In 2009, the Committee for State Control, Use and Protection of Monuments of History and Culture (KGIOP) in St. Petersburg held an auction, which resulted in the former Tsar’s Pavilion of the abandoned Imperial train station at Tsarskoye Selo being transferred in a long-term (49 years) lease to the Russian firm, LLC Samsara. Under the terms of KGIOP, the tenant agreed to conduct a technical examination of the building and begin restoration within 3 years. The restoration was to be completed by 2010 to coincide with the 300th anniversary of Tsarskoye Selo.
Four years later, the Samsara company has failed to comply with the terms of the lease. In a attempt to force the tenant to begin the restoration of the building, KGIOP filed a claim in court earlier this year. Samsara was charged with failure to fulfill contractual obligations, and fined 100 thousand Rubles. The court also ordered the company to carry out the restoration work which it had originally agreed to in the lease.
However, Samsara not only avoided paying the fine, because at the timing of litigation, but also failed to pay rent on the property. As a result KGIOP was forced to file charges for the second time in court last month with the same requirements.
This has now prompted local historians and preservation groups to act. Activists with the Russian web site Demokrator.ru have now began collecting signatures on a petition to the Governor of St. Petersburg urging the restoration of the Tsar’s Pavilion at Tsarskoye Selo. In addition, the groups want the historic building handed over to the state and adapted as a museum.
The group has proposed that the pavilion be used as a branch of the Railway Museum, or a museum dedicated to the last tsar and his family. They also note that many museums in the city complain about the lack of space for their exhibits, therefore noting the pavilion as a wonderful option for them.
The history of the Tsar’s Pavilion at Tsarskoye Selo began in 1895, when a wooden building was constructed for use as the Imperial Train Station. The station was part of a private line of the Tsarskoye Selo Railway which carried the Imperial train between Tsarskoye Selo and St. Petersburg. The train was considered a much faster means of transport to and from the capital while the tsar was in residence at the Alexander Palace.
In 1912, the wooden building was destroyed by fire, and in its place by the architect Vladimir Pokrovsky, with the participation of Mikhail Kurilko built a new pavilion in the Neo-Russian style. After the Revolution, the imperial rail line was demolished, the Soviets renamed the pavilion but the station began to gradually deteriorate.
During the Second World War, the building was badly damaged in the line of the German defences, the Imperial Hall suffering extensive damage. Attempts to restore the historic monument since the war have created meagre results. The Tsar’s Pavilion is an historical monument of federal importance and part of the nearby historic Fedorovsky Gorodok which is currently under restoration.
I have personally made several visits to the Tsar’s Pavilion over the years, and as recently as June of this year. Each visit brings greater despair and fading hope of its survival. The pavilion is surrounded by a poorly manufactured fence, one that has been broken into time and time again. Decades of neglect and the harsh elements have taken their toll on the facades and interiors. During one visit I actually entered the pavilion and was shocked at what I found: mould on the ceilings and walls, graffiti and garbage every where, even dirty old mattresses thrown in a corner, all clear evidence of this former grand pavilion now used by local drug addicts and the homeless. Many of the unique paintings by Mikhail Kurilko in the old Russian style have already been lost, the magnificent stone carvings on the facades have been eroded and broken off.
Some of Mikhail Kurilko's paintings have miraculously survived
We must not lose this unique architectural and artistic monument, one which is an integral part of the artistic ensemble of Tsarskoye Selo. Restoration must be done by professional craftsmen in order to restore and preserve the building’s historic appearance. The building must remain accessible to the public as a museum. Let us hope that the current legal action by KGIOP combined with the action taken by local activists will be loud enough that the Governor of St. Petersburg will step in to save this historic building.
Historians Meet at Tsarskoye Selo to Assess Russia's Role in World War I Topic: World War I
The Third International Academic Conference entitled The First World War, Versailles System and Contemporary World runs October 11-12 at Tsarskoye Selo. It focuses on Russia’s role in the war-time events.
The First International Academic Conference, The First World War, the Versailles System and the Present, was held at the St. Petersburg State University in 2009.
The current conference, organized by Russia’s Ministry of Culture, Russian Military & Historical Society, St. Petersburg State University, Russian Association of WWI Historians, and the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Universal History, gathered over 100 historians from the largest Russian and foreign universities and research centers. The honorary guests and attendees include representatives of Tsarskoye Selo, Hermitage, Central WWII Museum and Russia’s Defense Ministry.
The conference will see a presentation of the first modern Russian WWI museum, Russia in the Great War, which is to open at the Martial Chamber of Tsarskoye Selo on August 1st, 2014.
For the first time in its history the Moscow Kremlin Museums exhibit such a great number of artifacts from the museum’s most valuable and significant collection of state regalia and other precious items related to Russian traditional coronation ceremonies and festivities carried out in the Moscow Kremlin from the 16th to the 19th centuries.
The Coronations and Anointing of Russian Tsars and Emperors at the Moscow Kremlin is composed of almost 400 historical relics of high artistic merit, from pieces of state regalia to rarely seen archival documents, photographs and etchings, the exhibition is intended to reveal the atmosphere of coronations and consecration ceremonies in Russia as well as to explore the evolution of these solemn rituals throughout several centuries.
The exposition incorporates two sections, those of the first one covers the consecrations of Russian tsars in the Moscow Rus in the 16th-17th centuries. The rite of anointing of tsar was regarded as one of the most important state official occasions in Russia. It involved several events and culminated in a highly-developed religious ceremonial in the Assumption Belfry, when the sovereign was crowned and invested with state regalia. This service invested the Tsars with political legitimacy; it was equally perceived as conferring a genuine spiritual benefit that bestowed divine authority upon the new sovereign. The section presents a full complex of the state regalia and ornaments, having been developed by the end of the 16th century and used during consecration ceremonies during the 17th century: the reliquary of the True Cross, the "barmy" (ceremonial collar), the crown or “cap” of Monomakh, the chain, scepter and orb. The exposition also includes other distinctive insignia and clothing worn at coronation, i.e. the throne of Boris Godunov, Cap of Monomakh of the Second set, belonged to Tsar Peter Alexeevich, his “platno” (tight-fitting kaftan) and pectoral cross. The exposed pieces of cutlery and dishware were used for serving a lavishly decorated table during sumptuous feasts, prepared on the occasion of the consecration.
The highlight of the second section, dedicated to eleven coronations of Russian Emperors during the 18th-19th centuries, is the new set of Russian regalia, which replaced the ancient tsars’ insignia after Peter the Great proclaimed himself Emperor of Russia in 1721 and declared the Russian Empire. The barmy was replaced with a new coronation mantle and the Cap of Monomakh - with one modelled on Western European-style crowns. The scepter and orb were still required for the coronation ceremony, which also involved a badge and chain of the highest Russian Order of St. Andrew the First-Called, the Banner of the State, the State seal and the Sword of the State. The exposition also includes coronation uniforms of every Russian Emperor from Peter I to Nicholas II, coronation mantles and huge baldachins (canopies) intended for coronation procession and decoration of the throne seat in the Assumption Belfry. Of special interest are the costumes of a coronation heralds, luxurious warders of Masters of Ceremonies, commemorative medals and badges.
Precious church utensils and vestments of the church hierarchs are also on display. Our visitors will admire processional sanctuary crosses, offered to monarchs at the Assumption cathedral’s door by the Orthodox prelates, the icons, venerated by them when entering the cathedral, items from liturgical set, used for receiving Holy Communion during the Divine Liturgy.
The Tsar’s banquet, held in the Faceted Chamber at the conclusion of the coronation festivities, was furnished with every delicacy which could be procured; the precious ancient silverware was derived from the Armoury Chamber for setting tables. The famous porcelain service set, served at the coronation banquets of Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II is of special note.
The exhibition was preceded by laborious research and restoration works, having been carried out on many of the exposed items, which made the presentation of the relics possible.
The exhibition is accompanied by a two volume catalogue which explores the coronations and consecration ceremonies carried out in the Moscow Kremlin from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Volume I: 16th - 17th centuries, 140 pages and Volume II: 18th - 19th centuries, 372 pages. Text is in Russian with English summary and annotations.
The catalogue is richly illustrated, many of the items are published in detail for the first time. It presents outstanding masterpieces from the Moscow Kremlin funds of the 16th-19th centuries, from pieces of state regalia to rarely seen archival documents, photographs and etchings, as well as informative essays and articles on the history of coronation ceremonies in Russia throughout several centuries and peculiarities of solemn celebrations accompanying the Russian sovereigns' accession to the throne.
The Coronations and Anointing of Russian Tsars and Emperors at the Moscow Kremlin has been organized by: the Moscow Kremlin Museums with the participation of the State Hermitage, State Historical Museum, State Museum and Estate "Pavlovsk", State Archive of the Russian Federation, Russian State Archives of Ancient Documents, Russian State Library, Research Library of the Russian Academy of Arts, Russian State Archive of Documentary Films and Photographs, St. Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music.
The exhibition runs until January 22nd, 2014 in the Assumption Belfry and the Patriarch's Palace of the Moscow Kremlin.
Reflected Glory: the Romanovs, Wurttemberg and Europe Topic: Exhibitions
Five marriages, four generations, one story
At Stuttgart’s Old Castle, an imposing structure steeped in history, a special exhibition entitled Reflected Glory: the Romanovs, Württemberg and Europe tells the story of five legendary women whose marriages formed the basis of the extraordinary history shared by the House of Württemberg and the Russian Romanov dynasty. For the first time, an exhibition sheds light on the impact of these marriages on European politics, on the domestic and social policies of the two countries as well as on their respective courts.
The special relationship between the Romanovs and Württemberg began in 1776, when Württemberg Princess Sophie Dorothee married Russian Tsar Paul I. As Empress Maria Feodorovna, she was as actively involved in Russian charitable institutions as she was present on the stage of European power politics.
The ambitious Friederike Charlotte Marie of Wurttemberg, too, found her fortune in Russia. Under the name Elena Pavlovna, she fostered the cultural advancement of St. Petersburg and, amongst other activities, founded the Russian Red Cross.
Maria Feodorovna’s daughter Catherine and her granddaughter Olga, both remembered as noble-minded queens of Württemberg, took the hearts of the Württemberg population by storm. Even today, many local institutions continue to bear withness to their great social commitment.
The marriage of tempestuous Grand Duchess Vera Konstantinovna, Olga's adopted daughter, to Duke Eugen of Württemberg is a brilliant concluding chapter in the marital relations of the Russian and Württemberg royal families.
Selected art treasures from the Württemberg State Museum and high-profile Russian museums such as the Kremlin or the Pavlovsk and Peterhof imperial palaces reflect pomp, power, splendour and glory, but also homesickness, daily routine, faith and legend.
The exhibition runs from 5 October 2013 – 23 March 2014 at the Landesmuseum Württemberg, Altes Schloss in Stuttgart.
The Final Resting Place of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich Topic: Sergei Alexandrovich GD
The remains of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, Novospassky Monastery in Moscow
On February 17, 1905, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich was assassinated near the Nikolsky Gate of the Moscow Kremlin. Unlike all the other grand dukes who were buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral St. Petersburg, his remains were buried in a crypt of the Chudov Monastery within the precincts of the Moscow Kremlin. On April 2, 1908, a memorial cross designed by Viktor Vasnetsov was erected on the spot where he was murdered. The cross was later destroyed by the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin himself on May 1, 1918.
The Chudov Monastery was demolished in 1930, to make way for the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet which was built on the site. The burial crypt of the Grand Duke was located in a courtyard of that building, which had been used as a parking lot. The crypt remained undisturbed for decades, when in 1986, building workers doing repairs in the Kremlin discovered the blocked up entrance of the burial vault. The coffin was opened and found to contain the Grand Duke’s remains, covered with the military greatcoat of the Kiev regiment, decorations, and an icon. He had left written instructions that he was to be buried in the Preobrazhensky Lifeguard regiment uniform, but as his body was so badly mutilated this proved impossible.
On September 17, 1995, the coffin was officially exhumed. His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II held a Panikhida in the Cathedral of the Archangel of the Moscow Kremlin. The grand duke’s remains were then transferred and reburied in a vault of the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow. In 1999, a replica of the memorial cross destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1918 was erected on the grounds of the monastery. The new monument was created by D. Grishin, and the sculptor Nikolai Orlov and based on the original sketches by Viktor Vasnetsov.
A replica of Vasnetsov's memorial cross now stands on the grounds of the monastery marking the spot of the grand duke's crypt
Russia Celebrates Life of St. Sergius of Radonezh Topic: Russian Church
St. Sergius of Radonezh
October 8 marks the anniversary of the death of the St. Sergius of Radonezh, a spiritual leader and monastic reformer of medieval Russia and one of the Russian Orthodox Church’s most highly venerated saints. Today Patriarch Kirill will preside over a service in honor of the saint at the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius.
According to the saint’s life tale, he was born to a boyar family near Rostov Velikiy, where Varnitsy Monastery now stands. He was originally baptized with the name Bartholomew. His parents Kirill and Maria became impoverished and moved to Radonezh together with their three sons: Stefan, Bartholomew and Peter.
In 1334, after the death of his parents, Bartholomew moved to to Khotkovo near Moscow, joining his widowed older brother Stefan. In 1337, he was tonsured a monk with the name Sergius and was ordained to the priesthood. In seeking a more secluded place, he and his brother found such a place in the deep forest near the Marovets hill and built a small cell and a simple chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity in 1340.
The brothers lived a secluded life in the forest, and in time Stephen found the life of seclusion difficult and left Sergius to live in Epiphany monastery in Moscow. With the departure of his brother Sergius lived alone for a number of years. The wild animals seemed to recognize him, as packs of wolves and bears would come to his hut but would not harm him. According to legend, one bear came to his hut to share Sergius' last piece of bread with him.
Gradually people learned of Sergius and approach him for spiritual guidance. Soon, the cell grew to a small hermitage of twelve monks. The hermitage of the Holy Trinity soon became the spiritual center that eventually became the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius.
Sergius of Radonezh blessing Dmitri Donskoi before the Battle of Kulikovo. Artist: Ernst Lissner
As Holy Trinity monastery grew, Sergius began to send his disciples to spread the Gospel to the natives across central and northern Russia during the reign of Dmitry Donskoy. The number of monasteries founded by these disciples approached 400, some of which were established in the most difficult places. These included the monasteries of Borisoglebsky near Rostov, Ferapontov, Kyrillo-Belozersky, Golutvin in Kolomna, and Pokrovsky near Borovsk. All these monasteries formed links of a new country centered around Moscow. As the commerce centering on Holy Trinity monastery increased a settlement was formed at the monastery gates that grew into the town of Sergiev Posad.
The news of his life and works of wonder spread far and wide. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Philotheus sent him a charter confirming the new rules of community cloister life established by Sergius at the Holy Trinity Monastery. Metropolitan Alexis of Moscow honored Sergius as a friend and entrusted him in the tasks of reconciling differences among the princes of Moscow and Russia.
In the Russian struggles with the Tatar Khan Mamai, Sergius blessed the Prince Dimitry Donskoi as he departed for battle in 1380 with the words, "Go fearless prince and believe in God's help". Dimitri's victory at the Battle of Kulikovo was a momentous one in the history of Russia.
There are churches and cathedrals throughout the world built in honor of St. Sergius. The Roman Catholic Church officially recognizes Sergius as a saint, listing him in the Martyrologium Romanum. He is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on September 25, the date of his death according to the Old Style calendar.
Sergius died 1392 and was glorified (canonized) in 1452. His incorrupt relics were found in 1422 and placed in the new Trinity Cathedral of the Lavra. The church commemorates him on the day of his death, and on July 5, the day his relics were uncovered. Among the many affectionate titles given him, he has been referred to as the "Abbot of Russia" and "valiant voevod" of the Russian land.
In 2014 Russia will mark the 700th anniversary of the birth of St. Sergius. A working group has been established by the president of Russia to organize the festivities.
A new exhibition Willem II and Anna Pavlovna: Royal Splendour at the Dutch Court opened on September 26th at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
The exhibition is at the heart of the Year of the Netherlands and Russia. It deals with one of the most significant episodes in the relations of the two countries which had an impact on entire nineteenth-century European history - the marriage of Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna and Prince Willem of Orange, heir to the Crown (Netherlands and Luxembourg). The wedding arranged after a number of war victories and Willem's wounding at Waterloo was ceremoniously held half a year later at the Winter Palace.
Upon visiting St Petersburg and seeing Imperial collections, Willem also developed a passion for art collecting and assembled one of the best collections of paintings in Europe. Due to economic difficulties his family had to pawn it to Nicholas I and then sell it at auction to pay the debt. Nicholas I wanted to have the entire collection but had to take part in the auction on equal terms with others, through his special agents, and purchased thirteen pictures, most of which are displayed at the Hermitage permanent exhibitions. An irreplaceable loss for the museum was the sale of Jan van Eyck's picture from this collection in 1917.
The exhibition features more than 250 items, and has been produced by the State Hermitage in cooperation with the Dordrecht Stedelijk Museum, Dutch Royal Collection and Villa Vauban Museum (Luxembourg). Since the collection of Willem II was sold out after his death and dispersed all over the world, the exhibition has also been contributed by other large art museums and private collections.
The exhibition is on display in the Armorial Hall, Winter Palace (Room 195) until January 12, 2014.
Monument to Nicholas II in Belarus Topic: Nicholas II
The largest church in the Belarusian town of Kreisky was named in honour of St. Nicholas. Situated near the church is a bronze bust of Saint-Tsar Nicholas II, in gratitude to the Royal Martyrs for many years of heavenly assistance to Christian believers.
To this day there remain only two active churches in Kreisky. One of them was built in 1897 in honour of Alexei of Moscow, and the second in honour of St. Nicholas was built in 1874. The second, larger church, which is located in the centre of the agricultural town was closed for 70 years due to local communist views. But in 2000, the Church of St. Nicholas in Kreisky was returned to believers. The consecration of one of the chapels was carried out on July 19, 2009.
The bust was installed thanks to the efforts of local parishioners and Rev. Fr. Sergei Podolsky, the church priest. The artist of the bust is the Russian sculptor, Vladimir Zelyanko. The establishment of the memorial bust in 2008 was timed to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the murder of the royal family in 1918. Under the sculpture is placed the following inscription: "The Holy Martyr Tsar Nicholas II. This bust - our thanks to the Royal Martyrs for many years of heavenly assistance, from believers, Christians and Orthodox Kreisky our parish."