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Palace of Prince Romanov

In the heart of the Tashkent city one can find a very beautiful and unusual building. This one-storey fine building of brick is located close to Amir Temur Square and was built for Grand Prince Nikolay Konstantinovich Romanov (1850-1917), first cousin of Tsar Nikolay II, who was deported here in 1881 to mine precious stones. It is surprisingly small in size, but set amongst pleasant gardens just back from the street.

The firebrick building of dog and deer statues, domes and spires, is based on the outline of the double-headed eagle. The building was constructed in 1891 by architects Geyntselman, and AL Benoit. In 1919 Romanov's widow showed British agent Bailey their house of many treasures, nationalized into a museum 'to show the people how the bourjoui lived in the bad old days'. In 1935 it became a Lenin Young Pioneers Palace and reopened only in the 1980s to display a fabulous jewellery collection. After independence the lavish interiors attracted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, closing the museum once more, and one can admire it, unfortunately, from outside only. The compound's lovely chinor trees are over 130 years old.

The building of the palace is decorated with openwork grilles, windows, fanciful and decorative turrets. The entrance is guarded by life size dog sculptures on both sides of the entrance stairs; on marble pedestals is a bronze deer with large hornings. Before, at the entrance of the palace was a sculpture of Atlant, bent under the burden of the world - now the statue is also stored in the Museum of Art.

History of Grand Duke Nicholas Constantinovich of Russia

Cousin of Tsar Nicholas II and grandson of Nicholas I, Nikolai Konstantinovich Romanov was born in St Petersburg in February 1850, the first son of Grand Duke Konstantin and Grand Duchess Alexandra. He had a very privileged childhood. Most royal children were brought up by nannies and servants so by the time Nikolai had grown up he lived a very independent life having become a gifted military officer and an incorrigible womanizer. He had an affair with a notorious American lady Fanny Lear. This affair let him into a plot to betray his family, in which he stole three valuable diamonds from an icon that belonged to his mother. He was declared insane and he was banished to the far reaches of the Russian empire never to see home again.

He lived for many years under constant supervision in the area around Tashkent, South Eastern Russia and made a great contribution to Tashkent by using his personal fortune to help improve the local area. He established a soap factory, photographic studios, billiards, started production of kvas, rice, soap and cotton textiles trade. He invested income in purchasing art objects. He ordered the construction of his own palace in 1890 in part to showcase his vast art collection. Later his collections of marble statues and paintings formed the basis of the Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan.

He was also famous in Tashkent as a competent engineer and irrigator, constructing two large canals, the Bukhar-aryk (which was poorly aligned and soon silted up) and the much more successful Khiva-Aryk, later extended to form the Emperor Nicholas I Canal, irrigating 12,000 desyatinas, 33,000 acres (134 km2) of land in the 'Hungry Steppe' between Djizak and Tashkent. Most of this was then settled with Slavic peasant colonisers.

Nikolai died in 1917, though sources disagree as to whether pneumonia or Bolshevik bullets caused his demise. He was buried in St George's Cathedral (now demolished) and was survived by his wife, two sons, and at least six illegitimate children.