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17Aug/170

Watch how foreign tourists experience wild life in Ural Mountains

Watch a short film about two tourists from Hong Kong Kong Wai Po and Ball who came to the Urals for trekking and hiking in Taganai National Park.

Sometimes they weren't sure if they could climb the highest peaks but finally they did it thanks to their professional guide Ilia Gerasimov.

You can book the Taganai Tour here http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/taganai

And you can watch more videos about the Urals (only in Russian though) made by our friends, amateur hikers from the town of Verkhnyaya Pyshma here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB798X6rDO9mry3uO1f8Ohg

5Jul/170

Hiking in Konzhak Mt in Northern Urals

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In June of 2017km I climbed the highest peak of Sverdlovsk Region Konzhak Stone (1569m) for the third time.

This time we were with the Uraloved club - club of amateur hikers from Yekaterinburg. Uraloved was organizing a 4 day tour to the Northern Urals. It was a perfect schedule because a standard 3-day Konzhak trip implies that you climb it in one day. It means 42km or 12 hours of trekking and the following day you can’t feel your legs. The other two days you spend on driving to Konzhak and back (450km one way, takes about 6 hours from Yekaterinburg). The area of Konzhak stone has many other interesting mounts to climb so we had plenty of time to see everything around.

Road to Konzhak

Road to Konzhak

The trail to Konzhak Mt is very picturesque and it’s famous for the annual Konzhak Mountain Marathon held on the first Saturday of July. In 2017 the winner of the marathon, Yevgeniy Markov (31 years old) finished the trail (42km) with the time 3.00.16. Well, we weren’t in a hurry and had heavy rucksacks, so we did first 14km in 5 hours on the first day.

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At first the trail goes through a magnificent almost magic-like Taiga forest with huge cedar trees, crooked spruces and a carpet of thick green moss. Because we arrived on Friday, there wasn’t a single soul in the forest. Taiga was silent only making squeaking sounds of the old trees in the wind every now and then.

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The 14th km of the trail is called the valley of painters, probably because it has a nice view of the Ural Mountains. That’s where tourists pitch their tents. On weekends the valley is overcrowded and those who come late have to put tents in the middle of swamps. Since we came on the working day, we could afford choosing the most convenient and driest spot for our camp. The great thing about Konzhak is that it never gets dark in summer time here. At midnight we could still chatting at the campfire enjoying the views around us.

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The second day was dedicated to the peak of Konzhak and Yov’s Plateau. In June the top of the mount is still partly covered with snow which was actually great. Instead of jumping up and down the huge stones making sure that your feet doesn’t slide in the holes between them and the stones are moving to make it even much worse, in June we could easily walk on snow. We didn’t stay long at the top because the wind there is always beastly strong and the raindrops hit your face like thousands of sharp icy daggers.

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Descending was very easy we could just slide down the snow.

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Yov’s plateau was still swampy in earlier June. Later in summer time the plateau is covered with colorful flowers.

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On our third day we went to climb Serebryanka Mt (1305m). It’s the second place of attraction in the area. This peak is easier to climb that’s why you meet more tourists there and families with children.

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Unfortunately, in the recent past there was a mine made in that area and the road for heavy trucks was build that goes past Serebryanka Mt. and Yov’s Plateau. A lot of lazy tourists from Yekaterinburg and Perm come the plateau by offroad jeeps. We even met a tourist bus that brought 30 people from Perm for a weekend. From the road it takes about 20 minutes to get to the top of Serebryanka. But for us it felt that we are walking alone a busy road in the middle of town. It wasn’t quite what we wanted to see after driving 450km north getting away from the civilization…

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The wind on Serebryanka Mt is not so harsh and we could stay there longer taking a lot of great photos.

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As you can see in the pictures we were really lucky with the weather. It’s not always like this and very often people hike in fog there. Of course, we were ready for the worst, took a lot of winter clothes, raincoats, so the last thing I could think of was a sun protective lotion. Eventually, trekking for four days in the Northern Urals I returned to Yekaterinburg with a burnt face so everyone thought I spent a weekend in Sochi or somewhere else in the South.

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Needless to say, on the fourth day nobody in our group wanted to go back to the city. We promised to each other to come back to Konzhak. May be in August - September next time when the forest is full of berries and mushrooms.

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19Jun/170

Museum of Soviet Household in Yekaterinburg

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In 2017 Yekaterinburg has got a new museum – the Museum of the Soviet Household.

Irina Svetonosova, a former journalist was inspired by the idea of the similar museum in Kazan and decided to open a similar nostalgic exhibition of the Soviet memorabilia in her home town.

Irina, the owner of the museum photo by E1.ru

Irina, the owner of the museum
photo by E1.ru

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She rented a 100 years  old house in the city center and started collecting old stuff from the attics of her friends and relatives. The citizens of Yekaterinburg who have already been to the museum now bring their own items for the museum, so the collection continues growing.

The building of the Museum photo by E1.ru

The building of the Museum
photo by E1.ru

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Of course, for Russian visitors it’s a reason to feel nostalgic about their childhood days. I believe, it’ll also  be interesting for foreign visitors of Yekaterinburg to understand how people lived in the USSR and may be to compare the life style with their own.

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Address: ul. Sakko I Vanzetti, 40

Opened daily 11.00 – 20.00

Admission: Adults – 200rub \ School children – 100rub

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5Apr/171

Travelling in Southern Urals. Part V. Paris and Steps

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In the South of Chelyabinsk Oblast (Region) travelers may get confused when looking at the map: going to the border with Kazakhstan the road goes along Paris, Berlin, Fère-Champenoise, then it turns to Leipzig, passing Kassel etc. The villages in that area got their names in honor of the Russian victories in major battles of Napoleonic wars.

The village of Paris is probably the most popular one with drivers who stop to take pictures with a road sign saying Parizh to post it on Facebook. Apparently, some drivers were not satisfied with taking just photos so they took\stole the road sign at the entrance of the village. The police put a new one but it was stolen again. After that the authorities stopped bothering and we could only take a photo at the exit with a crossed Parizh sign. Hopefully it remains there for good.

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Paris, Varna, Berlin and other villages with exotic names are also interesting from the anthropological point of view. The citizens of that area are called Nagaybäks. This minority with the population of about 1000 people was officially recognized in Russia as a separate ethnic group.

The origin of the Nagaybäks remains unclear. They are Tatars allegedly from Kazan Khanate who for some reason adopted Christianity. Nagaybäks speak a dialect of the Tatar language but keep Orthodox traditions. They lived in the territory of Bashkortostan in the 17th century where they assimilated groups of Christians from Iran and Central Asia. During the revolts of Tatars and Bashkirs the Nagaybäks remained loyal to the Russian Tsars and were recruited to the Cossack Army. So Nagaybäk men took part in the wars against Napoleon in Europe as well.

The museum in Fère-Champenoise

The museum in Fère-Champenoise

In the 18th century the Orthodox Tatars were rewarded with new lands on the border with Kazakhstan although according to the Nagaybäks it was a forced exile to the uninhabited steps to protect the Russian borders.

In Paris we visited the local museum where you can learn about the history of the Nagaybäks and about their traditions.

In the museum of Paris a Na?aybäk woman is showing a traditional dress

In the museum of Paris a Nagaybäk woman is showing a traditional dress

Paris wouldn’t be called Paris without an Eifel Tower. A 1.5 replica was constructed in the village in 2005 and it serves as a cell network station.

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On that day travelling in the Southern steps we received text messages with a warning about bad weather conditions and blizzards in the evening. When leaving Paris the wind got so strong that our driver he couldn’t feel the road. Besides the visibility was getting worse and worse.

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The situation was becoming dangerous, we had to cover about 200km that evening but on the empty secondary roads with zero visibility there was a little chance to be rescued. I realized, why Southern Urals was another place of exile – once the driver turned off the engine in a few minutes it became freezing cold in the car. The wind was so strong that even though it was -10 outside it felt like -40. We decided to stop and look for a hotel near Paris. Besides, everybody remembered the tragic accident of last year that took place in the step of the Southern Urals.

photo from Komsomolskaya Pravda, 03.01.2016

photo from Komsomolskaya Pravda, 03.01.2016

On3d of January 2016 80 people were trapped in 30 cars on the road between Orenburg and Orsk. It took 16 hours to clean 27 km of the road to get to the trapped people. By that time their cars were fully covered in snow and they couldn’t even open the doors to get out. Though getting out wasn’t an option either. The cars got run out of gas very quickly. To keep their families warm and to survive the drivers were making fires inside the cars. Those who didn’t have paper burnt their documents, money and passports. To keep his pregnant wife warm one man burnt the upholstery of the car seats. The people were rescued after 16 hours. One man died. He was trying to walk to the other cars when the blizzard only started but got lost and couldn’t find the way back. His body was found only 20km away from his car.

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photo from Komsomolskaya Pravda, 03.01.2016

In our case the blizzard was short once the wind stopped we hurried to the North. Very soon steps changed for forests: pines along the road are a good protection in case of a snowstorm. Orenburg steps are beautiful but can be lethally dangerous in winter. When returning home I reread the Captain’s Daughter by Pushkin. Russian kids study it at school but only after visiting Ural steps you realize in what conditions people had to live there.

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14Mar/170

Travelling in Sothern Urals. Part IV. Orenburg region and Pushkin

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This winter my colleagues, the guides of Yekaterinburg and I decided to explore the Southern Urals to see its touristic potential. Within 6 days we covered over 3000km by car, visited 3 regions of Russia populated by over 100 nationalities: Chelyabinsk Region, Orenburg Region and the Republic of Bashkortostan. Almost every day we were crossing the border of Europe and Asia, got into a severe blizzard in Step and drove through the thickest fog I’ve ever seen along the river of Ural. The temperatures in January varied from – 25 in the mountains to -7 Celsius in the step areas.

100km away from Orenburg we stopped at the village of Saraktash. Apart from the local museum and ubiquitous street markets with traditional Orenburg shawls the village is proud of St. Trinity church complex.

The complex of the churches is very impressive and the construction is still going on

The complex of the churches is very impressive and the construction is still going on

The Orthodox churches as well as the priest’s huge house (Father Nickolas and his wife adopted 70 children) have been built in the recent years with the help of Orenburg sponsors. The priest, father Nickolay proved to be a very business oriented person and attracted large sums of money to the village. The sponsors were often invited to Saraktash and to the priest’s house for parties. Finally the Church dismissed Father Nickolas after a drink and drive accident with his Mercedes car involved. The video made by the road police got to youtube. Nowadays the priest is in the church again but lives a more modest and quite reserved life in Saraktash.

The house of Father Nickolay

The house of Father Nickolay

The citizens of Saraktash will also tell you about a movie shot in Saraktash in 1998. 'Russian Riot' is a film based on the historical novel Captain’s Daughter by Alexander Pushkin. Pushkin visited Orenburg region to collect the information about the Russia’s largest peasant revolt also known as Pugachev’s Rebellion or Cossacks’ Rebellion of 1173-75.

A fortress built for the film Russian Riot

A fortress built for the film Russian Riot

The Moscow filmmakers chose Saraktash village for shooting the adaptation. The remained props of the wooden fortress are now the museum of the Captain’s Daughter. The museum has a hotel in the wooden house, a restaurant and a banya.

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In his novel Pushkin describes severe blizzards in Orenburg steps. As we travelled in the Southern Urals we realized how dangerous they can be. For many kilometers you find nothing but white kurgans (hills) and when the visibility is almost zero at night and the car gets off the road chances to be rescued on time are very low.  This will be the next story on the Southern Urals.

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3Mar/171

Travelling in Southern Urals. Part III. Orenburg

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Orenburg Train Station

I was surprised not to find Orenburg in the guidebooks such as Lonely Planet on Russia. Of course, it’s far from the main touristic routes and 900 away from the Trans-Siberian railway. But if you happen to get to the Southern Urals, Orenburg is certainly worth a visit. The city with about half a million population is unofficially called the Asian Capital of Russia. It was once the capital of Kirgiz Autonomous Soviet Socialistic Republic but in 1925 remained in Russia. In 1938-1957 the city was called Chkalov, named after a famous Russian pilot who had never lived in Orenburg.

The bridge over the Ural river in the historical center of Orenburg marks the border of Europe and Asia.

The bridge over the Ural river in the historical center of Orenburg marks the border of Europe and Asia.

Orenburg was built as a fortress on the Or river on the border of Russia with Kazakhstan in 1734. The city is proud of having over 100 nationalities living together in peace. The signs of international friendship can be seen everywhere. The most interesting site in the city is the so-called National Village. It’s a walking street with 10 houses-museums on both sides representing the culture and traditions of 10 major nationalities in Orenburg.

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There you can enter a Ukrainian house with a straw roof, stay at the Tatars’ wooden home, relax in the Kazakh yurta, dance national dances with Belarusians or eat Bashkir chak-chak with honey.  By the way each house-museum has a restaurant with national cuisine!

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We really liked the Governor Museum, especially it’s room of the Sarmatians’ Gold.

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In 1986 a group of students of the Bashkir University of Ufa found several burial kurgans (burial hills) 100km away from Orenburg. All the graves contained a lot of gold. One kurgan in particular was a grave of a rich Sarmatian  female warrior. Golden coins and decoration made of pure gold were scattered all over the place. All the pieces date back to IV -II b.c. and are still in a very good condition.

photo by Bashkir TV

photo by Bashkir TV

The ornaments have mostly an Iranian influence. It’s still not clear whether the nomadic tribes of Sarmatians made them themselves or perhaps took them as trophies.

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Although most of the findings are exhibited in the Academy of Science of Ufa, a part of the collection including the treasures of the rich woman’s grave, stayed in Orenburg. The museum guide told us that it’s not allowed to take photos in the room of Sarmatians’ Gold but on the second thought ‘it’s ok if you do it quickly’

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What kind of a souvenir can one bring from Orenburg? All over Russia people know about famous Orenburg shawls. Finely knit shawls are also known as wedding ring shawls because even large ones are so fine they can be pulled through a wedding ring.

Street market of Orenburg Shawls

Street market of Orenburg Shawls

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The shawls became famous in Russia in the 18th century when Russian aristocratic women noticed that local Tatar and Bashkir country women make beautiful and very warm shawls of the wool of native Orenburg goats. Due to the harsh climate in the Ural steppes the down hair of the goats is very thin soft and fine. Attempts to breed Orenburg goats in Europe ended in a fiasco as the animals need the climate of the Southern Urals.

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Orenburg has numerous shops of shawls and all are hand-made, by the way!. Some stores  are very fancy and look more like museums. In one of them we could even have a photo-session  in traditional Russian costumes.

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The prices of shawls vary from 1000rub to 50 000 depending on the size and art work. If a shawl is under 1000rub it’s more likely to be machine-made with synthetic wool.

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14Feb/170

Traveling in Southern Urals. Part II

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This winter my colleagues, the guides of Yekaterinburg and I decided to explore the Southern Urals to see its touristic potential. Within 6 days we covered over 3000km by car, visited 3 regions of Russia populated by over 100 nationalities: Chelyabinsk Region, Orenburg Region and the Republic of Bashkortostan. Almost every day we were crossing the border of Europe and Asia, got into a severe blizzard in Step and drove through the thickest fog I’ve ever seen along the river of Ural. The temperatures in January varied from – 25 in the mountains to -7 Celsius in the step areas.

This story is about the Republic of Bashkortostan.

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As the roads get broader and better, the road signs are written in two languages and the music stations play ethnic songs in Bashkir, you immediately understand where you are. Bashkortostan is a small autonomous republic with around 30% of native population. In the course of Russian history Bashkirs were with or against Russians, therefore the Tsars considered them unreliable and they were not recruited in the Tsar’s army. But Russian Empire needed their lands full of mineral recourses and black oil besides the geographical position was important to protect the country in the South from Kyrgyz Kaganat (that was the name of the Central Asian and Southern Siberian lands before they were divided into Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan end others)

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A sign on the Museum of History of Sterlitamak in Bashkir

Bashkirs don’t like it when Russians say that they are similar to Tatars. Although both are Muslims and their languages of Turkic origin are similar, Tatars have always been traders while Bashkirs have been good hunters. Living in the Ural mountains in dense forests they developed the knowledge of using wild nature for their needs, wild bees in particular.

When in Bashkortostan (though Russians would say Bashkiria) you should definitely go to a local market. Amidst stalls with horse meat and dairy products made of horse milk one corner of the market is always full of famous Bashkir honey. Back in the days people took honey from hives of wild bees. Nowadays it’s almost a national tradition of having bees and making honey. So, as you understand honey is the main souvenir that you can bring from Bashkortostan.

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We skipped Ufa – the capital of Bashkortostan. It’s certainly worth a visit especially in summer time. But since our destination was Orenburg, we stopped in Sterlitamak, the second largest city of the Republic.

A former merchants town mainly inhabited by Tatars because they know how to trade, as you remember, today Strelitamak is a typical Ural Soviet-looking industrial city with a few old buildings in the center. Mosques and Orthodox churches alternate as you drive through the city. For over 300 years people have learnt how to live in peace and tolerance here.

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As we came to Bashkortostan on the eve of Epiphany Day (January 19th) we decided to visit Tabynsk – a resort with mineral springs not far from Sterlitamak. It also has a small convent with a famous Tabynsk icon of Our Lady. The icon dates back to X-XI century and it was found next to the mineral spring in the 1570s. Surely, then the spring became holy and hundreds of people come to Tabynsk to dive there on the Epiphany Day.

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The man in the pool said that the water was warm. +4C compared to – 20 outside, of course it was warm enough but we were not ready for a swim. Besides, that evening we had to be in Orenburg. The last 250km were very difficult as the roads along the Belaya river were covered in the thickest fog I’ve ever seen. It took us 5 hours instead of 3 but we made it to Orenburg safely though the following day there were reports about many car accidents and 3 lethal ones in the vicinities of Strelitamak.

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7Feb/170

Traveling in Southern Urals. Part I

This winter my colleagues, the guides of Yekaterinburg and I decided to explore the Southern Urals to see its touristic potential. Within 6 days we covered over 3000km by car, visited 3 regions of Russia populated by over 100 nationalities: Chelyabinsk Region, Orenburg Region and the Republic of Bashkortostan. Almost every day we were crossing the border of Europe and Asia, got into a severe blizzard in Step and drove through the thickest fog I’ve ever seen along the river of Ural. The temperatures in January varied from – 25 in the mountains to -7 Celsius in the step areas.

Here’s the first story of our staying in the land of Sinegorye (Blue Mountains).

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On the first day we drove through the mountain region of National parks Taganai and Zyratkul along the spine of the Urals. The territory once belonged to the Bashkirs, muslim Turkic people but the Russians bought this piece of land for what the Bashkirs thought was a good price. However, the land appeared to be full of mineral resources, so apart from the National Park this western corner of Chelyabinsk region has many metallurgical and nuclear plants. The area became industrial in the 18th century but preserved the Turkic names, for example, Taganai means a moon holder in the Bashkir language.

Taganai National Park

Taganai National Park

We stopped at the village of Syrostan (Yellow place) with a lovely Russian Orthodox Church.

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Between Syrostan and the town of Miass there is a Park of the Stone Age. Alexander, a local craftsman is making wooden sculptures of ancient citizens of the Ural mountains.

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Walking among the wooden people our guide dressed like a shaman told us interesting facts for example, on how to catch and kill a mammoth!

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Meanwhile, Alexander, the park owner was busy making a snow mammoth. As we came the mammoth was almost finished. So much work for one man knowing that his animal will melt down in two months!

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The western corner of Chelyabinsk region is called Sinegorye (Blue Mountains): numerous lakes and the pines have a shade of blue. It’s especially obvious on sunny winter days.

Zavialikha Ski Slope

Zavialikha Ski Slope

Crossing the border of Europe and Asia there  you get to Europe but only geographically because in fact you get to the autonomous Republic of Bashkortostan… and that will be the second story!

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From Asia to Europe

27Dec/160

Cherepanov’s House in Visim

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The house of Vitaliy Cherepanov, a local craftsman, is a famous place in the village of Visim and its vicinities. Vitaliy was a factory worker in Nizhni Tagil. When he retired he bought a house in Visim (195km North of Yekaterinburg) and turned it into a masterpiece.

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Vitaly is an amateur painter and sculptor. In one of the interviews he said that he started painting in his childhood and one of his first works was a portrait of Stalin. His mother wasn’t happy with the result as apparently the portrait didn’t look canonical. Vitaliy stopped painting but fortunately not for long.

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Working at the factory Cherepanov got interested in sculptures. During lunch breaks he was busy with wood. His wooden sculptures, mainly the characters of the Russian fairytales, are now exhibited in front of the house in Visim.

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Sometimes, if the owner of the house and his wife are at home they open the gates and let tourists in to see more works which are planted all over the garden.

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Cherepanov doesn’t sell his sculptures and he refuses to take money from visitors. To stop money talks he put a stone in front of the house with a saying: ‘God’s gift isn’t measured by money’

Vitaliy is a very hospitable artist. He likes showing his art and one day as I came with two Swiss tourists he invited us inside to show modest wooden house. As you can guess, he did a lot of interior design himself. The roof of the house was painted by Vitaliy with motives of the Ural nature near Visim.

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If you come to Visim you will find the house easily, just follow the sign ??? ?????????? (Cherepanov’s House). It’s on Kalinina st, 64

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Visim is also the place of the deer and ostrich farm, opened every Sat-Sun all year long

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2Aug/160

How I met a Romanovphile from Canada

This summer I was lucky to meet a very interesting tourist from Canada - Paul Gilbert, the founder of Royalrussia.org. Paul is Russophile and Romanovphile, his publishing house in Canada specializes in books on Imperial Russia and the Romanovs.

It was Paul’s second visit of Yekaterinburg. Obviously, he knew much more about Nicholas II than me. Apart from visiting the Monastery Ganina Yama and the actual place of the Romanovs’ burial place found in 1978, Paul wanted to go to the town of Alapayevsk.

with Paul Gilbert in Alapayevsk

with Paul Gilbert in Alapayevsk

Alapayevsk is a small town 180km North-East of Yekaterinburg. Romanovs-wise, the town was the place of the detention of the Grand Duke and Princes Romanov, the elder sister of the Empress Alexandra. The relatives of Nicholas II were imprisoned in a school building of Alapaevsk. On July 18th  1918, the following night after the execution of the family of Nicholas II his relatives in Alapayevsk were taken to a nearby forest and thrown into an old mine when they were still alive. Unlike in Yekaterinburg, the bodies of the Grand Dukes and Elizabeth were found a month later  by the White Army.

Construction of the church in the Convent of St. Elizaveta

Construction of the church in the Convent of St. Elizaveta

Today Alapayevsk has a monastery of the New Martyrs of Russia on the site of the mine and a convent of St. Elizaveta . Elizabeth was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church like the family of Nicholas II. Today the relics of St. Elizaveta are in the Russian Orthodox Church of Maria Magdalena in Jerusalem.

The school in Alapayevsk where the Romanovs were kept is still a secondary school. One of the classrooms has a memorial wall with the photos of the Royal prisoners.

The school still works in Alapayevsk

The school still works in Alapayevsk

It took us a whole day to explore the sites of Alapayevsk with Paul. The priest of the local church was very kind to take his time and to tell more about the days of the Romanovs in Alapayevsk.

I’m sure Paul will write about his experience in one of the next magazines he publishes twice a year. I was honored to receive two of the latest magazines with very interesting articles on the Romanovs.

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In 2013 Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna had elevated "Paul Gilbert" to the Imperial and Royal Order of St. Stanislav, III Class.

"The Order is being given in recognition of a lifetime of service to the Russian Imperial House. Gilbert is best known for his Royal Russia web site and blog, the publisher of more than 30 books and magazines on the Romanov dynasty, his support of the Russian monarchy, and his personal dedication to distributing accurate information about the House of Romanov and to highlighting the importance of the Russian Imperial House in today's Russia."

extract from http://www.angelfire.com/pa/ImperialRussian/royalty/russia/introduction.html

photo from http://www.angelfire.com

photo from http://www.angelfire.com

 Living in Canada Paul is a true Ambassador of Russia in the West and in his blog he keeps on reminding people that the way western media portrays Russia is far from reality and to understand the truth one should go and see Russia.

You can read more on Paul Gilbert and Imperial Russia here: www.royalrussia.org