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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

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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