The Ural Mining Institute of Emperor Nicholas II in Ekaterinburg

PHOTO: This magnificent icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, greets both students and visitors as they enter the main building of the Ural State Mining University in Ekaterinburg

Founded on 16 [O.S. 3] July 1914, the Mining Institute in the Ural city of Ekaterinburg was the last educational institution in Russia, to be created by the decree of Emperor Nicholas II.

The solemn act which took place on board the Imperial Yacht Standart, where Nicholas II signed the law on the establishment of the Mining Institute. It was considered an event of great historical significance in the cultural life of not only the Urals, but also the Russian Empire.

Following the consecration held on 30 [O.S. 17] July 1916, the foundation stone was laid. A special copper plate was made on which the date was engraved. On the same day, a telegram was sent to Nicholas II, who was at that time at the Stavka in Mogilev, the headquarters of the Russian Imperial Army, where he was serving as Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces:

“To His Imperial Majesty. Gathered for the solemn laying of the building of the Ekaterinburg Mining Institute, after the liturgy performed by His Grace Seraphim, ardent prayers to the Lord God for the precious health of Your Imperial Majesty and the granting of complete victory over the enemy were given. We lay at your feet, All-Merciful Sovereign, loyal for the monarch’s mercy granted to the Urals by the fulfillment of the long-standing aspirations of the Ekaterinburg city public administration and the Perm zemstvo. The Mining School, approved by Your Imperial Majesty at the time of the nationwide struggle against German oppression, gives new strength to the flourishing of the young Russian industry for the glory of Yours, Beloved Sovereign, and our dear Motherland.”

PHOTO: A close-up view of the Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II reveals its rich detail, made of Ural precious stones: rubies, garnets, sapphires, emeralds, amethysts and other precious gems

The following day the Tsar sent his reply: “I instruct you to convey to His Grace Seraphim and all those who gathered for the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the building of the Ekaterinburg Mining Institute my heartfelt gratitude for the prayers and the feelings that brought them to life. I hope that this new institute for the study of mining will provide the Motherland with useful workers in this important branch of industry.” Nicholas II.

It was difficult for the institute to take its first steps; it needed reliable help and support. The first director of the institute Pyotr Petrovich von Weymarn (1879-1935), believed that it was best to enlist support from the first person in the state, the Tsar himself. Weymarn believed that it was quite enough if the institute should bear the name of the Sovereign. And so they did. On 6th November 1916, the Construction Commission wrote to Nicholas II with a request to accept the institute under “His Imperial Majesty’s Patronage and to grant it the name “Ural Mining Institute of Emperor Nicholas II”.

The document read: “Your Imperial Majesty! For many years, the vast Urals lacked an institute of higher learning for the study of mining. Only during the reign of Your Imperial Majesty … The Urals are now enriched by two higher leaning schools: the University in Perm and, which is especially important for the mining progress of the Urals, and the Mining Institute in the city of Ekaterinburg. Thus, the higher learning education in the Ural region is now forever historically associated with your Sovereign name. With deep conviction, the Construction Commission … took the courage to loyally ask you, Sovereign, to accept the Mining Institute, which is being built in the city of Ekaterinburg, under its highest patronage and most mercifully command to deign to name it henceforth the Ural Mining Institute of Emperor Nicholas II.”

The Tsar replied on 5th January 1917, granting the institute the right to be named after him.

PHOTO: Olga Nikolaevna Kulikovsky-Romanov (1926-2020) admires the icon of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, situated in the lobby of the main building of the Ural State Mining University. Her proximity to the icon provides us with an idea of just how large this magnificent icon actually is.

Sadly, events in the country forced the Urals from taking advantage of the monarch’s favour. As a result of the February 1917 Revolution, Nicholas II, abdicated on 15 [O.S. 2] March. But the story did not end there. Fate wanted Nicholas II to visit the city, the institute of which he bestowed his name on. On that “warm, wonderful day” of 17th April 1918, the Emperor was brought from Tobolsk to Ekaterinburg where he was held under house arrest. It was here that he and his family spent the last three months of their life until the tragic end.

Following the death of Nicholas II, the institute underwent a number of name changes: Ural Mining Institute (1918); Sverdlovsk Mining Institute (1934); Sverdlovsk Mining Institute named after V.V. Vakhrushev (1947); Ural State Mining and Geological Academy (1993); and the Ural State Mining University (2004) today, a leading university in the Urals, with about 9000 students.

The original building of the Ural State Mining University has survived to the present day, and its administration has not forgotten the historic connection between it and Russia’s last emperor and tsar.

PHOTO: The main building of the Ural State Mining University

Celebrations were held at the Ural State Mining University on 19th May 2008, the day marking the 140th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Nicholas II. A magnificent memorial icon dedicated to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II was opened in the lobby of the main building of the Ural Mining University.

The Holy Royal Icon was painted by the sisters of the Novo-Tikhvin Monastery in Ekaterinburg. According to the new project, all the plastic elements of the decoration of the original icon were replaced with a mosaic of Ural precious stones: rubies, garnets, sapphires, emeralds, amethysts and other precious gems. Local miners timed its reconstruction to coincide with the date marking Nicholas II’s birth.

The royal crown is made of chased patterned silver with gilding, figured silver lace adorns the icon frame. For the icon case, white and red Pashtun marble was used, the design of which looks as if blood is oozing from the stone, recalling the martyrdom of the Imperial Family.

© Paul Gilbert. 9 May 2021

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