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Monday, 3 September 2012
Main Building of State Historical Museum Celebrates Birthday


On August 22 (September 3), 1875 on the Red Square in Moscow in the presence of Alexander II and a large crowd of people in ceremonial atmosphere there was laid the foundation stone of Historical museum – the largest national historical museum of Russia. Its collection reflects the history and the culture of Russia from ancient times to our days.

The museum was founded by initiative of the public in 1872. The first displays were from historical and Sevastopol departments of Polytechnic exhibition of 1872. According to “General regulations of the museum” established in 1873 its main goal was “to serve as visual history”. Thus the museum started to acquire “all the monuments of significant events of the Russian state history”.

In April 1874 the Moscow state Duma assigned a ground for the museum construction on the Red square where once was situated the first Moscow University. As a result of the competition the project of the architect V. Sherwood and engineer A. Semenov was approved. The construction lasted six years.

From the very beginning the museum was granted with generous gifts and donations from state and social organizations as well as from people of different rank and estate. The Moscow state Duma presented it with Golitsyn and Chertkovsky libraries rich of numerous unique manuscripts. The nobles such as Golitsyny, Bobrinskye, Kropotkiny, Obolenskye, Masalskye, Shcherbatovy, Uvarovy also made a significant contribution as well as merchants-sponsors Bakhrushiny, Buryliny, Grachovy, Postnikovy, Sapozhnikovy. Several hundreds of antique pieces were presented by a famous collector P. Shchukin. Another source of collections was expeditionary finds and acquisitions. In the Soviet age the collections of the State museum fund and closed down museums such as “Old Moscow”, Rumyantsev museum, Military-Historical museum, etc. were handed over to this museum.

By subject exposition of the museum is divided into six sections: History of the primitive community in the territory of Russia, History of the peoples of Russia from the year 1000 BC to 10th century AD.; Kievan state and the period of feudal fragmentation; Muscovy in 16th-17th centuries.; reforms of Peter I and the education of the Russian Empire, Russian Empire in the period of 1725-1762.

State Historical Museum has 7 branches. Each of them is a monument of ancient architecture and an independent museum of the age to which it belongs. Moscow Branches of the State History Museum are: St. Basil's Cathedral, the Museum of Boyar way of life in 17th century; Trinity Cathedral in Nikitniki; Novodevichy Monastery; royal manor of 16th-17th centuries in the village of Kolomna.

Outside Moscow: Alexander Sloboda (in Alexandrov, the Ivanovo region) and the Genoese fortress in of 14th century in Sudak, on the southern coast of Crimea.

© Russkiy Mir. 03 September, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:20 AM EDT
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Tsar Alexander II Monument in Sofia Removed for Restoration
Topic: Alexander II


The famous monument of Tsar Osvodboditel (Liberator King) in downtown Sofia will be temporarily removed from its location in front of the building of the Parliament to undergo full restoration.

The legs of the horse will be replaced with new bronze ones due to the many cracks.

The project is implemented by the Bulgarian Construction Chamber with financial assistance from the Pokolenie (Generation) Foundation.

The entire sculpture – the horse and rider, Tsar Alexander II, will be dismantle and sent to an atelier near the capital Sofia. Top Bulgarian and Russian restorers will be engaged for the works, along with a number of scientists. The sculpture will be cleaned from the patina while the foundation will be stabilized and also cleaned. The area around the monument will be renewed as well.

The cost of the project is estimated at BNG 1.1 M, but Russian experts say this amount will end up being by 40% larger.

The dismantling of the monument will happen at some point next week, most likely in the evening when there is less traffic in downtown Sofia. The restoration works will last about 2 months. During this time, pictures of the monument will surround the location.

The restored sculpture will be revealed on March 3 2012, which is Bulgaria's National Holiday, marking the gaining of its independence from Ottoman rule.

The Monument to the Tsar Liberator was erected in honor of Russian Emperor Alexander II who liberated Bulgaria of Ottoman rule during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.

The Neoclassical memorial's author is Italian sculptor Arnoldo Zocchi, who won the project in competition with 31 other artists from 12 countries in the end of the 19th century. Bulgarian architect Nikola Lazarov participated in the monument's architectural design.

The foundation stone was laid on 23 April 1901, St George's Day, in the presence of Knyaz Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, and the monument was completed on 15 September 1903.

Ferdinand also attended the monument's inauguration on 30 August 1907.

Erected of black polished granite from the nearby Vitosha Mountain, the monument consists of a pedestal, a middle part with figures and a massive Neo-Renaissance cornice finished with the sculpture of the Russian Tsar on a horse. The bronze wreath at the foot was donated by Romania in memory of the Romanian soldiers that died during the war.

The main bronze bas-relief in the middle part depicts a group of Russian and Bulgarian soldiers led by Nike, the Ancient Greek goddess of victory, who raises her sword high above. Portraits of Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolaievich, Count Ignatiev and the generals Joseph Vladimirovich Gourko and Mikhail Skobelev surround the group.

Other bas-reliefs feature scenes from the Battle of Stara Zagora, the signing of the Treaty of San Stefano and the opening ceremony of the Constituent National Assembly in Veliko Tarnovo, as well as portraits of prominent Bulgarian figures from the period.

© Sofia News Agency. 03 September, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:09 AM EDT
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Saturday, 1 September 2012
Vintage Photo of Nicholas II No. 10
Topic: Nicholas II


The Imperial yacht Standart was always escorted by several vessels of the Russian Imperial Navy. It was customary during the inspection of these vessels that Tsar Nicholas II tasted the food from the crew's mess--an essential part of Russian military inspection proceedure. This photo dates from 1912.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 01 September, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:21 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 1 September 2012 2:28 PM EDT
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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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