A Short History of British Tourism in Imperial Russia Topic: Imperial Russia
Guidebooks popular with British visitors to Russia during the 19th to early 20th centuries
included Baedekers (left) and Murrays Handbooks to Russia, Poland and Finland.
The following article was originally published in the February 23rd, 2014 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author Anthony Cross owns the copyright presented below.
The post-Soviet boom in Russian tourism to Britain is a well-known phenomenon. But what about travel in the other direction? Britons have a centuries-long history of visiting Russia, writes Anthony Cross.
British tourism in Russia was certainly not invented by Intourist during the Cold War. An otherwise tragic expedition to discover a northern sea route first brought the English to Muscovy in the middle of the 16th century and it was essentially trade and profit that inspired further embassies and led to the establishment of a Russia Company to exploit that trade. However the concept of travelling for pleasure or what was often termed “out of curiosity” was much undertaken in the ancient world. What was new was travelling to barbaric, wild Russia, land of snow and bears and wolves, and of peoples with the strangest habits and, as an Englishman would have it, ‘to vices vile inclin’d”.
Head of the Russian Imperial House Expresses Concern Over Tragic Events in Ukraine Topic: Russian Imperial House
Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna
From the Head of the Russian Imperial House
H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia
On the Recent Events in Ukraine
The recent tragic events in Ukraine have filled my heart with enormous grief and sorrow.
It was not long ago, while visiting the ancient city of Kiev—the cradle of Slavic statehood—and the glorious and heroic Crimea, that I was filled with joy at seeing how Ukrainians of such different ethnic backgrounds, religious convictions, and social and political views all nonetheless maintain peaceful and harmonious relations with one another.
Now, Ukraine is experiencing upheavals that can only be compared to the calamitous events of the revolution. And history shows that no revolution has brought happiness to any of the sides that take part in it.
I pray for the repose of the souls of all those who have lost their lives in these events, for the quick recovery of the injured, and for a cessation of violence.
I call upon all citizens of Ukraine, regardless of their political views, not to forget that they are all the sons and daughters of a common homeland and not to allow that common homeland to slip into a fratricidal civil war.
For the sake of the integrity of the Ukrainian State and the unity of its people, no one should in any way or under any circumstances yield to the temptation for revenge or retaliation. May all of us remember the words of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearer, Emperor Nicholas II: “evil cannot vanquish evil, only love can.”
Carriage for Children of Emperor Alexander II on Display in Moscow Topic: Alexander II
A beautiful miniature carriage built for the children of Emperor Alexander II has been restored and put on display at the State Historical Museum in Moscow. Restoration work took place between 2010 - 2014 years, and included a full restoration of the metal, wood, leather and textile elements of the historic children’s carriage.
The carriage is a miniature copy of the Russian Court ceremonial coupe carriages of the mid 19th century. Similar to the parade carriages, however, it was designed for children. It includes five windows with lifting facetted glass, and window blinds which could be closed for privacy. Inside, the interior is richly decorated with silk and velvet. The seats are upholstered in patterned fabrics with folding footrests, the ceiling is decorated with moire embroidery.
The exquisite golden-silver-blue draperies successfully combine with the blue body of the coach - decorated with the symbol of the Order of St. Andrew, the main award of the Russian Empire, which was awarded to the royal children at birth. In addition, the coach has four glazed candle lanterns and springs for maximum comfort.
As members of the Imperial family the carriage was decorated with the heraldic symbols of the dynasty - imperial crowns and overlaid gilded coats of arms of the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Poland, but also the personal monogram of its August owners, which are located on the doors and side panels of the carriage.
Museum experts believe that the carriage was made in 1847, a gift marking the fifth birthday of *Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna (1842-1849) - the eldest of the children of Alexander II, by the Moscow carriage master, Timothy Orlovskim. The carriage was designed solely for entertainment purposes, Alexandra and her brothers, Nicholas and Alexander (the future Emperor Alexander III), used it for riding through the palace park. It was pulled by tiny horses, sheep or goats, and the children were always accompanied by servants.
*Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna died from infant meningitis just weeks short of her seventh birthday on 16th June, 1849. She was buried at the Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral on 19th June, 1849.
In 1861 the children’s carriage was moved to the **Court Stables Museum in St. Petersburg, a building constructed to house the collection of the finest sleds, coaches and carriages of the Russian Imperial family. Due to the events of 1917, the carriage was one of many carriages evacuated to Moscow, and transferred to the Manage of the Neskuchnii garden, which then housed the Museum of Furniture. In 1927, the carriage was transferred to the collections of the Historical Museum, where it has remained to the present day. The miniature carriage of the children of Emperor Alexander II is now on display in room number 33 of the Main Building of the State Historical Museum, located on Red Square in Moscow.
**For more information on the Court Stables Museum, please refer to my article (10 pages with black and white illustrations), The Museum of Imperial Court Carriages: A History of the Collection, published in Royal Russia Annual No. 4 (2013) - click on the link below to order a copy of this issue
Documents on the 1891 Assassination Attempt on Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich Published in Japan Topic: Nicholas II
The Museum of History in the Japanese city of Otsu have for the first time, published the materials covering the investigation and trial in the 1891 assassination attempt on the heir to the Russian throne, Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich - the future Emperor Nicholas II, during his visit to Japan as part of his eastern journey.
The materials include 984 pages covering the trial of Tsuda Sanzo, as well as other artefacts related to the incident, including photographs and written testimonies.
The assassination attempt occurred on 11 May [O.S. 29 April] 1891, while Nicholas was returning to Kyoto after a day trip to Lake Biwa in Otsu. Tsuda Sanzo, one of his escort policemen swung at the Tsesarevich's face with a saber. The quick action of Nicholas's cousin, Prince George of Greece and Denmark, who parried the second blow with his cane, saved his life. Tsuda then attempted to flee, but two rickshaw drivers in Nicholas's entourage chased him down and pulled him to the ground. Nicholas was left with a 9 centimetre long scar on the right side of his forehead, but his wound was not life-threatening.
The assailant was arrested and imprisoned. The incident sparked a wave of remorse across Japan. Emperor Meiji publicly expressed sorrow at Japan's lack of hospitality towards a state guest, which led to an outpouring of public support and messages of condolences for the Tsesarevich. The Japanese emperor even traveled by train to Kyoto where he met with the Tsesarevich. The Tsesarevich received gifts, and more than 20 thousand telegrams of condolences and apologies from Japanese citizens.
The documents show that Tsuda remained silent throughout the trial. On the question of the motive behind the attack, he indicated only that the distinguished guest had showed a lack of respect to a monument erected in honour of the heroes of one of the samurai rebellion. Tsuda was sentenced to life imprisonment near Kushiro, Hokkaido , and died of an illness in September of the same year.
St. Petersburg restorers have completed work on the Marshall Chamber, built more than 100 years ago for the exposition of Russia’s military history.
The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve will now initiate the preparatory work for the opening of Russia's only museum of the First World War later this year. The historic building was built specifically for the military collection assembled by the philanthropist widow Elena Tretyakova. In 1911 she presented to Emperor Nicholas II, a valuable collection of artefacts illustrating the military history of Russia since ancient times.
The Emperor decided to construct a building at Tsarskoye Selo to house the collection. However, the museum was short-lived, and closed shortly after the Revolution. And now, a century later the Marshall Chamber will be restored to its original function, as a museum dedicated to Russia’s military history, although its new concept will focus specifically on Russia’s role in World War One.
The building itself, established in the Neo-Russian style, is well preserved. The original frescoes and painting have miraculously survived in the interiors. The Marshall Chamber (Ratnaya Palata) is situated in the Alexander Park, just a short walk from the Alexander Palace and the Feodorovsky Cathedral. The official opening of the Museum of the Great War in the Marshall Chamber is scheduled for August 1, 2014 - the day marking the 100th anniversary of the First World War.
The following video (in Russian) shows the beautifully restored interiors of the Marshall Chamber (Ratnaya Palata), located in the Alexander Park at Tsarskoye Selo:
The World of Faberge Comes to Vienna Topic: Faberge
Over 160 loans from the Kremlin Museums and the Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Moscow showcase Fabergé’s virtuosity
As part of the Russian-Austrian Cultural Season the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna presents the work of Carl Fabergé, probably Russia’s leading and most influential jeweller and goldsmith at the turn of the 20th century.
The name Fabergé conjures up exceptional creations, virtuoso craftsmanship that combines outstanding artistic and technical skill with the finest materials. This is particularly true of the work produced by Peter Carl Fabergé following his appointment as court jeweller to the last Russian Tsar in 1885. Under him the House of Fabergé grew into one of the largest contemporary jewellery companies, at times employing over five hundred goldsmiths, stone cutters and jewellers from different countries. The company worked for the imperial Russian court and other European dynasties, for the nobility, plutocrats and financial magnates, but they also produced less exalted work designed for the Russian bourgeoisie.
Over 160 loans from the Kremlin Museums and the Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Moscow showcase Fabergé’s virtuosity, placing him in the context of contemporary Russian goldsmith work; another focus is the role of the imperial family. Four Imperial Easter eggs form the centre of the show - precious objets d’art commissioned by the Imperial family that frequently contain a world en miniature, a microcosm.
Other artefacts that once belonged to members of the House of Romanov, treasured possessions that stayed with them until their final days, offer fascinating insights into life, both private and ceremonial, at the imperial court. We also showcase hardstone carvings by Fabergé and the imperial manufactories at Petergof and Yekaterinburg, documenting the continued popularity in late-nineteencentury Russia of an art form closely connected with Kunstkammer collections.
And, last but not least, Fabergé’s multi-facetted oeuvre is juxtaposed with the work of other Russian imperial jewellers such as Bolin, Carl Blank, Pavel Ovchinnikov or Ivan Khlebnikov, inviting visitors to enjoy and appreciate the outstanding technical and artistic virtuosity of late-nineteenth-century Russian jewellers, first celebrated in 1873 at the World Fair in Vienna.
The origin of the Syserti Porcelain Factory in Ekaterinburg actually began back in 1928. During the Soviet years it was merged with other porcelain manufacturers in the region, until 1960 when the group was renamed Syserti. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Ural factory began production of everything from porcelain iconostasis to beautiful coffee and tea services and Orthodox souvenirs. These photographs show just some of the beautiful items created by Syserti, which depict the images of the Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, their four daughters, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and their only son and heir to the throne, Tsesarevich Alexis.
Note: this article and images are for information purposes only. These items are not for sale through Royal Russia, nor do we have dealer information.
St. Petersburg Before the Great War: The Point of No Return Topic: St. Petersburg
St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg before the Great War, 1914
The following article was originally published in the February 2nd, 2014 edition of the Russian publication, Ogonek Magazine. The author of this article, Lev Lurye owns the copyright presented below.
The first six months of 1914 were a kind of calm before the storm, but when the imperial capital of St. Petersburg exploded in July, the results were swift and catastrophic.
The year 1914 began without any particular sense of foreboding. Russia’s attention was fixed on sports rather than politics. Berlin was hosting the world skating championship and Vasily Ippolitov was among the medalists.
There was also a men’s figure skating event in the Finnish capital, then known as Helsingfors; and a women’s skating competition in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The Russian soccer team played friendly matches against Norway and Sweden.
The political situation in Russia seemed calm on the surface. The economy was growing at an unprecedented rate of between 10-20 percent. According to British journalist Maurice Baring, who was reporting on the situation at the time, Russia was going through an unprecedented period of prosperity, and there had never been a time when the vast majority of Russia’s citizens had fewer reasons to complain.
There was, however, a strict class system in the Russian Empire that severely restricted social mobility. The workers had no hope of breaking out of the ranks of the proletariat; farmers craved ownership of the land they had worked for centuries, but belonged to a few wealthy landlords. Ordinary people seemed ready to riot at the slightest provocation.
According to the diary of Russian Emperor Nicholas II, the year 1914 began much like any other. Nicholas wrote that on many occasions he had “joyful opportunities" to see Grigory Rasputin. On the day of German Kaiser Wilhelm's birthday the emperor had a breakfast with the German ambassador.
Nicholas II met the New Year in the town of Tsarskoe Selo outside St. Petersburg before heading for the Crimea. “We have inspected large herds of livestock, cows and horses,” the emperor wrote. “We also saw aurochs and bison, as well as zebras.
I had my head spinning from so many impressions and such an astonishing variety of animals.” After the trip to the Crimea, the Russian royal family visited Romania before returning to their palace at Peterhof and sailing to Finland aboard the royal yacht.
According to his diary, the emperor worked a lot, and took great pleasure from his leisure time. "We assembled puzzles from wooden bits, and then played dominoes and dice," he wrote. He and Crown Prince Alexei built a snow tower on their frozen pond at Tsarskoe Selo.
When winter turned to spring, they bathed an elephant in that same pond. Other warm-weather entertainments included canoeing, swimming, and playing tennis. The emperor diligently recorded the results of his royal hunts: “Pheasants - 33; partridges – 22; rabbits – 56 in total”. After sunset the royal family would often watch “funny and interesting cinematography.”
Cockfighting was all the rage among the St. Petersburg merchant class at the time. “The cocks square off, then throw themselves against each other, furiously pecking and striking with their legs and wings, until one of them falls to the ground, all bloodied, or saves itself by means of shameful retreat. The owner of the winning cockerel can make 10-15 rubles a day,” the emperor wrote.
In the 200 years since Peter the Great ascended to the Russian throne, the country had become one of Europe’s cultural powerhouses. During the reign of Alexander II, the West recognized Russian music and literature.
The great actor Konstantin Stanislavsky was the envy of every theater in the Western world. Serge Diaghilev gave the world the Ballets Russes. In 1914, Russia’s artistic achievements appeared to reach their zenith. The country’s artists and poets were famous all over the world.
Although the country even had its own equivalent of Pussy Riot. Many public readings of poetry would end in scandal.
“What if I, an uncultured barbarian, refuse to play entertaining antics before you tonight? What if I break into laughter and spit right in your face? I am a wastrel of precious words,” wrote the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.
The past in retrospect
After 1917, many began to look for – and to find – the harbingers of the later catastrophe during the seemingly peaceful first half of 1914. To many, it seemed obvious that the calm and orderly streets of St. Petersburg in July 1914 were like a thin crust on top of a boiling lava flow that would eventually break free.
Peter Durnov, the tsar’s perceptive former interior minister, gave this warning to Nicholas II: “The peasant dreams of getting ownership of somebody else’s land for free. The worker wants to grab the factory owner's entire capital and profits. They have no dreams beyond these purposes. If we allow these slogans to gain popularity among the masses, if the government allows the hotheads to agitate with impunity, Russia will be plunged into anarchy.”
On July 7, 10,000 workers in St Petersburg went on strike. By July 10 that number reached 135,000. Workers in Baku soon joined the protest. The main demand of the protesters was the abolition of the monarchy; the strike soon degenerated into violent rioting.
Protestors (described by Vladimir Lenin as “young workers”) stopped all trams in St. Petersburg. One tram driver was stoned to death. Some 200 of the city's 600 tram cars were damaged. Most people commuted via tram, and without the tram lines, there was no transport cheap enough for workers to use. The city’s plants and factories shut down.
The police were unable to control the situation. Fights often broke out between police officers and rioters. The strike ended only when World War I began.
Some historians believe that had the Duma members supported the strike, the political transformations in Russia would not have been as bloody and catastrophic as they turned out to be in 1917. Some also argue that Russia would not even have entered World War I.
On July 25, Nicholas II wrote in his diary: “On Thursday afternoon, Austria put an ultimatum to Serbia; it made several demands, including eight that are unacceptable to any independent state. The deadline for Serbia to comply expired today at 18:00 hours. All the talk everywhere is about what happens next."
The emperor hesitated for a while, but then made a fateful decision. As a long-standing ally of Serbia, Russia put its own ultimatum to Austria. Berlin threw its weight behind Vienna. A week later Germany declared war on Russia; in 10 days’ time the conflict had spiraled into a world war.
Former Imperial Furniture Factory in St. Petersburg Demolished Topic: Alexander Palace
The former factory of F. Meltzer & Co., situated on the corner of Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt and Karpovka Embankment has been demolished
Another piece of St. Petersburg’s Imperial past is no more. The building which housed the famed Meltzer furniture factory up until 1918 was demolished on February 6th.
One of the biggest names in the history of Russian furniture - F. Meltzer & Co, was founded in the 1860s by Johann Friedrich Meltzer. Once established, the firm was quickly appointed a supplier to the Russian Imperial Court, producing furniture for numerous Imperial residences, including the Winter Palace at St. Petersburg, the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, the Farm Palace at Peterhof, as well as exclusive pieces for the palaces and mansions of Russia’s aristocracy.
In 1880, the original factory was situated on Bolshoi Konushennoi ulitsa 17, and later moved to larger premises on the corner of Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt and Karpovka Embankment. The new factory was built by the architect Vasily Schaub (1861-1934), it was his first project in St. Petersburg. At the turn of the century the Meltzer’s employed 400 people.
The Meltzer factory closed in 1918. During the First World War the factory manufactured propellers, devices, telephone and telegraph communication. During the Soviet years, the factory produced furniture for hospitals, banks and offices.
The destruction of the historic building has outraged preservation groups in the city who claim that the demolition was illegal. Lawyers representing the groups have filed complaints with local and regional government administrations. Developers plan to construct luxury residences on the vacant land. It is interesting to note that according to the Fontanka.ru, one of the developers, Studio 44, who plan to invest 3 billion rubles in new projects on the site, are also the same firm currently carrying out the restoration of the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.
Today, original pieces of Meltzer’s work can be seen on display in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo.
For more information on F. Meltzer & Co., please refer to the following article;
Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich to be Reburied in St. Petersburg? Topic: Nicholas Nicholayevich, GD
Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich and his wife, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholayevna
According to the Russian language blog Romanov Family Today, a request has been made by Princes Nicholas and Dimitri Romanovich to the Chairman of the National Organizing Committee for the Activities Associated with the 100th Anniversary of World War I, Sergei Naryshkin, seeking permission for reburial of the remains of Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich (1856-1929) and his wife, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholayevna, nee Princess of Montenegro (1868-1935) at St. Petersburg.
On the eve of the outbreak of World War I, the grand duke's first cousin once removed, the Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, yielded to the entreaties of his ministers and appointed Grand Duke Nicholas to the supreme command. He was 57 years old and had never commanded armies in the field before. He was given responsibility for the largest army ever put into the field in all prior history. After the strategic retreat of the Russian army, the Tsar replaced the Grand Duke as commander of the Russian armed forces on August 21, 1915.
The grand ducal couple escaped just ahead of the Red Army in April 1919, aboard the British Battleship HMS Marlborough. Grand Duke Nicholas died on January 5, 1929 of natural causes at Antibes in the south of France. He was buried with full military honours in the crypt of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Cannes, France. Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholayevna died six years later and was buried alongside her husband.
The remains of the grand ducal couple would be reinterred alongside those of other members of the Russian Imperial family in the Peter and Paul Cathedral at St. Petersburg.
UPDATE: An article also appeared in the February 23rd edition of the Montenegrin newspaper, Vijesti on the same topic.