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Saturday, 12 March 2011
A Faberge Inspired Treat

One of the leading Russian fashion designers, Valentin Yudashkin, has tried his hand at haute cuisine. He’s created an exquisite signature dessert served at the legendary Parisian Cafe de la Paix.

­The designer’s “Imperial Gift”, inspired by Carl Fabergé creations, has already been described as a treat to make anyone’s mouth water.

A meringue coated with chocolate, it has savory lemon flavor and a light vanilla cream spiced up with pieces of fresh blueberry and blackberry.

On top of the complex culinary installation, there’s a sweet waffle roll hiding a sugar-coated raspberry with golden tears.

The established Russian designer, whose creations have been exhibited at the Louvre Museum of Fashion and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, was quoted as saying that the challenge was to find such ingredients that would reveal all the nuances of traditional Russian cuisine.

“Desserts are my guilty-food pleasure. That’s why I was especially pleased to make my modest contribution to French culinary art,” Yudashkin told Itar-Tass news agency.

© Russia Today. 12 March, 2011


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:14 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 1 April 2011 4:10 PM EDT
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Friday, 11 March 2011
Alexander Palace, Portrait Hall
Topic: Alexander Palace

A photograph of the Portrait Hall in the Alexander Palace, taken before the Second World War

11 March, 2011

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:07 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 1 April 2011 4:10 PM EDT
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Winter Sleigh Rides at Tsarskoe Selo
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

Visitors to Tsarskoe Selo can enjoy a winter sleigh ride through the Alexander Park. Enjoy the palaces, the park and its pavilions in a two-horse, open four-seat carriage. Weather permitting of course.

© GMZ Tsarskoe Selo. 11 March, 2011


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:50 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 11 March 2011 4:53 PM EST
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The Alexander Palace: Plundered by the Nazis
Topic: Alexander Palace

Plundered by the Nazis, the former Study of Emperor Nicholas II in 1944

11 March, 2011

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:44 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 1 April 2011 4:11 PM EDT
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A La Vieille Russie will Exhibit Items by Faberge at the TEFAF Maastricht 2011
Topic: Faberge

A La Vieille Russie, New York 

A La Vieille Russie, the New York art and antiques gallery that counts among the world’s leaders in antique jewellery and Russian works of art, will exhibit exquisite items by Fabergé, as well as a very rare English necklace, at the TEFAF Maastricht 2011, The European Fine Art Fair that opens on March 18.

Among the highlights are two elegant enamel Fabergé frames, as well as a French 18th century lacquer box, and a Victorian garnet and diamond necklace and earrings. Other highlights include a great collection of Russian cloisonné enamel, featuring significant commemorative pieces.

"We always bring top representative examples of what we sell in the gallery in New York, with a focus on European antique jewelry, snuff boxes and objets de vertu, and of course Fabergé," said Mark Schaffer, a partner in A La Vieille Russie (ALVR).

"The Victorian garnet and diamond necklace and earrings have a rich earthy wine color that you want to see in a Victorian garnet suite,’’ said Mr. Schaffer. ``It is increasingly difficult to find such exquisite antique jewelry, and this is reflected in the six-figure price of this striking suite."

ALVR’s stand is completely re-designed and updated, meant to be a jewel-like microcosm of its New York space. In fact, this year is its 17th exhibiting at TEFAF, making it one of the longest-exhibiting US dealers at the fair.

"We participate in TEFAF because it continues to be the fair with the greatest depth and breadth of artworks," said Mr. Schaffer. "From around the world, polymaths with a passion for art, and for collecting, arrive to visit TEFAF’s critical mass of offerings in any number of fields, from Old Master pictures, to Modern art, to Modern design, to Works on Paper, to Antiquities, to Antiques."

In the 160 years since its founding, ALVR has bought and sold countless Fabergé pieces, including many Imperial Easter Eggs. ALVR was key in creating some of the leading Fabergé collections, including the Forbes Magazine Collection, now partially owned by Victor Vekselberg. Other clients included Grand Duchesses Ksenia and Olga, sisters of Nicholas II, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and King Farouk. Works from the gallery are loaned to museums around the world and exhibited regularly.

© Art Daily. 11 March, 2011


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:39 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 1 April 2011 4:11 PM EDT
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Chekhov Monument Unveiled Near Moscow
Topic: Chekhov

A new monument of Russian writer and playright, Anton Chekhov has been unveiled in the town of Istra, near Moscow.

The monument was erected to mark the 150th anniversary of the writer’s birth, which took place last year. The writer’s family lived in Voskresensk (the former name of Istra) for almost 2 years. In the nearby Chikinskaya hospital, Chekhov underwent practical training before becoming a doctor at the same hospital. In the neighboring Babkino Village, the Chekhovs rented a summer cottage for three summers.

The architect Vladimir Syagin and the artist Vladimir Surovtsev were chosen to become to create the monument. 
The monument sits in a square on the campus of the local teachers’ training college.

© Russia Info-Centre. 11 March, 2011

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:34 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 1 April 2011 4:12 PM EDT
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Thursday, 10 March 2011
Royal Superyachts: How Kings and Queens Sail the Sea
Topic: Yachts

The following is an excerpt from an article published by CNN;

Before luxury yachting was the preserve of Russian tycoons and Silicon Valley moguls, it was only the world's wealthiest royals who built palaces on the sea.

There have been and continue to be a fleet of imperial yachts used to transport royals, from Russian czars to princes of Monaco, in the opulent fashion to which they are accustomed.


If you thought that Abramovich and his fellow billionaires were the first of their countrymen to build ultra-ostentatious pleasure boats, then think again.

The Russian imperial yacht "Shtandart," built according to the specifications of Emperor Alexander III and his son Nicholas, was the largest imperial yacht on the oceans during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Completed in 1895, the opulent vessel was 401 feet long -- about the length of a soccer pitch -- colossal even by today's immodest standards.

Indeed, "Shtandart" was a veritable floating palace, adorned with mahogany-paneled drawing rooms, formal salons with polished floors, brass fittings, crystal chandeliers and velvet drapes.

The czar's private study was furnished in dark leather and elegant wooden furniture, while the czarina's drawing room and boudoir were bedecked in her favorite English chintz. The imperial yacht even had its own chapel for the private use of the family.

However, Russia's largest royal yacht was also her last. After the revolution in 1917, the ship was stripped of all its elegance, renamed "Vosemnadtsate Martza" and refitted as a drab, gray minelayer for service in the Soviet Navy. The boat was scrapped at Tallinn in Estonia in 1963.

© CNN. 10 March, 2011

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:43 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 1 April 2011 4:12 PM EDT
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Imperial Yacht Shtandart, 1832
Now Playing: Andrei Stackenschneider (1802-1865)
Topic: Yachts

The Russian Imperial family enjoying a summer cruise onboard the Imperial yacht, Shtandart.

The painting portrays Tsar Nicholas I (reigned 1825-55), his German-born wife the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and at least some - if not all - of their seven children, Alexander (the future Tsar Alexander II, reigned 1855-81), Nicholas, Michael, Constantine, Maria, Olga and Alexandra. The vessel depicted is presumably the Shtandart, the second imperial yacht of this name but about which very little is known.

This charming watercolour by Andrei Stackenschneider sold at Christie's (London) for £8,963 ($16,616) in 2004.

© Christie's. 10 March, 2011


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:35 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 1 April 2011 4:13 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Restoration of the Alexander Palace
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 3 minutes, 28 seconds



Plans for the restoration of the Alexander Palace are discussed in this video by Natalya Kudryavtsev, Chief Architect of GMZ Tsarskoye Selo.


On her desk, she leafs through a copy of the master plan which outlines the restoration of the palace, a massive undertaking that is expected to be completed in 2017.



The video also contains some marvellous footage of the State Rooms, before and after the restoration which took place last year.

09 March, 2011

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:57 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 1 April 2011 4:13 PM EDT
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A Russian Shame!

 Bears are often kept for "entertainment" in Russia, a practise that often leads to cruelty and tragedy

Many of you who know me personally, know of my love of animals. I have zero tolerance when it comes to animal cruelty, which is one of the many reasons why I am a vegetarian.

I want to bring the subject of dancing bears to your attention because you may encounter them in your travels to Russia.

Several years ago while I was visiting St. Petersburg, I was walking near the equestrian statue of Peter the Great when I came across a young man who had what I thought was a dog on a leash. As it turned out, it was a young brown bear cub. The animal was muzzled and being led on a leash attached to a metal ring that had been piereced through its nose. I have encountered this sad sight on numerous occasions in both St. Petersburg and Moscow since.

Tourists and newleyweds seem to be the main targets of those who exploit these animals. The bear's "owner" will ask for money in return for having your photo taken with the bear. Most people innocently think it is cute, unaware of the cruelty behind this horrible trade.

I asked the young man where he obtained the bear cub and he explained that his uncle had shot and killed the mother, taking the cubs and selling them to any one interested. When I asked him what he fed the cub, he smiled and said "garbage, what else?" I then asked him how long he would keep the bear and what he would do with it when it was an adult. He merely shrugged his shoulders. I felt a great sense of pity for this poor animal.

I contacted a local animal welfare group in St. Petersburg about this disturbing incident. She filled me in with some gruesome details about this sort of animal cruelty. She expressed her frustration that their calls to police and local government officials to crack down on the use of bears for entertainment on the streets of Russian cities falls on deaf ears.

She confirmed that adult female bears are often shot, their cubs taken from their mothers when they are only a few weeks old. The adult bears are the victims of poaching, often to supply the needs of Chinese traditional medicine in the Far East.

The cubs are forced to live an unnatural life in a cage, "cared" for by people who use means of cruel force in order to break the animals spirit.  The standard method of "training" involves forcing a thick iron ring through the nose, which causes considerable pain when yanked. The bears "dance" in an attempt to avoid the pain. Alternatively, music is played whilst the bear stands on hot plates, it will dance to stop having its feet being burnt. It will then dance whenever it hears music.

Once the "training" is complete, the cubs are taken to major tourist sights, forced to pose for photographs or "dance" on their hind legs for up to 12 hours a day to entertain tourists and newlyweds, becoming a tragic spectacle of a cruel tradition that has been practised in Russia and other countries for centuries. 

It is important to note that hundreds of bear cubs are taken from the wild every year, and sold in markets. The majority do not survive the ordeal. Many of them die before they begin their brutal "training." Dehydration, starvation and trauma are among the reasons. Should the cub be "lucky" enough to live past the "training", a punishing regime of starvation and beating will begin to condition it to perform. The piercing of the bears' sensitive muzzle with a metal ring, or just a rope for control is the next ordeal. It is held down without anaesthetic while a crude iron needle is inserted through its nose. Before it is a year old, the bear's incisors and canine teeth will be wrenched out and sold as lucky charms.

Animal welfare groups across Russia have been monitoring the exploitation of bear cubs for several years now. They are joined by growing numbers of Russians who are concerned for these animals and their short lives of pain, misery, and premature death. They are demanding that the authorities put an end to it.

I would like to add my voice to the growing protest against this barbaric trade, and urge tourists visiting Russia not to support this senseless and disgraceful act of animal cruelty.

© Paul Gilbert. 09 March, 2011

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:30 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 1 April 2011 3:32 PM EDT
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