Stolen Imperial Eagle Returned
To Palace Square in St. Petersburg

One of the Imperial eagle ornaments on the railings around the Alexander Column

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An eagle sculpture stolen from the railings surrounding the Alexander Column on Palace Square was returned to the State Hermitage by a St. Petersburg resident Sunday, the museum announced on its web site Wednesday.

The woman, a regular visitor to the Hermitage, found the statue two weeks ago while walking in a public garden on Naberezhnaya Admirala Makarova. After her discovery, she contacted the Hermitage via email and took the sculpture back to the museum, accompanied by her son and her daughter.

The announcement is the latest episode in an ongoing saga: The eagles decorating the Alexander Column railing have continually been stolen since its reconstruction in 2003, raising questions about its security. In total, two large three-sided eagles, eighty-four smaller eagles and 46 spear-tops decorating the railings have been lost over the years.

Since 2009, twenty-four-hour surveillance cameras have been installed and a procedure established with organizers of public entertainment events taking place on the square. Although dramatically reducing the number of thefts, the system appears not to be foolproof, as three recent eagle disappearances showed.

The last problem to date seems to be the fact that the Alexander Column has officially been the property of the Hermitage since 2009, while the railing is still in the ownership of the city. At the beginning of this month, the museum complained that red tape was hampering its efforts to improve the situation.

“In order to transfer the railings to the Hermitage books, the St. Petersburg City Property Management Committee requested a great number of documents,” the museum said in a press release. “The museum will not be able to carry out restoration of the railings with vandal-proof strengthening of the eagles and other decorative elements before the gathering of the documents is complete.”

It is regrettable that the State Hermitage and security services are forced to lose a lot of time and energy to regulate a situation that would cause no problem among civilized people, the museum added.

Contacted by The St. Petersburg Times, Georgy Vilinbakhov, the deputy director of the Hermitage in charge of the matter, declined to comment on the museum’s progress in gathering the necessary papers or to comment on the dispute with City Hall.

“Unfortunately, three obligatory documents needed for the whole process to go on are still missing,” said a member of the City Property Management Committee’s press service Wednesday.

Source: St. Petersburg Times
22 October, 2010