The Alexander Palace has officially closed its doors to visitors for extensive restoration work until 2018. The permanent exhibition Reminiscences in the Alexander Palace, which included the former private apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and his family located in the East Wing of the palace closed on August 2, while the Suite of State Rooms closed on August 31.
The restoration projects include the following:
Restoration of rooms with surviving historic decorations, such as the Suite of State Rooms including the Corner Drawing-Room, Mountain Hall, Large or Crimson Drawing-Room and Library Rooms, as well as the Reception Room and State or New Study of Nicholas II;
Restoration of historic decorations (as of the late 19th – early 20th century) in six living and working rooms on the first floor of the West Wing, such as the Bathroom or Moorish Room, Study (Office) of Nicholas II, Bedroom, Lilac or Mauve Study, Palisander and Maple Drawing-Rooms;
Some rooms in the West Wing that were rebuilt in 1949 will be used as temporary exhibition and conference rooms after restoration.
These works are scheduled for completion in 2018, depending on finances. If the palace reopens by 17 July 2018, that will be a major event commemorating 100 years since the tragic death of Emperor Nicholas II and his family.
These projects are scheduled for completion in 2018. The Alexander Palace is scheduled to reopen on July 17, 2018, marking the 100th anniversary of the murders of Emperor Nicholas II and his family.
Poland Stakes Claim in Nazi Gold Train Drama Topic: Amber Room
The recent alleged discovery of a Nazi train filled with gold, art and other treasures has created headlines around the world. Some even speculate that the train may hold the missing Amber Room. Despite the fact that no one has yet seen the phantom train - other than two treasure hunters - has not stopped Poland and the World Jewish Congress from joining the list of claimants. If the train does in fact exist, and that the gold and other treasures originated in Russia, this historic discovery will surely ignite a new war of words, putting even further pressure on relations between Russia and its neighbours. The drama continues in the following article published in Russia Today . . .
The Nazi gold train that made headlines last week could contain the legendary Amber Room, presented to Tsar Peter the Great by the King of Prussia, according to British author and journalist Tom Bower. Meanwhile, the Polish have lawyered up, staking a claim to the finds.
The story of the train, lost to the world for 70 years, does seem to be real, according to official Polish claims, which follow reports by two treasure hunters. The authorities have warned foragers to steer clear, claiming there is a possibility the train could be booby-trapped. Not only the fortune seekers, but the Polish authorities as well, have been on the hunt for the legendary treasure for decades.
However, the find’s authenticity remains in dispute. Despite wide accusations that last week’s claim was a hoax, Piotr Zuchowski, head of national heritage at Poland’s Culture Ministry, said he has seen a geo-radar image of what is claimed to be the discovered train. As shown in the picture, it would be more than 100 meters long. The data was presented by the lawyers of the two men who say they found it.
Local tales claim that the train vanished near Ksiaz castle, about two miles south-east of Walbrzych.
But the discovery – which already has everyone excited at the prospect of finding gold, gems and precious metal ores worth an estimated $385 million – could contain an even bigger prize, according to Tom Bower, a prominent British investigative journalist and author of several books, including ‘Nazi Gold: the Full Story of the Fifty-Year Swiss-Nazi Conspiracy to Steal.’ He is particularly known for a series of investigations into WWII topics, as well as his unauthorized biographies.
Speaking to Sky News, Bower expressed hopes that the room, which was comprised entirely of intricate amber designs, but looted by the Nazis during WWII, could be hiding inside the train. The chamber was decorated with amber panels, complete with gold ornaments and mirrors. A meticulously-restored replica unveiled in 2003 is currently housed in its rightful home – Catherine the Great’s palace in Tsarskoye Selo, south of the city of St. Petersburg.
Referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World, the room – originally designed as a study – was presented by Prussia’s Friedrich Wilhelm I to Russian Tsar Peter the Great in 1716. It was looted by the Germans sometime in 1941, who then took it to Koenigsberg – now Russia’s Baltic exclave, Kaliningrad. All traces of it have been lost since.
A great deal of art was stolen by the Nazis in wartime Europe, so the story is not all that extraordinary, Brown says. But “If it is an art train there will be a huge amount of paintings, perhaps diamonds, rubies, precious stones,” he said, adding that it’s not entirely impossible that the fabled “amber room” could be concealed there as well.
But the Polish are not giving up so easily. Warning people that Russia was allegedly trying to lay claim to the mystery train’s contents as war reparations, Zuchowski told Polish Radio Jedynka that “The analysis we have conducted with our lawyers quite clearly states that, if the train is found, it will be owned by the State Treasury.”
Interestingly, this is the same Polish minister who earlier said that Russia could be a potential claimant.
The World Jewish Congress has also joined the list of would-be claimants, although an analysis of the allegedly found train’s contents would have to be carried out to determine if anything inside had belonged to Jews persecuted by the Nazis.
“If any of these items were stolen from Jews before they were murdered, or sent to forced labor camps, every measure must be taken to return them to their owners, or their heirs,” CEO Robert Singer said in a statement, as cited by The Telegraph.
“In case no survivors or heirs can be found, any gold or other property that is found to have belonged to Jewish families or businesses must now inure to the benefit of Polish Jewish survivors, as they have unfortunately never been adequately compensated by Poland for the suffering they endured, and or their catastrophic economic losses in the Holocaust,” Singer said, adding that he hopes Poland will “take appropriate actions” in that event.
The Polish government is asking people not to jump to conclusions, as it will still be “a few months” before workers get to see what’s inside, according to Zuchowski.
It also remains to be seen who would take part in determining the value of the contents. Sputnik cited Russian human rights lawyer Mikhail Joffe, who believes Russian representatives “should undoubtedly be involved” in the assessment, and says the evaluation must involve “international experts.”
International law has it that the contents belong to the territory from which they were taken, according to Joffe.
Whatever the contents or their value, the finders can expect a 10 percent fee, as per Zuchowski’s promises, and should be reimbursed by either the ministry or the owners, he said.
However, premature speculations about the Amber Room may well turn out to be a case of counting your chickens before they hatch. Unfortunately, there is a good chance the room – if it was indeed smuggled out of the burning Nazi city of Koenigsberg – has not survived, as amber is very fragile and needs proper climate control. Lacking this, the fine-crafted jewelry could easily have been damaged beyond repair.
The Real Romanovs: Russias Absolute Dynasty - New BBC Documentary Topic: Romanov
The first and last Romanov emperors: Peter I and Nicholas II
Speaking today at the Edinburgh Television Festival, Kim Shillinglaw, Controller of BBC Two and BBC Four, talks about her first year at the helm of BBC Two and announces a wide range of new titles, which demonstrate her ambition for the channel, including a three part documentary which takes a "deeper look at the Romanov dynasty".
Lucy Worsley travels to Russia to tell the extraordinary story of the dynasty that ruled the country for more than three centuries. It’s an epic tale that includes giant figures such as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, the devastating struggle against Napoleon in 1812, and the shocking murders of Nicholas II and his family in 1918 which brought the dynasty to a brutal end.
The Romanovs were the most powerful European monarchs since the Middle Ages, wielding unmatched authority into the 20th century. Lucy will see how they embraced and sponsored the arts on an astonishing scale, commissioning artworks and building spectacular palaces that still dazzle today. Yet many ordinary Russians were little better than slaves, and the failure of the Romanovs to address their condition would ultimately lead to revolution.
In this new three-part series, Lucy will apply her characteristic insight, attention to detail and wit to the Romanov dynasty. Her understanding of royal tradition and culture, and her gift for bringing historical characters vividly to life, will create a fresh and compelling account of this unique royal family.
The Executive Producer of the three part documentary, The Real Romanovs: Russia’s Absolute Dynastyis Michael Poole.
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 29 - Cathedral of the Annunciation, Voronezh Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches
The Cathedral of the Annunciation, Voronezh
The Cathedral of the Annunciation is located in the center of the city of Voronezh. Built by the Russian architect V.P. Shevelyova in the Russian-Byzantine style, construction was carried out between 1998 - 2009. The height of the cathedral at its highest point of 97 meters, makes it the third largest Orthodox church in Russia and one of the tallest Orthodox churches in the world.
The current five-domed cathedral with an attached bell tower was patterned after St. Vladimir's Cathedral, built in the late 19th century in a Russo-Byzantine style harking back to the works of Konstantin Thon and demolished by the Bolsheviks in the mid-20th century.
The church takes its name from the eponymous Ukrainian Baroque cathedral that was built in 1718-35 in place of an earlier church commissioned by St. Mitrofan of Voronezh; it was destroyed by the Soviets in the 1950s. The existing bell tower echoes the one designed for the old cathedral built by Giacomo Quarenghi.
Bishop Mitrofan was buried in the Annunciation Monastery in the presence of Emperor Peter the Great in 1703. When 14 years later his tomb was opened, Mitrofan's body was found to be whole and his relics were proclaimed to have healing powers. After he was formally canonized in 1832 and Emperor Nicholas I paid a visit to his shrine, his fame increased and large numbers of pilgrims from Central Russia started flocking to his tomb in Voronezh. The first Moscow church in his name was consecrated in 1895.
The Bolsheviks had Mitrofan's relics confiscated. It was in 1989 that the relics were returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. In 2003, a monument of Saint Mitrofan was unveiled in front of the Annunciation Cathedral where his relics have found their final resting place.
To review the other 28 churches and cathedrals featured in this series, please refer to the following link:
Obituary - Kyril Zinovieff 1910-2015: Witness to the Bolshevik Revolution Topic: Imperial Russia
Kyril Zinovieff born September 11 1910, died July 31 2015
A Russian émigré who, as a child, glimpsed Rasputin and saw Tsarist officers being shot by their men. Read about the fascinating life of Kyril Zinovieff, including his early years in St. Petersburg before the 1917 Revolution, published in The Telegraph on 30 August, 2015
Kyril Zinovieff, who has died aged 104, was a first-generation Russian émigré who served in the British Army, spent his working life as a British civil servant, and became an acclaimed translator of works by Russian writers; as a child he caught sight of a laughing Rasputin and remembered Tsarist officers being shot outside his bedroom window in 1917 during the Russian Revolution.
The youngest of four children, Kyril Lvovich Zinovieff was born in St Petersburg on September 11 1910 into one of Imperial Russia’s most illustrious families. Their association with St Petersburg had begun soon after the city first became the capital of Russia under Peter the Great. They shared with Pushkin descent from Peter’s African slave, Hannibal, and Kyril could also claim descent from the plotters who brought Catherine the Great to the throne by murdering her husband Peter III. The main instigators of the coup were the Orlov brothers: their mother was a Zinovieff, and the wife of Grigory Orlov (one of Catherine’s lovers) was also a Zinovieff.
From then until the Revolution of 1917, Zinovieffs were a constant presence in the city’s administration. Kyril’s father Lev (Leo) was Marshall of the Nobility for the Peterhof district and his grandfather was the last Tsarist governor of the province of St Petersburg. After the introduction of a constitution in 1905, Lev Zinovieff was elected to the Fourth Duma as a member of the liberal Octobrist party, while his father became a member of the upper house, the Council of State. Other relatives included Kyril’s great aunt Lydia Zinov’eva-Annibal (1866-1907), wife of the poet Viacheslav Ivanov and (among other things) the author of Thirty-Three Abominations, a novella which dealt with the then taboo subject of lesbianism.
Kyril’s mother, Olga Baranova, was the daughter of a cavalry general who became Minister of the Court of Tsar Nicholas I’s son, Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolayevich. Before her marriage, Olga had served as Maid of Honour to the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna and the Empress Alexandra. Both the Baranov and Zinovieff families had estates in Estonia.
Kyril and his siblings spent their early years among the elite of imperial St Petersburg and he and his older sister Elena, who died in 2013 aged 104 (a brother, Leo, died in a railway accident in Britain in 1951 and a sister, Olga, died in 1981), had magical memories of watching the ballet from their grandfather’s box at the Mariinsky Theatre, with butlers serving dinner in the interval.
Although the family fled into exile after the Revolution, when Kyril was seven years old, both he and Elena retained vivid memories of the last days of Tsarism — including a chance encounter with the “Mad Monk”, Grigori Rasputin, in 1916. Kyril recalled how, when walking in St Petersburg with their nurse, they saw a tall figure in black, “white teeth gleaming in a black expanse of beard”, emerge from a carriage. “ 'Look,’ said my nurse, 'Rasputin — smiling at us!’, ” Zinovieff recalled. “ 'Who,’ I asked, 'is Rasputin?’ ” By the end of the year Rasputin was dead, murdered by nobles who hoped to save Tsarism by ending his sway over the royal family. It did no good: A few months later the Bolshevik Revolution put an end to the imperial regime.
In an interview with The Independent in 2010 Kyril and Elena recalled watching from their nursery window as a military parade being held near the Winter Palace suddenly came to a halt. As an officer separated himself from the ranks, Kyril asked his mother and nurse: “Why aren’t they marching? Why is he talking to them? What’s happening?” Then, without warning, a shot rang out and the officer fell to the ground; to the end of his life Kyril recalled the way his arms flew back as he fell into the snow. The family realised then that the men were shooting their own officers.
As mutiny turned to massacre, Kyril recalled their nurse shouting down to the soldiers, and being told to mind her own business. “I thought, my God, they’re brave! To speak to my nurse like that! ” That night, for the first time, the family slept on the floor to avoid stray bullets.
As food supplies dwindled in the months that followed, the Zinovieffs kept going on supplies of dried vegetables brought to St Petersburg by peasants from their estates, all of whom were later shot by the Bolsheviks for helping the “enemies” of the revolution. When the arrangement began to fail, the Zinovieff children began to suffer from such severe starvation that when they were eventually inspected by an English doctor, he told their mother that they would never be healthy again. In addition they witnessed frequent acts of random violence during the early part of the period known as the Red Terror.
One day in July 1918 the family received a tip-off that their father Leo was “on the list”. That night the family, with the children’s beloved nurse (who hid the family jewels under her ample embonpoint), slipped away from St Petersburg and made their way, by tram, train and donkey cart, to the family estates in Estonia . The next day the border crossing was closed.
The Zinovieffs found themselves unwelcome in Estonia, nervous of its eastern neighbour, and in 1920 the family moved to London, where they made ends meet by selling family assets in Estonia, taking in paying guests and giving Russian language lessons.
Kyril was educated at St Paul’s School, then at the London School of Economics. After working briefly as a film extra at Ealing Studios during the Depression, he was recruited by the Foreign Office.
In 1938 he was sent to Prague, where he witnessed Hitler’s triumphal tour of the city in March 1939 and recalled a Jewish friend begging him to look after his prize possession, an engraved fob watch, until the end of the war. The man, a doctor, somehow survived Auschwitz and later wrote asking for the watch to be returned. Sadly Zinovieff had had to leave the watch behind in Prague when he received a coded message instructing him to evacuate after Britain declared war on Germany. He remained dogged by the memory of having to break the bad news to a man who had lost everything else in the Holocaust.
With Britain now at war, the Foreign Office advised Zinovieff to change his name, on the grounds that it might be an embarrassment to have a Russian name at the time of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. He chose the name FitzLyon (son of Leo), a name by which he was known to many for the rest of his life, not realising that the prefix “Fitz” implied “bastard son”.
Called up for military service in June 1940, Zinovieff spent the war in Military Intelligence in the Middle East, mainly in Egypt, but with stints in Iraq and Persia, and was heavily involved in liaising with Russian troops and then German prisoners-of-war around Alexandria.
Kyril Zinovieff with his wife April
In 1941 he had married April Mead, who would who would become a distinguished writer and translator under the name April FitzLyon. Returning to Britain after the war, he joined the Joint Intelligence Bureau of the Ministry of Defence where he worked until 1971. Thereafter he devoted himself to teaching, writing and translating, sometimes in collaboration with his wife.
His Before the Revolution (with Tatiana Browning, 1983), used photographs to present a picture of a Russia that is irretrievably lost. His introduction to his translation of Dostoevsky’s Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, was considered by Isaiah Berlin to be “a major contribution to the understanding of influences on Dostoevsky”. He also translated the Memoirs of Princess Dashkova and the Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky.
Later, he worked for an American organisation smuggling banned books into Russia and Eastern Europe.
During the 1980s, and less often in the 1990s, he made regular visits to Russia and eastern Europe. His memory, he liked to joke, stretched from Rasputin to Putin.
After his wife’s death in 1998 Zinovieff began a new phase in his life, shared with Jenny Hughes, whom he had first met in the Foreign Office and with whose family he and April had forged a close friendship.
In 2003 he and Jenny published The Companion Guide to St Petersburg, part guidebook, part family memoir, to coincide with the city’s tercentenary. They also published new translations of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (2008) and Khadji Murat (2011), and Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground (2011).
A compulsive and brilliant talker (his voice was once described as “a charming mix of 1920s BBC announcer and the occasional Slavic rolled 'r’ ”) Zinovieff had a wide circle of friends who loved him for his wisdom and self-deprecating sense of humour.
Nazi Gold Train Could Contain Amber Room Topic: Amber Room
The Amber Room as it looked in 1932
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the August 29th, 2015 edition of the Daily Mail. Flora Drury own the copyright of the text presented below.
The recent claimed discovery of a Nazi gold train is not only stirring hope in western Poland, but it has also rekindled theories on the fate of the long-lost Amber Room panels that were plundered by a Nazi army force from the Catherine Palace outside Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, in 1941. The panels were taken to Koenigsberg Castle and reassembled within weeks, but Adolf Hitler ordered all valuables removed from the Reich's eastern edge in January 1945.
The Nazi gold train could contain an ornate room crafted out of amber, gold and precious jewels which has been missing since it was looted during World War II, it has been claimed.
Journalist Tom Bower, who wrote Nazi Gold: the Full Story of the Fifty-Year Swiss-Nazi Conspiracy to Steal, has said he believes there is a high likelihood the hidden locomotive is filled with art and precious jewels, rather than bars of gold.
But what he really hopes to find in the train discovered abandoned in a tunnel underneath a Polish mountain is the Amber Room, stolen from the Catherine Palace, near St Petersburg, in about 1941.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Bower said: 'If it is an art train, there will be paintings, there will be perhaps diamonds, there will be rubies and precious stones and also, the one thing that's always been missing, the Amber Room.
'I think it is far more exciting to think perhaps that is in the train.'
The Nazis dismantled the room - thought to be worth about £250million - when they arrived at the Russian palace in October 1941.
The Russians had tried to conceal the grand room, a gift to Peter the Great by the King of Prussia in 1716, by covering it in wallpaper, but their plan was foiled.
The room was then taken by the Germans by rail to Koenigsberg Castle, in what was then East Prussia. Now, the castle is found in the city of Kaliningrad.
But it disappeared In January 1945, after air raids and a savage ground assault on the city.
While some claimed it had been destroyed in the raids, others reported seeing 40 wagons moving away from the castle under a cloak of secrecy after the city fell to the Red Army.
To Mr Bower, it is entirely possible the train may have made the almost 400-mile journey across Poland to Walbrzych, on the border with the Czech Republic.
'As the Russians advanced and the Allies came in from the west, there was a huge movement as the Germans sought to keep it for themselves,' he explained.
Initially taken with a grain of salt, the story has gained credibility after a culture ministry official said he saw a ground-penetrating radar image of the alleged train on which he could make out platforms and cannons.
'I'm more than 99 percent sure such a train exists, but the nature of its contents is unverifiable at the moment,' Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski said Friday.
Crimea to Unveil Statue of Empress Catherine the Great Topic: Catherine II
Catherine II played a great role in Crimea’s development, the peninsula became part of Russia during her rule
A new monument to Empress Catherine the Great who made Crimea part of Russia in 1783 will be unveiled in Simferopol, the peninsula’s capital, next year, the head of the Russian Unity public organization told TASS on Friday.
"The first monument was unveiled in Simferopol in 1890," Yelena Aksenova said. "However, it was completely destroyed in 1919, after the [Bolshevik] revolution."
The new statue may cost between 60 million and 120 million rubles (some $895,000 and $1.8 million), she said, adding that 40 million rubles ($597,000) had already been collected.
Aksenova presented the statue’s project to Dimitri Romanovich Romanov, the oldest relative of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II.
The 89-year old Romanov descendant who visited Crimea with his wife Dorrit supported the idea.
"Catherine II played a great role in Crimea’s development. The peninsula became part of Russia during her rule," he said.
Catherine the Great ruled in 1762-1796 and her reign is considered Russia's golden age.
Memoirs of Romanov Scion to be Translated into Russian Topic: Romanov Descendants
The memoirs of a representative of the Romanov dynasty, Prince Roman Petrovich, second cousin and godson of Emperor Nicholas II, may soon be translated into Russian, reports TASS. One of the oldest surviving members of the dynasty, Dmitry Romanovich, hopes that the memoirs of his father Roman Petrovich may soon be available for Russian's to read in their native language.
His memoirs, which consist of more than 500 pages, were published posthumously by his two sons, Nicholas and Dmitry. The book was first published in Danish in 1991, and a German edition in 1995. "He spent a lot of his time and attention on the memoirs. He put his heart and soul into them", recalls Dmitry Romanov, who hopes that it will soon also be published in Russia.
Prince Roman Petrovich was born 17 October ( O.S. 5 October) 1896 at Znamenka, near Saint Petersburg. He was one of four children, and the only son of Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich of Russia (1864-1931) and his wife Grand Duchess Militza Nikolaevna of Russia (born Princess Milica of Montenegro). Prince Roman was a great-grandson of Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855).
Prince Roman was married on 16 November 1921 at Cap d'Antibes, France to Countess Praskovia Sheremeteva (18 October 1901– 21 December 1980) and they had two sons: Nicholas Romanovich (1922-2014) and Dimitri Romanovich of Russia (b. 1926).
Prince Roman Petrovich with his wife and two sons: Dmitry and Nicholas
Following the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II, Prince Roman resided at his father's Dulber estate in the Crimea and in April 1919 he left Russia, along with other members of the Russian Imperial family, on the British battleship HMS Marlborough.
In 1936, Roman Petrovich and his family moved to Rome. In 1941 he was offered and refused the Crown of the newly established Independent State of Montenegro. He refused, making it clear that none of his family would cooperate with the Nazis.
The war ended in 1945, and the political situation in Italy remained unstable. In a referendum in 1946, Italy was proclaimed a republic and all the members of the Italian royal house were forced to leave the country. The family of Roman Petrovich went to Egypt, where his sons Nicholas and Dimitri went to work, the eldest worked in the sale of tobacco, and the younger worked in an automobile factory.
After their Egyptian exile ended in 1951, Roman Petrovich and his wife returned to Rome. From 1954, he began to write his memoirs, leading an extensive correspondence with relatives scattered across the globe. Prince Roman Petrovich was planning to write two books, one about his life in Russia before the Revolution, and the second about his life in exile.
Prince Roman Petrovich died on 23 October 1978 in Rome, and buried in the cemetery of Monte Testaccio in Rome.