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Wednesday, 29 October 2014
Hong Kong Hosts Treasures from Tsarskoye Selo Exhibition
Topic: Exhibitions

A large-scale exhibition entitled Treasures from Tsarskoye Selo, Residence of the Russian Monarchs opens today at the Hong Kong Museum of History. The exhibition will run until March 16, 2015, showcasing more than 200 artefacts from Russia's Romanov dynasty, on loan from the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve.

Speaking at the opening ceremony yesterday, the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Tsang Tak-sing, said that this exhibition represents a major collaboration between government museums in Russia and Hong Kong. The Hong Kong and Russian governments signed a memorandum of understanding on cultural co-operation in September 2011. Museum of History director Susanna Siu noted that it cost HK$17 million to organize the exhibition.

He pointed out that the Russian artefacts exhibition is the largest of its kind ever staged in Hong Kong. Hundreds of exhibits selected from the collections of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve of Russia are on display.

These include paintings, costumes, porcelain, works of art and a spectacular carriage. They will give a clearer picture of the history and culture of Russia and, in particular, evidence of the long-lasting exchanges between Russia and China.

The exhibition is jointly presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve of Russia, with the Hong Kong Museum of History and the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve of Russia as the co-organisers. Solely sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, it is one of the exhibitions in the 2014 Hong Kong Jockey Club Series.

Tsarskoye Selo, a summer residence of the Russian monarchs, witnessed not only the birth of the Russian Empire in the 18th century, but also the end of its monarchy in 1917.

One of the exhibit highlights, a richly decorated carriage with harnesses used for the coronation of Emperor Alexander II in Moscow in 1856, has been loaned out by the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve of Russia for the first time.

Since the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 1913, the full set of carriage and harnesses has not been used again or put together for public viewing.

The Hong Kong Museum of History has taken this opportunity to showcase the full set of the artefacts with a view to introducing the splendour of the coronation of the Russian monarchs as well as the high standards of craftsmanship maintained by the imperial manufactories in Russia. Other highlights include decorative items from Tsarskoye Selo produced by imperial manufactories in Russia and diplomatic gifts presented to Russia from foreign royal houses.

In addition, visitors will be able to see Chinese artefacts, including an 18th century Guangdong lacquer vase presented to the last Russian emperor, Nicholas II, in the name of the last emperor of China, Puyi, as well as Chinese-style works of art produced by imperial manufactories in Russia.

Beyond the attractive exhibits, multimedia programmes will also be available during the exhibition period. For instance, the Catherine Palace, one of the palaces in Tsarskoye Selo, will be presented in a 360-degree virtual reality zone, where visitors will be shown eight of its rooms in life size, including the Amber Room, which has been acclaimed as the "Eighth Wonder of the World".

To tie in with the exhibition, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra will host three sessions of Russian music performances at the 1/F Lobby of the Museum of History for visitors to learn more about the history and culture of Russia.

The performances will be held on November 16, December 28; and February 8, 2015. The exhibition is also being supplemented by two publications: a fully illustrated catalogue and a specially designed pop-up children's booklet. This is the first time that the Museum of History has produced a children's booklet with rich graphics, easy-to-read text and interactive elements, including pop-ups, through which readers will be able to familiarise themselves with the history of Tsarskoye Selo and the broader context of Russian history. 
© HKSAR and Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 October, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:20 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 29 October 2014 10:41 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Correspondences & Archives of Prince Felix Yusupov to be Auctioned in Paris
Topic: Yusupov

The Coutou-Begarie auction house in Paris will host an important Russian art sale on Friday, November 14, 2014. Featured are an important set of more than 1300 letters and historical documents, coming from the Prince Felix Yusupov (1887-1967) and his wife the Princess Irina of Russia (1895-1970), concerning the death of Rasputin, the end of the Romanovs and the exile of the Imperial Family of Russia. 

Our next historical sale will take place as part of the Centenary of the Great War and will showcase a famous and macabre historic page of Imperial Russia. It concerns the murder of Gregory Rasputin (1869-1916), orchestrated by Prince Felix Yusupov (1887-1967), Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (1891-1941) and three accomplices, on the evening of December 30, 1916.
The archives that we offer for sale come directly from the Prince Yusupov and were recently found in a cellar of a Parisian apartment, where they slept for 45 years. This set traces the precise proceedings of this event and its consequences on the Imperial Family and on Russia, by highlighting new details remained unknown until then. 

In addition to the story established by Nicholas Sokoloff (judge in charge of the investigation on the execution of Nicholas II and his family), collected from the mouth of the Prince on May 16, 1921, about its role and the reasons for his involvement in the murder of Rasputin (est: 3/5 000 €), we find the correspondence between the Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich and Prince Felix Yusupov (est. 2/3 000 €) ; the handwritten statement of the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II, signed March 15, 1917 (est. 2/3 000 €) and that of his brother, the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, dated March 16, 1917 (est. 2/3 000 €) ; the complete correspondence consisting of several hundred letters between Prince Felix and his wife Princess Irina of Russia, niece of Emperor Nicholas II, dating from 1914 to 1960 (est. 4/6 000 € per lot) ; all the correspondence of the Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna (1875-1960) and of her husband Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia (1866-1933) with their daughter, Princess Irina, dating from 1912 to 1960, referring to the political events of this period, the Russian Revolution, the imprisonment and murder of the Imperial Family, the departure into exile of the Romanovs, the disappearance of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, etc. (est. 3/6 000 € per lot) ; several handwritten diaries including that of Prince Felix Yusupov and that of his mother Princess Zenaida Yusupov, about the life and tragic death of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, massacred by the Bolsheviks in 1918 (est. 2/3 000 € per lot ) ; but also a large number of letters exchanged by members of the Imperial Family, including the Empress Maria Feodorovna, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, Grand Duke Kyril Wladimirovich and several members of the branch of the Mikhailovich (est. 4/600 € each). Will also be on sale albums of photographs highlighting this period (est. 2/3 000 € each), several autographed photographic portraits of members of the Imperial Family (est. 4/600 € each). One of the most touching lot is undoubtedly this book reported by judge Sokoloff, used by Emperor Nicholas II during his captivity in Ekaterinburg in the last weeks of his life, before he and his family were horribly murdered on the night from 16 to 17 July 1918 (est. 3/5 000 €). But the most important souvenir of all is the unique Bible of Empress Maria Feodorovna, entirely annotated with her own hand (est. 15/20 000 €). 
Furthermore, the sale will include several important works of art belonging to the Imperial Family, as the silver-gilt seal of Princess Irina (est. 3/5 000 €), a rock-crystal seal with the Yusupov arms (est. 4/6 000 €), and an important and rare enamelled silver icon by Ovchinnikov, gift to the Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna for her wedding in 1894 (est. 80/100 000 €). 
© Coutou-Begarie Press Release. 28 October, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:46 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 28 October 2014 3:37 PM EDT
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Monday, 27 October 2014
Auction: Rare Morozov Silver Bust of Emperor Nicholas I
Topic: Auctions

Photo Courtesy: Aspire Auctions
Aspire Auctions in the United States, are offering a unique silver bust of Emperor Nicholas I (1825-1855). Portrayed in military uniform and helmet with double headed crowned Imperial Eagle and attached to a silver socle. Front plate with "Nicolas I" in Cyrillic. With maker's hallmark "Morozov" in Cyrillic with Imperial Warrant of double headed Imperial Eagle to the right, city mark for St. Petersburg, and assay mark for Aleksandr Timofeyevich Shevyakov (1895-1898) and "84, 1896" underneath. Weighs 49.92 toz.

The silver casting was made by Morozov, the chief rival to Carl Faberge, also possessed the Imperial Warrant to supply items to the Imperial Court. This is symbolized by the Imperial Eagle on the hallmark of the bust. Ivan Ekimovich Morozov founded an important firm of jewellers and court purveyors "I.E.Morozov" in 1849 which remained in existence till 1917. Friedrich August Theodor Dietrich (German, 1817-1903) was born in Bojanovo (Posen), studied under Drake, Rauch, Tieck and others in Berlin. In 1856 modeled bronze statuettes of the Russian Tzar Nicolas I and the Prussian King Frederick Wilhelm IV.

This item is estimated $2,500-$5,000. The lot will close this Thursday October 30th. 
© Aspire Auctions. 27 October, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 3:30 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 28 October 2014 3:48 PM EDT
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Sunday, 26 October 2014
A Russian Moment No. 49 - Yusupov Palace at Koreiz, Crimea
Topic: A Russian Moment

The Yusupov Palace at Koreiz, overlooks the Black Sea in the Crimea
The Yusupov Palace is located in the town of Koreiz, near Yalta in the Crimea. It was built for Prince Felix Yusupov-Soumorokov-Elston, father of Prince Felix Yusupov (1856-1928), the former Governor-General of Moscow in 1909. The architect Nikolai Krasnov, also constructed the Livadia Palace for Emperor Nicholas II in nearby Yalta. 

The palace’s style may be best described as Neo-Romanesque with elements of the Renaissance. Sculptures of lions, marble mythological characters of ancient Greece brought from Venice, decorate the arches and the staircases. The interior is dominated by the Art Nouveau style. The palace boasts a romantic park with exotic plants and a wine cellar founded by Prince Lev Galitzine in the 19th century. 

Prince Felix Yusupov (1887-1967) describes Koreiz in his memoirs, Lost Splendour, published in 1952. He was unhappy with the estate’s view, he spoke of it as of an ugly building with grey walls, not appropriate for the seashore.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the palace was nationalized and served as a holiday spot for members of the notorious Cheka, including Felix Dzerzhinsky, who stayed here in 1925-1926. In February 1945, the palace served as the residence of the Soviet delegation, headed by Joseph Stalin. In later years, the palace served as a sanatorium for members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and even a hotel in the 1990s. From 1991 to March 2014 the Yusupov Palace served as a residence of the Office of the President of Ukraine.  

Now that the Crimea is once again part of the Russian Federation, the administration of the palace-museums which dot the Crimean coast are under the watchful eye of the Ministry of Culture. The Russian media announced last week that the Yusupov palace at Koreiz is to be restored and open as a museum, with plans to host the first exhibition in the summer of 2015.

The surrounding park consists of 16.5 hectares, containing more than 200 species of trees and shrubs. It is interesting to note that 155 trees in the park are between 100 to 500 years old. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 26 October, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:25 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 27 October 2014 6:22 AM EDT
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Saturday, 25 October 2014
Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Visits St. Petersburg
Topic: Russian Imperial House

HIH Grand Duke George Mikhailovich lays flowers on the grave of his grandmother, Grand Duchess Leonida who is buried
next to her husband, Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich, in the Grand Ducal Mausoleum at the Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral.
Photo Courtesy: Russian Imperial House
On October 2-6, 2014, H.I.H. The Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George of Russia visited St. Petersburg. His Imperial Highness arrived to take part in events marking the 100th birthday of his grandmother, H.I.H. The Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna (who was born on September 23/October 6, 1914 and died on May 10/23, 2010).

On Sunday, October 5, H.I.H. the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George of Russia attended the pine Liturgy in the Ss. Peter and Paul Fortress, which was served by His Grace Bishop Nazarii of Kronstadt, Vicar Bishop of the St. Petersburg Metropolia, as well as by the rector of the Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral, Hegumen Alexander (Fedorov), Archpriest Alexander Tkachenko, and other clergy. During the Liturgy, the litany for the reposed was sung for Grand Duchess Leonida and for all the emperors, empresses, and other members of the House of Romanoff who are buried in the Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral and in its New Mausoleum. During the Liturgy, the Tsesarevich took Holy Communion. Then His Grace Bishop Nazarii offered a Litiya (requiem) service at the graves of Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna and her husband, Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich, in the New Mausoleum. At the conclusion of the services, Bishop Nazarii gave a brief sermon on the life and service of Grand Duchess Leonida, whom he had met many times in Russia and Paris. His Grace wished the members of the Imperial House of Romanoff success and God’s help in all their endeavors for the benefit of Russia.

Addressing the Grand Duke and all those gathered together in prayer, His Grace Bishop Nazarii said: “I was so very glad today to serve the pine Liturgy in this cathedral, which is the mausoleum of all members of the House of Romanoff, and I was especially glad to welcome Grand Duke George of Russia, who has come to St. Petersburg to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of his grandmother, Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna. The House of Romanoff has done, and continues to do, many good works for Russia and its people, despite its current difficult situation. It is proper that we remember this dynasty whenever we speak about Russia. They are the heirs of all the great rulers of Russia, under whose rule the people of our country accomplished many great things.”

Grand Duke George of Russia in response noted that he was deeply moved by everyone’s prayers and remembrances of his grandmother. “She loved Russia wholeheartedly and left for all of us an example of service to the nation. We all are striving to preserve and observe traditions that were very dear to her. Thank you for coming today to remember the Grand Duchess in prayer, and also for your support, which we constantly feel and greatly appreciate,” the Grand Duke said.

After the Litiya service, the Grand Duke laid flowers and a wreath on his grandmother’s grave. He also spoke with representatives of several civic organizations of the city and with cadets of the First Border Military Corps, who happened to be touring the cathedral. The cadets were very interested in the commemorative events taking place in the mausoleum, and the Tsesarevich spoke with them about the work of Grand Duchess Leonida during her lifetime, and of the activities today of members of the House of Romanoff. He wished them all well in their service to their country, and the cadets in turn expressed their unexpected pleasure at “seeing history come to life” right before their eyes.
To read the full version of this article, and watch a VIDEO (in Russian), please click on the link below:

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Visits St. Petersburg 

© Russian Imperial House. 25 October, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:38 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 25 October 2014 9:52 AM EDT
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Friday, 24 October 2014
Russian Orthodox University Hosts Ceremonies Marking 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Grand Duchess Leonida of Russia
Topic: Russian Imperial House

Photo © Maria Temnova
October 6, 2014, marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Her Imperial Highness The Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna of Russia, mother of the Head of the Russian Imperial House, The Grand Duchess Maria of Russia.

The principal organizer of the celebrations that took place in Moscow on October 10 at the Russian Orthodox University (RPU) was the national civic organization “For Faith and Fatherland.” A solemn panikhida, or requiem service, was held at the university’s Chapel of the Holy Evangelist John the Theologian under the Elm, officiated by Hieromonk Nikon (Levachev-Belavenets), the chaplain for the organization “For Faith and Fatherland.” Also serving at the panikhida was Deacon Boris Yakovenko of the Church of St. Dmitrii Donskoi in the Raevo section of Moscow.

Attending the panikhida were members of the Chancellery of the Head of the Russian Imperial House, including its Director and the Private Secretary of the Imperial Family, Alexander Zakatov; members of the Russian Nobility Association, including its chairman, Oleg Shcherbachev; members of “For Faith and Fatherland,” including the vice-chairman of its executive council, A. V. Kulyomin; the chairman of the Societies of Descendants of the Wars of 1812 and 1914, V. I. Aliavdin; the chief of the administrative offices of the Central Elections Commission of the Russian Federation, Major-General A. V. Kirilin; the Distinguished Artist of Russia I. G. Mashkov; members of the public; and parishioners.

After the conclusion of the service and a brief sermon by Fr. Nikon, A. N. Zakatov announced the next event in the campaign “Gifts for the Grand Duchess—Charity,” which is timed to coincide with the anniversary of Grand Duchess Leonida’s birthday. In accordance with the wishes of H.I.H. The Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, donations are being accepted to commission an Icon of Holy Martyr Anastasia the Alleviatrix of Captives for the Church of St. John the Theologian under the Elm and for the construction of a case (or kiot) for it. Those who make donations for this purpose will receive in return a commemorative certificate acknowledging their gift. A list of all donors and the amounts of their donations will be presented to Her Imperial Highness.

Later, in the university’s conference hall, a photo exhibit entitled “Preserver of the Foundations of the Dynasty,” dedicated to the life and work of Grand Duchess Leonida, was opened, and then Hieromonk Nikon formally opened the conference. First, Hieromonk Matfei (Muntianu), an instructor at RPU and the assistant rector of the chapel, welcomed all the participants and conveyed to all those gathered the warmest wishes and gratitude of Hegumen Peter (Eremeev), the Chancellor of RPU, for all that they are doing to help the church. Next, Alexander Zakatov discussed the celebrations marking the 100th birthday of Grand Duchess Leonida in St. Petersburg and the recent visit to the Northern Capital of the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George of Russia. Then followed speeches from O. V. Shcherbachev and A. V. Kulyomin, who welcomed the conference participants on behalf of the Russian Nobility Association and Societies of Descendants of the Wars of 1812 and 1914, respectively. Then the participants of the conference heard the fascinating paper by Dr. S. V. Dumin, King-of-Arms and in charge of the Office of Heraldry in H.I.H.’s Chancellery, about the Georgian Royal House.

Dr. F. V. Shelov-Koveliaev, the former First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, gave a paper on the reactions of the Russian political elite during the first official visit to Russia of Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich and Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna in November 1991. The many difficulties of the first visit of the Imperial Family to Moscow at the end of May 1992 was the topic of the next paper by Dr. V. I. Bragin, the former Deputy Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation. At the end of the session, chess Grandmaster and National Sports Laureate of the USSR L. S. Belavenets shared her impressions of meeting the members of the Imperial Family.

The conference ended with a reception and concert by stars of the Russian stage, Inna Subbotina and Iurii Filatov. 
© Russian Imperial House. 24 October, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:30 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 25 October 2014 9:53 AM EDT
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Thursday, 23 October 2014
Historian Doubts Nicholas II Abdicated the Throne
Topic: Nicholas II

The original document of Emperor Nicholas II’s abdication has not survived, so there may not have been any abdication at all, principal research officer of the Russian History Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences Vladimir Lavrov, Ph.D. believes. 

"First, they said that the document kept in the State Archive of the Russian Federation is the original. But it is absolutely clear that it is not the original," Lavrov said during an interview on the program Vechnost i Vremya (The Time and Eternity - IF) on the Russian network Spas TV channel.

According to Lavrov, there are many questions regarding this document: "it is written without a letterhead, signed with a pencil, it is addressed to the chief of the headquarters, and minister of the Emperor's court, Count Vladimir Frederiks, who certified the tsar's signature, said during his interrogation that the signature was forged."

"I believe the abdication possible, but the Provisional Government concealed it as the Provisional Government wasn't happy about the text of the abdication and it was a substitution. There is no original," the historian said. 

He is convinced that both the Provisional Government and Bolsheviks were interested in preserving the original as "the Provisional Government didn't have any other legitimacy, any connection with the previous authority."

"There is another option: there wasn't any abdication at all," Lavrov said.
In April 2012, Royal Russia News published an article from a Russian media source which discussed this issue. A conference on the subject was held at the State Historical Museum in Moscow, on March 15, 2012, attended by many prominent Russian historians and scientists. Click on the link below to read the article: 

Did Nicholas II Really Abdicate?

© Interfax and Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 October, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:21 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 23 October 2014 5:49 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 22 October 2014
Tsarskoye Selo Draws Record Number of Visitors
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

Entrance to the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo
Despite the situation in Ukraine, Western sanctions and a 20% drop in the number of visitors from North America and EU countries to Russia this year, Tsarskoye Selo reported a record number of visitors during its summer season. From May to September, more than 2.5 million people visited the palace-museum complex, an increase of 100 thousand over last year.  

In order to facilitate the maximum number of tourists during the summer months the museum again extended its visiting hours to the Catherine and Alexander Palaces, from 8.00 to 20.00, and on Mondays to 21.00. 

The most popular museums were the Catherine Palace and Park, as well as the Alexander Palace, the Hermitage, Turkish Bath, and White Tower. The Agate Pavilion, which opened after a complete restoration last fall also welcomed a large number of visitors. 

Two unique exhibits in the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace attracted a great deal of interest as well: The Return of the Fan and Serving Magnificence: Suppliers to the Russian Imperial Court

The main attraction for 2014, however, was the opening of the new museum dedicated to the First World War. The opening of the museum in the Sovereign's Martial Chamber coincided with the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

The Catherine Palace and Park was also voted No. 3 of Russia’s Top 10 Attractions among the winners of TripAdvisor's Travellers' Choice 2014.

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve was awarded the TripAdvisor's Certificate of Excellence 2014, based on the number of excellent reviews left by visitors to the palace-museum complex. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 22 October, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 3:41 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 22 October 2014 3:50 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 21 October 2014
Gatchina Palace to Open Four New Halls in 2016
Topic: Gatchina

Gatchina Palace
In 2015, the Gatchina State Museum-Preserve will celebrate 30 years since the opening of the museum, and a year later in 2016 - it will mark the 250th anniversary of the Gatchina Palace. 

Gatchina occupies a special place in the necklace of palaces which surround the northern capital of St. Petersburg. The central building (palace) is often referred to as a castle, and differs greatly in appearance from the grand palaces at Peterhof, Tsarskoye Selo, and Oranienbaum. During the Second World War, Gatchina was very lucky: the palace suffered much less than the other palace complexes around Leningrad. But, oddly enough, that same luck turned into misfortune for the historic Romanov residence. The restoration of Gatchina did not commence until 1976, and it took almost a decade before the first exhibition opened, which consisted of just a few rooms.

According to experts, only 25-30 per cent of the palace has been restored and open to visitors. Funding for the restoration projects was carried out very poorly over the decades. The museum staff tired of answering questions about why restoration was so slow, and thus invented a very special tour. The "No access is allowed" tour allows visitors a first hand look at the halls and rooms of the palace which currently under restoration. This unique tour provides visitors with a unique opportunity to see for themselves the tremendous amount of work which remains to be done.

Today, the completion of each restoration project becomes a great holiday for the museum and their staff. The main event marking the anniversary season in 2016 will be the opening of four halls, that will include the Greek and Chesma Gallery’s.

The museum plans to fill the restored galleries with authentic objects. In addition, the restoration of the marble staircase, which connects the main building of the palace with the Arsenal Block will be completed. Its opening will allow visitors to access the suite of private rooms of the family of Emperor Alexander III located on the mezzanine floor of the Arsenal Block.

THE CHESME GALLERY ranks among V. Brenna's finest creations, its interior glorifying the victory of the Russian Navy off Chesme in 1770. The reserved rhythm of the pilasters adorned with moulded medallions of Roman warriors and fasces, the decorative trophies of arms, the oak leaf garlands, the huge canvases by P. Hackert representing scenes of the naval battle, the standards in stucco-work, and the figure of a victorious eagle above the overmantel mirror - all joined to lend the hall an air of solemn dignity. At the side end of the gallery was the balustered choir section for the orchestra. The gallery overlooks the broad span of the White Lake. The mirrors set between the windows reflected the festive decor of the opposite wall and created an impression of great spaciousness. The semicircular layout of the interior served to enhance its decorative effect. Source: Gatchina State Museum-Preserve 

THE GREEK GALLERY looked lit with the radiant sun due to the light-orange hues of the walls and the orange-coloured curtains of the semicircular windows. As a kind of reminder of sunny Hellas, golden air hovered in the apartment which intrinsically combined the furnishings and decor details associated with the art of ancient Greece. The walls were adorned with reliefs of dancing bacchantes and medallions showing profiles of antique heroes, moulded bracket carried marble busts of Roman emperors and philosophers and marble statues of antique gods and goddesses were standing opposite the windows. Four large canvases by Hubert Robert depicted architectural sights of ancient Rome. The Greek Gallery completed by Vincenzo Brenna in the 1790s terminated the ceremonial palatial apartments retaining the 18th-century decorations. Source: Gatchina State Museum-Preserve 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 21 October, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:01 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 22 October 2014 3:13 AM EDT
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Monday, 20 October 2014
Artefacts Stolen by Nazis Returned to Tsarskoye Selo
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 3 minutes, 58 seconds
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo
Note: I would like to draw your attention to the video included with this news post. The audio is in Russian, however, do not allow that to deter you from watching it. First, you will see the four artefacts that were stolen by the Nazis, and now returned to Tsarskoye Selo. Second, you will see some archival film footage of the destroyed Catherine and Alexander Palaces which was filmed shortly after the liberation of Pushkin by the Red Army. The scenes of destruction are truly shocking. The footage also shows the Nazi cemetery dominated by an SS monument, in the square in front of the Alexander Palace - PG
A German family has returned museum treasures stolen from Tsarskoye Selo during WWII. Jens and Franziska Harmzen hope that the act might help strengthen ties between the Russian and German people and set an example to other owners of war trophies.

The artefacts arrived from Munich on Monday and presented to the Tsarskoye State Museum Preserve near St. Petersburg. Palace-museum staff compared the original inventory markings on the items, matching them with those on their expansive archival inventories, confirming that they had originated at the Catherine and Alexander Palaces. 

A rare book from the personal library of Emperor Alexander I, two vases and an icon which belonged to one of the maids of honour of Russian Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, are among the returned treasures.

The book is bound in red morocco leather, with gold trim. It was published at Paris in 1810, the 10th volume of the collected works of Francois Fenelon, the emperor's favourite writer. The volume is from the personal library of Alexander I, a small room which has not survived. 

The icon has an interesting provenance. According to the inscription on the back of the icon of the Kazan Mother of God can be seen an inscription noting that it belonged to Countess Anastasia Hendrikova, the maid of honour of the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna .

She survived all that befell the family of Nicholas II by following the Romanovs into exile, first in Tobolsk, then to Ekaterinburg, where she was placed under house arrest in the Ipatiev House with the Imperial family and other faithful retainers. They were all shot by a Bolshevik firing squad in 1918 - there were no survivors.

During WWII Nazi soldiers, who occupied the town of Pushkin where the Catherine and Alexander Palaces are located, it was common for them to send their stolen trophies back home to Germany. Thus, one of the German families came into possession of the icon and the rare book, and the other one acquired the luxurious vases. The descendants of the two families got married, and their fathers handed down the treasures to the couple.

"My father wrote to his mother every day. Here, for example, a letter of 5 October 1941. Father writes:" Last night, I and Arnold were in Tsarskoye Selo, in the famous palace of the Russian tsar. During this time we often came under heavy fire. During the last rays of daylight, the palace sparkled with gold. But at the same time it became clear that outside the palace was severely damaged, "- says Jens Harmzen.

"Before his death, my father talked a lot about the war. And once I reminded him of the stored items at home from Tsarskoye Selo. We decided to return these things to their rightful place. Hopefully, this will help strengthen the ties between our peoples, as well as encourage other holders of stolen property from the war time to return them back to Russia. " - Said Franziska Harmzen.

The artefacts will be returned to their rightful place in the Alexander Palace. The black vase with painted irises will be placed on one of the shelves in the Pallisander Room, the olive green vase and icon - in the Maple Room. The volume of Fenelon will be placed in the Imperial Library.



During the Second World War, the Alexander Palace housed the German army staff and the Gestapo. The cellars became a prison and the square in front of the palace a cemetery for members of the SS (see film footage in video). Prior to the Germans advance on Tsarskoye Selo, the museum staff managed to evacuate some of the exhibits, the rest were lost to history. Hitler's armies organized special units who were engaged solely in the theft of works of art. Artefacts and treasures that could not be evacuated were destroyed. Museum staff estimate that more than half of the exhibits in the Catherine Palace were irretrievably lost. The Alexander Palace was almost completely looted.
The search for the treasures stolen from the Catherine and Alexander Palaces at Tsarskoye Selo was launched shortly after the town was liberated in 1944. The search for the missing museum treasures continues to the present day. In recent years 15 rare museum pieces have been returned either by persons who took them away in war time or their families.

The occupation of the town of Pushkin lasted 28 months, during which the former imperial residences at Tsarskoye Selo were looted and destroyed. One Soviet veteran who arrived at Pushkin together with the advance units of the Red Army in January 1944, described what he saw: "The ingenious creation of Rastrelli - the Catherine Palace - a burned out shell! Some parts of the building that stretched up to 300 meters in length had been exploded. The few rooms that had survived had been turned into latrines by the German soldiers. Precious furniture, mirrors, paintings, the silk and satin which covered the walls, was all taken away to Germany."

By 1942, the palace libraries had been raided. The Nazis helped themselves to some 6-7 thousand books in French and more than 5,000 books and manuscripts in Russian, many of which were extremely rare.

As the Nazis launched their siege on Leningrad, they had circulated a special list prepared by a German art historian at the direct order of Hitler. The list contained information on 55 objects and their precise locations. The order instructed the Nazis to specifically target 17 museums, 17 archives, 6 churches and a library in Leningrad and the surrounding region. Among the museums listed was Tsarskoye Selo.

In 1951, a special commission of the Central Depository Museum Collections of the USSR during the Great Patriotic War was established. According to their report, more than 30 thousand artefacts had been lost or stolen from  the Catherine Palace, and more than 22 thousand from the Alexander Palace. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 20 October, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:43 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 21 October 2014 9:32 AM EDT
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