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Alexander II’s arms collection

12.06.2020

The Museum is working on a scientific catalogue of Alexander II’s arms collection. Its Part One covering over 100 cold weapon items is planned for publication at the end of 2020.

Alexander gathered his collection of arms while he was Tsesarevich, the heir to the throne. The artifacts were on display in the Asiatic Room of the Catherine Palace’s Zubov Wing from 1852 until 1941. Evacuated during World War II, they later returned to Tsarskoe Selo. The room is not restored yet.   

Our museum workers have been doing archival research and found some interesting facts about the collection’s formation and the palace interior’s history.

The inventory of 1861 by Baron Jean-Jacques Pierre Desmaisons, a French Russian Middle East researcher, reveals the collection items’ positions in the Asiatic Room.

The correspondence between Count Alexander Adlerberg, Tsesarevich Alexander’s Court  Manager, and Florian Gille, Alexander’s French tutor and Head of the Imperial Libraries and the Arsenal of Tsarskoe Selo, is now stored in the archives of the State Hermitage and provides descriptions of objects selected for the room, as well as their provenance information.

The studied archival materials give three groups of objects. The first one includes gifts to Alexander from members of the imperial family. The second group consists of military trophies sent to him by his father, Emperor Nicholas I, and by Russian generals from areas of military conflicts. The third group has the artifacts the heir to the throne brought back from his travels in Russia and abroad.

Thanks to the research, we can now trace connections between the museum objects and some historical figures and events.

It has been established that the Turkish kilij sword of 1810 in the collection (Inventory No. ЕД-73-III) was left to Alexander by General Field Marshal Count Hans Karl von Diebitsch, who received it from Count Alexander von Benckendorff as a present from Prince Miloš Obrenović I of Serbia on 14 April 1833. The Turkish yataghan of 1803 (ЕД-120-III) was a 1849 Christmas present from Alexander’s wife, Grand Duchess Maria.