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Excursions

Alupka Palace of Count Vorontsov

Alupka Palace, Sothern FacadeThe intensive construction on the South Coast of the Crimea began after the joining of the Crimea to Russia (1783). It particulary gained in scope when the laying of the South Coast highway linking Yalta and its environs with Simferopol, the Crimea`s administrative centre was completed. In Alupka in those years (1828 - 1848) the palace of Count Vorontsov, Governor-General of Nova (New) Russia and Vice-General of Bessarabia, the owner of the rechest estates and thousands of serfs was erected.

Michael Vorontsov owned about two thousand dessiatinas (1 des. = about 2,75 acres) of the Crimean land in Massandra, on Mart`yan Cape, in Ai-Danil, Gurzuf, Ak-Mechet, Kokkoz, in mountains, but the major pearl of “the Vorontsov`s Crimea” was the legendary Alupka Palace.

The palace was built to the design of the English architect Edward Blore (1789 - 1879), the most prominent representative of romantic school in English architecture, the builder of Abbotsford, Sir Walter Scott`s castle in Scotland, and one of the creators of the Buckingham Palace in London. The construction works were supervised by the English architect William Hunt.

The construction started on the South Coast in the thirties of 19th century. According to the experts, Alupka Palace is an encyclopedia of architecture. Each building is reminiscent of a certain epoch of English architecture – from the already mentioned medieval castle towers to an exquisite main building constructed in the Elizabethan style. The palace seems to have been built not during twenty years, but for many centuries.

The palace construction was completed in the summer of 1848, when the central stairway leading to the main entrance was flanked by marble lions created by the Italian sculptor Jovanni Bonani.

The style of the palace is late English Gothic combined with the elements of Oriental art. All this splendour created by the talent of architects and the hands of serf masters cost a pretty round sum of 9 million silver rubles. The building materials was mainly local gteyish-green diabase going well with the surrounding scenery.

A new not easy life of the palace started immediately after the Soviet power in the Crimea. Many problems had this museum on that period. The museum went on functioning even during the WW2 years when the Crimea was occupied by the Germans.

Several days after the Conference was over, on February 1945 the USSR Council passed a resolution on handing over the palace in Alupka with its adjoining park, green plantations and utility facilities, tools, equipment and other property to the USSR Internal Affairs Commissariat (NKVD). The palace was reorganized into a State dacha (summer residence) # 3.

The Alupka Dacha ceased to exist in 1952. For a short time the palace turned into a trade-union sanatorium and in 1956 it again became a museum.

Currently, the Alupka Palace is the most successful of all the Crimean museums.

Sergey Tsarapora private guide



The Voronrsov Library in Alupka

Tourists are rare guests here. That is why we crossed its threshold very cautiously. On its shelves high up to the ceiling stand rows of thousands of ancient books in leather bindings. From the wall Armenian Catholicos Narses was eyeing us suspiciously: «Who else have come to see my rooms?»
The high priest remembers many different fellows who came here on a visit. Princes with walking sticks. Proletarians with Mausers in wooden holsters. Officers of fascist Germany and officers of NKVD in uniforms. Soviet party bosses in grey suits. And now these people have come. Who knows what they have on their minds. The Vorontsov Library in Alupka could have disappeared more than once. It could have been used by the victorious proletariat to roll self-made cigarettes. It could have been taken to «Vaterland» by fascists. It could have been lost by librarians in damp Moscow cellars.

They have survived. Before World War II, the library of the Vorontsov Palace-Museum had a unique, up to thirty thousand volumes, collection of books in Russian, French, English, Italian. The collection was based on manuscripts of the 18th and 19th centuries, but also available were quite rare books — of the 17th, 16th and even 14th centuries. And among them, for instance, were the Gospel Ostromirovo and hand-written biographies of Moscow princes. So-called «opilions» — records of the court trial of Louis XVI, issued once in Paris, were available there too. Nowhere else in the Soviet libraries could this edition be found, even in France it was such a rarity that before World War II historians came to Alupka from Paris to work at Vorontsov Museum.
Nowadays, about ten thousand volumes have survived of that treasure, half of which belonged to Mikhail Vorontsov, governor-general of Novorussia and the first owner of the renowned Alupka Palace. The remaining five thousand volumes Werfi brought to the palace from the nationalize estates of bourgeois and landlords, e.g from the Maltsov's estate in Simeiz. And none of them might have survived. Lord saved the books from drunken proletarians, whereas from fascist officers it was saved by Stepan Grigorievitch Shchekoldin, director of the Vorontsov Museum.
— When the fascists wanted to take the great Italian master Bonani's lions, this Carrare marble miracle of miracles, away to their Germany, I was on the point of going crazy of grief, I lost my head, protested, I was dragged to prison, was beaten there, but I did not feel any pain — was thinking how painful it would be for them, if it went as far as to breaking them off, — narrated Shchekoldin to publicist Eugene Bohart many years after.
Or another episode. They say once the picture of great English painter William Hogarth «Politician», his only canvas that was available in the Soviet museums, caught the eye of just another German ..fine art expert".
— Oh, it is just a very good copy, — boldly responded Shchekoldin, though knowing that death by shooting was awaiting him, should the «expert» be shrewd enough to have a look at the back of the picture where authenticity stamps were available.
After all, Stepan Grigorievitch managed to get a writ of protection from Rozenberg himself and the palace, including the unique library, was saved from looting. The Germans joked that even the Fuhrer would  have to change his outdoor footwear before entering the museum headed by this Russian.
When the Soviet troops liberated Alupka, Marshal Tolbukhin shook Shchekoldin's hand and thanked him for saving the property of the «first workers and peasants' state in the world». But let's revert to our books. It seemed no danger was threatening the books after the fascists had been driven away from the Crimea.
But this was not the case. Each Vorontsov's book bears three identification signs. Ex-libris of Mikhail Vorontsov. A Palace-Museum stamp. And a stamp of «Object # 3», which was a code name for the state-run summer residence for top Soviet executives, the Palace was converted into after the end of the Great Patriotic War. But the books remained intact in that period too. I am not sure if the Soviet party functionaries were reading these books, most likely, not. But they could keep their property in good order.

Thee worst times came in 1955, when they decided to use the Vorontsov Palace as a... sanatorium. The books seemed unnecessary for a new health resort facility and were sent over to Moscow. And there they would, most likely... No, not disappeared. Just got lost, being distributed to different libraries, if it were not that very Shchekoldin again. He served his time, «having expiated by hard work his fault of collaboration with occupants» and settled down not far from the Crimea, in Stavropol. On learning that the books had been taken from Alupka to Moscow, he rushed to Moscow and started combing numerous libraries of the capital. He found the valueless volumes under a staircase of one of Moscow institutes, where they had been lying safely for ... a quarter of a century, unneeded, piled up as logs of wood!
The books had been returning to Alupka from Moscow up to the declaration of Ukraine's independence. And then Russia stopped returning books to a foreign country, and part of the library is still in Moscow. Today, it seems actually unreal to have them back.

You can have an idea what the library was like when its owner was alive by getting acquainted with the library catalogues still available at the Palace which were compiled by the Prince's librarian Alexander Grevs. Yes, today, only ten out of former thirty thousand volumes have survived at the Alupka library, but even they are invaluable.
The library is encyclopedic by its structure. Actually all fields of science and knowledge are represented there. Books on geography, history, military science, agriculture, dictionaries, reference-books, encyclopedias. In the main, they are dated the 18th — early 19th century, but there are also books published in early 20th century, as the inheritors — the Vorontsovs-Dashkovs — continued replenishing the library. The last owner of the Alupka Palace was Elizabeth Vorontsova-Dashkova who emigrated from Russia in 1919.
And here is a hand-written genealogy of the Russian tsars made up by Austrian King of Arms Lavrentiy Khurelich in 1673 for tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. Its copy made in 1783 belonged to the grandfather of Mikhail Vorontsov — count Roman I Vorontsov. To count up existing copies of this genealogy, fingers of one hand would be more than enough.
Another rarity is a note-book of the Russian corporal Philip Yefremov who traveled over India, Percia, Bukhara and presented his notes about overseas countries as a gift to Alexander R. Vorontsov. In a library corner there is an old ladder made by serf craftsmen. It was used by the palace's owners and librarians to get a book from upper shelves. Today, this ladder is out of use as it is a museum exhibit. At random I picked a small book. In the library there are plenty of French and Russian magazines of that, Vorontsov, period.

"Historic Vestnilo, "Historic Zapiski", "Russian Archive", "Russian Starina". And, truly, this is Russian olden time. Here is Vorontsov's terrestial globe of the 18th century make. The world on it remained as it was at that time. With Alaska being Russia's America.
There was such time. Prince Vorontsov would have been greatly amazed if he had been able to have a look at the predent-day globe. Russia has lost not only Alaska, but the whole Novorussia together with the Crimea.

Sergey Tsarapora private guide


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