Treasure unearthed: Items owned by disgraced Russian princeling found in Uzbekistan (PHOTOS)
The trove of items, including coins, bullions, books, paintings and other works of art, was discovered in a secret chamber under the basement of an old house in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, local media reported.
The house was built in 1870. The owners or somebody with access to the cellar – most likely wealthy people who fled to Uzbekistan during or after the Bolshevik revolution – stashed the treasure away some eight decades ago.
Photos of the treasure published by Kun.us news website show handwritten books of poetry and religious studies by Medieval Uzbek authors, old European manuscripts, somewhat newer printed books, Orthodox Christian icons, coins, bars of silver and gold and an intricate microscope, which the historians believe was made in Austria in the 19th century.
Some of the items may have came from the personal collection of Grand Duke Nicholas Konstantinovich, a controversial figure in the House Romanov whose scientific and philanthropic activities, while in exile in what is now Uzbekistan, left a mark on the nation’s history.
The grandson of Emperor Nicholas I disgraced himself after several gemstones went missing from his family’s home and were later discovered in a pawn shop. The theft was traced to a close friend of the young princeling, who in turn was exposed as the culprit who needed the ill-gotten money to shower his lover with gifts.
Moreover, the gemstones came from an icon’s frame and Nicholas swore on a bible that he had nothing to do with the theft, before evidence to the contrary was presented.
He was declared insane and sent into indefinite exile. Central Asia was one of the farthest parts of the Russian empire at the time, so after seven years of travelling he finally settled in Tashkent. There he proved to be a successful businessman, a dedicated investor in irrigation projects, a generous philanthropist and a curious scientist interested in local history and nature.
After his death in 1918, his personal palace and art collection were inherited by the city he spent his life in. In fact, the National Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan owes a big part of its collection to the grand duke.
How many items in the newly discovered treasure are actually connected with Nicholas remains to be established. The University of Uzbekistan, whose scientists found it, is yet to list all of their finds. Some items will require restoration before they can be exhibited.
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