A Russian Moment No 39 - New Jerusalem Monastery near Moscow Topic: A Russian Moment
Restoration work on the New Jerusalem Monastery near Moscow is scheduled to be completed by 2016
The New Jerusalem Monastery is located on the banks of the Istra River, 64 km to the northwest of Moscow. It was founded in 1656 by Patriarch Nikon whose vision was to recreate the holy sites of Palestine near Moscow. The monastery was built by Belorussian masters. New Jerusalem’s first architect was Peter Zaborsky. Thirty-one masters took part in the construction.
At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, the monastery became one of the places for Russian pilgrimages. In 1903, Emperor Nicholas II visited the monastery, where Patriarch Nikon is buried. Once the Moscow-Vindava railroad line was constructed, the number of visitors grew. By 1913, approximately 35,000 people visited the monastery every year.
After the October Revolution of 1918, the monastery was closed. In 1921, museums opened up on its premises.
In 1994, New Jerusalem Monastery ceased to function as a museum and returned to its status as a monastery. In 2002, the World Monuments Fund put the New Jerusalem Monastery on the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites.
In 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and then Patriarch Alexy II visited the monastery and later that year organized a Charity Fund for the Reconstruction of the New Jerusalem Monastery, with Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov appointed its head.
The following year, in March 2009, President Medvedev signed a presidential decree for the restoration and renovation of the New Jerusalem Monastery. The federal government was instructed to subsidize the monastery restoration fund from the federal budget starting in 2009, estimating it will cost about 13–20 billion Russian roubles.
In an attempt to raise funds for the monastery restoration, a museum was opened. The storage funds of the museum are overflowing with more than 170,000 historical artifacts, with only one per cent on display at any given time. In 2010, the New Jerusalem Museum welcomed 300,000 visitors. By the summer of 2011, more than 350,000 tickets had been sold. The cost of visiting the museum is approximately $2. If you’d like to take photos, that’ll cost another $5.
Restoration work on the New Jerusalem Monastery is scheduled to be completed by 2016.
The History and Development of Tsarskoye Selo Topic: Tsarskoye Selo
To mark the 304th anniversary of the Tsarskoye Selo, celebrated on July 5, 2014, the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library in St. Petersburg published on its website an extensive collection of materials related to this memorable date. Historical documents, rare photographs, postcards, books, publications, revealing the three-century history of Tsarskoye Selo are now available to a wider audience.
As you know, June 24 (July 5), 1710 Peter I gave to his future wife Catherine Sarskaja Manor, located 25 km from St. Petersburg. That date is considered the foundation day of Tsarskoye Selo. The name "Sarskaya Manor" (a high place) was given to those lands due to a small Swedish manor house, located there in the early 18th century. In 1702, those territories were liberated by Russian troops. After the expulsion of the Swedish, the manor, which had been transferred into the possession of the Governor-General of the liberated territory, Alexander Menshikov, became known as the Sarskoye Selo.
In 1710, Peter I decided to give the lands to his future wife Catherine. The fact was mentioned in a letter of Alexander Menshikov to Koporie commandant, Larion Dumashev, of June 24 (July 5), 1710: "His Majesty is pleased to give Catherine Sarskaya and Slavyanskaya manors in Koporie country along with the associated villages, including the peasants and all the lands. As you receive the letter, give those manors with all the associated villages to her, and remove the manors from the accountant books; and send a report on the amount of yards, and fields, and woods, and hay meadows, and any land in the manors."
In 1717, a building for the summer residence of Empress Catherine I - the future Catherine Palace was laid in Tsarskoye Selo. Peter the Great often visited his wife’s country house. Visits of the emperor and other nobles to Tsarskoye Selo are described by A. I. Uspensky in his "Historical panorama of St. Petersburg and its environs. Tsarskoye Selo," available on the Presidential Library website:"August 7, 1724, according to furir books, His Imperial Majesty and the Empress came with a visit to Tsarskoye Selo; August 8, all the ministers and members of the aristocracy came there; August 9, on Sunday, was the consecration of the church took place in Tsarskoye Selo; after the liturgy 13 guns fired three times; ate all the ministers and Synod members (Archbishops George Dashkov of Yaroslavl, Theophanes Prokopovich of Pskov and Alexei Titov of Vyatka) ate in chambers in the village and stayed until midnight."
In 1728, the estate of the Empress passed to the crown princess Elizabeth, who unfolded there a serious construction. From 1741, Tsarskoye Selo had been the official residence of the Russian monarchs. In the second half of the 18th century, not only the palace with its front yard was constructed, but also the park, hydraulic works and houses. This was described in detail in the "Historical panorama of St. Petersburg and its environs. Tsarskoye Selo": "In 1728, Tsarskoye Selo became a patrimony of Princess Elizabeth Petrovna. Having ascended the throne, Elizabeth did not forget Tsarskoye Selo, and gradually, within a few years, turned the modest Peter Palace into a fantastically luxurious place to rival Versailles."
In 1808, by decree of the Emperor Alexander I, a single town called Tsarskoye Selo was formed. Its reconstruction plan was developed by architect V. I. Geste. By the second half of the nineteenth century, the population of Tsarskoye Selo reached 14, 000 inhabitants. Even then, it was a comfortable town with good rail links, water supply, sewerage, telegraph, telephone and radio station.
The website of the first national electronic library of the country provides access to historical documents relating to the history of Tsarskoye Selo. Among them: "The plans of parts of Tsarskoye Selo of the St. Petersburg Province: 1838-1839" provided by the Russian State Historical Archives. In addition to the plans and schemes of Tsarskoye Selo, there is also the "project of square and the road near the house occupied by a branch of the Sofia military hospital."
Tsarskoye Selo is also famous for its educational institutions. For example, in 1811, there was opened the Imperial Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum – a higher educational institution for children of nobles in the Russian Empire, which functioned until 1843. The Lyceum became widely known in the Russian history primarily as a school, which educated Alexander Pushkin.
The Presidential Library disposes of a unique document - "Resolution on the Lyceum" of 1810, written personally by Emperor Alexander I to «Mr. Minister of Education." It describes in detail the organization of the future educational institution, the requirements for teachers and students, the lists of disciplines needed to be studied, etc. It says that the Lyceum was intended for nobles aged 10-12, "having doubtless certificates of their great morality and being totally healthy." The time for studying was set from August 1 to July 1 of the following year.
Another educational institution opened in 1902. Two years earlier, Nicholas II issued a decree, «On the opening in Tsarskoye Selo of a real school board and the construction of the house for it." The decree is held by the Presidential Library and it explains the reason for choosing the place for the educational institution: "Climatically, Tsarskoye Selo has a healthy, clean air, dry mountainous terrain and beautiful water for the younger generation. Being very close to St. Petersburg, Tsarskoye Selo has all the amenities of intellectual life of the capital (libraries, museums, scientific and educational societies, theaters, etc.), but at the same time allows, thanks to its small size, have the best behavioral surveillance and way of life of students, even outside the walls of the educational institution."
By the early 20th century, Tsarskoye Selo was one of the most developed towns of the Russian Empire. After the revolution, the palaces and mansions of Tsarskoye Selo housed child care institutions, and the town became known as Detskoye Selo. In 1937, the town was renamed to Pushkin to commemorate the centenary of the death of the great Russian poet.
The Presidential Library website also makes available rare photos of Tsarskoye Selo. Among them: "Dacha of Alexander III», «A lane to the zoo," "Big whim", "Chinese Village", "Aleksander gate of Catherine park in Tsarskoye Selo."
The Presidential Library’s collections are constantly enriched with new interesting materials about the history of Tsarskoye Selo - Pushkin. Anyone can access them either on the website of the Presidential library or in electronic reading rooms. The first national electronic library of the country is designed to preserve and make available the most important documents on the history, theory and practice of the Russian state using modern technology. To date, the Presidential Library holdings include more than 320,000 electronic materials, over 110, 000 of them are freely available on the website.
Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library Collections Reveal the Personality of Nicholas I Topic: Nicholas I
Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855)
To mark the 218th birthday anniversary of the Russian Emperor Nicholas I, celebrated June 25 (July 6), 2014, the Presidential Library in St. Petersburg published on its website a collection of unique materials, historical documents, rare books and publications related to the life and work of Nicholas Romanov, one of the most difficult and multifaceted emperors in historians’ evaluation. Materials contain vivid memories of his contemporaries, fascinating life stories and own thoughts of the Russian emperor.
Nicholas was born June 25 (July 6,) 1796. He was the third son of the future Emperor Paul I and Maria Feodorovna. Eugene Karnovich, author of the 1897 “Emperor Nicholas I” quotes a letter of Catherine II, written to one of her entourage after the birth of the boy, "I became a grandmother of the third grandson, who has an extraordinary power, and will, it seems to me, also reign, although he has two older brothers." And, as you know, Catherine the Great's premonition came true: December 14 (26), 1825 her grandson ascended the throne as Emperor Nicholas I. However, the Grand Duke did not even suppose that once he will bear a high title of the monarch of the Russian Empire. After all, according to the Act of Succession adopted by Emperor Paul I in April 1797, available on the website of the Presidential Library, Grand Duke Nikolai Pavlovich could not count on the Russian throne. The document said: "In compliance with the natural law, after my death I name the heir my older son Alexander, and after him all his male generation. Upon the extinction of his generation, inheritance passes to the generation to my second son, and the procedure is the same as with the generation of my older son, and so on as if I had no more sons." It left a definite mark on the upbringing and education of Nicholas. From the early age he was most interested in building and engineering, a passion to which he retained for life.
On the children's adolescence period and the future of the Russian emperor in detail in the M. Lalaev’s historical essay of 1896, "Emperor Nicholas I, builder of the Russian school": "In adolescence, Nicholas Pavlovich, already fluent in Russian, French and German, studied Russian history, geography, and statistics, more readily studied mathematics, military science and mechanical drawing. Empress-mother was particularly interested that education of all her sons influenced them in moral sense. When fourteen-year-old Nicholas was advised to read "History of Russia", composed by Frenchman Leveque, Maria Feodorovna requested Glinka "to erase all that is useless or harmful to the Grand Duke in this book, and submit it to the empress herself for viewing."
In 1817, Nicholas married the Prussian Princess Frederica Louise Charlotte Wilhelmina, betrothed in Orthodoxy Alexandra Feodorovna. Princely family led a lifestyle that was consistent with the status of Nicholas as an ordinary member of the imperial family. N. Ermilov’s work of 1900, "Features of life of Emperor Nicholas: told by his contemporaries" describes the family idyll that reigned in the union of the Grand Duke Nicholas and his wife Alexandra Fyodorovna: "Not going to become the Russian emperor and being the Grand Duke, Nicholas Pavlovich lived in Anichkov Palace in an extremely simple manner, isolated in the circle of his beloved family, as an ordinary mortal. He rarely appeared at court. All the time he devoted to his family, studied music, drawing, read selected works of British and French authors, liked to collect and tidy collections of engravings, cartoons and maps." As he confessed himself: «The source of my happiness: my wife and children."
The unexpected death of Alexander I revealed the complexity of the dynastic situation. The emperor died November 19 (December 1), 1825 in Taganrog, and when the news reached the capital, troops were sworn in the new Russian Emperor Constantine I. But Constantine did not want to recognize himself emperor. Then Nicholas, knowing about a military coup in the army, was able to take the initiative in his own hands and decided to declare himself emperor on the basis of the documents signed by Alexander I back in 1823.
December 14 (26), the day of the second oath to Emperor Nicholas I on the Senate Square in St. Petersburg, the famous Decembrist uprising occurred. "What a beginning of the reign! said Emperor to the Empress who met him at the palace of. Sad and painful silence was the eloquent answer." These lines are taken from A. Magama’s work of 1859 "Emperor Nicholas I and his reign", also held by the Presidential Library.
In December 1826, the emperor created a Secret committee to elaborate important state reforms on the basis of the projects that had remained in the office of the late Emperor Alexander Pavlovich. Later, His Imperial Majesty’s Own Chancellery was transformed into a government agency, charged with all state matters.
In addition, the Presidential Library website provides access to historical documents such as the Code of Laws of the Russian Empire, which was first published in 1832 by order of Nicholas I. It consists of 15 volumes of the current legislative acts of the Russian Empire grouped in thematic order. The first national electronic library of the country also makes available for a wide audience the Charter on censorship of 1829. This was the second censorship statute issued to mitigate the previous one. In 1826, the first censorship statute was published, which forbade to print almost everything that had any political overtones.
During the reign of Nicholas I, the first private Russian public museum – Rumyantsev Museum was founded, the Imperial Military Academy opened, the first railroad – from St. Petersburg to Tsarskoye Selo – was built; later appeared Nicholas’ railway, which linked Moscow and St. Petersburg; Russian Geographic Society was created in St. Petersburg, the first official yacht club appeared in Russia. Also under Nicholas I appeared the first official anthem of the Russian Empire ("God Save the Tsar"), author of the text of which was the poet Vasily Zhukovsky.
During thirty years of ruling Russia (1825-1855) Nicholas I greatly expanded its territory by annexing large areas in the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Far East.
Despite the rigidity in the public administration, Nicholas I was extremely kind, gentle and sympathetic person. N. Ermilov’s work of 1900, "Features of life of Emperor Nicholas: told by his contemporaries" describes a large number of stories from the life of Nicholas I, which reveal the personality of the emperor quite positively. Among them there is the story of Nicholas’ valet: "Sometimes I fall asleep, and then wake up suddently and think whether it is time to help the Emperor to undress? I look into his bedroom, and see that he has already undressed himself and gone to bed. And sometimes, half asleep, I hear a rustle... the emperor, seeing that I fell asleep, passed me by on his toes."
The reign of Nicholas I ended with the major foreign policy failure. The Crimean War (1853-1856) undermined the psychological well-being and health of the Emperor, and an occasional cold during the winter of 1855 became fatal for him.
Materials about Nicholas I make part of the collection of the first national electronic library in the country, "The House of Romanov. 400th anniversary of the Zemsky Sobor of 1613." The total collection contains about 900 items.
Exhibition: Return of a Century. Romanovs. Oldenburg Topic: Exhibitions
The former palace of the Oldenburg's in Ramon
On June 16th a new exhibition, The Return of a Century. Romanovs. Oldenburg, opened in the town of Ramon, situated about 500 km south of Moscow in the Voronezh region. The venue for the exhibition is the former palace of the Oldenburg princes. Built in the late 19th century in the Gothic Revival style, the palace belonged to the Russian branch of the House of Oldenburg. The exhibition is dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the visit to Voronezh by Emperor Nicholas II in 1914.
The exhibition explores the relationship linking the Romanov and Oldenburg families, with a significant part of the exhibition dedicated to the extensive charitable activities of both families. A significant part of the exhibition is devoted to the charitable activities of the Romanovs and the Oldenburgs. Under the patronage of Princess Eugenie of Oldenburg (granddaughter of Nicholas I and niece of Alexander) were many artistic, medical and charitable societies throughout Russia.
Numerous photographs of the Romanovs include Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna and the Oldenburgs include Duke Peter Alexandrovich (center)
The exhibition features portraits of the Romanov dynasty and the Oldenburg family (on loan from the Moscow State Historical Museum), as well as paintings, photographs, postcards from museums in Voronezh and Ramon. The exhibition also includes copies of documents and photographs stored in the State Archives of the Russian Federation (Moscow), the Russian State Historical Archive (St. Petersburg) and the State Archive of the Voronezh region. A documentary on the participation of the Romanov and Oldenburg in the cultural life of the province of Voronezh and Russia is also shown to visitors.
Innovative technologies used in the organization of the exhibition - video projection and installation, unusual interior design and unique style solutions in the organization of the exhibition space - all of which help visitors to immerse themselves in a bygone era, demonstate a string of historical events and evaluate the contribution of members of the Romanov and Oldenburg families in the development of Russian statehood, culture and life.
It is interesting to note that Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (youngest sister of Nicholas II) married Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg 0n 9th August 1901. Each year they visited Peter’s mother at Ramon, and eventually purchased their own estate nearby, Olgino. Their marriage was annulled on 16th October 1916.
National History Museum of Romania Hosts Exhibit Dedicated to 1914 Visit of Nicholas II to Constanta Now Playing: Language: Romanian. Duration: 1 minute, 51 seconds Topic: Nicholas II
Archival film footage of the arrival of Emperor Nicholas II and his family at Constanta, Romania on June 14th [O.S. June 1st] 1914
On June 5th, a unique exhibition opened at the National History Museum of Romania in Bucharest. The exhibition marks the 100th anniversary of Emperor Nicholas II’s historic visit to Romania in June 1914, two months before the outbreak of the First World War. This was the only official visit by a Russian sovereign to Romania. The commemoration of this event is the subject of the exhibition Russian-Romanian Historical Consonances: Centenary Visit by Emperor Nicholas II to Constanta (1 / June 14, 1914).
The exhibition is the first cultural event conducted by the National History Museum of Romania in partnership with Russian institutions. It brings together a unique set of photographs and documents from the collections of several Russian partner institutions: State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), State Central Archives in St. Petersburg, Russian State Archive documentaries and Photo (RGAKFD), and the National Museum of History, the NAR and Diplomatic Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Nearly 100 photographs, documents and other items on display at the National Museum of Romania in Bucharest
Nearly 100 photos, historic documents and other valuable items were put on display for the first time marking the historic event between the two monarchs. In addition to photographs that mark Nicholas II’s visit to Constanta in 1914, were photographs of the visit by King Carol (Charles) I and Prince Ferdinand to Russia in July 1898, and that of Prince Ferdinand (future King Ferdinand I) and Princess Maria (future Queen Marie), and their son, Carol (future King Carol II) in March 1914 to St. Petersburg. The National Museum of History also put on display the Order of St. Andrew, awarded to King Carol I and medals issued to commemorate the visit of Tsar Nicholas II in 1914.
Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and their children arrived at Constanta, situated on the Black Sea coast onboard the Imperial yacht Standart. The short video above documents their arrival at the Black Sea port on 14th June [O.S. 1st June] 1914.
Nicholas II had a close relationship with King Carol I (1839-1914) of Romania, especially after Crown Prince Ferdinand’s marriage to Maria who was a granddaughter of Tsar Alexander II. The meeting between the two sovereigns included political discussions which were aimed at maintaining peace in the Balkans and respect to the Treaty of Bucharest signed in 1913.
Members of the Russian Imperial and Romanian royal families pose for a photograph at Constanta, June 1914
It was also during this visit that Ferdinand and Maria tried to make a match for their son, Prince Carol, with the Grand Duchess Olga Nicholayevna, eldest daughter of Nicholas II. This proposed match was strongly supported by the Russian Foreign Minister Sazonov, but nothing came of it. Olga struggled to make small talk with the Romanian crown prince. Carol's mother, was unimpressed with Olga as well, finding her manners too brusque and her broad, high cheek-boned face "not pretty." Olga later told Pierre Gilliard that she wanted to marry a Russian and remain in her own country. She said her parents would not force her to marry anyone she could not like.
The exhibition ran from June 5th - 29th, 2014 at the National History Museum of Romania in Bucharest. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue in three languages: Romanian, Russian and English, richly illustrated with photographs and other documents from the exhibit.
Exhibition: The Family Album. Danish-Russian Dynastic Ties Topic: Exhibitions
A new exhibition Family Album. Danish-Russian Dynastic Ties, has opened at the Pavlovsk State Museum Preserve. The exhibit is a joint effort between the National History Museum at the Castle of Frederiksborg (Hillerød, Denmark) and the Pavlovsk State Museum-Preserve. Russia and Denmark have enjoyed strong cultural ties for many years, the Pavlovsk Palace Museum and the Danish royal museums have worked repeatedly over the years on the creation of joint exhibitions, both in Denmark and in Russia.
The main items on display at this current exhibit are unique historical photos from the family album of the Danish royal family and the Pavlovsk State Museum. Close family ties between Denmark and Imperial Russia began from the moment in 1866 when the Danish Princess Dagmar, who upon adopting the Orthodox faith received the name of Maria Feodorovna, became the wife of Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich, heir to the Russian throne. After the assassination of his father Alexander II in 1881, he would become Emperor Alexander III.
Princess Dagmar was originally engaged to Alexander’s older brother Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, who suddenly died of cerebro-spinal meningitis in 1865. His fiancée, Princess Dagmar, consented to become the wife of his brother Alexander, and it proved to be a happy marriage. Alexander III was a faithful husband to his wife, and an exemplary father to his children.
Through the Empress Maria Feodorovna, the Russian Imperial House intermarried with the royal houses of Britain and Greece. The son of Maria Feodorovna and Alexander III, the future Emperor Nicholas II and King George V of Great Britain, the nephew of Maria Feodorovna, were cousins. A cousin of Alexander III, Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna, became the wife of the King George I of Greece, the brother of Maria Feodorovna. Thus, the Danish-Russian dynastic ties expanded their influence throughout Europe at the end of 19th-early 20th century. All this is reflected in the exhibition Family Album, in which about 100 photographs form the background in which family relationships reflects the history, life and tastes of the era.
Emperor Alexander III and his family at the court of King Christian IX of Denmark.
Painted in the Garden Pavilion of Fredensberg Palace by the Danish painter, Laurits Tuxen 1883-86
The exhibition is on display in the Rossi Library at Pavlovsk Palace. Along with photos are showcased a number of works of the Danish school of painting. Of particular interest is the painting, The Family of Emperor Alexander III in Denmark, by one of the most famous artists of the late 19th century, Laurits Tuxen. Other paintings include views of the interiors of the Danish royal palaces, by artists Joseph Theodore and Adolf Heinrich Ganzen. These paintings reflect the atmosphere of the era which is seen in these historic photographs. Decoration of the exhibition are enhanced by vases dating from the private collection of Empress Maria Feodorovna (c. 1890s) from the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactory. An oval portrait of Maria Feodorovna by artist I. Galkin is considered an iconic symbol of the exhibition.
The exhibition The Family Album. Danish-Russian Dynastic Ties runs from June 18th to September 14th, 2014 at the Pavlovsk State Museum-Preserve.
History of Imperial Courier Service Museum Opens at Peterhof Topic: Peterhof
The History of Imperial Courier Service Museum is situated in the Alexandria Park at Peterhof
A new museum dedicated to the history of the imperial courier service has opened in the Alexandria Park at Peterhof. The museum is housed in the old Courier cabin built by Emperor Alexander II, who wished to keep his summer residence in Peterhof. Constructed by the architect E. L. Hahn in the Russian style in 1856, the Peterhof Courier is a modest building of “national importance,” it provided a link between the sovereign and the army and his senior ministers in the capital.
The first horse couriers appeared in ancient Russia in 1649, by decree of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. In 1716, Peter I established the "martial couriers." Vadim Snakin, director of the Alexandria Museums of the Peterhof State Museum Preserve notes that Imperial courier service was established in 1796 by the Emperor Paul I.
The museum consists of three rooms, of which the decor of the second half of 19th century has been meticulously recreated.
The museum is divided into two parts. In the first part you can see the dress uniform of the Imperial courier of 1881, medals, the icon of the Presentation of the Lord - especially esteemed in the courier service, anniversary books written for the centenary of the Courier Service, which were presented as a gift to dignitaries and members of the imperial household. Here are also antique drawings, designs, including the original plans for the construction of the Peterhof Courier house.
The second part of the exhibition recreates the authentic life of courier duty and their conditions of service - here you can see postal cards, stationery and furniture of the era. Also on display are special equipment - such as a 19th century safe, plus a large forged chest for transporting money and valuables, as well as a courier bag, which transported the most important and sensitive packets sent to or from the emperor. Also recreated here and a specific feature of the officers daily life, is the smell of tobacco in the room. "We are not advocating smoking, but for historical authenticity added this in our exhibition, as well as ashtrays and other smoking accessories", - Snakin said.
The restoration of the Courier house took about a year. As previously noted, the building was constructed in the middle of the 19th century. It is the only wooden building, which survived after the Second World War.
Stolen Romanov Photos Return to Russia Topic: Gatchina
Yuri Gloukhov – Consul Géneral of the Russian Federation in Geneva hands over 33 photographs
of the Russian Imperial family to representatives of the Gatchina State Museum
On June 24th a collection of 33 photographs which originated from the family archive of the Romanov family were handed over to representatives of the Gatchina State Museum at the Consulate General of Russia in Geneva. The photographs had been stolen by a German soldier during the Nazi retreat from the Soviet Union in 1944.
Thus ended the long history of the return of unique photographs taken by members of the imperial family in the late 19th - early 20th centuries. "For us this is a very important moment that has symbolic significance in that these Romanov photos return home to their beloved Gatchina" - said Svetlana Astahovskaya, scientific secretary of the Gatchina State Museum.
For a long time these materials were considered irretrievably lost, but in December 2013 they were suddenly put on the block at the Geneva auction house of Hôtel des Ventes.
Among the 246 lots from various private collections in the catalogue prepared by the Hôtel des Ventes, was a collection of photographs, which attracted the attention of Russian diplomats. Soon it became clear that the photographs were those which have been taken from the USSR by the German army soldier, Otto Hofmann. During World War II he was drafted into military service and by chance found himself in Gatchina. It is interesting to note that Hoffman was an artist and had earned recognition even before the war.
Exactly how he came to find the photographs is not known, but it is obvious that he actually saved them from destruction. Upon his return to Germany in 1947 Hofmann kept the photographs in his personal collection. After his death, his widow Marian Hofmann decided to put the photographs up for sale.
Thanks to the timely energetic intervention of the Russian Embassy in Switzerland and the Consulate General of Russia in Geneva a Swiss Court ordered that the photographs be withdrawn from the auction on 9 December 2013. According to the Russians the photographs fell under the category of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the USSR during the Second World War.
The photographs caught the eye of Russian diplomats last year after they were put on the block by the Geneva auction house Hôtel des Ventes
After five months of painstaking work with the support of Geneva lawyer, Dmitri Yafaev, the Russian Consulate General was able to negotiate with the widow Hofmann on how to complete the judicial settlement proceedings. In accordance with the agreement, Marian Hofmann donated the photographs to the Gatchina State Museum, where they had been taken more than a century ago.
"We are grateful to Madame Hofmann for this gesture of goodwill. The photos will be returned to their rightful place, where they should be, "- said Yuri Gloukhov – Consul Géneral of the Russian Federation. The director of the auction house Hôtel des Ventes, Bernard Piguet also took an active part in the negotiation process.
Today we can say with confidence that these materials represent a valuable source of information for historians and restorers at Gatchina. "Here we see, for example, a terrace, a marina, which today is now in very poor condition. Soon we will begin restoration work on them, and these photographs are invaluable in addressing the more precise details of the restorations" - explains Svetlana Astahovskaya.
As for the photos, there is still a number of studies to be done, including the identification of the persons in the photographs, many of whom are members of the Russian Imperial family and other members of the Court. Further, who was the photographer of these images? "We have no answer to this question at this point. Many members of the Imperial family were interested in photography as a hobby: the palace contained countless cameras. I must say that this family shared a keen interest for this technical innovation of the time, so the photographer of the images is clearly a member of the Imperial family" - says Svetlana Astahovskaya.
Of course, these photos will be made available to the general public at a future exhibition. But at the moment it is too early to call a specific timeframe and format of the exhibition possible.
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 22 Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches
A spectacular belltower and entrance gate with beautiful curving colonnades stretching on either
side lead to the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (currently under restoration) in St. Petersburg
In St. Petersburg, towards the southern end of Ligovsky Prospekt, at the point where it crosses the Obvodny Canal, stands the Cossack Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It is in fact a complex of churches and chapels dominated by a spectacular belltower and entrance gate with beautiful curving colonnades stretching on either side.
The Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross stands on the site of one of St. Petersburg's oldest cemeteries and churches. Originally the parish church for the Coachmen's Settlement, the first wooden church, named after the Birth of John the Baptist, was erected here in 1719.
View of the facade and iconostasis of the Tikhvin Church
The Tikhvin Church contains two side chapels: the Chapel of the Holy Royal Martyrs (left) which contains numerous icons of the Saints Tsar Nicholas, Tsarina Alexandra, Tsesarevich Alexei and Saint Elizabeth, and the Chapel of Saint Alexander Nevsky (right)
In 1764-68, a second wooden church, with heating for winter services, was consecrated in the name of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God. In 1842-44, the Tikhvin Church was replaced with a new stone building by architect V. E. Morgan. A simple white one-storey structure with a single pale blue dome, is currently the only fully functioning church in the complex.
The first stone church was built on the orders of the Holy Synod in 1794, by which time the area was predominantly populated by Cossacks serving in the Imperial regiments. Thus the church got its current name, and it remains a centre of the Cossack community in St. Petersburg to this day. The superb early neoclassical belltower and its two side chapels were built 1810-12.
In 1848-51, the old Church of the Exaltation of the Cross was replaced by the modern cathedral. Designed by Egor Dimmert, the Cathedral took its cue from the belltower, and is a similarly elegant and symmetrical neoclassical structure. The five-dome Baroque style church with three side-altars was embellished with double pilasters along the facade, extended and reconstructed in 1848-52. The icons were painted by Korotkov; modelling was done by T. Dylev.
The domes of the Church of the Exaltation of the Cross and a view of the dilapidated interior (now under restoration) at Easter 2014
The final church in the complex, the Church of Saints Kirill and Mefodiy, was built by church elder and merchant Ivan Shigalev in 1872 in memory of his wife.
In 1875, the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross founded a charitable society that supported a hospice, two orphanages and a Sunday school. From 1909, a children’s group was held here.
In the 1930s all of the churches in the complex were closed, and their rich decorations plundered. The Church of Our Lady of Tikhvin was closed down in 1932 and accommodated a boiler-house. The Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross was closed in 1938 and in 1939 its interior was completely reconstructed inside and, ironically, turned into restoration workshops.
In 1991, the complex was returned to the Orthodox Church and the Cossack community. In the same year divine liturgies were resumed to the SS. Cyril & Methodius Church, and in 1993, they resumed in the Church of Our Lady of Tikhvin. In 2000, the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross became the Cossacks Cathedral.
This much neglected complex of churches is still in a very dilapidated state, restoration work is ongoing. Services are held in the Tikhvin Church daily, and in the Church of Ss. Kirill and Mefodia on Sunday mornings. Many male members of the Cossack community attend services in full Cossack uniform of the tsarist period.
Male members of the church in full Cossack uniform of the Tsarist period pose in front of the three monuments to last Imperial family of Russia:
Tsesarevich Alexiei, Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna
In the last decade, three monuments to the last Russian emperor and members of his family have been erected in front of the church. In 2002, the bronze bust to Emperor Nicholas II was unveiled (sculptor S. Alipov); in 2013, a bronze bust to the Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolayevich was unveiled; and in 2014, a bronze bust to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna was unveiled.
To view all *22 churches featured in our Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia series, please refer to the following link:
Two centuries Since Russia's Alexander I Was Feted in England in 1814 Topic: Alexander I
Photo: The Allied Sovereigns at Petworth, 24 June 1814. George, 1751–1837, 3rd Earl of Egremont, with His Children Looking on, is presented by George, Prince Regent, to Tsar Alexander I of Russia accompanied by his sister, the Duchess of Oldenburg in the Marble Hall at Petworth with the King of Prussia, Frederick. Painted in 1817 by the British artist Thomas Phillips (1770-1845)
Sir John Soane's Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, is staging an exhibition to commemorate the summer of 1814 when England's Prince Regent invited his allies - Emperor Alexander I of Russia, William of Orange and Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia - to London. VoR's Tim Ecott asked Dr. Jerzy Kierkuc-Bielinski, the curator of the exhibition, why Alexander I was so popular with British people.
The exhibition, 'Peace Breaks Out! London and Paris in the summer of 1814', at the Sir John Soane's Museum in London focusses on the summer of 1814, when Europe celebrated peace after the Treaty of Paris following the fall of Napoleon.
Displaying over 100 rare pieces from the museum and private collections, the exhibition will explore this pivotal moment in the history of Europe, through the eyes of its contemporaries.
It was a period when Europe was at peace and Napoleon had been exiled albeit briefly to the Island of Elba. England's Prince Regent invited his allies - William of Orange, Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia and Emperor Alexander I of Russia.
Tsar Alexander was also accompanied by his sister, the Duchess of Oldenburg (Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna, 1788-1819). The royal visitors were feted and wined and dined and there was great public interest especially in the Russian Emperor.
Dr Jerzy Kierkuc-Bielinski told VoR:
"He was unusual, for a ruler of his time, to have been taught English. He spoke it very beautifully, so I think immediately, there is a fluency of communication between the emperor and Londoners. Also his own political outlook: he was noted for his failed – failed – attempts at reforming. For example the situation among the Russian serfs, there were certain elements of constitutional monarchy that the emperor seemed to sympathise with and made attempts to introduce to Russia.
“He attempted to reform the Russian education system. His sister also is quite a presence. There is a wonderful caricature in the exhibition which shows the Duchess of Oldenburg with her entourage in Oxford. The Tsar, the Prince Regent and the King of Russia were all invited to Oxford to receive honorary degrees, but it was the Duchess of Oldenburg’s rather extraordinary bonnet with a very long beak-like brim, which completely obscures her face, which seemed to form the point of fascination.”
The exhibition also contains a knitted purse which was presented by the emperor to 'Gentleman' John Jackson.
Dr Kierkuc-Bielinski said: “He was one of the greatest boxers of Regency Britain. A boxing match was held and Jackson fought for Alexander, but we also know that the Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher was also at this match. There’s an account of the time.
Blücher was particularly struck by Jackson’s physique, but also the elegance of his pose. Jackson was known for that – he was also called the emperor of boxing. Jackson wins the match on behalf of the emperor and is presented, by the emperor, with this rather ornate knitted purse."
The exhibition Peace Breaks Out! runs until September 13 at the Sir John Soane's Museum.