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400th Anniversary
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Monday, 8 October 2012
Rare Tsarskoye Selo Book Presented to Putin
Topic: Antiques


Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev presented President Vladimir Putin with a rare book to mark the Russian president's 60th birthday on October 7th.

The book, Tsarskoye Selo During the Reign of Empress Elizabeth was written by Alexander Benois, and published in 1910. No reprint of this book has been produced since.

In his book, Benois recreates the story behind the construction and development of Tsarskoye Selo during the and reign of the daughter of Peter the Great, who ruled Russia from 1741-1762.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 08 October, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:10 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 8 October 2012 10:21 AM EDT
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Alexander II Monument Abandoned Near Sofia?
Topic: Alexander II


The monument to Tsar Alexander II, considerd a symbolic landmark of the Bulgarian capital now sits abandoned in a village yard 

The Monument of Russian Tsar Alexander II, one of Bulgarian capital Sofia's main landmarks, has been abandoned in a village backyard, an oppositional party has alarmed.

Sculptor Velislav Minekov and art expert Lyudmil Veselinov, members of the newly formed Bulgaria for Citizens party, have revealed that the monument is currently located in a backyard in the village of Trebich near Sofia, with no restoration work being performed on it.

The monument that has been sitting in front of the Parliament in downtown Sofia was dismantled in September to undergo restoration.

According to Minekov, the monument has been completely abandoned and is now surrounded by "a complete mess."

"This is insulting and humiliating for the monument," he has declared, as cited by

Minekov has argued that the monument could have been restored for two and a half days and for much less than for much less that the BGN 1.2 M announced by authorities, adding that he suspects a corruption deal.

According to the sculptor, the recent dismantlement of the monument has been triggered by investors who want to construct a parking lot beneath it.

Known as the Monument to the Tsar Liberator, it was designed by Italian sculptor Arnoldo Zocchi, and unveiled in 1907, since when it has been a landmark in Sofia.

It celebrates Alexander II, the Russian Tsar who led the 1877-78 war against the Ottoman Empire, which resulted in the liberation of Bulgaria.

© Sofia News Agency. 08 October, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:03 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 8 October 2012 10:08 AM EDT
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Sunday, 7 October 2012
Katalnaya Gorka at Oranienbaum
Topic: Oranienbaum

A panorama view of the Katalnaya Gorka pavilion and sliding hill at Oranienbaum 

The estate of Oranienbaum consists of a series of beautiful palaces and pleasure pavilions. Visitors to St. Petersburg today often overlook this magnificent  palace complex opting instead for its more grand and opulent neighbour at Peterhof.

One particular folly which has captured the imaginations of historians and visitors is the switchback or roller coaster of Emperor Catherine II at Katalnaya Gorka (Sliding Hill).

Created soley for the purpose as a setting for a day's amusement, the pleasure pavilion and adjoining sliding hill was a highly sophisticated version of the most popular of Russian sports, the 'Russian mountains', as they were called throughout Europe, with the name of 'ice hills' for the winter version.

The beautiful pavilion built by Rinaldi which resembles a wedding cake has survived 

Archdeacon Coxe, writing in 1784, brings us right to Katalnaya Gorka:

"In the gardens of Oranienbaum is a very extraordinary building, denominated the Mountain for Sledges . . . It stands in the middle of an olbong area, enclosed by an open colonnade with a flat roof, which is railed for the convenience of holding spectators. The circumference of this colonnade is at least half a mile. In the middle of the area stands the flying mountain, stretching nearly from one end to the other. It is a wooden building, supported upon high brick walls, representing . . .  a mountain composed of three principal ascents, gradually diminishing its height, with an intermediate space to resemble vallies: from top to bottom is a floored way, in which three parallel grooves are formed. It is thus used: a small carriage containing one person, being placed in the center groove upon the highest point, goes with great rapidity down one hill; the velocity which it acquires in its descent carries it up a second; and it continues to move in a similar manner until it arrives at the bottom of the area, where it rolls for a considerable way . . .  It is then placed in one of the side grooves, and drawn up by means of a cord fixed to a windass . . . At the top of the mountain are several handsome apartments for the accommodation of the court and principal nobility; and there is also room for many thousand spectators within the colonnade and upon its roof."

So, summer and winter, the court of the Empress Catherine II would amuse themselves for a few hours, return to the pavilion, take their refreshment and rest in its lovely rooms, and watch their friends from the terraces and balconies. But when the court no longer went to Oranienbaum, the 'flying mountain' fell into disrepair, was pronounced dangerous, and dismantled in the mid-19th century. The meadows that once housed the toboggan runs were cleared and planted with fir trees.

The only reminder of the sliding hill or switchback is this scale model, now housed in the Katalnaya Gorka Pavilion 

Today, visitors to Oranienbaum can still see the field where the empress's immense folly II once stood. The pavilion at the end of the meadow has survived and undergone a splendid restoration. Inside, a scale model of the sliding hill is the only reminder of Catherine the Great's roller coaster.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 07 October, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:01 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2012 6:55 AM EDT
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Saturday, 6 October 2012
Yelagin Palace Hosts Stolypin Exhibit
Topic: Stolypin, Pyotr


The exhibition Hope of the Tsar dedicated to the 150th anniversary since the birth of the outstanding politician Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin (1862-1911)  has opened in the Konyushenny Building of the Yelagin Island Palace Museum.

Stolypin, a prominent statesman and great reformer of the Russian Empire, served as Prime Minister from 1906 to 1911.

 On September 14 [O.S. September 1] 1911, while he was attending a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tale of Tsar Saltan at the Kiev Opera House in the presence of Tsar Nicholas II and his two eldest daughters, the Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatian, Stolypin was shot twice, once in the arm and once in the chest, by Dmitri Bogrov (born Mordekhai Gershkovich), who was both a Jewish leftist radical.

Stolypin was reported to have coolly risen from his chair, removed his gloves and unbuttoned his jacket, exposing a blood-soaked waistcoat. He sank into his chair and shouted "I am happy to die for the Tsar" before motioning to the Tsar in his imperial box to withdraw to safety. The Tsar remained in his position and in one last theatrical gesture Stolypin blessed him with a sign of the cross. The next morning the distressed Tsar knelt at Stolypin's hospital bedside and repeated the words "Forgive me". Stolypin died four days later.

The exhibition is the final event in an extensive program of anniversary events and the largest project dedicated to this memorial date. The Yelagin Ostrov (Island) is one of the few memorial addresses of Pyotr Stolypin in St. Petersburg. In 1906 after an attempt on his life at Aptekarsky Island, that Stolypin and his family were transported here. 

The exhibit has been created on the basis of materials from over 15 to 20 archives and museums of the Russian Federation. Some documents and exhibits are displayed for the first time. 

State-of-the-art multimedia technologies, among them interactive ones, have been actively employed in the exhibition. One of the interactive exhibits is a model of Yelagin Island which helps allows visitors a better understanding of the history and its role during the period when Pyotr Stolypin and his family lived there. 

The exhibition runs till December 15.

© Iskusstvo TV and Paul Gilbert. 06 October, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:51 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 6 October 2012 6:08 PM EDT
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Exhibition of 17th-20th Century Head-Dresses Opens in Tula
Topic: Exhibitions


Princess Zinaida Yusupova wearing a traditional Russian head-dress. Portrait by Konstantin Makovsky (1895) 

A new exhibition has been opened in the Antiquities Museum Exhibition Center at Tula.

The exhibition will acquaint visitors with the peculiarities of head-dresses during the 17th - early 20th centuries.

The kokoshnik is the more commonly used name for a variety of traditional Russian head-dresses worn by women and girls to accompany the sarafan. They  have always been considered a reflection of the epoch, the styles of which changed together with its laws, customs, and governors. 

Head-dresses were divided into daily and festive ones, the latter having a variety of ornaments and decorations. Festive head-dresses and headgears of the rich and privileged classes were often decorated with furs and jewels. 

All visitors of the exhibition will have a chance to learn about the history and rules of wearing head-dresses in Russia.

The exhibition runs till the beginning of April, 2013.

© Tula Foto and Paul Gilbert. 06 October, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:19 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 6 October 2012 10:40 AM EDT
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Moscow Kremlin in 1812
Topic: Exhibitions


Photo credit: Moscow Kremlin Museums 

The exhibition The Kremlin in 1812: War and Peace that has been staged in the Moscow Kremlin’s Armoury – the treasure-house of Russian tsars – will run from October 4 through January 10.

This exhibition provides information about the efforts that were made to save the priceless exhibits during Napoleon’s invasion, when Moscow was surrendered to Napoleon’ troops.

The Armoury is the first public museum of Moscow. In 1806 Emperor Alexander I of Russia signed a decree to set up the Armoury to keep national treasures, including tsars’ regalia, historical relics, and sacred things there. The construction of the building on the Kremlin’s territory for this purpose was completed in 1812. Parallel with this, work was done to select the exhibits for the Armoury, Director of the Moscow Kremlin Museums Yelena Gagarina says.

"It required 6 years to create the inventories and to classify the monuments. When the came to move to the new building this was impossible to realize because information appeared that Napoleon was on his way to Moscow. It was necessary to immediately evacuate the treasures from the Kremlin’s territory."

It was exactly that dramatic page that marked the beginning of the history of the Russian Armoury. Packaging work started after it became known that the French troops had entered Smolensk, the key town on Russia’s western border. More than 150 carts and wagons were needed to take away both the exhibits and documents. When all of them reached Kolomna near Moscow, they were loaded on ships to be transported to Nizhny Novgorod in the Volga Region.

Meanwhile, fires started in Moscow that was surrendered to the French troops. Historians are still involved in the heated debates about who was to blame for the then fires: the Russians or the French. The exhibition in Moscow offers proof in favour of none of these versions… And still, among the items on display is the English watch that belonged to the adjutant of the Moscow governor – Lieutenant Obreskov. According to family legend, it gave a signal to numerous acts of arson in Moscow. The city was burned down to ashes but the Kremlin survived. However, serious damage was done to it because the French turned its palaces and churches into storehouses and stables. Napoleon received no response from Russia to his proposal for peace, but leaving Moscow he ordered the destruction of the Kremlin. Fortunately, his order was not carried out. Nearly one year passed before the collections of the Russian Armoury returned to Moscow, the exhibition’s curator Viktoriya Pavlenko says.

"After the French troops left Moscow, the Armoury’s new building that was built shortly before the war – by 1813 was restored, and the Armoury’s valuables returned to the Kremlin."

The conduct of the Russian troops that defeated Napoleon’s army and entered Paris was different compared with the conduct of the French troops in Moscow. On display at the exhibition is a weapon set that the Paris residents gave General von der Osten-Sacken as a present, who in 1814 was appointed the governor of Paris, as a sign of gratitude for nobility and quietness displayed by the Russian troops.

© The Voice of Russia. 06 October, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:48 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 6 October 2012 9:54 AM EDT
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Monument to Nicholas II at Vladivostock
Topic: Nicholas II


A mounment to Emperor Nicholas II can be found in the city of Vladivostock, the port city located in Russia's Far East and home of the nation's Pacific Fleet.

The monument can be found at 52 Ulitsa Svetlanskaya, where the former home of the region's governor-general stood during tsarist times. It was here that Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich stayed during his visit to the city on May 19th, 1891 during his tour to Far East.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 06 October, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:17 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 6 October 2012 8:33 AM EDT
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Friday, 5 October 2012
Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna and Peter of Oldenburg
Topic: Olga Alexandrovna GD


Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960) and Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg (1868-1924) were married at St. Petersburg on August 9th, 1901.

The couple met the year before when Peter began escorting the 18-year-old daughter of Emperor Alexander III, to the theatre and opera.

Peter asked for Olga's hand in marriage the following year, a proposal that took the grand duchess completely by surprise: "I was so taken aback that all I could say was 'thank you,'"she later told Ian Vorres.

The marriage was announced in May 1901. Her mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna wrote to her son and Olga's brother, Emperor Nicholas II: "I am sure you won't believe what has happened. Olga is engaged to Petya and both are very happy. I had to consent, but it was all done so quickly and unexpectedly that I still cannot believe it."

Nicholas replied to his mother: "I cannot believe that Olga is actually engaged to Petya. They were probably both drunk yesterday.....We both laughed so much reading your letter that we have not recovered yet."

A prenuptial agreement was drawn up by a committee which included the Tsar, the Oldenburg family, and government ministers. It promised Olga an annuity of 100,000 roubles from the Tsar, and 1 million roubles to be deposited into a fund from which she could draw interest.

The wedding was a grand ceremony attended by family, European royalty, government ministers, foreign ambassadors, government officials and courtiers. They spent their honeymoon at the Oldenburg estate of Voronezh.

In the fall of 1901 they travelled to Biarritz, France, where they boarded a yacht loaned to them by King Edward VII of Great Britain and sailed to Italy.

On their return to Russia, they settled into a 200-room palace (the former Baryatinsky mansion) at 46 Sergievskaya Street (today Tchaikovskogo Street), St. Petersburg. The palace was made available to them by Olga's brother, Tsar Nicholas II. The palace has survived to this day and now houses the Saint Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Their marriage remained unconsummated, and Peter was believed by both family and friends to be a homosexual. Olga asked him for a divorce and at first he refused. The couple eventually separated, their marriage was annulled by the Emperor himself on October 16th, 1916. 

Olga married a cavalry officer, Nicholas Kulikovsky the following month. After the Russian Revolution, the couple escaped with their two sons and spent their final years in Denmark and later Canada. Kulikovsky died in 1958, Olga died in 1960. 

Peter and his mother also fled Russia after the Revolution, and settled in France. He remarried to Olga Vladimirovna Ratkova-Rognova on May 3, 1922. The marriage was also without issue. Peter died at Antibes, France in 1924, he was 55.   

Sources: The Last Grand Duchess (Pub. 1960) by Ian Vorres and Olga Romanov: The Last Grand Duchess of Russia (Pub. 1998) by Patricia Phenix.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 05 October, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:24 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 5 October 2012 8:30 AM EDT
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Thursday, 4 October 2012
Monument to Nicholas II at Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


I have discovered a new monument to Emperor Nicholas II at Tsarskoye Selo.

The monument was erected in 2011 on the site of a chapel built near the Alexandrovskaya Railway Station. The chapel was a memorial to Alexander II erected after an assassination attempt on the emperor's life in Paris in 1867. It was  demolished by the local Soviets in 1949.

It was from the Alexandrovskya station that Emperor Nicholas II, his family and retinue departed Tsarskoye Selo and sent into exile in the early morning hours of 14 August [O.S. 01 August] 1917.

There are now three monuments to Russia's last tsar found at Tsarskoye Selo.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 04 October, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:58 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 6 October 2012 10:00 AM EDT
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The World of Faberge - Shanghai Museum
Topic: Faberge


Memory of Azov Egg presented by Emperor Alexander III to Empress Maria Feodorovna in 1891. Photo Credit: Moscow Kremlin Museum 

One of the most precious Kremlin collections of a great historical and cultural value is the one incorporating pieces of jewellery produced by the famous Faberge firm, the distinguished Russian firms of P. Ovchinnikov, I. Khlebnikov, O. Kurlyukov, G. Klingert, M. Semyonov.

For the first time such a collection of artworks of C. Faberge and other renowned craftsmen from the Moscow Kremlin Museums funds is exposed in the country, which is distinguished by the tradition of jewellery making and art of processing of stones and metal.

Over a hundred high-quality articles are intended to present one of the most flourishing and outstanding periods in the history of the Russian goldsmithery in the epoch, which is called the “Silver Age” of the Russian culture and arts. At the turn of the XIXth century Russian craftsmen invented a new original consummate style, which incorporated a retrospective trend and national traditions along with fashionable utilitarian design, so popular in the modern society. The Faberge’s triumph and “genius”, mentioned by Russian Empress Maria Fyodorovna, has contributed to the development of the Russian jewellery industry and marked a new page in the history of the Russian and foreign industrial art.

The exhibition gives a unique opportunity to observe not only the items from the Armoury collection but also the rarities from the Moscow Kremlin Museums' funds, including religious items and memorabilia, pieces of jewellery and tableware, articles of coloured stones, as well as the Faberge masterpieces – precious Easter eggs, executed for the last two Russian Empresses.

The exhibits reveal the techniques perfected by the distinguished craftsmen of Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and Kiev, such as multicoloured enamel on filigree, highly skilled chasing, genre casting and stone cutting. Composed of the items, produced by various firms and workshops, the exposition explores the main features and mechanism of development of the art of jewellery making at the turn of the century.

The exhibition runs from September 28, 2012 to January 3, 2013 at the Shanghai Museum in Shanghai, China.

© Moscow Kremlin Museum. 04 October, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:43 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 4 October 2012 5:46 AM EDT
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