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Saturday, 22 March 2014
Sweet Chariots: Vintage Carriages Return to Vogue in Russia
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 3 minutes, 9 seconds
Topic: Imperial Russia
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the March 21st, 2014 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author Vladimir Kozlov, owns the copyright of the article presented below

The production of horse-drawn carriages has seen a revival in Russia over the last ten years. However, since old traditions seem to have been lost, enthusiasts are starting from scratch, taking inspiration from pictures and old carriages that have survived in museums.

From nomads to emperors: early Russian carriages

The oldest Russian version of a wheeled horse-drawn carriage existed at least a thousand years ago. Referred to as a kolymaga, it was derived from carts used by nomadic tribes from the south Russia.

In the early 17th century, the first proper carriages began to be imported into Russia from Western Europe. By the mid-17th century, the number of carriages had increased so drastically that Tsar Fyodor III introduced restrictions on the vehicles, allowing only members of the Boyar Duma (a council for Russian rulers) to use carriages on the streets of Moscow in a bid to avoid traffic jams.

While imported carriages dominated, local production of similar vehicles began to grow. According to Mikhail Kazyonkin, a carriage enthusiast and manufacturer, Russian carriages were not very different from those made in Europe, as all the original technology and craftsmen came from there.

Later, several schools were opened across Russia to train talented boys to become carriage craftsmen. One of the schools was located in the village of Pakhrino, south of Moscow.

Students spent 12 years in the school learning the craft, which only gave them the status of apprentice, and only the most talented and hard-working were able to become full-fledged craftsmen.

Much like cars these days, carriages were supposed to reflect the owner's social status. The richest and most lavish carriages were owned by the emperors.

Those who have visited the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg will have seen the gilded Coronation Coach that was used for the coronation ceremonies of Empresses Catherine I and Catherine II (the Great), made to special order by French manufacturers.

For most of the 19th century, luxurious carriages were imported from France, but "economy class" horse-drawn vehicles were actively manufactured within Russia, both by individual craftsmen and small factories.

The most popular locally-produced type of carriages was based on French phaetons – lighter vehicles with folding roofs. Normally, three separate factories were involved, specializing in the manufacture of the chassis, the body and roof and the seats, respectively.

                                                                                 Maslenitsa (1889). Artist: Pyotr Nikolayevich Gruzinsky (1837-1892)
Life after cars: contemporary craftsmen resurrect the carriage

At the beginning of the 20th century, motor vehicles began to replace horse-drawn carriages, and the craft of carriage making gradually became obsolete. The first motor vehicles still used many elements of carriages, but as automobile design evolved, it moved further away from its predecessor.

However, several decades later, when horse-drawn carriages became a thing from a faraway past to be seen only in museums and period movies, interest in the obsolete transportation form began to revive.

Carriage rides have now become a popular tourist attraction in several cities, while some horse owners have shown interest in owning a carriage as well.

Kazyonkin has been involved in carriage manufacturing since he built his first horse-drawn cart in the late 1980s.
"I wanted to make a living doing that," he said. "Previously, I was involved in the horse-riding business, and it was a natural step from offering a horseback ride to a carriage ride. So I made a cart, then another one, and so it all began."

Kazonkin currently runs a shop that manufactures carts, carriages and sleds of various kinds. But reviving the old tradition turned out to be a very hard task.

"It's impossible to restore the traditions of the craft," said Kazyonkin, adding that he designs his carriages by himself as opposed to using old drafts, but derives inspiration from items that have survived in various museums.
"I have found some in the Hermitage; the [film studio] Mosfilm also has some in its collection," he said.

According to Kazyonkin, the people who buy his carriages are mostly entrepreneurs who offer carriage rides as a tourist attraction and private individuals interested in horses. "Someone, for instance, could make himself a birthday present like that," he said. 
© Vladimir Kozlov @ Russia Beyond the Headlines. 22 March, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:46 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 22 March 2014 5:55 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 19 March 2014
Clothes Make the Man: The Role of the Uniform in Tsarist Russia
Topic: Imperial Russia

Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the March 18th, 2014 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines (RBTH). The author Inna Fedorova owns the copyright of the abridged version presented below.
The Ukrainian-born writer Nikolai Gogol famously penned The Overcoat, the allegorical tale of a petty bureaucrat who loses his social standing. The story symbolizes the role of the formal coat and uniform in Russia, where it was not merely a garment, but a symbol of dedication to one’s country.

In 1722, Peter the Great approved the Table of Ranks, a groundbreaking register of civil and military positions that systemized the Russian bureaucratic machine in the European manner. Every rank had a corresponding uniform, which thenceforth made it possible for anybody to precisely identify a bureaucrat’s job and his position in society.

The clothes make the man: For young men, this was one of the most important arguments in favor of employment, including civil employment. Even lowly newspaper vendors wore special clothing: a long, double-breasted coat with a peaked cap and a distinctive small bag slung over the shoulder.

The uniform also helped the government’s image: Under Peter, Russia started to speak the same language as Europe — in donning clothing that was familiar to Westerners, Russian bureaucrats ceased to appear as half-savage Slavs in the eyes of foreigners.

Peter the Great himself wore a uniform of exceptionally domestic making. In fact, the uniform catalyzed the establishment of a textile industry in Russia, spurring the development of clothing production.

Huge government orders for ready-to-wear uniforms stimulated the shift from the small-scale artisanal production of fabric and garments to full-scale manufacturing.

The Russian empire was the country of the uniform. From the college to the government office, all working men or students wore a uniform that was approved by the tsar.

Charts with detailed descriptions of the cut, color, ornament, material and even the measurements of these outfits were published in the texts of the laws. Every tsar personally approved and adjusted uniform designs as he saw fit.
Women were not affected by this issue. There were tacit recommendations that workers in educational and medical establishments wear modest colors and chaste garments that were virtually devoid of extra adornment — for the most part, women wore dark-colored, high-collared dresses.

A Table of Ranks was introducted by Peter the Great in 1722
Stripes, caps, black boots 

Every educational institution and government department had its own uniform, which came in several versions: formal, everyday, day off, winter, summer. For example, officers in the heavy cavalry guard had five or six uniform changes.

Rank-and-file soldiers of the same regiment had three different uniforms. Moreover, within each government department, the uniform differed depending on the wearer’s class and rank.

The pattern and placement of the stitching varied, from the formal uniform of a low-ranking bureaucrat to that of a collegiate registrar (14th rank), to that of a collegiate councilor (6th rank). In addition to the coat, the headwear came in different shapes and with fur trimming of various colors.

There was even variation within a single government department and for identical positions. Workers who served at the “headquarters” dressed differently from those who worked for “representatives in the provinces”: Those in the government’s central offices wore buttons decorated with a two-headed eagle, while their colleagues in the provinces wore buttons with the province’s coat of arms framed by a laurel wreath.

The shoes were black laced boots. High boots were permitted only with a double-breasted jacket, greatcoat or frock coat during missions. According to Soviet historian Yakov Rivosh, “Distinctive insignias based on rank were the same for all the ministries and government departments. They were fastened to the stripes or the shoulder straps,” writes Rivosh.

“There were stripes on all types of formal clothing, except the justacorps and uniform dress coat. The stripes bore the emblem of the ministry or government department, just like the one on the cap, but smaller. The bureaucrats’ dress uniform was the justacorps — a single-breasted jacket with fasteners on nine buttons and trousers with a braid lampasse [trouser stripe] (4th rank and up). All the medals and a ribbon (the oldest of the orders possessed) were worn on the dress uniform, along with a sword, white gloves and a white vest that was not visible.”

The colors were subdued, as Rivosh describes: “The justacorps, frock coat, dress coat and trousers of the uniform were usually bottle-green in color. Only bureaucrats in the Ministry of Education and Academy of Arts wore dark blue. In the summer they wore frock coats, vests and sometimes trousers made of bleached or unbleached linen or of lasting (closely twilled cotton fabric). The coverings on the peaked caps were sewn from the same material.”

In full dress 

The dress coat worn by senators, which was sewn with golden thread, was worth one month’s salary for a minister. The coat’s prestige was so great that even merchants and manufacturers, who were far removed from government service, envied it.

They gave substantial donations (hundreds of thousands, and even millions of rubles) to the Offices of the Empress Maria fund, which was maintained as a trustee for orphanages, homes for the elderly, hospitals and other charitable institutions.

The reward for benevolence was the right to wear the striking uniform of this office. Moreover, the lavishness of the uniform depended directly on the size of the donation.

The universal use of uniform came to an end with the dissolution of the monarchy. Nowadays, only workers in some military departments and judicial agencies wear uniforms. 
© Inna Fedorova @ Russia Beyond the Headlines. 19 March, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:40 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 19 March 2014 4:54 AM EDT
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Monday, 24 February 2014
A Short History of British Tourism in Imperial Russia
Topic: Imperial Russia

Guidebooks popular with British visitors to Russia during the 19th to early 20th centuries
included Baedekers (left) and Murrays Handbooks to Russia, Poland and Finland.
The following article was originally published in the February 23rd, 2014 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author Anthony Cross owns the copyright presented below.

The post-Soviet boom in Russian tourism to Britain is a well-known phenomenon. But what about travel in the other direction? Britons have a centuries-long history of visiting Russia, writes Anthony Cross.

British tourism in Russia was certainly not invented by Intourist during the Cold War. An otherwise tragic expedition to discover a northern sea route first brought the English to Muscovy in the middle of the 16th century and it was essentially trade and profit that inspired further embassies and led to the establishment of a Russia Company to exploit that trade. However the concept of travelling for pleasure or what was often termed “out of curiosity” was much undertaken in the ancient world. What was new was travelling to barbaric, wild Russia, land of snow and bears and wolves, and of peoples with the strangest habits and, as an Englishman would have it, ‘to vices vile inclin’d”.

Click here to read the full article;

A Short History of British Tourism in Imperial Russia 


© Anthony Cross @ Russia Beyond the Headlines. 24 February, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:17 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 24 February 2014 4:27 PM EST
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Thursday, 30 January 2014
St. Petersburg Lawmakers Attack Bill on Imperial Russian Flag
Topic: Imperial Russia

The black-yellow-and-white tricolour flag was the official national flag of the Russian Empire from 1858 to 1883. In 1858, Alexander II ordered for the black-yellow-white flag to be used during celebrations. In 1865, the emperor issued a decree naming black orange (later “golden yellow”), and white as the state colours of Russia. Today, the flag is being used by Russian Nationalists and Monarchists. It is such a shame that a proud symbol of Imperial Russia has created so much negative media attention today - Paul Gilbert
A bill aimed at officially designating the imperial Russian flag a historical symbol has irked a number of deputies in the St. Petersburg legislative assembly, who say that the legislation is poorly crafted and potentially threatening to neighbouring countries.

The black-yellow-and-white tricolour flag was first introduced by Tsar Alexander II in 1858, but has been widely adopted by nationalist movements since the end of the 20th century.

United Russia's Vitaly Milonov, who introduced the bill to the assembly, said that the flag needs “to be cleared of its negative extremist symbolism” in order “to allow football fans to quietly carry it without being accused of extremism,” Regnum news agency reported Wednesday.

“We are not talking about forbidding anyone from using this flag, but it should not be a simple piece of cloth that can be thrown in a puddle,” Milonov said, reported.

Members of the Yabloko and A Just Russia parties were quick to criticize the proposal.

A Just Russia's Alexei Kovalev said the bill was a prime example of unprofessional legislation, and one that would surely sour the reputation of the assembly.

“It was this flag that became a symbol of the most notorious nationalist organizations, analogous to those, which are now fighting on” Independence Square in Kiev, Kovalev said, “Under this flag people are killed, it has become a symbol of extremism. Why should we make a political gesture today and support this symbol of extremism?”

The assembly's speaker, Vyacheslav Makarov, himself a member of United Russia, repeatedly turned off the podium's microphone during Kovalev's speech.

Another A Just Russia lawmaker, Marina Shishkina, said that much of the bill's explanatory note had been taken from the flag's Wikipedia page. About two-thirds of the article had been used, conspicuously leaving out the final paragraph detailing the flag's contemporary popularity among fascist-leaning nationalist parties.

Yabloko's Alexander Kobrinsky said that granting historical status to the flag would send an unmistakable message to Russia's neighbors that it was rediscovering its imperial ambitions.

Milonov, who coauthored the city's anti-gay legislation, refuted the suggestion and said Kobrinsky feared the revival of Russia as "a Great Power." "You want us to remain an uncrowned chicken,” Milonov said. At this point, Makarov once again shut off the podium's microphone, thereby ending the floor debate.

In the end, the draft legislation passed with 27 in favour, and 13 against. Deputies have three weeks to amend the bill before deliberating on the final version.
© St. Petersburg Times. 30 January, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:36 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 30 January 2014 9:54 AM EST
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Wednesday, 18 December 2013
180th Anniversary of Imperial Anthem, God Save the Tsar!
Topic: Imperial Russia

180 years ago today, a new Russian song was performed in public for the first time;

God, save the Tsar!
Strong and majestic,
Reign for glory, For our glory!
Reign to foes' fear,
Orthodox Tsar.
God, save the Tsar!

The initial version of the national anthem of the Russian Empire was written in 1815 by Vasily Zhukovsky, set to the music of the British national anthem God Save The King and approved by Emperor Alexander I in 1816. 

In 1833, Prince Alexei Lvov accompanied Emperor Nicholas I, during his visit to Austria and Prussia, where the Emperor was greeted every where to the sounds of patriotic marches. The tsar listened to the melodies without much enthusiasm, however on his return he ordered Lvov, a talented composer and violinist to compose a new anthem. The original words of the anthem written by Zhukovsky were modified, with the help of the great Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin. 

Lvov was rewarded with snuffbox with diamonds, and in 1834 was appointed adjutant (in the rank of captain) in the body of the Horse Guards to carry out Court service. The first national anthem God Save the Tsar was performed on December 18 (according to other sources - 25 December) in 1833 and soon became the official anthem of the Russian Empire, it retained that status until the February 1917 revolution.
Listen to a haunting rendition of God Save the Tsar performed by the Kuban Cossack Choir during a concert marking their 195th anniversary in 2006. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 18 December, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:56 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 18 December 2013 7:37 AM EST
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Monday, 4 November 2013
Russia Marks National Unity Day - Romanov Obelisk Returns to Alexander Garden in Moscow
Topic: Imperial Russia

Patriarch Kirill dedicates a memorial to the Romanov dynasty in the Alexander Garden, outside the Kremlin wall in Moscow
On November 4th Russia marked National Unity Day, one of the recently established public holidays. The festive events began with a Divine Liturgy in the Assumption Cathedral in Moscow’s Kremlin conducted by Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. After that an obelisk dedicated to the Romanovs was unveiled in the Alexander Garden outside the Kremlin wall.

The public holiday was established in honour of events of 1612 when Russian voluntary troops commanded by Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky liberated Moscow from foreign invaders. In the church calendar this is Day of Our Lady of Kazan whose icon was the main relic of the voluntary troops.

This year all the festivities are associated with the 400th anniversary of the House of Romanov. The first czar of this dynasty Mikhail Romanov ascended the throne in 1613. During the holy communion Patriarch Kirill stressed the fact that Russia became strong and powerful while the Romanovs ruled the country. Without idolizing anyone from the ruling dynasty we can state confidently that all the Romanovs, irrespective of their personal abilities, did what no one else had done for Russia before them, the patriarch said.

After the Divine Liturgy the Romanov Obelisk was unveiled in the Alexander Garden. It so happened that in the past it was the last monument in honour of the ruling dynasty and the first Communist monument after the October revolution. Vladimir Legoyda, the chairman of the Synodal Information Department of the Russian Orthodox Church, explains that the Romanov Obelisk was established in the Alexander Garden in 1914 to mark the 300th anniversary of the House of Romanov. In 1918 after the revolution the Communist government issued a decree that stipulated either destroying pre-revolutionary monuments or revamping them. The Romanov Obelisk became the first experience of this kind. All the Russian czars’ names were erased from it to be replaced with the names of European proto-Socialists and Russian revolutionary philosophers.

Now the obelisk has been restored in its original shape. It has been established near the Kremlin wall next to the Ruins grotto. The golden eagle, the Romanovs’ coat of arms, can be seen from far away. The obelisk stands next to the statue of Patriarch Hermogenes who blessed the new Romanov royal dynasty in 1613.

The highlight of today’s celebrations was the opening of an exhibition dedicated to Orthodox Russia. This year the main subject of the exhibition is the Romanovs. The visitors will be able to travel through the centuries with the help of modern technologies, such as 3D installations, animation photo montage, sensor tables and panels and gigantic plasma screens. The exhibition does not allow forging history because it demonstrates true facts about the time when the Romanovs were on the Russian throne.

The exhibition ‘Orthodox Russia and National Unity Day’ will be open until 12 November. 
© The Voice of Russia. 04 November, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:44 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 6 November 2013 5:42 AM EST
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Monday, 28 October 2013
The Palace Grenadiers Company
Topic: Imperial Russia

The Palace Grenadiers Company, was a special honour military unit under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Imperial Court. The company was established by Emperor Nicholas I in 1827 and staffed with enlisted guards who had distinguished themselves in the course of the Patriotic War of 1812 (120 men, including 69 recipients of the Order of St. George). The company was later expanded with veteran guards (also by army veterans from 1900) who had served exceptionally for no less than 20 years and gained special honours in wars. The officers’ staff of the company could include only those promoted from the lower ranks and awarded with the Soldiers' Cross of St. George. 

The Palace Grenadiers were unofficially known as the "Golden company" for their rich and ornate red and gold coloured uniforms. Their bearskin hats were similar to those of Napoleon I’s grenadiers and looked somewhat exotic in Russia. Gold braids were widely used even on their belts in red and gold. Their regimental holiday was marked on 19 December (O.S. 6 December), day of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker.

The Palace Grenadiers Company performed the most exclusive honour guard duties at the Imperial residences, including escorting the Emperor during major state ceremonies and standing guard over monuments to the Patriotic War of 1812. The company was disbanded in 1917. Its quarters were located in the Winter Palace, at the Guards Corps headquarters at 33 Millionnaya Street, among other locations. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 28 October, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:19 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 28 October 2013 10:35 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 2 October 2013
Russia in the 1910s
Topic: Imperial Russia

The Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and the Tsesarevich Alexei take part in the White Flower Day Festival at Yalta
These five videos feature a collection of newsreel clips shot in Russia during the years 1910-1913, showing a variety of scenes including Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna at official functions.

In Part III, we see some wonderful film footage of the Imperial family during the White Flower Day festival at Yalta, an event that the children of Nicholas II: the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and the Tsesarevich Alexei took part in.

The films show various aspects of life in Russia, in both rural and urban settings. We see the day to day lives of both rich and poor, but overall, the films offer us a brief glimpse into a lost world, one that was wiped out by the Bolsheviks and the Russian Revolution. 

Russia in the 1910s - Click Here to View 5 Videos

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 02 October, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:39 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 2 October 2013 9:46 AM EDT
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Thursday, 22 August 2013
Russia Celebrates National Flag Day
Topic: Imperial Russia

In Russia, August 22 marks National Flag Day, established on the basis of the Russian Presidential Decree of August 20th 1994 “On the National Flag Day of the Russian Federation”, Voice of Russia reports. The Russian tricolour flag came into existence more than 300 years ago, in the late 17th century and the early 18th century, when Russia began to emerge as a powerful state. The white-blue-red flag was for the first time hoisted aboard Russia’s first warship Oryol, or Eagle, during the reign of Peter the Great’s father, Tsar Alexei.

It was Peter the Great who officially adopted the tricolour flag. He signed a decree on January 20th 1705, whereby the white-blue-red flag should be hoisted aboard all kinds of merchant ships. He himself drew the model and determined the sequence of horizontal stripes. The flag was first used by the Russian Navy. It was basically the Navy that flew these colours all the way until the 19th century.

The use of the Russian white-blue-red flag on land stems from geographical discoveries by Russian seafarers.

Until the 19th century, Russian sailors normally erected a memorial cross on the seashore of a newly discovered land to show that it was now a part of Russia. But a new tradition emerged in 1806, when a Russian expedition explored the coastal area of Southern Sakhalin and hoisted two flags at a time, namely St. Andrew’s flag to mark the service of the Navy, and the national white-blue-red flag, to show that the area is Russia’s possession. The white-blue-red flag was not officially adopted as Russia’s National Flag until the eve of Nicholas II’s coronation in 1896.

Each of the three colours of the National Flag has its own specific meaning. Red means the Great Power statehood, blue is the colour of Virgin Mary, who protects Russia, while white is the colour of freedom and independence.

On August 22, 1991, an extraordinary session of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic resolved that the tricolor flag should be seen as the official national flag of Russia. On December 11, 1993 the Russian President signed the bill on the new state flag into law.
For more information, please refer to FLAGS OF THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE section located on the ROYAL RUSSIA DIRECTORY page;


© Russkiy Mir. 22 August, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:50 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 22 August 2013 11:02 AM EDT
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Thursday, 18 April 2013
Putin Revives Tsarist Regiments
Topic: Imperial Russia

President Vladimir Putin has assigned the First Separate Rifle Regiment the honorary name Semenovsky, the Kremlin press service reports. “With the aim of reviving glorious military historical traditions I hereby order that the First Separate Rifle Regiment be given the honorary name Semenovsky and from now on be called the First Separate Semenovsky Rifle Regiment,” the head of state said in a decree.

Putin also recreated the Preobrazhensky Regiment last month. This name was given to the 154th Separate Commandant Regiment.

President Putin first mentioned the need to return the historical names in his address to the federal assembly in December 2012. “The morale of our Armed Forces is held up by traditions, by a living connection to history, by the examples of bravery and selflessness of our heroes. I feel that we should revive the names of the most renowned regiments, military units and major formations of past eras within the Russian army – both from Soviet times and earlier eras, such as Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky regiments,” Putin said.

The Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky regiments were created by Peter I in the late 17th century and went on to serve Russia valiantly in numerous military in the years that followed.

© Russkiy Mir. 18 April, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:45 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 18 April 2013 8:03 AM EDT
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