This corner of the Ambassador's Drawing room overlooked the English Quay and the Neva River through a large double-paned window. Double-paning was necessary in St. Petersburg to keep out the cold in winter-time. Sometimes, particularly in rich-households and commercial offices, the second pane was removed in summertime to provide fresh air.
The desk near the window is covered in small picture frames; some of these could be products from the famed workshops of Fabergé, which were nearby. Americans visiting Russia patronized Fabergé, which was famous back in the USA. In 1900 some Russian companies were known in the USA. One of these, the Brothers Kornilov, was a porcelain manufacturer and supplier to the Imperial Court. The firm sold thousands of sets of china in the USA - beginning with the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893 where the Kornilov Brothers took out a big display in the Russian pavilion. These china sets were decorated with typical Russian motifs like bears, fairy tales and stylized double-headed eagles. Their bottoms are marked with a bear and inscription in English - "Made by the Kornilow Brothers".
In 1900 relations between the USA and Russia were a fairly low priority and were governed by the economic needs of both sides. Some US ambassadors were selected solely based on the fact that they were astute businessmen, rather than professional diplomats. Not many people wanted the job - it cost far more to be an Ambassador than what it paid to be one. Ambassador Tower was paid $17,000 a year and out of this he had to pay all of his own housing and entertainment expenses. The rental of the Ambassador's house alone cost $12,000 a year.
For some years US and Russian relations were strained by Russia's treatment of the Jews. By 1900 there were tens of thousands of Russian Jewish emigrants in the USA who had brought terrible stories of pogroms and repression with them to their new country. The Jews in America were becoming a strong political force and they were against a closer relationship between the USA and Russia until the Imperial government did something about its' repression of their co-religionists. At the instigation of the State Department and the President himself, the question of Jewish rights was continuously brought up by the American Embassy, to the irritation of the Imperial Government. Commercial treaties between the two countries where allowed to lapse due to this problem.
Although Americans were basically ambivalent about far-away Russia, which they envisioned as a vast frozen land of strange and exotic ways, other countries had strong adverse opinions. For decades the British press and government had savaged Russia as a despotic country of barely Europeanised savages who remained cruel Asiatics at heart. Queen Victoria's strong aversion to Russia was well known. She did everything possible to prevent the improvement of relations between Russia and Great Britain. The Tsar of Russia in 1900 was Nicholas II, who had married Queen Victoria's favorite grandchild, Princess Alix in 1894. This did nothing to change her opinion of Russia, as much as she like Nicholas she was opposed to the marriage and feared for her granddaughter's life in a wild and violent land like Russia. She was lucky not to live to see the Bolsheviks slaughter two of her granddaughters and five of her great-grandchildren in 1918.
France had generally good feelings - finding Russia and Russians fascinating while tens of thousands of Frenchmen invested in Russian railroads (they were to loose these investments in the revolution). The countries that Russia had traditionally allied with were the Imperial German and Austrian Governments, who had conservative systems like Russia. Sharing common borders made this alliance practical as well. Nicholas I and his successor, Alexander II had followed a policy of alliance with these two countries. When Alexander III took the throne this changed. Alexander III and his wife detested Germany for personal reasons (Prussia had seized one of the provinces belonging to the Empress's father, the King of Denmark) and made an alliance with France and England. This was continued by Nicholas II. This change in alliances was one of the causes of World War One.
Next photograph: Salon of the American Embassy
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