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26Oct/1016

The Demidoff family – from the Urals to Italy

A portrait of Nikita Demidoff who started the famous dynasty. In fact, his name was Nikita Demidovich Altufyev but Peter the Great would call him Demidov or Demidoff in a European way.

The Demidoff family was the richest clan not only in the Urals but in the whole Russian Empire. The history of Middle Urals is mostly the history of the Demidoffs who owned dozens of factories mostly in nevyansk and Nizhni Tagil. Ural metals with Demidoff's trademark Old Sable can be found in St.Petersburg (Peterhof), in London (the Palace of Westminster) and even in new York. The Statue of Liberty was a gift of France, as you know. But first the French had to buy copper from Demidoff's factories.

Akinfy Demidoff was the most influential in the dynasty. With the discovery of gold in the Urals, Akinfy became the second wealthy person in Russia after the Tsar. The legend says that he also counterfeited ruble coins in the secret factory in the basement of his mysterious Leaning Tower in Nevyansk. The Leaning Tower is still a secret to scientists and historians. We don't know the name of the architect, why the tower has the inclination and what purpose it had. It was a laboratory, a prison, a watch tower and a clock tower at the same time. The English clock that still plays music every 15 min. cost Demidoff more than the tower itself. In addition the Leaning Tower had a lightning rod the first ever used in the world.

Akinfy Demodoff's grandson Nikolay had enjoyed his life in the Urals until once he went on holiday to Italy, fell in love with it and never went back to his residence in Nizhni Tagil. You can't really blame him for lack of patriotism. Compared to the Ural severe climate and plain food, of course Italy seemed to be a paradise to Nikolay. He lived in Florence in Villa San Donato also known as Villa Demidoff and bought a feudal title of Count of San Donato. Although Russian aristocrats refused to call Demidoff by his title, the name of San Donato is well known in the Urals. There is a small train station San Donato not far from Nizhni Tagil. The name sounds so exotic that many people believe San is short for Sanatorium, however there is no sanatorium in the neighborhood. Meanwhile the Demidoffs set even stronger bonds with the Europeans when Nikolay's son Anatole Demidoff married Princess Mathilde, a niece of Napoleon.

In the present time the Demidoffs live in France. They own neither palaces nor noble titles. The head of the family hardly speaks Russian. He is aware of his famous ancestors but prefers a modest life style. What's interesting, the last Demidoff has been to Russia only once in early 90s. He didn't go to the Urals, instead he chose to visit the Red Square in Moscow. In the interview for the Russian TV he said that he wasn't much impressed..

Unlike Demidoff, tourists from Russia and abroad like to visit Demidoff's places and the Leaning Tower in particular. Nevyansk is 90 km north to Yekaterinburg. You can get there by bus or by train. The Tower is opened every day except Mondays from 9a.m. to 6 p.m. Because of many tourist groups on weekends, it's wise to book an excursion beforehand by phone +7-34356-2-20-56 or e-mail: muzei@nevmus.ru. Note that excursions are in Russian only.

Book the tour to Nevyansk here: http://yekaterinburg4u.ru/en/tours/nevyansk-leaning-tower

Take a look at the photos of Nevyansk by Fredrik Forsberg  (for more photos visit my page Yekaterinburg for You on Facebook)


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Comments (16) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I am a Demidoff, Emelie Demidoff, I live in Nikiski Alaska, and this is so interesting… I wish I would have looked it up befor now

  2. Hello, My name is Lynn Dermidoff. I live near Detroit Michigan. I know there is some story behind my name DERMIDOFF changed from DEMIDOFF. I am the granddaughter of Charles Dermidoff. If you have any additional information I would great appreciate it.

    • Hello Lynn. I had a simillar request from a Canadian Demidoff who wnated to learn more about his ancestors. Unfortunately I only know that the Demidoffs started living in France in 19th century and the last Demidoff still lives somewhere there. Then again, Demidov is a very popular name in Russia. So it’s hard to tell about your particular case.

      • Thank you Luba for contacting me back. I know there are hundreds of thousands of Demidof, Dermidoff and Demidovs. I know there is a link between all of us. Im just going to dig a little deeper to find out more information. Thank you again, much appreaciated.
        -Lynn Dermidoff

        • You have much to learn and the information is out there if you look .The name Demidoff was given to the family in the early 18th century by Peter the great in appreciation for arms production .

    • Dear Lynn:
      I an just beginning to do ancestry. I don’t know it there is a connection.
      My paternal grandmother came from Italy. Her name was Katie Dermidoff. She married Paul Tissoni which was changed to Tesson. She had two brothers Carlo Dermidoff and Angelo Dermidoff. Carlo had a son named Angelo Dermidoff. If Angelo is sitll living he must be in his 80’s. My grandparents and parents are all deceased. If there is no connection please excuse me. If this is connected in any way I am interested in tracing the family tree back and would appreciate any information you have. Thanks Alan

      • Hello Alan, we are Dermidoff in Italy, my usband is Alessio Dermidoff, his grandfather was Desiderio Dermidoff and we know that an uncle was named Angelo and lived in USA…
        We are just starting to investigate, as we know that our ancestry comes from Russia in the period of Napoleon invasion…
        It is very interesting…
        It maybe you have a connection with my usband!
        Thank you! Raffaella.

    • Hello Lynn, we are Dermidoff in Italy, my usband is Alessio Dermidoff, his grandfather was Desiderio Dermidoff and we know that an uncle was named Angelo and lived in USA…
      We are just starting to investigate, as we know that our ancestry comes from Russia in the period of Napoleon invasion…
      It is very interesting…

  3. Dear Luba, I am interested with your reference that a Demidoff descendant from France visited the Urals in the ’90’s. I assume that this was the descendant of the Procopi family line who I do know having lived in Paris in the early to mid-90’s.

    Please do not that I have visited Nizhny Tagil, Tula, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Ekaterinberg, etc. as a Director of the International Demidoff Foundation in the last years, so am very proud of the family history in Russia. I do plan to return to Russia and most likely in early 2013 and in connection to Charity Work.

    Kind regards
    Alexandre Tissot Demidoff

    • Dear Alexandre,
      thank you for your comment.

      I reffered to a Russian documentary made about 5 years ago. There one of the Demidoffs was intervied (unfortunately, it wasn’t mentioned from what family line he was) So, he said that he’d only been to Russsia once in the 1990s and never in the Urals.

      However, it’s good to know that the International Demidoff Foundation is interested in te Ural part of the history!

      I hope to meet you in 2013 and may be to highlight your charity projects in local media.

      Warm regards,
      Luba

    • Good afternoon! Alexander,
      You are welcomed by Tula, Demidov’s Historical and memorial museum
      With great pleasure we invite you to Tula in our museum home Demidovs
      In February, 2014 we plan to open the exhibition devoted to year of Great Britain in Russia
      We ask to send welcome speech to a museum from you as from Demidov’s modern descendant from Great Britain

      Welcome to Tula!

      Olga, Elena Demidov’s Historical and memorial museum

      Our mail: dvoinelena@mail.ru

  4. Hello, Alexander!
    You are welcomed Historical and Memorial Museum Demidovs!
    February 27th we will open the exhibition “British style. Dreams of tea, the sun and the Queen ”
    We discussed with Nina Grigorevnoj Demidova getting your greetings to our museum.
    Dear Alexander, will be happy to read your message guests of the exhibition.
    Send to you the photo. Demidov Assembly. 2001 Moscow.
    Photo on the museum staff Olga and Elena.

    With best wishes from Tula
    Demidov’s Museum.

  5. Hi, just read a book about Aurora Demidov(a), a Finnish lady, who married Paul Demidov, the richest man on earth those days. Their son, also Paul, moved later to Austria and then to Italy. This Paul seems to be the starting point of Italian Demidovs. In Finland Aurora Demidov, born Sternvall, later had a great career in creating facilities for poor people. She donated fortunes to social work in the new country. Wonder if anyone remembers her?

    • Yes, Aurora Demidova-Karamzina is well known in Russia. Her portrait is in the Museum of Nizhni Tagil and in the Konstantinovsky Palace in St. Petersburg. She was the Russian beauty of the time, a woman with a tough fate – both of her husbands and her son died too early while she lived a long life and managed all the Ural factories of the Demidovs. Local guides always tell about her during the tours to Nevyansk and Nizhni Tagil as she visited the places as well.
      Thank you, Paivi, for reminding of her!

  6. Hello all
    I’m writing to report that Ana Kowalczyk (demidova)
    Daughter of Ivan gregorovich demidov
    Granddaughter of Gregory demidov
    Has been diagnosed with a terminal illness at 92
    She is in fact the last of the Gregory direct clan
    I am one of her sons and wish to notify the other demidov clans
    Respectfully
    John Kowalczyk

  7. The still existing Russian Princely family Lopukhin-Demidov belongs to another branch of the House of Demidov. The members of this princely family live in Helsinki in Finland. The present head of this family is His Serene Highness The 4th Prince Lopukhin-Demidov. He is a Finn named Yrjö ONNI Johannes Demidoff.


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