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400th Anniversary
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Wednesday, 19 September 2012
Landslide Closes Tsar's Trail in Crimea
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 2 minutes, 48 seconds
Topic: Livadia


Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra walking along the Tsar's Trail during one of their visits to Livadia 

The famous Tsar's Trail which stretches along the Black Sea coast of the Crimea has been closed due to a landslide.

Laid more than a century ago, Tsar Nicholas II and his family often walked the 6-km trail between Livadia and Oreanda, enjoying the spectacular views of the Black Sea and the mountain slopes.

Heavy rains contirbuted to the collapse of a 10-metre portion of the historic trail earlier this week. Local officials are blaming the development of high-rise apartments which aided with the erosion of the slopes since their construction in 2006.

Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Crimea Anatoly Mogilev is holding the construction company who build the high-rise apartments liable and has ordered them to restore the trail.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 19 September, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 1:04 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 19 September 2012 1:30 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Monument to Nicholas II to be Erected at Novy Svet
Topic: Nicholas II


Emperor Nicholas II with Prince Lev Golitsyn at Novy Svet, 1912 

A new monument to Emperor Nicholas II and Prince Lev Golitsyn will be unveiled at Novy Svet on September 28th.

The monument will mark Nicholas II's visit to the Crimea in the summer of 1912 where he toured the wine cellars and vineyards of Prince Lev Golitstyn.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 18 September, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:43 AM EDT
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Palace of Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich
Topic: Palaces


The St. Petersburg Palace of Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich is situated at Moika embankment, 122A. The palace was built in 1882-1885 according to the design of architect M. E. Messmacher. It is included in the federal list of Historical and Cultural Landmarks of the Russian Federation in St. Petersburg (by order of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 527 dd. July 10, 2001). Over the last several decades, the building stood vacant. In October 2005, the Russian Government transferred the building to the St. Petersburg Music House.

In 2006 the Constantine Foundation took part in the restoration of the palace, which is considered to be a masterpiece of eclectic architecture, embodying elements of various styles.

The sunken bathing pool, the walls decorated with beautiful ceramic tiles 

The extensive restoration included the preservation of the palace's elegant facade, the picturesque silhouette of its towers, the beautiful windows and doors, and its rich finishes and interiors.

The palace is now a venue for classical music, including international competitions and festivals. Guided tours (in Russian) are available by prior arrangement to groups of no more than 20 persons. Photographing the historical interiors is strictly forbidden by the administration.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 18 September, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:33 AM EDT
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Monday, 17 September 2012
Postcard from Russia No. 1 - Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


Each time I visit St. Petersburg I am drawn to Tsarskoye Selo. I usually go in the morning, taking the train from the Vitebsky Railway Station. The 40-minute train ride delivers me to Detskoe Selo (soon to be renamed Tsarskoye Selo again), and from here I like to walk to the Catherine and Alexander Palaces.

Standing outside the Alexander Palace the golden cupolas of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral can be seen in the near distance. A short walk through the park will bring you to the gates of this magnificent and holy place which are closely associated with Emperor Nicholas II and his family.

The cathedral consists of two churches one above the other. The upper church contains the main altar and an immense four-tier iconostasis, 11 metres tall, and adorned with vivid icons. The restoration of the iconostasis has taken many years to complete, its magnificence and beauty commands ones attention when entering the church.

The lower church is a "cave church" with an altar dedicated to Saint Serafim of Sarov. The private prayer chapels of Emperor Nicholas II and his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna have also been restored. Originally, the lower church was adorned by genuine Russian icons and decorative plate. "Our cosy cave church," as Nicholas II referred to it, was consecrated on 27 November, 1912. The absence of natural light, low vaulted ceilings and the flickering lamps illuminating the age-old icons carried one away from the bustile of the outside world and encouraged thoughts of prayer.

The church suffered terribly under the Soviets. In 1991, however, the doors of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral were reopened to believers, the first of the buildings in the vast complex to be made accessible again. The restorations which began some 20 years ago continue to this day.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 17 September, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:42 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 18 September 2012 8:05 AM EDT
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Sunday, 16 September 2012
The Changing Skyline of Ekaterinburg
Topic: Ekaterinburg


Since the fall of the Soviet Union the skyline of Ekaterinburg has changed dramatically. Many historic buildings dating from the Tsarist period have been torn down to make way for modern office towers and luxury condominiums.

Once a "closed city" to foreigners during the Soviet years, the city has taken advantage of its geographical position to become a hub for business between east and west in post-Soviet Russia.

The unique image above is a GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) which depicts the Ekaterinburg skyline as it looked in 1909, then changing to depict it as it looks today. The transformation is astonishing. Dominating the right-hand side of each image is the Ascension Church (which was situated across the road from the Ipatiev House), and dominating the left-hand side of each image is the Rastorguyev-Kharitonov Palace (also situated across from the former Ipatiev House). The dominating building in the 2012 image is of course the Church on the Blood which was built on the site of the Ipatiev House, where the last tsar, Nicholas II and his family were all murdered on July 17th, 1918.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 16 September, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:16 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 18 September 2012 6:34 PM EDT
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Thursday, 13 September 2012
Faberge: The Rise and Fall
Topic: Faberge


Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg (1903). Photo © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts 

The Detroit Institute of Arts will host Fabergé: The Rise and Fall featuring more than 200 precious objects from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, home of the largest collection of Fabergé in the United States. The show traces Karl Fabergé’s rise to fame, highlighting his business savvy, artistic innovations, and privileged relationship with the Russian aristocracy. Despite the firm’s abrupt end in 1918, the legacy and name of Fabergé continues to hold a place in popular culture.

Visitors will have the rare opportunity to glimpse imperial Russian treasures made by the House of Fabergé, including jewel-encrusted parasol and cane handles, an array of enameled frames, animals carved from semi-precious stones, and miniature egg pendants. The exhibition features six exquisite imperial Easter eggs. These one-of-a-kind objects, which took at least a year to create, have become synonymous with the name Fabergé. One stunning example is the Imperial Tsesarevich Egg, made of lapis lazuli, diamonds, and gold and opens to reveal a miniature portrait of young Alexei, the heir of Tsar Nicholas II. The objects on view will be exhibited with text, images, and activities meant to help visitors imagine the ways in which such luxury items would have been manufactured in a workshop, displayed in a storefront, and used to adorn the interior of the imperial palace.

© Detroit Institute of Arts. 13 September, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:52 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 16 September 2012 6:51 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Peterhof Marks Fountain Closing With 1812 Ode
Topic: Peterhof


The former imperial estate of Peterhof is hosting a large-scale two-day event on Sept. 14 and 15, turning its annual closing of the fountains festival into a spectacular visual feast. Twice a year, when the fountains are turned on in May and off in September, Peterhof draws crowds of locals and tourists alike. An estimated 30,000 came to the fountain festivals last year, according to the organizers.

This autumn, the closing of the fountains ceremony is dedicated to the Russian victory in the 1812 Napoleonic wars. More than 600 musicians, artists and performers will join multimedia artists and lighting designers to plunge spectators into the atmosphere of the heroic military campaign, the show’s creators promise.

Titled “Ode to the Fatherland,” the show will take audiences to an Imperial ball, the Battle of Borodino, the fire of Moscow and the gallery of heroes of the 1812 campaign, with the use of 3D-mapping technologies.

The show will be performed against the facade of the Grand Palace at Peterhof.

“For the first time, we have decided to devote our festival to a particular historic event, and this event carries a special significance for every Russian,” said Yelena Kalnitskaya, director of the Peterhof Museum and Estate.

“Our guests will see a reconstruction of the famous Battle of Borodino, with the show serving as a sort of time machine. It is going to be an absolutely thrilling sight that will be crowned by fireworks.”

According to Kalnitskaya, the show took almost a year to prepare. The team behind it included State Chief Herald and Chairman of the Heraldic Council of Russia Georgy Vilinbakhov, the renowned artist Oleg Orlov and lighting designer Gleb Filshtinsky, arguably Russia’s most renowned specialist in his field.

“We are proud to treat local audiences to a world-class show,” Filshtinsky said. “And we are also proud that we did not use a penny from the state budget, especially considering that this is a performance with a distinctly patriotic feel. I would love for “Ode to the Fatherland” to make Russian spectators proud of their native country, and I also hope that such festivities will unite us around genuine values and real victories, rather than vanity or ideological fast food.”

The shows begin at 9 p.m., and tickets cost 500 rubles.

© The St. Petersburg Times. 12 September, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:37 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Church Is Under Attack, Russian Patriarch Says
Topic: Russian Church


Photo: Patriarch Kirill speaking in an interview to Rossia 1 television on Sunday. 

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church used a Sunday prayer service and a state television interview to argue that the church he presides over is under attack from foes who he said fear its post-Soviet revival and want to destroy its places of worship.

Patriarch Kirill did not name the punk music group Pussy Riot but was clearly referring to the collective, three of whose members were sentenced to jail time for performing a "punk prayer" at the altar of a Moscow cathedral during which they criticized President Vladimir Putin.

Since the verdict on Aug. 17, which drew sharp Western criticism that Moscow said was politically motivated, vandals in Russia and Ukraine have cut down a handful of wooden crosses in support of Pussy Riot, but band members have condemned the vandalism and said they had nothing to do with it.

Kirill suggested that "opponents" were trying to derail the post-Soviet resurgence of Russian Orthodox Christianity, the dominant faith since tsarist times, and he warned: "We will not stop."

Speaking in a state-television interview and at a service at Christ the Savior Cathedral commemorating the 1812 Battle of Borodino, which helped Russia defeat Napoleon, Kirill used military imagery to make his point.

"I cannot shake the thought that this is an exploratory attack … to test the depth of faith and commitment to Orthodoxy in Russia," Kirill told Rossia television. "And today, I think those who launched this provocation have seen that standing before them is not a faceless, quiet mass … but a people that is capable of protecting what it holds sacred."

He portrayed anyone attacking the church as an enemy of Russia, saying aggression against the church was "aggression against our cultural core, against our code of civilization."

At the service, where a crowd of thousands spilled onto the street outside, Kirill said the fight against Napoleon's forces 200 years ago was a lesson for today's Russia, which he suggested was threatened by "blasphemy and outrage."

"Those who would invite us all to mock our shrines, reject our faith and, if possible, destroy our churches" are "testing the people's ability to protect their holy places," he added.

Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were sentenced to two years in jail for their stunt, during which they beseeched the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin.

They were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, a charge they have denied. They said they were protesting Putin and the church's political support for him in what the Constitution says is a secular state.

Shortly before the Pussy Riot performance, Kirill likened Putin's time in power to a "miracle of God." Putin was prime minister at the time and in the midst of a campaign for the March presidential election.

Many Russians found the Pussy Riot protest offensive, but critics of the Russian Orthodox Church's leadership say it has overreacted and risks fomenting violence by repeatedly calling for believers to protect holy places.

Russian Orthodox activists have formed vigilante groups to conduct patrols and protect churches and cemeteries, and activists have harassed people expressing support for Pussy Riot.

Putin's opponents say the prosecution of Pussy Riot was part of a Kremlin crackdown on dissent. Lawyers for the three appealed the verdict and sentences late last month.

Kirill rejected concerns about growing ties between his church and the state, saying what is happening is "not a merger but the Christianization of society."

"That is what frightens our opponents. … It is fear in the face of the fact that [Russian] Orthodoxy, which was practically destroyed in Soviet times, has been able to return to the life of the people — not as much as we would like, of course. But maybe this whole uproar is being raised to stop us," he said. "I want to say: We will not stop."

Some 70 percent of the country's citizens describe themselves as Russian Orthodox Christians, but far fewer regularly attend church, though all major faiths have enjoyed revivals since the 1991 collapse of the communist Soviet Union.

Putin, a former KGB officer in power since 2000, has tried to balance promoting the church, which is identified with the country's ethnic Russian majority, with celebrating a secular state of many religions.

© The Moscow Times. 11 September, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:40 AM EDT
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Monday, 10 September 2012
Golitsyn Palace Near Moscow Restored
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 4 minutes
Topic: Country Estates


The Golitsyn Palace at Bol'shiye Vyazemy has reopened as a museum after an extensive restoration. Situated near Moscow, the palace of Prince Boris Vladimirovich Golitsyn has a rich history


A portrait of the Emperor Paul I maintains a place of honour in the main hall of the palace, who visited the palace. The palace includes two floors, and each room includes portraits of famous nobles associated with Golitsyn.


Funding for the restoration of the 228-year-old palace was provided from the budgets of both the federal and Moscow region. Parquet floors, similar to that at Pavlovsk Palace were painstakingly restored.


The estate, which is situated on the old road to Smolensk offered the shortest route to Western Europe, and thus played a remarkable role in the events of the War of 1812. Both Kutuzov and Napoleon slept in the palace. It was here that General Kutuzov stopped after the Battle of Borodino, and on the first floor of the palace in which he made crucial decisions. He and his army fled the palace with Napoleon and his troops in pursuit.


Napoleon was visited by his French generals, all of whom were impressed with the palace and its luxurious interiors. Ironically, the palace was spared major looting by the French invaders. Sadly, the palace suffered a much worse fate under the Soviets.


These historic events are commemorated in a unique exhibit dedicated to Russia’s victory in the Patriotic War of 1812. The restorations of the palace are expected to be completed by the end of 2012.


© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 10 September, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:50 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 11 September 2012 8:54 AM EDT
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Sunday, 9 September 2012
Russian Millenium Monument Gets $13,000 Scrubbing
Topic: Russian History


Veliky Novgorod’s remarkable monument celebrating the 1,000th anniversary of Russian statehood is getting a $13,000 facelift ahead of the 1,150th anniversary, a representative of Novgorod’s State Museum and Conservancy told RIA Novosti.

Unveiled on September 8, 1862, the 50-foot-high Millenium of Russia monument traces the first 1,000 years of Russian history with bronze statues of 129 rulers and cultural figures, from the Varangian chieftain Rurik to the Romanovs and 19th century artists and scholars.

In a nod to local sensibilities, one notable figure was left off the monument: Ivan the Terrible, who sacked Novgorod in 1570, massacring thousands of city residents.

Veliky Novgorod, the seat of the medieval Republic of Novgorod, will celebrate the 1,150th anniversary of Russian statehood on September 21-23.

The monumental cleanup job, the first since the 1990s, targets removal of accumulated dirt, soot, dust, lichen, moss and bird droppings.

© RIA Novosti. 09 September, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:47 AM EDT
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