Police Have Evacuated Saint Petersburg’s Storied Hermitage Museum Due to a Bomb Threat

The museum's director and senior staff remain at their posts, but the museum is closed.

People evacuated from the State Hermitage Museum over an anonymous bomb threat. Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images.

Authorities evacuated the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg on Thursday after members of its staff received an anonymous bomb threat over email.

A museum spokeswoman tells artnet News that the Hermitage was among a number of cultural institutions that received the threatening messages today. They include other museums, the Mariinsky Theatre, universities, schools, as well as shopping mall. The museum’s evacuation began at 1 p.m., she says; it remains closed.

The museum posted a brief notice on social media this afternoon stating that several members of staff had received an email informing them that the museum had been “mined.” While thousands of visitors and many members of staff filed out, its director-general and senior curators remained at their desks.

Press images from a Russian news agency show police on the scene and a crowd of people being turned away at the museum’s main entrance.

It is unclear whether the email was sent as a hoax. Last month, Russia was hit by a wave of fake bomb threats that caused a wave of disruption and forced evacuations at malls, schools, and government buildings.

Saint Petersburg has also suffered fatal terrorist attacks in the recent past. In 2017, a suicide bomber killed 16 people and injured 50 in a blast in the city’s metro. In the aftermath of the attack, the Hermitage stepped up its security, introducing screening of visitors’ bags and regular patrols of the building by the National Guard.

The museum has gone to great lengths to protect its collection before. Its director Mikhail Piotrovsky—who succeed his father, Boris, at the helm of the museum in 1990—grew up at a time when memories of the siege of what was then Leningrad during World War II were still fresh. Boris Piotrovsky worked with hundreds of volunteers to safeguard the collection during the war, putting more than one million artifacts and paintings on trains and evacuating them east, beyond the reach of Hitler’s advancing armies. A skeleton staff remained at the Hermitage to protect the building during the worst of the siege.

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