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400th Anniversary
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Friday, 23 November 2012
Napoleon's "Blow up Kremlin" Letter at Auction
Now Playing: Language: English. Duration: 1 minute, 56 seconds
Topic: Russian History

A CODED letter in which Napoleon Bonaparte vows to blow up the Kremlin will go under the hammer near Paris next month, 200 years after the French invasion of Russia.

"I will blow up the Kremlin on the 22nd at three am," reads the missive written in numbers and signed "Nap", expected to fetch up to 15,000 euros ($18,916) at the sale in Fontainebleau.

Dated October 20, 1812, the day after Napoleon retreated from the centre of Moscow, it is addressed to his external relations minister Hugues-Bernard Maret.

Napoleon's order was carried out by Marshal Mortier, who destroyed several towers and sections of wall at the Kremlin, at the time both an imperial palace and military fortress.

The towers were later rebuilt identically.

"Letters written by Napoleon from Russia are rare," said Alain Nicolas, expert for the auctioneer Ocenat. "Many were lost, probably intercepted by the Russians."

Napoleon's army entered Moscow on September 14, 1812, but much of the population had already fled and the emperor was forced to leave without securing a formal victory over Alexander I, embarking on a disastrous westward retreat.

© The Australian News and NTD Television. 23 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 3:38 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 23 November 2012 3:43 PM EST
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Photographs and Letters of Nicholas II to be Auctioned in Geneva


Tsar Nicholas II, Count Vladimir Fredericks, and Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich (1914) 

Letters written by Tsar Nicholas II, the last Russian Emperor, as well as photographs of the Tsar's family will be offered to bidders at the Hôtel des Ventes auction house in Geneva from 10 to 13 December. More than 3,000 lots will be offered for sale. Their total value is estimated at 3 million Swiss francs. The majority of items are property of descendants of the royal families of Europe and Russia.

The session will be inaugurated on December 10 by the Russian lot which consists of previously unknown letters as well as photographs of the Russian imperial family.

As experts say, it is a question of unique letters, written by Nicholas II at the time of the First World War. These were addressed to his uncle, Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich, commander of the imperial army until 1915. This correspondence are considered important military historical documents. If the participation of Russia in the war is at the heart of the literature, it is also the question of how the Tsar himself felt, constantly worried for his army.

Other letters written by Tsar Alexander II  addressed to Princess Catherine Dolgorukova will also be presented. These 46 pages of love letters are estimated between 5000 and 8000 Swiss francs.

In addition, 100 lots of photographs including images of Tsarevich Alexei in his childhood, and the Romanov family circle will no doubt arouse the curiosity of collectors. These include the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich performing on the trapeze, or playing croquet with his sister, Olga Alexandrovna. Other photographs are show Grand Duchesses Olga and Anastasia Nicholayevna as children. Watercolours painted by Olga will also attract collectors.

The majority of documents are from the collection of Ferdinand Tormeier, tutor to the children of Alexander III. His archives were discovered several years back by his heirs, who sold part of his collection at the time. Other documents from Prince Felix Yusupov and Serge Lifar. In addition, the books of the imperial era will also be sold alongside art rare Fabergé silver and furniture decorated with malachite.

© Hôtel des Ventes and Paul Gilbert. 23 November, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:45 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 27 November 2012 6:22 AM EST
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Thursday, 22 November 2012
New Life for HM Own Dacha at Peterhof
Topic: Peterhof


His Majesty's Own Dacha as it looked in Tsarist times 

Situated along the Peterhof Road are a series of former Imperial residences that few people ever have the opportunity to visit. Many have been abandoned by time and neglect, often falling to decay and ruin.

One such residence is His Majesty's Own Dacha, which is situated about 3 km west of the Lower Park at Peterhof.

The private dacha and its chapel were built in 1844-50 for the Tsesarevich Alexander Nicholayevich (future Emperor Alexander II) by the Russian architect Andrei Stackenschneider on the site of the former, smaller, dacha of the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, daughter of Peter the Great.

The private chapel was reached by a footbridge that spanned the tiny green valley that separated it from the dacha.

During its heyday the impressive two-storye Baroque style dacha was one of Stackenschneider's architectural masterpieces. Several watercolours by E. P. Hau and Luigi Premazzi have survived and allow us to appreciate the beautiful interiors  of this Imperial residence.

His Majesty's Own Dacha as it looks today 

During the Soviet years the dacha was declared a "monument of national importance." During the Second World War, it was shelled, but was later restored. In the 1980s, the building was abandoned and has sat empty ever since.

In 2004, minor restoration work was carried out by a local firm. Work progressed at a very slow pace, however, some repairs on the historic building were carried out.

Earlier this month a decision was made to restore and convert the former Imperial dacha into a wedding palace. The decision has been approved by the local governor, and funds have been allocated for the project. Work is expected to begin shortly, with work to be completed by 2015.

I had the opportunity of visiting the Imperial dacha some years back. I was saddened by its advanced stage of neglect, so news that this historic building is to be restored is indeed good news. I had, however, always hoped that it to would have been transferred to the Peterhof State Museum-Preserve and restored to its former grandeur.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 22 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:00 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 25 November 2012 7:03 AM EST
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Remains of Alexei and Maria to be Buried in 2013
Topic: Holy Royal Martyrs




The remains of the Tsesarevich Alexei Nicholayevich and the Grand Duchess Maria Nicholayevna may be buried in the summer of 2013, ITAR-TASS reports.

The announcement was made on November 16th by Sergei Mironenko, Director of the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF) in Moscow, where the remains are currently in temporary storage.

According to Mironenko the remains were transferred to GARF at the suggestion of the committee responsible for conducting tests on the authenticity of the remains. He went on to confirm that he believes the remains are authentic based on genetic examination carried out by scientists.

Mironenko pointed out that the decision to bury the royal remains has been resisted by "certain circles.""It is very important that a decision on the authenticity of the remains by the Moscow Patriarchate be made," he said, then noting that the position of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad was "more progressive." 

"When we opened the exhibition on the century long investigation into the murders of the Imperial family in the summer of 2012 at GARF in Moscow, comparing the investigations of Sokolov and Solovyov, Metropolitan Hillarion participated, and I must say that it was quite a challenge to prove to the Metropolitan that we were right after all."

In the meantime, the Moscow Patriarchate has never made an official final judgement on the issue regarding the authenticity of the remains. In early November, the Russian Orthodox Church stated that the identity of the remains found near Ekaterinburg in 1991 and 2007 remains an open question pending further historical and genetic research.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 22 November, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:02 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 30 April 2014 7:53 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 21 November 2012
Ropsha Palace to be Transferred to Peterhof
Topic: Ropsha




Ropsha Palace as it looks today 

Over the past few years I have reported on the dire condition of Ropsha Palace. Situated in the suburbs of St. Petersburg, the former Romanov palace which is now in a deplorable state may yet be saved.

The Russian Ministry of Culture announced this morning that the administration of Ropsha Palace will be transferred over to the Peterhof State Museum-Preserve.

Ropsha Palace and the surrounding park is part of the UNESCO World Heritage and thus protected by the State. Plans for the palaces restoration have yet to be announced.

The Peterhof State Museum-Preserve includes more than 100 historic buildings, including Peterhof, Oranienbaum and Strelna. Peterhof is currently Russia's No. 1 museum with over 4 million visitors each year.

© Paul Gilbert. 21 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:45 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 12 January 2015 6:56 AM EST
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Tuesday, 20 November 2012
All Monuments of Lenin to be Removed from Russian Cities
Topic: Bolsheviks


Statue of Lenin in central Ekaterinburg. Photo © Paul Gilbert (2012) 

Russian lawmakers believe it is time to remove monuments to the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution, Vladimir Lenin, from town and city squares across the country.

Memorials to such “a controversial figure” should be re-located in museums or alleys with statues of other historic persons, suggested the author of the initiative, Liberal-Democratic party (LDPR) Deputy Aleksandr Kurdyumov.

The idea of “De-Leninization” was welcomed by the ruling United Russia party, writes Izvestia daily.

According to Kurdyumov, the main argument in favor of the removal of monuments is the high cost of maintenance. He says they would be better looked after and safe from vandalism in museums.

Soviet-legacy statues of Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin) can still be seen in central squares of almost all Russian towns. There is hardly a single settlement in the country without a street named after the Bolshevik leader.

The time has come to get rid of Lenin’s “stranglehold” and leave only monuments that are considered true masterpieces of art and only in those places where local population want to see them, the LDPR lawmaker insists.

It often happens that there no other memorials but to Lenin in Russian towns and that is “unfair” to other outstanding personalities – such as Peter the Great, General Aleksandr Suvorov, Tsar Ivan the Terrible and others.

Under the proposal, municipal authorities should hold referendums to find out where people want the Lenin statues to be placed. If they do not want to see the leader of the 1917 Revolution at all, such monuments should be dismantled, sent to museums or sold to collectors, Kurdyumov suggests. The money received from the sales could be used, for instance, to create new parks.

United Russia’s lawmaker, Valery Trapeznikov agrees that the idea should first be discussed with the people. In the USSR, monuments were erected at the government’s bidding. If now they are dismantled by order of the authorities, “it can lead to a wave of protests,” he told Izvestia.

Meanwhile, the Communist party (KPRF) is strongly opposed to the idea of removing monuments to their key ideologist.

“Lenin is the founding father of the Russian Federation…Same as George Washington in America,” a senior member of the party, Sergey Obukhov stressed. He noted that some laws signed by the Bolshevik leader are still valid in Russia.

Besides that, the destruction of “architectural pieces” of historic value is illegal, the KPRF deputy pointed out.

© Russia Today. 20 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 1:33 PM EST
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New Annex Could Make Hermitage an "Epoch-Defining Museum"
Topic: Museums


The State Hermitage (former Winter Palace)  is fully engaged in fitting out 800 rooms of the General Staff Building to welcome be the new home for art from the turn of the 19th century onwards, with a full opening scheduled for 2014. Mark Hudson of The Telegraph reported from St. Petersburg on this major new development for the museum/

“As an extension to the Hermitage Museum, the General Staff Building is far more than a mere annex. Viewed across the majestic sweep of Palace Square, the curving Neo-classical facade of this vast early-19th-century office complex already feels like a challenge to the Baroque opulence of the parent institution opposite,” Hudson writes. “And that’s before you’re aware that its 800 rooms are about to be filled with art, much of which has been deemed revolutionary.”

“Devoted to art from 1800 onwards, the new wing will bring the story told in the old Hermitage — which houses the largest collection of paintings in the world — bracingly up to date. On paper at least it has the capacity to be a truly epoch-defining museum, the way the Musée d’Orsay was in the Eighties and Tate Modern in the 2000s,” Hudson says. “And it will, it is hoped, make Russia appear central to the story of modern art in a way it never quite has before — despite the importance of much that has taken place here.”

© Russkiy Mir. 20 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:50 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 20 November 2012 6:53 AM EST
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Monday, 19 November 2012
Royal Russia Annual No. 3 (2013)
Topic: Books


Progress on the third issue of our official magazine, Royal Russia Annual is well under way and scheduled to go to the printers in January 2013..

Included in this issue will be the following full-length articles:

Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich: Life & Death of the Tsesarevich

- An in-depth look into the son of Emperor Alexander II who was engaged to Princess Dagmar of Denmark. He died at Nice, France on 24th April, 1865.

Imperial Yacht Livadia

- A study of the most elaborate, yet peculiar yachts of the Russian tsars. Her maiden voyage proved to be her last. Richly illustrated with beautiful photos of the yacht's interiors.

My Russia: The Revival of the Alexander Palace

- A history of the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo and plans for its revival over the next 5 years. Richly illustrated with photographs by Paul Gilbert.

plus, these articles by Russian and British historians:

  • The Imperial Family Celebrates the Winter Season by Irene W. Galaktionova
  • The Royal Nun: Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna by Irene W. Galaktionova
  • Exile at Hvidore by Coryne Hall
  • Faberge: The Missing Imperial Eggs by Annemiek Wintraecken and Christel McCanless
  • Nicholas II: A Re-Evaluation of the Reign of Russia's Last Tsar by Katie Wilkens

Plus 2 collections of rare and vintage photographs:

  • Frozen in Time featuring photographic memories of the Russian Imperial family
  • The Lost World of Imperial Russia featuring vintage photographs of Imperial Russia before the Revolution

Note: this is just a partial list of the full-length articles scheduled to be published in this issue and is subject to change without notice.

Royal Russia Annual No. 3 (2013) will be available in February 2013. Watch for our advertisements in upcoming issues of Majesty and Russian Life magazines.

For more information on Royal Russia Annual, or to place an order for current and back issues, please refer to the following link;

||| Royal Russia Annual - Click Here for More Information |||

© Gilbert's Books. 19 November, 2012



Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:35 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 21 November 2012 12:01 PM EST
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Sunday, 18 November 2012
Russian Academy of the Arts Turns 255 Years Old
Topic: Museums
The Inauguration of the Academy of Arts. Artist:Valery Jacobi

On November 17, 1757, Empress Elizaveta founded the Imperial Academy of Three Noble Arts was on the initiative of Ivan Shuvalov, a noted enlightener of that time who also served as the first curator of the academy. Shuvalov brought in teachers from Europe, attracted the first Russian students to be trained at the Academy and donated his remarkable private fine arts collection that became a core of the Academy Museum and Library.

In 1764, Catherine the Great emphasized the significance of the Academy by proclaiming it the Imperial Academy of Arts, approved its charter and staff and granted the Academy a special privilege. The construction of the imposing building of the Imperial Academy of Arts in Neo-Classical style overlooking the Neva-River designed by Alexander Kokorinov and Jean Vallin de la Mothe also began in 1764 and was completed in 1788.

The Imperial Academy of Arts was one of the most progressive cultural entities in those days. The Academy’s first homegrown talents, such  artists and architects as A. Losenko, F. Shubin, V. Bazhenov, F. Rokotov, testified to the high level of art education in Russia. The Academy students studied all the pictorial and graphic genres, as well as the art of sculpture and architecture. The most gifted of them were given scholarships to continue their education in France and Italy.   

Later, the Academy’s roll call of graduates included eminent painters A. Ivanov, K. Bryullov (who with his masterpiece “The Last Day of Pompeii” became the first Academy painter to enjoy an international reputation in 1834  when it won the Grand Prix at the Paris Salon), I. Repin, V. Polenov, V. Surikov; sculptors  I. Martos, V. Demut-Malinovski, S. Pimenov, I. Prokofiev, M. Antokolski; architects A. Voronikhin, N. Benois, K. Ton, I. Fomin, V. Shuko and many others.

In 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, by a presidential edict the USSR Academy of Arts was transformed into the Russian Academy of Arts. Since 1997 to the present day the academy of has been headed by the world-renowned artist and sculptor Zurab Tsereteli.

© Russkiy Mir. 18 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:32 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 19 November 2012 9:38 AM EST
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Saturday, 17 November 2012
Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna Visits Zlatoust
Topic: Maria Vladimirovna GD


HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna is greeted at the Church of Saint Seraphim of Sarov in the Ural city of Zlatoust 

On November 16th, HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna visited the Ural city of Zlatoust. It is the latest stop on her 3-day official visit to the Chelyabinsk region.

The Head of the Russian Imperial House visited the local history museum where they will host an exhibition marking the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 2013.

Grand Duchess Maria remarked: "I really liked Zlatoust, it was good to see that the people remember the history of their country and of my family, and thus supporting the link between past and present."

From there HIH made a short visit to the Church of Saint Seraphim of Sarov to attend a prayer service. She then visited the patriarchal workshops where she was shown samples of of church plate, which the Zlatoust masters make for many of the larger churches across Russia.

Situated 160 km (99 miles) west of Chelyabinsk, the city was documented by Sergei Produkin-Gorsky in 1910. The photographer had been outfitted with a specially equipped railway car darkroom provided by Emperor Nicholas II in which he documented the Russian Empire in colour photographs between 1909 through 1915.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 17 November, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:51 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 17 November 2012 9:10 AM EST
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