Vintage Photo of Nicholas II No. 12 Topic: Nicholas II
Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna on the roof of the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow, 1903. Nicholas, like his father (Emperor Alexander III) preferred Moscow to St. Petersburg.
According to Marc Ferro: "Nicholas II preferred Moscow to St. Petersburg because the old city embodied the past, whereas St. Petersburg represented modernity, the Enlightenment and atheism."
During his reign, Nicholas expressed the desire to spend Holy Week in the former Russian capital, and it was here, during the coronation festivities (1896) and the Romanov Tercentennary (1913), Moscow's fervent greeting to their Tsar confirmed his feeling for the city.
Russian Publishing Firm Issues New Editions of Coronation Albums Topic: Books
The Russian publishing firm of Alfaret in St. Petersburg, have taken on the monumental task of issuing fascimile editions of the coronation albums of the Russian sovereigns.
A total of seven albums have been published of the following Romanov sovereigns: Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich (originally issued in 1856); the Empresses Anna Ivanovna, Elizabeth Petrovna; and the Emperors Nicholas I, Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II.
The albums are exquisite collectors editions bound in leather with gilt lettering, complete with original text (Russian and French) and illustrations. Each album has been published as a limited edition with prices ranging from $5,000 - $15,0000 USD!
Please note that these books are not available for sale through Royal Russia's online bookshop.
Holy Russia - Celebrates the Festival of Christmas Now Playing: Language: NA. Duration: 58 minutes, 54 seconds Topic: Russian Church
Today marks Christmas Day according to the Julian Calendar used by Orthodox Christians. This hour-long documentary was produced by Robin Scott and directed by Georges Gachot in 2006. It was filmed in the cathedrals, monasteries and sacred palaces in Moscow, the Golden Ring and New Jerusalem. The accompanying music is sung by the Moscow Chamber Choir and the Choir of Trinity St. Sergius Lavra. This wonderful documentary is presented here to all Orthodox Christians who visit the Royal Russia web site and blog, and to those who share a special interest and passion for all things Russian. It represents the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Saviour. "Christ is Born! Glorify Him!"
The spiritual culture of Russia is reflected in the beauty of churches and monasteries, in the paintings and frescoes that adorn them and - above all - in the sacred music that is sung in them.
The Russian Orthodox Church derives from that of Byzantium, which also inspired the 'onion-dome' style of church architecture. Many of the centers of ancient worship are contained within the high walls of kremlin fortresses, witnesses to a history of resistance to invasion.
The millennium of Christianity in Russia in 1988 coincided with the new age of 'glasnost' and 'perestroika' (openness and reconstruction), marking the beginning of the end for the Soviet state. For seventy years religious belief and practice had been discouraged, and hundreds of places of worship had been either destroyed or allowed to fall into almost hopeless disrepair.
A few of the very finest cathedrals and monasteries were maintained as museums, like those in the Kremlin in Moscow. Some monasteries miraculously survived. The Trinity St Sergius Monastery at Sergiev Posad (formerly Zagorsk) is the prime example.
Since 1988 many places of worship have been given back to the Orthodox Church, the 'established' church until the Revolution and regarded once again as Russia's national church. Massive restoration work has been accompanied by the return of sacred works of art hidden away for decades.
An aging congregation of believers - largely women - helped to keep Russian Orthodox Christianity alive. In recent years more and more young people have turned to the Church, not least for spiritual comfort and uplift. There has been a revival in choral singing and the rediscovery of many glorious works of sacred Russian music.
Even non-believers cannot fail to be moved by the orthodox liturgy in all its beauty; from the apparel of the priests, the pattern of the liturgy, the candle-lit icons, the responses of clergy, congregation and choir - to the devotion of the worshippers. It is this feeling of spiritual oneness in all its most Russian sense which Holy Russia seeks to reveal.
Christmas, (celebrated thirteen days after 'Western' Christmas under the old calendar) is one of the most important of the annual festivals of the Orthodox Church, the other two being the feast of Trinity (Pentecost) and, above all, Easter. The festival begins with the Christmas vigil and midnight liturgy on Christmas night (January 6 - 7) and ends twelve days later with Epiphany and the celebration of the Baptism of Jesus Christ.
The Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008) leads both of the main liturgies, parts of which are shown in Holy Russia, at the Epiphany (Yelokhovsky) and Assumption cathedrals in Moscow. Whereas the former remained a place of worship in the Soviet years, the latter (holiest of Russian cathedrals where Tsars were crowned) was only reopened for worship in 1989. At the Epiphany Cathedral the Patriarch is seen giving the final blessing (or 'dismissal') at the end of Christmas matins before beginning the midnight liturgy.
At the Cathedral of the Assumption (or Dormition) the Patriarch is seen completing the preparation of the bread and wine, which will be later consecrated for Holy Communion. The bread and the wine are carried then in procession from the offertory table to the altar for consecration. The Patriarch receives them; but before placing them on the altar he blesses the congregation as he offers them symbolically for the needs of the whole world. These are unique pictures never before shown in these surroundings.
Other services include part of the special Epiphany Liturgy at Kazan Cathedral at Kolomenskoye and an ordinary liturgy in the Church of the Resurrection at Kostroma (some three hundred kilometers from Moscow). The program ends with the Epiphany procession at the monastery of New Jerusalem and the great blessing of the waters.
This seventeenth century 'Holy City' was blown up by the retreating German Army in 1943 but is being gradually restored. The recently appointed Archdeacon leads a procession to the nearby - ice-cold - river for the blessing of the cross and symbolic bathing by some of the worshippers. It is the first time this ceremony has taken place since 1917.
The liturgy forms an important part of the program as does the music recorded by two of Russia's leading choirs: the Chamber Choir of Moscow conducted by Vladimir Minin and the Choir of Trinity St Sergius Monastery and Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary conducted by Archimandrite Mattheus. The choral singing is all a cappella (unaccompanied). It embraces a wide range of works, both traditional (for the monastic choir) and more modern for the essentially polyphonic singing of the Moscow Chamber Choir.
How Russians Celebrated New Year Before Revolution Topic: Imperial Russia
The population of St. Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire, consisted of social strata nested within themselves like Indian castes. It was only a few times each year that the tempos of their lives – be they high society, factory workers, servants, students, Germans or paupers – converged.
Because four-fifths of the city’s population were Orthodox believers, and because Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox holidays were very close together on the calendar, New Year’s and Christmas – the second most important Orthodox holiday after Easter – were celebrated by almost all of St. Petersburg's populace. The advent of Christmas marked the beginning of Christmastide – a season that lasted until Baptism (from Dec. 25 to Jab. 6, according to the old style).
Christmas was a family holiday, mostly for children. On Christmas Eve, every self-respecting newspaper carried Christmas stories and verses in which the hero is miraculously saved from danger on Christmas Day.
Toy shops displayed dolls, drawing-room and sports games, children’s pistols, doll houses, furniture, clothes, carriages, live models of steam and water mills, railways and automobiles. A novel feature in the 1913 season was an English wireless telegraph for children – the latest technology.
Petty officials and clerks snapped up practical jokes, in order to play pranks on their friends, cousins and mothers-in-law: for example, a “bottle of perfume” would turn out to contain plain water that spilled all over the recipient of the gift; matches that lit themselves; little imps jumping out of candy boxes…
Christmas dinner included an ostrich sitting on eggs: its body made from a coconut, its neck from a banana, its head fashioned out of a small apple with holes for eyes and its beak made from an almond… A guidebook wrote that “few inhabitants of the capital celebrate Christmas without a partridge or a traditional goose.”
Until Christmas Day, people practiced religious abstinence (although, in St. Petersburg, very few people followed the full rules of fasting).
Every self-respecting family also put up a Christmas tree. The custom was borrowed from the Germans and became popular in St. Petersburg in the 1830s, before spreading across Russia. The Christmas tree decorations were brought from Germany in huge quantities, ahead of Christmas.
The decorations piled at the foot of the tree were given to all the invited children, and the sweets, tin soldiers, fruits and nuts hanging on the tree were handed out as prizes to winners of trivia, anagrams and countless other games.
Families attended the festive mass and returned to a lavishly spread table. Numerous toys were recovered from under the Christmas tree.
From morning, children from poor neighbourhoods visited the flats of the well-off. They congratulated the owners, gave praise to Christ and accepted gifts – typically small change, a few kopecks per person. Among those who came with Christmas greetings were local constables, chimney sweeps, church-bell ringers, garbage collectors, and attendants from Turkish baths. They were treated with vodka and given some money.
Christmas in the Emperor’s family was very much the same, except for the number of Christmas trees (one per each family member) and the fact that gifts were presented not only by adults to children but also by children to their elders. And, of course, the value of their gifts was different (jewelery, arms, paintings, china).
The New Year
For a long time, the New Year was not a holiday but an ordinary workday. However, rural folk celebrated St. Basil’s Day on Jan. 1. That saint, the Bishop of Caesarea, was the patron of pigs – so, on New Year’s, people all over Russia ate sucking pig.
By the beginning of the 20th century a New Year’s ritual was established in the capital. Jan. 1 was regarded as a time for looking back on the previous year.
On the other hand, the night of New Year's was the time when unmarried young people in the city let their hair down. It was very pleasant to enter a restaurant or an inn, to escape St. Petersburg's dank weather. Fancy dress balls were staged at the Noble Assembly and the Suvorin Theatre.
The winter holidays lasted two weeks. During this time, Christmas tree parties were held in all the public spaces for the pupils attending the city’s schools. During the day, they lit up a huge electric fir-tree and children under the age of 10 received free gifts.
After the New Year came time for fortunetelling for young maids. Of course, the rituals were all aimed at attracting bridegrooms: they gave barley grains to roosters, melted wax, dropped slips of paper with the names of potential bridegrooms in a bowl of water and made use of mirrors.
Christmastide ended with religious celebrations for Epiphany Sunday. On Jan. 6, Orthodox believers went in their masses to “Jordan” (places on rivers, canals and lakes where they were baptized in the water). Processions carrying a cross started out from many churches and ended at the water’s edge: holes were cut in the ice for the ritual and chapels were built near these spots. Thus, Christmastide would come to a close.
Note: Russian New Year is on Jan. 1, but Russia has always dated Christmas as Jan. 7, in common with the rest of the Eastern Orthodox Church.