The myth of hunger during the reign of Nicholas II

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For many years, Soviet historiography was dominated by the notion of “eternal” famine in Imperial Russia. With this lie, the Bolsheviks tried to justify the monstrous famines of the 1920s, 30s and 40s, as well as the constant shortage of food during the Soviet years.

In fact, there were many poor harvests leading to food shortages in Russia before 1912. The largest of them was in 1891, during the reign of Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894). This was the result of a global agrarian crisis in the 1880s, which also affected England, France, Germany, and parts of the United States. The terrible famine in Ireland between 1845-1850, claimed the lives of 1.5 million people. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the consequences of this famine reduced the Irish population by more than 30%.

The crop failure of 1891-92, was caused by severe drought. It affected 25 provinces in the Russian Empire. Between 1891-92, some 30 million people were starving. In 1897, another crop failure in 18 provinces was again caused by drought, worsened by an unfavorable winter, and an invasion of insect pests. Between 1897-98, 27 million people were starving.

In the summer of 1905, there was a subsidence in the Chernozem, Volga, Trans-Volga, and eastern provinces. The crop failures mainly affected traditionally agricultural areas, which, according to official data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, occupied up to 43% of all arable land in Russia. The last “royal” crop failure occurred in 1911 – it was a reflection of a serious pan-European crop failure due to drought. The crop failure covered a vast territory: all the districts of the Astrakhan, Orenburg, Samara, Saratov, Simbirsk and Ufa provinces, as well as many districts of the Vyatka, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Penza, Perm provinces and the Don Army Region, affecting more than 20 million people in one way or another. In the affected areas, only 1/3 of the grain harvest was harvested against the annual average.

However, it should be noted that crop failures and malnutrition in Imperial Russia did not lead to mass mortality. All the Bolshevik allegations that up to 4 million people a year allegedly starved to death in Russia are an outright lie, which is based on false “annual reports of the College of the Life Chancellery.” It is worth noting that such a body did not even exist in the Russian Empire.

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Minister of Agriculture and State Property Aleksei Sergeevich Ermolov (1847-1917)

Between 1892-1905, Minister of Agriculture and State Property Aleksei Sergeevich Ermolov (1847-1917), then the head of the Central Committee for the provision of medical and food assistance to the population, wrote that “not a single death from starvation, or from the complete absence of any food, not to mention the cases of suicides or murders of children due to hunger, were not recorded any where.” Ermolov noted that the population growth in 1906-07 in some provinces (Oryol, Tambov, Ufa) surpassed that of the previous year.

There is no data on deaths due to starvation among Soviet and Russian demographers. In his studies, Russian demographer Adolf Grigorievich Rashin (1888-1960) argued that in the period from 1890-1913 mortality steadily decreased: from 36.7 deaths per 1000 population in 1890 to 27.4 per 1000 population in 1913.

The multi volume work Население России в ХХ веке (The Population of Russia in the 20th Century) unequivocally states that “by 1913 all regions of European Russia reported a significant increase in population”. The Chernozem region and the Volga region, experienced one of the highest rates of population growth in the Empire.

In 1907 a very high natural population growth was recorded (18.1%), 1911 (17%) and 1912 (16.9%). The lowest increase in the first 15 years of the twentieth century was recorded during the troubled year of 1905 (13.9%).

During the alleged “great famine” of 1911-1912, the population grew by more than 3 million people. You can compare this to data on the years of the Soviet famines (1921-22, 1931-33, 1946-48): which resulted in complete cessation of the country’s population growth, and a sharp decline in life expectancy.

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Hundreds of corpses piled up at the local cemetery, during the 1921 Famine in Russia

Thus, the only conclusion that can be made: after the famine of 1891-92, which was accompanied by an acute epidemic of cholera, the Russian Empire did not entail any “starvation deaths”.

It should be noted that the Imperial Government made great effort to combat the effects of crop failures.

In 1897, loans amounting to 5.4 million rubles were granted from the All-Empire capital, in 1898 – 35.2 million (34.4 million poods were purchased for the foodstuffs of the population – bread, and support of cattle breeding by peasants), public works were organized, in particular, the transportation by peasants of grain purchased by the government to provide bread for the hungry.

The death of horses caused by the lack of fodder was compensated by the purchase of horses from the steppe inhabitants of the local breeds and their delivery on favorable terms by the beginning of field work. The supply of feed to needy households was carried out on a “loan basis” (with payment over 3-5 years), in 1898 7 million rubles were spent on these needs.

In the canteens opened by the Red Cross, up to 1.5 million people were fed, mainly women, children, old people and the weak, but in exceptional cases, able-bodied men (in the absence of earnings), more than 2 million received rations.

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Canteen to feed the hungry in Nizhni Novgorod province, during the famine of 1891-1892

The Guardianship of Diligence and Workers’ Houses, created at the initiative of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, began to take effect. Among the private philanthropists, the Bessarabian landowner Purishkevich was especially distinguished – thanks to his ebullient activity, some 20 canteens were opened, financed with donations and thereby saving hundreds of people from starvation. His efforts were noticed and greatly appreciated in St. Petersburg.

Everywhere where hunger arose, food centers were opened for children, women, and those incapable of work, each of which fed up to 1000 people.

According to observers, “the food campaign of 1906-1907. was carried out by the Food Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs with much success.

At the same time, charitable organizations actively supported the hungry. One branch of the Red Cross, with the assistance of local authorities, opened free canteens and food outlets, which issued 270 million meals and rations during the famine. The Holy Synod introduced a gathering for the hungry on all Sundays and twelve feasts.

Private charity played an increasingly significant role. Numerous private trusteeships, local societies, unions, and committees were established. The assistance offered by  “private owners” turned out to be of great help to the state, whose stocks were greatly depleted as early as 1905.

For the supply of feed during the crop failure of 1911-12, the government spent 9-12 million rubles, issued loans for food (for example, in Siberia they issued 300 rubles per cow allowance), 16 thousand horses were distributed on favorable terms. Public work for peasants as an experiment decided this time to make the main form of assistance. 42 million rubles were allocated for their implementation, with 84% of the amount spent on wages. The hungry were provided with 222 million meals, under the guidance of priests and teachers in the Volga region alone, more than 7 thousand canteens were opened in schools, where 24 million lunches were provided to children. In general, the campaign was carried out at on a gargantuan level – and it is interesting to note that the state, who were in full control over the situation in both 1901 and 1911, managed to prevent starvation.

Thus, it can be seen that by the beginning of the twentieth century, the state had formed an integrated system of redistribution of food resources, which functioned effectively during periods of crop failure and with the depletion of bread in peasant farms. In addition, measures were constantly taken to support residents of the territories affected by crop failure. The Russian public actively participated in helping the victims, which caused widespread development of charity, and the formation of effective structures for providing assistance to the population. After 1892, deaths from starvation were avoided even under the most unfavorable conditions (such as the “revolutionary situation” of the mid-1900s).

Source: Petr Multatuli

© Paul Gilbert. 27 April 2020

Nicholas II Vintage Newsreels No. 1 – 5

No. 1 – Emperor Nicholas II in Crimea. Easter 1916

For Orthodox Christians, the annual Orthodox feast is Easter, which is celebrated lavishly with family. On that day, all the children of God are equal.

If possible, Emperor Nicholas II and his family spent Easter at Livadia. The Emperor and Empress greeted the entire household with the traditional three kisses of blessing, welcome and joy. To members of the Court and the Imperial Guard, the sovereigns gave their famous Easter eggs. Some were simple: exquisitely painted eggshells from which the yolk had been drawn through tiny pinholes. Others were more elaborate created by Faberge.

As seen in this vintage newsreel, the tsar exchanges the traditional three kisses of blessing, welcome and joy to each officer and soldier, repeating the words ’Christ is Risen!’ to which the soldier replies ’Truly, he risen!’ Each is presented with an egg, which are carried in small wooden boxes by a line of officers, who are laden with boxes filled with Easter eggs

Sir John Hanbury-Williams recalled in his diary on 23rd April 1916:

“A perfectly beautiful Easter morning. There bad been a midnight service, and then we all paraded at the Imperial house, H.I.M. presenting us each with china Easter eggs made by Fabergé.”

Duration: 1 minute, 24 seconds with musical background

***

No. 2 – Emperor Nicholas II in Smolensk. 31st August 1912

The newsreel opens with the Imperial Train arriving at the railway station in Smolensk, whereby the Emperor walks down the platform to review the honour guard. He is then seen receiving gifts and the traditional bread and salt from local officials and dignitaries.

At 2:39, you will notice a rather plump chap appearing from the right hand side of the screen. This is Prince Vladimir Nikolaevich Orlov (1868-1927), one of Nicholas II’s closest advisors. Between 1906-1915, Orlov headed the Emperor’s Military Cabinet, he also served as the the Emperor’s personal chauffeur. For many years, he was one of Nicholas II’s most trusted aides, however, his negative feelings towards Rasputin, eventually led to his dismissal from the Imperial Court.

Further into the newsreel, we see carriages carrying the Imperial Family arriving at the Cathedral Church of the Assumption. Their visit coincided with events marking the 100th anniversary of the Patriotic War of 1812. Upon leaving the cathedral, they pass by students of the Smolensk Diocesan School. If you watch closely, you will see the dedicated Minister of the Imperial Court, Baron V.B. Fredericks, who constantly shadowed the Emperor.

The newsreel concludes with a view of the Imperial Family, standing on a hill overlooking Smolensk.

Duration: 5 minutes, 54 seconds with musical background

***

No. 3 – French President Raymond Poincare’s State Visit to Russia, 1912-1914

In this newsreel we see Emperor Nicholas II with President Raymond Poincare of France at Krasnoye Selo, the summer military capital of the Russian Empire. We see Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and her daughters getting into some of the fine automobiles which the Emperor was so fond of.

This is followed by a parade of grand dukes and generals on horseback. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna is then seen riding in an open carriage with President Raymond Poincare, the Emperor on horseback riding along side.

Members of the Imperial Family join Poincare in a tent, positioned on a slight hill, where they can witness manoeuvres in honour of the French president’s state visit. Towards the end of the footage, the Empress is seen nodding as soldiers file past the tent and its guests.

Duration: 4 minutes, 19 seconds, no audio

***

No. 4 – Emperor Nicholas II at Revel in 1908

[1] Arrival of the Imperial train in Revel (modern day Tallinn, Estonia). We see Emperor Nicholas II, along with members of his family and retinue walking along the platform

[2] A launch carries the Emperor and his family to the Imperial Yacht ‘Standart’

[3[ Arrival of a train in Revel carrying the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, Queen Olga of Greece, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, Prince P.A. Oldenburg, among others

[4] A launch carries the Dowager Empress and members of the Imperial Family to the Imperial Yacht ‘Standart’

[5] The arrival of the British Royal Yacht ‘Victoria and Albert’, carrying King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra at Revel, 27th May 1908

Duration: 8 minutes, 30 seconds with musical background

***

No. 5 – Historic visit to Riga in the summer of 1910 by Emperor Nicholas II

At the beginning of the newsreel we see the Imperial Yacht ‘Standart’ sailing into the harbour. It is one thing to admire the ‘Standart’ in photographs, however, it is only when one views it in a moving image, that one can put into perspective the sheer size of this magnificent “floating palace” – 128 m (420 feet) in length and 5557 tons standard in weight. It was the envy of all the royal houses of Europe and Great Britain.

Nicholas II’s visited Riga with his family for three days – from 3 to 5 July 1910. The Imperial Family arrived for the celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the capture of Riga from Sweden by Russian troops, making it part of the Russian Empire.

The highlight of the visit was the grand opening and consecration of the monument to Emperor Peter I on the Alexander Boulevard in Riga, which is also featured in this video.

Alexandre Spiridovitch writes about the tsar’s 1910 visit to Riga in his memoirs Last Years of the Court at Tsarskoe Selo Volume II (1910-1914) – first English language edition published in 2017 [now out of print].

Duration: 5 minutes, 1 second with Russian language audio

© Paul Gilbert. 26 April 2020

VIDEO: French President Raymond Poincare’s State Visit to Russia

I am delighted to share this vintage newsreel depicting French President Raymond Poincare’s State Visit to Russia. Pomcare visited Tsar Nicholas II in St. Petersburg on two occasions in 1912 and 1914.

Pomcare visited Tsar Nicholas II in August 1912, to bolster France’s military alliance with the Tsarist state.

In his book July 1914: Countdown to War (published in 2014) Russian historian Sean McMeekin claims that Poincaré won election as President of the Republic in 1913, his electoral victory aided by some two million francs in Russian bribes to the French press.

In 1913, it had been announced that Poincaré would visit St. Petersburg in July 1914 to meet Tsar Nicholas II. Accompanied by Premier René Viviani, Poincaré returned to Russia for the second time (but for the first time as president) to reinforce the Franco-Russian Alliance and giving France’s support for Russian military mobilization during the July Crisis of 1914.

In this newsreel we see Emperor Nicholas II with President Raymond Poincare of France at Krasnoye Selo, the summer military capital of the Russian Empire. We see Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and her daughters getting into some of the fine automobiles which the Emperor was so fond of.

This is followed by a parade of grand dukes and generals on horseback. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna is then seen riding in an open carriage with President Raymond Poincare, the Emperor on horseback riding along side.

Members of the Imperial Family join Poincare in a tent, positioned on a slight hill, where they can witness manoeuvres in honour of the French president’s state visit. Towards the end of the footage, the Empress is seen nodding as soldiers file past the tent and its guests.

Duration 4 mins., 19 sec. Very impressive!

© Paul Gilbert. 17 April 2020

Nicholas II runs tests on new uniforms for the soldiers of his army

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Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

This series of photographs depict Emperor Nicholas II wearing the uniform of a private soldier in Livadia. The Tsar made it his duty to run tests on new uniforms for the soldiers of his army.

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Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

In 1909, Vladimir Sukhomlinov the Minister of War was at work on an important reform, the determination of the type of clothing and equipment to be worn and carried in future by every Russian infantryman. When considering the modifications proposed by the Minister, the following provides a convincing proof of the extreme conscientiousness and sense of duty which inspired Nicholas II, as head of the army. The Tsar wanted full knowledge of the facts, and decided to test the proposed new equipment personally.

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Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

He told only Alexander Alexandrovich Mossolov (1854-1939), who served as Minister of the Court and the Commander of the Palace of his intention. They had the full equipment, new model, of a soldier in a regiment camping near Livadia brought to the palace. There was no falang, no making to exact measure for the Tsar; he was in the precise position of any recruit who was put into the shirt, pants, and uniform chosen for him, and given his rifle, pouch, and cartridges. The Tsar was careful also to take the regulation supply of bread and water. Thus equipped, he went off alone, covered twenty kilometres out and back on a route chosen at random, and returned to the palace. Forty kilometres — twenty-five miles — is the full length of his forced march; rarely are troops required to do more in a single day.

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Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

The Tsar returned at dusk, after eight or nine hours of marching, rest-time included. A thorough examination showed, beyond any possibility of doubt, that there was not a blister or abrasion of any part on his body. The boots had not hurt his feet. Next day the reform received the Sovereign’s approval.

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Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

The Tsar regarded himself as a soldier — the first professional soldier of the Russian Empire. In this respect he would make no compromise: his duty was to do what every soldier had to do.

Excerpted from At the Court of the Last Tsar by A.A. Mossolov. English edition published in 1935

© Paul Gilbert. 14 April 2020

VIDEO: Visit of Emperor Nicholas II to Riga, July 1910

This vintage newsreel captures events of the historic visit to Riga in the summer of 1910 by Emperor Nicholas II.

At the beginning of the newsreel we see the Imperial Yacht Standart sailing into the harbour. It is one thing to admire the Standart in photographs, however, it is only when one views it in a moving image, that one can put into perspective the sheer size of this magnificent “floating palace” – 128 m (420 feet) in length and 5557 tons standard in weight. It was the envy of all the royal houses of Europe and Great Britain.

Nicholas II’s visited Riga with his family for three days – from 3 to 5 July 1910. The Imperial Family arrived for the celebration marking the 200th anniversary of the capture of Riga from Sweden by Russian troops, making it part of the Russian Empire.

The highlight of the visit was the grand opening and consecration of the monument to Emperor Peter I on the Alexander Boulevard in Riga, which is also featured in this video.

Alexandre Spiridovitch writes about the tsar’s 1910 visit to Riga in his memoirs Last Years of the Court at Tsarskoe Selo Volume II (1910-1914) – first English language edition published in 2017 [now out of print].

© Paul Gilbert. 8 April 2020

UPDATE: Monument to Nicholas and Alexandra in Crimea

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Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (left), Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich,
Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna (right)

On 20th February 2020, I published an article Monument to Nicholas and Alexandra to be established in Crimea, a new monument marking a unique day, to be installed in the Russian city of Alushta, (situated 36 km from Yalta in Crimea) in the autumn of this year.

The photographs depicted in this update, show the progress on the monument, which features Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (future Emperor Nicholas II, Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine (future Empress Alexandra Feodorovna), Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich and his wife Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna.

It was in the autumn of 1894, that Tsar Alexander III’s health began to further deteriorate. Nicholas obtained the permission of his dying father to summon Alix to the Imperial family’s Crimean palace of Livadia.

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Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich and Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine

The monument will be established in the Crimean town of Alushta on 10th October 2020, the same date in which the meeting of Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich and his future wife Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine took place in 1894. The cost of the monument will be 18,500,000 rubles ($242,000 USD).

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Meeting of the Tsesarevich and his bride in Alushta. 10 October 1894

Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich wrote in his diary that day:

At 9.30 I set out with Uncle Sergei to Alushta, where we arrived at one o’clock in the afternoon. Ten minutes later my beloved Alix arrived from Simferopol with Ella. After luncheon I got into the carriage with Alix and we drove together to Livadia.

My God! What a joy to meet her here at home and to have her near to me—half my cares and worries have been lifted from my shoulders. I was overcome with emotion when we went in to the dear Parents. Papa was weaker today, and Alix’s arrival, together with his talk with Father Ioann [John of Kronstadt], have worn him out!

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Memorial plaque marking the spot where the monument will be installed in Alushta

On 20th October 2019. a memorial plaque was solemnly opened in Alushta, at the site of the historical meeting between Tsesarevich Nikolai Alexandrovich and his future wife, Princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt, on 10th October 1894.

© Paul Gilbert. 5 April 2020

UPDATE: Nicholas II Equestrian Monument in Kulebaki

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Photo © Irina Makarova

On 13th December 2019, I published an article Nicholas II Equestrian Monument Planned for the Russian city of Kulebaki (with photos) of a truly splended equestrian monument of Nicholas II by the sculptor Irina Makarova, which is to be installed in the Russian city of Kulebaki in July of this year.

I am pleased to share the following three videos by Max Bataev, which depict the process of creating this impressive equestrian of Russia’s last emperor and tsar:

***

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Equestrian of Nicholas II dominates the Monument to the Heroes of World War One in Moscow

Note: the Russian media refer to this monument as the first equestrian monument of Nicholas II to be established in Russia. The Kulebaki monument will be the second equestrian monument to Nicholas II in Russia, the first was established in Moscow.

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Ministry of Defense on the Frunze Embankment in Moscow

On 16 December 2014, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu opened a sculptural composition dedicated to the heroes of World Wars I and II on the grounds of the Ministry of Defense on the Frunze Embankment in Moscow. The WWI monument features Nicholas II on horseback, recognizing and honouring his efforts during the Great War.

© Paul Gilbert. 4 April 2020

Feodorovsky Town in Tsarskoye Selo

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Pre-revolutionary view of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral in Tsarskoye Selo

For most visitors to Russia, a visit to Tsarskoye Selo (today known as Pushkin), includes the Catherine Palace and the nearby Alexander Palace. Sadly, they overlook some of the other buildings which reflect the era of Tsar Nicholas II. Among these are the Feodorovsky Gorodok (Town), which also includes the magnificent Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral, the Martial Chamber, the former barracks of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Convoy, and the ruins of the Tsar’s Railway Pavilion.  

In the course of two centuries every Russian monarch, beginning with Peter I, strove to make his or her contribution to the improvement of the royal summer residence in Tsarskoye Selo (Tsar’s Village) near St. Petersburg. The last Russian emperor Nicholas II, who chose the Alexander Palace for his permanent residence in 1905, decided to embellish the town with buildings reflecting the Russian national style. The Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral and the adjacent residential area called Feodorovsky Gorodok (Town), complete with tent roofs and towers were built between 1909-1917, with Nicholas II, his wife and their children directly involved in the project. The construction was nearing completion when the First World War began, followed by the revolutionary cataclysms which engulfed the Russian Empire. Following the October 1917 Revolution the Cathedral was closed down in 1933, while the adjacent gorodok was turned into an educational branch of the Agrarian Institute.

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Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral. Artist: Gavriil Nikitich Gorelov (1880-1966)

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Feodorovsky Gorodok

The history of these buildings, which resemble the fairytale Kitezh-town, is closely associated with the last tsar, whose tragic death, along with his wife and children in Ekaterinburg, continues to stir the interest and curiosity of people in Russia and around the world to this day. This short essay tells the story of a “little spot of the Russian land” created in Tsarskoye Selo. It is illustrated with vintage photographs and reproductions of paintings by artists who worked on them at the time of the construction of the complex.

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Feodorovsky Gosudorov Sobor, published in 1915

During the 1910s the artists G. Gorelov, L. Syrnev and M. Kirsanov painted a series of colour pictures depicting views of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral and the Feodorovsky Gorodok. They reproduced the entire architectural ensemble the way it was perceived by the last Russian emperor. Some of the paintings were published in the book Feodorovsky Gosudorov Sobor, published in 1915. The views of the Feodorovsky Gorodok reflect events of the First World War, when an infirmary for the wounded soldiers was opened in the gorodok. Pictures on canvas are wounded soldiers with bandaged legs and arms who were undergoing medical treatment in the infirmary and the nurses who cared for them. The artists strove to render the image of Old Russia, too. The artists captured the beauty of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral, particularly the interiors, each of which evoke a deep religious feeling. [These paintings are today part of the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum – PG]

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Nicholas II laying the foundation stone for the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral

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Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna inspect the progress of the Feodorovsky Cathedral

The foundation of the Cathedral was laid on 20 August 1909, in the presence of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. The design was commissioned by V.A. Pokrovsky, a great connoisseur of the Russian national tradition. The construction was financed by the tsar’s family. 

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The Feodorovskaya icon of Our Lady, patroness of the Romanov dynasty

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The Cave Church, situated in the Lower Church

The Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral became the house church for Emperor Nicholas II and his family.  The Cathedral consisted of two churches, the upper which included the main altar dedicated to the Feodorovsky Icon of Our Lady and a side-chapel consecrated in honour of the Moscow Metropolitan Alexis, the all-Russia Miracle-Worker. The lower part of the Cathedral housed a Cave Church with the altar consecrated in the name of Saint Serafim of Sarov the Miracle-Worker, and the private chapel of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. The Feodorovskaya icon of Our Lady, the main icon of the Cathedral, is the patroness of the Romanov dynasty. The icon was kept in the upper church. The Cathedral interiors impressed everyone with their decor executed in the style of 17th century church architecture – the favourite style of Nicholas II. The Cave Church decoration was supervised by the architect V. N. Maksimov.

The Cathedral walls are decorated on the outside with large mosaic panels made in St. Petersburg in the studio of the well known mosaic artist V.A. Frlov.

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View of the Feodorovsky Gorodok. 1917

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View of the Refectory Chamber, Feodorovsky Gorodok. 1917

The Feodorovsky Gorodok – a group of buildings erected for the servants of the church – was built during 1913-1917 to the design of S.S. Krichinsky, approved personally by Nicholas II. It is situated on the shore of a small island and surrounded by a fortress wall. One of the towers is decorated by a gilt figure of St. George. The buildings, varying in height and shape and joined by covered passages, occupy an area of 1.7 hectares (4.2 acres). Participating in the design of the gorodok were the architects A. Pomerantsev, V. Maksimov, and L. Shchusev.

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Interior of the Refectory, Feodorovsky Gorodok

The entire complex consisted of several buildings, the most notable among them being the White Chamber (the priests’ house), the Pink Chamber (the deacons’ house), the Yellow Chamber (the junior deacons’ house), and the Refectory building, which housed the churchwarden’s flat and office.

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The Officer’s Assembly dated 1911 (demolished after the war)

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Tsar’s Railway Pavilion, Tsarskoye Selo

Nearby in Kuzminskaya Street were the barracks of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Convoy (designed by V.N. Maksimov, 1906) and the brick building of the Officer’s Assembly dated 1911 (demolished after the war). There were a number of military barracks and stables designed and built in the Russian Style. The year 1915 marked the construction of wooden barracks for the Special Aviation Detachment. In December the same year, barracks were built for His Majesty’s Own Railway Regiment. Designed by the architect V.N. Maksimov, these barracks were situated close to the Tsar’s Railway Pavilion which was built to the design of design of V.A. Pokrovsky in 1912 in the Neo-Russian Style. The station building completed the new architectural ensemble.

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Former barracks of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Convoy

The Tsar was insistent that the newly erected buildings should resemble Old Russia by their appearance. Had all the projects conceived been realized and all the buildings survived intact, they would have formed a unique single ensemble in Tsarskoye Selo which would fill the environment of the Alexander Palace with a historic atmosphere Nicholas II desired following the whims of his fantasy.

Of all the numerous buildings in traditional Russian style erected in Tsarskoye Selo at the will of Nicholas II those surviving unchanged are the Feodorovsky Gorodok (currently under restoration) and the Martial Chamber (now the Museum of the History of the First World War).

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The Martial Chamber, restored between 2011-2014

The architectural complex of buildings near the Feodorovsky Cathedral, which came into being as a result of the Sovereign’s artistic fantasies, reflected both the artistic search of Russian architects in the early 20th century and search for spiritual ideals of the time.

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Artist concept of the Feodorovsky Gorodok after restoration

In 1913-1917 the Martial Chamber complex was built to the design of the architect S. Yu. Sidorchuk. At the start of the war against Germany in 1914 it was decided to open a portrait gallery of the holders of the St. George Cross in the Chamber building. In 1918 the Martial Chamber and the Feodorovsky Gorodok fell under the jurisdiction of the Agronomical (later Petersburg Agrarian) University. The art collections were divided among various museums in Leningrad. The buildings, damaged during World War II, are now under restoration (with the exception of the Tsar’s Railway Pavilion, which is currently in a terrible state of neglect and disrepair). Although this will work will take some years, several newly restored buildings of the Feodorovsky Gorodok have already become part of the Patriarchal residence of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral as it looks today. Russia’s first monument to
Nicholas II by the sculptor V.V. Zaiko, was established in the garden in 1993

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The reconstructed iconostasis in the Upper Church of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral

In 1991 the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral opened its doors to believers again. The entire complex of buildings closely connected with the Russian Orthodox Church and with the life of the last Russian Emperor has been taken in tutelage by the Moscow Patriarchate. It allocates funds for the restoration work. The Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral was reconsecrated on 29 February 1992. Regular liturgies are carried out in the Cave Church. Divine Liturgies are conducted in memory of the murdered Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia Nikolaevna, and Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich. The last tsar is commemorated with a bronze bust established on the grounds of the Cathedral in 1993, by the Russian scukptor V.V. Zaiko. 

© Paul Gilbert. 4 April 2020