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Saturday, 22 December 2012
The Last Ball - A Documentary
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 40 minutes, 58 seconds

A new documentary by Russian film maker Boris Liznov recalls the costume ball held in the Winter Palace in February 1903. The film is based on old photographs of members of the Imperial family and the Russian Court who attended the event in which guests dressed in luxurious costumes dating from the 17th-century court of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. It was to be the last grand ball before the fall of the monarchy in Russia in 1917.

Liznov has assembled more than 250 vintage images from various museums, and expertly assembled old photos of interiors of the Winter Palace as a backdrop. Narration of the ball is described in detail from the memoirs and letters of those who attended the historic ball.

Liznov further explores the reign of Nicholas II and the end of the dynasty that ruled Russia for more than 300 years. The film has already received 7 awards including Best Director and Best Cinematography. 

||| 1903 Costume Ball in the Winter Palace - Click Here for More Information |||

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 22 December, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:45 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 1 January 2016 4:53 AM EST
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Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich Monument Unveiled in Nice
Topic: Nicholas Alexandrovich GD


A monument to the Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich (1843-1865) has been unveiled in Nice, France.

The ceremony coincided with the 100th anniversary of Saint Nicholas Cathedral, consecrated in 1912 in memory of Emperor Alexander II's son who died at Nice on 24th April, 1865.

The monument was installed next to the cathedral, and consecrated by Metropolitan of Ryazan. The church choir sang hymns proclaiming the eternal memory of the Tsearevich Nicholas Alexandrovich.

The city of Nice has long honoured Nicholas Alexandrovich's memory: three years after his death, the Villa Bermond (where he died) was demolished to make way for a memorial chapel, and the adjacent street was renamed Boulevard Tsarevich. In 1896, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna and her son, Emperor Nicholas II organized the construction of a new cathedral, which was completed in 1912. The construction of the cathedral was financed from the private purse of the last tsar. To date, Saint Nicholas Cathedral is the largest Russian Orthodox church in Europe. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 22 December, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:15 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 22 December 2012 8:38 AM EST
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Russians Invited to Buy Back or Rent Their Old Family Estates
Topic: Country Estates


Khvalevskoye, former estate of Nikolai Kachalov 

The Russian culture minister Vladimir Medinsky has begun a campaign to auction pre-revolutionary estates and mansions to save them from potential ruin. He said that architectural monuments in the worst condition would be a priority and would be offered for long-term rent or even sale to those who can demonstrate that they are committed to restoration.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia rejected the idea of property restitution to descendants of the noble families and wealthy merchants who owned such homes before the Bolshevik Revolution.

Medinsky said that the government had failed to follow through on previous plans to manage the properties and that the situation had reached a crisis point.

“There are 150,000 [architectural] monuments in the country,” said the minister according to the RIA Novosti state news agency. “Some of them are in private hands, a majority are in state hands and even more are in a state of ruin. About ten years ago there were instructions to hand over about 2,500 monuments to the monuments administration agency. [But] the government’s instruction was not carried out. Two hundred and forty-one monuments were handed over. The monuments are in [a] horrific condition.”

Medinsky said that the ministry had already proposed that Rosimushchestvo, the state property agency, auction the right to rent those sites that are in good condition at market rates, on the condition that they are properly maintained. Sites that are in a ruined state would be leased at a peppercorn rate. Olga Dergunova, Russia’s deputy economic development minister and the head of Rosimushchestvo, said firm plans were yet to be put in place, however.

Many of Russia’s historic properties were allowed to crumble in the post-Soviet bureaucracy of the 1990s and 2000s to make way for more lucrative residential and commercial buildings.

The city of Moscow is now actively employing the new scheme to auction monuments, which has already resulted in some positive examples of restoration. But in the regions the situation is more complicated for preservationists and potentially easier for those who want to purchase outright a monument.

Yevgeny Sosedov, the deputy chairman of the Moscow region branch of the All-Russian Society for the Preservation of Historical and Cultural Monuments, is leading activists in a fight to save Arkhangelskoye, the Yusupov family estate, famous for its palace, grounds and art collection. Since the 1990s, a state museum has shared the grounds with the ministry of defence, which runs a convalescent hospital there. It is ironic, Sosedov said, that estates that survived the Revolution have suffered greater damage in the post-Soviet era because in Soviet times they were, at least, in use as pioneer camps, sanatoriums or collective farms. Local officials, he said, are not interested in dealing with the smalls sums of money needed to conserve estates that have fallen into ruin. “Everyone is waiting for big money,” he said.

Some of the descendants of the pre-revolutionary elite have bought back family properties. Yury Voicehovsky-Kachaloff and his wife, Vera, spent around $100,000 to buy the remains of the mansion and grounds of Khvalevskoye, an estate in the Vologda region, which was used as a government office and school in the Soviet era. Vera Voicehovsky-Kachaloff is a descendant of Nikolai Kachalov, an official who was close to the future Tsar Alexander III. The family rediscovered the estate after being sought out and invited to the local village’s anniversary celebration in 2006. The cost at auction was high, said her husband, because a local hunting organisation was eager to purchase the territory to develop as a hunting grounds.

It cost the Voicehovsky-Kachaloffs around ten times more to restore the mansion. Financiers now based in Moscow who spent ten years living in London, they were inspired by the UK's National Trust. They plan turn the mansion into a local museum, cultural centre, Sunday school, a base for their family gatherings, and possibly as a small hotel for those interested in the culture and lifestyle of pre-revolutionary estates.

© The Art Newspaper and RIA Novosti. 22 December, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:06 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 22 December 2012 7:12 AM EST
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Friday, 21 December 2012
Kremlin Visitors Can See the Restored Kutafya Tower Again
Topic: Kremlin


Kremlin visitors will see the restored Kutafya Tower, which is almost 500 years old. After the completion of the year-long renovation work, the passage through the tower to the Kremlin will be opened, ITAR-TASS reports.
The site, one of the main entrances to the Kremlin, was renovated "at repeated requests" of visitors, the chief Kremlin manager's press secretary Viktor Khrekov told ITAR-TASS. Visitors complained that they had to wait sometimes for hours in any weather to pass through checkpoints to go on an excursion or for a Kremlin Palace concert. Now, it will take less time and will be more comfortable, Khrekov assured.
The major repair with the modernization of the checkpoint at the Kutafya Tower was carried out by the Kremlin management and the Federal Guard Service. Before the repair, seven check points were opened to enter the Moscow Kremlin. There are 16 now, and all are in buildings with heating, ventilation and other appropriate systems.
According to specialists, up to 6,000 people can pass through the new check points in an hour and a half, for example to go to the State Kremlin Palace. The Federal Guard Service says that the examination procedure is improved. There is everything necessary for people with disabilities for comfortable visits to the Kremlin, Khrekov noted.
The Kutafya Tower was built by Milan architect Aleviz (Aliosio) Fryazin in 1516. Its height is 13.5 m at present. It was surrounded by a ditch and the Neglinka River with one gate, which was closed tightly with a drawbridge. The tower prevented intruders from entering. In 1685, the tower was decorated with the white stone openwork "crown".

© Russkiy Mir. 21 December, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:15 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 21 December 2012 11:18 AM EST
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Thursday, 20 December 2012
Exhibition of Literary Classics' Interiors Opens in Moscow
Topic: Exhibitions

The State Pushkin Museum in Moscow will host the exhibition Behind the Curtain. The new exhibit will feature residential and ceremonial interiors described in Russian literature of the 19th-early 20th century.

In several rooms of the mezzanine will feature interiors of bedrooms and living rooms, workshops and offices from the literary heroes of Alexander Pushkin and Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Goncharova and Ivan Turgenev, Feodor Sologub and Lev Tolstoy.

Thanks to original pieces from the Tsarist period, furniture, bronze, porcelain, costume and fine attributes of daily life of late 19th - early 20th century Imperial Russia is recreated. The historic displays will portray the attitude, character, habits and hobbies of the respective literary hero.

In addition to large pieces of furniture will be presented some interesting accessories that reveal the private, intimate life of a person "behind the screen" that accompany the hero in moments of passion and peace, profound experiences or solitary reflection.

Screens can become a kind of window into the world of literature, experience the unique atmosphere of bygone centuries.

In addition to the museum's collection will be exhibited objects from the galleries, Three Centuries and Russian Estate, as well as the company de Gournay and the private collections of A.A. Vasilyev and A.L. Kusakina. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 20 December, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:48 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 20 December 2012 9:02 AM EST
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St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Nice Celebrates Centennial Anniversary
Topic: Russian Church


December 19th marked the 100th anniversary of the consecration of the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Nice. A special ceremony was held on this occasion, Voice of Russia reports.  Russia is to fund a project to renovate the cathedral, Kremlin property manager Vladimir Kozhin announced at the ceremony. Construction work on the project is scheduled to start in 2013.

Built under the personal supervision by Emperor Nicholas II, the St. Nicholas Cathedral is one of the biggest Orthodox churches in Western Europe. It attracts a quarter million worshipers and sightseers each year.

From 1931 until December 15, 2011, the parish that occupied the cathedral was part of the Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe under the jurisdiction of the Church of Constantinople.

From 2005 till December 2011, there was a protracted ownership and church jurisdictional dispute over the church building as well as control over the parish, between the existing administration of the Exarchate and the Russian government.

The Russian state, which in 2010 was recognized by the French court as the title-holder as the legal successor of the Russian Empire, made a decision in 2011 to turn the church building over to the Moscow Patriarchate. The dispute partly stemmed from a conflict between old Russian nobility who settled in Nice long ago and Russians who arrived in recent decades.

© Voice of Russia. 20 December, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:06 AM EST
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Bells Returning to St. Isaac's Cathedral after 80 Years of Silence
Topic: Russian Church


Saint Isaac's Cathedral in Saint Petersburg has got its first bell to interrupt the silence which had lasted for about 80 years. Under the Soviet government, the building was stripped of religious trappings. In 1931 it was used as a museum of atheism.

The first bell, cast in bronze and tin, weighs nearly 10 tons.

Ten more bells are still to be delivered from a bell-casting factory in Voronezh in 2013.

The bell will ring at midday, together with a cannon shot from the Naryshkin Bastion at the Peter and Paul Fortress. It will be sanctified Friday at a ceremony presided by Markell, Bishop of Peterhof.

© Voice of Russia. 20 December, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:00 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 20 December 2012 6:06 AM EST
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Kremlin Presents Journalists With Romanov Mementos
Topic: 400th Anniversary


More than 1,200 reporters accredited to Russian President Vladimir Putin's giant press conference Thursday each received a bag of gifts, with imperial overtones.

A huge wall calendar depicted the Russian czars of the Romanov dynasty, which would be celebrating their 400 years in power in 2013 if not for the 1917 revolution that saw the last czar and his family murdered. The bag also contains a set of post cards with all the Russian czars starting from the early 17th century.

Reporters will be able to take notes with three pencils with the event’s logo, nicely packed in a wooden box, also with the logo, in a notebook with the logo, together with pictures of the Romanovs in a large black box, also with the same memorable inscription.

© Condensed from the Wall Street Journal. 20 December, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:05 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 19 December 2012 2:10 PM EST
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Wednesday, 19 December 2012
St. Petersburg Church Holds Service After Century of Silence
Topic: St. Petersburg


Photo: From 1721 until 1917, the church was located in the building at 56 English Embankment

About 50 people gathered for a traditional Christmas carol service held by the Anglican Chaplaincy of St. Petersburg in the Anglican church on 56 English Embankment on Tuesday night.

It was the first time an Anglican Christmas service had taken place in the building for nearly 100 years.

The congregation included British people who live and work in St. Petersburg, including British Consul General in St. Petersburg Gareth Ward, as well as many Russians.

“It was very important to hold this service exactly in this church that once used to be the center of the British community for more than 200 years,” said Ward. “And it is very important for the British community to have access to this church again,” he added.

Alexandra Moore, a British student who has been studying Russian in the city for the last three months and who attended the carol service, said she really enjoyed it, “especially close to Christmas.”

“We’re already in a festive mood, and this service gave an outlet for our mood,” Moore said.

Mollie Arbuthnot, another British student, said attending the service “felt like being at home.”

Adrian Terris, warden of the Anglican Church in St. Petersburg and a native Scot who came to the service with his family and children, said they had been working for many years to have an opportunity to hold events in the historic British church and were “happy” to finally enjoy it thanks to the St. Petersburg Conservatory that currently owns the building and cooperated with them on the issue.

The church is located in the main hall of one of the city’s historical buildings. Mosaics depicting Biblical subjects decorate the walls of the hall, and the original signs are in English.

The church on the English Embankment hosted its first service for nearly 100 years on Remembrance Sunday last month. Weekly services had been held for years at the Swedish Lutheran church on Malaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa. The next service to be held at the Anglican church on the English Embankment will be at 7 p.m. on Christmas day — Dec. 25 — while services on Dec. 30 and Jan. 6 will return to the Swedish church.


Photo: Members of the congregation sing during the carol service on Tuesday evening. The historic Anglican church held its first service since the 1917 revolution last month.

The English Church, originally established in Moscow by the Russia Company, moved first to Arkhangelsk and then to St. Petersburg when it became the new capital in 1712, according to the Anglican church in St. Petersburg’s website. From 1721 until 1917, the church was located in the building at 56 English Embankment, which had been purchased by the British community. In 1815, having fallen into disrepair, the church was remodeled by the architect Giacomo Quarenghi to accommodate the congregation of more than 2,500 people, creating a new columned facade on the embankment.

“The English Church [was] the focal point of the British community’s life in pre-Revolutionary St. Petersburg... Quarenghi’s church in St. Petersburg, like St. Andrew’s Church in Moscow, is a reminder of the importance of spiritual matters for the expatriate British, but the history of the English Church in Russia goes back to at least the seventeenth century,” wrote Anthony Cross, the British author of the book “By the Banks of the Neva” published by Cambridge University Press in 1997.

Sixty years after the building was remodeled, when it again fell into disrepair, the church was remodeled in the Victorian style, with the main new features being a set of stained glass windows and an organ built by Brindley and Foster in Sheffield, England, which was considered to be the finest in northern Europe. In 1917, the church was forced to relocate to Vyborg, then the second city in the newly independent Finland, and then, with the outbreak of World War II, to Helsinki.

During the Soviet period, there were occasional visits to Leningrad by the Helsinki Anglican Chaplain, but there was no regular congregation. Following the collapse of the U.S.S.R., the first Anglican celebration of the Eucharist in St. Petersburg took place on Nov. 7 1993, with many members of the Helsinki Anglican Chaplaincy present. Since then, regular Sunday services have been held and currently take place in the Swedish Lutheran Church.

The city’s Anglican church aims to provide an Anglican community for residents of St. Petersburg, international students and visitors to the city.

“We seek to support and care for each other and we offer an open welcome to those only here for a short time,” the church says on its website.

The St. Petersburg church is part of the Anglican Church’s Eastern Deanery within the Diocese in Europe. Its area dean, the Reverand Canon Dr. Simon Stephens, is chaplain of St. Andrew’s Anglican church in Moscow.

“Our services are conducted according to the traditions of the Anglican — Episcopal Church, but we welcome everybody. Our congregation is international, multicultural and multidenominational,” the church says.

St. Petersburg’s branch of the English church does not have its own permanent chaplain; services are instead led by Anglican clergy on short-term visits from the U.K. or by local clergy from the Swedish and Finnish Lutheran Churches.

© St. Petersburg Times. 19 December, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 1:54 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 19 December 2012 1:59 PM EST
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Photos of Lost Russian Crown Jewels Found In US Library
Now Playing: Language: English. Duration: 6 minutes, 40 seconds
Topic: Jewels

Four previously undiscovered photos of undocumented Russian Crown Jewels were recently discovered in the USGS library. The photos appear in a 1922 album called “Russian Diamond Fund,” that was uncovered in the rare book room of the library.

The four unique photos were originally part of the personal collection of George F. Kunz (1856-1932), a mineralogist and gemologist, gentleman explorer, and employee of the USGS and Tiffany & Co. These four photos are unique because they are not included in the official documentation of the Russian Crown Jewels, “Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones,” published in 1925. The USGS also has a copy of this 1925 publication in Kunz’s collection.

“Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones” is considered the most complete inventory of the Russian Crown Jewels and 22 of the photographs from Kunz’s 1922 album appear to be the same images used in the official Russian 1925 publication. The four pieces portrayed in the album discovered by the USGS that do not appear in the later publication include a sapphire and diamond tiara, a sapphire bracelet, an emerald necklace, and a sapphire brooch in the shape of a bow.

Researchers have determined that the sapphire brooch was sold in London in 1927, but the fate of the other three pieces is a mystery to this day.  USGS librarians are trying to trace the history with assistance from experts from around the world.

“This 1922 album contains photographs that document the Imperial Crown Jewels and augments the official 1925 catalog with images of pieces that were not previously known to exist,” said USGS Library Director Richard Huffine. “The USGS has preserved this collection in obscurity for over 75 years, and now that it’s been discovered, we’re excited to share this material with the world to support research and understanding of these rare materials today.”

“Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones” collection contains 100 unbound plates with accompanying text and was published as the inventory of the Romanov jewels. The USGS Library’s copy of “Russia’s Treasure” is missing two plates, but is otherwise in excellent condition. A different copy of “Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones” sold on auction at Christie’s in 2007 for £72,000, over $141,984.

The album “Russian Diamond Fund,” however, is believed to be the only copy in existence. The album begins with an exquisitely hand-colored title page, followed by 88 photographs of the Romanov jewelry with descriptive captions in Russian.

The rich history of the Russian people is reflected in the origins of the Imperial Crown Jewels of Russia.  The jewels were worn by the Romanov Royal Family (1613-1917) until they were seized by the new government during the Russian Revolution and secured in secret until 1922.  In 1922 the jewels were unpacked and a full inventory taken. The “Russian Diamond Fund” album dates to the same year and the photographs appear to have been part of the initial inventory.

“These images are unique representations of a bygone era-taken at a key moment for Russia, buried in quiet bookshelves for almost a hundred years, then rediscovered to add one more tiny but important part to the infinite puzzle of history,” said USGS librarian Jenna Nolt.

Research was conducted by USGS librarians in collaboration with the Hillwood Museum and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad, Calif. to find additional information on the historical value of the photographs and information on the four photographs of unique pieces from the 1922 album.

© USGS. 19 December, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:04 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 19 December 2012 8:14 AM EST
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