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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Alexander III Monument to Remain at Marble Palace
Topic: Alexander III

The St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly have voted against moving the Tsar Alexander III monument from its current location in the courtyard of the Marble Palace on Millionnaya Ulitsa to its original historical location at Ploshchad Vosstaniya, Baltinfo news agency reported on Monday. The idea to move the monument was initiated by Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky. The issue was discussed with deputies eventually deciding that the relocation would be unreasonable.

The equestrian monument by the scultptor Paolo Trubetskoy was unvelied on May 23rd, 1909 at Znamienskaya Square (Vosstnaniya Square since 1918). The location was chosen because it was near the Nikolayevsky Train Station (Moskovsky since 1924) as the Emperor is considered the founder of the Trans-Siberian Railway. 

In 1937 it was removed from Ploshchad Vosstaniya and placed in an interior court yard of the Russian State Museum where it was ostensibly separated from the city. According to popular folklore of the day, the monument became "the prisoner of the Russian museum."

In 1994, the statue was moved to the courtyard of the Marble Palace where it remains to this day.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 04 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:42 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 4 June 2013 6:05 PM EDT
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The State Hermitage Museum Celebrates Its 250th Anniversay In 2014
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

The Hermitage Board of Trustees met recently to discuss preparations for the 250 the anniversary of the Museum’s foundation, which will take place in 2014. This will be a big event in Russia. By the Museum’s anniversary the renovation of the East wing of the General Staff Building – a magnificent building of c.1830, facing the Winter Place across Palace Square - will be finished and a new museum of art of the 19th-21st century will be opened in its interior (5 courtyards and 800 rooms). The Hermitage will become the largest museum in the world.

The Restoration and Storage Center at "Staraya Derevnya", unique in Russia for its advanced technology, is already working and a second phase was completed in 2012. By 2014 there will be new space for temporary exhibits in the Small Hermitage and new restoration laboratories at no. 30 Palace Embankment. By the 250th anniversary the interior of the church in The Winter Palace will be restored and all the museum’s permanent displays will have been renovated. Electronic catalogues of the museum’s collection and a new website will be under way.

This will be realised with substantial support from the Federal Government and a new Hermitage Endowment. The trustees debated how this should be achieved. Russia introduced a tax rebate for personal donations to charitable endowments in January 2012 and the State Hermitage Museum has been the first to pick up on this in the arts sector. The rebate is likely to make a significant difference to fundraising for the museum in 2013-14. The Hermitage Endowment is the largest cultural endowment in Russia, thanks to a donation from the Chairman, Vladimir Potanin.

© State Hermitage Museum and Royal Russia. 04 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:39 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 4 June 2013 7:56 AM EDT
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The Rooms of Karl Faberge at the State Hermitage Museum
Topic: Faberge

Faberge Coronation Regalia miniatures  

The Rooms of Karl Faberge is a new Hermitage Museum exhibit which will open in the General Staff Building next year. The new permanent exhibit is intended to represent the heritage of the firm founded by Karl Faberge, demonstrate the development of the art of jewellery, and the achievements of contemporary jewellers and lapidaries.

Most of this exhibition space is intended to display examples of Russian jewellery from the second half of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. The works of Karl Faberge's predecessors, the best products of the House of Faberge and its cotemporaries from the Hermitage collection will be displayed in specially equipped cases. These new museum facilities will provide a place for temporary exhibits of jewellery and lapidary pieces from contemporary Russian and foreign artists. The Rooms of Karl Faberge project is intended to include holding classes, conferences, seminars, and round tables dedicated to jewellery and lapidary arts.

The General Staff Building is situated on Palace Square, directly opposite the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The Rooms of Karl Faberge are expected to open in 2014.

© State Hermitage Museum and Royal Russia. 04 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:32 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 4 June 2013 7:38 AM EDT
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Monday, 3 June 2013
Ropsha: Between Fact and Fiction
Topic: Ropsha



The above poster shows an aerial view of Ropsha Palace as it looks today

A new photo exhibition, Ropsha: Between Fact and Fiction will open on June 4th at Oranienbaum. The exhibit is dedicated to the history of the Ropsha Palace and park complex up to the present day. Ropsha Palace was transferred to the Peterhof State Museum Preserve at the end of 2012.

On display are photographs from the State Central Archive of Film and Photo Documents in St. Petersburg. Visitors will see historic photographs of the palace during its heyday before the Revolution, including images of Tsar Nicholas II and his family during their periodic visits to the palace and park. Also included are images of the palace taken in 1930 when it was converted to a resort for the "Party faithful". These are followed by images taken during World War II when the palace and park were converted to a hospital, barracks and stables by the Nazis. The final part of the exhibit offers contemporary photographs of the palace in its current abandoned state.

The final touch to the exhibition will be a short video by Paul Ovsyanko and Konstantin Gusev, which includes a birds-eye view of the palace and the planned future reconstruction of the palace and park ensemble.

The exhibition will run from June 4th-30th at Oranienbaum.

For more information on Ropsha Palace, please refer to the following Royal Russia links;

(1) Ropsha Palace: New Life for an Imperial Residence

(2) Ropsha Palace to be Transferred to Peterhof

(3) Ropsha Palace in Urgent Need of Repair + VIDEO

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 03 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:56 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 12 January 2015 6:56 AM EST
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New Monument to Tsesarevich Alexei Unveiled in St. Petersburg
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 5 minutes, 26 seconds
Topic: Tsesarevich Alexei

A bronze monument to the Tsesarevich Alexei Nicholayevich was unveiled on May 26th, at the Cossack Church of the Exaltation of the Cross in St. Petersburg. The Cossacks revere the young Tsesarevich Alexei who served as Cossack Ataman. 

The tradition of members of the tsar’s family being as it were ‘adopted’ by heads of guard divisions had a long history in tsarist Russia. For an heir to the throne to be made commander of a regiment was an exceptional honour. Only a few days after the birth of the tsarevich, the hetman or commander of the Astrakhan regiment of the Cossacks received a telegram from the tsar: ‘It is with great joy that I instruct you to inform the Cossacks of the Astrakhan unit that the Heir to the Throne Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich is appointed hetman of all the Cossack regiments. Nicholas .’

When the heir to the throne was a little older, the decision was made to start introducing him to the regiments that he was to command. In this context it is worth quoting the reminiscences of General Krasnov, who was there when the tsarevich was presented to the Astrakhan regiment. ‘His Highness took his successor by the hand and went slowly with him past the front line of the Cossacks […] And when His Highness walked on […], the Cossacks wept and waved their swords in their rough calloused hands.’

The new monument of the Tsesarevich stands next to one of his father, Tsar Nicholas II which was unveiled on May 19, 2002. It is the third monument dedicated to the Tsesarevich Alexei Nicholayevich (1904-1918) in post-Soviet Russia.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 03 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:36 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 8 June 2014 10:00 AM EDT
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Sunday, 2 June 2013
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 14
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches

Earlier this week the Naval Cathedral of Saint Nicholas at Kronstadt marked its 100th anniversary, therefore it seems only fitting that this beautiful and historic cathedral should be this weeks selection.

The cathedral was built in 1903-1913 as the main church of the Baltic Fleet of the Russian Imperial Navy and dedicated to all fallen seamen. On October 27, 1901 the 14,000 strong garrison of Kronstadt was summoned for the groundbreaking on Anchor Square. Earthwork and work on concrete foundations and a granite base continued through 1902; the walls were laid down in a massive ceremony May 8, 1903 with the Emperor Nicholas II in attendance.

Despite social unrest that culminated in the Russian revolution of 1905, the cathedral was structurally complete in 1907; heating and ventilation were made operational in 1908, enabling year-round work on the finishes. In 1907 , the architect brothers Vasily and Georgy Kosyakov switched to producing detailed drawings and instructions to craftsmen and suppliers of interior finishes. On August 19, 1908 they presented the revised album of these drawings to Emperor Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra who responded with numerous amendments and changes that were implemented by spring of 1909.

In the summer of 1909 the external finishes were completed, and the scaffolds removed. The building was clad in black granite (base and columns) and yellow brick (walls) with terra cotta inserts. Inside, the iconostasis was made of marble from the Urals. The four portals were decorated with mosaic images of Theotokos, Saint Nicholas, Peter, Paul, John of Rila and Mitrofan of Voronezh by Foma Raylian. Most of interior paintings were executed by the school of Mikhail Vasilyev; icons were painted by Alexey Troitsky. The adjacent park was designed by E. G. Gilbikh.

The cathedral was equipped with an independent central heating and a central vacuum cleaning system employing a complex network of pressurized manifolds and valves. Electrical lighting employed 5 thousand light bulbs.

The cathedral was consecrated in a public ceremony attended by Emperor Nicholas II and his family June 10, 1913. The total cost reached an unprecedented amount of 1,955,000 roubles, not including donations in kind and unpaid labor by the seamen and civilians.

The cathedral operated as such for only 16 years. On October 14, 1929 it was closed by the Soviets; the valuables were nationalized to the state treasury. A small portion of these relics were displayed at the Navy Museum and the State Russian Museum in Leningrad.

In 1930—1931 the cathedral was desecrated: its crosses and bells were toppled over and hauled to the foundries. One bell, weighing 4,726 kilograms (second largest) remained in place — either due to technical difficulties or deliberately, as an emergency alarm signal. Internal marble items, including the iconostasis and the memorial boards with names of the fallen seamen, were ripped out, broken or cut and reused for ordinary construction needs. A small number of memorial boards ended up in the Navy Museum and were "written off" in 1970.

In 1932 the cathedral hall was converted to a cinema, frivolously named New Star but later renamed Maxim Gorky; in 1939 the cinema was upgraded to a House of the Officers (akin to a community center) of the Kronstadt garrison. During World War II the cathedral was closed; the dome received three direct artillery hits. Post-war "reconstruction" of 1953—54 converted the cathedral to a functioning concert hall. This time, the builders added a suspended ceiling that isolated the hall from the dome; it remained in place up to the end of 2007. A reduction of military personnel in the 1960s made the concert hall redundant; in 1980 the cathedral reopened as a branch of the Central Naval Museum.

The Church attempted to repossess the cathedral in the 1990s. After the building was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church the first cross to be reinstalled on the main dome was made in 1996 but was not erected due to financial problems. The second attempt, in 2002, employed a heavy helicopter and nearly ended in a disaster: a seven-meter cross fell from the dome and was damaged beyond repair; there were no human injuries. The third cross was successfully erected November 24, 2002. Three years later, November 2, 2005, the Church served the first Divine Liturgy in the Naval Cathedral since 1929. From 2008 the cathedral was operational, but was opened only on special occasions. In 2009, at Patriarch Kirill's initiative a board of trustees was established to restore the cathedral. In the ensuing years, the building underwent extensive repairs and improvements after decades of neglect.

On May 28th, 2013 His Holiness Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and All Russia performed the rite of consecration of the Naval Cathedral of Saint Nicholas. A divine luturgy was attended by Patriarch Theophilios III of Jerusalem and Svetlana Medvedev, wife of the Russian Prime Minister, as well as delegations from the North, Baltic, Black Sea and Pacific fleets of the Russian navy.

Up until 1996 Kronstadt was closed to foreigners due to the fact that it was the base for the Soviet Baltic Fleet. I had the opportunity to visit the Naval Cathedral at Kronstadt in the late 1990s. Dominating the main square of the city, I was struck by its size, and on a clear day the cathedral is visible from Peterhof and St. Petersburg. Upon entering the cathedral I was disheartened to see this once glorious building reduced to a museum filled with showcases and mementoes of the Soviet navy. It is interesting to note that no memory of the Russian Imperial Navy was to be found in the museum. After years of restoration it seems only fitting that the cathedral is being given a new lease on life and a reminder of the brave men of the Russian Imperial Navy who sacrificed their lives for their country and their tsar.

Source: The Naval Cathedral of Saint Nicholas at Kronstadt. Official Site of the St. Petersburg Diocese [in Russian].

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 02 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:52 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 2 June 2013 10:15 AM EDT
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Saturday, 1 June 2013
God Save the Tsar - Kuban Cossack Choir
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 1 minute, 25 seconds
Topic: Cossacks

I have always held a great interest and respect for the Cossacks and their contribution to the history of Imperial Russia. Their  sense of being a separate and elite community gave them a strong sense of loyalty to the Tsarist government.

Before the Revolution, the Kuban Cossacks were entrusted as the private guard of Tsar Nicholas II.

I am pleased to offer this haunting rendition of God Save the Tsar performed by the Kuban Cossack Choir during a concert marking their 195th anniversary in 2006.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russian. 01 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:18 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 1 June 2013 5:42 PM EDT
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Friday, 31 May 2013
Faberge Museum Announces Major New Acquisitions Plan
Topic: Faberge


The Faberge Museum is the world’s only museum dedicated to Faberge. Alexander Ivanov (pictured above) opened the museum in May 2009 in the German spa city of Baden Baden.

In the first five months of 2013, the Faberge Museum added close to 50 items to its collection. These included a magnificent Faberge snuffbox with the monogram of Emperor Nicholas II that was purchased at A La Vieille Russie vintage jewelry and Faberge shop on Fifth Avenue in New York.

The museum has an ambitious acquisitions plan, aiming to buy as many as 300 Faberge items this year, said Alexander Ivanov, the museum’s owner. This is in part motivated to compensate for recent losses to the museum’s collection due to a divorce settlement between Mr Ivanov and his former wife.

"In addition to about 600 Faberge items, as part as our settlement my ex-wife received a large number of paintings, icons, jewelry, and old photos from Russian and European imperial houses," said Mr Ivanov.

Among the Faberge items that left the collection are: the ice carrier; the famous Romanov griffin clock; a green-enameled snuff box with portrait of Nicholas II; pelican and kiwi hardstone figures; the Ksheshschinsky jeweled tree; a ring belonging to the Russian Emperor, and a service table.

"Despite these losses, the Faberge Museum continues to be the largest and finest Faberge collection in the world," said Mr Ivanov. "Every great collection has its ups and downs, and we will continue to grow the collection in quality and quantity. In addition to Faberge, I actively grow my new collection of ancient gold jewelry."

© Faberge Art Museum. 31 May, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:43 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 31 May 2013 7:47 AM EDT
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Thursday, 30 May 2013
Porcelain of the Romanovs
Topic: Exhibitions

The Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts will host an exhibition showcasing unique pieces of porcelain from the Romanovs. The collection is on loan from the State Museum of Ceramics at the Koskovo Museum near Moscow, and is dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty.

The exhibition will feature more than a dozen services, which before the Revolution were housed in the store rooms of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. They showcase the works of both Russian and European masters, reflecting the evolution of artistic styles and variations of Court etiquette over the last 200 years of the Romanov dynasty.

Visitors will see examples of Russian rococo, neo-classical examples by Sevres and the Imperial Porcelain Factory. Also on display are copies of the Coronation albums of Emperor Alexander II (1856) and Emperor Nicholas II (1896).

The exhibition runs from May 31st to August 4th, 2013 at the Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Arts at Ulitsa Voevodina, 5.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 30 May, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:07 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 30 May 2013 10:25 AM EDT
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A Rare Book with an Imperial Provenance
Topic: Books

In November 2012 a rare First edition of Les Dernières années de la cour de Tzarskoïé-Sélo. Volume 1: 1906-1910 [Translated from the Russian by Jeanson. Paris: Payot, 1928.] by Aleksandr Ivanovich Spiridovich (1873-1952) sold at Christie's in London for $4,800 USD.

The book was a presentation copy inscribed by the author to the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928) -- probably the last book she read before her death on 13 October, 1928. Spiridovich's inscription is dated 04 July 1928; Maria's daughter, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960), sister of Tsar Nicholas II, returned the book to Spiridovich in November of the same year with the inscription, in Russian: 'I return to you your book, with the page marked where Mother stopped before she could reach the end'. The page marked is page 119, and describes Rasputin embarking on his pilgrimage to Mount Athos.

In 1906, General Spiridovich had been charged with Nicholas II's personal safety, a post which he helf for 10 years. In 1915, he was awarded the rank of Major General. In 1915, he was awarded the rank of Major General. In August 1916 Spiridovich was appointed Mayor of Yalta. 

After the February Revolution Spiridovitch, who was visiting St. Petersburg, was arrested under the personal order of Alexander Kerensky. On October 2, he was released by accident, and managed to leave Russia. He and his second wife and children managed to escape from Petersburg and re-settle in Paris in 1920.

During his years in exile Spiridovich wrote several books, including Les Dernières années de la cour de Tzarskoïé-Sélo in two volumes which provide an intimate, first-hand account of life at Tsarskoe Selo up to 1914.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 30 May, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:07 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 30 May 2013 9:57 AM EDT
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