Portrait of Nicholas II still bears the cuts made by Bolshevik bayonets in 1917

PHOTO: the portrait of Emperor Nicholas II, painted by Nun Emeliana (Batalov), still bears the cuts made by Bolshevik bayonets in 1917

During his reign, Emperor Nicholas II never visited the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent in Ekaterinburg, however, when a request was made by one of the nuns to paint his portrait came, the Emperor granted this favour. It was Nun Emeliana (Batalov), who painted the portrait of the Emperor wearing the uniform of the Life-Guards Hussar Regiment. The portrait – a gift marking the 1896 coronation – was sent to Moscow, where it was presented to the new Emperor at a reception held in the Grand Kremlin Palace. Nicholas was so pleased with the portrait, that he ordered that it be sent to St Petersburg, where it was to be hung in one of the rooms of his private apartments in the Winter Palace.

In October 1917, during the assault on the Winter Palace, the portrait was cut by the bayonets of Bolshevik thugs. For the next 12 years, the portrait sat gathering dust in the attic of the Winter Palace, until it was transferred to Museum of the October Revolution in Leningrad. During the Soviet years, the portrait hung in the museum or more than 70 years. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the portrait was restored, leaving, however, the cuts made by the bayonets as a poignant reminder of the dark days of the Bolshevik Revolution which swept Russia and the monarchy into an abyss.

Today, the portrait hangs in the Museum of Political History of Russia (located in the former mansion of Mathilde Kschessinska) in St. Petersburg.

© Paul Gilbert. 29 November 2022

Archimandrite Tikhon (Zatekin) on the Ekaterinburg remains

PHOTO: Archimandrite Tikhon (Zatekin) at the tomb of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, located in St. Catherine’s Chapel – a side chapel in SS Peter and Paul Cathedral – St. Petersburg

Archimandrite Tikhon (Zatekin) is the abbot of the Pechersky Ascension Monastery, and deputy head of the Nizhny Novgorod branch of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IOPS). He is the author of a new Russian language book on the Ekaterinburg remains ‘Романовы: убийство, поиск, обретение’ [Romanovs: Murder, Search, Acquisition].

Earlier this year, Georgy Kamensky spoke with Archimandrite Tikhon (Zatekin) about the Ekaterinburg remains, published in the Russian language Orthodox site Pravoslavie.ru.

Father Tikhon, what is your opinion on the remains found on the Koptyaki Road, near Ekaterinburg, in 1979 and 2007?

— I regard them as the remains of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich, his August family and devoted servants.

You have finished writing your new book, dedicated to the search for the remains of the Imperial Family. What is it called?

— Indeed, I have finished the layout of my new book. Since 1985, I have been familiar with the researchers who discovered the remains of the Imperial Family – Geliy Trofimovich Ryabov (1932-2015) and Alexander Nikolaevich Avdonin (born 1932). The name of my book is Романовы: убийство, поиск, обретение’ [Romanovs: Murder, Search, Acquisition]. It will be a richly illustrated album, including documents, correspondence and photographs which have never been published anywhere before.

PHOTO: Archimandrite Tikhon (Zatekin) holding a copy of his new book ‘Романовы: убийство, поиск, обретение’ [Romanovs: murder, search, acquisition].

Is it true that Geliy Ryabov and Alexander Avdonin told you back in the 1980s that they had found the remains?

— Yes, for the first time these wonderful men confidentially revealed to me a secret which they swore not to disclose to anyone. In 1986, Geliy Ryabov and Alexander Avdonin took me to Ganina Yama, where they described in detail about the events that took place there in July 1918. In conversations with Geliy Ryabov, I saw how he grieved that no one could read or sing a Panikhida [memorial service for the dead] over the hidden remains of the Imperial Family.

But, it was generally assumed that that Ryabov was an unbeliever, is this true?

— Unfortunately, such assumptions have been made, but this is not true. I have known Geliy Trofimovich personally since the mid-1980s, he was a deeply religious person. Both he and Alexander Nikolaevich Avdonin are intellectuals of incredible erudition and decency. I remember how in 1985, I went with Geliy Trofimovich and his wife Olga Alexandrovna to pray at the Trinity-Sergius Lavra [near Moscow]. There were many pilgrims there that day. Having patiently stood in line, we venerated the holy relics of St. Sergius. It was very touching to see Geliy Trofimovich write a prayer note for “Nikolai, Alexandra, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei.” I placed the note in the hands of an old monk in the Assumption Church.

— In addition, have at my disposal the vast correspondence of Geliy Ryabov with various people, many of his letters reflect the deep, penetrating words of his faith.

There is a rumour that G. T. Ryabov and A. N. Avdonin “discovered” the remains on the instructions of the KGB, and they were planted once by employees of this very organization.

— This alleged report does not stand up to scrutiny. People who adhere to this “rumour”, apart from words, those who adhere to it have failed to produce a single shred of evidence to support such a claim. From the period of the history of “developed socialism” we know about the confrontation between the two giants of the Soviet era – the KGB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Ryabov was an adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs N.A. Shchelokov, and not Yu.V. Andropov, who headed the State Security Committee.

— Moreover, the KGB, on the contrary, kept an eye on Ryabov and his activities, and Ryabov himself was well aware of this.

— The correspondence between Ryabov and Avdonin, during their search for the remains of the Imperial Family from 1976-1991, is published for the first time in my book. They had to encrypt their activities, just in case their letters were intercepted and read by the KGB. Therefore, the allegations that Geliy Ryabov and Alexander Avdonin were KGB officers have no basis.

PHOTO: Geliy Trofimovich Ryabov (1932-2015)

PHOTO: Alexander Nikolaevich Avdonin at the Romanov Memorial Hall, Museum of History and Archaeology of the Urals, Ekaterinburg

Can you recommend any books to those who want to learn the truth about the Ekaterinburg remains?

— The three-volume book “The Crime of the Century. Investigation Materials”, explores in detail the murder of the Imperial Family, and the investigation into their death, one which has lasted more than a century. I recommend that you take a look at this work. This is a serious long-term study of the first and second investigations. Experts were involved in this three-volume collection, each of whom performed their work at the highest professional level. These books contain undeniable evidence of the authenticity of the remains found in 1979 and 2007 at Porosenkov Log. In my opinion, the comparison of the documents of the investigation file of Nikolai Sokolov and his book “The Murder of the Royal Family” are of particular importance.

— Millions of people who read Sokolov’s book believe it to be the infallible evidence of the truth. However, one should not forget that a book is a book. Moreover, it was published after the books by Mikhail Diterikhs (1874-1937) and Robert Wilton (1868-1925), who, for some reason, without waiting for the end of the investigative process, hurried to release their books without Sokolov’s consent.

— Recently, a television documentary “The Romanov Case: Investigation has been Established” has also been released. Not everyone was able to read the book published on the website of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, but the documentary, I am sure, was watched by millions of Russians. The documentary was able to convey the conclusion that the tasks set by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’ before the new investigation in 2015 were completed, and the last Holy Synod in 2021 came to the conclusion that the investigation left no doubts about the authenticity of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family found near Yekaterinburg. For me, the most important thing is that since 2015, the Church has admitted to the investigative process, which had the opportunity to exercise full control over all research,

PHOTO: the three-volume set of books Crime of the Century has only been published in Russian

The book Crime of the Century you mentioned says that it was you who showed Mine No. 7 to Anatoly Verkhovsky. And yet, there are many who consider him the discoverer of Ganina Yama. What can you tell us about this?

— In 1989, Geliy Ryabov published an article about the discovery of the secret burial place of the Romanovs in the Moskovskiye Novosti newspaper, At the time, Anatoly Verkhovsky was working for me at the parish in the city of Artemovsky, Sverdlovsk Region. After the publication of the article, I told everyone who was present that day in the parish refectory about this secret and my participation in it. Verkhovsky was intrigued by my announcement. I presented him with a copy of Pavel Bykov’s book “The Last Days of the Romanovs“, and also showed him my albums with photographs of the Imperial Family. I also had one special album with photographs from Nikolai Sokolov‘s book The Murder of the Tsar’s Family, which contained a map of the area…

— Verkhovsky was literally shocked by my story that Ryabov and Avdonin had allegedly discovered the Tsar’s remains. It was I who took him to Ganina Yama, where I told him in detail everything that Geliy Ryabov had told me in 1986, and showed him Mine Number 7. Therefore, Anatoly Verkhovsky cannot be recognized as the discoverer of Ganina Yama, because it was Ryabov and Avdonin who discovered the place in 1977-1979, whereupon they created a large-scale map of the area. It is interesting to add, that by the time I showed the mine to Verkhovsky, the Archbishop of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye Melkhizedek (Lebedev) had already been made aware of the location of the remains of the Imperial Family by me, and with his blessing, we were making plans to rebury them under the throne of our church in Artyomovsk.

Some people continue to doubt the authenticity of the remains of the Imperial Family, claiming that these remains have not produced any miracles. How do you respond to their claims?

— Archpriest Alexander Shargunov has written about the miracles performed through the prayerful intercession of the Holy Royal Martyrs. The publishing house of the Nizhny Novgorod Caves Monastery is currently preparing the book “Holy Royal Relics. History, Signs, Miracles”, which will tell in detail about the miracles from the relics of the Imperial Family.

— When I visit St. Petersburg, I go to the Russian State Historical Archive (RGIA), where I carry out research for my books. I always stop by the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, where I pray near the tomb holding the relics of the Holy Royal Martyrs. There is a candlestick and an icon next to the tomb, but there is no way to approach the tomb: a red velvet rope barrier hangs in the doors leading to the chapel. Several times I asked the museum workers who were on duty there to let me in to pray, light a candle, put flowers, and I always receive a categorical refusal. Not only do they refuse me, a clergyman in a cassock and klobuk, but Orthodox pilgrims and tourists as well.

Those who dispute the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg Remains predict a new church schism, if they are recognized as Holy Relics by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church. What are your thoughts on their claim?

— These people are also trying to find the truth, but the fact that some of them claim that they speak “on behalf of Orthodox people”, focusing on a “possible schism”, is truly terrible. By doing this, they have already separated themselves from the Holy Mother of the Church. Recently, some people have been holding their own conferences, at which they express their opinions and evidence “about the falsification of the Tsar’s remains”, and at the same time they report in the media that they are doing this allegedly “in pursuance of the decision of the Council of Bishops.” I doubt that they received an official blessing at these conferences from His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’.

— I can tell you, that during the last two thousand years, the Holy Church has experienced numerous schisms and disorders, but one thing is unshakable – these are the words of Christ the Saviour spoken to the Apostle Peter: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18). Saint Cyprian of Carthage said, accessible to the human mind and heart, very simple words: “He who does not have the church as his mother, does not have God as his father.”

— If the Council of Bishops recognizes the “Ekaterinburg remains” as those of the Holy Royal Martyrs, then the entire Plenitude of the Russian Orthodox Church should accept this holy news with reverence and joy. When the relics of the Holy Royal Martyrs are placed in shrines, and due honours are given to them, and numerous pilgrims and pilgrims come to them, then, by the inexpressible mercy of God, they will show us sinners their help, miracles and healings. And then Russia will shine in even greater glory.

‘Романовы: убийство, поиск, обретение’ [Romanovs: murder, search, acquisition]

A new historical work has recently been published Романовы: убийство, поиск, обретение, written by the by the abbot of the Pechersky Ascension Monastery, and deputy head of the Nizhny Novgorod branch of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IOPS), Archimandrite Tikhon (Zatekin).

The work of Archimandrite Tikhon is a colossal study of the murder of the Russian Imperial Family, and the century long investigation. It includes documents, letters and testimonies which have never been published anywhere before. The book is supplement with about 1,500 photographs, many of which are published for the first time.

The memories of all witnesses, as well as archival and photographic materials are placed in chronological order, which cover the entire history of searches and excavations at Porosenkov Log in 1979 and 2007. The author has used photographs, manuscripts, letters and documents from the archive of G. T. Ryabov, kept by his widow Olga Alexandrovna.

The unique correspondence between Ryabov and Avdonin in the 1970-1980s, which was previously completely inaccessible to historians and researchers, is interesting. The author presents evidence, which allows the reader to thoroughly understand how the search was carried out. This was not an easy task, it required courage, bold creative thinking, and analysis from Ryabov and Avdonin.


The number of new books published in Russia about Nicholas II and his family each year is simply staggering! Clearly there is a demand for such books, or publishers would not waste their resources on such projects. The fact that so many new titles are being published is a clear indication of public demand. It is encouraging that a new generation of Russian readers have taken an interest in learning about their country’s history, something denied to them during the Soviet years.

© Paul Gilbert. 28 November 2022

“Whoever loves the Tsar and Russia loves God” – Father Guryanov

PHOTO: Father Nikolai (Guryanov), holding a portrait of Tsar Martyr Nicholas II,
painted in 2017 by the contemporary Russian artist Vladimir Latyntsev

“Whoever loves the Tsar and Russia loves God” – Father Guryanov

Nikolai Alekseevich Guryanov (1909-2002), is regarded as one of the most revered elders of the Russian Orthodox Church of the late 20th – early 21st centuries. He is greatly respected by Orthodox Christians and Russian Monarchists for keeping the memory of Emperor Nicholas II alive, during the Soviet years.

He was born on 24th May 1909, into a peasant family in Chudskiye Zakhody (now the village of Zakhody), a village situated in the Gdovsky District of the Pskov Oblast. Nikolai’s father, Alexei Ivanovich Guryanov, was the regent of the church choir, died in 1914. The elder brother, Mikhail Alekseevich Guryanov, taught at the St. Petersburg Conservatory; younger brothers, Peter and Anatoly, also had musical abilities. All three brothers died in the First World War (1914-18). Nikolai’s mother, Ekaterina Stepanovna Guryanova, helped her son in his labours for many years.

Nikolai’s father died in 1914. His mother lived a long life, she died on 23rd May 1969, and was buried in the cemetery on Zalit Island, situated on the Zalitsky Islands, located in the south-eastern part of Lake Pskov, 25 km northwest of Pskov.

From childhood, Nicholas served at the altar in the church of Michael the Archangel. As a child, Metropolitan Veniamin (Kazan) visited the parish . Father Nikolai recalled this event in the following way: “I was still a boy. Vladyka served, and I held his staff. Then he hugged me, kissed me and said: “How happy you are that you are with the Lord …“.

Teacher, prisoner, priest 

From 1958, Father Nikolai served as rector of St. Nicholas Church for 44 years, until his death in 2002. Orthodox Christians came from all over the country for spiritual support.

Next to the church stands a cross erected in memory of the service Nikolai Guryanov provided to the Russian Orthodox community.

PHOTO: the home of Father Nikolai (Guryanov) in Ostrov-Zalit, on the island of Talabsk

PHOTO: Father Nikolai (Guryanov) at his tiny home in Ostrov-Zalit

PHOTO: the cemetery in Ostrov-Zalit, on the island of Talabsk, where Father Nikolai (Guryanov) is buried

PHOTO: the grave of Father Nikolai (Guryanov), at the cemetery in Ostrov-Zalit, on the island of Talabsk

PHOTO: a framed portrait of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II wearing a crown of thorns, and a wooden carving depicting the Holy Royal Martyrs, adorn the grave of Father Nikolai (Guryanov)

PHOTO: the 18th century Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, in Ostrov-Zalit, on the island of Talabsk, where Father Nikolai (Guryanov) served as rector for 44 years

PHOTO: the Chapel of St. Nicholas depicting the fresco (below) Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II – Redeemer of Russia

PHOTO: Fresco depicting Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II – Redeemer of Russia – located on the façade of the Chapel of St. Nicholas.

Veneration of the Holy Royal Martyrs

During his life, Father Guryanov’s room was filled with photos and images of Nicholas II and family. He kept albums, films, and documentaries about the last Russian Tsar. Guryanov also honoured Grigori Rasputin.

Father Nikolay had the gift of foresight: not only did he predicted the collapse of communism, he also predicted the canonization of Emperor Nicholas II and his family by the Russian Orthodox Church.

According to Father Guryanov, Nicholas II said The Jesus Prayer to himself daily: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

“The sword of a terrible war constantly hangs over Russia, and only our prayers to the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas will take away the wrath of God from us. We must ask the Tsar that there should be no war. He loves and pities Russia. If only you knew how He cries for us!” – Father Nikolai (Guryanov) – 1909-2002

© Paul Gilbert. 27 November 2022


The Officers’ Assembly Building in St. Petersburg

PHOTO: view of the Officers’ Assembly Building of the Russian Imperial Army and Navy, St. Petersburg, the military capital of the Russian Empire. 1898

Situated in the very heart of St. Petersburg, on the corner of Liteyny Prospekt and Kirochnaya Ulitsa, stands a majestic building with an elegant facade and an impressive high corner tower. It is the former Officers’ Assembly Building of the Russian Imperial Army and Navy, an architectural gem of Tsarist Russia and the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, which has survived to the present day.

“Russia has only two allies: the Army and the Navy.”

– Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894)

During his short 13-year reign, Emperor Alexander III (1881-1894), 114 new warships were built and launched, and the Russian Imperial Navy took third place in the world after England and France. The army and the military department were also put in order after their disorganization during the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878. A dream of the “Tsar-Peacemaker” was the unification of the officer corps of the Russian Empire and the construction of the first Officers’ Assembly Building of the Russian Imperial Army and Navy in St. Petersburg.

Sadly, the life of Alexander III was cut short when he became ill with terminal kidney disease (nephritis), he died on 20th October (2nd November) 1894.

It was now up to his son and heir to the throne, Nicholas II, who committed himself to carrying out his father’s plans. The young Tsar decreed that no expense should be spared for the building’s construction – the Officers’ Assembly should amaze visitors with its splendor and symbolize the power and strength of the Russian army. The young emperor immediately signed all the papers for the allocation from the treasury of the enormous amount of 1,345,000 rubles, while demanding weekly reports on the building’s progress.

Sketches of the building were prepared by a talented architect, teacher of the Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design Alexander Ivanovich von Gauguin (1856-1914) and professor of the Nikolaev Academy of Engineering Viktor Mikhailovich Ivanov (1846-1919). The detailed development of the project was carried out by military engineers Wilhelm Karlovich Gauger and Alexander Donchenko, who were advised by two great architects, both members of the Academy of Arts Leonty Nikolaevich Benois (1856-1928) and Antony Osipovich Tomishko (1851-1900).

The land at the corner of Liteiny Prospekt and Kirochnaya Street – which belonged to the military department – was chosen for the buildings’ construction. The old wooden carriage house was demolished, the site was cleared and prepared by an engineer-colonel, a graduate of the artillery academy in St. Petersburg and the military academy in Freiburg, Germany, Vladimir Smirnov.

In September 1895, the construction of the building of the Officers’ Assembly began. Here is an eyewitnesses account of this event:

“The day before, a large, beautiful tent was erected,in front of the construction site, in which there were tables laden with light snacks and drinks. The event was attended by Enperor Nicholas II and members of the Imperial Family, in addition to representatives from the military ministry, the guards and the St. Petersburg military district, members of the clergy, and the city’s nobility. When the Emperor arrived, he was given a tour around the construction site. He was then presented with a silver tray bearing a brick and a silver trowel.

“Having accepted the tray, the Emperor proceeded to the erected foundation of the building and laid the first brick for the new Officers’ Assembly. According to an old Russian legend, silver and copper coins were laid in the foundation “for the happiness and prosperity of the Officers’ Assembly.”

A grand dinner was held that day to mark the occasion, attended by Nicholas II, who was accompanied by his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, his mother Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, and his uncle Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II and Empresses Maria Feodorovna and Alexandra Feodorovna arrive for the gala opening of the building of the Officers’ Assembly Building of the Russian Imperial Army and Navy, 1898

On the morning of 22nd March 1898, the building of the Officers’ Assembly of the Russian Imperial Army and Navy was decorated with numerous flags. At one o’clock in the afternoon, the naval presbyter performed a conciliar illumination of all the rooms. At two o’clock, Emperor Nicholas II arrived, where he was greeted at the entrance by members of the committee who oversaw the construction and decoration of the building. The Emperor toured the halls and rooms and later compiled the Imperial Rescript, which stated:

“Having examined in detail the premises of the new Officers’ Assembly today, I am completely satisfied with the buildings’ external appearance, the convenience of its interior furnishings and the general landscaping given to this institution. From the bottom of my heart I wish that the new Officers’ Assembly develop in the spirit of its aspirations and, contributing to the establishment of comradely communication between officers, serve for the benefit of the army and naval officer family, which is so dear to my heart.”

PHOTO: a group of officers pose at the top of the grand staircase of the Officers’ Assembly Building of the Russian Imperial Army and Navy

The Bolshoi [Large] Hall initially served as a luxurious concert hall with choir stalls. A large portrait of Emperor Nicholas II in a stucco frame topped with an Imperial crown hung at the far end of the hall. Musicians and a choir played and sang in the upper galleries, which surrounded the entire perimeter of the hall. The width of the galleries measured about four and a half meters and were supported by columns. The entrance to the galleries was from the top floor, and the hall itself occupied the space of three floors in height. Five large windows overlooked Liteiny Prospekt and the courtyard, and 24 smaller windows were placed above the choir stalls. A large summer balcony also overlooked Liteiny Prospekt.

In addition to concerts and balls, large meetings and conferences were held in the building, their organizers arranged chairs both in the hall itself and in the upper galleries. This made it possible to accomodate more participants: 560 in the hall, another 70 in the upper galleries. The walls and ceiling of the Bolshoi [Large] Concert Hall were decorated with rich stucco decoration of a military theme. Gilded electric chandeliers with crystal shades descended from the ceiling. The large central chandelier consisted 90 bulbs, while the side chandeliers consisted of 30 bulbs each.

Near the hall were men’s and ladies’ restrooms, in which the ladies and their gentlemen could refresh themselves, which was especially important during balls. Ladies could fuss over their hair, clothes, jewelry, apply makeup and perfume. The men sweating after dancing could take off their cloth uniforms, catch their breath, change their undershirts, and spray themselves with cologne. The men’s room had its own smoking room, the ladies’ room was a cozy corner, furnished with bent wood furniture and upholstered in tripe (a fine woolen fabric).

The Bolshoi [Large] Concert Hall is one of the many interiors of the building which has survived to this day. In 1934, a stage appeared in the newly refurbished 700-seat hall, the choir stalls were dismantled, and a film booth to show films was installed on the wall opposite the stage. The Emperor’s portrait and the large central chandelier, both disappeared without a trace.

PHOTO: view of the former Officers’ Assembly Building of the Russian Imperial Army and Navy, as it looks today.

Today, the former Officers’ Assembly Building is home to the House of Officers of the Western Military District, a library, and the Road of Life United Veterans Council. Many of the buildings’ original interiors and elements have been preserved to the present day.

PHOTO: Many of the buildings’ original interiors and elements have been preserved to the present day.

PHOTO: Many of the buildings’ original interiors and elements have been preserved to the present day.


CLICK on the above IMAGE to download, print and read a FREE 94-page English-language copy of Officer Assembly Building by S. Kononov (2018), or the Russian-language edition Дом офицеров Санкт-Петербург.

The author has compiled a history of this magnificent building, and richly illustrated with vintage black and white photos, complimented with full colour photos of the building and its interiors, as they look today.

© Paul Gilbert. 17 November 2022

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Lost World of Imperial Russia’

Book review by Mikhail Smirnov, published on Russian Faith

A Great Book for those Interested in Orthodox Culture

I had the opportunity to review the new book, The Lost World of Imperial Russia, by Russian historian, Paul Gilbert. This book is available at Amazon for a decent price and I do recommend it for your Orthodox library. There are indeed a number of illustrated books on Russia, but this one is from a purely Orthodox perspective, that captures key elements of the Orthodox empire of Russia. Saints such as John of Kronstadt, and many others, are displayed in the book. Many churches and ecclesial events are also displayed…pictures that are very hard to find and very helpful for those who research Russia and plan on visiting Russia. I intend to bring this book the next time I visit, primarily because, again, it is most purely Orthodox.

It’s certainly a good coffee table book, but the more I look at it the more I see it as a travel book. It’s approximately 8.5×11, so it’s not too big, and not very heavy. Most importantly it has the right stuff in it for those who really want to experience Russia in the way we believe it should be experienced.

On that note of experiencing Russia, I would like to add that what Paul reveals here is foundational for Orthodox Christians or those seeking Orthodoxy, but from my experience, the more miraculous experiences happen from how you “live and leave” these areas. Many of these places are holy sites, where saints dwelled and worked, and where angels still dwell and work. So, locating the right place, as you can find in this book, and then praying and maybe even spending time at these places will enable you to experience the grace of God when you need it in everyday life.

Get the book, not necessarily to see nice pics, but to begin your journey to Holy Russia. The war will clear soon and it will be relatively easy to travel there. Open the book, pray to God, and then go!

© Mikhail Smirnov. 16 November 2022

Serbian monastery installs memorial plaque to Nicholas II

PHOTO: plaque to Emperor Nicholas II and an icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs was unveiled and consecrated on the grounds of the Rukumija Monastery

On 12th November, a simple wooden plaque to Emperor Nicholas II and an icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs was unveiled and consecrated on the grounds of the Rukumija Monastery, near the town of Pozharevac in Serbia. The installation of the plaque is in gratitude for the Russian Emperor’s efforts to come to the aid of Serbia during the First World War.

The ceremony began with the singing of the Russian and Serbian national anthems, then the choir performed the “Song to the Holy Tsar Nicholas“. This was followed by the consecration ceremony performed by the rector of the monastery Heiromonk Simeon, in the presence of parishioners and distinguished guests from the Russian Embassy in Belgrade (Vladlen Zelenin), the Russian House in Belgrade (Georgy Engelgart) and the Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Peoples (Natalya Kotseva).

Zelenin thanked the Serbian people for honouring the memory of Tsar Nicholas II. In turn, Engelhardt noted that the gratitude and love of the Serbian people for the last Russian Tsar could serve as an example for the Russian people themselves.

PHOTO: the Rukumija Monastery, near the town of Pozharevac in Serbia

For Serbians, Emperor Nicholas II is revered both as a saint and as a statesman. For many Serbs, the image of the Russian Tsar is a symbol of loyalty, honesty and devotion to one’s word. The Serbian people remember that it was for the sake of saving Serbia that Nicholas II entered the First World War.

For more information on Serbia’s reverance for Emperor Nicholas II, please refer to the following articles, researched from Russian and Serbian sources by Paul Gilbert:

Nicholas II through Serbian eyes, published on 13th October 2020

“For us Serbs, Nicholas II will be the greatest and most revered of all saints”, published on 11th August 2022

“I consider Nicholas II a great reformer” – Serbian Ambassador to Russia, published on 13th May 2019

New outdoor portrait of Nicholas II appear’s in Serbia’s capital, published on 2nd January 2020

Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II from Serbia arrives in St. Petersburg, published on 14th May 2021

The Russian House of Emperor Nicholas II in Belgrade, Serbia, published on 12th October 2022

© 14 November 2022

Russia’s only church built in honour of Nicholas II’s Coronation

PHOTO: view of the Holy Trinity Church, built in the Neo-Russian style in the village of Bolshaya Martynovka

The beautiful Holy Trinity Church, in the village of Bolshaya Martynovka, Rostov Oblast, was built in the Neo-Russian style[1], it is the only church in Russia constructed in honour of the Coronation of Emperor Nicholas II, held in Moscow on 27th May (O.S. 14th) May 1896.

The Holy Trinity Church was built on the site of the original wooden church, built in 1799, which consisted of a parish school, a hostel for pilgrims, a priest’s house, as well as service and outbuildings. In May 1895, the inhabitants of Bolshaya Martynovka decided to demolish the old wooden church, and in its place build a new stone church.

The site of the new church was consecrated on 14th (O.S.) May 1896, on the day of the Coronation of Emperor Nicholas II. The first stone of the buildings foundation was laid the next day.

For the construction of the new church, the inhabitants made 300 thousand baked bricks, collected 3 thousand measures of grain and raised about 15 thousand rubles, which was then an impressive amount. Unfortunately, this money was not enough and in 1900, the residents were forced to turn to the diocesan authorities with a request to allow them to collect additional donations. Their request was granted and by 1902, the additional funds had been collected, which allowed construction to resume.

PHOTO: early 20th century view of the Holy Trinity Church in the village of Bolshaya Martynovka

The Holy Trinity Church was completed in 1904. It consisted of three chapels: the central one – in the name of the Holy Trinity, the right one – in the name of the Holy Tsarina Alexandra[2], the left – in the name of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker[3].

According to local residents, the renowned Russian opera singer Feodor Chaliapin (1873-1938) visited Bolshaya Martynovka on two separate occasions. The first time was in 1904, shortly after the consecration Holy Trinity Church. It was during this visit that Chaliapin sang along with the church choir. His second visit occurred during the Russian Civil War, when he came to visit the local landowner Suprunov. It was during this visit that Chaliapin was almost shot, having been mistaken for a bourgeois, due to his attire, which included a luxurious fur coat and hat. A singer of the church choir recognized the opera singer and saved him from execution.

In 1930 the Soviets ordered the Holy Trinity Church closed. Local residents recall how Bolshevik thugs broke the iconostasis, destroyed the domes, removed the bells and threw them in the river, and plastered over the unique frescoes made by the icon painter Elisey Grigoryevich Cherepakhin (1837-1922). In the years which followed, the former church housed a granary, a convoy and an MTS workshop, and from 1951, a utility warehouse.

When the building was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1991, the artists who began the restoration discovered bullet holes made by drunken Bolsheviks some 60 years earlier.

In 1991, the Holy Trinity Church was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church and restoration began, which was completed in 2004. In 2013, the windows of the church were replaced and heating installed, while a beautiful garden was planted on the grounds surrounding the church. According to Father Vladimir, additional restoration work is ongoing.

Situated near the church is a small brick chapel commemorating the martyrdom of Emperor Alexander II[4].

PHOTO: views of the interior of the Holy Trinity Church, showcasing it’s frescoes and icons (above) and view of the main iconostasis of main central chapel (below)

The Holy Trinity Church exists today only thanks to donations, which, unfortunately, are not enough and the abbot has to ask for financial assistance for the upkeep of the church from local business representatives. Today, the church is once again open to locals for prayer and worship, but there are few parishioners who attend. About 50 people attend the service on weekends. The relics of Paul of Taganrog, the Great Martyr Timothy and the Matrona of Moscow are even kept in the church.

Despite the fact that the Holy Trinity Church in Bolshaya Martynovka is recognized as a historical and cultural monument of the 19th century, the rector of the church Father Vladimir notes that church is virtually unknown to pilgrims and tourists visiting the region, as it is not even listed in any tourist guide. In addition, the village Bolshaya Martynovka [pop. 6,000] has no hotels or places where one could eat and rest.

PHOTO: icon depicting the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, located in the chapel of of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, located in the Holy Trinity Church, in Bolshaya Martynovka

On 14th May 2021, a memorial plaque (above) was installed on the facade of the Holy Trinity Church, bearing the images of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. The plaque marks the 125th anniversary of the founding of the church and the historic Coronation in 1896. The inscription reads:

The Holy Trinity Church
was founded on 14 May 1896
on the day and memory of the
sacred coronation of
Sovereign Emperor Nicholas
and Sovereign Empress
Alexandra Feodorovna
125 years from the date of foundation 2021

© 12 November 2022


[1] Neo-Russian style is also referred to as Russian Revival, Pseudo-Russian, or Russian Byzantine style: a number of different movements within Russian architecture that arose in the second quarter of the 19th century and was an eclectic melding of Byzantine elements and pre-Petrine (Old Russian) architecture.

[2] St. Alexandra, Empress, Martyr, Wife of Diocletian

[3] St. Nicholas the World Wonderworker is the patron saint of Emperor Nicholas II

[4] the chapel was built in memory of the assassination of Emperor Alexander II in St. Petersburg on 13 March (O.S. 1st) March, 1881

Archival Documentary of the Russian Royal Family

CLICK on the above image to watch this video. ENGLISH. Duration: 43 minutes

This documentary prepared by the Museum in Memory of Emperor Nicholas II’s Family features rare footage, made from 98 fragments of film from 1896-1916 shot in Moscow, Kiev, St. Petersburg, Tsarskoye Selo, Livadia, Chisinau, Yevpatoria, Kostroma, Odessa. Yalta, Nizhny Novgorod, Borodino, Diveyevo, Rostov the Great, Tallinn, Mogilev, Oreanda, and Sevastopol. The material used in the film is from the Russian State Film and Photo Archive, the Russian State Archive of Phonodocuments, and private collections. The music is comprised of fragments from the favorite works of Emperor Nicholas II.

While many people are familiar with photographs of Nicholas II participating in solemn and gala events in cities and towns throughout the Russian Empire, this documentary features some unique vintage footage of Russia’s last Emperor and Tsar.

03:51 – Nicholas II and the grand dukes carry the coffin with the relics of St. Serephim

06:40 – the foundation of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral in Tsarskoye Selo

07:40 – the Emperor and his family visiting the St. Petersburg Mosque

09:33 – the Emperor and his family taking part in a procession at the Pechersk Lavra Caves Monastery in Kiev

15:10 – Nicholas II and his family at the Chapel of the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God in Moscow

26:08 – the Imperial Children in matching outfits, playing on the deck of the Imperial Yacht Standart

33:15 – Tsesarevich Alexei playing with his dog Joy

33:55 – Nicholas II and his family embarking on a boat ride on the Dnieper River, near Mogilev, August 1916

41:50 – Nicholas II at the celebration of His Majesty’s Imperial Guard on 4th October 1916, the last film of the Imperial Family before the Tsar’s abdication the following year

· · ─── ·•· ─── · ·


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00:00 Intro

00:27 Part 1: Spiritual Life

  • this part focusts on the piety of Emperor Nicholas II, it includes film footage of the Tsar and his family attending religious ceremonies in various parts of the Russian Empire, the laying of the foundations for new Orthodox churches, visits to monasteries and churches, attending molebens, and more.

19:34 Part 2: His Majesty’s Vacationing

  • includes film footage of Nicholas II kayaking in the Finnish skerries; playing tennis at Livadia including footage of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna taking part; hunting; motoring in the Tsar’s favourite Delauney-Belleville; sailing on the Imperial Yacht Standart; the Grand Duchesses taking part in games with junior officers; Tsesarevich Alexei playing with his friends, under the watchful eye of his boatswain Derevenko; among others.

35:39 Part 3: Emotional Characteristics

  • includes an interesting examination of the facial expressions, movements and nervous habits of Nicholas II, which include his constant stroking of his moustache; smooths and adjusts his uniform, touches his cap or crumples his gloves; Empress Alexandra Feodorovna is seen constantly bowing her head low with particular respect to those around her; the Grand Duchesses smiling often and sweetly; various scenes of the Tsar receiving the tradtional bread and salt.

· · ─────── ·•· ─────── · ·

A film by Konstantin Kapkov
© Copyright of the Museum in Memory of Emperor Nicholas II’s Family.
Producer: Victor Semyonov
Screenwriter: Konstantin Kapkov
Editing: Vladimir Samorodov
Music Selection: Alexander Kosov
Sound Engineer: Galina Siver
English translation and dubbing: Aleksander Brooks
Executive editors: Archpriest Alexander Derevyanko & Nadezhda Khmeleva

· · ─────── ·•· ─────── · ·

This video is produced as part of the project for the book “The Romanov Royal Martyrs”, which is an impressive 512-page book, featuring nearly 200 black & white photographs, and a 56-page photo insert of more than 80 high-quality images, colorized by the acclaimed Russian artist Olga Shirnina (Klimbim) and appearing here in print for the first time.

Click HERE to read Romanov Book of the Year for 2019: ‘The Romanov Royal Martyrs’ by Paul Gilbert, originally published on 18th November 2019

· · ─────── ·•· ─────── · ·

Click HERE to EXPLORE the book

Click HERE to ORDER the book

© The Romanov Royal Martyrs. 12 November 2022

    The Murder of the Romanovs: The Authentic Account

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



    English. 8-1/2″ x 5-1/2″ format, 336 pages, illustrated

    Bulygin’s memoirs are of great historical importance, providing details of the last days of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, and the investigation into their murder, which continues to this day. Originally published in 1935, this is the first English-language edition in nearly 90 years!

    This book falls into two parts: the first by Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky (1881-1970), the second by Captain Paul Petrovich Bulygin (1896-1936). Both Bulygin and Kerensky write from personal experience and eye-witness accounts.

    In the first part, Provisional Party leader Alexander Kerensky offers a firsthand account of the events leading to the downfall of the Russian monarchy in February 1917. Kerensky outlines the background, and the steps leading to the regicide. He explains in his own words, his personal impressions of Nicholas II, his family and his entourage. He goes on to discuss why he chose to send the Tsar and his family into exile to Tobolsk. The main body of his memoirs, however, is a first hand account of the murder, of the abortive attempts to forestall it, and attempts to rescue the Imperial Family, told with a fervour and horror that time has failed to erase.

    In the second part, Captain Paul Bulygin recalls the last months and death of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. Bulygin, who was a member of the Imperial Guard, reconstructs his role in an attempt to rescue the Imperial Family, during their captivity in Ekaterinburg, between April to July 1918.

    Paul Bulygin served as an officer in the Russian Imperial Army, formerly in command of the personal guard of Nicholas II’s mother the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. In 1919, he assisted Nikolai Sokolov, in his investigation of their death in Ekaterinburg.

    Bulygin argues that the order to murder the Tsar and his family came directly from Lenin.

    Paul Gilbert’s Romanov Bookshop on AMAZON

    I have published more than 30 titles to date through AMAZON – featuring one of the largest selections of books on Nicholas II, the Romanov dynasty and the history of Imperial Russia. These include both new titles and reprints of titles which have out of print for years.

    Please CLICK on the BANNER or LINK above to review my current selection of titles in hardcover, paperback and ebook editions. Listings provide a full description for each title, pricing and a Look inside feature.

    © Paul Gilbert. 7 November 2022

    On this day in 1894: Nicholas II ascended the throne

    PHOTO: Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich. 1894

    On this day – 2nd November[1] [O.S. 20th October] 1894, Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich ascended the throne as Russia’s last emperor and tsar.

    It was on this historic day, that Nicholas Alexandrovich inherited the throne from his father, who ruled Russia for only 13 years. Government officials, courtiers and troops of the Imperial Russian Army, among others, all took an oath of allegiance to their new emperor.

    In the Church of the Exaltation of the Cross [adjacent to Livadia Palace], Nicholas pledged his oath of allegiance to Russia solemnly promising to protect the autocracy firmly and unswervingly, like his late father.

    It was also in the Church of the Exaltation of the Cross, that the holy righteous John of Kronstadt anointed Princess Alice of Hesse, who became the Orthodox faithful Grand Duchess and future Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

    NOTE: The Church of the Exaltation of the Cross has survived to this day – PG


    Though Nicholas Alexandrovich was heir-apparent to the throne, his father failed to prepare him for his future role as Tsar. He attended meetings of the State Council; however, as his father was only in his forties, it was expected that it would be many years before Nicholas succeeded to the throne. Alexander’s assumptions that he would live a long life and had years to prepare Nicholas for becoming Tsar proved wrong, as by 1894, Alexander’s health was failing.

    Russia’s finance minister, Count Sergei Yulyevich Witte (1849-1915), suggested to the Tsar that Nicholas be appointed to the Siberian Railway Committee. According to Witte, Alexander argued that Nicholas was not mature enough to take on serious responsibilities. Witte stated that if Nicholas was not introduced to state affairs, he would never be ready to understand them.

    Nicholas was only 26 years old when his father died suddenly after a long and serious illness, at the age of 49.

    PHOTO: the Church of the Exaltation of the Cross [adjacent to Livadia Palace]

    On 27th (O.S. 14th) November 1894, Nicholas Alexandrovich married Princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt (Empress Alexandra Fedorovna). Their nuptials fell on the birthday of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, and court mourning could be slightly relaxed. The ceremony was held in the Grand Church (the home church of the Imperial Family) of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.

    A respectable period of mourning was the reasion his coronation was postponed for a year and a half. The Holy Coronation of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, took place on 27th (O.S. 14th) May 1896 in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. It would be the last coronation of a Romanov Tsar.

    During the reign of Nicholas II, Russia made considerable progress in all areas of life, while experiencing tremendous growth in its economy. Under his reforms, the Russian Empire reached an unprecedented level of economic development. However, this time was also marked by the growth of revolutionary sentiments.

    Click HERE to read 70 facts about Emperor Nicholas II and his reign, originally published on 13th July 2021.

    His Imperial Majesty Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II reigned over the Russian Empire for more than 22 years. He abdicated on 15th March 1917 (O.S. 2nd March) 1917.

    Some historians argue that the act of abdication was invalid for two reasons: one, because it was signed in pencil, violating all the necessary legal and procedural methods and format, and thus had no legal force; and two, because the instrument of abdication was never officially published by the Imperial Senate.

    Regardless, as God’s Anointed, Nicholas II could not be displaced during his lifetime. Since the will of God was nowhere manifest, neither in the naming of his brother Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich to the throne, nor in the Tsar’s signing of the instrument of abdication, his status as Tsar remained inviolate and unassailable. He remained Emperor until the day of his death and martyrdom on 17th July 1918.

    In 2018, a commemorative medal was issued, marking the 124th anniversary of Nicholas II’s ascension to the throne in 1894. The medal was the first of The Romanovs. Golden Collection to be minted by the Imperial Mint in Moscow.


    [1] In recent years there has been much confusion by non-Orthodox Christians and Westerners with regard to the correct dates of important events (births, deaths, marriages, etc.) among members of the Russian Imperial Family, according to the New Style calendar.

    As an example, is the date marking the death of Alexander III and the accession to the throne of Nicholas II. This happened on the day of Saint Artemius the Great Martyr and the righteous youth Artemiy, on 20th October (2nd November). And if this day is celebrated on 1st November or 3, then we are not commemorating the memory of these saints. Do not rely on any dates on Wikipedia which often provide the incorrect dates of the Gregorian calendar for the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    With the passage of every leap day that is on the Julian (Old Style) Calendar but not on the Gregorian Calendar, the difference between the two calendars grows another day. Currently, the Gregorian Calendar is thirteen days ahead of the Julian Calendar. Beginning on 14th March 2100 (29th February 2100 Julian), the difference will be fourteen days.

    © Paul Gilbert. 2 November 2022