“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
Leo Tolstoy and his wife Sophia, (Repin 1907)
Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (know as Leo Tolstoy) was born into Russian aristocracy in 1828. He became one of the world’s most famous authors, with novels such as ‘War and Peace’, ‘Anna Karenina’ , the semi-autobiographical trilogy ‘Childhood’, ‘Boyhood’ and ‘Youth’, also ‘Sevastopol Sketches’, based on his experiences in the Crimean War. In the 1870’s, he experienced a spiritual awakening, resulting in his becoming a pacifist . He also took up many humanitarian issues related to common people. His writings continued, including dozens of short stories and novellas. His ideas on nonviolent resistance, in such works as ‘The Kingdom of God is Within You’, had an impact on influential 20th century figures including Mahatma Gandi and Martin Luther King.
Sapsan at Leningrad Station in Moscow
Our visit to St Petersburg started in Moscow, where we boarded the Sapsan for our trip northwest. The name Sapsan is derived from the fastest bird in the falcon family, and with a top speed of 250km it took us less than four hours to cover the approximately 700km. With modern comforts such as internet available, and plenty to watch out the window, the time went quickly.
The Fabergé Museum is a must for all Romanov art and history lovers. Central to the museum is a collection of precious Fabergé objects that oligarch Viktor Vekselberg bought in 2004 for $US100 million. He bought them from the estate of Malcolm Forbes, the US publisher of Forbes magazine.
In 2013 the Fabergé Museum was opened in the 18th century Shuvalov Palace, which had been used for welcoming international delegations in Soviet days.
The Blue Room contains nine of the 50 Imperial Easter eggs, created by court jeweller Peter Carl Fabergé. The tradition started in 1885 when Tsar Alexander 3rd gave his wife a richly jewelled egg for Easter. Each egg took about a year to make, and was personally delivered by Fabergé. The tradition continued with Tsar Nicholas 2nd also ordering bejewelled eggs for family members.
In November 2018 I was in Moscow, as it turned from autumn into winter. There were periods of sunshine but it was mostly cloudy and the daytime temperature hovered around 0 degrees (centigrade). The days were short (sunrise around 8.15am and sunset around 4.15pm ) however that was sufficent time to investigate central Moscow by foot, visiting many points of interest with a Muscovite friend.
Moscow is a mix of old and new. During the Second World War, although the Germans beseiged Moscow for six months, they never entered the city, and the Russian airforce was able to keep the German planes from attacking. Much of the old architecture has survived. The biggest destroyer was Stalin. But religious buildings have now been restored. There are four main types of architecture – pre Soviet Union (the days of the Tsars), Stalinist, Brezhnev (stark functionality, not shown in this post), and modernist.
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow
The original church on this site was built in the 19th century, but was destroyed in 1931 by order of Stalin. The current church was built between 1995 and 2000. It is the tallest Russian Orthodox church in the world at 103 metres. It was a great experience to look up through the large and very ornate central dome (no photograghy allowed inside).