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Thursday, 3 April 2014
Battles Loom Over Crimea's Cultural Heritage
Topic: Crimea


The beautiful Livadia Palace is among the cultural landmarks that have become a source of bitter contention since Russia annexed the Crimea from Ukraine
 
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the April 2nd, 2014 edition of The Thomson Reuters Foundation. The author Gabriela Baczynska, owns the copyright of the article presented below.

From the 16th-century Tatar Khans' palace in Bakhchisaray to the former tsarist residence that hosted the World War Two Yalta conference, Crimea's heritage sites have become a source of bitter contention since Russia seized the region from Ukraine.

For Kiev, which does not recognize Moscow's annexation of Crimea, losing the cultural and historic legacy of the Black Sea peninsula would be another major blow and Ukraine is readying for long legal battles with Russia.

"We will never give up the valuable heritage in Crimea because that is the property of Ukraine," the country's Prosecutor General, Oleh Makhnitsky, told Reuters on Wednesday.

Ukraine's Culture Minister, Yevgen Nishchuk, said Kiev was amending its laws to seek justice internationally should Russia start removing cultural goods from Crimea or take over formal supervision of the region's heritage sites.

One exhibition, put together by five museums - including four in Crimea - and currently on display in Amsterdam, has already fallen hostage to the conflict over the region, the worst stand-off between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

Both Crimea's pro-Russian authorities as well as Kiev claim ownership of the exhibition, titled "Crimea - Gold and secrets of the Black Sea", which features golden artefacts and precious gems dating back to the fourth century BC.

The show is operated by the University of Amsterdam and spokesman Yasha Lange said a legal investigation was going on to determine to whom the collection should be returned after it closes at the end of August.

"The exhibition should return to Crimea," said Valentina Mordvintseva, who works for Ukraine's National Academy of Sciences in Crimea's provincial capital of Simferopol and who helped Amsterdam's Allard Pierson Museum set up the exhibit.

"So it has become a political issue," she told Reuters. "If the things end up held in Kiev, I think it would be bad for Ukraine itself because it would look like vengeance."

She was referring to a March 16 referendum in Crimea, an impoverished region of two million with a narrow ethnic Russian majority, which yielded an overwhelming victory for those advocating a split from Ukraine to join Russia.

Kiev and the West dismissed the hastily arranged vote as a sham but Moscow used it to justify formally incorporating Crimea on March 21.

Crimea has since then introduced the Russian rouble as its currency and switched to Moscow time, while Russian troops have taken over Ukrainian military bases, forcing Kiev to pull out its soldiers with their families.

TATARS, TSARS AND STALIN

Prosecutor Makhnitsky said the Justice Ministry in Kiev was preparing to register lawsuits with international organisations to assert its rights to the historic and cultural sites in Crimea.

The ministry refused immediate comment on what exactly it plans to do, but any such endeavor is likely to be an uphill battle as Russia controls the region.

Underscoring how any efforts from Kiev could face further obstacles, some directors of Crimea museums have welcomed unification with Russia in the hope it will lead to increased budget support from Moscow.

Valery Naumenko, director of a museum housed in the historic residence of the Crimean Khans in Bakhchisaray, complained that Kiev had not allocated any funds for the upkeep of the palace, which is dominated by two slender minarets.

"Ukraine has no resources and no moral right after these two decades to put up a big fight over Crimea's heritage," he told Reuters. "Everybody understands that the decision is taken and we must all get used to living under the new conditions."

"The sooner politicians and culture workers in Kiev understand that, the sooner life in Crimea and Ukraine will improve," he said.

In the elegant Livadia Palace in Yalta, director Larisa Dekusheva said she hoped to see more Russian tourists, now that Moscow has said it is determined to make Crimea a more popular holiday destination.

The white stone palace, sitting on a slope with spectacular views over the Black Sea, was the last residence built for the tsars before the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and served as a tuberculosis sanatorium afterwards.

In February 1945 the site hosted the seven-day Yalta Conference, when Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt made key decisions on the post-war order.

"It was originally the property of the Romanov family, that is of the tsars of Russia," Dekusheva added, saying Moscow had historic rights to the palace and Kiev should not seek any compensation.

Crimea's new government has angrily dismissed any talk of potential compensation claims for the property it nationalized in separating from Ukraine.

"We will not pay a thing, we will make our case in proper legal proceedings. If such claims are presented, we will come up with counterclaims," Rustam Temirgaliyev, Crimea's First Deputy Prime Minister, told Reuters in late March. 
 
© Gabriela Baczynska @ The Thomson Reuters Foundation. 03 April, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:27 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 3 April 2014 6:36 AM EDT
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Saturday, 22 March 2014
Crimean Estates: Architectural Gems of the Peninsula
Topic: Crimea

Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the March 21st, 2014 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author Snezhana Sherstyuk owns the copyright of the article presented below. The photographs are copyright of Lori, Legion Media.

The favorite getaway of the Romanov family, a point of inspiration for the Russian artistic elite, Crimea is overloaded with long-lasting architectural legacy.

While on vacation in the Crimea, they would spend days, months and years here. The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy wanted to be buried here, the legendary opera singer Feodor Chaliapin worked on his autobiography in his Crimean Manor, and the seascape painter Aivazovsky, the hero of the Sotheby's auction, painted his famous landscapes on the terrace of his house. The last Russian emperor admired the Crimean palaces. RBTH presents a guide mostly for Crimea’s man-made attractions and real architectural gems that are strewn about the Black Sea coast.

The Swallow’s Nest

The residence was built after the Russian–Turkish war of the late 19th century for a retired Russian general whose name was not preserved in the history. However, the building itself, was named “Castle of Love" by its first owner, became immortalized in the paintings of Ivan Aivazovsky and on photographs of the time.

Since then, the construction on Mount Avrorina has changed its owners several times – it was owned by the family of the court physician, then – a Moscow merchant's wife Rachmaninova. She demolished the original wooden structure and replaced it with a castle, also made of wood. Rachmaninova was the one who gave the castle its present name – "Swallow's Nest.”

The last owner of “Swallow’s Nest", an oil industrialist Steinheil holds the credit for its medieval courtly architecture which is preserved to this day. A miniature Gothic castle, built above a 40-meter cliff became Crimea’s s future symbol – it was rebuilt in 1912. Only a living room could fit inside the building, and the stairs leading to two bedrooms, are located in a two-story tower.

At the beginning of the First World War, Baron Steinheil went to Germany, and sold the "Swallow's Nest” castle to a Moscow merchant, who opened a restaurant there. After his death, the restaurant was closed. After a 9-magnitude earthquake in 1927 the castle was declared dangerous and was closed for 40 years. In the restored “Swallow’s Nest “a restaurant was open again.

The castle is located near the village of Gaspra, near Yalta.

The Livadia Palace

One of the most luxurious residences of Crimea, the Livadia Palace is the last building erected in the Russian Empire for the royal family.

An elongated white building with an abundance of arched apertures in the Italian style, it was built in 1911. The author of the project was the Crimean architect Nikolai Krasnov; according to some sources, Emperor Nicholas II spent about 4 million prerevolutionary gold rubles on the construction (for comparison – the average civil servant in 1911 received an annual salary of 4,000 rubles, that is 1,000 times less). In 1993, the Livadia Palace was awarded the status of a museum.

The palace is located in the village of Livadia, 3 kilometers from the city of Yalta.
 

Panina Palace

A medieval palace with beautiful crenellated towers, with the ivy twined around it, and a facade in Gothic style, was built in the first half of the XIX century; it belonged to the noble old Russian family of Prince Golitsyn.

The building was designed by the famous modernist architect Fyodor Shechtel. From the Golitsyns, the palace in Gaspra was transferred to the Kochubeev noble family, and then – to the heiress of one of the richest families – Sophia Panina. The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy associated two years of his life with her name and this palace. During his stay in Gaspra, the writer had such visitors as Chekhov, Gorky, Kuprin and Chaliapin.

In his last trip to Gaspra Tolstoy caught a cold: in the midst of his illness, he felt so bad that his doctors had given up all hope of his recovery. Leo Tolstoy did not want to cause anyone any trouble with his body, and wished to hold his burial in the Crimea, for which he bought a small plot of land adjacent to the estate. However, Tolstoy recovered and lived another 8 years.

The palace is located in the village of Gaspra. Currently, there is a children's sanatorium “Yasnaya Polyana”, and on the first floor there is an exposition dedicated to the writer.

Yusupov Palace

The palace in Neo-Romanesque style with elements of the Renaissance was built by the Crimean architect Nikolay Krasnov for Prince Felix Yusupov, the former Governor-General of Moscow. The last reconstruction was led by the same Nikolai Krasnov; Yusupov Jr., (Felix’s heir known as the accomplice in the murder of Grigory Rasputin) was left unhappy with the estate’s view, he spoke of it as of an ugly building with gray walls, not appropriate for the seashore.

Sculptures of lions, marble mythological characters of ancient Greece brought from Venice, decorate the arches and the staircases. The interior is dominated by the modernist style.

The founder of the Yusupov Palace was gardener Carl Kebahom, famous at the time. The park covers an area of 16.5 hectares, on which 7,500 plants – ornamental trees and shrubs are located.

The palace is located in the village Koreiz .
 

Massandra Palace

The palace built in the style of Louis XIII soon lost it's master. The author of the project was a French architect Etienne Bouchard, who worked for a wealthy noble family representative Prince Semen Vorontsov. However, the future owner never saw the embodied project – due to Vorontsov’s death in 1882, the construction was suspended. 7 years later the estate was bought for the Emperor Alexander III. The palace’s construction was completed in 3 years, however, the Emperor could not live here either – he died in 1894, and the estate passed to Nicholas II.

In the 30s of the XX century, the palace became a sanatorium called "Proletarian health." After WWII state dacha "Stalinskaya" was located here, where Stalin, Khrushchev and later Brezhnev would stay.

The palace is located in the village of Verkhniaya Massandra.

The Vorontsov Palace

The palace was built in the mid 19th century for the Governor-General of New Russia Mikhail Vorontsov. The author of the project was Queen Victoria’s court architect Edward Blore – the famous Buckingham Palace of London was erected with his participation, as well as the Sir Walter Scott's castle in Scotland. The palace’s South facade, facing the sea, is built in the Moorish style, and is somewhat reminiscent of the famous Alhambra Palace of the Arab rulers of Spain in Granada, built in the late 14th century.

On the border of the façade’s deep niches the stylized Arabic inscription is repeated six times; it is the motto of the Grenada caliphs: "There is no victor but Allah!" The "Lion Terrace" is located in front of the palace, which descends from the monumental staircase with three pairs of white marble lions. The vigilant lions over the upper stairs imitate Antonio Canova’ lions from the tomb of Pope Clement XII in Rome.

The rear facade of the palace and its western part is a romantic architectural variation on the theme of "style Tudor" of the XVI – early XVII centuries. There are about 150 rooms including barns, in the building’s palace complex.

At present, the palace is a museum. Vorontsov Palace is located in Alupka.
 
 

Count Kuznetsov’s Palace (Chaliapin’s House)

In the mid 19th century, the tea and porcelain King Count Alexander Kuznetsov acquired the mansion in Foros – the Kuznetsov couple suffered from tuberculosis and were forced to live in the Crimea.The Kuznetsov palace was built in the style of Russian classicism, with it's characteristic simplicity and rigor of forms. The austere beauty of the Kuznetsov’s mansion is emphasized by the parks’s natural luxury. There are more than 200 species and forms of trees and shrubs gathered here, not only characteristic of the Crimea, but also exotic ones: palm trees, magnolias, redwoods, cedars, pines, stone pine, cypress , and fir. The "paradise” with a picturesque cascade of six small lakes is particularly noteworthy.

After Kuznetsov’s death, the estate became the property of industrialist Ushakov. In 1916, in his house, writer Alexei Gorky and singer Feodor Chaliapin were working on an autobiographical book about Chaliapin "Pages from my life" for six weeks.

To date, the palace is a building of the sanatorium in Foros.

Ayvazovsky House and Art Gallery

The seascape painter Ilya Aivazovsky’s National Art Gallery is located in the town of Feodosia. It was the first one artist – museum in the territory of the Russian Empire.

After Ivan Aivazovsky’s death in 1900, the Gallery, according to his will, was assigned to the artist’s hometown. The gallery is a collection of nearly 12,000 works on the marine themes, it has the world's largest collection of works by Aivazovsky (417 works).

Aivazovsky’s Gallery is located in the town of Feodosia (2, 4 Galereynaya Ulitsa). 
 
© Snezhana Sherstyuk @ Russia Beyond the Headlines. 22 March, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:42 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 22 March 2014 6:05 AM EDT
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