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Messages - ChristineM

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The Alexander Palace / Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« on: August 22, 2012, 01:54:37 PM »

Now we know we are all... 'singing from the same hymn sheet', just sometimes slightly off-key.   Fundamentally our concern is the restoration of this unique palace.   Inevitably there will be differences of opinion as to how this is achieved.   Its the achievement which matters... more than the getting there.   However, getting there is integral to our reasons for being here.   Surely the fact we can agree to differ is a sign of maturity...nobody is going into a huff.   Goodness, when we pause to think of the life story of this great palace, an occasional storm in a tea-cup isn't worth a hiccup.

Nobody enjoys a good head-to-head debate more than 'Tsarfan' - as I have discovered over the years and believe me, you don't just have to be on your toes but also to waken with the lark to keep up with him.   A spell of mental jousting does nobody harm - indeed quite the reverse.   The bottom line is respect and I think we now realise this is a shared courtesy.

So...thank you Brassov - all of us will value your posting.   And yes, Suzanne Massie's contribution is incalculable along with that of Bob Atchison.  We must never forget these two remarkable, totally different but each as vital in his own way - Kuchumov and Kedrinsky without whom there would be nothing here to discuss.


The Alexander Palace / Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« on: August 20, 2012, 04:45:39 PM »
Ok Ok... lets try to get a degree of rationale into this diatribe/debate.

Firstly, Tsarfan - thank you so much for your vote of confidence.   As you know, not only have I had direct exchanges with the Directorate of Tsarskoe Selo Museums for almost quarter of a century, but have been in the fortunate position to act as a conduit on a number of occasions - an 'interface' between 'east and west'.   I feel enormously privileged to consider TSM staff not just colleagues but very dear friends.

If senior members of the staff of TSM read any of the posts by Brassov, he need not fear causing them distress or disturbance.   Over the years they have confronted people with various and varying opinions, as well as extremely disruptive individuals.   They hold wise counsel.   They know a job has to be done and are totally singleminded.   Outsiders tossing in their tuppence worth will not have the slightest impact.

What will have an impact...indeed what already has had a HUGE impact, is the selfless generosity of Tsarfan.   Bob and I have tried to do our 'bit' over the years in many and varied forms, but never before have we known of one individual who has not only shared his knowledge of the history of Russia and his interest and involvement with the Alexander Palace and TSM, but who has actually reached very deeply into his pocket to ensure the restoration of the Alexander Palace is developed as closely as possible to the original concept.   NOBODY else in the world has made such a sacrifice.   However, even this does not make Brassov stop for a second to consider his rather pathetic rear guard attempt at displaying some kind of superior understanding and knowledge of the siktuation at TSM - more than the Minister of Culture, than the Directorate of Tsarskoe Selo Museums and more than any of us who have been directly involved and party to plans for the future.

Brassov - not only have we read Suzanne Massie's 'Pavlovsk...', we know Suzanne.   We have visited TSM with Suzanne.   We have visited Pavlovsk with Suzanne.   We have worshipped at the Feodorovsky Sobor with Suzanne.   This is a case of 'grannies and eggs'.

The work at the Konstantinovichi Palace is, in a word, 'horrendous'.   If this is the best example Brassov can produce as an sample of what the wealth of Russia can achieve in a short period of time, it is a spurious one.

Finally to address the inside details of the White House... a response to this really is up to the Forum Adminstrator or to Moderators of this thread.   As a mere poster, I have to ask, is this the appropriate place to continue this discussion?

Christine M

The Alexander Palace / Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« on: August 17, 2012, 02:20:58 AM »
What Tsarfan writes about the excellence of the restorers is absolutely accurate.   Their skills are admired world wide.   The administration of TSM have, particularly throughout the very lean times of the 90s and up to this day, struggled to continue funding their salaries in order to assure these positions as staff members.   The jewellers who recreated the Amber Room being a case in point.   Ivan Petrovich Sautov struggled to hold that team together.   Glad to say he succeeded, but it was not without having to be as inventive as possibe -  hence the introduction of paid tours of the Amber Room workshops and a dedicated shop selling amber and other semi precious reproductions as well as freshly created designs.   These skills are only too easily lost, never to be recovered.   

Funds have to stretch a long, long way - with a total staff of 700 rising to over 800 during the summer months - all these salaries have to be covered and that's before paying general maintenance which is continual and ongoing on old buildings and through extreme weather conditions.   Many of the additional summer staff have much to do maintaining as well as restoring the gardens and parks.

These are aspects of the daily life of the palaces which are easily overlooked, but which are absolutely fundamental.

I have to say Paul Brewer's post was refreshing and a joy to read.   I have no idea what became of the mirrored door in the Marble Hall.   It was probably removed by naval personnel when these halls were made to appear as utilitarian as was possible.   As Tsarfan indicated, in so far as so many objects contained within those buildings were concerned, it could have been looted.   There were times - and not so very long ago - when desperate circumstances called for desperate actions...many people were on the verge of starvation.   

The fact that we are where we are today, is nothing short of a miracle... and on so many different level.s

Christine M

The Alexander Palace / Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« on: August 15, 2012, 05:10:36 PM »
Could 'Brassov' be a diminutive for 'brassed-off'?   Just an impression probably accidentally presented by, particularly, the last post.

Those of us who have spent the last twenty + years fighting for the future of the Alexander Palace could never have imagined how much we have progressed over the past couple of years and never more so than during recent weeks.   The battle for the Alexander Palace pre-dates the fall of Soviet rule - and one very brave Russian man in particular did give his life for what he believed in with such passion... 'accidentally' killed in a road traffic accident. 

 We have been in it for the long haul with a belief the day would dawn when the Alexander Palace would no longer be the headquarters of the Baltic Fleet bristling with armed guards, watch towers, barbed wire and snarling dogs.    It appeared to many we were fighting a cause which would never be realised and frequently we were told this directly.   However, we never gave up.

It was with great joy I had the good fortune to be present on the day the Family Wing of the Alexander Palace was officially handed over to the authorities at Tsarskoe Selo Museums in the presence of the Russian Minister of Culture and the Governor of St Petersburg.   A memorable day of rejoicing which, although we hoped, deep down could never have imagined would arrive, making it so much the sweeter.

Almost another decade elapsed before Naval personnel vacated the building and, in its entirety, it was handed over to the Department of Culture and the care of the Directorate of Tsarskoe Selo Museums. 

 Few of us had the opportunity of seeing the interiors not so much devasted by the Nazis, more destroyed by the Soviets.   I had the privilege of being one and Bob Atchison another.   Still we have to almost pinch ourselves when we see the enfilade of Formal Rooms reinstated... beautifully and sympathetically restored by craftsmen of the highest order.   Empty they may appear to some, but to us they are full...full of the spirit of aspiration of so many who believe this to be one of the most beautiful neo-classical buildings in the world:  a building with the most extraordinary and incomparable personal history stretching across two tumultuous centuries:  a building whose future looks bright and which will grow to once again display its full glory for generations to come.

Now so much has been achieved and in so short a time, we can afford to be truly optimistic.   Nobody ever said it would be easy, but for culture and history to win the battle over 'defence' and war is a mighty victory.   

And so we will continue with our endeavours and support the Directorate of Tsarskoe Selo Museums and its master craftsmen fired with optimism and anticipation.

Christine M.   

The Alexander Palace / Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« on: August 15, 2012, 04:16:21 AM »
Having visited Maria Feodorovna's bedroom while under the auspices of the Baltic Fleet, I can assure you the walls were not papered pink, nor was there a tented ceiling.   The fireplace remained as did the cornice.   The room, used as a library, was divided up with tall bookcases and gave a totally utilitarian impression.   When I asked permission to take photographs, this was denied.   What they could not deny me was the opportunity to look out of the windows and take in the aspect of the room where Nicholas was born, he and Alexandra spent their honeymoon.   I think it will be a long time before TSM authorities have the funding or time to restore this room along with the others on the west wing - although potentially this could be the most 'profitable' area of the restored palace housing lecture theatre, commercial and other educational activities.   I believe the restaurant area will be in the basement - a reflection of Nicholas' I choice for food preparation!   Because of their siting, it does not appear it will be possible to restore Elizabeth Feodorovna's rooms which, I believe, remain largely intact but delapidated.

An Instrument of Restitution has been worked on for well over ten years, the object being that displaced items be returned to their original 'homes'.   Having witnessed the huge, leather-bound volumes around which the endeavour to restore all items removed from the Alexander Palace and resited at Peterhof, the Hermitage and - the majority - at Pavlovsk, this is a massive task which seems to be going nowhere.   We had Tatiana Nicholaevna's nurse's dress, cape and apron on display at the Alexander Palace for a while - 'borrowed' from Pavlovsk, but even that had to be returned.   Like former Imperial retainers, soviet curators were meticulous in continuing the cataloguing of every item and its precise location.

Much of what rightfully belongs to the Alexander Palace remains at Pavlosk...some adopted to appear as a natural part of Pavlovsk's possessions, but much not displayed.   The Grand Palace at Pavlovsk does not attract the number of visitors it did soon after its restoration and during the very active and forward-looking leadership of Yuri Mudrov.  His successor, Nicolai Tretchakov, has now departed and I believe he has been replaced by a female director.   The new director at Peterhof is also a woman.   

Now we have a trio of women running those palace complexes, we might witness a very different approach and a greater degree of sensitivity applied to this difficult subject.   However as long as the all-powerful Piotrovsky Dynasty reigns at the Winter Palace/Hermitage - where they have so much they don't know what to do with it all - resistance will remain.

Christine M       

A great deal of time, thought, consideration of logistics, planning and experiences of others has gone into ensuring Mike Pyles extraordinariily generous gift is safeguarded and that the plates are safely delivered to where Mr Pyles believes they belong.

A poster on this thread is kind enough to raise doubts, probably in order to ensure Mr Pyles, the Directorate of Tsarskoe Selo Museums and Bob Atchison are aware of possible pitfalls.

All of us involved in this exercise appreciate the fact that cross-border taxes and bureaucracies are inevitable hurdles.   Additionally, the Paris auction house anticiipated the autochromes would fetch between $3 and $5,000 dollars.   At that point they indicated to the member of Tsarskoe Selo Museum staff who was dealing directly with the sale that, in view of the plates being restored to the rightful ownership, they would 'consider' waiving their fee.   They had no way of anticipating the autochromes would exciite such interest and thereby achieve a much higher than expected price.   Inevitably the price impacts on their commission.   This is charged on a percentage basis.   Thus it would have rendered it impossible for them to follow through their previous, altruistic, offer.

Those of us who care and are concerned about the future of the Alexander Palace should rejoice we have the great fortune to have in our midst a human being with such depth of generosity and awareness of history, and of architectural history, that he so selflessly gifts these -  actually priceless -  objects to ensure we, Tsarskoe Selo Museums, the people of Russia and everyone on earth for generations to come are able, should they wish, to be able to witness the resurrection of not just a building of outstanding architectural merit, but also to help capture a culture and lifestyles which heretofore appeared to have been lost forever.


Forum Announcements / New Director of TSM
« on: September 23, 2008, 01:53:26 PM »
I am delighted to announce that my dear friend Olga Sautova has been appointed Director of Tsarskoe Selo Museums.   Mme Sautova is the widow of the late Ivan Petrovich Sautov, formerly Director at TSM.   She is a very able and cultured woman and the future of TSM will be safe in her capable hands.


Tsarskoe Selo Palaces / Re: The Farm Palace, in Peterhof
« on: August 02, 2008, 05:36:29 PM »
Vadim Znamenov made a miraculous recovery from his stroke Joanna, and, fortunately, with no deficit.   He certainly possesses an extraordinarily deep knowledge and understanding of arts, culture and history.   As a man, he could scarcely be more different to Ivan Petrovich Sautov.   I doubt they would ever have been able to understand each other - polar opposites, but each effective in his own way.

As Bob Atchison wrote, Ivan Petrovich's immense influence has been felt well beyond the precincts of the palaces and the parks of Tsarskoe Selo.   He was a key figure in the town of Pushkin and in its regeneration.

Ivan Petrovich, such a forceful and powerful character has laid the groundwork which should see the restoration of the many still remaining ruins at Tsarskoe Selo - including, of course, the Farm, which, though very different in its purpose to that at Peterhof, still played an integral part in the lives of successive Romanovs at Tsarskoe Selo.

Christine Martin

Forum Announcements / Re: Death of SAUTOV - Ivan Petrovich
« on: August 02, 2008, 03:42:46 AM »
Thank you Vladimir for this exceptional photograph.   We have dozens of photographs, but these are family snapshots and not appropriate.   

This is a very dignified and true likeness.   He had such wonderfully blue eyes.

I am so glad to have this photograph, but it is heartbreaking to see.

Thanks again Vladimir.


Forum Announcements / Re: Death of SAUTOV - Ivan Petrovich
« on: August 01, 2008, 05:05:50 PM »
Thanks Bob.

I have already been in touch with Olga.   She was at their dacha awaiting Ivan Petrovich's arrival from Finland today.   Its so sad.   Poor Anastasia, she adored her Daddy and her Daddy absolutely adored her.   I cannot imagine their pain tonight.

I believe the funeral will take place on either Thursday or Friday.   This has not yet been confirmed.


Forum Announcements / Re: Death of SAUTOV - Ivan Petrovich
« on: August 01, 2008, 02:49:56 PM »
Thank you Bob for your very moving tribute to a very remarkable man.   Every observation rings with truth.   Thanks also Robert for your thoughtful condolences.

Indeed Ivan Petrovich appeared in Oleg Panfilov's film about the final days of the Romanovs.   In fact, it was through his collaboration with this highly-respected film producer and director, that, finally, a chink appeared in the Russian Navy's armour, and after over half a century, the public was allowed within the doors of the Alexander Palace once more.   The quid pro quo was that Nicholas' New Study be reconstructed (please note NOT restored) for use in the film.

Ivan Petrovich was, first and foremost an architect.   He wrote his dissertion on none other than Giacomo Quarenghi.   His love affair with the Alexander Palace began when he was barely out of his teens.   

Ivan Petrovich was much too big a character to be caught between the lines and angles of his profession.   He was a rounded, utterly outgoing man with a joie de vivre such as I have never met in any other human being.   A man of great vision.   It was he who saw the possibility of restoring the Amber Room and it was thanks to his personality and persuasive powers that Tsarskoe Selo Museums received significant financial grants from Ruhr Gas.   Indeed, during the Soviet period, Ivan Petrovich began a relationship with a small house museum in Germany - Schloss Britz.   As well as mounting his first, small, overseas exhibitions there, he continued the link for the rest of his life.   Each year in the week before Christmas, accompanied by some members of Tsarskoe Selo Museums staff, Ivan Petrovich drove from Pushkin to Berlin.   Why???   To make blinis, of course. 

These German visits afforded Ivan Petrovich introductions which eventually led to the seeds of the new Amber Room already being sown.   I remember him telling me, some time prior to the German investment and after ten years of work on the Amber Room using gifts of amber and primitive equipment, that it would take at least another 12... even twenty years until this, one of the most famous rooms in the world, (some even refer to the Amber Room as the 8th Wonder of the Modern World) would be completed.   'Then', he said, 'It will be my luck, just as we are about to open this exquisite new jewel box, the original Amber Rooms will be discovered'.   Well, he was proved wrong in this case and, thanks only to him, the Amber Room is in situ once more.   While still on the topic, since its completion and the end of the German funding, Ivan Petrovich has strived to keep the team of amber masters and mosaic masters together.   He knew their skills were priceless, but that individually they could not make a living out of these skills.   The Amber Workshop is now open to the public, at extra cost, and the produce in its multitude of magnificent forms is sold around the world.   The creative brilliance of these jewellers has, for now, been saved.

I would very much like to write a tribute to our dear friend, but I am sorry, at the moment, this is impossible.

One thing I know for certain - if Vanya could read Bob's tribute, he would be absolutely delighted.




Forum Announcements / Death of SAUTOV - Ivan Petrovich
« on: August 01, 2008, 12:00:21 PM »
It is with great sadness I have to announce the sudden and unexpected death today of Dr Ivan Petrovich Sautov.   Dr Sautov was Director of Tsarskoe Selo Museums and as such overseen much of the restoration of the palace complex which has continued throughout the last 30 years.

Dr Sautov, aged 60, died this morning.   He is survived by his wife, Olga, their daughter Anastasia (10 years old on 25th of July) and by Ilya and Katia, children from a previous marriage.

Dr Sautov died while on a visit to Finland.   It is thought the funeral will take place on Thursday or Friday of next week.   Arrangements are not yet in place.

The staff at Tsarskoe Selo Museums are in total shock.   He was a truly remarkable man who will be deeply missed by those who knew and loved him.

Christine Martin

Rest Eternal grant him O Lord,
May perpetual light shine upon him...
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed,
Rest in peace and rise in GLORY


The fact of the matter is, that until the deepest recess of GARF is opened and the events of the journey of the Imperial children on the 'Rus' is released and fully and professionally sourced - if indeed it exists - NOBODY knows what happened on that river journey.   It is all speculation and the really disgusting thing is that it should be sensationalised.   In so far as this particular episode in the lives of the Imperial daughters is concerned, they should be allowed to Rest In Peace.

Please show some sensitivity.


The tunnel has exists, but I believe has been blocked off someway between the kitchen and the basement of the palace.  I was told that the tunnel is still accessible from the Classical Kitchens, but not from the Palace. 

If you have ever been on the mezzanine of the Emperor's New Study, you can see where there was an entrance to the secret passage which crossed the corridor to the mezzanine in the Maple Room.   This too has been closed off.   I have tried to discover whether it was blocked off at the Study side or at the former Maple Room side - its both.

There are tunnels which extend from the Alexander Palace deep into the Park.  These were certainly in use until, at least, the end of the 'Cold War'.   Bob and I were fortunate enough to know a wonderful man - a geologist - who worked there Miloslavovich - Bob will remember his first name.... it escapes me for the moment.   Tragically he was 'killed' on the way home from his dacha at Luga.   His widow still lives in the Sophia area of Pushkin.   She is a French Professor.   

These were wonderful and exciting days - the late 80s and early 90s - when the Alexander Palace was a top secret military establishment.   I am sure many of you know, the right wing is reputed to be dangerous (radioactivity from whatever instruments etc. which were used there).   Having been in the right wing, I think this was a story which was put round to terrify people from going to close - not just tourists but, particularly locals for whom the Alexander Park (apart from during the time of Nazi occupation) has been open to the public.   In fact, what most people don't seem to realise, the parks were open to the public - on obtaining the requisite carnet - during the Tsarist period, when the imperial family was not in occupation.


Yes, that's the Classical Kitchen immediately on the right.   It looks like they have cleared out a lot of the detritus since I was round there.   It is still possible to see some wrecked vehicles.   There used to be wrecked armoured cars and vehicles of that sort.   Mark you, almost right where Robert is standing there was a watch tower, flood lights, guards and dogs on guard.   There was another watch tower at the opposite entrance to what used to be the 'Formal Garden', ie. beside the road heading towards the 1st Entrance and finally a watch tower at the far end of what is now a barbed wire - it used to be a 10 feet high solid, wooden palisade - perimeter fence close to the Childrens' Pond.


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