Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Telephones in the Winter Palace

There were fourteen telephones installed in the St. Petersburg palaces by 1883. As the Imperial family moved between their residences, the telephones went with them.

On March 2nd, 1883 after an Imperial ball, two telephones in the Winter Palace and Anichkov were “… transferred to Gatchina … one put in the Kitchen building and the other in the Private buffet …”

Telephones allowed communications between the Court departments, i.e. Palace Commandant, Guards, Police. Yet there are numerous instances of their use by the Imperial family members.

On January 25th, 1890 Nicholas II wrote “… went to the desk phone and spoke to Sergei …”

On Tuesday, January 18th, 1894 in the Anichkov, Nicholas wrote “… we listened to Eugene Onegin on the telephone …”

In December 1896, Empress Alexandra “… has ordered a telephone to be installed in the apartment of Mme. E. Gunst …” who was her midwife.

The photo below of the Empress’ bedroom on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace shows a telephone on the far end table by the bed.

The telephone in the photo below was in the children's room of the Alexander Palace (this handset unit has the bas-relief of a little child holding the phone). In 1917 it was taken over by one of the courtiers of the royal family. A similar telephone may have been in the children’s room in the Winter Palace.

In July 1899, Nicholas “…expressed his desire …” to establish telephone communications between the Winter Palace and the Mariinsky Theatre. Bell Telephone Company was paid 1000 rubles in 1900 for the installation.

The following diary entries confirm that Nicholas occasionally did use the telephone after becoming Emperor.

In the Winter Palace on Tuesday, January 18th, 1900 he wrote “… There is good news about Olga [she had diphtheria in the Anichkov]; it is unbearable to communicate with Mama by writing and her answers are only by telephone or telegraph …”

In the Alexander Palace on Thursday, April 24th, 1903 he wrote “… I discussed with Uncle Vladimir from the city over the telephone whether there would be a parade or not …”

There was a telephone in Nicholas II’s reception room (photo below) that was next to the Saltykov staircase on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace.

In my photographs of Nicholas’ Gothic Library prior to 1917, there is no telephone visible. In the 1917 photo below of Kerensky in the Gothic library, a telephone sits on the far corner of Nicholas’ former desk. It may be the telephone that was formerly in the reception room.

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