Slides from Russia

František Krátký: “Russia, 1896. Collector of donations”

In May 1896 a compatriot of ours also participated at the coronation of the last Tsar, I mean if we consider the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy as our patria of those times. The Prague photographer František Krátký (1851-1924), a pioneer of  educational photography, having already visited the Monarchy, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland and the Balkans and having taken and purchased everywhere photos to be used for the education and for presentations, in the spring of 1896 went to Russia where he obtained a special permission to take photos during the solemnities of coronation.

“Moscow, procession of coronation, 1896. The procession of Alexander II [correctly Nicholas II] at the Paris Hotel”

Slide projecting was extremely popular in contemporary Bohemia. The Prague Amateur Photographers’ Club and later the Slide Projection Society founded in 1897 regularly held public slide projections whose popularity was reduced by the movie only from the 1920s on. The slides were colored by hand as we see on these 8.5 × 8.5 cm photos. The colors have faded during the past century, and several photos were also ruined. From the photos taken in Russia by František Krátký only these two dozens published by the Czech historian of photography Pavel Scheufler have survived.

“Moscow, procession, 1896. Carrying icons”

The photos were also published by the English Russia site, naturally in their typically shifty way. They took it over from the blog of Marinka Lisa who was the first Russian to discover the Czech series. However, they did not mention their source, just as they have “forgot” to add any other information – the name of the photographer, the story of the photos and all the captions – still present in their source. This is how the posts of English Russia usually transform the intelligible Russian reality into an exotic and absurd circus show suitable only for entertainment.

“Moscow, 1896. The building of the Eagle Club.” The Bolshoy Teatr

In the high school in the 80s, when it was extremely difficult to go abroad and there were not many illustrated guide books, the main source of visual information were the slide series made by our professors. By the end of the fourth year we knew by heart each slide of every series. And the equipment room even preserved glass slides from before the war: thirty pictures on the Italian monuments, thirty ones on the French ones, thirty on the German ones. Today it is already difficult to imagine that for generations these couple of dozens of images were the whole world.

“Petersburg, 1896. Lighthouse and Winter Palace”

“Petersburg, 1896. Stock exchange”

“Petersburg, 1896. Anichkin Bridge”

“Petersburg, 1896. Egyptian Bridge”

“Petersburg, 1896” Correctly: Moscow, monument of the heroes of Plevna

“Petersburg, 1896”

“Petersburg, 1896. Sennaya square”

“Petersburg, 1896. The quay of Petersburg”

“Petersburg, 1896. Hansom cab at the quay”

“Nizhniy Novgorod, 1896. Floating hotel”

“Alexander’s summer palace, 1896”

“Peterhof, Cascades”

“Tsarskoye Selo, 1896”

“Petersburg, 1896. Monument of Peter the Great”

“Petersburg, 1896. On the market”

“Petersburg, 1896. On the market”

“Petersburg, 1896. Nevsky prospekt”

“Coronation, mass entertainment, 30 [18] May 1896. Beer-garden on the Khodinka field”

Coronation, mass entertainment, 30 [18] May 1896. Long live the Tsar! Khodinka field”

The last coronation

from here
Dedicated to AJP Coronation

It was exactly a hundred and fourteen years ago today, on 26 May 1896 – according to the Old Calendar, on 14 May – that the last Czar and Czarina of Russia, Nicholas II and Alexandra were crowned in Moscow, in the Uspensky Cathedral.

Registered entrance ticket to the solemnities of the Coronation

Although the capital of the empire had been Saint-Petersburg for more than two centuries, nevertheless according to the ancient Romanov tradition the coronation took place in the Moscow Kremlin, in the Uspensky – that is, Dormition of the Virgin – Cathedral.

Объявление о Священном Короновании императора Николая Александровича
и императрицы Александры Фёдоровны
  –  Announcement on the Imperial

Coronation of Emperor Nikolai Aleksandrovich and Empress
Aleksandra Fyodorovna

The court arrived at Moscow on 6 May where they stayed in the Petrovsky Palace outside the city walls. On 9 May the Czar solemnly entered Moscow through the triumphal arch established on the Tverskaya Zastava.

The coronation took place on the 14th, and the events, receptions, lunches, dinners, concerts and balls followed each other in a tight rhythm until 26 May, that is 7 June according to the Gregorian Calendar.

“The program of the festivities of the forthcoming Holy Coronation”

Place card

The menu cards of the festive lunches and dinners were designed by the most popular contemporary artists.

Lunch, 15 May 1896

Суп из раков
Финляндская форель натуральная
Холодное заливное из куропаток
Жаркое пулярки
Горячее сладкое
Crayfish soup
Finnish trout natural
Cold jellied quail
Roast poultry
Hot sweets
Ice cream

Lunch, 19 May 1896

Суп из черепахи
Филе говядины с кореньями
Холодное из рябчиков и гусиной печенки
Жаркое — индейка и молодые цыплята
Цветная капуста и стручки
Горячий ананас с фруктами
Turtle soup
Salt fish
Fillet of beef with vegetables
Cold grouse and foie gras
Roast turkey and poultry
Cauliflower with beans

Hot pineapple and fruits
Ice cream

Lunch, 20 May 1896

Навар из рябчиков
Разные пирожки
Стерлядь по-итальянски
Жаркое из пулярки и дичь
Салат по-швейцарски
Мороженое с подливкой из малины
Grouse soup
Mixed pirozhki
Sturgeon Italian style
Roast poultry and game
Swiss salad
Ice cream with raspberry sauce

Dinner, 23 May 1896

Бульон лукулловский
Пирожки разные
Холодное из рябчиков по-суворовски
Жаркое: крупные цыплята на вертеле
Цельная спаржа
Lucullus broth
Mixed pirozhki
Cold grouse Souvorov style
Roast chicken on skewer
Whole asparagus
Ice cream

The models of the 23 May menu card were the heralds who during the festivities were walking all over Moscow to announce the events of the coronation.

Concert program, 26 May 1896

The events of the coronation, quite naturally, were not mentioned too frequently in the past century. In the recent years, however, more and more images of it were published on a number of blogs and sites. The above pictures have been collected from them. And the following ones which accompany the events from the solemn entrance of the Czar in Moscow to the tragedy on the Khodinka field, were published on one Belorussian forum. The site also used some of them to put side by side the old and modern look of some Moscow spots, and we have included these as well.

The Kremlin and the Moscow Bridge adorned for the festivities.

The Bolshoy Teatr is almost unrecognizable.

The Resurrection (later Revolution) Square and the Vitaly Fountain.

It is hard to believe, but this is how the Strasnoy (Pushkin) Square looked like.

The festive pavilion of the Moscow Zemstvo across Tverskaya, opposite to Strasnoy Monastery.

The beautiful carved pavilion by the architect Fjodor Sehtel on Tverskaya.

The asphalted Tverskaya along the Glinischevsky pereulok, with the Filippov bakery to the right.

The Moscow Governor’s House. By the time it has grown it became the Mayor’s office.

Facing it, the central building of the police and fire department. Today the Yuri Dolgorukiy monument stands on its place.

The Tverskaya continuing after the Manezhki.

Further along Tverskaya, at the Georgievsky pereulok. Most of these buildings were pulled down.

Towards Kuznecki bridge.

An unidentified place.

On the corner of Myasnickaya, near to the Red Gate.

The adorned Red Gate (pulled down in 1926).

A little square on the Kalanchovka, near to the Red Gate, where now the Lermontov monument stands.

Temporary triumphal arch at the corner of Sretenka and Bulvarnoye kolco.

Festive colonnade in front of the Noble Assembly’s Casino (the later House of Trade Unions).

Festive column on the Ohotny Ryad and the later pulled down Paraskeva Church.

The Church of the Grebnovo Icon of Our Lady on the Lubyanka. In 1898 it was pulled down, and the building erected on its place later became the infamous headquarters of Cheka/GPU/KGB.

The first known examples of the festive pavilions regularly set up on Lubyanka.

The bastion on the Kitaysky proyezd also received a festive dome.

People of Moscow and from the neighborhood on the Red Square on the day of the Coronation.

Flags at the Pokrovsky Cathedral.

The Manezh (to the left) and the Kutafya Bastion with the Czar’s coat of arms.

The Alexander Garden.

The later “Leningradka” in front of the Petrovsky Palace where the Czar stayed during the festivities.

Foreign delegations on the Khodynska field, at the Petrovsky Palace.

Triumphal arch on the Tverskaya, through which the Czar entered Moscow. Inscriptions of the columns: “Боже, царя храни” (God, save the Czar) and “Слава во веки вековъ” (Glory for ever and ever).

The Czar, according to the tradition, enters the old capital through the Tversky Gate on a white horse with silver horseshoes…

…proceeds to the Iversky (Iberian) Gate (none of the above buildings stands today; the medieval gate itself was pulled down in 1931)…

…here he visits the Iversky Chapel…

…then enters the Red Square through the Iversky Gate…

…they pass by the monument of Minin and Pozharsky and the recently erected GUM Emporium.

The carriage of the Czarina passes by the temporary grandstands set up on the Red Square, on the place of the later Lenin Mausoleum.

The parade regiment waiting for the Czar on the Red Square, near to Lobnoye mesto.

Festive entrance to the Kremlin through the Savior’s Gate (this custom was maintained by the following rulers of Russia as well).

Guests of honor watching the march of the hussars from the grandstands near to the Czar’s Bell.

The guardian of the imperial insignia in the Kremlin.

The Andreyevsky or Throne Room.

The imperial throne.

Sedan chairs waiting for the Czar.

Officers having themselves photographed on the great occasion with the Czar’s Cannon.

Hansom-cabs in the Kremlin.

The carriage of a guest of honor with lackeys and body-guards.

The Senate Square in the Kremlin.

The master of ceremonies announcing the details of the forthcoming coronation.

Audience in the Kremlin at the Chudov Monastery (pulled down in 1929).

The Czar and his entourage entering the Uspensky Cathedral.

Interior of the Uspensky Cathedral before the coronation.

The imperial procession leaves the cathedral.

“His Majesty, Czar of All Russia” under the canopy after the coronation.

Honor guards.

Nicholas II ceremonially drinking a cup of vodka before the military parade on the Khodynka field.

Policemen on the Khodynka field who later could not keep back the crowd of half million.

On the Khodynka field at the beginning everything was in order.

Announcement of the mass entertainment of 18 May.

The Czar’s pavilion, the grandstands and the crowd on the Khodynka field, some hours before the tragedy.

The festive illumination of the Kremlin was an incredible novelty at the end of the 19th century.

The Kremlin seen from the Bolshoy Kamennyj bridge.

The splendor of the festivities was eclipsed by a tragic event. A mass entertainment was announced for 18 May on the Khodynka field (the modern Khodinsky Airport) in front of Petrovsky Palace where the Czar and his entourage were staying. The announcements also promised distribution of food: a pound of bread, half pound of sausage, a honey-cake with the imperial coat of arms and a mug of beer with the monogram of the Czar for the memory of the coronation.

The Petrovsky Park and Palace.

The Khodynka field in front of the Petrovsky Palace.

Announcement of the Khodynka field mass entertainment on 18 May 1896.

A rumor spread among the crowd of about half million people that there was not enough food,  and they began to throng in a panic. According to official sources 1839 people were trampled to death, but allegedly twice as much were buried in the mass grave of the Vaganovsky cemetery, and at least twice as much were injuried.

Porcelain glass for the memory of the coronation with the coat of arms and monogram of Nicholas II. The mugs distributed on the Khodynka field were certainly simpler than this.

Because of the tragedy Nicholas II wanted to renounce his participation at the ball organized for the evening at the French Embassy, but his counselors convinced him that it would be considered as an offense by France. Allegedly soon after the event some wandering prophets began to announce all over Russia that the Czar would die a violent death because of his being impassive to the tragedy of his people. This story, however, seems to be a fabrication invented much later. Aleksei Volkov, the Czarina’s valet comments it like this in his memoirs written in the emigration:

“Later, many times I would hear it said or I would read that the disaster was a premonition of the misfortune that would befall the reign of Nicholas II. I can in all good conscience affirm here that, at the time, I never heard any such thing ever said by anyone. I have also come to the conclusion that since those statements did not come until later on with other disastrous events, those statements about Khodinka are just boring as the ideas did not come until after the fact. Back home, in Russia, people love to attribute a sense of the occult and mysterious to events…”

Recently a lengthy article has been published on the reception of the tragedy by the contemporaries. If anyone has access to it, we would willingly read it.

Pictures of the Khodynka tragedy

The Lumière brothers who had opened their Paris film studio just one year earlier, sent a film correspondent to the coronation of 1896. Camille Serf was also present at the tragedy of Khodynka, and filmed some seconds of it. The film attests well that the tragedy was mainly caused by the unburied trenches on the field used as a military drill ground. Probably this is the first live catastrophe film of the world.

Camille Serf filmed also in Moscow, on the Tverskaya where the Czar had solemnly entered the city.

And of course during the solemnities of the Coronation as well.

The most enchanting pictures of the film are the last ones where the Central Asian notabilities of the Russian empire enter to audience. Fortunately we also have a studio photo of them. It was taken by Olga Kamenskaya from the Kamensky photographers’ dynasty in Nizhny Novgorod, where the delegation stopped on their way to Moscow.

The Kamensky dynasty has left several good photos to us. But as the above pictures attest, fin-de-siècle Russia abounded in good photographers. We will write more about them.