G LASNOST MAY have splendid repercussions for Southern California antique collectors. The new spirit of cooperation between the two great powers has already opened up many avenues of opportunity that have been closed since the Russian Revolution of 1917.
One of today's hottest new areas for antique collecting is Russian furniture of all periods and styles. It is a difficult and largely undocumented field, however, and one where great caution is required. Recently, for example, certain unscrupulous dealers in Paris emptied their warehouses of undistinguished Second Empire furniture and tried to pass it off as "Russian," in order to capitalize on the new trend.
An incredible amount of European and European-style furniture has accumulated in Russia since the time Peter the Great began the westernization of the country. In 1712, he moved his capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg, near the coast of Finland. It was then little more than a mud flat on which he created--with the help of architects, painters and craftsmen brought from France and Italy, in particular--a splendid and sophisticated European city. Until the overthrow of the Romanov dynasty, the palaces of the nobility and the houses of the rich bourgeoisie were filled with expensive European art and artifacts.