Russian ancestors in the theatre

I did write about RGALI archive.  It will have an information on your relatives with Russian ancestry if they were artists, architects, musicians, writers and pretty much anyone related to ART.

There is another very interesting collection of files (472) located in RGIA archive in St Petersburg. It relates to the same professions, but for people, who practised mainly in St Petersburg. It is called “DIRECTION OF IMPERIAL THEATRES”.

Russian ancestry -Mariinsky theatre St Petersburg
Mariinsky theatre St Petersburg







The Directorate of the Imperial Theaters was formed on October 13, 1766 to manage the Imperial Theatres.  It changed the name many times, but its responsibilities remained, in general, the same.

The Directorate oversaw the service of artists, various officials and employees of the Imperial theatres and tours of foreign companies.  It compiled repertoires, distributed roles, observed preparation and the actual performances, provided decorations, props, etc.

The most important aspects of its management were a censorship of dramatic works and an assessment of the scenic and artistic merits of dramatic works and translation of plays.  To raise and educate new artists it ran theatre schools.  And what about the performances, concerts, balls at the Court and public masquerades and charity concerts in the capitals? Of course, the Directorate took charge of it too.

The financial aspect of running the theatres was also under control.  The Directorate collected fees from meetings, clubs and private founders of public shows in capitals. It also arranged the construction and repair of theatre buildings (including Aleksandrinsky, Bolshoi, Kamennoostrovsky, Mikhailovsky – in St. Petersburg).

On December 12, 1917, by the order of the People’s Commissariat of Education, the former Directorate was abolished with the transfer of functions to the newly established Theater Council.

In the collection you will find letters of various persons to the director of theaters, the contracts with the authors for the right of staging their works and information about performances in Palaces (Petergofsky, Krasnoselsky, Gatchina, etc.) and charitable societies, Directorate orders journals, Theatrical magazines; an inventory of clothes, decorations, props, costumes, librettos and sheet music, operas, roles of various companies and musical instruments; posters and programs.

CONTRACTS with authors and artists, lists of EMPLOYEES and ARTISTS, awards certificates are probably the most important files for genealogical research in this collection.

Starting year of documents 1746 – Final year of documents 1929

If you need help with artist ancestors, I would love to help.

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