Protecting the Tsar – Part 2: the security of Nicholas II in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: security at the main gate leading to the Alexander Palace

This is the second of a two-part article, which explores efforts to ensure the safety and security of Russia’s last Tsar. Click HERE to read Part 1: How Nicholas II was Protected – PG

Following his father’s assassination in March 1881, Emperor Alexander III was advised that it would be difficult for him to be kept safe at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. As a result, he relocated his family to the Gatchina Palace, located 30 kilometres (20 mi) south of St. Petersburg. The palace was surrounded by moats, watch towers, and trenches, and soldiers were on guard night and day. Under heavy guard, he would make occasional visits into St. Petersburg, but even then he would stay in the Anichkov Palace on Nevsky Prospect, as opposed to the Winter Palace.[

In November 1894, Nicholas II ascended the throne. He had spent his youth in Gatchina Palace, however, he did not really like the fortress-like building, and returned to the capital, where, according to tradition, he settled in the Winter Palace.

In 1904, Russia was at war with Japan, and the newborn Tsesarevich Alexei was secretly ill; Nicholas and Alexandra permanently abandoned the Winter Palace, for the greater comfort, security and privacy of Tsarskoye Selo, where they settled into the Alexander Palace.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, review His Imperial Majesty’s Own Convoy – the Cossack unit which served as the Tsar’s elite guard – on the parade ground in front of the Alexander Palace

External security of the Alexander Palace

Up until 1917, the Alexander Park (and the palace on its territory) was guarded along the outer contour by 26 round-the-clock and 3 temporary (daytime) posts. In addition, 5 Cossack patrols constantly covered the palace from nearby villages (Aleksandrovka and Bolshoye Kuzmino).

The intersections of the streets of Tsarskoye Selo which faced the park were also subject to constant surveillance; during the day, agents of the Palace Police dressed in civilian clothes walked along them, always on the alert for suspicious activity. In total, there were 13 additional such “hidden” posts (although all the locals were well aware of them).

If any members of the Imperial Family wanted to go for a walk in the Alexander Park, any employees (gardeners, etc.) were removed, and 3 more additional posts from staffed by local police officers were set up along the fence.

From 1906, at night, guard dogs began to be released into the Alexander Park from a specially created dog kennel in the village of Aleksandrovka. It turns out that even members of the Imperial Family could not just leave the palace during the evening, because the park was full of aggressive security dogs.

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom, situated in the eastern wing of the palace

Internal security of the Alexander Palace

The most important post of the internal security of the Alexander Palace was a secret guard post, located in the basement directly under the bedroom of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. An alarm was installed in the Imperial Bedroom, which linked it to the guard room below. If the alarm was pressed, it triggered a signal in the guard post below. The guard on duty, regardless of any circumstances, had to immediately break into the room.

Until 1917, only two panic button signals were received by guards at their post: on the first occasion, the Empress accidentally placed a book on top of the alarm bell, and the other time, a curious Grand Duchess Anastasia pressed it. On both occasions, the guard immediately acted according to the instructions (and subsequently received the highest gratitude for vigilance).

In total, by 1914, there were 13 permanent (round-the-clock) guard posts inside the Alexander Palace, and at night an additional post was set up at the entrance to the private rooms of the August couple. A hidden security unit of 15 non-commissioned officers of the guard regiments also operated in the palace, disguised as palace servants.

PHOTO: plan of the underground tunnel, connecting the palace with the kitchen building, used by palace employees

PHOTO: the tunnel, through which palace employees used before the Revolution, it was filled in during the Soviet era and is now in the process of restoration

Palace employees entered the Alexander Palace only through a special underground tunnel (built during the time of Empress Catherine II), connecting the main residence with the kitchen building. The appearance of each employee who entered the palace was first checked against a photograph in a special catalogue (which was kept by security officers), and then thoroughly searched.

More senior visitors to the palace (officials, persons close to the Imperial Family, etc.) entered the building through the main palace entrances, but 95% of these people were also searched (even the personal dressmaker of the Empress Madame Bezac).

In order for a visitor to the palace not to be searched, a personal order of the Emperor or the Empress (temporary or permanent) was necessary. The privilege to enter the palace without being searched was, however, limited to few, for example, the court jeweller Peter Carl Faberge (1846-1920) and the court architect Roman Meltzer (1860-1943).

The security system turned out to be quite effective, and from 1906 until 1917 there were no special incidents in the Alexander Palace and Park.

© Paul Gilbert. 27 February 2022

Haemophilia gene confirms authenticity of Tsesarevich Alexei’s remains

PHOTO: Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, at the bedside of her son Alexei in 1912

In a new documentary aired on Russian television in January 2022, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, stated that the haemophilia gene was found in the remains of Emperor Nicholas II’s only son, discovered at Porosenkov Log in 2007.

“The haemophilia gene made it possible to confirm the authenticity of the remains of the son of Nicholas II, Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich,” said the director of the Scientific Center for Genetics and Life Sciences of Sirius University, and Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Biological Sciences Evgeny Rogaev in the documentary The Romanov Case. The Investigation Established.

DNA examinations were carried out along three lines – female, male and asexual. “We have now determined who was the carrier of the mutation, and who was not. The tests showed that Alexandra Feodorovna carried both a healthy variant and the diseased variant, as expected, because she has two X chromosomes. Sadly, Alexei carried the diseased variant of the X-chromosome.

Tests were also concluded the status of the Empress’s four daughters. “The older sisters Olga and Tatiana were not carriers of haemophilia, however, in one of the younger sisters we found that she was a carrier of the diseased variant. Based on anthropological studies, we have concluded that it was Anastasia who also carried the diseased variant”, said the expert.

In the burial site, in addition to bone fragments, a piece of burnt striped fabric was discovered, which we believe belonged to Tsesarevich Alexei, who was wearing a vest on the day of the murders in the Ipatiev House.

PHOTO: Only 44 pieces of Alexei and Maria’s bones [1] have been found at Porosenkov Log, near Ekaterinburg

On 30 April 2008, Russian forensic scientists announced that DNA testing had proven that the remains belong to the Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister Grand Duchess Maria. DNA information, made public in July 2008, that was obtained from the Ekaterinburg site and repeated independent testing by laboratories such as the University of Massachusetts Medical School revealed that the final two missing Romanov remains were indeed authentic. In March 2009, results of the DNA testing were published, confirming that the two bodies discovered in 2007 were those of Alexei and Maria.

For many years, it has generally been accepted that Alexei began bleeding from his navel at the age of six weeks . . . this has since been proven incorrect. This was based on an entry in Nicholas II’s diary, six weeks after the birth of Alexis . . . Alix and I were very concerned about the bleeding of little Alexei from his umbilical cord . . .”.

Two noted Romanov historians Margarita Nelipa and Helen Rappaport both tell us otherwise, that Alexei’s bleeding was noted the day following his birth. Their claim is based on two separate, yet reliable sources:

[1] “One day after Alexei’s birth, Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich (1854-1931) came to congratulate the sovereign and stayed for lunch. Upon his departure, the sovereign mentioned the presence of “blood on the diapers”. Returning to his Znamenka estate (in Alexandria), he repeated this detail to his wife who telephoned Nikolai II (before visiting Alix later that evening). During their conversation, he said that the doctors had confirmed that the atypical bleeding was indeed due to haemophilia.”

Source: ‘Alexei. Russia’s Last Imperial Heir: A Chronicle of Tragedy’ by Margarita Nelipa. Published by Gilbert’s Books in 2015

[2] Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich and his wife Grand Duchess Militza Nikolaevna (1866-1951) had driven over to the Lower Dacha the day Alexei was born . . . as their son Prince Roman Petrovich (1896-1978) later recalled in his memoirs [published in Danish].

‘When they returned in the evening to Znamenka, my father remembered that . . . the Tsar had told him . . . That the doctors were concerned about the frequent splatters of blood in his swaddling clothes. . . .”

Grand Duke Peter telephoned the palace, “When the Tsar answered that they had hoped that the bleeding would soon stop, my mother took the receiver and asked if the doctors could explain the cause of the bleeding. When the Tsar could not give her a clear answer, she asked him with the calmest of voices she could manage: ‘I beg you, ask them if there is any sign of haemophilia’ . . . The Tsar fell silent on the phone for a long time and then started to question my mother and ended by quietly repeating the word that had staggered him: haemophilia.”

Source: ‘Four Sisters. The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses’ by Helen Rappaport. Published in 2014

In addition, is a letter dated 1st August 1904 – 2 days after Alexei’s birth, in which the Emperor mentions the “unusual bleeding” to Grand Duchess Militza Nikolaevna:

Dear Militza,

I am writing Alix’s words to you: Thank God, the day passed calmly. After having a dressing at 12 o’clock and up to 9:30 in the evening, there was not a drop of blood. The doctors hope this will continue. Korovin stays overnight. Fedorov leaves for the city and will return tomorrow. We both like him immensely! The little “treasure” is surprisingly calm when a bandage is applied, or he sleeps or lies and laughs. The parents now have a little relief in their hearts. Fedorov says that the loss of blood over two days is roughly ⅛ – 1/9 of the total amount of blood.

Nicholas

Source: Alexei: Russia’s Last TsesarevichLetters, diaries and writings by George Hawkins. Independently published in 2022

NOTES:

[1] For years, the boxes containing 44 bone fragments remained on dusty shelves in the Russian State Archives. In December 2015, their remains were transferred to the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow, where they remain to this day.

© Paul Gilbert. 25 February 2022

NEW 4-volume set of books celebrates Emperor Nicholas II’s motorcar collection

PHOTO: Царский выезд [Tsar’s Departure] will be published in 4-volumes

On 18th February, Russian writer and auto enthusiast Ivan Barantsev, published the first volume of Царский выезд [Tsar’s Departure] – a unique 4-volume set of books dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II’s motorcar collection and His Imperial Majesty’s Own Garage.

The release of the first volume, is timed to the opening of the Tsar’s Departure Exhibition, which opened in Moscow on 19th February 2022.

The albums offer many new photographs, most of which have never been published and only recently discovered by the author in various Russian archives. The author has also made corrections to errors found in previously published photographs. Some photos have been identified on the very day the photo was taken, and complemented with notes from Nicholas II’s diaries.

Barantsev claims: “there are so many photos, that they couldn’t fit under one cover, so the project will be published in four volumes”.

PHOTO: Volume 1 features 240 pages + more than 100 photos

Volume 1, is dedicated to the period 1895-1911. Large hard cover format 32 x 24 cm, with 240 pages, and more than 100 black and white photos with detailed descriptions.

*Volume 2, will be dedicated to the period 1911-1914; *Volume 3, to 1914-1915; and *Volume 4, to 1915-1917. *Not yet published!

The first volume is currently only available for purchase at the Tsar’s Departure Exhibition, which runs from 19th February to 17th April 2022, in the Special Purpose Garage [Pavilion No. 53] at the All-Russian Exhibition Center (VDNKh) in Moscow.

Please note that this set of books is ONLY available in Russian. No publication dates for the remaining three volumes have been announced. I have no doubt, that once all 4-volumes are published, that sets will be available to purchase from Russian booksellers online.

PHOTO © Ivan Barantsev

PHOTO © Ivan Barantsev

PHOTO © Ivan Barantsev

PHOTO © Ivan Barantsev

© Paul Gilbert. 22 February 2022

Nicholas II; Russia’s Last Orthodox Christian Monarch

*This title is available from AMAZON in the USA, UK,
Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Japan

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE PAPERBACK EDITION @ $9.99 USD

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Paperback edition. 134 pages + 23 black & white photos

This book is not only for Orthodox and non-Orthodox persons, but for any one who shares an interest in the life, death, and martyrdom of the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II.

An illustrated Introduction by independent researcher Paul Gilbert explores the piety of Nicholas II, and his devotion to the Russian Orthodox Church, which reached its fullest development and power, during his 22-year reign.

This book further examines the trials and tribulations the Tsar endured, which later led to his canonization by the Russian Orthodox Church.

This unique collection of writings helps dispel many of the negative myths which persist to this very day, a must read for any one who seeks to learn the truth about Nicholas II.

Gilbert has compiled this collection of writings as part of his mission to clear the name of Russia’s much slandered Tsar, and my own personal journey to Orthodoxy.

Holy Tsar Martyr Nicholas II, Pray to God for Us! 🙏

Святой Царь Мученик Николай, Моли Бога о Нас! 🙏

© Paul Gilbert. 21 February 2022

Exhibition dedicated to the 115th anniversary of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Garage opens in Moscow

On 19th February, a unique exhibition Tsar’s Departure, dedicated to the 115th anniversary of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Garage, will open in the Special Purpose Garage Museum in Moscow.

His Imperial Majesty’s Own Garage existed for only 10 years, but during that time managed to collect an impressive collection of 56 automobiles which served the last Russian emperor Nicholas II, his family and retinue. None of the European monarchs could boast of such an impressive fleet of vehicles.

Unique motorcars from the reign of Nicholas II will be presented as part of an exposition which tells about the auto-craze that swept Russia in the early twentieth century, among the key events of which were races for the Imperial Prize, the first Russian automobile salons, Nicholas II’s trips by motorcar around the country, the work of the assembly shops of the Russian-Baltic Plant, front-line everyday life of an automobile company and many others.

PHOTO: poster promoting the Museum of Emperor Nicholas II in Moscow

The exhibits have been collected from museum and private collections in Russia and Europe, including the little-known Museum of Emperor Nicholas II in Moscow.

Among the retro legendson display are a Serpollet steam car; a two-seater racing Benz; a cannon that defended the headquarters of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief in Mogilev; the workhorse of World War I, the White TAD; the domestic automobile brand “Russo-Balt”; the magnificent Hispano-Suiza; a high-speed Berliet; an elegant Studebaker; a luxurious Rolls-Royce; a De Dion-Bouton, popular at the beginning of the 20th century; a sophisticated Renault; among others.

In addition are large-scale full-colour photo panels, luxurious Imperial motorcars, rare vintage newsreels, authentic items of palace life, historical costumes and previously unpublished documents bring to life, the atmosphere of a bygone era.

The exhibition Tsar’s Departure runs from 19th February to 17th April 2022, in the Special Purpose Garage [Pavilion No. 53] at the All-Russian Exhibition Center (VDNKh) in Moscow.

PHOTO: early 20th century view of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Garage, Moscow

Facts about His Imperial Majesty’s Own Garage

* Emperor Nicholas II’s collection of more than 50 vehicles, were housed in 4 Imperial Garages: Moscow, the Winter Palace (St. Petersburg), Tsarskoye Selo and Livadia.

The “founding fathers” of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Garage were the Minister of the Imperial Court, Count Vladimir Fredericks (1838-1927), and the Adjutant Wing Prince Vladimir Orlov (1868-1927). The first automobile appeared in Tsarskoye Selo at the beginning of 1906: the French Delaunay-Belleville with a triple phaeton body, and soon complemented with four Mercedes.

* In mid-1906, the Imperial Driver School was opened at the garage. In fact, it was the first driving school in Russia. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna herself attached great importance to the uniforms worn by drivers and mechanics. She created sketches with her own hand, designing uniforms based on a footman’s livery adorned with gold cords.

* Drivers, mechanics and “soapmen” (car washers) did not appreciate being treated like lackeys and servants, but were forced to wear their uniforms. Their struggle continued, and in the end, the drivers won. In 1910, their new uniform – approved by the Emperor – resembled the uniforms of military officials: khaki colours, lace-up leather boots, leggings.

* Court chauffeurs in fur hats could easily be mistaken for senior officers and they were paid well. The senior driver received 2,600 rubles a year (for comparison: the annual salary of a university professor was 3,000 rubles), a third-class driver – 780 rubles a year.

* On March 2, 1917, Emperor Nicholas II signed his abdication. This ended the story of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Garage. All property of the imperial family passed into the disposal of the Provisional Government, including the garage. In addition to a change in management, the garage managed to avoid significant personnel changes.

* As a result of the October Revolution of 1917, the Autobase of the Provisional Government was nationalized and transferred to the disposal of the Bolsheviks. Lenin himself wasted little time in taking first pick from the Tsar’s collection of fine automobiles. His first trip in a Turcat-Méry automobile took place on 27th October 1917. Many employees of the Imperial Garage and the Autobase of the Provisional Government continued to work for the Bolsheviks.

PHOTO: Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna riding in the Tsar’s favourite motorcar, a Delaunay Belleville

Russia’s automotive industry began to develop during the reign of Nicholas II

In the early 20th century, automobiles soon became part of the everyday life of the Tsar and his family. This is thanks to the initiative of Prince Vladimir Nikolayevich Orlov (1868-1927), who in 1904 arrived at the Alexander Palace for the first time in his Delaunay-Belleville

He invited the Emperor on several motor trips, driven by Orlov himself. After his first trip around the square in front of the palace, the Emperor invited Empress Alexandra to join them.

From that time on, Prince Orlov and Adolfe Kegresse (1879-1943) became the Emperor’s personal chauffeurs.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II at the opening of the 4th International Automobile Exhibition at the Mikhailovsky Manege. St. Petersburg, 1913

On 19th May 1907, the 1st International Automobile Exhibition opened at the Mikhailovsky Manege in St. Petersburg.

The aim of the exhibition was to showcase the growing popularity of the Russian and foreign automotive industry, and the development of the domestic automotive market.

The exhibition attracted major automotive manufacturers from all over Europe and America. The French automotive industry was represented by 30 enterprises, and Germany by 13 firms. Manufacturers from the USA, England, Austria-Hungary, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, and Italy also took part.

The Russian automotive industry was represented by no less than 37 enterprises, companies and firms.

The success and sales of automobiles in Russia was no doubt fueled by Emperor Nicholas II, who had an impressive collection of more than 50 automobiles, housed in 4 Imperial Garages: Moscow, the Winter Palace (St. Petersburg), Tsarskoye Selo and Livadia.

© Paul Gilbert. 18 February 2022

The fate of Porosenkov Log and Ganina Yama

CLICK on the image above to watch a 2-minute video tour of the Romanov Memorial at Porosenkov Log

In May, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) will convene in Moscow, to discuss the results of examinations carried out between 2015-2018, by the Investigate Committee of the Russian Federation. It is widely believed that the Council will recognize the authenticity of the remains of the Imperial Family. So, what effect will this have on both Porosenkov Log and Ganina Yama?

Representatives of the Romanov Memorial Charitable Foundation in Ekaterinburg, now fear that the diocese could destroy the original appearance of Porosenkov Log, the spot were the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, his wife, three children and four retainers were discovered in 1991. The remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister Maria were discovered in a nearby separate grave in 2007.

According to Ilya Korovin, Director of the Romanov Memorial Charitable Foundation , Porosenkov Log is the only place in Ekaterinburg connected with the Imperial Family’s final days, which has survived to this day unchanged. “In Ganina Yama, unlike the Porosenkov Log, visitors cannot see the territory as it looked in 1918. Of course, with the recognition of the remains, the question of the future fate of the memorial will arise,” he said during a recent press conference.

As an argument, representatives of the fund cite the fact that in March 2016 the Ekaterinburg Diocese asked for a plot of land at Porosenkov Log, made a request to the Ministry of Culture of the Sverdlovsk Region for the transfer of the territory in and around Porosyonkov Log (added to the cultural heritage list in 2014), transferred to the ROC, to be designated as sacred land and where a memorial and monastery, similar to that at Ganina Yama would be constructed.

The Governor of Sveredlovsk Yevgeny Kuyvashev suspended the process of allocating land for an indefinite period. “Knowing the methods of preserving and developing memorial sites by the Russian Orthodox Church, one can come to the disappointing conclusion that Porosenkov Log will undergo catastrophic changes,” Korovin said. Korovin also noted that the territory of the Railway Forest Park, where the Romanov Memorial is located, is also subject to future development.

Representatives of the Romanov Memorial also added that, previously in 2007-2010 the Russian Orthodox Church planned to seize the territory in the area of ​​the Old Koptyakovskaya Road, partially cut down the forest, in order to build a cemetery and an Orthodox church. Again, the Sverdlovsk authorities were forced to intervene in order to end the conflict.

Sergei Chapnin, a member and expert of the Romanov Memorial Charitable Foundation, believes that Porosenkov Log is a civil memorial and this section of the old Koptyakovskaya Road must be kept intact.

Local Ekaterinburg historian Nikolai Neuimin notes, “if the Bishops Council recognizes that the remains of the Nicholas II and his family are authentic, then it turns out that the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs should not have been built at Ganina Yama, the place where the regicides tried to bury the bodies for the first time. The bones lay there for only a day and a half, while the remains were reburied 3.5 km away in two separate graves in what is today known as Porosenkov Log. As Ganina Yama is the main place of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians, no one will demolish or move the seven churches, even if it turns out that the remains in the Porosenkov Log are indeed genuine,” he added.

Chapnin, among others, believe that the recognition by the ROC of the Ekaterinburg will most certainly create a schism within the church. The ROC will be forced to acknowledge that for more than 100 years, they were wrong. This in itself may be perceived by many as a great embarrassment and humiliation to the church.

“Not every one in the church is ready to recognize the authenticity of the remains. Accepting the new reality will be quite difficult,” he added.

© Paul Gilbert. 14 February 2022

Protecting the Tsar: how Nicholas II was guarded – Part I

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II with members of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Convoy – the Cossack unit which served as the Tsar’s elite guard – set against the backdrop of the Imperial Train.

This is the first of a two-part article, which explored efforts to ensure the safety and security of Russia’s last Tsar. Click HERE to read Part 2: the security of Nicholas II in the Alexander Palace – PG

Fate entrusted the Russian Empire to Nicholas II during very troubled times – terrorists, political unrest, revolution and war. Under such conditions, the life of the sovereign was constantly in danger, and therefore his protection was a priority.

PHOTO: Tsuda Sanzo attacks the Tsesarevich in Otsu, Japan, on 11th May 1891

First of all – safety

While he was Tsesarevich [from 1881-1894], Nicholas Alexandrovich experienced first-hand the danger of not only being a member of the Imperial Family, but also as heir to the Russian throne. During a trip to Japan in 1891, he was attacked by one of his escorting policemen Tsuda Sanzō (1855-1891), who swung at the Tsesarevich’s face with a sabre, leaving a 9 cm. long scar on the right side of his forehead. The quick action of Nicholas’s cousin, Prince George of Greece and Denmark (1869-1957), who parried the assassin’s second blow with his cane, saved his life. While revolutionaries were constantly plotting to assassinate the Tsar during his reign [1894-1917], the incident in Otsu turned out to be the first and last attempt on his life.

In March 1881, Nicholas remembered all to well the risks of wearing the crown, as he stood at the bedside of his grandfather, Emperor Alexander II, who lay bleeding on a sofa in the Winter Palace—the victim of revolutionaries. This lesson of history had not been in vain. The Tsesarevich received his first guard in 1889, when he took command of a company of the Preobrazhensky Regiment. But after his accession to the throne in 1894, the safety of His Majesty’s life acquired special significance. The new Emperor used the well-established methods of protection which had developed under his father Alexander III, following an attempt on his life in 1887.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II and Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich with officers of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Convoy

Protection methods

During Nicholas II’s reign, his personal bodyguards were not enough to protect him from the political terror which was gaining strength in the country, therefore, a complex security system had to be developed, the main task of which was to prevent an attempt on the life of the Tsar. A Cossack convoy, an infantry company, a railway regiment, the Palace Police, a Special Security Detachment, as well as a large number of civilian agents were entrusted with the safety and security of the Imperial Family day and night.

Each of the security units formed their own methods to ensure the Tsar’s safety. Take the Palace Police. Within the Imperial Residences, they were posted in the palace corridors in such a way that members of the Imperial Family leaving their private quarters always fell into the field of view of the guards. If the Tsar embarked on a long walk, he remained within the field of view of a string of guards strategically placed along the route.

Moreover, specially trained dogs, German Shepherds and Dobermans, guarded the park areas, and additional guard posts were located along the perimeter of the palaces, dachas and hunting lodges. Anyone who came to the Imperial residence or its environs, when the Tsar was in residence, was required to report to the Registration Bureau within 24 hours to confirm their identity.

The men who served in the Imperial Guard were carefully selected. For example, before recruiting a Cossack into a convoy, the commanders traveled around the Kuban and Terek villages in the Caucasus, looking for the most suitable candidates. The following physical and personal qualities were required: a strong physique, height not less than 180 cm. [5 ft. 9 in.], a quick wit, devotion to the Tsar and the ability to get along with officers and fellow guards.

Service in the Imperial Guard was considered a very prestigious position, however, it came at a price. By the time of retirement, it was common that a former guard had developed a whole range of occupational diseases – rheumatism, tuberculosis, chronic broncitis or nerve disorders.

PHOTO: a group of policemen at the Small Entrance of the Winter Palace. Early 1900s.

Close to the person

Innate qualities were not enough to get enlisted into the ranks of the Palace Police – candidates were required to undergo extensive gendarmerie training. A specialist in the field of security and investigation, Alexander Ivanovich Spiridovich (1873-1952), had developed an excellent school of gendarmerie training.

Spiridovich, who served as the personal security chief for the Tsar and his family from 1906-1916, and who was also responsible for the security of the tsar’s residences. He is considered perhaps the most important figure who ensured the safety and security of Nicholas II.

The Palace Police could not always guarantee the safety of the Tsar, especially in the period which followed the 1905 Revolution. To accompany the Emperor on his trips in 1906, by order of the Palace Commandant Major General Dmitry Fedorovich Trepov, a Special Guard Detachment was created, headed by Spiridovich. Trepov died on 2nd September 1906, he was replaced by Vladimir Alexandrovich Dedulin.

The duties of the head of the Special Detachment included a detailed study of the proposed route to be taken by the Sovereign. Spiridovich sent his men ahead, making it very clear to make their presence along the route unnoticed by the Tsar – as he knew the negative attitude of Nicholas II to the obvious appearance of representatives of the Secret Police.

Spiridovich was also aware of the operational work of the Social Revolutionary terrorist groups. He acted calmly and prudently so as not to frighten away the most active and dangerous members. His most successful operation was the uncovering of a conspiracy to assassinate the Emperor. The terrorists intended to carry out a boldly bold plan – to detonate a bomb under the office of Nicholas II, but its result was the execution of the main instigators of the conspiracy.

The Emperor, treated Spiridovich with great respect and confidence. This is evidenced by a whole series of photographs taken by the head of the Special Detachment – he practically became the Imperial Family’s official photographer. In gratitude for his faithful service, Nicholas II awarded Spiridovich the rank of colonel.

PHOTOS: Major General Dmitry Fedorovich Trepov (left); Adjutant General Vladimir Alexandrovich Dedulin, commandant of the Winter Palace from 1906 to 1913 (center); Police chief of the Winter Palace I. A. Dobrovolsky (right)

“Personal”

In a vintage newsreel, which depicts Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, during a procession in the Moscow Kremlin in 1912, one cannot fail to notice a tall Cossack, carefully carrying Tsesarevich Alexei in his arms. This is Alexei Petrovich Pilipenko (1887-????), who served in His Majesty’s Own Convoy, and was also an orderly and personal bodyguard of Nicholas II.

With the outbreak of the First World War, the devoted servant Pilipenko, along with a platoon of Cossacks, accompanied the Emperor when visiting Stavka the General Headquarters of the Imperial Russian Armed Forces. He turned out to be the last of the guards entrusted to protecting Nicholas II. From December 1916 he was constantly with the Emperor in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, but on 1st April 1917 – during the Tsar’s house arrest – they were destined to say goodbye forever.

Another well-known person protecting the Tsar was the Cossack and well-aimed shooter Timofey Ksenofontovich Yashchik (1878-1946), who for two years – from 1914 to 1916 – served and travelled with the Sovereign during the latters visits to the front-line. In early 1916, he became the personal bodyguard for the Dowager Empress Dowager Maria Feodorovna.

PHOTOS: Alexei Petrovich Pilipenko carrying Tsesarevich Alexei (left); Timofey Ksenofontovich Yashchik (center); Alexander Ivanovich Spiridovich (right)

“I’m not afraid of anything”…

After the abdication of the throne, Nicholas II did not lose his guard, but a guard of a completely different kind was assigned to him – their task was not so much to protect the former Tsar from assassination attempts, but to protect him from the raging and unpredictable crowds of the revolutionaries and their supporters.

With the advent of Soviet power, the main task of the guards was to prevent the release of the Tsar, which they feared could lead to the restoration of the monarchy. Once in 1905, Nicholas II was present at the fireworks at the Winter Palace, which was made from the guns of the Peter and Paul Fortress. The buckshot, which accidentally turned out to be loaded with one of the guns, landed next to the pavilion where the Emperor was standing. The clergy, retinue, guards, who were located near the Tsar, were quite shaken by the incident. Only the Emperor himself turned out to be imperturbable, saying: “I am not afraid of anything.” Surprisingly, with such fatalism, Nicholas II was absolutely calm about all the security measures taken during the period of his reign.

Further Reading

The most comprehensive study of the security of Tsar Nicholas II, his family, and the Imperial Residences, are the personal memoirs of Alexander Ivanovich Spiridovich (1873-1952), Last Years of the Court at Tsarskoe Selo, in two volumes. Copies of the first English translation of these volumes are avaailable from AMAZON – CLICK on the LINK(S) below for full details and to order copies:

Volume One, 1906-1910 and Volume Two, 1910-1914

© Paul Gilbert. 13 February 2022

How a French princess almost became the last Empress of Russia

PHOTO: Princess Hélène of Orleans (1871-1951)

It was Peter the Great who started the tradition of marriages with German princesses, which was continued by his successors. This is explained both by the religious issue – Protestants easily accepted Orthodoxy, unlike Catholic princesses – and by political unions, because the German principalities were the closest neighbours of the Russian Empire. The only exception was Emperor Alexander III, who married a Danish princess.

When Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich – the future Emperor Nicholas II – fell passionately in love with Princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt, he received an unexpected rebuff from his parents, who had their own arguments against such a union. At the end of the 19th century, Russia once again changed its foreign policy ally – France replaced Germany and Austria.

This political union was the main project of Alexander III, who began cordial relations with France, eventually entering into an alliance with the French in 1892. Best of all, an alliance would strengthen a marriage. And although France at that time was already a republic, she could offer Princess Hélène of Orleans (1871-1951), a representative of the Orleans branch of the Bourbon dynasty, as a bride. Hélène was the third of eight children born to Prince Philippe, Count of Paris, and Infanta Maria Isabel of Spain.

Moreover, the fact that the princess did not belong to a ruling house was considered as a plus, because in this case she would not be able to influence her husband in the interests of her family. And Empress Maria Feodorovna, being a Dane, simply did not want to see a German princess as her daughter-in-law. She held strong militant anti-German sentiment because of the annexation of Danish territories by Prussia in 1864.

Therefore, Hélène had long been considered the main contender for the crown of the Russian Empress. Hélène of Orleans was known for her beauty, knew several languages, and she loved sports. Journalists referred to her as a model of women’s health and beauty. Of course, one can only speculate whether Nicholas’s marriage with Hélène would have changed the course of Russia’s history?

For one, Hélène would not have passed on to her children, namely, her son, the haemophilia gene, which played a fatal role in the history of the Russian Imperial Family. It was Alexei’s morbidity that led the odious Rasputin to the pinnacle of power. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, trusting the elder with the most valuable thing – her son. According to some historians, the Empress began to consult with him in those matters where he could not be competent in any way, often influencing her husband. Nicholas adored his wife too much to ignore many of her requests.

Historians believe, that if he had treated his wife more calmly, he could make decisions on his own and remain calm in acute situations. In addition, Hélène was French, and would not have caused such antipathy as the German Alexandra Feodorovna, when in 1914 Russia entered the war against Austria and Germany.

Nicholas, never pursued his parents choice for the French princess as a bride, as he was already in love with Princess Alix of Hesse. It is quite possible, that the strong willed Alexander III could have forced his son to marry Hélène, but his health failed him. Fearing that he would not have time to marry his son personally, and feeling completely ill, he yielded to Nicholas request to marry the woman he loved. The subsequent events are known, but Alexandra Feodorovna was never able to please either the court, or the people, or the relatives of her beloved husband.

Hélène of Orleans eventually married Prince Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy, cousin of King Victor Emmanuel of Italy. In marriage, she gave birth to two sons, was engaged in charity, left many travel notes on her travels in Europe and Africa. She outlived Nicholas II , her husband and both her sons. She died on 21st January 1951 (aged 79), in Castellammare di Stabia, Italy.

© Paul Gilbert. 12 February 2022

New exhibition explores Bolshevik campaign to confiscate church valuables in 1918

PHOTO: exhibition poster

On 6th February 2022, a new exhibition: Sacrilege: on the 100th Anniversary of the Beginning of the Campaign to Confiscate Church Valuables, opened in Ekaterinburg. The exhibition is timed to the 104th anniversary of the 1918 Decree on the Separation of Church and State in Bolshevik Russia.

The venue for the exhibition is the Museum of the Holy Royal Family, situated in the Patriarchal Compound, and runs until 6th February 2023.

The exhibition explores the Bolshevik campaign to confiscate church valuables in 1918. Resistance by the faithful was met with arrests, mock trials of the clergy, as a result of which many priests and nuns were shot.

The exhibition presents liturgical items damaged during the years of Soviet power, damaged icons, liturgical and religious literature, secretly hidden during the years of Soviet power between the covers of Soviet books, and other items related to the history of the Church in the atheistic years. A collection of photographs provide evidence of the churches and monasteries destroyed and desecrated during the Bolshevik and later Soviet years.

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According to Nathaniel Davis’s A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy, the ROC had only about 200-300 active parishes in the Soviet Union by 1939; before the revolution there had been roughly 50,000.

The Decree on the Separation of Church and State was an act adopted by the Council of People’s Commissars of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic on 3rd February [O.S. 20th January]. The edict was signed by Vladimir Lenin, and came into force four days later on 6th February [O.S. 23rd January] 1918.

The Decree declared all Church property to be the property of the state. Sanctioned by this licence, Bolshevik squads went around the country desecrating and looting churches and monasteries, mocking religion and religious people unmercifully, even murdering priests, monks and other believers by the thousands.

It installed the secular nature of the state power, proclaimed the freedom of conscience and religion; religious organizations were deprived of any property rights and the rights of a legal entity. It laid the foundation for the deployment of atheistic propaganda and atheistic education

The following images depict atheist Bolsheviks thugs desecrating and looting Russia’s churches:

© Paul Gilbert. 6 February 2022