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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 00:18 GMT 01:18 UK
Peter the Great's amber room reborn
The new Amber Room
The room is symbolic of Russo-German ties

Russia has announced that work to recreate one of its greatest art treasures, Peter the Great's Amber Room, has been completed just weeks before the city of his name celebrates its 300th anniversary.

Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi said that work to rebuild the Amber Room at Tsarskoye Selo, just outside St Petersburg, was at an end after decades of work by Russian craftsmen.

The original room was looted by Nazi besiegers during the Second World War and disappeared in the dying years of the war, creating an enduring mystery.

Presented as a gift to Tsar Peter the Great in 1716 by Prussia's King Frederick William I, the elaborately carved chamber with its amber panels became a major feature of the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo.

Its reconstruction was begun by the Soviet Government in 1979 and work was boosted in 1999 by a large donation from a German company, Ruhrgas.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, are due to inaugurate the rebuilt room during the celebrations in St Petersburg at the end of May.

'Better than ever'

"The room that you see now has been recreated just as it was designed by craftsmen 300 years ago," Alexander Kedrinsky, one of the specialists who pieced together the room, told reporters on Tuesday.

Visitor studies detail
The room that you see now has been recreated just as it was designed by craftsmen 300 years ago
Alexander Kedrinsky

Described by some as the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Amber Room was seized by the Nazis and packed away into 27 crates before they razed the palace.

The crates were last seen in Germany's Baltic city of Koenigsberg before it was flattened by British bombing.

Since then, treasure hunters and writers have pursued countless theories as to the whereabouts of the room. Interest was spurred in 1997 when one of the mosaics was found by German police.

Russian experts worked from black-and-white photographs and memory in their reconstruction, which involved six tonnes of amber.

The honey-coloured stone is formed when tree resin fossilises and it is largely harvested from the sea around Koenigsberg - now the Russian city of Kaliningrad.

Mr Kedrinsky said the recreated version of the room was more faithful to the original which had been altered over the centuries.

BBC's St Petersburg tributes
23 Apr 03  |  Entertainment

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