Category Archives: Russia

Czar Alexander II 3.13.13 Thought of the Day

Switching it up a bit on ritaLOVEStoWRITE. Instead of picking some one who was BORN on this day I picked some one who DIED on this day, Alexander II of Russia.  In grad school we did a big group project where we developed a magazine concept. My group did a history magazine based on slices of time called Epoch. Our sample magazine’s Epoch was the year 1881 and I wrote an article and designed spreads on Alexander II.


“It is better to abolish serfdom from above than to wait for it to abolish itself from below”–Alexander II or Russia

English: Photo taken by A. A. Pasetti of Tsar ...

English: Photo taken by A. A. Pasetti of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, near age 30, at St. Petersburg, Russia, 1898. Français : Photo de Nicolas II de Russie, prise par A. A. Pasetti en 1898, alors que Nicolas II a 30 ans. Русский: Фотография A. A. Pasetti царя Николая Второго, в возрасте 30 лет в Санкт-Петербурге, 1898 год. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alexander Nikolaevich Romanov was born on April 29th, 1818 in Moscow, Russia. He died on this day in the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia in 1881.

He was the first-born son of grand duke Nikolay Pavlovich and his wife Alexandra Fyodorovna (who became Czar Nicholas II and Charlotte of Prussia in 1825). His father’s larger than life personality dominated family and palace life and Alexander was completely overshadowed by him. Alexander was schooled in a broad field of disciplines (his principal instructor was poet Vasily Zhukovsky), but he was a passive student. At 19 he did a tour of Europe and plus 20 of the Russian provinces. He was the first Romanov to visit Siberia. While he was in Europe he met his future wife Princess Marie of Hesse. The two married in 1841.

14 years later, after the death of his father, Alexander became Czar.

The country was in the throes of the bloody Crimean War. The war was both draining the country financially and costing a tremendous loss of life. Russia was clearly overpowered her British, French and Ottoman foes.  The Czar negotiated for peace. “The Treaty of Paris ended the bloodshed but Russia lost its dominance in the Balkans and its warships were banned from the Black Sea.” [Russiapedia]

Portrait by unknown of Tsar Alexander II of Ru...

Portrait by unknown of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, wearing the greatcoat and cap of the Imperial Horse-Guards Regiment, circa 1865. The portrait is the property of the Hermitage Museum of St Petersburg, Russia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He embarked on a number of reforms in hopes of modernizing Russia. He:

  1. Improved the railway. When he took office there was one line from Moscow to St. Petersburg (about 600 miles). At the time of his death about 14,000 miles of track had been laid.
  2. Developed the Economy, promoting banks and join-stock companies.
  3. Freed the Serfs. Despite fierce opposition from the land owners he “took an active personal part in the arduous legislative labours that on February 19, 1861, culminated in the Emancipation Act. By a stroke of the autocrat’s pen, tens of millions of human chattels were given their personal freedom.” [] They were given a small amount of land. (Of course they had to pay taxes on those lands.)
  4. Modernized the judicial system
  5. Improved  the Russian military
  6. Set up elective local assemblies known as Zemstvos

Their gradual introduction extended the area of self-government, improved local welfare (education, hygiene, medical care, local crafts, agronomy), and brought the first rays of enlightenment to the benighted Russian villages. [Ibid]

Political changes included:

  1. The release of political prisoners
  2. Greater religious freedoms for “Jews and sectarians.” [Ibid]
  3. Lifting of foreign travel restrictions
  4. Relaxing Russian rule over Poland
  5. Abolishing medieval punishments

Despite all the reforms and attempts at  modernization there was great unrest in the country. The great land owners weren’t happy about loosing their free labor force. National pride was bruised over Poland — and there were riots in the streets. And anarchists and nihilists seemed to be on every street corner.

Alexander’s reforms were drawing more and more criticism. For some his extraordinary efforts to change his country were too much while others believed he didn’t go far enough. Alexander became a victim of numerous murder plots – one dramatic assassination attempt followed another. [Russiapedia]

The more people protested. The more he drew back, and the less reform minded he became.

Alexander II of Russia

Alexander II of Russia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There were four assignation attempts made on Alexander’s life.  April the 4th 1866, April 20th 1879, December 1879, and  February 5th  1880. Then…

In February 1880 Alexander announced that he was considering granting the Russian people a constitution. But the plan never went ahead. On March 13, 1881 the Tsar’s carriage was bombed in the streets of St. Petersburg by members of a revolutionary organisation People’s Will. He emerged shaken but unhurt and wanted to see the site of the explosion and check on the wounded Cossacks that accompanied him. As he made his way over, another terrorist threw his bomb. Fatally wounded, Alexander died an hour later. [Russiapedia]

English: The assassination of Alexander II of ...

English: The assassination of Alexander II of Russia 1881 Deutsch: Das Attentat auf den Kaiser Alexander II. in St. Petersburg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thought of the Day 9.22.12 Louise Nevelson

“I never feel age…If you have creative work, you don’t have age or time.”

–Louise Nevelson

Leah Berliaswsky was born on this day in Perislav, Russia in 1899. This is the 113th anniversary of her birth.

Her family lived in Czarist Russia until 1905 when they emigrated to Rockland, Maine in the United States. Her father worked as a woodcutter, owned a junkyard, a lumberyard and became a realtor.

When Leah saw a bust of Joan of Arc at the local library she knew she wanted to become an artist. She started to take art lessons, and experimented in drawing & watercolors.

Nevelson in a 1913 class picture. (She is fourth from the left) [Image is courtesy Wikimedia Commons.]

Upon graduating high school she began to work as a stenographer in New York. She met Charles Nevelson of the Nevelson Brothers shipping company. The two married in 1920. She began to study art in earnest adding singing, acting and dancing to the mix. In 1922 she gave birth to Myron (Mike) Nevelson. Two years later the family moved to Mount Vernon, NY. Louise felt stifled by the small town environment and role she was expected to play as dutiful wife. She longed for the artistic life she knew in New York City.

Louise Nevelson as a young woman. [Image courtesy: Abstract]

In 1931 she left both her husband and her son and took a trip to Europe. She studied with cubist Hans Hofmann in Munich, but as the NAZIs began their stranglehold on the city she left for Italy and France.  In 1932 she came back to the United States, where she continued to work with Hofmann (he was now teaching at the Art Students League) and she officially separated from her husband. In 1933 she worked with Diego Rivera on his Man at the Crossroads mural at Rockefeller Plaza. Shortly after that she took a sculpture class at the Education Alliance, and decided to focus on sculpture as her medium of choice.

At first she produced…

primarily cubist figure studies made from bronze, plaster and clay… It wasn’t until 1943 that the art-world got their first glimpse of what would become Nevelson’s signature style of assembling wood.  [Abstract]

In the 1940s she began to make pieces from reclaimed materials and scraps of wood.

Nevelson… crafted surreal, totemic monuments that served loosely as maps to the artist’s mind. … Nevelson also cultivated her extravagant personal style, which included long dresses and false eyelashes, to dovetail with her desire to express emotion through art. [The Art]

One of her most famous sculptures is Dawn’s Wedding Feast, a room size installation created in 1959 made of wood and white paint. The installation has four chapels, a bride, groom, wedding cake, various other pieces and hanging columns that represent the wedding guests. It was too big and too expensive for one buyer to purchase so Nevelson broke the installation into sixteen stand alone pieces.


Dawn’s Wedding Feast, 1959-60 [Image Courtesy

In her “Late Period” she abandoned “typical carpentry” and “Her process became purely additive, wherein she stacked and balanced objects before nailing together and painting them…” [The Art]  She selected small scaled pieces that worked together to form a larger installation.

Black Zag Z — 1969 [Image courtesy: Abstract]

Nevelson and her granddaughter Neith in 1967. Photo by Ugo Mullas. [Image Courtesy]

Nevelson toward the end of her life. [Abstract]

By the time she died in on April 17,1988, Louise Nevelson was considered by many to be one of the most important American sculptors of the twentieth century and one of the world’s best-known woman artists.  [Abstract]

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