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Posts Tagged ‘Potsdam’

When I hear Potsdam, I think of the Potsdam Conference of 1945. On 17 July of that year, the heads of government for Great Britain (Winston Churchill, and later Clement Attlee), the United States (Harry Truman), and the Soviet Union (Joseph Stalin) met at the Schloss Cecilienhof in Potsdam to confirm decisions made earlier at Yalta concerning issues at the end of World War II.

Churchill, Truman and Stalin at the Potsdam Conference in 1945

Potsdam is also home to Alexandrowka, a  picturesque Russian village with a quirky history that illustrates the back and forth alliances among the French, Prussians, and Russians. Back in 1812, after defeating the Prussians in 1806/07, Napoleon forced the Prussian King to provide 20,000 soldiers for his Russian campaign, during which the Prussians took Russian prisoners, some of whom ended up in Berlin. Of those POWs in Berlin, a 21-men Russian singing group was formed and attached to the 1st Guards Regiment of Foot.

In March 1813 Prussia and Russia again become allies in the war against Napoleon and the Russian singers marched on Paris with the Prussian Army. King Friedrich Wilhelm III loved the melancholy Russian songs and his friendship with Czar Alexander grew, especially after his daughter Charlotte married the Czar’s brother Nikolaus I. A permanent home was established in Potsdam for the Russian choir members, and the resulting Russian-style village was named Alexandrowka in honor of the Czar.

The Alexander-Newski-Kapelle is a tiny jewel-box of a church, built to provide the choir members with a place of worship. Today the church continues to be an ongoing Russian Orthodox congregation of 90 individuals and is affiliated with the Holy Synod in Minsk.

Alexander-Newski-Kapelle

The choir members were provided with a house, land for growing fruit and vegetables, a small barn and hayloft, and a cow.  In order the receive a house, the choir member was required to be married and the house and land could only be passed on to one of his sons. Descendants of the original choir lived in the houses up until 2001. Several of the houses have been updated and have passed to private owners. One has been converted into a small museum, another into a charming Russian restaurant.

Russian-style House

We hiked up nearby Pfingstberg to the newly rebuilt Belvedere which offered fabulous views of the surrounding area. We could even see the tv tower in Alexanderplatz (another place named after the Czar) in the middle of Berlin. Walking in this area was forbidden during the DDR because of the lovely view of West Berlin.

Belvedere auf dem Pfingstberg

View from the top of Belvedere

Soon we’ll be returning to Potsdam and explore the palaces and gardens built by the Hohenzollerns.

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