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Thursday, 14 April 2016
Work to Begin on Lower Dacha at Peterhof this Month
Topic: Peterhof

Vintage photographs of the Lower Dacha, summer residence of Emperor Nicholas II and his family at Peterhof
After years of discussions and planning, the Peterhof State Museum Preserve have officially announced that work on dismantling the ruins of the Lower Dacha and Garden will begin this month. Restorers will begin an analysis of the ruins, to determine the number of original parts which have survived, and to study the buildings original foundation. The announcement was made today at a meeting of the Council for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in St. Petersburg.
Click on the link below to read the full article:

Work to Begin on Lower Dacha at Peterhof this Month + VIDEO

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 14 April, 2016


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 1:07 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 28 April 2016 10:47 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Congratulations to Elena Kalnitskaya, General Director of the Peterhof
Topic: Peterhof

Elena Yakovlevna Kalnitskaya, General Director of the Peterhof State Museum Preserve
Today marks Elena Yakovlevna Kalnitskaya’s seventh anniversary as General Director of the Peterhof State Museum Preserve.
During this short period, Elena Kalnitskaya has initiated the creation and/or completion of more than a dozen museums within the Peterhof Museum Preserve, such as the Imperial Yachts Museum, the Gothic Chapel and the Farm Palace. She has also been responsible for the restoration of the Alexandria Park, the Chinese Palace at Oranienbaum and many other monuments of architecture and landscape art. Further, she has been instrumental in the planning of future restoration projects of such architectural monuments as Ropsha Palace and the Lower Dacha, the former residence of Emperor Nicholas II which was severely damaged during World War II and later demolished in the 1960s.

Last month she was recognized as one of the top ten most influential cultural figures of St. Petersburg in 2015 by  City 812 Magazine.

Preserving the traditional museum approach to cultural heritage, Elena Kalnitskaya has always supported the latest trends in the development of the vast Peterhof museum complex. The author of numerous books on the Romanov dynasty and the history of Peterhof, she is recognized by her peers as a charismatic leader who over the past seven years continues to attract new specialists, exhibits, bringing new opportunities to Peterhof. 

On behalf of Royal Russia I would like to take this opportunity to extend congratulations and thanks to Elena Kalnitskaya for her tireless dedication and endless enthusiasm to preserve Russia’s imperial history, she is indeed an inspiration to all of us!

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 02 February, 2016


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 1:55 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 2 February 2016 2:02 PM EST
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Thursday, 5 November 2015
Exhibition: History in Details. On the 300th Anniversary of the Grand Peterhof Palace at Peterhof
Topic: Peterhof

The Grand Palace at Peterhof
Note: This article has been edited and updated by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia

The exhibition project History in Details. On the 300th Anniversary of the Grand Peterhof Palace opened at the Peterhof Museum-Reserve on 3 November, 2015.

The exhibition project features a historical collection of decoration objects of the Grand Palace. Lamps, paintings, porcelain are presented as witnesses of the events that occurred three hundred years ago. They “saw” how the palace lived, found new owners, was filled with guests and emptied, was ruined and rebuilt again. Grand Peterhof Palace is considered one of the most elegant and spectacular. Prior to being seen today by visitors, every museum exhibit experienced difficult times, which is part of the history of Peterhof, and the history of Russia.

Today, the Grand Palace has more than 3 000 exhibits. Of these, almost half comes from the historical collection. All of them had survived the imperial luxury of the Romanov dynasty, the turmoil of the revolution and the deprivation of the Great Patriotic War. Eight of them are the “protagonists” of the exhibition project.

The curators call the form of the action “an exhibition without exhibiting." All exhibits are left in their places. But in the enfilade, the unexpected objects appeared that invite the viewer to stop and look into the subject, "listen" to its story.

The exhibition History in Details. On the 300th Anniversary of the Grand Peterhof Palace runs until 10 April, 2016

© Presidential Library / Peterhof Museum-Reserve. 05 November, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:05 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 5 November 2015 6:12 AM EST
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Thursday, 20 August 2015
On This Day: Anniversary of Fountains and Cascades Start-up at Peterhof
Topic: Peterhof

The Grand Palace forms a majestic background to the fountains and cascades at Peterhof
On 20 August (O.S. 9 August), 1721 the famous fountains and cascades of Peterhof that represent the monument of hydro technical art of the 18th – 19th centuries were launched for the first time.

The idea to create a summer residence that would not yield to the famous Versailles in France came to Peter the Great in 1714 after the victory of Russian fleet over Swedes near Gangut. According to Peter’s I scheme, Peterhof was to become a grand monument to a heroic struggle of the Russian people for access to Baltic Sea. The work on creation of water supply system was entrusted to a Russian master Vasiliy Tuvolkov (1697 - 1727) who studied in Holland and France. Under his guidance during the summer of 1721 a fountain current that included locks and channel was created. The water from Ropshinsky hills basins goes by self-flowing through this channel to Upper garden pools that provide the water to stream fountains.

In the beginning of August 1721 the canal joining the basins of the future English park and Square ponds of the Upper garden was completed. On August 8 (19) Russian monarch was informed that the canal from the river to the main Peterhof water supply systems is dug out. On the same day Peter I went to Ropshinsky hills and using a spade opened the water stream along a new water supply system. By the next morning the water reached Peterhof having filled the basins of fountains and cascades. Henceforth, hydrotechnical system has been supplying water to fountains and the city with no pumps.

In 1726 ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ fountains were launched under the guidance of architect T. N. Usov. In the Lower Park, which includes six gardens, ‘Dragon’, ‘Labyrinth’, two ‘Rome’ fountains were launched along with ‘Chess Mountain’ cascade and amusement fountains. To mark the 25th anniversary of Poltava Victory in 1734, a grandiose fountain with a monumental group ‘Samson tearing lion’s mouth’ by B. F. Rastrelli was created. The works on the ensemble had lasted for two centuries. The outstanding architects such as G. Leblond, N. Miketti, M. Zemtzov, F. Rastrelli, Y. Felten and A. Shtakenshneider had contributed to its creation. Owing to their work the estate with small places (Monplaisir, Marli, Hermitage pavilion, etc.) turned to “fountains capital”, a pearl of the world architecture.

Today Peterhof is a world-famous open-air museum. Ten museums and three parks (Upper, Lower and Alexandria) are open here for visiting. Three cascades and 173 fountains operate in Upper garden and Lower park. In 1990 the town and its palaces and park ensembles were put on the list of UNESCO culture heritage. In 1997 the state culture preserve Peterhof was put on the list of the most valuable sites of the Russian cultural heritage. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 20 August, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:20 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 22 August 2015 7:59 AM EDT
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Sunday, 29 March 2015
Peterhof Marks 300th Anniversary of the Grand Palace
Topic: Peterhof

The Grand Palace at Peterhof celebrates it's 300th anniversary in 2015
This year marks the 300th anniversary of the Grand Palace at Peterhof. Last month, the Peterhof State Museum Preserve held a presentation of the program of events scheduled for 2015, dedicated to the historic anniversary of the Grand Peterhof Palace, former residence of the Russian sovereigns and their families.

The history of Upper chambers in Peterhof (future Grand Palace) is counted from the decree by Peter I, who commanded “To make tents in Peterhof, as well as to dig a canal from the sea…and to face with masonry”. The decree dated January 24 (February 4, new style) 1715, is stored in the Russian State Historical Archive.

The Grand Peterhof Palace – is the creation of the great Rastrelli, the monument of Russian military men and diplomatic triumphs, one of the most luxurious palaces of the Russian empire, without exaggeration, the most visited museum of modern Russia.

The Peterhof State Museum-Reserve has prepared a series of events, timed to the anniversary of the palace. The program of the anniversary year contains exhibitions, conferences, events, holidays. The website of the museum-reserve will inform about them during 2015.

During the presentation held on February 12th guests were informed of the following events and exhibits:

-The exhibition action in the Parade suite of the Grand Palace “History in Details”.

The exhibition action is devoted to the subject of historical collections of decoration of the Grand Peterhof Palace. Objects of decorative furniture, lamps, paintings - are presented as witnesses before which events of three century history were unfolded. Participants of the rally will be given the opportunity to consider some of them more closely. The campaign is designed for individual visitors, families and small groups and will last until the end of April.

- The exhibition of new acquisitions "Dowry of Russian princess. Items from the silver service of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna" in the Dance Hall of the Grand Peterhof Palace.

The exhibition presents the latest acquisitions to the collection of the State Museum "Peterhof". Wedding of the daughter of Nicholas I and the Crown Prince of Württemberg was held in Peterhof in 1846. This holiday - with ballet outdoors, stunning illumination - has become one of the highlights of the Peterhof history of the XIX century. Silver service for 500 persons, made for dowry in the trendy "English shop N. Nichols and Plinke", was made in the style of "second rococo", is decorated with two-headed eagles and the monogram of the bride. Gradually service were scattered in private collections. Nineteen subjects were brought in Peterhof in 2005. In late 2014 the museum's collection has been enriched with a few more items. After the exhibition service will be placed on a permanent place in the exposition of the Grand Palace. 

-Multimedia information and entertainment system “The Grand Peterhof Palace” in the entrance area of the Grand Palace. 

Interactive multi-table to be established in the entrance area of the Grand Palace. Visitors in an exciting and visual forum can get acquainted with the history of the major milestones of the Grand Palace. 

Further exhibitions, conferences, events, and holidays scheduled for 2015 will be announced on the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve and the Royal Russia news blog during the course of the coming year ahead. 
© Peterhof State Museum Preserve. 29 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:13 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 29 March 2015 5:23 AM EDT
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Saturday, 21 March 2015
Dowry of a Russian Princess: Items from the Silver Service of Grand Duchess Olga Nicholayevna
Topic: Peterhof

This year marks the 300th anniversary of the Grand Palace at Peterhof. This historic anniversary will be marked by numerous events and exhibitions to be held at Peterhof throughout 2015.

Among the first exhibitions is Dowry of a Russian Princess. Items from the Silver Service of Grand Duchess Olga Nicholayevna, which opened on February 12 in the Ball Room of the Grand Palace. 

The exhibit features several unique exhibits - including a magnificent silver tea and coffee service, recently acquired by the Peterhof State Museum Preserve. The service was made in 1839-1840, and presented to Grand Duchess Olga Nicholayevna, daughter of Emperor Nicholas I, by the Governor of Kazan as part of her dowry. 

The service is decorated with gilt rocailles and floral designs. Each item is marked with an engraved monogram of the intertwined letters "OH" in Cyrillic for Olga Nicholayevna. The service was made by the firm Nichols and Plinke - the supplier of the Russian Imperial Court in the first half of the 19th century, and bears the firms hallmarks. 

The dowry for Grand Duchess Olga Nicholayevna began on the eve of her 18th birthday, a few years before her marriage. It includes furniture sets, china, glassware, linens, furs, religious items and more. Along with jewellery, silver sets were the most valuable part of the dowry. Silverware was considered a valuable investment, pieces were carefully selected from among the leading firms and craftsmen of the day.

The wedding of Grand Duchess Olga Nicholayevna and Crown Prince Carl, Duke of Württemberg was held on July 1, 1846. Large-scale celebrations were organized at Peterhof - the summer residence of Russian emperors. These included a 101-gun salute in honour of the newlyweds, and a magnificent ball held that evening in the Grand Palace. The following day, a masquerade and illuminations were held in the Upper Garden. 

Items from the silver service of Grand Duchess Olga Nicholayevna are on display in the Ball Room of the Grand Peterhof Palace
Aware of the importance of art and memorial heritage Grand Duchess Olga Nicholayevna at Peterhof,  the State Museum cherish the silverware from the extensive dowry of the Grand Duchess. To date, the "Olginskaya" silver collection at Peterhof consists of more than 80 items. 

Complimenting the exhibition are further items from the Special Treasury of Peterhof and the Olga Pavilion located in the nearby Kolonistskogo Park, the pavilion was a wedding gift from Emperor Nicholas I to his beloved daughter. After the exhibition closes on April 29th, the new acquisition will take its place in the permanent exhibition of the Grand Peterhof Palace. 

Grand Duchess Olga Nicholayevna (11 September 1822 – 30 October 1892), was the second daughter of Emperor Nicholas I and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (née Princess Charlotte of Prussia). She was thus a sister of Emperor Alexander II of Russia. Attractive, cultured and intelligent, she was considered to be one of the most eligible princesses in Europe. She spoke several languages, and was fond of music and painting. She married Crown Prince Charles I of Württemberg, with whom she had no children. She became Queen Olga of Württemberg in 1864. When her husband died on 6 October 1891, Olga became Queen Dowager of Württemberg. She died one year later, on 30 October 1892 in Friedrichshafen, at 70. She was buried in the crypt of the Old Castle in Stuttgart.

The exhibition Dowry of a Russian Princess: Items from the Silver Service of Grand Duchess Olga Nicholayevna runs until April 29, 2015 at the Grand Palace, Peterhof. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 21 March,  2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:00 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 21 March 2015 11:01 AM EDT
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Monday, 15 December 2014
Peterhof Announces Reconstruction of Lower Dacha of Nicholas II
Topic: Peterhof

A view of the Lower Dacha at Peterhof as it looked in the early 20th century
The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation have approved a plan for the reconstruction of the Lower Dacha of Emperor Nicholas II at Peterhof. The announcement was made during a press conference held on December 12th, by the General Director of the Peterhof State Museum Preserve, Elena Kalnitskaya.

In 2013, a local research team were hired by the museum, whose task was to conduct a comprehensive research and development study of the architectural concept of reconstruction and rebuilding of the architectural and surrounding landscape complex. Earlier this year the Peterhof State Museum Preserve presented three options for the restoration of the building - the first of these involved the complete reconstruction of the dacha, the second - the conservation of the surviving fragments of the ruins, and the third option combined the preservation of the surviving fragments of the ruins to become incorporated into the partial reconstruction of the dacha.

The head of the Ministry of Culture, Vladimir Medina has approved the third version of restoration. The Minister announced that 70% of the funds (730 million Rubles) for the reconstruction will be provided from the federal budget. The remaining funds will be provided by private investors. 

Situated on the shore of the Gulf of Finland in the Alexandria Park, the Lower Dacha was built on the orders of Emperor Alexander III. The architect Antonio Tomishko created a four-story building resembling an Italian villa in the neo-Renaissance style, complete with a high tower and observation deck. It was here that Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna spent the first year of their marriage. "The main beauty of the whole house is it’s proximity of the sea" - the Emperor wrote in his diary. It was here that the Tsesarevich Alexei was born in 1904, and in 1914, Nicholas II signed the Manifesto of Russia's entry into the First World War.

Artist's concept of the newly constructed Lower Dacha to be completed by 2025
During the Soviet years, the Lower Dacha served as a museum, and then as a Holiday House for members of the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs). The furniture was later distributed to various museums around the country. In the 1960s the building was blown up, leaving nothing but ruins. All that survived were the guardhouse gates, part of the fence, the Swiss house, and fragments of the breakwaters. Every year on August 12th, the birthday of Tsesarevich Alexei, local Orthodox Christians and monarchists conduct a liturgy at the ruins of the Lower Dacha.

"The reconstruction of the Lower Dacha, will serve as a multifunctional museum and cultural center that will host exhibitions, concerts and lectures,” says Elena Kalnitskaya, “the reconstruction will allow visitors to imagine how this place looked in the early 20th century. A permanent exhibition devoted to the family of Nicholas II during their residency at the Lower Dacha will also be created.”

According to Kalnitskaya, the reconstruction project of the Lower Dacha is expected to take up to 10 years to complete. Design work is expected to be completed next year, while the construction would begin as early as 2016. Kalnitskaya notes that construction will be implemented in stages, with full completion of the historical complex by 2025.
In the past year and a half, I have followed this project with great interest, and published three other articles:  

 © Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 15 December, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:50 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 8 March 2015 10:38 AM EST
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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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