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Cultural Fact

Rasputin

Before being this good song by Boney M, Rasputin was a man, a priest, a healer, a prophet… or a sinner, a charlatan, a liar, a spy… In a good or in a bad way, he always made a very strong impression on the people he met (especially the ladies of the court apparently). Adored by the imperial family, hated both by the nobility and the Soviet regime, this character is still fascinating nowadays. Have you ever wondered who was this man? How did he become so famous that he got his own song? So put on your headphones and listen to it while I tell you the story (and legend) of ‘The Mad Monk’ Rasputin.

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A Photo of Grigori Rasputin (source: Wikicommons)

Grigori Efimovitch Rasputin is probably born around the year 1869 in Pokrovskoye, a small town in Siberia. He got interested in the Bible very early, and he made several pilgrimages. He was known for having some mystical powers such as prediction but most importantly a healing gift.

This gift brought him to St Petersburg. The Tsarevitch Alexei is hemophiliac (a blood illness that can make any bleeding mortal) and in this time, doctors were powerless against this illness. Introduced to the family by nobles he met during his pilgrimages, he was able to calm the Tsarevitch pain after he got hurt. It impresses the imperial family so much that they decided to keep the monk with them since he seemed to be the only one able to calm their son’s pain. His “powers” were probably a mix between his extraordinary charisma and … defying the doctors by preventing the patient to take aspirin an anticoagulant (they didn’t know it then) making the disease even worse. Progresses were made till then so if you are hemophiliac no need for a strange Siberian monk!

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Nicolas II, his wife Alexandra Fedorovna, their 5 children (source: Wikicommons)

Rasputin became a very important counselor of the imperial family and an attraction for the capital’s elite (especially with women ). This charismatic character really made an impression on everyone he met, his eyes were said to be fascinating and even hypnotizing. His political views, pleading for peace, and its… let’s say… quite immoral behavior, made him many enemies amongst the nobility. After the start of the first World War he was seen as a danger for Russia as well as the Tsarina who had German origins.

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Another photo of Grigori Rasputin (source: Wikicommons)

 

His death is certainly the most controversial part of his story. It’s hard to know where the legend starts. He was killed by a conspiracy of monarchists who disliked the influence he had on the Tsar and feared he would bring him to make peace with Germany. Felix Yusupov, one of the richest noble of St Petersburg, invited him to his Palace (by the way you can visit it with a guide just here). He was given poisoned food and wine but it did not seem to affect him, they hence shot him. Seeing that the monk was still not dead, they beat him up, shot him several times (again), wrapped him into some piece of clothes to throw him into the river. His body was found a few days later, a doctor who examined the body claimed that he didn’t die because of the poison nor the gunshot but by drowning (Russian Die Hard).

As cool and incredible this story is, it is probably false. The doctor who gave the poison later said he gave some harmless product because he had remorses. The doctor who examined the body also remade his statement saying that most of the contusions and wounds were made post-mortem (meaning he was already dead when they threw him into the river).

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Caricature of an “Evil” Rasputin – 1916 (Source: Wikicommons)

 

Another very important part of his legend is the letter he wrote and in which he predicted his death, and with it the death of the imperial family within two years!!! (he died in 1916 and the imperial family was killed in 1918 in Ekaterinburg) This is another mystical stuff but let’s focus on the most important… he may not have written it!!! Again? you would say. So what’s the point with this guy if nothing is true? I’ll answer you that it’s how a legend works, no one knows the truth, but it could be true.

With the fall of the monarchy and the rise to power of the Bolsheviks, Rasputin was used as the symbol of the moral decay of the Tsars. They greatly participated in the edification of the myth of the “mad monk”.

 

Now that you know more about this central character of Russian history why not come to Russia and visit the places he has been! Book your guided tour on Tsar Visit!

Categories
Traveling in Russia

Tsarskoye Selo

Founded in 1710 and located near St Petersburg, this city used to be the residence of the emperors and empresses of the Russian empire. Tsarskoe Selo means in Russian “Village of the Tsar”, it was renamed during the Soviet period into Pushkin, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of the famous Russian poet.

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Tsarskoe Selo – Tchesmé Church

The land of the future “Village of the Tsar” was first given by Peter the Great to his second wife Marta Skavronskaya, also known as Catherine I. She started the construction of a palace that would be later known as Catherine Palace. Her daughter, Empress Elizabeth I, rebuild the palace into a much bigger and more comfortable one in the flamboyant rococo style. Her successor Catherine II started the construction of the Alexander Palace for her grandson (his name was Alexander as you probably guessed). It then became the summer residence of the Tsars, and in 1905 Nicolas II moved to the Alexander Palace with his family to get away from the growing discontent in the capital (St Petersburg at the time).

After the revolution, both palaces and their parks were turned into museums. It is now one of the most visited places in Russia and a must see if you are in St Petersburg. You can book a guided tour of this city here!

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Tsarskoe Selo – Catherine palace

The palaces host some of the finest pieces of art and architecture of Russia. In Catherine’s palace, you can stroll in the impressive great hall or light gallery. This vast reception hall covers all the width of the palace, Its windows, placed on both sides of the room, magnificently enlight it during the day (hence the name). But the real jewel of this palace is the amber room. Totally covered with amber, gold, and mirrors (you love it or you hate it!) it used to be considered as the 8th marvel of the world but it was unfortunately destroyed or lost during World War II. A replica, made using original drawings and old black and white photos, can be seen today. It took 24 years and a lot of skilled amber craftsmen to recreate it.

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Tsarskoe Selo – Catherine Palace – dance hall

Alexander’s Palace is not as famous as its neighbor, but still very interesting. It is the last residence of the last emperor and his family before the Bolshevik sent them to Ekaterinburg where they would be executed. The interior is very different from all the other palaces you will see (or have already seen!) in Russia. The then-modern art-nouveau style, chosen by the Tsarina Alexandra Fedorovna, was not seen as so “imperial”. In this palace you can learn about the daily life of the last emperor and his family.

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Tsarskoe Selo – Garden

Both palaces possess a great garden where you can walk in the steps of the Russian emperors. If after this you don’t want to go to Russia and visit this amazing place, I don’t know what to do. But if you are willing to, then you can book a guided tour here!

Check out for other guided tour on our website TSAR VISIT!

 

Categories
Traveling in Russia

Peterhof Palace

The “Russian Versailles” and the symbol of Russia’s elevation to a position of power within Europe, the Peterhof Palace is, without a doubt, one of the most sumptuous palaces within Russia (and I’m a high standards person).

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The very first aim of Peterhof was to spread Russian art and culture throughout Europe and of course to symbolise Russia’s accession to the rank of a great European maritime power. That’s why the Palace is dedicated to the god Neptune and the fountains are some of the greatest curiosities. As a result, Peter the Great ordered a stunning European-style palace on the shores of the Finland Gulf. Peterhof is therefore highly influenced by Versailles but developed a peculiar architecture to please the Tsar and its court.

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Peterhof’s interior ornaments are amazing, but the most impressive thing, the real treasure of this imperial summer residence, are the gardens. They aren’t something in addition, but are a real part of the palace and thought as it. The Upper and Lower gardens, the fountains, the labyrinth, the pavilions, the canal, all of these are creating a marvelous park that increase even the beauty of the palace.

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In the summer, you can travel to the palace by hydrofoil, and let yourself be sprayed by the fountains, some having been designed for this very purpose. For its interiors and its sumptuous gardens, the Peterhof Palace is an essential visit for any stay in St. Petersburg!

Dreamstime © - Saint-Pétersbourg - Peterhof - Jardins et fontaines (8)

 

Want to book a guided-tour? Check out Tsar Visit!

Categories
Top

Top 7: Russian palaces

Russia is known for many things, and one of them being its glorious and shiny imperial past. Who wouldn’t be astonished by the luxurious golden palaces, the huge parks and masterpieces exhibited in these imperial residences? But more (because I know why you’re reading this top), who wouldn’t dream of being the Anastasia of the 21st century? (I personally didn’t lose hopes). I already wrote about all the imperialist things we can do in Russia and especially in St Petersburg (here). But I know that most of you would rather focus on the palaces and enter the intimacy of the Russian Tsars (cheeky). So here it is! A top to know which, when and at which price you can visit imperial palaces!

 

  • Peterhof Palace (St Petersburg)

Peterhof Palace is probably the most famous palace in St Petersburg after the Ermitage. And to be honest everyone knows why. The Russian Versailles was the summer residence of Peter the Great. But above all, it has been built as a symbol of the Russian imperial power and as a way for Russia to appear as a European Great Power. That’s why the palace is absolutely stunning on the inside and even more on the outside! A definite must-do!

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When?

(ticket office)

Monday: Closed

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday: 10.30-17.45

Saturday: 16.15-19.45

 

How much?

Full price (Grand Palace): 1000 RUB (16 USD)

Full price (Lower Garden): 900 RUB (15 USD)

Children (under 16yo): Free

 

Looking for a guided tour? Check it here!

 

  • Pavlovsk Palace (St Petersburg)

As I already explained, Paul Ist isn’t the best nor the most appreciated Russian Tsar. Nevertheless he had a beautiful palace. And especially and huge and awesome park to explore. An estate to discover and admire on the inside as on the outside (in summer of course).

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When?

(ticket office)

Everyday: 10.00-17.00

 

How much?

Full price: 700 RUB (11 USD)

Children (from 7yo to 18yo) & Student: 200 (3 USD)

 

Looking for a guided tour? Check it here!

 

 

  • Yusupov Palace (St Petersburg)

When we think palaces and Russian Empire, we often only think about the Romanov. Which to our defence is normal due to the kind of Russian autocratic, hyper-personalised, tradition. But still the Russian Empire has been also dominated by powerful, rich and influential families such as the Yusupov. Enter their main residence on the Moika and discover about them (yesterday and today)…and discover where Rasputin has been killed!

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When?

(ticket office)

Everyday: 11.00-17.00

 

How much?

Full price: 700 RUB (11 USD)

 

Looking for a guided tour? Check it here!

 

 

  • Tsarskoye Selo (St Petersburg)

Tsarskoye Selo is the imperial village. Why? Because it hosts two amazing palaces, the Catherine palace and the Alexander palace. If the second is under reconstruction and so close to public access for some years (you know what I mean), the first one is one of the most beautiful palace of St Petersburg. Probably because it hosts the Amber Room (well a copy since the real has been stolen, but still)!

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When?

(ticket office)

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: 12.00-19.45

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 12.00-18.45

 

How much?

Full price: 1000 RUB (16 USD)

Students: 350 RUB (6 USD)

Children (under 16yo): Free

 

Looking for a guided tour? Check it here!

 

 

  • Kuskovo Palace (Moscow)

Another powerful family were the Sheremetev. Their country estate in Moscow, Kuskovo, is one of the last remaining imperial palace around the Russian Capital. The palace and the estate are beautiful and you definitely should visit it!

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When?

(ticket office)

Everyday: 10.00-19.30

 

How much?

Full price: 200 RUB (3 USD)

Student: 50 RUB (0,8 USD)

 

 

  • Tsaritsyno Palace (Moscow)

Tsaritsyno is another palace close to Moscow. To be honest it’s more famous for its park, but the palace worth the visit because of its architectural style and its history!

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When?

(ticket office)

Monday: Closed

Weekdays: 11.00-17.30

Saturday: 11.00-19.30

Sunday: 11.00-18.30

 

How much?

Full price: 350 RUB (6 USD)

 

 

  • Alexey Mikhailovich Romanov Palace (Moscow)

Last but not least this wooden-palace is impressive. Far from the huge, goldish and European-style palaces of the Imperial Russia and St Petersburg, the Alexey Mikhailovich Romanov Palace is a true representative of the Russian style. More it explains and shows the beginning of the Romanov accession to power.

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When?

(ticket office)

Monday: Closed

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 10.00-17.30

 

How much?

Full price: 350 RUB (6 USD)

Children (under 18yo) & Student: Free

 

Want to book a guided-tour? Check out Tsar Visit!