The History and Restoration of the Maple Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: view of the Maple Drawing Room, as it looked in 1917

The Maple Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace is a vivid example of the Russian Art Nouveau Style. This interior, as well as the New Study of Nicholas II and the children’s rooms on the second floor, was created on the site of the former Concert Hall, built according to the design of Giacomo Quarenghi (1744-1817), which had not been used for its intended purpose for many years.

The works were carried out by the Meltzer brothers’ firm in 1902–1904. The walls were painted a warm pink colour and decorated with mouldings of rose stems, foliage and flowers unfolding along the upper walls and ceiling.

Roman Meltzer proposed an original solution for lighting the Maple Drawing Room: along the perimeter of the room, separating the walls from the ceiling plafond, there was a large cornice that masked about two hundred electrical lamps.

PHOTO: former Concert Hall before its demolition

A mezzanine was installed which connected the room to the Emperor’s New Study. Its decoration was a “Tiffany style” mantel mirror in a metal frame with multi-coloured glass inserts featuring stylized roses.

The interior had several cozy corners where the Empress could do needlework, reading and painting. The children often played or did their homework in this room, the family often joined the Empress in this room at five o’clock for tea..

The Maple Drawing Room was decorated with a showcase, the walls and a door made of mirrored glass.  It contained Faberge’s Imperial Easter Eggs from the collection of Alexandra Feodorovna, as well as Italian Venetian glass vases.

The drawing room was always decorated with fresh flowers: tropical plants and palms were placed in tubs, cut flowers of different varieties from the garden and nursery were placed in vases year-round.

PHOTO: post-war view of the Maple Drawing Room

The interior decoration was significantly damaged during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). In the post-war period, during the adaptation of the palace as the Pushkin Museum, some of the surviving elements of the Maple Drawing Room – including parts of the mezzanine and wall mouldings – were destroyed as objects of “no value”.

Researchers, architects, designers and restorers have carried out a large and complex work to recreate the stucco decoration of the room’s historic interior, including the carved mezzanine and built-in maple furniture, returning the interior to its original appearance.

PHOTOS: the current look of the recreated Maple Drawing Room

PHOTOS: the current look of the recreated Maple Drawing Room

The stucco decoration was recreated from surviving colour autochromes, vintage photographs and rare analogs, for example, the preserved decoration in the mansion of Heinrich Gilse van der Pals on Angliysky Prospekt in St. Petersburg, where the same decorative technique was used.

The mezzanine which originally connected the Maple Drawing Room to the Emperor’s New Study had been sealed off when the Alexander Palace reopened as a museum in the 1990s. During the current restoration process, when the walls were opened which connected the two rooms, a small fragment of the original decoration of the Maple Drawing Room was discovered, which assisted experts with regard to the original shade of pink and the design of the rose-stucco reliefs used in the original interior.

The unique lighting system used in the Maple Drawing Room will also be restored.

PHOTO: Empress Alexandra Feodorovna on the Alexander Palace balcony

It was from the Maple Drawing Room that Empress Alexandra could step out onto her iron balcony, through a door in one of the room’s large windows. The famous balcony was created in 1896 by the Court architect Silvio Amvrosievich Danini (1867-1942). The balcony was a favourite place for the Empress and her family year-round, even during the cold Russian winters. They often took their meals and teas here Heavy curtains were hung between the columns of the balcony to provide protection from sun or bad weather. It was here that many iconic photos of the Imperial Family were taken.

Sadly, the balcony did not survive to the present day, and despite the extensive restoration work carried out in the Alexander Palace, there are no plans to recreate the balcony at this time. Having said that, let us hope that if funding should be made possible, that the palace administration will reconsider such a project for the future.

***

The Maple Drawing Room is one of 15 interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, scheduled to open in 2021. Among the other 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.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II, showcasing the private, domestic life of the Russian monarchs who used the palace as an official residence. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family. The multi-museum complex, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

***

Dear Reader: If you enjoy all my updates on the restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars – donations can be made by GoFundMe, PayPal, credit card, personal check or money order. Click HERE to make a donation or click HERE to buy one of my Nicholas II calendars – the net proceeds help fund my work. Thank you for your consideration – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 25 November 2020

Nicholas II, the Union of the Russian People and the Black Hundreds

History tells us of the assassination and murder by revolutionaries of ministers and other government officials during the reign of Russia’s last tsar Nicholas II, however, there were a number of powerful counter-revolutionary political organizations and groups who carried out their own campaigns after the 1905 Revolution.

The most popular among them were the Union of the Russian People (URP), known not just for their anti-socialist, anti-liberal, and anti-Semitic views. but also for standing up against revolutionaries in defence of the monarchy and the Tsar.

The Union of the Russian People (URP) was a loyalist right-wing nationalist political party, the largest among the Black Hundreds monarchist political organizations in the Russian Empire between 1905 and 1917.

Who, making prayer, honours the people and the Tsar, in whom neither conscience nor mind staggers, who saves Russia from troubles under a hail of slander, he is called the Black Hundred!

For Faith, Tsar and Fatherland!

Orthodoxy! Autocracy! Nationality!

Holy Russia, keep the Orthodox faith, in it is your affirmation!

The movement was founded in October 1905, by two minor government officials Alexander Dubrovin (see below) and Vladimir Purishkevich, who participated in the killing of Grigori Rasputin in 1916. The URP’s aim was to rally the Russian people behind nationalism and the Tsar. By 1906 it had over 300,000 members. Its paramilitary armed bands, called the Black Hundreds, fought revolutionaries violently in the streets. Its leaders organised a series of political assassinations of deputies and other representatives of parties which supported the Russian Revolution of 1905.

Monarchy is an idea, a moral idea, that is, the idea of ​​harmony and justice, honesty and decency, trust and respect of people for each other. The monarchy is based on the best qualities of the human conscience and strives to maximize human self-realization, not as a unit of the electorate, but as a highly spiritual and self-sufficient person. A monarchist will not agree that the state should be ruled by a politician, instead he will prefer a person who has been trained and educated to rule. 

In his book “Manual of the Monarchist – Black Hundreds” (1906), the founder of the Black Hundreds Vladimir Andreevich Gringmut (1851-1907) wrote: “The enemies of the autocracy called the “Black Hundreds” simple Russian people, which during the armed revolt of 1905 stood up and defended the autocratic Tsar. Is this an honourable name, “Black Hundred”? Yes, very honourable!”

In 1905, the Union of the Russian People was established to protect the Faith, Tsar and Fatherland from godless revolutionaries The emergence of the Union of the Russian People in the fall of 1905, when all major cities of the Russian Empire were engulfed in revolutionary unrest, and the murders of the Tsar’s loyal servants had become an almost daily occurrence. Nearly 1000 Black Hundred organizations sprang up across the Empire, calling on the Russian people to stand under the banners bearing the sacred words for any Russian Orthodox patriot: “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality.” Among them were the Society for the Active Struggle against Revolution and Anarchy that emerged in St. Petersburg, the Russian Assembly, the Society of Russian Patriots in Moscow, the Russian Brotherhood in Kiev, the Patriotic Society in Tiflis, the Tsar-People’s Russian Society in Kazan, the People’s Monarchist the party in Saratov, the White Banner Union in Nizhny Novgorod, the People’s Party of Order in Kursk,

The Russian people woke up and all over the country rising up to fight against revolutionary sedition, creating for these purposes numerous national unions, societies and organizations. But the Union of the Russian People had become a truly massive, all-Russian movement, rallying many thousands of Russian patriots under its banners. It is quite symbolic that the Union first declared itself on 4th November (O.S. 22nd October), 1905, on the day of the Feast of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, on the day of overcoming the turmoil of the 17th century.

The first organizational meeting of the Union took place on 21st November (O.S. 4th December) 1905, in  the Mikhailovsky Manege in St. Petersburg. The meeting was attended by more than 20,000 people, including members of the clergy, monarchists, and prominent members of the nobility.

The Union’s Manifesto expressed a ‘plebeian mistrust’ of every political party, as well as the bureaucracy and the intelligentsia. The group looked at these as obstacles to ‘the direct communion between the Tsar and his people’. This struck a deep chord with Nicholas II, who also shared the deep belief in re-establishment of autocratic personal rule, as had existed in the Muscovite state of the 1600s.

PHOTO: John of Kronstadt (1829-1909)

Several prominent members of the Russian Orthodox Church supported the organisation, among them the Imperial family’s close friend and future Orthodox Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1909), Hieromonk Iliodor (1880-1952), and Hermogenes, Bishop of Tobolsk and Siberia (1858-1918). It also had support from leading members of the Imperial Court and government, including Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich (1856-1929), Alexander Trepov (Prime Minister from 1916-17), and Minister of the Interior Nikolay Maklakov (1871-1918).

Emperor Nicholas II was highly supportive of the Union and patronised it: he wore the badge of the Union, and wished the Union and its leaders ‘total success’ in their efforts to unite what he called ‘loyal Russians’ in defence of the autocracy. The Tsar also gave orders to provide funds for the Union, and the Ministry of the Interior complied by funding the Union’s newspapers.

Following the 1905 Revolution, the Union was horrified by Tsar Nicholas II’s refusal to strike down harshly on the Leftist revolutionaries. The Union, therefore, decided to organise this for the Tsar, and organised paramilitary bands, which came to be known as the ‘Black Hundreds’ by the democrats, to fight revolutionaries in the streets. These militant groups marched through the streets holding in their pockets knives and brass knuckles, and carrying religious symbols such as icons and crosses and imperial ones such as patriotic banners and portraits of Tsar Nicholas II.

PHOTO: «Ру́сское зна́мя» (Russian Banner), newspaper of the URP

On 28th November 1905, the first issue of the printed organ of the Union of the Russian People – the newspaper «Ру́сское зна́мя» (Russian Banner) was published. The newspaper with a very symbolic name soon became the flagship of patriotic journalism, the fighting organ of the Russian resistance to the growing political turmoil.

On 23rd December 1905, Emperor Nicholas II received a deputation of 24 members of the Union of the Russian People, headed by its leader Alexander Ivanovich Dubrovin (born 1855).

During the reception, Fr. Arseny presented the Tsar with an icon of the Archangel Michael, under whose shadow the Union was born, and made a very welcoming speech. Dubrovin read out an address in which he reported to the Tsar about the rapid growth of the Union’s membership throughout the Empire, noting that “the heart of the people sensed that the Union of the Russian People rallied for an important and urgent matter.” The chairman assured the Tsar of the loyalty of members of the organization to him.

In conclusion, Dubrovin presented the Emperor with the insignia of the Union of the Russian People for both Himself and and for his son and Heir Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich, asking him to accept them on behalf of the Union. The Emperor, having carefully examined them, received them, thanking Dubrovin. By accepting the insignia, the Tsar and Tsesarevich thus became members of the Union of the Russian People.

Apollon Maikov, who read the address from a group of loyal residents in the capital, fervently concluded: “Sovereign, we will all die for you!” The Tsar, who graciously accepted the deputation, wished the Union of the Russian People to grow and prosper, expressing the hope that with the help of God and the Russian People, He would be able to accomplish a lot for the good of Russia. Thanking everyone, the Tsar praised the monarchists: “Trust in God and trust in Me”. The good news of the highest reception of the Union deputation, the gracious treatment extended by the Sovereign to its members and his acceptance of their insignia as a member of the organization contributed to the further growth of the Union’s ranks and the realization of their activities.

Another significant event in the life of the Union of the Russian People was the solemn consecration of the banner of the Union, which took place on 26th November 1906 on the day of memory of the Holy Great Martyr and Victorious George (consecration of the Church of the Great Martyr. George in Kiev) in the Mikhailovsky Manege in the presence of about 30 thousand supporters. To the general joy of those present at this solemn event, Fr. John of Kronstadt, who, ascending the dais, bowed on all four sides to the people, who, in turn, responded with a low bow to the revered priest. Fr. John spoke to the monarchists, the essence of which was that “as a body without a soul is dead, so Russia is dead without an all-enlightening Orthodox Faith and life-creating Autocratic Power.” Then Bishop Sergius (Stragorodsky) arrived, and the divine service began, culminating in the singing of many years to the Sovereign and the House of Romanov, as well as to the founders and leaders of the Union of the Russian People and eternal memory to all who fell for the Faith, the Tsar and the Fatherland. Having sprinkled the Union banner with holy water, Fr. John of Kronstadt, kissing the banner with reverence, handed it to Dubrovin, after which the Black Hundreds, who were present at the consecration of the banner and banner, swore allegiance to Orthodoxy, Autocracy and the Russian people.

PHOTO: “The days of vengeance have befallen us …
let us repent so that the Lord will not destroy us”
From the Collection of the State Museum of the History of Religion, St. Petersburg

Between 1905-1907, an unknown artist painted “The days of vengeance have befallen us … let us repent so that the Lord will not destroy us”, marking the 1905 revolution and the creation of the Union of the Russian People. The ideological component of the painting is a call to the Russian people to abandon the revolution, to repent for participating in it; protect the tsar and preserve the monarchy, otherwise the wrath of God will overtake Russia and the Russian people will perish.

While many believe that the artist of the painting is unknown, a number of prominent contemporary Russian experts believe with a high degree of probability, that the artist is Apollon Apollonovich Maikov, one of the founders of the Union of the Russian People. His work depicts the founders of the Union of the Russian People, with the inscription

“Now, following the example of angels, the main founders of the Union of the Russian People. In the sacred books it is said that when people deviated into idolatry, God destroyed them”.

In the centre of the painting, under a light conical pillar that rises to the sky, is the Crucifixion . Near the Crucifixion in the same pillar are depicted the Emperor Nicholas II praying to God for the salvation of Russia, his wife Alexandra Feodorovna and their children. Above the Crucifixion there are two soaring angels with a crown in their hands. The light pillar, which rises to the sky and in which the Romanovs are depicted, symbolizes prayer. A conical pillar is connected to a light cloud. The New Testament Trinity is depicted inside the cloud and around it, in the same bright cloud, praying saints… The connection of the pillar and the cloud symbolizes the connection of the prayer of the celestials – the saints and the Imperial family. In the lower part of the picture, around the praying Imperial family, the Black Hundreds defenders of the monarchy with flags of Russia are depicted, among them in the foreground are the founders of the Union of the Russian People. In the center is Hegumen Arseny, who holds the Cross and the Gospel in his hands, next to him is John of Kronstadt, who holds the Cross in his hands; on the right and left sides of them – the remaining 12 founders of the Union of the Russian People: Alexander Dubrovin; Ivan Baranov; Vladimir Purishkevich; Nikolay Oznobishin; Vladimir Gringmut; Prince Alexander Shcherbatov; Pavel Bulatsel; Rostislav Tregubov; Nikolay Zhedenov; Nikolay Bolshakov; Father Iliodor; and Apollon Maikov. Hegumen Arseny and Archpriest John of Kronstadt symbolize the Saviour, and the twelve other founders of the Lord’s disciples are the apostles; who, like angels, protect the autocartic power from the demons- revolutionaries; the revolution itself, according to the author of the picture, is idolatry .

The semi-ring of the Black Hundreds depicted in the picture is surrounded by revolutionaries with red banners. Individual revolutionaries have pistols in their hands, from which they shoot at the Black Hundred monarchists; some of whom fall dead. Fiery bonfires and pools of blood are depicted between monarchists and revolutionaries. Shots, puddles of blood and bonfires symbolize terrorism and the 1905-1907 revolution in Russia. In the upper part of the picture, black clouds are depicted around the light cloud in which the New Testament Trinity is located; lightning bolts are directed from the clouds to the heads of the revolutionaries. Lightning bolts symbolize the wrath of God against the revolutionaries.

The painting today hangs in the State Museum of the History of Religion, St. Petersburg.

PHOTO: Alexander Ivanovich Dubrovin

The Union was dissolved in 1917 in the wake of the Revolution, and its leader, Alexander Ivanovich Dubrovin (born 1855) placed under arrest. There is much debate surrounding Dubrovin’s death. According to one historian Philip Rees, Dubrovin was shot in 1918 for his activities against the October Revolution. A number of other sources however place Dubrovin alive after this date and his actual date of death remains unresolved. It is known that on 21st October 1920, Dubrovin was arrested in Moscow by the Cheka. He was charged as an organizer of pogroms, murders etc. in 1905-1917 when he was the chairman of URP. In their entirety these corpus delicti (components of crime) were qualified under the Criminal Code Article “the counter-revolutionary activity”. No activity after the 1917 Revolution has been incriminated to Dubrovin.

Dubrovin’s files at the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) archives document two consecutive death sentences dated 29th December 1920 and 21st April 1921 which indicates that at least one time Dubrovin’s appeal for amnesty was satisfied. No documental traces of the actual implementation of this sentence were found. Meanwhile, according to the Small Soviet Encyclopedia published in 1929 Dubrovin was still alive by that date.

PHOTO: badge of the Union of the Russian People (URP)

On 22nd November 2004, a meeting to revive the Union of the Russian People (URP) was held in Moscow, chaired by the Russian sculptor Vyacheslav Klykov (1938-2006), famous for his magnificent monument to Emperor Nicholas II in Taininskoye (Mytishchi), which is situated about 19 km northeast of Moscow. The meeting set the groundwork for a modern-day Russian Orthodox – monarchical organization, recreated in 2005 on the basis of the ideology of the pre-revolutionary Union of the Russian People.

***

Dear Reader: It is always a pleasure for me to present new articles based on my own research from Russian archival sources, offering first English translations of new works from Russian media sources on my Nicholas II blog and Facebook pages. Many of these articles and topics seldom (if ever) attract the attention of the Western media. Please note that I personally translate the articles, and complement them further with additional materials, photographs, videos and links.

If you found this article interesting, 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, or click HERE to buy one of my Nicholas II calendars – the net proceeds help fund my work. Thank you for your consideration – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 23 November 2020

Exhibition dedicated to Nicholas II opens at Murmansk Airport

A permanent photo exhibition dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II has opened in the terminal building of Murmansk Airport.

The exhibition consists of two parts. The first part contains unique archival documents and photographs about the founding of Romanov-on-Murman, which turned out to be the last city founded during the reign of Nicholas II in 1916.

The second part will tell passengers and visitors to the airport about the history and development of Romanov-on-Murman, which today has grown into Russia’s largest city north of the Arctic Circle – Murmansk [the town was renamed in April 1918].

Deputy Governor of the Murmansk Region Vladimir Evmenkov took part in the opening ceremony of the exposition, who expressed his gratitude to the management of the NOVAPORT holding and the Murmansk airport for the efforts invested in the creation of the exhibition.

Representatives of the Murmansk and Monchegorsk Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, headed by Metropolitan Mitrofan of Murmansk and Monchegorsk, took an active part in its preparation.

Metropolitan Mitrofan sincerely thanked all the airport employees who put a lot of effort into creating the exhibition. He noted that for the Russian Orthodox Church, the life of the last Russian emperor is the life of a saint and it is very important that residents of the Murmansk region and visitors to the Arctic region to acquaint themselves with the historical facts about his life. 

In June 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin officially renamed the country’s airports, including Murmansk Airport, which was renamed in honour of Emperor Nicholas II. An online poll launched in Russia in autumn 2018 asked the public to nominate and vote on famous figures whose names could be given to more than 40 airports across Russia. Nicholas II received 68,260 votes (48%) for the renaming of Murmansk Airport.

Reconstruction of the square in front of the air terminal is coming to an end, after which a bust-monument of Nicholas II will be installed on the square in front of the main terminal.

Additional construction at the airport will include a new terminal for domestic flights within Russia. The name of Nicholas II will be placed on the facades of each of the two terminals.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 November 2020

Recreation of the textile decoration for the Imperial Bedroom in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: detail of the English chintz recreated for the Imperial Bedroom

This is the second of two articles on the Imperial Bedchamber, one of the personal rooms of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace. The first article The History and Restoration of the Imperial Bedchamber in the Alexander Palace, was published on 14th October 2020.

The decoration of this room is highlighted by the rich use of the same fabric: the walls and furniture are upholstered in an English chintz pattern in the form of wreaths of small pink flowers and ribbons, specially made by the English manufacturer Hindley. The same material was used to make the curtains for the windows and doors, as well as the alcove.

PHOTO: sample of the original pattern made by Charles Hindly & Sons

Charles Hindley & Sons had existed since the early 19th century. In 1909 the company filed for bankruptcy and was resold twice. The latest information about the Hindley manufactory dates back to 1921, when the company ceased to exist. Unfortunately, the museum’s hopes of finding a “historical” manufacturer for the fabric in Great Britain did not materialize.

Since the end of the 19th century, the term “chintz” has been used to describe a cotton decorative fabric in plain weave – usually with a large floral pattern and a glossy front side. This fabric was mainly suitable for interior decoration.

Chintz, along with unwaxed chintz, was used in the decoration of the Alexander Palace, notably for the interiors of the Imperial Bedchamber and Children’s Rooms, the latter of which were located on the second floor of the east wing of the palace.

PHOTO: detail of the English chintz recreated for the Imperial Bedroom

A sample of the original chintz, which was discovered in the funds of the Pavlovsk State Museum Reserve, served as a direct analogue for reproducing the pattern and texture of the fabric. It was important to achieve an exact match between the colour scheme and the degree of waxing.

The recreation of the textile decoration for the Imperial Bedchamber (draperies for the alcove, doors and windows) were based on this surviving sample. Thus, it became possible to reproduce the historic ambiance of the elements of the windows, doors and alcove thanks to the original drapery samples of the Imperial Bedchamber. In addition, when working on the drapery project, the craftsmen relied on numerous colour autochromes taken in 1917, as well as pre-war black and white photographs.

PHOTO: detail of the English chintz recreated for the Imperial Bedroom

To recreate the lining fabric and lace for decorating the walls and ceiling inside the alcove, as well as the trimmings, historical samples of the same time were used. When recreating the color scheme of trimmings and carpets, the main reference point was the color palette of the chintz. Fragments of historical carpets in the halls of the Alexander Palace served as an example of the degree of pile height and density of the structure of the carpet base.

The fabrics, trimmings and carpets were made by the specialists of Renaissance Workshops for the Restoration of Antiquities (St. Petersburg). The production and hanging of curtains, marquises and draperies for the alcove – by the master of the company “Le Lux” (St. Petersburg).

The work on the reconstruction of the fabric decoration for the Imperial Bedchamber – from the preliminary design to the implementation in the material – lasted more than two years.

PHOTO: colour autochrome of the Imperial Bedroom, taken in 1917

***

The Imperial Bedroom is now one of 15 interiors in the eastern wing of the palace, scheduled to open in 2021. Among the other interiors are the 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, and the New Study of Nicholas II, among others.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II, showcasing the private, domestic life of the Russian monarchs who used the palace as an official residence. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family. The multi-museum complex, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

***

Dear Reader: If you enjoy all my updates on the restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars – donations can be made by GoFundMe, PayPal, credit card, personal check or money order. Click HERE to make a donation. Thank you for your consideration – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 18 November 2020

The Alexander Palace circa 1990

PHOTO: The Alexander Palace as it looked in the early 1990s

This photo reminds me of my visits to the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo in the 1990s, when the palace was surrounded by a security fence and watchtower, and off limits to visitors.

In 1951, by a government decree, the Alexander Palace was transferred to the Ministry of Defense. The Naval Department used the building as a top-secret, submarine tracking research institute of the Baltic Fleet. As a result, the former palace would be strictly off-limits to visitors for the next 45 years.

In 1996 the Alexander Palace was designated as one of the world’s 100 most endangered sites by the World Monuments Fund who issued a grant for the restoration of the palace. American Express donated $200,000 for urgent roof repair. This struck fear into the security-conscious Ministry of Defence, who feared that their top-secret facility might be bugged during the repairs.

In 1997, a permanent exhibition was created in the former apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, located in the eastern wing of the palace. The remainder of the palace was still occupied by the Ministry of Defense and remained strictly off limits to both museum administration staff and visitors.

The exhibition Reminiscences in the Alexander Palace opened on 26th August 1997. The exhibition which consisted of twelve rooms did not attempt to recreate the palace’s historic appearance, instead featured furnishings and personal items set against the backdrop of an enormous historic photograph of the each respective room as it looked.

On 5th September 1997, I entered the Alexander Palace for the very first time. I was hosting my second tour to Russia, The World of Nicholas and Alexandra. My group which consisted of 18 persons from the United States and Canada had the honour of being one of the first groups of visitors to tour the Alexander Palace interiors since before the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), when the palace was a museum.

It was not until October 2009, according to the order of the Federal Property Management Agency, that the Alexander Palace was placed under the administration of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve.

The Alexander Palace was closed in August 2015 for an extensive restoration, which included the reconstruction of the historic interiors of the private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. The first 15 interiors located in the eastern wing of the palace are now scheduled to open in 2021.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II, showcasing the private, domestic life of the Russian monarchs who used the palace as an official residence. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family. The multi-museum complex, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

© Paul Gilbert. 15 November 2020

Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama marks 20th anniversary

PHOTO: A wooden causeway has been built around the edge of the mine shaft, a tall cross marks the edge of the mine shaft where the remains of Nicholas II, his family and four faithful retainers were their killers first discarded after their brutal murder.

On Wednesday, 23rd September, a solemn Divine Liturgy was held at Ganina Yama on the occasion marking the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs.

With the financial assistance from the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company, the Russian Orthodox Church constructed the Monastery at the site in 2001. Seven chapels were later constructed at the site, one for each member of the Imperial family. Each chapel is dedicated to a particular saint or relic.

PHOTO: The Four Brothers mine (collapsed) is now visible as a depression in the ground. In July of each year, the former mine pit is covered with fragrant lily plants for the ceremony marking the regicide.

A tall cross marks the edge of the mine shaft – visible as a depression in the ground – where the remains of Nicholas II, his family and four faithful retainers were first discarded after their brutal murder in the basement of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg.

The horrific crime that took place here at the Four Brothers mine near the village of Koptyaki – 15 km north from Ekaterinburg – was carried out in the early morning hours of 17th July 1918, when the men who took part in the regicide, threw the bodies of the Imperial family and their four retainers into the mine.

The murderers returned the following night, retrieved the remains, and reburied them in two separate graves at Porosenkov Log, situated about 3.8 km away.

Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us!
Святы Царственные мученики, молите Бога о нас!

***

In honour of the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs, a video history of the monastery has been prepared. It consists of three parts and describes a chronology of events from the life of the monastery at Ganina Yama, between 1990 to 2020.

Part I: the period from 1990 to 2000 (Duration: 2 minutes, 25 seconds)

Part II: the period from 2000 to 2003 (Duration: 3 minutes)

Part III: the period from 2004 to 2020 (Duration: 4 minutes, 20 seconds)

© Paul Gilbert. 13 November 2020

Video tour of the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II in Tobolsk

CLICK on the IMAGE above to watch VIDEO (in Russian ONLY). Duration: 13 minutes

The Tobolsk Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve have created a 13-minute video tour of the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II.

NOTE: this video is in Russian only, there is no English version. If you do not speak Russian, please do not allow this to deter you from watching this video. For those of you who will never have an opportunity to visit Tobolsk, this video is the next best thing, as it affords a virtual tour of the interiors of this very important museum, one which reflects the final years of Nicholas II and his family – PG

This virtual tour of the museum is presented in Russian by historian and writer Peter Valentinovich Multatuli, who was born in Leningrad on 17 November 1969. Multatuli is considered by many as Russia’s leading authority on the life and reign of Emperor Nicholas II.

He is the great-grandson of Ivan Mikhailovich Kharitonov (1872-1918), who served as the Head Cook of the Imperial family. He followed the tsar and his family into exile, and was murdered along with them in the Ipatiev House on 17th July 1918.

Multatuli takes viewers on a virtual tour of the former Governor’s House in Tobolsk, where Nicholas II, his family and entourage of those who followed the Imperial family into exile lived under house arrest from August 1917 to April 1918. Each room features unique exhibits from their daily life complemented with Multatuli’s vast knowledge of Russia last emperor and tsar.

NOTE: the large white circle located in the upper left hand corner of the video has 4 arrows, which allow you to move the camera to view the entire room and their respective displays – PG

The Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II opened on 26th April 2018, in the former Governor’s Mansion in Tobolsk

PHOTO: Peter Multatuli in the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II, Tobolsk

***

Emperor Nicholas II and his family arrived in Tobolsk on 19th August (O.S. 6th August) 1917.

Upon arrival the Imperial family had to live for several days on the steamer Rus, waiting for the renovation of the “House of Freedom” – the former governor’s mansion – to be completed. They moved into the house on 24th August (O.S. 11th August).

Within a few days of their moving in, part of the square in front of the house was fenced off with a tall wooden fence, allowing for the family to take in fresh air and exercise. Some of the guards and those who accompanied the Imperial family into exile from Tsarskoye Selo were settled in the Kornilov house on the opposite side of the street.

In the beginning, the Imperial family were allowed to walk to the nearby Church of the Annunciation for worship, however, this was halted due to “concerns for their safety”. Despite this, the security regime in Tobolsk was more relaxed than in Tsarskoye Selo, allowing the family to lead a fairly calm life.

The Imperial family were housed in the former governor’s house until April, 1918, when they were transferred to Ekaterinburg, and subsequently murdered by the Ural Soviet on 17th July 1918.

© Paul Gilbert. 11 November 2020

The history and restoration of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: view of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room, as it looked in 1917

Among the living quarters of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna located in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace is the Pallisander or Rosewood Drawing Room. The room got its name from its elegant rosewood interiors. Rosewood is a valuable tropical tree species of the genus Dalbergia, which has a high density and rich colour range, which can vary from light brown with a pinkish tint to dark brown with purple veins. A characteristic feature of this particular tree is its extreme slow growth – a full-fledged mature trunk taking almost two hundred years to mature. Rosewood has high moisture and wear resistance, high decorative qualities, and lends itself well to mechanical processing. The wall panels, fireplace, cornices and furniture were made of this material for the interiors in the Empress’s living room.

The upper part of the walls of the interior was covered with a yellowish silk fabric without a pattern, which was specially ordered in France from the famous Charles Burger company. The work carried out by Roman Feodorovich Meltser’s (1860-1943) firm was completed in 1895.

PHOTO: view of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room, as it looked in 1917

The shelves and tables in the living room, were filled with collectibles and memorabilia, among which were figurines and vases. In addition, the interior was decorated with family photographs, paintings and watercolours with views of Hesse-Darmstadt – the Empress’s homeland.

Books in German, English and French, arranged on shelves, were mainly classics of foreign literature. Among them – The Necklace of Princess Fiorimonde by Mary de Morgan, Miss Esperance and Mr. Wycherly by Lizzie Allan Parker, The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton, The Side Of the Angels: A Novel by Basil King, Rosalind in Arden by Henry Marriott-Watson, The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Antiquary by Sir Walter Scott, and Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry by Gotthold Lessing.

Two telephones were installed in the Pallisander Drawing Room, one of which connected the palace with the Headquarters during the First World War.

Since the dining room in the Emperor’s half of the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace was converted to the Reception Room, family dinners were often served in the Pallisander Drawing Room.

PHOTOS: detail of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room fireplace

The recreation of the interior of the Pallisander Drawing Room is based on historical samples preserved in the palace-museum’s archives, including samples of wall fabric, curtains, and panels. The rosewood fireplace which once dominated the interior, decorated with bevelled mirrors has been recreated. Colour autochromes as well as vintage black and white photos also helped recreate the interiors.

During the restoration, a decision was made to recreate the frames for the paintings that were in this living room and preserved in the palace-museum collection. The difficulty in reconstructing these frames was that, like many frames in the palace, they were made according to individual orders of artists, and their sketches or drawings were not preserved, therefore, historical documents, photographs and descriptions were used to recreate them. Click HERE to read my article Original works of art will decorate recreated rooms in the Alexander Palace, published on 9th January 2020

PHOTO: the current look of the recreated Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room

Work on the interiors of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room continues. The production of a set of furniture for the living room will soon begin. The scientific staff of the museum are currently engaged in the search and selection of household items, porcelain, paintings, interior sculptures to replace those lost during the Great Patriotic War and the occupation.

***

The Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room is now one of 15 interiors in the eastern wing of the palace, scheduled to open in 2021. Among the other 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.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II, showcasing the private, domestic life of the Russian monarchs who used the palace as an official residence. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family. The multi-museum complex, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

***

Dear Reader: If you enjoy all my updates on the restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars – donations can be made by GoFundMe, PayPal, credit card, personal check or money order. Click HERE to make a donation. Thank you for your consideration – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 11 November 2020

New monument to Nicholas II opens in Penza Region

On 15th October, a new monument-bust to Nicholas II was unveiled and consecrated in the Penza region.

The monument was installed on the grounds of the Church of the “Quick to Hearken” Icon of the Mother of God in the Russian village of Proletarsky Zemetchinsky.

“The money for the monument to the Tsar-Martyr was collected in the form of donations from all over Russia” said Anatoly Tashkin-Bury, one of the two initiators of the project.

According to him, the initiative received the blessing of the hierarchy of the Penza diocese. The unveiling and consecration ceremony of the monument was attended by more than 100 people.

Tashkin-Bury added that the event was also attended by a small group of local Communists, carrying posters with provocative slogans such as “Bloody Nicholas”.

© Paul Gilbert. 10 November 2020

The myth that Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich was Russia’s last Tsar

The question of whether Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich (1878-1918) was the last Emperor of Russia, remains a subject of debate among many historians and monarchists to this day.

A heartbeat from the throne

Mikhail Alexandrovich was the youngest son and fifth child of Emperor Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna, and youngest brother of Emperor Nicholas II.

At the time of his birth, his paternal grandfather Alexander II was still the reigning Emperor. Mikhail was fourth-in-line to the throne after his father and elder brothers Nicholas and George. After the assassination of his grandfather in 1881, he became third-in-line and, in 1894, after the death of his father, second-in-line. His brother George died in 1899, leaving Mikhail as heir presumptive. The birth of Nicholas’s son Alexei in 1904 moved Mikhail back to second-in-line.

In 1912, Mikhail shocked Nicholas II by marrying Natalia Sergeyevna Wulfert, a commoner and divorcee. In a series of decrees in December 1912 and January 1913, Nicholas relieved Mikhail of his command, banished him from Russia, froze all his assets in Russia, seized control of his estates and removed him from the Regency.

After the outbreak of World War I, Mikhail returned to Russia, assuming command of a cavalry regiment. When Nicholas abdicated on 15 March [O.S. 2 March] 1917, Mikhail was named as his successor instead of Alexei. Mikhail, however, deferred acceptance of the throne until ratification by an elected assembly. Nicholas was appalled that his brother had “kowtowed to the Constituent Assembly” and called the manifesto “rubbish”.

Mikhail was never confirmed as Emperor and, following the Russian Revolution of 1917, he was imprisoned and subsequently murdered by the Bolsheviks near Perm on 13 June 1918 (aged 39).

Would Mikhail have made a good Tsar?

While many of Nicholas II’s detractors insist that Russia’s last Tsar was unprepared for the throne, his brother Mikhail was even less prepared. Mikhail had no aspirations for the throne, instead he preferred the life a playboy, and his gentle disposition would have made him an easy target for manipulative ministers and generals in helping nurture their own selfish interests.

His letters to his brother the Emperor reveal a rather devious and conniving side of Mikhail. In one such letter dated 7th November 1912, Nicholas writes to his mother:

“What revolts me more than anything else is his reference to poor Alexei’s [the Tsesarevich’s] illness which, he [Mikhail] says, made him speed things up. [Mikhail is referring to his marriage. In the event of Alexei’s death, Mikhail would have become heir to the throne]. And then the disappointment and sorrow it brings to you and all of us and the scandal of it all over Russia mean absolutely nothing to him! At a time, too, when everyone is expecting war, and when the tercentenary of the Romanovs is due in a few months! I am ashamed and deeply grieved.”

Many believe that Mikhail’s ascension to the throne would have ushered in a constitutional monarchy and that this in itself would have preserved the dynasty and saved Russia. Russia, however, was not prepared for a constitutional monarchy, nor would it have preserved the dynasty nor would it have saved Russia. A constitutional monarchy would not have appeased the socialists and revolutionaries, and most certainly driven the radical elements such as the Bolsheviks to extreme measures. It has been argued that Russia should have adopted a European style monarchy. There is little similarity. Holy Russia did not need to adopt a Western style monarchy. For centuries Russia had been led by mystic forces. Monarchy was the social system that fit Russia best.

The legality of Nicholas II’s act of abdication 

Some historians further argue that Nicholas II’s act of abdication on 15 March 1917 (O.S. 2 March) 1917 was invalid for two reasons: one, because it was signed in pencil, violating all the necessary legal and procedural methods and format, and thus had no legal force; and two, because the instrument of abdication was never officially published by the Imperial Senate.

In his scholarly book ‘Russia 1917. The February Revolution,’ historian George Katkov, throws yet another interesting coal into the fire:

“ . . . when the Tsar abdicated, and later on behalf of his son, he was accused of having done so in contravention of the law of succession and with the aim of introducing a legal flaw into the instrument of abdication that would later allow him to declare it invalid.”

If this is true, it was a very clever move on the part of Nicholas II, not realizing the terrible fate which awaited him and his family 15 months later in Ekaterinburg.

One thing, however, is certain—Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich was NOT Russia’s last tsar! Nicholas II remained Emperor and Tsar of Russia until the day of his death and martyrdom on 17th July 1918.

As God’s Anointed, Nicholas II could not be displaced during his lifetime. Since the will of God was nowhere manifest, neither in the naming of his brother Grand Duke Mikhail to the throne, nor in the Tsar’s signing of the instrument of abdication, his status as Tsar remained inviolate and unassailable.

© Paul Gilbert. 6 November 2020