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400th Anniversary
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Paul Gilbert
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Wednesday, 1 May 2013
Tsarskoye Selo - An Artful Garden for Alexander II
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve

The Romanov 400th Anniversary Commemoration Project continues at Tsarskoye Selo.

On April 29th, 2013, one of the rooms of the Romanov Dynasty display at the Catherine Palace was decorated with palms, blooming hydrangeas and poecilophyllous philodendrons, put in jardinières (flower stands) made after a mid-19th-century original, marking the 195th birth anniversary of Emperor Alexander II.

The plant composition titled “An Artful Garden” complies with the canons of the epoch when jardinières like these were a must-have element of a room with greenery.

A variety of plants, often exotic ones, would liven up and romaticize an interior – especially in a country that lies snow-covered almost half a year. Lovingly cultivated, the “green guests from overseas” were often organized into beautiful indoor gardens.

Recollecting a travel to cold Russia in his Voyage en Russie (1867), the French writer Théophile Gautier called flowers “the true luxury” that Russians loved to fill their houses with, “It does feel like the North Pole outside, but inside it's like the tropics”.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 01 May, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:29 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 1 May 2013 6:36 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 30 April 2013
Moscow Proposes Chapel in Honour of the Romanov Dynasty
Topic: Russian Church


The Strastnoi (of the Passion) Convent was destroyed by the Soviets in 1937  

The monument to the poet Alexander Pushkin from Pushkin square in the center of the Russian capital may be moved from its current site, reported to Interfax a source in the Moscow State Duma.

"It has been proposed to move the monument to Pushkin and to build a commemorative Chapel to the Strastnoi (of the Passion) Convent and to the first tsars of the house of Romanov: Michael Feodorovich (reigned from 1613 to 1645) and Alexei Mikhailovich (1645-1676) on its site," said a spokesman of Interfax.

He noted that the monument to A. Pushkin in 1880 was raised on the square at the beginning of the Tverskoy boulevard but in 1950 it was moved to another side of Gorky street (present-day Tverskaya street) and installed on the site of the Convent's demolished belltower.

The spokesman also added that the Commission at the Moscow State Duma had received a proposal to install a commemorative plaque to the human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and the journalist Anastasia Baburova on the site of their murder—near house No–1 on Prechistenka street.

"Most probably, the Moscow State Duma's Commission for Monumental Art will consider these proposals after the May holidays. It is still difficult to state what kind of a decision will be made on these two proposals, but the commission members are categorical as regards the moving of monuments," said the agency's spokesman.

Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna arriving at the Strastnoi Convent 

Orthodox Christians have been holding prayer meetings and Cross processions on the Pushkin square for years calling to restore the Strastnoi Convent. According to them, underground on the site are the remains of ascetic nuns from the Convent, as well as foundations of destroyed monastery buildings. In summer 2012, a commemorative plaque to the Strastnoi Convent was raised on the Pushkin square.

The Convent was founded in the 17th century on the very historical site where the miraculous icon of the Mother of God of the Passion (which was brought to the capital from the Nizhny Novgorod region) had been solemnly met. This icon, famous for its healing of the sick, is thus called because two Angels with instruments of Christ's sufferings (passion)—spears and the Cross—are depicted on it next to the Most Holy Theotokos.

When the Napoleon's army hastily left Moscow, it was in this Convent that the first thanksgiving service to the Savior for miraculous deliverance from the invaders was celebrated. Also, according to tradition, the first Church bell resounded from the belltower of the Strastnoi Convent after the enemy had gone away. The central anti-religious museum was opened on the territory of the Convent in 1929, and the buildings of the Convent were demolished in 1937.

© 30 April, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:40 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 April 2013 6:55 AM EDT
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Nicholas II Monument Seized for Debt in Siberia
Topic: Nicholas II

Bailiffs have seized a bronze statue of Emperor Nicholas II as part of  of the assets of a Siberian distillery facing bankruptcy procedure, which may be sold over unpaid debt, a spokeswoman for the regional bailiffs service, Natalya Fomina, told RIA Novosti.

The 500-kg bust was erected in 2010 on a massive granite pedestal in the village of Shushenskoe in the southern Siberian Krasnoyarsk region by “Shushenskaya Marka,” one of the largest vodka producers in the region.

A local court has started hearings following a claim from Russia’s largest bank Sberbank against the distillery over its failure to pay back a loan and issued a warrant for the seizure of its property.

Ironically, the monument to the last Russian tsar was erected in the village where Communist leader Vladimir Lenin spent three years in exile in the end of XIX century for revolutionary activity against his rule.

For more information on this monument, please refer to my original article (+ VIDEO) posted at Royal Russia News on January 1st, 2011: 

Monument to Emperor Nicholas II Replaces Statue of Lenin

© The Moscow News and RIA Novosti. 30 April, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:03 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 April 2013 6:21 AM EDT
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Monday, 29 April 2013
Orthodox Christians Begin Holy Week
Topic: Russian Church


On April 28th, Russian Orthodox Christians celebrated Palm Sunday. According to the Gospels, it was the day in which Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem on a donkey. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, held a divine liturgy at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow marking Palm Sunday.

Believers flocked to churches to have their willow branches blessed by the priests. Willows are used instead of palms to celebrate the feast in Russia. Therefore, the holiday is widely known in Russia as Willow Sunday. 

On April 29, Orthodox Christians mark Holy Monday, the first day of the Holy Week leading to Easter.

The faithful continue fasting during the Holy Week that commemorates the last week of the earthly life of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Canonical Gospels.

The Holy Week will see the faithful continue their fasting that will be especially strict during Holy Friday, the Day of the Crucifixion dedicated to the passions of the Christ.

The Holy Week culminates in Easter Sunday on May 5th (in line with the Julian Calendar), the most important day in the Church year, during which Jesus rose from the dead.

© Royal Russia. 29 April, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:22 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 29 April 2013 5:39 AM EDT
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Sunday, 28 April 2013
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 9
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches


The Church of the Virgin of the Sign at Tsarskoye Selo was originally built between 1734-47 by the Russian architect Mikhail Zemtsov and his assistant Johann Blank. The church has been remodelled and enlarged several times through the centuries: by Vasily Neyelov (1772), Luigi Rusca (1817) amd Silvio Danini (1898).

The historic church got its name from the Virgin of the Sign  icon kept there that had supposedly been used by Peter the Great on his deathbed to bless his daughter, the future Empress Elizabeth.

It was here during a liturgy that the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna suffered a fatal heart attack in 1761. Future Russian sovereigns and their families held a special reverance for the church often coming to pray here.

On July 30th, 1917, a mass was held at the Alexander Palace for the Tsesarevich Alexis's birthday. The holy icon from the church was brought to the palace. Count Paul Benckendorff notes in his memoirs:  

"It was brought in procession and the clergy of this church were admitted to the Palace and to the Chapel. The Te Deum was sung and prayers were said asking God for a prosperous journey for their Majesties, their children and all those who accompanied them. The scene was moving. The ceremony was as poignant as could be: all were in tears. The soldiers themselves seemed touched, and approached the holy ikon to kiss it. They followed the procession as far as the balcony, and saw it disappear through the Park. It was as if the past were taking leave, never to come back. The memory of this ceremony will always remain in my mind, and I cannot think of it without profound emotion. In the course of the day we all went, as usual, to the kitchen-garden, and groups were taken."

In 1943 the church was closed by the Soviets. It was 48 years later, in 1991 that the building was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. Extensive repairs and restoration work were carried out which included strenghtening the foundation, a new roof, a gilded spire and weather vane on the steeple, the historical reproduction of furnishings and decor.

The porcelain iconstasis was restored for the 300th anniversary in 2009, and many new icons have been added, including the highly revered icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs. 

Photo: The interior of the Church of the Virgin of the Sign taken during my visit to Tsarskoye Selo in June 2012. 

During my visits to Tsarskoye Selo I am always drawn to this charming church, which is situated on Dvortsovaya Ulitsa. If you are walking from the Catherine Palace towards the Alexander Palace or vice versa, you can't miss it!  It is also just around the corner from Anna Vyroubova's former house.

In 2003 a carillion was installed and every hour throughout the day the sounds of "God Save the Tsar" can be heard. Worshippers, passersbys and tourists all stop to enjoy this beautiful tune.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 28 April, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:33 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 28 April 2013 8:38 AM EDT
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Peterhof - Russian Versailles
Now Playing: Language: English. Duration: 26 minutes, 17 seconds
Topic: Peterhof

The fountains of Peterhof are one of Russia's most famous tourist attractions, drawing millions of visitors every year. Fountains were intrinsic to Peter the Great's original plans for Peterhof - it was the impossibility of engineering sufficiently powerful jets of water that prompted him to move his attentions from the Strelna site to Peterhof - and subsequent generations competed with their predecessors to add grander and ever more ingenious water features to the parkland surrounding the Grand Palace.

The most famous ensemble of fountains, the Grand Cascade, which runs from the northern facade of the Grand Palace to the Marine Canal, comprises 64 different fountains, and over 200 bronze statues, bas-reliefs, and other decorations. At the centre stands Rastrelli's spectacular statue of Samson wrestling the jaws of a lion. The vista of the Grand Cascade with the Grand Palace behind it, the first sight to great visitors who arrive in Peterhof by sea, is truly breathtaking. The Grotto behind the Grand Cascade, which was once used for small parties, contains the enormous pipes, originally wooden, that feed the fountains.

Elsewhere in the park, the range and diversity of fountains is astounding, from further monumental ensembles like the Chess Cascade and the Pyramid Fountain, to the ever-popular Joke Fountains, including one which sprays unwary passers-by who step on a particular paving stone.

The official opening of the fountains at Peterhof, which usually takes place at the end of May, is an all-day festival, with classical music, fireworks and other performances, as each section of the park's fountains is turned on one by one.

This 30 minute video (in English) will take you on a guided tour of the fountains, how they were built, their operation and maintenance, and the efforts to preserve one of Russia's most beautiful symbols of the Romanov legacy.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 28 April, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:38 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 28 April 2013 7:46 AM EDT
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Saturday, 27 April 2013
A Russian Moment 12 - The Yusupov Palace Theatre
Topic: A Russian Moment


The Yusupov (or Youssoupoff) Palace located on the Moika Canal in St. Petersburg is one of the city's finest palace-museums. It evokes the splendour of Imperial Russia and the opulence of one of Russia's most famous and wealthiest families, the Yusupovs.

Miraculously, many of the historical 18th and 19th century interiors of the palace remain intact, among them the palatial Louis XV style theatre.

The private theatre of the Yusupov's hosted memorable performances attended by St. Petersburg's elite society. Among the most notable guests were members of the Russian Imperial family, including Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Performing were serf actors, famous musicians, and titled aristocrats. However, it was the likes of well-known artists of the time that really made the theatre shine, among them: Franz Liszt, Pauline Viardot, Fyodor Chapiapin, Anna Pavlovna, and many others.

The palace is open to the public, offering tours in Russian (foreign visitors can rent audio guides in their respective language) which includes an opportunity to view the theatre. To this day, the theatre in the Yusupov Palace on the Moika still offers regular performances.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 27 April, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 3:47 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 27 April 2013 4:37 AM EDT
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Friday, 26 April 2013
History Museum in St. Petersburg Hosts Exhibition on Tsarist Easter Cards
Topic: Easter

Photo: A pre-Revolutionary Easter card depicts the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and the Tsesarevich Alexei distributing Easter eggs to soldiers. 

St. Petersburg-based State Museum of History is offering a rich collection of 19th-20th century Easter greeting cards at an exhibition that opened on Thursday, ITAR-TASS reports. Festive attributes and symbols will make it possible to trace all the stages of the great Christian Holiday from the Palm Sunday to the Bright Week. Visitors will also be able to see greetings, addresses and the names of dispatchers and recipients on the reverse sides of the cards.

The first domestic Easter greeting cards include a series of illustrated Easter cards issued by the Community of St. Eugenia in 1898. They are made in water colors and are devoted to “spring themes”. The Community’s publishing house often returned to the Easter theme in future. The sketches for the Easter greeting cards were drawn by Ivan Bilibin, Fyodor Berenshtam, Yevgeny Bem and other famous artists.

The exposition also features greeting cards made by other publishers such as the Richard publishing house in St. Petersburg, the Lenz and Rudolf publishers in Riga, the Kiev-based “Rassvet” (Dawn) publishers, the Vienna-based “M.Munk” and “The Publishing House of I. Lapin” in Paris. They depict traditional Easter eggs, Easter cakes, churches, spring landscapes and people exchanging triple kisses as well as some untypical images borrowed from Western Europe such as rabbits, lapins and chicks.

Photo cards, including portraits and still-life paintings, were no less popular than drawn cards. Most of them were shot in the studio and were often painted manually in aniline colors.

A special section is devoted to Easter cards issued during WWI. New attributes and new characters appeared on those Easter cards such as soldiers and nurses. One of the last cards was issued in 1917. An unknown artist drew a red Easter egg as a symbol of revolutionary events in Russia. Soon, all Easter celebrations were abolished and Easter greeting cards disappeared from Soviet life. Easter traditions were preserved only by Russian emigrants abroad. Church publishing houses printed a small number Easter cards after the Great Patriotic War. The tradition of printing Easter cards started to revive in the late 1980s.

The exhibit runs until June 17th in the History Museum of St. Petersburg which is located inside the SS Peter and Paul Fortress.

© Russkiy Mir. 26 April, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:13 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 26 April 2013 6:19 AM EDT
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Thursday, 25 April 2013
Unique Glass Restoration at Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

Mr. Dmitri Rozental and other talented restorers from Yuzhakova’s Studio in St. Petersburg have brought back to life a glass vase that stood in the Alexander Park’s Arsenal and after 1917 in the Alexander Palace.

The piece belonged to a set of large vases with similarly decorated bowls, produced at the Imperial Glass Factory in St. Petersburg during the 1830s-1840s. It came to Tsarskoye Selo from the Winter Palace’s Storerooms in 1855. Disassembled and evacuated in 1941, the vase returned a few years later with some of its details lost and has not been exhibited ever since.

The vase of colourless glass with cobalt overlays has a deep bowl with acanthus decoration and a hexagonal base with six lictor’s fasces connected together with amber glass shields bearing anchors. The unique restoration required a complete recreation of the upper sides of the base and its hexagonal plate with cobalt beaded ornament. The restorers did what seemed impossible just a decade ago by replicating the lost elements with modern polymers that closely imitate 19th-century glass.

The new technologies raise hopes for a revival of the Blue Study or Snuffbox and the Bedchamber, Catherine II’s glass-decorated private rooms in the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace.

The festive looking vase will first join the Catherine Palace’s permanent displays and then, after the Alexander Palace restoration, will become a bright accent in one of the palace halls dedicated to Nicholas I and his family’s life at the Tsarskoye Selo residence.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 25 April, 2013

Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:42 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 25 April 2013 7:49 AM EDT
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Russian Edition of Royals Magazine
Topic: Books


The Russian edition of Royals magazine which was launched in 2012, will publish a special issue next month to mark the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. The magazine is only available in Russian and available at booksellers and magazine kiosks in major Russian cities.

Royals is the world's largest Royalty-oriented monthly magazine. Its main editorial offices are in Belgium and published in Dutch and French editions.

Royals is a high-quality magazine that features exclusively positive reports on ruling and non-ruling Royal Houses. It enjoys excellent relations with a number of Royal Courts, including that of Belgium.

The Russian people are prolific readers, but the publication of a Russian editition of this popular royalty monthly is due to an increasing interest that many Russians have in the royal houses of Europe.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 25 April, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:30 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 25 April 2013 6:36 AM EDT
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