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Friday, 1 November 2013
Monument to Alexander III Recalls 1888 Borki Train Disaster
Topic: Alexander III

A new monument to Emperor Alexander III was unveiled on October 30th in the Kharkov region of the Ukraine. The bronze bust marks the 125th anniversary of the train crash at Borki in 1888, in which the emperor and his family were travelling.
 
The Imperial family were returning from the Crimea to Moscow onboard the Imperial train on October 29 (O.S. October 17), 1888, when it derailed killing 22 people and injuring 68, all members of the Imperial family miraculously survived.

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was built at Borki in 1891-1894 to commemorate the event at the crash site, and in 1909 a bronze bust of Alexander III was erected. The bronze bust was destroyed after the Revolution, the church was badly damaged during the World War II after the gold dome was shelled, and eventually blown up at the end of the war.
 

"The new monument was made in Russia and is a gift from the Revival of Cultural Heritage Fund in Moscow," - said Sergey Moiseev. "As our organization Triune Russia could not deliver their own monument to the Ukraine, we enlisted the help of the president of Russia Vladimir Putin and the Russian Railways to ensure the delivery of the monument to the Ukraine. The new monument is a replica of the monument destroyed after the Revolution. This year we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, so it is a good opportunity to draw attention of our fellow citizens, the general public and to this little-known tragedy in the history of Russia and the Imperial family. "

A liturgy was held followed by the consecration of the new monument by Archbishop Izyumsky of Kupyanskaya and Elisha. The ceremony was attended by representatives of the Don and Terek Cossacks, who at one time formed part of the personal guards of the Imperial family.

Moiseev also noted that in addition to restoring the monument to Alexander III,  Triune Russia are working on plans of a reconstruction of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour near the site of the imperial train wreck. There is currently a small memorial chapel on the site of the destroyed church, constructed in 2003.

The Borki train disaster is widely discussed by author and historian, Margarita Nelipa, in her forthcoming book, Alexander III: His Life and Reign, to be published later this month by Royal Russia. She notes in her introduction: "Alexander III’s train accident near Borki village in 1888 is one incident that has received extensive exposure in history books, however, few would be aware that there was a subsequent investigation, which led to an unforeseen outcome, which Alexander III capably resolved using his autocratic power. Both these events are tied together for the first time in English in Chapter XIII using letters, eyewitness accounts and notes that were provided by the brilliant chief procurator of the day, Anatoli Koni." 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 01 November, 2013
 

 


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:49 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 1 November 2013 1:37 PM EDT
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Thursday, 31 October 2013
Imperial Gala at Livadia Palace, September 22nd, 2013
Topic: Maria Vladimirovna GD
 
Last month I reported on the heirs to the exiled royal houses of Europe and Africa who gathered at the Livadia Palace, taking advantage of the invitation of the Crimean government and HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, Head of the Russian Imperial House. The following report and news footage of this historic gala reception, held on the evening of September 22nd was published by the Ukrainian Internet portal Segodnya.ua and Royal Russia.

Celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the House of Romanov, in what was once the Imperial summer residence of Tsar Nicholas II, the guests were treated to a royal gala reception. Sparkling with diamonds and smiles, aristocrats from Austria and Hungary, Serbia, Albania, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Egypt and Sudan grandly walked along the red carpet lined with a guard of honour composed of Ukrainian sailors. The only one who lingered was the King of Egypt and Sudan – Fuad II, who rushed into the crowd of onlookers, smiling confusedly into the lenses of cameras. To avoid such an incident, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, with the heir Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich, were accompanied arm-in-arm by Viktor Plakida, the Envoy of the President of Ukraine in Crimea.

A children’s ensemble danced “The Nutcracker” for the guests, and the Orchestra of the 36th Independent Brigade of Coastal Defense of the Ukrainian Navy amused them with an “orchestral defile”. When it sounded “God Save the Tsar” and the number “400” flared up with fireworks on the roof of the palace, the titled guests were invited into the music room for evening cocktails, where historical records of the dynasty were presented to them.

A great table was laid in the gala White Hall, where eyes went dizzy looking at all the original dishes. “Everything was cooked according to pre-revolution recipes,” one of the waiters told us. “We are treating the guests with quails stuffed with veal, patties with mushrooms, meat and cabbage, and a variety of ingenious Russian drinks. Since this event is taking place in the Crimea, we'll also be serving rack of lamb.”

At the table, the Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich, who was trying not to miss a single patriotic toast, and Chairman of the Supreme Council of Crimea, Vladimir Konstantinov, were sitting next to HIH Grand Duchess Maria on either side. The Grand Duchess told us that she was greatly pleased to have gathered such dear guests under the roof of the royal palace and to be celebrating the 400th anniversary of her dynasty. She was satisfied with the reception, noting that “rigid keeping of protocol can impoverish the colour of an event,” and kept saying with a smile: “Everyone is so beautiful!”

Incidentally, the Grand Duchess maintains a very busy schedule: “Her visits are planned for the next three years,” said Prince Vadim Lopukhin. “She considered it her duty not to miss this event, and to pay tribute to the Crimea and Ukraine, with which we once lived as one state.”

Toward the end of the evening, the guests were served dessert to the music of Wagner: fruit consommé, marmalade and wine from local Crimean cellars. Visiting princesses studied the unusual vegetation of the Italian patio and had their pictures taken, which incredibly pleased the heir Georgy Mikhailovich, a titled bachelor.

Prince Lopukhin disclosed a secret – that the Empress received vegetables from Ukrainian President Yanukovych’s garden as a present. “We have been eating delicious onions and tomatoes from the garden of the head of state for the second day now,” said Vadim Olegovich. “We are very grateful to Viktor Yanukovych, as there are no real fruits and vegetables in Europe.” According to the prince, Maria Vladimirovna gladly eats ‘salo’ and ‘vareniki’ in the Crimea: “By the way, ‘borscht’ and ‘pelmeni’ are often served at her Spanish home.”
 
For more information and photographs of this Imperial event, please refer to the following article: 

Head of the Russian Imperial House Holds Reception at Livadia Palace 

© Russkiy Mir. 31 October, 2013
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:48 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 31 October 2013 1:36 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 30 October 2013
Faberge Figure Sells for Record $5.2 Million
Topic: Faberge

 


Photo Credit: Stair Galleries

An attic treasure soared to a record price in 15 minutes during intense bidding in a packed sales room in Hudson, New York, on October 26th. The rare Fabergé Imperial figure ultimately sold to a phone bidder for $5.2 million (hammer price; $5,980,000 with fees) against a pre-sale auction estimate of $500,000 to $800,000.  The last of such hardstone figures sold for $1.8 million in 2005, at Sotheby’s, New York.

Nicholas II commissioned Fabergé to produce the portrait figure of N.N.Pustynnikov, the personal Cossack bodyguard (Kamer-Kazak, or Chamber-Cossack) to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and also a second figure, of the Kamer-Kazak to the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, in 1912.

Discovered in an attic by the executor of a Rhinebeck, NY, estate, the figure was purchased at Hammer Galleries, in Manhattan, by Mr. George Davis in December 1934, and had been in the same family ever since. The figure was known to collectors, but the whereabouts was unknown until 2 months ago.

The total number of Fabergé hardstone carvings of human figures produced by Fabergé is probably no more than fifty. They are therefore extremely rare, on a level of rarity with the Imperial Easter Eggs, and the portrait figures, depictions of known historical persons rather than simply "types," are rarer still. Very few portrait figures were produced by Fabergé.

The piece was purchased by Wartski, the famed London based jeweler, who are the jewelers to the Queen of England. They specialize in Russian pieces, most notably Fabergé. It’s not clear if they were purchasing it for stock or a private clientAccording to the London firm, “the purchase of the figure is a continuation of our long running tradition of acquiring Imperial Russian Works of Art. Wartski were Armand Hammer's prime rivals in the 1920's and 1930's in buying the confiscated Imperial treasures from the Soviet government. We have over the years owned twenty of these rare hardstone figures, as well as a dozen of the legendary Imperial Fabergé Easter Eggs.”

© ARTFix Daily. 30 October, 2013


 


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:27 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 30 October 2013 8:41 AM EDT
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Monument to Murdered Grand Dukes at Peter and Paul Cathedral
Topic: Peter and Paul Fortress


A memorial plaque in memory of the four Romanov grand dukes murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1919 can be found in the Grand-Ducal Mausoleum of the Peter and Paul Fortress at St. Petersburg. It was erected and sanctified on January 30, 2004, in the presence of Dmitry Romanovich Romanov, great-great-grandson of Emperor Nicholas I.

Gold letters on a white Carrara marble inscribed the words:
 
"Eternal memory, the most worthy representatives of the Russian Imperial House, innocent victims in January 1919 in the Peter and Paul Fortress. The names of the martyrs - Orthodox Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich, Orthodox Grand Duke Dmitry Konstantinovich, Orthodox Grand Duke Nikolai Mikhailovich, Orthodox Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich. "

A Decree of the Presidium of the Cheka, ordered the grand dukes to be sentenced to death. The sentence was carried out on January 24, 1919 in a yard of the Peter and Paul Fortress. Their bodies were thrown into an unmarked mass grave. In December 2009, a grave was discovered containing the remains of 17 people, plus bullets, shells, gold jewellery, shoes and fragments of clothing. In September 2013, I reported that the State Museum of St. Petersburg ordered further excavations of the fortress, with hopes to to receive further funding to assist with the identification of the remains, including costly DNA analysis.  
 
I have been following this discovery since 2009, and have posted numerous articles on the subject in both Royal Russia News and my blog. To review them, please refer to the following links: 
 © Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 30 October, 2013
 

 


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:05 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 30 October 2013 6:53 AM EDT
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Royal Russia Tours - UPDATE!
Topic: Royal Russia

 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 30 October, 2013


 


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:54 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 30 October 2013 5:58 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 29 October 2013
The Family of Alexander III at Gatchina Exhibition to Open Temporarily at Gatchina
Topic: Alexander III


The Gatchina State Museum have announced that they will open the exhibition The Family of Alexander III at Gatchina for a short period in November. Originally opened in 2007, the exhibition has been closed for months due to the restoration work on the marble staircase leading to the former private apartments of Emperor Alexander III and his family.

From 1 to November 17, during the Children's Days in St. Petersburg Festival, visitors will have the unique opportunity to visit the private rooms of the Imperial family.
 
The following photographs show some views of the former private apartments of Alexander III and his family at Gatchina: 
 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

For more information and photos on this exhibition, please refer to the following article on our blog; 

Private Apartments of Alexander III at Gatchina

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 October, 2013


 


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:26 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 29 October 2013 8:54 AM EDT
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Monday, 28 October 2013
Mikhailovsky Theater Marks 180th Anniversary
Topic: St. Petersburg

Gala night in honour of the German Emperor Wilhelm I at the Mikhailovsky Theater, attended by Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna. Watercolour by Mihaly Zichy (1873)
 
On October 27 in St. Petersburg the Mikhailovsky Theater marked its 180th anniversary with a spectacular gala-concert. In his congratulatory message to the theater, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that the jubilee is a “major event in the cultural life of St. Petersburg and the entire country.” He also noted that the theater today is “magnet for both recognized masters and beginning artistes,” ITAR-TASS reports.

The concert recreated over the course of a single evening the most remarkable moments of the theatre’s unique history, outlining the twisting path of its extraordinary fate. Vasily Barkhatov, who was one of the initiators and director of the gala concert, said, “The incredibly rich history of the theatre, while so dear to us, is not that well known to our wider audience. Even the avid theatre-goers among them may not recall the whole story. As a theatre building, the Mikhailovsky appeared before many of its distinguished counterparts; as a musical theatre with its own company of performers it began to take shape much later, although this did not prevent it from being involved in some of the most spectacular premières and events on the creative scene. With the help of our company of performers and our close friends, we have decided to present the theatre’s story in the form of a concert; to tell it in a natural and appealing way, making a living textbook out of the engaging history of the theatre.”

Founded in 1833 by decree of Tsar Nicholas I, the Mikhaylovsky Theater is one of Russia's oldest opera and ballet houses. It is situated in a historical building on the Arts Square in St. Petersburg. It is named after Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich of Russia. 
 
© Russkiy Mir. 28 October, 2013
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:51 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 28 October 2013 11:02 AM EDT
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The Palace Grenadiers Company
Topic: Imperial Russia

The Palace Grenadiers Company, was a special honour military unit under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Imperial Court. The company was established by Emperor Nicholas I in 1827 and staffed with enlisted guards who had distinguished themselves in the course of the Patriotic War of 1812 (120 men, including 69 recipients of the Order of St. George). The company was later expanded with veteran guards (also by army veterans from 1900) who had served exceptionally for no less than 20 years and gained special honours in wars. The officers’ staff of the company could include only those promoted from the lower ranks and awarded with the Soldiers' Cross of St. George. 
 

The Palace Grenadiers were unofficially known as the "Golden company" for their rich and ornate red and gold coloured uniforms. Their bearskin hats were similar to those of Napoleon I’s grenadiers and looked somewhat exotic in Russia. Gold braids were widely used even on their belts in red and gold. Their regimental holiday was marked on 19 December (O.S. 6 December), day of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker.
 

The Palace Grenadiers Company performed the most exclusive honour guard duties at the Imperial residences, including escorting the Emperor during major state ceremonies and standing guard over monuments to the Patriotic War of 1812. The company was disbanded in 1917. Its quarters were located in the Winter Palace, at the Guards Corps headquarters at 33 Millionnaya Street, among other locations. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 28 October, 2013
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:19 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 28 October 2013 10:35 AM EDT
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Sunday, 27 October 2013
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 21
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches


The Smolny Cathedral’s stunning blue-and-white building is undoubtedly one of the architectural masterpieces of the Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, who also created the Winter Palace, the Grand Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, the Grand Palace in Peterhof and many other major St. Petersburg landmarks. 

The cathedral was built between 1748 and 1762 and served as the centerpiece of a convent, built to house the daughter of Peter the Great, Elizabeth, after she was disallowed to take the throne and opted instead to become a nun. However, as soon as her Imperial predecessor was overthrown during a coup, carried out by the royal guards, Elizabeth abandoned the idea of a stern monastic life and happily accepted the offer of the Russian throne. 

When Catherine II assumed the throne, it was found that the new Empress strongly disapproved of the baroque style, and funding that had supported the construction of the convent rapidly ran out. Rastrelli was unable to build the huge bell-tower he had planned and unable to finish the interior of the cathedral. 

On the orders of Emperor Nicholas I in 1832, work began on the final completion of the cathedral. The building was only finished in 1835 by Vasily Stasov with the addition of a neo-classical interior to suit the changed architectural tastes of the time. The Cathedral was consecrated by Metropolitan Seraphim of Novgorod and St Petersburg on 20 July 1835; its main altar was dedicated to the Resurrection and the two side altars were dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene and Righteous Elizabeth. 

In contrast to the light and vibrant exterior, the Smolny Cathedral’s interior strikes one with its unexpected austerity and cold solemnity. It has none of the lavish gilt carvings, so characteristic of baroque, neither does it have bright and vivid paintings, or abundance of fanciful ornaments. The reason for this lies in the cathedral’s construction that lasted nearly 100 years.
 

The cathedral's lavish Baroque exteriors give way to simple Neoclassicism interiors
 
In designing the interior, Stasov faced a number of challenges. It was 80 years since the construction of the cathedral began. The lavish baroque style gave way to neoclassicism. Rastrelli’s design at that time was regarded “old fashioned”, overloaded with decorative details and, on top of all that, costly. Stasov’s adherence to simple forms led him to introduce quite a few alterations in the design in his pursuit for simplicity and austerity. The white colour of the walls and restrained stucco emphasize the perfect proportions of Rastrelli’s architecture. The tall arches seem to carry the sturdy pillars with them, while hoisting the dome drum upward. All along the walls in the hall and in the dome drum are tall windows that make the huge cathedral appear incredibly lightweight and imbued with light.

Unfortunately, the cathedral’s interior has not survived – gone are its carved, white and gilded iconostases, its magnificent balustrades of crystal balusters, glowing in sunshine of a light filled hall, a carved pulpit, and bronze chandeliers. Only images of the Cathedral’s interior dating from the second half of the 19th century came down to us. 

The church was looted by the Soviet authorities in 1922, and in 1923, it was closed down for worship by the Petrograd Council. The iconostasis of the cathedral was dismantled much later in 1972. 

In the 1970-80s, the Smolny Cathedral became a branch of the State Museum of History of Leningrad. It housed a display celebrating Leningrad’s past and present industrial achievements. In January 1990, a concert and exhibition hall was established in the Smolny Cathedral, affiliated with the Museum of the History of Leningrad. In 2004, the Smolny Cathedral became part of the State Museum St Isaac’s Cathedral. 
 
On April 7th, 2010, for the first time in 90 years, a divine liturgy was celebrated in the Smolny Cathedral. 
 


Divine liturgies are held in the Smolny Cathedral throughout the year
 
Today the Smolny Cathedral is still used primarily as a concert hall, with performances by the Smolny Cathedral Chamber Choir. The surrounding convent houses various offices and government institutions. On October 2nd, 2013 the St. Petersburg city authorities voted to return full ownership to the Russian Orthodox Church. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 27 October, 2013
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:05 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 27 October 2013 2:41 AM EDT
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Saturday, 26 October 2013
Four Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses
Topic: Books

They were the Princess Dianas of their day – perhaps the most photographed and talked about young royals of the early twentieth century. And with good reason, for the four captivating Russian Grand Duchesses – Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov – were much talked about and admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, the clothes they wore and their privileged lifestyle.

From an early age they were at the centre of unceasing gossip about the dynastic marriages they might make. But who were they really beyond the saccharine image perpetuated by those now familiar photographs of them as pretty girls in white dresses and big hats?  What were their personal hopes, dreams and aspirations and how did they interact with each other and with their parents?   What was life really like within the highly insular Imperial Family and how did they really feel about their mother’s obsessive and all consuming love for their spoilt brother Alexey? 

Over the years, the story of the four Romanov sisters and their tragic end in a basement at Ekaterinburg in 1918 has clouded our view of them, leading to a mass of sentimental and idealized hagiography. They are too often seen merely as set dressing, the beautiful but innocuous background to the bigger, more dramatic story of their parents – Russia’s last Tsar and Tsarina, Nicholas and Alexandra. They are perceived as lovely, desirable and living charmed lives. But the truth is somewhat different.

For most of their short lives the four Romanov sisters were beautiful birds in a gilded cage, shut away at their palaces at Tsarskoe Selo or Livadia as a reaction to the fear of terrorist attacks on the Imperial Family.  In reality the girls had few friends and ever fewer playmates and were largely cut off from the real world outside and the normal life experiences of other girls – that is, until everything changed in 1914. Suddenly, with Russia’s entry into the war, the girls had to grow up fast.

In a deliberate echo of the title of Chekhov’s play, Four Sisters sets out to capture the joy as well as the insecurities and poignancy of those young lives against the backdrop of the dying days of late Imperial Russia. It will aim to present a new and challenging take on the story, drawing on previously unseen archival sources, as well as photographic and other material in private collections and opinion drawn from the author’s considerable personal network of royalty experts. 

To be released in the UK on March 27, 2014 under the title, Four Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses, while it’s US  release on June 3, 2014 will be published under an alternate title, The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra. Illustrations will include some new or very rare images and one or two surprises!

A two-part documentary is currently in the works, with filming to take place at the Alexander Palace, Livadia, the Governor's House at Tobolsk, and the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg. Its release is scheduled to coincide simulataneously with the publication of the book.  

© Helen Rappaport. 26 October, 2013


 


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:50 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 26 October 2013 8:36 AM EDT
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