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400th Anniversary
A Russian Moment
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Ekaterinburg Remains
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Olga Konstantinovna GD
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Paul Alexandrovich, GD
Paul Gilbert
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Saturday, 3 November 2012
The Russia We Lost
Topic: Russian History


Photo: View of the Anitchkov Bridge in St. Petersburg. Artist: Alexander Begrov (1841-1914) 

In the autumn of 1917 the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia. The centuries old Russian Empire was no longer. The Soviet government opened a new page in the country's development but did its best to either distort or hush up its previous history. Pre-revolutionary Russia was portrayed as a backward, poorly managed, semi-cultural and semi-literate state. But how was it in reality?

Statistics show that in the first decade of the 20th century Russia experienced an industrial and economic boom that pushed it to the 4th place after the United States, Britain and Germany. A sharp boost in the extraction of raw materials was matched by rapid progress in machine-building, chemistry, electrical engineering and aircraft construction. Domestic agriculture was making steady headway. As a result, the share of farming produce in national exports increased considerably. Russia produced 28% more grain than the United States, Britain and Argentina taken together. European markets were flooded with Russian butter and eggs. The ruble was a stable currency traded at  2 Deutche marks or 50 US cents. Under the last Emperor Nicholas II taxes were the lowest in Europe, life was relatively cheap and there was no unemployment. The law on social insurance for workers passed by the tsarist government aroused envy in the West. The then President of the United States William Taft once remarked that no democratic state  boasted such a perfect labor legislation as the one created by the Russian Emperor. 

The years that preceded the revolution were marked by tangible progress in the social and cultural sphere. The introduction of free compulsory primary education for all was bound to stamp out illiteracy by 1922. Both huge and smaller cities had secondary schools of highest grade which prepared boys and girls for universities. Russia boasted a better system of education for girls than Western Europe: in 1914 there were 965 women's high-schools plus higher courses for women in all major cities. Tuition fee was quite low: law faculties charged 20 times less than in the United States and Britain. Poor students got grants. There was a scholarships system of for gifted students.

The high level of education was confirmed by scientific advances. The names of chemist Dmitry Mendeleyev famous for his periodic system of elements, physiologist Ivan Pavlov, biologist and selectionist Kliment Timiryazev, and the inventor of radio Alexander Popov are known to almost everyone. Russian scientists who emigrated after the 1917 revolution were highly appreciated abroad. Aircraft designer Igor Sikorsky, who settled in the United States, designed the world's first helicopter, and his fellow countryman Vladimir Zvorykin invented television.

French poet Paul Valery called the Russian culture of that time one of the wonders of the world, apparently because despite its secularism it reflected a more  Christian outlook than Western-European culture. Suffice it to say world-famous writers Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Anton Chekhov, Ivan Bunin, together with composers Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff and many others, let alone the unrivalled Russian ballet. How could all that emerge under what bolshevik ideologists labeled as a police and bureaucratic regime?

As far as bureaucracy is concerned, the number of state officials in Russia was surprisingly low compared to Europe. The national police force was 7 times smaller than in Britain and 5 times smaller than in France, which is an indication of low crime rates. Russia's jury-based system of legal proceedings commanded the admiration of foreigners for its unbiased and humanistic approach. Economic and cultural growth was accompanied by higher birth rates.  By 1913  Russia had a population of 175 million with the annual increase of about 3.3 million. A prominent French economist Edmond Thiery wrote that if the trend persisted, by the middle of the century Russia would dominate Europe politically, economically and financially.  The then Russian Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin once said: "Give us 20 peaceful years and you won't recognize Russia". Stolypin, whose reformist ideas encountered a mixed response in Russian society, was viciously murdered by his revolutionary opponents.

© The Voice of Russia. 03 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:46 AM EDT
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Friday, 2 November 2012
Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna Voted Person of the Year
Topic: Maria Vladimirovna GD


HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, Head of the Russian Imperial House has been voted "Person of the Year" by the Russian Biographical Institute in Moscow.

The advisory board announced the decision on November 1st, awarding the Head of the Russian Imperial House in the "Great Russia" category, for her "selfless work in the field of culture, education, philanthropy, and in connection with the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 2013."

The national "Person of the Year" award was founded in 1993 by the Russian Biographical Institute, whose main task has been the study of Russian society through the prism of its most prominent representatives. The prize is awarded to worthy citizens of the Russian Federation, and in some cases from other countries. The prize is awarded for outstanding achievement, and contribution to the development in Russia in the areas of religion, politics, economics, education,  science, culture, medicine, sports, etc.

The prize will be awarded on November 7th, at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 02 November, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:37 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 2 November 2012 9:05 AM EDT
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Russian Emperor's Clock Sells for Nearly $1 Million


The czarist clock that used to belong to Russian Emperor Paul I was sold at Christie's in London for nearly one million dollars. The final price of the lot surpassed experts' expectations more than ten times.

The clock made of gilded bronze was created at the end of the 18th century. It is decorated with symmetrical figurines of two cupids that stretch their hands to the enameled dial with elegant dark-blue hands. The base of the clock is made of the noble bicolor agate. The whole piece stands on the figurines of salamanders with long curved tails and open mouths. The clock is crowned with a gilded vase with a bouquet of flowers in it. The flowers are made of pearls and precious stones.

The main "highlight" of the creation by famous London artist James Cox is the head of the little bird, which is adorned with a large pearl. When the clock begins to strike, the bird nods its head. The clock is 32.4 cm in height.

Since the early 19th century, the clock belonged to the family of German Baron Ludwig Heinrich von Nicolai, who was a teacher of Grand Duke Paul Petrovich. After the Grand Duke ascended to the throne in 1796, the Baron was appointed a member of the Cabinet and the president of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, FederalPress reports.

James Cox, the creator of the clock, is also known for another outstanding piece, which is now kept in the Hermitage of St. Petersburg. It goes about the "Peacock" clock. His creations can also be found in the museums of London, New York and Beijing.

The name of the new owner of the czarist clock has not been disclosed, writes BFM.Ru. The buyer paid 967,000 dollars for the lot.

© Pravda. 02 November, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:34 AM EDT
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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Dizzy Heights: Cleaning the Winter Palace Chandeliers
Topic: Winter Palace



Cleaners dust the giant chandeliers in one of the halls of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg earlier this week.


© St. Petersburg Times. 01 November, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:58 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 1 November 2012 3:02 PM EDT
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"Mechanical Orchestra" Gets New Lease of Life at Winter Palace
Topic: Winter Palace


The State Hermitage Museum’s legendary Johann Strasser clock, also known as “the mechanical orchestra,” is to be restored by 2014 as part of the celebrations of the museum’s 250th anniversary.

The elaborate 18th-century clock has been silent for at least 150 years.

“This clock is outstanding in so many ways: It is a fascinating example of decorative and applied art, it is a technical marvel, it is a fine musical instrument in which there are recordings of masterpieces of 18th-century classical music, and it is an artifact that has a most romantic and dramatic story behind it,” said Igor Sychev, the Hermitage curator responsible for the maintenance of the exhibit.

The celebrated craftsman Johann Georg Strasser originally designed the Mechanical Orchestra for the Mikhailovsky Castle, the residence built by Tsar Paul I that already housed two of Strasser’s less sophisticated clocks. It took the master eight years — from 1793 to 1801 — to finish the technically challenging piece.

The tsar, however, never had a chance to enjoy the commission: He was murdered in the spring of 1801, before the order was complete. After the tsar’s death, the master craftsman, whom the project had saddled with losses as he invested most of his fortune into making the unique item, decided to organize a lottery and make the clock the main prize. It took Strasser more than two years to sell enough tickets to make the lottery financially viable. To promote the lottery, he traveled across the country and arranged performances of “the mechanical orchestra.”

The draw was held on May 4 1804, yet the lucky winner would not show up for almost a year. The winner, a young officer who, en route to his detachment, was staying with a Latvian widow, gave the lottery ticket to his landlady as a parting gift before the winning ticket was announced. When she discovered her luck, the widow decided not to keep the clock, and arrived in St. Petersburg in 1805 with the intention of setting up another lottery to dispose of it, but Tsar Alexander I instead agreed to buy it from her for 20,000 rubles plus a lifetime pension.

According to some sources, Alexander I also had a plan for the unlucky clock. He allegedly intended to include it among the gifts that were being sent to China with a diplomatic mission. However, the Chinese emperor refused to receive the Russian ambassadors, and the clock was instead installed in one of the halls of the Winter Palace.

The Mechanical Orchestra is shaped like a temple. It is about four meters high, and has a portico and paired mahogany columns embellished with gilded bronze.

The organ is driven by four weights, each weighing nearly 200 kilograms. The music is recorded on 14 removable wooden barrels, with each of them playing an eight-minute classical composition.

The original thirteen barrels contained pieces by Haydn and Mozart, including the overture from Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.” One of the pieces, composed by the then-popular Viennese pianist and composer Anton Eberl, was written especially for Strasser’s “mechanical orchestra.” In 1861, a fourteenth barrel was added, but even at that time the clock was barely functional, and it has been broken ever since.

“Like any experimental piece, and like any unique piece, the ‘mechanical orchestra’ has a rather long list of sensitive issues,” said restorer Mikhail Guriyev, head of the department of restoration of clocks and musical instruments of the State Hermitage Museum.

“Despite its massive size and imposing looks, the Strasser clock is a very fragile creature. The coil springs that make the barrels roll can be compared with those of a steam train. The poises would often drop, destroying the mechanics, and the instrument needed to be fixed. The trick is that the instrument needs to produce a smooth, light, graceful sound, despite the rather mighty machinery that is involved in making it run.”

The grand-scale restoration project is being funded by JTI tobacco company, which signed an agreement with the Hermitage in 2011. Such charitable activities are at great risk of being banned for tobacco companies in early 2013: A draft law that would ban tobacco companies from taking part in philanthropic activities is currently awaiting review at the State Duma. If passed, the law, which has stirred a nationwide debate, would prohibit tobacco companies from donating to charities and taking part in any other philanthropic activities.

The bill’s critics have branded the initiative as hypocritical: After all, the Russian state is comfortable with harvesting high tax revenues from tobacco companies, yet is willing to impose a ban on charity for them, thus ostracizing their business.

In these challenging circumstances, Anatoly Vereshchagin, JTI’s director of charitable projects, has promised that the company will deliver on all its obligations that have been made to date, regardless of the outcome of the forthcoming Duma vote.

“There is still time for the State Duma to decide against the law; however, if the ban does get introduced, we will transfer all the money required for the restoration of the clock before the law comes into force,” Vereshchagin said. “All calculations of the costs have been made, and we can assure you that the money will suffice.”

© St. Petersburg Times. 01 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:36 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 1 November 2012 2:48 PM EDT
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"Russians do not have to repent for killing of tsar's family" – Culture Minister
Topic: Nicholas II


Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky does not believe that the blame for the killing of Russia's last Emperor Nicholas II and his family rests with the people of Russia.

"I don't believe the people of Russia should repent for the murder of the tsar's family because the people of Russia did not kill the tsar's family. It was done by several bastards on the orders of other bastards," the minister said at the 5th International Festival of Orthodox Media Faith and Word, commenting on the statement made by one delegate referring to the discussion on the need for the people of Russia to repent for their sins to the tsar's family, which has been occurring on the Internet for the past few years.

Medinsky also spoke about the issue of the burial of the body of Vladimir Lenin, saying that "the Culture Ministry will not come up with any initiatives regarding any burials and re-burials."

"It is our official position, and there is also my private opinion as a citizen," the minister said, adding that he would not like his private opinion on this issue, which he characterize as "rather sharp," to be associated with the official position of the government.

© Interfax. 01 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:24 PM EDT
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Art Russe Auction Catalogue, Paris - November 15, 2012
Topic: Auctions

||| Click Here to View and Print a Copy of the Catalogue |||

On November 15th,  Olivier Coutau-Begarie in Paris, France, will auction a splendid selection of Russian Imperial and Romanov objects. Included are icons, Faberge pieces, photographs and letters of the Russian Imperial family, porcelain, medals and awards, silverware, works of art, and much more.

© Coutau-Begarie. 01 November, 2012



Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:13 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 24 April 2014 12:23 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Illuminations at the Catherine Palace, Tsarskoye Selo
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 1 minute, 21 seconds
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

On Tuesday, 30 October 2012 at 19:00 the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve invited everyone to the Main Courtyard of the Catherine Palace to admire the new permanent illumination of the former imperial residence, with inspired performances by the Kuznetsov Naval Academy brass band and the Malaya Okhta women’s drumming group.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. 30 October, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:47 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 31 October 2012 7:51 AM EDT
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Monday, 29 October 2012
New Coin Dedicated to Imperial Faberge Eggs
Topic: Collectibles


The Mint of Poland offers a series of collector coins dedicated to the exceptional Tsar’s Fabergé Eggs. These absolute jewellery masterpieces symbolize extravagance and luxury. Designed by Peter Carl Fabergé and his assistants for the Russian tsars, Alexander III and Nicholas II, the eggs were made of gold and silver embellished with enamel and gemstones.

Until now the following coins have been released: the "Coronation Egg", the "Lily of the Valley Egg" the "Clover Leaf Egg”, “The Duchess of Marlborough Egg”, “the "Pansy Egg" and the „Bay Tree Egg”. The forthcoming  coin of the collection is the “100th Anniversary of Patriotic War 1812” – inspired by The Napoleonic Egg.

At the bottom – open Spring Flowers Egg (1899-1903) with a miniature basket of wood anemones inside. Above – the Niue Island’s Coat of Arms with the inscription “ELIZABETH II” and the mint’s mark (m/w) below. Around the Queen’s effigy – a decorative neorococo scroll ornament. At the top – the issuer’s name: NIUE ISLAND. On the right – a nominal value of the coin (2 dollars), on the left – the year of issue 2012.

In the central part – the stylized image of the original "Napoleonic Egg ". At the top, along the edge - the name of the series in English: IMPERIAL FABERGÉ EGGS. At the bottom – a fragment of the six Russian regiments fighted against the army of Napoleon, depicted in pad printing.

© Mint of Poland. 29 October, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:22 AM EDT
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Night at the Ipatiev House
Topic: Nicholas II



Moscow is filled with museums, many of which are overlooked by visitors from the West. One in particular is the Zurab Tsereteli Museum. The museum is situated in the former Dolgorukov Mansion which is located at 19 Prechistenka Street. It was originally constructed in 1785 and is considered one of the finest examples of Neo-Classical architecture in the city. In 1998-2000, Zurab Tsereteli, President of the Russian Aacademy of Arts restored and reconstructed the former mansion into a museum which today offers a permanent display for his numerous sculptures.

In 2007 Tsereteli unveiled one of his most significant sculptures entitled "Night at the Ipatiev House". The bronze multi-figure composition is dedicated to the murders of Emperor Nicholas II and his family at Ekateinburg on 17 July, 1918.

Visitors to the museum had already seen a small model of the “Night at the Ipatiev House” monument before it was installed in the Gallery’s hall “Knowledge of Good and Evil” with works on the biblical topic in the June of 2007.

The “Night at the Ipatiev House” represents sculptural images of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Tsesarevich Alexis, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia against the background of the wall dotted with bullets and containing engraved figures of the bloody date – the year of 1918. The composition also comprises texts related to the last days of the Imperial family – citations from letters of the Empress and Grand Duchess Olga.

By odd and terrifying in its symbolism coincidence, the Romanov dynasty crowned in the Ipatiev monastery was overthrown in the so called Ipatiev house. Also on display at the museum are two nails from the basement, where the cruel massacre had taken place, also included by the artist in his sculptural composition.

The murdered members of the Imperial family were canonized because of their death as martyrs. In the last Christian tsar and members of his family we see people who sincerely tried to realize the Decalogue. “In sufferings endured by the Imperial family in the imprisonment with gentleness, patience and humility, in their martyrdom in Ekaterinburg on the night of July 17, 1918 was revealed the light of the Christian faith vanquishing the Evil” - is written in the resolution of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.

It is important to note that "Night at the Ipatiev House" is just one of numerous sculptures of the Russian monarchs created by Tsereteli and on permanent display at the museum.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 October, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:41 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 31 May 2017 12:35 PM EDT
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