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Russian tsar letters sold at Geneva auction

The tsar letters went for ten times their initial evaluation figure Keystone

Over 230 unpublished letters from Russian Tsars Nicolas I, Alexander II and their families were sold at an auction in Geneva on Monday night, fetching a total of CHF743,000 ($834,700), ten times their initial evaluation.

The letters, which were previously valued at between CHF60,000-80,000, were sold to different buyers, the Hotel Des Ventes auction house said.

Dating from the 19th century and written in Russian, French and English, they were sold by an American who had received them from the wife of an American captain and journalist who was on reportage in Europe during World War Two and who brought them back to America in 1945.

The historical treasures written by the tsars reportedly “transport the reader right into the heart of Russian Imperial life and political intrigue”.

Most were addressed to Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, the daughter of Nicolas I and sister of Alexander II, who moved to Stuttgart after marrying a German prince who would become King Charles I of Wurttemberg.

They are said to reveal the intimate secrets and plots of the Russian Court as well as the beliefs and political pains of the two emperors.

An unpublished set of photographs of Alexander III’s family which was rescued from the flames when the Nazis destroyed the Gatchina palace in 1944 were withdrawn from sale last night.

This provisional measure was taken after a request from Geneva judicial authorities which want to determine their precise origin before they are sold, the auction house explained.

The photographs were rescued by Otto Hofmann, a German Bauhaus artist who was serving with the Nazi forces, who managed to hide the images while he was a prisoner of war.

The auction house is also selling various Russian objects, including a rare pair of porcelain vases made in 1849 given by Nicolas I to his sister-in-law Elena Pavlona.

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