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Wednesday, 8 August 2012
The Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent and the Last Days of the Romanovs

 

The Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent, Ekaterinburg (early 20th century) 

In October of 1824, there was a great festivity at the Novo- Tikhvinsky Convent in Ekaterinburg, as the sisters welcomed an eminent guest: the Emperor Alexander I. For them, he was not only the Tsar but also their benefactor, for it was due to his royal patronage, the opening of the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent became possible. At the moment of this joyous encounter no one could imagine that in less than a hundred years, the sisters would become the benefactors of the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II...

During the difficult years of suffering under the Bolsheviks, the sisters did not forget all the good deeds they had received. When in 1918, Tsar Nicholas II with all of his family were kept under arrest in the Ipatiev House, the nuns of the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent prayed for them, asking God to relieve their sufferings, to strengthen them, and to give them the strength to bear everything with Christian humility.

The sisters' help came not only through prayer but also through deeds: disregarding their own safety, they supported the Tsar and his family by passing over various foods to them through the guards on a daily basis. On June 18th of 1918, a month before their murders, the Empress Alexandra Fedorvna made the following entry in her diary: "The kind nuns are now sending milk and eggs for Aleksey and for us, as well as cream."

On July 16th, 1918,while making their daily visit bearing food for the August family, the nuns were told not to come any more. That night, the Tsar and his entire family perished as martyrs at the hands of the Bolsheviks.

During the 23 years of his reign, Nicholas II did not personally visit the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent, but the following fact speaks of his benevolence. When the artists at the convent painted a portrait of the Emperor Nicholas II in the Life-Guards' uniform of hussar regiment and passed it along to St. Petersburg, the Emperor placed this gift in his personal apartment at the Winter Palace. The portrait was painted by Nun Emiliana in 1896. In October 1917, during the assault against the palace, this portrait was bayonetted by soldiers and sailors. For over 70 years, it was kept at the Museum of the October Revolution in Leningrad. Now it has been restored, but the cuts from the bayonets were left in place.

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral at the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent 

During the 1920s, the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent, like many other convents, monasteries and churches in Russia, was subjected to terrible persecution, looting and destruction at the hands of the Bolsheviks. The convent saw a revival in 1994, and today accomodates 150 nuns, all of whom carry out charitable work in the community, as well as work in the convents icon workshop, publishing house, or sewing workshops.

Situated in the southern outskirts of Ekaterinburg, the Novo-Tikvinsky Convent welcomes pilgrims and visitors. Each year on the night of July 16/17 a liturgy is held in memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs, whom the nuns of the convent had shown such kindness in their final days.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 8 August, 2012



Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:59 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 8 August 2012 6:48 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 7 August 2012
Horseman from the Banks of the Neva
Topic: Peter the Great

 

The Bronze Horseman is an impressive monument to the founder of Russia’s city of St.Petersburg, Peter the Great. On August 7, 2012 this symbol of St.Pete turns 230.

In Russian the monument is called “ the copper horseman” though it’s actually made of bronze. The famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin was the one calling the horseman “copper” in his narrative poem of 1833.

Commissioned by Catherine the Great, the statue was erected on Senatskaya Square. In correspondence with the Empress, the famous philosopher Denis Diderot suggested French sculptor Étienne Falconet to create the monument. Before erecting the statue, Falconet did a lot of research about Russia and Peter the Great, says director Andrei Konchalovsky who knows a lot about the sculptor.

"Peter the Great was a mystery for any foreigner so Falconet wanted to understand his character. The monument is unusual –Peter has no symbols of power like orb and scepter. He is more of a hero, athlete on a horse rearing at the edge of a cliff. Falconet carved from life and as this was the pre-photography era a guard officer on a rearing horse was posing for him everyday."

It took Falconet 12 years to finish the monument. The statue was unveiled marking 100 years of Peter the Great’s ascension to the throne.

A horseman on a large stone is dominating the Neva embankment having survived the Revolution of 1917, the renaming of city to Leningrad and back and many other things. Its engraving says to Peter the Great from Catherine II.

The horseman’s outstretched arm is pointing towards Sweden while Stockholm has a monument to Karl XII pointing towards Russia reminding of fierce battles between the countries. Then, Peter defeated Sweden and gained access to the Baltic Sea.

The legend has it that during the Siege of Leningrad the statue was covered with sandbags and a wooden shelter. After the shelter was removed someone painted the Medal for the Defense of Leningrad on the horseman’s chestand it remained untouched for a long time.

© The Voice of Russia. 7 August, 2012



Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:52 AM EDT
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Catherine the Great and Oranienbaum
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 4 minutes, 16 seconds
Topic: Oranienbaum

Video: highlights of the exhibition, plus magnificent footage of the interiors of the Chinese Palace and the ongoing restorations. 

Oranienbaum is hosting a new exhibition marking the events surrounding the ascension of Catherine the Great to the Russian throne in 1762.

It was at Oranienbaum that her husband, the Emperor Peter III reported a palace coup in which he was overthrown by his ambitious wife who went on to rule Russia until her death in 1796.

The exhibition is housed in the former kitchen building of the nearby Chinese Palace at Oranienbaum. The focus of the exhibit begins with Catherine's tumultuous relationship with her husband, and the events that unfolded which eventually opened the path to the Russian throne for her.

The exhibit also reflects on the August couple's love and interest in all things Chinese, perhaps one of the few things they actually shared. Peter sent envoys across Europe and to China in search of priceless 17th-century Chinese porcelain to add to his growing collection. The couple's passion for Chinese art eventually led to the construction of the Chinese Palace in 1757. 

It was not until 1768 that the palace was completed, but was to become a favourite of the widowed Empress.

The Chinese Palace is unique among the Imperial palaces as it remained unscathed by Revolution and war. An extensive restoration of the palace began some seven years ago and continues to this day. Last year, four of its seventeen rooms were reopened to the public. Work on the remaining thirteen rooms will continue, making it one of the most ambitious restoration projects in Russian history.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 7 August, 2012


   

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:09 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 8 August 2012 5:52 AM EDT
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Monday, 6 August 2012
Nationalist Launches Latest Bid to Relocate Lenin
Topic: Bolsheviks

 

Vladimir Lenin may be dead, but the question of what to do with his corpse is still very much alive.

That could change soon thanks to a new initiative by nationalist and Orthodox Christian groups to have the Soviet primogenitor evicted from his Red Square mausoleum by the end of the year.

"Nationalists, Cossacks and Orthodox groups have always supported his removal, but until now, we've never formed a united front to make it happen," said Dmitry Dyomushkin, head of the banned Slavic Union movement and a co-organizer of the aptly named "For Removing Lenin!" initiative.

The presence of Lenin's corpse violates the cultural, national and spiritual traditions of the Russian people and has led to unnecessary social tensions, Dyomushkin said by telephone Friday.

Public support appears to be building, albeit slowly, behind the idea of removing Lenin from the mausoleum, where he has been on display almost continuously since 1924.

Fifty-six percent of Russians support such an initiative — up from 50 percent in 1997 — according to a 2011 Levada Center poll.

In May, they received a boost when Vladimir Medinsky, a State Duma deputy and outspoken proponent of burying Lenin, was named culture minister.

Dyomushkin said people of all political persuasions are welcome to join the initiative, whose narrow aim is to build public support for Lenin's removal, including via rallies.

But it remains to be seen whether Dyomushkin, a controversial ultranationalist with fascist leanings, can attract mainstream and liberal supporters.

Sergei Mitrokhin, leader of the liberal Yabloko party, said that he has long supported Lenin's removal from Red Square, but that he won't work with Dyomushkin, a controversial ultranationalist, or appear on stage with him.

"I have nothing in common with Dyomushkin, but if he says 'two plus two equals four,' I'll agree," Mitrokhin said by telephone Friday, adding that Yabloko deserved credit for the idea to remove Lenin.

Representatives from 28 organizations, including the Union of Orthodox Banner-Bearers, the Monarchist Imperial League and the For Holy Rus movement, attended the second meeting of the organizing committee, which was held Thursday, according to a page on Dyomushkin's website.

But strangely, he couldn't provide any information on Andrei Chernyakov, the coordinator of the organizing committee's "liberal-democratic" wing, one of three ideological blocks spelled out in the statement on Dyomushkin's website.

Thirty-one percent of Russians, including many Communists, believe Lenin should stay put.

Sergei Obukhov, a State Duma Deputy from the Communist Party, denounced Dyomushkin's initiative as an attempt to curry favor with the presidential administration, citing the Slavic Union leader's application to join the presidential human rights council.

"I don't think Dyomushkin will score points in the Kremlin by cursing the memory of the founding father of the current Russian Federation, the great Russian political genius, the man who put social and national liberation on the agenda of the 20th century," he told Interfax last month.

And in a further reminder of how divided Russians still are on Lenin, the organizing committee has vowed not to take a position on what to do with the body once it's removed.

"Let Communist Party boss Gennady Zyuganov take the corpse to his dacha. Let them bury Lenin next to his relatives. Let them cremate him, as he wanted. Let them fire him out of a cannon. Just as long as they get him out of Red Square," Dyomushkin said.

He denied that the initiative, whose aims include a letter-writing campaign to cultural figures and politicians, including the heads of the four parties represented in the State Duma, was at all affiliated with the Kremlin.

Dyomushkin has already asked Prosecutor General Yury Chaika to check the legality of Lenin's presence on Red Square, where he has lain almost continuously since 1924.

Ultimately, the fate of Lenin's corpse seems to lie with President Vladimir Putin and the ruling United Russia party, neither of which appear to be in a rush.

Mummification and the public display of corpses aren't in Russia's national tradition, but now is not the time to bury Lenin, State Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov of United Russia said.

"I don't see any reason to start a bitter fight with the third of the population that sees Lenin and the mausoleum as a symbol. This isn't the biggest problem facing our society," he said by telephone Friday, adding that Lenin should be moved as soon as the issue no longer polarizes society.

Editor's Note: There are many people (myself included) who still believe that Lenin gave the order to murder Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1918. Further, he is responsible for the deaths and suffering of millions of innocent people when he unleashed the Civil War and the Red Terror that followed. His hatred towards religion led to the endless violence against the Russian Orthodox Church. Lenin also signed the shameful Treaty of Bretsk-Litovsk with Germany on March 3, 1918. For these reasons, among many others, his body should be removed from the mausoleum where his memory is glorified on Red Square and interred in a cemetery. Paul Gilbert

© The Moscow Times. 6 August, 2012



Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:02 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 5 August 2012 12:36 PM EDT
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Fascinating Photos Capture Life in Imperial Russia Before the Revolution
Topic: Imperial Russia

 

These remarkable pictures show the lives of Russian peasants living in the 1800s.

Taken by Edinburgh-born artist William Carrick he was born on New Year's Eve in 1827 and months later was taken to Russia where he grew up.

He studied painting at the St Petersburg Academy of Arts and studied in Rome.

During one of his visits to Edinburgh, he took photography lessons and met John McGregor who returned with him to St Petersburg.

In 1859 he opened one of the first photographic studios and McGregor worked with him as an assistant.

Together the pair travelled rural Russia capturing the lives of peasants living and working in Russia.

Carrick did this to boost his income and keep his studio afloat. The pictures satisfied the curiosity of tourists and the public who found Russia's peasants fascinating.

The pictures, which are dated from the 1860s to the 1870s, include the lives of those working in the busy streets of St Petersburg, from street vendors to musicians and chimney sweeps.

Another set of pictures records the life and labour of Russian peasants in the Volga Region of Simbirsk.

They are seen at work in the fields and at rest and many happily posed for the camera. This would have been the first time many of them had seen one.

Carrick often spent months travelling with his assistant and was known for his compassionate nature.

McGregor died in 1872 and Carrick continued to take photographs until he died of pneumonia in 1878.

© National Gallery of Scotland. 6 August, 2012



Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 5 August 2012 12:01 PM EDT
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Sunday, 5 August 2012
Tsar Days in Retrospect: Russia Remembers the Holy Royal Martyrs

 

This year marks the 94th anniversary of the murder of Tsar Nicholas and his family at Ekaterinburg. Memorial services and other events were held in cities across Russia during the week leading up the anniversary on July 17th.

I have created a retrospect of this year's Tsar's Days events held last month at Ekaterinburg and other cities across Russia. It features 4 VIDEOS and 25 COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS!!

Note: one of the videos includes the Divine Liturgy held at the Alexander Palace for Tsar Nicholas II and his family.

||| Russia Commemorates the Holy Royal Martyrs  |||

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 5 August, 2012



Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:00 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 5 August 2012 9:15 AM EDT
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Saturday, 4 August 2012
Grand Palace at Oranienbaum Opens New Rooms
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 3 minutes, 46 seconds
Topic: Oranienbaum

 

Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna  

The Grand Palace at Oranienbaum opened four newly restored rooms to the public today. This brings the total number of rooms open to visitors to fourteen.

Elena Kalnitskaya, CEO of the Peterhof Palace Museum Complex greeted visitors this morning with a brief welcome speech.

"Restoration at Oranienbaum can not be stopped, and I have no doubt that it will continue at a rapid pace," she said.

Video: shows the opening day ceremonies, and the newly restored interiors 

Five years ago the palace was in a terrible state of disrepair. The experts sounded the alarms and it was at this time that the palace administration decided to bring the palace back to life.

Reparing cracks in the walls, installing a new heating system, and re-planting the Lower Park were just a few of the problems that had to be addressed. The palace opened its doors last year to coincide with the 300th anniversary of Oranienbaum. Ten rooms had been restored and decorated with many original items from the Oranienbaum storage and archive facilities.

The four newly restored rooms focus on the private life of the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna (wife of Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich), nicknamed "the Freedom Princess" due to her support of the abolition of serfdom in Russia.

She lived at the Grand Palace for more than ten years. It was here that the former Princess of Wurttemberg, discussed such topics as Peasant Reform, her exhaustive charitable work, and the arts. Her palace was "cozy" and reflected the trends of the time. Visitors to the palace can now see her bedroom, decorated in pink, her favourite colour.

There are now plans for the restoration of the rooms of Princess Elizabeth Vorontsova, the mistress of Emperor Peter III.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 4 August, 2012



Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:16 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 5 August 2012 10:21 AM EDT
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Friday, 3 August 2012
Vintage Photo of Nicholas II No. 8
Topic: Nicholas II

 

Emperor Nicholas II inspecting a Vityaz, designed by Igor Sikorsky and built at the Russian Baltic Railroad Car Works in St. Petersburg. Sikorsky's aspirations for the aircraft were short-lived. While parked on a runway on 23 June, 1913, the Vityaz was crushed by an engine that fell off another aircraft coming in for a landing. Sikorsky decided not to repair the seriously damaged Vityaz and began working on his next project. The photograph was taken at Krasnoye Selo in 1913.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 3 August, 2012


 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:40 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 4 August 2012 12:52 PM EDT
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Thursday, 2 August 2012
Novosibirsk or Novonikolayevsk?
Topic: Russian History

 

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the Ob River at Novonikolayevsk in the early 20th century 

Novosibirsk was founded in 1893 at the future site of a Trans-Siberian Railway bridge crossing the Ob River in Siberia. It was originally named Novonikolayevsk, in honour of both Saint Nicholas and Tsar Nicholas II.

The Russian Civil War took its toll on the city, with wartime epidemics claiming thousands of lives. The city was captured and recaptured numerous times: the Soviets took control of the city in December 1917, the Whites took back the city in May 1918, and the Red Army took the city in 1919, retaining it for the duration of the Civil War.

Novonikolayevsk began rebuilding in 1921, including the reconstruction of the Ob River Bridge and numerous other buildings destroyed during the war. In 1926 the city's name was changed to Novosibirsk (trans. New Siberian City).

A poster about Nicholas II, near the monument to Alexander III at the River Station, Novosibirsk 

Today, Novosibirsk is Russia's thrid largest city, as well as the administrative center of the Siberian Federal District.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union many city and street names have reverted back to their Tsarist era names. The political party Fair Russia is now calling for the city to change its name back to its founding name of Novonikolayevsk, and is apparently receiving wide support.

In June of this year a monument to the Emperor Alexander III was unveiled in the city, and a campaign is now under way to erect a monument to his son, the Emperor Nicholas II. The city may be moving ahead into the future, but it seems it does not want to forget its Imperial past either.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 2 August, 2012


 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:38 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 4 August 2012 12:15 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 1 August 2012
The Grand Palace at Oranienbaum Restores Four New Rooms
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 3 minutes, 55 seconds
Topic: Oranienbaum

 

Four newly restored rooms of the Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich (1798-1849) and his wife, the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna (1807-1873) are scheduled to open this week in the Grand Menshikov Palace at Oranienbaum. This follows an extensive restoration of ten rooms in the central part of the palace which were opened to the public in 2011.

The unique historical interiors of the grand ducal couple will offer visitors examples of the rich aristocratic lifestyle enjoyed by members of the Russian Imperial family in the early to mid-18th century.

The palace has a rich history. Peter the Great presented the land to Prince Alexander Menshikov around 1710. Three years later, Menshikov began construction of his palace. After his arrest and exile in 1727 the Oranienbaum estate was passed to the State, and became a naval hospital. In 1743, the estate was presented by the Empress Elizabeth to her nephew, the future Emperor Peter III. Peter commissioned the architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli to renovate the palace, who left the exteriors untouched, but created sumptuous interiors. Numerous other architects made further alterations and the palace continued to change owners within the Romanov family.

Video: shows the final preparations for the opening of the four new rooms of the Grand Palace    

Between 1857-1873, the Grand Duchess Elena (nee Princess Charlotte of Wurttemberg) commissioned her architects, L. Bosse and H. Preuss Bonshtedt to redesign many of the interiors to reflect her own personal tastes.

The four newly restored rooms are decorated with items from the vast Oranienbaum storage collection (some 7,000 items!), including furniture, mirrors, portraits and other personal items of the grand duchess .

It has been many years since I was at Oranienbaum. I recall the Grand Menshikov Palace which was very impressive, though its interiors were in a perilous state, some parts on the verge of collapse. In the past decade, major restoration work has been carried out on the palace's facade and interiors which has saved this beautiful palace. I look forward to seeing the palace and its newly restored historical interiors on my next visit to St. Petersburg.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 01 August, 2012


 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:01 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 3 August 2012 8:30 AM EDT
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