Putin’s plan to restore the Romanovs

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This 3-part series by Matthew Dal Santo was published in The Interpreter, which features in-depth analysis & expert commentary on the latest international events, published daily by the Lowry Institute.

Although dated – originally published in July 2016 – it is still an interesting and thought provoking read.

He is the author of the forthcoming book, A Tsar’s Life for the People: The Romanovs and the Redemption of Putin’s Russia, to be published by Princeton University Press.

Putin’s plan to restore the Romanovs (Part 1) published 16th July 2016

Official treatment of Stalin reflects the result of this impasse, neither to suppress nor promote popular support for his legacy.

Putin’s plan to restore the Romanovs (Part 2) published 17th July 2016

If there’s a Russian leader whose reputation has been unequivocally rehabilitated during the Putin era, it’s Nicholas II.

Putin’s plan to restore the Romanovs (Part 3) published 18th July 2016

Russian monarchists are remarkably fond of observing that nobody says Russia’s next tsar must be a Romanov.

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Dr. Matthew Dal Santo has been a Danish Council Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen since 2014. He writes on conservatism as an ideological programme in modern Russia, with a special interest in Russian foreign policy. He has written analysis and commentary on Russian and European affairs for The Australian Broadcasting Casting Corporation (ABC) and has appeared on Radio National’s Counterpoint programme.

His work has been published by The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (Canberra, Australia), The Lowy Institute (Sydney, Australia), The Center for the National Interest (Washington, D.C.) , The Nation (New York), and The Spectator Australia. He travels frequently to Russia and is currently writing a book (provisionally entitled The Romanovs, 1917 and the Redemption of Putin’s Russia) on the cult of Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, and on how ordinary Russians see their country’s place in the world in the approach of the 2017 centenary of the Russian Revolution.

He studied history and European languages (BA first-class honours and University Medal) at the University of Sydney (1999-2004) and graduate-level history (MPhil, PhD) at the University of Cambridge (2004-9). In 2007, he was elected a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and taught as an Associate Lecturer in Cambridge’s Faculty of History. In 2011, he entered the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Matthew speaks Russian, French, Italian, and Danish. He lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, with his wife and daughter.

© Paul Gilbert. 3 August 2020

Nicholas II in the NEWS – July 2020

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At the end of each month I will post links to noteworthy articles about Nicholas II from English language media sources, complemented with photos and videos.

Please click on the titles (highlighted) below to read each respective article:

Inherited Love: On the families of the parents of holy Royal Martyrs Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra by Xenia Grinkova. Published in Russian Orthodoxy on 31st July 2020

When we look at the life of the holy Royal Passion-Bearers, their podvig as a family strikes us most. Truly, they succeeded in embodying the Christian family ideals on the earth and bringing up their daughters and son in it like nobody else. And, of course, it was from their wise parents that the saints, like “most honorable branches of the pious root” (from the service to Right-Believing Prince Alexander Nevsky), received the rudiments of what later blossomed forth and led them to heavenly abodes.

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The Khodynka tragedy: A coronation ruined by a stampede by Yulia Afanasyenko Published in Russia Beyond on 23rd July 2020

A huge public celebration of the coronation of Nicholas II was planned at the Khodynskoe field in Moscow, but poor organizing caused a disaster.

This terrible tragedy is one in which contemporary historians like to flog like a dead horse, some of whom blame the newly crowned emperor for the incident. Sadly, it is one which haunted him to the final days of his reign.

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A Life Blessed by the Tsaritsa by Vladimir Soloviev. Published in Russian Orthodoxy on 17th July 2020

Not long ago was the fortieth day after the repose of Archbishop Agapit (Gorachek) of Stuttgart (ROCOR). More and more reminiscences about this remarkable man have been sent to the Russian website Pravoslavie.ru and continue to come; that is what an indelible impression this bright personality has left in the hearts of those who knew him.

This is a story of Archbishop Agapit, but through him of the “Ekaterinburg remains”—bone fragments discovered in a gully outside Ekaterinburg, which recent investigations have shown with near certainty to be those of the Royal Family. These investigations were conducted for over ten years on the highest level. They encompassed all aspects of forensic science, including genetic testing in a number of laboratories. It is told by one of the main investigators, who through his work gained a personal understanding of Archbishop Agapit’s close connection with the Holy Royal Martyrs and his service to them in this important matter.

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VIDEO OF THE MONTH: Nicholas II. The Early Years

Rare photographs from the childhood and teenage years of Tsar Nicholas II, whose exceptional virtues from his earliest years of age were politeness, affability, and affection. His characteristic shy, tender, and somewhat sad smile always made an impression on all. He tried to see only the good side of people and was ready to show love to all.

All the quotes used in the captions of this video are from the book “The Romanov Royal Martyrs: What Silence Could Not Conceal”.

Duration: 8 minutes, 47 seconds

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THANK YOU to every one who responded to my annual summer appeal for donations. Your contributions will help me greatly with my research to clear the name of Russia’s much slandered tsar during the coming year ahead.

There are many web sites, blogs and Facebook pages dedicated to the Romanovs. Therefore, I am especially grateful to those of you who follow my work faithfully on a daily basis.

I work very hard searching Russian archival and media sources to bring something new to the table every day. This includes articles researched by a new generation of Russian historians; news on the Romanovs, their palaces, exhibitions, etc; photos, videos and more.

Click HERE to make a donation with GoFundMe

Click HERE to make a donation by credit card or PayPal

Click HERE to make a donation by personal check or money order

THANK YOU for your consideration, and for your continued interest and support of my work.

PAUL GILBERT
Independent Researcher and Publisher

© Paul Gilbert. 31 July 2020

Documentary – The Murder of the Romanovs: Facts and Myths

Daria Strizhova talks with Elena Chavchavadze about her new documentary. Please note that this video is only available in Russian (click on the image above to watch)

On July 19, the television channel Russia-1 showed the second film of “The Murder of the Romanovs” documentary project. This new Russian-language documentary sheds light on one of the most tragic pages in the history of the Russian state.

The first film, “Regicide: A Century-long Investigation” tells about the origins of the investigation into the murder of the Imperial Family. The second part, “Murder of the Romanovs: Facts and Myths” is the result of the painstaking research work by E. N. Chavchavadze and G. I. Ogurnaya—who together, introduce the viewer to unique archival documents.

—Elena Nikolaevna, tell us about the background of making these films dedicated to the Imperial Family. How did it all begin?

—Part of the code of honor for me and my family is to always seek the truth in everything. By the time we started working on the films on the murder of the Romanov Dynasty for the TV channel Russia, we had already filmed five episodes of the series, “Romanovs: A Royal Matter,” “War and Peace of Alexander I,” “Alexander III: Strong, Powerful.” The material itself showed us which direction to go next. And it was impossible to avoid the topic of regicide.

I was worried, realizing that the topic is too big. Let’s recall the words of Voykov who said: “The world will never find out what we did to them.” This poses a challenge to researchers. Is it possible to unravel this tragic mystery? But you know how it is: Fear has big eyes. As far as I know, a number of fundamental studies by anthropologists, criminologists, geneticists, graphologists, and other scientists are nearing completion. And we hope that the next film in the cycle will be dedicated to the results of this long-term work.

—Your film is called, “Murder of the Romanovs: Facts and Myths.” I’d like to dwell on this in more detail. What is a fact and what is a deliberately created myth? The film quotes Lenin’s words: “We don’t need to tell Joffe the truth (about the murder), so it will be easier for him to lie later.”

—We tried to clearly show the mechanism by which a myth turns into fact, and a fact becomes a myth and dissolves with time.

I must say that the plan of “blurring” the truth worked on a global level. All the Bolsheviks’ negotiations and diplomatic correspondence was constructed so as to divert suspicion away from the top of the Soviet leadership. This is a very thoughtful, masterly calculation. Only such a position would have allowed them to remain in power, as at that time they were entirely dependent upon Germany.

And how “interesting” the newspaper articles were! How well they were edited—again with an understanding of the colossal power of influence on the public consciousness! It’s in the papers, so it must be true.

When the investigator Sokolov managed, with much difficulty, through Prince Orlov’s agency in Russia, to get an agitation pamphlet talking about the murder of the Imperial Family while he was in France, he included it to the case. But this primitive article, intended for the proletariat, had been carefully edited by someone by then. We don’t know who the editor was, but probably it was Pokrovsky, a famous falsifier of history. But he was certainly a very astute man. But unfortunately, Sokolov took it all at face value. And today many people adhere to the theory that was presented in his book, because it was the only work on the topic of regicide at the time. And given that the book was created under certain conditions, under the pressure of the circumstances, and on the basis of such obviously unreliable documents, who will figure out the truth? The investigator Sokolov did a great job, and no one belittles the significance of his works for history. But, you know, the details settle everything.

—Unfortunately, the majority form their personal opinion not based on documents, not on the materials of the investigation, but on articles in the press and online. How many books have been written justifying this or that theory!

—And therefore, I think it’s necessary to dive into the archival material, to compare facts. Who was familiar with whom and when; where could this or that declaration have come from? Beginning my work on the film, the director G. Ogurnaya and I decided not to stick to any of the previously voiced theories. We simply did our work, during which connections and details started to emerge. Our films feature previously unknown documents that have only now become available—in particular, the note of Colonel Baftalovsky, which is of great interest. It is the testimony of the officers who were the first to arrive at Ganina Yama.

—There is an opinion, including from experts, that they could in no way have destroyed their bodies at Ganina Yama; and there are opposite statements as well. This is difficult to understand…

—Clothing and personal items were burned. Baftalovsky’s note is a very important testimony. Undoubtedly, the interest around this topic is so great that various people sprout up like mushrooms in the information space, clearly and colorfully expounding various theories. And amateur trackers—they are innumerable—sometimes write appalling nonsense. But people believe them, revere them, and look up to them. But there is another position, which was voiced by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, and for us it is the only true and possible one: it is the path of painstaking work and conscientious scientific methods. I believe the truth will be voiced by the Russian Orthodox Church.

The first film—“Regicide: A Century-long Investigation”—is dedicated exclusively to the murder that was committed in the Ipatiev House. The second film—“Murder of the Romanovs: Facts and Myths,” which was aired thanks to the channel Russia-1 and the History of the Fatherland Foundation—covers a short period of time in the summer of 1918 and reveals a certain connection between three crimes. At first we had the idea of focusing more on each of the events and making an individual film for each—on Perm, Alapaevsk, and Ekaterinburg—and we could have gathered enough material for this. But, unfortunately, we were limited by screen time. So we tried to isolate the main points.

Even now you can find opinions among the researchers dealing with the Romanovs that, for example, Alapaevsk (the murder of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth) and Perm (the murder of Grand Duke Michael) were both the decision of the local Council of People’s Commissars. Gabriel Myasnikov, for example, wrote an entire book about this. But when we went to Perm and started talking with people who work in the archives with the originals, we were presented a completely different picture. We were fortunate enough to meet some wonderful archivists.

—You managed to convey their very conscientious attitude to the work: It’s not just an academic interest, but a deep personal experience.

—People work for decades with great love for their inconspicuous but extremely important work, not expecting any encouragement or reward. They know their topic incredibly well. As you have correctly noted, they perceive what happened as if it happened yesterday in front of their eyes. Just like us, they perceive these events very deeply, and I’m glad that our joint work on the film expands our circle of not only professional acquaintances, but also personal ones.

—The film provides a unique archival audio recording. How did you manage to get it?

—It’s a restored archival audio recording that was preserved as “top secret.” It just recently became available to researchers, and, indeed, it sheds light on many facts. Other materials are stored in the Russian state archive of socio-political history. Many storylines from this story were not included in the film. We would be happy to continue this work, but not before all the appointed examinations are finished. This is science, not the pursuit of spectacular sensations. Even if the resolution of the investigation doesn’t suit someone, or disappoints someone, or someone says: “No, it can’t be,” because some materials came from people who aren’t very religious, for example—it’s still an insufficient argument.

—How much only the information trail from Geliy Ryabov is worth…

—Geliy Ryabov became a believer in much thanks to what happened. He spoke with Archpriest Alexander Shargunov and passed on some of his findings to him. We filmed Fr. Alexander for “Regicide: A Century-long Investigation.” Ryabov’s second wife told us a lot. All the circumstances of his story turned out to be simpler and more logical, and in the end, everything really falls into place, like pieces of a puzzle.¹

The murder of Tsar Nicholas II is spoken of as a ritual act, but it would be more correct to speak of it as sacred; and I, as a researcher, cannot completely deny this. But to be fair, it should be said that when we were in New York, working with newspapers published before the revolutionary events of 1917, we came across cartoons in articles about Russia where the head of Emperor Nicholas II was drawn separately. Can be this be considered an argument for the theory about his decapitation? I don’t think so. Why would they have carried his head to Moscow, thus taking a completely unjustified risk, since random people could have witnessed it? And as you’ve probably already realized from the documents presented in our film, the last thing in the world Lenin and his cohorts wanted was to be connected with the murder of Emperor Nicholas—for political gain, of course. And these people knew how to appreciate benefits.

—In other words, the expression “sacred murder” has a symbolic meaning?

—The expression “sacred murder” is just not only in relation to the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich, but first of all to Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, who in fact was the main contender for the Russian throne.

The reception of power was postponed until the Constituent Assembly was called. And if Kolchak had managed to win, no doubt the Constituent or National Assembly would have been called first. It’s quite likely that it would have called Michael Alexandrovich to head the state, because the dynasty was not interrupted. The Pavlovian Laws (the Act of Succession of 1797) provided that if someone leaves, then another member of the dynasty is placed on the throne by force of law, “so the state wouldn’t be without heirs, so the heir would be appointed by the law itself, so there wouldn’t be even the slightest doubt as to who is to inherit, so as to preserve the right of birth in the inheritance, without violating the rights of the natural heir, and to avoid difficulties in the transition from generation to generation.”

That’s why the murder of Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich was first. The Bolsheviks weren’t sure of their position; they had to hurry. According to the documentary evidence, the greatest amount of disinformation was aimed at concealing the murder of Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich.

As bitter as it is to realize, investigator Sokolov and other researchers paid very little attention to the investigation in Perm. The official story is that it was a disappearance. A man disappeared. He was there, and then he suddenly disappeared. There was a lot of evidence that he was seen here and there, then in Harbin, then somewhere else. The officers swore they caught a glimpse of him in the crowd—a mass psychosis, an unwillingness to accept the reality. If Michael Alexandrovich is alive—no matter where—it means they have hope. And Russia has hope. Do you get it? This is a very deep motive. And it is this motive that can cast doubt on all such evidence taken together.

When we put the three murders in a line, a lot of things became obvious. At that time, the English Consul Preston—who reported in London on what was happening—was in Ekaterinburg, along with a mass of representatives of international organizations, including the American, Finnish, and Swedish Red Cross. It was full of outside observers. The Brest Peace, which was treasonous to Russia, had already been concluded. The Germans were sitting in the Council of People’s Commissars—just like the Americans sat in our government under Chubais² a few decades later.

—There is the view that a “ticking time bomb” was placed under the edifice of the Russian state at this time. What do you think about this?

—I agree with this hypothesis. It’s no accident that the name “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” doesn’t have the word “Russia” in it. An interesting fact: In August 1916 in Switzerland, there was a meeting of bankers from warring powers, including Germany, to which Russia was not invited.

Russia was to be divided into spheres of influence according to the principle of divide and conquer. This would have been impossible to do under the existing monarchy. Lenin was entrusted with ensuring that Russia lose the war. The plan was to have Russia leave the war through the revolution and, as a result, violate the agreements with its allies about how no one warring party should conclude a separate peace treaty. This would automatically exclude Russia from the list of future winners, which is what happened. A massive information attack to discredit Tsar Nicholas II was carried out throughout the entire world. When we were dealing with this historical period for the film “Revolution: A Trap for Russia” and were communicating with English researchers, they said that in England society was even more certain than in Russia that revolution was coming in Russia, that the Tsaritsa was a German spy, and that everything was controlled by Gregory Rasputin, and so on. That’s how the propaganda worked.

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—One of the conclusions of your film is that the facts of the history are very malleable, and to establish the truth, we still have to reexamine and reevaluate our past. The question for modern man is: If this was done on such a scale and with such success, is it possible that the mechanism turning myths into facts is still active today?

—Of course. We see this in the example of our brothers in Ukraine, or if we look at what is happening in the United States right now. If we replace the word “proletariat” with “black,” we’ll get a traced copy of the events of a century ago in Russia. The scenery changes, but the rhetoric remains the same: “oppressors and the oppressed”—it’s nothing new.

There’s an expression: You have to accept your past, your successes, and your failures. It seems to me this is happening in Russia now. The best thing we can do is to accept the historical truth. It’s my Russia, and I accept its history as God gave it to us, to paraphrase Pushkin.

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1. Together with Alexander Avdonin, in 1979, Ryabov discovered the remains that are believed to belong to the Royal Martyrs.—Trans.

2. A Russian politician and businessman who was responsible for privatization in Russia as an influential member of Boris Yeltsin’s administration in the early 1990s—Trans.

© Daria Strizhova / Pravoslavie.ru. Translated by Jesse Dominick. 27 July 2020

“Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged” – in Defence of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

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Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918)

In a letter to his mother dated 8th June 1910, Nicholas II reflects his deep concern and anxiety about his wife’s condition . . .

“I am completely run down mentally by worrying over her health.”

Over the past 5 years, I have posted many photos of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna on my personal Facebook page, but I am sadly disheartened by the numerous bitter, nasty comments often left by people. This poor woman has been criticized for everything from “never smiling”, “looking miserable” or depicting a “sour face” – just to name a few.

Just last week I received a nasty email from a Facebook troll who noted how much Alexandra is “hated” by “noted historians”.

During her life, Alexandra carried much grief, worry and sorrow on her shoulders, all of which began at an early age. She lost her brother Friedrich to haemophilia in May 1873; her sister Marie died of diphtheria in November 1878; and the following month, her beloved mother Princess Alice also died of diphtheria in December 1878.

After her mother and sister’s deaths, Alix became more reserved and withdrawn. She described her childhood before her mother and sister’s death as “unclouded, happy babyhood, of perpetual sunshine, then of a great cloud.”

In March 1892, her father Grand Duke Louis IV, died of a heart attack. According to Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden, Alix regarded the death of her father as perhaps “the greatest sorrow of her life”. Buxhoeveden recalled in her 1928 biography [The Life and Tragedy of Alexandra Feodorovna] that “for years she could not speak of him, and long after when she was in Russia, anything that reminded her of him would bring her to the verge of tears”. This loss was probably so much greater for Alix because Grand Duke Louis IV had been Alix’s only remaining parent since she was six years of age.

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In later years, the Empress’s immobility forced her to use a wheelchair

Alexandra’s health was never robust and her five pregnancies, wreaked havoc on her body. Some historians attribute the semi-invalidism of her later years to nervous exhaustion from obsessive worry over the fragile health of her son. She spent most of her time in bed or reclining on a chaise in her boudoir or on a veranda. This immobility enabled her to avoid the social occasions that she found distasteful. Alexandra regularly took a herbal medicine known as Adonis Vernalis in order to regulate her pulse. She was constantly tired, slept badly, and complained of swollen feet. She ate little, but never lost weight – she had become a vegetarian. She may have suffered from Graves Disease (hyperthyroidism), a condition resulting in high levels of the thyroid hormone, which can also result in atrial fibrillation, poor heartbeat and lack of energy.

After the birth of Alexei, the long awaited heir to the Russian throne, Alexandra felt guilt for having passed haemophilia to her son. Most historians believe that she had a breakdown due to the constant worry for her son’s health, and later perhaps suffered from mental health issues.

From the day which she arrived in St. Petersburg, members of the Imperial Family, along with the ladies of the aristocracy took a particular dislike to Russia’s new Empress. Alexandra was a deeply religious woman, and she took great lengths to keep both herself and later he children at a distance from the debauchery of the capital.

Alexandra was also isolated for being foreign. Increasingly, she became an even more unpopular figure with the Imperial Family, the aristocracy, and the Russian people for numerous reasons, including her association with Rasputin and Anna Vyrubova. During the Great War, she became unpopular because of her German birth and upbringing, when that country was an enemy of the Russian Empire. Alexandra became a primary focus for the increasing unrest associated with opposition to the monarchy.

Whatever her shortcomings as Empress, let us be more careful in the words we choose before we pass judgement on this poor woman.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 July 2020

ROC Investigation Committee confirms (again) the authenticity of Ekaterinburg remains

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On the eve of the 102nd anniversary of the death and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family at Ekaterinburg on 17th July 1918, the senior investigator of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Marina Molodtsova provided an update on the criminal investigation initiated in 2015 by the Russian Orthodox Church.

During an interview with the Izvestia News Agency, Molodtsova was asked, “you have been investigating the circumstances of the death and burial of the Tsar and his family for more than three years. What new information did the investigation manage to find out during this time?”

“Since the resumption of the case in 2015, 37 new forensic examinations have been carried out, including forensic (anthropological), molecular genetic, trasological, and handwriting analysis among others,” she stated. “In addition, various kinds of investigative experiments were conducted as part of the investigation. In some cases, their results allowed us to reconstruct a more complete picture of events.”

“For example, in the murder room located in the basement of the Ipatiev House, the dimensions of the room were reproduced. This recreation refuted the arguments by some researchers that 11 victims and the participants in the murders could not fit into such a small room.”

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The basement room in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, where the Imperial Family were murdered

“Another investigative experiment refuted the popular held version that the bodies of the dead were destroyed using sulphuric acid and fire.” But many people consider this a fact, asked Izvestia.

“Yes, this theory has been rehashed for many years in popular science and historical publications. However, it was found that applying concentrated sulphuric acid to the surface of biological tissue slows down the process of their subsequent burning,” added Molotsova.

When asked what else was learned from the forensic examinations, Molodtsova replied:

“As part of the investigation, handwriting examinations were carried out on the notes of Commandant of the House of Special Purpose Yakov Yurovsky. His notes set out the events which occurred, including those on the night of 16/17 July 1918. The experts determined that on the now famous “Yurovsky Note” stored in the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF) in Moscow, corrections made to the note were made by Yurovsky himself, while another person added marginal notes and the addition at the end of the text.”

“Also, handwritten corrections in the transcript of Yurovsky’s speech at the meeting of the old Bolsheviks on 1st February 1934 (where he boasted about the regicide in Ekaterinburg) were made by Yurovsky himself.”

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Senior investigator of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Marina Molodtsova

Molodtsova also noted, “in order to solve the questions posed as part of the judicial, historical and archival examination of the fate of the Imperial Family, a systematization of some 2,000 historical sources, including those located abroad, was carried out. Some of these sources are multi-volume. A lot of books and scientific papers have been written about the events surrounding the murder of the Imperial Family. The media regularly report a variety of versions and assumptions. We have checked all these contemporary versions as well. However, in this case, we have only taken into account the data from archival documents, primary sources and the results of both the previous and recent examinations.”

Not everyone recognizes that the remains found in 1979 near Ekaterinburg belong to members of the Imperial Family, so what is the situation with their identification now?

“Based on numerous examinations, the investigation has concluded that the remains belong to Nicholas II, his family and their faithful retainers,” added Molodtsova. “Nevertheless, we continue to collect materials and conduct further forensic examinations which we deem necessary in order to eliminate the slightest doubt. At the end of all examinations, their results will be evaluated.”

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Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich in Nagasaki, Japan. 1891

“For example, now experts are proposing to make a 3D-model of a hat, which was on the head of Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich at the time of the assassination attempt on his life in Japan. It is now kept in the Collection of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Three-dimensional copies of the hat and skull, identified as “N.A. Romanov,” can be compared and assessed if the marks found on the hat and the wound found on the skull match. The healed wounds were found on the right side of the cranial vault during an anthropological examination.”

“According to the mechanism of occurrence, localization, relative position, shape and dimensional characteristics, they are similar to the description of the injuries on the head of Nicholas Alexandrovich inflicted on him in 1891.”

Molodtsova was also asked which experts the investigation team turned to work with on the criminal case:

“Honoured scientists, doctors and candidates of science – honoured doctors of the Russian Federation, highly qualified forensic experts, prominent historians and archivists; geneticists were involved in conducting historical-archival, forensic (anthropological) and molecular genetic forensic examinations. Among them are the President of the History Department of Moscow State University Sergey Pavlovich Karpov; Rector of the Russian State Humanitarian University Alexander Bezborodov; Olga Yuryevna Vasilieva (Minister of Education of the Russian Federation from 2016 to 2020); associate professor of the Historical Archive Institute of the Russian State Humanitarian University Evgeny Vladimirovich Pchelov; chief specialist of the State Archives of the Russian Federation Zinaida Ivanovna Peregudova; and chief specialist of the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political Sciences Lyudmila Anatolyevna Lykova,”

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Search for the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria in 1999

“I want to emphasize that all the specialists we have recruited are not exempt from their official activities and conduct research on a gratuitous basis,” Molotsova added.

The senior investigator was also asked about the study of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria found in 2007, and where their remains are stored today:

“According to the conclusion of molecular genetic examinations, the remains of two persons discovered in the summer of 2007 near the first burial place of nine other victims belong to the daughter and son of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. Biological kinship for both parents was established with the maximum probability for both Alexei and Maria.”

“Due to the small number of bone fragments found, it can be assumed that one or more additional burial sites may be located near the place of discovery of the remains of two persons in 2007, that of Alexei and Maria. Their remains are in storage at the Novo-Spassky Monastery in Moscow, since all the necessary expert studies have not yet been completed.”

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Investigator Nikolai Sokolov

But what about the documents of the investigator Nikolai Sokolov:

“Copies of these materials are attached to our criminal case and are considered part of the evidence. As part of a historical and archival examination, data from official inspection reports compiled by Nikolai Sokolov and those cited in his book The Murder of the Tsar’s Family were initially compared with other materials. Significant discrepancies were revealed in the details and circumstances of the discovery of Sokolov’s investigation. This is of great importance: public opinion on this case was mainly based on the facts set forth in Sokolov’s book, since the primary sources on this issue were not available.”

“We are in regular communication with the Church Commission to study all the results of the remains found near Ekaterinburg. The investigation, in the manner prescribed by law, answers all questions that come to us from representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is important to note that locating materials on this criminal case has been a very complicated and laborious process. No single register of all the documents in the case of the murder of the Imperial Family exists.’

“We have researched sources from around the world. These include public and private archives, museums and libraries in various cities in both Russia and abroad.”

“Finally, this important investigation has been the quintessence of many years of work by investigators, experts, scientists and researchers. The purpose of the investigation is to recreate and examine all the events and their participants as thoroughly as possible, objectively, using all the achievements of modern science. This is the task that the Chairman of the Investigative Committee set when he decided to transfer the criminal case to the Main Directorate for the Investigation of Highly Important Cases. We try to do our job professionally, efficiently and in strict accordance with the law. And the solution of questions of this kind does not apply to our work – rather, it needs to be asked to the public.”

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The remains of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg, 1997

On a final and personal note, as the investigation seems to be coming to a close, can we at last see a light at the end of the tunnel? Will the Russian Orthodox Church, at long last bring closure to this highly emotional and contentious issue? For the time being, we will have to wait until October when the bishops of the Holy Synod meet. Let us all hope and pray that they will at last accept the truth.

© Paul Gilbert. 19 July 2020

Churchill on Nicholas II

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In 1929, Winston Churchill gave an estimate of Emperor Nicholas II, which, though not uncritical, is a much fairer one than that customarily given by Western historiography. They are among the most succinct and powerful English words in defense of Nicholas’ character — in part because Churchill does not depend upon the “well he was a good husband and father” strategy. He also addresses some of the questions that still exist in Russia today (democratise or hold firm). Many voices remain critical of Nicholas II’s refusal to democratise (although he did create the Duma, and think how long ago Magna Carta was written), herewith is Winston Churchill’s verdict:

“It is the shallow fashion of these times to dismiss the Tsarist regime as a purblind, corrupt, incompetent tyranny. But a survey of its thirty months’ war with Germany and Austria should correct these loose impressions and expose the dominant facts. We may measure the strength of the Russian Empire by the battering it had endured, by the disasters it had survived, by the inexhaustible forces it had developed, and by the recovery it had made. In the governments of states, when great events are afoot, the leader of the nation, whoever he be, is held accountable for failure and vindicated by success. No matter who wrought the toil, who planned the struggle, to the supreme responsible authority belongs the blame or credit.

“Why should this stern test be denied to Nicholas II? He had made many mistakes, what ruler has not? He was neither a great captain nor a great prince. He was only a true, simple man of average ability, of merciful disposition, upheld in all his daily life by his faith in God. But the brunt of supreme decisions centred upon him. At the summit where all problems are reduced to Yea or Nay, where events transcend the faculties of man and where all is inscrutable, he had to give the answers. His was the function of the compass needle. War or no war? Advance or retreat? Right or left? Democratise or hold firm? Quit or persevere? These were the battlefields of Nicholas II. Why should he reap no honour from them? The devoted onset of the Russian armies which saved Paris in 1914; the mastered agony of the munitionless retreat; the slowly regathered forces; the victories of Brusilov; the Russian entry upon the campaign of 1917, unconquered, stronger than ever; has he no share in these? In spite of errors vast and terrible, the regime he personified, over which he presided, to which his personal character gave the vital spark, had at this moment won the war for Russia.

“He is about to be struck down. A dark hand, gloved at first in folly, now intervenes. Exit Tsar. Deliver him and all he loved to wounds and death. Belittle his efforts, asperse his conduct, insult his memory; but pause then to tell us who else was found capable. Who or what could guide the Russian State? Men gifted and daring; men ambitious and fierce, spirits audacious and commanding – of these there were no lack. But none could answer the few plain questions on which the life and fame of Russia turned’.

Source: Churchill Winston S., The World Crisis, 1916-1918, p. 695-7, London, 1929.

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On 16 December 2014, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu opened a sculptural composition dedicated to the heroes of World Wars I and II on the grounds of the Ministry of Defense on the Frunze Embankment in Moscow. The WWI monument features Nicholas II on horseback (above), recognizing and honouring his efforts during the Great War.

© Paul Gilbert. 18 July 2020

10,000 march in Royal Martyrs procession in Ekaterinburg

The Ekaterinburg Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church hosted its annual Divine Liturgy and Cross Procession in honour of the Holy Royal Martyrs last night from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers in Ganina Yama.

Some 10,000 Orthodox faithful joined in the Cross Procession this year, from the Church on the Blood to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs, built on the site where the remains of Nicholas II, his family and four retainers were first callously discarded, before they were later reburied at Porosenkov Log some 1.3 km away.

The size of the procession was significantly reduced this year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The local authorities had urged the faithful not to participate. In 2018, 100,000 participated in the Divine Liturgy and Cross Procession on the 100th anniversary of the Holy Royal Martyrs, and 60,000 in 2019.

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The evening began with the Divine Liturgy celebrated on the square in front of the Church on the Blood by Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhotursky , His Grace Bishop Methody of Kamensk, His Grace Bishop Evgeny of Nizhny Tagil, His Grace Bishop Alexei of Serov, and His Grace Bishop Leonid of Argentina and South America.

After the Divine Liturgy, the faithful began a 21-km Cross Procession, along the same route used to transport the murderers used to transport the bodies of the murdered Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1918.

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The procession was accompanied throughout by mobile groups from the Orthodox Mercy service, Tsar’s Days volunteers, representatives from the Nika charitable foundation, and Cossacks of the Orenburg Military Cossack Society, all of whom provided various means of assistance to the pilgrims.

Around 6:00 AM, the procession headed by Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhotursky and the hierarchs and clergy reached the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs, where the monks greeted the pilgrims with the ringing of the monastery bells.

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Upon arrival, a moleben was served to the Holy Royal Martyrs and Metropolitan Kirill addressed the faithful:

“We pray and believe that the Lord, through the prayers of the Holy Royal Martyrs and Confessors of our Church, still preserves our land and covers it with His Heavenly covering. We hope that with God’s help we will lead an Orthodox Christian way of life and will take an example from righteous people, such as the Holy Royal Family and their faithful retainers, and all those who laid down their lives for our homeland and our Holy Church. Through their prayers, the Lord will forgive and have mercy on all of us by the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Holy Royal Martyrs, and all the saints who have pleased God from time immemorial.”

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The Tsar’s Days celebrations continue tonight in Alapaevsk where the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodoron, the Nun Barbara, and Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, the Princes of the Imperial Blood Ioann (John) Konstantinovich, Konstantin Konstantinovich, Igor Konstantinovich, and Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley, and Grand Duke Sergei’s secretary Fyodor Remez were martyred on July 18, 1918.

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Святой Царь Мученик Николай, Моли Бога о Нас!
Holy Royal Martyr Nicholas II, Pray to God for Us!

© Paul Gilbert. 17 July 2020

Nicholas II: the amateur photographer

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Shortly after his Coronation at Moscow in May 1896, Emperor Nicholas II acquired a new camera, for which he began photographing himself and his family at play. It was also at this time that he began placing his snapshots of family members in his diaries and compiled his first photo album.

Two of Emperor Nicholas II’s personal photo albums have survived to this day, and are kept in the collections of the Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF) in Moscow.

Nicholas II was a keen amateur photographer. It is widely known that his wife and children all shared his passion, but it is thanks to him that we have a vast collection of photographs taken by the emperor himself and by members of his family in addition to those take by official photographers. These photographs not only give us an official portrait of Russia’s last emperor and tsar, but also a pictorial record of his private life and reign.

Nicholas II took pictures throughout his life, leaving to posterity a collection of photographs astonishing in their breadth and variety. It is a collection which allows us to study him in all his guises: emperor, husband and father. As GARF managing director and researcher Alia Iskhakovna Barkovets notes: “Everyone who looks at these photographs will see the last Tsar of Russia in their own way. One feeling, however, unites us: these photographs attract us because in them we see a human life. And regardless of the time and tragedy that separates us from that life, we can comprehend it and identify with it.”

In 1925, the vast collection of documents and photographs of Nicholas II and his family were transferred to the New Romanov Archive, which formed the basis of the Archive of the October Revolution, and was renamed The Department of the Fall of the Old Regime. It was Joseph Stalin who ordered the Romanov archives closed and sealed. They were even off limits to historians, unless for propaganda purposes. Up until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, these private documents and photographs effectively lay untouched.

While it is known that Nicholas II started to take amateur photographs, it is not known where and when the Emperor acquired his first camera, but his personal accounts for November 1896 contain an entry about a payment to the firm ‘London Stereoscopic & Photographic Co,’ for photographic accessories amounting to 9 pound sterling. In December of the same year an invoice from the owner of a warehouse for photographic and optical accessories in St. Petersburg was paid for 25 roubles to cover photographic work, two boxes of film and a camera cover.

That Nicholas himself glued photographs into albums is shown by a diary entry 29th October 1896: “Fussed with some photographs, singling them out for gluing into the big album”. It is apparent that he among the members of his family was mostly concerned with their presentation, also ensuring that each photograph was captioned with date and place, all handwritten by the Emperor himself.. This favourite occupation calmed him and brought him into a state of mental equilibrium. 

Beginning in 1896, small amateur photographs began to appear in the pages of his diary alongside the entries. In almost every diary after this year the Emperor illustrated various entries with his own photographs.

Nicholas II’s private album for 1900-1901 is particularly interesting as it highlights the growing confidence of his skills as a photographer. Nicholas had obtained a special camera which allowed panoramic pictures to be taken. The Emperor’s passion for taking panoramic photographs included those of ships, his beloved Standart, and above all, the Crimean countryside and the architecture of the Livadia Palace. Although the artistic merit of these photographs is questionable, their historic significance is undeniable.

In August 1917, when the Imperial Family was exiled from Tsarskoye Selo to Tobolsk and later Ekaterinburg, they took with them a camera of the ‘panorama company Kodak from the Karpov shop . . . along with instructions, and two boxes containing 33 negatives’.  These items were found after the murder of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg at the apartment of Mikhail Letemin, the guard for the Ipatiev House, during a search by the investigator Alexei Nametkin on 6th August 1918. As well as the items found at the Ipatiev House, three reels of Kodak film were recovered from the stoves and rubbish at the Popov house, where the guards of the Imperial Family were accommodated. So, what were these photos? Who took them? Why were they destroyed? Perhaps they contained the last photographic images of the final days of the Imperial Family, or were they destroyed to conceal evidence which the murderers did not want to fall into the hands of monarchists, the Whites or the Western press? Sadly, we will never know!

In conclusion, Alia Barkovets adds: “the photographs from the Tobolsk period of the family’s incarceration are missing from the State Archive, but a few pictures survive in private collections. There are no known photographs of the Imperial Family during their house arrest in Ekaterinburg. If we believe the evidence of of the guard Mikhail Letemin, Nicholas’s camera was stolen by him from the Ipatiev House after the murder of the Imperial Family. Whether or not it contained film we can only surmise.”

© Paul Gilbert. 15 July 2020 

If you found this article interesting, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMe, PayPal, credit card, personal check or money order. Thank you for your consideration – PG

The face of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II seen July 1919

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Did White Russian soldiers see a vision of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II in July 1919?

According to the memoirs of the wife of the commander of the 1st Izhevsk Rifle Regiment – Vera Mikhailovna Mikhailova, who, along with her husband, were fleeing across Russia during the Civil War to the safety of the Far East, they did!

“It was a day impossible to forget,” wrote Vera Mikhailovna Mikhailova in her diary:

“During the month of July 1919 the heat was incredible, the humidity unbearable. Our 1st Izhevsk Regiment, made up of volunteers, mostly workers of the Izhevsk arms factory, were tormented by raids of partisan gangs and Bolshevik sympathizers. All the time it was necessary to fight back, to drive them back to drive them out of the area they occupied. This lasted for several days.

“Finally, after many days of fierce, bloody battles, our regiment was given a reprieve. The situation was terrible: it was no longer a brave military regiment, but a group of tortured, tired men, who were barely alive. Their tunic collars were unfastened, their belts loose and dangling, their legs weak. Many, shuffled their feet as they walked, raising dust along the way. Some held on to each other so as not to fall, others fell from sheer exhaustion. The heat was pestering, terrible, we were thirsty, our mouths dry, and not a drop of water to be had – all the reserves had run out.

“The sky is clear, blue, not a cloud to be seen. The sun burns mercilessly. Suddenly a loud piercing cry is heard:

“Look at the sky!” Everyone instantly woke up, stopped, raised their heavy heads, and the following vision appeared before them: a large white disk appeared in the sky, and on it appears the profile of the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II, very clear and precise.

“Everyone froze at the sight of this wonderful phenomenon. Then, raising their hands to the sky, they began to desperately shout: “Tsar! Sovereign, Father Tsar!” … And then they knelt down and began to pray earnestly and ask: “Tsar … Sovereign … Father Tsar, help us, pray for us …” It is hard to say how long this vision lasted, but it seemed for a long time. Then gradually the vision began to turn pale and completely disappeared. It became the same blue sky, without a single cloud to be seen.

“Suddenly a command was heard: “Get up! Be strong! Attention! March!” Everyone immediately came to life and walked with a brisk military step. Faces were cheerful, joyful. Everything was forgotten: thirst, hunger, heat, fatigue. All the while their eyes were fixed on the sky and in a whisper they said: “He is here! … With us … He prays for us!”.

“When the excitement subsided, the men began asking questions: “What year is it?”. . . “Year? It is the nineteenth …” . . . “And what is the month and day?” . . . “July” . . . After continuous heavy battles the men had lost track of time. The rebirth of these men, tormented by heat, fatigue, thirst, barely alive – into a group of healthy, strong and vigorous combat soldiers, how can this be explained? How is this not fiction, a dream, or an hallucination! I myself was a witness to everything seen and heard.

“Maybe, and probably, there is still someone alive who saw and was present at this miracle, I ask them to respond and confirm. And to add, if that I forgot, missed. Please remind!

“Many decades have since passed. But every year in the month of July, I am nervous and terribly worried, as if all this happened yesterday. The whole vision of what happened clearly stands before my eyes, which have long been senile. And back then, in 1919 I was 23 years old …

“I personally am sure that this miraculous phenomenon and occurred precisely on July 17, when the Tsar seemed to say goodbye forever to his beloved troops.”

© Paul Gilbert. 12 July 2020

Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Three Hands”

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The Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Three Hands” is located
in the Upper Church of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg

Today, 11th July, the feast of the Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Three Hands”, was celebrated in the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg. The icon belonged to the Tsar’s family, who venerated it during their imprisonment in the Ipatiev House in 1918. It remained in their possession until the very last minutes of their earthly life.

This image was found after the regicide in the Ipatiev House. It was later carried out of Russia by a member of the Kolchak army. The icon proceeded through China to the United States of America and Canada, and in the early 1920s, through the efforts of the officers devoted to the sovereign, it was transferred to the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. The icon remained in the circle of the Romanov family, passing from generation to generation until 2003.

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The Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Three Hands” which belonged to the Imperial Family

In July 2003, the wife of the emperor’s nephew Olga Nikolaevna Kulikovskaya (1926-2020) solemnly presented the Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Three Hands” to the Church on the Blood, built on the site of the murder of the Holy Royal Martyrs, and thus fulfilled the death wish of her husband Tikhon Nikolaevich Kulikovsky (1917-1993), who owned the family heirloom for many decades.

By the Providence of God it was arranged that the icon arrived on 10th July 2003 for the evening liturgy on the eve of the feast of the Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Three Hands”.

With the feast of the Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Three Hands” the Tsar’s Days officially begins. A Divine Liturgy will be performed this evening in the Church on the Blood by Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhotursky. Beginning today, we will remember the final days and the last moments of the earthly life of the Holy Royal Martyrs.

© Paul Gilbert. 11 July 2020