Brave Angel: Selected Letters of the Holy Martyr Empress Alexandra Feodorovna Topic: Books
A new book, Brave Angel: Selected Letters has been published in Russia. It contains selected letters, diary excerpts and reflections of the Holy Martyr Empress Alexandra Feodorovna during the early years of World War One, 1914-1915. The book consists of 160 pages and is only available in the Russian language (there is NO English edition available).
Please note that this book is not available from our online bookshop, I wanted to share this unusual (though beautiful) cover with readers.
New Coins Dedicated to Emperor Alexander III Topic: Collectibles
The Russian bank Sberbank has received a set of three silver coins dedicated to Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894), minted in Fiji.
The first coin (left) features a portrait of Alexander III. The second coin (center) features the ceremony of the coronation of Emperor Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna at Moscow on 27th May, 1883. The third coin (right) features a portrait of Emperor Alexander III with his family (Empress Maria Feodorovna, Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (future Emperor Nicholas II), Grand Dukes George and Michael Alexandrovich, and Grand Duchess Xenia and Olga Alexandrovna).
Each portrait is in colour and supplemented with a symbol of power: orb, crown and scepter respectively. Sberbank of Russia are offering the sets for 12,600 rubles ($385 USD).
Christ the Saviour Cathedral Marks 130 Years: A Video History Now Playing: Language: English. Duration: 2 minutes, 31 seconds Topic: Russian Church
The original Christ the Saviour Cathedral was consecrated 130 years ago, on June 8, 1883. Since then, it has been blown to bits, replaced by a swimming pool, rebuilt and, most recently, at the epicentre of the controversial performance by activist punk rockers Pussy Riot. Here is that story told through archival footage.
Russian-Dutch Historical Exhibition Opens in Moscow Topic: Exhibitions
The exhibition “Russia and The Netherlands: Interaction Space”, opened at the State Historical Museum, brings visitors into an 18th-century atmosphere: old naval maps, models of ships and Russian and Dutch flags in the same red-white-and-blue colors.
The Russia-Netherlands exhibition at the State Historical Museum plunges its visitors into an 18th-century atmosphere: old music, models of ships and men-of-war, and Russian and Dutch banners in the same red-white-and-blue colors.
The Russia-Netherlands ship enshrines all the relics of 300 years of close ties, which were only severed once before the 20th century – on account of Napoleon.
Peter the Great was a new-age ruler for Russia. His first visit as czar, which was dubbed the “Grand Embassy,” was paid to The Netherlands in 1697 – the first one in so many respects.
He admired the country so much that Russia actually remained guided and inspired by its example for decades afterward.
The main mission of the Grand Embassy was to get to the bottom of the shipbuilding secrets and experience of the Dutch seafaring nation.
Peter was the first to become a student of the Dutch masters and built the first ships himself. The czar's first handmade piece – the little boat Fortuna – is still on display in a museum in the ancient town of Pereslavl-Zalessky.
The exhibition's first hall features souvenirs from the Grand Embassy: Peter's waistcoat made of Dutch fabric, his portrait by Dutch painter Godfried Schalken, parts of the ships that were in his first fleet and pictures capturing the triumphant arrival.
Inspired by what he had seen on his journey, the czar was almost obsessed with the Dutch ways. Peter decreed that all young men not yet enrolled in any service were to go to Holland to learn the German and Dutch languages and, in particular, to study shipbuilding.
Simultaneously, the Dutch, who enjoyed the czar’s special favor, flocked to Russia and were showered with privileges. They helped chart the first naval maps (the exhibition actually features one such map of the Sea of Azov). It also prominently features the first reference to Peter as “emperor.”
Another symbolic exhibit on display is a map of ancient Amsterdam – the city in whose image and likeness the new Russian capital of St. Petersburg was built.
One whole stand at the exhibition illustrates the life of Nicholas Bidloo – a Dutch doctor and anatomist who moved to Moscow. He made history in Russian medicine by bringing it to a whole new level and founding the first hospital in Moscow.
The hospital, which has a medical school attached to it, is now named after Burdenko and is one of the city's best medical institutions.
Thus, The Netherlands actually had an influence over a vast range of areas of life and science – from urban planning and shipbuilding, to cartography and medicine, even to the fine arts and, finally, everyday life.
An etching made by the emperor under the supervision of the Dutch master Adrian Schonebeck might surprise the less-prepared. It features a subject popular at the time: the triumph of Christianity over Islam.
Even the trade in folk art felt the Dutch impact. Gzhel ceramics and majolica – two crafts thought to be original Russian folk arts – are actually a fraud, as is confirmed by painted vases and plates featured at the exhibition.
In addition to everything else, Dutch ovens patterned with Dutch ceramic tiles were a symbol of luxury in Russian manors. The ceramics were later painted in a Russian style, with typical story lines and patterns.
The love of anything Dutch is manifest in one of Russia's most refined country estates – Kuskovo, the Moscow estate of Count Sheremetev. The Dutch House that is part of the ensemble prominently features all the typical elements of the Dutch tradition.
Peter the Great granted unprecedented privileges to the Dutch merchant Jan Tesing to import books to Russia. The exhibition also boasts a book (“Aesop's Fables”) printed at Tesing's printing shop.
In addition, there is a hall dedicated to what Russia looked like in the eyes of the Dutch travelers. Their stories were the only source of information about a country deemed remote and barbaric by the rest of Europe.
Travelers used to bring shaman's costumes and various other artifacts from Siberia, for example.
Two engraved books from the time are even available in digital format: “A Journey across Moscovia to Persia and India” by Cornelis de Bruijn, and “Three unforgettable journeys through Italy, Greece, Livonia, Moscovia and other countries” by Jan Jansen Struys.
The latter is more important, owing to its influence even on contemporary ethnographers and historians.
Many Dutchmen who came to Russia back then remained in the country and were granted citizenship. For instance, Franz Devollant built 12 ports and cities across Russia and founded Odessa on the orders of Catherine II.
In 1813, Russians helped the Dutch win their independence from Napoleon, and the two nations later reaffirmed their union with the marriage of the Prince of Orange and Anna Pavlovna (sister of the two Russian emperors Alexander I and Nikolai I).
The exhibition at the Historical Museum has already brought together over 4,000 exhibits from 14 Russian museums and 13 Dutch collections, including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Maritime Museum of Rotterdam, the Central Museum of Utrecht and others.
“The exposition's main idea is to reveal the deep historical relations between the countries and tell the public about the times when Holland used to be Russia's major trading partner and investor,” supervisor of the exhibition, Vladimir Bulatov, told the Culture TV channel.
The World's Most Beautiful Eggs: The Genius Of Carl Faberge Now Playing: Language: English. Duration: 57 minutes, 56 seconds Topic: Faberge
Note: the user who originally posted this Faberge documentary on YouTube has now removed it. However, it can now be viewed at the following link: The World's Most Beautiful Eggs: The Genius Of Carl Faberge. Note: Click on the button that says 'Continue as Free User' to view the documentary. Special thanks to Bob Curry for bringing this new link to my attention.
Stephen Smith explores the extraordinary life and work of the virtuoso jeweller Carl Faberge. He talks to HRH Prince Michael of Kent about Faberge items in the Royal Collection and to Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who spent 100 million dollars acquiring nine exquisite Faberge eggs. The bejewelled trinkets Faberge made for the last tsars of Russia in the twilight of their rule have become some of the most sought-after treasures in the world, sometimes worth millions. Smith follows in Faberge's footsteps, from the legendary Green Vaults in Dresden to the palaces of the tsars and the corridors of the Kremlin museum, as he discovers how this fin de siècle genius transformed his father's modest business into the world's most famous supplier of luxury items.
Russia's First Museum of Fans Opens in St. Petersburg Topic: St. Petersburg
A new private museum devoted to the history of fans has opened in Kamennostrovsky Avenue in St. Petersburg.
This museum of fans becomes the first its kind in Russia and the third in the world. Presently there are only two other fan museums: one in London and the another one in Paris.
The collection of the new museum is based on 250 fans, which is one of the largest fan collections known in Russia. The oldest exhibits of the collection are dated to the late 17th century. Visitors will see exclusive fans created by first-class fan firms, as well as memorial samples that once belonged to famous historical persons; one of them is a flabella of the metropolitan Job of the Novgorod and Velikiye Luki.
200 Years of Decorative Arts Under the Romanovs on Display at the Bowers Museum Topic: Exhibitions
The Bowers Museum (Santa Ana, CA) hosts The Tsars’ Cabinet, which highlights two hundred years of decorative arts under the Romanovs, from the time of Peter the Great in the early eighteenth century to that of Nicholas II in the early twentieth century. Many of the more than 230 objects in the exhibition were designed for public or private use of the tsars or other Romanovs. Others illustrate the styles that were prominent during their reigns.
The Tsars’ Cabinet is on view at the Bowers Museum from June 8 until September 1, 2013. Tsars’ Cabinet was developed by the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary, and tour organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.
Porcelain, glass, enamel, silver gilt and other alluring materials make this extensive exhibition dazzle. The items demonstrate the evolution of style from the European Classicism of the court of Catherine the Great, to the rich oriental motifs of mid-nineteenth century Russian Historicism of the Kremlin and Grand Duke Constantine Nicholaevich services and the enamel work of Fedor Ruckert and the firm of Ovchinnikov. The exhibition includes many pieces from significant porcelain services made by the Imperial Porcelain Factory, from the reign of Empress Elizabeth and Catherine the Great to Nicholas and Alexandra. Visitors will see items featured at state banquets at the Kremlin and other Imperial Palaces, as well as items designed for the tsars’ private use aboard the Imperial yachts. Among the rare items are two pieces from a service Catherine the Great ordered for her grandson, Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich, as well as pieces from services presented by Augustus III of Saxony and Frederick the Great to the eighteenth century Russian tsarinas.
The Tsars’ Cabinet also features two hundred years of glassware, from a beaker from the time of Peter the Great to a vase made by the Imperial Glass Factory that the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna kept on her desk in Denmark after the Russian Revolution. Russian enamels from the late nineteenth century include a major jewel casket made by the Ovchinnikov firm and presented to Tsar Alexander III’s Minister of the Interior, as well as the work of Fedor Ruckert and the work masters of the Faberge firm. The objects exhibited provide a rare, intimate glimpse into the everyday lives of the tsars. The collection brings together a political and social timeline tied to an understanding of Russian culture.
In viewing The Tsars’ Cabinet, one is transported to a majestic era of progressive politics and dynamic social change, as we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Romanov reign.
Conservationists Fear For St. Petersburg's UNESCO Heritage Sites Topic: St. Petersburg
Photo: The Chinese Palace at Oranienbaum, a private residence of Catherine the Great, is one of several historically important sites near St. Petersburg which conservationists fear could potentially be effected by an unbridled construction boom.
If Russian authorities have their way, the unbridled construction boom that conservationists say has spoiled many of the country's landmarks could soon reach the historic suburbs of St. Petersburg.
While Moscow's urban growth is rapidly engulfing its satellite towns, the elegant tsarist estates that dot the former imperial capital's outskirts have remained largely untouched.
But this may not last.
Russia has submitted a document to UNESCO that significantly scales back the area of St. Petersburg that is currently protected as a World Heritage Site.
Under the proposal, large swathes of the city's historic suburbs, including a string of leafy parks, would lose the UN agency's protection.
"This would benefit developers and officials who want to build in the historical center of Peterhof, Pushkin, Pavlovsk, Oranienbaum, and other suburbs," Alexander Margolis, the head of the Russian Society for the Protection of Monuments of History and Culture in St. Petersburg, told RFE/RL. "For these people, the area's status as World Heritage Sites is a major obstacle that they would very much like to see revoked."
St. Petersburg lawmaker Aleksei Kovalyov was the first to sound the alarm after discovering the amended list of protected sites on UNESCO's website, in the section devoted to the organization's annual session currently being held in Cambodia.
He swiftly called a meeting with local officials and architectural conservationists.
An official from St. Petersburg's Committee on State Control, Use, and Protection of Historical and Cultural Landmarks sought to reassure the gathering, insisting the document would not be debated at this year's UNESCO session.
But his words did little to ease concerns.
Kovalyov maintains that the proposal is part of an aggressive campaign to seize prized land in some of the city's most prestigious outlying areas.
"It's not difficult to guess who is behind this: people who want to build in the suburbs," he says. "Over the past year alone, 2.5 million square meters have been built over in the outskirts of St. Petersburg and another 2 million square meters in adjoining territories of the [surrounding] Leningrad Oblast. These areas are listed as World Heritage Sites."
Devil In The Details
A UNESCO expert contacted by RFE/RL, however, dismissed the accusations as "a misunderstanding."
Alessandro Balsamo is a member of the UNESCO working group tasked with clarifying the boundaries of St. Petersburg and its historic suburbs as a World Heritage Site.
The group was created two years ago after the agency ruled that the site's demarcation, based on St. Petersburg's 1990 bid, was too vague.
Balsamo denies that attempts are under way to slash the list of protected areas.
"It's not at all a de-listing," he says. "On the contrary, positive steps are being made toward the conservation of all these sites. There is a clarification process because the site is very complex. There are many related component parts. There is no de-listing."
But conservationists say the devil is in the details.
Technically, the number of sub-sites in the World Heritage Site described as "Historic Center of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments" remains unchanged in the new document.
The specific areas listed as part of these sub-sites, however, have shrunk by about two-thirds compared to the version approved by UNESCO in 1990.
For the suburb of Pushkin, for instance, the new document mentions only the imperial palace and its gardens, along with one park -- dropping Pushkin's entire old town center and four parks that featured on the original application.
The changes also affect areas closer to St. Petersburg proper.
Among other modifications, what was once listed as "Neva River and its embankments" has now been abridged to "Neva River," evoking images of elite residential buildings lining the riverbanks.
Fearing The Worst
Preservationist Yulia Minutina says developers are already lobbying for several construction projects in UNESCO-listed areas, including a vast residential complex called "Yuzhny," which would encroach on some of Pushkin's protected parks.
There is even speculation that some high-ranking officials could also be eyeing these prized territories for their personal use.
A number of Moscow-based officials, including Gazprom head Aleksei Miller and Russian railways chief Vladimir Yakunin, are rumored to have built extravagant country residences just outside the capital following shady land grabs.
In that respect, St. Petersburg officials lag far behind.
The secrecy surrounding the new document has further fueled suspicions.
"The fact that this was not publicly discussed, including with the experts who prepared St. Petersburg's application for UNESCO, is worrying," says Minutina. "Excluding these important territories from the list automatically makes them more vulnerable."
So far, conservationists have been unable to identify the proposal's authors.
The Foreign Ministry, which oversees cooperation with UNESCO, denies being involved. The Culture Ministry also says it had no hand in it. Its representatives in St. Petersburg snubbed the meeting called by Kovalyov.
And although a top official from the city's committee in charge of landmark protection attended the discussion, a spokesman told RFE/RL that the committee chairman "knows nothing about this."
St. Petersburg's governor himself has reportedly professed no knowledge of the document.
"Perhaps authorities are moved by other motives," says Minutina. "But their failure to inform the public about it makes us fear the worst."
Russian Church in America Marks 400th Anniversary of Romanov Dynasty Topic: 400th Anniversary
On June 18th, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) marked the 400th anniversary since the accession of the Romanov dynasty to the Russian throne. The main events of the celebration were held in the Cathedral of the Icon of Our Lady of the Sign in New York City including a remembrance vespers service for the late czars and emperors of Russia.
The solemn service was conducted by ROCOR’s Supreme Hierarch, Metropolitan Hillarion, and the Administrator of the Moscow Patriarchate’s parishes in the U.S., Archbishop Justin of Naro-Fominsk. The congregation included activists of the organizations of Russian fellow-countrymen, representatives of the U.S. public quarters, the successors of Russian noble families who emigrated to the U.S. after the Bolshevik revolution of November 1917, and diplomats of the Russian Federation.
After the service, a gala party organized by ROCOR and Russia’s Consulate General in New York was held in the cathedral. An exhibition featuring Russia during the Romanovs’ rule /from 1613 through to 1917/ that was organized by the Federal Service for Relations with Compatriots Abroad /Rossotrudnichestvo/ was opened in its halls.
It is really impossible to overestimate the role that the Romanov dynasty played in the fostering and disseminating of the Eastern Orthodox Christianity that made up the backbone of Russian statehood, Metropolitan Hillarion told ITAR-TASS in an exclusive interview.
One feels particularly glad today upon seeing the rebirth of olden Orthodox tradition in today’s Russia and the way that the rank-and-file citizens and the country’s leadership hold the history of their great homeland in esteem, he said, adding that a testimony to this is found in the all-Russia span of celebrations devoted to the 400th anniversary of the Romanovs dynasty.
Record-Smashing Artist Celebrates Romanovs Topic: 400th Anniversary
Shpanin staning in front of one of his paintings in which two conflicting historic scenes are connected by shape
Stass Shpanin's paintings can be found in the private collections of major world leaders, including the President of Azerbaijan and former U.S. President George W. Bush. His works have been exhibited worldwide on numerous occasions.
This Wednesday, he will give a talk at the Moscow International Festival of Art in honor of the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, at which he will present "The Royal Family Through the Eyes of an American Artist."
This year, more than 300 artists from over 20 countries, including the former Soviet Union, Europe, India, China, and North America, will participate.
Shpanin will be discussing the paradoxes of pre-revolutionary Russia at the tail end of the Romanovs' reign and presenting a painting based on their final days.
The Romanov treasure trove of diamonds and jewels that helped to formally identify the last ruling family of the dynasty after their murder in Yekaterinburg in 1918 inspired Shpanin to produce a new painting entitled 'Diamond' for the occasion.
"Looking at the history of the 19th and 20th centuries is particularly interesting now. Only 20 years ago, it was kept under lock and key," he stated, acknowledging the severity with which Imperial Russia was treated under Soviet rule.
The notoriety of his recent works and passage of his early artistic development is all quite striking when you realize that Stass Shpanin is only 23 years old.
Born in Baku to a family of Russian and Azerbaijani descent, Shpanin began training as an artist at the tender age of four. At seven he had his first solo show, and at 12, the Guinness Book of World Records named him the Youngest Professional Artist in the World.
The following year his family moved to the United States, where Shpanin continued to paint and exhibit widely.
The intensity of attention he garnered at such a young age could have been a recipe for hubris, but the unassuming young artist seems in no danger of resting on his childhood laurels. "It's the history," he said, "it's past, you have to do something present."
While not belabored by his own personal history, Shpanin remains deeply preoccupied with the nature of historical memory, which will receive a heavy focus in his presentation.
History as experienced in Shpanin's works is a delicate, mutable, and highly personal process. "I definitely believe that history is being written right now by people living today, even the history of the past," he said.
In one of his earlier series, history is staged as layers of apparently unrelated images united solely by geometric elements in the composition. "We want to see history as one image, and I'm showing that it's not one image … This is the battle, the historical battle, that happens on canvas," Shpanin said.
As a student at Hartford Art School he began mining the rich visuals of 19th and early 20th century Russian history in his work.
Last year, he was awarded a Fulbright grant, which brought him to Moscow to develop his projects under the tutelage of esteemed artist and Vice-President of the Russian Academy of Arts, Tahir Salahov.
While they are meant to provoke and intrigue, Shpanin insists that his paintings are not intended to be beautiful. "Painting ideas and painting some images that might be uncomfortable for a viewer is more important than pleasing the audience," he said.
Although the fall of representational painting and rise of conceptual art have left many traditional painters dissatisfied with the modern art world, Shpanin is happy to embrace it as is.
"I definitely believe in conceptual art and I definitely believe in postmodernism," he said, describing upcoming plans for forays into video and installation art.
These typically American attitudes stand in strong contrast to the approach Shpanin has witnessed in Russian arts education. "(In Russia), in many cases, art is about process, art is about painting nice images," he said. This disconnection between Russia and the international art scene is among the factors that can prevent Russian artists from attaining a major international presence.
Despite some shining counter-examples, such as Ilya Kabakov or Alexander Kosolapov, according to Shpanin there is "a small percent, unfortunately, of artists who are very knowledgeable of what's going on in the art world outside of Russia."
Among the institutions working to bridge this divide is the major festival hosting Shpanin's presentation, the colossal Moscow International Festival of Art, which runs from Wednesday to Sunday this week.
The massive exhibition involves competitions spanning eight different media formats and the display of projects in a number of Moscow galleries, including among its aspirations "the development of cultural dialogue between countries and the strengthening of friendship between nations," according to organizers.
Ideally, relationships formed during the festival will give rise to further collaborations, strengthening cross-cultural dialogue and the presence of Russian artists abroad.
"Russian art is presented in great quantities in other countries just after this type of festival, because all the participants meet each other, new cultural relationships are established, and new projects are planned in various galleries and museums and then brought to fruition," said organizers.
Stass Shpanin's presentation, "The 400-Year Anniversary of the House of the Romanovs: Imperial Russia Through the Eyes of an American Artist," (in Russian with simultaneous translation) will take place on June 27 at 6 p.m. at the Central House of Artists , 10 Krymsky Vall, Metro Oktyabrskaya.