‘Nicholas II: The Last Orthodox Tsar of Russia’ with Paul Gilbert achieves 100,000 views!

Duration: 19 min., 40 sec. English with Closed Captioning

On 28th June 2022, the video ‘Nicholas II: The Last Orthodox Tsar of Russia’ surpassed more than 100,000 views on YouTube! The video was produced in July 2020, by the Holy Monastery of St. John the Forerunner of Mesa Potamos in Cyprus.

“This video production is based on the research of project colleague and independent researcher Paul Gilbert, who also presents this video.”

I am truly honoured to be a research colleague of this important publishing project. I am most grateful to Father Prodromos Nikolaou and the Holy Monastery of St. John the Forerunner of Mesa Potamos in Cyprus for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this new video which tells the story about Russia’s last Orthodox Christian monarch.

Emperor Nicholas II reigned for 22 years. With his murder, the last Orthodox Christian monarch, along with the thousand-year history of thrones and crowns in Russia, ended, ushering in an era of lawlessness, apostasy, and confusion, one which would sweep Holy Orthodox Russia into an abyss which would last more than 70 years.

The creators have done a remarkable job of incorporating a wonderful collection of photos – both vintage B&W and colourized by Olga Shirnina (aka KLIMBIM) – vintage newsreel film footage and music.

One viewer noted on my Facebook page: “Only 20 minutes long, this is the BEST portrayal of the last Tsar’s Orthodox faith I have ever seen. Very well-made, historical and moving.”

The crowning moment of the video is near the end, which shows film footage of the actual canonization ceremony performed on 20th August 2000 by Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008) in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow. You can hear His Holiness calling out each of the names of the Imperial Family. The footage is extremely moving to watch.

This 20-minute video is presented in the framework of the production of the book The Romanov Royal Martyrs: What Silence Could Not Conceal published by Mesa Potamos Publications in 2019.



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



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. 28 June 2022

Faithful to the End: Klimenty Nagorny and Ivan Sednev 


Klimenty Grigorievich Nagorny (left). and Ivan Dmitriyevich Sednev (right)

Today – 28th June 2022 – marks the 104th anniversary of the death and martyrdom of two faithful servants to Emperor Nicholas II and his family – Klimenty Grigorievich Nagorny and Ivan Dmitriyevich Sednev. 

Klimenty Nagorny and Ivan Sednev selflessly served the Tsar’s children. Nagorny in particular, lay the great responsibility of protecting the Tsesarevich, even the slightest injury could put the heir to the Russian throne in danger, due to his hemophilia. Alexei was very fond of Nagorny, who in turn showed complete devotion to the Tsesarevich, faithfully sharing with him all the joys and sorrows.


Nagorny and Tsesarevich Alexei in Tsarskoe Selo, 1907

Klimenty Nagorny and Ivan Sednev voluntarily stayed with the Tsar’s family during their house arrest in Tsarskoe Selo, and then followed them to Tobolsk, where Nagorny shared a room with the Tsesarevich, serving him day and night. Together with the Imperial family, Nagorny also attended all the divine services, and the only member of the family’s retinue who was a member of the choir organized by the Empress: he sang and read for the Imperial family during services held in the house church.

In the spring of 1918 Nagorny and Sednev once again, voluntarily followed the Imperial family to Ekaterinburg. They spent only a few days in the Ipatiev House, and then were separated from the Imperial prisoners. They were arrested and imprisoned, their sole crime had been their inability to hide their indignation on seeing the Bolshevik commissaries seize the little gold chain from which the holy images hung over the sick bed of the Tsesarevich.

On 28th June 1918, they were shot in the back by the Bolsheviks, in a small wooded area behind the Yekaterinburg-2 railway station (modern name – Shartash). Nagorny and Sednev were “killed for betraying the cause of the revolution” – as indicated in the resolution on their execution. The murderers left their bodies unburied.

When Ekaterinburg was occupied by the Whites, the the half-decayed bodies of Nagorny and Sednev, were found and solemnly buried near the Church of All the Afflicted (demolished). Witnesses at the funeral recall that the graves of the former sailors of the Imperial Yacht Standart were strewn with white flowers. Their graves were not preserved – they were destroyed when the Soviet authorities built a city park on the site of the cemetery.

Both Nagorny and Sednev were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) on 14 November 1981, and both rehabilitated by the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation on 16 October 2009. They have yet to be canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate. 

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!


Sednev and Alexei Nikolaevich, in the Finnish skerries, 1914 

Nagorny, Klementy Grigorovich (1887—1918) – from 1909, he served on the Imperial yacht Standart and appointed as a footman to the imperial children. He received the Court title Garderobshik (wardrobe keeper) in 1909 and accompanied the Imperial family on every tour. In November 1913, he was appointed assistant dyadka to guard the Imperial children. He travelled with the Tsesarevich Alexei to Mogilev during 1914-16. After the Tsar’s abdication, he lived under detention with the Imperial family in Tsarskoe Selo, Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg.

Sednev, Ivan Dmitrievich (1881—1918) – was recruited into the Russian Imperial Navy in 1911, where he began as a machinist on the Imperial Yacht Polyarnaya Zvezda (Polar Star) then transferred onto the Imperial yacht Standart. By invitation he became a Lakei (liveried footman) to the Grand Duchesses, and subsequently to the Tsesarevich. Ivan lived under detention with the Imperial family in Tsarskoe Selo, Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg.


On 13th June 2022, a new monument (seen in above photo) to four faithful servants – including Nagorny and Sednev – of Emperor Nicholas II, was installed and consecrated on the grounds of Novo-Tikhvin Convent in Ekaterinburg.

© Paul Gilbert. 28 June 2021

Moscow Patriarchate issues student calendar dedicated to Nicholas II and his family

The Department of Children’s Literature of the Publishing House of the Moscow Patriarchate, have published a special Orthodox student’s 2023 calendar, dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and their children.

The calendar «Патриарх — детям. Царская семья. Уроки из жизни» [Patriarch to Children. Tsar’s family. Lessons from life] is designed to guide students and children on the holidays and fasts of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The 32-page calendar includes a preface, written by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, a troparion and kontakion to the Holy Royal Martyrs, prayers for before and after lessons. The calendar also features blank pages, where students can record their schedule of additional lessons, as well as birthdays and name days of their family, relatives and friends.

The preface for the student calendar, written by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, reads:

“Dear children! We perceive the family as a small Church, as a circle of the closest people, united by the paternal faith. It is no coincidence that the Gospel says: “Where two or three gather in My name, there I am with them (Matthew 18:20).” It is the dispensation of the family in the name of the Lord that makes it possible to build relationships between children and parents, relationships in which any act is accompanied by a willingness to serve one’s neighbour as oneself. A striking example of a Christian family is the family of the Royal Martyrs, Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II, his wife and children, who together carried out their public service. In joy and in sorrow, in prosperity and in persecution, the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers strengthened prayed with all their hearts for Russia, for the hardships and problems of the Fatherland. It is in such families that today our people can and must draw their strength.”

The 2023 students calendar is available from the Publishing house of the Moscow Patriarchate – price 65 rubles.

© Paul Gilbert. 22 June 2022

Exhibits from the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II in Tobolsk

PHOTO: recreation of the dining room in the former Governors Mansion, Tobolsk

Between August 1917 and April 1918 Emperor Nicholas II and his family were held under house arrest in the the former governor’s mansion [renamed “House of Freedom” by the Bolsheviks] in Tobolsk, Siberia.

In the beginning, the Imperial family were allowed to walk to the nearby Church of the Annunciation for worship, however, this was halted due to “concerns for their safety”. Despite this, the security regime in Tobolsk was more relaxed than in Tsarskoye Selo, allowing the family to lead a fairly calm life.

On 26th April 2018, the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II opened in the former Governor’s Mansion, following an extensive restoration. The museum is the first museum in Russia, dedicated entirely to Emperor Nicholas II and his family. Many original elements from the time that the Imperial Family lived here have been preserved. The interiors have been partially restored, each room featuring unique exhibits from their daily life. The chapel, which was set up in the ballroom of the mansion was also recreated, and consists of a folding iconostasis and an altar.

In addition, the museum features many unique personal items belonging to the Imperial family: Imperial porcelain, napkins with monograms, silver appliances, etc. One of the most precious exhibits is Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s silk shawl. The Empress gave the shawl to the wife of the doctor in gratitude, who had treated the Tsesarevich Alexei.

Below, is a selection of five exhibits from the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II in Tobolsk:

Balalaika of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich [updated on 22 June 2022]

Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, a German by birth, enjoyed the sound of a three-stringed balalaika. She first heard the tunes of the Cossack-balalaika players when she first arrived in Russia. Initially, Alexandra Feodorovna wanted her daughters to take up playing a folk instrument, but in the end, it was her son Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich who became interested in the instrument. Judging by a photograph [seen below] taken on the Imperial yacht Standart in 1907, Alexei had already picked up the balalaika at the age of three.

When the Tsesarevich grew up, he was appointed a music tutor, Alexander Alekseevich Resin (1857-1933). But Resin was dedicated to commanding the tsarist guard, so instead Alexei was offered a replacement – the Court adviser Alexander Nikolaevich Zarubin.

Zarubin played in an amateur orchestra of Russian folk instruments, which became the first such group in Russia. Zarubin conducted 12 balalaika lessons with Alexei Nikolaevich. For these lessons, the Tsesarevich bought one professional instrument for himself and presented two more to his fellow cadets – Vasily Ageev and Evgeny Makarov.

Alexei’s balalaika was made by the famous craftsman Semyon Ivanovich Nalimov (1857-1916), who from 1895 to 1917, produced more than 300 models of musical instruments. The soundboard of the instrument was decorated with inlay – a small stylized image of a house, which is assembled from separate pieces of wood of different shades. The body of the balalaika was carefully polished and varnished.

PHOTO: Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich with his balalaika, 1907

Empress Alexandra Feodorovna encouraged her son’s passion. From 1917, she included mandatory balalaika lessons in his schedule of classes, which were supposed to take place twice a week. Sadly, however, these lessons never began: after the February Revolution of 1917, Nicholas II abdicated the throne, and in August of that year, the Imperial family were sent into exile to Tobolsk.

Alexei Nikolaevich took the instrument with him to Tobolsk, although there was no one to teach him in Siberia. In April 1918, when the Imperial family were transferred to Ekaterinburg, Alexei still held on to his passion for the balalaika.

Following their murders in July 1918, and the liberation of Ekaterinburg by the White Army, among the items found in the Ipatiev House, were two musical instruments, including a three-stringed balalaika. In addition, was a book Правила игры на балалайке [Rules of Playing the Balalaika], embossed with a crown and Alexei’s monogram on the cover.

Alexei’s balalaika was transferred to the collection of the Tobolsk Historical and Architectural Museum, where it remained until 2018, when the well-known St. Petersburg collector Valery Bruntsev transferred the instrument to the collection of the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II.

“Travels in the East of Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia When Tsesarevich” by Esper Ukhtomsky

On 5th November (O.S. 23rd October) 1890, Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (future Emperor Nicholas II) embarked on a seven-month journey around the greater part of the Eurasian continent.

The total length of the journey exceeded 51,000 kilometres, including 15,000 km of railway and 22,000 km of sea routes, aboard the cruiser Pamyat Azov. The Tsesearvich’s journey took him to Greece, Egypt, India, Ceylon, Siam, Singapore, French Indochina, China, and Japan.

Nicholas Alexandrovich was accompanied on the journey by a close confidant Prince Esper Esperovich Ukhtomsky (1861-1921), a diplomat, publisher and Oriental enthusiast. He later published an account of this expedition: Travels in the East of Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia When Tsesarevich. Illustrations for the publication were made by the Russian artist Nicholas Nikolaevich Karazin (1842-1908).

The book was written in close consultation with Nicholas II, who personally approved each chapter. It took six years to complete, and was published in three volumes between 1893 and 1897 by Brockhaus, in Leipzig. Despite being expensive at 35 roubles, it still ran to four editions. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna bought several thousand copies for various government ministries and departments, and a cheaper edition was subsequently printed. The work was translated into English, French, German and Chinese, with a copy being presented to the Chinese Emperor and Empress in 1899 by the Russian envoy

Manila shawl of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

This white natural silk shawl belonged to Empress Alexandra Fedorovna. The Empress’s wardrobe included several Manila shawls, which were popular in the early 20th century.

The name of the product was derived from the capital of the Philippines [a former Spanish colony] – Manila. In the 16th century, Spanish galleons arrived in the harbour, their holds full of china, precious stones, spices and fabrics including silk capes, from China. The shawls eventually found their way to Spain where they became a popular commodity. By the 18th century, they were already an important accessory of Spanish fashionistas and over time acquired the status of a luxury accessory. Not only were Manila shawls worn thrown over the shoulders: they were also used to decorate sofas, pianos and even walls. They became an important accessory for flamenco dancers.

The first silk shawls were decorated with hand-made embroidery with traditional Chinese motifs: dragons, bamboo, pagodas. Later, they were replaced by flowers and birds more familiar to Europeans, and brushes with special weaving appeared along the edges. The most common colours for Manila shawls were black, white, ivory and shades of red.

Perfume Coty of the Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna

In 1904, the French perfumer François Coty (1874-1934), created a perfume brand under his own name. The design of the bottle for his first fragrance was developed by the French company “Baccarat”. At first, few people were interested in the perfumes of an unknown perfumer, but once Francois Coty broke a bottle with them in a Parisian store, his luck changed. The scent filled the room and immediately attracted buyers. A few weeks later, Coty’s perfume was already on sale in department stores, boutiques and hairdressers throughout Paris.

François Coty became one of the most popular perfumers of the time. Before him, perfume was a luxury item available only to wealthy people. Coty created a line of fragrances in which the cost depended on the size and type of bottle. He said, “Give a woman the best product you can create, wrap it in simple but elegant packaging, set a reasonable price, and you have a business of a scale the world has never seen.”

The collection of the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II contains a glass bottle of perfume “Corsican Jasmine”, which was used by Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna. This fragrance was created by François Coty in 1906 and named after his homeland – the island of Corsica. The scent of “Corsican Jasmine” was also loved by the famous Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941).

Nicholas II and Chess

Emperor Nicholas II had many interests and hobbies. He traveled around Russia by train, sailed with his family on the Imperial Yacht Standart, cycled, rowed, hiked and played tennis. The monarch was also fond of hunting, cinematography and photography, he loved to drive a car and patronized the Imperial Russian Automobile Society.

Nicholas II did much to popularize chess in Russia. For example, the big tournament in memory of the famous Russian chess player Mikhail Chigorin (1850-1908) in 1909, was partially financed by the Emperor, who donated a thousand rubles. The Emperor personally attended the tournament and awarded the finalists with the title of grandmaster, the winners received vases made by the prestigious Imperial Porcelain Factory.

In 1914, the Emperor supported the creation of the All-Russian Chess Union. With his approval, chess tournaments, international congresses and chess competitions were held in Russia.

While in exile in Tobolsk, the Emperor spent his days usually engaged in physical activities, such as sawing wood, working in the garden, or shovelling snow in the winter. In the evenings, members of the Imperial Family whiled away the time books, embroidery and playing chess.

The chess set in the collection of the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II was made at the Kasli plant in the first half of the 19th century. Kasli casting was highly valued not only in Russia, but also in Europe, for its excellent quality and attention to detail.


Click on the IMAGE below to watch a VIDEO tour [in Russian] of the the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II in Tobolsk, which includes the interiors and many exhibits. Duration: 19 minutes, 32 seconds

© Paul Gilbert. 22 June 2022

Memorial plaque in memory of Nicholas II’s 1904 visit to Penza returned

PHOTO: memorial plaque in memory of Emperor Nicholas II’s visit to Penza in 1904

On 19th June 2022, a memorial plaque installed at the beginning of the 20th century on one of the columns of the Cathedral of the Saviour [aka Spassky Cathedral] in memory of Emperor Nicholas II’s visit to Penza in 1904 was returned to the Penza Diocese. During his visit, the sovereign held a review of Russian troops who were being sent to the Russo-Japanese War, followed by a liturgy held in the Cathedral of the Saviour.

This memorial plaque, installed by the Penza City Duma, became the first memorial plaque in the Penza region. The inscription on it reads: “His Imperial Majesty the Sovereign Emperor Nikolai Alexandrovich and His Imperial Highness the Sovereign Heir Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich deigned to visit the Penza Cathedral and prayed at this place on June 28, 1904 at 11 ½ o’clock in the afternoon.”

The words on the commemorative plaque turned out to be prophetic. The cathedral, located on the Cathedral Square of the city was blown up by the Bolsheviks in 1934. In 2010, reconstruction of the cathedral began, and took 12 years to complete.

On 19th June 2022, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia performed the rite of the Great Consecration of the Cathedral of the Saviour in Penza, concelebrated by the clergy of the Penza diocese, and read out a decree on conferring the status of a cathedral.

PHOTO: Igor Sergeevich Shishkin (right) holds the historic memorial plaque, during the handing over ceremony at the Cathedral of the Saviour, on 19th June 2022

For decades it was believed that the memorial plaque had been lost or destroyed. This was based on the recollections of Penza residents, who recalled that in February 1918, armed Bolsheviks came to the cathedral and smashed the plaque with their rifle butt. But as it turned out, the plaque miraculously survived. The parishioners hid it by burying it in the ground not far from the cathedral.

About twenty years ago, rumours surfaced that the memorial plaque had survived and was mostly intact [only a corner was broken off]. Local historians carried out a search of the former grounds, as a result of which the plaque ended up in the hands of the famous Penza collector Igor Sergeevich Shishkin, who today returned the memorial plaque to its rightful place.

The handover ceremony of the memorial plaque took place before the great consecration of the Cathedral of the Saviour, which was performed by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia during his primatial visit to the Penza Diocese.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 June 2022

Zhanna Bichevskaya marks her 78th birthday


Cover of Zhanna Bichevskaya;s CD Царь Николай (Tsar Nikolai)

A very happy 78th birthday to Russian folk singer Zhanna Vladimirovna Bichevskaya, who was born in Moscow on 17th June 1944.

Известной певице Жанне Владимiровне Бичевской исполнилось 78 лет!!! Мы сердечно поздравляем её с Днём рождения!!!


Zhanna graduated as a classical guitarist from a Moscow music school. She was a teacher of music in Zagorsk (Sergiev Posad). In the 1970s, Zhanna started to perform Russian folk songs and romances.

Zhanna refers to her bard-style singing as “Russian country-folk”. Her repertoire includes several hundred works – songs of spiritual and social content, Russian folk songs, romances, as well as songs based on poems of Russian poets of the Silver Age. Her records have sold millions of copies in more than 40 countries around the world. She has performed to sell out crowds at the prestigious Olympia Hall in Paris, on eight occasions. 

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Zhanna Bichevskaya’s songs began to have more political, nationalist and spiritual themes, she is a staunch defender of the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II and his family.

In 1999, Zhanna also became the host of her own show on Voice of Russia radio station. She was awarded People’s Artist of the RSFSR

CLICK on the links below to listen to two of her most haunting melodies:

[1] Царь Николай / Tsar Nikolai [Duration: 9 mins], which features vintage film footage of Russia’s last tsar:

[2] Святым Царственным мученикам / To the Holy Royal Martyrs [Duration: 7 mins., 34 sec.], which is much more a prayer than a song:

Click HERE to visit Zhanna Bichevskaya’s Official Website (in Russian / по-русски)

© Paul Gilbert. 17 June 2022

My cancer journey and prayers for the intercession of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

PHOTO: the miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and the Order of the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

On 22nd April, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. No one ever wants to hear their doctor utter the words “tumour” or “cancer” – each word inflicting both shock and fear into a person – I was no exception. I recall that the first thing that popped into my head at that moment, was whether the cancer had spread? I would not know for sure until a C-Scan was performed, for which I had to wait another 3+ weeks. Until then, the waiting and uncertainty only fanned the flames of my fears.

In the days leading up to my C-Scan and surgery, I filled my time with the “best medicine”: prayers, positive thoughts, and laughter. I reached out to my family, friends, and to the many people who follow me on my blog and Facebook pages. I was simply overwhelmed by the love and support I received from thousands of people – many of them from people whom I have never met – from all over the world.

In addition, prayers were being said for me by Orthodox and non-Orthodox clergy in the United States, Canada, Australia, Britain and Russia.

One of the most inspiring messages I received, one which had a very profound effect on me, was the following, sent by a friend:

“You must remember that you have your work on Nicholas II to complete and it is YOU who have been chosen from above by His Majesty. May God be with you, dear Paul!”

On 14th May, I had my C-Scan, and 3 days later, the doctor called me with the results. I was so relieved to learn that the cancer had not spread to any of my vital organs or my bones. Glory to God for all things!

PHOTO: Paul Gilbert poses in front of his lithograph copy of the original miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, gifted by Ija Schmit(1936-2018) in 1996

The intercession of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

Just two days before my admission to hospital, I was doing some spring cleaning – simply to keep my mind occupied – when I discovered a large firm envelope hidden behind some boxes in the back of my closet. I discovered that the envelope contained a large 12″ x 15″ colour lithograph copy of the miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II (seen in photo above).

This icon had been gifted to me back in 2000 by a friend in California. I could not believe that it lay hidden and forgotten alI these years! I was quite overcome with emotion, because I knew that this was an exact lithograph copy of the miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, the same miracle-working icon which has been venerated by Orthodox Christians for more than two decades.

I placed the icon in a frame and hung it on a wall in my home. I then began to pray to God through the intercession of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, to help me get through my surgery and healing. I prayed for strength and courage, and I prayed for good health. Not only do I want to live to a ripe old age, I want to return to my beloved Russia, and I also want to continue my work in clearing the name of Russia’s much slandered Emperor and Tsar.

As some of you may already be aware, I have been considering entering the Russian Orthodox Church for several years now, and during that time have spent many hours in prayer and solitude in Orthodox churches, praying to God and venerating icons of Orthodox saints. In my home, I have icons of the Holy Royal Martyrs and Russian saints, which I venerate on a daily basis.

On the morning of Friday, 20th May, I arrived at Oshawa General Hospital for my surgery. My blood pressure and blood sugars went through the roof! Prior to surgery, my blood pressure exceeded 200!!, that is how stressed I was. When I was taken into the operating room, I repeatedly made the sign of the Orthodox Cross over myself, recited the Lord’s Prayer, the Jesus Prayer, and Psalm 23. Just before the anaesthesiologist administered the medication, I was filled with calm and peace . . .  

The next thing I knew, I was coming out of the anesthetic in the hospital recovery room. The following morning, the surgeon came to see me and informed me that “the surgery went very well”, that the tumour had been successfully removed, and that I would NOT require ANY chemotherapy. “Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.” (Psalm 30:2).

I have nothing but praise for the doctors and nurses at the hospital, all of whom went over and above the call of duty to ensure that I received the best possible care. After spending a few days in Oshawa General, I was sent home. I spent much of my recovery in bed sleeping or resting in my favourite armchair with a cup of tea and a good book. I still have some minor pain, and limited mobilty, however, my health continues to improve with each new day.

My post-surgery care now requires me to have blood work done and a C-Scan every six months and an annual colonoscopy over the next two years.

While my cancer was not life-threatening, the surgeon informed me that he had also removed three pre-cancerous [changes to cells that make them more likely to develop into cancer] polyps, noting that if I had I left it another year, that my situation would be much worse. I was one of the lucky ones, as the cancer was detected in its early stages.

I am the first to admit that my cancer journey pales in comparison to those of many others, it was a journey which nevertheless has had a profound impact on me, one which God willing, will add many more years to my life, and lead me to fulfill my heartfelt aspiration to enter the Russian Orthodox Church.

PHOTO: Oleg Ivanovich Belchenko, holding the miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, at the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama

The miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

The Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas was commissioned by Ija Schmit (1936-2018), a Russian émigré in the United States, who used money inherited from her mother to have the icon painted in 1996.

I first met Ija in October 2000, when she joined my annual Romanov Tour to Russia, which that year included Moscow and Crimea. Ija was accompanied by her husband Harvey and their daughter Nina. It was during this visit that she told me about this icon, a copy of which she later gifted me.

The icon would be dedicated to the future canonization of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas in Russia[1], and in memory of her mother. After Ija’s initial inspiration to have the icon painted, she contacted iconographer Paul Tikhomirov, himself a Russian immigrant, to see if he was interested in her project. Tikhomirov’s response was, “I will make the icon shine!” They decided to depict Nicholas II in coronation robes [1996 was the 100th anniversary of his coronation in Moscow], with St. Nicholas, his patron saint, and St. Job, on whose feast day Nicholas was born, in the upper right and left hand corners. Below the figures would be printed in Russian, “This Holy Icon is for the Canonization of the Tsar-Martyr in Russia.”

Ija received the finished icon on 12th May 1996 and then traveled to Texas, where it was blessed by Bishop Constantine (Yesensky), an old family friend, who had served as Bishop of Great Britain. The icon, however, was not intended solely for family veneration. Ija and her husband, Harvey Schmit, had already arranged to have paper copies of the icon printed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II on 27th May (O.S. 14th) 1996.

Forty-four thousand copies of the icon were printed. The distribution of the icons [printed in three sizes], was handled by Ija’s own non-profit organization, the Society Honoring Russian Nobility, and income from the icons sold in the West purchased food and medicine for needy pensioners and orphans in Russia. A fourth, smaller version of the icon was printed by the thousands and given away in Russia without charge.

As word of the icon spread, Christians from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and even Serbia, began writing and requesting copies. The Society has met all these requests and distributed more than twenty thousand icons in Russia alone.

On a visit to Russia in late 1996, Father Herman [Ija Schmit’s brother] presented a number of prints to Fr. Juvenaly, the priest at the St. Nicholas Almshouse in Ryazan. On 16th (O.S. 2nd) March 1998 (the anniversary of Tsar Nicholas II’ abdication and the miraculous appearance of the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God. Fr. Juvenaly blessed Dr. Oleg Belchenko with one of the prints, which the doctor took with him back to Moscow. The paper icon had been given to him in a glassfronted, three-dimensional wooden icon-case (a kiot) and Dr. Belchenko set it in a prominent place in his Moscow apartment. On 5th September, Dr. Belchenko noticed that a red spot had appeared over the right eyelid of the Tsar. The following day a second red spot appeared over the left eye. Dr. Belchenko first compared the icon with a smaller print to be sure that he had simply overlooked the distinctive marks. The smaller icon did not match. Dr. Belchenko then called Sretensky Monastery of the Meeting of the Lord to ask what he should do. The monks asked him to bring the icon of Tsar Nicholas to the monastery the following morning. Dr.Belchenko arrived early and stood through the liturgy holding the icon in a plastic bag at his side. At the end of the liturgy a moleben and blessing of the waters was held. The officiating priest recognized Dr. Belchenko, and knowing that he had come with the icon, had the choir sing a troparion for Tsar-Martyr Nicholas. Following the troparion, Dr. Belchenko noticed one of the parishioners staring at him. Finally, the man approached and asked, “What is that fragrance?” Dr. Belchenko replied: “You are probably smelling incense – I am sorry, I can’t smell anything myself because I have a cold.” The man persisted: “No. I tell you, the fragrance is coming from somewhere around you… the smell is much more refined than incense.” Dr. Belchenko replied impatiently, “You should be ashamed of talking such nonsense while the service is going on!” The man moved away embarrassed, but within a few moments other worshippers filtered over, curious about the fragrance and asking what was in the package. “Nothing, only an icon,” he replied. “Show it to us.” As Dr. Belchenko opened the package and took out the icon, the remarkable scent filled the church.

The icon of Tsar Nicholas II was displayed for veneration in the monastery church for three weeks. After Dr. Belchenko took it home, the fragrance continued to a lesser degree, and as word began to spread, Muscovites increasingly asked to come to his apartment to venerate the icon. Dr. Belchenko felt that his home was too small to accommodate many visitors, so he asked an Orthodox friend, Alla Dyakova, to keep the icon in her flat, where those who wished could venerate it. When asked how he was able relinquish such a treasure, Dr. Belchenko answered, “The icon is not mine. It belongs to all Russians.”

On 19th October, Alla Dyakova and Fr. Peter Vlashchenko, a married priest from the Ivanovo region, took the icon to Elder Kyril of St. Sergius Lavra, who was in Peredelkino, outside Moscow. Elder Kyril venerated the icon and blessed Fr. Peter and Alla with the words, “Go. Take the icon to whomever asks for it.”

On 1st November, the icon was brought to the Martha-Mary Convent in Moscow, founded by Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, the sister- in-law of Tsar Nicholas II and herself a new-martyr. The day not only marked the birthday of Elizabeth, but the anniversary of Tsar Nicholas’ assuming the throne at his father’s death in 1894. The icon of Tsar Nicholas was placed on the analogion next to an icon of Grand Duchess Elizabeth. Throughout the Divine Liturgy the icon of the Tsar poured forth waves of fragrance, filling the chapel.

It is worth mentioning that the popular veneration of the Tsar-Martyr played an important role in the canonization of the Imperial Family at the Jubilee Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000 among the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.

In August 2000, the Russian Church met at a synod in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Moscow. Amongst the things discussed was the issue of canonization. The eagerly-awaited news finally escaped the cathedral’s walls to the faithful gathered outside: Tsar Nicholas II and his family were now recognized as Saints! The date of their martyrdom was now recorded in Orthodox calendars around the world as their feast day. It is certain that influential in this decision were two paper icons of the martyrs, both of which exuded sweet-smelling myrrh and so revealed those Saints to be themselves “a sweet aroma of Christ unto God” (2 Cor 2:15).

The keeper of the miraculous image, the Moscow surgeon Oleg Ivanovich Belchenko, has travelled around Russia for many years, bringing the icon to to churches and monasteries arousing veneration of the Holy Royal Martyrs wherever it went through its aromatic myrrh. Many Orthodox Christians believe that their prayers have been answered by God through the intercession of the Tsar and his family.

Lately, due to his age, Oleg has handed over this honourary mission to Alexander Fedorovich Chernavsky, a publicist, head of the Orthodox Mission for the Revival of the Spiritual Values of the Russian People. The Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar Nicholas II, appears with the same unpretentious simplicity with which the late Tsar laid down his throne and bore his final months of house arrest before his death and martyrdom.

Holy Tsar Martyr Nicholas II, pray to God for us!


[1] The desire of many Russian Orthodox Christians for the canonization of Tsar Nicholas and his family does not stem from a belief that their personal lives were blameless, although from historical accounts and the family’s own letters it is obvious that they were Christians of great integrity. The widespread desire for the family’s canonization is based on the fact that Tsar Nicholas and his family were murdered as a result of his position as the sacramentally anointed Orthodox monarch of Russia.

© Paul Gilbert. 14 June 2022

Monument to 4 faithful servants to Nicholas II installed in Ekaterinburg

On 13th June, a new monument to four faithful servants of Emperor Nicholas II, was installed and consecrated on the grounds of Novo-Tikhvin Convent.

The monument featuring four bas-reliefs, honours Prince Vasili Alexandrovich Dolgorukov (1868-1918), Lieutenant General Ilya Tatishchev (1859-1918), Tsesarevich Alexei’s “nanny” sailor Klimenty Grigorievich Nagorny (1887-1918) and boatswain Ivan Dmitriyevich Sednev (1881-1918). It was installed in Zelenaya Grove, of the convent, and the solemn consecration was performed by Metropolitan of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye Evgeny.

PHOTO: Metropolitan of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye Evgeny performing the act of consecration

After the 1917 Revolution, with Christian courage and nobility, these four men remained faithful to the Emperor. They voluntarily followed the Imperial family into exile, first to Tobolsk, and then Ekaterinburg, were they were all murdered by the Bolsheviks in the summer of 1918: Dolgorukov and Tatishchev were shot on 10th June 1918, while Nagorny and Sednev were shot on 28th June 1918.

They were all eventually buried in the cemetery of the Novo-Tikhvin Convent, although their respective graves were lost during the Soviet years. The necropolis is gradually being restored, sadly, however, the burial place of these four faithful servants has not yet been found.

PHOTO: detail of the four bas-relief images, from left to right: Ivan Sednev, Lieutenant General Ilya Tatishchev, Prince Vasily Dolgorukov and Klimenty Nagorny

The four-meter stone stele with relief images of the Tsar’s four faithful servants was made at the St. Petersburg workshop of Mikhail Parfentiev, the sketches for the monument were prepared by the sisters of the Novo-Tikhvin Convent.

Tatishchev, Dolgorukov, Nagorny and Sednev were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in 1981, and rehabilitated by the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation on 16 October 2009. They have yet to be canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate. 

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

PHOTO: sculptor prepares bas-relief model of Lieutenant General Ilya Tatishchev

The sketches for the monument were prepared in the icon-painting workshop by the sisters of the Novo-Tikhvin Convent Striving for historical accuracy, the sisters consulted on archival documents and photographs of the uniforms and respective awards worn by Prince V. A. Dolgorukov, I. L. Tatishchev, K. G. Nagorny and I. D. Sednev. In addition, they consulted with historians and other experts on the history of the uniforms of the Russian Empire. At the same time, in order to show the height of the feat of the Tsar’s faithful subjects, who in fact were martyred, the sisters supplemented the images with details characteristic of icons: holding Orthodox crosses in their hands, and fluttering cloaks worn on their shoulders – this is customary for depicting Orthodox martyrs on icons. General Ilya Tatishchev is depicted holding the Gospel, which he knew by heart.

PHOTO: drawings and photos of Lieutenant General Ilya Tatishchev

PHOTO: plaster and stone bas-relief of Lieutenant General Ilya Tatishchev

When the sketches were ready, the sculptors got down to work. First, it was necessary to make models from plasticine – a putty-like modelling material made from calcium salts, petroleum jelly and aliphatic acids. In order to “turn” a drawing into a three-dimensional figure, the sculptor constantly checks it with photographs. From the plasticine model, an exact plaster copy is made, and from that, the stone carvers copy the image. The talented masters of the St. Petersburg workshop of Mikhail Parfentiev carefully worked on every detail of the four-meter stele with relief images of the Tsar’s subjects. Work on the monument took nearly three years to complete.

PHOTO: sketches, photos and stone bas-relief of Klimenty Grigorievich Nagorny

© Paul Gilbert. 13 June 2022

New monument to Nicholas II installed in Vladimir

On Saturday 11th June – the eve of Russia Day and the feast of the Holy Trinity – a new monument to Emperor Nicholas II was unveiled on the grounds of the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity, located on Muzeynaya Street in Vladimir, Russia. The flags of the Russian Federation and the Russian Empire were placed on either side of the monument.

The bronze monument was created by the famous Vladimir sculptor Ilya Shanin. The pedestal was created by Nikolai Andrianov, and the memorial plaques by Yuri Tumarkin and artist Olga Rozanova.

  • Readers may recall that I reported on this new monument back in late 2021. Click HERE to read this article – PG

The initiative to install the monument came from the rector of the Holy Trinity Church, Father Evgeny Borovskikh, and Ilya Shanin. A fundraiser was announced in November 2021, the cost of casting and installation of the monument amounted to 1.5 million rubles [$20,000 USD], the entire amount of which was raised by private donors.

In January 2022, sculptor Ilya Shanin announced that he wanted the installation of the monument to take place in May 2023, to coincide with 110th anniversary of the Emperor’s only visit to Vladimir, on 16th May 1913.

PHOTOS: Close up views of the sculpture and pedestal

The bronze monument of Nicholas II was made at a factory in Smolensk. He is presented from the waist up wearing a ceremonial uniform, with a ribbon over his shoulder, crosses, orders and medals. The height of the monument is 125 centimeters [app. 4 ft.] without the pedestal. The granite pedestal was made in St. Petersburg. On the pedestal there is an inscription «Государь император Николай II» – “Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II”.

The monument is set against the backdrop of a large colourized photograph of the Imperial Family. The photo is famous, and part of a series taken in 1913 marking the 300th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty. These black-and-white photos were mass produced and sold as postcards, the proceeds of which went to various charities supported by the Imperial Family.

It is interesting to add, that within 24 hours of the announcement of plans to install this monument to Emperor Nicholas II, local Bolsheviks and atheists reared their ugly heads in protest. The local branch of the Communist Party opposed its installation. The communists declared that they were “categorically against perpetuating the memory of ‘Nicholas the Bloody'”, as he organized the mass execution of unarmed workers in St. Petersburg and dragged Russia into two unnecessary wars.

Apparently, access to the monument is at present only possible during worship. The rest of the time the gates to the church are closed. Despite this, Vladimir residents still come to look at the bronze Nicholas II and take photos through the fence bars (see photo below).

It is known that Nicholas II came to Vladimir only once – on 16th May 1913, as part of the celebrations marking the 300th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty.

The Vladimir Region is now home to two of Russia’s finest monuments to Emperor Nicholas II. In September 2021, Russia’s second largest monument to Nicholas II [featuring 8 colour photos + VIDEO] was also installed in the village of Sanino, Petushinsky District, Vladimir Region.

© Paul Gilbert. 12 June 2022

30th anniversary of Prince Nikolai Romanovich’s first visit to Russia

PHOTO: Prince Nikolai Romanovich and his wife Countess Sveva della Gherardesca

Thirty years ago, in June 1992 the Head of the House of Romanov (1992-2014) and president of the Romanov Family Association, Prince Nikolai Romanovich (1922-2014), visited Russia for the first time.

The trip had been arranged by a group of Italian entrepreneurs, friends of Nikolai Romanovich, who decided to take him together with his wife Princess Zveva, with them to Russia as a guide, giving him an opportunity to talk about the country that occupied such a special place in his life.

Nikolai Romanovich dreamed of coming to Russia through Finland, a symbolic journey in the opposite direction to those who fled from Bolshevik Russia following the 1917 Revolution and later the Civil War after 1918, towards the young independent Finnish state, symbolizing the hope of salvation. But his Italian friends chose a different route: first Moscow, and then St. Petersburg.

Later, Princess Zveva recalled their first journey home to Russia: “It was an incredible journey in terms of emotional intensity. It lasted three days, and during this time Nikolai Romanovich did not sleep, so as not to miss anything. We went from Moscow to St. Petersburg by train. I watched him sitting in the compartment, already an elderly man, eagerly looking out the window – at the forests, at the fields, villages, absorbing all the images that flashed before him. Thus, at the age of 69, he discovered this great country, which had always occupied a central place in his life.”

Their first visit to the Motherland was not accompanied by a media frenzy, there were no flashes of cameras or media crews documenting their every word and filming their every move. For Russia, their visit simply passed unnoticed. Nikolai Romanovich and his wife arrived quietly, without any pomp or ceremony, nor meetings with officials.

Nikolai Romanovich later spoke about his first impressions of Russia: “What surprised me? Nothing! As if it was meant to happen and it did. I remember when the plane landed. I didn’t kiss the asphalt at the airfield. I had my passport in hand. There was an official, I showed him my passport, he said “go” in Russian. All around me, I heard Russian voices. I am in Russia. I always said: “I will return to Russia.” I never said: I will come. It was always “I’ll be back”. And I returned. Because I never really left it. You see, we have always had the feeling that we belong to Russia, but Russia does not belong to us.”

Once in St. Petersburg, the Prince wasted little time and immediately ordered a taxi, telling the driver to drive along the Neva River. Stopping, the Prince got out of the taxi and walked down to the bank, he put his hand into the water, while saying to himself with a smile: “Now my Neva!”. He had been waiting for this moment all his life.

Prince Nikolai Romanovich continued to visit Russia, including July 1998, where he led 50 descendants of the Romanov family for the interment of Emperor Nicholas II and members of his family in the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. It was during this visit that I met Prince Nikolai in the lobby of the Astoria Hotel. I was permitted to travel in the coach with members of the Russian Imperial Family to the historic burial that day.

The legitimate Head of the House of Romanov

Prince Nikolai considered that following the death of Prince Vladimir Kirillovich in 1992 that he was head of the House of Romanov and his rightful successor. With the exception of Princess Maria Vladimirovna and her mother Princess Leonida, Prince Nikolai was recognized by the rest of the family as head of the Romanov family.

The official position of the Romanov Family Association has always been that the rights of the family to the Russian Throne were suspended when Emperor Nicholas II abdicated for himself and for his son Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich. * Please read my article “The Russian Imperial House ended with the murder of Nicholas II”, originally published on 17th February 2021

While he never had any aspirations of claiming the Russian throne, there is no question that Prince Nikolai Romanovich would have made a worthy and highly respected Tsar!

* * *

Prince Nikolai was born on 26th September 1922 in Cap d’Antibes near Antibes, France, the eldest son of Prince Roman Petrovich (1896-1978) and his wife Princess Praskovia Dmitrievna (née Countess Sheremeteva, 1901-1980), and a descendant of Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855).

In 1950, Prince Nikolai and the Countess Sveva della Gherardesca (b. 15 July 1930), daughter of Count Walfred della Gherardesca and Nicoletta de Piccolellis, met at a party in Rome. Sveva is a member of the Italian della Gherardesca noble family from Tuscany and a direct descendant of Count Ugolino della Gherardesca. They were married in Florence in a civil ceremony on 31 December 1951 followed by a religious ceremony on 21 January 1952 in the Russian Cathedral at Cannes

On 15th September 2014 – Prince Nikolai Romanovich Romanov died in Tuscany, Italy at the age of 91. He was survived by his wife, their three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

© Paul Gilbert. 12 June 2022