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Thursday, 5 March 2015
German Pensioner On Treasure Hunt for Russia's Amber Room
Topic: Amber Room

The Amber Room, Catherine Palace, Tsarskoye Selo
A pensioner has started digging in Germany's western Ruhr region for the Amber Room, a priceless work of art looted by Nazis from the Soviet Union during World War II and missing for 70 years, but says he needs a new drill to help him.

Dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Amber Room was an ornate chamber made of amber panels given to Tsar Peter the Great by Prussia's Friedrich Wilhelm I in 1716.

German troops stole the treasure chamber from a palace near St. Petersburg in 1941 and took it to Koenigsberg, now the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, before it disappeared.

Conspiracy theories abound about the whereabouts of what some say is the world's most valuable piece of lost art. Some historians think it was destroyed in the war, others say Germans smuggled it to safety.

Now 68-year-old pensioner Karl-Heinz Kleine says he thinks the chamber is hidden under the town of Wuppertal, deep in western Germany's industrial Ruhr area.

After analyzing the evidence, Kleine has concluded that Erich Koch, who was the Nazis' chief administrator in East Prussia, may have secretly dispatched it to his home town.

"Wuppertal has a large number of tunnels and bunkers which have not yet been searched for the Amber Room. We have started looking in possible hiding places here," Kleine said.

"But the search is very costly. We need helpers, special equipment and money," Kleine said, adding that a building firm that had lent him a drill had asked for it back.

"I only have a small pension, a new machine is too expensive for me. But whoever helps will get his share of the Amber Room when we find it," he said.

"I am optimistic. I just need the tools, then it could go quickly," he said.

Even Communist East Germany's loathed Stasi secret police tried and failed to find the Amber Room. Hobby treasure hunters have launched expensive searches for it across Germany, from lake bottoms to mines in the eastern Ore Mountains. But in vain.

Historians say Erich Koch, convicted of war crimes by a Polish court, amassed a hoard of looted art and had it transported west from Koenigsberg in the final months of the war as the Soviet forces drew closer.

Russian craftsmen, helped by German funds, have recreated a replica of the Amber Room at the Catherine Palace from where the original was stolen. 
© The Moscow Times. 05 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:36 AM EST
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Bulgarians Bring Flowers to Monument to Alexander II in Sofia
Topic: Alexander II

Monument to the Tsar Liberator – Alexander II, is situated in front of the National Assembly, in Sofia, Bulgaria
The Bulgarian national holiday – Liberation Day – was celebrated on March 3, marking the 137th anniversary of the liberation of Balkan country in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. Government officials, members of the clergy and other residents of Sofia laid flowers at the Monument to the Tsar Liberator – Alexander II, which is situated in front of the National Assembly of Bulgaria.

Wreaths were laid on behalf of President of the Republic of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev, Bulgarian Patriarch Neofit, Chairperson of the National Assembly Tsetska Tsacheva, Mayor of Sofia Yordanka Fandakova, the Minister of Defence, the Council of Ministers, ministries, the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) and the parliamentary groups.

Anatoly Karpov, President of the International Association of Peace Foundations, read a message from State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin to the participants of the ceremony. The message was read in Russian without a translation.

Earlier in the day Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria held a solemn service at the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia. Along with high-ranking members of the Bulgarian clergy, priests, representatives of the Russian and Romanian Orthodox Churches with the Bulgarian Patriarchate, Patriarch Neofit said prayed for the souls of all Russian, Romanian, Finnish, Ukrainian and Belarusian soldiers and members of the Bulgarian volunteer corps who died for Bulgaria’s liberation.

In Moscow on March 3 a memorial service was held at the chapel built in honour of Russian soldiers who died during the Siege of Plevna. On this date each year a service is held in honour of the Russian and Bulgarian soldiers who gave up their lives during the war.

On March 3, 1878, the Treaty of San Stefano was signed, putting an end to the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, a conflict between the Ottoman Empire and an Eastern Orthodox coalition led by the Russian Empire, and re-establishing the Bulgarian state. 
© Russkiy Mir. 05 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:10 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 4 March 2015 11:28 AM EST
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25-Meter Statue of Orthodox Saint to Protect Moscow
Topic: Russian Church

Approved by the Moscow city legislature last week, the state-funded monument will cost 150 million rubles ($2.5 million)
Moscow will erect a 25-meter statue of Vladimir the Great, the ruler of Kievan Rus who converted his nation to Christianity, as Russia and Ukraine vie to claim the Orthodox saint on the 1000th anniversary of his death.

Standing on Vorobyovy Gory overlooking Moscow city center, the giant figure of Vladimir could be unveiled on National Unity Day, a Russian national holiday on Nov. 4, the city's Moskva news agency reported, citing a city official. Approved by the Moscow city legislature last week, the state-funded monument will cost 150 million rubles ($2.5 million).

The decision comes as Moscow swells with patriotism amid a standoff with the West over Ukraine, where Russia has backed separatists fighting in the country's east.

"Saint Vladimir is a great defender of our country and our capital. … The monument will not be seen as a representation of a specific historical figure but as a sort of spiritual talisman," Yevgeny Gerasimov, head of the culture and mass media committee in the Moscow city legislature, was quoted by Moskva as saying.

The statue, which will be the height of an eight-story building, will depict Vladimir with a sword strapped to his thigh and holding a cross above his head.

Born around 960 AD, Vladimir was a price of Kievan Rus, a forerunner to the modern Russian state with its capital in Kiev. In 988, Vladimir ditched the paganism of his ancestors and converted his realm to Orthodox Christianity. He was baptized in Crimea, the region annexed from Ukraine by Russia last year.

With relations between Ukraine and Russia at rock bottom, both nations are trying to claim Vladimir as their own. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko last week signed a order for the commemoration of the 1000-year anniversary of Vladimir's burial this year. The document calls Vladimir a creator of "the European state of Rus-Ukraine in the middle ages," and says the marking of the prince's death aims to "preserve and confirm the traditions of Ukrainian statehood," according to a translation on Russian news website 
© The Moscow Times. 05 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:05 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 4 March 2015 7:52 AM EST
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Wednesday, 4 March 2015
Fake Ancient Egyptian Artefact Used by Tsar Alexander III Sold at Auction
Topic: Alexander III

An artefact thought to be from Ancient Egypt which was used by Tsar Alexander III as a paperweight went under the hammer in Folkestone, England this week.

According to Grand Auctions, Alexander III used the 'Ancient Egyptian' tablet as a paper weight on his desk. Unfortunately he had been duped by the vendor, as the tablet is a nineteenth century fake. There were some very enterprising Egyptians who even infiltrated the tomb of Tutenkhamun after it had been opened by Howard Carter in 1922. Rich tourists flocked to the tomb as part of the Egyptian mania that spread after Tutenkhamun's discovery. They were happy to buy artefacts from the tomb without having the knowledge or sense to check authenticity. 

Alexander III was presented with the tablet, alas he was caught by duplicity. The story of the tablet's arrival in the UK is fascinating. A cover note was also included, explaining how it arrived in the UK via Pamela Redmayne in 1904, the daughter of Sir Richard Redmayne, who was the Professor of Mining at Birmingham University. The text image is a description by a family member of an unusual smuggle. 

“This stone was presented to Alexander III of Russia by the finder from Egypt. Alex III used this tablet as a letter weight. Given to C. Hodgkin by Pamela Redmayne* Feb 13. 04. who got it when in Russia it was being sold with other Royal Possessions. She got it out of the country wrapped in a wooden leg of a patient who was coming to England for a new leg. She offered CH the old leg as well.'' 

Across the side of the piece of paper is written, *''Daughter of Sir Richard Redmayne, Professor of Mining at Birmingham University.'' 

There is no reason to disbelieve the story. All the leading figures were Quakers, who are most trustworthy. I just hope her patient acquired a good new leg.

The item was sold to a buyer in Denmark for £170 - over its upper end guide price of £150.

© Grand Auctions / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 04 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:42 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 4 March 2015 6:07 AM EST
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Tuesday, 3 March 2015
First Church Dedicated to Tsar Nicholas II and His Family Opens in Moscow
Topic: Holy Royal Martyrs

The Church of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Moscow
The construction of a church in honour of Tsar Nicholas II and his family has been completed in Moscow. 

The ground breaking and initial construction began three years ago, in March of 2012. On March 8, 2013 the Head of the Russian Imperial House, HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna visited the site of the new church during an official visit to Moscow. The grand duchess lit a candle in memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs, and then took the time to speak and have tea with local parishioners.

The first liturgy was held on July 17, 2014 in a temporary chapel situated immediately adjacent to the site of the main church. Since that time, regular worship and liturgies continued to be held in the temporary chapel. 

A temporary iconostasis has now been installed in the church. The final phase of construction, which includes finishing touches on the church’s facades, and landscaping will be carried in the Spring. A church bell is currently being made in the Tutaev plant.

The church is part of an ambitious plan by the Russian Orthodox Church to construct 200 new churches in the nation’s capital.

The Church of the Holy Royal Martyrs is situated at 6th Novopodmoskovny lane. d.7., in the northwest suburbs of Moscow, it can accommodate up to 200 worshipers. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 03 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:39 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 4 March 2015 5:32 AM EST
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Monday, 2 March 2015
The Reforms of Nicholas II and the Last Hurrah of the Imperial Uniform
Topic: Nicholas II

Tsar Nicholas II wearing the uniform of a Russian soldier
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the March 2, 2015 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author Alexander Vershinin, owns the copyright of the work presented below.

The last years of the 19th century saw Russian military dress becoming increasingly austere. But when Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, came to the throne, he decided that the uniforms were lacking in glamor and needed the incorporation of elements that reflected Russia’s past military glory.

During his 1881-1894 reign, Tsar Alexander III extended his taste for simplicity to his army too. Fancy braiding and plumes were stripped from the uniforms of soldiers and officers, and resplendent Guards outfits and other extravagant regular-issue items were consigned to the past.

Not for long, however. Alexander’s son Nicholas II, the last Russian Emperor, shared the passion of many of his predecessors for war games, parades and flashy uniforms, and began reviving some traditions.

Nicholas II regarded ceremonial uniform elements as an integral part of military life – and all the better if they bore reminders of past glories. Shortly after he took the throne in 1894, the new tsar initiated a reform of cavalry uniforms. The new outfits resembled those worn by the Russian troops who took Paris in 1814, with close-fitting, double-breasted jackets and colored trimming on the collar and cuffs. And in place of the simple leather sword belt introduced by Alexander III, the braided ceremonial galloon made a comeback.

However, in 1904 the landmark decision was also taken to develop khaki uniforms for soldiers and officers. In the meantime, the plain white army uniforms and caps of the previous reign were retained, with disastrous results: When the Tsar’s forces went into battle in the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese they made conspicuous targets for the enemy gunners. So much so that soldiers took to dying their own uniforms to reduce their visibility.

In 1907, the entire army was kitted out in khaki uniforms, and a peaked cap was finally adopted as the principal headgear. Wide fatigues that tucked into boots completely replaced tight britches, and only cavalrymen retained their gray britches with colored piping. The officers’ white tunic and shirt were replaced by drab uniforms with breast pockets and metal buttons, while soldiers were issued with tunics with pockets but sewn with buttons made of compressed leather.

The army was also issued with new dress uniforms for ceremonial occasions. Soldiers wore double-breasted jackets with colored piping, officers’ regiment numbers were embroidered in gold on their jackets, and generals wore a special decoration in the form of oak leaves.

In a bid to boost morale in the recently defeated forces, a number of more distinctive uniform elements harked back to Russia’s glorious military past.

Some units were issued with the long-forgotten shako cylindrical hat, modeled on those worn by Russian soldiers in 1812. The Grenadier Regiment received an 18th century-style gold braid aiguillette on the right shoulder bearing the monogram of Catherine II. Officers’ silver sash belts resembled those worn under the revered military commander Alexander Suvorov in the 18th century.

But the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 gave the Russian soldier no occasion to savor the new dress uniform, which was stored away since it had no application at the front.

Officers had to wear the soldier’s uniform, while all bright or shiny elements like buttons and stars on the shoulder straps were painted in drab colors to make them invisible to the enemy.

The braided sword belt was replaced with a leather one that crossed at the back and attached to a belt fitted with a revolver holster and a sheath for an edged weapon. The ranks also began to wear a tunic modeled on that worn by the allied British Army.

Material shortages also brought changes in uniform design. Troops on the Caucasian front were allowed to wear the traditional cherkeska homespun gray cloth jacket, while leather shortages led to the broad replacement of long boots with short boots and puttees.

But such was the confidence that Russian troops would again parade through the defeated enemy capitals of Berlin and Vienna that special dress outfits were made in advance.

In another echo of past eras, the tall budenovka felt hat was specially modeled on the ancient Russian warrior’s helmet for celebrations marking the anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. A long greatcoat sewn with a vertical array of straps also evoked the past archer’s caftan, and was meant to symbolize the triumph of the Slavic spirit over the perennial German enemy.

The war dragged on beyond all expectations, however, and ultimately led to the 1917 Revolution. The newly designed uniform was inherited by the Red Army, and in the years to come came to symbolize Soviet might.

© Alexander Vershinin / Russia Beyond the Headlines. 02 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:12 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 2 March 2015 4:16 PM EST
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Sunday, 1 March 2015
Last Survivor Who Followed Tsar Nicholas II into Exile Dies
Topic: Nicholas II

Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the February 20, 2015 edition of The Somerset County Gazette, who own the copyright of the work presented below Corrections to the text have been made by Paul Gilbert.
Magdalina Roberts, the last survivor of those who followed Tsar Nicholas II and Imperial family of Russia into exile at Tobolsk, in Siberia, died at Wrantage, Somerset, England aged 97.

Mrs Roberts, nee Kipasto, was named after the St Petersburg casualty hospital St Magdalina, where she was born on June 29, 1917, because her mother had been queuing for bread nearby and was too far from the nursing home that had been booked for her birth.

It was after the February Revolution and Russia was in chaos.

Her maternal grandfather, Alexei Andreevich Volkov, was Valet de Chambre to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and accompanied the Imperial family into exile.

Three months later Magda was taken with her grandmother, mother, brother and sister to Tobolsk, a journey of several days by train and river steamer, where they stayed in rooms and later at the Ivanovski Monastry.

After the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917, her grandfather Volkov was taken prisoner in May 1918, and jailed in Ekaterinburg, along with the four Grand Duchesses and remaining staff.

The Tsar and his family were murdered on July 17 and a week later Volkov was removed to a forest outside of Perm, where he then escaped from the Bolsheviks.

He spent the next three months living rough in Siberia before rejoining his family in Tobolsk and travelling east to Manchuria, where they lived for three years, then joining Magda’s father in Estonia.

In 1940 the Soviet Union occupied Estonia and in June 1941, as the Germans invaded, Magda's mother was arrested and sentenced to seven years’ labour in the Vyatka Gulag, Siberia.

In 1944 to escape the advancing Red Army, Magda moved to Latvia, then Salzwedel, in Germany, then in 1945 to Peine, in the British Occupation Zone.

There she met Major Leonard Roberts MC, of the Somerset Light Infantry, coming with him to England in 1948 ahead of their wedding at Wolverhampton.

After convalescing from TB, she joined her husband in the Cameroons and Nigeria, where he eventually became the Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence.

During this time, at an official reception attended by Leonid Brezhev of the Soviet Union, Magda scornfully told him thought of Soviet rule in Estonia.

Magda, who died on February 14, lived in Cheshire and London before moving to Somerset in 1989. Major Roberts died in 2005.

She is survived by her children Nina and Guy and grandchildren Thurstan, Sarah and Clare. 
© Somerset County Gazette. 01 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:06 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 2 March 2015 4:41 PM EST
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Saturday, 28 February 2015
A Russian Moment No. 59 - Bip Castle (Marienthal), Pavlovsk
Topic: A Russian Moment

A bridge leads to the beautifully restored Bip Castle (Marienthal) in Pavlovsk Park
Bip Castle, also known as Paul’s Fortress or Bastion of Emperor Paul I, was built during the years 1795 to 1797 by order of Emperor Paul I, on the site of the former Marienthal Palace. This architectural whim of the son of Empress Catherine II is situated at the fork of the Slav and Tyzva rivers in the southern section of Pavlovsk park. 

Soon after his ascension to the throne, Emperor Paul I issued a decree allocating 6,100 rubles for the construction of Paul’s Fortress, by the architect Vincenzo Brenna in 1795, construction lasted two years.

Theatrical in concept, the castle consisted of a two-storey pentagonal building with courtyard. It was surrounded by a wide moat, across which a single drawbridge provided access. Three towers, each more flamboyant than the last, lent it a bellicose air, which was reinforced by the daily—and grandiose—ceremony of the changing of the guard. The building was surrounded by fortifications constructed under the supervision of a military engineer Caus, including bastions, ravelins, lunettes and flushes. The castle was also equipped with 28 guns.

On April 19, 1798, Bip Castle was ranked by the St. Petersburg Engineering Department and, thus, was included in the military registry of fortresses of the Russian Empire. There was a military garrison stationed here, regular service was established, the cannon fired at noon and the drawbridge was raised at sunset. In the basement, the castle had its own guardhouse for military personnel who committed an offence.

On June 15, 1811, the castle was removed from the Engineering Department list and used for civilian purposes - as the country's first school for the deaf (1807-1810), a military hospital (1833-1834), the Alexander school (1835-1851) , parish and city school (early 20th century). 

After the October revolution, the castle was occupied by the Board of Deputies. In October 1919, it served as the headquarters of General Yudenich. From the mid-1920s to 1941, the castle served as an orphanage, then a bank, a recruitment office and other warehouses.

During World War II, the castle burned to the ground during the Soviet offensive of 1944. For the next six decades, it was completely neglected as a romantic ruin on the outskirts of the once glorious Pavlovsk.

In the mid-2000s, the castle underwent a complete reconstruction and restoration, and today is used as a private hotel and restaurant. 
© Paul Gilbert. 28 February, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:00 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 28 February 2015 10:30 AM EST
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Friday, 27 February 2015
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Topic: Royal Russia


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:31 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 28 February 2015 9:51 AM EST
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Thursday, 26 February 2015
Documentary: The Romanovs: A History of the Russian Dynasty, 1613-1917
Topic: Documentaries

The Romanovs: A History of the Russian Dynasty, 1613-1917 is a monumental documentary project, dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the enthronement of Mikhail I Fedorovich and reign in Russia of the Romanov dynasty. More than 300 years of the Romanov dynasty rule in Russia and the Russian Empire. The names of 18 Russian tsars and emperors of the Romanov family associated with the most vivid pages of Russian history, the development and strengthening of the power of the Russian state. What were the Russian tsars? As they came to power and what was left behind? What is generally a Russian autocracy as a control system? What are its advantages and disadvantages? project tells about the role that the monarchs of the House of Romanov played in the events of the Russian and world history. The fate of each of the kings, his life and work, the pros and cons, mistakes and achievements, defeats and victories. And most importantly, how to change the appearance of the Russian state under their scepter. Each episode is devoted to the reign of one or more of the kings of the House of Romanov.
This 8-part documentary was produced in Russia. Each of the one-hour episodes is dubbed in English for the first time.Click on the link below to view all 8 videos from this documentary series: 

The Romanovs: A History of the Russian Dynasty, 1613-1917 - 8 one hour episodes in English

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 26 February, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 1:41 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 26 February 2015 1:50 PM EST
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