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Thursday, 17 July 2014
In Memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs - 17 July, 1918

 
Today marks the 96th anniversary of the murders of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. 
 
The Tsar, along with his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna, their four daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, and their only son and heir to the Russian throne, Alexei, and all those who chose to accompany them into exile – notably their four faithful retainers: Dr. Eugene Botkin, Anna Demidova, Alexei Trupp and Ivan Kharitonov were murdered in the basement of the Ipatiev House in the early morning hours of July 17th, 1918. There were no survivors.
 
The following day (July 18th) at Alapaevsk, more Romanov blood was spilled by the thugs and criminals of the new Bolshevik regime. Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, the Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich; Princes Ioann Konstantinovich, Konstantin Konstantinovich, Igor Konstantinovich and Vladimir Pavlovich Paley; Grand Duke Sergei's secretary, Feodor Remez; and Varvara Yakovleva, a sister from the Grand Duchess's convent, met a brutal death here being thrown down a mineshaft by their captors.
 
Their murders were followed by the Red Terror unleashed by Vladimir Lenin and later by his successor, Joseph Stalin. For more than 70 years Russia would suffer under the hands of an evil regime, one that resulted in the murder of millions of innocent people, and the persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church.
 
From 1917-1991, the Soviet state was committed to the destruction of religion. They set about desecrating and destroying churches, ridiculed, harassed and massacred large numbers of clergy and believers. They proceeded to flood the schools and media with atheistic teachings, and generally promoted atheism as the truth that society should accept. The total number of Christian victims of Soviet state atheist policies, is estimated to be in the millions.
 
Since 1991, the world has witnessed the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the fall of Communism, the resurrection of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia, the canonization of the last tsar and his family, plus the judicial rehabilitation of Tsar Nicholas II and his immediate family, new churches and memorials honour their memory. Indeed, the Bolsheviks have been brought down.
 
The family of Nicholas II was canonized on 1 November 1981 as new martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. They were canonized along with their servants, who had been killed along with them. All were canonized as victims of oppression by the Bolsheviks. The Russian Orthodox Church did not canonize the servants, two of whom were not Russian Orthodox: Alexei Trupp was Roman Catholic and Catherine Adolphovna Schneider was Lutheran.

Alexandra's sister, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna, was canonized on 1 November 1981 as New-Martyr Elizabeth by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, along with Prince Ioann Konstantinovich of Russia, Prince Igor Konstantinovich of Russia, Prince Konstantine Konstantinovich of Russia, Grand Duke Sergey Mikhaylovich of Russia, and Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley, and Elizabeth's faithful companion, Sister Varvara Yakovleva, who were all killed with her. Fyodor Remez, Grand Duke Sergei's personal secretary, who was killed as well, was not canonized. They are known as the Martyrs of Alapaevsk.

In 1992, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna and Varvara Yakovleva were canonized as New-Martyr Elizabeth and New-Martyr Barbara by the Moscow Patriarchate (the Orthodox Church inside Russia). The grand dukes and others killed with them were not canonized.

On 20 August 2000, after much debate, the family of Nicholas II was canonized as passion bearers by the Moscow Patriarchate.
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 17 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:17 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 17 July 2014 5:18 AM EDT
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Nationalists Seek to Change Russian Flag to Tsarist Imperial Standard
Topic: Imperial Russia


Since the 1990s this flag is used by monarchists and some extreme right political groups
 
A lawmaker from the populist nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) has prepared a motion to change Russia’s current white, blue and red state flag to the black, yellow and white flag adopted by Russian emperors in the late 19th century.

MP Mikhail Degtyaryov has said in a press interview that the imperial flag was much more appropriate for the important events taking place in Russia. These landmark occasions include Crimea’s accession into the Russian Federation, the start of the Russia-led economic bloc the Customs Union, and the rise of patriotism in general, he said.

A similar “victorious epoch of Russian history” was the period of the Russian Empire, Izvestia daily quoted the MP as saying.

In the explanations to the draft, Degtyaryov also wrote that when the Russian state was using the black, yellow and white flag its territory increased greatly and included Alaska, the Caucasus, Crimea, Eastern Prussia, Poland, the Baltics, Central Asian states and Finland.

“We were achieving brilliant victories when we used the imperial flag and today it is still capable of uniting all Russian citizens. The modern tri-color, returned by Boris Yeltsin in a rush, has never been discussed with the people, no research has been made. In early 1990s all decisions in our country were dictated by US advisers… We need people to think more about the flag that is flying over Russia. We must return the state flag that matches the resurrecting glory of our nation,” Degtyaryov told the newspaper.

He estimated the price of the nationwide transition to the new flag at 15.5 million rubles (about US$443 000).

Most Russian historians claim that the current white, blue and red flag was first introduced by Peter the Great in the late 17th century. The Tsar supposedly borrowed the design from the Netherlands, where he studied shipbuilding and other modern trades of his era.

The black, yellow and white flag was approved as a national symbol by Emperor Alexander II in 1858 and remained as such till 1896. According to the official explanation the flag borrowed the colors from the imperial coat of arms – the Byzantium eagle was black, the Byzantium banner was gold, and the horse of St George, also pictured on the Moscow city emblem, was white. However, the black, yellow and white scheme was also used by German Kaiser of the same period and back then Russia allied with Prussia and other German states.

Various combination of the imperial standard and the white-blue-red tricolor were used between the 1896 and 1917.

Modern Russia approved the white, blue and red tricolor in 1991. It was the flag used by supporters of Boris Yeltsin during the 1991 coup attempt and was modeled on the flag of the Russian Republic – the state that existed between the Tsar’s abdication in February 1917 and the October Revolution. The official explanation of the tricolor colors was the claim that it symbolizes the principles of Russian statehood.

However the fringe nationalists opposing Yeltsin and his pro-Western policies continued to use the imperial standard, claiming that it was the only ‘true Russian’ flag. It was flown regularly at the ‘Russian March’ rallies and other similar events and is still used by some radical groups. Representatives of these movements have not so far commented on Degtyaryov’s plan.

However, the draft drew comment from the founder of Russia’s Monarchist Party. Anton Bakovtold the URA news agency that such suggestions were discrediting the very idea of monarchy.

“How can Russia use the Romanov dynasty flag before the descendants of the emperors return to their homeland? The Tsars got the Kremlin stolen from them, and the Hermitage Palace. Now the LDPR deputy wants to steal their flag,” Bakov told reporters.

MP Vyacheslav Lysakov of the parliamentary majority United Russia party told Izvestia that the change of state flag in Russia was not very likely.

“We have a state flag already, there is nothing controversial about it. We have had such suggestions before, they never ended in anything but empty words,” Lysakov said. 
 
© Russia Today. 17 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:00 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 17 July 2014 5:04 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 16 July 2014
In Memoriam: Orthodox Artist Pavel Ryzhenko (1970-2014)
Topic: Russian Art


Pavel Viktorovich Ryzhenko 1970-2014
 
It is with great sadness that I announce the death of Pavel Ryzhenko, his cause of death is unknown at the time of this writing. The famed Orthodox artist died today at the age of 44. Pavel Ryzhenko was a particular favourite of mine, and it was during my visit to Ekaterinburg in 2012 where I saw an exhibition of his paintings on display at the Patriarchal Compound of the Church on the Blood.

Pavel Ryzhenko created many large-scale paintings dedicated to scenes from Imperial Russian history, including the Battle of Kulikovo, Sergius of Radonezh, Russian Orthodox saints, and the era of the Royal-Passion-bearer Nicholas II. Large-scale exhibits of his works have been showcased in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kostroma, Ekaterinburg among other Russian cities. 

A memorial service for Pavel Ryzhenko will be held on Sunday, July 22 at 12:00 in the Church of All Saints in the village of Krasnoselsky District, Moscow. The funeral will be held on the same day in Kaluga, followed by his burial at the Zhdamirovskom Cemetery, in the village of Zhdamirovo.

Pavel Ryzhenko was born at Kaluga, Russia in 1970. In 1982 he entered the Moscow Art School at the Surikov Institute. In 1990 he entered the Russian Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where he studied in the historical and religious workshop of Professor Ilya Glazunov. From 1999, he taught at the Russian Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. In 2007, Paul began working at the Ryzhenko Military Artists Studio, where he became one of the leading masters of diorama-panoramic art (during his life, he painted six large-scale dioramas). In 2012 Ryzhenko was awarded the title "Honored Artist of the Russian Federation."

Pavel Ryzhenko’s death is a tremendous loss to Russia’s artistic and spiritual communities. On behalf of Royal Russia and it’s supporters, I offer my deepest condolences to his family, friends and the people of Russia. Below are five popular works depicting Emperor Nicholas II by Pavel Ryzhenko:
 

Farewell to the Escort - No. 1 of the Imperial Golgotha triptych

Imprisonment in the Alexander Palace - No. 2 of the Imperial Golgotha triptych

The Ipatiev House Aftermath - No. 3 of the Imperial Golgotha triptych

Photo for Memory - No. 2 of the Russian Century triptych

Sovereign at the Hospital

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 16 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:28 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 16 July 2014 1:10 PM EDT
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Monday, 14 July 2014
From Byzantium to Present-day Russia, the Double-headed Eagle Still Soars
Topic: Imperial Russia


This beautiful example of the Russian double-headed eagle can be seen at the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg
 
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the July 13th, 2014 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author Vladimir Khutarev, owns the copyright presented below.

Originally the symbol of Imperial Russia, the double-headed eagle was restored as the country’s official emblem in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But how did this majestic bird first come to appear on the coat of arms of the medieval Russian state?

Although 23 years have passed since the collapse of the USSR, in the minds of many foreigners the Soviet-era hammer and sickles still a symbol of Russia. 

However, Russia's current state emblem is completely different, and its history dates all the way back to the times of the Byzantine Empire. 

The state emblem of the Russian Federation - the double-headed eagle - happens to be one of the oldest Indo-European symbols. Its history is a mixture of Christianity, Paganism, Zoroastrianism, the epochs of great empires and those of feudal fragmentation. 

Entire states and civilizations vanished, but the double-headed eagle continued to soar above the people of Western Asia and Eastern Europe.

Here's how it evolved. The double-headed eagle first appeared on the coat of arms of the great Hittite Empire, which occupied the territory of present-day Turkey in the 17th-12th centuries BC.

There it was later adopted by the heir of the Roman one-headed eagle, the Byzantine Empire. It shortly became the symbol of Eastern Christianity and then spread across Christendom, appearing on the coats of arms of Serbia and Montenegro, Germany (the Holy Roman Empire) and Armenia. 

The eagle "flew" over to Russia only in the 13th century, replacing the trident - an ancient symbol of the ruling dynasty. First the double-headed eagle appeared in Chernigov, in present-day Ukraine, then in Vladimir (176 km west of Moscow), then in Moscow itself. 

After the fall of the Byzantium Empire in 1453, Russia was left the only independent Orthodox country in the world. 

The eagle subsequently became Russia’s main official symbol towards the end of the 15th century, when Grand Prince Ivan III, "the gatherer of the Russian lands", married Sophia Palaiologina, the niece of the last emperor of Byzantium– and thus rightly inherited the symbol of his wife’s kin. The eagle succeeded another ancient Russian symbol of power, the lion. 

As Ivan III’s grandson, Ivan the Terrible, became the first Russian tsar, the two-headed eagle appeared on the first Russian coat of arms and the tsar’s seal. 

During Ivan’s reign, Muscovy annexed the Kazan and the Astrakhan khanates, the Tatar feudal states and the remnants of the Golden Horde, and began the annexation of the Siberian Khanate. 

Therefore in the early 17th century, the two-headed eagle began to be depicted with three crowns – to symbolize the victory over the three khanates. 

That is how Tsar Alexis himself, the father of Peter the Great, explained this in the middle of the 17th century. During Alexis’ reign, the scepter and the orb, which the eagle held in his claws, were also added to denote the tsar as the “autocrat and the owner of the land”.

Over the centuries of Russian history, the three crowns have been assigned a great lot of different meanings. Some said that they symbolized the primacy of the tsar’s power over both the government and the church. 

There is also an opinion that three crowns denote the tsar’s power over Muscovy, Little Russia (later, Ukraine) and White Russia (now Belarus); or that the three crowns mean that the Russian tsar is both the sovereign of East and West… Whatever the truth may be, the three crowns remained on the coat of arms throughout the history of Muscovy and the Russian Empire. 

At times, other symbols were added to the coat of arms. During the Polish occupation of Moscow in 1612, the Catholic royal lily appeared on the eagle's chest. This was later substituted by St. George or by a griffon, the symbol of the ruling Romanov dynasty. 

According to Russian heraldic tradition, there has always been a difference between large and small official coats of arms. The large coat of arms, besides the eagle, also included the emblem of the Romanov dynasty, as well as the emblems of the most important lands comprising the Russian Empire. 

The Russian emperor was concurrently the tsar of Poland, Georgia, Siberia and the Grand Prince of Finland. In order to emphasize the government's Christian character, Archangel Michael and Gabriel were placed alongside the double-headed eagle. 

After the February Revolution of 1917, the Provisional Government removed the crowns. It is precisely the democratic "downgraded" eagle that is seen on the monetary units of the Russian Federation. 

The scepter and orb were also removed. During the Civil War the anti-Bolshevik powers reinstated the eagle as their coat of arms, but the crowns were replaced with the cross. 

The scepter and the orb once again appeared in the eagle's claws, though the emblem was living on borrowed time by then: After the Bolshevik victory the hammer and sickle was adopted as the official emblem of the new state on July 6, 1923.

The double-headed eagle returned to Russia only after the collapse of the USSR and a three-year study carried out by a special commission. In 1993, following President Boris Yeltsin's decree, it was reconfirmed as the symbol of the official coat of arms. 

Flying in from the distant past and alighting in Russia, the double-headed eagle continues to change, as if adapting to the current political reality of its adoptive country. 

Vladimir Khutarev has a Ph.D. in History and is President of the Moscow City Division of the All-Russian Society for the Preservation of Historical and Cultural Monuments. 
 
© Vladimir Khutarev / Russia Beyond the Headlines. 14 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:34 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 14 July 2014 11:39 AM EDT
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Saturday, 12 July 2014
Tsarskoye Selo and Livadia Palace-Museum's Sign Letter of Intent
Topic: Palaces
 
"We cannot find any words to express our joy and pleasure to have such a house, built exactly as we wanted. The architect Krasnov is an amazing fine fellow"- wrote Emperor Nicholas ΙΙ to his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna on September 20th, 1911, after his first visit to Livadia, his new palace in the Crimea.

For more than half a century, the Livadia estate served as a summer residence for the last three Russian emperors and their families: Alexander ΙΙ, Alexander III and Nicholas ΙΙ. The new Livadia Palace was to be the last imperial residence built in the Russian Empire for the Romanov family. Constructed by the architect Nikolai Krasnov in only 16 months, the white limestone palace was surrounded by a marvellous park, with terraces that led down to the Black Sea.

On July 11th, 2014, Olga Taratynova and Larisa Dekusheva, the directors of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve and Livadia Palace Museum, signed a Letter of Intent at a press conference held at Livadia. The parties have agreed to implement joint projects in the fields of museum research, and publication of books, plus the internship of museum specialists, as well as the organization of exhibitions, seminars and conferences on the Romanovs and their legacy.

In addition, there are plans to create a virtual branch of the Tsarskoye Selo Palace-Museum at Livadia Palace. If this project is realized, it will be the first such project for the popular St. Petersburg district museum.

“We have a lot in common. First and foremost, we are bound by the name and the tragic fate of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II. He loved both the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo and the palace in Livadia in the Crimea. I am sure that our mutual cooperation will offer great prospects for both museums” - said Olga Taratynova, Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 12 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:36 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 12 July 2014 4:46 AM EDT
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A Russian Moment No 40 - Monument to Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich, Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: A Russian Moment


A bronze bust of Tsesarevich Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich overlooks the Great Pond in the Catherine Park at Tsarskoye Selo
 
A bronze bust of Tsesarevich Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich (1843-1865) mounted on a granite pedestal, is located on the banks of the Great Pond in the Catherine Park at Tsarskoye Selo. Emperor Alexander II commissioned the Russian sculptor Alexander Mikhailovich Opekushin to create the memorial bust of his son and heir to the Russian throne in 1872-1873. 

In 1917 the bust was placed in the vaults of the Catherine Palace Museum. For many years after World War II it was put on display alongside other sculptures in the Hermitage Pavilion at Tsarskoye Selo. It was then moved to the Cameron Gallery, dedicated to Alexander II. Before the 300-year anniversary of Tsarskoye Selo a bronze copy of the bust was produced. In the summer of 2010, the replica was mounted on a pedestal and reinstalled at its original location in the Catherine Park. The original remains in the storage vaults of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve.

Irina Stepanenko, a senior researcher at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve notes: "Judging by the extant photographs and memoirs of his contemporaries, the Tsesarevich was quite a fragile young man who failed to achieve his birthright as heir to the throne. The sculpture looks older, more serious, than he was probably in real life." 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 12 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 3:16 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 12 July 2014 3:30 AM EDT
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Friday, 11 July 2014
Ekaterinburg Prepares for Royal Days
Topic: Ekaterinburg


The Ural city of Ekaterinburg is preparing for its annual celebration of “Royal Days" to be held July 12-20, 2014. During these days, thousands of believers will honour Emperor Nicholas II and his family, who were all murdered in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg in the early morning hours of July 17th, 1918. 

The event which honours the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs draws large crowds in Ekaterinburg each year. Events during this year’s festival include exhibitions, lectures, concerts, liturgies and a religious procession from the Church on the Blood to Ganina Yama. Admission is free.

The ceremonial centres of worship during the "Royal Days" will, according to tradition, be the Church on the Spilled Blood, built on the site of the Ipatiev House, and the Monastery at Ganina Yama, built on the site where the remains of the martyrs were originally disposed of by their murderers.

Many of the pilgrims will begin arriving in Ekaterinburg on July 16th. According to a press service of the Ekaterinburg Diocese, the number of pilgrims from across Russia, and even abroad is growing each year. About 300 people attended in 2000, the first year the "Royal Days" was marked, and last year, in 2013 their number exceeded 50 thousand. Organizers are expecting an even greater number of pilgrims at this year’s event. 

In order to accommodate the large crowds, the ceremonies and a Divine Liturgy will be organized in the open air. A large tent with an altar platform will be erected in front of the Church on the Blood, large video monitors, and a powerful sound system and lighting will be installed.

A Divine Liturgy is scheduled to begin at 11:30 on the evening of July 16th, after which the faithful will participate in a 20 km religious procession from the Church on the Blood to the monastery at Ganina Yama in the early morning hours of July 17th.

As in previous years, Royal Russia will offer full coverage of this year’s "Royal Days" at Ekaterinburg, complete with news, photographs and videos.
 
This is an enormous event, spreading to more Russian cities each year. Take a moment to review Royal Russia's coverage of the "Royal Days" at Ekaterinburg in 2013, 2012 and 2011: 

2013 - Russia Commemorates the Holy Royal Martyrs - includes 3 videos & 16 photos

2013 - In Memory of the Royal Martyrs ~ 17 July, 1918 - includes 1 video & 3 photos

2012 - Russia Commemorates the Holy Royal Martyrs - includes 4 videos & 25 photos

2012 - In Memory of the Royal Martyrs ~ 17 July, 1918 - includes 1 video & 3 photos

2011 - Pilgrims Pray for the Intercession of the Royal Martyrs in Ekaterinburg - includes 1 video & 20 photos

2011 - In Memory of the Royal Martyrs - 17 July, 1918 - includes 1 video & 15 photos

 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 11 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 3:43 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014 4:15 AM EDT
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Thursday, 10 July 2014
Monarchs' Menu: Feasts Fit for Russian Tsars and Emperors
Topic: Imperial Russia


Ceremonial Dinner in the Faceted Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin. Artist: Mihaly Zichy (1827-1906)
 
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the July 9th, 2014 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author Alexei Denisov, owns the copyright presented below.

Tsar Ivan the Terrible was radical both in his politics and his cuisine. Reformer Peter the Great never ate fish. Enlightened Empress Catherine the Great treated her guests to pheasants. RBTH explores these and other curious facts in Russia's gastronomic history.

Little is known about meals that were served to Ivan the Terrible, one of the most eccentric Russian tsars. According to Austrian envoy Sigismund von Herberstein, the author of "Notes on Muscovite Affairs", the tsar was an incredibly hospitable host. "Lunch would last three or four hours," von Herberstein wrote about meals at the tsar's palace. "During my first mission to Russia, we even ate till after midnight… The tsar often treats his guests to food and drink…" A more detailed description of a royal meal can be found in a historical novel by Aleksei Tolstoy called "Prince Serebrenni": "Once the swans were eaten, servants, in pairs, left the chamber and returned with three hundred fried peacocks… The peacocks were followed by kulebyakas, chicken pies, meat and cheese pies, all possible varieties of blinis, pastries and fritters…" The next change of dishes was even more impressive: "The tables were laid first with meat jellies, followed by cranes with spicy herbs, marinated roosters with ginger, bone-free chicken, and duck with cucumbers. Then there came different soups and three varieties of ukhas."

The tsar treated his guests only to classical Russian dishes of the time. For example, a kulebyaka (coulibiac) is a traditional pie in the form of a thin pastry shell and a generous filling, often consisting of several ingredients. The filling of a chicken pie (called "kurnik") was no less complex, with poultry meat, primarily chicken, being the main ingredient. A meat jelly (also known as aspic) is a cold jelly made of meat broth with finely chopped meat inside; while an ukha is the traditional Russian fish soup. Culinary pragmatism The first Russian emperor, Peter the Great, was a man of modest tastes. One of his close associates, a mechanic and a sculptor, Andrey Nartov, recalled: "Peter the Great did not like any splendour, luxury or to be surrounded by many servants. … His food consisted of cabbage soup, aspic, porridge, grilled [meat] with pickled cucumbers or lemons, corned beef, ham. He was particularly fond of Limburger cheese. All of the above was served by his chef Felten. Of vodkas, the tsar preferred anisette. His usual drink was kvass. At dinner, he drank Hermitage wine (red wine from the northern Rhône – RBTH), sometimes Hungarian wine (sweet, Tokaj – RBTH). He never ate fish…"

Anisette, which Peter the Great so favoured, is widespread in Europe too, whereas kvass is a traditionally Slavic drink that remains very popular in Russia still. In olden days, it was invariably served at weddings and other feasts (there were different varieties of it, depending on alcohol content). Taste of Enlightenment Catherine the Great had the reputation of one of the best educated women of her time and a proponent of the philosophy of European Enlightenment. In her later years, she developed as simple a taste in food as Peter the Great had. According to historians, her favourite dish was boiled beef with pickled cucumbers and sauce made of dried venison tongues.

Of sweets, she preferred the famous Kolomna pastila (this classical Russian dessert is made of whipped fruit puree that is later dried following a special recipe). When entertained by her favourite, Count Potemkin, who had a dozen foreign cooks working for him, the empress was particularly impressed by "bombs a la Sardanapal" prepared by a French chef. The dish consisted of cutlets made of minced game meat. However, during official meals the empress was not as modest as in her private life. In his book "Repast History of the Russian State", Professor Pavel Romanov describes one such banquet consisting of over a hundred dishes. The empress and her guests were served a dozen soups, poularde and quail with truffles, pheasants with pistachio nuts, bass with ham, teal with olives, tortoise meat, lamb roast, etc. Some of the dishes were clearly inspired by French influences. This is not at all surprising since, during Catherine the Great's rule, it was fashionable among the Russian nobility to hire French chefs and Russian cuisine was changing under their influence. Those strange Russians To an unprepared foreigner, Russian tsars' menus often seemed puzzling. One historical anecdote tells the story of how a Russian tsar sent a Western European counterpart of his a pound of black caviar and the European monarch, out of ignorance, instructed his cooks to boil it first. An English ambassador to the court of Alexander I once found himself in a similar situation.

The tsar liked discussing gastronomical topics with him and once, as a follow-up to a discussion they were having, presented the ambassador with botvinya (a complex soup based on kvass, sorrel and beet greens with boiled fish). The ambassador, thinking that "those strange Russians" have sent him a soup that has grown hopelessly cold, ordered it to be warmed up, unaware that this Russian specialty should be consumed only cold. Having said that, not all foreigners showed themselves so ignorant when it came to Russian cuisine. For example, the legendary French cookery specialist and author Alexandre Dumas Sr. described the above mentioned botvinya as "the queen of Russian soups". Under 50 minutes Alexander II, who abolished serfdom in Russia in 1861, was known on the culinary front as the tsar who introduced a strictly observed duration of meal times at breakfast and lunch for members of his family. Each meal was supposed to take exactly 50 minutes.

The task was made all the more challenging because the tsar from time to time changed the venue for these family meals, with some of them being so far from the kitchens that staff found it extremely difficult to get all the food on the table in time and hot. In the end, they came up with the idea of using large hot water bottles to keep the food warm. The trick did not always work with delicate sauces, whose original taste and smell was sometimes affected. But punctuality was more important. Alexander II's son, Emperor Alexander III, was much less of a pedant and remains in royal culinary history as the tsar who "started a new era for Russian winemaking". According to the head of staff at the Imperial Court Ministry, Aleksandr Mosolov, "under Alexander II, all served wines were foreign ones. Alexander III started a new era for winemaking in Russia: he ordered serving foreign wines only when there were foreign monarchs or diplomats present at the meal. Otherwise, all served wines should be Russian. I remember that many officers found this wine nationalism misplaced: instead of assemblies, they began eating in restaurants, which were not obliged to follow the monarch's instructions." However, soon attitudes towards Russian wines changed: largely thanks to the efforts of Prince Lev Golitsyn, who set up the famous wineries Massandra and Novy Svet. Gradually, Russian wines ceased to be seen by the Russian nobility as an oddity. Last menu The best chronicled in history are the culinary preferences of Russia's last tsar Nicholas II. Here is, for example, what Aleksandr Mosolov says in his book "At the Emperor's Court": "Lunch [at the Livadia summer palace in Crimea] began with a soup with small vol-au-vents, savoury pastries, and small cheese toasts. Importantly, vol-au-vents were served together with the soup rather than as a separate dish, as they are abroad. The soup was followed by fish, a (game or chicken) casserole, vegetables, sweets, fruit… To drink, there were madeira, white and red wines for breakfast (or beer as an option) and different wines served at lunch, as is the custom everywhere else in the civilised world. And liqueurs with coffee…"

All this was cooked by the emperor's favourite chef, Frenchman Pierre Cubat. Alas, after the 1917 revolution, French influences on imperial cuisine became a thing of the past. As did imperial cuisine itself, to be replaced by a Soviet culinary era. 
 
© Alexei Denisov / Russia Beyond the Headlines. 10 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:09 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 10 July 2014 8:21 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 9 July 2014
Royal Russia Annual Welcomes Margarita Nelipa as Resident Writer
Topic: Books


'Servant to Three Emperors: Count Vladimir Frederiks' by Margarita Nelipa will be published in the Royal Russia Annual No. 7 in January 2015
 
Royal Russia is pleased to announce that Russian historian and author, Margarita Nelipa has agreed to share her professional insights on the Romanovs and Imperial Russia as resident writer for our official magazine, Royal Russia Annual*. Her academic, exemplary research and writing skills will be welcomed by readers of Royal Russia Annual

Her debut article, Servant to Three Emperors: Count Vladimir Frederiks will be published in the Royal Russia Annual No. 7 issue in January 2015. Count Frederiks** was a statesman who served as the Minister of the Imperial Court between 1897 and 1917 under Nikolai II. He is seen in countless photographs walking with the last emperor, whom he served faithfully. He was praised in this role by the French ambassador, Maurice Paléologue, who called him 'the very personification of court life'. Other than minor mentions in a few memoirs, little is known of this man and his loyal service to the last monarch and to Russia. For the first time, Margarita Nelipa offers readers the first comprehensive study of this honourable gentleman of the Imperial Court.

Margarita is of Russian heritage, her parents who arrived in Australia in 1948 as war refugees, provided her with a passion for Russian culture. Her foremost concern is to explore the latter decades of the Russian Imperial era. Formerly a medical scientist with a post-graduate qualification in Legal Studies, she has, over a decade concentrated on researching medical, legal and historical issues related to the Russian Imperial era. Fluent in the Russian language, she has translated numerous Russian scientific papers into English and written for periodicals as well as reviewed work related to the Imperial Russian Court. She co-maintains a web page: Faces of Russia: Past and Present and is a member of the American based S.E.A.R.C.H. Foundation (whose President and Founder assisted in finding the remains of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg).

Margarita relies on Russian primary sources for her research. These include diaries, letters, courtroom documents as well as memoirs and newspapers of the day all translated by the author and which have never been previously brought together. Her work is enhanced by extensive annotations, appendices and bibliographies.

“I enjoy the research work immensely and more so when I strike gold and am able to challenge long held myths with documented facts,” she said. “There is much to be done now that Russia is opening up their archives and is publishing more diaries etc. including serious academic tomes that apply to the imperial era. I am fortunate to have considerable resources and probably the only person in the West who writes about Russian imperial history as if I am a Russian eyewitness and can furthermore employ relevant self-translated Russian material.”

Margarita Nelipa is the author of two books: The Murder of Grigorii Rasputin A Conspiracy That Brought Down the Russian Empire (2010), Alexander III: His Life and Reign (2014). She is currently working on her third book, Alexei: Russia’s Last Imperial Heir, A Chronicle of Tragedy. This will be the first comprehensive biography in English on the only son of Nikolai II, and Heir to the Russian throne. This book is due to be published in early 2015. 
 
 
* Our official magazine was intended to be published only once a year as an annual, but due to its popularity, Royal Russia Annual will now be published twice a year, while still retaining its original name. An annual Winter edition and an annual Summer edition will now be issued.

** The longer form 'Freedericksz' is the ancestral surname that was Russianized to 'Frederiks' by the first generation born in Russia. Although the surname appears in several forms in the West this author uses the literal translation of the Minister of the Imperial Court’s signature.
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 09 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:40 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 July 2014 10:08 AM EDT
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Faberge Exhibit Coming to Oklahoma City Museum of Art in 2015
Topic: Faberge


A peek inside the Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg. Photo © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
 
More than 230 rare and storied treasures created by the House of Fabergé will be celebrated in a new exhibition at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. “Fabergé: Jeweller to the Tsars” will be on view from June 20 through September 27, 2015. The exhibition, drawn from the Collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, will showcase Carl Fabergé’s fine craftsmanship in pieces of jewellery and adornments once belonging to the Russian Imperial family.

From dazzling Imperial Easter eggs to delicate flower ornaments and from enchanting animal sculptures to cigarette cases, photograph frames and desk clocks, Fabergé often turned the most mundane objects into miniature works of art. The vast majority of his designs were never repeated, and most pieces were made entirely by hand.  The success of his business was inextricably linked to the patronage of the Romanov dynasty and the close ties among the British, Danish and Russian royal families, who often exchanged works by Fabergé as personal gifts.

The “Imperial Tsesarevich Easter Egg” of 1912, which will be on view at OKCMOA, was a gift to Empress Alexandra from her husband, Emperor Nicholas II. The egg commemorates their son, Alexsei, who nearly died the previous year of haemophilia. For the shell, craftsmen joined six wedges of highly prized lapis lazuli and hid the seams with an elaborate gold filigree encasement. Inside the egg, a diamond encrusted Romanov family crest frames a two-sided portrait of the young child.

These objects were associated with refinement and luxury because the House of Fabergé was known for accepting nothing less than perfection as well as for being business savvy. Beyond the elegant showrooms in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, hundreds of the country’s finest goldsmiths, enamellers, stone carvers, gem cutters and jewellers were at work creating innovative and complex designs that could not be readily imitated. 
 
© Oklahoma City Museum of Art. 09 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:05 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 July 2014 5:03 AM EDT
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