Journey to Moscow, a Short Summary of My Visit Topic: Royal Russia
I have just returned from an 8-day visit to Moscow, my first to the Russian capital in 8 years. The main purposes for my visit were to partake in the wonderful exhibitions marking the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty and to conduct research for the Royal Russia magazine and web site.
The highlights of my October 2013 visit to Moscow include:
The Petrovsky Palace
My personal interest in this palace is based on my fascination with the Coronation ceremonies of the Russian sovereigns. The palace was built during the reign of Catherine the Great, and it was here that all successive Russian monarchs stayed before their official entry into Moscow for their coronation in the Kremlin.
The palace is not open to the public, therefore I was very fortunate to receive a special VIP tour of the palace last Thursday. My three hour tour with the director of the palace included the grounds, the ground floor, which hosts a small museum on the history of the palace, one room of which contains items from the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II in 1896, and a scale model of the palace. A vestibule is dominated with majestic pillars and busts of all the Romanov monarchs who stayed in the palace, from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II.
The second floor includes a suite of rooms, all decorated with furniture reproduced from the original. I saw the room in which Napoleon stayed during his unwelcome visit in 1812, as well as the balcony in which he stood while watching Moscow burn.
I will be writing an extensive article on the history of the Petrovsky Palace, which will appear in the No. 5 (Winter 2014) issue of Royal Russia Annual, to be published in January 2014. The article will include my personal notes and photographs taken during my visit to the palace.
The Martha and Mary Convent
A beautiful spot that most visitors to Moscow are unaware. The secluded convent of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna hides behind a stone wall with latticed gates on Ulitsa Bolshaya Ordynka. Passing through an iron gate, one is transported into an island of peace and tranquility. The grounds are beautifully maintained, and a life-size monument to Saint Elizabeth is surrounded by flowers, left by Orthodox Christians who come to pray in the church.
The Holy Protection Cathedral has been restored, and inside, one can still see the wonderful frescoes by the renowned Russian artist Mikhail Nesterov. I purchased a candle from one of the sisters and went into a side chapel which contains icons of Saint Elizabeth and the Holy Royal Martyrs. It was here that I lit the candle and prayed, also taking time to reflect on the the grand duchess and her work among Moscow's less fortunate, which, by the way, continues to this day.
The convent also includes several other buildings including an interesting museum dedicated to the life and work of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna. In 2009, the Convent published a blue leatherbound pictorial album, which contains beautiful high quality photographs of Ella, with text in Russian and English.
The Romanovs: Portrait of a Dynasty
The venue for this exhibition is the new War of 1812 Museum (the former City Duma in Tsarist days, and the Lenin Museum in Soviet times) on Red Square, and now part of the State Historical Museum.
The exhibition offers more than 400 works, including colour portraits, busts, miniatures, drawings and photographs of members of the Romanov dynasty. Arranged in chronological order, the exhibit tells the story of the portrait genre in Russia—from the early “parsuna” (secular portraits) of the 1670–80s (represented by a portrait of Tsars Mikhail Fedorovich and Alexei Mikhailovich), up to 70 original pre-revolutionary photographs of members of the Russian Imperial family (mostly the grand dukes and grand duchesses). This exhibition was beautifully presented, with descriptions in both Russian and English. An enormous hard cover exhibition catalogue (in Russian only) compliments this exhibit at 2500 Rubles!
The Coronations and Anointing of Russian Tsars and Emperors at the Moscow Kremlin
This large scale exhibition is spread over three floors in two separate buildings within the Kremlin. The 16th-17th centuries on the ground floor of the Assumption Belfry, the 18th-19th centuries on the ground and upper floor of the Patriarch Palace.
The exhibit 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.
Of particular interest are the numerous coronation uniforms and dresses of Russian Emperors and Empresses. Also, the ceremonial uniforms of Cossacks, heralds, senators, etc. The sheer number of exhibits are both exhaustive and breathtaking, I spent an entire afternoon here!
For me personally, this exhibition is the most interesting and beautiful of all the Romanov themed exhibitions that I have attended over the years. The 2-volume catalogue is simply magnificent!
My visit to Moscow would not be complete without a visit to the Christ the Saviour Cathedral to see its stunning interiors, and the Tretyakov Gallery, my favourite art gallery in Russia, and the foremost depository of Russian fine art in the world.
During my stay, I did a tremendous amount of research, compiling pages of notes, and more than 300 photographs, some of which are shown above. I look forward to sharing them with Royal Russia subscribers on my web site and blog, as well as the pages of Royal Russia Annual in the coming weeks and months ahead.
Orthodox Russia. The Romanovs Exhibition Forum to Open in Moscow Topic: Exhibitions
On November 4, 2013, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, a unique interactive exhibition-forum Orthodox Russia. The Romanovs, dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the Russian dynasty monarchs will open in the Central Exhibition Hall of the Manege in Moscow.
It is interesting to note that the exhibition-forum opens on National Unity Day (November 4th). In 1613 tsar Mikhail Romanov instituted a holiday named Day of Moscow’s Liberation from Polish Invaders, a day which was celebrated in the Russian Empire up until 1917. In 1918, the name was changed to The Day of Great October Socialist Revolution. In 2005, President Vladimir Putin re-established the holiday in order to replace the commemoration of the October Revolution. From 1612 the holiday had been celebrated on October 22nd (Old Style) up until 1917, it has since been marked on November 4th. The day is also the feast day of the Russian Orthodox icon of Our Lady of Kazan.
The wonder-working Feodorovsky Icon of the Mother of God will be brought from the Ipatyev Monastery in Kostroma and put on display for the duration of the exhibition-forum. In 1613, Ksenia Ivanovna, mother of Mikhail Romanov, blessed her son with this icon when he was being crowned tsar. Since then, the Feodorovsky Icon of the Mother of God has been the patron icon of the Romanov dynasty.
The exhibition-forum will mark Russia’s many great events under the Romanovs (1613-1917): the development of Siberia and the Far East, the reunification of Russia and Ukraine, a new capital - St. Petersburg, the victory over Napoleon in 1812, Russia’s expansion into the southern regions of Russia, the abolition of serfdom, the unprecedented cultural, scientific and technical and industrial advances and much more. Aside from the grand achievements of the dynasty, the exhibition-forum will also focus on tragic events, as well as individual studies of the history of each monarch.
This fascinating account of Russian history will be conducted in 24 halls (4,000 square feet) of the Central Exhibition Hall in the Manege using more than 350 multimedia carriers, including touch screens, 50-inch plasmas, light boxes, tablet computers with interactive quizzes and informative applications designed specifically for the exhibition, and a fascinating film about the milestones of life of the Russian state.
Another objective of the exhibition is to encourage contemporaries to take a new look at the many positive contributions which members of the Romanov dynasty made on Russia, many of which remain to this day. Organisers hope to revive stories of the Romanov legacy, many of which are nearly forgotten today, having been obliterated by the Bolsheviks and later the Soviets. They note that the members of this one-of-a-kind family in Russia, which, by the way, like no other family has been besmirched and blackened over the past century by enemies of the monarchy and Orthodox Christianity.
Orthodox Russia. The Romanovs will run in the Central Exhibition Hall of the Manege, near the Moscow Kremlin from November 4th to 12th, 2013. Admission is free.
Royal Scots Dragoons Present Another Gift to Tsarskoye Selo Topic: Tsarskoye Selo
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards have honoured their former Colonel-in-Chief, Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, by donating their late 1920s uniform boots to Tsarskoye Selo in September 2013.
The Scots DGs earlier added their modern Colonel’s field camouflage uniform to our collection which still suffers the lacunae inflicted by the 1917 revolution, sales of art objects in the 1920s-1930s and the German occupation of Tsarskoye Selo in 1941-44. Although the core of our military costume holdings was saved during World War II, a lot of items like shoulder and waist belts, shoulder boards, epaulettes, accoutrements and footwear, were lost.
Our Museum keeps a 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) Colonel’s uniform set that belonged to Tsar Nicholas II. The set includes dress, everyday and patrol uniforms, several headwear items, breeches, trousers, accoutrements, but unfortunately no footgear – until now!
We much appreciate the historical ties between Tsarkoye Selo and the Royal Scots Greys, which remain as good as a century ago thanks to the efforts of the regiment’s officers and personally Major RWB Robert Maclean, Curator of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum in the Edinburgh Castle, UK.
For more information on Tsar Nicholas II and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, please refer to the following links;
Was Rasputin's Killer from the Midlands? Topic: Rasputin
Grigorii Rasputin and Oswald Raynor
The following article is from the October 20th, 2013 edition of The Birmingham Mail. The author Paul Cole owns the copyright presented below.
Historians believe Smethwick-born British agent Oswald Rayner wielded gun that fired fatal bullet
Popular myth has it that sinister Russian monk Rasputin was poisoned, beaten, shot several times by his rivals and finally drowned in the river.
Not so, say modern historians investigating the mysterious death of the mystic who had the Romanovs under his spell until his murder in 1916.
They believe he was shot dead by a British spy – from Smethwick , in Sandwell, just west of Birmingham
Experts say the fatal shot, from a Webley revolver, was fired by Oswald Rayner, a British Intelligence agent.
The near-supernatural stories spun by the authorities in the aftermath of Raputin’s were to hide Britain’s role in the killing.
“Of all the strange and unlikely claims you will hear, this is the unlikeliest of them all,” says Dr Chris Upton, Reader in Public History at Newman University, Birmingham. “That the man who killed Rasputin – the mad monk and guru of the Russian court – came from Smethwick.
“Yes, I hear you say, and Peter the Great once had a shop in Harborne. But suspend your disbelief and I’ll lay the evidence before you.
“It’s 1916, and the Great War is devouring nations and manpower across Europe. Lined up on the battlefield are the central powers of Germany and Austro-Hungary, and facing them the British, the French and the Russians.
“But Russia is on the point of political and economic meltdown, and its leaders split over its continued participation in the war.
“On the one side of this debate stands the Tsarina, with her reputed German sympathies; on the other men like Felix Yusupov, flamboyant businessman and nephew to the Tsar, and the Grand Duke Dimitri Romanov, who perhaps has ambitions to be Tsar himself.
“Neither the British nor the German governments could remain entirely impartial in all this. Should Tsar Nicholas pull out of the war, a third of a million Russian soldiers would be removed from the eastern front, tipping the balance towards the Central Powers.”
At the centre of this tangled web, says Dr Upton, was the man British Intelligence called ‘Dark Forces’, the Siberian mystic and faith-healer Grigori Rasputin, who had found favour at the top table.
His apparent ability to treat the Crown Prince Alexei for his haemophilia gave him extraordinary and unbridled influence with the Romanovs. It was said that Rasputin was chief among those who wished for peace with Germany.
“There was a queue of people, then – Russian as well as British – who would like to rid them of this turbulent priest,” says Dr Upton.
“All this might seem a far cry from the young boy who was born the son of a local draper in Soho Street, Smethwick, in 1888. But Oswald Rayner was a bright lad, and in 1907 he won a place at Oriel College, Oxford, to study modern languages.
“By the time he left university Oswald was highly proficient in French, German and Russian. He had also formed a close – some say homosexual – relationship with the same Felix Yusupov, who was at University College, and happened to be a member of the infamous Bullingdon Club.
“Rayner was initially called to the Bar, but his linguistic skills made him much more useful elsewhere, and in 1915 he was recruited by the Army and sent to Petrograd by MI6.
“Here, he teamed up with a little coterie of British agents, and was also able to renew acquaintances with his old chum, Yusupov.
“Here, too, Rayner would have heard of the plot to kill Rasputin. The monk was lured to Yusupov’s palace in St Petersburg on the night of December 29, 1916, and brutally murdered. According to the popular version of the story, Rasputin was poisoned, beaten, shot several times and finally drowned in the Nevka.
“The reality is that only two of these were correct –he was certainly beaten with a cosh and shot, and then his body dumped in the river. Unfortunately for the plotters, the river ice prevented the body’s disposal, and it was later recovered.
“The Tsar himself was convinced that British agents had a hand in Rasputin’s death, and told the British ambassador as much. Two recent books by Michael Smith and Richard Cullen have come to the same conclusion, arguing that Rayner’s link with Yusupov was the central pivot of the plot.
“Cullen argues that Rasputin’s post-mortem examination showed evidence of three gunshots, from three different firearms. And the final fatal shot, from a Webley revolver, was fired by Oswald Rayner himself.”
As Russia disintegrated into revolution, none of the perpetrators ever faced trial. Rayner continued to work for British Intelligence for the next few years, both in Russia and in Sweden.
And in 1927 the spy collaborated with Yusupov on the translation of his friend’s book, Rasputin: His Malign Influence and Assassination – which failed to mention British involvement.
Rayner went on to become Foreign Correspondent for the Daily Telegraph and died in 1961 in the Oxfordshire town of Botley.
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.
Six eyewitness accounts of the crowning of Russia's last tsar with more than 200 rare vintage photographs and illustrations.
The pomp and pageantry surrounding the Coronation of Tsar Nicholas II is told through the eye-witness accounts of six people who attended this historic event at Moscow, held over a three week period from May 6 to 26, 1896.
The authors came from all walks of life and different nations: Francis W. Grenfell and Mandell Creighton, Bishop of Peterborough (Great Britain); John A. Logan, Jr., Kate Koon Bovey and Richard Harding Davis (United States); and Boris Alexandrovich Engelgardt (Russia).
Historians have left us only brief descriptions of this historic event, but it is thanks to the authors of this unique book that we are grateful. They recorded their observations in diaries and letters, leaving to posterity a first-hand record that allows modern-day readers to relive the crowning of Russia’s last tsar and the splendour and opulence of a world that is gone forever.
These exceptional memoirs offer a wealth of information that include the preparations and events leading up to and during the coronation festivities, the tsar’s entry into Moscow, the procession to the cathedral, the crowning of the tsar and the celebrations that followed. No two memoirs are alike; each of the authors guides the reader through this historic event through his or her own eyes.
A collection of over 200 rare photographs and illustrations from the private archives of Royal Russia complement this book offering the largest collection of this historic event ever assembled in one volume.