Rare 1896 Medal Depicting Nicholas & Alexandra Sells at Auction

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Only two medals were cast, each made of 300 grams of gold

On 24th March 2019, a rare and beautiful medal (300 grams of gold) marking the 1896 visit to Paris by Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, sold at auction for nearly €90,000 ($100,000 USD) at the Hôtel des Ventes de la Seine auction house in Rouen, France.

The gold medal was struck on 7th October 1896, on the occasion of the visit of Emperor Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra to the Monnaie de Paris (Mint) with the president of the French Republic Felix Faure.

In competition were six buyers, all bidding over the telephone. Under the hammer of Mr. Guillaume Cheroyan, the object was sold to an annoymous Swiss buyer, for the tidy sum of € 73,000 (€ 89,060 with fees), and selling for more than double its initial estimate, set at € 30,000. 

The profiles of the Imperial couple are engraved on the front by the famous Jules-Clément Chaplain. Only two copies of this diplomatic gift were made, one presented to Emperor Nicholas II, the second to President Felix Faure.

Its provenance, however, remains a mystery. “We are not certain,” admitted Cheroyan, however, he was optimistic that his hammer fell on one of the two copies presented to  Nicholas II. Cheroyan noted that the seller – a local numismatist – had reported to the auctioneer that the medal had belonged to an émigré Russian aristocrat. “One can then imagine that, after Lenin nationalized the personal property of the Imperial family, that the Bolsheviks sold as many items as possible.”

This did not prevent him from sending an email to the Kremlin, to inform the Russian government of the sale of this 300 gold gram piece of Imperial Russia’s history.

© Paul Gilbert. 26 March 2019

 

Dispute over the colour of Nicholas II’s eyes

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Many people who met Nicholas II, whether friend or foe, testify to his overwhelming charm. “With his usual simplicity and friendliness,” wrote his Prime Minister, Vladimir Kokovtsov. “A rare kindness of heart,” commented Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov. “A charm that attracted all that came near him,” wrote British Ambassador Sir George Buachanan. “Charming in the kindly simplicity of his ways,’ said his niece’s husband Prince Felix Yusupov.

It was Nicholas II’s eyes, in particular, which attracted people to him. His cousin Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich wrote of “that clear, deep, expressive look that cannot fail but charm and enchant.”

Yet it is the colour of Nicholas II’s eyes seems to be in dispute. His early biographer Sergei Oldenburg refers to his “large radiant grey eyes,” which “peered directly into one’s soul and lent power to his words”; Hélène Vacaresco who met Nicholas when he was Tsesarevich, also wrote of his “large grey eyes.” One of his most intimate cousins Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, on the other hand, refers to the “beauty of his frank blue eyes.” More strangely Kokovtsov, who had the chance to stare into those eyes many times, writes that they were “usually of a velvety dark brown.”

The true colour of Nicholas II’s eyes is captured in Serov’s famous portrait, painted in 1900, the eyes are a grey-blue, matching the colour of his uniform. 

© Paul Gilbert. 25 March 2019

Last Tsar. Nicholas II, His Reign & His Russia by S. S. Oldenburg (1939)

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4-volume edition of Last Tsar. Nicholas II, His Reign & His Russia by S. S. Oldenburg (1975) 
Photo © Paul Gilbert

I have been collecting books on Nicholas II now for decades, and there is nothing I enjoy more than a good book hunt! The title which I wanted most to complete my library was the English language 4-volume edition of Last Tsar. Nicholas II, His Reign & His Russia by the noted Russian historian and journalist Sergei Sergeiivich Oldenburg (1888-1940). This title has been out of print for many years now, however, several years back, I was able to track down a set in mint condition, through a Dutch bookseller for €75. This is the only study of Russia’s last emperor and tsar that I would recommend to any serious student of the life and reign of Russia’s last emperor and tsar.

It was the Supreme Monarchist Council[1], a monarchist organization created by Russian émigrés in 1921, who commissioned Oldenburg to write a comprehensive history of the reign of Emperor Nicholas II. The first volume which appeared in Russian, was published in 1939 in Belgrade (Serbia), and the second was not published until a decade later, and posthumously in 1949 in Munich (Germany). The first Russian edition published in Post-Soviet Russia was in 1991. Numerous reprints have been issued since.

The English language edition was published in 1975 by Academic International Press in Gulf Breeze, Florida. Of particular note is the 18-page introduction Searching for the Last Tsar by Associate Professor of History Patrick J. Rollins (now deceased) of Old Dominion University (est. 1930), a public research university in Norfolk, Virginia. As Rollins notes in the study’s preface:

“Oldenburg’s [ Last Tsar. Nicholas II, His Reign & His Russia] is a major document in modern Russian historiography. The final contribution of a Russian nationalist historian, it provides uniquely sensitive insights into the character, personality, and policies of Russia’s last tsar. It has no rival as a political biography of Nicholas II and is without peer as a comprehensive history of his reign.”

His comprehensive study of Nicholas II is apologetic in nature. Oldenburg substantiates that the revolution interrupted the successful progressive economic development of Russia under Nicholas II: “in the twentieth year of the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, Russia had reached a unprecedented level of economic prosperity”.

Oldenburg was able to undertake such a study of Russia’s last tsar, having had access to a unique collection of documents. These included copies of authentic historical acts of the Russian Empire held in the Russian Embassy in Paris on Rue Grenelle. Long before the First World War, duplicates of the originals had been made as a precautionary measure, and sent to the Russian Embassy in Paris for storage. In October 1917, the Provisional Government appointed Vasily Alekseyevich Maklakov (1869-1957), to replace Alexander Izvolsky as Russia’s Ambassador to France. 

When he arrived in Paris, Maklakov learned about the takeover by the Bolsheviks. Regardless, he continued to occupy the splendid mansion of the Russian embassy for seven years, until France found it necessary to recognize the Bolshevik government. Fearing that the Embassy’s archival documents would fall into the hands of the Bolsheviks, Makloakov packed them up, including Oldenburg’s manuscript, the Okhrana archives, among other items and arranged for their transfer to the Stanford University.

Oldenburg’s fundamental historical research on the life and reign of Emperor Nicholas II, is sadly overlooked or simply ignored by Western historians.

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Sergei Sergeiivich Oldenburg was born on 29 [O.S. 17] June 1888, in the town of Malaya Vishera, Russia. His father Sergey Fedorovich Oldenburg (1863-1934), was a famed academician (1900), and Orientalist specializing in Buddhist studies. He served as permanent secretary of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (from 1904), Russian Academy of Sciences (from 1917), USSR Academy of Sciences (1925-1929), and Minister of Public Education (July — September 1917). His mother Alexandra Pavlovna Oldenburg (nee Timofeeva), was a graduate of the Mathematics Department of the Pedagogical Courses. She died in 1891.

He graduated from the law faculty of Moscow University, and later worked as an official in the Ministry of Finance of Russia.

Unlike his father, who adhered to liberal political views, Sergei from a young age adhered to right-wing views, a member the Union of October 17[2].

In 1918 Oldenburg went to the Crimea, where he joined the White movement. In the fall of 1920, he was unable to evacuate with the Russian Army, headed by General Baron P.N. Wrangel, because he was sick with typhoid . Having recovered, with fake documents, he travelled from Crimea to Petrograd, where he met his father, who helped him to emigrate. 

He crossed the border into Finland, settling in Germany and then Paris, France, where he lived in poverty. Sergei Sergeiivich Oldenburg died at the age of 51, in Paris on 28 April 1940.

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Russian language editions of Oldenburg’s study of Nicholas II have been issued since 1991 

NOTES:

[1] The First Monarchical Congress, was held between 29th May to 6th June 1921, in the Bavarian restort town of Reichengal. The international congress of Russian monarchists in Germany, was intended to organize the activities of of monarchists both in emigration and in Russia (now the Soviet Union). 

The congress was attended by 100 delegates from 30 countries, Metropolitan Anthony (Honorary Chairman), Archbishop Eulogius, Archimandrite Sergius, five senators, two army commanders, five members of the State Council, eight members of the State Duma, fourteen generals and many other statesmen. The chairman of the congress was Alexander Nikolaevich Krupensky (1861-1939).

During the Congress, the question of succession was declared untimely, since the possibility of saving the Imperial family was not ruled out. At the congress, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna was recognized as the undisputed authority among Russian monarchists.

[2] The Union of October 17, commonly known as the Octobrist Party, was a political party in late Imperial Russia, firmly committed to a system of constitutional monarchy.  

Founded in late October 1905, from 1906 the party was led by the industrialist Alexander Guchkov (1862-1936) who drew support from centrist-liberal gentry, and businessmen, who shared moderately right-wing, anti-revolutionary views. They were generally allied with the governments of Sergei Witte in 1905-1906 and Pyotr Stolypin in 1906-1911.

With the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, moderate political parties became moribund in Russia. By 1915, the Octobrists all but ceased to exist outside the capital, Petrograd. Several of its prominent members, particularly Guchkov and Mikhail Rodzianko, continued to play a significant role in Russian politics until 1917, when they were instrumental in convincing Nicholas II to abdicate during the February Revolution and in forming the Russian Provisional Government. With the fall of the Romanovs in March, the party became one of the ruling parties in the first Provisional Government.

Some members of the party later participated in the White Movement after the October Revolution and during the Russian Civil War (1918-1920), becoming active in White émigré circles after the Bolshevik victory in 1920. By that time, the October Revolution had given the term “Octobrist” a completely different meaning and connotation in Russian politics.

© Paul Gilbert. 26 March 2019

‘NICHOLAS II. PORTRAITS by Paul Gilbert NOW IN STOCK!

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CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO ORDER YOUR COPY!

I am pleased to offer copies of my new book, Nicholas II. Portraits, which explores a century of portraits of Russia’s last emperor and tsar.

The first book of its kind ever published, Nicholas II. Portraits explores a century of portraits of Russia’s last emperor and tsar.

Beautiful colour covers (front and back), 140 pages, and richly illustrated with 175 black and white photographs, (many full-page), with detailed and informative captions.

This unique title features an introduction, as well as numerous short articles, including: Serov’s Unfinished 1900 Portrait of Nicholas II A Nun’s Gift to Russia’s New Tsar. The Fate of a PortraitGalkin’s Ceremonial Portrait of Nicholas II Discovered; and more!

Famous portraits and their respective artists are all represented, including Serov, Repin, Lipgart, Tuxen, Bakmanson, Becker, Bogdanov-Belsky, Kustodiev, among others.

The last section (28 pages) of the book is dedicated to the works of contemporary Russian artists, who have painted outstanding portraits of Nicholas II since the fall of the Soviet Union.

It is interesting to note that my research for this book was primarily from Russian sources, and I discovered portraits which were new, even to me!

Nicholas II. Portraits is the first of a two-volume set. The second volume Nicholas II. Monuments will be published in the summer of 2019.

© Paul Gilbert. 25 March 2019

Romania Hosts Nicholas II Exhibition

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Poster promoting the Bucharest exhibit held in January 2019

On 14th March 2019, a photo exhibition dedicated to Tsar Nicholas II and his family opened in the Museum of Icons in the Romanian city of Alba Iulia. The exhibition The Last Emperor – the Most Beautiful Memories of the Romanovs is timed to the centenary of the martyrdom of the Tsar’s family in 2018. 

Situated in the west-central part of Romania, Alba Iulia is best known to monarchists for the Orthodox Unification Cathedral (built between 1921-1923). It was here that the first monarchs of the Unified Romania, King Ferdinand I (1865-1927) and Queen Marie (1875-1938) were crowned on 15 October 1922.  In commemoration of the event, busts of the king and queen were placed on the grounds in 2008.

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View of the Alba Iulia exhibit

The exposition presents more than 100 photographs of the Royal Passion-Bearers, which reflect their lives, family relationships, charitable activities, and the diplomatic activities of Nicholas II

The exhibition was prepared on the initiative of the Romanian Association “Tradition” with the support of the Moscow Sretensky Monastery.

A similar photo-exhibition opened on 19th January 2019,  in the library of the Romanian Academy of Sciences in Bucharest – see video above.

The event was organized by the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Bucharest, the Sretensky Monastery (Moscow) and the parish of the Church of St. Nicholas Tabaka. 

The exhibition was opened by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Romania V.I. Kuzmin. “The historical ties between the Russian and Romanian dynasties share very interesting relations between the two countries,” the Russian ambassador noted. “The culmination of these ties was the visit of the Imperial family to Constanza on the eve of the First World War. It was during this visit that the Russian and Romanian royal families discussed the possible engagement between Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna (1895-1918) and Crown Prince Carol (1893-1953), who later became King Carol II.” The ambassador also noted that Nicholas II was a martyr who kept the faith, despite the sufferings he was subjected to by his captors.

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View of the Bucharest exhibit

Hieromonk Ignatius (Shestakov) spoke about the history of the exhibition and its spiritual and moral importance. In this exhibition, which has already been held in more than a hundred locations in both Russia and abroad, it focuses on three main topics – family life, service to the Fatherland and mercy. The family of Nicholas II, according to the priest, is an example of a true Christian family, which is very important today, when the whole world is experiencing a crisis of family values.

© Paul Gilbert. 24 March 2019

Icon of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

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Lieutenant Colonel Johnny Biggart holds the icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

Lieutenant Colonel Johnny Biggart, commander of the elite Scottish military unit Scots Dragoon Guards, holds the icon of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II. This photo was taken in 2012 in Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan.

The icon was presented to the regiment in August 2001 by the Moscow Caledonian Club “on behalf of the Russian people”. The icon of the holy martyr Nicholas II accompanies the Scots Dragoon Guards Scottish regiment wherever they are deployed. 

Tsar Nicholas II was appointed an honorary member of the Royal Scots Greys by Britain’s Queen Victoria in 1894, after he became engaged to Alexandra Feodorovna (Princess Alix of Hesse), who was Victoria’s granddaughter.

To this day Tsar Nicholas II is commemorated by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (which the Royal Scots Greys became in 1971), by the playing of the Russian Imperial anthem at certain mess functions. 

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Newspaper article shows Vitaly Mironov presenting icon to Major-General Hall

The Director of the Moscow Caledonian Club Vitaly Mironov notes that the idea to present an icon to the Scots Dragoon Guards Scottish regiment was one shared with historian Dr. Dmitry Fedosov, who then commissioned a church artist to paint this special icon. The icon was solemnly handed over by Mironov to the regimental commander on 24th August 2001, during a special ceremony in Edinburgh Castle in the presence of Mr. Smironov, the Consul General of the Russian Federation; the oldest member of the British Parliament Tam Dalyell; a large number of journalists and artists of the Russian Cossacks State Dance Company, who regularly perform in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. 

When the producer of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Brigadier Melville Jameson asked Mironov “on behalf of whom do we want to present this icon to the regiment?”, he replied – “please mention that it was not done on our own behalf, but on behalf of ALL RUSSIAN PEOPLE.”

“This is extremely important for us,” added Mironov,  “because we considered the very fact of painting this icon and its presentation to the glorious Scottish regiment, as an act of the deepest repentance of ALL OF OUR PEOPLE for the greatest evil that our ancestors did to the Tsar, his family and members of the household … It is our history and our common historical memory.”

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Vitaly Moronov for supplying me with this information and the importance of this icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II.

Click HERE for more information about the Moscow Caledonian Club

© Paul Gilbert. 23 March 2019

Nicholas II: Noteworthy Articles No. 1 (2019)

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This new series features links to full-length articles from English media sources. They include contemporary assessments of the lies and myths about Nicholas II, exhibitions, book reviews and more.

“PAINFUL POINTS” OF NICHOLAS II’s REIGN
Truth and Fiction

Yuri Pushchaev spoke with doctor of historical sciences and associate professor in the department of history at Moscow State University Fedor Gaida about the most frequent claims against the last Russian Emperor and how fair and appropriate they are.

A NEW LOOK AT THE LAST TSAR + VIDEO

An exhibition at the State Historical Museum in Moscow presents over 750 photographs of Nicholas II and his family, as well as paintings, objects and memorabilia, and some commentary from people who knew the tsar and his family. Many of the exhibits are rarely shown or have never been shown before.

NICHOLAS II ORTHODOX TSAR

After the extreme westernization of the eighteenth-century Tsars, Tsar Nicholas began to restore Russia, and the Russian autocracy, to her Byzantine and Orthodox roots.

HOW THE ROYAL HOUSES OF EUROPE ABANDONED THE ROMANOVS

They were all related but, as Helen Rappaport shows, nationalism prevailed over sentiment.

There is bitter irony in the story Ms Rappaport skilfully tells. Posterity finds something horrifying about the sovereigns of Europe, who virtually formed a single extended family, sending their subjects to slaughter one another. But in the end, nationalism also constrained the family loyalties of the continent’s monarchs, who could or would not save their Russian relatives from murder — the centenary of which was commemorated in Russia in 2018. The rites were solemn, but the massacre was a gruesome mess.

© Paul Gilbert. 23 March 2019

The Canonization of Nicholas II

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The canonization of the last Imperial Family of Russia was the elevation to sainthood of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra, and their five children, the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and the Tsesarevich Alexei – by the Russian Orthodox Church. The family were murdered by the Bolsheviks on 17 July 1918 at the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg; the site of their murders is now beneath the altar of the Church on Blood.

They are variously designated as new martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCOR) and as passion bearers by the church inside Russia. The family was canonized on 1 November 1981 as new martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. Their servants, who had been killed along with them, were also canonized. The canonized servants were their court physician, Yevgeny Botkin; their footman Alexei Trupp; their cook, Ivan Kharitonov; and Alexandra’s maid, Anna Demidova. Also canonized were two servants killed in September 1918, lady in waiting Anastasia Hendrikova and tutor Catherine Adolphovna Schneider. All were canonized as victims of oppression by the Bolsheviks. The Russian Orthodox Church did not canonize the servants, two of whom were not Russian Orthodox: Trupp was Roman Catholic, and Schneider was Lutheran.

In 2000 Metropolitan Laurus became the First Hierarch of the ROCOR and expressed interest in the idea of reunification. The sticking point at the time was the ROCOR’s insistence that the Moscow Patriarchate address the slaying of Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1918 by the Bolsheviks. The ROCOR held that “the Moscow Patriarchy must speak clearly and passionately about the murder of the tsar’s family, the defeat of the anti-Bolshevik movement, and the execution and persecution of priests.”

Some of these concerns were ended with the jubilee Council of Bishops in 2000, which canonized Tsar Nicholas and his family, along with more than 1,000 martyrs and confessors.

On 20 August 2000, the Moscow Patriarchate ultimately canonized the family as passion bearers: people who face death with resignation, in a Christ-like manner, as distinguished from martyrs, the latter killed explicitly for their faith. They noted the piety of the family and reports that the Tsarina and her eldest daughter Olga prayed and attempted to make the sign of the cross immediately before they died. On 3 February 2016, the Bishop’s Council of the Russian Orthodox Church canonized Botkin as a righteous passion bearer.

Despite their official designation as “passion-bearers” by the Moscow Patriarchate, they are nevertheless spoken of as “martyrs” in Church publications, icons, and in popular veneration by the people.

In particular icons of both the Tsar and his family are displayed in a growing number of churches across Russia, where the faithful come to venerate them. Gift shops in Ganina Yama and the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg sell icons depicting the image of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearer Nicholas II.

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Click HERE to read the Report of the Holy Synod Commission on the Canonization of Saints with Respect to the Martyrdom of the Royal Family / 9-10 October 1996

© Paul Gilbert. 20 March 2019

TSAR’S DAYS. EKATERINBURG 2019

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This year’s Tsar’s Days in Ekaterinburg will be held from 16-19 July 2019. The events mark the 101st anniversary of the the deaths and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, all of whom were brutally murdered on the night of 16/17 July 1918 in the Ipatiev House in the Ural city of Ekaterinburg. 

Memorial events will include liturgies and prayers, historical conferences, sacred music concerts and exhibitions. Tens of thousands of people from across Russia, and abroad, will once again gather in Ekaterinburg for this annual event.

The main event of the Tsar’s Days is the Divine Liturgy held at the Church on the Blood (built on the site of the Ipatiev House) on the night of 16th July, followed by a religious procession in the early morning hours of 17th July, from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama (21 km). 

The first procession in memory of the Royal Passion-bearers, headed by the ruling bishop, took place in 2002, in which more than 2 thousand pilgrims and about 100 clerics participated. In 2012, for the first time since the construction of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg, an all-night vigil and night Divine Liturgy were performed in the open air. In 2018, more than 100,000 pilgrims from across Russia and around the world took part in the Patriarchal Liturgy and procession of the cross from the Church on the Blood to the Ganina Yama.

Please note that updates on the 2019 Tsar’s Days events in Ekaterinburg will be posted as further details become available.

Click HERE for information on the 2018 Tsar’s Days marking the 100th anniversary of the deaths and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, and HERE for information on the 2017 Tsar’s Days in Ekaterinburg + colour photos and video.

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I was fortunate to attend the 2018 Tsar’s Days in Ekaterinburg, and have dedicated a special issue of SOVEREIGN dedicated to the centenary – featuring 144 pages, 7 full-length articles, and richly illustrated with 150 black and white photos. Click HERE to order your copy!

© Paul Gilbert. 20 March 2019

Nicholas II’s Image Depicted on Soviet Submarine

Russia marks the ‘Day of the Submariner’ on 19th March. The date was not chosen by chance – it was on this day in 1906 that the submarines in the Imperial Russian Navy were ordered by the Secretary of the Navy – under orders from Emperor Nicholas II – to be allocated as a separate class of warships.

Today, the Double-Headed Eagle Society have honoured the memory of the founder of Russia’s first submarine fleet Emperor Nicholas II by depicting his image on the Soviet submarine K-21.

Launched in 1939, the Soviet submarine K-21 was a K-class submarine of the Soviet Navy during World War II. In the spring of 1981, she was moved to the city of Polyarny, Murmansk Oblast to be converted into a museum ship. After renovations, she was eventually moved to Severomorsk, Russia. The museum was opened in 1983. In the late 1990s, the boat underwent some general repairs. From 2008 to 2009, the museum was further renovated.

During the reign of Emperor Nicholas II the Imperial Russian Navy continued to expand in the later part of the century, regaining its position as the third largest fleet in the world after Britain and France.  It had a revival in the latter part of the century, but lost most of its Pacific Fleet along with the Baltic Fleet, both of which were sent to the Far East and subsequently destroyed in the disastrous Russo-Japanese of 1904. The second phase of Nicholas II’s military life was marked by his participation in the reorganization of the navy after the catastrophic Russo-Japanese War. 

Today, a century after his death, post-Soviet Russia recognizes the contribution of the last Russian Emperor to the development of the country’s underwater fleet.   

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Nicholas II, the founder of the Russian submarine fleet

On 19 March 1906, by decree of Emperor Nicholas II, the Maritime General Staff was organized with the Main Naval Staff, which assumed the functions of the operational body of the Imperial Navy. At first, attention was directed to the creation of mine-laying and a submarine fleet.  

Unfortunately, the name of the last emperor in this area of Russia’s military history is unjustly forgotten, thanks to Soviet dogma. From 1903 to 1917, Nicholas II ordered the construction of a total of 78 submarines – including the purchase of 11 foreign made submarines.

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Submarine and battleship of the Imperial Russian Navy

Click HERE to read my article The Imperial Russian Navy Under Nicholas II 1894-1917, which includes 2 videos + photographs

© Paul Gilbert. 19 March 2019