(KS) 'Czars' includes big gun and knife show


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Drizzt
January 10, 2003, 02:38 PM
TOPEKA CAPITAL JOURNAL


January 12, 2003, Sunday

LENGTH: 1351 words

HEADLINE: 'Czars' includes big gun and knife show

BYLINE: Bill Blankenship Capital-Journal

BODY: Library of Congress

Kansas International Museum

Weapons: As avid hunters, the Romanovs prized firearms and used them, even in Kansas

By Bill Blankenship

The Capital-Journal



Every now and then, the Kansas Expocentre is the site of what bills itself as the Big Gun & Knife Show, but the Kansas International Museum has a pretty spectacular display of weapons as part of its "Czars: 400 Years of Imperial Grandeur" exhibit.

As heads of armies, as well as states, the Romanovs were expected to be familiar with weapons. The introduction to the techniques and tools of battle came to the royal children at a young age. One exhibit in "Czars" that never fails to attract visitors is a childsize set of armor probably crafted for the Czar Alexei Mikhailovich as a boy. "Czars" also includes a child's saddle and a boy-sized carbine so young royals could join in on family hunting outings.

Although he probably wore the armor and fired the small rifle, Peter the Great wasn't a big fan of hunting, quoted in the exhibit catalog as saying, "This is not my entertainment."

Peter the Great said he had other things to occupy his time.

"Even without wild animals, I still have something to fight with: outside society with my enemies and inside society with my uneducated and coarse people," he said.

But Peter the Great was an exception when it came to a love of hunting among the Romanovs, which extended to the royal women.

Czarina Anna Ivanovna prized hunting and owned many weapons. She kept loaded rifles at the windows of various rooms of the palace so she could indulge her favorite pastime when the mood struck her and some game came within shooting range. The czarina was an "Anna Oakley" of sorts.

The St. Petersburg Times newspaper in 1740 announced to its readers that from July 10 to Aug. 26, Czarina Anna Ivanovna killed nine deer, 16 wild goats, four boars, one wolf, 374 rabbits, 68 wild ducks and 16 sea birds.

Hunting became a holiday among the royals.

"The czarina especially liked what was called 'Circus Hunting' in which people on foot and on horseback participated in the hunt, accompanied by musicians and servants," the catalog says. "The goal of goal of such a hunt was to herd the prey until it was exhausted, after which it was killed with a precise blow of a hunting dagger."

"Czars" includes such daggers, as well as rifles and pistols of the same vintage as those being fired at each other by American colonists and British redcoats and later by U.S. citizens as they pushed westward on this continent.

The love of hunting by the Romanovs continued as the United States was approaching its 100th birthday. After years of speculation that a member of the Romanov family --- perhaps even a czar --- would visit America, the Russian frigate Svetlana docked Nov. 19, 1871, in New York with Alexis, the third son of Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna.

It was a royal visit that would increase the popularity of William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody and decrease the population of the species from which he earned his nickname.

Accommodating the duke's desire to hunt bison, the U.S. government assigned to him a military escort that included Gen. George Armstrong Custer, Gen. Philip Sheridan and Cody, who already was known as "Buffalo Bill."

In his autobiography, "The Life and Adventures of Buffalo Bill," Cody, who was serving out of Fort McPherson in Nebraska, said he was assigned the task of preparing for the grand duke's visit, which meant not only scouting a suitable buffalo herd to hunt but also arranging for a powwow of Indians for Alexis' amusement and edification.

Because some of the young men in a Sioux camp bore a grudge against Cody, he said he sneaked into the encampment to meet Chief Spotted Tail, who agreed to meet the "great chief from across the water who was coming there to visit him."

Further induced by promises of wagonloads of gifts, about 600 Sioux, led by Spotted Tail, War Bonnet, Red Leaf, Whistler and Pawnee Killer, assembled to greet the grand duke at the hunting camp dubbed "Camp Alexis," wrote Dr. Norman E. Saul, professor of history at The University of Kansas, in his book, "Concord and Conflict: The United States and Russia, 1867-1914."

The Sioux "were objects of great curiosity to the grand duke, who spent considerable time in looking at them, and watching their exhibitions of horsemanship, sham fights, etc.," Cody wrote. "That evening the Indians gave the grand war dance, which I had arranged for."

A war --- or at least a battle --- almost broke out, Saul wrote, "when Custer, probably having imbibed too much Russian champagne, made crude overtures to Spotted Tail's pretty 16-year-old daughter."

Alexis smoothed things over with gifts of red and green blankets, ivory-handled hunting knives and a large bag of silver dollars, Saul said. A peace pipe was passed at a formal council in Sheridan's tent, and Spotted Tail seized the chance to press his demand for the right to hunt freely south of the Platte River and for more than one store in which to trade.

As for the hunting, Alexis may have gone home empty-handed had Cody not offered him his buffalo horse Buckskin Joe and personal instruction in how to make a kill. When Alexis shot a large bull, the grand duke "dismounted, sat on the dead buffalo, cut off its tail, gave an Indian war whoop and ordered his aides to break out the champagne," Saul said.

Alexis apparently loved the new sport and hunted buffalo again on a return trip from Denver through Kansas to St. Louis. The horses used to hunt in eastern Colorado were cavalry mounts and unaccustomed to buffalo. Add to that an unseen prairie dog village, and number of hunters were injured during the resulting confusion.

Alexis was unhurt and succeeded in killing as many as 25 buffalo. He even shot a few more from the train as it chugged its way across western Kansas toward Topeka, where the grand duke was greeted at the Kansas Pacific depot by a large crowd brought by special excursion trains to the capital.

The hunting party stopped at J. Lee Knight's photographic gallery to pose for keepsake photos before going on to the Statehouse where, Saul said, a cornet band accompanied a special chorus and the entire Legislature in serenading the grand duke with these lyrics set to the tune of "Old John Brown."

Mid the grandeur of the prairies, how can youthful Kansas vie

With her Russia-loving sisters, in a fitting welcome cry?

With her heart give full expression, and the answer echo high

The Czar and Grant are friends!

Ho! For Russia and the Union

Ho! For Russia and the Union

The Czar and Grant are friends!

A grand dinner was staged at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in downtown Topeka before the grand duke and his party departed to continue the trip with stops that included Mardi Gras in New Orleans before departing the United States from Pensacola, Fla., aboard the Svetlana.

The grand duke's buffalo hunt was reported around the world. Those accounts resulted in Cody's first trip to the East, where he made his first stage appearance that would later lead to his Wild West shows.

Saul suggests that the notoriety of Alexis' buffalo hunts "contributed to a veritable stampede to hunt these animals in subsequent years."

Once source quoted by Saul reported nearly 3.7 million buffalo were slaughtered from 1872 to 1874, only about 500,000 of them by Indians.

"The great southern herd, which Alexis had hunted, was totally destroyed within three years," Saul said.

Bill Blankenship can be reached at

(785) 295-1284 or bblankenship@cjonline.com.

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spacemanspiff
January 10, 2003, 02:50 PM
Czarina Anna Ivanovna prized hunting and owned many weapons. She kept loaded rifles at the windows of various rooms of the palace so she could indulge her favorite pastime when the mood struck her and some game came within shooting range. The czarina was an "Anna Oakley" of sorts.

just makes me all that more proud of my russian heritage.

Blackcloud6
January 10, 2003, 03:04 PM
I saw this exhibition when it was in Memphis. its pretty neat to go see.

faustulus
January 11, 2003, 01:05 AM
It is sad to see that the media can't even spell Tsar correctly.

Yohan
January 11, 2003, 12:24 PM
FYI, Czar is just another way to spell tsar. It's like the sophisticated version of ketchup and catsup.

Dr.Rob
January 11, 2003, 03:41 PM
I saw "Treasures of the Czars" exhibit in Topeka, KS a number of years ago, drove there from Denver to have a look-see at Faberge eggs, etc.

Was suprised to see so many firearms and weapons, including a rare reloving flintlock, once owned by Catherine the Great.

Also a weapon called a "Konchar" sort of a cross between a spear and a sword used in boar hunting from horseback.

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