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Friday, 1 August 2014
Putin Wants Monasteries, Church Rebuilt in Kremlin
Topic: Kremlin

The Chudov Monastery during the coronation ceremonies, 1896
Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested rebuilding inside the Kremlin the Chudov Monastery and Voznesensky (Ascension) Convent that were torn down during the Soviet era.

At a meeting Thursday with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and Kremlin curator Sergei Khlebnikov, Putin said the plan would only be realized if it receives support from both the public and UNESCO.

"We need to discuss this issue with Moscow's architectural community and get it approved by UNESCO," Interfax cited Putin as saying. The Kremlin, built between the 14th and 17th centuries, is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The plan would involve tearing down a Soviet building currently used for administrative purposes, the 14th corpus, to make room for the monasteries and church. The 14th corpus has been under restoration since 2011, and developers missed their expected completion time after encountering difficulties. The delays have prompted the city government to consider whether or not it would be more expedient to change the development plan altogether and tear the corpus down.

The 1930s saw the destruction of many monuments and symbols of Russia’s spiritual heritage, including the Chudov Monastery and Voznesensky (Ascension) Convent in the Kremlin, the Maly Nikolayevsky Palace, the Cathedral of the Savior on Bor and the Red Porch (Krasnoye Kryltso).

The Chudov Monastery had particular significance for Russian Orthodox traditions over the centuries. It was founded in 1365 when the Metropolitan of All Russia Alexy gave his blessing for the construction of a stone church dedicated to the Miracle of the Holy Archangel Michael. The church remained standing for only half a century before its ceiling collapsed in 1431. The church was immediately rebuilt, but at the beginning of the 16th century, Grand Prince Ivan III ordered it pulled down, redesigned and rebuilt, which was done in 1503.

The resulting church was extremely beautiful, a marvel of harmony and proportion, drawing on classical Russian architectural traditions and rightly considered one of the finest examples of early Moscow architecture. The church’s interior was also a work of art, with a carved wooden iconostasis over the wall separating the sanctuary from the rest of the church. Part of the sanctuary itself was topped with a gilded carved wooden canopy, which, according to the inscription it bore, was the work of the “slave of God, Pyotr Remizov.”

A century after Metropolitan Alexy died, the Church of St. Alexy was built on the monastery’s territory and dedicated to his memory. Another church, the Church of the Annunciation, was built nearby. Changes and additions to the churches’ interiors continued right up until the early 20th century.

The Voznesensky (Ascension) Convent
The Voznesensky (Ascension) Convent was founded at the beginning of the 15th century very near the Kremlin’s Spassky (Savior’s) Gate. The foundation of its main cathedral was laid in 1407 by the widow of Dmitry Donskoy, who took the name of Yefrosinya when she took her vows as a nun. In 1518, Grand Prince Vasily III decreed the construction of a new cathedral, the Cathedral of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. The cathedral was completed in 1521 and was reconstructed at the end of the 16th century on the orders of Boris Godunov.

Over the centuries, many of the wives and sisters of the Moscow grand princes found peace in the Voznesensky Convent, which was one of the most famous and respected convents in Russia. Aside from the main cathedral, another church, the Church of St. Michael, was built there in 1634. The Chudov Monastery and Voznesensky Convent were both closed after the Soviet government moved into the Kremlin in 1918. The buildings remained standing until 1929, when the authorities decided to raze them to make way for a military training facility.

On February 17, 1905, the carriage of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (Governor General of Moscow and husband to Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna) passed through the gate of Nikolskaya Tower of the Kremlin and turned the corner of the Chudov Monastery into Senatskaya Square. It was here that the grand duke was assassinated by a bomb thrown by a waiting revolutionary. Grand Duke Sergei’s body was later buried in a crypt of the Chudov Monastery. A memorial cross was erected on the spot where he was killed. After the Revolution, the cross was destroyed.

Putin also expressed support for Sobyanin's idea to allow tourists to walk through the Kremlin from the Spassky Gate, which is currently closed off.

Dmitry Shvidkovsky, rector of the Moscow Architectural Institute, was quoted by Interfax as saying it would take up to two years to devise a development plan for the project suggested by Putin and get it approved with UNESCO. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 01 August, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:17 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 1 August 2014 4:27 AM EDT
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Sunday, 27 July 2014
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 23
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches

St. Catherine's Cathedral at Tsarskoye Selo as it looks today
In 1835, Emperor Nicholas I commissioned his favourite architect Konstantin Ton to construct the St. Catherine’s Cathedral at Tsarskoye Selo. The magnificent five-domed cathedral was constructed in the Russian Byzantine style and stood in the center of town on Sobornaya Square. During the consecration ceremony on November 24, 1840, the day of St. Martyr Catherine, the town square was renamed Cathedral Square in the presence of Emperor Nicholas I and his son Tsesarevich Alexander Nicholayevich (the future Emperor Alexander II).

This Cathedral was not only the central place of worship of the town, but also the tallest building in Tsarskoye Selo at the time. The facades of the five-dome building were finished with zakomaras (semicircular gables) with small semicircular windows; the entrance was constructed with an isometric tunnel entrance. 

The most significant and beautiful decoration of the interior of the Cathedral was the gold-carved five-tier iconostasis, consisting of the religious paintings by numerous prominent artists. Among them was Professor Feodor Brunei, whose famous works included "The Last Supper" installation, now on display at the Catherine's Palace. He has also painted St. Catherine the Martyr and Empress Alexandra depictions. Another prominent artist Egorov painted the icon Reincarnation of the Christ, centred behind the altar, and the icons of archangels Gabriel and Michael on the side gates of the altar. Feodor Brulov depicted Evangelists on the ceiling of the cathedral's dome and the Three Holy Ghosts icon, along with numerous secondary religious paintings. Other valuable icons located at the cathedral were Vladimir's Mother of God , framed in gold and silver, and decorated with precious stones. This icon was created in commemoration of the coronation of the Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna. Another sacred image, the Moscow Sanctum, was sent to this cathedral in 1867 by the Moscow Metropolitan Head of the Orthodox Church, St. Filaret. The main altar is also decorated by two remarkable art pieces: Van-Deik's Crucifixion, and The Holy Virgin by Paolo Veronese.

The cathedral was destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1939
The vaults of the cathedral contained a vestry, a candle pantry, and a temporary burial crypt. In the east corner of the Cathedral, there was the last resting place of the hero of the Great Patriotic War of 1812, General Zaharjevsky (1780-1865). Protopresbyter Ioann Kochurov was also buried there in 1917, having been killed by Bolsheviks. He was later canonised, a wooden cross was mounted on his grave in 1995. 

The Cathedral could accommodate up to two thousands worshipers, who were called to masses by the church's main cast bell, that weighed 4,576 kilograms. The small stone chapel, located in the open marketplace, Gostinniy Dvor, was assigned to the Cathedral. The large square surrounding the five-domed Cathedral was a central place of people gathering for social and religious events, holidays and town meetings.

In 1922, a large number of valuables from the Cathedral was moved to the museum of Catherine Palace. Among them was the above mentioned Our Holy Lady by Paolo Veronese.

In 1938, the St. Catherine's Cathedral was closed, and in June of the following year, one year before its 100th anniversary, the Cathedral was demolished with explosives. It was replaced by a statue of Lenin and the main street was renamed after him. Lenin's statue stood for nearly 70 years on the site of the Cathedral. The original historical name of Broad Street (Shirokaya Street) was reinstated in 1990

In 1998, a plan was drawn up for the reconstruction of St. Catherine’s Cathedral. In 2000, A. A. Kedrinskii. the chief architect of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve had completed the preliminary design of reconstruction of the cathedral. On November 3rd, 2003 a new wooden cross, made by the monks on the Solovetsky Islands was installed and consecrated on Cathedral Square at Tsarskoye Selo. In April 2004 the monument to Lenin was toppled by unknown persons from its pedestal and destroyed.

On November 26, 2008, Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, signed a decree on the establishment of the organizing committee for the celebration of the 300th anniversary of Tsarskoye Selo, which would include the reconstruction of the cathedral.

Construction began shortly thereafter and the first liturgy was held in the newly built cathedral on December 7, 2009. Patriarch Kirill performed the great dedication and consecration of the reconstructed St. Catherine’s Cathedral took place on June 27, 2010 (during the days of celebrations to mark the 300th anniversary of Tsarskoye Selo). 

The central iconostasis of St. Catherine's Cathedral
In January 2014 the gilded domes had been completed. The interior of the cathedral is still under construction. The whitewashed walls pale in comparison to the central golden iconostasis. Restoration of the interiors will continue for many years to come.
On June 24, 2014 an exhibition was opened in the basement of the Cathedral dedicated to the history of churches and cathedrals of Tsarskoye Selo, Pavlovsk and the surrounding area. The exhibition presented materials found during excavations, portraits of priests, original church plans, and other exhibits transferred from the Tsarskoye Selo Museum.
I visited St. Catherine’s Cathedral during my most recent visit to Tsarskoye Selo in June 2014. The cathedral once again dominates the skyline of this historic town, and is easily seen while walking from the railway station to the Catherine and Alexander Palaces. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 27 July, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:37 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 27 July 2014 9:09 AM EDT
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Saturday, 26 July 2014
How Nicky and Willy Could Have Prevented World War I
Topic: Nicholas II

Emperors Nicholas II of Russia and Wilhelm II of Germany
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the July 25th, 2014 edition of the Washington Post. The author Graham Allison , owns the copyright presented below.

One hundred years ago this week, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany exchanged a series of telegrams to try to stop the rush to a war that neither of them wanted. They signed their notes “Nicky” and “Willy.”

Cousins who vacationed together, hunted together and enjoyed dressing up in the uniforms of each other’s military officers when sailing on their yachts, these two great-great-grandsons of Paul I of Russia wrote to each other in English, affirming their mutual interests and outlining an agreement that would have resolved the crisis on terms acceptable to both rulers.

Yet only three days after the tsar and kaiser’s initial exchange, Germany declared war on Russia, and World War I was underway. Tragically, these leaders were caught in what Henry Kissinger has called a “doomsday machine”: a network of interlocking alliances and military mobilization timetables that allowed the march of events to overcome their best efforts.

The telegrams between them were discovered by an American journalist in the Russian government archives in 1919 and caused a sensation when they were first published in 1920. A century after they were written, they are vivid reminders of the perils of crisis management — and the wisdom of preventive diplomacy to resolve challenges like today’s territorial dispute in eastern Ukraine before they become crises that suck great powers into confrontations.

The exchange began in the very early morning of July 29, just hours after Austria-Hungary (an ally of Germany) declared war on Serbia (an ally of Russia) in retaliation for the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Time was short to find a diplomatic solution that would prevent a regional war from becoming a world war.

Tsar Nicholas wrote: “In this serious moment, I appeal to you to help me. An ignoble war has been declared to a weak country. The indignation in Russia shared fully by me is enormous. I foresee that very soon I shall be overwhelmed by the pressure forced upon me and be forced to take extreme measures which will lead to war. To try and avoid such a calamity as a European war I beg you in the name of our old friendship to do what you can to stop your allies from going too far. Nicky.”

Even before this telegram arrived in Berlin, Kaiser Wilhelm sent his own message to the tsar, reading in part: “The persons morally responsible for the dastardly murder should receive their deserved punishment. In this case politics plays no part at all. On the other hand, I fully understand how difficult it is for you and your Government to face the drift of your public opinion. Therefore, with regard to the hearty and tender friendship which binds us both from long ago with firm ties, I am exerting my utmost influence to induce the Austrians to deal straightly to arrive to a satisfactory understanding with you. I confidently hope that you will help me in my efforts to smooth over difficulties that may still arise. Your very sincere and devoted friend and cousin. Willy.”

So from the outset, both leaders expressed hope for a diplomatic solution. And Wilhelm had a particular compromise in mind: Austrian troops would be allowed to advance as far as Belgrade and remain there until Serbia dismantled the Black Hand terrorist group, responsible for the murder of the archduke.

The kaiser told the German chancellor to communicate this proposal to Vienna. But the chancellor privately opposed the “halt in Belgrade” policy and did not deliver the message clearly. Instead, he instructed his ambassador in St. Petersburg to tell the Russian foreign minister that if Russia continued preparing troops for battle against Austria, Germany would also mobilize and “a European war could scarcely be prevented.”

In the next volley of telegrams, sent on the evening of July 29, Wilhelm explained to his cousin why Russia should remain on the sidelines of a limited Austro-Serbian war. Nicholas responded: “Thanks for your telegram conciliatory and friendly. Whereas official message presented today by your ambassador to my minister was conveyed in a very different tone. Beg you to explain this divergency! It would be right to give over the Austro-Serbian problem to the Hague conference. Trust in your wisdom and friendship. Your loving Nicky.”

In this telegram, the tsar made clear that he was still eager to find a diplomatic solution. He endorsed the kaiser’s proposal of negotiations at the Hague, where Germany, Russia, France and England would mediate an agreement between Austria and Serbia. And later that night, because of the messages he was receiving from the kaiser, he resisted the counsel of his war ministers that an immediate mobilization of the entire Russian army was the only plausible response to Austria’s declaration of war. Instead, he issued an order permitting partial mobilization, hoping that this would be viewed less provocatively in Berlin.

Unfortunately, by the next day, both Nicholas and Wilhelm had been overwhelmed by competing views and the momentum of their governments. The tsar accepted his generals’ argument that full mobilization was necessary, because anything less would put his forces at a disadvantage in the event they had to be deployed against Germany. And the kaiser sent a telegram with strong language drafted by the German chancellor: “If, as it is now the case, according to the communication by you & your Government, Russia mobilises against Austria, my rôle as mediator . . . will be endangered if not ruined. The whole weight of the decision lies solely on you[r] shoulders now, who have to bear the responsibility for Peace or War. Willy.”

In the round of telegrams sent on July 31 (which crossed in transmission), neither side proved willing to make concessions or take actions that could have made room for a deal to prevent or delay the outbreak of war.

Kaiser Wilhelm: “I now receive authentic news of serious preparations for war on my Eastern frontier. Responsibility for the safety of my empire forces preventive measures of defence upon me. In my endeavours to maintain the peace of the world I have gone to the utmost limit possible. . . . My friendship for you and your empire, transmitted to me by my grandfather on his deathbed has always been sacred to me and I have honestly often backed up Russia when she was in serious trouble especially in her last war. The peace of Europe may still be maintained by you, if Russia will agree to stop the milit[ary] measures which must threaten Germany and Austro-Hungary. Willy.”

Tsar Nicholas: “We are far from wishing war. As long as the negociations with Austria on Serbia’s account are taking place my troops shall not make any provocative action. I give you my solemn word for this. I put all my trust in Gods mercy and hope in your successful mediation in Vienna for the welfare of our countries and for the peace of Europe. Your affectionate Nicky.”

Shortly after that telegram arrived in Berlin, the German chancellor sent an ultimatum to St. Petersburg, giving Russia 12 hours to “suspend every war measure against Austria-Hungary and ourselves.”

The tsar responded to the kaiser: “Understand you are obliged to mobilise but wish to have the same guarantee from you as I gave you, that these measures do not mean war and that we shall continue negociating for the benefit of our countries and universal peace dear to all our hearts. Our long proved friendship must succeed, with God’s help, in avoiding bloodshed. Anxiously, full of confidence await your answer. Nicky.”

Russia never received that guarantee. Germany saw its ultimatum rejected. The exchange between Nicky and Willy ended on Aug. 1, with the kaiser writing: “I must request you to immediatly order your troops on no account to commit the slightest act of trespassing over our frontiers.”

That evening, Germany’s ambassador to St. Petersburg handed the Russian foreign minister a declaration of war and then burst into tears. The last-inning efforts of the cousins clearly failed, and today the legacy of their correspondence is one of missed opportunities. Had the kaiser and the tsar started sooner and been better statesmen, they might have prevented a world war that in the end both of them would lose.

Graham Allison is director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School. 
© Graham Allison / Washington Post. 26 July, 2014 


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:37 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 26 July 2014 6:47 AM EDT
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Friday, 25 July 2014
New Monument to Nicholas II Unveiled Near Moscow
Topic: Nicholas II

The monument to Emperor Nicholas II at the Saint Nicholas Berlyukovsky Monastery. Photo © IOPS
A new monument to Emperor Nicholas II has been unveiled at the Saint Nicholas Berlyukovsky Monastery, situated on the outskirts of Avdotyino, a village on the Vorya River, 42 kilometres northeast of Moscow.

The unveiling and consecration of the monument took place on July 24th with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Juvenal of Krutitsy and Kolomna. The monument to the Holy Passion Bearer Emperor Nicholas II, the Supreme Commander of the armed forces of the Russian Empire from 1915 to 1917 was made by the Russian sculptor Mikhail Leonidovich Serdyukov.

The "Romanov Walk of Fame" at the Saint Nicholas Berlyukovsky Monastery. Photo© IOPS
The monument is situated on the "Romanov Walk of Fame" - a path within the grounds of the historic monastery that also contains similar monuments to members of the Russian Imperial family who were closely associated with the history of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IOPS): Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolayevich (2011), Emperors Alexander I and Alexander III (2012), Emperor Alexander II (2013).

The monument is a joint project of the Saint Nicholas Berlyukovsky Monastery and the Revival of Cultural Heritage Charity Fund, with the support of the Moscow Regional Branch of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society. 

This project is aimed primarily at the patriotic education of our compatriots, the popularization of the great history of Russia, its heroes, generals, priests and rulers, who gave all their strength for the prosperity of the country.

The event is dedicated to the blessed memory of the Holy Emperor Nicholas II, the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Holy Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 25 July, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:34 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 25 July 2014 12:41 PM EDT
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Thursday, 24 July 2014
Exhibition: For Faith, Tsar and Fatherland Opens in Saint-Petersburg
Topic: Exhibitions

On July 25th, the Museum of the History of Religion in St. Petersburg opens a major exhibition For Faith, Tsar and Fatherland, timed to the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War - one of the largest armed conflict in the history of mankind. More than 120 unique monuments of the museum's collection will reveal hitherto unknown page of military history - the activity of "spiritual front" in force in all European armies in the early XX century.

The exposition contains authentic items belonged to soldiers and officers of Entente - military-political bloc of Russia, Britain and France - and the Triple Alliance (German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires) as well as unique in its iconography icons, paintings, sculptures and graphics (posters, postcards, flyers), military medals, military uniforms, photographs from the museum collection.

The unconventional solution of the exhibition space illustrates not military, but ideological and spiritual confrontation between the two military-political blocs, held both at the front and in the rear, as well as the role of the clergy of the Russian military in maintaining the spirit of the army.

One of the sections of the exhibition is devoted to military clergy – a part of the Russian clergy involved in the pastoral care of servicemen of different arms of the Russian Empire. Martial and spiritual feats of Russian priests are depicted in a number of paintings and graphic works of 1910s ("A Christmas Prayer for the position", "Prayer at the battery box", "Feat Russian priest", etc.). The exhibition is also complemented with documents showing awarding orders chaplains, and photos.

A special section of the exhibition features memorial icons with inscriptions on the back.

A semantic center and the completion of the exhibition will be the jewel of the museum's collection - a makeshift church of His Imperial Majesty of Consolidated Infantry Regiment (late XIX – early XX centuries) with a set of unique items, including details of military priest vestments and church furnishings, including - the original candlestick made of bayonets to the rifle No. 2.
The exhibition For Faith, Tsar and Fatherland runs until September 18th, 2014 at the Museum of Religion in St. Petersburg. 
© Yeltsin Presidential Library. 24 July, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:03 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 24 July 2014 7:13 PM EDT
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Exhibition : A Royal Passion for Art. William II of the Netherlands and Anna Pavlovna
Topic: Exhibitions

Marriage Portrait of William and Anna Pavlovna as a royal couple, 1816. Artist: Jan Willem Pieneman  
The exhibition : A Royal Passion for Art. William II of the Netherlands and Anna Pavlovna has opened at the  Musée d’Art de la Ville in Luxembourg. The exhibition runs until October 12th, 2014.
William II (1792-1849) was both King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg, as a result of the personal union linking the two countries. He reigned from 1840 and was a true “Art King”. Together with his wife, tsarevna Anna Pavlovna (1795-1865), he amassed an outstanding art collection, which after his death was auctioned and scattered all around the world.

Masterpieces from this prestigious ensemble are being shown in three successive locations, all of which have a connection to the history of the royal couple and their art collection: the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, the home city of Anna Pavlovna, where a significant part of the royal collection ended up, the Dordrechts Museum in the Netherlands and Villa Vauban in Luxembourg, a country that was formerly part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and home to one of the collectors who acquired works from the royal collection.

The exhibition brings together different artworks stemming from the collection, including 16th- and 17th-century Flemish and Dutch painting (amongst others Quentin Massys, Jan Gossaert, Bernard van Orley, Rembrandt workshop, Jan Steen, Peter Paul Rubens), Italian Renaissance and Baroque art (amongst others Francesco Melzi, Agnolo Bronzino, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri), Spanish Baroque (Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Velazquez workshop) and 19th-century romantic painting.

Tragic end to an art collection

Shortly after the death of William II, it was revealed that the royal collection was heavily burdened by debt. Immediately prior to his death, the king had received a secret loan of more than one million guilders from his brother-in-law, Tsar Nicholas I. The art collection acted as guarantee. Upon William’s death, his brother, Prince Frederick, decided to sell the collection. The auction took place in 1850 and attracted important art collectors from all over Europe, among them the Luxembourg-French banker Jean-Pierre Pescatore, as well as various museums. The largest art collection of the Netherlands was thus dispersed, with parts of it ending up in museums throughout the world.

House of Orange and the Romanovs

A further focus of the exhibition is the royal couple William and Anna. Through William’s marriage in 1816 to Anna Pavlovna, the House of Orange became linked to the Russian dynasty of the Romanovs. Anna was the daughter of Tsar Paul I and the sister of his successors Alexander I and Nicholas I. Drawn from the Dutch Royal Collections in The Hague, the exhibition showcases official portraits, precious wedding gifts, several ornate pieces of furniture from various royal residences and richly decorated private objects that once belonged to William and Anna. The young princess and later queen brought a magnificent dowry with her and ensured that the Calvinist kingdom acquired some of the splendour of the tsarist court, in the form of opulent interiors and a “glamorous” court life. William II had a neo-Gothic hall designed and erected to house his art collection on the grounds of his Kneuterdijk Palace in The Hague.

The exhibition “A Royal Passion for Art” offers visitors a fascinating insight into the life and passions of a 19th-century European royal couple, which left their mark well beyond the boundaries of their territories, not least due to their commitment to art.

The exhibition is a cooperation between the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, the Dordrechts Museum, the Royal Collection of the Netherlands in The Hague and the Villa Vauban – Luxembourg City Art Museum. 
© Musée d’Art de la Ville Luxembourg. 24 July, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:44 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 24 July 2014 6:53 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 23 July 2014
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Topic: Royal Russia


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:31 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 23 July 2014 6:19 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 22 July 2014
Tsarskoye Selo Hosts Imperial Porcelain Exhibit
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

A new exhibit Imperial Porcelain. The Binding Thread, will premiere on July 23rd  in the Grotto Pavilion located in the Catherine Park at Tsarskoye Selo. The exhibit coincides with the 270th anniversary of the Imperial Porcelain Factory.

Exhibition organizers are heralding the exhibit as a unique opportunity to trace the history of the St. Petersburg school of porcelain art. The event will showcase approximately 200 works, including a number of rare porcelain pieces from the Imperial Porcelain Factory (still in operation) and from the storage rooms of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum. The collection from the latter presents Russian, Western European and Far Eastern porcelain, the formation of a collection which is inextricably linked with the history of three centuries of the imperial residence.

Tsarskoye Selo was the venue for important state receptions for nearly two centuries, hosting formal dinners, balls and masquerades. The summer residence was also a favourite of the imperial family, where they found peace and solitude. The palace interiors were decorated with splendid vases of various shapes and sizes, with moulded handles, and unique pieces of porcelain depicting the famous paintings by European masters from the Imperial Porcelain Factory (IPE), who worked exclusively for the needs of the Imperial Court.

The exhibition Imperial Porcelain. The Binding Thread, runs until September 30, 2014 at the Grotto Pavilion (above) located in the Catherine Park at Tsarskoye Selo. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 22 July, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:59 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 22 July 2014 9:03 AM EDT
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Monday, 21 July 2014
Gatchina: From the Imperial Age to Today
Topic: Gatchina

Gatchina Palace served as a favorite residence of Emperors Paul I and Alexander III
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the July 20th, 2014 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author Veronika Prokhorova, owns the copyright presented below.

Gatchina is one of the most beautiful and enigmatic suburbs of St. Petersburg. It was the favorite residence of Emperors Paul I and Alexander III. Gatchina is also considered the birthplace of the Russian military air force, and it is here that the Maltese Order met

Gatchina’s history dates back to the start of the eighteenth century, when Tsar Peter I decreed the construction of an estate that he gifted to his favorite sister, Natalia Alekseevna. After the death of the Tsar, the estate was repeatedly passed from one owner to another until it was acquired by Empress Catherine II -- she complained about the estate to her favorite count Grigory Orlov, who then commenced active construction at Gatchina. After the death of Count Orlov, Gatchina became the residence of Paul I, who lived there for 18 years and granted Gatchina city status and its own coat of arms. Later the city came under the ownership of Maria Feodorovna, then Nicholas I, Alexander I, Alexander II and Nicholas II.

Gatchina is known for its palace and park. The royal palace is like a secluded castle, rising over the peaceful waters. One of the oldest buildings of the park, established under the first owner of Gatchina, Grigory Orlov, is the Eagle Pavilion, allegedly sponsored by V. Brenna. The pavilion is a circular temple -- the rotunda is 9.5 meters tall. It features a semicircular colonnade of ten Tuscan columns with a semi-dome roof decorated with coffers and seashells. Its stairs consist of three steps leading to a stylobate made of pure ashlar stone. The colonnade is crowned with an eagle, carved out of white marble, holding a shield with Paul I’s monogram.

One of the most romantic spots in the Palace Park is the Humped Bridge, which spans the Long Island across the channel that links the Silver and White lakes. The Humped Bridge consists of three main parts -- two strong abutments and a steep arch span.

The main building of the ensemble is the Palace of Paul (or Gatchina Palace). It was originally built by the architect Rinaldi for Catherine’s favorite, Count Orlov. Rinaldi designed a magnificent castle on the hill in front of Silver Lake. The three-story main building is decorated at the sides with high pentahedral towers, while two galleries withdraw to auxiliary wings their own closed courtyards -- the Arsenal and Kitchen wings. A collection of Italian paintings, assembled by the estate’s owners, is located on the top floor of the palace. Later Gatchina was passed on to Paul I, who invited the architect Vincenzo Brenna to reconstruct the palace.

The Menagerie occupies a large territory in the northern region of the Park and was intended for the court’s hunting. Part of the Menagerie is called Miracle Glade. It is now a specially protected nature territory, where rare plants grow.

The main road of Gatchina is 25th of October Prospect, which begins immediately upon entrance of Gatchina, behind a circular square, which is followed by district buildings. A planned development district, Hohlovo Fields, stretched from this area to the Orlov groves. Until the October Revolution, ladies-in-waiting and other palace folk lived in this area. After World War II a sanatorium kindergarten was located here. There is also a cemetery of German soldiers and not far from the kindergarten were concentration camps, in which many Soviet prisoners of war were killed during the war. At the turn of the fifties and sixties construction began on a residential town for employees of the Leningrad Institute of Nuclear Physics. Later the streets of Hoholovo were taken over, the fragile houses with sheds were removed and brick houses were built in their place.

The Priory Palace, situated in the park at Gatchina was built during the reign of Emperor Paul I
Next go to Sobornaya Street, and if you walk towards the center, the majestic Cathedral of St. Paul, with its sky blue domes, will rise in front of you. A few years before World War II the congregation was dissolved and the church building was reconstructed under the Culture House with a cinema. During the war, church services were reinstated and were used to hide wounded officers of the Soviet army from the Germans.

The Gatchina “Arbat” begins behind the church. Previously a market was located in this area, but now there are stores, cafes, and restaurants, as well as a small shopping center nearby. A “Cloth Factory” building is also located in front of the former market square. It has had that name since Paul I situated skilled seamstresses, who made Prussian-model uniforms out of red and green cloth for his soldiers.

An old, stone, two-story building in an eclectic style is located on Krasnaya Street. Long corridors and identical doors can be found inside the building. Before and during the war, this was a prison. It is said that in Gatchina there were many prisons with solitary confinement, in which it was only possible to sit on one’s haunches, which was thus called “glass.” Old residents say that the Germans were equipped with this “convenience.”

The grand, dark-red brick St. Basil’s Cathedral can be found to the right of the market. The cathedral was consecrated in 1914, and soon after World War I began. The cathedral was left at such and not plastered. During Soviet times the cathedral housed a warehouse and only resumed service at the end of the eighties.

The Warsaw Station is also notable in Gatchina. In 2013 the 160th anniversary of the arrival of the first railroad in Gatchina was celebrated. The modern Warsaw Station is a post-war building built in the strict and sparse style in pale-yellow. Before the war, the building was adorned with colored bricks and consisted of a long hall with arched windows and doors; the covered platform adjoined the building via stalls.

Another attraction of Gatchina, built at the very end of the eighteenth century under the orders of Paul I, is the Priory Palace and its landscaped park, built on a swamp on the shore of the Black Lake. The palace is surprising because, with the exception of its tall tower and socle, it is made of pure sifted earth, moistened with solution, and closely packed into form. This unique technique was used by the architect N.A. Lvov.

The palace was intended to serve for only 20 years, but it has stood for three centuries, a feat that could well be listed in the Guinness Book of Records. It owes its name to the Maltese Order, of which Paul I was a patron. The palace was constructed as a residence for the Prior -- one of the chief dignitaries of the Order, a French émigré, Prince de Conde. Conde never came to Gatchina, and the castle was instead used by the Russian Maltese Order for meetings.

Many streets in Gatchina are named for Russian and Soviet pilots, which is not surprising, since Gatchina is renowned for housing the first Russian aviation school. In 1909, a region near Gatchina was designated for testing airplanes, and the first military airfield was established there. In autumn of the following year, training began in the Officer Aeronautical School, which at the start of World War I was reorganized as the Gatchina Higher Aviation School. Graduates of the school included the famous pilot Pyotr Nesterov, author of the “death loop” and the first air ram in battle, which resulted in his death. The first Russian female pilot, L.V Zvereva, also graduated from the Gatchina Higher Aviation School. In 2002, Gatchina opened the only museum of aviation engine history in Russia. 
© Veronika Prokhorova / Russia Beyond the Headlines. 21 July, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:26 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 21 July 2014 4:35 AM EDT
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The Legendary Journey of Peter the Great
Topic: Peter the Great

Peter the Great at Deptford Dockyard. Artist: Daniel Maclise, 1857
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the July 18th, 2014 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author Joe Crescente, owns the copyright presented below.

Peter the Great travelled to many different countries on his educational voyage in the last years of the 17th and elements of the European lifestyle: all of which went on to help shape modern Russia

Nicholas II was the first Russian Tsar to travel to the Far East and Siberia. However, the inspiration for educational trips for future heirs to the crown came from Peter the Great’s legendary European journey of 1697-1698.

Peter the Great was that rare autocrat that liked to lead by example. He viewed his trip to Europe as a journey of knowledge that would have the potential to positively impact the people.

From an early age Peter was fascinated by shipbuilding and sailing, and always had ambitions of making Russia a major maritime power. When Peter became the sole ruler of Russia in 1696, the Russian Empire had access to only one port, in the North Sea at Arkhangelsk. At the time the north Baltic Sea was controlled by Sweden, and the Black and Caspian Seas were commanded respectively by the Ottoman Empire and the Safavid dynasty, an early Persian state. After capturing the fortress of Azov from the Ottomans in July 1696, Peter was determined to gain further access to the Black Sea. But, he knew that at that moment Russia couldn’t take on the Ottoman Empire alone.

Thus, Peter came up with the idea of his Grand Embassy, a diplomatic mission with the goal of securing allied support against the Ottoman Empire. In particular this trip sought to strengthen the Holy League, a union of Christian empires that Pope Innocent XI had formed in 1684. Russia joined in 1686. Peter also sought to use this journey to acquire knowledge and technology and hire foreign specialists for service in Russia.

In 1697 Peter set off with a 250-person entourage on an 18-month journey. Officially the “Embassy” was headed by three of his closest advisers and Peter used a pseudonym throughout the trip, Pyotr Mikhailov, as he wished to be anonymous. Although Peter was the first Tsar to travel abroad, he was easily recognizable as he was more than two meters tall. Records from the time attest that few European leaders were fooled by the disguise.

The first leg of the trip was considered unsuccessful. He met with the heads of France and Austria. France was unwavering in its support for the Ottoman Sultan and the Austrian leader was mostly concerned with keeping things quiet to their east, so that they could pursue their objectives to the west. Europeans on the whole were largely uninterested in Peter’s ambitions.

From there, Peter moved on to the Netherlands, where he took on an apprenticeship as a shipbuilder in Zaandam (the house where he lived is now a museum: http:/ / For the Tsar, learning about naval technology was crucial to his objective of creating a truly modern navy, and Dutch sailing vessels were considered among the most advanced in the world at the time. The home where Peter stayed belonged to Gerrit Kist, a Dutch blacksmith that had worked for a stint in Moscow for the Tsar. Kist and the Tsar remained friends for life.

Peter’s visit to the Netherlands was the most influential of any country he visited. There, he acquired not just technical knowledge, but also learned about how Europeans lived. One notable technology that Peter discovered was the fire hose. This was especially important considering the prevalence of fires in 17th Moscow. He learned about the technology from its inventor, Jan van der Heyden. Afterwards he went to Amsterdam and with a little help from its mayor, Nicolaas Witsen (an expert on shipbuilding), Peter was able to put what he had learned in Zaandam to use by going to work at the largest shipbuilding yard in the world. He spent four months at the wharf, which was owned by the Dutch East India Company. In addition to acquiring vast maritime knowledge, Peter also set to work hiring skilled workers, sailors, and lock builders. But his biggest prize was probably luring Cornelis Cruys, a high-ranking official in the Dutch Navy, to come to Russia. There, he was appointed the vice-admiral for the Russian Navy and became the most influential adviser to the Tsar for maritime affairs for decades to come.

From Holland Peter moved on to England, where he met King William III and toured the cities of Oxford and Manchester, where he learned about city planning. He would put this knowledge to use several years later when he founded St. Petersburg. After England, Peter’s entourage collectively journeyed to the cities of Leipzig, Dresden, and Vienna, and met with August the Strong, the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, and Leopold I, the Holy Roman Emperor and a frequent antagonist of the Ottoman Empire.

Peter was forced to return early to Russia in 1698, as the Streltsy—armed Russian guard units—had rebelled. The uprising was crushed before Peter made it back from England.

Peter was very impressionable during his “Embassy” and came back convinced that certain European customs were superior to Russian ones. Peter announced upon his return that nobles had to cut their beards (or pay a tax) and wear European clothing. The calendar was changed to better align with the European one. The rest of Peter’s reign until his death in 1725 was marked by several victories over Sweden, which led to Russia’s status as the supreme power in northeastern Europe. While Russian troops engaged Ottoman forces on several occasions, no significant settlements were made. St. Petersburg was founded in 1703 and the country began to look west.

One of the first things that Peter did upon his return was to divorce his wife, Eudoxia Lopukhina. For Peter the Great it really was out with the “old” and in with the “new” after this life-changing journey. 
© Joe Crescente / Russia Beyond the Headlines. 21 July, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:13 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 21 July 2014 4:19 AM EDT
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