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400th Anniversary
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Tuesday, 7 May 2013
Vintage Photo of Nicholas II No. 14
Topic: Nicholas II


Emperor Nicholas II and Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich (1856-1929), who served as Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Imperial Army on the main front in the first year of the war, reviewing the Life-Guards 3rd Rifle Regiment at Tsarskoye Selo in 1914.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 07 May, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:50 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 7 May 2013 8:08 AM EDT
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Roses for Catherine the Great
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


Continuing with their Romanov 400th Anniversary Commemoration Project, Tsarskoye Selo celebrated the 284th birth anniversary of Empress Catherine II of Russia (1729–1796).

On May 2nd, 2013, a bouquet of roses graced an elegant table near the Empress's portrait in the Chinese Drawing-Room of Alexander I at the Catherine Palace.

'My dear, my lovely Tsarskoye Selo!', that is how Catherine addressed her favourite place among the imperial summer residences of St. Petersburg. Here she fulfilled her dreams and creative ideas, being both inspiring to Tsarskoye Selo and inspired by it.

Being also very fond of roses since her childhood, she honoured the flower by laying out the Rose Field in the Catherine (then Tsarskoye Selo) Park. The several-hectare rose garden bloomed all summer. It was constantly added with new species brought from Denmark, Holland, Germany and France, some of which were moved to the Greenhouses for winter.

After the death of the Empress, the rose garden was neglected and then gone. But Catherine's favourite flowers, artfully carved on the furniture or painted on the ceilings, are still present in her palace today.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 07 May, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:13 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 7 May 2013 5:16 AM EDT
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Monday, 6 May 2013
Russia Celebrates Easter as Holy Week Draws to an End
Now Playing: Language: English. Duration: 2 minutes, 25 seconds
Topic: Easter

Over 300,000 people have visited Moscow’s churches and monasteries over the Easter weekend in Russia. Police patrols were on alert to prevent breaches of peace and crime, with over 6,000 officers deployed to guard the city’s monasteries and churches.

Easter is the red letter day in the Orthodox calendar. The holy day is being celebrated by believers worldwide, with large-scale festivities to be held in Russia on Sunday.

Easter services are also organized at all Russian Orthodox churches across the world, the number of which exceeds 30,000.

But the largest service, helmed by Patriarch Kirill, is being held at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The service lasts several hours, well into the early hours of Sunday.

A group of pilgrims have also delivered the Holy Fire from the Old City of Jerusalem to the Russian Cathedral of Christ the Savior. It is lit each year at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem on the day preceding Orthodox Easter. Tens of thousands of pilgrims visited Jerusalem on Saturday to observe the ‘Holy Fire’ ceremony.

The Holy Fire has been perceived by generations of Orthodox believers as a miracle. It’s through divine intervention that the first flame comes to life, the faithful believe. Pilgrims say it doesn’t burn in the first minutes after it has been lit. Parts of the Holy Fire are ‘spread out’ between churches across the country, placed in torches akin to those used to transport the Olympic Flame.

After parishioners lit the candles from the Holy Fire, Kirill started the procession around the cathedral,  glorifying the Resurrection. Priests and believers carrying crosses and icons get going around the church. The procession climaxed when the Patriarch announced “Christ is risen!”, meaning the Holy Day has started.

After midnight and for the next 40 days after Easter Sunday, Orthodox Christians will be greeting each other with the words "Christ is risen!" expecting the reply "He is risen indeed!" The end of the short dialogue is celebrated by three traditional kisses.

The festivities at the Christ the Savior Cathedral where attended by President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin.

Christians celebrate Easter to mark the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion. The Resurrection of the Savior symbolizes his victory over sin and death.

Preparations for Easter celebrations begin on the last day of the Holy Week, known in Russia as Passion Week. On Holy Saturday believers come to churches to have their paschal cakes and eggs blessed by priests.

Easter is preceded by a long period of fasting. Believers abstain from meat, fish, eggs and dairy products for 48 days, spending time in prayer.

The real challenge is to help people refine their souls and learn to restrain desire.

Russians celebrate the end of Lent by painting colorful eggs – as a rule red, as a symbol of the blood of Christ - they exchange with each other, and preparing rich Easter cakes with raisins and nuts.

Easter is a moveable feast. Eastern and Western Christianity base their calculations on different calendars. The former uses Julian calendar, the latter Gregorian, so their Easter days differ.

Last year it was marked by the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant and Anglican churches on the same day, which happens quite rarely.

In 2012 nearly half a million Muscovites flocked to the country's churches to take part in evening and night services across the Russian capital. The largest service drew 6,000 people and was held at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Patriarch Kirill, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church, led the Easter service in Moscow's landmark Cathedral.

More than 6,000 people attended the Easter service at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow 

© Russia Today. 06 May, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:24 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 6 May 2013 7:51 AM EDT
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Sunday, 5 May 2013
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 10
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches


Developed and embellished over four centuries, Ostankino now consists of a magnificent 18th-century palace and theatre, a sprawling park with groves and ponds, and the 17th-century Church of the Holy Trinity. The estate was the property of Count Nikolai Petrovich Sheremetiev (1751-1809), a prominent figure belonging to one of Russia's wealthiest and influential noble families.

Built between 1677-1692, the ornamental church differs in appearance and spirit from the elegance of the palace at Ostankino. Its builder, Prince Mikhail Cherkassky incorporated the Moscow Baroque style in its exterior with a Western-influenced interior. The building's festive appearance includes ceramic tile inlays, white stone carvings, spade-shapped gables, and archvaults displayed against red brick walls. 

The carved iconostasis matches the opulent decorative statement of the rest of the church, although its icons demonstrate the decline of Russian iconography as it begins to borrow from the West.

The church was closed by the Soviets in 1933, however, a year later the church was turned over to the Ostankino Estate Museum which was originally created in 1918. From 1980, the church hosted concerts of sacred music.

In 1990, the church resumed regular religious services, and was consecrated by Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008) on March 23rd, 1991. A restoration of the church followed, sadly however, the lower section of the Royal Doors was all that survived of the original iconostasis.

A view of the beautifully restored iconostasis of the church 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 05 May, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:50 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 11 May 2013 9:56 AM EDT
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Saturday, 4 May 2013
18th Century on Screen: Catherine II and Friedrich II
Topic: Exhibitions


The National Museum and Park Tsaritsyno is to host an international exhibition on the May 28, uniting history and cinema.

For the first time, the halls of Khlebny Dom in Tsaritsyno Park will simultaneously host a collection of historical objects from the 18th century and a film festival, depicting people and life of those times. This year’s exhibition focuses on the figures of the Russian Empress Catherine II and Prussian Emperor Friedrich II — and, of course, on the ‘gallant 18th century’.

Mysterious lives of these outstanding monarchs have always been of interest to historians and writers. Their images have been inspired many paintings and sculptures. In the 20th century they fascinated filmmakers. Not only in Russia and Germany, but also in Hollywood, London, even Japan and the Netherlands fil; romantic dramas and epic series about the XVIII century and its main protagonists, designing marvellous costumes and adventures. Of course, every decade new political subtexts and cultural stereotypes are being attributed to those historical events.

The main purpose of the exhibition is not to unveil the mistakes of popular cinema culture, but to show the difference and similarities between history and fiction.

The exhibition allows its guests to compare the historical and fictitious parts of 18th century. Real objects (such as furniture, costumes, kitchenware, scientific tools, books), pictures (paintings, portraits, maps), documents of those times will show the real life of the 18th century monarchs of Prussia and Russia. As for the fictional reality, the visitors will be able to see objects that were used during the filming process (screenplays, storyboards, designed costumes, wigs and makeups, cameras and light equipment, photo and video casting materials). The visitors will also be able to watch the editing process.

Informative yet spectacular exhibition will allow the visitors to fully submerge into historical cinema, during the screenings of most popular films about Catherine II, Friedrich II and their century, workshops on costume making and makeups, musical concerts. Many films will be shown in Russia for the first time.

The programme of “18th century on screen: Catherine II and Friedrich II” was prepared by the State Central Cinema Museum, German Goethe Cultural Centre (Goethe Institute) and Museum of Cinema (Potsdam) as part of the Year of Germany in Russia. Major Russian museums and artistic foundations, such as the Mosfilm Studios, will be involved in the project, along with famous artists and filmmakers from Moscow and St Petersburg.

© Russian Cultural Heritage. 04 May, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:08 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 4 May 2013 8:11 AM EDT
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Friday, 3 May 2013
Kuban Cossacks from Return Collection of Emblems and Regalia to Russia
Topic: Cossacks


Kuban Cossacks were entrusted as private guards to Emperor Nicholas II and his family  

Thanks to collaboration and solidarity of Alexander Pevnev, the ataman of Kuban Cossack army abroad, over 300 military regalia and emblems have been returned to Russia. In Moscow the ataman was received by Vladimir Medinsky, Minister of Culture and head of the Russian Historical and Military Foundation.

According to the website of the Russian Historical and Military Foundation (RHMF), the question of returning sacred war regalia had been raised several times on the international level, but has become close to its resolution only in the recent years. In particular, with the help of ataman Alexander Pevnev in spring 2013 a large collection has been transferred back to Russia, including 38 Cossack emblems, an original document signed by Catherine II granting the landowner rights to the Cossacks, and about 300 items of memorabilia overall.

The letter from Pevnev to Medinsky says: “I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your kind reception and hospitality to me personally and to the entire delegation of the Cossack army abroad during our stay in Moscow... We are hoping for the long-term and fruitful collaboration in order to preserve the Russian culture and return its historical and cultural treasures back to Russia”.

It is planned to establish secure and permanent connections with the Cossacks abroad, reports RHMF.

The headquarters of the Kuban Cossack army abroad is stationed in New Jersey, and multiple regalia of the Cossack army taken from Russia by the ataman Vyacheslav Naumenko are stored there.

© Russian Cultural Heritage. 03 May, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:01 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 3 May 2013 6:06 AM EDT
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Thursday, 2 May 2013
Dinner with the Romanovs
Topic: Dmitri Romanovich


A relative of Russia’s deposed royal family visits Jerusalem and finds kinship in the Jewish search for home and homeland.

A participant at a recent genteel dinner in Jerusalem could not help being reminded of the scene from ”Fiddler on the Roof” in which the rabbi of Anatevka answers a congregant asking if there was a special blessing for the czar of Russia.

Of course, answers the rabbi. “May God bless and keep the czar… far away from us!”

Nearby sat Dimitri Romanovich Romanov — one of those Romanovs — the towering and gracious 87-year-old great-great-grandson of Czar Nicholas I, who died in 1855.

After dinner, Romanov mused about his own history and that of Israel, where he had just arrived for the first time, and about the nature of statelessness.

Dimitri Romanov was born in 1926, 18 years after Bolshevik revolutionaries murdered the last czar of Russia and his family at Ekaterinburg and threw their bodies into an abandoned mine shaft. The surviving Romanov grand duchesses and grand dukes along with the rest of the extended royal family, including Dimitri’s father, Prince Roman Petrovich, fled Russia, never to return.

Romanov and his wife, Dorrit Reventlow, who wore an elegant salmon dress and golden slippers, were early in a 36-hour sojourn in the country, part of a round-the-world journey on a cruise ship called the Seaborne Quest. They were being given a whirlwind tour of which the dinner — at an unmarked and luxurious Jerusalem establishment called Spoons, near Montefiore’s windmill — was part. There was Italian cabbage, Israeli wine, superb artichoke soup, and candlesticks the size of modest missile silos.

Romanov admitted he had not formed much of an impression of the country in the several hours that had elapsed since his arrival. He was surprised at how green it was, he said, and how hilly: “I always thought it would be more flat.”

Jerusalem is not entirely foreign to a Romanov visitor. The attractions before dinner included a visit to the grave of a relative, Elizabeth Feodorovna, the last czar’s sister-in-law and a Russian Orthodox saint, at a church on the Mount of Olives. (Among the city’s other Romanov-era relics is a building downtown known as Sergei’s Courtyard, which was built for Russian pilgrims and named for Grand Duke Sergei, brother of Czar Alexander III.)

Born in France and raised across Europe and, for a time, in Alexandria. Romanov spent his life, however, not as royalty but as a banker. As a young man, he recalled, he never had much interest in the complexities of the Romanov lineage, less a family tree than a chaotic forest of intersecting and competing lines linked in bewildering ways to the other active and defunct royal houses of Europe. “I was totally uninterested to know who the Princess of Baden Baden was,” he said. This disinterest also means the prince does not know what number he is in line for the British throne; his wife says he is “around 2,000th.”

Romanov returned to the country his family ruled for centuries for the first time only after the fall of Communism, when he was in his 60s.

“For me, ‘returning’ to Russia is a misnomer — I can’t return to a country I never visited before,” he said.

He has lived half of his life in Copenhagen, but until 23 years ago he held no citizenship at all. Then a friend suggested that he finally become a Danish citizen — “You’ll feel at home,” she promised. This friend, Margaret, was the queen of Denmark, so he obliged.

“It’s important to be a citizen of something, like a Jew who comes from Yemen or Morocco and comes here and becomes a citizen — it’s important to be a part of society. I felt that in Denmark for the first time in my life,” he said.

In the middle of dinner, talk turned to Jewish history and the prince was reminded of a visit he once made to Warsaw, where he was touched by the story of the Jewish partisans who took part in the uprising in that city’s ghetto during WWII. He proposed a toast to them.

“I thought I must express my feelings about these young people fighting Nazism, dreaming that one day those who lived would come back to Israel,” he said afterward.

Of course, he noted, they had never actually been to Israel. “How can you go back if you’ve never been?” he wondered. “I suppose it’s in your blood.”

© Matti Friedman (Author)

© The Times of Israel. 02 May, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:38 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 2 May 2013 8:00 AM EDT
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Russian Society to Host Prince Michael of Kent
Topic: Prince Michael of Kent


The Oxford University Russian Society will host a talk by Prince Michael of Kent on Thursday, 2nd May, at Merton College.

Maxim Kotenev, adviser to the society, anticipates that the Prince will talk about his visit to St Petersburg for the burial of the Tsar and his family, and might make a comparison between the British and Russian royal families.

Kotenev added that he would be interested to hear the Prince’s “view on the Queen, her role and some internal stories of his encounters with the Queen”.

“Prince Michael of Kent is interesting for the Russian Society because of his profile”, said Kotenev. The Prince is related to Russian royal family and involved in a large number of non-profit charities in Russia. “He has close links with Russia, speaks Russian fluently and has travelled to Russia several times”, added Kotenev.

Russian Society President Anna Danshina first learnt about Prince Michael’s links to Russia when organising the Imperial Gardens of Russia festival in St Petersburg, which is supported by the Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent Charitable Foundation. Danshina commented that: “I was very fascinated by Prince Michael’s interest in Russia and the charitable work of the Prince Michael of Kent Foundation in the country.”

The Prince is devoted to several charity, arts and education organisations in Russia. Among them is the St. Petersburg based Nochlezhka Charity Foundation, which provides shelter and food for homeless people. He is also a patron for the Russian National Orchestra and the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce and holds an Honorary Doctorate from the Plekhanov Russian Academy of Economics and St Petersburg University of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The Prince is a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II and his mother, Princess Marina, was the daughter of Grand Duchess Helen Vladimirovna of Russia. “He is named after the brother of Russian Tsar Nicholas II and in some way he looks like Nicholas II”, said Kotenev.

The Russian Society was founded in 1909 by a member of the Russian royal family, Prince Felix Yusupov, who studied at University College. Prince Felix is known for having participated in the assassination of Grigori Rasputin, the faith healer of Tsar Nicholas II.

© The Oxford Student. 02 May, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:33 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 2 May 2013 7:37 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 1 May 2013
Fit for a Tsar: St Petersburg's Hermitage Museum to Open Luxury Hotel
Now Playing: Language: NA. Duration: 2 minutes, 26 seconds
Topic: State Hermitage Museum
The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg will branch out into the accommodation business this summer, with the opening of a new, branded luxury retreat.
The State Hermitage Hotel will be the latest gilded addition to a city that is not short on five-star hideaways. Equipped with 126 rooms, a large spa and a gourmet restaurant named after one of Russia’s most celebrated rulers, it is likely to challenge the city’s long-established hotel dames, such as the Grand Hotel Europe and the Hotel Astoria.

Crucially, the hotel will not be part of the Hermitage complex.

While the fabled gallery preens alongside the river at Dvortsovaya Naberezhnaya, the hotel will sit about a mile to the south-east, on Pravda Ulitsa (street). It will be built into a former merchant’s home that has also been used as a theatre and a cultural centre, but had fallen into disrepair.

Guests will be able to use a shuttle service that will ferry them to the museum, and also book tickets for the Hermitage in the lobby – a short-cut which will save them a meeting with the gallery’s notoriously long queues (in which you can wait for up to two hours).

The hotel’s design will pay tribute to the Winter Palace portion of The Hermitage.

Employees will wear uniforms modelled upon the style that would have been sported by palace staff under the Tsar – while china based upon designs that would have been deployed for state banquets will be used in the restaurants.

The main restaurant will also be named after Catherine the Great, the fearsome empress who ruled Russia and its empire between 1762 and 1796, and founded the Hermitage in 1764.

© The Daily Mail (Condensed and edited by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia) & State Hermitage Museum. 01 May, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:27 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 1 May 2013 10:41 AM EDT
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Tsarskoye Selo - An Artful Garden for Alexander II
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve

The Romanov 400th Anniversary Commemoration Project continues at Tsarskoye Selo.

On April 29th, 2013, one of the rooms of the Romanov Dynasty display at the Catherine Palace was decorated with palms, blooming hydrangeas and poecilophyllous philodendrons, put in jardinières (flower stands) made after a mid-19th-century original, marking the 195th birth anniversary of Emperor Alexander II.

The plant composition titled “An Artful Garden” complies with the canons of the epoch when jardinières like these were a must-have element of a room with greenery.

A variety of plants, often exotic ones, would liven up and romaticize an interior – especially in a country that lies snow-covered almost half a year. Lovingly cultivated, the “green guests from overseas” were often organized into beautiful indoor gardens.

Recollecting a travel to cold Russia in his Voyage en Russie (1867), the French writer Théophile Gautier called flowers “the true luxury” that Russians loved to fill their houses with, “It does feel like the North Pole outside, but inside it's like the tropics”.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 01 May, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:29 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 1 May 2013 6:36 AM EDT
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