Alexander Palace Forum

Discussions about the Imperial Family and European Royalty => The Final Chapter => Topic started by: JStorey on August 15, 2007, 02:47:14 PM

Title: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: JStorey on August 15, 2007, 02:47:14 PM
I encountered an interesting tidbit in Last Days of the Romanovs that struck me enough to share.  On page 148, the young Proskouriakoff comments on the offensive behavior of Yurovsky and Nikoulin:

They both used to drink in the commandant's room and while intoxicated they sang.  Nikoulin played the piano (that was in the commandant's room).  Sometimes as Nikoulin was plyaing and Yurovsky's eyes were bleared with drink they both started yelling out songs, as:  "Let us forget the old world; Let us shake its dust from our feet.  We do not need a golden idol.  We abhor the czar's palace."

I have two questions:

1.  Does anyone know the full text of this revolutionary song?  It seems to me a remarkable, ironic commentary and I would be interested to read.

2.  I assume that was the only piano in the Ipatiev House.  Were the Grand Duchasses allowed to play it?  Perhaps unlikely, given its location in the room of the Commandant.  And yet, I also read (elsewhere) that Olga "played the piano more often than her sisters, and when she would play a piece, she would choose something sad and plaintive.”  Perhaps a piano would be cathartic to all in such a situation, even the guards, and they may have allowed them to play...  In any case I hope they were, and that it gave them some brief solace.
 
Any insight to either of these questions would be wonderful - much thanks
- Jeff



Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: mr_harrison75 on August 16, 2007, 09:59:17 AM
I cannot answer the first question, but I will try to answer the second.

According to a book (Fate of the Romanovs, chapter 3: The House of special purpose, page 109), there was a mahogany piano in the drawing room of the Ipatievskaya Dom; and the drawing room was between the Commandant's office, and the grand-duchesses' room.

We can suppose that Yurofsky and co. could come and play their revolutionnaries songs (and being heard by the Imperial Family), and Olga could come as well and play her melancholic songs...

Hope this helps!  :)
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: JStorey on August 16, 2007, 03:23:06 PM
Thanks very much.  I think it makes much more sense that the piano would be located in the L-shaped drawing room, probably against the wall of the commandant's room (one of the only available walls for a piano, I notice), which led both Proskouriakoff and Iakimoff to describe it as being in the commandant's room itself.  The commandant's room was small and filled with beds, from what I can see - probably the least likely place to stand about a piano and sing revolutionary songs.  (Incidently, considering all the men sleeping in this tiny, stuffy place, I imagine that in the summer heat they opened one of the windows, just as they eventually allowed the Tsar to do in their bedroom, perhaps leaving two open windows on the second floor.)

There is something else I need to clarify.  I discovered that this young Proskouriakoff attributes virtually all the drunkeness, singing, and vulgarity to Yurovsky and Co., rather than Avdeiev, who - I believe - is the guilty party for crude behavior (while Yurovsky is merely the cold-hearted professional executioner; not quite off the moral hook there, is he?).  The reason he shifts blame to Yurovsky is that Proskouriakoff himself - who served under Avdeiev - wishes to distance himself as much as possible from all the alleged discraceful activity:

"as a matter of conscience I can say this:  Avdeieff was a simple workman, very poorly developed, mentally.  Sometimes he was intoxicated.  But neither he nor the guards during the time offended or did any wrong to the imperial family.  Yurovsky and Nikoulin behaved themselves differently..."  (p. 147, Last Days)

He then goes on to describe all the horrible things the men under Y. did.  Where he completely gives himself away is through this simple contradiction:  Once Yurovsky came to the house, only the "Letts" (or "Magyars", suspect in itself because of Wilton's eagerness to blame the Germans.  Plus the famous "secret symbol" in the cellar room is the acronym of the Latvian revolutionary party.) occupied all the internal posts of the Ipatiev House.  And yet poor Proskouriakoff names off, one by one, the offending parties:  Fakya Sfaonoff began to write bad words on the lavoratory walls, Andrew Strekotin drew indecent pictures, etc. (he is rather the tattle-tale, isn't he?)  Therefore all these insults must have taken place under the sound leadership of the drunk Avdeieff.

Then, regarding the singing of these revolutionary songs, we we get to the testimony of Iakimoff.  According to him, it was indeed Avdeieff and Co. who sang these songs:

"The drunkards made a great noise in the commandant's room; they shouted, slept one on the other as they toppled over and were very dirty in their habits.  The songs they chose for their singing, of course, could not have been agreeable to the Czar.  They all sang:  "You fell as a victim in the struggle," "Let us forget the old world,"...  Oukrainzeff could play the piano which was in the commandant's room and accompany the singers...  I believed the way he treated the imperial family was insulting." (p. 180)

This is entirely in keeping with the general sense of Avdeiev as an unkempt drunk, whose behavior was boorish, crude, and vulgar and did little to dicourage his men from juvenile antics, while Yurovsky was a cold-blooded professional who would not tolerate any behavior that might compromise his ultimate mission:  to murder his helpless victims.  For Yurovsky, therefore, there was no room for hearty revolutionary songs or teary eyed glasses of vodka...

Hopefully this isn't entirely banal information to share; I, at least, find it interesting. 
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: JStorey on August 16, 2007, 03:40:33 PM
Sorry for more, I'm on a bit of a roll today...  I'd still love to know the lyrics to "Let us forget the old world", if anyone has them.  What I find interesting about these songs is that, in a sense, what happened at the Ipatiev House really did mark the end of the old world...  I'm a bit of a Luddite so I find that quite sad of course...

I did find the lyrics to ONE of the songs.  I believe "You fell as a victim in the struggle" refers to the Funeral March, most famously sung at the conclusion of Lenin's first speech in the Smolny Institute, where he said, "We shall now proceed to construct the Socialist order!"

The lyrics of the Funeral March are included in Reed's 10 Days that Shook the World, and are as follows:

You fell in the fatal fight
For the liberty of the people, for the honor of the people.
You gave up your lives and everything dear to you,
You suffered in horrible prisons,
You went to exile in chains...
Without a word you carried your chains because you could not ignore your suffering brothers,
Because you believed that justice is stronger than the sword...
The time will come when your surrendered life will count.
That time is near; when tyranny falls the people will rise, great and free!
Farewell, brothers, you chose a noble path,
At your grave we swear to fight, to work for freedom and the people's happiness...

Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: JStorey on August 21, 2007, 03:45:12 AM
I have discovered the answer to the confusing location of the piano - FOTR, p.176:

"...as Nicholas noted in his diary, the soldiers had moved the piano from the drawing room into Avdayev's office at the end of the first week of May."

Then from Nicholas' diary on May 8:  'the sound of uneven singing and playing on the piano' coming from Avdayev's office.

A small, but telling detail.  First, the date of the move proves it was not Yurovsky, Nikoulin, etc. singing revolutionary songs, (as Proskouriakoff maintains) but Avdayev, Moshkin, etc. 

Why is this important?  Because the testimony of Proskouriakoff is one of the central thesis in Mr. King's humanist depiction of Avdayev; a thesis I believe is quite overstated.

Certainly, it is important to debunk the caricatures portrayed by White monarchists; FOTR does this effectively:  the guards were not bloodthirsty, torturous criminals depriving their prisoners, harrasing them constantly, causing them to suffer merely for their own pleasure, etc.  Point very well taken because until reading this book I did indeed have that impression.

And yet, the opposite, I think, is also overstating the truth.

In FOTR, Avdayev is not REALLY a drunk, he is simply prone to libation (this is a man whose fondness for alcohol is mentioned by virtually every witness).  He is not really a crude boorish fellow, he merely acts with a false bravado to impress his soldiers.  It is a necessary duty; a requirement of his position.  In truth, he is saddened by the fate of the family, helps them procure various items, becomes touched by their plight, and eventually refuses to carry out the final act.  What a sympathetic fellow!

Meanwhile, the REAL culprit in this part of the story is Moshkin, who does all sorts of nefarious things after Avdayev leaves:  he steals belongings, sings the insulting revolutionary songs, engages in dubious trysts, etc.  (Wait a moment, wasn't Avdayev eventually removed from his position at the factory for spending too much time at the Ipatiev house - why on earth would he leave just when the party is getting started?)

In the end one is left with a greatly improved impression of Avdayev - he is now a sympathetic character, not quite a fiend - while Moshkin, a disposable stranger, takes the moral plunge, as it were.  Someone is drunk?  Something is stolen?  Moshkin is to blame!

I'm afraid this pattern - that is, lessening the culpability of the primary actor (the villian unveiled), while enhancing the culpability of a secondary actor (the stranger, the new villian emerges) - appears quite often in this book.  Beneath the carefully culled testimony a moral theme begins to evolve - a mythical narrative, as it were - that itself must be scrutinized if we are to have a better idea of the truth or, alternatively, what - lacking reliable witnesses and facts - we simply cannot know.

Nevertheless, it makes for a good read.

More on this later...

Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: JStorey on August 22, 2007, 12:51:01 PM
I find it truly fascinating how much information can be gleaned from the smallest of details, for something else occured to me regarding the movement of the piano.  That, I think, is the test of a historian; we are like the archeologist:  we dust patiently, leave no stone unturned, examine every detail with the scrutiny it deserves, and eventually, from even the most seemingly trivial shards, we discover some truth.

Moving such a large piano requires motivation - what was it?  I believe the gesture demonstrates - if not proves -  an assertion held by FOTR: that the Romanov's living quarters were respected and off limits to the guards (aside from inspections, roll calls, etc.). 

The "boundary" of their space was the drawing room; it was not okay for the soldiers to idle about there around the piano and play songs, therefore it was moved out of the IF private space and into the commandant's room, a place considerably more cramped, filled with beds, etc. (although better ventilated).

Do you suppose they played these boisterous songs at night while the Romanovs were trying to sleep? 

Another idea comes to mind:  why didn't the IF object to the movement of the piano?  I hypothesize the answer to this may be that although the girls were capable piano players, perhaps they didn't care for this particular piano; it may have been beneath them to play it.  It was an upright, perhaps out of tune, surely greatly inferior to the magnificent pianos they had grown up playing.

Another possibility is that they simply didn't want to play, but this strikes me as unusual, because if imprisoned one's primary foe is boredom (there is only so much sewing one can do) and therefore a piano would be great solace to any music lover.  Did the IF object to the piano's movement from the drawing room?  Is there any info on this in N or A diaries?  Does this topic interest anyone other than my humble self? 
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: Tania+ on September 03, 2007, 07:52:02 PM
Your postings make my mind work overtime, especially on the questions you birng forth. Please keep posting. What you have offered to date is very informative and far from boring. Discovering truth is always more important than having lies prevail. Thank you again Jeff for all you offer. Your a gem !

Tatiana+
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: mr_harrison75 on September 03, 2007, 10:51:58 PM
It is very interesting!

I wonder; how could they have moved the piano into the commandant's office, while there was testimonies from guards that Olga often played sad songs on the piano? Unless there was two pianos?  ???
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: JStorey on September 04, 2007, 03:19:15 PM
Thanks Tatiana! : )
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: lexi4 on September 04, 2007, 06:55:11 PM

Another idea comes to mind:  why didn't the IF object to the movement of the piano?  I hypothesize the answer to this may be that although the girls were capable piano players, perhaps they didn't care for this particular piano; it may have been beneath them to play it.  It was an upright, perhaps out of tune, surely greatly inferior to the magnificent pianos they had grown up playing.

Another possibility is that they simply didn't want to play, but this strikes me as unusual, because if imprisoned one's primary foe is boredom (there is only so much sewing one can do) and therefore a piano would be great solace to any music lover.  Did the IF object to the piano's movement from the drawing room?  Is there any info on this in N or A diaries?  Does this topic interest anyone other than my humble self? 

Perhaps they thought if useless to object to anything the guards did. I'm trying to thinkg (off the top of my head) to things the IF did object to while they were prisoners. I'm sure there were things, she said heading for the bookshelves.
Lexi
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: JStorey on September 11, 2007, 01:24:47 PM
In another post Dmitri offers this:

I wonder whether the Romanovs brought much music with them? Unless they had been talented at memory work or had good ears to play the piano, they must have been deprived of much of their previous enjoyment.

So perhaps the Imperial Family did not object to the movement of the piano simply because they lacked the sheet music to play anything.  Remember that Nicholas had resorted to rumaging through Ipatiev's belongings just to find a book or two to read. 

Regarding the "sad songs" played by Olga - I think that testimony came not from the guards but from Prince Lvov, who has proven not to be the most reliable source of information.  On the other hand, the piano was in the drawing room for a certain period, and may have been played - who knows? 

I wonder what song might have filled the air?  Do you think they could play Rachmaninov?  Maybe something from the "mighty handful" - Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky...  Sad they were to miss the wonderful revolution in music - what would they have thought of Prokofiev and Shostakovitch?  Although I think I read somewhere that Nicholas found Stravinsky too modern for his tastes!  For some reason, though, I do imagine - one hot afternoon - some lovely song being played by one of the girls on the slightly out of tune piano...
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: mr_harrison75 on September 11, 2007, 01:39:52 PM
In fact, the testimony about Olga N. playing sad songs on the piano was from a former guard of the Ipatievskaya Dom interviewed by Valentin Speranski, and mentioned in his book The House of Special Purpose.

If it would've been from Prince Lvov, I would agreee with you...  ;)
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: JStorey on September 11, 2007, 01:48:54 PM
Thanks Mr. Harrison!  If you can find the quote from that book, I'd be grateful to read it.  Maybe we could identify the guard and possibly date when it happened. 

What's strange it that according to Nicholas' diary the piano was moved at the end of the first week of May, while the remaining children arrived May 23.
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: lexi4 on September 11, 2007, 03:34:29 PM
Do we know whether or not it was a player piano? They were not uncommon at the time. If it was, there could well jave been rolls in the house.
Lexi
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: mr_harrison75 on September 11, 2007, 09:06:00 PM
Here's the quote; Speranski is questionning the guard:

“What impression did the girls make on you?”

“Nothing in particular, I knew them all by name and I could recognize them from far away. Only Tatiana, like her mother, was not without arrogance, she was not disposed to talk to men of the people. However she smiled agreeably when she encountered decent and correct guards. The eldest, Olga Nicolaevna, was, like her brother, pale and sickly, but that did not prevent her from being boisterous. Her eyes, most of the time, appeared sad and tired. During the walk she stood apart from her sisters and looked sadly into the distance. She played the piano more often than her sisters, and when she would play a piece, she would choose something sad and plaintive.”
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: dmitri on September 11, 2007, 09:45:07 PM
You know there was a scene in Nicholas and Alexandra which had Alexandra going on about how she used to play Schumann and Schubert and how her fingers could no longer do this even if she wanted to. Nicholas goes on about her still having beautiful hands. It makes out that Alexandra suffered from arthritis or something similar.
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: JStorey on September 12, 2007, 11:29:39 AM
Here's the quote; Speranski is questionning the guard:

“What impression did the girls make on you?”

“Nothing in particular, I knew them all by name and I could recognize them from far away. Only Tatiana, like her mother, was not without arrogance, she was not disposed to talk to men of the people. However she smiled agreeably when she encountered decent and correct guards. The eldest, Olga Nicolaevna, was, like her brother, pale and sickly, but that did not prevent her from being boisterous. Her eyes, most of the time, appeared sad and tired. During the walk she stood apart from her sisters and looked sadly into the distance. She played the piano more often than her sisters, and when she would play a piece, she would choose something sad and plaintive.”


Thanks Mr. Harrison!  Very interesting...
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: AGRBear on September 13, 2007, 10:16:09 AM
Why do some of you think the piano was out of tune?  I'm sure that the welthy owner Ipatiev had a perfectly tuned piano.  It's just that he nor anyone in his family got to play it because it became the new prision for the IF before they moved into the newly built house.

And,  it would seem,  since  there was  piano in the house that there would have been sheet music neatly placed in the piano seat or on a book shelf just like the wine would have been full stocked and the garden already growing....

As for the difference between a grand piano and an upright piano,  it cannot be denied, however, the upright is equal to a baby grand piano and serves it's purpose.  Only  a true concert pianiste / pianist would worry about the differences. 

If  the piano was new, after  a lot of pounding  some of the keys would  "go off"  [out of tune] in the first few months.  But we do not know if it was new,  since  families, in those times,  held on to the pianos like they were old friends, and, because pianos weren't that easily purchased during those times.  So,  if it was old,  then it would have held it's  tune for six months or longer.   Not the "in tune" for a concert pianist who wants it tuned all the time, but,  that is a different  situation and is govern by the individuals needs of a professional.

As for the need of sheet music.  I for one didn't like to memorize music,  but that was being lazy.   Most people remember their favorite songs and the ones  a teacher or parents  wanted you to play to visitors....  Some people who were really into their music and were emmersed into music usually held a large amount of music in their memory bank,

As for  Alexandra's fingers being too stiff to play Schumann and Schubert,  it's true,  she'd never be able to play as she did when she was younger, but, surly, she could have helped the girls to  remember the melodies and then the rest could have been improvised.

Before the war with Germany,  I'm sure the IF piano played Strauss, Brahms, Wagner,  Chopin, and, of course,  Mozart.   I  doubt they would have played  German composers after the war.   Probably ended up playing old Russian ballads  and Russian composers.  Maybe,  American tunes since they had been viewing American movies which came with American music.....  Tunes  from Operas.... 

I may be completely wrong but I don't think I'm too far off.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: JStorey on September 13, 2007, 01:15:36 PM
I think you're spot on, AGRBear...  Good comments.

After giving this far too much thought, my personal conclusion is this:  the GD's never played the piano, for the simple fact that it was located in the commandant's office for the duration of their stay.

The only testimony in existence to contradict this conclusion comes from this fellow Speranski interviewing "psyeudonomous" guards, much of which, erring on the sensational, has since been largely discredited. 

Here is another example of his "piano" testimony:

"Our comrades from the factory later became more humane, but the stallions from the Zlokazov [factory], as vicious as before, continued to insult ceaselessly the girls and spied on their least movements. I often had pity for them. If, for example, they played dances on the piano, they smiled, but tears flowed from their eyes on to the keyboard."

A little too dramatic for me to believe, and riddled with other inaccuracies...

We know, for instance, that the "stallions from the Zlokazov factory" were not "vicious" (annoying and incredibly juvenile might be a better way to describe them); they were not allowed in the living area of the Romanovs and therefore could not spy on them, and so forth.  Elsewhere, Speransky's testimony is equally problematic.  He maintains, for instance, that Anastacia was shot at while standing at the window, which - as has been discussed extensively elsewhere - we now strongly suspect to be a myth.  Speransky's book is a compelling source, yes, but to be taken - as someone else wrote - with "a grain of salt"!

Meanwhile, Nicholas' diary, the testimony of Yakimov and the young Proskouriakov, all independently confirm the location of the piano in the Commandant's room, the revolutionary songs (sung "unevenly" - I love that), and the specific date in which it was moved.  I find it highly unlikely the Grand Duchasses were invited or ever wanted to enter there.

So that's my two kopecks...
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: lexi4 on September 13, 2007, 01:41:39 PM
I still wonder if it might have been a player piano. For some reason, it is difficult for me to imagine that the guards could really play. I have no idea what I base that opinion on.  :) But, if it was a player piano all they would have to do was insert the rolls.
Lexi
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: JStorey on September 17, 2007, 01:56:53 PM
Well, if you've followed this entire thread I found the answer to the initial question that started off our extensive piano inquiry:

One of the "insulting songs" referenced in the testimony is the "Worker's Marseillaise" - a Russian version of La Marseillaise that was far more socialist in nature than the French version.  When you read references Russian revolutionary history to La Marseillaise, this is the version they sang, and indeed portions of the lyrics are referenced verbatim in multiple Ipatiev Guards testimony.

I imagine it would have been haunting for the Imperial Family to have heard this song; clearly several of the guards found it objectionable and disrespectful.

Anyhow, for anyone who is interested, below are the lyrics in English:

Let's denounce the old world!
Let's shake its dust from our feet!
We're enemies to the golden idols,
We detest the Tsar's palaces!
We will go among the suffering brethren,
We will go to the hungry people;
Together with them we send our curses to the evil-doers,
We will call them to struggle with us:
Refrain:
Arise, arise, working people!
Arise against the enemies, hungry brother!
Sound the cry of the people's vengeance!
Forward!

The Russian text can be found at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otrechemsya_ot_starogo_mira (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otrechemsya_ot_starogo_mira)
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: loulia on October 15, 2007, 02:11:28 AM
I still wonder if it might have been a player piano. For some reason, it is difficult for me to imagine that the guards could really play. I have no idea what I base that opinion on.  :) But, if it was a player piano all they would have to do was insert the rolls.
Lexi

In Nicolas Ross's book, "the death of the last tsar" he quotes the guard Proskuriakov : " Nikulin knew how to play piano, they put the piano in comandant's room. Nikulin played and Yurovsky sang. They sang together revolutionaries songs. Moshkin too allowed himself to sing that kind of song, but only when Avdeev wasn't here, and Avdeev ignored it"
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: loulia on October 15, 2007, 02:13:03 AM
Sorry I've just read my post and realise I've probably make a lot of gramar and synthax  mistakes in my translation
So sorry for my bad english!
Title: Re: Piano in the Ipatiev House - Song Lyrics
Post by: AGRBear on October 17, 2007, 05:05:54 PM
While looking for something else,   I stumbled over this little bit of information about the piano in the Ipatiev House  from the Priest Storozhev's  testimony for Sunday, May20/June 2 in O'Conor's   THE SOKOLOV INTESTIGATION P. 118:

>>In the commandant's room there were two men of middle age...There was a table n the middle of the room --with a samovar and bread... There was a piano in the room, on which lay rifles, hand grenades and something else. The room was a mess --dirty and disorderely.<<

AGRBear