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Monday, 23 March 2015
Veliky Novgorod Hosts 'Alexander II and Tsarskoye Selo' Exhibition
Topic: Alexander II

The Museum of Fine Arts in Veliky Novgorod is currently hosting the exhibition Alexander II and Tsarskoye Selo. It presents about 160 exhibits from the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Palace Preserve, including costumes, weapons, and the personal items of Emperor Alexander II and his family.

The name of Alexander II is closely associated with the creation of one of the first provincial museums in Russia. The emperor, arrived in Novgorod in 1862, where he participated in the celebrations marking  the 1000th anniversary of Russian statehood. According to some reports, the emperor expressed his wish to establish a museum here. Three years later, in 1865, the museum was established. As a result, Emperor Alexander II is recognized as its founder. A reception was held in his honour in the Imperial Hall of the Nobility Association, which was attended by the emperor.

Alexander II, is considered one of the most beloved and respected figures of Russian history. His life and reign are closely associated with the history of Tsarskoye Selo, where he lived for many years with his consort Empress Maria Alexandrovna and their children in the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace.

The exhibition includes a number of uniforms worn by the emperor. It is a miracle that the uniforms survived. During the Great Patriotic War, many valuable artefacts were evacuated to avoid theft and destruction by the Nazis. The museum staff lacked wrapping material, so in haste, the uniforms of Emperor Alexander II and other members of the Russian Imperial family were used to wrap the palace treasures. 

The exhibit also features numerous personal items - dishes, candlesticks, clocks, inkstand, among other items, plus portraits depicting the family of Alexander II, among other paintings which once decorated the interiors of the palace rooms. 
Visitors to the exhibition are also invited to watch a film which showcases the exquisite watercolours of the interiors of the private apartments of Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna, painted by E.P. Hau, L. Premazzi and K.A Ukhtomsky.

The Novgorod Museum-Reserve have issued a richly illustrated catalogue of the exhibition, it can be purchased in the art salon of the Museum of Fine Arts.
The exhibition Alexander II at Tsarskoye Selo runs until June 7th at the Museum of Fine Arts in Veliky Novgorod.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:24 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 23 March 2015 12:07 PM EDT
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Thursday, 5 March 2015
Bulgarians Bring Flowers to Monument to Alexander II in Sofia
Topic: Alexander II

Monument to the Tsar Liberator – Alexander II, is situated in front of the National Assembly, in Sofia, Bulgaria
The Bulgarian national holiday – Liberation Day – was celebrated on March 3, marking the 137th anniversary of the liberation of Balkan country in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. Government officials, members of the clergy and other residents of Sofia laid flowers at the Monument to the Tsar Liberator – Alexander II, which is situated in front of the National Assembly of Bulgaria.

Wreaths were laid on behalf of President of the Republic of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev, Bulgarian Patriarch Neofit, Chairperson of the National Assembly Tsetska Tsacheva, Mayor of Sofia Yordanka Fandakova, the Minister of Defence, the Council of Ministers, ministries, the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) and the parliamentary groups.

Anatoly Karpov, President of the International Association of Peace Foundations, read a message from State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin to the participants of the ceremony. The message was read in Russian without a translation.

Earlier in the day Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria held a solemn service at the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia. Along with high-ranking members of the Bulgarian clergy, priests, representatives of the Russian and Romanian Orthodox Churches with the Bulgarian Patriarchate, Patriarch Neofit said prayed for the souls of all Russian, Romanian, Finnish, Ukrainian and Belarusian soldiers and members of the Bulgarian volunteer corps who died for Bulgaria’s liberation.

In Moscow on March 3 a memorial service was held at the chapel built in honour of Russian soldiers who died during the Siege of Plevna. On this date each year a service is held in honour of the Russian and Bulgarian soldiers who gave up their lives during the war.

On March 3, 1878, the Treaty of San Stefano was signed, putting an end to the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, a conflict between the Ottoman Empire and an Eastern Orthodox coalition led by the Russian Empire, and re-establishing the Bulgarian state. 
© Russkiy Mir. 05 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:10 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 4 March 2015 11:28 AM EST
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Monday, 19 January 2015
Monument to Emperor Alexander II Restored in Novaya Usman
Topic: Alexander II

A monument to Emperor Alexander II has been restored in the village of Novaya Usman, situated on the banks of the Usman River, 8 km south-east of the Russian city of Voronezh.

The monument was originally erected in 1882. The funds for its construction were gathered by local farmers, in gratitude for their liberation from serfdom. It was one of the first memorial monuments to Alexander II to be erected in Russia after his assassination in St. Petersburg in 1881. The inscription noted his merits for the benefit of the Fatherland, and regrets over his death at the hands of terrorists. 

During the Soviet years, the bas-relief and inscription were filled in with plaster. It was only during the 1990s, when builders carrying out the reconstruction of the Church of Our Saviour in Novaya Usman, stumbled upon it by accident. Workers chipping away at the plaster on the pillar discovered letters in Russian and old Slavonic. When the plaster was fully scraped, it revealed the memorial stone to the Tsar-Liberator.

Surprisingly, the text on the plate was well preserved, but the bronze bas-relief image of the sovereign required restoration. The monument is the only surviving to Alexander II in the region which has been preserved from pre-revolutionary times, it is located at the entrance to the Church of Our Saviour in Novaya Usman. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 19 January, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:07 AM EST
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Wednesday, 26 November 2014
The Spilled Blood of the Tsar
Topic: Alexander II

This lithograph depicts the chaos of the moment the second bomb exploded, mortally wounding Tsar Alexander II.
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the November 26th, 2014 edition of The St. Petersburg Times. The author Gus Peters, owns the copyright of the work presented below.

Visitors to St. Petersburg are often surprised when they see the Savior on the Spilled Blood church abutting the Griboyedov Canal a short walk from Nevsky Prospekt. Amidst its European surrounding, this homage to Russian culture is distinctly out of place. Yet its purpose in Peter’s city is a reminder of a pivotal point in Russian history that precipitated the end of the Romanov dynasty.

Tsar Alexander II took the helm of the Russian Empire in 1855 and made arguably the most significant decision to that point in the Empire’s history. In 1861, Alexander II abolished serfdom, freeing millions from their enslavement to the land and creating an entirely new social class overnight. “It is better to abolish serfdom from above than await the time when it will begin to abolish itself from below,” the tsar said of his decision.

Yet despite this and several other important reforms, he was a frequent target for assassination. The group that most notably set out to end his life was called Narodnaya Volya, or the People’s Will, who advocated a peasant revolution and believed terror was the most effective way to force change and undermine tsarist authoritarianism. It would be members of this group who would eventually succeed in killing the reform-minded tsar.

On Mar. 13, 1881, as he traveled to the Winter Palace in his carriage, a bomb was thrown at him. Although the bomb failed to injure Alexander, several of his guardsmen were injured and the tsar stepped out of the ironclad carriage. As he stood on the snowy street, a second bomb was thrown. This one did not miss its mark: the tsar was mortally wounded and his shattered body was taken to the palace, where he died several hours later.

Alexander II’s death is ironic in several ways. For one, the group responsible for his death advocated for the power of the peasantry, which accounted for a majority of the Empire’s population. Yet of any tsar, it was Alexander II who did the most to improve their social condition, even if he never meant to do so as a way of undermining his own supreme authority. On the day of his death as well, Alexander II had agreed to the creation of a national commission of elected representatives that would act as a consultative and advisory group for the tsar, a nascent form of representative government within the autocratic system. However, Alexander III would dismiss the idea of the commission during his vicious response to his father’s death.

The repercussions of Alexander II’s death would reverberate for years and harden the Romanov’s own determination to uphold the values of autocratic rule, a decision that would doom them. 
© Gus Peters / St. Petersburg Times. 26 November, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:44 AM EST
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Monday, 8 September 2014
Monument to Alexander II Restored at Buturlinovka
Topic: Alexander II

The monument to Emperor Alexander II at Buturlinovka
Photo Credit: Moe Online 
On September 5th, a monument to Emperor Alexander II has been restored in the Russian city of Buturlinovka, situated about 180 km southeast of Voronezh. The life-size bronze monument to the Tsar Liberator was created by Voronezh sculptor Maxim Dikunov. It was installed in Freedom Square - facing the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral - on the very spot where it originally stood more than a hundred years ago.

During Soviet times, the monument was destroyed, on the granite pedestal stood a monument to Vladimir Lenin, later - Joseph Stalin. 

The first monument to the Tsar-Liberator at Buturlinovka appeared in 1911 on the 50th anniversary of the abolition of serfdom, paid for by the descendants of the peasants. The original inscription on the pedestal of Finnish granite read: "Tsar Liberator Emperor Alexander II. Grateful peasants of Buturlinovka 1861-1911."

The monument to Alexander II stands in Freedom Square - facing the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral
- on the very spot where it originally stood more than 100 years ago. Photo Credit: Moe Online
The sculptors of the restored monument, Maxim Dikunov and his father Ivan Dikunov failed to re-create an exact copy of the lost statue because historic photos or drawings did not survive. 

The current monument was paid for by donations of citizens and patrons of Buturlinovka. Evdokia Bondarenko, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Buturlinovsky district said: "He, as then, more than 100 years ago, built on the people's money, that is, the means of donations, that is no funding from the municipal budget for this monument was used. We think that it will be a recognizable place in our city. I think it connects our past with our future." 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 08 September, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:40 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 9 September 2014 6:49 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 12 August 2014
Emperor Alexander II Monument Restored in Novgorod Region
Topic: Alexander II

A monument to Emperor Alexander II has been restored in the village of Lyubytino
A monument to Emperor Alexander II has been restored in the village of Lyubytino, located on the Msta River in the District of Novgorod Oblast.

The ceremony which took place on August 8th, was attended by the Governor of the Novgorod Region, Sergei Mitin; Chairman of the Novgorod Regional Duma, Elena Pisarev; His Eminence Ephraim, Bishop Borovichsky Pestovskij, and members of the local clergy. 

His Grace Bishop Ephraim performed the blessing of the monument, chanting the words: "O Lord, save thy people and bless thine inheritance ..." he then sprinkled the monument with holy water. 

“On behalf of the Government of the Novgorod region, I am grateful to all those who participated in the restoration of this monument and I hope that this event will be a significant contribution to the education of the younger generation," said Mitin.

At the end of the solemn ceremony, Bishop Ephraim, distinguished guests and villagers of Lubytino, laid flowers at the monument to the Tsar Liberator.

A pre-revolutionary photo of the monument to Alexander II in Lubytino
The monument to the Tsar Liberator first appeared in Lubytino in 1911. The bust was cast at St. Petersburg by Edward Nowicki in 1906, the 25th anniversary of the death of the emperor. The event was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the liberation of peasants from serfdom. The monument was lost during the Revolution. It was found in 2000 in the storage rooms of the Museum of History in the city of Borovichy. In 2012, residents of the area appealed to Governor Sergei Mitin for the restoration of the monument. 

Alexander II is widely remembered in the Novgorod region. It was Alexander II who issued a decree on the establishment of the "Millennium of Russia" monument at Novgorod, thus recognizing the special role of  the city in the history of the state. The Emperor also opened the Noble Museum's collection of antiquities, today it houses the Museum of Fine Arts. Before the Revolution, there were more than a dozen monuments to Alexander II in the Novgorod region. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 12 August, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:30 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 12 August 2014 11:09 AM EDT
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Saturday, 22 February 2014
Carriage for Children of Emperor Alexander II on Display in Moscow
Topic: Alexander II

A beautiful miniature carriage built for the children of Emperor Alexander II has been restored and put on display at the State Historical Museum in Moscow. Restoration work took place between 2010 - 2014 years, and included a full restoration of the metal, wood, leather and textile elements of the historic children’s carriage.

The carriage is a miniature copy of the Russian Court ceremonial coupe carriages of the mid 19th century. Similar to the parade carriages, however, it was designed for children. It includes five windows with lifting facetted glass, and window blinds which could be closed for privacy. Inside, the interior is richly decorated with silk and velvet. The seats are upholstered in patterned fabrics with folding footrests, the ceiling is decorated with moire embroidery.

The exquisite golden-silver-blue draperies successfully combine with the blue body of the coach - decorated with the symbol of the Order of St. Andrew, the main award of the Russian Empire, which was awarded to the royal children at birth. In addition, the coach has four glazed candle lanterns and springs for maximum comfort.

As members of the Imperial family the carriage was decorated with the heraldic symbols of the dynasty - imperial crowns and overlaid gilded coats of arms of the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Poland, but also the personal monogram of its August owners, which are located on the doors and side panels of the carriage.

Museum experts believe that the carriage was made in 1847, a gift marking the fifth birthday of *Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna (1842-1849) - the eldest of the children of Alexander II, by the Moscow carriage master, Timothy Orlovskim. The carriage was designed solely for entertainment purposes, Alexandra and her brothers, Nicholas and Alexander (the future Emperor Alexander III), used it for riding through the palace park. It was pulled by tiny horses, sheep or goats, and the children were always accompanied by servants.
*Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna died from infant meningitis just weeks short of her seventh birthday on 16th June, 1849. She was buried at the Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral on 19th June, 1849.

In 1861 the children’s carriage was moved to the **Court Stables Museum in St. Petersburg, a building constructed to house the collection of the finest sleds, coaches and carriages of the Russian Imperial family. Due to the events of 1917, the carriage was one of many carriages evacuated to Moscow, and transferred to the Manage of the Neskuchnii garden, which then housed the Museum of Furniture. In 1927, the carriage was transferred to the collections of the Historical Museum, where it has remained to the present day. The miniature carriage of the children of Emperor Alexander II is now on display in room number 33 of the Main Building of the State Historical Museum, located on Red Square in Moscow.
**For more information on the Court Stables Museum, please refer to my article (10 pages with black and white illustrations), The Museum of Imperial Court Carriages: A History of the Collection, published in Royal Russia Annual No. 4 (2013) - click on the link below to order a copy of this issue

Royal Russia Annual No. 4 - Summer 2013

Click here to watch a short VIDEO (duration 2 minutes, 35 seconds) of the children's carriage, on display at the State Historical Museum in Moscow;

Carriage of the Children of Emperor Alexander II - Video (in Russian) 


© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 22 February, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:15 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 22 February 2014 9:06 AM EST
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Sunday, 26 May 2013
New Monument to Alexander II at Nizhny Novgorod
Topic: Alexander II

A new monument to Emperor Alexander II by the Russian sculptor Alexander Apollonov was unveiled today at the Pechersky Ascension Monastery in the city of Nizhny Novgorod.

The monument's inauguration marks the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, and in memory of a visit made to the monastery in 1858 by Emperor Alexander II and his wife, Empress Maria Alexandrovna.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 25 May, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:48 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 26 May 2013 12:00 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 21 May 2013
Peterhof Displays Beautiful Alexander II Paperweight
Topic: Alexander II

Photo credit: Peterhof State Museum Reserve 

This beautiful paperweight from the Peterhof State Museum Reserve offers a portrait of Grand Duke Alexander Nicholayevich in baptismal clothes. The future Alexander II was born on 29th (O.S. 17th) April 1818 in the Moscow Kremlin. It is interesting to note that Alexander II and Peter I were the only Russian sovereigns native of Moscow. The sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation for the August baby were held in May 1818 at the cathedral at the Chudov Monastery in Moscow. A gala dinner marking this occasion was held by Alexander’s paternal grandmother Empress Maria Feodorovna. The memory of those happy days is preserved in this paperweight. The image of the baby Alexander is set in a gold frame and mounted on a malachite base. The future "Tsar Liberator" is presented as a pretty blue-eyed baby in a bonnet and smock. The object was bequeathed by Maria Feodorovna to her "beloved daughter-in-law Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, the mother of Alexander II. This beautiful family heirloom, a deeply personal item at that, somehow survived all the vicissitudes of history, and survived to this day.

The paperweight is currently on display in the Treasury at Peterhof, along with the carrying basket and baptismal clothes of Alexander II. This unique museum houses new acquisitions including jewellery, costumes (dresses and uniforms), personal items of the Russian emperors and their families, from Peter I to Nicholas II. The treasures in this museum are housed in the former private apartments of Catherine the Great and updated on a regular basis.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 21 May, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:51 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 21 May 2013 7:57 AM EDT
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Thursday, 18 April 2013
"The Tsar and the President" Film Presented at the Library of Congress
Topic: Alexander II


A little-known friendship between Russia’s Tsar Alexander II and US President Abraham Lincoln in the mid-1800s came to light in a documentary shown in the United States for the first time Monday evening at the Library of Congress in Washington, and organizers of the event hope it can serve as a model for US-Russian relations today.

“This film ought to be in the schools. American children should know what a marvelous history we share with the Russians, and they don’t,” said former US Rep. James Symington, chairman of the nonprofit American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation(A-RCCF), which arranged the screening of “The Tsar and the President: Alexander II and Abraham Lincoln, Liberator and Emancipator.”

As for the US administration, Symington said, “I don’t think they even understand Russia as well as they should because Russia is our friend, basically, through the ages, and that’s never been looked at.”

“It’s really hard to build a future when we don’t have historic perspective, and the truth is that Russia at the time of the US Civil War was the only friend of the United States. The US had absolutely no one who was on their side, so Russia was the only one,” said A-RCCF Executive Director Alexander Potemkin in an interview with RIA Novosti.

“In showing this film my hope and I think the hope of our board is that we can remember this and build on these positive things,” he added.

The 25-minute documentary, produced in Russian with English subtitles, explores a warm and cordial correspondence between Tsar Alexander II, the heir-apparent to the throne who enjoyed a privileged life from his earliest years, and Abraham Lincoln, the second child of a poor family who lived in a one-room log cabin, a self-educated lawyer who rose to power through political office.

During his reign, Alexander II wrote a series of letters to American presidents, but it was the exchange with Lincoln that reveals a personal friendship reflected in political actions that came at a crucial time for the United States.

“These were warm, friendly, familial letters between the two, not at all political, one announcing the birth of a grand duke in the family. It was all very warm, ending with ‘Wishing you great success,’ and ‘God’s love on your country,’” said Marilyn Pfeifer Swezey, a guest curator for A-RCCF who produced the US version of the 2009 exhibition entitled “The Tsar and the President,” a collection of more than 200 documents, photos and letters that form the basis for the film.

The exhibit opened in Russia in 2011, and the film debuted there. Organizers hope to show it in New Jersey and say they have also received interest from the Reagan Library in California.

Though the two men never met, and came from vastly different backgrounds, there are odd similarities. Both freed slaves in their respective countries, Alexander II with a manifesto that abolished serfdom, signed in 1861, and Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation, issued in 1862 and signed in 1863. And both were later assassinated.

With the United States in the throes of a debilitating civil war, “Russia was the only European country that supported the cause of the union (the North). Russia was asked, Alexander II was approached by England and France to join them in supporting the South, the confederacy, and he refused,” Swezey said.

Months later, in September of 1863, shortly after the North had lost several bloody battles, two Russian Navy squadrons arrived in America. They served as a symbol to the South and its allies that there was a barrier for any ships sent to support the confederacy.

“When the Russian fleet arrived in New York and several months later in San Francisco, Lincoln and all the officials in Washington were overwhelmed and said ‘Thank God for the Russians.’ They received the news as a powerful sign of support,” said Swezey.

“Russian-American relations right now are not very good and it’s really important to point out how close and friendly they were in the past. Maybe we should think differently about Russia, and we should think again about the fact that Russia really was a great friend in the past and I would think would be again a great friend,” she added.

© RIA Novosti. 18 April, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:45 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 18 April 2013 10:56 AM EDT
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