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Bypassers on Sergiyevskaya Street could often see the Grand Princess Olga Alexanderovna taking a lonesome walk. We should say that at that time it was a challenge not only to the Palace Etiquette, but also strict moral rules, which did not allow young ladies to show up unescorted in the society. The Emperor Nicholas the Second was not pleased with the behavior of his sister, but, knowing her character, did not mind it. He only ordered an automobile with driver to follow her at some distance.
The Grand Princess Olga was the fifth and last child of Alexander the Third and the Empress Maria Fedorovna. She was the only porphyrogenitus child, that is, compared to her brothers and sisters, was born when her parents had already acceded to the royal throne. Olga was not quite beautiful, but, simply saying, was a plain girl. She did not even have a nice women’s coquetry. However, she played violin not so bad and drew very well. Her oil paintings are undoubtedly witnessing of her extraordinary skills.
Princess Olga was 12 when her father, mighty man Alexander the Third, passed away. Nicholas the Second, his brother, acceded to the throne. The widow Empress Maria Fedorovna did not get along very well with all the children. And, it is yet hard to understand what drove Maria Fedorovna when she chose a husband for her charmless daughter. This marriage did not promise any advantage or political dividends. The Prince Peter of Oldenburg, a remote relative of Romanov, was 14 years older than his bride. Maria Fedorovna definitely was aware of gambling and wine drinking problem as well as homosexual inclinations of her future son-in-law. No wonder his first wedding night he spent at a gambling table with his friends – military officers. As Olga Alexandrovna confessed later, for 15 years of their marriage, they did not become real husband and wife.
It is good to note that the Prince gave his spouse a full freedom. He diligently escorted Princess Olga at all receptions and spent not so much time in her living room. He seemingly was quite satisfied with the role of a husband of the Russian Emperor’s sister.
At the age of 21, Olga Alexanderovna fell in love for the first time. Once upon a time, she was at a military parade and saw her brother Michael talk with a tall interesting man in the uniform of the Kirasirsk Regiment’s Leib-Guard. “Introduce me to him”, she asked her brother. The young Officer was Nicholas Kulikovsky, who originated from a noble, but not aristocratic family. It was so weird, but plain, unsophisticated in “she-stuff” Olga won his heart right away and forever.
The Prince of Oldenburg did not make jealous drama. He quietly told his wife, Princess Olga, that he was concerned with the family reputation and an immediate divorce was not an option now, but he, probably, would get back to the subject later in seven years. Meanwhile, he appointed Kulikovsky as his Adjutant and allowed him to settle down in the Mansion on Sergiyevskaya street. The lovers began living under one roof. The Prince was not concerned with the matters of his wife unless somebody knows about them.
This ridiculous love triangle had co-existed until 1914. The outbreak of the World War I had put everything in order. Kulikovsky went to war. Olga Alexadrovna declared to her husband that she was going to the war as a sister of mercy and would never come back to him.
A hospital, where the Grand Princess Olga was working, situated at the frontline. The hospital had lack of medical personnel, which had to work for 15-16 hours a day. Soldiers could not believe that a weak sister of mercy, who was taking so good care of them, was a native sister of the Russian Emperor.
When Kulikovsky’s regiment had a small break, Kulikovsky and Princess Olga got married at long last, after 13 years of expectation. But their tribulations did not end. The Revolution began. Those Romanovs, who could escape Bolshevik bloody terror, went to Crimea. They all were in depressed moods; their lives were hanging on a thread all the time. Moreover, Olga’s mother, widow Empress Maria Fedorovna, treated the new son-in-law disdainfully, communicating by all means that she was not going to accept into her family a person of not a royal blood.
In April 1919 Maria Fedorovna, together with the rest of Romanovs and a whole group of friends, left Russia on a battleship “Marlboro”, which was sent for her by the British King George. But there was no Princess Olga among them. Kulikovsky family decided to stay in Russia hoping that terrors of the Revolution and the Civil War would pass soon. The family moved to the Kuban free of Bolsheviks at the time, and settled down in a simple country house in Novominskaya village. Here, Kulikovskys gave birth to their second son. They lived in sheer poverty. The Grand Princess baked bread herself, washed clothes and learnt how to work in the backyard.
Once, a Cossack of a neighboring garrison came to them and informed that close to Novominskaya there were Red Army units approaching. They could not lose any minute. Kulikovskys hastily wrapped up their small sons and fled from the village. It was wintertime and they had to spend nights in forsaken houses. Gangs were roaming everywhere. They miraculously survived and got to Novorossisk.
On a British merchant ship with thousands of other refugees, Kulikovskys left the homeland forever. Through Turkey and Serbia they got to Denmark, where, by the time, Maria Fedorovna settled down at her nephew’s, Danish King Christian. However, even in exile, the ex-Empress looked at Mr. Kulikovsky as an unworthy husband. When Olga was rarely invited in the King’s Palace for official receptions, she was unambiguously communicated that the presence of her husband was undesirable.
However, the quite Denmark became a happy land for Kulikovskys family and Princess Olga. They bought a small mansion house in the city of Ballerup. Their sons, after getting Paris education, were enlisted in the Danish Guards. Their life became relatively stable, but the war began and Denmark was occupied with Germans. People in German uniform began visiting Kulikovskys house. Those were Russians, who ran away from revolutionary Russia and were, by a twist of fate, enlisted in the German Army. They did not collaborate with Germans, they just wanted to honor a sister of their former Emperor.
After the end of war, the Soviet Union demanded from Denmark to extradite the Grand Princess, accusing her in collaboration with Fascists. The Danish government had directly told Olga Alexandrovna that it could not guarantee her safety from actions of the Soviet special services. Their life got harder and harder. After long deliberations, Kulikovskys decided to leave Denmark and moved to Canada.
The last Russian Grand Princess passed away in 1960 in a poor area of Toronto. A lot of Russian immigrants gathered at her burial. The escort at the grave was represented by the officers of the Akhtyrsk regiment, whose honorable patron was Olga Alexandrovna.
During the centuries of Empire St. Petersburg was a grand city with ceremonial buildings, rich and pompous palaces. Even today St. Petersburg can boast a huge number of palaces, including some of the grandest residences not just in Russia, but in the whole of Europe.
Our audio guide will take you to the most famous palaces and Grand residences of St. Petersburg. We can start with the Tauride Palace and Garden, one of the largest and most historic complexes in Russia. This palace was designed for Grigory Potemkin in a rigorous Palladian style. In the 19th century, the palace was transformed into a residence for minor royalty. It had been used to host balls and exhibitions until 1906, when it was given as a seat of the first Russian parliament, the Imperial State Duma.
You will also hear the history of the Winter Palace, the most prominent palace in Russia. The Winter Palace not only physically dominates Palace Square and the south embankment of the Neva River, but also plays a central political, symbolic, and cultural role in the three-century history of the city. It was declared part of the State Hermitage Museum on 17 October 1917. Now the Winter Palace, the Hermitage and all historical landmarks of St. Petersburg are enlisted by the UNESCO.
Another famous building is Anichkov Palace located next to Anichkov Bridge across the Fontanka River. It’s one of the oldest buildings on Nevsky Prospect commissioned by Empress Elizabeth in 1741. When the palace was completed she presented it to Aleksey Razumovsky, her favourite and unofficial spouse.
Mariinsky Palace, the last neoclassical imperial palace to be constructed in Saint Petersburg, was built between 1839 and 1844 by the court architect Andrei Stackensneider. The palace stands on the south side of St Isaac's Square, just across the 99-metre-wide Blue Bridge from Saint Isaac's Cathedral. The palace was conceived by Emperor Nicholas I as a wedding present to his daughter Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna.
During the tour you will also see the houses and mansions of famous court and military people: The House of Saltykov, The Marble Palace, The Vladimir Palace, The Mikhailovsky Castle, The Novo-Mikhailovsky Palace, The House of Gagarin, etc. Each building has its own history sometimes dramatic.
Take a walk in the Summer Garden. It was founded in 1704 by order of Peter the Great, who was personally involved in planning it, and is laid out according to strict geometrical principles. The Summer Garden is home to marble statues acquired from Europe especially for Russia's new capital, and also to rare flowers and plants, as well as fountains.
The Field of Mars, not far from the Summer Garden, has a long and varied history dating back to the very beginning of the city's history. You will listen to it while walking. To your attention will also be the stories and legends of The First Engineer Bridge, The Salt City, The Building of Senate and Synod, The Isakievsky Cathedral, The Petropavlovsk Fortress.
With audio visual materials you will also get a map that won’t let you lose your way.