The history of Eastern Europe's art collectors was long hostage to the political system after the Russian Revolution and, generally, after World War II.

For years, Austria's main research fund, FWF, generously funded research on this topic at Graz University.

The innovative program now covers a wide chronological range – from the "Moscow Medici" who first emerged after the Crimean War to underground collecting under the Soviet regime and, most recently, after the demise of the USSR, to the patrons from the new commercial elite. Geographically, it focuses on Russia's traditional cultural centres – Moscow and St. Petersburg – as well as on the neighbouring countries – the Baltic States, the Ukraine, Armenia and, to some extent, Kazakhstan.