Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich: the “Soviet Tsar”

PHOTO: Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich in exile

On 31st August 1924, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich (1876-1934) proclaimed himself Emperor of All Russia to the non-existent Russian throne under the name of “Kirill I”. He became known as the “Soviet Tsar” because in the event of a restoration of the monarchy, he intended to keep some of the features of the Soviet regime.

While living in exile, he was supported by a small group of émigrés who styled themselves “legitimists”, underlining the “legitimacy” of Kirill’s succession. [Note: the “legitimists” today support Kirill’s great-granddaughter Princess Maria Vladimirovna, born 1953].

The opponents of Kirill were known as the “un-predetermined”, which included Emperor Nicholas II’s mother: the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, her daughters Grand Duchesses Xenia and Olga Alexandrovna, Grand Dukes Nicholas and Peter Nikolaevich, who believed that in the wake of the radical revolutionary events that the convening of a Zemsky Sobor was necessary in order to choose a new monarch for Russia.

PHOTO: Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich meets with members of the Union of Mladorossi [Young Russians]

Kirill found his strongest support among a group of radical “legitimists” known as the Union of Mladorossi [Young Russians], a Russian émigré organization, who became heavily influenced by fascism. It is known, that the Young Russians group tried to flirt with the Nazis, however, their relationship with the latter was short lived. The fascist influence on the Young Russians was demonstrated not only by its doctrine but also be its visible use of the Roman salute used by Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler [the Sieg Heil].

In addition, the organization began to exhibit pro-Soviet sympathies, arguing that a hybrid of Russian monarchy and the Soviet Bolshevik system could peacefully coexist—their slogan being “Tsar and the Soviets”, a socialist version of the traditional “Tsar and People”.

According to the Young Russians, the revolution had given birth to a “new man” – a heroic type, capable of courage and self-sacrifice. They saw these virtues in Kirill Vladimirovich – the grand duke known for being a coward, lacking a moral compass, and a traitor to Emperor Nicholas II.

Kirill sent Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (1891-1942), as his representative to the party leadership of the Young Russians. Kirill’s brother Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich (1879-1956), also took part in the activities of the Young Russians.

PHOTO: members of the Union of Mladorossi [Young Russians] provided an honour guard at the funeral of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, in Coburg in 1938

The bulk of the Russian emigration did not support the Young Russians movement, which openly communicated with the State Political Directorate (GPU), the Soviet intelligence and secret police service. According to various estimates, modern researchers of the Russian diaspora estimate their number from 2,000 to 5,000 members, which is in any case a very large figure for the politically active part of the emigration.

Upon the death of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich on 12th October 1938, members of the Union of Mladorossi [Young Russians] provided an honour guard at his funeral in Coburg in 1938. Following the death of Kirill in 1938, and during the Second World War, his son Vladimir Kirillovich (1917-1992) maintained relations0 with the Mladorossi.


This article is just one of the many topics discussed in my forthcoming book ‘Traitor to the Tsar! Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich and Nicholas II’ – which will be made available on AMAZON later this year.

Traitor to the Tsar’ will be the first comprehensive study to examine the relationship between Grand Duke Kirill and his first cousin Tsar Nicholas II. It is based primarily on documents and letters retrieved from Russian archival and media sources, many of which will be new to the English reader.

Not only was Grand Duke Kirill a coward, he was clearly a man who lacked a moral compass and a traitor to his Sovereign and to Russia.

In this book I discuss his entering into an incestuous marriage with his paternal first cousin and a divorcee, Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1905, defying both Nicholas II by not obtaining his consent prior, and the Russian Orthodox Church.

In addition, Kirill’s shameful infidelity—an affair which involved his behaviour or relationship far more sensational and unorthodox than a simple casual affair with another woman—a possible homosexual liaison perhaps?

Kirill’s act of treason during the February Revolution of 1917, is well known and for which he is most vilified. It was in Petrograd, that Kirill marched to the Tauride Palace at the head of the Garde Equipage (Marine Guard) to swear allegiance to the Russian Provisional Government, wearing a red band on his uniform. He then authorized the flying of a red flag over his palace on Glinka Street in Petrograd.

In June 1917, Grand Duke Kirill was the first Romanov to flee Russia. His departure was “illegal”, as Kirill was still in active duty as a rear admiral in active military service in a country at war, he had abandoned his honour and dignity in the process.

In 1922, Kirill declared himself “the guardian of the throne”, and in 1924, pompously proclaimed himself “Emperor-in-Exile”, creating a schism in monarchist circles of the Russian emigration.

In addition, I explore Kirill and Victoria’s alleged Nazi affiliations during their years in exile.

© Paul Gilbert. 10 January 2022