Lost and Found: the Discovery of a Romanov Photo Album in Siberia

PHOTO: photo album belonging to Nicholas II in the Museum of Local Lore in Zlatoust

One of the most unique exhibits of the Museum of Local Lore in Zlatoust (270 kilometers (168 mi) south of Ekaterinburg) is a photo album containing photographs of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. How this album ended up in the museum remains a mystery. There are no embossed crowns, monograms or emblems on the album’s cover. There are also no inscriptions accompanying any of the photographs either. Only on the reverse of the photos of the tsar’s daughters was it possible to find inscriptions scribbled in pencil: “The Grand Duchess Olga (Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia).”

When the emperor and his family were sent into exile on 1st August 1917, to the Siberian city of Tobolsk, they took with them their entire personal photo archive. The archive included many albums, many of which are today stored in various Russian archives. Museum staff believe that it was there, in Tobolsk, that the last photographs were pasted into this particular album.

It is a well known fact that all the members of the Imperial family took an avid interest in photography, and each of them had their own camera and collections of photographs. According to museum staff, this album, judging by its content, belonged to the emperor himself. One of the photographs clearly shows his shadow with a camera in his hands. In the diaries of the emperor, he repeatedly noted that he personally organized his photo albums:

“On 4th September 1914, I got up early and took a longer walk. Between the reports I received a deputation of Czechs living in Russia. Walked with Alix and the children, and then went for a ride with Alexei to Gatchina. After tea I read. In the evening I pasted photographs of Crimea into an album”.

“On 27th March 1915, I took a walk in the morning. It started raining in the afternoon. I spent 2 hours chopping the ice with a crowbar using two hands, which is why my hand is trembling. I read before lunch, and in the evening with Olga’s help I pasted photos into an album.”

PHOTO: In 2013, the Zlatoust photo album was exhibited at the Museum of the
Holy Royal Family, located in the Patriarchal Compound in Ekaterinburg. 

“On 24th May, 1915 Alix came in the morning. Then we drove to mass. After breakfast, I received 18 professors of Russian history and Russian law with an address. I took a walk with my daughters and rode to Gatchina in the rain. I worked until 8 o’clock. Dined in my reception, like in the good old days. In the evening, with the help of Maria, I pasted photos of our last trip in the album.”

The Zlatoust photo album contains 210 photographs taken between 1914-1917. The photographs are not placed in any chronological order – on the first pages there are a series of photographs related to the beginning of the First World War in 1914, while pre-war photos are mixed with those taken in later years. On the last pages are photos from 1914, 1916, and 1917. Most of these photos were taken during the Emperor’s visit to the Supreme Command Headquarters in Mogilev and the review of the troops. Others are purely family-oriented, taken in Tsarskoye Selo, in Livadia, on the Imperial Yacht Standart and other places. It is interesting to note that there are very few photographs of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in this album.

The fact that the photo album survived the revolution, civil war can itself be considered nothing short of a miracle. It is no less a miracle that the exhibit, registered under the number F-52, as the album “Nicholas II and His Family”, survived in the funds of the Zlatoust Museum of Local Lore during the Stalin era, when many documents and photographs which depicted the last tsar were seized and destroyed, as they were deemed as “ideologically harmful”.

“How the album ended up in Zlatoust is a mystery,” says Nadezhda Prikhodko, director of the Museum of Local Lore in Zlatoust. – “Everyone knows that the Imperial family spent their last days in Ekaterinburg. There are two theories with regard to this mystery: The first is that the album was brought from Ekaterinburg by the director of the Museum of the Revolution, Comrade Chevardin. The museum was located in the Ipatiev House. In 1933, Chevardin was transferred to Zlatoust, taking the album with him to save it from destruction. According to the second, the album was transported by the revolutionary Dmitry Mikhailovich Chudinov – one of the guards who escorted the Imperial family from Tobolsk to Ekaterinburg. He lived in Zlatoust, and after the murder of the Romanovs, he stole some of their personal belongings, including the photo album”.

In 1980, the album was found in the funds of the Zlatoust Museum of Local Lore. Russia was still under the yoke of communism, so the album remained hidden for another 9 years before the first announcement of the album’s existence was made public. In subsequent years, a small number of the photographs appeared in the pages of magazines, books and presented at museum exhibitions. The staff at the Zlatoust Museum carried out a lot of painstaking work to identify the more than 200 photographs. Research carried out with the help of the emperor’s diaries and other publications, made it possible to establish, in most cases, when and where the photographs were taken, as well as which members of the Imperial family appear in the photos.

PHOTO: interactive copies of the album can now be seen in Zlatoust and Ganina Yama

In April 2013, the Russian online media outlet Komsomolskaya Pravda published a number of the photographs from the Zlatoust album, which generated tremendous interest in Russia and abroad. Sadly, a number of the captions were incorrect, mostly the misidentification of the grand duchesses, etc.

The following month, the Zlatoust photo album was exhibited at the Museum of the Holy Royal Family, located in the Patriarchal Compound in Ekaterinburg. Among those who had an opportunity to view the album were the Head of the Russian Imperial House HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, and Mrs. Olga Kulikovsky (wife of Tikhon Kulikovsky, the eldest son of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna) – see 2nd photo.

In recent year, the Zlatoust photo album was digitalized. “Natural light is harmful to the pages and black and white photographs – they turn yellow,” said Anastasia Malakhova, Deputy Director for Research at the Zlatoust Museum of Local Lore. – “They cannot be on permanent display, so we created an electronic copy. The expensive multimedia equipment for the interactive album was donated by the Museum and Exhibition Center in Ekaterinburg”.

In total, 88 photographs were digitized – mostly from the war period. There were no photo captions in this album. The interactive album in the Zlatoust Museum of Local Lore is available to visitors any day.

A copy of the interactive album was also presented to the Museum and Exhibition Center of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama, which I had an opportunity to see firsthand, during my visit to Ekaterinburg in 2018 – PG..

Click HERE to read my articles Nicholas II: the amateur photographer, published on 15th July 2020; and The Romanov Family Photo Albums at Yale University, published on 19th August 2020

© Paul Gilbert. 25 October 2020

Excavations at the site of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg in the early 2000s

PHOTO: A simple wooden cross was installed on the site of the Ipatiev House in the 1990s

Prior to the construction of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg, local archaeologists took a particular interest in the site where the 18th century mansion once stood.

An excavation of the site was organized by archaeologist Sergey Nikolaevich Pogorelov in 2000. At that time, he headed the Department for the Study of Historical Monuments in the Regional Research and Production Center.

The area where the Ipatiev House was located stood on land once owned by the Ural-Siberian Factory. In 1766-1808 the wooden Old Ascension Church stood on the site of the house, which included a small cemetery. Later, residential quarters were constructed, including the Ipatiev House in the 1880s. 

According to Pogorelov, in 2000, when the question arose about the construction of the Church on the Blood, city and regional authorities were notified that a decree issued in 1990 stipulated that no construction could take place on historic sites without historical and archaeological research being carried out first.

Excavations began in early June through September of 2000, and then continued in the summer of 2001. During that time, nearly 600 people took part in them. They made some interesting discoveries. For instance, during the excavations it turned out that the Soviet authorities had removed the remains of the basement walls of the Ipatiev House many years prior.

When archaeologists found the place where the basement execution room was located, they discovered that in its place, a concrete bunker had been built. They then referred to the city plans which were given them by the administration. As it turned out a government communication line had been laid along Klara Zetkin Street (former Voznesensky Prospekt and Voznesensky Lane, respectively), . When the cables were laid near where the Ipatiev House stood, they turned sharply 90 degrees, passing through where the execution room was located, and into the bunker, and then back to Klara Zetkin towards Voznesenskaya Gorka. Archaeologists learned that in the early 1970s, the local Soviet had set up the bunker with the intent of destroying the place where the Imperial family had been murdered.

However, an even greater discovery for archaeologists was what they found under the bunker when they began to dig deeper. Under the concrete structure was a grave, partially carved into the rock. Inside, in a coffin with forged nails, lay the remains of a woman and a baby.

Archaeologists had discovered the 18th century Orthodox cemetery, proving that the Ipatiev House was partly built on the site of the Church of the Ascension, and partly on the churchyard. The police were called in and the remains of the woman and her child were taken away.

Pogorelov noted that many graves must have been lost in the 1980s when part of the slope of the Voznesenskaya Gorka, was cut back during the reconstruction of Karl Liebknecht Street.

During their excavations, archaeologists uncovered an area of ​​more than 500 square meters at a depth of about 2 meters.

PHOTO: Archaeologist Sergey Nikolaevich Pogorelov shows fragments
of ceramic vessels found at Porosenkov Log in 2010

They found an underground stone structure with an area of ​​5 by 5 meters with granite walls in the foundation and stone granite slabs of the floor. Inside were the remains of the shelves of the party archives. It was here that the trunks belonging to the Imperial family were stored after their transfer from Tobolsk in April 1918.

On the western side of the estate grounds stood several poplars. There was some speculation that the trees had been planted during the Soviet years. Experts from the Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology conducted a dendrochronological analysis and found that they are more than 100 years old. Thus, it was determined that the trees were there when the Imperial family were living there under house arrest.

Among the trees a hole was discovered. They thought it was a cellar, but it turned out to be a well. It had been pierced into the monolithic rock of the Voznesenskaya hill using mining tools.

Archaeologists found a mention of this well in the notes of Yakov Yurovsky, who led the execution of the Imperial family. He wrote that he was repairing it at the moment when Nicholas II approached him. The well itself was filled with many artefacts, among them items belonging to the Imperial family.

The following year, when construction on the Church on the Blood was already underway, and two underground floors were planned on the site, the well suddenly filled with water. The builders wanted to fill it with concrete, however, a decision was made to preserve it. Today, the former well named “Tsarskoe” of the Ipatiev House is now located in the lower underground floors of the Church on the Blood.

As a result of the excavation of the estate, archaeologists managed to collect about 64 thousand artefacts. There were no precious items among them – only those that are of interest from a historical point of view. Fragments of dishes, buttons, metal objects … Everything that fell to the ground or tossed into the well since the 18th century. 

Pogorelov found pieces of china with the emblems of the Imperial Porcelain Factory bearing the initials of Nicholas II, from the coronation porcelain service of 1896. He later discovered that part of the service had been stolen by the Bolsheviks after the murder of the Imperial family. Their whereabouts remain unknown to this day.

It took 300 crates to pack the 64,000 artefacts, and stored in different places until 2013. According to Pogorelov “nobody provided help, nor were the legislation requirements fulfilled”. The crates were subsequently transferred to the Museum of the History of Ekaterinburg. Today, the famous Russian archaeologies does not know what happened to the collection.

The Museum of the History of Ekaterinburg would not comment on what happened to the collection further nor whether the artefacts from the excavations at the site of the Ipatiev House are still in their funds.

© Paul Gilbert. 23 October 2020

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Dear Reader: It is always a pleasure for me to present new articles based on my own research from Russian archival sources, offering first English translations of new works from Russian media sources on my Nicholas II blog and Facebook pages. Many of these articles and topics seldom (if ever) attract the attention of the Western media. Please note that I personally translate the articles, and complement them further with additional materials, photographs, videos and links.

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

Bloody Sunday 1905. What is the truth?

CLICK on the above IMAGE to watch the VIDEO. Duration: 20 mins., 26 sec.
Narrated by the British renowned actor Constantine De Goguel.

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As with so many other events in the period of unrest in Russia, Bloody Sunday, which took place on Sunday, 9 January 1905, constitutes, even today, one of the most falsified chapters in the history of Russia.

From the beginning, more than any other event, Bloody Sunday has been set forth as the banner of Communist propaganda. Lenin even undertook the production of a film that depicted the so-called “crime of Bloody Nicholas.” Unfortunately, the period of Bolshevik dictatorship succeeded in etching what it desired in the consciousness of the people.

But what exactly took place on Bloody Sunday, and what exactly was Nicholas II responsibility for the event?

PHOTO: Crowd of petitioners, led by Father Gapon, near Narva Gate, St. Petersburg

Bloody Sunday, which took place on Sunday, 9 January 1905, constitutes, even today, one of the most misrepresented events in the history of Russia. The commonly known and widespread narrative goes as follows: At dawn on 9 January, a crowd of workers that were unemployed began to gather with their families in six different points of Saint Petersburg. Holding icons, church banners, and portraits of the tsar, chanting hymns and patriotic songs, they set forth in a peaceful march with the Winter Palace as their goal. There they intended to personally present to the tsar a petition for the improvement of working conditions. Unemployment in all the land at that time had already reached its peak. The inspiration and organizer of the entire event was the charismatic speaker, Father Georgi Gapon, president of the Assembly of Factory and Mill Workers of Saint Petersburg. For a long time Gapon had been rousing the workers with his sermons at factories to assert their rights militantly. At last his labors bore fruit and thus the march of 9 January was organized.

A large police and military force had been prepared to deter the crowds that would make up the march. The exact number of demonstrators has never been known. Estimates vary from 3,000 up to 50,000! When the march began, security forces had gathered at various points in the city; they instructed the demonstrators to disperse, but without result. At some point the security forces opened fire on the unarmed multitude, so that many were killed, and even more were wounded. The number of dead also remains unknown to this day. Eyewitness accounts vary from 40 up to 1,000 dead. The result of this tragic event was general indignation against the tsar. Nicholas was not Father to his people any more, but their murderer. Many people, revulsed by the frightful behavior of their autocrat, declared “We have no tsar anymore.”

The things that took place on Bloody Sunday have been accepted in history as an undeniable fact for nearly an entire century. However, as with so many other events in this period of unrest in Russia, Bloody Sunday itself constitutes one of the most falsified chapters of history. From the beginning, more than any other event, Bloody Sunday has been set forth as the banner of Communist propaganda. Lenin even undertook the production of a film that depicted the so-called “crime of Bloody Nicholas.” Unfortunately, the period of Bolshevik dictatorship succeeded in etching what it desired in the consciousness of the people. But what exactly took place on Bloody Sunday, and what exactly was Nicholas’ responsibility for the entire event?

First of all, it must be known that Father George Gapon was not the good and kindly father of the downtrodden workers that history portrays, but rather he played a curious, double game: he was an agent of the Okhrana, namely, of the Secret Police, while at the same time cooperating with the Socialist Revolutionary Party. Thus, Gapon’s dark role and the true motives of all his actions are not at all easy to discern.

At first Gapon presented himself as a champion of the tsarist constitution, and so the OkhRana indicated that it wished to utilize his charismatic influence on the masses of workers with a view to safeguarding the monarchical constitution in Russia. Later, however, Gapon appeared to reconsider his ideology and then began to cooperate with the extreme left, which in turn wished to use Gapon for the promotion of its own revolutionary ideas among the workers.

When Gapon officially announced the organization of the march, which he scheduled for the ninth of January, the police warned him that such a thing would constitute an illegal demonstration, for the dispersal of which, if necessary, force would be used. Furthermore, they informed him that the tsar would not be at the Winter Palace at that time, thus it would be impossible to accomplish the demonstrators’ purpose of handing over their demands to Nicholas in person.

On Saturday, 8 January, the Ministry of War in cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior placed the police and military forces necessary to confront the demonstrators in the capital. That evening an extraordinary meeting, attended by the Governor of Saint Petersburg, was called to consider which measures of public safety should be taken. After the end of the meeting the Minister of the Interior visited the emperor at Tsarskoe Selo in order to inform him that everything was under control, and that the impending march would not be able to cause any trouble.

Why did Nicholas not remain in the Winter Palace to receive the demands of the workers? The reason was the fear of yet another attempt on his life. These fears were absolutely justified, and their ground for this was not theoretical. A frightening event had taken place only a few days earlier during the Blessing of the Waters on the day of Epiphany. Some of the rifles fired during the celebratory greeting of the Feast were not loaded with blanks, as intended, but—quite strangely—contained live ammunition. The bullets wounded several of the bystanders and broke many windows in the neighborhood. Some of them passed directly over the head of the emperor. The crowd and the police began to run aimlessly in all directions causing great confusion and panic. However, Nicholas did not move one step from his place. Later at the palace, discussing the event with his sister Olga, he said that he had heard the shell whizz over his head, and added: “‘I knew that somebody was trying to kill me. I just crossed myself. What else could I do?’ It was typical of Nicky, added the Grand Duchess. He did not know what fear meant.”

PHOTO: Father Georgy Apollonovich Gapon (1870–1906)

In the end, Gapon did not comply with the police’s instructions. The march took place as planned. Perhaps Gapon did not believe that the authorities would disperse his “peaceful” march? He himself answered this question later when he admitted that he knew full well that the authorities would not permit the protest to take place under any circumstances, because—very simply—it would not have been peaceful. The chief of the Special Corps of the tsar’s secret personal guard, and afterward historian, Alexander Spiridovitch, wrote of this, “Nobody had the idea then at the time [that is, on 9 January 1905] that Gapon had played the role of traitor. It was some long time later that Gapon admitted that he had known, in inciting the workers to go before the Tsar with their petition, that the authorities would never permit the demonstration; he also knew that they would bring in the troops against the workers, and all the same, he still urged them to demonstrate and in fact insisted they do so.”

A great number of workers were members of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, and even though the party did not officially take part in the demonstration, many of their members participated in the march. A multitude of witnesses relate that many of the demonstrators were armed; they broke windows, they looted stores, they burned vehicles and even broke into houses! Thus, the shots of the security forces were not in cold blood, but in reply to the repeated provocations of the demonstrators.

A highly confidential note by the head of the Petersburg Security Department L. N. Kremenetsky (Кременецкий) to the Director of the Police Department A. A. Lopukhin (Лопухин), on the preparation of workers for the demonstration of 8 January, reports the following:

Top secret

According to the information obtained for tomorrow, at the initiative of Father Gapon, the revolutionary organizations of the capital also intend to use the march of the striking workers to the Palace Square to produce an anti-government demonstration.

For this purpose, flags with criminal inscriptions are made today, and these flags will be hidden until the police act against the march of the workers; then, taking advantage of the confusion, the flag bearers will take out the flags to create an impression that the workers marched under the flags of revolutionary organizations.

Then the socialist revolutionaries intend to take advantage of the disorder in order to plunder the weapon shops along Большая Конюшенная Street and Литейный Проспект. […]

Reporting on your excellency, I add that the possible measures for the removal of flags have been taken.

Lieutenant Colonel Kremenetsky (Кременецкий)
January 8, 1905.

As for the fact that some of the demonstrators held icons, church banners, and portraits of the tsar, that can also be explained. A certain portion of the workers did not realize what was about to happen. They believed Gapon’s fraudulent promises and did not know that the tsar was absent from the palace that day. These were the first to be surprised by the violent behavior of the other demonstrators. They indeed had peaceful intentions and believed that they would meet the tsar to hand over to him their humble petition. They also did not know that the content of the petition almost did not have anything to do with them at all.

A few days before the march Gapon met with Pinhas Rutenberg, a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, from whom he was inseparable during the days of preparation for the march. At midnight of the eighth going into the ninth of January, Rutenberg, with Gapon present, composed the petition on behalf of the workers who would hand it to the Tsar—certainly not personally, since they knew that the tsar would be absent. In no way was the content of this document a simple request to improve the working conditions of the workers, but a provocative political manifesto that demanded in a threatening tone the immediate devolvement of the absolute monarchy of Russia into a constitutional monarchy with a democratic constitution and the promulgation of significant reforms of a socialist character.

PHOTO: Pinhas Rutenberg (1879-1942)

Rutenberg’s meddling in the preparations for the march of 9 January constituted the active, however covert, participation of the revolutionary party in this demonstration. Rutenberg did not limit himself only to composing the document that they would submit to the tsar. Spiridovitch writes of this, “The Socialist-Revolutionary party as such had not taken part in the Gapon movement, however certain of its members had made a common cause with him. Thus, also many of the workers who were members of the party were also found among the crowds filling the streets. Rutenberg, a member of the party, had gotten to know Gapon some days before the 9th of January, and was almost never separated from him during those days. It was in fact Rutenberg who had chosen the route the marchers would follow, including Gapon himself, and it was also Rutenberg who came up with the suggestion that, in case the troops began to fire, to erect barricades, to seize the arms depots and to clear the streets, at all costs, to the Palace.” From this evidence it is manifest that he was essentially preparing for military action.

What in the end was the purpose of the march that Gapon organized? Spiridovitch gives the answer to that, “His genuine intention was to prove to the workers, in light of the measures which were to be taken against them, that the Tsar was not really protecting them and that the workers could never really hope to have any assistance coming from either the Tsar or his ministers.” Foreseeing, then, what would follow, Gapon wished to demonstrate to all the Russian people that the tsar was not the father of the nation, but its murderer. And in order to best achieve his goal, he undertook all necessary measures so that the blood of workers would be spilled.

At the end of January, Gapon fled to Switzerland, where with the help of his friend Rutenberg he met with Plekhanov and Lenin. On 7 February, he called from Geneva upon the workers in Russia to rise up in arms against the sovereign, to whom he sent a threatening and aggressive letter in which he wrote the following, “Nicholas Romanov, formerly Tsar and at present soul-murderer of the Russian empire. The innocent blood of workers, their wives and children lies forever between you and the Russian people. … May all the blood which must be spilled fall upon you, you Hangman!” At the end of this letter Gapon informed the emperor that copies of his letter had been sent to all the branches of the terrorist revolutionary movement in Russia.

Simeon Rappaport, a member of the Revolutionary Party, recounts a meeting he had with Gapon. When he asked if he had any ties with Zubatov, the chief of the Secret Police, Gapon replied, “Never! Never! Right from the beginning, from the very first minute, I led them by the nose. Otherwise nothing could ever have been done! …My entire plan was based on this.”

As for Nicholas, based on the information from his ministers, he believed that the march would not cause any significant disturbances in the capital. Surprised after these events, he wrote that evening in his diary about that fateful day, “9th of January. Sunday. A hard day! In Petersburg there was serious unrest due to the workers’ wish to reach the Winter Palace. The troops had to shoot in different parts of the city and there were many killed and wounded. Lord, how painful and hard!”

A few days later, on 14 January 1905, Alexandra wrote to her sister Victoria, “You understand the crisis we are going through! It is a time full of trials indeed. My poor Nicky’s cross is a heavy one to bear, all the more as he has nobody on whom he can thoroughly rely and who can be a real help to him. He has had so many bitter disappointments, but through it all he remains brave and full of faith in God’s mercy. He tries so hard, works with such perseverance, but the lack of what I call ‘real’ men is great. … The Minister of the Interior is doing the greatest harm—he proclaims grand things without having prepared them. … Reforms can only be made gently with the greatest care and forethought. … All these disorders are thanks to his unpardonable folly and he won’t believe what Nicky tells him, does not agree with his point of view.

“Things are in a bad state and it’s abominably unpatriotic at the time when we are plunged into war to break forth with revolutionary ideas. The poor workmen, who had been utterly misled, had to suffer, and the organisers have hidden as usual behind them. Don’t believe all the horrors the foreign papers say. They make one’s hair stand on end—foul exaggeration. Yes, the troops, alas, were obliged to fire.

Repeatedly the crowd was told to retreat and that Nicky was not in town, as we are living here at Tsarskoe Selo this winter, and that one would be forced to shoot, but they would not heed and so blood was shed. … The Petition had only two questions concerning the workmen and all the rest was atrocious … Had a small deputation brought, calmly, a real petition for the workmen’s good, all would have been otherwise. Many of the workmen were in despair, when they heard later what the petition contained, and begged to work again under the protection of the troops.”

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This video is produced as part of the project for the book The Romanov Royal Martyrs, which is an impressive 512-page book, featuring nearly 200 black & white photographs, and a 56-page photo insert of more than 80 high-quality images, colorized by the acclaimed Russian artist Olga Shirnina (Klimbim) and appearing here in print for the first time. EXPLORE the book / ORDER the book.

© Mesa Potamos Monastery. 21 October 2020

Nicholas II – “almost a laureate” of the Nobel Peace Prize

Yet another forgotten or little known page from the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, is his nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, in recognition for his efforts to limit armaments and promote peace among the great powers.

After Nicholas II ascended the throne in 1894, his foreign policy focused on strengthening the Franco-Russian Alliance and pursuing a policy of general European pacification, which culminated in the famous Hague Peace Conference in 1899.

The First Hague Conference came from a proposal on 24 August 1898 by Emperor Nicholas II, who along with his Minister of Foreign Affairs Count Mikhail Nikolayevich Muravyov (1845-1900), were instrumental in initiating the conference. The conference opened on 18 May 1899, the day marking the Tsar’s 31st birthday.

This conference was convened with the view of terminating the arms race, and setting up machinery for the peaceful settlement of international disputes. The treaties, declarations, and final act of the conference were signed on 29 July of that year, and they entered into force on 4 September 1900. What is referred to as the Hague Convention of 1899 consisted of three main treaties and three additional declarations.

The results of the conference were less than expected due to the mutual distrust existing between great powers. Nevertheless, the Hague conventions were among the first formal statements of the laws of war. Nicholas II became the hero of the dedicated disciples of peace. In 1901 he and the Russian diplomat Friedrich Martens (1845-1909) were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the initiative to convene the Hague Peace Conference and contributing to its implementation.

According to the web site of the Nobel Prize organisation: ” Nicholas II initiated the First Hague Peace Conference in 1899. The Emperor’s intention was to seek agreements to limit armaments and the financial burden of excessive armament, and to improve the prospects of peaceful settlement of international conflicts and to codify the laws of war.”

The nominators included Count fr. Schonbruun (Austria), the Austrian Inter-parliamentary Group (Pirquet), Count Nigra (Italy), Heinrich Lammasch (Austria) and Ritter Wladimir von Gniewosz-Olexow (Austria).

In a comment Schönbrunn explained that he wanted the Norwegian Nobel Committee to bestow an honorary peace award on Emperor Nicholas II of Russia for his initiative that resulted in the 1899 Hague Peace Conference. In addition, Schönbrunn wished that the Nobel Committee would divide the prize money between some worthy peace workers, namely William Randal Cremer, Frédéric Passy and Bertha von Suttner.

The first prize in 1901, however, was awarded to Frédéric Passy, who had been one of the main founders of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and also the main organizer of the first Universal Peace Congress. He was himself the leader of the French peace movement. In his own person, he thus brought together the two branches of the international organized peace movement, the parliamentary one and the broader peace societies.

For more information about Nicholas II and the Hague Conference, please refer to the article Emperor Nicholas II. Initiator of Global Disarmament by Pyotr Multatuli, published in Sovereign No. 3 (2016), pg. 25-34.

“At the time, the Emperor’s revolutionary step didn’t receive the appreciation it deserved and remained under wraps for the most part of the 20th century. The new Bolshevik regime – which took all the credit for Russia’s peace initiatives – couldn’t allow the public to view the murdered Tsar as the driving force of world disarmament.” The first English translation of this article appears in this issue of Sovereign.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 October 2020

NEW Romanov Books for Autumn 2020

Autumn is here, a perfect time of the year to begin stocking up on your winter reading! I am pleased to offer 2 NEW book titles, plus copies of my 2021 calendar dedicated to Russia’s last emperor and tsar.

MEMORIES IN THE MARBLE PALACE ( Click HERE to order this title)
by Prince of the Imperial Blood Gabriel Constantinovich

290 pages . 45 chapters. 28 black and white photographs. Price: $25 + postage

This is a new edition of the first English translation of the memoirs of Prince of the Imperial Blood Gabriel Konstantinovich Romanov (1887-1955). They are not just a memoir, but a very valuable resource for the history of Imperial Russia in the late 19th to early 20th century. The narrative covers the period from 1887 to 1918.

The second son of Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovich, Prince Gabriel tells about events such as the coronation of Nicholas II at Moscow in 1896, the assassination of Pyotr Stolypin at Kiev in 1911; the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Patriotic War at Moscow in 1812; the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 1913; the first Russian Olympics in 1913; the outbreak of World War I in 1914; the assassination of Grigory Rasputin in 1916; the February and October 1917 revolutions in Petrograd; the beginning of the Red Terror.; and Prince Gabriel’s miraculous escape from certain death at the hands of the Bolsheviks in 1918.

Gabriel’s memoirs pay much attention to the everyday life of members of the Russian Imperial family, including Emperor Nicholas II and his family, as well as those of the Konstantinovichi branch: his grandparents, his mother and father, his 5 brothers and 2 sisters. He also provides vivid descriptions of his family’s palaces and estates, including the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg; the Constantine Palace in Strelna; Pavlovsk Palace near St. Petersburg; and the country estate of Ostashevo, near Moscow.

DEAREST MAMA . . . DARLING NICKY ( Click HERE to order this title)
Letters Between Emperor Nicholas II and his Mother Empress Maria Feodorovna 1879-1917

Trade-size 9” x 6” paperback. 244 pages. More than 200 letters. Price: $25 + postage

Written between the years 1879, when Nicky was a little boy, and 1917, after his abdication, this collection of letters are a revelation of the personalities of the Emperor and his Empress mother. They were never part of the imperial archives but the cherished possession of both correspondents, carried with them wherever they went. At the outbreak of the revolution, the letters were confiscated by the Soviets.

From some five hundred letters, more than 200 have been selected and translated from the French and Russian. They have particular bearing on the Tsar’s relatives in England, Germany, Italy and Greece; on political personages in Russia, and their Romanov relatives. All of their family but Uncle Willie, the German Emperor, found a place in their affections. To them, he was always an exhibitionist, dangerous in his national ambition. Uncle Bertie, Aunt Alix, Georgie, May, and Granny—respectively King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra, King George V, Queen Mary and Queen Victoria—emerge as human beings, minus crowns and ermine.

The correspondence sheds considerable light on Nicholas II’s character, family affairs, and politics, especially in regard to the 1905 Revolution. The preface provides an interesting assessment of the correspondence and its historical significance.

Unlike his diaries, these letters are essential human documents of great historic importance, and in the case of the Tsar, will alter many preconceived notions of his character, and the negative assessment which has persisted for more than a century.

NOTE: Dearest Nicky, Darling Mama was originally published in England in 1937, under the title The Letters of Tsar Nicholas and Empress Marie; they were published in the United States in 1938, under the title The Secret Letters of the Last Tsar. Out of print for decades, this is the first edition of this title published in nearly 90 years!

NICHOLAS II. EMPEROR. TSAR. SAINT. 2021 CALENDAR ( Click HERE to order this title)

28 pages. Illustrated with 16 photos. Price: $10 + postage

Each month features an iconic full-page black and white photograph of Russia’s last monarch, during some of the brightest and darkest days of his 22-year reign.

Nearly 70 holidays and observances in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia and Russia are featured, with room to write in your own special dates and events.

Also featured, are the birth dates of members of Nicholas II, Alexandra Feodorovna, and their five children, as well as important dates in the reign of Russia’s last tsar.

ALL net proceeds from the sale of each calendar will go into my research on Nicholas II, including translation costs.

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© Paul Gilbert. 18 October 2020

Faithful to the End: Countess Anastasia Vasilyevna Hendrikova (1887-1918)

PHOTO: Countess Anastasia Vasilyevna Hendrikova (1887-1918)

A conference held last week in the Ural capital of Ekaterinburg, was attended by historians, ethnographers, researchers, archivists, tourism specialists, as well as representatives of public and church organizations. The conference was just one of a series of events marking the memory of members of the Russian Imperial House, who were martyred in the Urals in 1918-1919.

Among the participants was the abbess of the Alexander Nevsky Novo-Tikhvin Convent in Ekaterinburg, Abbess Domnika (Korobeinikova), who presented her paper on the life of Countess Anastasia Hendrikova, a loyal subject of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, who followed them into exile and shared their fate on 17th July 1918.

I am honoured to present Mother Domnika’s paper on Countess Anastasia Hendrikova:

I would like to start with a precise description given to Countess Hendrikova by one of her contemporaries: “This gentle, fragile girl with a childish face, who seemed so weak, possessed the soul of a heroine.” Many believe that the only feat of Countess Hendrikova was the fact that she voluntarily followed the Imperial family into exile. But in reality her whole life was a feat. During her short life she tried to bring joy and comfort to those around her, despite the fact that she herself had to endure many sorrows. She wrote about it this way: “A thought shared with me by the [Empress] today touched my soul deeply: “that I may use the experience of suffering that the Lord has sent me for the joy and comfort of others.” Perhaps this is the purpose assigned to me by God?”

Countess Hendrikova began to perform this feat in childhood, when her mother, Sofya Petrovna, after a complex operation, was left bedridden. Anastasia cared for her invalid mother for the next 20 years, selflessly devoting all her free time. Not only did she look after her, but constantly tried to raise her spirits, forgetting about her own needs. Countess Anastasia adhered to the words spoken to her by the Empress: “Be merry with [her] and give her all the warmth of your love. Bright face – despite the suffering of your poor soul.” At a time when many of Anastasia’s peers led the carefree life of aristocratic women in the capital, year after year she followed the narrow path of selfless service to her mother. The grief of many years gradually nurtured her faith, strengthened her prayers, and made her able to live for others. Although Anastasia belonged to high society, she led the simplest way of life, one that was distinguished by modesty. Raised under the strict rules of her mother, she maintained her purity. According to the memoirs of Sergei Smirnov, secretary of the Serbian princess Elena Petrovna, Countess Hendrikova often visited the church in the name of the Twelve Apostles, located not far from her home. Two zealous priests served in this church, first Archpriest Mikhail Gorchakov, then Archpriest Arkady Vinogradov, talented preachers and wise pastors. They spiritually nourished young Anastasia, provided her with good advice, helping her in her faith and patience to bear the ordeal in her home. 

In 1910 she became a maid of honour to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. All the members of the Imperial family fell in love with her openness of soul, kindness and sincere desire to bring joy to others. She became a beloved member of the family’s inner circel, everyone affectionately called her Nastenka. Captain Nikolai Sablin recalled how on one trip on the Imperial Yacht Standart the Empress was sad due to Alexei’s illness [haemophilia], and Countess Hendrikova did her best to console her. Anastasia Vasilievna herself only just recently had experienced her own grief: her father, Count Vasily Alexandrovich, died of a heart attack. But despite this, Countess Hendrikova, as Nikolai Sablin wrote, brought “a stream of liveliness and vigor into the life” of those around her. The Empress told her: “You are the sun for all your darlings.”

PHOTO: Hendrikova (left) with Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana Nikolaevna

In the tragic days following the February Revolution of 1917, Countess Hendrikova remained true to her vocation – to be a consolation for those around her, particularly the Imperial family. In March 1917, the Emperor and his family were placed under house arrest in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. While many courtiers were in a hurry to leave the Tsar’s family, Countess Hendrikova, on the contrary, hastened to return from Kislovodsk, where she had gone to visit her sister. Despite the fact that her beloved sister Alexandra was ill at that time, she immediately set off on the return journey, realizing that the Tsar’s family needed her more. Upon her returnt to the Alexander Palace, she too was placed under arrest, that evening, she wrote in her diary: “Thank God, I managed to arrive in time to be with them.”

Some believe that Countess Hendrikova did this only out of duty or from her sense of devotion to the Imperial family. But a close acquaintance of the family, helps us to understand the true reasons for her feat. “Countess Hendrikova was a person of deep, not superficial, faith. From early childhood before her eyes were living examples of piety. Faith was the basis of her life and that of her family. Anastasia followed the Imperial family quite consciously, for the sake of God’s commandments, realizing that suffering and death awaited her.” This is evidenced by the entry in her diary, made before leaving for Tobolsk: “I surrender myself entirely into the hands of God with trust and love and I know that [the Lord] will support me during trials and in the moment of death.”

Anastasia Vasilievna Hendrikova also grew up in an atmosphere of reverent reverence for Father John of Kronstadt. It is known that the Hendrikovs turned to him with a request for prayer. In response, the pastor wrote them a letter, which Anastasia carefully kept until the end of her days.

Raised by examples of living faith, Countess Hendrikova found her support in God throughout her life. Her faith and love for the Lord were manifested in the days of the trials that awaited her. In 1917, before leaving with the Tsar’s family to Tobolsk, she wrote in her diary: “I cannot leave here without thanking God for this wonderful world and the power that He sent me and supported me during these five months of house arrest. The harder and harder my life becomes, I feel a greater spiritual peace. I realize now that this is the best, the greatest happiness, and that everything can be endured, and I bless God. I have experienced for myself that as the sufferings of Christ manifests within us, Christ will strengthen our consolation.” It is truly remarkable that this was written by a woman who was preparing to go into exile, into complete obscurity! There is no fear in her words no despondency, but only peace and gratitude to God. At the same time, the Countess was well aware that she would be facing even greater trials. But she accepted them with trust in God and humility. She wrote: “If [God] sends me more trials and difficulties, then he will give me more strength accordingly. You just need to ask Him for the Holy Spirit and strength for the day ahead.”

Countess Hendrikova’s notes testify to the depth of her spiritual experience. Her diary is filled with reflections like the following: “I see your palace, my Savior, adorned”. I do not yet have clothes to enter into it; much has to be [changed] in myself in order to enlighten the garment of my soul. But may the Lord do this, and I will accept from Him, with gratitude, all the trials that He will send to me, firmly believing that they will enlighten the garment of my soul.” She realized that not by her own strength, but only by the grace of God, a person can perform virtues. And she constantly turned to God with faith and hope for His help. She wrote: “I know that I am nothing without the help of God: despondency, fear, cowardice take possession of me as soon as God’s grace leaves me, but I know that it must be so at times, that this is a necessary test, which you must try to humbly and patiently endure, and then again bright moments appear, and I wait for them and so I believe that they will come. I had so many of them that I know that this is only God’s mercy, not according to my merits.”

PHOTO: Hendrikova (right) under house arrest with the Tsar and his family in 1917

As can be seen from the countess’s diary, in Tobolsk she did not miss a single opportunity to go to church, prayed with the Tsar’s family and faithfully attended all services held in the Governor’s House. During the Great Lent of 1918, she received Communion twice: during the first week, together with the Imperial family, and on Great Thursday, after the departure of the Tsar and Empress to Ekaterinburg.

In May 1918, Countess Hendrikova travelled with the rest of the Tsar’s family Ekaterinburg, but she was not allowed into the Ipatiev House, instead she was imprisoned. In July, after the murder of the Tsar’s family, the Countess was transported to the Perm prison, located on the outskirts of the city. In prison, Anastasia still tried to comfort others: sometimes she even sang to support Princess Elena who was imprisoned in the same cell with her. Elena was the wife of Prince of the Imperial Blood Ioann Konstantinovich, who had been murdered in Alapaevsk along with Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and other members of the Imperial family. Sergei Smirnov, the secretary of the princess, recalled: “Nastenka with her joyful smile supported the good state of mind of Elena Petrovna, a very nervous nature and experienced so many difficult hours. All the time I remember Anastasia’s charming smile, her friendliness.” 

Countess Hendrikova remained courageous until the final minutes of her life. On 4th September 1918, she was taken from prison, ostensibly to be transferred to another place. She realized that she was being led to her death, but remained calm and warmly said goodbye to Elena Petrovna. Like the Holy Royal Martyrs, she was not afraid of death, because the premonition of a future blissful eternity comforted her soul. In her diary she wrote the following prophetic words: “If death awaits me, I am not afraid. I have much more there than here. I will finally be at home, in eternal bliss and peace. [Earlier] the doors [to eternal life] were closed to me, they are terrible, but now I feel them closer, open, just as clearly as you see the Royal Doors in the church open on Holy [Easter] week.”

Countess Hendrikova was murdered outside the city. She died from blows to the head with a rifle butt, which severed her parietal and temporal bones, her body was thrown into a ditch, where it was later discovered by the Whites.

Anastasia Hendrikova was only 30 years of age when her life was cut brutally cut short by the Bolsheviks, but during this short time she managed to bring joy and consolation to many others, and for herself to find a crown in the Kingdom of Heaven, to which she always aspired. As General Dieterichs wrote: “Anastasia Vasilievna was not afraid of death and prepared herself for it. She confidently believed in a bright afterlife and in the Resurrection on the last day, and through this power of faith she drew vitality and peace of mind.”

Today we believe that now she, together with the Holy Royal Family, stands before God and prays for us.

Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us!
Святы Царственные мученики, молите Бога о нас!

PHOTO: Countess Anastasia Vasilyevna Hendrikova (1887-1918)

Click HERE to read my article The fate of the royal servants Anastasia Hendrikova and Ekaterina Schneider, published on 4th September 2020

© Paul Gilbert. 15 October 2020

The History and Restoration of the Imperial Bedchamber in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom as it looked in the 1930s

The Imperial Bedroom or Bedchamber was among one of the first apartments prepared for the arrival of the Imperial couple to the Alexander Palace.

Nicholas was very fond of their new home at Tsarskoye Selo, On first seeing the newly decorated apartments in September 1895 he wrote to his mother:

“our mood . . . changed to utter delight when we settled ourselves into these marvellous rooms: sometimes we simply sit in silence wherever we happen to be and admire the walls, the fireplaces, the furniture… .”

Between 1894-1895, the bedchamber was redesigned from the bedroom furnished for the wedding in 1874 of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna (daughter of Alexander II) to Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh. The interior was renovated according to the project of Roman Melzer. The furniture, which had been preserved from the previous decoration, was repainted in white and covered with an English chintz pattern in the form of wreaths of small pink flowers and ribbons. The same fabric was used to make the drapes and alcove curtains for the room.

To carry out the finishing work, the furniture manufacturer Karl Greenberg was invited, who had designed the interior for the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh. In addition, Greenberg designed the dressing room adjacent to the Bedchamber and the Empress’s small Dressing Room.

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom as it looked in the 1930s

Gradually, in the autumn of 1895, the furniture began to be replaced. In 1897, the double walnut bed was replaced by two gilded copper beds made by the Moscow firm Tyapunov and Son.

In September 1901, “a thick raspberry velvet carpet which covered the entire floor,” was purchased for the Bedchamber from the merchants Korovins, suppliers of the Imperial Court, for the sum of 747 rubles 50 kopecks.

As can be seen in photographs from the early 20th century, the alcove wall was filled with icons. Over the years, the number of icons steadily increased, many of them gifted to the Imperial family. Among them were many unique images: an icon made by craftsmen on a cut of a tree, or an icon depicting Christ blessing Nicholas II, Alexandra Feodorovna and Tsesarevich Alexei with the inscription: “The Lord Himself blesses and has mercy on them.” Unfortunately, many of these icons were lost: having been sold in the 1930s or disappeared during the war and occupation of the palace by the Nazis. The museum funds preserved the icon “St. Nicholas the Wonderworker”, presented to Nicholas II on the day of his coronation by the abbess of the Seraphim-Ponetaevsky monastery in the Nizhny Novgorod province, as well as two icons presented to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, among several others.

After the completion of the current restoration work, several hundred icons will once again appear in the alcove of the Bedchamber interior. Unfortunately, due to the numerous losses of the original icons which once hung here, the historic recreation of this collection will never be fully restored.

During the Great Patriotic War, the interior of the Bedchamber was seriously damaged. The alcove had collapsed, the wall decorations and the furniture were all lost. Only one chair survived, which is now in the collection of the Pavlovsk State Museum-Reserve.

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom as it looks today

Reliable reconstruction of the original historic look of the Bedchamber, structural elements and furniture finishing details became possible thanks to preserved historical photographs from the collections of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve, the Pavlovsk State Museum-Reserve, the Central State Archive of Film and Photo Documents (St. Petersburg) and the State Archive of the Russian Federation  (Moscow). In these pictures, the interior is presented from different angles. Fragments of chintz and silk twill from the collection from the museum collection, as well as the one chair from the Bedchamber, have been miraculously been preserved, thus becoming invaluable resources for the reconstruction of furniture.

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom as it looks today

Since the beginning of the restoration work in the Bedchamber, in addition to architectural elements (alcove, frieze), fabrics on the walls, carpeting, curtains have all been recreated. The project for the production of furniture for this interior has already been completed and work will soon begin on the production of items for the Bedchamber on the Empress’s half of the room.

PHOTO: detail of the Imperial Bedroom as it looks today

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The Imperial Bedroom of Nicholas II is now one of 15 interiors in the eastern wing of the palace, scheduled to open in 2021. Among the other interiors are the Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, and the New Study of Nicholas II.

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.

© Paul Gilbert. 14 October 2020

Nicholas II through Serbian Eyes

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II and Crown Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic of Serbia

There was an interesting legend in the Serbian army between the First and Second world wars. It was said that every year, on the anniversary of the murder of the Imperial family, the Russian emperor appeared in the Orthodox Cathedral in Belgrade and prayed for the Serbian people in front of the icon of St. Sava. He then walked to the General Staff Building to check on the state of the Royal Serbian Army.

But, what relation did Nicholas II have with the Serbian army? Moreover, thse behind the legend were not Russian emigrants, but in fact Serbian officers. In order to answer this question, it is necessary to understand what role Nicholas II played in the fate of this small Balkan state.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Serbia found itself in a very difficult position. The country’s fight for liberation from Ottoman rule in 1804 was short lived for the long-suffering region. The struggle for the redistribution of borders began. Only Russia provided consistent diplomatic support to Serbia during both Balkan Wars in 1912 and 1913 respectively. Nicholas II was praised and criticized for his foreign policy in the region. Lieutenant General Evgeny.Ivanovich Martynov (1864-1937), for example, wrote that Russia “sacrificed the blood and money of the Russian people in order to make it as easy as possible for the Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs and others, our Orthodox brethren”. A certain courage was required from the emperor even then, in order not only to cast aside all possible doubts about the unity of the Slavs, but also proved himself to be a real ally of the Serbs. .

In some respects, the Balkan Wars were a pre-warning to the First World War. In the summer of 1914, Nicholas II knew firmly what position to take when the very existence of the Serbian state was under threat.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II greets Serbian generals at Tsarskoye Selo

On 11th July 1914, at the same time as the Austrian ultimatum, Nicholas II received a telegram from Crown Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic of Serbia (1888-1934): “We cannot defend ourselves. Therefore, we pray Your Majesty to help us as soon as possible … We firmly hope that this appeal will find a response in your Slavic and noble heart.” The answer came three days later: “As long as there is the slightest hope of avoiding bloodshed,” wrote the emperor, “all our efforts should be directed towards this goal. If, contrary to our sincere desires, we do not succeed in this, Your Highness can be sure that in no case will Russia remain indifferent to the fate of Serbia.”

On the 15th of July, enemy artillery was already shelling Belgrade. Russia mobilized and Austria had to transfer forces to the Eastern Front. Alexander Karadjordjevic then telegraphed the Russian emperor:

“The hard times cannot but seal the bonds of deep affection that Serbia is connected with the Holy Slavic Russia, and feelings of eternal gratitude for the help and protection of Your Majesty will be sacredly kept in the hearts of all Serbs.”

In the fall of 1915, when the Serbian army, surrounded by the Austrians, Germans and Bulgarians, was forced to retreat through Albania to the Adriatic coast, Nicholas II again came to the rescure. The German command had already announced that the Serbian army no longer existed. Despite the efforts of the Russian ambassador in Rome, however, the Italians had no intention of allowing the Serbs to linger on their territory.

PHOTO: Chairman of the Ministerial Council of the Kingdom of Serbia, Nikola Pasic 

Then the chairman of the ministerial council of the Kingdom of Serbia, Nikola Pasic (1845-1926), sent an appeal for help to the Russian emperor. Nicholas II received it on 18th January and on the same day sent telegrams to the King of Great Britain and the President of France. The telegrams stated that if the Serbian army is not saved, Russia has the right to consider itself free from allied obligations. The Italians had to allow the Serbs to enter Vlora. And ten days later, the French began to evacuate Serbian soldiers and officers to the island of Corfu by ships.

But during the First World War there was also a “Special Purpose Expedition”, which was engaged in “the passage and escort of military cargo to Serbia,” and the “River Mine Operations Command”, and a great deal of assistance to Serbian refugees. Not to mention the fact that the Eastern Front pulled back at least half of the troops of the Triple Alliance.

But when on 18th October 1918, the Serbian army victoriously entered Belgrade, not only did the Russian Empire no longer exist, but neither did the monarchy: Emperor Nicholas II and his family having been murdered by the Ural Soviet on 17th July in Ekaterinburg.

The Serbs are not only just grateful to Nicholas II for the assistance he provided in their struggle for freedom and independence. The very idea of ​​the canonization of Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov and the construction of a church in memory of the martyred emperor arose in Serbia much earlier than anywhere else – already in the 1920s.

In the minds of the Serbian people, Nicholas II is a figure as sublime and epic as the legendary Prince Lazar. Saint Lazarus of Kosovo chose the Kingdom of Heaven, giving his life and earthly crown for it. Nicholas II entered the world war to support the brotherly Serbian people. This act cost him his life, and the imperial crown, but opened the Gates of the Heavenly Kingdom for him.

How can we not recall the gift received by Nicholas II on behalf of all Serbs on the day of his coronation in May 1896. It was an old cross found in the Kosovo field. The Serbian philanthropist Draginya Petrovic who bought it, wrote to the emperor: “May the Sun of Truth shine on the Serbs, thanks to the help and participation of the Russian Monarch – the First Slav. I kneel at the throne of Your Imperial Majesty, bestowing this holy sign out of great love for the Tsar of All Russia, the defender of the Serbian people as well.”

Emperor Nicholas II did not disappoint the hopes and expectations of the Orthodox world.

Almost a quarter of a century after the start of the First World War, St. Nicholas of Serbia wrote: “The debt that Russia obliged the Serbian people in 1914 is so enormous that neither centuries nor generations can repay it. This is a debt of love, which blindfolded goes to death, saving its neighbour … Will we ever dare to forget that the Russian Tsar with his children and millions of his brothers went to death for the truth of the Serbian people? Do we dare to keep silent before Heaven and Earth that our freedom and statehood cost Russia more than we do? .. Russians in our days have repeated the Kosovo drama. If Tsar Nicholas had adhered to the earthly kingdom, the kingdom of selfish motives and petty calculations, he would, in all likelihood, still sit on his throne in Petrograd today. But he clung to the kingdom of heaven, to the Kingdom of heavenly sacrifices and gospel morality; because of this, he lost his head, and his children, and millions of his brethren. Another Lazarus and another Kosovo! This new Kosovo epic reveals a new moral wealth of the Slavs. If someone in the world is capable and should understand this, then the Serbs can and must understand it. “

And the Serbs understood.

In the twenties of the last century, the Holy Synod of the SOC began to collect facts testifying to the holiness of the murdered emperor. This decision was made after Nicholas II appeared in a dream to a Serbian woman in 1925. Two of her sons were killed during the World War, and the third went missing. The holy tsar consoled his mother, saying that her third child was in Russia. Indeed, after a few months, the soldier finally returned home.

PHOTO: frescoe depicting the image of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II by Stepan Kolesnikov

On 11th August 1927, newspapers in Belgrade reported a miracle witnessed by the Russian artist Stepan Fedorovich Kolesnikov (1879-1955). He was invited to paint the frescoes in a new church in the ancient Serbian monastery of St. Naum. The master depicted the faces of fourteen saints, while leaving the fifteenth empty. Kolesnikov returned to the church at dusk, he unexpectedly saw that at the very place where he was supposed to draw another saint, the face of Nicholas II appeared. Kolesnikov had had several conversations with the Emperor at exhibitions and remembered his face well. But the vision was so vivid that that night Stepan Fedorovich seemed to be working from nature. Having finished the fresco, he wrote below: “All-Russian Emperor Nicholas II, who accepted the martyr’s crown for the prosperity and happiness of the Slavs.” A few days later, the commander of the Bitolsky military district, General Rostich, arrived at the monastery. For a long time he stood in silence in front of the fresco of the Russian emperor, and then quietly said to Kolesnikov: “For us, Serbs, he will be the greatest and most revered of all saints.”

In 1930, a telegram from the inhabitants of Leskovets to the Holy Synod was published, in which they asked to canonize the Russian emperor as a saint. Already in 1936, at the opening of the memorial church of the Tsar-Martyr in Brussels, long before the official canonization of the Russian monarch and his family, Metropolitan Dositei of Zagreb (the future hieromartyr) announced that the Serbian church venerated Nicholas II as a saint.

In the city of Pancevo in 1934, the construction of a monument to Nicholas II was underway, but it was never completed. A memorial plaque was erected in the Alexander Nevsky Church in Belgrade with the inscription: “To the great Slavic martyrs Tsar Nicholas II and King Alexander I”. And in the heart of the Serbian capital, Vrachara Street was dedicated to Tsar Nicholas II, but after the war, most of it was renamed Mackenzie Street.

PHOTO: the Monument to Russian Glory dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II and 2,000,000 Russian soldiers of the First World War, in the Russian Necropolis, situated at the New Cemetery in Belgrade

In 1935, the Monument to Russian Glory by the sculptor Roman Verkhovsky and architect Valery Stashevsky was established in the Russian Necropolis, situated at the New Cemetery in Belgrade. Funds for the monument were donated by Russian emigrants who lived in Yugoslavia. The monument is a monolithic column crowned with the Archangel Michael bearing a sword, and at the foot of the monument above the door of the ossuary is a statue of a wounded Russian soldier. The monument is installed on the roof of the Iver Chapel, where the remains of Russian soldiers who died on the Thessaloniki front during the First World War are interred.

The Monument to Russian Glory, which is dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II and the two million soldiers of the Russian Imperial Army who lost their lives during the Great War (1914-18), and the Iver Chapel were ceremoniously unveiled on 24th May 1935, and finally completed and consecrated on 12th January 1936. One of the inscriptions on the monument reads:

Eternal memory to Emperor Nicholas II and 2,000,000 Russian soldiers of the Great War

Back in 1922, Nikola Pasic opened a savings account, in which he deposited 650 thousand dinars to help fund a monument to Nicholas II. “In the event of my death, I ask you to transfer the money from this account to the chairman of the People’s Assembly, so that the Assembly would use it to erect a monument to the Russian Tsar Nikolai as a sign of gratitude from the Serbian people,” wrote the prominent politician. Nikola Pasic died in 1926, but his will was not carried out. By 1944, there were already 1.8 million dinars in the account, however, these savings were lost after the Second World War.

PHOTO: On 16th November 2014, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia conducted the rite of blessing of a monument dedicated to the Holy Tsar Nicholas, in the presence of His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia.

Nearly a century would pass before Nikola Pasic’s hopes were finally fulfilled. On 16th November 2014, a bronze monument to Nicholas II was solemnly opened and consecrated in Belgrade. It was a gift from the Russian Military Historical Society and the Russian Federation to Serbia. It was installed in Alexandrov Park, not far from where the embassy of the Russian Empire was located at the beginning of the last century.

The 7.5-meter (25 ft.) high monument – out of which 3.5 m (11 ft) the monument itself.- was created by sculptors Andrey Kovalchuk and Gennady Pravotorov. The monument weighs 40 tons. On the sides of the granite pedestal, in Russian and Serbian, the following words are inscribed from the telegram of Emperor Nicholas II to the future King of Yugoslavia Alexander I:

All my efforts will be directed to preserving the dignity of Serbia and in any case, Russia will not be indifferent to the fate of Serbia” 

Holy Tsar Martyr Nicholas II kept his word.

© Paul Gilbert. 13 October 2020

The Bolshevik sale of the Romanov jewels

PHOTO: the Russian Crown Jewels, confiscated by the Bolsheviks

There is no greater example of such a large-scale and criminal sale in history, than that of the jewels of the Russian Imperial Court – perhaps, the finest collection in the world. The Bolsheviks inherited an impressive legacy, and wasted little time in profiting from the sale of many pieces to eager buyers in the West during the 1920s.

Interesting testimonies have survived to this day about how the jewels were sorted and catalogued, and how the fate of these historically important treasures was determined. They are today preserved in the RGASPI (Russian State Archive of Social and Political History) in Moscow.

PHOTO: early 20th century view of the Gokhran building in Nastasinsky Lane in Moscow. Gokhran was created in 1920, in the first post-revolutionary years, the Gokhran collected jewels from the Romanovs, the Armoury, the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as valuables confiscated from private individuals. Many of these items were sold abroad.

Gokhran

The Bolsheviks made their first attempt to sell the Romanov jewels in May 1918. Then, in New York, customs officers detained two visitors with jewels (worth 350 thousand rubles) that belonged to Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960), the youngest daughter of Emperor Alexander III.

The following year, the founding congress of the Third Communist International was held in Moscow. From that time, the agents of the Communist International (Comintern) regularly exported gold jewellery and precious stones from Moscow. At first, there was practically no control over the agents, so many items were stolen rather than helping to “finance a world revolution”.

In order to stop this “lawlessness”, in February 1920, “Gokhran was created to centralize, store and account for all values ​​confiscated by the RSFSR, consisting of gold, platinum, silver bullion, diamonds, coloured precious stones and pearls”. The famine that began in the summer of 1921 forced the Bolsheviks to look for funds to buy bread. In addition, Poland had to be paid off. According to the Riga Peace Treaty of 1921, the western lands of Ukraine and Belarus were withdrawn to Poland, in addition to this, the Bolsheviks pledged to pay Poland 30 million gold rubles within a year.

Here they remembered the crown jewels that were kept in the basements of the Armoury (they were brought here from Petrograd at the beginning of the First World War, without inventories, and in 1917 jewels from the “Imperial palaces” were added). Crown values ​​were forbidden to give, change or sell by the decree of Peter I, issued in 1719. For almost 200 years, the Imperial Treasury was only replenished. Needless to say, the Bolsheviks ignored the autocrat’s Imperial decrees. The Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU outlined a program for the implementation of the so-called “Romanov Jewels”. At first, the Bolsheviks only planned to sell the treasure, but in the end they decided to sell the jewels abroad for hard currency. Before the sale, the treasures had to be sorted and evaluated. Gokhran, however, lacked the specialists to carry out such a task. Back in 1921, after thefts were discovered, three appraisers were shot, while many were imprisoned. Therefore, the Deputy People’s Commissar for Finance Krasnoshchekov in Petrograd reached an agreement with former experts and jewellers from Faberge: Franz, Kotler, Maseev, Mekhov, Utkin, and Bock. They started to work for Gokhran, and began to sort and evaluate the Romanovs jewels.

PHOTO: appraisers sort and catalogue the Romanov jewels and other items

The boxes of the “former tsarina”

On 8th March 1922, boxes marked with the “property of the “former tsarina” (the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna) were opened in the Armoury Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin. Two commissions were in charge of jewels: the first in the Armoury was responsible for sorting and creating an inventory; while the second sorted and evaluated them at Gokhran.

“In warm fur coats with raised collars, we walked through the frozen rooms of the Armoury,” later recalled a member of the commission, Academician Fersman. – “They brought boxes, there were five of them, among them a heavy iron chest, tied, with large wax seals. Everything was whole. An experienced locksmith easily, without a key, opened an unpretentious, very bad lock. Inside there were jewels of the former Russian Court, each one hastily wrapped in tissue paper. With our hands freezing from the cold, we took out one sparkling gem after another. There were no inventories found among the jewels.”

The following day, Kotler and Franz (both “serious jewellers,” according to Trotsky), said that “if there was a buyer for these valuables, then the estimate would be 458,700,000 gold rubles”. And this, in addition to the coronation treasures, which lay in two separate boxes and were estimated “at more than 7 million gold rubles.” The jewels were examined hastily, within an hour and a half, without a detailed determination of the quality of the stones. The Bolsheviks questioned how much the gems would sell for if they were sold as a separate commodity (they feared a scandal in Europe that could arise in connection with the sale of the crown jewels), experts estimated the amount of 162 million 625 thousand gold rubles.

The members of the commission were amazed. Truly beautiful jewels that belonged to the House of the Romanovs … For example, a diamond necklace with a sapphire cost 3 million rubles, diamond pendants 5 million. The amounts are impressive. Especially when you consider how much these treasures are worth now. For instance, the Faberge “Lilies of the Valley” Easter Egg, which in 1898 Nicholas II presented to his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, cost 6,700 rubles. A little more than a century later, it sold for $10-12 million USD at Sotheby’s, acquired by Viktor Vekselberg and now on display at the Faberge Museum in St. Petersburg.

As a result of such an optimistic assessment, the treasures were quickly (note, again without making inventories) from the Armoury to the Gokhran building in Nastasinsky Lane in Moscow. In the boxes from the palace of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, in addition to the empress’s jewels, rare works of jewellery were kept. Only a few of these items later ended up in Soviet museums, while the rest were sold cheaply to foreigners …

PHOTO: the Imperial Crown of Russia can be seen on the table among 2 Faberge eggs

Poles – the best diamonds

By mid-May, the sorting and appraisal of the crown jewels of the Empresses Maria Feodorovna and Alexandra Feodorovna in Gokhran had been completed. The items of the “former House of Romanov” were divided into three categories, taking into account, first of all, the value of the stones, the artistry of the work and the historical significance of the item. The first category – the inviolable fund – included 366 items valued at 654,935,000 rubles, of which the coronation regalia decorated with selected diamonds and pearls was valued at 375 million rubles. As reported to Leon Trotsky, Deputy Special Commissioner of the Council of People’s Commissars (Council of People’s Commissars) for the registration and concentration of the values ​​Georgy Bazilevich wrote, “when selling these items abroad, the receipt of 300,000,000 rubles is guaranteed.” Products of the second category, which had historical and artistic value, were estimated at 7,382,200 rubles.

At the end of his work, Deputy Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars and the Council of Labor and Defence Alexei Rykov asked Faberge and Fersman if it was possible to realize coronation values ​​in the foreign market. They answered: it is possible, although there should be no rush. But the Bolsheviks were in a hurry to sell these pieces for the much coveted foreign currency they hoped to gain from such a sale.

In 1922, emeralds from Gokhran were sold in London and Amsterdam under the guise of those mined in the Urals. A year later, Gokhran pearls and diamonds were brought to Amsterdam. In the years following, the Bolsheviks continued to quietly sell diamonds and pearls from Gokhran in Paris.

As for the debt to the Poles, they decided to repay it with jewels. Bazilevich sent Trotsky a memo marked “Top Secret”, which provides a brief estimate of the value of the former “House of Romanov and valuables handed to Poland under the Riga Treaty”:

“In the preparation of of the Bolshevik debt to be paid to Poland the finest diamonds, pearls and coloured stones were selected. In addition to the stones, Gokhran selected gold items, including chains, rings, cigarette cases, bags, etc. in the amount of 2.728.589 rubles … “.

PHOTO: the Romanov jewels on display in Moscow, 1920s

Wholesale export

The apogee of the work of the Gokhran experts was the appearance in 1925-1926 of four issues of the illustrated catalogue “The Diamond Fund of the USSR”. The publication was translated into English, French and German in order to attract foreign buyers and was distributed in Europe.

As a result, “art connoisseur” Norman Weiss was not long in coming. He purchased items from the Diamond Fund in bulk, weighing 9.644 kilograms. The masterpieces of Russian jewellery art cost him 50 thousand pounds! In 1927, the resourceful merchant held an auction in London “Jewels of the Russian State”. The imperial wedding crown, a diamond diadem, and the jewels of Empress Catherine II “floated away” from him.

While the crown jewels were being sold in London, the head of the Armoury Chamber Dmitry Ivanov (he also participated in the cataloguing of the Romanov jewels in 1922) begged the officials to return the museum items sold by Gokhran. His efforts, however, were in vain. At the beginning of 1930, Ivanov became aware of the upcoming seizures of items from Russian museums to be sold abroad. Ivanov could no longer tolerate the theft and sale of Russia’s treasures, and ended up committing suicide.

In 1932, the Romanov treasures bought by Armand Hammer could be purchased at American department stores. Later, he opened an antique shop, which sold Easter eggs that belonged to the empresses, icons in jewelled frames of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, a Fabergé cigarette case commissioned by Maria Feodorovna, her notebook embossed with her monogram and an Imperial crown, among many other items.

Of the 773 items of the Diamond Fund, 569 were sold in the 1920s – 1930s. These Romanov treasures were stolen from the Russian Imperial Family by the Bolsheviks, and bought up by greedy, materialistic buyers in the West. It is hardly possible to find in history an example of such a large-scale and criminal sale.

Further reading: I highly recommend History’s Greatest Heist: The Looting of Russia by the Bolsheviks by Sean McMeekin. Published by Yale University Press in 2009

© Paul Gilbert. 9 October 2020

PHOTO: the spoils of revolution and regicide – the Russian Crown Jewels

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Dear Reader: It is always a pleasure for me to present new articles based on my own research from Russian archival sources, offering first English translations of new works from Russian media sources on my Nicholas II blog and Facebook pages. Many of these articles and topics seldom (if ever) attract the attention of the Western media. Please note that I personally translate the articles, and complement them further with additional materials, photographs, videos and links.

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

Russian media provide a first look at the progress of the recreation of the historic interiors in the Alexander Palace

On 7th October, the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve invited Petersburg journalists to the Alexander Palace, where they were shown the progress of the restoration and recreation of the historic interiors of the last residence of Emperor Nicholas II and his family.

Ongoing restoration works have been carried out since 2012, and the palace was closed in the autumn of 2015 to embark on the large-scale recreation of the private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna in the eastern wing of the palace.

The project was developed by Nikita Yavein’s Studio-44. The restorers relied on amateur photographs taken by members of the Imperial family, autochromes from 1917, and design drawings to recreate the interiors.

In addition, the Tsarskoye Selo and Pavlovsk State Museums had stored original samples of fabrics, which were used to recreate the decoration of some interiors – Chintz (waxed cotton fabric with a printed pattern) in the bedroom, silk in the Lilac office, reps (a cotton or silk fabric formed by weaves) in the Rosewood living room, etc.

During the restoration, elements of the historical interior decoration were preserved, including oak wall panels, coffered wooden shades and ceramic tiles.

NOTE: the following images are from different Russian media sources, and are not in any particular order. They are presented to give you an idea of the tremendous amount of work and dedication which has gone into the recreation of these historic interiors, thus breathing new life into the Alexander Palace – PG 

On 7th October 2020, the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve (GMZ) announced that the opening of the Alexander Palace – originally scheduled for December 2020 – would be further delayed. A press release from the GMZ reported that a total of 15 rooms will now open to the public in 2021, in the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family located in the eastern wing of the palace.

© Paul Gilbert. 8 October 2020