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Book: Moscow Lied About Amber Room

Published: June 15, 2004 (Issue # 977)



  • The cover of the new book on the Amber Room that has created uproar in Russia.
    Photo: Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

Moscow has known since 1945 that the Amber Room was destroyed, possibly at the hands of the Red Army, but for years has lied that it survived, a new book says.

"The Amber Room: The Untold Story of the Greatest Hoax of the Twentieth Century," published this month, concludes that the panels of the Amber Room were either burned or looted just after Soviet troops captured Koenigsberg from the Germans in April 1945.

The original room was considered a masterpiece of craftsmanship, requiring delicate work to attach the brittle, golden, hardened resin, or amber, to panels and forming a mosaic that covered three sides of a room in the Catherine Palace outside St. Petersburg.

The room was a gift from Prussian King Frederick William to Peter the Great, but not mounted in the palace until the mid-18th century. If it were found it could be worth up to $250 million, the authors say.

After almost 60 years of fruitless searching, the Amber Room was recreated and opened with much ceremony during last year's celebrations of the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg.

The authors of the new book, Catherine Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, researched Russian archives, most of it them in St. Petersburg, and concluded that city museum curator Anatoly Kuchumov, working together with the KGB, spent his life feeding rumors that the panels had survived and had been stashed in an unidentified hiding place.

n In summary the book says:

In 1941, the German army took the panels to Koenigsberg, then the capital of the German province of East Prussia but which is today called Kaliningrad, from the Catherine Palace at Pushkin, which is also known by its pre-revolutionary name, Tsarskoye Selo.

Alexander Brusov, a Moscow cultural official, who was sent to Koenigsberg two months after the capture of the city, concluded that the room had been destroyed.

This was unwelcome news to the Soviet hierarchy, so they suppressed it and next year they sent Kuchumov, who, against the evidence before him, produced a report saying the room had survived.

This resulted in numerous and expensive searches, some of them by the East German Stasi secret police and others by Soviet government teams, but searchers noticed that certain information was being withheld.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Jan. 30 through Wednesday, Feb. 4



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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