My first visit to St. Petersburg was back in 1986, when it was still known as Leningrad. Since that time I have returned year after year, witnessing the transformation of a once gray and dreary Soviet metropolis into an elegant imperial city. Today, St. Petersburg ranks as one of the world’s most beautiful cities. It’s rich history and architecture make it a photographer’s dream! The photograph in this week’s A Russian Moment is a perfect example of how easily a person can fall in love with this city.
The full moon is seen rising in the sky above the domes of the Smolny Cathedral on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. Monday night's full moon, also known as a Harvest Moon, was the third and final "supermoon" of 2014. The phenomenon, which scientists call a "perigee moon," occurs when the moon is near the horizon and appears larger and brighter than other full moons. One of St. Petersburg landmarks, the Smolny Convent's main church was built between 1748 and 1764 by Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. In 2004, the Smolny Cathedral became part of the State Museum St Isaac’s Cathedral. In April 2013, an announcement was made that the Smolny Cathedral would be returned to the Russian Orthodox Church.
A Russian Moment No. 46 - Saint Sergius of Radonezh's 700th Anniversary Topic: A Russian Moment
The beautiful crystal icon (above) in honor of the 700th anniversary of the birth of Saint Sergius of Radonezh was ordered by the Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra and made by masters of the MOISEIKIN jewellery house in Yekaterinburg. Photo Credit: Pavel Lisitsyn / RIA Novosti
2014 marks the 700th anniversary from the birth of St. Sergius of Radonezh who is one of the most highly venerated saints in Russia. St Sergius was a spiritual leader, the monastic reformer of mediaeval Russia, and the founder of the Holy Trinity St Sergius Lavra, the most important Russian monastery and the spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The monastery is situated in the town of Sergiyev Posad, about 70 km to the north-east from Moscow by the road leading to Yaroslavl, and currently is home to over 300 monks.
On July 16-18, over 100 000 pilgrims attended the Holy Trinity Monastery, where the Russian Orthodox Church celebrated the discovery of St Sergius incorrupt relics ( St Sergius died 1392, his relics were found 30 years later untouched by decay).
A Russian Moment No. 45 - Bust of Emperor Nicholas I, Vitebsky Railway Station Topic: A Russian Moment
A bust of Emperor Nicholas I sits at the top of the main staircase of the art nouveau hall of the Vitebsky Railway Station, St. Petersburg
During tsarist times, a total of 15 monuments of Emperor Nicholas I had been established in Russia. During the Soviet era they were all destroyed, except one: the equestrian statue located at St. Isaac’s Square in St. Petersburg. In recent years, a second monument to the "Iron Tsar" has been unveiled in Russia.
A bust of Nicholas I was unveiled on May 19, 2003 on the grand staircase of the elaborate art nouveau hall of the Vitebsky Railway Station (formerly known as the Tsarskoye Selo Station) in St. Petersburg. The bust is made of tinted plaster, the pedestal is made of granite, height 350 cm. The creators are sculptors V.S. and S.V. Ivanov, and the architect T.L. Toricha.
This particular railway station is a fitting location for such a monument to Emperor Nicholas I, during whose reign Russia's first railway was opened in 1837. Two plaques have been placed to the left and right of the bust. The inscription on the left reads: "The first Russian railway - Tsarskoye Selo - opened in the reign of Emperor Nicholas I, October 30, 1837." On the right: "St. Petersburg - Vitebsky Railway Station opened in the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, August 1, 1904."
A Russian Moment No 44 - Dulber, Crimea Topic: A Russian Moment
Dulber, the palace of Grand Duke Peter Nicholayevich and Grand Duchess Militsa Nicholayevna in the Crimea
It was in 1893, when the Grand Duke Peter Nicholayevich, who adored Yalta purchased a plot of land for the construction of his new residence along the southern coast of the Crimea. Constructed between 1895-1897, the majestic palace’s design was based on the sketches created by the Grand Duke himself. Having poor health since childhood, he often traveled to the Middle East on his doctor’s advice and always brought back albums filled with his sketches of architectural monuments that had impressed him. The implementation of the project was assigned to Yalta’s main city architect, Nikolai Petrovich Krasnov who had already had a rich experience in the construction of palace’s and manor homes in and around Yalta for both members of the Russian Imperial family as well as members of the aristocratic and noble families of Russia.
Built in the romantic Moorish style, the palace was noted for its original and unique design, one which was skillfully blended into the Crimean landscape. Dulber was crowned with silver cupolas and castellated parapets with balustrades. The palace’s dazzlingly white facades were adorned with carved stone inserts, blue ornament and mosaic compositions. The building, which was surprisingly simple and luxuriously elegant alike, had more than 100 rooms.
The palace’s owners enjoyed their new home and had no idea, the role Dulber would play in their destiny some years later.
In February 1918, members of the Russian Imperial family residing in the region, including the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, were placed under detention at Dulber. The following month they were freed by the Germans who had occupied the area after signing the Treaty of Brest Litovsk. They were rescued by two British battleships, HMS Marlborough and HMS Lord Nelson, which had been sent by King George V. They left Russia from Yalta in April 1919.
In 1922, one of the first Soviet health resorts was opened at Dulber, and today it ranks among one of Russia’s most prestigious sanatoriums.
During World War II, Dulber was damaged, and restored in 1946 with the cooperation of German and Romanian prisoners of war. After the war, Dulber hosted senior party leaders of the USSR and other socialist countries.
A beautiful park is laid out on the terraces surrounding the palace. It stretches from the main entrance gates to the sea. The park’s territory is adorned with numerous sculptures and arbours, and a pool with water lilies, around which a palm alley meanders. Its highlight is a miniature botanical garden with many beautiful flowers and trees.
Today Dulber is a luxury spa complex where visitors come to relax and recuperate. It is considered one of the brightest architectural gems that dot the southern coast of the Crimea.
A Russian Moment No 43 - The Nicholas Palace, St. Petersburg Topic: A Russian Moment
The monumental and intricately decorated main staircase of the Nicholas Palace in St. Petersburg
In 1862 the Russian architect Andrei Stakenschneider completed a grandiose palace in the Italianate style for Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevich, the third son of Emperor Nicholas I. After the Grand Duke's death in 1891, the palace was turned into the Xenia Institute for Noble Girls, a finishing school named after Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, the eldest daughter of Emperor Alexander III.
After the October Revolution, the Bolshevik government transferred the building to the trade unions, who made it their local headquarters and renamed it the Palace of Labour. It still fulfills this role today, although some parts of the palace have been rented out to private enterprises, including nightly concerts and folk shows for tourists.
Several historic interiors of the palace have survived, including the sumptuous entrance hall complete with it’s monumental and intricately decorated main staircase lined with columns, several rococo drawing rooms, and a Moorish boudoir. The palace was distinguished by the location of the Church of Our Lady of Sorrow (recently restored), the only family church in all the residences of the grand dukes with the entrance on the main staircase.
The former palace is not open to the public as a museum, however, attending one of the nightly performances offers visitors a glimpse inside one of the last palaces built for the Russian Imperial family in St. Petersburg.
The Fabergé Museum is located in the Shuvalov Palace on the Fontanka Embankment in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The privately owned museum was founded by the Link of Times Cultural Historical Foundation in 2004 by the Russian entrepreneur Viktor Vekselberg, in an effort to repatriate lost cultural valuables to Russia. The museum's collection contains about 4,000 works of decorative-applied and fine arts, including gold and silver items, paintings, porcelain and bronze. The core of the museum's collection is the celebrated Fabergé acquisitions, with over 1,500 choice pieces, including 9 Imperial Easter eggs created by Fabergé commissioned by the Emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II.
I toured the Faberge Museum during my most recent visit to St. Petersburg in June 2014. If you have plans to visit St. Petersburg, I should note that a tour of the Faberge Museum does require some planning. During my visit, one had to join a tour with a guide, individual visits were not yet available. I had to purchase my ticket in the morning, and return in the afternoon for the tour. Tours are offered in English or Russian and last an hour and a half, the price is 300 Rubles ($9 USD). Photography is absolutely forbidden, and there is plenty of security on hand to ensure that every one follows this rule. I was simply overwhelmed with this museum, the interiors of the Shuvalov Palace are stunning, Vekselberg spared no expense in their restoration. I am very optimistic that the Faberge Museum on the Fontanka will soon be one of St. Petersburg's most popular attractions.
The Shuvalov Palace will host the Third International Fabergé Symposium from October 2-5, 2014.
The symposium includes two days of lectures by leading Fabergé specialists culminating in a tour of The Link of Times Collection in the new St. Petersburg Fabergé Museum, tours of the Hermitage Museum, Peterhof (both with Fabergé collections), Pavlovsk Palace, Tsarskoye Selo’s Catherine Palace including the Amber Room, and sight-seeing in St. Petersburg with in-depth tours of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Yusupov Palace, and Vladimirs’ Palace.
For information on the symposium, including program with optional tours, symposium speakers, tour and food price list, travel details, map, hotel reservation form, please refer to the following link:
A Russian Moment No 41 - The Yelagin Palace, St. Petersburg Topic: A Russian Moment
The Yelagin Palace was built during the reign of Alexander I for his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (wife of Emperor Paul I)
This charming summer palace located on one of the islands in the north-west of St. Petersburg was commissioned in 1818 by Emperor Alexander I from the young architect, Carlo Rossi, who would go on to become the undisputed master of neo-classicism in the city.
The land and the original palace had been bought for the Imperial Estates from the heirs of Ivan Yelagin, a historian, poet, and statesman in the reign of Catherine the Great. Alexander chose it as the site of a summer residence for his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (wife of Emperor Paul I), who found the journey between the city and her permanent home at Pavlovsk too wearisome. Rossi was responsible not only for the design of the palace building, but also for the stables and kitchen building, the pavilion with a granite pier, the guardhouse, the music pavilion and for much of the interior decoration of the palace, which feature richly painted marble walls and intricately inlaid wooden doors. The palace was completed in 1826.
Sadly, the palace served as the summer residence of Maria Feodorovna for only two years. After Maria Feodorovna's death in 1828, the Yelagin Palace became the summer residence of her younger son, Nicholas Pavlovich (Emperor Nicholas I). The palace then remained deserted for long periods of time. Emperor Nicholas II leased it to his prime ministers such as Sergei Witte, Pyotr Stolypin, and Ivan Goremykin.
After the Revolution, the palace was briefly turned into a museum by the Bolshevik government. The palace was badly damaged during the Siege of Leningrad, but fully restored in the 1950s based on photographs and the original blueprints and used as a resort for workers. Since 1987, the Yelagin Palace has been home to the Museum of Decorative and Applied Art and Interiors from the 18th-20th Centuries. Exhibitions are hosted on the second floor of the building, while the ground floor is devoted to Rossi's restored interiors.
A Russian Moment No 40 - Monument to Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich, Tsarskoye Selo Topic: A Russian Moment
A bronze bust of Tsesarevich Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich overlooks the Great Pond in the Catherine Park at Tsarskoye Selo
A bronze bust of Tsesarevich Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich (1843-1865) mounted on a granite pedestal, is located on the banks of the Great Pond in the Catherine Park at Tsarskoye Selo. Emperor Alexander II commissioned the Russian sculptor Alexander Mikhailovich Opekushin to create the memorial bust of his son and heir to the Russian throne in 1872-1873.
In 1917 the bust was placed in the vaults of the Catherine Palace Museum. For many years after World War II it was put on display alongside other sculptures in the Hermitage Pavilion at Tsarskoye Selo. It was then moved to the Cameron Gallery, dedicated to Alexander II. Before the 300-year anniversary of Tsarskoye Selo a bronze copy of the bust was produced. In the summer of 2010, the replica was mounted on a pedestal and reinstalled at its original location in the Catherine Park. The original remains in the storage vaults of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve.
Irina Stepanenko, a senior researcher at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve notes: "Judging by the extant photographs and memoirs of his contemporaries, the Tsesarevich was quite a fragile young man who failed to achieve his birthright as heir to the throne. The sculpture looks older, more serious, than he was probably in real life."
A Russian Moment No 39 - New Jerusalem Monastery near Moscow Topic: A Russian Moment
Restoration work on the New Jerusalem Monastery near Moscow is scheduled to be completed by 2016
The New Jerusalem Monastery is located on the banks of the Istra River, 64 km to the northwest of Moscow. It was founded in 1656 by Patriarch Nikon whose vision was to recreate the holy sites of Palestine near Moscow. The monastery was built by Belorussian masters. New Jerusalem’s first architect was Peter Zaborsky. Thirty-one masters took part in the construction.
At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, the monastery became one of the places for Russian pilgrimages. In 1903, Emperor Nicholas II visited the monastery, where Patriarch Nikon is buried. Once the Moscow-Vindava railroad line was constructed, the number of visitors grew. By 1913, approximately 35,000 people visited the monastery every year.
After the October Revolution of 1918, the monastery was closed. In 1921, museums opened up on its premises.
In 1994, New Jerusalem Monastery ceased to function as a museum and returned to its status as a monastery. In 2002, the World Monuments Fund put the New Jerusalem Monastery on the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites.
In 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and then Patriarch Alexy II visited the monastery and later that year organized a Charity Fund for the Reconstruction of the New Jerusalem Monastery, with Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov appointed its head.
The following year, in March 2009, President Medvedev signed a presidential decree for the restoration and renovation of the New Jerusalem Monastery. The federal government was instructed to subsidize the monastery restoration fund from the federal budget starting in 2009, estimating it will cost about 13–20 billion Russian roubles.
In an attempt to raise funds for the monastery restoration, a museum was opened. The storage funds of the museum are overflowing with more than 170,000 historical artifacts, with only one per cent on display at any given time. In 2010, the New Jerusalem Museum welcomed 300,000 visitors. By the summer of 2011, more than 350,000 tickets had been sold. The cost of visiting the museum is approximately $2. If you’d like to take photos, that’ll cost another $5.
Restoration work on the New Jerusalem Monastery is scheduled to be completed by 2016.
A Russian Moment No 38 - Nicholas II's Birthday Marked in Ekaterinburg Topic: A Russian Moment
On May 19th, an Imperial Ball was held at the residence of the governor of the Sverdlovsk region in Ekaterinburg. The event marked the 146th birthday of Emperor Nicholas II [born on May 18th (O.S. May 6th) 1868]. In a solemn ceremony 100 high school graduates from across the region received gold and silver medals from Governor Yevgeny Kuyvasheva and Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye Metropolitan Kirill.
The medals were presented to winners of a competitive essay on historical and spiritual topics. The works were evaluated by a special committee of teachers, historians and priests, from the Urals and Moscow.
Before the ball, young people were immersed in the history of the 19th-early 20th century. They were taught etiquette, and instructed by professional dance choreographers. They also visited the sites in and around Ekaterinburg associated with the final days of the last Russian emperor, while being instructed by historians and clergymen on the life and reign of the Nicholas II.
Up until the Revolution, it was tradition to organize balls for alumni standouts. The first awards for secondary school students was established by the Emperor Nicholas I. In 1913, Emperor Nicholas II established medals for Success and Prosperity in honour of the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. Copies of these medals were distributed to Ural graduates in Ekaterinburg last week.
It is interesting to note that Nicholas II's birthday is marked each year by a growing number of schools and churches across Russia.