"I know Where to Look For a Stradivari Violin"

One of the first collectors of antiques in the Russian city of Irkutsk has a flair for things old
Grigory Krasovsky from the Russian city of Irkutsk is a geographer by education, but colleting of antique items is the business of his life. He has had a passion for antiques since he was a schoolboy. The unusual hobby brought Grigory Krasovsky seven years of imprisonment in camps, disfavor of the Soviet power and periods of absolute poverty. Despite of it, the collector didn't give up the hobby and still collects historical objects. He is happy to come across antique items all around in the city of Irkutsk.
- How did your passion for antique items arise and develop?

It is highly likely that this passion developed because of my origin: my great-grandfather Ivan Morozov was a well-known jeweler in Moscow. The family inherited unique crockery, spoons, tea-cups and sugar-basins from him. Being a child, I saw jewelry made by my great-grandfather. Probably, I've got the taste for such things from my great-grandfather. My family lived in a wooden house in Volodarsky Street in Irkutsk. There were lots of deserted buildings around. Being a boy I played hide-and-seek with my friends in a building next door; it was very old and we fell in a storehouse of antique China porcelain. It took the local museum a lot of time to take the riches out of the storehouse. There was Okhlopkov's house standing close to the house where my family lived; we used to play in that deserted house. We often found old books and money there. In those childish games, I liked to collect things like those and compiled a collection of my own. When Okhlopkov's house was taken to pieces I found a large depot of ammunition and a sack of gold 5-kopeck coins there. The police seized the weapons; they were also looking for the coins. Later I started collecting postage stamps; I was especially interested in foreign ones. My mother often traveled and had pen pals in Bulgaria and Hungary. When I moved to the 5th Army Street I had a chance to search the cellar that belonged to Earl Rifman. I chanced to find Rifman's stamp, candlesticks and postage stamps with African motives in the cellar. I gave some of the relics to the museum; unfortunately they were not registered as a donation.

-What was the most striking of your finds?

There were many. In our time, in 1998 I discovered buried treasure in a house not far from the 5th Army Street. There were 11 ancient cushions, candelabra, vases, icons and unusual coins. Unfortunately, I had to sell the riches later as I suffered lots of hardships in my life.

Three years ago an old man let me into a secret of where the relics of Saint John of Kronstadt were buried. I keep the secret, but soon plan to start diggings. I know an old man in Irkutsk who supposedly holds a Stradivari violin; now I help him to sell the violin.

-Does the flair for antique items develop after a number of years?

Certainly it does as I have many interesting experiences in my life. For example, at the end of the 1970s a big collector, former colonel Shadrin from the Royal Army died. By a fluke his widow offered me to buy Shadrin's collection very cheap. The collection consisted of originals by Claude Monet, Korovin, Vasnetsov, Sudeikin. At that time the originals were not that expensive: pictures by Aivazovsky and Serov were sold for 150-200 rubles. The old widow offered me to buy the whole of the collection for 2 thousand rubles. Unfortunately I didn't have such a sum at that moment. I only bought a marble statuette and a Buddha, one of the most favorite in my collection.

In 1985, Grigory Krasovsky was arrested; collecting of historical antiquities was regarded as large-scale speculation. An investigator, who was in charge of Grigory Krasovsky's criminal case, demanded that the collector must present his furniture and dйcor to the museum. Grigory refused to; he said: "Kill me or send to die in a camp, but I won’t give antique things that I got from my great-grandfather." The man was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment; the collection was confiscated. In 1990, Grigory Krasovsky was released for lack of corpus delicti. All the same, he didn't give up collecting antique things. Recently he had to sell the whole of the collection as he needed money to help his daughter get higher education.

Lela Tseradze

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Author`s name Margarita Kicherova