Russia- History and Art
August 25 to September 6, 2019
Dear Friends,
We  invite you to join us as on our annual journey to explore some of the greatest Artistic, Historical, and Architectural Treasures of Russia and the world. Our journey will take us to the two great cultural capitals of Russia- Moscow and St. Petersburg plus the ancient Golden Ring villages of Suzdal and Vladimir.

This will be an amazing tour and an art lovers dream! We will visit some of the world's best museums including the Tretykov Gallery, Pushkin Museum, Russian Museum, and of course the crown jewel, the Hermitage with over 3 million masterpieces of art. On our journey we will experience virtually every period of fine arts, from classical antiquity to 20th-century masters. 
On our journey will not only experience first-hand the splendor, beauty, art, and history that is Russia but also enjoy a rare opportunity to meet people, visit artists' studios, and go places few tourists are invited! This will truly be a "once in a lifetime" adventure.
A few special highlights will be visits to artist studios, a private tour of the Repin Academy and lunch with the students, a behind the scenes tour of the Hermitage Museum, prime seats at the Ballet and endless unique, personal experiences that only your hosts of more than 30 years'experience in Russia can offer.
This  12 day, Five Star, ALL INCLUSIVE , small group tour is  priced at just $4,50 0 per person based on double occupancy, when reserved
before May 15, $5,100 after. 
(single supplement available, international airfare and Russian visa are not included).
This  includes all meals*, guides, tours, transportation, high speed train from Moscow to St. Petersburg, entrance fees, gratuities and accommodation in top five-star hot els, plus a very special cultural program.   *Note, the ballet is additional and three dinners are not included to allow you more free time to explore on your own.

Space is limited! We prefer a small group so that the adventure can be more personal, spontaneous and educational.  Reserve you place today!

Daily Itinerary:
August 25 to September 6, 2019 

· Day 1,   Sunday August 25, Depart USA for
· Day 2,   Arrive Moscow, August 26
· Day 3,   Moscow, August 27
· Day 4,   Moscow, August 28
· Day 5,   Moscow, August 29
· Day 6,   Sergiev Posad to Suzdal August 30
· Day 7,   Suzdal August 31
· Day 8,   Vladimir to St. Petersburg September 1
· Day 9,   St. Petersburg September 2
· Day 10, St. Petersburg September 3
· Day 11, St. Petersburg September 4
  Day 12, St. Petersburg September 5
· Day 13, St. Petersburg September 6
                     Depart Arrive USA
Highlight St. Petersburg: Catherine Palace
"Dear Stephen and Igor, A big fat and hardy (and heartfelt) Thank You for a very, very successful tour. We don't know how it could have been any better and cannot adequately describe to others how amazing and personalized it was. With much gratitude and love, Tannie and Jerald"  -Excerpt from one of last year's thank you letters .
Lunch hosted by the director of the Plastov Museum, Prislonika
If you are interested in joining us on our 2019 Russian Art and Culture Tour please  or 801-755-7072.

MOSCOW- 4 Nights, August 26 - 29
Moscow, the economic and political center of Russia. Founded in 1147 by Yuri Dolgoruky (literally "Yuri of the Long Arms"), Moscow rose to prominence during Mongol domination and eventually became the Russian capital. Eclipsed for 200 years by St. Petersburg, Moscow was restored as a political center after the October Revolution in 1917 and served as the capital of the Soviet Union until 1991. Moscow today is a booming metropolis, dignified yet dynamic, where ancient churches sit shoulder to shoulder with 21st-century financial institutions, and where the new high-rise commercial district of Moscow-City is changing the face of the city forever.

Moscow Highlights:
Hotel National or Metropol Hotel located on Red Square, Red Square, Lenin's Mausoleum, St. Basils Cathedral, The Kremlin, Kremlin Museum Armory, Diamond Fund, Assumption Cathedral and Patriarch's Palace, Cathedral of Christ the Savior, State Tretykov Gallery, Pushkin Museum, Moscow Metro, Izmailova Market, Moscow River cruise, 
The Kremlin has played witness to many well-known and tragic events in Russia's past and so it is a treasure trove of Russian history. Your guide will lead you through the oldest museum in Russia, which is home to a vast collection of precious stones, 18th and 19th-century jewelry and other priceless artifacts dating as far back as the fourteenth century. You will also visit two of the Kremlin's cathedrals: Assumption, the cathedral of coronations and the burial place of religious leaders, and Archangel, the royal burial church. 
The highlight of the Kremlin tour is the Grand Kremlin Palace. Originally built as the royal palace in Moscow for Nicholas I, the palace is now used by the government to entertain foreign dignitaries and is generally closed to the public. Sections that can be seen by special arrangement include the private rooms of the royal family, the famous Terem Palace (the 16th-Century chambers of tsarina and tsarevnas), the fifteenth-century Hall of Facetes (the famous chamber for ambassadors' receptions), the nineteenth-century Hall of St Catherine (the empress's throne room) and the halls used for the Supreme Soviet meetings in the Soviet era. 


Armory Museum - A world-wide known treasure-house presents ancient Russian regalia, ceremonial Tsar's dress, church hierarchs' vestments, gold and silverware by Russian, European and Eastern masters, arms and armories, royal carriages and horse ceremonial harness. The famous museum's exhibits are of special interest because of precious materials, high artistic level and their particular value for the history and culture of the Russian State. 
Patriarch's Palace  - One of the rare examples of civil architecture of the Patriarch Nikon's times. Nowadays, the Cross Chamber, the Front Anteroom, the refectory and the Twelve Apostles' Church house the museum. It presents valuable items of history and culture of the XVII century- personals of patriarchs, precious table wares, pocket-watches and table-clocks, unique examples of ecclesiastical embroidery and interiors, manuscripts and printed books, icons painted by famous Tsar's isografs (icon-painters). 

Assumption Cathedral
For centuries, it has been the main cathedral of the Russian State. The inaugurations of Princes, Tsars, Emperors and heads of the Russian Orthodox Church were held at the Assumption Cathedral. Besides, Metropolitans and Patriarchs were buried here. Nowadays, at the Assumption Cathedral one can admire the magnificent iconostasis, the ensemble of monumental paintings and one of the largest Russian collections of icons of particular respect and artistic value. Ivan the Terrible's wooden carved praying-seat and the unique necropolis are also of special interest.

Diamond Fund  -

A collection of precious stones and masterpieces of jewelers' art. On display is the world-famous Orlov diamond, bought by Count Grigory Orlov who presented it to Empress Catherine the Great. Since that time the Orlov diamond has adorned the gold scepter of Russian Emperors. In the first of its two halls of the Diamond Fund are Russian diamonds, a rare collection of gold and platinum nuggets, and also Russian-made jewelry. The largest diamonds found in this country include some remarkable specimens named after notable events or personalities, such as the Star of Yakutia, the Great Beginning, and the Yuri Gagarin diamonds
Red Square, Lenin's Mausoleum, Cathedral of Christ the Savior 

We take a short walking tour of the infamous Red Square. And visit its prominent landmarks: Gum Department Store, Lenin's Tomb and St. Basil's cathedral. Later visit the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, one of Russia's most important cathedrals, completely destroyed in Stalin's time then restored in 1990. If time allows we will also visit the fascinating Park of Fallen Idols - where sculptures of Soviet Leaders were collected after being removed from the streets of Moscow .
Red Square, Lenin's Masoleum with St. Basil Cathedral in the background.
St. Basil Cathedral and the famed Gum department store.
Cathedral of Christ the Savior
The famed State Tretykov Gallery, Moscow
State Tretykov Gallery

The Tretyakov Gallery holds the greatest collection of Russian art in the world. Founded by 19th-century Russian merchant, Pavel Tretyakov, who spent 40 years and much of his fortune collecting and preserving works of Russian art. The history and trajectory of Russian art are displayed here, encompassing pieces from the 11th century to the present. The Tretykov is renowned for its collection of famous Russian icons and masterpieces by Russia's artistic geniuses, including Repin, Vrubel, Kandinsky, Malevich, Levitan and others. The original Tretyakov Gallery houses a collection of Russian art that dates to the end of the 19th century. The New Tretyakov Gallery contains works of 20th century Russian artists. The collection is rarely seen outside of Russia.
Pushkin Museum 
On the steps of the Pushkin Museum
The Pushkin Museum of Fine Art's collection consists of over 500,000 works, making it one of the largest museums in the world, second after the Hermitage Museum. The museum has a wide variety of artwork, but it is most known for having one of the most expensive collections in the world of 19th and 20th century European art. On display at the Pushkin are masterpieces by Perugino and Botticelli, Cranach and Rembrandt, Rubens and Van Dyck, Ribera and Murillo, Poussin and Watteau, Constable and David. There is a world-famous collection of French paintings from the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, containing major works by Monet, Renoir, Degas, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso. This collection was amassed through both appropriation and donation. One of the main reasons for this incredible collection is due largely from the efforts of one woman, Irina Antonoa, the Museum's Director for the last 46 years. Irina has navigated her way through Russia's social elite to secure numerous private collections.

One private collection that was appropriated after the revolution of 1917, due to a legal decree signed by Lenin, was the collection of Sergi Shchukin. Irina Antonova once remarked about Shchukin: "He started to collect unpopular art, which was snubbed by the Louvre and other museums. It was his personal taste. Perhaps he heard foreshocks that would change the world. Such a collector could appear only in a country that awaited a revolution. He collected art that prefigured the global cataclysms."
Sergi Shchukin because was a major patron to the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. It was Shchukin who encouraged Matisse to change his style in the early 1900s. Shchukin commissioned Matisse to paint two paintings of dancers for the foyer of his home in Moscow. He then waited for four years as Matisse struggled to develop a new style upon which to paint his now famous "The Dance." Shchukin received the paintings in 1910, then in 1918 he fled Moscow to save his life as Lenin stole his collection. At that time the paintings in his home were stacked from the ceiling to the floor. Shchukin lost to the Pushkin Museum -- 37 Matisse's, 16 Gauguin's, 8 Cezanne's, 50 Picasso's, 16 Duran's, and 4 Van Gogh's. His collection of Picasso's paintings featured choice works including most of his earliest Cubist works, such as Three Women and major landscapes, and some key pieces of his Blue and Rose periods.

There are works at the Pushkin Museum whose legitimacy of ownership is disputed. During World War II, Germany bombed the Museum completely, destroying the ceiling throughout the entire structure. After the war for "cultural restitution," Russia emptied out the Dresden Gallery and appropriated works from other German museums.

Institute of Russian Realist Art
The current exhibition of 500 works spans the scope of Russian and Soviet realist art, from Impressionism to Socialist Realism and contemporary styles and is just a fraction of Ananyev's collection which is considered one of the best collections of paintings of Russian and Soviet realist school of the twentieth century.
Igor with guests from at the Institute of Russian Realist Art
Moscow Metro & Izmailova Market
The Komsomolskaya station, opened in 1952 is in the grand baroque style of the Stalinist era

We will tour a few of the world-renowned Moscow Metro stations, sometimes referred to as "Underground Palaces." The first Moscow Metro station opened in 1935, and today there are over 150 of them along the 125 miles of track. The stations in the city center are showpieces of Socialist art, furnished with statues, frescoes and mosaics, and with marbled, gilded and bronzed walls and ceilings. The Metro tour culminates with a visit to the enormous Izmailova Park weekend bazaar. Located on the former royal hunting preserve, the huge flea market at Izmailova Park is the best place in Moscow to find deals on a huge variety of Russian souvenirs and crafts, from matrioshka dolls to lacquered boxes, from Soviet memorabilia to watercolors. Whether you're interested in traditional handicrafts, clothing, jewelry or modern art, Izmailova has it all.

Moscow City Tour
Moscow city view

A driving tour off Moscow's best-known sites, including,  Novodevichiy (New Maiden) Convent and Cemetery , Moscow State University on the Sparrow Hills for a panoramic city view. Sparrow Hills (Vorobyovy Gory) is one of the highest points in Moscow and is situated by the bank of Moskva River. An observation platform there allows visitors to enjoy a panoramic view of Moscow. 
Next we visit the Museum of the Great Patriotic War and Victory Park on Farewell Hill, and then continue our drive along the Sofiyskaya Embankment.

Bolshoi Theater 

An evening at the Bolshoi is still one of Moscow's most romantic and entertaining options for a night on the town. The glittering six-tier auditorium has an electric atmosphere, evoking over 235 years of premier music and dance. Both the ballet and opera companies perform a range of Russian and foreign works here.
The Bolshoi has recently undergone a much-needed renovation. In 2011 the theater reopened the doors of its main stage after several years of work, revealing expanded theater space and glittering moldings.

Moscow River Cruise and Gorky Park

Cold War Museum Bunker 42

The well-camouflaged former top-secret Soviet command post, known simply as GO-42, which now houses Moscow's  Cold War Museum . Located 60 meters underground and accessed by steep steps and a small elevator, this bunker is not for the faint-hearted. It was once one of the most restricted sites in the Soviet Union. As you move through the secret tunnels, enjoy an exclusive opportunity to become familiar with Soviet armament and communication facilities of the Cold War.

The Ancient Golden Ring Cities of Sergiev Posad, Suzdal, & Vladimir-  2 Nights, August 30 - 31
Highlights: Art Hotel Nikolaevskiy Posad, St. Sergius Monastery, Suzdal Kremlin, Upensky Dormition Cahedral, Cathedral of the Nativity, Open-air  Museum  of Wooden Architecture, Vladimir Golden Gate, Assumption Cathedral , St. Demitrius Cathedral, Experience the Russian countryside
The Holy Trinity, St. Sergius Monastery, Sergiev Posad
The name Sergiev Posad was given to this city, in memory of Russia's most brilliant spiritual leader St Sergius of Radonezh, who was the key factor for Russia's win against the Tartars (descendants of Gengkhis Khan).
For centuries, Russian czars and common people set out on pilgrimages to the monastery which up to now remains one of the most sacred places in Russia. In 1993, Sergiev Posad, often referred to as the Russian Vatican, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Suzdal is one of the oldest Russian towns. In the 12th century it became the capital of the principality with Moscow being merely one of its subordinate settlements.
Historic Suzdal is one of Russia's oldest settlements, dating back to early the 11th century, and was once the capital of the Rostov-Suzdal principality. It's a serene and charming place, offering a latticework of unpaved paths that wind by churches with candy-colored domes, rustic wooden structures and cinematic meadows. Suzdal is like a museum under the open sky, its medieval monuments tell you its old story.  During the tour, you will visit the Museum of Wooden Architecture, St Euthymius monastery (or Intercession Convent), Suzdal Kremlin. Sip some local medovukha honey cider for a true taste of the region. Suzdal which was once the capital of Rostov-Suzdal principality.

Suzdal Kremlin, 2017

The Uspensky, Dormition Cathedral, Vladimir
Vladimir's 1000-year-old history is evident on every step throughout the city and is one of the jewels of Russia's Golden Ring. The highest concentration of 12th-century buildings in all of Russia can be found in Vladimir and the surrounding region. What is especially important is that architectural monuments such as the Golden Gates and other sites included on the UNESCO World Heritage List have been preserved intact. From antiquity until the Middle Ages Vladimir was in constant competition with Moscow: 800 years ago this was the capital of the northeastern part of Russia. Up to the mid-15th century local rulers were crowned as great princes in the local Uspensky (Dormition) Cathedral, which was considered the most important church in Russia.
September 1st is the final day of our amazing visit to these historic Golden Ring Cities. We retrun to Moscow and in the afternoon board the high speed Sapsan Express Train for our 4 hour journey to the glorious cultural capital of Russia, St. Petersburg. Upon our  arrival  we transfer to the 5 Star Corinthia Hotel located i the heart of the City on the famed Nevsky Prospect.
St. Petersburg 
5 Nights, September 1- 5
One of the world's most beautiful cities, a spectacular city of tsarist magnificence and a cradle of the rich cultural treasures of Russia rises out of the Neva delta, which was little more than 300 years ago a remote wet marshland. St. Petersburg has all the ingredients for an unforgettable travel experience: high art, lavish architecture, an extraordinary history and rich cultural traditions that have inspired and nurtured some of the modern world's greatest literature, music, and visual art. 
Saint Petersburg

At its height St. Petersburg was one of the most outrageously wealthy and extravagant cities in Europe, and its architecture and art museums easily rivals ancient cities such as Paris or Rome. Designed by Peter the Great as a bold expression of the European ideals and mighty strength of the Russian empire, since its founding the city became home to the Russian nobility, who built scores of opulent palaces, cathedrals, and public squares.
Considered the "Venice of the North'' because of its many rivers and canals, St. Petersburg is crowded with splendid palaces, impressive historical monuments, tree-lined avenues, and beautiful bridges. Whereas Moscow is very modern and metropolitan, St. Petersburg is an endless artistic statement.   
Today, St. Petersburg is considered the arts capital of the country for its impressive architecture and vibrant cultural life. St. Petersburg became the great city it is due to the devoted efforts of Catherine the Great. It was important to her that St. Petersburg compete with the splendor of the celebrated cities of Europe. During her patronage, many of the renowned buildings of St. Petersburg were built. The banks of the Neva River, which runs through the city, were lined in granite. Statues were plated in gold, wrought-iron bridges were built, and great architects from Europe designed many of the magnificent buildings that we will see and visit.
In the heart of the city the golden spire of the Peter and Paul Fortress vies for attention with the mosaic covered Church of the Spilled Blood, the huge golden cupola of St. Isaac's cathedral and the iconic façade of the Winter  Palace. The Hermitage, one of the biggest museums in the world, is the home to some of the most important art treasures of human history. Ancient Roman and Greek statues, paintings by Leonardo, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Picasso, sculptures by Michelangelo and all the wealth of the Romanov dynasty are all protected inside the lavish rooms of the Winter Palace. On the outskirts of the city the old excess and opulence of the Russian Tsars has also been preserved in the glittering palaces of Peterhof, Russia's Versailles and Tsarkskoe Selo, the sparkling Baroque masterpiece built for Catherine the Great. Meanwhile the deep Russian soul that created such masters as Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff lives on in the city's world famous theaters and opera houses.

St. Petersburg  Highlights:
Corinthia Hotel located on Nevsky Prospect, Church of our Savior on Spilled Blood, Russian Museum, Hermitage (Winter Palace), St. Isaac's Cathedral, Catherine's Summer Palace, Ballet, Peterhoof Palace, Repin Academy, Ysupov Palace, Fabergé Musuem, Peter and Paul Fortress, canal cruise, Nevsky Prospect

Video Highlights of St. Petersburg

Boat tours of the city's rivers and canals offer a different and very popular way to experience St. Petersburg. The city of St. Petersburg is made up of over 40 islands with more than 70 rivers and canals running through its territory. In the early years of St. Petersburg, the city dwellers made their way around the city by these waterways, as was planned by the city's founder, Peter the Great. The first stone mansions of the Russian nobility appeared along the waterways and still offer a unique glimpse at the history of Russia's naval capital.
St. Petersburg is often called the "Venice of the North'' as it is very reminiscent of the city of Venice in Italy. Each embankment in St. Petersburg has a unique pattern of the ironwork decorating it. Similarly, every bridge comes with its own ironwork design, which is not repeated anywhere else. Over 400 bridges of St. Petersburg are considered to be among the most beautiful in the world, with some gorgeously decorated with gold leaf and others featuring intricate architectural designs.

This tour in will give you an overview of some of this spectacular city's must-see sights. During the tour, your guide will tell you about the buildings and monuments you are passing, and will also provide an historic outlook. After all, the city originated on the water, so naturally its history is best explained from the waters of its rivers and canals!
The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The Church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and is dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family as well as many private donors.

The Church is prominently situated along the Griboedov Canal. On March 13, as Tsar Alexander's carriage passed along the embankment, a grenade thrown by an anarchist conspirator exploded. The Tsar, shaken but unhurt, got out of the carriage and started to remonstrate with the presumed culprit. Another conspirator took the chance to explode another bomb, killing himself and mortally wounding the Tsar. The Tsar, bleeding heavily, was taken back to the Winter Palace where he died within hours.

Interior of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
A temporary shrine was erected on the site of the attack while the project for a more permanent memorial was undertaken. It was decided that the section of the street where the assassination took place was to be enclosed within the walls of a church. That section of the embankment was therefore extended out into the canal to allow the shrine to fit comfortably within the building and to provide space on the exterior wall for a memorial marking the spot where the assassination took place. Inside, an elaborate shrine was constructed on the exact place of Alexander's death, garnished with topaz, lazurite and other semi-precious stones. Amid such rich decoration, the simple cobblestones on which the tsar's blood was spilled and which are exposed in the floor of the shrine provide a striking contrast.

Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square meters of mosaics - according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day-including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics - the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures - but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture
Russian Museum

The State Russian Museum, the largest museum of Russian art in the world, housing works by famous artists such as Nicolai Fechin, Valentin Serov, Ilya Repin, Konstantin Makovsky, Philipp Malyavin, and Isaak Levitan to name a few. This museum has collected the crème de la crème of master works by Russian artists, ranging from historic to contemporary times. Additionally, it has gained a reputation of world importance due to its outstanding collection of not only Russian figurative painting, but also Russian Impressionism. We may think of museums like the Hermitage and the Tretyakov as being so large you need days and days to explore them, but the Russian Museum is so huge it fills three palaces and a castle!  
Upon the enthronement of Nicholas II, the State Russian Museum was established in 1895 to commemorate his father, Alexander III. The original collection consisted of 80 canvases from the Hermitage collection, 120 from the Academy of Fine Arts and 200 from various royal palaces. So many pieces of art were donated to the Russian Museum after 1898 that the additional Benois Building was constructed in 1914-16 to house the growing collection of the museum. After the revolution of 1917 the collection of the Russian Museum grew quickly due to "nationalization" or "requisition" of art from numerous private collections.
 "State Council", 1901 by Ilya Repin
During its early years, the museum was managed by The Academy of Fine Arts, who intentionally collected works by the masters and their protégés. This makes it an absolutely outstanding place to study Russian Figurative art and Russian Impressionism.

The main building of the museum is the Mikhailovsky Palace, a splendid Neoclassical residence of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich, erected in 1819-25 on the Square of Arts in St. Petersburg. Upon the death of the Grand Duke the residence was named after his wife as the Palace of the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, and became famous for its many theatrical presentations and balls. Some of the halls of the palace retain the Italianate opulent interiors of the former imperial residence.

On display at the Russian Museum is art spanning from the early Russian icons all the way through to early 20th century paintings. Displayed at Mikhailovsky Palace are excellent Russian icons, including some by Andrey Rublyov, portraits by Rokotov, Levitsky, Borovikovsky and Shubin, works by Brullov, Bruni and Ivanov, seascapes by Aivazovsky, historical paintings and portraits by Surikov and Repin, landscapes by Kuingi and Levitan, paintings by Vasnetsov, Korovin, Vrubel, Nesterov, Benois, Somov, Dobuzhinsky, Bakst, Serov, sculptures by Trubetskoy, Grabar, Serebryakova, Kustodiev, Rerikh and many others. Today the unique and comprehensive collection of the Russian Museum affords an exceptional opportunity for an all-around, detailed study of the development of artistic ideas and culture in Russia over a period of nearly two and a half centuries.

The Department of Contemporary Art was opened at the Russian Museum in the late 1980s. The department collects and exhibits new and often unconventional art forms - installations, objects, assemblages, video art, photography and photo-based art. Many works find their way into the collection directly from exhibitions. The first major acquisition was in 1990, following the Territory of Art show curated by the Russian Museum in collaboration with the Institut des Hautes Etudes et Arts Plastiques.
The Russian Museum not only displays modern art; it also plays a fundamental role in the contemporary art process. The museum has always aimed to be in the thick of events, reflecting the diversity of modern art in its own collection. One of the main tasks of the Russian Museum now is to fill in the gaps still existing in its collection, acquiring works that were either banned or officially frowned upon during the Soviet period.
State Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace) & Palace Square
View onto Palace Square from the Hermitage

In 2014 the Hermitage Museum, formerly the Winter Palace of the Czars, celebrated 250 years of existence. A new wing of the museum has opened consisting of 800 rooms all dedicated to the art from the 19th to 21st centuries. The opening of this behemoth new wing will make the Hermitage the largest museum in the world.
The Hermitage is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world. It was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been open to the public since 1852. When you first enter you are overcome by a great feeling of joy. The building itself is a work of art, a combination of Baroque and Rococo styles, its decorated throughout with statuary and opulent stucco work. It is a place where great artists like Valentin Serov and Ilya Repin came to study. Its collections, of which only a small part are on permanent display, comprise nearly three million items including the largest collection of paintings in the world.

Visit to the Hermitage
The importance of a visit to this museum to an artist or lover of art really cannot be measured. There is a room dedicated to Rembrandt where you can see the evolution of his career. Another room dedicated to Monet, and yet another to Kandinsky. The last painting Van Gogh ever painted, Thatched Cottages, is also found on display. There are paintings by Picasso and Matisse that I never knew existed. Every major school of art is represented here. The collection of Western European art at the Hermitage is regarded as one of the finest in the world, and forms the nucleus of the Hermitage display. It occupies 120 rooms in the four museum buildings, and reflects all the stages in the development of art from the Middle Ages to the present day. The collection includes numerous works by outstanding masters from Italy, Spain, Holland, Flanders, France, England, Germany, and other Western European countries.
The Hermitage Museum / Winter Palace
Lost inside the Hermitage
Out of six buildings of the main museum complex, four, namely the Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage and New Hermitage, are partially open to the public. The Winter Palace is the former home of the Tsars. The palace's art collection was originally assembled haphazardly in an eclectic manner by Catherine the Great. Many of the artworks purchased for the palace arrived as whole ready-assembled collections. The Tsaritsa's ambassadors in Rome, Paris, Amsterdam and London were instructed to look out for and purchase thousands of priceless works of art on her behalf. In this way, Catherine the Great acquired major European collections including works by such masters as Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian, Raphael, and van Dyck. While some aspects of this imposing collecting could have been a manifestation of Catherine's desire for the recognition of her intellectual concepts, there was also a more fundamental motivation. Just twenty years earlier, so scarce were the furnishings of the Imperial palaces that bedsteads, mirrors, tables and chairs had to be conveyed between Moscow and Saint Petersburg each time the court moved.
Up close with Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna Litta, 1490-91
The first painting by Rembrandt was brought to Russia by Peter I, David and Jonathan, now hangs with over 20 works in a special room devoted to Rembrandt. The master's portraits and compositions of mythological subjects, enable us to trace all the stages in his career, from his early canvases through to his last works.
French painting of the 19th to early 20th century are represented by approximately 850 items. These include the most celebrated masters of Neoclassicism, Realism, Romanticism, the Barbizon School, Impressionism, Post-Impressionsim, Cubism, and Abstraction. Some of the artists that are represented include: David, Ingres, Delacroix, Rousseau, Corot, Monet, Manet, Matisse, Renior, Pissaro, Cezanne, Gauguin, van Gogh Picasso, and Kandinsky.

St. Isaac's Cathedral

The church on St Isaac's Square was originally ordered by Tsar Alexander I, and is a former principal cathedral of the Russian Empire. This is the fourth largest cathedral in the world after  St. Peter's in Rome,  St. Paul's in London and St. Maria in Florence. The cathedral took 40 years to construct, from 1818 to 1858. Under the Soviet government, the building was abandoned, then turned into a museum of atheism. During World War II, the dome was painted over in gray to avoid attracting attention from enemy aircraft. With the fall of communism, the museum was removed and regular worship activity has resumed.
The austere neoclassical exterior expresses a traditional Russian-Byzantine formula: a Greek-cross ground plan with a large central dome and four subsidiary domes. This exterior, which barely hints at the riotously rich interior, is faced with gray and pink stone, and features a total of 112 red granite columns with Corinthian capitals. The cathedral's bronze doors are covered in reliefs, patterned after the celebrated doors of the Battistero di San Giovanni (Florence) in Florence, designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Suspended underneath the peak of the dome is a sculpted dove representing the Holy Spirit. Internal features such as columns, pilasters, floor, and statues are composed of multicolored granites and marbles gathered from all parts of Russia. The iconostasis is framed by eight columns of semiprecious stone: six of malachite and two smaller ones of lazurite. The interior was originally decorated with scores of paintings by Carlo Brullo and other great Russian masters of the day. When these paintings began to deteriorate due to the cold, damp conditions inside the cathedral, they were painstakingly reproduced as mosaics.
Catherine's Summer Palace

One of the beautiful things about Russia is its countryside. Since so many people in Russia live in the cities in apartment buildings, the Russian countryside is not developed like it is here in the United States. On a drive outside of St. Petersburg you will see birch tree forests and farm land for miles. Our first stop is a place known in Russia as Tsarskoye Selo, or what we call Catherine's Summer Palace.
Although Catherine's Summer Palace is popularly associated with Catherine the Great, she actually regarded its "whipped cream" architecture as old-fashioned. The palace was actually built due to the efforts and funds of Empress Elizabeth and it was named after her mother Catherine. It is said that Elizabeth had the Palace rebuilt six times from the ground up to meet her expectations. Completed in the mid-1700s, and changed significantly by Catherine the Great, the interiors are Neoclassical, the exterior is a flamboyant Rococo style. The palace is best known for Rastrelli's grand suite of formal rooms known as the Golden Enfilade. It starts at the spacious airy ballroom, the "Grand Hall" or the "Hall of Lights", with a spectacular painted ceiling. The Golden Enfilade also contains and comprises numerous distinctively decorated smaller rooms, including the reproduced Amber Room. The most famous room of the palace, the Amber Room was dissembled and its contents allegedly moved to a safer location during World War II. What actually became of the amber work and porcelain is unknown. More than forty years later, in 1982, an order was given to begin the restoration of the room, which took over 20 years to complete.
When the German forces retreated after the siege of Leningrad, they had the residence intentionally destroyed. One good thing that came of the Russian Revolution and Lenin's time in power is that the palace became the property of the people of Russia. Luckily prior to the World War II, the Russian archivists managed to document a fair amount of the contents, which proved of great importance in reconstructing the palace. Although the largest part of the reconstruction was completed in time for the Tercentenary of St Petersburg in 2003, much work was still required to restore the palace to its former glory. In order to attract funds for this huge project, the administration of the palace leased the Grand Hall to such high-profile events as Elton John's concert for the elite audience in 2001 and the 2005 exclusive party which featured the likes of Bill Clinton, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Naomi Campbell and Sting.

The famed Amber Room

Kirov Opera & Ballet 

One of the two major ballet companies of Russia, the other being the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. In 1991 it was officially renamed the St. Petersburg Maryinsky Ballet; however, on its frequent tours abroad it is still called the Kirov Ballet. Often regarded as the foremost European ballet company, with strict classical traditions of elegance and beauty, the company was originally the Imperial Russian Ballet. In 1889 it moved into the Maryinsky Theater. Under the direction of Marius Petipa the company premiered the Tchaikovsky ballets Sleeping Beauty (1890) and Swan Lake (1895). The company went into decline after the Russian Revolution in 1917, but the great teacher and ballet mistress Agrippina Vaganova (1879-1951) helped preserve its traditions by training the company's principal dancers. Her work became the foundation of ballet instruction in the Soviet Union. In 1935 the company was renamed the Kirov Ballet. During the cold war, the company experienced difficulties as many of its dancers, including Nureyev, Makarova, and Baryshnikov, defected to the West.

*On Last Year's tour we saw Don Giovani and Giselle at the famed Marinsky Theater.

Peterhof Palace, The Russian Versailles
Referred as the "Russian Versailles" Peterhof is composed of a series of palaces and gardens built for Russia's Peter the Great. Peterhof was a summer residence built for the Emperor at the beginning of the 18th century. Initially it was a simple hunting lodge beside the Baltic Sea, intended for relaxation. But Peter the Great liked his summer residence so much, that following a visit to Versailles, he decided to expand it according to the French style and turn it into the "Stone Palace": Peterhof. Not only was the inspiration for this collection of palaces and gardens French, the architect, Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Leblond was also French. Inspired by Versailles, Peter I commissioned the construction of numerous fountains; the Palace Park contains one hundred and seventy-six fountains, connected by a huge network of pipes and a large canal linking the Estate to the Gulf of Finland. Tsars would often come by boat to relax at Peterhof. Atop the bluff, near the middle of the Lower Gardens, stands the Grand Palace (Bolshoi Dvorets). Behind (south) of it are the comparatively small Upper Gardens (Verhnyy Sad). Upon the bluff's face below the Palace is the Grand Cascade (Bolshoi Kaskad). This and the Grand Palace are the centrepiece of the entire complex. At its foot begins the Sea Channel ( Morskoi Kanal), one of the most extensive waterworks of the Baroque period, which bisects the Lower Gardens.

The Grand Cascade and Samson Fountain
The Grand Cascade is modeled after the one constructed for Louis XIV at his Château de Marly. At the center of the cascade is an artificial grotto with two stories, faced inside and out with brown stone. It currently contains a modest museum of the fountains' history. One of the exhibits is a table carrying a bowl of (artificial) fruit, a replica of a similar table built under Peter's direction. The table is rigged with jets of water that soak visitors when they reach for the fruit, a feature from Mannerist gardens that remained popular in Germany. The grotto is connected to the palace above and behind by a hidden corridor.

Perhaps the greatest technological achievement of Peterhof is that all of the fountains operate without the use of pumps. Water is supplied from natural springs and collects in reservoirs in the Upper Gardens. The elevation difference creates the pressure that drives most of the fountains of the Lower Gardens, including the Grand Cascade. The Samson Fountain is supplied by a special aqueduct, over 13123 feet  in length, drawing water and pressure from a high-elevation source.

The Lower Gardens
The expanse of the Lower Gardens is designed in the formal style of French formal gardens of the 17th century. One of the most notable designs is entitled 'The Sun'. A disk radiating water jets from its edge creates an image of the sun's rays, and the whole structure rotates about a vertical axis so that the direction in which the "sun" faces is constantly changing. Several fountains are designed with the specific purpose of soaking visitors. Two take the form of gangly trees rigged with jets that activate when someone approaches. Another, disguised as an umbrella with a circular bench set around the stem, drops a curtain of water from its rim when someone enters to take a seat.

The Grand Palace
The largest of Peterhof's palaces looks truly imposing when seen from the Lower or Upper Gardens, but in fact it is quite narrow and not overly large. Of its approximately thirty rooms, several deserve mention.
The Chesma Hall is decorated with twelve large paintings of battle scenes. The East and West Chinese Cabinets were decorated between 1766 and 1769 to exhibit objects of decorative art imported from the East. The walls were decorated with imitation Oriental patterns by Russian craftsmen, and hung with Chinese landscape paintings in yellow and black lacquer. Another room, positioned at the center of the palace, bears the name of the Picture Hall. Its walls are almost entirely covered by a series of 368 paintings, mostly of variously dressed women, differing in appearance and even age, yet most were drawn from a single model.
Russian Academy of Arts Private Tour &
Artist Studio Visits

The Russian Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, informally known as the  St.Petersburg Academy of Arts, was founded in 1757 by Ivan Shuvalov under the name Academy of the Three Noblest Arts. Catherine the Great renamed it the Imperial Academy of Arts and commissioned a new building. Catherine herself laid the foundation stone of the building in 1765, and also insisted that at the center of the building there should be a circular courtyard matching the dimensions of the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral in Rome. One of the earliest neoclassical buildings in St. Petersburg, the Academy was only completed in 1788. As well as its elegant facades, the building boasts some superbly decorated interiors, particularly the entrance hall, the main staircase, the Raphael Hall and the Titian Hall.
Artist Studio Visits- Margarita Kolobova, Anatasia Dukhanina and Passemard
Studio of Antonin Passemard and Anastasia Dukhanina

WWII Siege Museum

'Let no one forget, let no one be forgotten.' These somber words were written by Russian poet Olga Berggolts, who immortalizes all those who died defending the city during the nearly 900-day Siege of Leningrad. In total some 40 million Russians died in WWII.
St. Petersburg, known as Leningrad from 1924-1991, has many places which honor the brave people, who defended their beloved city despite hunger, cold, disease and bombs. The Siege of Leningrad is one of the most horrible and yet heroic episodes in human history in which more than one million people died, mostly from starvation.
Dedicated to the Defense of Leningrad during the Second World War, or as the Russians call it, the Great Patriotic War, this museum is somber yet absorbing. Full of displays showing the famine ravaged city (in November 1941, the bread ration was just 250gms a day for workers) and the heroic efforts to somehow get food in from beyond the blockade across the frozen Lake Ladoga, the famous 'Road of Life' are depicted here.
The Yusupov Palace ( where Rasputin was murdered)
On a quiet stretch of the Moika River stands a long yellow building, which was once the residence of the wealthy and respected Yusupov family and which saw one of the most dramatic episodes in Russia's history - the murder of Grigory Rasputin. In 1916 a group of the city's noble elite, including one of the Grand Dukes and led by the prominent anglophile Prince Felix Yusupov, conspired to kill the one man who they felt threatened the stability of an already war-torn Russian Empire. Grigory Rasputin, a peasant and self-proclaimed holy man, had gradually won favor with the Tsar's family through his alleged supernatural powers. His control over the decisions of the family and the Russian ruler himself, put him in a potentially manipulative position and posed a very real threat to their power. Consequently, Rasputin was murdered at the Yusupov Palace on the night of December 16-17 1916, and his death proved to be an almost greater mystery than his life had been.
Fabergé  Museum

The museum's collection contains the world's largest collection of works by Carl Fabergé, including nine of the famous Imperial Easter Eggs, regarded not only as the finest jeweled works of art, but also as unique historical artifacts. The museum's collection also includes decorative and applied works made by the Russian masters of the late 19th  and early 20th centuries. The museum is located in the Shuvalov Palace on the Fontanka River - one of the most beautiful palaces in St. Petersburg.
Shop the Nevsky Prospect, Gostiny Dvor, the world famous bookstore Dom Knigi and visit Kazan Cathedral
Nevsky Prospect is St. Petersburg's main avenue and one of the best-known streets in Russia. Planned by Peter the Great as the beginning of the road to Novgorod and Moscow, Nevsky Prospect cuts through the historical center of the city, running from the Admiralty to the Moscow Railway Station and then, after a slight kink, to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. In the very first days of St. Petersburg it was simply the beginning of the road to the ancient city of Novgorod, but it quickly became adorned with beautiful buildings, squares and bridges and became the very center of the bustling, rapidly growing city.

The most fa mous street in Russia, Nevsky Prospekt, in St. Petersburg was planned by the French architect Alexandre Jean Baptiste LeBlond, while working for the city's founder, Tsar Peter I (the Great).  This proud landmark originally called the Great Perspective Road until 1738, was cut through almost 4.5 km of forest land (c1718) and it varies between 25 and 60 meters in width. For many years it was roamed by wolves. During the early Soviet years (1918 - 44) it was officially known as the Avenue of the 25th of October, alluding to the day of the October Revolution, but this name was never accepted by the local inhabitants. Stretching from the historic Admiralty in the north to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, it is renowned for its splendid architecture and famous former patrons, like Pushkin, Gogol, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Nijinsky and Dostoevsky. In fact, just about every Russian you can name has visited this magnetic heart of the city as it has always thrived with exciting prospects for both locals and tourists alike.
Peter and Paul Fortress

Lacking the fame of the Hermitage and other tourist sites, the Peter and Paul Fortress is certainly no less of a St. Petersburg landmark. The first structure to be built in St. Petersburg, and thus the birthplace of the city, it never served its intended defensive function. Instead it has had a rich, hugely varied, and sometimes sinister history as a military base, a home of government departments, the burial ground of the Russian Imperial family, the site of groundbreaking scientific experiments, and a forbidding jail that held some of Russia's most prominent political prisoners.

Tour Hosts: 

Igor Nazareitchouk, Stephen Justesen
Stephen Justesen has been associated with Russian Art since 1991 when he made his first trip to Russia with some of the early pioneers of bringing Russian Art to the West after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Stephen began consulting with the Thomas Kearns McCarthey gallery in 1992, becoming the Gallery Director in 2010. Stephen graduated from the University of Utah, with a B.S. in Economics and later went on to study at the University of California at Berkely and Cambridge University in England. Stephen has made numerous visits to Russia, has led several tours to Russia and has an abiding love and passion for Russia and Russian art. Stephen brings a unique sense of fun and an outstanding eye for organization and detail ensuring a seamless, educational and entertaining travel experience.
Igor Nazareitchouk was born and raised in S t. Petersburg where he current ly resides. He is one of the pioneers in bringing Russian fine art to collectors outside of Russia. For the past 25 years Igor has been traveling all over Russia discovering great art and working with some of the greatest Russian artists (and their families) of the twentieth century. Igor has hosted numerous clients on visits to Russia and had guided several tours.  He brings outstanding hospitality to the tour and has a reputation as being each guests personal concierge.
Tour Details:

We prefer a small group so that the adventure can be more exciting, personal, flexible and educational. 
This 12 day, Five Star, ALL INCLUSIVE, tour is priced at just $4,500 per person based on double occupancy, when reserved before April 30, $5,100 after, (single supplement available). This includes all meals*, guides, tours, transportation, high speed train from Moscow to St. Petersburg, entrance fees, gratuities and accommodation in top five-star hotels, plus a very special cultural program.   *Note, the ballet is additional and three dinners are not included to allow you more free time to explore on your own.

International airfare, Russian visa, alcoholic beverages, personal items and travel insurance are not included. We will provide assistance with the visa. *Note, the schedule listed is approximate and focuses on the highlights. The final itinerary, including hotels, will be confirmed when all deposits are received. Some activities such as the ballet are dependent upon their operating schedules.  
For more information and booking contact: Stephen Justesen   801-755-7072
Accommodations :
- Moscow 4 Nights at the new Star Balchug Viewmont Hotel, on the bank of the Moscow River with views of the Kremlin and a 10 minute walk to Red Square
- Suzdal 2 Nights at the Four Star Art Hotel Nikolaevsy Posad
- St. Petersburg 5 Nights at the Five Star Corinthia Hotel, in the heart of the city on Nevsky Prospect

Passport and Visa Requirements

A Russian visa and Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the intended stay are required for this tour. We will provide you with the necessary applications and instructions.
An estimate of current visa costs for U.S. passport holders, based on expedited processing time, is $290.
Your exact visa fees may differ as visa costs can depend on a number of factors, such as state of residence, processing time, and return shipping. Visa fees are always subject to change.

Peterhof Palace, St. Petersburg

Moscow farewell dinner