The Fates of the Russian Imperial Yachts ‘Standart’ and ‘Polar Star’

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Photograph by Gunnar Lönnqvist from the collection of the Helsinki City Museum

A rare photograph of the two former Imperial Yachts, ‘Polar Star / Полярная звезда’¹ (left) and ‘Standart / Штандарт’¹ (right) together in dry-dock in Helsingors (Helsinki) in early April, 1918.

With the outbreak of World War I, both yachts were placed in dry-dock. They left Helsingfors for Kronstadt, only days before the Germans attacked. The fates of both the ‘Standart’ and the ‘Polar Star’ are equally sad.

‘STANDART’

The Imperial Yacht ‘Standart’ was built by order of Emperor Alexander III, and constructed at the Danish shipyard of Burmeister & Wain,² beginning in 1893. She was launched on 21 March 1895 and came into service early September 1896. It later served Emperor Nicholas II and his family.

In 1917, the ‘Standart’ was seized by Revolutionary sailors, and took part first in the February and then in the October Revolution.

The ‘Standart’ was then stripped down and pressed into naval service. It was renamed three times: ‘18 Marta’ (‘18 March,’ from 1918-1936), and later ‘Marti’ (in honour of André Marty, from 1936-1948), and ‘Oka’ (from 1948-1963). She was scrapped at Tallinn, Estonia, in 1963.

‘POLAR STAR’

The Imperial Yacht ‘Polar Star’ was built by order of Emperor Alexander III at the Baltic Shipyard on 20 May 1888. She was launched on 19 May 19 1890, and came into service in March 1891. It later served the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, who used it annually to sail to Denmark and England.

During the First World War, the yacht was docked in Petrograd, and in early June 1917 moved to Helsingfors. In 1920, the ‘Polar Star’ was mothballed.

In the early 1930s, the former Imperial Yacht was converted into a floating submarine base for the Soviet Navy. Numerous changes were made to the yacht’s exterior, but the interior decoration of many rooms were preserved. On 20 August 1936, the naval flag of the USSR was hoisted on the yacht.

In 1954 it was converted back into a floating ship, in 1961 as a target ship for testing anti-ship missiles. In November 1961, the ‘Polar Star’ was sunk in the Gulf of Riga, after being hit during a naval exercise. The final fate of the former Imperial Yacht remains unknown, although according to some reports, it was scrapped in the early 1970s.

© Paul Gilbert. 21 October 2019

NOTES

¹ The Imperial Yachts ‘Polar Star / Полярная звезда’ (left) and ‘Standart / Штандарт’ are easily distinguished by their funnels and the double-headed eagle figurehead, located on the bow of each vessel.

The two funnels of the ‘Standart / Штандарт’ are placed wider apart, whereas those of ‘Polar Star / Полярная звезда’ are closer together. The magnificent carved double-headed figurehead of the ‘Standart / Штандарт’ is much more elaborate than that of the ‘Polar Star / Полярная звезда’.

² Burmeister & Wain remain in business to this day, The blueprints for the Imperial Yacht ‘Standart’ have been preserved in the archives, a copy of which is also in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. 

Unique Photo of the Old Wooden Grand Palace, Livadia

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Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Palace, Livadia. Autumn 1909

This vintage photo depicts Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna at Livadia in the early 20th century. It is set against the old wooden Grand Palace, built in 1861 for Emperor Alexander II and his family, by the architect Ippolit Antonovich Monighetti (1819-1878).

The Church of the Exaltation of the Cross (also by Monighetti) and bell tower can be seen to the right. A gallery connected the church to the palace. The church was small, because it was designed only for the imperial family, and was used by three respective emperors: Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II.

It is known that the Imperial family arrived in Livadia with their children on 5th September 1909. It was during this visit, starting from 27th October, that Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna met with the architect Nikolai Petrovich Krasnov (1864-1939) on numerous occasions, to discuss in detail the design of their new white palace, and the decoration of its halls and other rooms. The August couple approved the design on 12th December, just 4 days before leaving Livadia for St. Petersburg.

The old wooden Grand Palace was demolished in 1910, to make way for a new Italian Neo-Renaissance style stone palace, which would serve as the residence of Nicholas II and his family during their visits to Crimea. The Imperial family visited their new white palace in the fall of 1911 and 1913 and in the spring of 1912 and 1914.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 October 2019

Love of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna to be immortalized in Crimea

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Tsesarevich Nikolai Alexandrovich and Princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt

In 2020, a monument will be established in Alushta (situated 36 km from Yalta), at the site of the historic meeting between Tsesarevich Nikolai Alexandrovich and his future wife, Princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt.

The St. Basil the Great Foundation has announced a competition for the best monument project commemorating the meeting of the future Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in Alushta on 10th October 1894.

It was in the autumn of 1894, that Emperor 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.

A stone laying ceremony will be held at the end of October, at the site of the future monument with a sign on which the historical background of the event 125 years ago will be indicated.

According to the organizer of the contest, the creation of such a monument should be a great cultural event for the Crimea and for the whole of Russia, bearing educational and moral significance, reflecting the of love of the August couple.

The results of the competition for the best design of the monument will be announced on 15th December 2019. The winner of the competition will be determined by a competition committee, headed by Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich.

© Paul Gilbert. 27 September 2019

NEW photos reveal progress of the reconstruction of historic interiors in the Alexander Palace

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The Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo surrounded by the colours of autumn

These are indeed exciting times for those of us, who share an interest in the last Russian Imperial Family. The recreation of the historic interiors of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace, has to rank among the most exciting restoration projects since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The restoration and reconstruction of the Alexander Palace has generated tremendous interest since the palace-museum was closed in August 2015. There is much optimism that several historic interiors will be open to the public at the end of 2019, or early 2020. I for one, am looking forward to travelling to St. Petersburg next year, to see these rooms in all their glory.

NOTE: these four photographs reveal the most recent results of the reconstruction of the Alexander Palace interiors, courtesy of 66salomon1986@Instagram

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The curtains have been installed in the Imperial Bedroom in the Alexander Palace
PHOTO: 66salomon1986@Instagram

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The corner fireplace in the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace
PHOTO: 66salomon1986@Instagram

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The corner fireplace in the Tsar’s Working-Study in the Alexander Palace
PHOTO: 66salomon1986@Instagram

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Stunning view of Nicholas II’s Bathroom, includes the fireplace and bath in the Alexander Palace
PHOTO: 66salomon1986@Instagram

Click HERE to review more articles, news and photos about the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace from Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint. and HERE from Royal Russia News

© Paul Gilbert. 26 September 2019

Moscow thanks US for return of historic documents related to Russia’s last tsar

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US Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman (left) with deputy head of the Rosarchive Andrei Yurasov (right), review the sixteen stolen documents returned to Russia

During a ceremony held on 18th September at Spaso House, the residence of U.S. Ambassador in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed its gratitude to the US Embassy in Russia and US law-enforcement agencies for the return of historic documents, dated from the reign of Tsar Nicholas II (1894-1917) and stolen from Russian archives in the 1990s.

“The documents include sixteen original decrees, signed by Tsar Nicholas II on bestowing the Russian Empire’s state imperial and royal awards of 1905, 1913 and 1914,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “We express our gratitude to US law enforcement agencies and the US Embassy in Moscow for their contribution in restoring the historical justice.”

The documents were stolen from the Russian State Historical Archive of St. Petersburg in 1994, and surfaced 10 years later at an auction in the United States. At auction, a single document can sell for $3,000 USD or more.

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Stolen decrees bearing the signature of Nicholas II, were returned to Russia on 18th September, during an official ceremony hosted at Spaso House, the residence of U.S. Ambassador in Moscow

In 2014, US Department of Homeland Security received information from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation that documents of historical importance were being sold by a US auction house. After an investigation was held, the documents were found to be genuine.

This is the fifth stolen document transfer ceremony to take place in the past 13 years, thanks to the US Department of Homeland Security. “These documents are of great importance for studying the history of Russia, the award system of the Russian Empire, biographies of state, military, public figures of the beginning of the 20th century,” said the deputy head of the Rosarchive Andrei Yurasov.

The looting of cultural property is one of the oldest types of crime that has spread around the world, said Katie Bay, the regional attache of the US Department of Homeland Security Investigation Service, promising to continue cooperation with Russia in the search for documents and memorabilia of historic significance, declared as missing from Russian archives and museums, which resurface on the US antiquarian market.

Katie Bey stated during a news conference that the US authorities suspect the theft of documents by Vladimir Weinberg, who is currently allegedly hiding from justice in Israel.

He is professionally interested in art, said Katie Bey. – He was already arrested in the 1980s by Russian law enforcement agencies and spent some time in prison. But immediately after his release, he took up the old. I believe that he had accomplices who provided him access to the archives, where he stole thousands of various documents.

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This *ukase bearing the signature of Nicholas II was one of sixteen stolen in the 1990s.
*A ukase, or ukaz, in Imperial Russia, was a proclamation of the tsar that had the force of law

The director of the Department of Museums of the Ministry of Culture Vladislav Kononov also added, that during the past 10 years of cooperation with the United States, more than 100 stolen items had been returned to Russia. In particular, were documents with authentic autographs of the Russian Emperors.

“The joint meticulous work between the two states’ relevant government agencies to locate missing valuables and return them to Russia shall continue for many years, thus demonstrating a great positive potential of a constructive approach to bilateral ties,” the ministry added.

Prior to transferring them back to the archive, US Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman was told in detail which figures were awarded the last Russian emperor. For example, he awarded the Order of St. Anne, 3rd Class to the photographer of the Imperial family Alexander Yagelsky.

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Ukase bearing the signature of Nicholas II was one of sixteen stolen in the 1990s.

At present, our relationship is undergoing a crisis of confidence. And there is no better way to take it to a new level than to take such steps. This confirms that there are areas where the United States and Russia can cooperate and truly cooperate. And our goal as diplomats is to create such trust. Today we are taking a small step in a positive direction, and I would be glad if we could take such steps every day. In that case, in a year we would have advanced far,” the US ambassador to Russia smiled.

According to Andrei Yurasov, in the 1990s, thousands of documents were stolen from Russian archives, many of which have not been recovered so far. But today the level of theft has been reduced to zero thanks to improved security systems, the establishment of control over the use of scripts in reading rooms and the digitization of the most requested documents. 

And Andrei Yurasov assured him that now the archive, where 6.5 million files are stored, is equipped with the most modern security systems – thieves shall not pass!

© Paul Gilbert. 26 September 2019

 

Exhibition Catalogue: ‘The Children’s World of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II. OTMA and Alexei’

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A richly illustrated catalogue Детский мир семьи императора Николая II. ОТМА и Алексей (The Children’s World of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II. OTMA and Alexei), has been published to coincide with forthcoming exhibition to be held in Moscow later this year.

The catalogue, prepared by the Moscow State United Museum-Reserve and the State Hermitage Museum, publishes (for the first time) photographs of the personal items – costumes, accessories, toys – that belonged to the children of Emperor Nicholas II. These items from the collection of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, will be presented at the exhibition, which will be held in the Kolomenskoye Museum-Reserve in Moscow from 13th November 2019 to 16th February 2020.

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In addition, many archival documents will be displayed – including excerpts from letters, diaries, notebooks, memoirs and photographs provided by the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve, the Peterhof State Museum Reserve, and the Pereslavl Museum.

The catalogue features articles researched and written by the exhibition curators Yu. V. Plotnikova (GE) and A. V. Sabenina (MGOMZ). Based on memoirs and archival documents, their works take a look at the education and upbringing of the August children, including the personalities, the growing and development of each of the five children.

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The catalogue contains 200 pages, and richly illustrated with colour and black & white photographs.  ISBN: 978-5-91353-059-2. RUSSIAN TEXT ONLY!

The price of the catalogue is 1300 rubles ($20 USD) and can be purchased in Kolomenskoye Museum-Reserve in Moscow, or through a Russian bookseller online.

© Paul Gilbert. 25 September 2019

Monument to Nicholas II Established in Donetsk

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On 8th September 2019, a new monument to Tsar Nicholas II was installed in the Kuybyshevsky district of Donetsk.

The bronze bust was established on the grounds of the Church of the Holy Royal Martyrs in the village of Gornyak. The opening ceremony of the monument was attended by clergy, soldiers of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and residents of the village.

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The newly built Church of the Holy Royal Martyrs is currently being constructed in honour of Nicholas II and members of his family, who were all murdered in July 1918 in Ekaterinburg.

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© Paul Gilbert. 9 September 2019

Monument to General who remained faithful to Nicholas II established in Russia

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Monument to General Count Fyodor Arturovich Keller, Peterhof,

On 5th September, Russia’s first monument to General Count Fyodor Arturovich Keller was established in Peterhof, where the Izmailovsky Life Guard Regiment, which had been under Keller’s command from 1906, had been housed before the 1917 Revolution.

Sadly, the barracks have only been partially preserved, and currently house the Military Institute of Railway Troops and Military Communications, where there is also a museum dedicated to the history of Izmailovsky Life Guard Regiment. It is here that the monument to their legendary commander was established.

The completion of the project is thanks to the efforts of the Emperor Alexander III Educational Society.

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Monument to General Count Fyodor Arturovich Keller, Peterhof,

General who did not betray Nicholas II

The abdication of Nicholas II, continues to be shrouded in controversy, myths and lies. Historians have led us to believe that the tsar was betrayed by all of his generals in the days leading up to his abdication.

This is incorrect.

Commander of the Guard Cavalry Corps Huseyn Khan Nakhchivanski (1863-1919), a Muslim by religion, turned out to be one of two Tsarist generals, who remained loyal to the Russian Orthodox emperor and refused to swear allegiance to the Provisional Government.

The second general whose loyalty and readiness to defend the tsar was the commander of the Third Cavalry Corps of the Russian Imperial Army, General Count Fyodor Arturovich Keller (1857-1918).

Both sent telegrams to the tsar at Mogliev expressing their loyalty to Nicholas II, offering their troops to defend the monarchy. Neither telegram ever reached their sovereign, having been intercepted by supporters of the Provisional Government.

Keller was shot by Petliurists on 21 (O.S. 8) December 1918. His body was buried under a false name in the Intercession Monastery in Kiev. His grave has not been preserved.

I have written a comprehensive article on Nakhchivanski and Keller Loyal to Their Sovereign. Generals Who Did Not Betray Nicholas II, to be published in Sovereign No. 12 Autumn 2019 – COMING SOON!

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CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SOVEREIGN

© Paul Gilbert. 6 September 2019

Moscow artist breathes new life into Russia’s last tsar

Nicholas II | Николай II

Nicholas II of Russia in the uniform of the Life-Guards 4th The Imperial Family’s Rifle Regiment, 1912
Photo © Olga Shirnina

With an artist’s eye and a surgeon’s precision, Olga Shirnina — who works under the name Color By Klimbim — uses Photoshop to breathe new life into black-and-white photos from Russian history.

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Olga Shirnina — who works under the name Color By Klimbim

Olga Shirnina was born in Schwerin (former DDR). She studied at Moscow State Pedagogic Institute of Foreign Languages, where she received a Ph.D. in Germanisctic. Following her studies, she has worked as a professor of German at Moscow State Pedagogic Institute of Foreign Languages and that of Alma-Ata.

Having a special love for arts, she started working as a picture colourist, producing her first work in 2011. Continuing, she published a website and a Facebook page with her colourings, which led her in receiving some significant commissions.

She colorizes photos purely “for pleasure.” The most thrilling part of the coloring process, says Shirnina, is “when suddenly the person looks back at you as if he’s alive.”

Shirnina says it takes her around one full day to colorize a photo, though she’ll usually wait another day before publishing in order to see things with “a fresh eye.”

Olga is fascinated by Russian history, which she finds full of dramatic, cataclysmic events, which not only had an impact on the history of the country, but also on the rest of the world. According to her, “Sometimes a picture can say more than many words are able to, and it gives me great pleasure to add to people’s knowledge and learning about Russia, through my work in colourings”. She also finds it interesting to work with colours, achieving different effects or copying the manner of great painters of the past.

​Olga has contributed to the The Romanov Royal Martyrs Project by undertaking the colourization of all the pictures of the project. In addition to her artwork, she has been able to locate most of the Russian archival material used for the project and has undertaken the transcription work of many handwritten manuscripts.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO WATCH MY INTERVIEW

Olga Shirnina’s colourized photos are also featured in my interview The Conspiracy Against Nicholas II, which aired on YouTube in August 2018. My seven-minute interview was one of a special six-part video series commemorating the Romanovs Martyrdom Centennial in 2018, prepared by the Monastery of St John the Forerunner Mesa Potamos in Cyprus.

To date she has colourized dozens of black-and-white photos of members of the last Russian Imperial Family, all of which are exceptional in their own right. It is Shirnina’s collection of colourized photographs of Emperor Nicholas II, which are my personal favourites:

Nicholas II | Николай II

Nicholas II on the Imperial Train, 1916| Photo © Olga Shirnina

Nicholas II of Russia

Nicholas II | Photo © Olga Shirnina

[Click on the images to enlarge and view caption and copyright]

Nicholas II | Николай II

Nicholas II under House Arrest, Tsarskoye Selo 1916| Photo © Olga Shirnina

Click HERE to view Olga’s collection of colourized photographs The Romanovs. An Imperial Family

© Paul Gilbert. 4 September 2019

 

Holy Royal Martyrs Monument Vandalized in Ekaterinburg

On the night of 31 August/1 September the monument to Emperor Nicholas II and his family, in front of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg was vandalized. An unknown woman with a black marker defaced the pedestal of the monument, but she has been detained by law enforcement officials

The woman wrote several insulting inscriptions against the Russian Orthodox Church and the United Russia Party on the pedestal. The inscriptions included words such as “Masons” and “Illuminati.” A police spokesman confirmed that the vandal was arrested at the crime scene. She was a woman born in 1971, and is known to Ekaterinburg police for previous offences.

The Ekaterinburg diocese has confirmed the act of vandalism, who also added that the insulting inscriptions on the monument platform were erased that very morning.

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The Church on the Blood was constructed on the site of the Ipatiev House, where the Imperial family and their four faithful retainers were all brutally murdered by the Bolsheviks on 17th July 1918

On 28th May 2003, a monument to Nicholas II, his wife and their five children was established at the entrance to the Lower Church. The seven-figure composition represents the tragic moment of the descent of Nicholas II and his family into the basement of the “House of Special Purpose” for execution.

The monument is bordered by a spiral staircase from the Upper Church to the Lower Church. According to the sculptors, the 23 granite steps of this staircase, which correspond to the 23 steps into the basement of the Ipatiev House, should remind visitors of the last journey of the emperor and his family

© Paul Gilbert. 3 September 2019