Saturday, June 2, 2012

Russian Diplomats as Cyclists in 1895

Article in the Washington Times from 1895 describes the spread of cycling among foreign diplomats assigned to Washington, including the Russian minister.
Diplomats Proficient Upon the Shining Wheel

Russian and Austrian Ministers Are Expert Riders, and the Chinese Attaches, in Gay Costumes, Are Bicycle Devotees.

The bicycling craze has taken a strong hold on Washington society, and has extended into the diplomatic corps.

The foreigners have become greatly interested in the fad of the hour, and many of them are already proficient riders of the shining wheel.

The first to lend in this respect was the Russian minister, Prince Cantacuzene, who no sooner was able to keep his equilibrium upon the "bike" than he induced his daughter to become accomplished in the same manner. Every afternoon during last autumn, and almost every late afternoon during the winter, the Prince and Princess Cantacuzene might have been seen spinning over the miles of smooth asphalt in the city on their bicycles.

At first, of course, when the bicycles were brought out and placed in front of the legation they created no end of excitement in the neighborhood, and the dwellers along that particular square made a brave showing on the front porticos and at the windows to watch the mount and triumphal start.

Gradually, however, as tho novelty wore off, the prince and his young daughter, who were debarred from taking any active part in the season's gayeties on account of the fact that the Russian legation was in mourning for the death of the Czar, were allowed to depart upon their afternoon bicycling trip without this attendant notoriety.
Later in the article it is noted that at this time there was some modesty among cyclists ~
As a matter or fact, the favorite place with the members of the diplomatic corps, and society generally who ride the bicycle, is the great open space back of the President's mansion, "Executive driveway," as it is sometimes called now, since the old name of "White Lot" has been abandoned by the fashionables.

There the bicyclers congregate in large numbers all during the spring and autumn evenings directly after dark, for as yet the majority of society has no fancy for being stared at in daylight when bicycle riding.
The Czar who died in 1895 was Alexander III, the father of Nicholas II, who was overthrown by the Bolsheviks in 1917. I hadn't realized, but his heir for a time was his brother, who was killed in a bicycle accident in 1899: "The death of Grand Duke George, Czarevitch of Russia . . . the hemorrhage which caused the death of the Czarevitch was the result of a fall from his bicycle which be sustained while on an excursion in the hilly country near Abbas Tuman. The paper adds that he died near the scene of the accident." (From another newspaper article.)

It does seem Czar Nicholas II did ride bikes, as shown here and here

The most well known photo of a cyclist in Russia from today is shown below, taken by a writer for the New Yorker who lives in Moscow:


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