The first School for the Deaf in Russia

In 1806, after meeting a deaf boy, Empress Maria Feodorovna established the first Russian school for the Deaf in Pavlovsk, which is located 19 miles south from St. Petersburg and 2.5 miles southeast from Tsarskoe Selo.

The Castle Bip (Fortress Marienthal) was chosen as the first location to serve the school for the Deaf.  Russian Sign Language (РЖЯ) is thought to have started around the same time when the school was founded. Like American Sign Language, Russian Sign Language belongs to a family of French Sign Language. Vocabulary from Austrian Sign Language also heavily influences Russian Sign Language.

In 1810, the school moved to a different location in the city of St. Petersburg. During the Soviet Era, the castle fell into sad disrepair. However, in the recent years, it had been restored and converted into an unique hotel and restaurant.

Charles Sydney Gibbes, English tutor to the last Imperial children

Even before his prestigious appointment, Syndey Gibbes was a very busy man. He was now director of several of the higher courses in modern languages at the Imperial School of Law. He had a full roster of private students, his own public readings, and activities in the Guild of English Teachers. His new appointment, while it overshadowed the others, had to be fitted into this already full schedule.

Gibbes maintained his residence in St. Petersburg to keep an eyes on his interests; he was much too careful in such matters to let them be half-heartedly tended by someone else. Consequently, two or three times a week he had to ride the train to Tsarskoe Selo, take a drozhky from there to the Alexander Palace, and give at least two lessons, often four, each time.

Christine Benagh: An Englishman in the Court of the Tsar

The Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna Romanova of Russia (the Elder) with her two eldest sons,the Grand Dukes Boris and Kyril Vladimirovich Romanov of Russia at Tsarskoe Selo in 1890.



Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna of Russia (O.S.) 3 November 1895 - 17 July 1918 (N.S.) was the daughter of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia and Princess Alix of Hesse.

Olga was always described as the most intelligent and studious of the imperial siblings, but at the same time the most prone to self analysis, even melancholy. Much like her father, Olga enjoyed taking long walks in the parks of Tsarskoe Selo. She often said that she would someday live in a small village because she liked nature so much more than the city. As Olga grew older…she became an even more voracious reader of books: the classics: the history of Russia and works detailing the lives of the peasants, ancient traditions, customs, laws, and geography of her national. She had an extraordinary memory. Along with her siblings, Olga had a keen interest in the lives and problems of others. It was she who once noticed a disabled girl in one of the keeper’s cottages in the park at Tsarskoe Selo and insisted on becoming the child’s ‘patron’.  She made arrangements for the child to be to a hospital, and planned on paying for her own care out of her own allowance.” – ‘The Diary of Olga Romanov: Royal Witness to the Revolution’ by Helen Azar

God will make it so everything is somehow resolved and subsided.  They say that nothing good or happy goes on for very long, or rather does not last, but in my opinion the same is true for the bad, it should also all end sometime, right?”

Olga Nikolaevna Romanova, 21 December, 1917.  (trans. Helen Azar)

Olga Nikolaevna was very straightforward, sometimes too outspoken, but always sincere. She had great charm, and could be the merriest of the merry. When she was a schoolgirl, her unfortunate teachers had every possible practical joke played on them by her. When she grew up, she was always ready for any amusement. She was generous, and an appeal to her met with immediate response. “Oh, one must help poor so-and-so. I must do it somehow,” she would say. Her more careful sister, Tatiana, would suggest practical measures, would note names and details, and come back to the subject later out of a sense of duty.Olga Nikolaevna was devoted to her father. The horror of the Revolution told on her more keenly than on any of the others. She changed completely, and all her bright spirits disappeared. – ‘The Life and Tragedy of Alexandra Feodorovna’ by Sophie Buxhoeveden