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Sunday, 25 January 2015
Putin's Wish to Rebuild Kremlin Monasteries Is Left Unfulfilled
Topic: Kremlin

Early 20th century photograph of the Voznesensky monastery in the Moscow Kremlin
President Vladimir Putin's suggestion in July to rebuild two monasteries within the Moscow Kremlin has been left unfulfilled as researchers struggle with a lack of information on how to properly conduct the project, state news agency Vesti reported Thursday.

"At the current stage, we have no more than 20 percent of the information needed for reliable reconstruction" of the Chudov and Voznesensky monasteries, historian Vladimir Kiprin, an adviser on the project, was quoted as saying.

During a meeting with Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and the curator of the Kremlin Museums last summer, Putin said that reconstruction of the monasteries and an accompanying church could take place if the project receives enough public support as well as approval by the United Nations' cultural branch UNESCO due to the Kremlin being an internationally designated world-heritage site.

That approval, however, has yet to be given, and demolition of an administrative building, Corpus 14, to make room for the monasteries, "might cause a number of rather negative consequences," Kremlin Museums associate director Andrei Batalov said in comments carried by Vesti.
For more information on this topic, please refer to the following articles:
Kremlin Awaits UNESCO Decision Before Restoration of Historic Monasteries
Reconstruction in the Kremlin to Surpass all the Project's Ever Coordinated With UNESCO

Restore Destroyed Orthodox Monasteries in Kremlin, says Putin

Archaeologists Believe Excavation of Kremlin Monasteries to Yield Great Discoveries

Putin Wants Monasteries, Church Rebuilt in Kremlin 
© Moscow Times. 25 January, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:39 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 26 January 2015 4:53 PM EST
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Saturday, 24 January 2015
Winter Promenade in the Romanovs' Residence - Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

The Catherine Palace, Tsarskoye Selo. Photo © Ivan Dementievskiy
Copyright Notice: The following collection of photographs was originally published in the January 24th, 2015 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The photographer Ivan Dementievskiy, owns the copyright of the photographs presented below.
Tsarskoye Selo [Tsar’s Village] is situated 25 km from St. Petersburg. More than a hundred monuments are scattered across an area of 300 hectares: palaces and pavilions, bridges and marble monuments, as well as exotic edifices in the Gothic, Turkish and Chinese style. The territory features two main palaces - the Alexander Palace (Neoclassical) and the Catherine Palace (Rococo). The Great hall of the Catherine palace is over 800 square metres was intended as the venue for official receptions and celebrations, banquets, balls and masquerades.
Russia Beyond the Headlines has published a collection of a dozen colour photographs of Tsarskoye Selo in winter, by Russian photographer Ivan Dementievskiy. 

Click on the link below to review the short article and the beautiful colour photos by Dementievskiy:
Winter Promenade in the Romanovs' Residence - Tsarskoye Selo
© Ivan Dementievskiy / Russia Beyond the Headlines. 24 January, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:20 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 24 January 2015 9:36 AM EST
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A Russian Moment No. 56 - Monument to His Majesty's Life-Guards Hussar Regiment, Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: A Russian Moment

In 2003, a granite monument to His Majesty's Life-Guards Hussar Regiment was installed on the south side of the park which surrounds St. Sophia Cathedral in Tsarskoye Selo. A plaque commemorating the His Majesty's Life-Guards Hussar Regiment was consecrated on June 10th of the same year by the Metropolitan of St Petersburg and Ladoga Vladimir. The monument was installed in accordance with the program of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation with the support of the administration of St. Petersburg. Funding for the monument was made possible thanks to the Baltic Construction Company.

The monument is a three-level composition. The first level - three-step pedestal. The second level - the middle part of the mark on which the information elements. On the central front faces of the pyramid is the regimental badge, made of porcelain, and includes the monogram of Emperor Nicholas II. On the side faces - bronze plaque with a description of the regiment and its militant form. On the back side - bronze plaque with sculptural reliefs depicting a ceremonial regiment in Paris in 1814. In the final, the third level of the monument, the central rectangular facade is the emblem of the Russian Army, made of gilded porcelain.

The history of the Hussar Life Guards Regiment (from 1855 His Majesty’s Regiment), dates back to the Life Hussar Squadron, formed in 1775, which in 1796 was incorporated into the Cossack Life Hussar Regiment, in 1798 was formed into its own regiment; enjoyed privileges of the Old Guards, consisted of 2 to 5 squadron battalions, in 1802 was re-formed into a 5-squadron unit. Participated in the wars with France of 1799, 1805, 1806-07, 1812-14, in the Russo-Turkish Wars of 1828-29 and 1877-78, in suppressing of the Polish Uprising of 1830-31. From 1802 the regiment was stationed in Pavlovsk and Krasnoe Selo, from 1814 – in Tsarskoe Selo, (hence the informal name “hussars of Tsarskoe Selo – tsarskoselsky hussars”). 

The barracks were situated in the neighbourhood bordered by Volkonskaya (now Parkovaya), Sofiyskaya, Furazhnaya, Gussarskaya, Stesselevskaya (now Krasnoy Zvezdy Street) and Gospitalnaya Streets. 

From 1817, Emperor Alexander I decreed St. Sophia Cathedral (the traditional name of the Holy Ascension Cathedral) the regimental church of the Hussar Life Guard Regiment and the regiment trophies and treasures were kept there. From 1855 reigning emperors were the regiment’s patrons, future Emperors Alexander II and Nicholas II commenced their service in its ranks. During WW I 1914-18 the regiment within the 2d Guards Cavalry Division was dispatched to the North-Western front. His Majesty's Life-Guards Hussar Regiment was disbanded in early 1918. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 24 January, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:37 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 24 January 2015 8:49 AM EST
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Friday, 23 January 2015
Personal Belongings of Nicholas II on Display at Novosibirsk Museum
Topic: Nicholas II

A number of personal items of Emperor Nicholas II are now on display at the Novosibirsk City Museum. The items include a teacup with the personal monogram of the emperor, dated 1897. Judging from the abrasions, the cup is believed to have been used frequently by the tsar. According to a museum press release, cups, plates, spoons and other such items with such monograms were made for the exclusive use of members of the Imperial family. 

The items originally belonged to Carolina Bergman, a maid of honour of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. She served the Imperial family up until the final months of their stay at Tsarskoye Selo. On parting with the Imperial family, the woman received a number of items as a gift in recognition of her service. Subsequently, the maid of honour was to endure many hardships, her husband was executed in 1937, and because of her own infirmity, was taken in by a kind family. In gratitude, the former maid-of-honour tried to be helpful and even taught German to one of the children. In gratitude for their kindness and friendship, Caroline bequeathed the items to the hospitable family. According to the museum staff, the personal belongings of Nicholas II from this private collection are being exhibited for the very first time at Novosibirsk.

The exhibition runs at the Novosibirsk City Museum until 19 May 2015.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 January, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:23 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 23 January 2015 4:27 PM EST
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Thursday, 22 January 2015
Russians Divided between Nicholas II and Lenin in Recent Poll
Topic: Nicholas II

Tsar Nicholas II and Vladimir Lenin
More than half of Russians believe Tsar Nicholas II played a positive role in Russia, citing a poll published Tuesday by the Levada Center.

In a question respondents were offered a choice of historical figures and asked whether those figures had, in their opinion done "more good" or "more bad" for Russia. The two figures approved most by respondents were Nicholas II (with 52% in total expressing approval for the last tsar) and Vladimir Lenin (46% total approval for the leader of the Bolshevik revolution).

The results of the poll are an indication of how many Russians are re-evaluating their perception of the last tsar. For nearly 80 years, the Bolsheviks and the Soviets were perfectly content to allow the negative myths about the last tsar to stand. 

The Soviet government’s philosophy to avoid or revolutionize many facts pertaining to Imperial history, including the adoption of extreme censorship, affected what was permitted to be published inside the Soviet Union and helped the Bolshevik regime to discredit the last Emperor of Imperial Russia.  

Over the last few decades many Western biographers writing about the life and reign of Nicholas II continued to base their “research” on these same negative myths. Note: for those interested in the Nicholas II, I highly recommend Last Tsar. Nicholas II, His Reign & His Russia, by Sergei S. Oldenburg (Atlantic International Press, 1975), 4 volumes. Now out of print, however, it is available at many libraries and through inter-library loan.

The poll was conducted on in November 2014 across Russia with an error margin of no more than 3.4%. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 22 January, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:40 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 22 January 2015 8:45 AM EST
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Topic: Royal Russia


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:31 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 22 January 2015 8:01 AM EST
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Tuesday, 20 January 2015
Bust of Alexander I Installed at Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum
Topic: Alexander I

An historic bust of Alexander I, created during the life of the emperor, has been installed in the Lyceum at Tsarskoye Selo. 

The location of the bust was unknown for a long time, but in recent years was discovered in a private collection. The historic bust was purchased at the expense of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. An inscription has been added to the pedestal quoting a line from a poem by the famed Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin.  The bust has been installed in the lobby of the Lyceum. Director of the Russian Museum of AS Pushkin Sergey Nekrasov said that this monument is dedicated to the emperor was known as the founder of the school.

The Imperial Lyceum was unique for its time, an educational institution of university stature. It combined the best features of the French and English schools with the achievements of Russian universities. Alexander I did a lot for the creation and development of the Lyceum. On August 12, 1810 His Majesty the Emperor adopted the "Resolution on the Lyceum," which included the new institution under the Sovereign’s "special protection". He provided a new wing of the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo to house the institution. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 20 January, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:38 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 21 January 2015 12:42 PM EST
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Monday, 19 January 2015
Monument to Emperor Alexander II Restored in Novaya Usman
Topic: Alexander II

A monument to Emperor Alexander II has been restored in the village of Novaya Usman, situated on the banks of the Usman River, 8 km south-east of the Russian city of Voronezh.

The monument was originally erected in 1882. The funds for its construction were gathered by local farmers, in gratitude for their liberation from serfdom. It was one of the first memorial monuments to Alexander II to be erected in Russia after his assassination in St. Petersburg in 1881. The inscription noted his merits for the benefit of the Fatherland, and regrets over his death at the hands of terrorists. 

During the Soviet years, the bas-relief and inscription were filled in with plaster. It was only during the 1990s, when builders carrying out the reconstruction of the Church of Our Saviour in Novaya Usman, stumbled upon it by accident. Workers chipping away at the plaster on the pillar discovered letters in Russian and old Slavonic. When the plaster was fully scraped, it revealed the memorial stone to the Tsar-Liberator.

Surprisingly, the text on the plate was well preserved, but the bronze bas-relief image of the sovereign required restoration. The monument is the only surviving to Alexander II in the region which has been preserved from pre-revolutionary times, it is located at the entrance to the Church of Our Saviour in Novaya Usman. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 19 January, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:07 AM EST
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Saturday, 17 January 2015
Tyrant or Reformer: Was Ivan Really so Terrible?
Topic: Ruriks

Portrait of Ivan IV by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1897 (Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow)
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the January 17th, 2015 edition of Billionaires Newswire. The author Nick Hagan, owns the copyright of the work presented below.

Ivan the Terrible has gone down in history as one of Russia’s most insane and violent rulers. But was Ivan’s title deserved or was he really a misunderstood monarch? Nick Hagan examines his infamous reputation.

First impressions count for a lot. And when your name has ‘terrible’ in it, it’s probably fair to say people are going to have certain expectations, and probably not good ones.

So spare a thought for poor old Ivan the Terrible, who was crowned as such on 16 January 1547 and, through our insatiable appetite for sweeping judgements about towering historical figures, has been consigned to the Naughty Step of history ever since.

A Few Disclaimers

Could Ivan deserve more credit than he generally receives? First, it’s important to clarify that very few primary sources exist to conclusively verify the many wild rumours and legends that snap at the heels of Russia’s first Tsar. As such, a large measure of conjecture and educated guesswork is inevitable when we weigh up Ivan’s rep, meaning we look at Ivan now as if through a misted window. His tremendous significance as a ruler is broadly accepted, but nearly 500 years after his reign there are many aspects of it we can’t decipher with the sort of clear-eyed objectivity historians strive for (well, at least some of them).

A good example is his name. To English speakers the epithet ‘terrible’ suggests tyranny, ruthlessness, brutality, fury. Yet ‘terrible’ is arrived at through translation of the Russian ‘grozny’ or ‘groznyi’, which in the context of leadership means ‘awe-inspiring’ or ‘formidable’. Rather than saying Ivan was a total nutter, or just a bit rubbish, ‘terrible’ expressed respect and amazement at his qualities and deeds as a ruler.

By considering the etymology of his name, we instantly open a new perspective on Ivan. Indeed, many attempts to salvage his reputation have been made by historians.

The Good Bits

As the lives of all-powerful rulers go, Ivan’s got off to a bit of a rocky start.

From his ascension to Grand Prince of Moscow at the tender age of three following his father’s untimely death, Ivan’s future was a subject of intense debate. Elena Glinskaya, his mother, acted as regent and protected Ivan’s position until he was eight years old. But the security she provided the young monarch was cut short in 1538 when she died in sudden and mysterious circumstances. Many believed she had been assassinated by poison, and it was the boyars – the power-hungry Russian aristocrat class – who had done her in.

We know from letters Ivan wrote in later life that, following the death of his mother, he was mistreated by the boyars charged with his care. In some versions of events he was even thrown into the dungeons, shunted aside to develop his impressive intellect in solitude. Regardless of just how the nobles belittled the young monarch, his resentment against them would later mutate into a vicious quest for retribution.

Aged 16, Ivan was crowned as Tsar of all the Russias – a bold claim that established him as a divine, supreme leader of several as yet unconquered lands. It was a title he would come to earn; in 1552 he crushed the meddlesome Kazan Khanate, bringing the state under Moscow’s control. He did the same in 1556 with the Astrakhan Khanate.

Through these actions, Muscovy was established as the central authority in Russia, and a force to be reckoned with. It was a time when religion held immense power over the hearts, minds and deeds of men, and the Russian Orthodox Church wanted to establish Moscow as a ‘third Rome’, supplanting Constantinople as the epicentre of Christendom.

The conquest of Siberia would be one of Ivan’s final achievements in 1580, laying an early blueprint for the geography of the Russia we know today.

Alongside this hugely important unification (which, needless to say, was forged in the blood of hundreds of thousands), Ivan also introduced Russia’s first printing press in 1553, reformed the legal system and built one of Moscow’s most iconic landmarks, St Basil’s Cathedral.

The Terrible Bits

Nonetheless, the more violent and controversial episodes in Ivan’s reign cannot be ignored.

The distrust of the boyar class borne out of Ivan’s childhood of neglect developed into outright paranoia after his former trusted advisor and friend Andrey Kurbsky switched his allegiance in 1564, joining the Lithuanian army Russia was at war with. Under his supervision, the Lithuanians ravaged the Russian region of Vilekiye Luki.

A series of angry letters between Ivan and Kurbsky are a key primary source for historians today, and also seem to confirm some of Ivan’s excesses as ruler. Kurbsky repeatedly condemned Ivan as an absolutist, penning a number of inflammatory political pamphlets and a damning history of the Tsar’s reign. Some argue the nobleman’s correspondence and writing is evidence of Ivan’s increasingly totalitarian approach to governing from the 1560s onwards.

In early 1565 Ivan’s hatred for the boyars led him to take drastic measures to tighten his grip on power. After leaving Moscow on pilgrimage, he sent letters to the Muscovite elite accusing them of corruption and treason – and also announced his abdication as Tsar. At a point in history where Ivan had been largely successful in establishing a nascent empire, this prospect was unthinkable to the nobles; they begged him to return to the throne. After negotiations Ivan agreed – but at a heavy price.

In return for his continued leadership, he demanded absolute power over the area surrounding Moscow, known as the Oprichnina. This gave him the freedom to execute anyone he considered a lawbreaker or traitor without consent from the boyar council. The aristocracy acquiesced, and so Ivan’s rule as omnipotent leader was assured.


To maintain his total power, the Tsar created Russia’s first secret police.

Originally one thousand strong, the Oprichniki organisation was effectively Ivan’s personal army. Some historians have argued that Ivan’s creation of the Oprichniki set a precedent in Russian history: just about every leader up to Stalin had their own personal guard to carry out their bidding and protect their power base.

It wasn’t long before the Oprichniki were committing acts of horrible violence in Ivan’s name. One atrocity we know the Tsar presided over was the bloody Massacre at Novgorod. Furious with paranoia that Novgorod’s religious and aristocratic elite were conspiring against him, Ivan marched to the city with the Oprichniki and humiliated, tortured and murdered scores of people.

Between 2,500 and 12,000 were killed depending on which source you read. The severity of the attack was such that it reduced a once mighty city to a shadow of its former self.

Personal battle

Ivan’s greatest battle – and the one that inspired some of his cruellest deeds – was perhaps the one unfolding in his own mind. The Tsar’s mental health was deteriorating as he aged. He was a learned, naturally intelligent individual, but this side of his nature clashed with titanic rages and unpredictable outbursts of violence. Examinations of his skeleton suggest the Tsar may have suffered from osteophytes, painful bone growths on the spinal column that no doubt would have contributed to his mercurial mental state.

The impact Ivan’s unstable condition had on his family was significant. In 1581 Ivan beat his pregnant daughter-in-law for wearing immodest clothing, which possibly caused her to miscarriage. When the Tsar’s son and heir to the throne, Ivan Ivanovich, reprimanded his father for his actions, the Tsar struck him with his staff in a moment of fury.

Ivan Ivanovich bled to death in front of Ivan as he held his body in anguish. The event was significant not only as a terrible act of violence against a family member. As a result of Ivanovich’s death his feeble-minded brother Feodor Ivanovich would succeed Ivan, weakening Russia and ushering in the Time of Troubles, a period of great social upheaval and strife.

A Tsar’s legacy

There’s no denying that Ivan the Terrible’s exercised an iron grip as first Tsar – and was comfortable using cruelty and brutality to maintain it. His persecution of the boyars, the bloodbath at Novgorod and his paranoid subjugation of anyone he considered a traitor all form key aspects of his reign.

But ultimately, it must be said our modern perception of him as an insane despot is firmly grounded in speculation on Ivan’s personal character.

Throughout Russia’s history a tug-of-war between reform and repression from power has shaped the country’s fortunes. In many ways, Ivan was the man who set that balance in motion. 
© Nick Hagan / Billionaires Newswire. 17 January, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:33 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 17 January 2015 9:59 AM EST
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Friday, 16 January 2015
A Russian Moment No. 55 - Chinese Palace, Oranienbaum
Topic: A Russian Moment

Situated at Oranienbaum, the Chinese Palace erected in 1762-1768 by Antonio Rinaldi for Empress Catherine II. It is considered one of the finest monuments of 18th century architecture. From the outside, the palace is a relatively simple building, single-storey except for the small central pavilion. 

The seventeen rooms inside, each of them is original in character were decorated by Rinaldi and other leading artists and craftsmen of the day. They feature pink, blue and green scagliola, painted silks, and intricate stucco work. Rinaldi's parquet floors are wonderfully ornate and of immense value, using fifteen types of rare Russian and imported wood. 

Among the highlights of the Chinese Palace interiors are the recently restored Glass Beaded Salon, the walls of which are hung with 12 panels of richly coloured tapestries depicting exotic birds and fauna. The fine white glass beads that form the backdrop of the tapestries give the whole room a diaphanous, shimmering quality that was designed to be particularly effective in the glowing twilight of the White Nights. 

The full influence of Chinoiserie is in evidence in the Large Chinese Salon, where the walls are covered with marquetry paneling of wood and walrus ivory depicting oriental landscapes, and large Chinese lanterns hanging in the corners. The room also contains an English-made billiard table with superb wood carving.

After the October Revolution the palace and park ensembles of Oranienbaum were nationalized. In the Chinese Palace there was opened a museum housing a collection of eighteenth century applied art. During World War II, from September 1941 to January 19, 1944 Oranienbaum was cut from Nazi troops, becoming an isolated stronghold. Defenders of Oranienbaum saved both the palaces and their works of art.

In recent years, the palace has undergone some extensive restorations giving the palace a new life. The Chinese Palace is the only Romanov palace outside of St. Petersburg spared the destruction that many of the other Romanov palaces suffered during Second World War, making it of immense artistic and historic value. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 16 January, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:02 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 18 January 2015 6:18 AM EST
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