The Annual Gold Autumn Pushkin Charity Ball

If you were to ask where I’d most like to be this weekend, my answer would come without hesitation as one of the highlights of the social year takes place Saturday in Saint Petersburg at the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.  It is the eighth Annual Golden Autumn Pushkin Charity Ball with all the style, pomp and grace of Imperial Russia.

This is a wonderful event, first initiated by Thomas Noll the head of the Grand Hotel Europe’s charity fund, and by Kenneth Pushkin, a decendnet of Russia’s national poet, and president of the International Pushkin Charity Fund. 

 Russia is a country which breeds and cultivates writers.  Think of all the worlds most famous masters of pen and ink and the list will be filled with the names of Russia’s most famous sons and daughters.  Among the greatest, was her national poet, Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837).

 Noll and Pushkin promise that this year’s Golden Autumn ball promises a graceful combination of performances by stars of Russian opera and ballet and this year the design of the program  will reflect the special style of the Pushkin era.

 Guests of the ball will stroll around the Great Hall of the Catherine Palace in the town of Pushkin south of St. Petersburg, while the chef of the Grand Hotel Europe is said to be preparing a “culinary surprise” based on 18th century cuisine.

 The International Pushkin Charity Fund was founded in 1997 and created to aid children’s shelters and hospitals in Russia, considering its mission to give to important charity causes.  It is a very important event to benefit those Russian children who need it most.

 Past Gold Autumn Pushkin Charity balls have been held in venues in New York, Moscow, Washington DC, and St. Petersburg. Catherine’s Palace is also home to the annual Tsar’s New Years Eve Ball which we ordinary mortals can attend simply by purchasing a ticket online.  But this event, well, if one must ask how to be invited, then one really shouldn’t bother. 

 This year annual Pushkin Charity event takes place in the halls of the palace, its organizers noted ruefully, where Russia’s Pre-Revolutionary high society “came to a close.”  There is a mounting sense of nostalgia for Russia’s Imperial past among Russians these days.

 The charity monies are rotated each year and funds raised by this year’s ball will go to children’s hospitals in St. Petersburg and toward the Pushkin University scholarship fund.



The Romanov’s rehabiliated…or restored?

Russians call it “rehabilitation.”  It’s the idea of going back and calling something different than what it was before.  And finally, after the Supreme Court refused to hear the case last year, the Romanov family is once again, in 2008, in the good graces of the Russian government with the Supreme Court’s announcement that the Romanov’s were victims of political repression and the declaration of their rehabilitation.

This July thousands of Russians took part in events to mark the 90th anniversary of the family’s execution, and even today calls for the restoration of the monarchy can be heard despite the tightly controlled politics of the Kremlin.

Restoration of the dynasty has been whispered about in quiet Kremlin hallway conversations for some time.  But no one really takes these things too seriously.  However one well known Russian journalist/writer shared privately his hunch that Mr. Putin might be using the Romanov rehabilitation as a basis for eventual restoration of the Russian Empire.

By replacing the current Russian Federation Constitution with one that restores some form of the Romanov monarchy, the Kremlin could continue the bolstering of Russian pride and culture while at the same time issuing a call for former Russian nations such as Ukraine and Belarus at first, and then others, into a restored “super Russian nation.”

Given that that Russian was governed in tandem with the Tsar’s, and the Russian Orthodox Church providing political stability along the way, perhaps the first step was the accomplishment of the family of Tsar Nicholas II as minor saints back in 2000.

The second step to such a plan would be rehabilitation of the Romanov’s–and that has now been officially accomplished in 2008.  Naturally any political restoration would come with the understanding that a surviving Romanov be willing to accept some form of very limited (figurehead) power and the government would be run by the current set of Kremlin leaders.

If that sounds farfetched, stop and think about the idea of a restored sovereign holding court in the old Imperial capital of St Petersburg, bringing prestige again to Putin’s hometown and favourite Russian city.  Imagine the national pride to have a Russian monarch living in the Winter Palace or in the palaces of Tsarskoe Selo.

No matter what is planned inside the secretive hallways of the Kremlin, the most important event is the one which should come next, according to Edvard Radzinsky, a Russian historian and the author of “The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II.”

Mr. Radzinsky points out that “We have two graves that symbolize the revolution: the dirty hole into which the Romanov’s were thrown, and the mausoleum of the one who ordered this,” he said, referring to Lenin’s brick pyramid on Red Square.

“The closing of the first grave,” he said, “should lead to the closing of the second.”

The last wedding of a Russian Tsar. (Photo: public domain)





Another Russian standoff?

Is there a standoff coming between the US and Russian Navy over a Ukrainian ship hijacked by pirates off the Somalia coast last week?

The Ukrainian ship has been surrounded by the US Navy for several days but yesterday the Russian warship Neustrashimy (Fearless) arrived in the region. Just hours before the arrival of the Russian ship, the President of Somalia announced that he had granted Russia, a traditional ally, authority to patrol and guard Somali waters.

“The issues of releasing the ship and the crew will be resolved in line with international practice. The use of force is clearly an extreme measure as it could threaten the lives of the multinational crew,” Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo told RIA Novosti, a Russian government news service.

The United States claims the ship was carrying an illegal cargo for Sudan under the guise of sailing to Kenya.  UN embargo’s prohibit Russia from supplying weapons to Sudan. Meanwhile the pirates have demanded $20 million ransom for the ship saying earlier that hostages would be killed if a rescue was attempted.  The on board hostages include 17 Ukrainians, 3 Russians and 1 Latvian. 

Russian Vladimir Kolobkov, captain of the ship died earlier of a heart attack. An on board shootout apparently killed 3 pirates but none of the crew members were injured according to media reports.

Intelligence sources say the cargo has been identified as 33 Russian T-32 tanks and other weapons scheduled for delivery to Sudan, not Kenya as Russia has claimed.