Author Topic: The Horse Tomb of the Tsars  (Read 27601 times)

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Offline grandduchessella

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The Horse Tomb of the Tsars
« on: August 07, 2004, 01:52:12 AM »


The Tsar's Horses Necropolis
It tells about a man's stuggle to save this graveyard where horses were buried for nearly a century, between the reign of Nicolas I and Nicholas II.Frozen under a thick blanket of snow lies this place, like if one was at the frontier of a lost world . This place is not on any maps nor on any tourist guides, no sign, no markings. At the end of a road in the woods, anonymous and quiet, as if we had been lost in time. In fact we are just few hundred meters from a famous tourist attraction, one of the most visited in Russia: the summer residence of the tsars, 20 km south of St. Petersburg. Millions of visitors discover each year the spendor of Catherine Palace or walk along the alleys of the park at Alexander's . But none set foot at the far corner of Tsarsko´e Selo. Will the lost tourist even notice this place that looks like a small farm, surrounded by a rusted fence with few sheds?

Just the red brick building gets attention at first. The two story building is topped with a rounded tower cover like some sort of ceramic hat. Behind the building, under the snow, one can guess the presence of tombs. All perfectly aligned, russian cemetaries have the characteristic to be alot more chaotic then this... No fuss, even less crosses, all aligned in rows of ten. If at first they look human sized, no man has ever been buried here. For almost a century, the tsars as a habit to bury their most "praised" horses--those which had the privilege to spend their retirement days in the small castle built for them, in recognition for their merits and courage. This building, ordered in 1826 by Nicholas I,  by the architect Adam Menelaws was the first  "retirement home" for horses in the world. Until the abdication of Nicholas II in march 1917, 122 imperial burials had been made.

The place is not a secret but it is not well known. The Soviet Union has ignored this tiny piece of tsarist land and history, which nearly disappeared forever, victim of the revolution, wars, vandalism, and from general lack of care. For a long time people walked its ground without paying it any attention. Then in 1952, the russian administration blocked the access to transform it into a workshop to make fireworks. The trucks' traffic finally destroyed many tombs and about 30 stones. The retirement house was then used by a team from the art department who turned the place into a restoration workshop and the suroundings were used as a dump. In the mid 80's, talks about a "clean-up" were heard of and the use of a bulldozer was considered. Who would really care? This Tsarsko´e Selo cemetery and its gothic pavillon had long since been erased from memories.

Today, this same little piece of land will soon ressusitate. "If all goes well, we will be able to open it to the public next fall."says Alexander Kedrinski, Historical Monuments of Tsarsko´e Selo chief architect. A small miracle , the fruit of 15 years of hard work by a Frenchman, Jean-Louis Gouraud, and a handful of friends. Both a writer and a horselover, this "russophile" had learned about the cemetery in Paris, while reading an old encyclopedia at the National Library. "I found an article from 1860 in Le Magasin pitoresque- sort of Science&Life of that time" On the drawing made by the journalist who visited the place, "one can see the stones with the name of the horse, the name of the tsar it has served, its date of birth and also the date of it death, also sometimes some historical facts."

The idea of a retirement house for horses came to Nicholas I in the early days of his reign, just at the time of the "coup d'Útat" and the battle against the Decemberists.He had those responsible hung, and sent the others to Siberia. Called "The Iron Tsar" or "Nicolas la trique" (trique for rope). After those events nothing seem to be more important to him than the comfort of his brother and predecessor Alexander I's horse, L'Ami, the horse on which he entered Paris in 1814, at the head of the coalition. This champion spent the rest of its life in this unique "retirement home" spending days in the fields surounding it before being buried in the cemetery.

The retirement home for horses- seven boxes on the ground level, the first floor being used to house the staff- was a four star establishment. After its inauguration, in1830, the tsar himself made sure that the temperature was right and he often checked on the quality of the hay given to them. "Some horses died at 36 or 37 years old because of those good conditions", adds Alexander Kedrinski. Beside L'Ami & Sega´, two of his brother horses, Nicholas I added three of his own, Milaya, Beauty and Alexander, also some belonging to his wife, Mathilda and Fritz. From the start, the hostel sign could have read "no vacancy", from now on more space would always be made available. When the first roomer died, on april 7th 1834, the tsar gave the order to "bury it beside its home"; he dictated what was to engrave on Beauty's stone himself, "which has served his imperial highness for 24 years". This inscription would serve as a model to all the other orders made to the marble expert Stiepan Anisinov. From 1844 other stone than marble was to be used. To this date, there were already ten tombs on three rows. One the first floor the horses' equipment were to be stored. It was like the start of a museum.

They also serve who only stand and wait--John Milton
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Offline grandduchessella

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Re: The Horse Tomb of the Tsars
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2004, 01:53:39 AM »
Jean-Louis Gouraud didn't know all the details as he closed the old magazine but his decision was made, he had to see this place as soon as possible "this specially dear place to horse lovers"  He had to wait for years, the USSR of the 1980's was not responding to any of his questions: was this cemetery still existing, where was it, can I visit it? A curtain of silence seemed to surround the mythical sanctury. Gouraud was trying to find more each time he was in Moscow, using his contacts with soviet editors circles, when he met Natacha Lapchena, a searcher for the Horses Institut who offered him to drive him to the famous cemetery: "An old equestrian teacher of hers had twenty years earlier discovered it."

On Oct 2 1988, Natacha, Jean-Louis and a common friend arrived in Leningrad, went to Tsarsko´e-Selo, named Pouchkine in those days, slipped through the gates to get in the forbiden to the public area to discover how bad the place looked. A wild vegetation had invaded it all; around the stable was a real mess: broken statues, rusted pieces of metal and coming out of the vegetation, a few tomb stones with cyrillic writings. Here and there pieces of stone. Beside these all seem to have disapeared and not only from memories. The illegal visitor's emotion quickly transforms into anger as the gardian of the site tells them about a bulldozer. "Luckily 1988 saw the begining of perestro´ka, remembers Gouraud. Natasha had friends at the Leningrad television station, and rounded up a couple of those friends to voice that scandal. The authorities had no choice than to listen and act . So instead of destroying the site,a few steps were made to preserve it." The stones are then stored in the pavillon to protect them, but that is all. There's not a rouble available to give life back to those tsarist equestrian ghosts.


What a remarkable man! I wonder what condition the cemetary is in now, 3 years later. After all, money is still very scarce for this sort of project.
They also serve who only stand and wait--John Milton
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Offline Penny_Wilson

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Re: The Horse Tomb of the Tsars
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2004, 02:21:15 AM »
We have an article on this subject in the Summer issue of Atlantis, which is being printed this week.  There is quite a bit of new information included, stemming from recent research conducted in Russia.  

I believe that this article above and its photos appeared in Le Monde, 25 January, 2001, so they should receive credit.
"Don't do anything by half. If you love someone, love them with all your soul. When you go to work, work your ass off. When you hate someone, hate them until it hurts."  -- A Piece of Good Advice

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Offline grandduchessella

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Re: The Horse Tomb of the Tsars
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2004, 02:34:42 AM »
Quote
We have an article on this subject in the Summer issue of Atlantis, which is being printed this week. áThere is quite a bit of new information included, stemming from recent research conducted in Russia. á

I believe that this article above and its photos appeared in Le Monde, 25 January, 2001, so they should receive credit.


You're absolutely right. I had it credited originally but the posting was too long and I had to recompile it and didn't notice I'd lost the introduction (where the credit was given). á:-[ The site I saw it on had translated it from Le Monde and, since the English translation was slightly off, I re-translated their translation.

I thought I'd post it since I"d never heard of it and found it interesting--I'm glad you have found new follow-up information--I hope it's good news.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by grandduchessella »
They also serve who only stand and wait--John Milton
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Offline Joanna

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Re: The Horse Tomb of the Tsars
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2004, 07:05:40 PM »
Corbis has images of the Horse Cemetery and Stables for Retired Horses (search term: russia in the third millennium of saints & horses).

One photograph dated August 1, 2000 is of "... Alexander Kedrinsky, former architect in charge of historical monuments, has come out of retirement in order to oversee restoration of the stables and of the horse cemetery..."

Joanna




Offline BobAtchison

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Re: The Horse Tomb of the Tsars
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2004, 09:58:18 AM »
Does anyone have any pictures?

Bob

Offline Penny_Wilson

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Re: The Horse Tomb of the Tsars
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2004, 11:09:38 AM »
I have quite a number of them, through a friend in St P'burg who spent an afternoon there taking them for me...  :D

Penny, long-time horse girl
"Don't do anything by half. If you love someone, love them with all your soul. When you go to work, work your ass off. When you hate someone, hate them until it hurts."  -- A Piece of Good Advice

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Offline grandduchessella

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Re: The Horse Tomb of the Tsars
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2004, 11:23:21 AM »
Quote
I have quite a number of them, through a friend in St P'burg who spent an afternoon there taking them for me... á:D

Penny, long-time horse girl


Here are the ones from my original post (they came through before, I don't know why they're that white box now). á???



OK, weird--once I resposted them down here, they popped back up on the original posting.  ???
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by grandduchessella »
They also serve who only stand and wait--John Milton
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Offline BobAtchison

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Re: The Horse Tomb of the Tsars
« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2004, 12:12:46 PM »
Amazing pictures - I hqad no idea the gravesite was so huge!

Offline Penny_Wilson

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Re: The Horse Tomb of the Tsars
« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2004, 04:50:04 PM »
And there was I, thinking it was quite small, considering that there are 122 horses buried there!  8)

"Don't do anything by half. If you love someone, love them with all your soul. When you go to work, work your ass off. When you hate someone, hate them until it hurts."  -- A Piece of Good Advice

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Offline grandduchessella

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Re: The Horse Tomb of the Tsars
« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2004, 05:12:52 PM »
Quote
And there was I, thinking it was quite small, considering that there are 122 horses buried there! á8)



I guess it's all in the perspective. Plus, how did they bury those horses--straight up? The stones look awfully close together. When I was trying to re-find these pictures, I came across a lot of info on horse tombs. Apparently it was very widespread throughout the Asian empires. They loved their horses!
They also serve who only stand and wait--John Milton
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Offline Penny_Wilson

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Re: The Horse Tomb of the Tsars
« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2004, 05:20:24 PM »
Quote

I guess it's all in the perspective. Plus, how did they bury those horses--straight up?


You'd think so, wouldn't you, as they're so close together.  But the one exhumation that I have seen photos of shows a horse laying on her side, as though she was asleep (although horses don't often sleep laying down....).  She was quite clearly carefully laid out.  I always think you can tell a lot about people by the way they behave towards animals... :D
"Don't do anything by half. If you love someone, love them with all your soul. When you go to work, work your ass off. When you hate someone, hate them until it hurts."  -- A Piece of Good Advice

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Offline Joanna

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Re: The Horse Tomb of the Tsars
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2004, 01:13:41 PM »
Here is a photo of the Horse Cemetery of October 22, 2000:

http://www.asergeev.com/pictures/archives/compress/2000/157/32.htm

Joanna

Offline Genevieve

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Re: The Horse Tomb of the Tsars
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2004, 12:14:05 AM »
Wow, this is the first I have ever heard of this.  I am a big  horse lover.  It is kinda sad to think their horses were given a loving funeral and they were thrown in a pit.    It  really makes you think.

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Re: The Horse Tomb of the Tsars
« Reply #14 on: October 05, 2004, 07:12:57 PM »
Portrait of Nicholas II on Horseback (1908) by Alexander Makovsky (1869-1915)


It`s a great portrait of the Tsar with a beautiful horse.


« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Sergio »