Railway station the Imperial Family went into exile from to be a cultural heritage site

PHOTO: Early 20th century view of the Aleksandrovskaya Railway Station in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin)

A proposal has been made to designate the Alexandrovskaya Railway Station in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin) as a cultural heritage site. It was from this station, that the Imperial Family went into exile on 14th (O.S. 1st) August 1917.

The idea, however, is already under attack by the Committee for State Control, Use and Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments (KGIOP), who refuse to recognize the historic Aleksandrovskaya Railway Station in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin) as a cultural heritage site.

Residents of both the village of Aleksandrovskaya and the city of St. Petersburg wasted little time in launching a petition addressed to the Committee chairman Sergei Makarov, as well as the Governor of Saint Petersburg Alexander Beglov, as well as to the local branch of the United Russia Party.

The petition notes that Aleksandrovskaya is located in the Pushkin district of St. Petersburg and has existed since the time of Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855). The station was built in the 1860s – on the St. Petersburg – Luga line – according to a standard design developed by the architect Pyotr Onufrievich Salmonovich (1833-1898).

The author of the appeal believes that the decision of the KGIOP does not correspond with the interests of the citizens of Alexandrovskaya in preserving the cultural heritage, historical appearance and aesthetics in and around St. Petersburg. The signatories demand to overrule the decision of the KGIOP and include the Aleksandrovskaya Railway Station in the list of cultural heritage sites. The petition has already received 26 thousand signatures!

PHOTO: Early 20th century view of memorial chapel to Alexander II,
Demolished by the Bolsheviks in 1949

Local historians recall that in 1867 Emperor Alexander II, was solemnly greeted here, after surviving an assassination attempt in France,. On 25th May 1868, in the presence of the Emperor and members of the Imperial Family, a stone chapel was consecrated “In memory of the miraculous salvation of the life of Emperor Alexander II by the Grace of God. The fanatic A. Berezovsky committed an attempt on his life.” The chapel was based on the design of the architect Alexander Fomich Vidov (1829-1896). In 1923, the chapel was closed, the building was converted into a storage room. On 10th January 1949, the chapel was demolished by the Bolsheviks.

It was also from this station, that Emperor Nicholas II and his family went into exile in the summer of 1917 – it would be their final rail journey.

PHOTO: In 2011, this cross memorial was installed on the preserved plinth of the demolished stone chapel


On the morning of 14 August (O.S. 1), 1917, the former Tsar and his family left the Alexander Palace for the last time. They exited from the Semicircular Hall of the palace, and travelled by car to the Alexandrovskaya Station – the most remote of the three railway stations in Tsarskoye Selo.

Two special trains – which were provided by the leader of the Provisional Government Alexander Kerensky – awaited the Imperial Family and their retinue at the station. The train was a luxurious and comfortable wagons-lits of the International Sleeping Car Company – not the sort of train one would expect to transport “prisoners”.

The train featured a restaurant car stocked with wines from the Imperial cellar, and baggage compartments filled with trunks and suitcases, favourite rugs, pictures and knickknacks collected from the Imperial Family’s private apartments in the Alexander Palace .

In their portable jewel chests, the Empress and her daughters brought personal gems worth at least a million rubles ($500,000 USD).

In addition to the ladies and gentlemen of their suite, the Imperial Family was accompanied by two valets, six chambermaids, ten footmen, three cooks, four assistant cooks, a butler, a wine steward, a nurse, a clerk, a barber, and two pet spaniels.

All were under the watchful eye of Colonel Eugene Kobylinsky (1875-1927) and his guards, who also rode in the same train as the Imperial Family. Most of Kobylinsky’s 330 soldiers and 6 officers followed in a second train.

Source: Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie (1967)

The trains departed the Alexandrovsky Station at 5:50 am, on the morning of 14 August (O.S. 1), 1917, bound for the town of Tobolsk in Siberia. Less than a year later, Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their five children would accept their martyrdom in Ekaterinburg.

PHOTO: In 2018, a memorial plaque in memory of the Imperial family’s
departure into exile was unveiled at the Alexandrovskaya Railway Station

The Alexandrovskaya Station has survived to the present day. It is situated 5.7 km from the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin). It offers a couple of sites which will be of interest to any one who shares an interest in the life and reign of Russia’s last tsar and his family.

On 11th August 2011, a memorial in the form of a cross was installed bearing the image of Emperor Nicholas II, on the preserved plinth of the stone chapel which had been dismantled by the Bolsheviks in 1949. The inscription in Russian reads “Emperor Nicholas II. Grateful Russia”. On 14th April 2021, the parish of the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in the village of Aleksandrovskaya, made a formal request to the Committee for Property Relations of St. Petersburg, to hand over the foundation of the chapel. The parish has plans to reconstruct the memorial chapel.

On 14th August 2018, a memorial plaque in memory of Emperor Nicholas II and his family was unveiled on the outside wall of railway station building in the village of Alexandrovskaya. The English translation of the plaque reads:

14 August 1917
at 5:50 am
Sovereign Nikolai Alexandrovich
his family, and retinue
were sent into exile by the Provisional Government
From the Alexandrovskaya Station to Tobolsk

The Alexandrovskaya Station can be reached by commuter train from the Baltic Railway Station in St. Petersburg. If you are visiting Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin), it can be reached by bus from the main station or by taxi.

© Paul Gilbert. 19 April 2021

The fate of the obelisk to Nicholas II in Kaluga

PHOTO: The obelisk erected in memory of the visit of Emperor Nicholas II to Kaluga
in 1904, was erected in 1908, and demolished by the Bolsheviks in the 1920s.

By the late spring of 1904, the Russo-Japanese War was already in full swing. In an effort to boost morale, Emperor Nicholas II personally went to Kaluga to inspect the garrison.

The Emperor arrived on the Imperial Train in Kaluga on 20th (O.S. 7) May 1904, accompanied by his brother Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, and their uncle Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich.

Upon arrival, the Emperor stepped off the Imperial Train and mounted a horse given to him by the Kaluga military. Accompanied by the Grand Dukes and his retinue, they proceeded to the town’s military field, where the Kaluga garrison had assembled for inspection, before being sent to defend Russia during the Russo-Japanese War. The garrison included the 9th Ingermanland Infantry Regiment, the 10th Newlingermanland Infantry Regiment and the 31st Cavlary Artillery Brigade.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II arrives on the Imperial Train
in Kaluga on 20th (O.S. 7) May 1904

Nicholas II headed for the line of troops who awaited him. The commander of the division presented the Emperor with his combat report, the troops stood at attention, music played, and the military slowly lowered their banners in front of their Sovereign. Nicholas followed the front line with his retinue and greeted each military unit separately. The orchestra played the Imperial anthem God, Save the Tsar!, which prompted enthusiastic shouts of “Hurrah!” from the regiments.

The Emperor then stood in front of the pavilion, at which point the troops marched past in front of him in a ceremonial march. Then the officers were gathered, the Sovereign questioned those who had already participated in the war. After that he granted each with an icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker and made a parting speech to the troops.

The tsar wrote in his diary that night: “We arrived at a field near Kaluga, where the 9th Ingermanland Infantry Regiments, the 10th Newermanland Regiments, the 31st Cavlary Artillery Brigade. and two flying artillery regiments were lined up. Due of the rains over the past few days, the field had turned into a swamp. Despite this, it did not deter the troops.”

PHOTOS: Emperor Nicholas II, Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, and Grand Duke
Sergei Alexandrovich, leave the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kaluga

In 1907, Kaluga Governor Alexander Alexandrovich Ofrosimov proposed to erect a monument- an obelisk in honour of this event. The laying took place on 29th June 1907, the unveiling and consecration was held three days later on 30th July 1908. The monument to Nicholas II was the first monument to appear in the Kaluga region.

The fourteen-meter obelisk was made of granite blocks, and crowned with a bronze double-headed eagle made of bronze by S.A. Pozhiltsov). The pedestal featured a commemorative plaque, which included the names of the Kaluga officers who participated in the Russo-Japanese War. Many of these men died during the war, therefore, the monument became a memorial to those Kaluga officers and soldiers who perished in 1904-1905. The composition was complemented by two cast-iron cannons at the base.

The obelisk was demolished by the Bolsheviks in the 1920s, who regarded the monument as a reminder of Tsarism.

The idea of restoring the obelisk for the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 2013 was considered, but it was not implemented. Instead, a bust of Nicholas II was installed in the Central Park of Culture and Leisure in Kaluga on July 31, 2016.

© Paul Gilbert. 17 April 2021

Nicholas II historic figurines

Collecting historical figures, miniatures and toy soldiers is a hobby which dates back hundreds of years.

Faberge in particular were famous for their miniature figures. The figures were typically only 25–75 mm long or wide, with some larger and more rare figurines reaching 140–200 mm tall, and were collected throughout the world; the British Royal family has over 250 items in the Royal Collection.

In 2013, a Faberge Cossack guard figurine sold for $5.2 million US dollars.

Toy soldiers in particular have probably been around as long as real soldiers. But mass-produced toy soldiers only date to the 1890s, when new manufacturing techniques made them inexpensive to produce and collect.

It was very common for male members of the Russian Imperial Family to have entire collections of miniature soldiers, including Nicholas II’s son Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich.

During the last 30 years, more and more figures of Russia’s emperors and empresses has become increasingly popular. There are a growing number of figures of Nicholas II, which vary in likeness, size and price.

I have assembled a small collection of photographs of some of the more higher quality figures. Few are sold in shops, but through dealers and artists – all of whom live in Russia – who hand paint each figure ordered. I will add additional photos as they become available.

Disclaimer: please note that this post is for information purposes only. I am not promoting or endorsing any particular figure or its respective artist – PG

The figures of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and Metropolitan Palladium of St. Petersburg (seen in the photo below) are mounted on a wooden box. The composition was made in memory of their Coronation, held on Tuesday, 14th May 1896 in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.

This work of art by a contemporary Russian artist embodies this historic event in great detail. The figurines of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna have been recreated and painted from the historic painting by Danish artist Laurits Tuxen (1853-1927). Made of tin and beech wood, size: 22 x 23 x 20 cm.

© Paul Gilbert. 17 April 2021

Historic chandeliers installed in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: Chandelier for the Reception Room of Nicholas II

According to a press release from the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum, workers have now completed the restoration and recreation of the historic interiors of the private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace.

Objects for the decoration of the interiors are now being moved into the palace. One of the first items of decoration to take their place are the lighting fixtures. Many of the graceful chandeliers and lanterns created in the St. Petersburg workshops during the 18th to 19th centuries have been preserved in the historical collection of the museum for more than a century.

PHOTO © Tsarskoe Selo State Museum-Reserve

Among the lamps characteristic of the era of Catherine II’s reign, one can distinguish chandeliers of the late 18th century by their crystal headgear and coloured glass; their main feature is a multitude of faceted pendants of various shapes, connected in garlands, crystal obelisks and a “fountain” crowning the chandelier, reminiscent of a column of water … Such chandeliers adorn the Empress’s Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Alexandra Feodorovna’s Corner Reception Room and the Large Library.

PHOTO © Tsarskoe Selo State Museum-Reserve

Among the unique lighting fixtures s is a chandelier from the Reception Room of Nicholas II. This interior was designed by the architect Roman Melzer in 1895-1896: walls and ceiling are finished with oak panels and furniture ordered from the F. Melzer & Co. factory. An electric chandelier was installed, with twelve bulbs in the form of a hanging openwork rim on six chains with hemispherical shades decorated with a fringe of yellow beads. The chandelier was not evacuated during the war years and remained in its place for almost a hundred years: it was removed in 1997. In 2015, specialists of the Yuzhakova Studio workshop in St. Petersburg carried out a restoration of the chandelier, which involved cleaning the metal surface, replaced the lost beads and installed new electrical wiring.

PHOTO © Tsarskoe Selo State Museum-Reserve

The pride of the collection are three chandeliers for a hundred candles each – from the State Halls of the Alexander Palace, which have been preserved in the museum’s funds. In 1796, an order for the production of eight identical chandeliers according to the design of the architect Giacomo Quarenghi was received by the St. Petersburg bronze-maker Johann Zech. They were intended for the St. George Hall of the Winter Palace. The master managed to make only three chandeliers, which adorned one of the halls of the Mikhailovsky Castle; subsequently they were transferred to the Alexander Palace. An interesting fact is that the “Karengiev” chandeliers were made for 50 candles each, but in 1829 the number of horns was increased to one hundred for better lighting of the halls. These large two-tiered chandeliers with ruby ​​glass balusters will take their historical place after the completion of the restoration of the central building of the palace.

Click HERE to read my article Restoration of Lighting Fixtures for the Alexander Palace, published on 16th December 2020

© Paul Gilbert. 14 April 2021


Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in the Spring of 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Maple Drawing Room, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II, showcasing the private, domestic life of the Russian monarchs who used the palace as an official residence. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family. The multi-museum complex, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.


Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, 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 GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. The net proceeds help fund my work, including research, translations, etc. Thank you for your consideration – PG

What if Nicholas II had lived …

I found this image on a Russian site earlier this week. I am not ascribing to any conspiracy theory that Nicholas II survived the regicide in Ekaterinburg in 1918.

I was so impressed by this age enhanced photograph of the Emperor, that I wanted to share it on my blog. Personally, I think it a very good likeness!

An unknown person created it, used FaceApp and Photoshop to create this colour image of what Nicholas II might have looked in 1936, at the age of 68.

It is sad to think what could have been. A handsome and urbane gentleman with a truly pure heart. Now glorified in Heaven, our Blessed Holy Tsar-Martyr

© Paul Gilbert. 13 April 2021

Taininskoye: the site of Russia’s greatest monument to Nicholas II

PHOTO: the first monument to Nicholas II was consecrated 26th May 1996
in the former village of Taininskoye, situated 19 km northeast of Moscow

Like his father, Nicholas II preferred Russia’s old capital to that of Peter the Great’s new modern capital. According to French historian Marc Ferro: “Nicholas II preferred Moscow to St. Petersburg because the old city embodied the past, whereas St. Petersburg represented modernity, the Enlightenment and atheism.”

During his reign, Nicholas expressed the desire to spend Holy Week in the former Russian capital, and it was here, during the coronation festivities in 1896 and the Romanov Tercentennary in 1913, Moscow’s fervent greeting to their Tsar confirmed his feeling for the city.

Today, Moscow is home to at least a dozen monuments and busts to Russia’s last emperor and tsar. Among them are five large-scale monuments, including (1) the monument established in September 2016 at the Moscow State Transport University; (2) the monument established in October 2013 to Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich and Emperor Nicholas II in the Novospassky Monastery; (3) the monument established in 1998 on the grounds of the Church of the Royal Passion-Bearers in the Pleshcheevo estate (in Podolsk); and (4) the magnificent equestrian monument to Nicholas II, established on the grounds of the Ministry of Defense on the Frunze Embankment. In addition, are a number of bust-monuments established at various locations in and around Moscow.

PHOTO: the first monument to Nicholas II nearing completion in 1996

The finest and most impressive full-scale monument to Nicholas II has to be the one erected in the former village of Taininskoye [the village was incorporated in the Mytishchi district of the Moscow region in 1961], situated 19 km northeast of Moscow.

Like the fate of the Sovereign, the monument has a tragic history, having been the target of extremists in 1997. However, the monuments’ sculptor Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Klykov (1938-2006) replaced it in 2000.

According to the sculptor’s son Andrey Klykov, the monument was supposed to be erected on Borovitsky Hill in central Moscow. The project had the support of Yuri Luzhkov, who served as mayor at the time. Members of the city’s Communist party were outraged at the idea, so the project was pulled.

Klykov was offered another site in Mytishchi, near the site of a former royal traveling palace [built in 1749 for Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, it was destroyed by fire in 1823]. The site was situated near the 11th century Church of the Annunciation of the Holy Mother of God [built in 1675-1677]. As it turned out, due to the smaller number of approvals and red tape, the monument was easier to install on the church grounds, and had the support of the diocese.

PHOTO: the sculptor Vyacheslav Klykov stands in front of his monument
to Nicholas II, destroyed on 1st April 1997 by left-wing extremists

The opening of the monument was timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the coronation of the last Russian Tsar (held in Moscow on 26 May (O.S. 14 May) 1896.

On the morning of 1st April 1997, at 05:25 am, the monument was blown up by members of the left-wing extremist organization Revvoensovet [named after the Revolutionary Military Council of 1918]. Their reason, was their opposition to a proposal to remove Lenin’s corpse from the mausoleum in Red Square.

On 31st August 2006, The Moscow City Court found Igor Gubkin, a member of the Revvoensovet (RVS) extremist group, guilty of organizing and committing a number of explosions in Moscow, and sentenced to 19 years in prison.

After the explosion, Klykov, a staunch monarchist, donated his personal money from the fee he had been paid for the monument to General Zhukov [erected in Moscow in 1995]. When asked why, Klykov replied sternly: “If at one time the Russian people could not protect their tsar, now, believe me, we will do it!”

The monument that we see today in the village of Tayninskoye, was installed on 20th August 2000 on the site of the first monument. The erection of the second monument was timed to coincide with the canonization of the Tsar [the Moscow Patriarchate canonized Nicholas II on 20 August 2000].

Klykov forged his new monument from copper. The Emperor stands proudly, dressed in ermine robes, holding a sceptre and orb. The sculpture reflects the moment of his greatest triumph – his accession to the throne. The inscription on the monument read: “To the Emperor Nicholas II from the Russian people with repentance”.

The monument has become a popular place of pilgrimage for Russian monarchists and nationalists, who believe that only “repentance for the murder of Tsar Nicholas II will lead to the salvation of Holy Russia”

On 19th May 2018, members of the All-Russian public movement “National Idea of ​​Russia” and the Kuban Cossacks laid flowers at the monument to Emperor Nicholas II in the village of Taininskoye (Mytishchi). The event marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of Nicholas II, on 19th (O.S. 6th) May 1896, in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.

PHOTO: Klykov’s second monument to Nicholas II was cast
in bronze, it was opened on the same site in August 2000

Klykov was determined not to be threatened or bullied by thugs and radicals. Thanks to his efforts and determination, Orthodox Christians, monarchists and adherents to Russia’s last monarch, today have the opportunity to honour the memory of the Tsar, to offer flowers and prayers, but also to reflect on the life and reign of Russia’s much slandered Sovereign.


PHOTO: Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Klykov (1938-2006)

Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Klykov was born on 19th October 1939, in the village of Marmyzhi, Kursk Region.

In the second half of the 1980s, Klykov’s work focused on Orthodox-patriotic themes. During his life, he created more than two hundred monuments: memorial plaques and crosses. In addition, he created numerous works for other cities across Russia, but also in Ukraine, Greece and Italy.

One of his greatest works was a monument to St. Sergius of Radonezh, inspired by the painting by MV Nesterov “Vision to the youth Bartholomew”. The monument was installed on 29th May 1988, in the village of Gorodok (Radonezh) near the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. He also created a monument to Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna in the Martha-Mariinsky Convent in Moscow.

Vyacheslav Klykov died on 2nd June 2006 in Moscow. He was buried in his native village.

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

© Paul Gilbert. 13 April 2021

Obituary: Ivan Sergeevich Artsishevsky (1950-2021)

PHOTO: Ivan Sergeevich Artsishevsky (1950-2021)

The former Director of the Romanov Family Association in Russia, died today in St. Petersburg, at the age of 71. He may be best known as the head of the working group on the reburial of Emperor Nicholas II and his family in 1998.

Ivan Artsishevsky was born in 1950 in China into a family of the first wave of Russian emigrants who fled Russia following the 1917 Revolution. In 1953, the Artsishevsky family moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where, at the age of 7, he attended a Brazilian school, where teaching was conducted in Portuguese, which at the time, he spoke better than Russian.

In 1967, the Artsishevsky was allowed to enter the USSR, to Chelyabinsk, and receive Soviet citizenship. Later, the family moved to Riga, where Artsishevsky graduated from the Faculty of Mathematics of the University. After moving to Leningrad, he worked for Intourist, a Russian tour operator, founded in 1929 and served as the primary travel agency for foreign tourists in the Soviet Union.

In 1991, he held the first Congress of Compatriots in Leningrad.

In 1998, he served as head of the working group on the reburial of Emperor Nicholas II, his family and servants. Thanks to his dedication and hard work, five members of the Imperial Family – Nicholas II, Alexandra Feodorovna, three of their five children: Olga, Tatiana and Anastasia, as well as their four faithful retainers were buried in the St. Catherine’s Chapel [a side chapel of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral] in St. Petersburg. Some 50 Romanov descendants, from all corners of the world attended the historic ceremony. The only members of the Romanov family who did not attend, were Maria Vladimirovna, her son George Mikhailovich and her mother Leonida Georgievna. At the time, they collectively refused to recognize the Ekaterinburg remains as authentic, a position which Maria and her son hold fast to this day.

He then became the Director of the Romanov Family Association in Russia, a position he held until his death. At the same time, he was appointed head of the state protocol department of the St. Petersburg administration (committee for external relations), where he was responsible for organizing and conducting numerous visits of heads of state and government to our city. Received letters of gratitude from French president Jacques Chirac, US president George W. Bush, British prime minister Tony Blair among others.

In 2006, Ivan Artsishevsky organized the School of Protocol and Etiquette, the first licensed institution of its kind in Russia, one which reflected the growing interest in the topic of the culture and business communications.

PHOTO: Artsishevsky with Prince Dimitri Romanovich 1926-2016

Artsishevsky was recognized as one of Russia’s leading etiquette and protocol experts. As representative of the Romanov Family Association in Russia, he organized their visits and accompanied members of the Dynasty on protocol trips. He was a member of the International Club of Petersburgers and the Union of Russian Nobles in Paris, gave popular lectures and conducted webinars. From 2015 he also collaborated with the Russian National Library. In recent years, he served as Vice-President of the Federation of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers of Russia.

Artsishevsky devoted his whole life of service to the Motherland and St. Petersburg. His deep knowledge of history, cultural traditions and diplomatic talent greatly served the government of St. Petersburg for many years. In the sphere of state etiquette, “he had no equal,” said the governor of St. Petersburg, Alexander Beglov, expressing his condolences to the family and friends of Artsishevsky.

On a personal note, I would like to add, that it was Ivan Sergeevich Artsishevsky who made it possible for me to attend the funeral of Emperor Nicholas II in St. Petersburg, on 17th July 1998. For that, I will always be grateful – PG

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

© Paul Gilbert. 7 April 2021

104 years on, Orthodox Church still split over murdered tsar’s remains

PHOTO: remains of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, Ekaterinburg 1998

In 2018, the centenary of the murder of Russia’s last tsar reignited a long-running conflict between the state and the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) over what to do with the remains of the murdered Russian Imperial Family.

On the night of 16/17 July 2018, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’, led a cross procession in Ekaterinburg marking 100 years since the Bolsheviks shot dead Tsar Nicholas II, his family and four faithful retainers.

But the ROC — dominated by hard-liners — still remains divided over the authenticity of the remains of the family, whose members were all canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate on 20 August 2000 [Nicholas II and his family were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia on 1 November 1981].

Sadly, the Russian state failed to make any official commemorations of what is surely one of the darkest pages in 20th century Russian history. It was not until the following year, on 17th July 2019, that Russia’s State Duma for the first time observed a minute of silence in memory of the last Russian emperor Nicholas II and all those killed in the Civil War (1917-1922).

In 1998, then-president Boris Yeltsin’s government buried bone fragments, first found in 1979, that were identified as those of Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra Feodorovna and three of their daughters: Olga, Tatiana and Anastasia. The burial, attended by more than 50 Romanov descendants, took place in St. Catherine’s Chapel [a side chapel in the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral] in St. Petersburg. But 23 years later, the ROC still refuses to accept DNA tests confirming their authenticity.

The ROC also does not recognize the remains of the tsar’s other children Alexei and Maria, whose bodies were separated from the others and found in 2007. The government has failed to reach an agreement with the ROC on burying them. For years, the boxes containing 44 bone fragments remained on dusty shelves in the Russian State Archives. In December 2015, their remains were transferred to the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow, where they remain to this day.

The ROC maintains that the Bolsheviks put the burnt bodies of their 11 victims in a pit in a forest in the Urals region, where the ROC has built a large monastery complex: the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama.

In 1998, the late Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008) snubbed a state funeral for Nicholas II’s bones in the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg. He sent a bishop to bury them as “unknown remains” instead.

Officially, the Patriarchate said there was not enough evidence to accept DNA test results and accused the government of sidelining the Church.

PHOTO: An unidentified specialist places the skull of Nicholas II in a coffin, on 15th July 1998, in Ekaterinburg

“Nobody really knows what happened because everyone who was involved is no longer here,” said Ksenia Luchenko, an expert on the Russian Orthodox Church, commenting on the dispute.

She speculates that tensions could stem from a “personal conflict” between the ROC and state officials.

Liberal-leaning priest Andrei Kurayev noted that the ROC opted to believe a version of the killings favoured by anti-Bolshevik forces during the Civil War in the wake of the revolution.

“Over 20 years, it grew into a huge conspiracy theory,” Luchenko said.

One version says that Soviet Union founder Vladimir Lenin kept Nicholas II’s head in his office, another that the tsar’s youngest children, Alexei and Maria, somehow survived and lived abroad.

Tikhon Shevkunov — the senior cleric put in charge of the ROC investigation who is reportedly close to President Vladimir Putin — raised the possibility of a “ritual killing,” implying that Jews murdered the ex-tsar. He denied anti-Semitism.

Father Kurayev said such interpretations are common inside a Church now dominated by ultra-conservatives.

“Church circles that had good relations with science were sidelined after the Pussy Riot scandal” in 2012, he said, referring to Russia’s jailing of two punk activists over an anti-Putin stunt in a Moscow church.

The case was a huge boost for the ROC, and its radical wing has been growing stronger “by the day” since, said Kurayev.

Patriarch Kirill is “scared” of recognizing the remains, fearing a backlash from ultra-conservatives, many of whom have not forgiven him for shaking hands with Pope Francis in 2016, Kurayev said.

Church issues — including the question of Nicholas II’s remains — have become “politicized” under Patriarch Kirill, said Roman Lunkin, a religion expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

In 2017, “Matilda,” a Russian feature film about Nicholas’s pre-marital love affair with a ballerina, sparked a violent backlash from radical Orthodox activists.

PHOTO: Paul Gilbert (far right) joins 50 Romanov descendants, at the funeral of Nicholas II, in St. Petersburg on 17th July 1998

“It showed that Nicholas II is a figure who can divide Orthodox society,” something the Patriarch wants to avoid, Lunkin said.

Luchenko said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “less interested” in burying the ex-imperial family’s remains while his predecessor Yeltsin saw it as “personal repentance.”

Putin “does not worship Nicholas II. His heroes are Alexander III and Alexander Nevsky,” she said, referring to Nicholas II’s father and a 13th-century leader.

Nonetheless, she called the dispute an “uncomfortable situation” for Putin, who has positioned himself as a close ally of the ROC.

“It somehow frustrates (the Kremlin),” she said, adding that authorities want to “draw a line under this situation.”

In 2015, at the Church’s request, Russia reopened its criminal investigation into the remains of the Imperial Family, which included the exhumation of the remains of Emperor Alexander III.

Ahead of the centenary in 2018, some Russian newspapers were asking when Patriarch Kirill would finally recognize the remains.

On the eve of the centenary of the regicide, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation concluded that the so-called Ekaterinburg Remains, where indeed those of Nicholas II, his family and their retainers.

But six years on, the ROC have remain silent. “The ROC has not formulated a position on the results of the investigation,” Patriarch Kirill said.

Father Kurayev accused the Church of not wanting to make the results public, suggesting they match previous tests.

“They made a mistake with the science and now they are reluctant to take a step back,” he concluded.

Click HERE to read 7 additional articles and interviews about the Ekaterinburg Remains

© Paul Gilbert. 6 April 2021

The fate of the Tsarskoye Selo Palace Hospital cave church

PHOTO: The cave church at the Palace Hospital, Tsarskoye Selo

In March 1915, the churches at the Palace Hospital at Tsarskoye Selo: the upper one – the Church of Sorrow (in the name of the icon of the Mother of God) and the lower one – Church of Tsar Constantine and Helena – were transferred from the diocesan department to the Court, in which they remained a part of until 1917.

Work on the construction of the unique lower church at the Palace Hospital began in the summer of 1913. Its creation was made possible thanks to a donation of 10,000 rubles by the St. Petersburg Orthodox merchant of French origin Jacob Rode.

According to the decision of the Construction Committee, the church was planned in the style of the ancient “cave” churches of the 5th-6th centuries. The Russian Court architect Silvio Danini (1867-1942) and Sergei Nikolayevich Vilchkovsky (1871-1934) received permission from the director of the Imperial Hermitage, Count Dmitry Ivanovich Tolstoy (1860-1941), to familiarize themselves with the literature, photographs and art samples of early Christian buildings in the imperial library to carry out their work.

The main feature of the cave church was the unusual altar barrier, which replaced the iconostasis. Two marble pillars, which displayed the icons of the Saviour and the Mother of God, had low latticed doors. Behind them, across the entire width of the vault, was a purple curtain with embroidered ornaments of yellow silk in two tones. The sketches of the utensils were ordered from Sergei Vashkov, the icons from Nikolai Emelyanov, both in Moscow.

PHOTO: Architect’s drawing of the Altar barrier (above); and
cross section of the cave church (below). 1913

An altar cross made of gilded metal with multi-coloured stones was inserted into the wall, and the head of Christ was depicted above it. From the northern part of the barrier in front of the apse there was an altar, from the southern – a paralytic (teaching chapel), in which the Byzantine queens listened to the liturgy in ancient times. In the paralytic there was an armchair for the empress; near the apse arch were armchairs for the emperor and the patriarch.

Empress Alexandra Feodorovna wrote on 21st October 1914 to Nicholas II: “We went to inspect the small cave church located under the old palace hospital, there was a church there in the time of Catherine II. It was arranged to commemorate the 300th anniversary [of the Romanov dynasty]. The church is absolutely charming. Everything in it was selected by Vilchkovsky in the purest and most ancient Byzantine style, perfectly sustained. You must see it. The consecration will take place on Sunday at 10 o’clock, and we will take there those of our officers and soldiers who can already move independently. There are tables with the designation of the names of the wounded, who died in all our Tsarskoye Selo hospitals, as well as the officers who received the St. George’s Crosses or the Golden Weapon for Bravery.”

The consecration of the church, however, did not take place until 26th October 1914.

On the eve of this event, before the all-night vigil, Vilchkovsky presented the empress with a report describing the cave church. At the same time, Alexandra Feodorovna “… ordered to turn the lower church into a monument to the heroic deeds of mercy, treatment and charity of those soldiers wounded during the war and to record on the walls with the inscribed names of all the soldiers who passed through the hospitals of the Tsarskoye Selo region and were awarded for military distinctions as well as the wounds of the deceased.”

During the First World War, a pavilion was built in the garden of the hospital according to Danini’s project, for 30 wounded officers of Her Majesty’s Own Infirmary No. 3, paid out of the empress’s personal funds. Until her arrest in February 1917, the empress worked as an operating nurse in the infirmary, assisting the surgeon Vera Giedroyc, with the assistance of her two eldest daughters Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana Nikolaevna.

PHOTO: A plaque dedicated to Empress Alexandra and her daughters, Grand
Duchesses Olga and Tatiana Nikolaevna for their contribution from 1914-1917

The church was closed in 1933. Today, practically nothing remains of it, most of its of the interior decoration and contents, have been lost. Only individual elements have survived, in particular, a lamp, an icon lamp and candlesticks, which are today in the collection of the Museum of the History of Religion in St. Petersburg.

During Soviet times, the hospital was renamed the city hospital No. 38 named after N. A. Semashko. In recent years, a plaque honouring Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana Nikolaevna was erected on the grounds of the hospital. Sadly, the church has not been restored.

© Paul Gilbert. 3 April 2021

Roman Melzer: architect and designer of the Alexander Palace interiors

PHOTO: Roman Fedorovich (Robert Friedrich) Melzer (1860-1943)

Roman Fedorovich (Robert Friedrich) Melzer was born in St. Petersburg, on 1st April (O.S. 30th March) 1860. He was the eldest son of the coachman Johann Friedrich Meltzer (1831-1923), who later became the owner of his own furniture factory, and Sophie Christine Meltzer – nee Tatzky (1837-1915).

At the age of thirteen, Roman Meltser entered the St. Petersburg Commercial School, after graduation he continued his studies at the Academy of Arts. In 1888 he received the title of class artist of the first degree in architecture. One of his early projects was the front gate and ramp fences of the Winter Palace, created in collaboration with Nikolai Alexandrovich Gornostaev. In the late 1890s – early 1900s, Melzer worked on the construction of the Emmanuel Nobel (1801-1872) mansion in St. Petersburg.

In 1900 he was appointed chief architect of the Russian exhibition pavilions at the World Exhibition in Paris. The main building, the Pavillon des Confins Russes, looked like an old Russian town, complete with a bell tower. The architecture resonated with the images of the Moscow Kremlin. This ensemble, unusual for a European capital, was located just fifty meters from the Trocadero Palace.

Roman Melzer took part in the decoration of the interiors of numerous imperial palaces: the Winter Palace and Anitchkov Palace in St. Petersburg; Livadia Palace in Crimea; and the Cottage Palace in Peterhof. Among the buildings created according to his designs, included his own dacha on Kamenny Island (1901-1904), the building of the Orthopedic Institute (1902-1906), the palace of the Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich (1910-1913), the complex of buildings of the Psychoneurological Institute (1910-1913), among many others.

PHOTO: Colour autochrome of the Emperor’s Reception Room taken in 1917

At the end of 1894-1895, the renovation of the interiors of the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo began. Roman Melzer was invited to prepare the personal apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the eastern wing of the building. The work took place in several stages. The first interiors created were: the Dining Room (later known as the Reception Room) and the Working Study on the Emperor’s half of the wing, as well as the Imperial Bedchamber, the Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room and the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room on the Empress’s half.

In the Emperor’s Reception Room, the walls were decorated with oak panels, and above they were covered with printed fabric. The interior decoration included a corner fireplace made of oak, trimmed with dark green marble. In the upper part of the windows, the architect used stained glass. The F. Meltzer & Co. in St. Petersburg, which was co-owned by Roman Melzer, produced a set of furniture for the room, which included a sofa with two folding tables, a round table for tea, a dining table consisting of a table and twenty-four chairs, a serving table, and a snack table.

PHOTO: the Working Study of Nicholas II

At the same time, the Working Study of Nicholas II was in progress. The interior was designed in the English style, with walls painted in dark red at the top and walnut panels on the bottom. The room featured a large ottoman, in imitation of the cabinet of Alexander III, as well as an L-shaped writing table.

The Imperial Bedchamber was also renovated according to the architect’s project. The furniture, which was preserved from the previous decoration (a bedroom prepared in 1874 for the marriage of Alexander II’s daughter Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna to the Duke of Edinburgh), was repainted in white and draped with English chintz, and a pattern of wreaths of small pink flowers and ribbons. The same fabric was also used to make the curtains and alcove curtains for the room.

Roman Melzer also created the interior for the Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room, which was to become one of the Empress’s favorite interiors. Here the walls were upholstered in mauve silk and crowned with a frieze bearing an iris flower pattern, furniture and a piano painted with ivory enamel paint. Some of the pieces of furniture were built-in, connected to the panels, forming comfortable corners.

PHOTO: Colour autochrome of the Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room taken in 1917

Melzer was engaged in the creation of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room, which was located next to the Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room. Rosewood was chosen for decorating the wall panels and fireplace. The upper part of the walls was covered with a simple yet elegant yellowish silk fabric.

During this period, the children’s half on the second floor began to take shape, as the emperor’s family gradually grew and the “august children” needed their own bedrooms and classrooms.

Between 1898–1902, there were no major changes to the interiors of the Alexander Palace. In 1902, however, the decision was made to demolish the double-height Concert Hall and create in its place the Emperor’s New Study and the Empress’s Maple Drawing Room. Roman Melzer’s firm carried out not only the construction, but also the finishing and furnishing of these interiors. A mezzanine was also added, which connected the New Study with the Maple Drawing Room.

PHOTO: Colour autochrome of the Maple Drawing Room taken in 1917

Thanks to Melzer, the interiors of the Alexander Palace underwent a stunning transformation, one which provided a cozy residence for the Emperor and his family. A far cry from the luxurious and ostentatious interiors of the nearby Catherine Palace, the redesigned interiors of the Alexander Palace reflected the simple tastes of Nicholas and Alexandra.

After the 1917 Revolution, Roman Melzer left Russia, and lived for several years in Germany, from there in 1921 he moved to the United States, where he died in 1943.

In 2020, the square at the corner of Bolshoy Sampsonievsky Prospekt and Nobelsky Lane began in St. Petersburg, was renamed Meltserovsky Ploschad – in memory of the court architect. His work reflected the new trends of the turn of the late 19th to early 20th centuries, the emergence of the Art Nouveau style, which was becoming fashionable at the time.

© Paul Gilbert. 2 April 2021


Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in the Spring of 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Maple Drawing Room, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II, showcasing the private, domestic life of the Russian monarchs who used the palace as an official residence. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family. The multi-museum complex, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.


Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, 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 GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. The net proceeds help fund my work, including research, translations, etc. Thank you for your consideration – PG