Nicholas II in the NEWS – June 2020

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PHOTO: Portrait of Emperor Nicholas II in the uniform of colonel of the Austro-Hungarian 5th Uhlan regiment, painted in 1899 by Artist: Ernst Friedrich von Liphart (1847-1932)

From the Collection of the Hrvatski povijesni muzej / Croatian History Museum in Zagreb, Croatia

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

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

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On the Russian Revolution and Today (Do not be a Robert Service) by John Mark N. Reynolds. Published in Patheos on 29th June 2020

John Mark N. Reynolds writes probably the most honest assessment to date of what has to be one of the WORST books ever written about Nicholas II.

I am referring to ‘The Last of the Tsars: Nicholas II and the Russian Revolution‘ written by the “Sovietologist” Robert Service and published in 2017 by Macmillian..

Reynolds writes: “Service thinks the last Tsar mentally inflexible . . . but Service does nothing to prove this is so” . . . Nicholas II was “intellectually inflexible, but Robert Service does not prove that fact” . . . etc., etc.

Reynolds rightly notes that ‘The Last of the Tsars: Nicholas II and the Russian Revolution‘ is a “throw away book”, and I could not agree more!

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Alex Webber visits Carska

Tsar Trek by Alex Webber. Published in THEfirstNEWS on 25th June 2020

Alex Webber writes in the Polish-English language newspaper THEfirstTIMES about Nicholas II and his former hunting palace Białowieża.

While the hunting palace has not survived, the former elegant private station for the Imperial family has! A visionary benefactor has revived the rotting station as a Tsarist-themed hotel named Carska.

Perched on a disused railway siding sit four saloon wagons, each lovingly reinvented as an opulent suite. [It is important to note that these are NOT part of the Imperial Train, the last wagons of which were destroyed at Peterhof in 1941 – PG]

“The magical world of Carska is not unlike waking up trapped in the pages of a novel by Tolstoy,” says Webber. “This is not a hotel, I think to myself, but a portal to another time.”

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The cross procession in Ekaterinburg is held annually on 17th July

Church Hopes to Hold Annual Royal Martyrs Procession in Ekaterinburg Despite Coronavirus. Published in Orthodox Christianity on 24th June 2020

Preparations are underway in the Ekaterinburg Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church for the annual Royal Days celebrations in honor of the holy Royal Martyrs, who were brutally murdered in Ekaterinburg on the night of July 16-17, 1918.

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Monument to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II in Zlatoust

Tsar Nicholas II Monument Defaced on Cathedral Grounds in Urals. Published in Orthodox Christianity on 18th June 2020

It seems that the toppling and vandalizing of monuments has become the “norm” in today’s society.

A monument to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II in the Russian city of Zlatoust is the latest target

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VIDEO OF THE MONTH: Laying the Foundation Stone Ceremony and Feast of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral at Tsarskoye Selo on 2 September (O.S. 20 August) 1909

Much of this historic newsreel is new to me! Please take a few moments to watch Emperor Nicholas II and members of his family laying foundation stones for the cathedral which served as the family church during their residency in the nearby Alexander Palace.

At 2:05 we see the Emperor greeting dignitaries and other guests, presenting each with a small icon.

From the Russian State Documentary Film & Photo Archive (RGAKFD). Duration: 3 minutes, 5 seconds

© Paul Gilbert. 30 June 2020

Nicholas II: Recommended CDs

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For those of you who share an interest in Russia’s last emperor and tsar, I highly recommend these CDs, both of which feature music honouring his life and reign.

The first, God Save the Tsar. Military Band Music of Imperial Russia (2013) features 25 archival recordings from 1900 to 1912. Of particular note are 2 versions of ‘God, Save the Tsar!’ assorted regimental marches which include ‘Tsesarevich Nikolai Alexandrovich March of 6 May 1892’, among others.

This CD includes an illustrated 36 page booklet, which includes the following 3 essays: The Last Tsar; Military Music in Imperial Russia; Russian Military Music in the Reign of Nicholas II; as well as notes on each of the 25 recordings featured on this excellent CD.

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The second, Царь Николай / Tsar Nikolai (1999) features 12 recordings by the prominent Russian singer and folk musician. Zhanna Bichevskaya (born 1944).

Her voice, her words touch one’s soul. Some critics have dubbed her the Russian Joan Baez. Her unique style of music is often described as Russian country-folk. She performed a series of White Guard officer’s songs, as well as a series of patriotic, monarchist and religious songs, including songs dedicated to the Romanov Holy Martyrs. One does not need to understand Russian to be touched by these beautiful songs.

NOTE: this CD can also be ordered from online shops that specialize in CDs imported from Russia, some of which are located in the United States.

Of particular note on this CD is the haunting title track Царь Николай (Tsar Nikolai) – click on the video below to listen to his beautiful melody. The video features vintage film footage of Nicholas II and his family.

© Paul Gilbert. 29 June 2020

Faithful to the End: Klimenty Nagorny and Ivan Sednev 

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Klimenty Grigorievich Nagorny (left). and Ivan Dmitriyevich Sednev (right)

Today – 28th June 2020, marks the 102nd anniversary of the death and martyrdom of two faithful servants to Emperor Nicholas II and his family – Klimenty Grigorievich Nagorny and Ivan Dmitriyevich Sednev. 

Klimenty Nagorny and Ivan Sednev selflessly served the Tsar’s children. Nagorny in particular, lay the great responsibility of protecting the Tsesarevich, even the slightest injury could put the heir to the Russian throne in danger, due to his hemophilia. Alexei was very fond of Nagorny, who in turn showed complete devotion to the Tsesarevich, faithfully sharing with him all the joys and sorrows.

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Nagorny and Tsesarevich Alexei in Tsarskoe Selo, 1907

Klimenty Nagorny and Ivan Sednev voluntarily stayed with the Tsar’s family during their house arrest in Tsarskoe Selo, and then followed them to Tobolsk, where Nagorny shared a room with the Tsesarevich, serving him day and night. Together with the Imperial family, Nagorny also attended all the divine services, and the only member of the family’s retinue who was a member of the choir organized by the Empress: he sang and read for the Imperial family during services held in the house church.

In the spring of 1918 Nagorny and Sednev once again, voluntarily followed the Imperial family to Ekaterinburg. They spent only a few days in the Ipatiev House, and then were separated from the Imperial prisoners. They were arrested and imprisoned, their sole crime had been their inability to hide their indignation on seeing the Bolshevik commissaries seize the little gold chain from which the holy images hung over the sick bed of the Tsesarevich.

On 28th June 1918, they were shot in the back by the Bolsheviks, in a small wooded area behind the Yekaterinburg-2 railway station (modern name – Shartash). Nagorny and Sednev were “killed for betraying the cause of the revolution” – as indicated in the resolution on their execution. The murderers left their bodies unburied.

When Ekaterinburg was occupied by the Whites, the the half-decayed bodies of Nagorny and Sednev, were found and solemnly buried near the Church of All the Afflicted (demolished). Witnesses at the funeral recall that the graves of the former sailors of the Imperial Yacht Standart were strewn with white flowers. Their graves were not preserved – they were destroyed when the Soviet authorities built a city park on the site of the cemetery.

Both Nagorny and Sednev were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) on 14 November 1981, and both rehabilitated by the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation on 16 October 2009. They have yet to be canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate. 

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

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Sednev and Alexeei Nikolaevich, in the Finnish skerries, 1914 

Nagorny, Klementy Grigorovich (1887—1918) – from 1909, he served on the Imperial yacht Standart and appointed as a footman to the imperial children. He received the Court title Garderobshik (wardrobe keeper) in 1909 and accompanied the Imperial family on every tour. In November 1913, he was appointed assistant dyadka to guard the Imperial children. He travelled with the Tsesarevich Alexei to Mogilev during 1914-16. After the Tsar’s abdication, he lived under detention with the Imperial family in Tsarskoe Selo, Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg.

Sednev, Ivan Dmitrievich (1881—1918) – was recruited into the Russian Imperial Navy in 1911, where he began as a machinist on the Imperial Yacht Polyarnaya Zvezda (Polar Star) then transferred onto the Imperial yacht Standart. By invitation he became a Lakei (liveried footman) to the Grand Duchesses, and subsequently to the Tsesarevich. Ivan lived under detention with the Imperial family in Tsarskoe Selo, Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg.

© Paul Gilbert. 28 June 2020

The myth that Nicholas II’s death was met with indifference by the Russian people

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Revolutionaries burning the Tsar’s portrait in 1917. Artist: Ivan Alekseevich Vladimirov (1869-1947)

Contemporary historians have led us to believe that news of Nicholas II’s death was met with indifference among the Russian people. Rather than conduct their own research on the matter, they choose instead to rehash the popular Bolshevik version of events – this is in itself is not the sign of a good historian.

While the elation exhibited by the revolutionaries is indeed true, it did not reflect the heartfelt sentiments of millions of Orthodox Christians, monarchists and others in the former Russian Empire.

Patriarch Tikhon (1865-1925), openly defended the Imperial family, by condemning the Bolsheviks for committing regicide.

When the tragic news of the murder of the Tsar’s family came, the Patriarch immediately served a memorial service at a meeting of the Council; then served the funeral Liturgy, saying that no matter how judged the policy of the Sovereign, his murder after he abdicated and who did not make the slightest attempt to return to power is an unjustified crime, and those who committed him should be branded as executioners.

On July 17/30 the Patriarch said: “But we, to grief and shame, survived until the time when a clear violation of God’s commandments are not only not recognized as sin, but justified as legitimate. So, a terrible thing happened: the former Tsar Nikolai Alexandrovich was shot … We must, in obedience to the teaching of the Word of God, condemn this action, otherwise the blood of those shot will fall upon us, and not just on those who committed it … Let them call us counter-revolutionaries, let us be imprisoned, let us be shot. We are ready to endure all this in the hope that the words of our Saviour are also referred to us: “Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28). “

Eugenie Fraser, born and raised in Russia writes about her years in Petrograd and news of the tsar’s death: “In August, filtered through from Siberia, came the news of the slaughter of the Royal family by the sadistic thugs of the Bolshevik party. Horror and revulsion touched every decent thinking citizen in the town. To execute the Tsar and his wife in this barbaric fashion was bad enough, but to butcher the four young girls and the helpless boy was the work of mindless criminals. In churches people went down on their knees and openly wept as they prayed for the souls of the Tsar and his family.”

“Even in all this turmoil and confusion, and even among those with little sympathy for the abdicated tsar, the brief five-line announcement in July 1918 of the execution of Nicholas II and his family in Ekaterinburg caused a terrible shock,” writes Serge Schmemann. He further notes “Prince Sergei Golitsyn recalled in his diary how people of all levels of society wept and prayed, and how he himself, as a nine year old boy, cried night after night in his pillow.”

Major-General Sir Alfred Knox further noted in his memoirs: “An old soldier . . . breathed into my ear that the Emperor was a good man, and fond of his people, but was surrounded by traitors.”

It is important to recall that it was in the summer of 1918, when Lenin unleashed the first Red Terror. People lived in fear of punishment from the thugs and criminals of the new order, for showing any sympathy for the murdered tsar. Many hid their framed portraits of the tsar, and kept their grief and monarchist sentiments to themselves.

This post is an abridged excerpt from my forthcoming book Nicholas II: A Century of Myths and Lies – scheduled for publication sometime in 2021

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© Paul Gilbert. 19 June 2020

The Emperor on Vacation – Set of 3 Albums

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Tucked away for decades in the Yalta Historical and Literary Museum in Crimea, are three little known photograph albums of the family of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. The albums were found in Livadia and confiscated by the regional Soviet after the Imperial residences were nationalized by the Bolsheviks in 1917.

I was made aware of the existence of these albums during my visit to Yalta and Crimea in 2000, however, it was not possible to view them at the time.

The albums were published last year by the N. Orianda Publishing House in Simferopol, Crimea under the title Император на отдыхе / The Emperor on Vacation in three handsome hard cover volumes. Each album is filled with photographs of the Imperial family during their stay in Crimea in 1902, 1912 and 1913 respectively. The albums are packaged in a handsome slip case. Text and captions are in Russian.

This collection of photographs are indeed special, as there are no staged portraits, they reflect the private, home life of the Imperial family: walks, picnics, excursions, family and friendly meetings – all set against the backdrop of picturesque Crimean nature, and the region’s historical and architectural monuments. Also included are a few images taken during official meetings and parades.

These albums will be indispensable to historians and any one interested in the life of Russia’s last tsar and his family. The photographs have not been published in any of the pictorials published by Western publishers over the past decades – they are new to us! What makes these albums even more unique and valuable is that only 100 sets were printed! The price is 10,000 rubles ($150 USD).

Volume I (1902) Августейшие дачники / August Summer Residents

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Volume II (1912) Земной рай Романовых / Romanovs Earthly Paradise

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Volume III (1913) Царский альбом в стиле репортажа

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Published by the N. Orianda Publishing House in Simferopol, Crimea.

ISBN: 9785604293164. Click HERE to order your set of these magnificent albums!

© Paul Gilbert. 16 June 2020

Monument to the Imperial Family established in Tyumen

A new monument to the Holy Royal Martyrs was established last month in the Siberian city of Tyumen. The monument depicting Emperor Nicholas II and his family was erected in the garden of the Mother of God-Nativity Convent, which is under the administration of the Tobolsk Diocese. The sculptor Irina Makarova posted a video (above) on YouTube on 31st May, which captures the process of production and installation of the monument. She noted that the Tobolsk Diocese had requested the order. The monument was made last summer in the town of Zhukovsky near Moscow.

“We took as a basis an existing monument to the royal family which was established in 2017 at the Holy Trinity-Saint Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery. On the initiative of the head of the Tobolsk Diocese Vladyka Demetrius, an old Russian boat was added to the monument – this is a symbol of Tyumen. Inscribed on the side of the boat is “Русь“ (Rus) This is no coincidence as Nicholas II and his family were taken from Tyumen to Tobolsk  on the steamboat Rus,” said the sculptor.

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According to Makarova, the monument was planned to be erected in Tobolsk, where the Romanov family were held under house arrest from August 1917 to April 1918, however “the locals were against it.” Therefore, they decided to install the monument on the grounds of the monastery, next to the former Tura railway station, where the Imperial family arrived by train from Tsarskoye Selo. The Royal Pier Museum now stands next to the place from where the Imperial family were sent into exile to Tobolsk

She added that they had planned to open the monument on 8th June of this year, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, the official opening and consecration has been postponed indefinitely. The monastery notes the possibility of opening on 17th July, the day marking the death and martyrdom of Nicholas II and his familyy.

In August 1917, two trains arrived at the Tura station in Tyumen, carrying Nicholas II, his family, servants and other retainers, all of which were accompanied by Red Army soldiers. Here the last Russian emperor made a stop on his way into exile. The Imperial family did not spend long in the city, and on the morning of 5th August they set off on the steamer Rus to Tobolsk, where they lived under house arrest until April 1918. It was then that they were moved to the Ural city of Ekaterinburg. Nicholas II along with his family and four faithful retainers were shot on the night of 16/17 July 1918 in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg.

© Paul Gilbert. 10 June 2020

Divine Liturgy for Tatishchev and Dolgorukov Performed in Ekaterinburg

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From left to right: Catherine Schneider, Ilya Tatishchev, Pierre Gilliard,
Anastasia Hendrikova and Vasily Dolgorukov

Wednesday 10th June 2020, marked the 102nd anniversary of the death and martyrdom of two faithful servants to Emperor Nicholas II – General Ilya Leonidovich Tatishchev (left) and Prince Vasili Alexandrovich Dolgorukov (right).

A Divine Liturgy was performed in the Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, situated in the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent in Ekaterinburg.

General Tatishchev and Prince Dolgorukov, faithfully and selflessly served Emperor Nicholas II, for many years. With Christian courage and nobility, they remained faithful to the sovereign, voluntarily followed the Emperor and his family to Tobolsk, and then to Ekaterinburg.

It was on 10th June 1918, that they together took a martyr’s death at the hands of the Bolsheviks and were buried in the cemetery of the Novo-Tikhvin Convent.

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

Ilya Leonidovich Tatishchev (1859 – 1918) – Adjutant-General of Emperor Nicholas II. The son of General Leonid Aleksandrovich Tatishchev (1827-1881) and Catherine Ilinishna (1835-1915), Ilya Tatishchev is one of the descendants of the founder of Ekaterinburg. He graduated from the Corps des Pages in St Petersburg, and later entered the service of the His Majesty’s Life Guard Hussar Regiment. He later served as adjutant to the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (1847-1909). On 6th December 1895, he was promoted to colonel. From 1905 he served as Major-General of the Retinue of His Imperial Majesty. In 1910 he was promoted to Adjutant General. He was a member of the Holy Prince Vladimir Brotherhood. He faithfully followed Emperor Nicholas II and his family into exile. He was murdered by the Bolsheviks on 10th June 1918. Ilya Tatishchev is buried in the cemetery (*lost during the Soviet years) of the Novo Tikhvinsky Convent in Ekaterinburg.

Prince Vasily Alexandrovich Dolgorukov ( 1868 – 1918) – Major-General, marshal of the Ministry of the Imperial Court and lands. The son of Prince Alexander Vasilyevich Dolgorukov (1839-1876) and Princess Mary Sergeyevna (1846-1936). He graduated from the Corps des Pages in St Petersburg, and then entered the service of the Life-Guards Horse-Grenadier Regiment. In 1907, he was promoted adjutant to His Imperial Majesty Emperor Nicholas II. From 1912-1914, he served as Regimental Commander of the Life-Guards Horse-Grenadier Regiment. During the First World War, he served at General Headquaters in Mogilev. Dolgorukov faithfully and selflessly served Emperor Nicholas II for 22 years. In March 1917, he voluntarily stayed with the Emperor during his house arrest in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. In August 1917, he then followed the Emperor and his family into exile to Tobolsk.

After his arrival in Ekaterinburg on 30th April 1918, Prince Dolgorukov was arrested “in order to protect public safety.” He was placed in the political department of the Ekaterinburg prison. The Chekists tried to accuse him of planning the escape of the Imperial family. Historians call these accusations groundless. On 10th June 1918, he was shot in a wooded area near the city’s Ivanovskoe Cemetery,. His body was later discovered by a unit of the White Army, and buried in the autumn of 1918 in the cemetery (*lost during the Soviet years) of the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent in Ekaterinburg.

Tatishchev and Dolgorukov were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in October 1981.

© Paul Gilbert. 10 June 2020

Collectible Postage Stamps of Nicholas II and his Family

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REPUBLIC OF MADAGASCAR

I am always amazed at the number of commemorative and collectible stamps depicting the images of Nicholas II and his family issued by so many obscure nations.

Included in this post are postage stamps issued by 10 African nations: Madagascar, Gabon, Cameroon, Guinea, Botswana, Zambia, Congo, Comoros, Niger and Djibouti.

The stamps incorporate vintage and colourized photographs, as well as portraits by historic and contemporary Russian artists.

Among the more than 70 postage stamps depicted in this post, two of them feature errors. In one postage stamp issued by Gabon, what should be Emperor Nicholas II is in fact his cousin King George V of Great Britain, while in another also issued by Gabon is the Russian actor who played Nicholas II in the controversial 2018 film Mathilda.

NOTE: I do NOT know where one can order any of the stamps depicted here, however, I would assume that they can be ordered from your local philatelic shop – PG

REPUBLIC OF CAMEROON

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REPUBLIC OF GABON

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REPUBLIC OF GUINEA

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REPUBLIC OF BOTSWANA

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REPUBLIC OF ZAMBIA

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UNION OF THE COMOROS

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REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

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REPUBLIC OF NIGER

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REPUBLIC OF DJIBOUTI

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NOTE: I do NOT know where one can order any of the stamps depicted here, however, I would assume that they can be ordered from your local philatelic shop – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 7 June 2020

All Around Me I See Treason, Cowardice and Deceit!

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The following editorial was published in the 11th March 2010 edition of
International Affairs. Click HERE for the original editorial

There are times when the human soul is filled from within with such an overbearing and unassailable feeling of evil and gloom that it requires inhuman power, some extraordinary exploit to overcome it … This is when the person prone to suicide shouts faint-heartedly: “I don’t want to live, and I’m not going to live,” while the long sufferer beseeches: “I can’t live, but I yearn for Life.” This is akin to the Agony in the Garden, when Jesus prayed in such earnest that it was as if great drops of blood were falling to the ground, when he prayed for this cup to pass him by.. .so that the light would not be engulfed by darkness. And not somewhere remote, in far-off galaxies, but right here in the heart, and only then in the galaxies, which, compared with the human heart, are nothing but dust and ashes… “All around me I see treason, cowardice and deceit” are not only the words Emperor Nicholas II used to reproach his contemporaries for forsaking him, they express the agony he felt for them, “for they know not what they do.” Had he not felt this agony, the Sovereign’s daughter would not have written, “He forgave everyone…,” which was the message of reconciliation he asked her to give everyone who hadremained faithful to him. He also forgave us, only do we really “not know what [we] do…”? After the toxic gas of the revolutionary propaganda evaporated, after the whole of Soviet historiography had insulted and spit in the face of the royal family, after the archives were opened for public perusal, after the letters, diaries, memoirs, and eye-witness accounts were published, and after we became free to take sober account of the tragedy of the royal family’s murder, we suddenly hear from the television screens and from the incompetent historian: “The empress was a idiot.” While another philosophizing TV anchorman, primping and preening, would say sneeringly: “I am not one of those who believes Nicholas II was a man of strong will.” These people cannot “not to know”; they simply do not want to know. 

The world is quicker to defend its villains than its saints. A few stal-wartly souls would try to break their way into Tsarskoe Selo to defend the family to whom they had given their oath of allegiance. And these were not the high-ranking generals who unanimously advised the emperor to abdicate from the throne, who saw, like no one else in Russia, how much effort, mind, and soul the Sovereign had invested in rectifying the situation in the army. “Holding victory in his hands, he fell to the earth alive…” Winston Churchill wrote in his book World Crisis, 1916-1918, London, 1927, Volume 1, p. 476, about Emperor Nicholas II. This is how people fall when struck perfidiously from behind.

One young cornet was lucky enough to find his way into the palace. The abdication had been announced, but the emperor was not at court. Fear for his life and the future of his children were growing with each passing hour. “With a single gesture, the empress bade me to stand; her magnificent eyes were even more sunken from sleepless nights and anxiety and expressed the unbearable torment of her long-suffering heart.

What unearthly beauty and stateliness emanated from this eminent imperial figure!” But Alexandra Feodorovna did not feel sorry for or try to comfort herself. “I am very grateful that you have come to see me and not abandoned me on this difficult and dreadful day! I would really like you to stay with me, but that, to my immense regret, is impossible. I know and understand how hard this is for you… I ask you to please take off my insignia, because I could not bear it if some drunken soldier tore them away from you in the street! I believe that you will continue to wear them in your heart!” she said to the cornet, comforting him. And this Sovereign, Her Majesty, no, she was simply a Woman in the true meaning of this word, was being called an “idiot” throughout the country. Why? Well, you see, Count Witte had once been summoned to Her Majesty, whereby she compassionately expressed her surprise that there were so many poor and impoverished people in Russia and almost demanded that he stop this disgrace. “Oh! What naivety!” Yes, what treasured naivety!

While filming a movie about Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, our film crew worked in Darmstadt, the home town of the two imperial sisters. Everyone was amazed at the attention Alix and Elizabeth’s family gave to the impoverished, orphans, and all the needy citizens in this modest duchy of their father, the size of which could, naturally, in no way compete with Russia’s expanses. Of course, the Grand Duchy of Hesse was a European province. At first, the empress could not and, I think, was unable her entire life to reconcile herself to that fact that what could be done in her former Homeland was impossible in her new, boundless Homeland, which she came to love with all her heart. Who can reproach her for this? “I love those who yearn for the impossible,” said the great Goethe.

Incidentally, Alexandra Feodorovna received the cornet wearing a white nurse’s gown. From the very beginning of the war, she and her daughters had been caring for the wounded, and the entire family had donated large sums of their own money to set up hospitals, equip hospital trains, and purchase medication, equipment, and clothing for the frontline soldiers.

On the eve of the war, no other European government did more to defend peace than the government in St. Petersburg. In November 1921, at the Washington Naval Conference, the U.S. President would say that the proposal to limit arms by reaching an agreement among the nations was nothing new. It was enough to recall the noble strivings expressed 23 years ago in an Imperial Rescript from His Majesty the Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias. This was followed by an extensive quote from Nicholas IPs note, in which he appeals to the whole world to convene an international conference in order to curb the arms race and develop mechanisms for preventing wars in the future. The world was surprised that this proposal did not come from a weak, defenseless state, but from a vast and omnipotent empire. All the great powers ignored this proposal. Kaiser Wilhelm II said that in practice he would continue to rely only on God and his sharp sword. England, which had the strongest navy in the world, refused to go for any reductions.

Japan, which was hatching its own plans in the Far East, ignored the Russian note. Russian Foreign Minister Count Muraviev figuratively noted that the people reacted enthusiastically and the governments distrustfully. Anyone else would have given up, but Nicholas II continued his efforts. A repeat note followed, and the Hague Peace Conference was indeed convened in 1899 under the chairmanship of the Russian ambassador to London. A whole series of extremely important decisions was made, including on the non-use of poison gases and explosive bullets, conditions were drawn up regarding the upkeep of prisoners-of-war, as well as principles for peacefully settling conflicts, and the International Court that functions to this day in The Hague was founded. Were these not rather too many achievements for a “weak-willed” and “weak-minded” czar, before the perseverance and foresight of whom stubborn Europe was bowing? The main ideas of the Russian initiative were more fully realized in the creation of the League of Nations, which later passed the baton on to the United Nations. It is no accident that the original document calling on the states to take part in The Hague Peace Conference of 1899 signed by Nicholas II is exhibited in the UN building in New York.

Alexandra Feodorovna, as we know, was the granddaughter of British Queen Victoria. In his letters, the heir to the Russian throne wholeheartedly called her “my dearest grandmother,” since she played an important role in their marriage. After breaking the resistance of his father, about the “staunch will” of whom the entire world had no doubt and who was not in favor of the heir marrying a Darmstadt princess, the enamored crown prince came up against another obstacle. The protocol demanded that the future empress convert to Russian Orthodoxy. This created a serious bone of contention for the young couple, and it was Queen Victoria who managed to persuade her granddaughter to agree to this step. Nicky’s letters were full of genuine warmth and gratitude toward his “dearest grand-mother” for her inestimable service. However, in one letter she scolded the young czar with respect to the anti-British articles that appeared in Russian newspapers. To which she received the following reply: “I must say that I cannot prohibit people from openly expressing their opinions in the press. Don’t you think I have not been upset myself by the rather frequent unfair judgments about my country in the English newspapers? Even the books I am constantly being sent from London give a false account of our actions in Asia, our domestic policy, and so on.”

Several months later, the young couple expressed their joy over Queen Victoria’s consent to be godmother to their first child, Grand Princess Olga. Being accustomed to the European sound of the royal family’s names, Queen Victoria was evidently rather puzzled over the Russian emperor’s choice of name for his daughter. “We chose the name Olga because it has already been used several times in our family and it is an age-old Russian name,” Nicky wrote in November 1895. But in the very next letter sent from Darmstadt, Queen Victoria, his “dearest grandmother,” was in for a rude awakening when she tried to put pressure on Nicky in the interests of British policy in the East. “As for Egypt, dear Grandmother, this is a very serious issue that affects not only France, but also all of Europe. Russia is very interested in its shortest routes to Eastern Siberia being free and open. Britain’s occupation of Egypt is a constant threat to our sea routes to the Far East; for it is clear that whoever controls the Nile valley also controls the Suez Canal. This is why Russia and France do not agree with Britain’s presence in this part of the world and both countries wish for real integrity of the canal.”

March, which saw the murder of Alexander II and the abdication of Nicholas II, was a fateful month for the Romanov dynasty … “Perhaps when we throw them the Romanov crown, the people will have mercy on us; General Headquarters, [Commander-in-Chief] Alexeev, and the generals have long been in favor of the idea of a state coup,” mumbled Alexander Guchkov, Duma’s Chairman, “deathly pale with a trembling chin” in those days to a handful of frightened State Duma deputies.

So, whose side are we on? On their side, or on the side of he who, after removing his crown, said: “If Russia needs a sacrifice for its salvation, I will be that sacrifice!”

© International Affairs. 4 June 2020