Video: How the unique collection of the underground Soviet billionaire collector was discovered: the secret of the electrician Ilyin
2023 Author: Richard Flannagan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-26 05:58
In October 1993, an event took place in the Ukrainian city of Kirovograd, which, it seemed, could not interest the general public: the 72-year-old electrician of the RES, Alexander Ilyin, died of a stroke. In narrow circles, this man was known as a skillful restorer and bookbinder, but he always lived very modestly. A couple of months later, a sensation occurred - a unique collection of works of art and old books was found in the dilapidated house of a former electrician. According to experts, it turned out to be the most significant of all private collections in Europe.
Friends say that the underground collector could be mistaken for a bum: he most often wore a robe or a greasy jacket, sheepskin coat, tarpaulin work boots. There is always a net-string in the hands. His teeth were missing, but he didn't care. I ate free of charge because I worked as an electrician in a canteen trust. However, other collectors knew that Ilyin always had money for a rare thing.
Ilyin was a "jack of all trades" and carried out many private orders - from repairing rosettes to the restoration of priceless icons and old folios. Entering any house, a man immediately assessed the situation and, if he saw a rare thing, he carefully began to bargain. For this, I often traveled to the villages, looking for ancient rarities. The main technique of the collector was the following: fulfilling orders for restoration, he took payment not in money, but in valuable antiques. So, gradually, his collection was replenished and expanded. In addition to priceless old books, it contained manuscripts of Russian classics Pushkin, Gogol, Griboyedov, Lermontov, jewelry, including works by Faberge, and ancient icons.
Of course, it is impossible to collect an invaluable collection worth millions by honestly exchanging and buying (at first the figure of a billion dollars was named, but then experts reduced it to hundreds of millions). As for the beginning, the core of a unique collection, there are several versions. One of the most fantastic forms the basis of the feature film "Dragon Syndrome" - the collection was allegedly collected illegally by several Soviet party and state leaders and KGB officers, and Ilyin was only its keeper.
The following explanation looks more reliable: it is known that Alexander Ilyin, by his mother, came from a noble family of the Rimsky-Korsakovs, who have been collecting cultural rarities since the middle of the 19th century. Part of this collection was preserved after the revolution. Boris Ilyin, the father of an underground millionaire, could increase the meeting, first in the civil war - he participated in the suppression of anti-Soviet uprisings and in the expropriation of noble estates and church property, and then in the Great Patriotic War, exchanging jewelry from people in need.
Son Alexander grew up among beautiful antiques, literally like in a museum. Probably, from childhood, he absorbed love for the beautiful, but only in his case did this passion take on an ugly, excessive form. The man remained a loner for life. When asked why he doesn't marry, he usually answered: "How can I bring someone else here?" The collection was his only joy, and his only ardent love was old books.
For days, a brilliant restorer could work restoring an old tome. According to the recollections of acquaintances, he often dug in the trash heaps - he was looking for old women's boots to make bindings from soft leather, and in the old primus there were parts made of thin copper, suitable for chasing. The master could also make very durable gilding using the technology using potassium cyanide, for the sake of books he was not afraid to work even with a strong poison.
The underground millionaire had no friends, but he communicated with colleagues in passion, collectors and antique dealers. One of these acquaintances later shared with journalists Ilyin's story about the events of 1961. Then, before the closure of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, Alexander Borisovich restored the Gospel for its abbot. As a payment, as usual, he asked for several old books and received a key to the library.
At this time, the Lavra was cordoned off by troops, not allowing the priests to take out valuables, and an inconspicuous peasant in a greasy robe walked back and forth for several days, not attracting attention. Under the jacket, Ilyin took away an invaluable edition for each visit: he believed that he was saving books from destruction. According to experts, 114 specimens from the Lavra were found in Ilyin's collection. In total, the collection numbered about seven thousand volumes. About one third of them are especially valuable.
By the end of his life, Ilyin's only relatives were his nephew and niece. They were privy to the secret of the collection, but my uncle did not leave a document on the inheritance. After his death in a second-hand bookstore, one of the collector's acquaintances noticed a most valuable book that had previously belonged to Ilyin. Knowing that the collection of the recently deceased restorer should, in principle, be of value, he reported this to the police. Interested authorities sent a couple of people and several boxes to the house …
Miroslava Egurnova, now the curator of Ilyin's collection in the museum, then went into the house one of the first: - she said, The collection was withdrawn, citing the fact that it is of state value and needs care and proper storage, because in fact the nephews were not even the heirs of their uncle. It seems that the underground collector was not worried about the future of the priceless collection, or, as people who knew him said, did not think about his own death at all.
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