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Friday, 12 September 2014
Peterhof Continues to Ponder Future of Lower Dacha
Topic: Peterhof


Early 20th-century watercolour shows the Lower Dacha, located on the shores of the Gulf of Finland
 
The Peterhof State Museum-Reserve are now considering three options for the reconstruction of the Lower Dacha of Emperor Nicholas II. The ruins of the former Peterhof residence of the last Russian tsar and his family are situated on the shore of the Gulf of Finland in the Alexandria Park. It was here in August 1914, that the Emperor signed the Manifesto of Russia's entry into the First World War.

As reported during a press conference this week, Peterhof State Museum Director, Elena Kalnitskaya, noted that experts from a local research institute have suggested three options for consideration on the ruins of the Lower Dacha, demolished in the 1960s by the Soviets: (a) preservation of the ruins, (b) the full or (c) partial reconstruction of the villa.

Kalnitskaya explained that she was leaning towards a partial restoration project, but would discuss all three options with the Ministry of Culture. Kalnitskaya's option would see a reconstruction of the facade. This will allow visitors a three-dimensional perspective of what the Lower Dacha looked like in the early twentieth century, she explained. Future plans would see the implementation of a cultural centre for temporary museum exhibitions, concerts and lectures. Kalnitskaya expressed hope that the funds to begin work on the reconstruction of the Lower Dacha would be allocated by the end of the year. 

In 2012-13 the Department of Archaeology, Institute of History of Material Culture conducted studies of the Lower Dacha. Excavations were carried out in which the location of the lost kitchen and service buildings were identified. A total of 245 finds were made during the excavations.

The Lower Dacha was built in the Alexandria Park in the 1880s by the architect A. Tomishko. It was intended as a residence for the heir to the throne, the future Emperor Nicholas II. The building was designed in the style of an Italian villa, decorated with a tall tower with an observation deck. The majority of the interiors were created by F. Meltzer. Ten years later, the same architect reconstructed the building, enlarging and transforming the dacha into a summer palace for the emperor and his growing family. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna gave birth to four of their five children at the Lower Dacha – Tatiana (1897), Maria (1899), Anastasia (1901) and Alexis (1904). 

During the Soviet years, the Lower Dacha was first turned into a museum, then as a rest house for members of the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs). The building was badly damaged during the Second World War, it was blown up in 1961, the ruins have survived to this day.

During my many visits to Peterhof over the years, I have always made a point of visiting the ruins of the Lower Dacha. There are no signs in the Alexandria Park, one must consult a map in order to locate them on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, which is a short walk from the Cottage Palace. The ruins are becoming harder and harder to view from the path. A large black iron fence now surrounds it, and the ruins are slowly being swallowed up by a severe overgrowth of weeds and other vegetation. Along the path are two small acrylic signs - one in Russian, the other in English - which tell passersby that the ruins are all that is left of the summer residence of Nicholas II at Peterhof.
 
Some years back - before the fence was erected - I had an opportunity to walk amongst the ruins and photograph what was left of the Lower Dacha. It was heartbreaking to witness, especially after viewing vintage photographs of Nicholas II and his children during happier times. It is interesting to note that even these ruins have not failed to attract the interest of local graffitti artists, many of whom have left their mark on this historic place. One act of vandalism still haunts me to this day: “Welcome to hell” spray painted in English over a collapsed entry way. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 12 September, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:15 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 12 September 2014 5:23 AM EDT
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Thursday, 21 August 2014
Romanovs: Legends and Destiny
Topic: Peterhof
 
Every year at the end of the tourist season, the Peterhof State Museum Preserve close down the fountains by hosting a special ceremony. On the eve of this year’s autumn fountain festival, which will take place September 12-14 at the Grand Cascade, the palace museum complex has released a video showcasing last year's event.
 
This 36-minute film is based on the spectacular multimedia performance held on September 14-15, 2013. The 2013 performance of The Romanovs: Legends and Destiny was timed to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. The history of the Romanov’s is told through a spectacular display of theatrical, music, and dance performances, accompanied by state of the art laser, light and fireworks displays and more. The celebration was attended by over 40 thousand persons. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 21 August, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:43 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 22 August 2014 8:53 AM EDT
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Monday, 30 June 2014
History of Imperial Courier Service Museum Opens at Peterhof
Topic: Peterhof


The History of Imperial Courier Service Museum is situated in the Alexandria Park at Peterhof
 
A new museum dedicated to the history of the imperial courier service has opened in the Alexandria Park at Peterhof. The museum is housed in the old Courier cabin built by Emperor Alexander II, who wished to keep his summer residence in Peterhof. Constructed by the architect E. L. Hahn in the Russian style in 1856, the Peterhof Courier is a modest building of “national importance,” it provided a link between the sovereign and the army and his senior ministers in the capital.

The first horse couriers appeared in ancient Russia in 1649, by decree of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. In 1716, Peter I established the "martial couriers." Vadim Snakin, director of the Alexandria Museums of the Peterhof State Museum Preserve notes that Imperial courier service was established in 1796 by the Emperor Paul I. 

The museum consists of three rooms, of which the decor of the second half of 19th century has been meticulously recreated.

The museum is divided into two parts. In the first part you can see the dress uniform of the Imperial courier of 1881, medals, the icon of the Presentation of the Lord - especially esteemed in the courier service, anniversary books written for the centenary of the Courier Service, which were presented as a gift to dignitaries and members of the imperial household. Here are also antique drawings, designs, including the original plans for the construction of the Peterhof Courier house. 

The second part of the exhibition recreates the authentic life of courier duty and their conditions of service - here you can see postal cards, stationery and furniture of the era. Also on display are special equipment - such as a 19th century safe, plus a large forged chest for transporting money and valuables, as well as a courier bag, which transported the most important and sensitive packets sent to or from the emperor. Also recreated here and a specific feature of the officers daily life, is the smell of tobacco in the room. "We are not advocating smoking, but for historical authenticity added this in our exhibition, as well as ashtrays and other smoking accessories", - Snakin said.

The restoration of the Courier house took about a year. As previously noted, the building was constructed in the middle of the 19th century. It is the only wooden building, which survived after the Second World War. 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 30 June, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:48 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 2 July 2014 2:51 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 20 May 2014
Peterhof Palace Opens for Summer with Lavish Ceremony
Topic: Peterhof
 
The Peterhof Palace museum opened for the summer season with a resplendent fountain display complete with ballroom dancers and a marching band in St. Petersburg on Saturday. The landmark golden Samson Fountain and the Grand Cascade gurgled to life after their winter hiatus. The Peterhof is almost 300 years old and is considered to be among the most spectacular palaces in the world. 
 
© Russia Today. 20 May, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 1:31 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 20 May 2014 1:39 PM EDT
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Sunday, 22 December 2013
Peterhof Museum Announces Reconstruction of Lower Palace of Nicholas II
Topic: Peterhof


Early 20th century watercolour of the Lower Palace (or Dacha) of Emperor Nicholas II at Peterhof
 
Some very interesting, yet exciting news from St. Petersburg this past week! According to the Russian online news agency City 812, the Director of the Peterhof State Museum Preserve, Elena Kalnitskaya made an announcement last week that the Lower Palace (or Dacha) of Emperor Nicholas II will be reconstructed and restored in the near future. According to City 812, the museum has already set the wheels in motion for the reconstruction of one of Nicholas II’s favourite residences, which currently lies in ruin in the Lower Alexandria Park on the shore of the Gulf of Finland.

After the Revolution, the palace became a museum until 1936. It was later used as a holiday home for the more privileged members of the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs). During the Second World War the palace was badly damaged. During the 1960s it became a popular spot with monarchists and a decision was made by the local Soviet to blow the building up. 

In recent years, the Ministry of Culture announced a competition for the study of the ruins, in which the Russian firm Spetsproektrestavratsiya Institute won. As a result of the study carried out by the Institute, three options were suggested: first - a full preservation of the building, the second - a recreation of the building using different materials, and third - the reconstruction of a new building which preserves and implements the original ruins. According to the museum director, “The issue was discussed at a meeting in Moscow, where the third option was unanimously adopted. It will be a synthesis of history and modernity” - added Kalnitskaya. 

The new building will house a museum which will include a permanent exhibition dedicated to Tsar Nicholas II and his family as owners of the Lower Palace. The initiation of the reconstruction of the Lower Palace and duration of the project has yet to be announced. This is a very exciting story, one that I will be following closely in the weeks and months to come. 
 
For more information on the Lower Palace of Nicholas II at Peterhof, please refer to the following article;

Peterhof Discusses Future of Lower Palace of Nicholas II 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 22 December, 2013
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:20 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 22 December 2013 11:47 AM EST
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Tuesday, 17 December 2013
Foundation of Chapel of Tsarevich Alexei Laid in Peterhof
Topic: Peterhof


Icon of Holy Royal Martyr Tsarevich Alexei
 
The foundation of the Chapel of Holy Royal Martyr Tsarevich Alexei was laid on December 12 in the Znamenka estate in Peterhof. Rector of the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul the Apostles Archpriest Alexy Koltsov placed the foundation stone, reports the Voda Zhivaya (Living Water) information agency.

"We see how through your prayers—all of you organizers, donors and workers of this church—this chapel is being erected. With our common prayer construction work is beginning—the pouring of concrete into the chapel's foundation. We are laying the stones, which were brought by you from pilgrimages to Holy places: Holy Mount Athos, the bottom of the Jordan river, Mount Sinai. They are a symbol of our prayers to God," said Fr. Alexy to those gathered.
 

The prayers for the foundation of a chapel, which will be read with the blessing of the Church hierarchy, is still to take place, but due to oncoming winter the construction is going quickly, and the walls have begun to be filled.


This is a rare case when a chapel is being built at the initiative of the people. Many anonymous people have contributed to this work by their fervent prayers to God and their care. This site is very symbolical for the people: over the last ten years, the Cross procession, which lasts for many days, has come to this destination with an icon of Tsarevich Alexei from Tsarskoye Selo. Other Cross processions through Russia, including sea processions, visited this place as well.

The ruins of the Lower Dacha, where the tsarevich was born, is currently not accessible for the celebration of services: it is situated on the territory of the State Peterhof Museum Reserve. There are also the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, where Tsarevich Alexei was baptized, the Church of Holy Right-Believing Prince Alexander Nevsky, and the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord there. No services are held in all these churches, though two of them are absolutely ready for services. The policy of the State Museum Reserve is such: "There are and will be no church services". That is why it was necessary to look for an opportunity to perform services as near to the birthplace of the Holy Royal Martyr as possible—the intersection of Tchaikovsky Street and Nizhnyaya Road.

"We cannot say that the construction is being carried out because of the local developer. His role is, most likely, one of sympathy. Cross procession members came to him, but it turned out that there had already been construction works here. Out of Russian hospitality, the developer first welcomed the Cross procession members, and then the grace that came with them, and after that, the very idea of building a chapel. He is one of those who supported this public movement, which is striving to restore shrines of the motherland," related Archpriest Alexy Koltsov to all those present at the laying of the foundation.

The chapel’s opening is scheduled for the 110th anniversary of Holy Tsarevich Alexei’s birth in 2014.
 
For more information on the Cross procession in 2012, please refer to the following link; 

Procession Marks 109th Anniversary of Tsesarevich Alexei's Birth 

© Pravoslavie.ru and Royal Russia. 17 December, 2013
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:05 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 17 December 2013 2:49 PM EST
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Monday, 19 August 2013
Peterhof Marks 290th Anniversary
Topic: Peterhof


Peterhof, the "Russian Versailles," is situated not far from St. Petersburg. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was the summer residence of the Russian tsars and its palace-ensemble is listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
 
The Peterhof Museum Complex is one of the most popular museums not only in Russia, but in the whole world. Even a few hours here are enough to feel the spirit of history, which still lives on and breathes in this magnificent place.
 
The history of Peterhof begins back in 1705, when travelling chambers were built for Peter the Great on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland. Soon, not far from this place, work began on the creation of a new imperial residence, which, Peter determined, would one day outshine all the other royal palaces of Europe. The tsar deliberately built his new residence by the sea, as a triumphant symbol of the successful conclusion of Russia's long struggle for an outlet to the Baltic Sea. Peterhof was officially opened in the presence of the tsar and foreign diplomats in August 1723. 
 
© Rossiyskaya Gazeta. 19 August, 2013
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:42 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 20 August 2013 7:49 AM EDT
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Sunday, 28 April 2013
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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Friday, 19 April 2013
Imperial Days at Peterhof Honour Alexander II
Topic: Peterhof

 

The Farm Palace, located in the Alexandria Park at Peterhof will host a series of events this month to mark the 195th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Alexander II.

The life of the "Tsar-Liberator" is closely connected with that of Peterhof. It was here, during the warm summer months that he spent much of his childhood and youth. He later took up residence in the Farm Palace with his new wife, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovina (nee Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine) and their children.

The Farm Palace opened to the public in 2010 after undergoing restoration. Today, it is the only major museum dedicated to the memory of Alexander II and retains many personal items associated with his life and times.

The rooms on the second floor of the Farm Palace will be open to visitors this summer 

Events at the Farm Palace will take place from April 17-27 and include tours, lectures, and the opportunity to view the newly restored rooms on the second floor of the palace, which will open to the public this summer.

On a more personal note, I had the opportunity of visiting the Farm Palace last year. I was the only visitor and had the entire palace to myself. The restoration of the interiors is superb! Each room is filled with furniture, art work, portraits, photographs, and many other personal items once belonging to Alexander II and his family. The recreation of the historical interiors is so unique that one expects the Emperor to enter the room at any time. The gardens are an explosion of colour, and the surrounding park make it a must on any one's agenda when visiting St. Petersburg. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 19 April, 2013



Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:46 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 21 April 2013 6:38 AM EDT
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Monday, 25 February 2013
Peterhof Discusses Future of Lower Palace of Nicholas II
Topic: Peterhof

 

Elena Kalnitskaya, General Director of the Peterhof State Museum-Preserve has announced that the museum is now discussing the future of the Lower Palace (or Lower Dacha) located in the Alexandria Park on the shore of the Gulf of Finland.

The Lower Palace was the home of Tsar Nicholas II and his family while in residence at Peterhof. After the Revolution, the palace became a museum until 1936. It was later used as a holiday home for the more privileged members of the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs). During the Second World War the palace was badly damaged. During the 1960s it became a popular spot with monarchists and a decision was made by the local Soviet to blow the building up. 

Kalnitskaya said that the museum is currently considering a number of options. Among them is the conservation of the ruins, or even a complete reconstruction of the palace. She made the announcement during an interview with topspb.tv in St. Petersburg. 

During the interview she noted that her father, who was born in 1915, told her about the days when it was a museum, "filled with lots of toys" that once belonged to the Tsar's children.

The subject of reconstructing the Lower Palace was raised several years back, however, the project was shelved due to lack of funding. According to museum staff, the storage vaults at Peterhof house a large repository of documents, plans, photographs, and items from the former palace that would allow them to rebuild the structure and open it as a museum dedicated to the private world of the last Tsar and his family.

Kalnitskaya noted that she favours the conservation of the ruins as "a monument to human barbarism of the 20th century." All options will be reviewed by a special committee before a final decision is made. 

The ruins of the Lower Palace are a short walk from the Cottage Palace in the Alexandria Park, however, accessibility is now greatly restricted due to a large fence that was erected in recent years. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 25 February, 2013


 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:15 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 3 March 2013 8:03 AM EST
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