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400th Anniversary
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Paul Gilbert
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Thursday, 6 December 2012
Tsarskoye Selo Plans Restoration of Arsenal
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


The Arsenal situated in the Alexander Park and Tsarskoye Selo as it looks today. 

Before the Revolution, visitors to the Arsenal at Tsarskoye Selo were struck by the beauty of its interiors, including its arched windows with medieval stained glass windows. Today, the building which is situated in the Alexander Park lies in ruins. After numerous appeals, the Ministry of Culture has allocated funds for "priority restoration work" to be carried out to save the historic building.

Considered the most striking of the Neo-Gothic pavilions in the Alexander Park, the Arsenal was constructed in the early 19th century on the site of Monbijou. The former hunting lodge of the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna was built in the Baroque style by Rastrelli. It was Emperor Nicholas I who ordered the construction of the new Arsenal. 

Monbijou Pavilion. Photo Credit: Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve 

Monbijou was partially dismantled in 1819 by the architect Adam Menelaws, and following his death was completed by the Emperor's favourite architect, Konstantin Thon in 1834.

In 1827, the Arsenal became the first public weaponry museum in Russia after Nicholas I had his large weapons collection moved there from the Anitchkov Palace in St. Petersburg. 

Once restoration begins, restorers will reply on  a series of watercolours by the artist A. Rokstule who painted the interiors of this unique, three-story castle-palace.

Each room displayed a separate group of objects united by a central theme. Thus, the foyer contained suits of armour creating the illusion of an honour guard; the Albanian Room showcased the most valuable objects from the Oriental collection, including Japanese, Chinese, Persian and Turkish weapons; and at the foot of the staircase stood a group of figures demonstrating the initiation of a knight. Marvellous Spanish, Italian and German swords could be viewed in the study, and the library across the hall was filled with firearms.

The interior of the Arsenal was splendid: arrow-shaped windows filled with authentic medieval stained glass acquired at auctions in various European countries. The elegance of light, twisting columns, octagonal halls, delighted visitors. Other rooms included a bed-chamber and a Hall of Knights complete with a round table.

The foot of the staircase in the Arsenal. 

During World War II the Arsenal was badly damaged. Now, after more than 70 years of falling into decay and near ruin, the building will be restored and reopened as a museum.

"The state of the building is in a state of emergency," said Natalya Kudryavtseva, Chief Architect at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. "Workers are not permitted inside the building until scaffolding has been set up. The stairs have been completely destroyed, and it is not safe."

Original fragments of stucco have been found inside the Arsenal, and the structure itself, including the roof have stood the test of time and still in good shape despite more than 70 years of neglect.

The first stage of restoration will secure the doors and windows of the building, reinforce the facade, and begin the restoration of the brick masonry. The debris found in the basement took two weeks to clean up.

There is a legend of an underground passage that linked the Arsenal to the Catherine Palace, however, restorers have not found any evidence of such a tunnel.   

The restoration of the Arsenal is expected to take any where from three to five years to complete, at which time it will once again house the extant weapons collection of Emperor Nicholas I, currently in the storage reserves of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 06 December, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:33 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 6 December 2012 8:51 AM EST
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Wednesday, 5 December 2012
Attacks on Church Pre-Revolution Reminder - Patriarch
Topic: Russian Church


After the Revolution, the Bolsheviks led brutal attacks against the church in Russia that led to the looting and destruction of churches and monasteries, as well as the persecution and murder of thousands of clergy and Orthodox Christians  

In a speech to a group of Cossack commanders, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church has warned the recent string of attacks on the church is similar to what happened before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

Just like now, back then they performed a reconnaissance by engagement – to see what will be the Orthodox Christians’ reaction. They performed acts of blasphemy, humiliation and provocation,” Patriarch Kirill told the heads of the Cossack hosts of Russia Ukraine and Belarus.

The Patriarch noted that the methods of the “enemies of the Church” (that he again did not name) were too uniform to his taste. “It is all the same, these accusations – in the beginning of the twentieth century, after the revolution and now “. However, he expressed hope that the people of Russia would understand the dangers that come with the attempts to resurrect the spectres of the past.

The violations of religious rights are committed under an invented excuse of freedom of expression. We all know very well that there can be no freedom of expression if it violates the rights of ethnic groups but it is somehow possible, through the wrongly understood freedom of expression, to insult the believers, destroy their inner world and humiliate their dignity,” the top cleric added.

The Patriarch thanked the Cossacks for their vigilance for preventing many acts of blasphemy and called on them to continue their work to defend the church.

This was not the first time the representatives of the church accused some mysterious unnamed forces of launching a concerted attack against Christianity in Russia. These statements became more often after the mass media started reporting of the clergy’s growing interference in public life, as well as the impious and luxury lifestyles of some of the priests.

The public discussion led to the preparation of a bill that criminalized insults to believer, that is expected to be submitted for approval next year. Also the Church has officially allowed the clergy to take part in elections  though their participation in political parties is still banned.

© Russia Today. 05 December, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:50 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 5 December 2012 3:26 PM EST
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Faces of Russia Exhibit Opens in St. Petersburg
Topic: Exhibitions


Portrait of Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna. Artist: Vladimir Makovsky (1912) 

The 'Faces of Russia' permanent exhibition has opened in the Mikhailovsky (Engineers) Castle, a division of the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. The new exhibit has one of the richest collections of Russian paintings in the world. This is another realization of the idea of the National Portrait Gallery around which the discussions have long been in progress.

As it appears, the collections of Russia’s three leading museums, including the State Tretyakov Gallery and the State Historical Museum in Moscow, and the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg can serve as a basis for such a gallery. Each of them has extensive collections of portraits, which are real masterpieces. This became clear during the first exhibition presentation that was arranged by the Historical Museum. Next in turn is the Russian Museum.

The residents of St. Petersburg say that the idea to create a national portrait gallery was expressed by their compatriot - the prominent Russian artist and art critic – Alexander Benois who considered the Mikhailovsky Palace in St. Petersburg to be an ideal place for paintings reflecting Russia’s history. The new exposition of the State Russian Museum, “Faces of Russia”, has been staged exactly in the Mikhailovsky Palace, the exhibition’s curator Yevgeniya Petrova said in an interview with the Voice of Russia.

"The exposition is divided into two parts. One is dedicated to the emperor’s portraits and the second – to people belonging to other sections of the population (18th century until modern times). It consists of 220 works, including the paintings of well-known artists – such as Repin, Serov, and Kramskoy, and also the works of less known artists. Among their characters are people well known by historical textbooks but only a few people have their visual images. And visitors to the Mikhailovsky Palace will be able not only to learn more about them but also see their portraits."

The Mikhailovsky or Engineers Castle, St. Petersburg 

Of course, the audience is attracted by the possibility to see the portraits of the Russian rulers, including Tsar Ivan the Terrible who ruled in the 16th century, those who ruled after him and the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II. There are portraits of the members of the royal family there too. This chapter of the exhibition in the Mikhailovsky Palace resembles the Romanov gallery that existed in the emperor’s palace until the 1917 revolution. By the way, the official portraits of the Russian tsars and tsarinas are arranged close to their allegorical portraits represented as antique gods and heroes. The portraits of the Russian commanders – mainly, the heroes of the Patriotic War of 1812, are also put on display there. Of course, visitors to the Mikhailovsky Palace can see the portraits of politicians, priests, representatives of the of the world of arts, and rich merchants. The portraits of ordinary people, including town-dwellers and countrymen are also displayed in the Mikhailovsky Palace. The works of old masters have something in common with the works of the 20th - century artists: in the Soviet era times preference was given to the images of workers and peasants – in other words, to the front-rank workers and of course, to the portraits of their leaders. Of interest here is the fact that the photo portraits of visitors to the exhibition – the people of the 21st century are the last in this “historical circle”.

It is not clear yet how the idea of a national portrait gallery will be realized. However, there is a modern and well-tested way of uniting the collections of all museums –the multi-media Internet-portal. Representatives of the museum community favour this proposal.

© The Voice of Russia. 05 December, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:45 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 5 December 2012 12:21 PM EST
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Tuesday, 4 December 2012
Romanov Auction Catalogue - Geneva, December 10, 2012
Topic: Auctions

||| Click Here to View and Print 25 Page Romanov Section of the Catalogue |||

Together with the letters and pictures offered by Prince Nicholas Romanovich, the Hotel Des Ventes in Geneva is offering some 3000 Russian items including other rare photographs of the Russian Imperial family from the private collection of Ferdinand Thormeyer, who served as tutor at the Russian Court, and some 46 pages of love letters from Tsar Alexander II to his mistress, Princess Katia Dolgourovky.

*Note: The full catalogue consists of 372 pages. I have only included the pages from the catalogue which reflect the Romanov letters and photographs being offered in the auction. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 04 December, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:13 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 4 December 2012 5:37 AM EST
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Monday, 3 December 2012
Nicholas Romanovich Meets Journalists at His Home in Switzerland
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 2 minutes, 30 seconds
Topic: Nicholas Romanovich

Journalists were invited to the home of Nicholas Romanovich last week to get a preview of the items of his personal collection which will go under the hammer this month. Among the items are letters, photographs and other personal belongings of his ancestors, including his great-great uncle, Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich.

Nicholas told journalists that his decision to sell these heirlooms is in the hope that they will help shed further light on the history of the Russian Imperial family in anticipation of the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 2013.

"Of course, I am sorry to part with all of this, but I am 90 now. I made the decision," he told journalists.

In 1915, Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich was relieved of his duties as Commander-in-Chief when Tsar Nicholas II took over the military lead, but Nicholas Romanovich, who was born four years after the Tsar's murder in 1918, has kept his Grand Uncle's military cap, that he's selling at the Geneva auction. "When I found this, I tried it of course, not because I wanted, but because I knew, that if it didn't really fit me, and you see on these photographs, it never reached the back of his (Nicholas Nicholayevich) head", Nicholas Romanov told journalists.

The auction which consists of some 3,000 items will be held at Hôtel des Ventes of Geneva on December 10th.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 03 December, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:41 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 20 December 2012 9:47 AM EST
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Sunday, 2 December 2012
Alexander II Statue Returns to Sofia
Topic: Alexander II


The landmark statue of Russian Emperor Alexander II was returned to the square in front of Parliament in Sofia Thursday, after undergoing repair.

The statue of the mounted tsar was re-assembled, with workers installing a headless horse first, then installing its head and the torso of the tsar.

Some of the legs of the horse had to be replaced because of wear, and other parts of the statue and the additional figures that went missing had to be also replaced.

Svetoslav Glosov, who was part of the team responsible for the reconstruction, defended the procedure used as both innovative and flawless.

During the restoration process there were controversial reports that the landmark statue is not being taken adequate care of.

Around December 20, a photo exhibition will open at the Sofia Central Bath documenting the whole process.

The restored monument will be officialy inaugurated on March 3, the day of the peace contract in the 1877-8 Russo-Turkish war led by Alexander II, which resulted in Bulgaria's liberation from the Ottoman Empire.

© Sofia Morning News. 02 December, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:30 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 2 December 2012 4:55 PM EST
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Friday, 30 November 2012
Nicholas Romanovich Presents Romanov History
Topic: Nicholas Romanovich


Nicholas Romanovich at his home in Switzerland presents his personal collection of Romanov memorabilia to journalists, which included letters, photographs and other personal items of his ancestors.  

In the framework of the forthcoming Special Russia sale, Bernard Piguet, director and chief auctioneer at the Hôtel des Ventes of Geneva, invited journalists to a press conference on November 29th that was attended by Nicholas Romanovich, head of the Romanov Family Association.

The eldest living representative of the House of Romanov and a direct descendant of Emperor Nicholas I answered questions by journalists and commented on the photographs and letters of Tsar Nicholas II and his uncle Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich, supreme commander of the armies of the Russian Empire which will be part of the upcoming auction on December 10, 2012.

Initially, the press conference was to be held in Geneva; however, the weather forced the 90-year-old to change his plans. Instead, journalists were invited to his home in the town of Rougemont, located in the eastern Swiss canton of Vaud.

“These documents lay in a box owned by my grandfather for a very long time,” said Nicholas Romanovich, “then - they were handed down to my father - and then to me. I hope that the letters will fall into the hands of competent people who will one day write a new biography about my ancestors.”

Letter from Tsar Nicholas II to Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich

Photographs and cabinet cards of Tsar Nicholas II

The cap worn by Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich as seen in the photograph


 Grand Duke Peter Nicholayevich (his grandfather), Nicholas Romanovich as a child, Prince Roman Petrovich (his father)

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 30 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 1:50 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 20 December 2012 9:48 AM EST
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Peter the Great's House in the Netherlands to Be Renovated
Topic: Peter the Great


The 17th century house in the Dutch city of Zaandam where Russian tsar Peter the Great lived during the first days of his 1697 visit to Holland was closed for renovation on Thursday, RIA Novosti reports. “The museum closes for the work and will reopen in March 2013,” said Zaans Museum, which administers the building. The renovation is due to take about three months.

The house was built in 1632 from old ship's wood. A heavy wooden frame was built in late 19th century to support the old structure. Later it was encased in a brick building on the order of Russia’s last tsar Nicholas II.

Peter the Great, who came to power at the end of the 17th century, was determined to modernize Russia. At the age of 25, he travelled to the Dutch Republic, the leading power at that time. It was his first foreign visit.

Peter the Great stayed in Zaandam only for the eight days and studied shipbuilding incognito, posing as a Russian carpenter named Pyotr Mikhailov.

The house was designated a historical monument in the 18th century. It was handed over to the Russian royal family in 1886, but in 1948 the heirs of the Romanov family returned the building to The Netherlands.

© Russkiy Mir. 30 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:10 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 30 November 2012 8:19 AM EST
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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Set of Medals Honour Russian Sovereigns
Topic: 400th Anniversary


The Property Management Department of the President of the Russian Federation has announced that it will offer a series of collectible souvenirs marking the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 2013.

Among them is a set of 20 medals depicting Russian sovereigns who ruled from 1613 to 1917: from Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich to Tsar Nicholas II.

The medals are made of silver and gold plated. Each medal depicts the portrait of a sovereign of the Romanov dynasty on the face, and the coat-of-arms on the reverse. The set of 20 medals is packaged in a box of polished mahogany. All sets are numbered and each has its own certificate. They are currently for sale at museum shops in the Moscow Kremlin. Price: 175,000 rubles ($5,700 USD).

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 November, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:06 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 29 November 2012 11:36 AM EST
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Religious Association Rises in Defense of Russian Orthodoxy
Topic: Russian Church


Chairman of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, Sergei Stepashin and Patriarch Kirill 

Russia's Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society has called for setting up "a public system" in Russia that would "rule out insults to the religious feelings of believers."

"In condemning attempts by certain forces to sow discord in society and question the role of Orthodox tradition in shaping the identity of the Russian people, we state our readiness to act resolutely in national interests, defend Christian values and help promote national unity, civil peace and harmony in Russia," the Society said in a statement passed at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday.

After "humiliating persecution and accusations," the people of Russia have a right to establish "a public system that would rule out insults to the religious feelings of believers," the Society said.

The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society was set up in 1882 by Emperor Alexander III to organize Russian pilgrims' journeys to sacred places including Palestine, Mount Athos and Bari, assist the Russian Orthodox Church's service abroad, do cultural and educational missionary work in the Middle East and study the historical heritage of Holy Land.

After the 1917 Revolution, the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society was closed, but a Russian Palestine Society was formed at the Academy of Sciences, which continued the traditional studies of the historical heritage of Holy Land.

The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society was registered again in May 1992 under its historical name. It has 18 regional branches and is chaired by Sergey Stepashin.

© Interfax. 29 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:37 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 29 November 2012 6:45 AM EST
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