70 facts about Emperor Nicholas II and his reign

His Imperial Majesty Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II

More than a century after his violent murder, Russia’s last Tsar continues to remain a victim of myths and lies which germinated during the Soviet years and exist to this day.

His detractors continue to base their often negative assessment of Nicholas II’s life and reign by the tragedies which cast a dark cloud over his reign, in particular, the Khodynka Tragedy (1896) and Bloody Sunday (1905), among others.

Sadly, much of the negative assessment of Nicholas II is further fuelled by a steady stream of poorly researched books and documentaries by academically lazy historians, particularly those in the United States and Great Britain. In 2018, one popular British author scoffed at the idea of Nicholas II being a reforming tsar. It is a shame that today we know so little about Nicholas II’s reformist activities.

It is very unfortunate that there are people today who refuse to remove their blinders and educate themselves further on Nicholas II’s life and reign by consulting the many new archival documents released since 1991. Instead, they continue to cling to the old myths, lies and Bolshevik propaganda.

Historian and author Pyotr Multatuli, Russia’s country’s leading authority on Nicholas II, hit the nail on the head when he wrote the following about the Sovereign’s modern-day detractors:

“We combine indifference to our own history with our maximalism and categorical judgments. Thus we lose the ability to hear others. Everybody is content with his own biases without thinking that in the case of Nicholas II, his opinion is borrowed and that he was too lazy to form his own opinion. Thirty years have passed since the collapse of the USSR, and truthful books on the Imperial Family were published since as early as perestroika. But most people don’t read them and retain the outdated stereotypical views.”

NOTE: the text highlighted in red are links to full-length articles on the subject – PG

***

Following the death of his father Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894),Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov (1868-1918) ascended the throne as Russia’s last monarch on 2nd November (O.S. 20th October) 1894. Emperor Nicholas II ruled Russia for more than twenty-two years: from 2nd November [O.S 20 October] 1894 to 15 March [O.S. 2 March] 1917. During his reign, Russia made great advances on both the world stage and within the Russian Empire. The following list explores 70 facts, noting just some of the many reforms and accomplishments he made during his reign.

  1. Nicholas II spoke five languages fluently: Russian, French, English, German and Danish, although he preferred to speak Russian. He spoke Russian to his children and wrote in Russian and French to his mother Maria Feodorovna. He spoke and wrote in English to his wife Alexandra Feodorovna.
  2. Nicholas II was the most widely travelled of the Romanov emperors. In 1890-91, he embarked on a journey around the greater part of the Eurasian continent. The total length of the journey exceeded 51,000 kilometers, including 15,000 km of railway and 22,000 km of sea routes. The Eastern journey of Tsesearvich Nicholas Alexandrovich took him to Greece, Egypt, India, Ceylon, Siam, China, and Japan. He then travelled across the expanse of the Russian Empire to St. Petersburg. During the autumn of 1896, Nicholas II accompanied by his wife made a tour of Europe, which included visits to Denmark, Germany, Austria, France and Great Britain. During his reign, Nicholas made additional visits to Denmark, Britain, France, Italy, Austria, and Sweden.
  3. Deeply religious, he combined his studies with an in-depth knowledge of spiritual literature. He became the last Orthodox Tsar of Russia [VIDEO].
  4. He received the best of military and legal education. He served in the army with the rank of colonel. When high-standing members of the military tried to convince him to take the rank of general, Nicholas allegedly answered, “Gentlemen, you need not worry about my rank. You’d better be thinking about rising through the ranks yourselves.”
  5. Nicholas II was the most athletic of all Russian tsars. He used to do morning exercises from an early age, taking daily walks, he loved kayaking and could hike tens of kilometers at a time. He loved to watch and participate in horse races. He was an excellent swimmer and a dedicated lover of billiards. He also enjoyed tennis. During winter, he was a passionate skater and ice hockey player.
  6. Nicholas II enjoyed the company of his canine companions, particularly during his long walks. At Tsarskoye Selo, he maintained a kennel of nearly a dozen English collies – his favourite breed.
  7. The future Emperor grew up in the Spartan atmosphere of his father Alexander III’s palace at Gatchina. As a boy, he had to sleep in a hard iron bed, and eat basic food. Throughout his reign, Nicholas II continued to wear the same suits and military uniforms after they had been patched and mended numerous times.
  8. Nicholas II and his family donated hundreds of thousands of rubles at a time to a large number of causes, helping renovate Russia’s medical equipment, building new hospitals, primary and vocational schools, maternity wards and orphanages.
  9. Nicholas II was a voracious reader. He maintained magnificent libraries in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg and the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. He read equally well in Russian, English and French and he could manage in German and Danish. Each month, new books were supplied by his private librarian, who provided the Tsar with twenty of the best books from all countries.
  10. Nicholas II granted a pardon to nearly all clemency applications that were submitted to him. During his reign, there were 120 times fewer death sentences pronounced and executed than the number of people sentenced to death during Stalin’s rule in the USSR.
  11. The total number of convicts during Nicholas II’s reign was considerably lower than later in the USSR or today’s Russian Federation. In 1908, there were 56 convicted criminals per 100,000 population. In 1949, this number rose to 1537 per 100,000; in 2011 it counted 555 per 100,000.
  12. In 1903, the number of government functionaries was 163 per 100,000 population. In 2010, less than a hundred years after his death, this figure reached 1153.
  13. During their detention in Tobolsk, the Imperial family was never idle. The Emperor cut wood, cleared the snow and worked in the garden. Seeing all that, one of the peasant guards allegedly said, “Had we given him a plot of land, he’d have earned the whole of his Russia back by working!”
  14. When the members of the Provisional Government were considering the possibility of accusing the Emperor of treason, one of them suggested making his private correspondence with the Empress public. To which he was told, “We can’t do that! If we do, the Russian nation will worship them as saints.”
  15. The Emperor wasn’t guilty of the Khodynka stampede tragedy. When he learned about it, he immediately provided financial help and moral support for the victims.
  16. During the events of Bloody Sunday in 1905, revolutionary provocateurs were the first to begin shooting at the troops. The total number of dead was 130 and not 5000 as Lenin later claimed. Those who were wounded by the troops’ return fire were immediately administered first aid and taken to hospitals. The Emperor wasn’t even in St Petersburg that day. When he found out what had happened, he immediately provided considerable financial help and moral support for the victims. He paid in total 50,000 rubles of his own money to the injured. The revolution of 1905-1907 was largely prevented due to the Emperor’s commitment and determination.
  17. He secured Europe’s largest empire that knew few rivals in its military and economic power and prosperity either before or after his reign.
  18. The Russian Orthodox Church was the second largest in the world. By 1913, it numbered 53,900 churches and 1,000 monasteries in the Russian Empire alone that were situated in every corner of the vast country. The Russian Orthodox Church enjoyed considerable influence in the Holy Land and offered guidance to all Orthodox Christians in Europe, Asia and even Africa.
  19. The construction and renovation of churches was either financed by the state or supported directly by funds provided by Nicholas from the crown. The Emperor himself took part in the laying of the first cornerstones and the consecration of many churches. He visited churches and monasteries in all parts of the country and venerated their saints. Nicholas ensured that state subsidies to the Church increased annually from 30 million rubles in 1908 to 53 million rubles in 1914.
  20. Emperor Nicholas II ‘s concern for the Russian Orthodox Church extended far beyond the borders of his Empire. Thanks to the sovereign’s generous donations, 17 new Russian churches were built in European cities. In addition, Orthodox churches in Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, Montenegro, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Palestine, Argentina and the United States, all benefited from donations made by the Emperor.
  21. During the more than twenty-two years of Nicholas II’s reign, the Russian population had grown by 62 million.
  22. In 1897, Nicholas II approved the Russian Imperial Census, the first and the only census carried out in the Russian Empire. Nicholas took part in the census, in the field ‘occupation’ Nicholas wrote: ‘Owner of the Russian land’. The data processing took 8 years using Hollerith card machines. Publication of the results started in 1898 and ended in 1905.
  23. By the beginning of the 20th century, the judicial reforms of Nicholas II were firmly established throughout the Empire.
  24. In 1909, the Emperor went on a sixteen-mile forced march in order to test the new foot soldiers equipment. The combined weight of his gear exceeded seventy pounds. The only people he let in on his plans were the Minister of the Court and the Palace Commandant.
  25. He shortened compulsory military service to three years in the Army and five years in the Navy.
  26. During the course of the First World War, the Emperor took frequent trips to the front line, often accompanied by his son and heir Alexei, to demonstrate that his love for his people and his homeland made him defy death. His wife and daughters toiled in military hospitals tending to the wounded and assisting at surgeries. Later, when the Russian army suffered its hardest times, he assumed supreme command of the troops. During that period, not a single grain of the Russian soil was surrendered to the enemy. Nicholas’ troops didn’t let Wilhelm II past Galicia (the Western part of Ukraine and Belarus). Military historians now believe that had the revolution not interfered, Russia was bound to have won the war. Russian prisoners of war were considered its victims. They kept their ranks, decorations and wages. The duration of their captivity was counted towards their length of service. Of the 2,417,000 Russian PoWs only 5% died.
  27. The percentage of conscripts was the lowest in Russia of all the countries involved in military action: 39% of all men aged between 15 and 49 as compared to 81% in Germany, 74% in Austria-Hungary, 79% in France, 50% in Great Britain and 72% in Italy. Per thousand population, Russia lost 11 men compared to 31 in Germany, 18 in Austria, 34 in France and 16 in Great Britain. Russia was the only country that didn’t have problems with food supplies. The German wartime ersatz bread was unthinkable in Russia.
  28. The Peasants’ Land Bank offered large loans to farmers. By 1914, Russian peasants and farmers owned or rented 100% of all agricultural land in Siberia and the Asian part of Russia and 90% in its European zones. In Siberia, special state-owned depots provided the local population with agricultural equipment.
  29. The total per capita taxes in the Russia of 1913 was half of that in France and Germany and a quarter of that in Great Britain. The Russian population kept getting richer. The wages of Russian workers were on a par with those in Europe, second only to those of their American counterparts.
  30. Starting June 1903, all industrialists were obliged to pay a monthly allowance and pension to all workers injured in industrial accidents and their families. The amount of such allowance was set at 50 to 66% of the injured person’s needs. The country’s first trade unions were formed in 1906. A law of June 23 1912 introduced obligatory health and accident insurance for workers.
  31. The Russian law On Obligatory Social Insurance was one of the first of its kind in the world, preceding those of the United States and some leading European countries.
  32. Russia had one of the most progressive labor legislations of the time. According to some sources, American President William Taft commended the Russians on it saying, “No democratic state boasts such a perfect labor legislation as the one conceived by your Emperor.”
  33. On 15th (O.S. 2nd) June 1897, Emperor Nicholas II issued a decree prohibiting work in factories and other enterprises on Sundays and holidays.
  34. Prices for home-grown produce were the lowest in the world.
  35. During Nicholas II’s reign, the country’s budget grew almost threefold.
  36. The reign of Nicholas II was characterized by a deficit-free state budget, i.e. government revenues exceeded government spending. In the pre-war decade, the excess of state revenues over expenditures was 2.4 billion rubles. Public finances flourished. As a result of the deficit-free budget, redemption payments for peasants were cancelled, railway tariffs were lowered, and some taxes were eliminated.
  37. The adoption of the gold standard during the monetary reform of 1897 resulted in a much stronger ruble. According to the country’s finance minister Sergei Witte, “Russia has solely Emperor Nicholas II to thank for the introduction of gold currency.”
  38. Between 1894 and 1914, the amount of household deposits in savings banks increased sevenfold. The amount of deposits and equity deposited in small credit institutions increased 17 times. Deposits into joint-stock commercial banks between 1895-1915 increased 13 times.
  39. The grounds of the obligatory primary education were laid in 1908, aiming to achieve 100% literacy by 1925-1926. By 1916, the percentage of literate Russians more than doubled, from 21.1% in 1897 to 56%. By the beginning of the first World War, Russia had over a hundred higher education facilities that numbered over 150,000 students, placing Russia in a shared third place in the world (with Great Britain). The financing of education grew from 25 million to 161 million rubles. That’s not counting council schools whose financing had grown from 70 million in 1894 to 300 million in 1913. In total, the education budget grew 628%. The number of secondary school students grew from 224,000 to 700,000. The numbers of university students doubled while the number of all children attending school grew from 3 to 6 million. By 1913, Russia had 80,000 primary schools. A new law drafted just before the revolution introduced free schooling for everyone, including full board. Seminaries were free for the children of clergy, including full board.
  40. The early 1900s saw the introduction of free medicine. All Russian nationals had the right to free medical help; they received thorough checkups followed by detailed consultations. “The Russian system of municipal medicine has been the biggest achievement of our time in the field of social medicine as it offers free medical help available to anyone and also has a considerable awareness-raising value,” wrote the Swiss professor Friedrich Erissmann. Russia was second in Europe and third in the world for the number of qualified doctors.
  41. Kindergartens, maternity wards, orphanages and overnight shelters for the homeless mushroomed all over Russia.
  42. Patriotic sentiment was one of the strongest engines of the country’s politics during Nicholas II’s reign who saw his purpose in defending Russian interests at all levels. A great number of patriotic organisations, parties and movements functioned in Russia, covering the country in a vast net of institutions where a Russian person could turn to in an hour of need or to seek protection from injustice.
  43. Industry grew rapidly, raising the gross domestic product four times in the period from 1890 to 1913. Coal mining grew 500% and iron smelting, 400% within 20 years. Copper and manganese mining grew 500% within the same period. Investment capital in engineering factories rose 80% between 1911 and 1914. The total length of railroads and telegraph lines doubled within 20 years. The Russian river fleet doubled as well. Industry was rapidly becoming mechanised. In 1901, Russia produced 12,120,000 tons of crude oil as compared to 9,920,000 tons in the United States. In the period from 1908 to 1913, the growth in labor efficiency outpaced that of the United States, Germany and Great Britain — the top-ranking industrial giants. Nicholas II’s activity resulted in remarkable economic stability. As the world plunged into the depths of the economic crisis in 1911-1912, Russia preserved its momentum.
  44. Crude oil manufacturers paid a special tax on their activities which was then used to advance domestic production.
  45. In 1914, Russia sent a group of 2000 military engineers and other War Department workers to the United States in order to advance its heavy armaments industry.
  46. Russia hit the list of top countries in national income growth, increase in labor efficiency and concentration of production. It became one of the biggest exporters of textiles, a major steel and non-ferrous industry manufacturer and one of the biggest machine manufacturers and coal-mining countries.
  47. Russia became the world’s largest exporter of grain, cereals and dairy products. Its grain crops were 1/3 larger than the combined crops of the United States, Canada and Argentina.
  48. Grain production doubled, its combined yield growing 12%.
  49. Cattle stocks grew 60%. Russia had more horses than any other country and was also one of the biggest breeders of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.
  50. The following territories became either part of Russia or its protectorates: North Manchuria, Tianjin, Northern Iran, Urianhai, Ukrainian Galicia, the Ukrainian provinces of Lviv, Peremysl, Ternopol and Chernovitsk, as well as Western Armenia. Russian pioneers reclaimed vast territories of Siberia, Kazakhstan and the Far East.
  51. Nicholas II strove to remain unbiased and impartial to various lobbies’ interests. Many economic reforms as well as the anti-alcohol campaign were conceived and controlled personally by the Emperor, sometimes against the Duma’s judgment.
  52. The amount of freedom of speech and of press was larger than in any other period in Russia before or after his reign.
  53. Russia’s gold reserves became the largest in the world, making the ruble the hardest currency.
  54. Russia boasted one of the fastest-growing railway systems in the world. The length of miles of track increased from 31,623 in 1905 to 50,403 in 1917.
  55. Nicholas II personally supervised and controlled the building and completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway.
  56. Russia possessed one of the numerically strongest and quickest developing armies. It employed the Mosin’s rifle renowned for its efficiency, the 1910 Russia-improved version of the Maxim heavy machine gun and the 76-mm light field guns which were considered some of the best in the world.
  57. By the time of its creation in 1910, the Russian Air Force possessed some 263 aircraft which made it one of the biggest in the world. By autumn 1917, the number of aircraft had increased to 700.
  58. By 1917, the Imperial Russian Navy was second only to the British and German fleets. Its new-generation destroyers and battleships were among the best in the world; its mine laying operation tactics were considered the best of their kind.
  59. Nicholas II was the originator of the first Hague Peace Conference and its Permanent Court of Arbitration. In 1901, the Emperor was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of his efforts to limit armaments and promote peace among the great powers.
  60. Russia’s per capita alcohol consumption was one of the lowest in Europe, second only to Norway (3.4 litres of pure alcohol a year per capita in Russia as compared to 16.5 in France and 11.2 in Germany), culminating in Nicholas’ introduction of the prohibition law in 1914.
  61. The numbers of mentally ill persons were estimated at 187 per 100,000 population. A hundred years later in 2010 this figure topped 5,598 per 100,000.
  62. The numbers of suicides were estimated at 4,4 per 100,000 population in 1912, as compared to 29 in 2009.
  63. Both inflation and unemployment were non-existent although the dwindling amount of agricultural land forced many farmers to seek employment in cities.
  64. The crime rate was comparable with that of the United States and European countries. The 1913 International Criminological Congress in Switzerland recognised the Moscow detective police as “the best in the world”.
  65. The unprecedented boom of Russian culture resulted in a breathtaking rise in art, music, theatre, literature and architecture. The French poet and literary critic Paul Valéry called it “one of the three greatest summits in humanity’s history”, liking it to Greek Antiquity and Italian Renaissance.
  66. Nicholas II’s reign became the golden age of Russian science and philosophy.
  67. Russians became the first in the world to invent, among other things: Wireless radio transmission (by Alexander Popov who built his radio transmitter in 1894 and demonstrated it on May 7 1895, as opposed to Guglielmo Marconi, accordingly 1895 and 1896); Helicopter (by Igor Sikorsky in 1912); and the Television (by Boris Rosing who performed the first television transmission on May 9 1911)
  68. Russia became one of the leading manufacturers of motorcars and motorcycles, zeppelins and double-deckers. In 1902, Russian engineer Boris Lutskoi improved Maybach’s six-cylinder engine which he then supplied to Daimler, including the racing Mercedes 120PS in 1906.
  69. Russia’s motorcar industry at the time rivalled that of Germany; its aircraft production was comparable to America. Russian steam engines were among the best in the world. The Russo-Balt cars were known for their strength and reliability, successfully competing in such prestigious contests as the Monte Carlo and San Sebastian rallies.
  70. The famous Chanel No 5 scent was created by the Russia-born chemist Ernest Beau, the Romanov family’s unfailing perfumer who had emigrated to France after the Russian revolution of 1917. Beau was introduced to Coco Chanel by Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (1891-1942).

All of the above was achieved without any kind of pressure on the Russian population, without reverting to violence, robbing farmers of their livelihood, without reverting to the practice of prison camps or destroying the Russian people by the millions.

This list is incomplete, and will be further updated. In the meantime, please click HERE to read a Chronology of Events in the Life and Reign of Emperor Nicholas II, which I prepared on 7th June 2021 – PG

***

To learn more about Nicholas II’s many accomplishments, and to read first English language translation of articles by a new generation of Russian historians, which debunk the popular negative assessment of his life and reign, please refer to SOVEREIGN. For a limited time only, you can acquire ALL 11 issues for $275 USDshipping is FREE on all Canada and United States orders [all other countries, please contact me for rates to your country of residence] – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 13 July 2021

Icon belonging to the Imperial Family now in the Church on the Blood, Ekaterinburg

PHOTO: Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Three-handed” in the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg

Today – 11th July – the feast of the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Three-handed” – a miraculous icon revered in the Orthodox Church – is being celebrated in the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg.

During their house arrest in the Ipatiev House from April to July 1918, the Imperial Family had an Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Three-handed”, before which they prayed daily, until their death and martyrdom on 17th July 1918.

The Imperial Family’s icon was discovered following the regicide in the Ipatiev House by a Guards officer who personally knew Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960) and her husband Nikolai Kuikovsky (1881-1958). Later, the icon traveled with Admiral Alexander Kolchak’s (1874-1920) army and Russian emigrants, through China to the United States and Canada. In the early 1920s, through the efforts of officers devoted to Emperor Nicholas II, it was taken to Denmark and presented to the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928). Passing from generation to generation, the icon remained in the Romanov family until 2003: upon the Dowager Empress’s death in 1928, the icon passed to her youngest daughter Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna , then passing to her eldest son Tikhon in 1960.

In the year marking the 85th anniversary of the death and martyrdom of the Imperial Family, Olga Nikolaevna Kulikovskaya-Romanova (1926-2020) took part in the consecration of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg, erected on the site of the Ipatiev House, demolished in 1977. In addition and according to the last will and testament of her husband and nephew of Nicholas II Tikhon Nikolaevich Kulikovsky, Olga Nikolaevna brought from Canada the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Three-handed”.

By the Providence of God, on the night of 10th July 2003, Olga Nikolaevna Kulikovskaya-Romanova, solemnly handed over the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Three-handed” to the Church on Blood in Ekaterinburg, built on the site of the demolished Ipatiev House, where the Holy Royal Martyrs met their deaths and martyrdom. Thus, the dying wish of Tikhon Nikolaevich Kulikovsky – the last owner of the family icon – had been fulfilled.

PHOTO: Olga Nikolaevna Kulikovskaya-Romanova (left), solemnly handed over the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Three-handed” to the Church on Blood in Ekaterinburg on 10th July 2003

In her solemn speech to the pilgrims Olga Nikolaevna said: “I am happy that the Lord deigned me to fulfill the will of my husband Tikhon Nikolaevich Kulikovsky-Romanov … This icon in the Ipatiev House was a spiritual witness to the sufferings of the Holy Royal Martyrs. Everything has come full circle. After many years of wanderings, the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Three-handed” has returned to its proper place in Ekaterinburg. “

According to tradition, the feast of the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Three-handed”, marks the beginning of Tsar’s Days within the Ekaterinburg archdiocese. In July 2019, during the Divine Liturgy in the Church on the Blood, Metropolitan Kirill, now – the head of the Tatarstan archdiocese, said “from this day, begins Passion Week, dedicated to the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs. Starting from today, and every day of Passion Week, the earthly life and the last moments of the Holy Royal Martyrs will be honoured.”

A Divine Liturgy will be held on the night of 16/17 July in the Church on the Blood. Earlier this week, the Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region cancelled the annual Cross Procession from the Church to the Holy Royal Monastery at Ganina Yama. Despite this, Metropolitan Evgeny of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky insists that he will still take part in the sacred procession.

© Paul Gilbert. 11 July 2021

***

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

Ekaterinburg’s annual Tsar’s Cross Procession cancelled

PHOTO: tens of thousands participate in the annual Cross Procession in Ekaterburg

The Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region Yevgeny Kuyvashev announced today, that the traditional Tsar’s Cross Procession, which is held annually in Ekaterinburg on the anniversary of the death and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, has been cancelled due to a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the region.

In the past four days, more than 300 new cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in the region every day. Since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, more than 96 thousand people contracted the virus in Ekaterinburg and the Sverdlovsk region, 3.9 thousand of whom died. Russia is now experiencing a third wave and ranks fifth in the highest number of cases. More than 5.6 million cases have been recorded in Russia with more than 138 thousand deaths.

“This year the Cross Procession during Tsar’s days will not be held … The new strain t hat is spreading throughout the region is even more dangerous. Many more people are now in need of oxygen, the hospitals are filled to capacity. Therefore, we are cancelling the procession this year,” the governor stated.

Kuyvashev also published a photo from last year’s procession, in which, according to the Ekaterinburg Diocese, only 10 thousand people participated. The governor noted that despite the pandemic, many of the pilgrims did not use masks and did not practice social distancing. As a result, many of those who participated in last years’ Cross Procession, fell ill with the coronavirus shortly thereafter. He stressed that next year, providing the pandemic has been eliminated, it will be possible to hold a procession “on an even larger scale than before.”

Traditionally, several tens of thousands of people participate in the Tsar’s Cross Procession in the Ural city – 60 thousand in 2019 and 100 thousand in 2018. The procession follows the same route that the regicides carried the murdered remains of the Imperial Family and their faithful servants to an abandoned mine at Ganina Yama. The procession does not go to Porosnkov Log, where the regicides buried them in a second unmarked grave. The route of the procession begins at the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama – a distance of 26 km (16 miles), taking about four to five hours to walk on foot.

PHOTO: Metropolitan Evgeny of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky

The head of the Ekaterinburg Diocese, Metropolitan Evgeny of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky was quick to respond to the governor’s announcement, by writing in his Telegram page about the importance of upholding the tradition of the Tsar’s Cross Procession, sacred to many Orthodox Christians and monarchists, and about the choice of each of us in a situation where there can be no ideal solutions.

“The tradition of the Tsar’s Cross Procession from the Church on the Blood to Ganina Yama has outgrown the framework of the so-called Tsar’s Days events and has become sacred for tens of thousands of people. And now people will continue to follow the holy path. But, will they walk along safely blocked streets? Or on narrow sidewalks next to dangerously speeding cars? Time will tell.

“In the current pandemic situation, there are no perfect solutions. Everyone must independently find a balance between courage and fear, responsibility and caution.

I will definitely go!”, declared Vladyka Yevgeny.

“The decision of the authorities, who have cancelled this years Tsar’s Cross Procession, is well founded, however, one should not stigmatize believers as the culprits of the spread of the coronavirus.

“Our goal is not death from fear of the coronavirus or from the coronavirus itself, but life with God and love for our neighbours.

“I urge everyone to take maximum precautions to protect themselves and of those around them. I pray that the Lord will preserve all of us in health and long life, and I bless you to add caution and love for your dearest to your prayer” Vladyka Yevgeny concluded.

© Paul Gilbert. 8 July 2021

30th anniversary of the exhumation of the remains of Nicholas II and his family

PHOTO: Avdonin and his team excavate the burial site at Porosenkov Log in 1991

WARNING: please be aware that this post includes graphic images which some readers may find disturbing.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the exhumation of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and members of his family, discovered at Porosenkov Log in 1979. The Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore in Ekaterinburg have published archival photos of the excavations, which were not carried out until 1991.

The photos show the excavations, which were initiated in the Porosenkov Log area on the Old Koptyakovskaya Road on 11th July 1991. Geologist Alexander Nikolaevich Avdonin and curator from the Institute of History and Archaeology of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Lyudmila Koryakova and their team experts, all participated in the exhumation of the skeletons, which, were later established as the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, their three daughters Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia and their four faithful retainers.

PHOTO: Avdonin and his team excavate the burial site at Porosenkov Log in 1991

According to the museum “1991 was a turning point for Russia” and “the country’s political future was uncertain.” On 12th June 1991, the presidential elections of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) were held, which was won by Boris Yeltsin – Russia’s first president. It was at this point that “more than 70 years of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was coming to an end.” This is what prompted Avdonin to initiate excavations.

It was in 1979, that Avdonin and Gely Trofimovich Ryabov (1932-2015) discovered the unmarked grave containing the skeletons of the Romanovs in the north-western outskirts of Sverdlovsk. At first Avdonin believed that the time was not yet right to announce their discovery, however, Yeltsin’s victory convinced him that it was high time. On 10th July 1991, he turned to Governor Eduard Rossel and said that he knew where the remains of the Imperial Family were buried.

PHOTO: remains of the Imperial Family exhumed from the burial site at Porosenkov Log in 1991

Despite the fact that the political situation in Russia seemed extremely unstable, Rossel decided to exhume the remains. On 11th July 1991, Avdonin and Rossel assembled a team of local archaeologists, who began the excavation of the grave at Porosenkov Log. Upon the discovery of the remains, the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation opened a criminal case. The outcome of the investigation divided many Russian Orthodox Christians – some of whom recognized the authenticity of the remains, while many others did not. The investigations and examinations are still ongoing, however a final decision on the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg remains will be made by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), which will take place in November of this year.

PHOTO: Alexander Avdonin (right) with Nikolai Borisovich Neuymin, director of the Romanov Memorial Hall in Ekaterinburg, standing at the burial site at Porosenkov Log

Emperor Nicholas II and his family were all shot in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg on the night of 16/17 July 1918. The bodies were taken out of the city, where their murderers attempted to destroy the remains with fire and acid in the area of ​​old mines in the Ganina Yama tract. Their horrific mission failed, after which the remains were transported 3.8 km and buried near the Old Koptyakovskaya Road [Porosenkov Log]. The grave remained a secret until 1979, when the remains were found by a team of enthusiasts led by the Ural geologist Alexander Avdonin, who worked under the patronage of Geliy Ryabov, at that time assistant to the head of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs.

It was not possible to extract and study the remains at that time. Avdonin’s team, together with archaeologists, did this in 1991, only to discover that two skeletons were missing. It was not until 2007, that the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria, were discovered in a second grave just meters from the main burial site.

© Paul Gilbert. 7 July 2021

Nicholas II’s grave was an “open secret” in Soviet Russia during the 1920s

PHOTO: the remains of Nicholas II, his wife, three of their children and their four faithful retainers were buried under the “sleepers bridge” at Porosenkov Log by their murderers in 1918

We hid them so well that the world will never find them,” boasted Commissar for Supply in the Ural Region Soviet Pyotr Lazarevich Voykov (1888-1927), on the location of the murdered remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family.

While the burial site of the Imperial Family at Porosenkov Log remained a secret to the world for more than 60 years, it was in fact an “open secret”[1] to a select few in the Soviet Union in the 1920s.

In January 1928 – ten years after the murders of Emperor Nicholas II, his family and four faithful retainers – the famous Soviet poet Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (1893-1930) visited Sverdlovsk. It was at the city’s Business Club that he met the Chairman of the Ekaterinburg City Executive Committee Anatoly Ivanovich Paramonov (1891-1970), making enquiries about the city and the last days of the Imperial Family.

Paramonov took Mayakovsky to the Ipatiev House, and then in minus 30-degree frost, along the Old Koptyaki Road to the place where the remains of the Imperial Family had been buried by their murderers – members of the Ural Soviet on 17th July 1918.

“Of course, it was nothing special – to see the grave of the tsar. In fact, nothing is visible there. It is very difficult to find as there are no signs or marks, this secret place is familiar only to a certain group of people,” Mayakovsky wrote in his diary.

PHOTO: Vladimir Mayakovsky and Anatoly Paramonov

Three months after his trip to the Urals, Mayakovsky wrote the mockingly pathetic poem The Emperor, which indicated the place of burial with absolute toponymic accuracy. In his poem, Mayakovsky reveals clues: “Beyond the Iset [river], where the wind howled, the executive committee coachman fell silent and stood at the ninth verst.”[2] “Beyond Iset at the ninth verst” is a key clue that indicated where to look for the tsar’s grave on the Old Koptyaki Road. The poem further notes: “Here the cedar was torn with an ax, notches under the root of the bark, at the root, under the cedar, there is a road, and in it the emperor is buried.”

The Emperor was published in the Soviet literary magazine Krasnaya Nov on 4th April 1928. Mayakovsky’s poem made a terrible impression on the Russian/Soviet poet Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva (1892-1941). She deplored Mayakovsky’s justification of the terrible massacre, as a kind of verdict of history. She insisted that the poet should be on the side of the victims, not the executioners, and if the story is cruel and unfair, he must speak against it. In 1929, in response, she began working on a poem about the Tsar’s Family entitled Heart and Stone.

Mayakovsky’s poem, as well as other evidence such as the “Yurovsky note”, helped Soviet and Russian geologist Alexander Nikolayevich Avdonin and Soviet writer and filmmaker Geliy Trofimovich Ryabov (1932-2015) locate the remains of the Imperial Family in 1979[3].

PHOTO: Pyotr Voykov and Boris Kowerda

In 1926, Mayakovsky visited Voykov in Warsaw, where the latter served as Soviet Ambassador to Poland. It was during this visit that Voykov told Mayakovsky about the regicide which took place in Ekaterinburg. Voykov was assassinated in Warsaw on 7th June 1927, by Boris Sofronovich Kowerda (1907-1987) a White émigré and monarchist. Kowerda planned to kill Voykov in order to “Avenge Russia, and the deaths of millions of people”, as well for Voykov’s participation in the decision to execute Nicholas II and his family.

Declassified photographs taken by members of the firing squad, as well as those who did not participate in the regicide, but who knew of the location of burial site, aided Paramonov and Mayakovsky to locate the “sleepers bridge” (see photo below).

The murderer Pyotr Zakharovich Ermakov (1884-1952) used a Mauser pistol[4], during the liquidation of the Imperial Family in the basement of the Ipatiev House. He brought it with him to the place where the bodies lay so that he could be photographed (see photo below).

“In the first half of the 1960s, one of the sons of the murderers applied to the Central Committee of the Communist Party with a letter addressed to the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev (1894-1971), boasting that his father had participated in the murder of the Imperial Family. He presented Khrushchev with two pistols that he had preserved: one for the Soviet leader, the other – to be handed over to Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro (1926-2016) as the leader of the world revolution. At that time, documents in all the archives were still sealed, yet two of the executioners were still alive. And for history, the Radio Committee recorded their memories, which had been preserved and “coincided with those of Yakov Mikhailovich Yurovsky” (1878-1938), said Sergei Mironenko, Director of the State Archives of the Russian Federation [GARF} in Moscow.

Yurovsky served as commandant of the “House of Special Purpose” [Ipatiev House], and the chief executioner of the Tsar and his family. But his memories raised a lot of questions – some historians believe that the typewritten text may have been specially falsified by the GPU-NKVD-KGB, in order to send future search efforts on the wrong track, or a story written by a third party, such as the Soviet historian Mikhail Nikolayevich Pokrovsky[5].

PHOTO: in the 1920s, the murderer Pyotr Zakharovich Yermakov returned to Porosenkov Log. On the reverse of this photo, he wrote: “I am standing on the grave of the Tsar”.

According to Vladimir Nikolaevich Solovyov, 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 death of the imperial family, “the real breakthrough was made quite recently”.

Shortly after the completion of the work of the government commission, a safe was discovered in another archive, not in the State Archive, but in the former Central Party Archive, which had not been opened for many decades. It contained a manuscript of the famous Soviet historian Mikhail Nikolayevich Pokrovsky (1868-1932), a typewritten copy of which is kept in the State Archive. The discovery immediately confirmed that this is Yurovsky’s recollection, recorded by Pokrovsky. According to Sergei Mironenko, the bottom of the last page of the manuscript had been torn off. Apparently, it contained the name of the place where the bodies were hidden. So there is no evidence? There is! As shown by the graphological examination, handwritten by Pokrovsky and Yurovsky, the name was entered into the typewritten version, the authenticity of which is considered beyond any doubt.

“Interestingly, at the end of the classic text of Yurovsky’s note, there is an addition, made in pencil, which precisely indicates the place where the bodies were found,” said Solovyov.

PHOTO: Pyotr Zakharovich Yermakov (far right) posing with a group of prominent Ural Bolsheviks on the Tsar’s grave[6], his Mauser pistol can be seen in the foreground in front of P.M. Bykov, author of The Last Days of Tsardom (1934)

There has always been a mystique behind this story. A 1991 diagram clearly shows the location of the bodies. Their remains were not laid, but simply dumped by their murderers. For example, Olga’s skull is under the skeleton of her father. But even in the photo of the burial site, opened in 1991, a telephone cable is clearly visible. When laying it, the cutter even cut off the arm of one of the skeletons. But how could the Soviet telephone technicians know where they were laying the cable, because even if they had read Mayakovsky’s poem, the instructions were too obscure for them to link it to the burial site.

One more detail – small but important. According to Mayakovsky’s poem, he wrote about “the cedar was torn with an axe”. During a comprehensive survey of the area, a fallen stump, clearly cut long ago with an axe was found.

PHOTO: Mayakovsky’s photo pinned to a tree at Porosenkov Log

NOTES

[1] An “open secret” is a concept or idea that is “officially” secret or restricted in knowledge, but in practice (de facto) may be widely known; or it refers to something that is widely known to be true but which none of the people most intimately concerned are willing to categorically acknowledge in public.

[2] A verst is a Russian measure of length, about 0.66 mile (1.1 km).

[3] The remains of the Imperial Family were first discarded at the Four Brothers Mine, which is today the site of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama. Avdonin and Ryabov discovered the second grave 3.8 km down the highway at Porosenkov Log.

[4] Yermakov’s revolver can be seen on display in the Romanov Memorial Hall, located on the top floor of the Museum of History and Archaeology of the Urals, in Ekaterinburg

[5] Pokrovsky was a Russian Marxist historian, Bolshevik revolutionary and a public and political figure. One of the earliest professionally trained historians to join the Russian revolutionary movement, Pokrovsky is regarded as the most influential Soviet historian of the 1920s.

His attitude to the tsar, the nobility, generals, statesmen and church leaders and diplomats of the Tsarist period appear in the Pokrovsky’s works in a completely different light – as selfish, cruel, limited, ignorant individuals. To achieve greater impact on the reader, representatives of the ruling classes and leaders were denounced with the help of satire, irony and grotesque. Thus, Pokrovsky’s negative assessment of the reign of Nicholas II was accepted as the standard in the Soviet Union, where he was vilified.

[6] Group of prominent Ural Bolsheviks, photographed at the “grave of the Romanovs”, 1924. This photo is on display in the Romanov Memorial Hall, located on the top floor of the Museum of History and Archaeology of the Urals, in Ekaterinburg

(from left to right): back row – A.I. Paramonov (chairman of the board of Uralselkhozbank and editor of Krestyanskaya Gazeta, *NN, M.M. Kharitonov (first secretary of the Ural regional committee of the RCP (b)), B.V. Didkovsky (deputy chairman of Uralplan), I.P. Rumyantsev (head of propaganda department), *NN, A.L. Borchaninov (chairman of the Tyumen regional executive committee); front row – D.E.Sulimov (chairman of the Ural regional executive committee), G.S. Moroz (head of the Yekaterinburg department of the GPU), M.V. Vasiliev (employee of Uralselkhozbank), P.M.Bykov (editor of the newspaper “Uralskaya Nov”), A.G. Kabanov, P.Z.Ermakov (employee of the Cheka)

*NN denotes “unknown identity”

© Paul Gilbert. 6 July 2021

Furniture moved into the Mauve Boudoir of the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s writing table in the Mauve Boudoir
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

In addition to last week’s post about the recreated chair taking its rightful place in the corner of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room, several additional pieces have since been moved into this iconic interior of the Alexander Palace.

The only original item to have survived from the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir was Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s writing-table, which originally stood in front of the window at an angle. The table entered the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve in 1999. During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), the table had not been evacuated.

PHOTO: the restored writing table of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

Following the war, the table was discovered in a deplorable state in the Alexander Park by the former curator of the Alexander Palace, Anatoly Mikhailovich Kuchumov (1912-1993). In 2018, restorers conducted test clearing of the paint layer of the table, determined the initial colour of its finish and, on the basis of this, made a decision on the colour scheme of the panels, built-in furniture and doors of the Mauve Boudoir. In 2020, the masters of the Tsarskoye Selo Amber Workshop restored the table and recreated the lost details, based on photographs and archival descriptions.

PHOTO: recreated furniture in the Mauve Boudoir of the Alexander Palace
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

PHOTO: early 20th century photo of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna relaxing on her sofa in the Mauve Boudoir. Note the side table piled high with books, letters and other papers, as well as the framed photos of her family on the shelves above.

And just this past week, several other pieces of furniture recreated for this interior were moved into place. The most prominent is the mauve sofa – an exact copy of the original – where the Empress would come to relax, read and write letters. This sofa was her refuge on the days she felt unwell, and often taking her meals during her indispositions.

PHOTO: recreated furniture in the Mauve Boudoir of the Alexander Palace
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

In addition, we see another arm chair with tassels and foot stool, side tables and book cases. But take note of the finer details of the interior, with its white wood panelling, decorated with framed photos set against the background of the mauve silk wall covering. At long last, the once favourite room of the last Empress of Russia is nearing completion.

For more information on the history and recreation of the Empress’s Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, please refer to the following articles below:

Recreation of Furniture for the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace – published on 9th December 2020

The history and restoration of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace – published on 4th November 2020

© Paul Gilbert. 5 July 2021

***

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, Maple Drawing Room, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II, showcasing the private, domestic life of the Russian monarchs who used the palace as an official residence. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family. The multi-museum complex, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

***

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

Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg celebrates its Patronal Feast Day

PHOTO: monument to the Holy Royal Martyrs, set against the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg

On 4th July 2021, the Church on the Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land, celebrates its patronal holiday.

The Church-Monument on the Blood was erected on the site of the martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II, his August family and their four faithful retainers.

At the end of 1878, a mining official, State Councillor Ivan Ivanovich Redikortsev, built a two-story stone mansion on a hill near the Church of the Ascension of the Lord. In 1908, the house was bought by a military civil engineer Nikolai Nikolayevich Ipatiev (1869-1938).

On the night of 16/17 July 1918, Emperor Nicholas II, his family and four faithful retainers were brutally murdered in the basement of the Ipatiev House. Following the regicide the house was returned to Ipatiev, who then sold the mansion to representatives of the White Army.

On 4th August 1975, a secret resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU No.P185 / 34 “On the demolition of the Ipatiev mansion in the city of Sverdlovsk” was adopted.

The Ipatiev House was demolished on 22-23 September 1977 by Russia’s future president Boris Yeltsin (1931-2007), who was at the time First Secretary of the Sverdlovsk Regional Committee of the CPSU.

On 20th September 1990, the Sverdlovsk Soviet decided to transfer the land on the western slope of the Voznesenskaya Gorka to the Ekaterinburg diocese.

On 10th October 1990, the City Executive Committee made a decision to install “a memorial symbol at the site of the murder of the Tsar’s family.” In the same month, Archbishop Melchizedek of Sverdlovsk and Verkhoturye consecrated an Orthodox Cross on the site.

On 28th December 1993, a blessing was received for the construction of the church. A state commission was gathered and architectural as well as funding plans were developed.

On 19th May 1994, with the blessing of Nikon, Bishop of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye, a chapel canopy was erected over the cross, crowned with a dome and cross.

On 4th April 2000, Archbishop Vikentiy of Yekaterinburg and Verkhotursky performed a requiem for the Tsar’s family and a Divine Liturgy at the construction site of the church. In August 2000, at the jubilee Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, the Tsar’s family was glorified as a passion-bearers.

Click HERE to read my article Excavations at the site of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg in the early 2000s, published on 24th October 2020

On 23rd September of the same year, His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow and All Russia (1929-2008) laid a memorial capsule in the eastern wall of the foundation of the future church. The construction of the Church on the Blood was completed in 2003.

The completed complex comprises two churches, a belfry, a patriarchal annex, and a museum dedicated to the former imperial family; the altar of the main five-domed church, made in the Russian-Byzantine style, is directly over the site of the Romanovs’ murder. The complex covers a total of 29,700 square feet (2,760 m2).

On 16th July 2003, the upper church was consecrated in honour of All the saints who shone in the Russian land. On 18th April 2010, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia consecrated the Lower Church in honour of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers.

PHOTO: beautiful mosaic panel depicting the Holy Royal Martyrs on the wall of the Imperial Room, located in the Lower Church of the Church on the Blood

The central altar of the Lower Church is consecrated in honour of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. In the south-eastern part of the Lower Church is the Imperial Room, which contains an altar in honour of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers and their faithful servants who were martyred on this spot.

© Paul Gilbert. 4 July 2021

Saint John (Maximovich) of Shanghai and San Francisco, 1896-1966

On this day – 2nd July 1966 – St. John (Maximovich) of Shanghai and San Francisco died in the United States. During his life, he honoured the memory of the Holy Royal-Martyr Nicholas II and his family, believing that “the Russian people were entirely guilty for the death of the tsar.” On 2nd July 1994, St. John was solemnly canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Mikhail Borisovich Maximovitch (his secular name) was born on 17th (O.S. 4th) 1896, in the village of Adamovka of the Izyumsky Uyezd of the Kharkov Governorate of the Russian Empire (in present-day eastern Ukraine).

Maximovitch was a patriot of his fatherland and was profoundly disappointed by what he saw as human weakness and impermanence during the tragic events of the 1917 Revolution. As a result he made the decision to dedicate his life to serving God. His family sought refuge in Yugoslavia and brought him to Belgrade in 1921, where in 1925 he graduated from Belgrade University with a degree in theology.

In 1926 he was tonsured a monk and ordained a hierodeacon by Russian Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), who gave him the name of St. John after his saintly relative. Later that same year, he was ordained to the priesthood by Russian Bishop Gabriel (Chepur) of Chelyabinsk. Once ordained St. John would no longer sleep in a bed. He would nap in a chair or kneeling down in front of the icons, praying fervently and eating only once a day.

St.John earned the respect and devotion at the seminary where he taught. His reputation grew as he started visiting hospitals, caring for patients with prayer and communion. In 1934 he was ordained a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia by Metropolitan Anthony and assigned to the diocese of Shanghai.

PHOTO: St. Nicholas Church in Shanghai, built in 1935, dedicated to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

Shanghai, China

In Shanghai, Holy Bishop St. John found an uncompleted cathedral and an Orthodox community deeply divided along ethnic lines. Making contact with all the various groups, he quickly involved himself in the existing charitable institutions and personally founded an orphanage and home for the children of indigents. Under Holy Bishop St. John, the construction of St. Nicholas Church (1935) was completed, a memorial church dedicated to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II.

He also set about restoring church unity, establishing ties with local Orthodox Serbs, Greeks and Ukrainians. Here he first became known for miracles attributed to his prayer. As a public figure it was impossible for him to completely conceal his ascetic way of life. Despite his actions during the Japanese occupation, even when he routinely ignored the curfew in pursuit of his pastoral activities, the Japanese authorities never harassed him. As the only Russian hierarch in China who refused to submit to the authority of the Soviet-dominated Russian Orthodox Church, he was elevated to Archbishop of China by the Holy Synod of ROCOR in 1946.

When the Communists took power in China, the Russian colony was forced to flee, first to a refugee camp on the island of Tubabao in the Philippines and then mainly to the United States and Australia. Archbishop St. John personally traveled to Washington, D.C. to ensure that his people would be allowed to enter the country.

PHOTO: the Church of St. Job the Long Suffering in Brussels, consecrated in 1950, dedicated to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

Western Europe

In 1951, St. John was assigned to the archdiocese of Western Europe with his see first in Paris, then in Brussels, which was considered the official residence of Archbishop John of Brussels and Western Europe. The center of the vigorous activity of Archbishop John was the Church of St. Job the Long-suffering in Brussels, constructed between 1936-1950, as a memorial church dedicated to Tsar Nicholas II.

Thanks to his work in collecting lives of saints, a great many pre-Schism Western saints became known in Orthodoxy and continue to be venerated to this day. His charitable and pastoral work continued as it had in Shanghai, even among a much more widely scattered flock.

PHOTO: the Holy Virgin Cathedral, San Francisco, consecrated in1977

San Francisco, United States

In 1962 St. John was once again reassigned by the Holy Synod to the see of San Francisco. Here too, he found a divided community and a cathedral in an unfinished state. Although he completed the building of the Holy Virgin Cathedral and brought some measure of peace to the community he became the target of slander from those who became his political enemies, who went so far as to file a lawsuit against him for alleged mishandling of finances related to construction of the cathedral. He was exonerated, but this was a great cause of sorrow to him in his later life.

The current cathedral was founded by St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. Groundbreaking took place on 25th June 1961, construction was completed in 1965, a year before the death of The cathedral was consecrated on 31st January 1977.

PHOTO: the sepulchre of St. John in the Holy Virgin Cathedral, San Francisco

Death and Veneration

On 2nd July 1966 (O.S. 19th June), St. John died while visiting Seattle at a time and place he was said to have foretold. He was entombed in a sepulchre beneath the altar of the Holy Virgin Cathedral he had built in San Francisco dedicated to the Theotokos, Joy of All Who Sorrow, on Geary Boulevard in the Richmond district.

On 2nd July 1994, St. John was solemnly canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), the day marking the 28th anniversary of his death. His unembalmed, incorrupt relics now occupy a shrine in the cathedral’s nave.

His feast day is celebrated each year on the Saturday nearest to 2nd July. He is beloved and celebrated worldwide, with portions of his relics located in Serbia, Russia, Mount Athos, Greece (Church of Saint Anna in Katerini), South Korea, Bulgaria, Romania, United States (St. John Maximovitch Church, Eugene, Oregon), Canada (Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Kitchener), England (Dormition Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church, London) and other countries of the world.

On Tsar-Marytr Nicholas II

IN MEMORY OF THE ROYAL MARTYRS

Sermon given in 1934 by His Eminence John, Bishop of Shanghai,during the memorial service for Tsar Nicholas II and those slain with him

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

On July 17 (July 4 Old Style) the Holy Church praises Saint Andrew, the Bishop of Crete, the author of the Great Canon of Repentance, and at the same time we gather here to pray for the souls of the Tsar-Martyr and those assassinated with him. Likewise, people in Russia used to gather in churches on the day of the other Saint Andrew of Crete (Oct.17), not the writer of the Great Canon whose day is celebrated tomorrow, but the Martyr Andrew, martyred for confession of Christ and His Truth. On the day of Martyr Andrew, people in Russia thanked God for the miraculous delivery of Emperor Alexander III from the train wreck at Borki on Octo ber 17, 1888. In the terrible derailment which occurred during his journey, all the carriages of the train were wrecked, except the one carrying the Tsar and his Family.

On the day of the Martyr Andrew of Crete, martyred by enemies of Christ and His Church, the Heir to the throne and subsequent tsar, Nicholas Alexandrovich, was saved, and on the day of Saint Andrew of Crete the Canonist, who reposed in peace, the Tsar was assassinated by atheists and traitors. On the day of Martyr Andrew, Russia also celebrated the day of the Prophet Hosea, who foretold Christ’s Resurrection. Churches were built in honor of these saints wherever Russian people thanked God for the delivery of their Sovereign. Thirty years later, on the day of Saint Andrew the Canonist, who taught repentance, the Sovereign was assassinated before the eyes of the whole nation, that did nothing to save him. It is especially dreadful and incomprehensible since the Sovereign, Nicholas Alexandrovich, incarnated the best virtues of those Tsars whom the Russian people knew, loved, and esteemed.

Most of all the Tsar-Martyr resembled Tsar Alexis Michailovich Tishayshiy (the Most Meek, 1645-76) excelling in unshakable meekness. Russia knew Alexander II(1855-81) as Liberator, but Tsar Nicholas II liberated even more nations of the fraternal Slavic tribe. Russia knew Alexander III (1881-94) as Peacemaker but Sovereign Nicholas II did not limit himself to care for peace in his own days but made a significant step towards establishing peace in Europe and in all the world so that all nations should solve their controversies peacefully. To that purpose, by his dispassionate and noble initiative, the Hague Conferences were called. Russia admired Alexander I(1801-25) and called him the Blessed One because he liberated Europe from the alien rule of a tyrant, Napoleon. Sovereign Nicholas II under much more difficult circumstances rose against another ruler’s attempt, Kaiser Wilhelm II, to enslave Slavic nations, and in the defense of that nation showed a determination that was devoid of compromises. Russia knew the Great Reformer Peter I but if we recall all the reforms of Nicholas II, we would be uncertain whom to give preference and the latter’s reforms were conducted more carefully, more thoughtfully, and without abruptness. John Kalita (1328-40) and John III (1449 – 1505), Grand Princes of Moscow, were known for uniting the Russian people, but their cause was finally accomplished only by Sovereign Nicholas when in 1915 he returned to Russia all her sons, though only for a short time. Sovereign of All Russia, Nicholas II was the first Pan-Russian Tsar. His inner, spiritual, moral image was so beautiful that even the Bolsheviks in their desire to blacken him could blame him only for his piety.

It is known for certain that he always began and ended the day with prayer. He always received Communion on the days of the Church’s great holidays and often went to receive the Great Sacrament in a crowd of commoners, as for instance during the opening of the relics of Saint Seraphim of Sarov. He was an example of marital fidelity and the head of an exemplary Orthodox family, bringing up his children to be ready to serve the Russian people and strictly preparing them for the future labors and feats of that calling. He was deeply considerate towards his subjects’ needs and always wanted to ascertain clearly and acutely their labor and service. Everyone knows that he once marched alone many miles in soldier’s full equipment in order to better understand the conditions of a soldier’s service. He walked alone, which refutes the slanderers who say that he was afraid for his life. Peter I said: “know about Peter, that life is not precious for him, but may Russia live” and Sovereign Nicholas II indeed fulfilled his words. Some people say that he was credulous. But the great father of the Church, Saint Gregory the Great, says that the more pure the heart, the more credulous it is.

What did Russia render to her pure-hearted Sovereign, who loved her more than life? She returned love with slander. He was of great morality, but people began to talk about his viciousness. He loved Russia, but people began to talk about his treason. Even the people close to the Sovereign repeated the slander, passing on to each other rumors and gossip. Because of the ill intention of some and the lack of discipline of others, rumors spread and love for the Tsar began to grow cool. They started to talk of the danger to Russia and discuss means of avoiding that non-existent danger, they started to say that to save Russia it would be necessary to dismiss the Sovereign. Calculated evil did its work: it separated Russia from her Tsar and in the dread moment at Pskov he was alone; no one near to him. Those faithful to him were not admitted to his presence. The dreadful loneliness of the Tsar… But he did not abandon Russia, Russia abandoned him, the one who loved Russia more than life. Thus, in the hope that his self-belittling would still the raging passions of the people, the Sovereign abdicated. But passion never stills. Having achieved what it desires it only inflames more. There was an exultation among those who desired the fall of the Sovereign. The others were silent. They succeeded in arresting the Sovereign; succeeded, and further events were almost inevitable. If someone is left in a beast’s cage he will be torn to pieces sooner or later. The Sovereign was killed, and Russia remained silent. There was no indignation, no protest when that dread, evil deed happened, and this silence is the great sin of the Russian people, and it happened on the day of Saint Andrew, the writer of the Great Canon of Repentance, which is read in churches during Great Lent.

In the vaults of a basement in Ekaterinburg the Ruler of Russia was killed, deprived by the peoples’ insidiousness of the tsar’s crown, but not deprived of God’s Sacred Anointment. Hitherto, all the cases of regicide in the history of Russia were committed by cliques, not by the people. When Paul I was killed, people knew nothing about it and when it became known, for many years they brought to his grave compassion and prayers. The assassination of Alexander II produced in Russia a storm of indignation that healed the people’s morality and assisted the reign of Alexander III. The people remained innocent of the blood of the Tsar-Liberator, Alexander II. But in the case of Nicholas lI the entire nation is guilty of shedding the blood of its tsar. The assassins did the terrible deed, their masters approved the murder, sharing the same sin, the people did not prevent it. All are guilty and indeed we must say: “His blood is on us and on our children.” The garland with which the Russian people crowned their Tsar was made of treason, treachery, the breaking of the oath of allegiance to Tsar Michael Theodorovich, the first Tsar of the Romanov dynasty and his heirs, passivity, hardness of heart, and insensitivity.

Today is a day of sorrow and repentance. Why – we could ask – did the Lord save the Tsar [previously] on the day of Martyr Andrew and not save him on the day of the other Saint Andrew, the teacher of repentance? With deep grief we answer: the Lord could have saved him, but the Russian people did not deserve it.

The Sovereign received a martyr’s crown, but this neither justifies us, nor reduces our guilt, as the Resurrection of Christ does not justify, but condemns Judas, Pilate, and Caiphas and those who demanded from Pilate the murder of Christ.

It is a great sin to lift up a hand against the God-Anointed Sovereign. When the news of the murder of Saul was brought to King David, he ordered the execution of the messenger, although he knew that the messenger did not participate in the murder but only hurried to bring that news, and he ascribed the murder to him. Even the slightest participation in such a sin is not without retribution.

In sorrow we say, “his blood is on us and our children.”

Let us remember that this evil deed of the whole nation was committed on the day of Saint Andrew of Crete, who calls us to deep repentance. Let us remember also, that there is no sin which cannot be washed away by repentance. But our repentance has to be full, without self-justification, without reserve, condemning ourselves and the evil deed from the very beginning.

After the deliverance of the Royal Family at Borki the icon depicting the patron saints of the family was painted. Perhaps the day will come when not just the patrons but also the Royal Martyrs themselves will be depicted on icons in remembrance of the event we recollect today. But now let us pray for their souls and ask God for deep humble repentance and forgiveness for us and for all Russian people.

On 27th October 2018, I hosted the 1st International Nicholas II Conference at St. John of Shanghai Orthodox Church in Colchester, England, with the blessing of the church rector Andrew Phillips, Arch Priest of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROCOR).

© Paul Gilbert. 2 July 2021