Feodorovsky GorodokAcross the park, down the path from the Alexander Palace is Feodorovsky Gorodok, a tiny pseudo-town built by Nicholas II in the first decade of the 20th century as an attempt to return to the original Russian architecture and culture. Nicholas, unlike his earlier predecessor Peter the Great, loved all things Russian and had many ambitious plans for the Gorodok and the cathedral within it. But the First World War halted his plans, while the revolution ended them completely.
Currently the Gorodok stands in ruins, almost as symbol of things that could have been but never came to fruition. It is unclear when, or if, any restoration is planned. But the area is not abandoned: lots of things are going on inside, including a fully functioning privately owned restaurant in one of the courtyards. The former Maria/Anastasia hospital and the buildings in the courtyard behind it have been converted to boarding rooms for the elderly who are too poor to afford housing and food.
The elderly are the most destitute and vulnerable population group in Russia today. They live on an extremely low fixed income of about $80 per month, while Russias inflation rate is very high. A loaf of bread now costs about 80 cents (as opposed to last year when it was still less than 30-40 cents). Since bread is one of cheapest food items available in Russia and is a staple of the Russian diet, this is very bad news for the pensioners.
Reportedly, virtually no state funded programs exist to assist the elderly, and unless they have children or other relatives who can provide financial help, they are on their own. It is difficult to imagine how some of them survive.
The Feodorovsky Cathedral provides housing and meals to only a fraction of these people, but space is limited and it is extremely difficult to get in. For each elderly person who was lucky enough to get room and board at the Gorodok, there are thousands who are in need of the basics. Medical care is likewise very expensive, and while free clinics still exist, the treatment there is reportedly so atrocious that only those with absolutely no other choice use them.
Above: inside the Gorodok complex, where some of the rooms for the poor are located.
Below: Feodorovsky Gorodok, then and now:
Above: Grand Duchesses Maria and Anastasia posing with soldiers in front of their hospital; Maria and Anastasias hospital building today.
Below: Current views of the Gorodok.
Below: Entrance to the restaurant Staraya Bashnya (The Ancient Tower)located inside one of the courtyards next to the hospital, and inside the restaurant courtyard.
In the distance, floating above treetops you could see a dome covered with scaffolding - the Feodorovsky Cathedral:
Above: The Cathedral a week apart - the once-again-golden onion dome.
During my stay, I was able to follow the cathedral restoration progress and witness its transformation from scaffolding to gild.
As you walk through the tree-lined alley...
Ehe cathedral emerges...
Above: Feodorovsky Cathedral as it looked circa 1912.
Above: In the process of restoration, July 2005
Above: Restored gilded dome, August 2005
Above: The imperial entrance to the Feodorovsky Cathedral in 1912, and in the summer of 2005.
Below: Parish entrance with icons of Nicholas and Alexandra and the icon of St Seraphim of Sarov, the last Tsar and Tsarinas favorite saint.
To get to the imperial entrance you would walk around the cathedral to an area where you will also encounter the Nicholas II memorial, along with the four oak trees planted by Nicholas and Alexandra in 1909.
At the base of the memorial, fresh flowers are often placed next to the picture of the heir.
Above: The four oaks.
Above: Tourists and Orthodox pilgrims alike come from all over to see the Cathedral and pay their respects to the last Russian Emperor. Many believe that the Feodorovsky Cathedral represents a new hope for the Russian people.