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Wednesday, 6 August 2014
The Alexander Column, Palace Square in St. Petersburg
Topic: St. Petersburg

View of Palace Square with the Alexander Column and the General Staff Building taken from a window of the State Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace)
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the August 6th, 2014 edition of The St. Petersburg Times. The author Jonathan Melvin, owns the copyright of the work presented below.

Named after Alexander I, who ruled Russia from 1801 to 1825, the Alexander Column (Aleksandrovskaya Kolonna) is one of the most iconic monuments of the northern capital. Anchoring the surrounding Palace Square, the column is indeed the focal point of the open area outside the Winter Palace. Designed by French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand, who also designed St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and built between 1830 and 1834 under the direction of Swiss architect Antonio Adamini, the monolith — the tallest of its kind in the world — was built at the behest of Nicholas I in dedication to his brother’s and Russia’s military victory over Napoleon during the French conquest of Europe, known as the Napoleonic Wars, which lasted from 1803 to 1815, or in Russia as the Patriotic War of 1812.

Standing at 47.5 meters, the column itself is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and, at the time of construction, a significant feat of engineering. The main part of the column features a single piece of red granite, nearly 25.5 meters tall and around 3.5 meters in diameter. The gargantuan granite monolith — weighing in at just over 600 tons — was transported by sea from Virolahti, Finland, to St. Petersburg in 1832. Remarkably, the column was so finely set that the base of the column remains unfastened.

The column’s pedestal features bas-relief decorative illustrations that exemplify Russia’s military glory. The side of the pedestal facing the Winter Palace features winged, angelic-like figures holding a plaque with the translated inscription, “To Alexander I from a grateful Russia.” Depictions of iconic Russian military arms and wear — including the shield of Prince Oleg of Novgorod, the helmet of Alexander Nevsky, and the breastplate of Emperor Alexander I, amongst others — serve as reminders of those military heroes who brought glory and victory to Russia. Just as impressive are the other three sides of the pedestal, which feature the metaphorical figures of Wisdom and Abundance, Justice and Mercy, and Peace and Victory.

Arguably the most iconic piece of the Alexander Column is the statue of an angel bearing a cross at its very top. Designed by Russian sculptor Boris Orlovsky, it is said that the face of the angel was modeled after the face of Emperor Alexander I.

Taking place exactly two years after the column was placed upon its pedestal, the column was officially inaugurated with a military ceremony on Aug. 30, 1834. Poet Vasily Zhukovsky wrote on his recollections of the event: “No pen can describe the grandeur of that moment when, at the sound of three cannon shots, from all the streets there suddenly appeared, as if springing out from the earth, huge, shapely columns of Russian troops moving to the thunder of drums and the sound of the Parisian March.”

Allegedly, Soviet authorities sought to secretly replace the angel atop Alexander Column in 1952 with a statue of Joseph Stalin. Though the Soviets apparently did not undertake such a measure, a historic cast-iron railing around the column was removed for some time, though it was eventually restored in 2002. Nonetheless, the original, nearly 200-year-old monolith survived the Soviet era and stands today as a gigantic, solitary guardian at the gates of the Winter Palace. 
© Jonathan Melvin / The St. Petersburg Times. 06 August, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:37 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 8 August 2014 5:46 AM EDT
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Sunday, 25 May 2014
The Rise and Fall of the Eliseev Family
Topic: St. Petersburg

Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the May 25th, 2014 edition of The St. Petersburg Times. The author Peter Campbell owns the copyright presented below.

St. Petersburg has always been a city of trade. Throughout the centuries, royalty and nobility have attracted merchants who have made their fortunes importing fine goods to the best families and exporting raw materials throughout Europe. Among these merchant families there are few better known or have had a more visible presence in the city than the Eliseev family.
Click on the link below to read the full article at Royal Russia News:

The Rise and Fall of the Eliseev Family 

© Peter Campbell and The St. Petersburg Times. 25 May, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:36 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 25 May 2014 2:55 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 14 May 2014
Museum Night Returns to St. Petersburg
Topic: St. Petersburg

Once a year in St. Petersburg, the public has a chance to discover what really goes on in a museum at night after the doors are closed.

On Saturday, May 17, 96 museums in the city, as well as the Leningrad Zoo, will keep their doors open until the early morning hours as part of the annual Museum Night. Each will have a special program prepared for visitors, including one-off exhibitions, performances and concerts.

The annual event, which celebrates International Museum Day, is held across 42 European countries. Up to 2,000 museums around the world are estimated to participate in the event this year.

First held in Berlin in 1997, St. Petersburg first joined the annual event in 2008. Every year the event has a new theme as a way of uniting the museums, with this year’s theme being “Light and Color.”

Twenty-one St. Petersburg museums will be participating in the event for the first time. Among these is the Baltiisky Dom Theater, which promises to reveal the secrets of the backstage as well as show visitors how the performances are created.

Stroganovsky Palace, regarded as one of the most romantic palaces in St. Petersburg, will also be joining the event for the first time, giving guests a chance to uncover the secrets of the building’s architecture.

Having just celebrated Victory Day, many locals may also be in the mood to visit the Museum of the Defense and the Siege of Leningrad, where military cars and Red Army weapons will be exhibited along with other memorabilia from the siege.

One of the most interesting events of the night will actually happen just outside the city, at the Priory Palace in Gatchina. Built in the late 18th century as a prior of the Maltese Order by Russian Emperor Paul I, its program on Museum Night will include a reenactment of a military drill around the palace by knights from Malta.

Special performances on the night include a concert at St. Isaac’s Cathedral, with an orchestra playing in front at 9 p.m.

To help people plan their evening, the Museum Night website helps visitors to map out their best route as they pick their museums, as well as displaying the most popular choices so far. Currently, top museum choices include the St. Petersburg botanical gardens and the planetarium, where films will be screened on the building’s facade and, if weather permits, will allow visitors the chance to get up close to the stars above with telescope viewings.

Those interested in taking part in the event can buy a Museum Night ticket for 350 rubles ($10), which will give them entry to all museums. Children seven and under have free entry. Visitors can also buy single entry tickets at each museum.

To help with public transport for the night, special city night buses will be operating from midnight until 6 a.m. There will also be five Museum Night buses operating with routes between major museums, which will be free for those with a Museum Night ticket. 
© St. Petersburg Times. 14 May, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:56 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 15 May 2014 9:04 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 18 February 2014
St. Petersburg Before the Great War: The Point of No Return
Topic: St. Petersburg

St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg before the Great War, 1914
The following article was originally published in the February 2nd, 2014 edition of the Russian publication, Ogonek Magazine. The author of this article, Lev Lurye owns the copyright presented below.
The first six months of 1914 were a kind of calm before the storm, but when the imperial capital of St. Petersburg exploded in July, the results were swift and catastrophic.

The year 1914 began without any particular sense of foreboding. Russia’s attention was fixed on sports rather than politics. Berlin was hosting the world skating championship and Vasily Ippolitov was among the medalists.
There was also a men’s figure skating event in the Finnish capital, then known as Helsingfors; and a women’s skating competition in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The Russian soccer team played friendly matches against Norway and Sweden.

The political situation in Russia seemed calm on the surface. The economy was growing at an unprecedented rate of between 10-20 percent. According to British journalist Maurice Baring, who was reporting on the situation at the time, Russia was going through an unprecedented period of prosperity, and there had never been a time when the vast majority of Russia’s citizens had fewer reasons to complain.

There was, however, a strict class system in the Russian Empire that severely restricted social mobility. The workers had no hope of breaking out of the ranks of the proletariat; farmers craved ownership of the land they had worked for centuries, but belonged to a few wealthy landlords. Ordinary people seemed ready to riot at the slightest provocation.
According to the diary of Russian Emperor Nicholas II, the year 1914 began much like any other. Nicholas wrote that on many occasions he had “joyful opportunities" to see Grigory Rasputin. On the day of German Kaiser Wilhelm's birthday the emperor had a breakfast with the German ambassador.

Nicholas II met the New Year in the town of Tsarskoe Selo outside St. Petersburg before heading for the Crimea. “We have inspected large herds of livestock, cows and horses,” the emperor wrote. “We also saw aurochs and bison, as well as zebras.

I had my head spinning from so many impressions and such an astonishing variety of animals.” After the trip to the Crimea, the Russian royal family visited Romania before returning to their palace at Peterhof and sailing to Finland aboard the royal yacht.

According to his diary, the emperor worked a lot, and took great pleasure from his leisure time. "We assembled puzzles from wooden bits, and then played dominoes and dice," he wrote. He and Crown Prince Alexei built a snow tower on their frozen pond at Tsarskoe Selo.

When winter turned to spring, they bathed an elephant in that same pond. Other warm-weather entertainments included canoeing, swimming, and playing tennis. The emperor diligently recorded the results of his royal hunts: “Pheasants - 33; partridges – 22; rabbits – 56 in total”. After sunset the royal family would often watch “funny and interesting cinematography.”

Cockfighting was all the rage among the St. Petersburg merchant class at the time. “The cocks square off, then throw themselves against each other, furiously pecking and striking with their legs and wings, until one of them falls to the ground, all bloodied, or saves itself by means of shameful retreat. The owner of the winning cockerel can make 10-15 rubles a day,” the emperor wrote.

In the 200 years since Peter the Great ascended to the Russian throne, the country had become one of Europe’s cultural powerhouses. During the reign of Alexander II, the West recognized Russian music and literature.

The great actor Konstantin Stanislavsky was the envy of every theater in the Western world. Serge Diaghilev gave the world the Ballets Russes. In 1914, Russia’s artistic achievements appeared to reach their zenith. The country’s artists and poets were famous all over the world.

Although the country even had its own equivalent of Pussy Riot. Many public readings of poetry would end in scandal.

“What if I, an uncultured barbarian, refuse to play entertaining antics before you tonight? What if I break into laughter and spit right in your face? I am a wastrel of precious words,” wrote the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.

The past in retrospect

After 1917, many began to look for – and to find – the harbingers of the later catastrophe during the seemingly peaceful first half of 1914. To many, it seemed obvious that the calm and orderly streets of St. Petersburg in July 1914 were like a thin crust on top of a boiling lava flow that would eventually break free.

Peter Durnov, the tsar’s perceptive former interior minister, gave this warning to Nicholas II: “The peasant dreams of getting ownership of somebody else’s land for free. The worker wants to grab the factory owner's entire capital and profits. They have no dreams beyond these purposes. If we allow these slogans to gain popularity among the masses, if the government allows the hotheads to agitate with impunity, Russia will be plunged into anarchy.”

On July 7, 10,000 workers in St Petersburg went on strike. By July 10 that number reached 135,000. Workers in Baku soon joined the protest. The main demand of the protesters was the abolition of the monarchy; the strike soon degenerated into violent rioting.

Protestors (described by Vladimir Lenin as “young workers”) stopped all trams in St. Petersburg. One tram driver was stoned to death. Some 200 of the city's 600 tram cars were damaged. Most people commuted via tram, and without the tram lines, there was no transport cheap enough for workers to use. The city’s plants and factories shut down.
The police were unable to control the situation. Fights often broke out between police officers and rioters. The strike ended only when World War I began.

Some historians believe that had the Duma members supported the strike, the political transformations in Russia would not have been as bloody and catastrophic as they turned out to be in 1917. Some also argue that Russia would not even have entered World War I.

On July 25, Nicholas II wrote in his diary: “On Thursday afternoon, Austria put an ultimatum to Serbia; it made several demands, including eight that are unacceptable to any independent state. The deadline for Serbia to comply expired today at 18:00 hours. All the talk everywhere is about what happens next."

The emperor hesitated for a while, but then made a fateful decision. As a long-standing ally of Serbia, Russia put its own ultimatum to Austria. Berlin threw its weight behind Vienna. A week later Germany declared war on Russia; in 10 days’ time the conflict had spiraled into a world war.
© Ogonek Magazine. 18 February, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:49 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 18 February 2014 6:58 AM EST
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Monday, 28 October 2013
Mikhailovsky Theater Marks 180th Anniversary
Topic: St. Petersburg

Gala night in honour of the German Emperor Wilhelm I at the Mikhailovsky Theater, attended by Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna. Watercolour by Mihaly Zichy (1873)
On October 27 in St. Petersburg the Mikhailovsky Theater marked its 180th anniversary with a spectacular gala-concert. In his congratulatory message to the theater, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that the jubilee is a “major event in the cultural life of St. Petersburg and the entire country.” He also noted that the theater today is “magnet for both recognized masters and beginning artistes,” ITAR-TASS reports.

The concert recreated over the course of a single evening the most remarkable moments of the theatre’s unique history, outlining the twisting path of its extraordinary fate. Vasily Barkhatov, who was one of the initiators and director of the gala concert, said, “The incredibly rich history of the theatre, while so dear to us, is not that well known to our wider audience. Even the avid theatre-goers among them may not recall the whole story. As a theatre building, the Mikhailovsky appeared before many of its distinguished counterparts; as a musical theatre with its own company of performers it began to take shape much later, although this did not prevent it from being involved in some of the most spectacular premières and events on the creative scene. With the help of our company of performers and our close friends, we have decided to present the theatre’s story in the form of a concert; to tell it in a natural and appealing way, making a living textbook out of the engaging history of the theatre.”

Founded in 1833 by decree of Tsar Nicholas I, the Mikhaylovsky Theater is one of Russia's oldest opera and ballet houses. It is situated in a historical building on the Arts Square in St. Petersburg. It is named after Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich of Russia. 
© Russkiy Mir. 28 October, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:51 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 28 October 2013 11:02 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 6 August 2013
Only in Russia!
Topic: St. Petersburg

Photo Credit:
I rise every morning at 6 am, and while I am enjoying my coffee I peruse the Russian online newspapers and other media sources. Today I came across a photograph which particularly caught my attention. People who have an interest in Imperial Russia are divided into various groups: some for example, persue it is a hobby, which includes reading books, collecting memorabilia, etc, and then there are others who are extemely passionate about all things Imperial Russian. This couple for example, have taken their particular passion for Imperial Russia to a whole new height. They are dressed as a double-headed eagle, complete with crowns, but what is so unusual about them is that they are on roller skates. Here they are skating through the streets of St. Petersburg, with the spire of the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in the background. I have travelled to Russia many, many times over the years and have seen some sights, however, nothing like this. Only in Russia! 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 06 August, 2013 


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:47 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 6 August 2013 7:10 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Russia's First Museum of Fans Opens in St. Petersburg
Topic: St. Petersburg

A new private museum devoted to the history of fans has opened in Kamennostrovsky Avenue in St. Petersburg.

This museum of fans becomes the first its kind in Russia and the third in the world. Presently there are only two other fan museums: one in London and the another one in Paris.

The collection of the new museum is based on 250 fans, which is one of the largest fan collections known in Russia. The oldest exhibits of the collection are dated to the late 17th century. Visitors will see exclusive fans created by first-class fan firms, as well as memorial samples that once belonged to famous historical persons; one of them is a flabella of the metropolitan Job of the Novgorod and Velikiye Luki. 
© Russia Info-Center. 25 June, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:41 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 25 June 2013 2:46 PM EDT
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Conservationists Fear For St. Petersburg's UNESCO Heritage Sites
Topic: St. Petersburg
Photo: The Chinese Palace at Oranienbaum, a private residence of Catherine the Great, is one of several historically important sites near St. Petersburg which conservationists fear could potentially be effected by an unbridled construction boom.
If Russian authorities have their way, the unbridled construction boom that conservationists say has spoiled many of the country's landmarks could soon reach the historic suburbs of St. Petersburg. 

While Moscow's urban growth is rapidly engulfing its satellite towns, the elegant tsarist estates that dot the former imperial capital's outskirts have remained largely untouched.

But this may not last.

Russia has submitted a document to UNESCO that significantly scales back the area of St. Petersburg that is currently protected as a World Heritage Site.

Under the proposal, large swathes of the city's historic suburbs, including a string of leafy parks, would lose the UN agency's protection.

"This would benefit developers and officials who want to build in the historical center of Peterhof, Pushkin, Pavlovsk, Oranienbaum, and other suburbs," Alexander Margolis, the head of the Russian Society for the Protection of Monuments of History and Culture in St. Petersburg, told RFE/RL. "For these people, the area's status as World Heritage Sites is a major obstacle that they would very much like to see revoked."

St. Petersburg lawmaker Aleksei Kovalyov was the first to sound the alarm after discovering the amended list of protected sites on UNESCO's website, in the section devoted to the organization's annual session currently being held in Cambodia.

He swiftly called a meeting with local officials and architectural conservationists.

An official from St. Petersburg's Committee on State Control, Use, and Protection of Historical and Cultural Landmarks sought to reassure the gathering, insisting the document would not be debated at this year's UNESCO session.

But his words did little to ease concerns.

Kovalyov maintains that the proposal is part of an aggressive campaign to seize prized land in some of the city's most prestigious outlying areas.

"It's not difficult to guess who is behind this: people who want to build in the suburbs," he says. "Over the past year alone, 2.5 million square meters have been built over in the outskirts of St. Petersburg and another 2 million square meters in adjoining territories of the [surrounding] Leningrad Oblast. These areas are listed as World Heritage Sites."

Devil In The Details

A UNESCO expert contacted by RFE/RL, however, dismissed the accusations as "a misunderstanding."

Alessandro Balsamo is a member of the UNESCO working group tasked with clarifying the boundaries of St. Petersburg and its historic suburbs as a World Heritage Site.

The group was created two years ago after the agency ruled that the site's demarcation, based on St. Petersburg's 1990 bid, was too vague.

Balsamo denies that attempts are under way to slash the list of protected areas.

"It's not at all a de-listing," he says. "On the contrary, positive steps are being made toward the conservation of all these sites. There is a clarification process because the site is very complex. There are many related component parts. There is no de-listing."

But conservationists say the devil is in the details.

Technically, the number of sub-sites in the World Heritage Site described as "Historic Center of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments" remains unchanged in the new document.

The specific areas listed as part of these sub-sites, however, have shrunk by about two-thirds compared to the version approved by UNESCO in 1990.

For the suburb of Pushkin, for instance, the new document mentions only the imperial palace and its gardens, along with one park -- dropping Pushkin's entire old town center and four parks that featured on the original application.

The changes also affect areas closer to St. Petersburg proper.

Among other modifications, what was once listed as "Neva River and its embankments" has now been abridged to "Neva River," evoking images of elite residential buildings lining the riverbanks.

Fearing The Worst

Preservationist Yulia Minutina says developers are already lobbying for several construction projects in UNESCO-listed areas, including a vast residential complex called "Yuzhny," which would encroach on some of Pushkin's protected parks.

There is even speculation that some high-ranking officials could also be eyeing these prized territories for their personal use.

A number of Moscow-based officials, including Gazprom head Aleksei Miller and Russian railways chief Vladimir Yakunin, are rumored to have built extravagant country residences just outside the capital following shady land grabs.

In that respect, St. Petersburg officials lag far behind.

The secrecy surrounding the new document has further fueled suspicions.

"The fact that this was not publicly discussed, including with the experts who prepared St. Petersburg's application for UNESCO, is worrying," says Minutina. "Excluding these important territories from the list automatically makes them more vulnerable."

So far, conservationists have been unable to identify the proposal's authors.

The Foreign Ministry, which oversees cooperation with UNESCO, denies being involved. The Culture Ministry also says it had no hand in it. Its representatives in St. Petersburg snubbed the meeting called by Kovalyov.

And although a top official from the city's committee in charge of landmark protection attended the discussion, a spokesman told RFE/RL that the committee chairman "knows nothing about this."

St. Petersburg's governor himself has reportedly professed no knowledge of the document.

"Perhaps authorities are moved by other motives," says Minutina. "But their failure to inform the public about it makes us fear the worst."
© Radio-Free Europe. 25 June, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 1:56 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 26 June 2013 12:58 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 19 December 2012
St. Petersburg Church Holds Service After Century of Silence
Topic: St. Petersburg


Photo: From 1721 until 1917, the church was located in the building at 56 English Embankment

About 50 people gathered for a traditional Christmas carol service held by the Anglican Chaplaincy of St. Petersburg in the Anglican church on 56 English Embankment on Tuesday night.

It was the first time an Anglican Christmas service had taken place in the building for nearly 100 years.

The congregation included British people who live and work in St. Petersburg, including British Consul General in St. Petersburg Gareth Ward, as well as many Russians.

“It was very important to hold this service exactly in this church that once used to be the center of the British community for more than 200 years,” said Ward. “And it is very important for the British community to have access to this church again,” he added.

Alexandra Moore, a British student who has been studying Russian in the city for the last three months and who attended the carol service, said she really enjoyed it, “especially close to Christmas.”

“We’re already in a festive mood, and this service gave an outlet for our mood,” Moore said.

Mollie Arbuthnot, another British student, said attending the service “felt like being at home.”

Adrian Terris, warden of the Anglican Church in St. Petersburg and a native Scot who came to the service with his family and children, said they had been working for many years to have an opportunity to hold events in the historic British church and were “happy” to finally enjoy it thanks to the St. Petersburg Conservatory that currently owns the building and cooperated with them on the issue.

The church is located in the main hall of one of the city’s historical buildings. Mosaics depicting Biblical subjects decorate the walls of the hall, and the original signs are in English.

The church on the English Embankment hosted its first service for nearly 100 years on Remembrance Sunday last month. Weekly services had been held for years at the Swedish Lutheran church on Malaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa. The next service to be held at the Anglican church on the English Embankment will be at 7 p.m. on Christmas day — Dec. 25 — while services on Dec. 30 and Jan. 6 will return to the Swedish church.


Photo: Members of the congregation sing during the carol service on Tuesday evening. The historic Anglican church held its first service since the 1917 revolution last month.

The English Church, originally established in Moscow by the Russia Company, moved first to Arkhangelsk and then to St. Petersburg when it became the new capital in 1712, according to the Anglican church in St. Petersburg’s website. From 1721 until 1917, the church was located in the building at 56 English Embankment, which had been purchased by the British community. In 1815, having fallen into disrepair, the church was remodeled by the architect Giacomo Quarenghi to accommodate the congregation of more than 2,500 people, creating a new columned facade on the embankment.

“The English Church [was] the focal point of the British community’s life in pre-Revolutionary St. Petersburg... Quarenghi’s church in St. Petersburg, like St. Andrew’s Church in Moscow, is a reminder of the importance of spiritual matters for the expatriate British, but the history of the English Church in Russia goes back to at least the seventeenth century,” wrote Anthony Cross, the British author of the book “By the Banks of the Neva” published by Cambridge University Press in 1997.

Sixty years after the building was remodeled, when it again fell into disrepair, the church was remodeled in the Victorian style, with the main new features being a set of stained glass windows and an organ built by Brindley and Foster in Sheffield, England, which was considered to be the finest in northern Europe. In 1917, the church was forced to relocate to Vyborg, then the second city in the newly independent Finland, and then, with the outbreak of World War II, to Helsinki.

During the Soviet period, there were occasional visits to Leningrad by the Helsinki Anglican Chaplain, but there was no regular congregation. Following the collapse of the U.S.S.R., the first Anglican celebration of the Eucharist in St. Petersburg took place on Nov. 7 1993, with many members of the Helsinki Anglican Chaplaincy present. Since then, regular Sunday services have been held and currently take place in the Swedish Lutheran Church.

The city’s Anglican church aims to provide an Anglican community for residents of St. Petersburg, international students and visitors to the city.

“We seek to support and care for each other and we offer an open welcome to those only here for a short time,” the church says on its website.

The St. Petersburg church is part of the Anglican Church’s Eastern Deanery within the Diocese in Europe. Its area dean, the Reverand Canon Dr. Simon Stephens, is chaplain of St. Andrew’s Anglican church in Moscow.

“Our services are conducted according to the traditions of the Anglican — Episcopal Church, but we welcome everybody. Our congregation is international, multicultural and multidenominational,” the church says.

St. Petersburg’s branch of the English church does not have its own permanent chaplain; services are instead led by Anglican clergy on short-term visits from the U.K. or by local clergy from the Swedish and Finnish Lutheran Churches.

© St. Petersburg Times. 19 December, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 1:54 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 19 December 2012 1:59 PM EST
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Monday, 15 October 2012
The Alexander Column, St. Petersburg
Topic: St. Petersburg

St.Petersburg has a record that few are aware of. It’s the Alexander Column on Palace Square – the tallest construction of this kind in the world. Standing at 47.7 metres, it is higher than Vendome Column in Paris, Rome’s Trajan’s Column, Pompey’s Pillar in Alexandria. Few know that the Bolsheviks, upon seizing power, wanted to decorate it with a statue of… Lenin wearing a peaked cap!

The Alexander Column was erected in august 1834 in line with a project drafted by architect August Monferran and on orders from Emperor Nicholas I to commemorate the victory of his elder brother, Emperor Alexander I, over Napoleon in the war of 1812. The column is crowned with a sculpture depicting a gilt angel with the face of Emperor Alexander I. In its left hand the angel holds a cross, while the right is raised towards the heavens. The monument took four years to build, with 1250 piles in the foundation, while a huge chunk of pink granite was brought over by barge. Two thousand soldiers and 400 workers were required to raise the column with the help of ropes. The operation itself continued 100 hours in the presence of a crowd of onlookers. As the gigantic monolith was elevated to the pedestal, a hush set in – everyone feared the tightly-drawn hemp ropes might snap under the weight. However, when the critical moment passed, the delighted Emperor quietly told the pale with worry architect: “Monferran, you have immortalized your name!”

The Alexander Column is one of the most unique constructions in the world, since its huge granite monolith weighing 600 tons is not secured in any way, and not even dug into the ground. It is held in place on the pedestal by means of its own weight, thanks to precise engineering design. Even though the Petersburg residents were well aware of that, nonetheless, some showed little faith in the architect’s daring calculations, and preferred not to walk too close to the column. In a bid to dispel these fears, when walking his dog in the morning, Monferran, would leisurely stroll around the base of the column. Moreover, he was committed to this daily routine to the day he died.

In Soviet time, when the Bolsheviks unleashed a campaign to demolish churches and monuments, there was talk of removing this “symbol of Czarism”, as they branded it, and replacing it with a “monument to comrade Lenin”.

The instigator of the absurd idea was Grigory Zinoviyev, who was heading the Petrograd council at the time. Failing to garner support for his idea of burying Lenin in Petrograd, speedily renamed into Leningrad also at his insistence, Zinoviyev launched a campaign to “immortalize the Soviet leader’s memory”. At his instructions in 1924 a special committee was established to oversee “modification of the so-called Alexander Column”. It was planned to grace the construction with a bronze figure of Lenin in jacket and peaked cap, to replace the angel holding a cross. However, soon the committee members, some of whom were acclaimed sculptors and painters, began to realize the absurdity of the concept. That is when a different, no less odd suggestion was put forward – to replace the angel on top with a figure of a worker or soldier dressed in empire style vestments. Luckily, a majority acknowledged this would look extremely ridiculous. Besides, when they calculated the costs of such a project, it amounted to an exorbitant sum, so it was decided to postpone it.

Other revolutionary hot heads of the time suggested the column be torn down entirely. However, experts issued warnings that when the huge granite monolith collapsed to the ground, the impact would be such that nearby buildings, including the Winter Palace, would most certainly sustain a certain degree of destruction.

In 1952 Leningrad’s leading architect received a “top secret” directive from Moscow: in the course of a month to replace the angel and cross with a bust of Comrade Stalin. Architects put their heads together, puzzling over how to achieve this – back in those days it would have been highly self-destructive to procrastinate with the execution of such an order. However, they succeeded in finding a way of dodging the project altogether, arguing the extreme difficulty of its execution.

To the 300th anniversary of St.Petersburg around the column pedestal they reconstructed a beautiful cast-iron railing, removed by the Bolsheviks because its ornament contained double headed eagles with crowns.

© The Voice of Russia. 14 October, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:59 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 15 October 2012 11:10 AM EDT
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