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400th Anniversary
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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Cossacks Evoke Spectre of Imperial Russia
Topic: Cossacks


Renowned for their sword-fighting prowess and horsemanship, the Cossacks are taking on new enemies – beggars, drunks and improperly parked cars on the streets of Moscow.

With the approval of city authorities, eight Cossacks clad in fur hats and uniforms patrolled a Moscow train station yesterday looking for signs of minor public disturbances.

The Kremlin is seeking to use the once-feared Tsarist paramilitary squads in its new drive to promote conservative values and appeal to nationalists.

The southern province of Krasnodar – which includes Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics – launched Cossack patrols in September to crack down on Muslim migrants from the neighbouring Caucasus.

Cossacks trace their history in Russia back to the 15th century. Serving in the Tsarist cavalry, they spearheaded imperial Russia’s expansion in exchange for special privileges, including the right to govern their villages.

In the 2010 census, about 650,000 Russians declared themselves Cossacks. Yesterday’s patrol was a test run for whether the group can become an armed and salaried auxiliary police force, with the power of arrest, patrol leader Igor Gulichev said.

Mr Gulichev’s group, which he said numbers up to 85, has patrolled south-western Moscow with police approval for the past year, and has brought about 35 arrests. They are unpaid but receive free public transport passes and uniforms.

The conservative Cossacks have increased their political activity in response to an impromptu protest that feminist punk rockers Pussy Riot staged in Moscow’s main cathedral in February.

Groups of Cossacks recently barred visitors from entering a Moscow art exhibition that daubed Pussy Riot’s trademark balaclavas over Orthodox Christian icons, and they led a successful campaign to cancel a staging of Vladimir Nabokov’s racy novel, Lolita, in St Petersburg.

A government-backed Cossack political party held its first congress in Moscow last weekend. Communists have called it a cheap attempt to siphon pensioners’ support from their party, which is widely known by the same acronym. Six other groups have applied to form splinter Cossack parties.

Mr Gulichev, whose official title is deputy ataman, a Turkic word meaning commander, said he expected his group’s responsibilities would expand to fighting drug trafficking and terrorism, mirroring the special relationship Cossacks had with the tsars.

“Cossacks have always been on the frontiers of the Russian empire, fighting foes and adversaries, illegal immigration – repulsing raids, as people say today,” he added.

President Vladimir Putin was inducted into what is known as the Cossack host in 2005 and given the rank of colonel, previously held by tsars.

A 400,000-strong all-Russia Cossack host directly subordinate to Mr Putin is scheduled to be launched by the end of the year.

© Scotsman. 29 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:31 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 29 November 2012 6:37 AM EST
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Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Imperial Interiors at Gatchina
Topic: Gatchina


The dressing rooms of the Romanov dynasty and the chambers of their maids of honor became part of the permanent exhibition at Gatchina Palace last week.

The rooms have become part of an exhibition called “The Family Members of the Emperor Alexander III in Gatchina,” which forms part of the museum collection of the former royal estate at Gatchina.

Wardrobes, trunks and other everyday belongings can be seen in the imperial dressing rooms, as well as a unique object called a wardrobe-suitcase, in which one part serves as a wardrobe with coat hangers, while the other is meant for smaller items. Such suitcases were convenient for long journeys, and reflect the new approach to the packing and transport of luggage following the appearance of trains, cruise ships and automobiles.

The interiors of the rooms designated for maids of honor were designed in a simple, formal manner that emphasized the service function of the chambers. There were no decorative elements, only essential belongings, and the furniture was often old.

© St. Petersburg Times. 28 November, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:45 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 28 November 2012 8:19 AM EST
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Tuesday, 27 November 2012
My Russia: Journey to Ekaterinburg
Topic: Paul Gilbert


Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit Ekaterinburg. I have travelled to Russia more than 20 times, but this was my first visit to the Ural region.

My four day visit to the city allowed me to visit the sites associated with the final days of Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1918.

My Russia is a series of articles which I write for Royal Russia, a unique publication that celebrates the Romanov dynasty and Imperial Russia in words and photographs. In the current issue I write about my visits to the Church on the Blood and Ganina Yama, including a brief history of each. I was profoundly moved by both of these holy sites and my impressions of each are found in the current installment of My Russia.

My Russia: Journey to Ekaterinburg appears in Royal Russia Annual No. 2 (2012). The article is 16 pages in length and illustrated with 20 black and white photographs, many of which I took myself.

Many people who share an interest in the life and reign of Russia's last Imperial family will never have the opportunity to visit Ekaterinburg, therefore I hope that my article and photos about my recent trip will allow them a brief glimpse from the comfort of their favourite armchair.

||| Click Here to Order Your Copy! |||

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 27 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:24 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 28 November 2012 6:49 AM EST
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Monday, 26 November 2012
Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna's Faberge Cross Pendant
Topic: Faberge


A diamond and topaz platinum mounted Faberge cross pendent purchased by the Tsar Nicholas II and the Empress Alexander Feodorovna in St Petersburg in 1912 bought for the Tsar's sister Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna is seen during a press preview at Christie's auction house in London. It was expected to fetch some 50-70,000 pounds (US$ 79-111,000 , euro 61-86,000) when sold at auction on Nov. 26.

© Christie's (London). 26 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:08 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 27 November 2012 6:14 AM EST
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Sunday, 25 November 2012
1812 War Anniversary Ball Held in Grand Kremlin Palace
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 3 minutes, 29 seconds
Topic: Kremlin

On Sunday the Grand Kremlin Palace hosted a glamorous ball inspired by Napoleon’s 1812 defeat at the hands of the Russian army and dedicated to the traditions of military valor, in its St. Andrew Hall, St. Alexander Hall and St. George Hall, RIA Novosti reports.

It is the first ball to be held at the palace since 1903. Young couples demonstrated historic dances such as the polonaise, minuet and quadrille. The couples had a chance to dance a waltz to the live music of the Presidential Orchestra. Costumes for the guests as well as their hairstyles were based on the designs from the early 19th century.

The ball is the last in a series of events celebrating the 200th anniversary of Russia’s victory in the 1812 war. The ball organizers hope the event will become a tradition.

© Russkiy Mir. 25 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:50 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 27 November 2012 5:54 AM EST
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Saturday, 24 November 2012
Great Styles of Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


A recent collaboration between the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve and the St. Petersburg designers of Mantrastudio has brought forth a new memory and attention game that entertains and educates all ages with pictures of the Tsarskoye Selo collection highlights.

The game consists of 72 illustrated cards, depicting 36 unique objects in the great historical art styles of Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassicism and Empire. An enclosed game instruction inlay provides information on the title, origin, period and style of each pictured object.

The cards are supposed to be placed face down on the table. The first player turns two cards over. If they match, the player collects the set and takes another turn. If the cards do not match, the player turns them back over in the same spot, and the next player turns two cards over. Play continues until all the cards have been matched. The winner is the player who has collected the most matches – therefore it is important to remember positions and pictures of the previously opened cards.

This versatile game can be played in many different ways, depending on age of players. Possible variations are in collecting and matching the cards in accordance with styles and/or categories of the objects. And who says you cannot make up your own table rules to beef up the game to suit your great style?

The game sells for 500 rubles and is available in the bookshop which is located in the vestibule of the Catherine Palace.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. 24 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:01 AM EST
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Friday, 23 November 2012
Napoleon's "Blow up Kremlin" Letter at Auction
Now Playing: Language: English. Duration: 1 minute, 56 seconds
Topic: Russian History

A CODED letter in which Napoleon Bonaparte vows to blow up the Kremlin will go under the hammer near Paris next month, 200 years after the French invasion of Russia.

"I will blow up the Kremlin on the 22nd at three am," reads the missive written in numbers and signed "Nap", expected to fetch up to 15,000 euros ($18,916) at the sale in Fontainebleau.

Dated October 20, 1812, the day after Napoleon retreated from the centre of Moscow, it is addressed to his external relations minister Hugues-Bernard Maret.

Napoleon's order was carried out by Marshal Mortier, who destroyed several towers and sections of wall at the Kremlin, at the time both an imperial palace and military fortress.

The towers were later rebuilt identically.

"Letters written by Napoleon from Russia are rare," said Alain Nicolas, expert for the auctioneer Ocenat. "Many were lost, probably intercepted by the Russians."

Napoleon's army entered Moscow on September 14, 1812, but much of the population had already fled and the emperor was forced to leave without securing a formal victory over Alexander I, embarking on a disastrous westward retreat.

© The Australian News and NTD Television. 23 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 3:38 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 23 November 2012 3:43 PM EST
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Photographs and Letters of Nicholas II to be Auctioned in Geneva


Tsar Nicholas II, Count Vladimir Fredericks, and Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich (1914) 

Letters written by Tsar Nicholas II, the last Russian Emperor, as well as photographs of the Tsar's family will be offered to bidders at the Hôtel des Ventes auction house in Geneva from 10 to 13 December. More than 3,000 lots will be offered for sale. Their total value is estimated at 3 million Swiss francs. The majority of items are property of descendants of the royal families of Europe and Russia.

The session will be inaugurated on December 10 by the Russian lot which consists of previously unknown letters as well as photographs of the Russian imperial family.

As experts say, it is a question of unique letters, written by Nicholas II at the time of the First World War. These were addressed to his uncle, Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich, commander of the imperial army until 1915. This correspondence are considered important military historical documents. If the participation of Russia in the war is at the heart of the literature, it is also the question of how the Tsar himself felt, constantly worried for his army.

Other letters written by Tsar Alexander II  addressed to Princess Catherine Dolgorukova will also be presented. These 46 pages of love letters are estimated between 5000 and 8000 Swiss francs.

In addition, 100 lots of photographs including images of Tsarevich Alexei in his childhood, and the Romanov family circle will no doubt arouse the curiosity of collectors. These include the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich performing on the trapeze, or playing croquet with his sister, Olga Alexandrovna. Other photographs are show Grand Duchesses Olga and Anastasia Nicholayevna as children. Watercolours painted by Olga will also attract collectors.

The majority of documents are from the collection of Ferdinand Tormeier, tutor to the children of Alexander III. His archives were discovered several years back by his heirs, who sold part of his collection at the time. Other documents from Prince Felix Yusupov and Serge Lifar. In addition, the books of the imperial era will also be sold alongside art rare Fabergé silver and furniture decorated with malachite.

© Hôtel des Ventes and Paul Gilbert. 23 November, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:45 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 27 November 2012 6:22 AM EST
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Thursday, 22 November 2012
New Life for HM Own Dacha at Peterhof
Topic: Peterhof


His Majesty's Own Dacha as it looked in Tsarist times 

Situated along the Peterhof Road are a series of former Imperial residences that few people ever have the opportunity to visit. Many have been abandoned by time and neglect, often falling to decay and ruin.

One such residence is His Majesty's Own Dacha, which is situated about 3 km west of the Lower Park at Peterhof.

The private dacha and its chapel were built in 1844-50 for the Tsesarevich Alexander Nicholayevich (future Emperor Alexander II) by the Russian architect Andrei Stackenschneider on the site of the former, smaller, dacha of the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, daughter of Peter the Great.

The private chapel was reached by a footbridge that spanned the tiny green valley that separated it from the dacha.

During its heyday the impressive two-storye Baroque style dacha was one of Stackenschneider's architectural masterpieces. Several watercolours by E. P. Hau and Luigi Premazzi have survived and allow us to appreciate the beautiful interiors  of this Imperial residence.

His Majesty's Own Dacha as it looks today 

During the Soviet years the dacha was declared a "monument of national importance." During the Second World War, it was shelled, but was later restored. In the 1980s, the building was abandoned and has sat empty ever since.

In 2004, minor restoration work was carried out by a local firm. Work progressed at a very slow pace, however, some repairs on the historic building were carried out.

Earlier this month a decision was made to restore and convert the former Imperial dacha into a wedding palace. The decision has been approved by the local governor, and funds have been allocated for the project. Work is expected to begin shortly, with work to be completed by 2015.

I had the opportunity of visiting the Imperial dacha some years back. I was saddened by its advanced stage of neglect, so news that this historic building is to be restored is indeed good news. I had, however, always hoped that it to would have been transferred to the Peterhof State Museum-Preserve and restored to its former grandeur.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 22 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:00 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 25 November 2012 7:03 AM EST
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Remains of Alexei and Maria to be Buried in 2013
Topic: Holy Royal Martyrs




The remains of the Tsesarevich Alexei Nicholayevich and the Grand Duchess Maria Nicholayevna may be buried in the summer of 2013, ITAR-TASS reports.

The announcement was made on November 16th by Sergei Mironenko, Director of the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF) in Moscow, where the remains are currently in temporary storage.

According to Mironenko the remains were transferred to GARF at the suggestion of the committee responsible for conducting tests on the authenticity of the remains. He went on to confirm that he believes the remains are authentic based on genetic examination carried out by scientists.

Mironenko pointed out that the decision to bury the royal remains has been resisted by "certain circles.""It is very important that a decision on the authenticity of the remains by the Moscow Patriarchate be made," he said, then noting that the position of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad was "more progressive." 

"When we opened the exhibition on the century long investigation into the murders of the Imperial family in the summer of 2012 at GARF in Moscow, comparing the investigations of Sokolov and Solovyov, Metropolitan Hillarion participated, and I must say that it was quite a challenge to prove to the Metropolitan that we were right after all."

In the meantime, the Moscow Patriarchate has never made an official final judgement on the issue regarding the authenticity of the remains. In early November, the Russian Orthodox Church stated that the identity of the remains found near Ekaterinburg in 1991 and 2007 remains an open question pending further historical and genetic research.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 22 November, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:02 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 30 April 2014 7:53 AM EDT
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