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Friday, 31 August 2012
Exhibitions on War of 1812 Set to Open in Moscow
Topic: Exhibitions


On display at the two exhibitions dedicated to the 200th anniversary of Russia’s victory over Napoleon in the Patriotic War of 1812, due to open in Moscow on August 31st, are various items, including letters of the Russian Emperor, and also drawings of the crowned heads dating back to their childhood and their poems.

One of these exhibitions is prepared by the Federal Archival Agency of the Russian Federation and the other – by the House of Russia Abroad.

The majority of exhibits are put on view for the first time. Studying the authentic documents, visitors can easily gain an understanding of both the political reasons and consequences of the war against Napoleon. Reports from the battlefields, the plans of the battles, and officers’ service records are very helpful in studying the developments in the Patriotic War of 1812. Visitors can also see Russian and French firearms and orders. The exhibition staged by the House of Russia Abroad is dedicated rather to observing the memory of the Patriotic War of 1812 by the Russian immigrants of the first wave, including the military first of all, than to the war as such.

One of the most exciting exhibits is the file of the St. Petersburg newspaper “Severnaya Pochta” (“Northern Mail”) for 1812 that has survived by some miracle, including the issue where the Russian Emperor declares the beginning of the war against France.

By the way, 50 years ago when the 150 anniversary of the war against Napoleon was celebrated, the Society of the Lovers of Military Antiquities that existed in Paris at that time struck a medal with the head of Emperor Alexander I of Russia, the winner in that war. This medal is exhibited too, and Emperor Alexander I is called the blessed on it. “This was the initiative of the historian of the Russian army who emigrated from Russia Anton Kersnovsky”, another historian, Igor Domnin, says:

“After Emperor Alexander I made a serious blunder and broke off relations with Napoleon, he started acting irreproachably. He defended Russia’s honour and dignity in the Patriotic War of 1812, proving that he was really blessed in his life”.

There are sensational materials at the exhibition in Moscow too. Meaning a series of drawings showing the guardsmen of Emperor Alexander I of Russia in the 1812 uniforms.

"What created a sensation at the exhibition was the fact that all these drawings were made by the next Russian emperor - Alexander II, at that time the Cesarevitch (Crown Prince in tsarist Russia)."

For 19th-century Russia the war with Napoleon became an unprecedented example of the unity of the Russian people. And now the memory of the past war should add something to this too, the organizers of the two exhibitions say.

© The Voice of Russia. 31 August, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:58 AM EDT
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Thursday, 30 August 2012
Forensic Experts Disprove Nicholas I Suicide Theory
Topic: Nicholas I


A group of St. Petersburg historians and forensic experts have carried out research to prove or refute a popularly held theory that Emperor Nicholas I had committed suicide in 1855.

The Russian monarchs’ last moments of life were always safely guarded against the crowd’s excessive curiosity. The death of a Russian emperor sometimes became a state secret, and both contemporaries and historians were tempted to penetrate into it. The same kind of mystery surrounds the last days of Nicholas I.

Legends of the emperor’s unnatural death sprang up straight after his demise on the February 18th, 1855. His galloping disease and sudden death looked especially suspicious due to Nicholas I’ reputation of a man of iron constitution and robust health. The emperor’s will containing a ban on the postmortem examination of his body added to the mystery.

A lot of works have been written about the circumstances of Nicholas I’s death but none of them has shed light on this issue. As a rule, two main versions are considered. The first, official version is that the emperor died of a cold which caused paralysis of the lungs. The second, public version is that the emperor could not survive the disgrace of the Crimean War and committed suicide by drinking poison. Historians who studied this subject tended to support the suicide version, though they avoided making any final conclusions.

According to the evidence of people who were close to Nicholas I, it is true that the war seriously affected his emotional condition. Nevertheless, we should not ignore the important circumstance that the czar was very religious, which absolutely ruled out any suicidal ideas. However, it was impossible to prove this without historical documents.

A thick folder collected dust on the shelves of the State History Archive for many years. No one could even imagine that it contained the secret of Nicholas I’s death. Only an experienced doctor could read that pile of medical documents illegibly written in a mixture of Old German and Latin.

The diagnosis and the medical report got into the hands of well-known St. Petersburg forensic expert Yuri Molin. His professional eye noticed a lot of curious details in them. First of all, the emperor had been ill for a long time and did not die suddenly, as the newspapers reported. Secondly, there were no traces of violence on his body. Thirdly, the emperor’s body was embalmed twice.

“We can state with due responsibility that the emperor died of influenze which had not been properly treated and was complicated by double pneumonia,” Yuri Molin said.

Today’s doctors did not even have to exhume the body to identify the cause of death.

“A forensic expert can find a lot of interesting details in the report of the examination of the body. During the examination, no signs of poisoning, funny smells or traces of injections were found,” Yuri Molin said.

The rumour about poisoning sprang up because death spots appeared on the emperor’s body. They were actually caused by the embalmers’ negligence, rather than poisoning. The embalming was carried out at room temperature and without extracting the viscera. It was urgent to correct the medical error. A brigade of doctors went to the Fortress of Sts. Peter and Paul incognito for several nights. The experts removed the effects of putrefaction and lightened the skin giving it a natural tinge.

Forensic experts do not believe that Nicholas I had robust health. Just the opposite, he was afflicted with a number of diseases that affected his heart, kidneys and liver. He also suffered from gout, the Romanovs’ hereditary pathology. Pneumonia progressed against this background. However, to finally restore the historical truth it is necessary to exhume the body.

In his time, historian and literary critic Natan Eidelman said that the cause of Nicholas I’s death was directly linked with the political and ideological struggle of that period and reflected the mentality of certain social groups. The version of unnatural death was in the interests of political opponents of the imperial family. With time, the rumours became part of history, so medical investigation could finally remove the stigma of suicide from the emperor.

© Voice of Russia and Paul Gilbert. 30 August, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 30 August 2012 8:27 AM EDT
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Relics of Orthodox Saints Stolen from St. Petersburg Church
Topic: Russian Church


Photo: Church of Saint Catherine the Great Martyr, St. Petersburg 

Relics of several prominent Russian Orthodox saints were stolen from a St. Petersburg cathedral along with gold and silver jewelry, regional police said Wednesday.

The relics were stolen Tuesday night from the Church of St. Catherine the Great Martyr along with a communion chalice and five neck crosses, the police said in a statement.

The relics were of Prince Alexander Nevsky, Saint Nicholas the miracleworker, and Pyotr and Fevronia, Interfax reported, citing the police.

The robber climbed through a window and broke into the cabinet of the church's chief priest, taking the chalice and the crosses, the police statement said. The relics had been kept in the reliquary icon, which was wrenched apart, it said.

Police opened a criminal investigation on theft charges, which carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison in this particular case.

Police estimated the damage, not counting the relics, at 350,000 rubles ($11,000). 

Oleg Tairov, vice president of the Appraisers Guild with the International Confederation of Antiques and Art Dealers, said the relics have no retail value, only historical value. He suggested that the relics were stolen for a collector or as an “act of revenge” for the Pussy Riot verdict.

Three female punk rockers were sentenced to two years in prison on Aug. 17 on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred over a February performance denouncing Patriarch Kirill and President Vladimir Putin at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral.

© Interfax. 30 August, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:01 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Rare Book Returned to the Alexander Palace
Topic: Alexander Palace


Four millennia of universal history in four charts; for use at colleges and for history devotees, with a brief history of the Enlightenment by V.V.I. Schmidt – a St Petersburg-published book of 1823 which title page still bears the Tsarkskoye Selo Imperial Library stamp – has returned to the Alexander Palace reserve collection after the book left it over eighty years ago.

The book came back as a gift from Captain Peter Sarandinaki, the President and founder of the group called S.E.A.R.C.H. Foundation, Inc. with a mission to search for and recover the remains of two Romanov children. Mr Sarandinaki and other members of the group have done and will conduct more expeditions to the site of the murder of the Tsar’s family.

His grandfather, Colonel Kiril Naryshkin, was married to Anna Rozanova, the daughter of Lieutenant General Sergei Rozanov who was in charge of Admiral Kolchak’s White Russian troops that liberated Ekaterinburg from the Bolsheviks six days after the Romanov Imperial Family and their faithful servants were murdered. Rozanov and Naryshkin, the General’s adjutant, were among the first to enter the Ipatiev House.

The book Peter Sarandinaki together with his wife and two children brought back to the Museum was bought by his father in the 1930s at an American warehouse selling off unbidden auction items at nominal rates. The book graced their family collection for years. But as soon as Mr Sarandinaki found out the stamp on it was that of the Imperial Library, he contacted Tsarskoye Selo.

Our Museum is sincerely grateful to Captain Peter Sarandinaki and his family for their priceless gift.

© Tsarskoye Selo Palace-Museum Preserve. 29 August, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:54 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 29 August 2012 1:25 PM EDT
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Monument to Alexander II Unveiled at Tula
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 1 minute, 37 seconds
Topic: Alexander II

A new monument to the Emperor Alexander II by the Russian sculptor, Alexander Apollo has been unveiled in the city of Tula, located about 193 km (120 miles) south of Moscow.

Alexander visited Tula on several occasions as both Tsesarevich and in 1860 as Emperor. He took a great interest in the arms factory and the local museum. The museum contains a unique collection of locally made guns, including a rifle with the following inscription: "His Majesty the Emperor Alexander II. In memory of his visit to the Tula Arms Factory. 1st September, 1875".

The first monument to Alexander II at Tula was erected in 1886. During the Soviet years the monument was destroyed, but the pedestal was preserved.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 August, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:34 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 29 August 2012 10:48 AM EDT
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Solovetsky Monastery, Its Past and Present Day
Topic: Russian Church


The snow-white buildings of the Solovetsky monastery – a kind of spiritual fortress with its own laws and rules, with its own inhabitants, have been scattered on many islands in the White Sea in Russia’s North for centuries. However, the history of these sacred places begins in the 2nd millennium BC. The remnants of ancient sanctuaries and burial grounds are as numerous as the monuments to monasterial time are. The famous Solovetsky mazes, barrows and ridges keep guard to the mystery of old faiths and notions concerning the surrounding world that used to be embraced by the ancient inhabitants of the White Sea area. Monuments resembling Solovetsky sanctuaries can be found in the northeast of Scandinavia and on the Kola Peninsula. Whereas in Finland, Sweden and Norway these structures were destroyed with the introduction of Christianity, on the Solovetsky Islands they were preserved. That was a kind of dialogue between heathen and Christian cultures. We have inherited it in its primordial shape, and the unique environment of the Solovetsky Archipelago only strengthens the impression of the extraordinary northern civilization.

Since the first years of its existence, the Solovetsky Monastery – the heart of the Orthodox Church – has been an enclave of truly religious people. Solovetsky monks have entered into theoretical disputes with Moscow patriarchs and prelates more than once. History records have a mention of the revolt of the monks against reforms in the Orthodox Church introduced in the 17th century. The monks refused to accept the corrected church books brought from the mainland. No coercion could break their resistance. Finally Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich lost patience and confiscated the monastery’s mainland property. In response, the monks sent a letter to Moscow. It said: “If you, Your Majesty, do not wish to adhere to the old faith, order to punish us by sword and transfer us from this tumultuous life to a life eternal and tranquil”. In this way the monastery that no foreigners dared to attack rose against the authorities. The siege laid to the cloister continued for eight years. Finally, the monastery was overtaken, but its monks remained firm in their faith.

The history of Solovetsky fortress and monastery has many facets. The cloister outlived all Russian tsars and many patriarchs while remaining the spiritual bulwark of believers.

Perhaps the hardest time for the Solovetsky monastery was the 20th century, which saw World War Two, the mounting atheism in society, change of authorities and ideologies… In the 1920s the monastery was shut down and turned into a prison. A labour camp for political prisoners was set up on the Solovetsky Archipelago. It contained about 30,000 prisoners of more than 60 nationalities, many of whom were former army and navy officers, the gentry, intellectuals, clergymen, members of the political parties which tried to oppose bolshevism – anarchists, Mensheviks, social revolutionaries. The Solovetsky monastery saw the death of outstanding Russian philosopher, mathematician and priest Pavel Florensky and of many other prominent historians, writers, poets, musicians, scientists. Well-known Russian scientist, philologist, historian, philosopher and academician Dmitry Likhachev languished in Solovetsky dungeons. “What did I learn at Solovki? In the first place I realized that every man was a human. Criminals who are usually despised by society saved my life in the labour camp more than once,” the scientist wrote in his memoirs. Dmitry Likhachev, the last survivor of the Solovetsky labour camp, died in 1999, 60 years after the special prison ceased to exist.

Only in the early 1970 did the state pay attention to the unique historic and architectural monument, which had stood abandoned for over a half a century. The monastery was proclaimed a cultural preserve. And a decade later, on October 25, 1990 the Holy Synod led by Patriarch Alexi II decided to revive the Solovetsky monastery. Soon the relics of the Reverend founders of the cloister, Zosima, Savvati and Herman, were transferred there. Today not only the clerical authorities do much to rebuild the architectural monument. Russia’s Ministry of Culture worked out a special program for maintaining the sacred place of Russia’s North.

“Don’t fear Solovki, Jesus Christ is near them,” said well-known Russian artist Mikhail Nesterov with reference to the Solovetsky Monastery.

© The Voice of Russia. 29 August, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:16 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 28 August 2012
Monument to Emperor Alexander I Unveiled in Finland
Topic: Alexander I


In the Finnish city of Turku a monument has been unveiled in honor of the historic meeting between Russian Emperor Alexander I and Crown Prince of Sweden Carl Johan (Charles XIV John), reports.

The unveiling ceremony, which was attended by the President of Finland Sauli Niinistö, was the culminating event of the celebratory program of the 200th anniversary of the meeting between the two monarchs. During their meetings in what was then Finland’s largest city, the royal rulers rewrote and reaffirmed the Treaty of St. Petersburg in a way that was significant for Finland. Sweden finally gave up any claim to Finland and agreed to cooperate with Russia to defeat the French Emperor Napoleon. In return, Russia provided support for Sweden’s plans to invade Norway.

The author of the sculpture, Russian artist Andrei Kovalchuk, said that when engaged in work on the sculpture he studied a large volume of archive materials to help achieve authenticity. “Preparing the sculpture I used numerous portraits of the monarchs and also etchings depicting the meeting published in 1812 in a British newspaper,” he noted.

At the General Consulate of the Russian Federation in Turku an exhibition has opened titled ‘Russians in 1812” based on works from the Russian National Library and archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In honor of the 200th anniversary of the meeting an international academic seminar has been organized, attracting historians from Russia and Finland (which from 1809 to 1917 was part of the Russian Empire).

© Fontanka. 28 August, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:53 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 29 August 2012 1:21 PM EDT
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Monday, 27 August 2012
Senior Orthodox Priest Calls Lenin Worse Than Hitler
Topic: Bolsheviks


A senior Russian Orthodox priest has called Vladimir Lenin an "even bigger villain" than Adolf Hitler and backed an effort to check his works for extremism.

Archpriest Dmitry Smirnov, head of church relations with the armed forces and law enforcement, said in an interview that a closer study of Lenin's writings could drastically alter societal beliefs regarding the Bolshevik leader, who he described as an "unscrupulous and utter cynic and villain," Interfax reported.

Soviet authorities ruthlessly suppressed religion, confiscated church properties, and demolished holy sites over their decades in power, leading many church officials to view them with bitter resentment.

Smirnov made his comments Friday in response to a question from Interview on whether he agreed with an effort by Russian Academy of Sciences researcher Vladimir Lavrov to have the Investigative Committee check Lenin's works for extremism.

Smirnov said he backed such an effort but that he doubted the works — which were a fixture on the bookshelves of many Soviet citizens and an obligatory subject of study in Soviet schools — would be banned.

He noted that Leninism, a communist ideology that promotes socialism and a "dictatorship of the proletariat," was also a kind of religion and that a check of Lenin's works would not affect how his staunch devotees viewed him.

Speaking about his belief that Russian cities needed to be rid of the ubiquitous images and place-names that include Lenin, Smirnov referred to efforts in post-World War II Germany to eliminate Hitler's name from public spaces.

For him, Smirnov said, Lenin was "an even bigger villain than Hitler" because "Hitler treated his people much better."

© The Moscow Times. 27 August, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:58 AM EDT
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Sunday, 26 August 2012
Tsarskoye Selo Station to Regain Historic Name
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


The administration of the Pushkin District have voted to restore the historic name of the main train station at Puskhin. The station will be renamed Tsarskoye Selo-Pushkin.

According to Tatiana Bogulyubova, Deputy Head of the Administration, "the return of the historic name will assist visitor's with orientation". During the Soviet years the train station was known as Detskoe Selo (Children's Village), the name of which has no association to Tsarskoye Selo or Pushkin whatsoever.

After the Russian Revolution, Tsarskoye Selo was renamed Detskoe Selo, and in 1937 was renamed Pushkin.

The renaming of one of Russia's oldest train station's also has the support of Russian Railways.

Tsarskoye Selo can be reached from the Vitebsky Railway Station in St. Petersburg. Upon arrival, there are local buses or taxis that will take visitors to the Catherine and Alexander Palaces, or it is a 45-minute walk.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 26 August, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:46 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 26 August 2012 7:07 AM EDT
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Saturday, 25 August 2012
The Alexander Palace: A Walk Through the State Rooms
Now Playing: Language: NA - Music. Duration: 16 minutes, 50 seconds
Topic: Alexander Palace

The following 16-minute video (with musical accompaniment)  takes us through the State Rooms of the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.

The restoration of the Portrait, Semi-Circular and Marble Halls were completed in 2010, marking the 300th anniversary of Tsarskoye Selo.

It was from the Semi-Circular Hall that Tsar Nicholas II, his family and retinue departed the Alexander Palace for the last time on August 1, 1917. From here they were taken to the Alexandrovsky Station, and taken by train into exile to Siberia.

© Royal Russia. 25 August, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:53 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 27 August 2012 11:14 AM EDT
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