PHOTO: aerial view of the front of the Alexander Palace. The eastern wing (left) contains the private apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. It was here in the Alexander Palace, that Russia’s last Emperor and Tsar was born on 19th (O.S. 6th) May 1868.
The Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo has been closed to visitors since autumn 2015. Since that time, it has been undergoing a much needed restoration, one which will include the historical recreation of the interiors of the private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, located in the eastern wing of the palace.
In recent months, the efforts of designers, craftsmen, artists and other experts have breathed new life into the interiors of Russia’s last Imperial Family. Photographs and media tours have offered us just a peek inside, generating excitement among anxious visitors within Russia and abroad.
Sadly, the highly anticipated reopening has been delayed on numerous occasions over the past year: the palace was due to open on 20th August 2020, it was then postponed until December 2020, then delayed until late May or early June of 2021.
For some reason, the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve cannot provide the public with a firm date. They were hopeful that the Alexander Palace would reopen in time for the summer tourist season. The reopening is surrounded in secrecy and rumours. One rumour is that the palace will reopen its doors to visitors on 14th August, the date marking the 104th anniversary when the Imperial Family left the palace for the last time and sent into exile.
Further delays caused by the COVID situation in Russia – which in recent weeks has spiralled out of control – has caused further delays on the restoration of the palace and its reopening. The situation is compounded even further, by the fact that Russia’s borders are closed to most foreigners. There is no indication just when these restrictions will be lifted.
Setting aside any rumours and travel restriction, only time will tell if and when the Alexander Palace will reopen by the end of this summer, or will it be delayed . . . yet again?
In the meantime, I have assembled the following collection of photos of the Alexander Palace and Park, all of which evoke the beauty and tranquillity of this place. After viewing these images, I am sure that you will agree that it is quite understandable why the Imperial Family enjoyed the time they spent here together – PG
PHOTO: aerial view of the rear of the Alexander Palace. Situated facing the Alexander Park are the windows of the Semi-Circular Hall [seen in the photo]. It was through these doors on 14th (O.S. 1st) August 1917, that the Imperial Family and their retinue departed the Alexander Palace for the last time.
PHOTO: The main gate leading into the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. The gate was installed in 1898, based on the design of the Russian architect (of Italian origin) Silvio Amvrosievich Danini (1867-1942). The view from the street has remained virtually unchanged since the early 20th century.
Following Nicholas II’s abdication on 15 March (O.S. 2 March) 1917,”Colonel Romanov” passed through these gates to be reunited with his family. Together, they lived here under house arrest, until their exile to Tobolsk on 14th (O.S. 1st) August of the same year.
PHOTO: view of the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace. Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in the summer of 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others. This wing of the palace will become known as the ‘Museum of the Russian Imperial Family’.
PHOTO: it is hard to imagine that during the Nazi occupation of Pushkin [Tsarskoye Selo] during the Great Patriotic War [1941-45], that this beautifully landscaped garden in front of the Alexander Palace, was a cemetery for 85 SS officers. The markers were removed after the war, however, it would be many years before the remains were exhumed and sent to Germany for burial.
PHOTO: two rows of Corinthian columns cut across the central colonnade of the Alexander Palace, connecting the eastern and western wings. The columns compliment the Neoclassical edifice. Built between 1792 and 1796 by the famous architect Giacomo Quarenghi (1744-1817), upon completion, it was agreed that the architect had excelled himself in creating a masterpiece.
The Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024. After the completion of the work, the Alexander Palace will become a multifunctional museum complex, which will include exhibition halls, halls for temporary exhibitions, halls for research work and conferences, as well as a library and a children’s center. The basement floor will house a ticket booth, a museum shop, a café, a cloakroom, a tour desk, as well as technical and ancillary facilities.
PHOTO: situated just steps past the western wing of the Alexander Palace is the Children’s Island and House.
The island features a tiny house built for the children of Emperor Nicholas I, and later enjoyed by the children of three successive monarchs: Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II. To the left of the house is a small cemetery, where the Tsar buried his favourite dogs. The cemetery has survived to this day.
The island was reached by a pull-ferry, whereby sailors would pull ropes sending the ferry over to the island and back from the park’s shore.
According to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum, there are plans to eventually restore the Children’s Island and Pavilion, once funding has been secured.
PHOTO: in 2007, this memorial was erected in the park near the palace. The memorial consists of a granite cross and the image of the Imperial Family. The Russian inscription reads Дом царской семьи 1895-1917 – Home of the Tsar’s family 1895-1917. Sadly, the memorial was removed in May 2010, its whereabouts remains unknown.
PHOTO: also situated in the Alexander Park, is the alleged first grave of Grigorii Rasputin (1869-1916). Every year on the anniversary of his death, Orthodox Christians come here to honour his memory [there is a growing movement to canonize Rasputin]. The grave is repeatedly vandalized.
Rasputin was buried on 2nd January (O.S. 21st December) at a small church that Anna Vyrubova had been building in the Alexander Park. The funeral was attended only by the Imperial Family and a few of their intimates. Shortly after the Tsar abdicated the throne in March 1917, a detachment of soldiers exhumed Rasputin’s corpse and burned by on the night of 11th March in the furnace of a steam boiler at the Polytechnic Institute in Petrograd.
PHOTO: Situated in the garden behind the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral [the household church of Nicholas II and his family] at Tsarskoye Selo, is a bust-monument to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, the work of St. Petersburg sculptor Victor Vladimirovich Zaiko (born 1944).
The monument was consecrated on 17th July 1993, the day marking the 75th anniversary of the murder of Nicholas II. Hundreds of Orthodox Christians and monarchists gathered for the official opening and consecration of the first monument to Emperor Nicholas II to be established in post-Soviet Russia.
The monument stands in front of a small group of oak trees, seen in the background, which were planted by Nicholas II and his family on 4 May (O.S. 21 April) 1913. Of the seven trees planted, only four have survived to the present day.
© Paul Gilbert. 29 July 2021
Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles and updated on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMe, PayPal, credit card, personal check or money order.
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