Last Imperial residence

Exhibition dedicated to 400th anniversary of Romanov dynasty unearths unique exhibits from vaults of Mogilev Regional Local History Museum
By Svetlana Ivanova

Even today, debate continues about the character of Tsar Nikolay II. Some view him as a martyr while others see his excessive gentleness as weakness, believing that reform would have changed the course of history. No doubt, Mogilev played a fatal role in the fate of the Emperor, explains Lyudmila Tomchik, a senior researcher at the museum. She tells us, “In August 1915, after Mogilev became the military capital of Russia, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, Nikolay II, came to the General Headquarters. This changed the life of the provincial town and, later, as it turned out, of the whole Russian state.”

The exhibition details the visit of the Russian Tsar to Mogilev and, though the idea appeared long ago, it is only this year that the project has really taken shape. In addition to photography, there are unique exhibits, including two works by artist Ivan Dryapachenko: one depicting the dining room in the local governor’s house in Mogilev, where the Emperor dined, and the other showing the Tsar’s study, in the same building.

Many consider it to be a miracle that the paintings have survived. It is the first time that they are on display, alongside metal cups engraved with the Tsar’s portrait, and that of his wife, Alexandra Fiodorovna. Such items were distributed generously among subjects on special occasions, but are now considered a rarity.

Mogilev residents have also donated wonderful artefacts: one anonymous donor has given an edition of Iskra (Spark) magazine, which has been in the family for many years: released by Rodnoe Slovo (Native Word) newspaper in 1912, it is dedicated to the heir, Prince Alexey. He was captured in a variety of poses: resting, walking, and with his parents and sisters. Despite over a hundred years passing, the ink remains clear. 

Many photographs exist of the royal family in Mogilev. One shows father and son — both in uniform — sat on a bench. In another, they are in a boat on the Dnieper. Nikolay II stands with officers near the Town Hall and at the railway station. Mogilev residents have handed down stories, such as how the Tsarina gave a simple peasant girl her own coat, in return for supplying the Emperor and his family with milk. As a child, local resident Simeon received a gold coin from the Tsar, coming out of St. Nicholas’ Monastery. He kept it all his life and bequeathed it to the monastery. An unusual icon featuring the Tsar’s image has even been found behind a wood veneer of one of the oldest buildings in the city and is on show at the exhibition.
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