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Treasures the world hasn't seen

As the Soviet Union has fallen, so has the shroud of communism that hid a cultural history from the Soviet people as well as the rest of the world. Thanks to the efforts of a local non-profit group, Florida Cultural Exhibitions, our own St. Petersburg has a remarkable opportunity to be part of this new era.

A group of local civic leaders has signed an agreement to bring an exhibit of about 400 artifacts from the lives of Nicholas and Alexandra, the last imperial family of Russia, to St. Petersburg.

What makes these items so spectacular, in addition to their beauty, is that most of them have never been viewed by the public. "The world has not seen these things before," said a member of the local exhibition group that recently traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, to the Hermitage, one of the world's premier museums and storage site for the royal treasures.

The exhibit will include the breathtaking, such as a ball gown made of spun silver, and also the items of everyday existence, such as an umbrella and an inkwell. The mix will provide a historic glimpse of the czar and czarina that is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world to a downtown that could use some activity.

The cost of the venture is estimated to be $5.5-million, which will be financed by private donations, a portion of which already has been raised. The exhibit is targeted to open in December 1993 and run for four months in the Maas Brothers building, which will be renovated for the display. Plans are to involve schools with lessons and tours of the exhibit, providing a rare experience for students. Leaders in both St. Petersburgs foresee the agreement as the beginning of other cultural and historical exchanges.

At a time when the Tampa Bay region is holding its breath for word of a baseball team, this prize is particularly good news.