Obituary: Zoya Iosifovna Belyakova (1932-2021)

I was deeply saddened to learn that Romanov historian and author Zoya Belyakova passed away nearly a year ago, but I am only learning of her passing today. According to the St Petersburg Literary Newspaper, she died on 9th December 2021, at the age of 90.

Zoya Iosifovna Belyakova [nee. Volnova] was born in Leningrad on 13th February 1932. In 1949 she entered the English department of the Faculty of Philology of Leningrad State University. In 1954 she her husband G. A. Goryshin, a graduate of the Faculty of Journalism, moved to Barnaul in the Altai region, where she taught English and German. Between 1962-1987 she worked as a guide-translator for Intourist, the primary travel agency for foreign tourists in the Soviet Union. Zoya traveled throughout the country, and often visited abroad, where she gained valuable impressions from meetings with political and public figures, scientists and writers in England and the USA (among them J. Updike, J. Cheever, Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, Barbara Cartland, etc.). For many years she was a lecturer in advanced training courses for Intourist guides.

After retiring, she devoted herself entirely to the study of the history of the Romanov dynasty. Her reputation as a respected researcher and writer allowed her access to both Russian and foreign archives, including private collections of the descendants of members of the Romanov family. As an independent researcher, Belyakova lectured both in Russia and abroad at universities, museums and research centers (mainly in the USA). In 2005 she was admitted to the Writers’ Union of St. Petersburg. In 2012, by she was awarded a commemorative badge by the Romanov Family Association, for her “long-term service”.

Zoya Beliakova is the author of numerous books on the Romanovs in both Russian and English, including ‘Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna and Her Palace in St. Petersburg’ (1994); ‘The Romanov Legacy : The Palaces of St. Petersburg’ (1995); ‘The Romanovs: The way it was’ (2000), among others.

In the 1990s, Zoya was a regular lecturer for my annual Romanov Tour groups. One year, she was our guide and lecturer for two full days, in which she took us inside the many former palaces of the grand dukes and grand duchesses in St. Petersburg and along the Peterhof Highway.

On 8th December 2014, Zoya attended my first speaking engagement in Russia. My talk was held in the White Hall of the Prince George Galitzine Memorial Library in St. Petersburg. My topic ‘Imperial Obsession. The West’s Fascination with the Romanov Legacy‘.

In the March 19th 2021 edition of ‘Moskovsky Komsomolets’, Zoya was asked to comment on the Kirillovich branch of the Romanov dynasty:

“The Tsarevich [George} is false. I am not at all a fan of the mother of the so-called Tsarevich. The fact is that Maria Vladimirovna, who pretends to be a Grand Duchess, is actually just a princess. This is a completely different title. Her grandfather, the cousin of the last Tsar Nicholas II, Kirill, was not anointed to the throne. The Russian Empire no longer existed at that moment, and to be Tsar, you need to be the Tsar of some state.”

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

© Paul Gilbert. 2 December 2022