On This Day: the Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III Opens in St. Petersburg

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Artist: Karl Osipovich Broz

On This Day: 19th [O.S. 7th] March 1898, the Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III officially opened in St. Petersburg.

The museum was established in the Mikhailovsky Palace, a splendid Neoclassical residence of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich (1798-1849).

The museum was established on 13th April 1895, upon enthronement of Nicholas II to commemorate his father, Alexander III. Its original collection was composed of artworks taken from the Hermitage Museum, Alexander Palace, and the Imperial Academy of Arts.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the museum and its collection were nationalized and renamed the State Russian Museum. Today, the museum is the world’s largest depository of Russian art with more than 400,000 items.

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Bust of Alexander III on the main staircase of the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

The portrait (above) depicts Emperor Nicholas II and his mother the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, standing before the bust of Alexander III, located on the main staircase of the museum. Several years ago, the bust was returned to its original place on the staircase of the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

© Paul Gilbert. 18 March 2019

 

Former Service Building of the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg to be Auctioned

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The Russian Auction House (Росси́йский аукцио́нный до́м РАД) have announced plans to auction the former service building of the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg.

The former service building or service wing, is situated on the opposite side of the courtyard of the Marble Palace, where Paolo Troubetzkoy’s famous equestrian monument of Emperor Alexander III (1909) is located. The Marble Palace complex is situated on Ulitsa Millionnaya, backing the Neva River.

The service wing was built in the early classicism style by the Russian architect Pyotr Egorovich Egorov in 1780-1787. simultaneously with the Marble Palace (1768–1785). The original appearance of the building is best represented in the paintings of the time, including “View of the Palace Embankment” by F. Ya. Alekseyev in 1794 (photo below) or in the painting by B. Patersen in 1806.

At first the building was two-story, painted yellow. The second floor of the building housed the apartments of courtiers, kitchens, workshops, and various ancillary services. There were also apartments for guests, and rooms for hosting luncheons and tea parties. The first floor housed horse stables and carriages, as well as a saddle shop (for repairing the harness), and a blacksmith workshop.

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View of the Palace Embankment. 1794. Artist: Fyodor Yakovlevich Alekseyev (1753-1824)

The redevelopment of the service wing was conceived for the marriage of the new owner of the Marble Palace – Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich (1827-1892), the second son of Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855). The Russian architect Alexander Pavlovich Bryullov (1798-1877) added a third floor, and a frieze, which consisted of battle scenes on historical subjects involving horses. The model was the frieze of the Greek Parthenon, and depicted 39 human figures dressed in the uniforms of ancient Greece and 33 figures of horses.

The last owner of the Marble Palace complex was Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich (1858-1915). 

In 1917 the Marble Palace and the Service building became state property. After 1917 the building was converted into a hostel for scientists. From 1919 to 1926, the famous Russian poet Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) with her second husband, Assyriologist Vladimir Kazimirovich Shileyko (1891-1930) lived in a room facing the Field of Mars and Suvorov Square.

In 1932-1933 a fourth floor was added to the former Service Building. During the Soviet years, it was used for educational purposes, and from 2011, the North-West State Correspondence Technical University.

The current owner has suggested that the building would be suitable as a luxury 5-star hotel.

© Paul Gilbert. 18 March 2019

This Week in the News – The Romanovs and Imperial Russia

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PHOTO: The entrance to the Last Days of the Last Tsar exhibition evokes the Ipatiev House, site of the imperial family’s death, enclosed by a tall fence. The exhibition at the Russian History Museum on the grounds of Holy Trinity Monastery, has been extended to 17th May 2019

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This Week in the News includes a link and brief summary to full-length articles published in the past week from English language media and internet sources.

This initiative is a courtesy to those who do not have a Facebook account, or for some reason cannot view the Royal Russia and Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint. Facebook pages.

Royal Russia is pleased to offer our dedicated followers with the following 5 new posts, on a variety of topics covering the Romanov dynasty, their legacy, monarchy, and the history of Imperial and Holy Russia, for the week ending 24 February 2019:

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Russian historian Peter Multatuli, Ph.D. speaking in Ekaterinburg

THIS WEEKS’ ARTICLES – click on the red headline text below to read the respective articles

New web site dedicated to the era of Nicholas II launched in Ekaterinburg + PHOTOS

On 16th February 2019, historian Peter Multatuli, Ph.D., arrived in the Urals to present a unique project: the presentation of the new web site “The Russian Empire in the Era of the Reign of Emperor Nicholas II ” («Российская империя в эпоху правления императора Николая Второго»). Read more about this new Russian language site, and my notes on the importance of an English language version.

The Atmosphere of Love in the Russian Royal Family

Nowadays, more than 100 years after the Russian Revolution, the Russian royal family is venerated all over the world.

Amazingly enough, Nicholas II kept diaries for almost forty years, which unveil a great deal of what seemed hidden. What an ineffable joy it is to read the entries and spend each day of the Tsar’s day-to-day life with him and his family: during his multitudinous receptions, work, and gentle strolls with friends in St. Petersburg, Tsarskoye Selo, or in Moscow.

On the Canonization of the Royal Martyrs

Never forget that when the Church glorifies a saint, the act itself does not create the saint, it only declares to the people that this person or this group of people have been glorified in God.

Billboards depicting Nicholas II in Novosibrisk

In February 2019, a billboard bearing a portrait of Nicholas II and family and the inscription “Holy royal passion-bearers pray for us” was established on Karl Marx Square, in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

Old Ladoga: The way of the Vikings + PHOTOS

Architectural historian and photographer William Brumfield writes in RBTH, about the ancient Rus town which inspired Nicholas Roerich, whose paintings colorfully recreated visions of Viking boats here.

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dubai january 2019

PHOTO: Head of the Russian Imperial House HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, during a visit to Dubai, January 2019

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Disclaimer: the links published on this page are for information purposes only,
and may not reflect the opinions of Paul Gilbert and/or Royal Russia

Russia through the lens of Prokudin-Gorsky – a century later

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Sergei Mikailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863 – 1944)

Sergei Mikailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863 – 1944) is best known for his pioneering work in colour photography and his effort to document early 20th-century Imperial Russia.

Using a railroad-car darkroom provided by Tsar Nicholas II, Prokudin-Gorskii traveled the Russian Empire from around 1909 to 1915 using his three-image colour photography to record its many aspects. While some of his negatives were lost, the majority ended up in the U.S. Library of Congress after his death. Starting in 2000, the negatives were digitised and the colour triples for each subject digitally combined to produce hundreds of high-quality colour images of century-ago Russia.

In recent years, a group of ambitious Russian photographers revisited the places documented a century earlier by Prokudin-Gorskii and photographed them as they look today. The 14 photographs shown below, depict churches, monasteries, monuments, and other buildings which have been separated by a century of wars, revolution and changes of borders. They are remarkable, for they show how little some of them have changed in a hundred years.

Note: the photos on the left were taken by Produkin-Gorskii more than 100 years ago, while the photos on the right were taken recently be contemporary Russian photographers:

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Click HERE to browse the The Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection in the collection of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

Click HERE to read my article Old Ekaterinburg through the lens of Prokudin-Gorsky featuring 22 colour photos.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 19 February 2019

This Week in the News – The Romanovs and Imperial Russia

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PHOTO: ‘A Guarded Secret: Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra and Tsarevich Alexei’s Hemophilia’ by Julia P. Gelardi

Published in January 2019. Available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon

In the summer of 1904 as Russia was convulsed in the Russo-Japanese War, an event of great joy occurred when a baby boy was born to Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra. After the arrival four daughters, the longed-for male heir to the Romanov dynasty, Tsarevich Alexei, had completed the family of Nicholas and Alexandra. The happiness of the imperial couple was soon dashed, however, by the tragic news that their only son and heir was afflicted with the painful and often fatal, bleeding disease, hemophilia. The ill-health of the heir to the throne was a well-guarded secret that cast a deep shadow over the final years of imperial Russia. Here is the dramatic story of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra during those years as they struggled to deal with their son’s infirmity which brought the controversial Rasputin into the imperial court. Follow their story from the joyful day of Tsarevich Alexei’s birth in 1904 to its moving and dramatic denouement.

Julia P. Gelardi is an independent historian, and author of European royal history: ‘Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria’ (2005); ‘In Triumph’s Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters, and the Price They Paid for Glory’ (2008); and ‘From Splendor to Revolution: The Romanov Women’ 1847–1928 (2011)

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This Week in the News includes a link and brief summary to full-length articles published in the past week from English language media and internet sources.

This initiative is a courtesy to those who do not have a Facebook account, or for some reason cannot view the Royal Russia and Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint Facebook  pages.

Royal Russia is pleased to offer our dedicated followers with the following 8 new posts, on a variety of topics covering the Romanov dynasty, their legacy, monarchy, and the history of Imperial and Holy Russia, for the week ending 17 February 2019:

THIS WEEKS’ ARTICLES – click on the red headline text below to read the respective articles:

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UPDATE: ‘Nicholas II. Portraits & Monuments’ by Paul Gilbert

I am pleased to announce that my new book ‘Nicholas II. Portraits & Monuments‘, will now be published in two separate volumes during the next few months.

Religion and the Church Under Nicholas II + PHOTOS

Emperor Nicholas II, as a Christian Sovereign, was the Supreme Defender and Guardian of the dogmas of the predominant Faith and is the Keeper of the purity of the Faith and all good order within the Holy Church.

Nicholas II and the Traditions of the Romanov Dynasty

by Russell Martin, PhD, Professor of History, Westminster College, New Wilmington, PA

In his lecture, Dr. Martin refers to an article “Five Myths About the Romanovs,” by Robert Service, published in the October 26th edition of ‘The Washington Post’.

Sovietologist Robert Service is the author of ‘The Last of the Tsars. Nicholas II and the Russian Revolution’, published in 2017 by Pan Macmillian UK.

His publisher refers to his book on Nicholas II as a “masterful study”, yet in reality it is nothing short of a diatribe, in which the author refers to Russia’s last tsar as “a fascist before the word was coined”.

Central African Republic and Maldives Issued Stamps in Honor of 100th Anniversary of the Royal Martyrs + PHOTOS

The Imperial family were honored in Africa and Asia in 2018. Both the Central African Republic in Africa and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean issued commemorative stamps in honor of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.   

Eternal Present – The Martyrdom of the Romanov Royal Martyrs + VIDEOS

In December 2018, using excerpts from the Russian film Искупительная жертва (Redemptive sacrifice), the Monastery of Mesa Potamos has published a two-part video with a recreation of the martyrdom of the royal Martyrs and the tragic procedure of the disposal of their bodies.

Trans-Siberian train features Orthodox chapel on board

A journey across Siberia on an old steam train has been on my bucket list for many years, this short article just sweetened the pot.

Repin’s ‘Ceremonial Meeting Of The State Council 1901’ to be displayed in Moscow, from 16 March to 18 August 2019 + VIDEO

The staff of the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, have began packing up 78 paintings by Ilya Repin (1844-1930) to participate in an upcoming Ilya Repin exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

The most prominent of the paintings in the exhibition is one of the most significant and largest paintings from the collection of the State Russian Museum: the large-format canvas “Ceremonial Meeting Of The State Council 7 May 1901 …,” 

New Conspiracy Theory Claims Medvedev Descendant of Nicholas II

Want a good laugh? Check out this latest conspiracy theory from Russia – that PM Medvedev is a descendant of Nicholas II

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PHOTO: The majestic Ceremonial Entrance Hall in the State Historical Museum in Moscow, is decorated with “The Genealogical Tree of Russian Tsars” painted on the vaults.

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Disclaimer: the links published on this page are for information purposes only,
and may not reflect the opinions of Paul Gilbert and/or Royal Russia

This Week in the News – The Romanovs and Imperial Russia

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PHOTO: father and son: Emperor Nicholas II with his only son and heir Tsesarevich Alexei, on board the Imperial yacht ‘Standart’ 1910

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This Week in the News includes a link and brief summary to full-length articles published in the past week from English language media and internet sources.

This initiative is a courtesy to those who do not have a Facebook account, or for some reason cannot view the Royal Russia OR Nicholas II Facebook pages.

Royal Russia is pleased to offer our dedicated followers with the following 5 new posts, on a variety of topics covering the Romanov dynasty, their legacy, monarchy, and the history of Imperial and Holy Russia, for the week ending 9 February 2019:

THIS WEEKS’ ARTICLES – click on the red headline text below to read the respective articles

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SOVEREIGN No. 11 – ‘ROYAL RUSSIA PAPERS’ 2019 ISSUE – NOW IN STOCK!

I am pleased to offer copies of our first publication for 2019, and our 3rd SPECIAL ISSUE published in the past year – SOVEREIGN No. 11

This issue features 154 pages, 76 photos, 11 articles, which were previously published in back issues of ROYAL RUSSIA, between 2011 – 2017.

As back issues are now going out of print, I want to preserve some of the Royal Russia articles regarding the life and reign of Nicholas II for current and future Sovereign readers.

‘My mission to clear the name of Russia’s last tsar’ – Paul Gilbert + PHOTOS

In 2019, I will be devoting much of my time and resources to the research and writing on the much slandered tsar.

This includes NEW web site and FB pages, new journal and book publications, Nicholas II Discussion Group, media coverage, and more.

Landmark Joint UK-Russia Exhibit to Show Royals, Crimean War at Queen’s Gallery + PHOTOS

Sputnik spoke to Stephen Patterson, co-curator of the ‘Russia, Royalty & the Romanovs’ exhibition and Sophie Gordon, head of photographs and curator of ‘Shadows of War: Roger Fenton’s Photographs of the Crimea, 1855’ display to get an inside look at the gallery, which is on display until 28 April.

Crowned with ceramics: The Church of the Savior in Belozersk + PHOTOS

Architectural historian and photographer William Brumfield writes in RBTH, about this religious site, which boasts a prime example of early Russian craftsmanship.

Russia: End of the imperialist line on the Trans-Siberian Express train

I am always curious to know the effect a visit to the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg, has on first-time visitors.

I am equally curious to know how the murder of the Imperial family has on Russians, a century after the regicide of 17 July 1918.

Tim Warrington shares both during his visit to the Church last summer. His article has been published in the February 5th edition of ‘The New Zealand Herald’.

When asked whether the killing of the tsar’s children was justifiable, do take note of the heartless comments made by his guide, I wonder if she could also justify Lenin’s Red Terror?

NEWS ABOUT NICHOLAS II. EMPEROR. TSAR. SAINT

Please note that ALL news stories about Nicholas II are now posted in my NEW web site Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint – please take a moment to review the latest posts by clicking HERE

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PHOTO: The Chinese Palace in Oranienbaum has received a wonderful gift: a rare 18th century porcelain clock from the era of King Louis XV of France (1710-1774).

The clock was purchased with funds from the Transsoyuz Charitable Foundation, and will soon decorate the interior of the Fabric Bedchamber of the Chinese Palace.

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Disclaimer: the links published on this page are for information purposes only,
and may not reflect the opinions of Paul Gilbert and/or Royal Russia

Reconstruction of Tsarskoye Selo Monuments Destroyed During WWII will Take 25 years

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Restoring the Golden Gate and fence of the Catherine Palace

The complete restoration of the architectural monuments of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve (GMZ) destroyed during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), the main residence of the Russian emperors and empresses near St. Petersburg, will take at least another quarter of a century. This assessment was made last week by Deputy Director for Research and Education Iraida Bott, during a press conference marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Pushkin from Nazi occupation.

“I think that it will take least 25 years,” said Bott, when asked the question of how long it will take to recreate all the monuments of the museum-reserve that were damaged in wartime. Most of them were destroyed in the first year of occupation, which lasted a total of four years.

Recreation of the Catherine Palace

Two-thirds of the main monument of the museum-reserve – the Catherine Palace – have now been restored, its restoration has been going on for more than six decades, since 1957. Among the most significant objects that have been recreated in recent years is the Golden Enfilade. “it will soon be completely restored, and in March of this year we will open the Church of the Resurrection of Christ – the last interior created by the famous architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771). The Imperial Chapel was consecrated on 30th July 1756, and thus the entire Golden Enfilade will be brought back to life,” explained Bott.

One of the greatest achievements during the reconstruction of the monuments lost during the Great Patriotic War is the reconstruction of the Amber Room. The unique interior, presented to Tsar Peter I by the Prussian king Friedrich-Wilhelm I, disappeared without a trace during the war years; its fate remaining a mystery to this day. Work on the recreation of the “eighth wonder of the world” lasted twenty-four years and on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the foundation of St Petersburg the restored legendary Amber Room received its first visitors. 

“The greatest sadness and the greatest hope of my generation is to see the state rooms and private quarters of the Empress Catherine II restored. It is hard to imagine when these rooms will be realized,” said Bott. In the meantime, there are plans to recreate the rooms of Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna in the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace.

Later this year, noted Bott, one of the most grand palace halls of the 18th century – the Lyon Hall will be opened. “This is the ceremonial hall, located next to the Arabesque Hall, which was also created in Catherine’s times, and underwent significant changes in the middle of the 19th century. We will restore it to its pre-war look,” she added.

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The Alexander Palace was closed for restoration in August 2015

Alexander Palace and the lost exhibits

“Besides the Catherine Palace, we still have the Alexander Palace and a large number of pavilions to restore and recreate in the Alexander Park, all of which require a lot of work,” said Bott. In recent years, the Martial Chamber, the Arsenal and Chapelle pavilions were opened to visitors. In 2019, the first eight rooms of the Alexander Palace are scheduled to be opened.

The museum is working hard to return the lost exhibits to the collection.

“Before the war, our entire museum collection was catalogued, so we have the exact numbers — about 110 thousand pieces. Of course, not all of them could be evacuated, only the finest items were evacuated – about 19 thousand items. Today we have in our collection more than 50 thousand items: these include items that we acquired at auctions, and those that we received from donors and sponsors. Descendants of soldiers and civilians who stole items as a souvenir from the palaces during the war years have returned more than a hundred items,” said Bott.

It is interesting to note that when the Alexander Palace was handed over to the Ministry of Defence in 1951, a total of 5,615 items that were still among the evacuated items in the Central Repository of Museum Stocks from the Suburban Palace-Museums, were transferred to the Pavlovsk Palace State Museum. Of these, nearly 200 pieces were from the Alexander Palace ceremonial halls. These included 39 pieces of porcelain, 41 paintings, 73 decorative bronze pieces, and 28 pieces of furniture. Let us hope that as a gesture of goodwill, that the Pavlovsk Palace-Museum administration will do the right thing, and return all of these items back to the Alexander Palace – PG

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 January 2019

Russian Imperial House Considers Changes to Law of Succession

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Alexander Zakatov and Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna

HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, has not yet received the blessing from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to change the law of succession of the Imperial House of Russia. “But the dialogue is underway”, said the Director of the Chancellery of the Head of the Russian Imperial House, Alexander Zakatov, during an interview with the Russian news agency Политика сегодня (Politics Today). 

The Decree was amended on 20 March 1820, by Emperor Alexander I, who issued a Manifesto stipulating that, “if any person in the Imperial Family enters into a marriage with a person of a status unequal to His, that is, not belonging to any Royal or Ruling House, in such a case the person in the Imperial Family cannot pass on to the other person the rights which belong to Members of the Imperial Family, and the children issuing from such a marriage have no right of succession to the throne.”

Zakatov said that the question of changing the law is being considered, as the head of the Imperial House has repeatedly stated publicly. 

“The Grand Duchess has repeatedly stated publicly that it is possible after some time to make adjustments to the rules of succession to the throne, as has been done by many European houses. She has always emphasized that such a change is possible only with the consent and blessing of the church. The Grand Duchess consults with the Patriarch on all matters,” said the director of the office.

 He stressed that there is no rush to change the rules of inheritance of the throne. 

It should be noted that the son and heir of Her Imperial Highness Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich is now 37 years old (born 13 March 1981), and still unmarried. A lack of eligible royal princesses, let alone one who would convert to Orthodoxy certainly narrows his chances of entering into an equal marriage. A change to the dynastic succession, however, will now clear the path for George to marry for love.

It is very timely also, that such a change should come after the deaths of Princes Nicholas (1922-2014) and Dimitri Romanovich (1926-2016), both  former heads of the Romanov Family Association, whose current members are sure to cry foul, setting the stage for further family squabbles.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 28 January 2019

This Week in the News – The Romanovs and Imperial Russia

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PHOTO: A beautiful aerial view of St. Catherine’s Cathedral in Pushkin – Tsarskoye Selo

The cathedral was originally built in 1835-40 at the behest of Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855). Funds for its construction were allocated from the treasury, and Konstantin Ton (1794-1881) was appointed chief architect of the project. The five-domed cathedral could hold up to 2,000 people.

In 1939, St. Catherine’s Cathedral was destroyed by the Soviets, a park was laid out on its territory. In 1960, a monument to Vladimir Lenin was erected, but dismantled in 2004.

Situated in the heart of the city – between the Alexander Palace and the Tsarskoye Selo railway station, the cathedral was recreated in it’s original Russian Classical style between 2007–2010.

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This Week in the News includes a link and brief summary to full-length articles published in the past week from English language media and internet sources.

This initiative is a courtesy to those who do not have a Facebook account, or for some reason cannot view the Royal Russia Facebook page.

Royal Russia is pleased to offer our dedicated followers with the following new posts, on a variety of topics covering the Romanov dynasty, their legacy, monarchy, and the history of Imperial and Holy Russia, for the week ending 26 January 2019:

THIS WEEKS’ ARTICLES and POSTS – click on the red headline text below to read the respective articles

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NICHOLAS II. EMPEROR. TSAR. SAINT

Officially launched on 22 January, my NEW web page will feature articles, news from Russian media, exhibitions, videos, photos, book reviews, and more. This new site will compliment my Facebook page of the same name. It currently features 9 posts, including 4 articles, a podcast, and numerous photos of Russia’s last emperor and tsar.

Nicholas and Alexandra: The Letters – Episode 1

Historian Suzannah Lipscomb explores Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra’s story through their own letters, which were written in English. The first episode was aired on TVO last night (January 21st). Duration: 1 hour

Treasure unearthed: Items owned by disgraced Russian princeling found in Uzbekistan

Archeologists in Uzbekistan have unearthed a treasure estimated to worth at least $1 million USD, which includes some items owned by Grand Duke Nicholas Konstantinovich (1850-1918) a controversial member of the Romanov Imperial family, an exile who became a patron of the arts.

Staritsa and the Dormition Monastery: Ghosts from the time of Ivan the Terrible + PHOTOS

Architectural historian and photographer William Brumfield writes in RBTH, about this small town which offers a history lesson into Russia’s distant past.

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PHOTO: Nicholas II with his mother Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna and his uncle Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (left) at the Lower Dacha, Peterhof, 1898

Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

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Disclaimer: the links published on this page are for information purposes only,
and may not reflect the opinions of Paul Gilbert and/or Royal Russia

75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Peterhof

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Ruined Grand Peterhof Palace and Grand Cascade, 1942

On 19th January 1944, troops of the 2nd Shock Army of the Leningrad Front broke through the blockade of New Peterhof and liberated the city from Nazi occupation. As a result of the January Thunder offensive in the days which followed, all the suburban Imperial palace-museums of Leningrad were liberated: Peterhof, Pushkin (Catherine and Alexander Palaces at Tsarskoye Selo), Pavlovsk, and Gatchina. The Peterhof Museum-Reserve was in sheer ruin. During it’s two year occupation, New Peterhof was on the front line, under constant artillery shelling and aerial bombardment from both German and Soviet forces.

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Soviet soldiers survey the ruins of the Grand Palace, Peterhof in 1944

The eloquent testimony of liberated Peterhof was left by the senior researcher and museum curator M.A. Tikhomirova. According to Tikhomirova, who visited the city on 31 January 1944, “Peterhof is in an horrific state. The Grand Palace gives the impression of ancient ruins. The center part of the palace is completely destroyed, the wings of the building still stand, but inside there are no ceilings. There are no domes on the church, while the Neptune and Samson statues have been stolen. In Alexandria, the cottage is intact, but the entire decoration of the walls has been stripped and the furniture has been stolen.” 

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German soldier in the Upper Garden of Peterhof, September 1943

The same hard impressions of the destruction seen in Peterhof were also noted by the and well-known writer, front-line correspondent P.N. Luknitsky.  “Walking around the Grand Palace, a narrow path displays a red cord and many landmines. There are no traces of fire on the remains of the walls. No roofs, no rooms, no ceilings, no rafters – nothing. Piles of stone and brick are covered with snow … The Germans turned the Samson Canal into an anti-tank ditch. The lower park looks like a neglected forest, part of it has been cut down.”

Red army soldiers with recovered paintings stolen from the peterhof palace (petrodvorets) and pushkin palace (tsarskoye selo) by the germans, abandoned in east prussia during the nazi retreat, world war 2, 1945.

Soviet soldiers discover paintings, stolen by the Germans from the Peterhof Palace, 1945

Immediately after the liberation of the suburban palaces, a large public discussion about their restoration was launched, in which the resolution of the State Defense Committee “On priority measures to restore industry and the urban economy of Leningrad in 1944”, adopted on 29th March 1944, played a major role. It determined that the suburban palaces in Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo), Petrodvorets (Peterhof) and Pavlovsk should be restored. In accordance with the decision of the State Defense Committee, on 23rd April 1944, the Leningrad Executive Committee adopted an historic decision – “On priority measures for the preservation of suburban palaces and museum parks”. According to the decree, it was necessary to carry out the cleaning and elementary improvement of the territory of the Upper and Lower parks of Petrodvorets. It was also necessary to organize the protection of palaces, pavilions, and parks.

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View of the ruined Grand Palace and Lower Park, 1948

During the second half of 1944, the Directorate of palace museums and parks of Petrodvorets actively carried out work on de-mining and clearing the territory of the Lower Park, Upper Gardens and Alexandria Park from debris, as well as preserving buildings and searching for museum objects. To carry out work on clearing the Peterhof parks, the local population was widely involved, who participated on Saturdays and Sundays in July 1944. As a result, by the autumn of 1944, work on clearing the territory of the parks at Petrodvorets had been fully completed.

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Locals help clear the parks at Peterhof in the summer of 1944

On 17th January 2019, a press tour dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Peterhof was held in the Lower Park of the palace complex. Elena Y. Kalnitskaya, Director General of the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve, and Pavel Vladimirovich Petrov, Head of the Museum Studies Department, spoke at the “Lessons in History” memorial on the significance of this historic date, and those who dedicated their lives to restoring and preserving one of Russia’s national monuments. 

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The Grand Peterhof Palace and Cascade as they look today

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 21 January 2019