Topic: Sergei Alexandrovich
Israel is handing back ownership of a czarist-era landmark in the heart of Jerusalem to Russia, defusing a long-simmering dispute between the two countries right before Israel's leader visits Moscow.
The hewn stone building, built in 1890 to accommodate Russian pilgrims to the Holy Land, is a prominent edifice on the Jerusalem landscape with its soaring turret and lush garden.
The site was named for Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, a son of Czar Alexander III, and is part of a complex known as the Russian Compound. Israel bought most of it from the Soviet Union in the early 1960s, paying with oranges because it didn't have hard currency.
Israel seized control of it after the Soviet Union severed ties with the Jewish state following the 1967 Mideast war. The two countries restored ties in 1991 and negotiations to return the courtyard ownership to Russia began in the 1990s.
© Associated Press. 21 March, 2011