Kremlin: August 1 to be Russia's WWI Remembrance Day Topic: Russian History
Tsar Nicholas II blessing his troops during World War I
August 1 will be the date on which, each year, Russia remembers its soldiers who fell during the First World War, the Kremlin Press Service announced on Monday.
“The following changes are introduced to the Federal Law on Days of Military Glory and Remembrance Days in Russia, adding the date of August 1 as a Day of Remembrance for the Russian soldiers who fell in the First World War of 1914-1918,” the press release says.
President Putin suggested creating a memorial to the Russian soldiers who fought in World War I (WWI) during his state of the nation address of December 12.
Allied to Britain and France in WWI, Russia is thought to have lost about 1.5 million soldiers at the front, with about 5 million wounded – according to the history site firstworldwar.com, although some historians question these figures.
Russia’s participation in WWI was downplayed in the Soviet Union, largely due to the Bolshevik view of it as an “imperialist war” that paved the way for revolution.
Speaking with young Russians at the Seliger youth camp in July 2013, President Putin raised the issue of Russia's role in WWI, and blamed the Bolsheviks for how Russia left the war. "It is also known that the Bolsheviks wished for the defeat of their own nation in World War I. And overall, I must say that their input in Russia’s defeat was commensurate."
The Treaty of Brest Litovsk, signed between Bolshevik Russia, the German Empire, Austria Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire on March 3, 1918, officially terminated Russia's involvement in WWI.
"This was an astonishing situation, wherein Germany surrendered to the Allies, but Russia lost to the defeated nation, Germany, and with such grave consequences – losing enormous territories and suffering other truly severeramifications. This is truly a unique large-scale example of national treachery!" Putin said.
The Mysterious Disappearance of the Russian Crown Jewels Topic: Jewels
After the 1917 revolution, Russia's new rulers debated what to do with the crown jewels. This 1925 photo shows the collection. However, a 1922 album at the USGS includes photos of four items that are missing from the 1925 photo.
The story of the missing Russian crown jewels begins, as so many great adventures do, in a library.
In this case, it was the U.S. Geological Survey Library in Reston, Va.
Richard Huffine, the director, was looking through the library's rare-book collection when he came upon an oversized volume.
"And there's no markings on the outside, there's no spine label or anything like that," he says. "This one caught our eye, and we pulled it aside to take a further look at it."
Researcher Jenna Nolt was one of those who took a look.
"The title page is completely hand drawn, and it's got this beautiful, elaborate design on it, and it has the date 1922," Nolt says. "When we translated the title, we found out that it was The Russian Diamond Fund."
The Diamond Fund is the name given to the imperial regalia of the Romanov family, the czars of Russia for more than 300 years, from 1613 to 1917.
Huffine knew they were on to something.
"Several of the pictures at the very front of the album are the iconic, known products that you would think of for the Russian Crown Jewels, including the Orlov Diamond in the scepter, and the grand crown, which has the huge stone at the top," he says.
The Orlov Diamond is a 189-carat stone that was famously stolen from the eye of a statue of a Hindu deity in southern India — and that's only one of the stories behind the collection.
These are jewels of almost magical significance, symbols of unbridled power and wealth.
Calling In An Expert
The U.S. Geological Survey librarians called Kristen Regina, the archivist and head of the research collection at the Hillwood Museum in Washington, D.C.
The Hillwood boasts the largest collection of Russian imperial art outside of Russia.
"The crown jewels play an important part in the coronation story," Regina says, "because the czar crowns himself in the coronation, and that is the moment when he takes full power."
The Romanov dynasty came to an end in 1917, amid the chaos of a world war, a revolution and a civil war.
Regina says the fate of the crown jewels raised a furious debate among the Bolshevik leadership, which was badly in need of money.
Some of the revolutionaries saw the jewels as symbols of centuries of exploitation — gems that ought to be sold to benefit the workers.
Historian Igor Zimin says much of the collection was preserved by curators at the Kremlin in Moscow, who were able to convince the leaders that the gems had enormous historical significance.
Zimin, the head of the history department at the St. Petersburg State Medical University, says there are records of auctions of some of the lesser pieces from the collection dating from around 1927. There are even memoranda about Soviet agents being caught while traveling with diamonds in their luggage.
Zimin is skeptical, by the way, about the newly rediscovered book, because it's dated 1922, and an official photographic inventory of the crown jewels wasn't published until 1925.
Differences Between The Two Books
The USGS has a copy of that book, too, and researcher Jenna Nolt has compared the two.
She found that the 1922 volume shows four pieces of jewelry that don't appear in the later official book.
Nolt says the researchers learned the fate of one of the pieces, a sapphire brooch.
She says it was sold at auction in London in 1927, "but the three other pieces, the necklace, the diadem and the bracelet, we have no idea what happened to them."
One person who might have known is the man who acquired the 1922 volume in the first place.
He was an American mineralogist and gem expert who worked at various times for the jeweler Tiffany & Co. and the USGS.
His name was George Frederick Kunz, and his adventures took him to Russia in those dangerous years after the revolution and the civil war.
"If you ever have a chance to read his writings," Nolt says, "he's got this wonderful attitude, and he's traveling in carriages in rural Russia to meet 'the peasant queen of amethysts,' and he's talking about how he's traveling with a pistol over his knees because he doesn't trust the driver of the carriage, so I think — an Indiana Jones figure, definitely."
On View At The Kremlin
The jewels of the Russian Diamond Fund are on display in the Kremlin in Moscow — or most of them, anyway.
The officials in charge of the exhibition declined to comment for this story.
The researchers who've uncovered the story thus far say the rest of the mystery is free for anyone — amateur or professional — to try to solve.
Who knows, it might be time to take a look in great-grandma's jewel case.
400 Years Since Coronation of First Romanov Topic: 400th Anniversary
The coronation of Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich in 1613
In 2013, 400 years will turn since the first representative of the Romanov dynasty of Russian emperors, Mikhail, ascended the Russian throne on June 11, 1613.
The election of Mikhail Romanov as Russia’s tsar (he was elected from several other candidates by a group of Russian noblemen) put an end to a period of political instability in Russia. Within the following 3 centuries, the Romanov dynasty did much to make Russia the world’s largest country, strong, united and influential in the world politics.
In 1598, the Rurik dynasty, that had ruled Russia for more than 700 years, interrupted. The next 15 years came into history as a period of political instability. Within this rather short period, many rulers have changed on the Russian throne. Finally, in 1613, Mikhail Romanov ascended it.
In fact, few people had expected Mikhail to become the tsar. The main pretenders for the Russian throne were representatives of two noble families, the Godunovs and the Shuyskys. Neither of them looked upon Mikhail Romanov, a 16-year-old son of the head of the Russian Church Patriarch Philaret, as upon a serious rival. However, at a council of noblemen, the majority voted for him.
Russian historian Evgeny Pchyolov says:
“It is, to a large extent, representatives of the Romanov dynasty that made the Russian Empire one of the word’s largest and strongest countries – Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Alexander I, Nicholas I and others. The time when the Romanov dynasty ruled Russia was the golden age for the Russian civilization.”
Many representatives of the Romanov dynasty were married to members of other European royal families, which also strengthened the position of Russia in the world.
Historian Faina Grimberg narrates:
“Initially, representatives of the Romanov dynasty tried to conclude marriages with members of Scandinavian royal families. Since the time of Emperor Peter the Great, a grandson of Mikhail Romanov and an energetic pro-western reformer, who ruled Russia from 1682 to 1725, marriages between Romanovs and members of European royal families became a common thing. Mainly, these were marriages with representatives of noble families of German origin – in particular, with dukes and duchesses of the German region of Hessen-Darmstadt. In the late 19th century, the last Russian Emperor Nickolas II married a granddaughter of the British Queen Victoria, and Nicholas’s uncle, Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich, married Victoria’s other granddaughter. This strengthened ties between Russia and Great Britain.”
But probably the most close kinship ties the Romanovs had with the German Holstein-Gottorp dynasty. A daughter of Peter the Great, Anna, was married to Duke Charles Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp. Their son, Peter III, ruled Russia for less than a year in 1762. He was the husband of Russian Empress Catherine the Great (ruled 1762-1796) and the father of Emperor Paul I (ruled 1796-1801). In Europe, the Romanov dynasty was even often referred to as the Romanov- Holstein-Gottorp dynasty.
Other members of the Russian royal family were married to representatives of ducal families of the German territories of Wurttemberg and Baden. Russian Emperor Nicholas I (ruled 1825-1855) was married to Princess Charlotte Hohenzollern of Prussia. The Romanovs were also related to the Nassau ducal family of the Netherlands, the Hanover royal family of Britain, and the Danish and Greek royal families.
Of course, it was not only ties of kinship, but also the farsighted foreign policy of the Romanov emperors, that made Russia be respected by the entire Europe. Historian Evgeny Pchyolov says:
“After the 1917 revolution, the Communist regime tried to distance Russia from the “bourgeois” Western Europe. In the Soviet time, Russia maintained more ties with Eastern Europe, Asia and other regions than with Western Europe. Now, Russia’s authorities are realizing that their country should be a full-fledged member of the European family of countries. Here, the experience of Russian emperors, who always tried to maintain close ties with European countries, may be very helpful for us.”
Meanwhile, for many Westerners, the Romanov dynasty is associated with the well-known jeweler Karl Faberge, who lived in Russia and is reknown for the magnificent Easter eggs he crafted for for the last two Russian Emperors: Alexander III and Nicholas II.
Tsarskoe Selo Palaces: The View from 1917 Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 3 minutes, 9 seconds Topic: Tsarskoye Selo
The photographic archive of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve now boasts 48 autochrome plates with early 20th-century views of the Catherine and Alexander palaces. The plates were recently auctioned in Paris and happily acquired by our Museum with assistance from Mr. Michael Pyles, an American member of the Tsarskoye Selo Friends Society.
The autochromes, 140 in total, were made in 1917 by the military photographer Andrei Zeest, who was invited by the art historian George Loukomski, Head of Tsarskoye Selo Inventory Commission. The views of the Catherine Palace were taken in June-July of 1917, including the palace chapel's altar piece the latest pre-war picture of which at our archive dated from the 1860s.
The Alexander Palace interiors were photographed in August-September, soon after the Tsar's family left for exhile. Now that a comprehensive restoration of the palace approaches, the detail-rich autochromes become one of the most important resources for the museum workers, restorers and historians. Particularly noteworthy are the views of the Playroom of Tsarevich Alexei, previously unavailable, and Alexandra Fiodorovna's greenery-decorated Maple Study or Drawing-Room and the Palisander Reception Room with a vase holding a hortensia put there by the Tsarina herself.
The larger number of the autochrome plates were gone together with Loukomski when he emigrated from Russia in 1918. About 40 autochromes with the palaces were handed over to Tsarskoye Selo by Andrei Zeest's widow in the 1960s.
The said auction in Paris offered many other objects, some of which our Museum acquired with support from Mr. Mikhail Karisalov, an art collector and a longtime Friend of Tsarskoye Selo:
•Empress Maria Fiodorovna's autographed photo of 1916 (above)
•Illuminated engraved view of the Neva River and the Peter and Paul Fortress from the 1750s
•Bronze figure of Nicholas I's favourite pet poodle, Hussar
•Children's books illustated by Ivan Bilibin
•Set of eleven envelopes of different sizes with Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna's monogram
•Late 19th-century lacquered box with a miniature painting of a scene from Russian peasant life
Russia Marks 180th Anniversary of the Birth of Pavel Tretyakov Topic: Russian Art
Photo: A portrait of Pavel Tretyakov. Artist: Ilya Repin (1883)
Pavel Tretyakov, the renowned art collector and founder of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, was born 180 years ago. Together with his brother Sergei Mikhailovich, he collected paintings by Russian artists for over a quarter century, creating the most extensive private art gallery in Russia, which he then offered as a gift, along with the building housing it, to the city of Moscow.
Pavel Tretyakov was the son of a merchant and he received a good education at home. Having inherited his father’s business the young Pavel and his brother Sergei constructed a cotton mill that employed about 5,000 workers.
Pavel Tretyakov began to collect Russian art in the 1850s with the intention of donating it to the city. It is believed that he acquired his first Russian paintings in 1856: Nikolai Shilder’s “The Temptation” (1853) and Vasily Khudyakov’s “Skirmish with Finnish Smugglers” (1853). Later he added paintings by Savrasov, Trutovsky, Bruni, and other masters to the collection.
Tretyakov supported talented artists all over Russia and was a personal friend of many of them. He especially admired a number of young realist painters known as “Peredvizhniki” (the Itinerants or Wanderers). The Peredvizhniki artists tried to show the “true Russia” and acquaint common people with art. They protested against academic restrictions and resisted the belief that all art was centered in St. Petersburg.
Photo: The Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow is the foremost depository of Russian fine art in the world.
Although the Russian painting tradition had not been formed yet and resembled the great art tradition of Europe, Tretyakov truly believed in Russian art. Medieval Russian art was nearly forgotten and works of the Russian painters of that time were scattered across private collections abroad. Tretyakov’s goal was to represent the Russian painting school in its entirety.
In 1893 the collections of both brothers opened as “The Pavel and Sergey Tretyakov Municipal Gallery.” Shortly afterwards, Pavel Tretyakov presented both collections to the city of Moscow. “For me, as one who truly and fervently loves painting, there can be no greater desire than to lay the foundation of a publically accessible repository of fine arts that would bring benefit and pleasure to many,” he wrote. At that time, the Tretyakov brothers’ gift numbered 1287 Russian paintings, 518 drawings, 9 sculptures, 75 paintings and 9 drawings by foreign artists, valued at 1.43 million rubles.
Towards the end of his life, Tretyakov was given the title of commerce adviser, became a member of the Moscow branch of the Council of Trade and Manufactures, and also (from 1893) became a full member of the Petersburg Academy of Arts. He died in Moscow on December 4, 1898. The Tretyakov Gallery became the first publically accessible museum in Russia in which Russian painting was presented not as disparate works of art, but as a unified whole. Through his nearly half century of art collecting and support of the most talented and brilliant artists, Tretyakov had a tremendous influence on the formation and flourishing of Russian artistic culture in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Stolypin Monument Unveiled in Moscow Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 2 minutes, 38 seconds Topic: Stolypin, Pyotr
On December 27 a monument to Prime Minister of the Russian Empire Pyotr Stolypin was unveiled in Moscow. President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attended, laying wreaths at the monument, which is situated near the Russian White House where the Russian Cabinet is situated.
The decision to install the monument was made in March 2011. Money to support the project was collected throughout the world. In July 2011 Vladimir Putin even suggested that members of the cabinet should consider donating a portion of their salaries to fund the monument.
Pavel Pozhigailo, President of the Foundation for Studying Pyotr Stolypin’s Heritage, noted that money was collected throughout Russia, even in the distant villages of the Altai Mountains, Chukotka and Magadan regions. “We even collected more than was needed and used the excess funds to thank those who helped. We sent them books about Stolypin and cards,” Pozhigailo explained.
The sculpture weighs more than three tons and is 4.5 meters tall. Including the pedestal, the monument rises approximately 9 meters from its base. Stolypin is credited for helping boost the Russian economy in a relative short period of time. The inspired reformer who once said “Give me 20 years of peace at home and abroad and you will not recognize Russia,” was fatally wounded by an assassin in Kiev in 1911 without completing the reforms some believe would have saved Russia from revolution. He was laid to rest in the Kiev-Pechorsk Lavra. This year, 2012, marks the 150th anniversary of his birth.
Note: The video includes historic film footage of Stolypin's funeral in 1911.
Tsarskoye Selo commemorates the forthcoming 400th anniversary of the House of Romanov, which is to be celebrated next year, with a new project observing the birth dates of the former crowned masters and mistresses of the imperial residence.
The project starts out as the 303rd anniversary of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna is approaching on December 29th (18th Old Style). The event is marked with an eighteenth-century styled floral composition set out in the Third Antechamber of the Catherine Palace.
The composition consists of plants that grew in the Tsarskoye Selo greenhouses in the mid-eighteenth century: tuberose, pelargonium, narcissus, lily, rose, carnation, wild orange, lemon, plum, moluccella and laurel. In accordance with eighteenth-century taste, the bouquet is also decorated with fruits.
Next to it stands an easel holding the portrait of Empress Elizabeth by the Italian painter Pietro Antonio Rotari, depicting the daughter of Peter the Great as the first beauty of her time. Her reign is called the Golden Age of Tsarskoye Selo.
Crosses Return to Historic Tsarskoye Selo Church Topic: Tsarskoye Selo
Pre-revolutionary photos of the Church of Saint Julian of Tarsus, and its magnificent stained-glass iconostasis
All of the nine crosses of the Church of Saint Julian of Tarsus at Tsarskoye Selo were restored to their original places on December 25th. Before the Revolution, the building served as regiment church of the His Imperial Majesty’s Life Guard Cuirassier’s.
A prayer service for the installation of the crosses began at 11:30 am, continuing throughout the day with winter weather conditions causing numerous delays.
The nine crosses were manufactured by Remfasad, a Russian firm based in St. Petersburg that specializes in the restoration of historical and cultural monuments.
The regiment church was built to the design of the architect V.N. Kuritsin at the corner of Kadetsky Boulevard and Kirasirskaya (Cuirassier) Street in 1896-1899. The interior decoration was created by the architect S.A. Danini.
Funding for the construction was provided by the commerce councillor, I.K. Savinkov in the style of Old Russian churches in the honour of the wedding of Their Emperor Majesties Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna.
The consecration of the upper temple of St Julian of Tarsus took place on 19 December 1899. The temple was sanctified by the arch-presbyter of the military clergy Fr. A. Zhelobovsky jointly with the arch-presbyter Fr. John (Sergiev) of Kronstadt and representatives of the Tsarskoye Selo clergy and in the presence of Their Emperor Majesties and other members of the Imperial family.
In the upper side-chapel there was an interesting stained-glass iconostasis made of multicoloured solder glass with mosaic icons surrounded by ornamental pattern. Icons was created in Munich on the base of cardboards of the professor N. Koshelev, who also painted two huge picture “The Wedding in Kanna of Galilee” and “The Miracle of St. Julian of Tarsus” on walls of the middle part of the temple. In the lower temple there was a stylish marble iconostasis and marble gravestones of Savinkov and his wife. Icons and fresco were painted by the artist Volkov.
In 1930, the crosses and Imperial eagles were removed and the church was used for storage.
The church has been undergoing a lengthy restoration since the building was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1992. The building had been left in a deplorable state. Tons of garbage left by its previous caretaker had to be removed first. Restorers then set to work repairing dilapidated walls, crumbling stone floors and stairs. In 2010, the church dome had been restored.
Despite ongoing restoration work, services are being held every Sunday. Prayers are said for the Martyr Saint Julian of Tarsus and the fallen soldiers of H.I.M. Life Guard Cuirassier Regiment. There are plans to open a museum in the lower church which will be dedicated to the regiment’s history.
Painting from Collection of Nicholas I Returns to Tsarskoye Selo Topic: Tsarskoye Selo
The Crimean Tatar Squadron officers of Life Guards Cossack Regiment(left) by Carl Friedrich Schulz (1796-1866), donated to the Museum by the Moscow collectors Sergei and Tatiana Podstanitsky on 25th December 2012, is one of the over forty battle pieces which Emperor Nicholas I commissioned from the German artist for Tsarskoye Selo.
The oil on canvas painting of 1850 is Schulz’s eighteenth (of the 40) work in the Museum by now. It first hung in Nicholas I’s study at the Alexander Palace and then moved to the Dressing Room of Grand Duke Alelxander Nikolayevich (later Emperor Alexander II) at the Catherine Palace, where it can be seen depicted in a 19th-century watercolour by Eduard Hau.
Registered in the palace inventory of 1938–40, the painting was soon looted by the Nazis together with other non-evacuated artworks. In 2006 it was included into Russia’s Summary Catalogue of the Cultural Valuables Stolen and Lost During World War II, published by the Ministry of Culture’s project Cultural Values - Victims of War.
The collectors purchased the painting at a German auction in 2008 from the owners who knew nothing of its real provenance. It is the third piece Sergei and Tatiana Podstanitsky bring back to the Tsarskoye Selo collection. Thanks to them, Ludwig Elsholtz's Prussian Hussars (1840) and Wilhelm Alexander Meyerheim’s Prussian Cuirassiers (1830s-1840s) returned to the Museum in 2011. The paintings, which are to be reinstalled in the Catherine Palace after the restoration of Alexander I’s rooms, will be on display at Moscow’s State Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia in 2013.
A Russian Moment No. 2 - Livadia Palace Topic: A Russian Moment
A rare snowfall blankets the Livadia Palace in the Crimea. The Russian Imperial family along with members of Russia's aristocratic and noble families favoured the region for its Mediterranean climate and stunning natural beauty. It was here that they built beautiful palaces and elegant mansions overlooking the Black Sea. When the Revolution swept across Russia, it was the isolation of the region that allowed many of them to escape the advancing Red Terror into exile.