Travels in the East of Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia, When Cesarewitch, 1890-1891
By Prince Esper Ukhtomsky; London, 1896.
A monumental resource consisting of 2 volumes over 15 inches high and containing nearly 500 wood engravings and numerous heliogravures. The book is a readable and beautifully written travelogue. It provides a glimpse into 19th century Russia and its relationship to the Eastern world.
In the fall of 1890, Tsar Alexander III wanted to launch the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway to tie eastern parts of his Empire closer to its core. He decided that his son, Nicholas, should be present at the ceremony in Vladivostok commemorating the beginning of its construction. Nicholas II and a large entourage embarked on a 10-month Grand Tour of Asia to complete his education and participate in a diplomatic mission of goodwill. At the end of the voyage, Nicholas would lay the first brick of the railroad. The trip was cut short in April 1891 when, while traveling through the city of Otsu, Japan, Nicholas was the victim of an assassination attempt. He was attacked in his open rickshaw by Tsuda Sanzo, a policeman who was escorting him. Sanzo’s sword left a scar on his face, but the wound was not life threatening. The quick action by Nicholas’s cousin, Prince George of Greece, saved his life.
Prince Esper Ukhtomsky was selected as a tutor to accompany the Cesarewitch (heir to the throne) and record the journey. Ukhtomsky was a poet, a journalist, a Buddhist, and passionate about Eastern culture. He amassed a large collection of Chinese and Tibetan art which is now on display in the State Historical museum.
The beautifully illustrated volumes feature ethnographic descriptions of each of the places they visited: Greece, Egypt, India, Indochina, Japan and Siberia. The two volume set took six years to complete and each chapter was approved by Nicholas II. It was first published in Russian in 1893 and later translated into English, French, German and Chinese.
“Nothing gives so much breath to the intellectual horizon, nothing has so much influence on character, as immediate living contact with the life of other lands; and what marvelous and attractive scenes awaited the Imperial traveller! All the past life of humanity is bound up with them. All that ever gave wings to the human spirit is preserved to the present day in their antique monuments, and discourses eloquently on the never ceasing victory of reason and artistic creation over impersonal and formless matter.”
Photos from the book courtesy of David Orr, UPR Artist-in-Residence
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