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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, Apr. 17


Expocenter Eurasia at 13 Ulitsa Kapitan Voronin is the sight of Goods on the Way, a five-day event starting today showcasing the latest in the industrial products industry. Bags, backpacks, swimsuits and much, much more will be available to attendees hoping to update not only their style but their accessories for the upcoming summer.


Friday, Apr. 18


Teachers and students alike shouldn’t miss the opportunity to establish lasting contacts with Russian and foreign institutions during the 21st Education and Career Fair at LenExpo, beginning today and finishing tomorrow. Learn more about education in Russia and connect with your fellow scholars.


The Tromso International Film Festival, Norway’s largest, brings a short festival to St. Petersburg for one day only during Scandinavian Oddities, starting at 7 p.m. today at Rodina Cinema Center. Tickets for the event are 100 rubles ($2.80).


Sunday, Apr. 20


Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianity’s holiest day.


Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti — Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the desert’s most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDA’s Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBA’s Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.