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Sunday, 20 July 2014
Help Keep the Memories of Old Russia Alive - Please Support Royal Russia
Topic: Royal Russia

 

 

© Royal Russia. 2014


 


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 3:00 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 20 July 2014 10:49 AM EDT
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Saturday, 19 July 2014
A Russian Moment No 41 - The Yelagin Palace, St. Petersburg
Topic: A Russian Moment


The Yelagin Palace was built during the reign of Alexander I for his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (wife of Emperor Paul I)
 
This charming summer palace located on one of the islands in the north-west of St. Petersburg was commissioned in 1818 by Emperor Alexander I from the young architect, Carlo Rossi, who would go on to become the undisputed master of neo-classicism in the city. 

The land and the original palace had been bought for the Imperial Estates from the heirs of Ivan Yelagin, a historian, poet, and statesman in the reign of Catherine the Great. Alexander chose it as the site of a summer residence for his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (wife of Emperor Paul I), who found the journey between the city and her permanent home at Pavlovsk too wearisome. Rossi was responsible not only for the design of the palace building, but also for the stables and kitchen building, the pavilion with a granite pier, the guardhouse, the music pavilion and for much of the interior decoration of the palace, which feature richly painted marble walls and intricately inlaid wooden doors. The palace was completed in 1826.

Sadly, the palace served as the summer residence of Maria Feodorovna for only two years. After Maria Feodorovna's death in 1828, the Yelagin Palace became the summer residence of her younger son, Nicholas Pavlovich (Emperor Nicholas I). The palace then remained deserted for long periods of time. Emperor Nicholas II leased it to his prime ministers such as Sergei Witte, Pyotr Stolypin, and Ivan Goremykin. 

After the Revolution, the palace was briefly turned into a museum by the Bolshevik government. The palace was badly damaged during the Siege of Leningrad, but fully restored in the 1950s based on photographs and the original blueprints and used as a resort for workers. Since 1987, the Yelagin Palace has been home to the Museum of Decorative and Applied Art and Interiors from the 18th-20th Centuries. Exhibitions are hosted on the second floor of the building, while the ground floor is devoted to Rossi's restored interiors. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 19 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:31 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 19 July 2014 8:39 AM EDT
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Anna Vyrubova's House at Tsarskoye Selo Hosts Rare Exhibition
Topic: Vyrubova, Anna


A rare one day exhibition opened last week in the former home of Anna Vyrubova at Tsarskoye Selo. The Anna Vyrubova - A History in Photographs opened on July 17th at Vyrubova’s home which is situated at No. 4 Ulitsa Srednya, near both the Catherine and Alexander Palace’s. 

The exhibition is a joint venture prepared by the Department of Culture, the Pushkin District Administration of St. Petersburg, the St. Petersburg SBD Chamber Choir, and the Yale University Library in New York City (USA).

Anna Vyrubova (1884-1964), was a lady-in-waiting, friend and confidante of the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Vyrubova purchased the house in 1907 and lived there up until 1917. It consisted of a dining room, a drawing room with an upright piano on which she played duets with the empress, and three bedrooms on the first floor. A telephone was installed in the Drawing Room with a direct line to the Alexander Palace nearby. 

It was here at “Anna’s little cottage” that she received and entertained Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, their children, as well as Grigorii Rasputin. 

Vyrubova  describes her little abode in her memoirs, Memories of the Russian Court, published in 1923: 

“. . . my little house in Tsarskoye Selo, its modest furnishings beautified by many gifts from the Empress. Among these gifts were some charming pictures and six exquisitely embroidered antique chairs. A silver-laden tea table helped to make the salon cozy, and I have many happy memories of intimate teas to which the Empress sent fruit and the Emperor the cherry brandy which he especially affected.

The little house, however, was far from being the luxurious palace in which I have often been pictured of living. As a matter of fact, it was frightfully cold in winter because the house had no stone foundation  but rested on the frozen earth. Sometimes when the Emperor and Empress came to tea we sat with our feet on the sofa to keep warm. Once the Emperor jokingly told me that after a visit to my house he kept himself from freezing only by going directly to a hot bath.”
 


Anna Vyrubova’s former home as it looks today. It is situated at No. 4 Ulitsa Srednya, near both the Catherine and Alexander Palace’s.
Every day hundreds of visitors to Tsarskoye Selo walk past it not realizing the history behind the famous house with a Romanov legacy.
 
A former owner of Vyrubova’s house was Tepper de Ferguson (1768-1838), a composer and music teacher from the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum. In the early 1800s, he taught music to Grand Duchesses Helena, Maria, Ekaterina, and Anna, the younger sisters of the Emperor Alexander I. In 1811-1812, he gave music lessons to Elizabeth Alexeievna (Louise of Baden), the Consort of Alexander I. Other notable guests included a young Alexander Pushkin, who along with his schoolmates attended musical evening parties at de Ferguson’s home.

Anna Vyrubova was an avid photographer, a hobby she shared with all the members of the last Russian Imperial family. She escaped to Finland in 1920, taking with her six Romanov family photo albums, containing hundreds of pictures taken between 1907 and 1915. The albums are indeed a truly remarkable survival. Today, they are held at the Beinecke Library, Yale University in the United States. 

In recent years, the tiny lemon-yellow house on Ulitsa Srednya in Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo) served as a wedding palace where the locals came to marry. Occasionally it hosts concerts, however, this is the first exhibition to my knowledge to be held in Anna Vyrubova’s former residence. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 19 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:02 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 31 July 2014 10:06 AM EDT
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Friday, 18 July 2014
Communists Lay Flowers at the Grave of the Murderer of Russia's Imperial Family
Topic: Bolsheviks


On July 16th Sverdlovsk communists laid flowers at the grave of the killer of the Romanov family, the revolutionary Peter Ermakov. The ceremony was headed by Alexander Ivachev, leader of the local Communist Party Branch.

Peter Ermakov, born at Ekaterinburg in 1884 was a Bolshevik commissar, notable as having been among those responsible for the murders of Tsar Nicholas II, his immediate family, and their retinue. In 1935, Ermakov gave an interview to the American journalist Richard Halliburton, describing the burning and destruction of the bodies of the Imperial family and their servants. He died in 1952 at the age of 70.

Ivachev issued the following statement the day before: "Tomorrow, July 16th, the Sverdlovsk Komsomol will lay flowers at the grave of the revolutionary Peter Ermakov enforcing the decision of the Ural Regional Council for the execution of Nicholas II and his family. The event is dedicated to the beginning of the Tsar's Days,"- said the head of the Sverdlovsk branch of the Communist Party.

He also confirmed that several days ago, the monument was doused with red paint, the second time since the 90s and that the Communists intend to clean it up and lay flowers. Local monarchists are blamed for dousing Ermakov’s grave. The red paint being symbolic of the blood this evil man spilled and his involvement with one of the most heinous crimes in 20th century Russian history. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 18 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:55 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 18 July 2014 5:00 PM EDT
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Saints Martha and Mary Convent in Moscow Celebrate the Feast-Day of its Foundress
Topic: Elizabeth Feodorovna GD
Today, July 18th is the feast-day of the Holy New Martyrs Grand Duchess Elizabeth (Romanova) and Nun Barbara (Yakovleva). The 96th anniversary of their martyrdom is celebrated this year. 

On this day, the SS. Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy in Moscow opened their doors, inviting all who wish to come to take part in the festive events, dedicated to commemoration of the Holy Grand Duchess. 

As Lyubov Petrovna Miller writes in her book, “Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna is among those saints of whom it can be said that their holiness is self-evident and indisputable. St. Elizabeth’s holiness is confirmed by her ascetic life, her martyrdom during which she prayed for her murderers, and, finally, by the fragrance exuding from her holy relics.”

Highlights of the Festival Program included: 

09:00 a.m. - Divine Liturgy begins in the Holy Protection Church of the Convent
 
11:30 a.m. - All the Convent’s guests of the Feast will be offered refreshments in the Convent garden
 
12:30 p.m. - Concert of the St. John Damascene Children’s and Youth Choir in the Holy Protection Church
 
  2:00 p.m. -  Tea in the Convent garden. A big surprise awaits the children. Tours of the Convent and Grand Duchess Elizabeth’s house will be organized for all who wish. 
 
  3:30 p.m. - String Quartet concert in the Convent garden pavilion with performers from the Bolshoy Theater “Bohemia” and the winner of international competitions Olga Philatova (soprano), and also the brass quintet of the P.I. Tchaikovsky Conservatory. There will be selections by both Russian composers and composers from abroad for string and wind instruments. 

12:00-5:00 Convent garden: Games, competitions, and master-classes for the children. 

The SS. Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy is situated at 34 Bol’shaya Ordynka Street, Moscow. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 18 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:50 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 18 July 2014 5:12 PM EDT
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Holy Royal Martyrs Commemorated in Ekaterinburg on Their Feast-Day
Topic: Holy Royal Martyrs


The night of July 16/17 is a tragic date in the history of Russia. On this day in Ekaterinburg, the Russian Tsar Nicolas II, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, their children as well as their faithful servants were brutally murdered. The Church “on the Blood” in honour of All Saints who have Shone Forth in the Russian Land, has now been built on the site of the crime. And the tragic night annually gathers thousands of pilgrims to this site from all over Russia and other countries for prayer, reports the News Agency of the Ekaterinburg Diocese.

The tradition of commemorating the martyred Royal Family began long before their canonization as Royal Martyrs. In 1992, Archbishop Melchisedek (Lebedev) of Sverdlovsk and Kurgan first gave a blessing to celebrate a service here and hold a procession of the Cross to the site of the destruction of their holy relics at Ganina Yama (“Ganya’s Pit”). 

On these days of the Royal Martyrs, in spite of the torrential rain (the first such in 22 years) tens of thousands of Ekaterinburg residents, pilgrims from all the corners of Russia and from abroad gathered to honour the Holy Passion-Bearers. 

Celebration of Small Vespers, Vigil service and Divine Liturgy on the night of the martyrdom of the Royal Family on the porch of the Church on the Blood was headed by permanent member of the Holy Synod Metropolitan Vikenty of Tashkent and Uzbekistan, Metropolitan Nikon of Ufa and Sterlitamak, Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye, Bishop Markell of Beltsy and Falesti, Bishop Nikodim of Edinet and Briceni, Bishop Innocent of Nizhny Tagil and Serov, Bishop Nicolas of Salavat and Kumertau, Bishop Ambrose of Neftekamsk and Birsk, Bishop Methodius of Kamensk-Uralsky and Alapayevsk with several hundred priests and deacons concelebrating. 

Before the Divine Liturgy Metropolitan Kirill addressed the sea of people gathered in front of the Church on the Blood with his archpastor’s speech on the Holy Royal Martyrs, especially stressing the deep connection between the podvig (feat/ascetic struggle) of St. Sergius of Radonezh (the Church celebrates the 700th anniversary of his birth in 2014) and the feat of the Holy Royal Martyrs. 

During the singing of troparia at the Little Entrance “Eternal memory” was proclaimed to the Royal Passion-Bearers’ servants, martyred together with them on July 17, 1918. 

After the Litany of Fervent Supplication a prayer for peace in the Ukraine was offered up. 

At the Litany of the Departed special prayers were offered up for His Beatitude the newly-reposed Metropolitan Vladimir (Sabodan) of Kiev and All the Ukraine; the servants of the Royal Family, who remained faithful to them even to the death; the victims of the Moscow underground railway (subway/Metro) accident; and those slain in the fratricidal war in the Ukraine. 

Because of the extremely large number of communicants the clergy of the Ekaterinburg Diocese gave Holy Communion from 100 chalices.

Soyuz (Union) TV channel carried live coverage of the service to 127 countries of the world. 

After the Liturgy the traditional 21-kilometre-long night procession of the Cross from the Church on the Blood to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs was held, following the way by which the slain martyrs were brought in 1918. 

Today, on the feast-day of the Holy Royal Martyrs, services are being celebrated non-stop at both the church and the monastery. And tomorrow, on July 18, services will be celebrated in Alapayevsk, where the New Martyrs Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna Romanova and Nun Barbara were martyred. 
 
© Pravoslavie.ru. 18 July, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:19 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 18 July 2014 5:27 PM EDT
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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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