WeWriWa—Elegance after elegance



Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. I’ve been sharing from my alternative history, And Aleksey Lived, which is scheduled to be released in exactly a month, if all goes according to plan. I’m currently experiencing computer problems, but I thankfully still have an 11-year-old computer as backup if the issues aren’t fixed in time. It runs a bit slower and isn’t so up to date, but the most important thing is that it works!

This week’s snippet comes a few lines after last week’s, when soon-to-be Empress Arkadiya had lunch with her future sister-in-law Tatyana and Tatyana’s three surviving children at Yelagin Palace. Everything about this palace and its menu impresses Arkadiya with its unfailing elegance. Now, dessert is served.

Menu for the Romanov Tercentenary, 1913

The cooks had prepared miniature hazelnut and chocolate mousse cakes, a cheese platter, plum tartlets, nectarine pudding, lemon and chèvre cheesecake with rhubarb and wine gelées, and chocolate raspberry roll cake. Arkadiya couldn’t imagine ever becoming used to such high-class dining. It always seemed far too much for one meal, particularly given how many leftovers these meals produced. Common sense would dictate the cooks only prepare as much as was expected to be eaten, instead of making too much and not keeping leftovers for the next day. Giving away the extras was wonderful charity, but the same could be accomplished by deliberately making food to be given to hungry locals and important visitors.

After luncheon concluded, Pavel and Varvara went back to their classroom, and Arkadiya followed Tatyana and Galina to the Poppy Red Salon. They entered through tall double doors of mahogany covered with delicate, gilt bronze decorations and engravings, flanked by very polished white pilasters, and topped by a pediment. As its name suggested, the room was full of poppy red furniture and silk tapestries. The deep red commingled with white, dark mahogany, and gold. In contrast to all the other finery in the room, the floor was plain parquet.

WeWriWa—Inside Yelagin Palace



Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when soon-to-be Empress Arkadiya arrived at Yelagin Palace, on St. Petersburg’s Yelagin Island, to visit her future sister-in-law Tatyana to discuss the wedding dress.

The servants have had to gently explain to Arkadiya that it’s not a good idea to call Tatyana by her title and style, in spite of what protocol dictates. First name and patronymic will do just fine, since Tatyana and her siblings want to be treated like normal people.


“Tatyana Nikolayevna is waiting in the dining hall with her children,” the oldest servant said. “I imagine she’ll take you to the Poppy Red Salon afterwards.  She usually entertains guests there.”

A majordomo led Arkadiya to the dining hall, which was outfitted with light walnut wood contrasting with white marble pilasters.  A row of windows on three sides of the room brought in beautiful, bright sunlight which bathed the room in illumination.  The bronze, gilt, silver, and gold carvings, statues, and busts arranged throughout the room sparkled in particular.  Facing the windows were mirrors giving reflections of the palace gardens, which weren’t completely hibernated yet.  It gave the impression of the lush greenery and bright flowers being right there in the dining hall.

WeWriWa—Arrival at Yelagin Palace



Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week, I’m returning to my alternative history, which, if all goes according to plan, should be released on 17 July, my primary protagonist’s real-life 100th death anniversary.

And Aleksey Lived is set from 1918–45 (with a brief Epilogue some decades later), and tells the story of a restored Russian monarchy. One of the many unusual things about the new Tsar is his choice of a bride, a morganatic princess instead of an equally-ranked princess from a ruling house. Radical revisions to the draconian House Laws have made this engagement possible. Arkadiya is also seven years his senior instead of a few years younger.

It’s now late autumn 1929, and Arkadiya, the soon-to-be Empress, has been invited to visit her future sister-in-law Tatyana at Yelagin Palace, on St. Petersburg’s Yelagin Island, to discuss the wedding gown.

Copyrigh Nmgphoto, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Forty minutes later, the Duesenberg drove through the gates of the looming white edifice.  Arkadiya took a few moments to take all this in, before slowly ascending the massive white marble staircase leading to the main entry.  Identical urns were on either side of it, depicting Tritons and Nereids.  Since winter was approaching, there were no plants or flowers in them.  The air was rich with the scent of oranges from the trees in a nearby greenhouse.

The main vestibule was richly adorned with artwork on the ceiling and cornice, along with four stern statues of maidens holding bronze candelabras.  All the simple furniture was dark mahogany.  Several servants in red livery stepped forward to greet her.

Nevskiy Prospekt




Nevskiy Prospekt, 1880s

Nevskiy Prospekt, the main thoroughfare of St. Petersburg, could perhaps be compared to Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, the Champs-Elysées in Paris, and Unter den Linden in Berlin. Even today, it’s where the majority of the city’s shopping and nightlife are located. The famous street, which runs three and a half miles from the edge of the Neva River to the Aleksandr Nevskiy Monastery, pulsated with even more life in Tsarist days.


Horse-drawn tram on Nevskiy Prospekt, 1899

Nevskiy Prospekt was like Iverskaya Chapel, teeming with people from all walks of life. Members of the Imperial Family could promenade alongside outlaws, prostitutes, starving artists, murderers, factory-workers, soldiers, and sailors. No matter what time of year, the street was always packed with traffic, be it sleds, automobiles, trams, troikas, landaus, carriages, bicycles, or coaches. It wasn’t unusual to see the mingling of long-haired, dark-frocked priests; peasant women with scarves over their heads; high-ranking officers in their dress uniforms; and high-society ladies draped in ermines, silks, and diamonds.


Postcard showing Yeliseyev Emporium (note the pre-Revolutionary letters I and ѣ)

Some of the most famous buildings on Nevskiy Prospekt include The Passage, a venerable old department store; the Aleksandr Nevskiy Monastery, containing the Theological Academy of the Russian Orthodox Church and several cemeteries; Aleksandrinskiy Theatre; Stroganov Palace; Yeliseyev Brothers, an emporium; a dozen churches of various denominations; Gostiny Dvor, an arcaded bazaar; many hotels; bookstores; Gambs Brothers, which sold housewares; the Russian National Library; and Chicherin House, which went through many uses.


Nevskiy Prospekt, 1874

The Admiralty, which housed the Ministry of the Navy, was at the northern end of Nevskiy Prospekt. Anichkov Bridge runs over Fontanka Canal.  Each corner of the bridge contains a rearing bronze horse held by a groom. Legend has it that sculptor Peter von Klodt was so angry over Tsar Nicholas I’s demands and how he gave several first casts to his brother-in-law, he retaliated by depicting the Tsar’s features in the swollen groin vein of one of the horses.


Crossing between Nevskiy Prospekt and Mikhaylovskaya Street, view of Volysko-Kamskiy Bank

St. Petersburg was a quite international, not-very-Russian city in Tsarist days. The city was largely designed by foreign architects; the court spoke English, French, and German better than Russian until fairly late in the Imperial era; quite a few members of the Imperial Family used English and French forms of their names; many foreign languages could be heard along Nevskiy Prospekt; and many magazines and books sold along Nevskiy Prospekt were in a veritable cornucopia of languages. Many store windows displayed signs advertising which languages were spoken there.


Nevskiy Prospekt as it appeared in the days of Nicholas II’s coronation

Maslenitsa (Butter Week), which corresponds to Carnival and falls eight weeks before Easter, was also celebrated along Nevskiy Prospekt. There were many stalls selling blini and blinchiki (small, thin, dessert-like pancakes) soaked in butter, along with other festival foods and products such as roasted nuts, hot drinks, live birds, puppets, gingerbread, satin ribbons, jewelry, and bright, elaborate fabrics and wooden toys.


Nevskiy Prospekt near Kazan Cathedral

From 1918–44, it was renamed Proletkult Street, and then changed to Avenue of the 25th of October. Today, the original name has been restored. Obviously, the name is taken from the Neva River, which also gave its name to Russia’s greatest national hero, Prince Aleksandr Yaroslavovich Nevskiy.

Modern view of Yeliseyev Emporium, Copyright Potekhin

Nevskiy Prospekt features in my alternative history, and will also feature in both of my Russian novel prequels (1889–97 and 1897–1917). The first prequel will open on Nevskiy Prospekt in December 1889, as young sisters Yekaterina and Margarita Iosifovna Gammerova (Lyuba’s mother and aunt) window-shop and daydream about all the things they’ll never be able to buy.


Stroganov Palace along Moyka Embankment, Copyright Florstein