Summer Views of the Alexander Palace and Park

PHOTO: aerial view of the front of the Alexander Palace. The eastern wing (left) contains the private apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. It was here in the Alexander Palace, that Russia’s last Emperor and Tsar was born on 19th (O.S. 6th) May 1868.

The Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo has been closed to visitors since autumn 2015. Since that time, it has been undergoing a much needed restoration, one which will include the historical recreation of the interiors of the private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, located in the eastern wing of the palace.

In recent months, the efforts of designers, craftsmen, artists and other experts have breathed new life into the interiors of Russia’s last Imperial Family. Photographs and media tours have offered us just a peek inside, generating excitement among anxious visitors within Russia and abroad.

Sadly, the highly anticipated reopening has been delayed on numerous occasions over the past year: the palace was due to open on 20th August 2020, it was then postponed until December 2020, then delayed until late May or early June of 2021.

For some reason, the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve cannot provide the public with a firm date. They were hopeful that the Alexander Palace would reopen in time for the summer tourist season. The reopening is surrounded in secrecy and rumours. One rumour is that the palace will reopen its doors to visitors on 14th August, the date marking the 104th anniversary when the Imperial Family left the palace for the last time and sent into exile.

Further delays caused by the COVID situation in Russia – which in recent weeks has spiralled out of control – has caused further delays on the restoration of the palace and its reopening. The situation is compounded even further, by the fact that Russia’s borders are closed to most foreigners. There is no indication just when these restrictions will be lifted.

Setting aside any rumours and travel restriction, only time will tell if and when the Alexander Palace will reopen by the end of this summer, or will it be delayed . . . yet again?

In the meantime, I have assembled the following collection of photos of the Alexander Palace and Park, all of which evoke the beauty and tranquillity of this place. After viewing these images, I am sure that you will agree that it is quite understandable why the Imperial Family enjoyed the time they spent here together – PG

PHOTO: aerial view of the rear of the Alexander Palace. Situated facing the Alexander Park are the windows of the Semi-Circular Hall [seen in the photo]. It was through these doors on 14th (O.S. 1st) August 1917, that the Imperial Family and their retinue departed the Alexander Palace for the last time.

PHOTO: The main gate leading into the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. The gate was installed in 1898, based on the design of the Russian architect (of Italian origin) Silvio Amvrosievich Danini (1867-1942). The view from the street has remained virtually unchanged since the early 20th century.

Following Nicholas II’s abdication on 15 March (O.S. 2 March) 1917,”Colonel Romanov” passed through these gates to be reunited with his family. Together, they lived here under house arrest, until their exile to Tobolsk on 14th (O.S. 1st) August of the same year.

PHOTO: view of the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace. Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in the summer of 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others. This wing of the palace will become known as the ‘Museum of the Russian Imperial Family’.

PHOTO: it is hard to imagine that during the Nazi occupation of Pushkin [Tsarskoye Selo] during the Great Patriotic War [1941-45], that this beautifully landscaped garden in front of the Alexander Palace, was a cemetery for 85 SS officers. The markers were removed after the war, however, it would be many years before the remains were exhumed and sent to Germany for burial.

PHOTO: two rows of Corinthian columns cut across the central colonnade of the Alexander Palace, connecting the eastern and western wings. The columns compliment the Neoclassical edifice. Built between 1792 and 1796 by the famous architect Giacomo Quarenghi (1744-1817), upon completion, it was agreed that the architect had excelled himself in creating a masterpiece.

The Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024. After the completion of the work, the Alexander Palace will become a multifunctional museum complex, which will include exhibition halls, halls for temporary exhibitions, halls for research work and conferences, as well as a library and a children’s center. The basement floor will house a ticket booth, a museum shop, a café, a cloakroom, a tour desk, as well as technical and ancillary facilities.

PHOTO: situated just steps past the western wing of the Alexander Palace is the Children’s Island and House.

The island features a tiny house built for the children of Emperor Nicholas I, and later enjoyed by the children of three successive monarchs: Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II. To the left of the house is a small cemetery, where the Tsar buried his favourite dogs. The cemetery has survived to this day.

The island was reached by a pull-ferry, whereby sailors would pull ropes sending the ferry over to the island and back from the park’s shore.

According to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum, there are plans to eventually restore the Children’s Island and Pavilion, once funding has been secured.

PHOTO: in 2007, this memorial was erected in the park near the palace. The memorial consists of a granite cross and the image of the Imperial Family. The Russian inscription reads Дом царской семьи 1895-1917Home of the Tsar’s family 1895-1917. Sadly, the memorial was removed in May 2010, its whereabouts remains unknown.

PHOTO: also situated in the Alexander Park, is the alleged first grave of Grigorii Rasputin (1869-1916). Every year on the anniversary of his death, Orthodox Christians come here to honour his memory [there is a growing movement to canonize Rasputin]. The grave is repeatedly vandalized.

Rasputin was buried on 2nd January (O.S. 21st December) at a small church that Anna Vyrubova had been building in the Alexander Park. The funeral was attended only by the Imperial Family and a few of their intimates. Shortly after the Tsar abdicated the throne in March 1917, a detachment of soldiers exhumed Rasputin’s corpse and burned by on the night of 11th March in the furnace of a steam boiler at the Polytechnic Institute in Petrograd.

PHOTO: Situated in the garden behind the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral [the household church of Nicholas II and his family] at Tsarskoye Selo, is a bust-monument to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, the work of St. Petersburg sculptor Victor Vladimirovich Zaiko (born 1944).

The monument was consecrated on 17th July 1993, the day marking the 75th anniversary of the murder of Nicholas II. Hundreds of Orthodox Christians and monarchists gathered for the official opening and consecration of the first monument to Emperor Nicholas II to be established in post-Soviet Russia.

The monument stands in front of a small group of oak trees, seen in the background, which were planted by Nicholas II and his family on 4 May (O.S. 21 April) 1913. Of the seven trees planted, only four have survived to the present day.

Click HERE to view Winter Views of the Alexander Palace and Park, published on 1st February 2021

© Paul Gilbert. 29 July 2021

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Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles and updated on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order

Your donation helps support my work in a number of ways, including research, the cost of translations from Russian media and archival sources, the maintenance of my news blog: Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint., the organization of conferences and other events. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Nicholas II and the opening of the Romanov Museum in Kostroma, 1913

PHOTO: Nicholas II opens the Romanov Museum in Kostroma, 19th May 1913

The idea of ​​creating the Romanov Museum belonged to the chairman of the Kostroma Provincial Scientific Archive Commission, who proposed opening a special Romanovsky department “for collecting and storing information and data about the ancestors of the ancestor of the reigning house of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich.” His proposal was supported by Emperor Nicholas II, who approved the official use of the name “Romanovsky department”.

As the number of exhibits multiplied each year, the Romanovsky department ran out of space, and the question of creating a separate museum building arose. In 1907 the governor of Kostroma Alexei Porfirievich Veretennikov (1860-1927), reported to Moscow about the funding for the construction of the museum (donated by the Kostroma City Duma, industrialists, nobles and local residents) and a plot of land for the future museum. The permission to use the name “Romanov Museum” and the promise of co-financing came from Moscow.

In 1908, the project of the building was developed by the architect Nikolai Ivanovich Gorlitsyn (1870-1933), the construction began in 1909. In 1912, Nicholas II issued an order of 35 thousand rubles for the completion of the internal arrangement and interior decoration of the Romanov Museum, as well as the external decoration necessary for the opening of the museum.

In May 1913, Nicholas II and his family arrived in Kostroma as part of the celebrations marking the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty and attended the official opening of the Romanov Museum. The Emperor and his family became the first visitors to the museum and left their names in the memorial book, which has survived to this day.

Currently, the Romanov Museum has several expositions, but one remains unchanged – about the role of Kostroma in the history of the Romanov dynasty.

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Bust of Nicholas II unveiled in Kostroma

Earlier this week, a new bronze bust of Emperor Nicholas II was presented to the Romanov Museum in Kostroma, where it now stands in the foyer of the museum [photo above]. The Emperor is depicted wearing the uniform of the Guards crew, complete with orders and medals.

The inscription on the wall reads: “The Romanov Museum began construction on 21 June 1909, and opened on 19 May, 1913 in the presence of their Imperial Majesties, the Tsesarevich Alexei and the August daughters of their Imperial Majesties”

The bronze bust was created by the contemporary Moscow sculptor Vasily Moskvitin [photo below]. The sculptor who is passionate about Russian history, has created sculptures and busts dedicated to Russian princes and saints, including Patriarch Tikhon (1865-1925).

The theme of the last emperor is the latest in the work of Moskvitin. For the Romanov Museum in Kostroma, however, the master decided to create a different sculptural portrait.

“Yes, he was also made to wear a crown of thorns, however, I did not want to present Nicholas II in the tragic image he is so often depicted. Instead, he is presented as the living soul of a person, to reveal his true character. Nicholas II was a very intelligent person, cheerful, with radiant eyes, which emitted kindness. I tried to capture all these features in my bust,” said Moskvitin.

© Paul Gilbert. 23 July 2021

Britain’s first memorial to the Russian Imperial Family

Up until a few years ago, Britain’s first and only memorial to Emperor Nicholas II and his family was located in the Battenberg Chapel in St Mildred’s Church, Whippingham, Cowes, on the Isle of Wight.

It was here that Princess Victoria Mountbatten (1863-1950), the elder sister of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, created a memorial plaque for the members of her family who were brutally murdered in the Urals by the Bolsheviks in July 1918.

The memorial is tucked away in a corner of the Battenberg Chapel.

“Give rest O LORD to the Souls of thy Servants
who have fallen asleep, for they have set their hope on Thee”.

In loving memory of
ELISABETH, Grand Duchess Serge of Russia – b. Nov. 1st 1864
perished in the Russian Revolution on the 18th of July 1918

ALEXANDRA, Empress of Russia – b. June 6th 1872
NICHOLAS II, Emperor of Russia – b. May 18th 1864*
and of their children
OLGA – b. Nov. 5th 1895 TATIANA – b. June 10th 1897
MARIA – b. June 26th 1899 ANASTASIA – June 13th 1901
and ALEXEI, the Caesarevich – b. Aug. 17th 1904
perished in the Russian Revolution on the 17th July 1918

* Nicholas II was born in 1868, not 1864, as shown on the plaque

On 7th July 2018, a granite memorial [above photo] with bronze relief portraits of the Russian Imperial Family, was unveiled at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight. The monument marking the 100th anniversary of the death and martyrdom of Nicholas II and his family was created by the Moscow sculptor Elena Bezborodova.

On 13th July 2018, a monument [above photo] was also erected in memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs, on the grounds of the Cathedral of the Nativity Of the Most Holy Mother of God and the Royal Martyrs in the London Borough of Hounslow.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 July 2021

“ROC will not recognize Ekaterinburg remains,” claims prominent Russian forensic scientist

PHOTO: Vladimir Soloviev the State Archives of the Russian Federation in Moscow

A very troubling interview was published in today’s edition of Бизнес Online [Business Online], whereby legendary forensic scientist Vladimir Soloviev stated: “there will no recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains in November by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).” Below, is a condensed version of the interview.

Now retired, Vladimir Nikolaevich Soloviev, senior investigator and forensic expert at the Main Department of Criminalistics (Forensic Center) of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, who from 1991 to 2015 led the investigation into the deaths of the Imperial Family. Over the years, the case of the Ekaterinburg remains took up much of his professional career.

BO: Do you know what is happening today with the ROC’s investigation?

VS: All work on the identification of the Ekaterinburg remains was completed a long time ago. As far as I know, a historical examination is still underway. But this can be carried out indefinitely.

Marina Molodtsova, who heads the investigation team today, is a good and qualified specialist. I have no issues with her. But, she is a person of the system. If she is issued an order – she salutes. Putin gave carte blanche to the patriarch, and until such time that the president gives an order for closure, the investigation will continue.

BO: At the end of June, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church decided to submit the results of the examinations on the identification of Ekaterinburg remains for consideration by the Bishops’ Council, which is to be held in November. But, frankly, after everything that has happened during the last 30 years, it is hard to believe that the issue of recognizing the remains will be resolved this year.

VS: I can’t believe it either, and there will be no recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, when they meet in November. Patriarch Kirill is a very proud person. He would have to explain in front of everyone why the Lord does not love him, why he did not enlighten him during these 30 years. After all this time, Kirill was against the recognition of the remains. He was, in fact, the main ideologist of this position. Vsevolod Chaplin (1968-2020), shortly before his death, told me about a conversation he had with the Patriarch. According to Chaplin, Kirill told him that he would do anything to avoid resolving the issue of the Ekaterinburg remains during his life.

I foresee that at the Bishop’s Council they will say that the church is not completely satisfied with the results of the research and investigation, and that something is missing, yet . . . again!

BO: In an interview given to me a few days before his death, Geliy Trofimovich Ryabov (1932-2015), bitterly said: “When I decided to make our discovery public [grave of Nicholas II and family members in 1991], I naively believed that it would contribute to reconciliation, by bringing closure to our country’s history. But I did not take into account that this war would be permanent. At a certain moment, I came to the conclusion that if I knew how all this would turn out, I probably would not have disclosed the burial place of the Imperial Family.” Have you ever had such thoughts, or regrets that you got involved in this, as it is now obvious is hopeless?

VS: Of course, in terms of career, I resigned, so to speak, but not on a high note. First of all, of course, the church and the church community did their best to discredit me. They accused me of anything! But, if there was an opportunity to go back in time, 30 years ago, I would do it all over again.

I will say, however, that perhaps it was good that this case has been dragging on for as long as it has. If it was completed within the “normal” time frame and the remains were immediately buried, the image of the Imperial Family would have quickly faded away, come to naught. It is thanks to all these scandals that their tragic fate received so much attention by so many scientists and experts.

© Paul Gilbert. 18 July 2021

Russia’s 2nd equestrian monument to Nicholas II consecrated in Nizhny Novgorod region

On 9th July 2021, Russia’s second equestrian monument to Emperor Nicholas II was installed on the grounds of the Church of the Holy Martyr Mikhail (Gusev) in Kulebaki of the Nizhny Novgorod region.

On 17th July – the day marking the 103rd anniversary of the death and martyrdom of Nicholas II – the monument to Russia’s last emperor and tsar was officially unveiled and consecrated by Bishop Barnabas of Vyksa and Pavlovsk.

According to the initiators of the project, the installation of the monument was initially planned for 17th July 2020, however, a lack of funds delayed the project by one year. The cost of the monument was 5 million rubles ($80,000 USD), collected from donations within the diocese.

PHOTO: on 17th July 2021, Russia’s second equestrian monument to Emperor Nicholas II was installed on the grounds of the Church of the Holy Martyr Mikhail (Gusev) in Kulebaki of the Nizhny Novgorod region

PHOTO: the monument was consecrated by Bishop Barnabas of Vyksa and Pavlovsk

The initiators of the minument-project were inspired by the famous dictum of the old man Nikolai Guryanov :

“The reason for the spiritual illness in Russia is the conciliar sin of treason against the Tsar, in allowing the slaughter of the Holy Royal Family and in the unrepentance of hearts … We lost the pure, strengthening grace that poured out on the sacred head of the Anointed One, and through him on all of Russia. By rejecting the Tsar, we raised a hand to everything holy and to the Lord. Without true repentance, there is no true glorification of the Tsar. There must be spiritual awareness. ”

“The Russian people are entirely guilty for the death of the tsar,” said the rector of the Church of the Holy Martyr Mikhail (Gusev) Father Nikolai Boldyrev,  who considers the monument a step of repentance “for the sins of the fathers.” He draws parallels between the last tsar and Christ, believing that a curse hangs over Russia, and calls for repentance.

PHOTOS: on 17th July 2021, Russia’s second equestrian monument to Emperor Nicholas II was installed on the grounds of the Church of the Holy Martyr Mikhail (Gusev) in Kulebaki of the Nizhny Novgorod region

“Our goal is to return historical memory, to reveal the true image of Tsar Nicholas, so that the Russian people may know who he was for us. He knew throughout his life that he would have to suffer. Three saints told him about that he would be a martyr and that his family would perish, and that all his nobles, military leaders would betray him” said Father Nikolai – “He died for us, for the Russian people, who betrayed him, to the Russian Golgotha. He forgave everyone who slandered him,” he added.

PHOTOS: on 17th July 2021, Russia’s second equestrian monument to Emperor Nicholas II was installed on the grounds of the Church of the Holy Martyr Mikhail (Gusev) in Kulebaki of the Nizhny Novgorod region

The sculptor of the monument is Irina Makarova, who also created monuments to the Holy Royal Martyrs at the St. Seraphim-Diveyevo Convent in July 2017; the meeting of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna in Alushta, Crimea; and a monument to the Holy Royal Martyrs in Tyumen.

PHOTO: Father Nikolai Boldyrev standing in front of Russia’s second equestrian monument to Emperor Nicholas II on the grounds of the Church of the Holy Martyr Mikhail (Gusev) in Kulebaki of the Nizhny Novgorod region

Below, is a short VIDEO of the official opening and consecration of Russia’s second equestrian monument to Emperor Nicholas II, on the grounds of the Church of the Holy Martyr Mikhail (Gusev) in Kulebaki of the Nizhny Novgorod region. CLICK on the IMAGE below to watch the VIDEO – duration 1 minute, 9 seconds

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Russian news and social media continually claim that the equestrian monument of Nicholas II in Kulebaki is Russia’s first equestrian monument to Nicholas II, however, this is incorrect, Russia’s first equestrian monument to the Tsar was erected in Moscow in December 2014.

PHOTO: Equestrian of Nicholas II dominates the Monument to the Heroes of World War One in Moscow

On 16 December 2014, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu opened a sculptural composition dedicated to the heroes of World Wars I and II on the grounds of the Ministry of Defense on the Frunze Embankment in Moscow. The WWI monument features Nicholas II on horseback, recognizing and honouring his efforts during the Great War.

© Paul Gilbert. 17 July 2021

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Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles, news stories and translations, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Tsar’s Days in Ekaterinburg 2021

PHOTO: members of the Double-Headed Eagle Society carry an icon of the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II on the square in front of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg

On the night of 16/17 July, a Divine Liturgy in memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs, took place on the square in front of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg. The Divine Liturgy and Cross Procession are the highlights of the annual Tsar’s Days held in the Ural capital.

Traditionally, several tens of thousands of people participate in the Tsar’s Cross Procession – 10 thousand in 2020 [due to COVID], 60 thousand in 2019 and 100 thousand in 2018 [100th anniversary]. Despite the pandemic, an estimated 3 thousand Orthodox Christians and monarchists took part in this year’s Divine Liturgy.

PHOTO: on the night of 16th July 2021, an estimated 3 thousand pilgrims attended the Divine Liturgy at the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg

In addition, the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs was honoured with Divine Liturgies held in Orthodox churches across Russia and around the world. In addition, many people lit candles in front of icons, while offering prayers in the privacy of their homes around the globe. The author of this article was one of them.

The Divine Liturgy was led by eight bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church: Metropolitan Eugene of Yekaterinburg and Verkhotursky, Metropolitan of Tashkent and Uzbekistan Vikentiy, Metropolitan of Chelyabinsk and Miassky Alexy, Bishop of Orsk and Gaysky Irenaeus, Bishop of Isilkul and Russian-Polyansky, Bishop Theodosius of Nizhny Novgorod and Nizhny-Polyan Kamyshlovsky Methodius, Bishop of Zlatoust and Satka Vincent.

PHOTO: Orthodox Christians gather on the square in front of the Church on the Blood to honour the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs

Metropolitan Eugene addressed the faithful, who had assembled on the square in front of the church:

“The sacred, solemn, tragic, joyful night has come, which we call the Tsar’s night within the Tsar’s Days. A night that combines in itself the tragedy of Good Friday, the Gethsemane struggle that the Holy Royal Martyrs experienced at this place. And on the same night, the great joy of the Resurrection of Christ and the glory into which the Holy Royal Martyrs entered from this place is revealed. All this is experienced very closely by every person, and we have the opportunity to draw here both the hope of the resurrection and our strength to endure these Gethsemane temptations.

“At this time 103 years ago, the August Family, having prayed to God, saying: “In Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit,” just like we do when to go to sleep. And after a few minutes, footsteps sounded along the corridors, they began to be raised, woken up and taken to the basement. We know today what glory it ended with. And I would like to wish everyone to be inspired by their faith, humility and patience,” – said Metropolitan Eugene.

The night service was broadcast live by the Soyuz Orthodox TV channel to 87 countries around the world. You can watch the Divine Liturgy in its entirety, by clicking on the VIDEO below, duration 2 hours and 41 minutes:

Vladyka conveyed to the participants in the Divine Liturgy the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill to be attentive to each other and to observe all the necessary health and safety measures during the pandemic. He called on everyone to pray for the sick and also for their doctors. Metropolitan Eugene also emphasized, that when the Cross Procession to Ganina Yama begins, “I will put on a mask and, which I hope, will set a good example so that we all show humility – this is our discipline, this is our strength.”

Following the Divine Liturgy, a Cross Procession took place from the Church on the Blood to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama. Pilgrims follow the route in which the bodies of the Imperial Family were transported to Ganina Yama – a distance of 26 km (16 miles), taking about four to five hours to walk on foot.

PHOTO: in the early morning hours of 17th July 2021, an estimated 2 thousand pilgrims participated in a Cross Procession from the Church on the Blood to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama

Due to the fact that the Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region cancelled this years Cross Procession (due to the COVID situation), the head of the Ekaterinburg Diocese, Metropolitan Eugene of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky defied the order, and led 2 thousand believers on today’s Cross Procession to Ganina Yama. This year, however, the roads were not closed to traffic, forcing the pilgrims to walk on narrow sidewalks and the shoulder of the highway to safely make the journey.

PHOTO: pilgrims arrive on foot at the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama, after walking a distance of 26 km (16 miles) from the Church on the Blood, a journey taking about four to five hours

At approximately 6:30 am, another Divine Liturgy was performed at Mine No. 7, where the bodies of members of the Imperial Family and their loyal servants were thrown into the mineshaft by their killers. More than 80 clergymen prayed together with the arch-pastors of the Russian Orthodox Church.

PHOTO: Divine Liturgy was led by Metropolitan Eugene of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye at the Cross, erected over Mine No. 4, where the bodies of the Holy Royal Martyrs were thrown by their killers into an abandoned mine

The Divine Liturgy was led by Metropolitan Eugene of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye, Metropolitan of Tashkent and Uzbekistan Vikenty, Bishop of Isilkul and Russian-Polyansky Theodosius, Bishop of Nizhny Tagil and Nevyansk Theodosius.

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

© Paul Gilbert. 17 July 2021

“Until the Ekaterinburg remains are recognized, I will not go to church”, says Russian forensic expert

PHOTO: Sergei Alekseevich Nikitin reconstructed sculptural portraits of Emperor Nicholas II and his family

On the eve of the 103rd anniversary of the murders of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, the Ekaterinburg media outlet 66.RU published an interview with Sergei Alekseevich Nikitin, a highly respected Soviet and Russian expert of the Bureau of Forensic Medical Examination in Moscow.

Nikitin is a world-renowned forensic expert, known for his work on the reconstruction and identification of faces and heads of many historical figures, using plastic reconstruction according to the Gerasimov method. His projects have reconstructed the faces and skulls of Ilya Muromets, the mother of Ivan the Terrible Elina Glinskaya and Adolf Hitler.

He is perhaps best known, however, for the main work of his life with the remains exhumed in 1991 from the Porosenkov Log tract near Ekaterinburg. It was Nikitin who first identified the skull of Nicholas II, and then recreated the sculptural portraits of the Emperor and his family.

66.RU: How did it come to be that in 1991 you became involved in identifying the remains of the Imperial family?

SAN: Initially, this work was carried out by the Sverdlovsk forensic medical experts and the Research Institute of Forensic Medicine of the USSR Ministry of Health, but this ministry supported the Emergency Committee, and it was necessary to transfer the research to the Bureau of the Main Forensic Medical Expertise of the RSFSR Ministry of Health. I was included in the expert group as a specialist in the fields of both identification and anthropological reconstruction.

66.RU: Several years ago, in one of your interviews, you said that you immediately “identified” Nicholas II even before you began using the Gerasimov method, at the Verkh-Isetsky District Department of Internal Affairs in Ekaterinburg. Moreover, it turned out to be not skull number 1 at all, as everyone had thought at the time, but skull number 4 (and subsequent studies confirmed your guess). How did this happen?

SAN: There is nothing surprising in this: by August 1991, I already had 19 years of experience in recreating a sculptural portrait from a skull. It was not at first sight that I recognized the emperor, since skull No. 4 had endured some rather serious losses. It wasn’t until the third day that the imperial frontal tubercles on this skull provided me with a clue.

66.RU: Another proof of the authenticity of the remains of the emperor must be considered a scar made by a sabre – a during an assassination attempt on Nicholas II in his youth during a visit to Japan, when he was hit on the head with a sabre by a Japanese policeman. Where did you find this hole on the skull of Nicholas II? Where and when did you manage to examine the hat worn by the heir to the throne at the time of the assassination attempt?

SAN: It was in 2006, after I reviewed details of the wounds inflicted on the heir that I made the discovery. The description is very detailed, with measurements of both the damage to the skull and the distance between the marks. Then I took a profile photograph of the skull No. 4 (I had already photographed it in 1994 with a scale ruler), superimposed it on the profile photograph of the emperor, and it turned out that the “fronto-parietal” wound exactly coincided with the through-damage to the skull! It was from this wound that on 12th May 1891, doctors removed a fragment of the outer bone plate, exposing the spongy layer. It was here that sulfuric acid administered by the killers, which subsequently “ate” through the skull.

It was in 2008, during an examination in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, that I was able to compare the tear on the bowler hat of Nicholas Alexandrovich to the damage to the skull. Any doubt to this mystery was thus solved!

66.RU: Do you, as an expert having handled the skulls of Nicholas II and members of his family, have any doubts about the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg remains?

SAN: Neither I nor other experts had any such doubts even back in August 1991.

66.RU: The renewed investigation of the ROC Investigative Committee has been going on for six years, experts have repeatedly presented their research and conclusions to the ROC commission, but the church is still in no hurry to recognize the tsar’s remains. What do you think of all this?

SAN: I think this is a classic example of absurdity.

66.RU: Why do you think the Russian Orthodox Church, despite the many examinations and the obviousness of the conclusions, does not recognize the Ekaterinburg remains? When do you think common sense will prevail?

SAN: One of the canons of the sanctity of the remains is their miraculous acquisition, which was not the case with the Ekaterinburg remains. We must not forget that at the time of their acquisition in 1979 (partial) and in 1991 (complete) they were not relics, since neither Nicholas II nor his family members were then canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. Common sense and faith are different concepts.

66.RU: Is it true that at some point you became disillusioned with the church and even stopped going to it?

SAN: I was not disillusioned, but I did make a vow to myself: that until the Ekaterinburg remains are recognized, I will not go to church!

NOTE: a final decision on the Ekaterinburg remains will be resolved by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), when they meet in November of this year.

© Paul Gilbert. 16 July 2021

Pavel Viktorovich Ryzhenko 1970-2014

PHOTO: Pavel Viktorovich Ryzhenko (1970-2014)

On this day – 16th July 2014 – the great Orthodox artist Pavel Viktorovich Ryzhenko died in Moscow, at the age of only 44.

Russia’s hugely popular Christian, patriotic, monarchist painter Pavel Viktorovich Ryzhenko created more than 60 paintings depicting scenes from Imperial Russian history, particularly from the era of the Holy Royal Martyr Nicholas II. Large-scale exhibits of his works have been held in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Kostroma among other Russian cities.

Pavel Ryzhenko was born at Kaluga, Russia on 11 June 1970. In 1982 he entered the Moscow Art School at the Surikov Institute. In 1990 he entered the Russian Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where he studied in the historical and religious workshop of Professor Ilya Glazunov. From 1999, he taught at the Russian Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. In 2007, Pavel began working at the Ryzhenko Military Artists Studio, where he became one of the leading masters of diorama-panoramic art (during his life, he painted six large-scale dioramas). In 2012 Ryzhenko was awarded the title “Honored Artist of the Russian Federation.”

Sadly, Ryzhenko died on 16 July 2014. The famed Orthodox artist died 5 days before his 44th birthday, the cause of death was a stroke.

Pavel Ryzhenko’s early death was a tremendous loss to Russia’s artistic and spiritual communities.

PHOTO: Pavel Ryzhenko’s grave in Zhdamirovskom Cemetery, Zhdamirovo

A memorial service for Pavel Ryzhenko was held on Sunday 22 July 2014 in the Church of All Saints in the village of Krasnoselsky District, Moscow. The funeral was held on the same day in Kaluga, followed by his burial at the Zhdamirovskom Cemetery, in the village of Zhdamirovo.

I had the great honour of attending an exhibition of his works during my first visit to Ekaterinburg in 2012. The exhibition was held in the Patriarchal Compound, which is situated across from the Church on the Blood.

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

Below, are six of Ryzhenko’s canvases, in which the Holy Royal Martyr Nicholas II is depicted:

The Farewell of the Tsar to His Troops: From the Triptych “Imperial Golgotha”. 2004

Wounded, the last Tsar on an inspection of a military hospital near the front in World War I

Imprisoned at Tsarkoye Selo: From the Triptych “Imperial Golgotha”. 2004

The Ipatiev House. The Morning After: From the Triptych “Imperial Golgotha”. 2004

A Photograph in Remembrance: From the Triptych “A Russian Century”. 2007

The Birth of Russian Aviation. 2007

To view Ryzhenko’s complete works of historical realism, please click HERE to visit his official web site.

© Paul Gilbert. 16 July 2021

Recreation of glass items and decorative elements for the interiors of the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: the fireplace and mirror recreated for the mezzanine connecting the New Study of Nicholas II and the Maple Drawing Room of Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace

Specialists of the Yuzhakova Studio in St. Petersburg have completed complex and painstaking work on the glass lighting fixtures in the various interiors of the Alexander Palace. Among their recreations are the replenishment of the blue overflow on the Moorish plafond in the Tsar’s Bathroom, the restoration of crystal pendants, obelisks and the reconstruction of the lost cobalt balusters on the Catherine chandelier, the restoration of a crack on the 18th century flask of the lantern of the Great Library, as well as the replenishment of the lost yellow beads on the fringe of the chandelier in the Reception Room of Nicholas II.

The interiors of the Alexander Palace were originally decorated with glass products and objects – large mirrors, luxurious chandeliers, girandoli and sconces, as well as vases and glass clock cases. These items were objects of the 18th-19th centuries of complex manufacture, demonstrating the technical achievements of Russian (Nazinskie glass factories, Irbit glass factory) and foreign glass production.

From 1895, Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna gradually filled their private apartments with objects created by Russian and foreign firms. The highest orders for the interiors of the Alexander Palace were made with the St. Petersburg imperial porcelain and glass factories, the factory of mirrors, and window. The interiors featured vases and other items from glass factories in Silesia, as well as the French glassmakers Emile Galle (Nancy), and the Brothers Dom firm.

During the decoration of the private interiors of the August couple in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace, the architect Roman Feodorovich Meltser’s (1860-1943) continued the tradition of using the best modern glass products, decorating the transom windows with cathedral glass, for both the Reception Room and Working Study of Nicholas II.

For the lighting fixtures of the Emperor’s New Study, 25 coloured glass shades were used for the design of the Tiffany-style “tulip lanterns”.

According to Meltzer’s plan, the New Study of Nicholas II and the Maple Drawing Room of Alexandra Feodorovna were united by a mezzanine. In the Maple Drawing Room, the architect arranged a mezzanine in the design of a balcony, the side rails of which in the upper part were decorated with stylized floral ornament glazing. According to Melzer’s project, the stained-glass frame of the mezzanine fireplace mirror was manufactured and electrified. A high screen, also decorated with stained glass stood near the door of the room. Sadly, these exquisite decorative glass elements of the Maple Drawing Room did not survive.

PHOTO: view of the fireplace mirror recreated for the mezzanine connecting the New Study of Nicholas II and the Maple Drawing Room of Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum decided to recreate them on the basis of design documentation developed by the Studio 44 architectural bureau, prepared from photographs from the early 20th century and 1930s. The reconstruction of the decorative glass with facet and the stained glass frame of the fireplace mirror was carried out in 2020 by the masters of the Yuzhakova Studio. The lack of historical fragments and clear photographs complicated the work: it was necessary to study analogs – coloured glass of the Art Nouveau era. Natalia Yuzhakova selected and used glasses identical in texture and colour. Since the stained-glass frame was convex, the cut-out elements from the layers of stained glass were heated in an oven and bent to the desired configuration. During manufacture, the tin frame was checked against a pre-made template.

The work on the manufacture of the frame was carried out by the master Valery Matrosov. Natalia Yuzhakova selected and used glasses identical in texture and colour. Since the stained-glass frame was convex, the cut-out elements from the layers of stained glass were heated in an oven and bent to the desired configuration. During manufacture, the tin frame was checked against a pre-made template.

In the same workshop, mirrors of complex configuration with facet were made for the Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, and the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, as well as a glass vase of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir chandelier.

The chandelier for twelve candles from the historical collection of the museum was made in 1858 at the factory of the famous St. Petersburg bronzer Felix Chopin and was originally located in the rooms of Empress Maria Alexandrovna (1824-1880) in the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace. A special decoration of this lighting device was a central vase in the form of a jug made of coloured glass (lost during the war) with a bronze openwork lid (preserved). When recreating the glass part with the shape and size of the vase, there were no difficulties – it was clearly visible on archived black-and-white photographs, and with the colour of the glass, designated as “purple” in the inventories, it was more difficult. During the discussions, a mauve shade was approved, corresponding to the colour of the wall upholstery and furniture set in the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir.

In the process of recreating the chandelier vase, experts made several attempts to blow out the glass piece. It was not immediately possible to obtain the desired shade of colour and saturation, since manganese oxide, used as a dye, can change its colour at high temperatures, which, in turn, affects the colour of the finished product. In addition, the base and neck of the vase should fit snugly against the adjacent parts of the chandelier – the lower bronze rosette and the openwork lid, taking into account that the lower part of the vase is held together by six gilded bronze holders in the form of narrow leafy shoots. Therefore, in the manufacture of chandeliers, bronze masters, as a rule, first acquired finished blown glass parts of the required size, shape and colour.

© Paul Gilbert. 15 July 2021

The last divine service for the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg

On this day – 14th July (O.S. 1st July) 1918 – the last divine service was held for the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg

In October 1918 – three months after the death and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family – Fr. John Storozhev, recalls this service in the Ipatiev House on 14th July (O.S. 1st July) :

“… Taking up our [Fr. John Storozhev and Deacon Vasily Buimirov] places, the deacon and I began the reader’s service [similar to a liturgy, but much shorter since it does not include the Eucharist]. At a certain moment in the service, it is required to read the prayer “With the Saints Give Rest”. For some reason, on this particular occasion, the deacon, instead of reading, sang the prayer, and I, too, began to sing, somewhat disconcerted by this departure from the customary practice. But we had scarcely begun when I heard the members of the Romanov family, standing behind us, fell to their knees, and here I suddenly felt the sublime spiritual comfort that comes from shared prayer.

“This experience was even stronger when, at the end of the service, I read a prayer to the Mother of God, which, in highly poetic and moving words, expressed the plea of the afflicted person to be supported in his sorrows and receive the strength to bear his cross worthily.

“In addition, the deacon recited the Ectenia [often called by the better known English word litany], and I sang. Two of the grand duchesses sang along with me, and sometimes Nicholas Aleksandrovich sang in a low bass (for instance, he sang the “Our Father” and some other things). The service was uplifting and good, and the family prayed fervently.

“The Tsar was clad in a khaki tunic and trousers with tall boots. On his chest he wore a St. George’s Cross. He had no shoulder boards [epaulettes]. He impressed me with his firm gait, his calmness. and especially his manner of looking steadfastly and firmly into one’s eyes. I didn’t notice any fatigue or traces of low spirits in him. It seemed to me that he had barely visible gray hair in his beard. His beard had been longer and wider when I saw him the first time. It seemed to me now to be trimmed.

“After the service, everyone approached the cross and the deacon handed prosphora [a small loaf of leavened bread used in Orthodox liturgies] to Nicholas Alexandrovich and Alexandra Feodorovna. Upon departing, I walked very close to the former grand duchesses, and heard a whispered “Thank you”. I don’t think it was just my imagination

“The deacon and I were silent until we reached the Art School building, and here, suddenly, he said to me: “You know, father, something’s changed there. Something’s happened”. His words struck a chord with me, and I stopped and asked why he he had gotten that impression. “Well, they were all different somehow. And also nobody sang.” And I have to say that, truly, this service of 14/1 July was the only one at which none of the Romanov’s sang with us (and the deacon had been present at all five services at the Ipatiev House).”

Source: The Last Sacred Service Observed by the Imperial Family in Yekaterinburg. The Testimony of Archpriest Ioann Vladimirovich Storozhev. First English translation published in Sovereign No. 6 (2018) , pg. 129-140

© Paul Gilbert. 14 July 2021