Since 1939

The objects from the Museums für Vor- und Frühgeschichte relocated to the Soviet Union in 1945 as a result of the war are being shown to the public for the first time since 1939. Cultural development across the whole of Europe is comprehensively represented by means of loans from all the participating museums in St. Petersburg and Moscow, totalling around 1,600 objects. The collaboration between the museums has enabled the presentation of an unprecedented range of material.

There are numerous exhibits associated with the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures. Neighbouring regions to the north of the Mittelgebirge are represented by late Lusatian cultural groups, the House Urns culture, the Pomerelian Face Urn culture and the Jastorf culture. In this way it has been possible to present to the public the pre-history of Europe during the first millenium BC.

The exhibition is already the third in a series of exhibitions showing objects from the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte removed from Germany as a result of the war. The two previous exhibitions dealt with the Merovingian era and the Bronze Age.

Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz: extensive dossier accompanying Iron Age: Europe Without Borders