Helsinki to Host Anna Vyrubova Exhibit

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On 7th June 2019, an exhibit dedicated to Anna Alexandrovna Vyrubova (née Taneyeva) will open at the Russian Center for Science and Culture, in Helsinki, Finland. The exhibit is timed to the 135th anniversary of her birth and the 55th anniversary of her death. 

Anna is best known as a Russian lady-in-waiting, the best friend and confidante of the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna (1872-1918). Her memoirs Memories of the Russian Court (1923), provide details about her life at Court, and rare descriptions of the private home life of the Emperor Nicholas II and his family.

The small exhibit will feature twelve exhibition stands, based on archival documents, which tell the story about her parents, relatives, the Russian and Finnish periods of her life, as well as her relations with the Tsar, Tsarina, Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, Queen of Sweden Louise, and Matilda Wrede. The opening of the exhibition will be attended by people who knew Anna personally, as well as writers, researchers, and archivists from Finland and Russia. 

The exhibit will feature archival documents and photographs, personal belongings of Vyrubova (Taneyeva), courtesy of Lyudmila Huhtiniemi, the Chairman of the Society for the Memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs and Anna Taneyeva in Finland.

Anna Alexandrovna Vyrubova (1884-1964), was born in Oranienbaum as the daughter of Aleksandr Taneyev (1850-1918), Chief Steward to His Majesty’s Chancellery and a noted composer, and Countess Nadezhda Tolstoy (1860-1937). In 1907, Anna married Alexander Vasilievich Vyrubov, an officer appointed in the Imperial chancellery, however, the couple divorced within a year and a half.

Vyrubova became one of Rasputin’s adherents, and for a long time she served as a go-between for the Empress and the strannik. During World War I she trained as a Red Cross nurse and nursed injured soldiers along with the Empress and the Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana.

On 21 March 1917, Anna was arrested and underwent five months of prison in the Peter and Paul Fortress. Through the help of several friends of her father, she managed to escape Petrograd. She endured much hardship avoiding the Bolsheviks, but was able to escape to Finland only in December 1920.

Vyrubova spent the rest of her life first in Viipuri and later in Helsinki. She took vows as a Russian Orthodox nun but was permitted to live in a private home because of her physical disabilities. She died at 80, in Helsinki, where her grave is located in the Orthodox section of Hietaniemi cemetery.

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In exile, Anna looks through an album of photos (see below), reflecting on happier days in Russia

The six Romanov Family Albums held at the Beinecke Library (Yale University) represent a unique survival from the final years of Nicholas II and his family. Taken between 1907 and 1915, the hundreds of photographs contained in these albums date from the first flowering of popular photography, when new breakthroughs in technology put cameras into the hands of amateurs – including the Emperor, his wife, and their five children – who were able to capture impromptu moments of everyday life on a massive scale. The “snapshots” in the Romanov albums record such moments in the private life not just of any family, but of one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious ruling houses. Rescued by the Tsarina’s friend and intimate confidante, Anna Vyrubova, the albums are indeed a truly remarkable survival. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 May 2019