I have finally decided on a replacement for last year’s Friday Object Lesson series. This will be a Friday Book. I hope this will provide a means of looking at various aspects of Russian history, culture, and politics. I have numerous Russian related books scattered around my house and office, but some of the bigger, more obscure, or more interesting ones are on a shelf above the desk in my study. So, what I shall do is go from right to left along the shelf, photographing one book each week, and discussing its contents.
To start, on the far right of the shelf, I have Au service des Tsars: La garde impériale russe de Pierre le Grand à la révolution d’Octobre. This was published to accompany an exhibition of the same name which I visited in Paris in January 2011 while researching my biography of Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich. My own photographs of the exhibition didn’t turn out too well, so when I saw this in a bookstore in Antibes (the terrible places I have to go for research!!), I snapped it up.
The book is 224 pages long and has 152 colour prints of the exhibits, which included uniforms, weapons, flags, and paintings of the Russian Imperial Guard. A few months previously, while working in the State Archive of the Russian Federation, I had read in the memoirs of the former chief of staff of the Petersburg Military District, General G.O. von Raukh, that during the 1905 Revolution, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich had attempted to restore a sense of normality to Petersburg garrison by holding parades of the Guards units. I was interested, therefore, to find this painting by Boris Kustodiev in the exhibition, showing Tsar Nicholas II (holding his infant son), inspecting the Finland Guards Regiment at Tsarskoe Selo on 12 December 1905. Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich is to the left of the Tsar in the painting, which is on pages 182 and 183 of the book.
Given my interest in the Grand Duke, I was also pleased to see on show his uniform and medals (page 193 in the book), which were on loan from the Cossack Museum in Paris. I have never visited that museum, but must try to do so on a future visit.