New monument of Imperial Family to be installed at Murmansk airport

PHOTO: artist concept of new monument to the Imperial Family at the Nicholas II-Murmansk Airport (above); and the monument of Emperor Nicholas II and his family by the Russian sculptor Semyon Platonov (below)

In June 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the airport in the Russian arctic city of Murmansk would be renamed in honour of Emperor Nicholas II. Murmansk, Russia’s first ice free port was founded in 1916 by Nicholas II and named Romanov-on-Murman.

In the autumn of 2018 a nationwide online poll was held in which the Russian people could cast votes to rename 42 major airports across Russia. More than 5.5 million people took part in the ‘Great Names of Russia’ poll. More than 140,000 people in the Murmansk region took part in the poll on the renaming of Murmansk Airport. The names of Ivan Papanin and Boris Safonov were among the candidates, however. Russia’s last Tsar received 68,260 votes or 48% of the total votes tallied.

In December 2019, the head of the Kola District Administration announced plans to expand and modernize the Nicholas II-Murmansk Airport, which includes construction of a second terminal for flights within Russia began in 2021. The name of Nicholas II will be placed on the facades of each of the two terminals.

In addition is the reconstruction of the square in front of the main air terminal, of which several projects were considered. Initially, a bust-monument of Nicholas II was proposed, however, this idea has now been shelved.

In November 2020, a permanent photo exhibition dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II has opened in the terminal building of Murmansk Airport.

PHOTO: artist concept of the square in memory of Emperor Nicholas II at Murmansk Airport (above); and view of the of new monument to the Imperial Family to be installed in the center of the square (below)

On 26th January 2023, the architecture and landscaping firm Хмель in St Petersburg, published an artist’s concept by architect Marina Khmel of the new square in front of the Nicholas II-Murmansk Airport, the highlight of which will be a major sculptural composition of the last Russian Imperial Family.

The square in memory of Emperor Nicholas II will feature landscaped gardens with flowerbeds and trees, as well a place for holding events, information stands and temporary outdoor exhibitions. The square will also include a quiet space for travelers to rest, and a platform for boarding and disembarking from buses and cars.

In the center of the park will be a monument of Emperor Nicholas II and his family by the Russian sculptor Semyon Platonov. The sculptural composition is based on a famous photograph from 1913, which depicts Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna surrounded by their five children – Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei.

© Paul Gilbert. 28 January 2023

Lost Orthodox Churches of Imperial Russia

PHOTO: On 5 December 1931, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow was dynamited and reduced to rubble

Unlike many of his predecessors, Emperor Nicholas was devoted to the Russian Orthodox Church. It was upon his ascension to the throne in 1894, that his devotion to the Holy Orthodox Church showed his greatest strength. It was during the reign of Russia’s last Tsar – 1894 to 1917 – that the Russian Orthodox Church reached her fullest development and power.

In 1914, the Russian Orthodox Church consisted of 68 dioceses, 54,923 churches, 953 monasteries, 4 theological academies, 185 religious schools, 40,530 schools and 278 periodicals. The clergy consisted of 157 bishops, 68,928 priests, 48 ​​987 clerics, 21,330 monks in monasteries and 73,229 nuns in convents.

The construction of new churches had the full support of the Emperor, who approved funding for the construction of over 7576 new churches and chapels, and the opening of 211 new monasteries. By the end of Nicholas II’s reign there were 57,000 churches in the Russian Empire.

PHOTO: the desecration and looting of Russian Orthodox Churches by Bolshevik thugs and criminals after the 1917 Revolution

Lost Orthodox Churches of Imperial Russia

The Decree on the Separation of Church and State was proclaimed by the Bolsheviks in January 1918. It declared all Church property to be the property of the state. Sanctioned by this licence, Bolshevik squads went round the country desecrating and looting churches and monasteries, mocking religion and religious people unmercifully, even murdering priests, monks, nuns and believers by the thousands.

During the Soviet years, three Anti-religious campaigns were carried out by the Bolsheviks and later the Soviets: 1917–1921; 1921–1928 and 1928-1941, which resulted in the destruction of thousands of cathedrals and churches. Many others were converted to secular use, whereby church buildings were transformed into warehouses, state institutions, cinemas, ice rinks and prisons

Between 1927 and 1940, the number of Orthodox churches in the Russian Republic fell from 29,584 to fewer than 500. In 1987, only 6,893 Orthodox churches and 15 monasteries remained in the USSR.

In this post, I have researched the fate of five randomly picked cathedrals and churches which were destroyed during the Soviet years. It is part of an important large-scale historic project which I have planned for 2023-24 and one, which goes hand-in-hand with my own personal journey to Orthodoxy.

No. 1 – Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Bezhitsa)

PHOTO: early 20th century view of the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord

The Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord was built in 1880-1884 in Bezhitsa (now the region of Bryansk), according to the project of the Russian architect Alexander Groener. Construction was paid for by the workers of the Bryansk rail-rolling, iron-making and mechanical plant.

The church was five-domed and cruciform in plan. Its frame had been welded from iron rails and sheathed inside and outside with oak planks. The central part was crowned with a massive illuminated octagon under a tent with a dome. The interior decoration was distinguished by its magnificent splendour.

PHOTO: interior of the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord in Bezhitsa, 1895.

In 1894, a parish school was built. In 1897 and 1909, two chapels were added.

On 20th April (old style) 1915, the church was visited by Emperor Nicholas II.

In 1929, the church was closed by the Bolsheviks and converted into a circus and later a cinema. In 1933-1935 it was destroyed.

In 1937, the former rector of the church, priest Athanasius Preobrazhensky and priest Simeon Krasovsky, were shot by the Bolsheviks. The former site of the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord is now a wasteland. Only the building of the almshouse has been partially preserved to this day.

No. 2 – Church of Praise of the Most Holy Theotokos (Moscow)

PHOTO: the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (left), the Church of Praise of the Most Holy Theotokos (right) and a monument to Emperor Alexander III (also left). Moscow, 1912.

The magnificent monument to Emperor Alexander III was created by the outstanding Russian sculptor Alexander Mikhailovich Opekushin (1838-1923) and opened in 1912 near the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow.

Opekushin’s creation was to become one of the first victims of Bolshevik vandalism. The monument to the “Tsar-Peacemaker” was destroyed in 1918.

The fate of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow is well known. When Napoleon Bonaparte retreated from Moscow in 1812, Emperor Alexander I signed a manifesto declaring his intention to build a cathedral in honour of Christ the Saviour “to signify Our gratitude to Divine Providence for saving Russia from the doom that overshadowed Her” and as a memorial to the sacrifices of the Russian people. It was destroyed in 1931 on the order of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

PHOTO: early 20th century view of the Church of Praise of the Most Holy Theotokos

The Church of Praise of the Most Holy Theotokos is lesser known. Originally constructed in the 15th century, it was rebuilt several times. In 1705, the Russian nobleman Dementiy Bashmakov rebuilt a stone church at his own expense. The church was rebuilt with the same external and internal appearance: high, five-domed cupolas, a baroque decor and a rare six-tier iconostasis. The church featured a miraculous icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, to which many pilgrims came to venerate.

The Church of Praise of the Most Holy Theotokos existed until 1932, when it to was demolished.

The demolition of both houses of worship was supposed to make way for a colossal Palace of the Soviets to house the country’s legislature, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Construction started in 1937 but was halted in 1941 when Germany invaded the Soviet Union during World War II. Its steel frame was disassembled the following year, and the Palace was never built. In 1960, an enormous outdoor swimming pool was built at the foundation site, which existed until 1994.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was rebuilt on the site between 1995 and 2000. There are no plans to reconstruct either the Church of Praise of the Most Holy Theotokos or the monument to Emperor Alexander III.

No. 3 – Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Vyatka)

PHOTO: the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Vyatka

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Vyatka [renamed Kirov in 1934], was founded on 30th August 1839 in memory of the visit to the city by Emperor Alexander I (1777-1825) in 1824.

The construction of the cathedral was funded by voluntary donations in the amount of 120 thousand rubles, collected over 40 years. Work was carried out by the Russian architect of Swedish origin Alexander Lavrentievich Vitberg (1787-1855).

Completed and consecrated on 8th October 1864, the cathedral combined features of different styles: Romanesque of the Middle Ages, elements of Gothic, and the interior in the Old Russian and late Empire styles.

PHOTO: the main iconostasis of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Vyatka

The construction of the main iconostasis was completed in 1858, the carving in 1859. The committee contracted Academician Gorbunov and artist Vasilyev from St. Petersburg to make the icons for the main iconostasis. The icons were brought to Vyatka in 1863, and the following year, in 1864, the main iconostasis was gilded.

In 1895, a large public garden was built around the cathedral, surrounded by a cast-iron lattice fence. Four gates to the cardinal points were named after four Russian emperors – Nicholas I, Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II. In 1896, a bronze bust of Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894), cast in St. Petersburg, and mounted on a tall marble pedestal was installed in the northern part of the garden. In 1905, electric lighting was installed in the cathedral.

In June 1937, at the insistence of the Presidium of the City Council and the Regional Executive Committee, and permission of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was removed from the list of architecture protected by the state and was blown up.

For thirty years the square of the cathedral sat empty, and it was only in the 1960s, that the Kirov Regional Philharmonic was constructed on the site of the once magnificent Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

PHOTO: the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Warsaw

No. 4 – Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Warsaw)

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Warsaw was built on Saxon Square (later renamed Pilsudski Square) in the Kingdom of Poland (then part of the Russian Empire). The cathedral, designed by the distinguished Russian architect Leon Benois (1856-1928), was built between 1894 and 1912. Upon completion, the bell tower of the cathedral reached a height of 70 m [230 ft.], making it the tallest building in Warsaw at the time.

The idea of building a large Orthodox cathedral in Warsaw was expressed in a letter from the Governor General of Poland, Joseph Vladimirovich Gourko, to Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894). He indicated that the Orthodox churches in Warsaw at that time were able to accommodate less than one tenth of the city’s 42,000 Orthodox residents, who urgently needed a new place of worship.

Alexander III gave his approval to fund the cathedral, a significant part of the funds needed were raised by personal donations from almost every corner of the Russian Empire.

PHOTO: aerial view of Saxon Square in Warsaw and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Work on the interior of the cathedral, designed by Nikolay Pokrovsky (1848-1917), continued for another 12 years. The frescoes were painted by Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926). The cathedral was decorated with 16 mosaic panels designed by Vasnetsov and Andrei Ryabushkin (1861-1904). The decorations of the cathedral used precious and semi-precious stones extensively, marble, and granite. The altar was decorated with jasper columns, donated by Emperor Nicholas II. The largest of the 14 bells was the fifth-largest in the Russian Empire.

The main chapel of the cathedral was solemnly consecrated on 20th May 1912, by the Metropolitan of Kiev and Galich Flavian (Gorodetsky) in the name of St. Prince Alexander Nevsky.

At the beginning of 1915, during the First World War, the Russian population was evacuated from the city along with the Orthodox clergy. The iconostasis and the most valuable details of the interior decoration were removed from the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

PHOTO: view of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral after its demolition in the 1920s

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was demolished in 1924–1926 – along with all but two Orthodox churches in Warsaw – by the Polish authorities less than 15 years after its construction. The demolition itself was complex, and required almost 15,000 controlled explosions.

The negative connotations in Poland associated with Russian imperial policy towards Poland, was cited as the major motive for its demolition. The cathedral shared the fate of many Orthodox churches demolished after Poland regained its independence from Russia.

No. 5 – Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Moscow)

PHOTO: architect’s drawing of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, 1904

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Moscow was the largest of a series of cathedrals erected in Imperial Russia in commemoration of Alexander Nevsky, the patron saint of Emperors Alexander II and Alexander III.

The creation of the project was entrusted to the architect Alexander Nikonorovich Pomerantsev (1849-1918), who executed it in the Old Russian style according to the sketches of the artist Viktor Mikhailovich Vasnetsov (1848-1926), as a 70-metre-tall memorial to Alexander II’s Emancipation reform [the liberation of peasants from serfdom] in 1861.

In 1894, Emperor Nicholas II approved a plan to place the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral on Miusskaya Square on a site donated to him by the city authorities. The foundation stone of the votive church was laid in 1911, on the 50th anniversary of the Emancipation Manifesto, in the presence of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna. Construction did not start until 1913, and the First World War impeded further progress.

The first chapel was dedicated to St. Tikhon of Voronezh in 1915, Divine Liturgies were performed here until 1920.

PHOTO: the abandoned Alexander Nevsky Cathedral as it looked in 1921

After the Russian Revolution, the huge 17-domed church [one unconfirmed source cites 21 domes] capable of accommodating more than 4,000 persons stood unfinished, while the Soviets debated whether to have it reconstructed into a crematorium or a radio centre. The building were used as a warehouse for storing the rolled up 115-meter canvas of the Borodino Panorama and parts of the dismantled Triumphal Arch.

The cathedral stood abandoned on Miusskaya Square for many years. The dilapidated concrete shell was eventually torn down in 1952. A Pioneers Palace was constructed – now the Palace of Creativity of Children and Youth – on the old foundation in 1960.

© Paul Gilbert. 26 January 2023

Bloody Sunday 1905: who is to blame?

On this day – 22nd (O.S. 9th) January 1905 – a peaceful procession of workers through the streets of St Petersburg would go down in history as Bloody Sunday.

“In 1905, workers marched to the Winter Palace with a peaceful petition demanding broader rights. Instead, they were met with gunfire, which completely destroyed Nicholas’s reputation and sent the Russian monarchy hurtling toward its eventual demise,” writes Oleg Yegorov in the July 15th 2019 edition of ‘Russia Beyond’

– Click HERE to read the article How Russia’s own Bloody Sunday turned Nicholas II into a public enemy. My personal comments are below – PG


There is no question, that “Bloody Sunday” was a tragic event, which sadly resulted in the deaths and injuries of innocent men, women and children. It is a tragedy which continues to haunt the legacy of Russia’s last tsar to this very day. Russian President Vladimir Putin has on more than one occasion, publicly referred to Nicholas II as “Nicholas the Bloody.” 

There are a couple of interesting facts which I would like to add to Oleg Yegorov’s article, on the events of Sunday, 22 January [O.S. 9 January] 1905, which are often overlooked or simply ignored by many academically lazy Western historians.

Despite the fact that the Winter Palace was the Tsar’s official residence, even during the early years of Nicholas II’s reign, the palace became little more than an administrative office block and a place of rare official entertaining. As Yegorov rightly points out, the Tsar was neither in residence nor was he present in St Petersburg on the day of the demonstration, which was organized by Father Georgy Gapon (see below).

Many modern-day historians and “experts” continue to falsely accuse Nicholas II of ordering his troops to open fire on the workers, however, there is no truth to support this theory.

This particular theory is the result of provocative rumours spread by the Bolsheviks and later the Soviets, who claimed that “Tsarist troops shot workers on the orders of Nicholas II” (which for obvious reasons later became the official point of view in Soviet historiography, and was never researched or even discussed by Soviet historians). Even more outrageous, was the claim that the Tsar “personally participated in the shootings, allegedly shooting at the demonstrators with a machine gun”.

In addition it is important to add, that upon finding out about the idea of ​​submitting the petition to the Tsar, members of three revolutionary party organizations: the Social Democrats (Mensheviks ), the Social Democrats ( Bolsheviks ), and the Social Revolutionaries, decided to swell the ranks of the “peaceful demonstrators,” on that fateful day. According to new documents discovered in the Russian Archives, it was these revolutionaries – who were both armed and dangerous – that agitated the situation by opening fire on the troops.

PHOTO: Commander-in-Chief of the Guards and the St. Petersburg Military District Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (center), talking with Grand Duke Dmitri Konstantinovich (left) and officers, before the parade of the Pavlovsky Life Guard Regiment, on the Field of Mars, St. Petersburg. 30th August 1904

It was St Petersburg Governor General Ivan Aleksandrovich Fullon (1844-1920), who provided comprehensive support to the “Assembly of Russian Factory Workers of St. Petersburg”, with the priest Georgy Gapon leading the way. 

However, it was Guards Commander Prince Sergei Illarionovych Vasilchikov (1849-1926) who developed a plan of action for the police and troops to prevent the procession from even taking place.

It is interesting to note that Prince Vasilchikov was under the command of the Tsar’s uncle Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (1847-1909), who served as Commander-in-Chief of the Guards and the St. Petersburg Military District. 

On the eve of of the procession 21st (O.S. 8th) January, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich ordered his subordinate to use military force to prevent the procession from taking place. Vasilchikov obeyed his superior, and the following day when a large group of workers reached Winter Palace Square, troops acting on direct orders from Vasilchikov opened fire upon the demonstrators. 

Although Grand Duke Vladimir claimed no direct responsibility for the tragedy, since he was also away from the city, his reputation was tarnished. General Fullon was discharged after the events of Bloody Sunday.

The number of victims is greatly exaggerated by many historians. According to the Tsar’s official records: 130 dead and 299 injured; while anti-government sources claimed any where from 1,000 to 4,000 dead.

That evening, the events in St. Petersburg were reported to Nicholas II. The emperor was distressed and wrote in his diary:

“A terrible day! There were serious disturbance in Petersburg as a result of the workers wishing to reach the Winter Palace. The troops were forced to open fire in several parts of the town, there were many killed and wounded. Lord, how painful and how sad!” 

Photos: Father Georgy Gapon (1870-1906) ; the house in Ozerki, where Gapon was killed

Father Georgy Gapon (1870-1906) – the organizer of the procession – was a charismatic speaker and effective organizer who took an interest in the working and lower classes of the Russian cities. However, Fr. Gapon also had a hidden dark side, which has been proven by post-Soviet scholars – the priest was a police informant. 

After Bloody Sunday, Gapon fled to Europe, but returned by the end of 1905, and resumed contact with the Okhrana. On 26 March 1906, Gapon arrived for a meeting at a rented cottage outside St. Petersburg. A month later, his body was found hanged. Gapon had been murdered by three members of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, after they had discovered that Gapon was a police informant.

* * *


Click HERE to read Bloody Sunday 1905. What is the truth? [includes VIDEO in English] originally published on 21st October 2020

© Paul Gilbert. 22 January 2023

Unique icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs consecrated in the Urals

PHOTO: the new icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs in the Holy Trinity Cathedral on 6th January 2023

On 6th January 2023, Metropolitan Daniel of Kurgan and Belozersky visited the Holy Trinity Cathedral[1] in the Ural city of Kurgan[2], where he performed a Divine Liturgy followed by the rite of consecration of a new icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs.

What is unique about this particular icon is that it features a small antique icon of Our Saviour mounted into the larger icon. This icon belonged to Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich, and accompanied Emperor Nicholas II and his family when they were sent into exile in August 1917. The icon was discovered among the items not pilfered or destroyed by the Bolsheviks in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg after the family’s murders in July 1918.

PHOTO: Tsesarevich Alexei’s small icon of Our Saviour (above) has now been mounted into Alexei’s hands in the larger icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs (below)

Metropolitan Daniel thanked the family of Russian Senator, member of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security Sergei Nikolaevich Muratov, through whose efforts and generosity that the Holy Trinity Cathedral was rebuilt in Kurgan[1], and this new icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs was presented to the cathedral.

“I am sure that the faithful will come from near and far to venerate this small icon of Our Savior, mounted in the larger icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs. They will come to pray to receive help, because each member of the Imperial Family held the icon in their hands and prayed in front of it,” Vladyka Daniel said at the end of the ceremony.

Russian Senator Sergey Muratov told the story of how he managed to acquire this miraculously preserved icon, how he showed the image to the former Head of the Kurgan Metropolis, Metropolitan Joseph: “It was five years ago that Vladyka Joseph wisely proposed that the icon not be sold to a private collector or museum, but to be made public so that Orthodox Christians could come to the church and pray before it. He noted that this icon with such a significant provenance should be venerated according to the traditions of Russian icon painting. He suggested that the icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs should depict Tsesarevich Alexei holding the icon of Our Savior in his hands. “

PHOTO: full view of the icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs shows an empty box giving the impression that Tsesarevich Alexei is holding the icon of Our Saviour in his hands

Metropolitan Joseph’s wishes were honoured. As time passed, and already with the blessing of Metropolitan Daniel, the large icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs was created, in which Tsesarevich Alexei’s icon of Our Saviour was mounted into it. As planned, the work was completed by the feast of the Nativity of Christ, which is observed on 19th (O.S. 6th) January.


[1] The original Holy Trinity Cathedral was built on Trinity Square in Kurgan. Construction began on 16th (O.S. 5th) June 1763, the central altar was consecrated in 1805. On the night of 17/18 (O.S. 5/6) 1837, the heir to the throne Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Alexander Nikolaevich – the future Emperor Alexander II – attended a Divine Liturgy in the new cathedral. 

During the Soviet years, the cathedral was closed on 25th May 1937. Some twenty years later on 25th May 1957, the cathedral was blown up.

On 26th August 2017, construction began on a new Holy Trinity Cathedral just south of the original cathedral, on the bank of the Tobol River. The patron of the construction of the new cathedral was Russian Senator Sergey Nikolaevich Muratov. On 27th November 2021, Metropolitan Daniel performed the rite of consecration of the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

[2] Kurgan is situated 370 km [229 miles] southeast of Ekaterinburg

© Paul Gilbert. 21 January 2023

The fate of the Kornilov House in Tobolsk

PHOTO: early 20th century view of the Governor’s House (left) where the Imperial Family were held under house arrest from August 1917 to April 1918, and the Kornilov House (right) where their servants and retainers were housed in Tobolsk

When Emperor Nicholas II and his family were sent into exile from Tsarskoye Selo on the morning of 14th August (O.S. 1st) 1917, they were not alone. They were accompanied by an enormous entourage of servants and retainers, all of whom followed the Imperial Family voluntarily into an unknown future.

The two trains[1] carrying the Imperial Family, their entourage of nearly 40 servants and retainers[2], plus trunks, suitcases and other personal belongings – all under the watchful eyes of Colonel Eugene Kobylinsky[3] and 330 soldiers – arrived four days later in Tyumen, where they boarded the steamer Rus, which transported them a further 200 miles northeast, a two day journey on the Tura and Tobol rivers arriving in the historic capital of Siberia: Tobolsk.

According to the diary of Nicholas II, after a delay of several days, the Imperial Family were moved into the former Governor’s Mansion[4] on 13th August (O.S.). The family occupied the second floor of the building, the first floor included a dining room and rooms for servants. According to Russian historian Peter Multatuli, the following servants also lived in the Governor’s Mansion: Terentiy Chemodurov, Anna Demidova, Alexandra Tegleva, Elizaveta Ersberg and Maria Tutelberg. Despite being the largest residence in Tobolsk, it was not large enough to house the Imperial Family’s entourage.

The former house of a merchant named Ivan Nikolaevich Kornilov, situated on the opposite side of the square, housed the remaining retainers of the Imperial Family, as well as some of the Guards. Each day the servants and retainers walked across the road to perform their services to the Imperial Family. No one was allowed to enter the Kornilov House without a special permit. 

Persons accompanying the Imperial Family – source: Russian historian Pyotr Multatuli:

1 – Adjutant General Count Ilya Tatishchev
2 – Marshal of the Imperial Court Prince Vasily Dolgorukov
3 – Lady in Waiting Countess Anastasia Hendrikova
4 – Court physician Dr. Evgeny Botkin
5 – French language tutor Pierre Gilliard
6 – Russian language tutor Catherine Schneider
7 – Tutor of Countess Hendrikova Victoria Nikolaeva
8 – Nursemaid Alexandra Tegleva
9 – Assistant to A. Tegleva Elizaveta Ersberg
10 – Kamer-Jungfer[5] Maria Tutelberg
11 – Lady in Waiting Anna Demidova
12 – Nicholas II’s valet Terentiy Chemodurov
13 – Chemodurov’s assistant Stepan Makarov
14 – Valet Alexei Volkov
15 – Footman of the Tsesarevich Sergey Ivanov
16 – Children’s footman Ivan Sednev
17 – Sailor-nanny of the Tsesarevich Klimenty Nagorny
18 – Valet Aloysius Troup
19 – Footman Tyutin
20 – Footman Dormidon
21 – Footman Kiselev
22 – Footman Ermolai Gusev
23 – Waiter Franz Zhuravsky
24 – Senior Cook Ivan Kharitonov
25 – Assistant cook Kokichev
26 – Assistant cook Ivan Vereshchagin
27 – Assistant cook Leonid Sednev
28 – Minister Mikhail Karpov
29 – Kitchen attendant Sergey Mikhailov
30 – Kitchen attendant Franz Purkovsky
31 – Kitchen attendant Terekhov
32 – Servant Smirnov
33 – Clerk Alexander Kirpichnikov
34 – Hairdresser Alexey Dmitriev
35 – Wardrobe Stupel
36 – Head of the Wine Cellar Rozhkov
37 – Servant of Countess Hendrikova Paulina Mezhants
38 – Servant of Catherine Schneider Ekaterina Zhivaya
39 – Servant of Catherine Schneider Maria

Later arrivals included source: Russian historian Pyotr Multatuli:

40 – English language tutor Charles Sydney Gibbs
41 – Doctor of Medicine Vladimir Derevenko
42 – Lady-in-waiting Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden
43 – Kamer-Jungfer[5] Magdalene Zanotti
44 – Room girl Anna Utkina
45 – Room girl Anna Romanova

Sophie Buxhoeveden: “Though I was allowed to stay at the Kornilov house with the other members of the Household for some weeks, I had ultimately to lodge in the town, though I could see the members of the suite every day; and while I lived in the Kornilov house, I was never once allowed to go out for a walk.”

On 26th (O.S. 13th) April 1918, Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, Dr. Eugene Botkin were transferred from Tobolsk to Ekaterinburg. The following month, on 20th May, the four remaining children: Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana and Anastasia, along with Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich joined their parents and sister in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg.

The Imperial Family and four faithful retainers were held under house arrest in the Ipatiev House, where they were subsequently murdered by the Ural Soviet on the night of 16/17 July 1918.

PHOTO: main façade of the Kornilov House as it looks today

PHOTO: side view of the façade of the Kornilov House as it looks today

PHOTO: rear view of the façade and entrance to the courtyard of the Kornilov House as it looks today

Following the transfer of the Imperial Family to Ekaterinburg, the remaining servants and retainers in the Kornilov House were free to leave. Many of them returned to their homes or started new lives in Tobolsk or elsewhere. A number of them, however, wanted to make the journey to Ekaterinburg with the hope of reuniting with the Tsar and his family. Their captives warned them that any one who went with the four Romanov children to Ekaterinburg would remain at liberty, at worse, they would not even be permitted to live in the same house with the Imperial Family but tossed in the local jail.

Despite the warning, a few of them made the journey to the Ural capital, and, sure enough were imprisoned and later murdered by the Bolsheviks. Among them were Prince Vasily Dolgorukov, Ilya Tatishchev, Ekaterina Schneider, Anastasia Hendrikova, Klimenty Nagorny and Ivan Sednev. 

As foreign nationals, Pierre Giliard and Sydney Gibbes were both set free. So were a number of others with no explanation and amid rumours that they had abandoned the Imperial Family, sold a few secrets and begged for their lives.

Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden attributed her unexpected release by the Bolsheviks to her “foreign” surname – it was Danish by origin – however, the even more foreign name of “Catherine Schneider” did not prevent the poor woman from being shot.

During the Russian Civil War, the Kornilov House became the headquarters of Vasily Blyukher’s 51st Division. Later, the building housed the State Bank. In 1993, the Center for Russian Culture occupied the former mansion. In November 2010, the Kornilov House underwent an extensive restoration, and today houses the justices of the peace and the Museum of the History of the Judicial System of Western Siberia.

PHOTO: a portrait of Emperor Nicholas II today hangs in the History of the Judicial System of Western Siberia Museum, housed in the former Kornilov House


[1] The trains in which the Imperial Family and their entourage travelled were disguised for security purposes as a Red Cross Train and flew a Japanese flag. The train made regular stops which allowed the August prisoners to roam the woods in search of flowers and berries, always taking their two dogs with them. As the train approached stations and large towns, the curtains of their private wagon were always drawn shut.

The train were considered a “luxurious vehicle for transporting prisoners”. The first train carrying the Tsar and his family was a comfortable wagon-lits of the International Sleeping Car, and including a restaurant car stocked with wines from the Alexander Palace’s wine cellar.

[2] Some sources claim that 45 servants and retainers went into exile with the Imperial Family, however, this author could only identify 39 persons. If we include the 6 persons who later joined them after their arrival in Tobolsk, then this number is correct.

[3] Eugene Stepanovich Kobylinsky (1875-1927) was born into a noble family in Kiev. In 1909 he became a lieutenant in the St. Petersburg Imperial Guard regiment. After Nicholas II abdicated the throne in February 1917, Kobylinsky became an employee of the Provisional Government. On 14th March [O.S. 1st March] 1917, he was appointed commandant of the Alexander Palace, where the Tsar and his family were being held under house arrest at Tsarskoye Selo.

[4] The Governor’s Mansion was an extensive two-storey house built in the Empire Style facing Platzparadnaya Square. It was one of the first houses in Tobolsk to have electricity and fresh water supply installed. The last governor who lived in the house was Nikolai Alexandrovich Ordovsky (1863-1950), who held the post from November 1915 until the October 1917 Revolution. 

Not only was Ordovsky a devout Orthodox Christian, he was also a monarchist who was dedicated to Nicholas II. Following the Tsar’s abdication he refused to accept it nor the new Provisional Government. Upon leaving the city for Petrograd, he said to one of his escorts: “I will not go to any of the members of the Provisional Government, because I served the Emperor, I fulfilled his will. I will not serve any other government” 

In 1918 he was arrested and imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress. As a former officer, he was included in the “Officer’s List” of those to be executed. Despite his poor health, he managed to escape both the prison and Petrograd. How he managed his miraculous escape remains unclear.

At the end of 1918 he managed to emigrate to Europe. In 1923, in Germany, he was ordained a priest and received a parish in Hamburg; later, having disagreed on some issues with the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, he came under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Patriarchate. Already in Germany he was tonsured a monk with the name Nikon, then in Serbia he received the rank of hegumen and archimandrite. In 1945, he cared for Orthodox believers in displaced persons’ camps and was tonsured by Metropolitan Seraphim in the great schema with the name Nicodemus.

In 1948, while in Germany, he began to write voluminous memoirs about his life in pre-revolutionary Russia. Life in exile was full of wanderings, deprivations, loneliness. Nikolai Alexandrovich Ordovsky died in a hospital in Bavaria in 1950.

NOTE: The former Governor’s Mansion has survived to the present time and today houses the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II, which opened on 26th April 2018.

[5] In two cases – Nos. 10 and 43 – I have been unable to find the correct English translation of the positions of Kamer-Jungfer, therefore, I have left it in the original in italics.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 January 2023

Paul Gilbert resumes sale of personal royal library

Now that my chemo is over and done with, I can now resume the sale of the remaining books from my personal library. I have about 300+ titles remaining in my collection on Russian, European and British royalty – some titles of which are very rare and/or in mint or very good condition.

In preparation for my planned move back to England in the summer of 2025, I have been forced to sell the bulk of my personal library, which originally consisted of more than 2,000 new, rare and second-hand titles on the royal houses of Russia, Europe and Britain.

The ONLY books that I will be taking with me to England, are my collection of titles on the life, reign and era of Nicholas II.

I have created a special online bookshop for the sale of my collection [see link below]. The titles listed are all one-of-a-kind, there are no duplicates! Books will be sold on a first come, first serve basis. The condition of each book varies and is noted with each listing. Titles are available in a variety of languages: English, French, German and Russian. Please check individual listings before ordering.

ALL prices are in US dollars! Payment can be made securely online with a credit card or PayPal. I will also accept payment by personal check or money order in USD. Shipping rates are for Canada and United States orders ONLY. ALL sales are FINAL!

Please take a moment to review my current catalogue, bearing in mind that I still have many additional titles on European and British royalty to add over the coming weeks ahead.

Additional titles will be added on a regular basis, so please bookmark or check back for new listings. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me by email –

© Paul Gilbert. 20 January 2023

Monument to Nicholas II consecrated in Bijeljina

On 4th January 2023, a new monument to the Holy Royal Martyrs was installed and consecrated on the grounds of the Monastery of St. Petka in Bijeljina in Republika Srpska [one of the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the other being the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina].

The monument was made in bronze in the Russian style, by the Serbian sculptor from Belgrade, Milos Komad, and financed by the retired Bishop of Zvornik-Tuzla Vasilije.

The marble pedestal, and placement is the work of academician Drago Mirković, an artist, a great humanist and church benefactor. Mirkovic chose the inscriptions which appear on all four sides of the pedestal quotes by Sergei Bektayev, the Russian national poet, the texts of St. Peter of Cetinsky, Dostoevsky, Pushkin and Emperor Nicholas II’s words of support to the Serbs.

The combined height of the bronze monument and marble pedestal is almost 5 meters [16 ft.] high.

PHOTO: view of the bronze monument before it being mounted on the marble pedestal

PHOTO: full front and rear view of the Holy Royal Martyrs monument

© Paul Gilbert. 19 January 2023

‘You reap what you sow’ – Monarchists take revenge on the regicide Peter Ermakov

PHOTO: the desecrated grave of the regicide Peter Ermakov in Ivanovo Cemetery in Ekaterinburg

Every year on 17th July – the day marking the anniversary of the murder of Emperor Nicholas II and his family – the grave of the Bolshevik revolutionary Peter Ermakov, has been vandalized by local monarchists, who douse his gravestone with red paint.

This annual protest began shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The red paint symbolizes the blood which this evil man spilled, and his involvement in the regicide.

Pyotr (Peter) Zakharovich Ermakov (1884–1952), was one of several men responsible for the murder of Emperor Nicholas II, his wife, their five children, and their four faithful retainers in the basement of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg.

He was also among the men in the firing squad, and considered to be the most bloodthirsty of the executioners. His Mauser revolver, which he alleges fired the fatal shot which ended the life of the Tsar is preserved today in the Museum of History and Archaeology of the Urals in Ekaterinburg.

According to his own recollections, it was he who also murdered the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, the cook Ivan Kharitonov and the doctor Eugene Botkin. He often boasted of his crime, without feeling any sense of remorse: “I shot the Tsarina who was seated only six feet away, I could not miss. My bullet hit her right in the mouth, two seconds later she was dead. Then I shot Dr. Botkin. He threw up his hands and half turned away. The bullet hit him in the neck. He fell backwards. Yurovsky’s shot knocked the Tsesarevich to the floor, where he lay and groaned. The cook Kharitonov was huddled over in the corner. I shot him first in the torso and then in the head. The footman Troupe also fell, I don’t know who shot him … ”

PHOTOS: (above) Ermakov standing on the grave of members of the Imperial Family and their retainers at Porosenkov Log in the 1920s; (below) Ermakov (far right) posing with a group of prominent Ural Bolsheviks on the Tsar’s grave, his Mauser pistol can be seen in the foreground in front of P.M. Bykov, author of The Last Days of Tsardom (1934)

In the 1920s, Yermakov returned to Porosenkov Log where he had his photograph taken standing on the railway ties which concealed the second grave of the Imperial Family. On the reverse of this photo, he wrote: “I am standing on the grave of the Tsar”.

In 1951, at a reception, which gathered all the local Party elite in Sverdlovsk [Ekaterinburg], Peter Ermakov approached Soviet Red Army General Georgy Zhukov (1896-1974) and held out his hand. Frowning in disgust Zhukov looked Ermakov in the eye, and muttered, “I do not shake the hands of the murderers.”

Ermakov died in Sverdlovsk on 22 May 1952 from cancer at the age of 67, he was buried in Ivanovo Cemetery in Ekaterinburg.

In January 2022, the famous Russian sculptor Konstantin Vasilievich Grunberg has proposed replacing monuments of the Bolshevik leaders Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin) and Yakov Sverdlov in Ekaterinburg.

Grunberg also called for debunking the image of the revolutionary “hero” Pyotr Yermakov. “People still bring flowers to his grave. We need to destroy this regicide’s grave!” the sculptor said.

PHOTO: Ermakov’s Mauser revolver, which he alleges fired the fatal shot which ended the life of Russia’s last Tsar is preserved today in the Museum of History and Archaeology of the Urals in Ekaterinburg

Click HERE to read my article Yakov Yurovskys’ ashes remain hidden from vandals in Moscow, originally published on 23rd November 2019

Click HERE to read my article The fate of the regicides who murdered Nicholas II and his family, originally published on 28th October 2020

© Paul Gilbert. 17 January 2023

Lost architectural monuments of the Moscow Kremlin

During the Soviet years, numerous architectural monuments of the Moscow Kremlin were lost. Churches, monasteries, and palaces were destroyed because they reminded the Soviet regime under Stalin of Holy Russia and the glorious history of the Russian Empire.

The early 20th century postcard (above) reflects some of the greatest architectural losses in the Moscow Kremlin during the late 1920s to early 1930s – please refer to the numbers and the accompanying images below for additional information about each respective monument . .

1 – The Maly Nikolayevsky Palace or Small Nicholas Palace was a three-storey building located in the Kremlin on the corner of Ivanovskaya Square. Originally built in 1775, it served as the official Moscow residence of Imperial Family up until the construction of the Grand Kremlin Palace in 1838-1849. The palace was a favourite residence of Grand Duke Nicholas Pavlovich (future Emperor Nicholas I). On 29th (O.S. 17th) April 1818, his son, the future Alexander II, was born in the palace, who considered it the home of his childhood. Between 1891 and 1905, the palace became a residence of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich during his years as Governor-General of Moscow.

During the October armed uprising of 1917 in Moscow, the Small Nicholas Palace became the headquarters of the Junkers [a military rank in the Russian Guard and Army, until 1918] who were supporting the Committee of Public Security. As a result, the building served as a target for the Red Guards and suffered more than other Kremlin buildings.

According to Metropolitan Nestor (1885-1962): “The Small Nicholas Palace… suffered greatly from gunfire. Huge holes in the building’s’ façade are visible from the outside. Inside, too, everything is destroyed, and when I walked around the rooms, I saw a picture of complete destruction. Huge mirrors and other furnishings were barbarously broken and destroyed. The cabinets are broken, books, files and papers are scattered throughout the rooms… The palace church was hit by a shell and destroyed. The iconostasis was broken, the royal gates were forced open by explosions, and the veil of the church was torn in two. Hence, many valuable icons were stolen.”

In 1929, the palace was demolished together with the adjacent Chudov and Ascension monasteries. In 1932-1934 the Kremlin Presidium (aka Building No. 14) was built on the site. It housed, first, the Supreme Soviet, i. e. the supreme legislative body of the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991, and, second, the offices of the Presidential Administration of Russia until 2011. The Kremlin Presidium was demolished in 2016.

PHOTO: Small Nicholas Palace after the shelling of the Kremlin, 1917

2 – The first Monument to Emperor Alexander II stood above the Kremlin’s Taynitsky Gardens facing the Moskva River. Work on the monuments was begun under Emperor Alexander III in 1893, and was completed five years later under Emperor Nicholas II in 1898.

The monument was the work of sculptor Alexander Opekushin (1838-1923), artist Peter Zhukovsky (1845-1912) and architect Nicholas V. Sultanov (1850-1908). The memorial consisted of a life-size bronze sculpture of Alexander II, set on a square pedestal with the words “To Emperor Alexander II by the love of the people” engraved on it. The sculpture was shaded by a canopy of polished dark red Karelian granite. The top of the canopy was made of specially fitted gilded bronze sheets with green enamel. On three sides, the monument was surrounded by a gallery with arches and openwork. Thirty-three mosaic portraits of Russia’s rulers from Prince Vladimir to Emperor Nicholas II based on sketches by artist Peter Zhukovsky were placed in the gallery’s vaults.

The solemn opening and consecration of the Monument to Emperor Alexander II took place on 16th August 1898. At eight in the morning, five cannon shots were fired from the Tainitskaya Tower. The opening ceremony began at two o’clock in the afternoon with a procession from the Chudov Monastery. After Metropolitan Vladimir of Moscow served a prayer service, the “Transfiguration March” was played and cannons were fired 360 times. The ceremony was closed by a parade of troops commanded by Emperor Nicholas II..

2a –  The decree of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic [supported by Lenin] dated 12th April 1918 called for all monuments of Russia’s monarchs to be demolished and replaced with statues honouring the leaders of the revolution. The monument of Alexander II was to be one of the first monuments destroyed in this campaign. Lenin planned to install a monument to the writer Leo Tolstoy on the site, however, his plan never came to fruition.

The monument to Alexander II was demolished by the Bolsheviks in the summer of 1918. In June 1918, Russian art historian Nikolai Okunev described this event in his diary: “I saw in the cinema a newsreel on the removal of the monument to Alexander II in the Kremlin. It was terrible to watch! It’s as if they were cutting a living person into pieces, and saying “Look, this is is how it’s done!” It’s not enough to show the shootings on the cinema screen.” The remaining columns and gallery were demolished in 1928.

PHOTO: the dismantled fragments of the monument to Alexander II in the Kremlin after its destruction in 1918. To the left of the Spassky Tower is the Church of St. Catherine of the Ascension Monastery, blown up in 1929

3 – The Voznesensky (Ascension) Convent known as the Starodevichy Convent or Old Maidens’ Convent until 1817, was an Orthodox nunnery in the Moscow Kremlin which contained the tombs of grand princesses, tsarinas, and other noble ladies from the Muscovite royal court. The convent was founded at the beginning of the 15th century near the Kremlin’s Spassky (Saviour’s) Gate.

The convent was also used as a residence for royal fiancée’s prior to their wedding. In 1721, the convent was renovated on behest of Peter the Great. In 1808, by order of Emperor Alexander I, the famous Italian architect Carlo Rossi (1775-1849) began construction of the Church of Saint Catherine, built in the Neo-Gothic design. During Napoleon’s invasion of Moscow in 1812, the French army looted the monastery and expelled the nuns. Most of the property was preserved thanks to Abbess Athanasia, who managed to take the wealth from the sacristy to Vologda. 

By 1907, the monastery had a mother superior, 62 nuns and 45 lay sisters. It was also in 1907, that the monastery celebrated the 500th anniversary of the death of the founder of the monastery St. Euphrosyne of Moscow (1353–1407). After the service, a procession took place, in which Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna participated, and placed a golden lamp and flower garlands on the founder’s tomb.

During the October 1917 Revolution, the ancient buildings were damaged by artillery fire. In 1929, the convent complex – including the majestic 16th-century cathedral – was demolished by the Soviets in order to make room for the Red Commanders School, named after the All-Russian Central Executive Committee.

Some of the icons of Ascension Convent were transferred to the State Tretyakov Gallery and State museums of the Moscow Kremlin. The iconostasis of the Ascension Cathedral (see below) was moved into the Cathedral of Twelve Apostles (also in the Kremlin), while the tombs of the Muscovite royalty were transferred into an annex of the Archangel Cathedral, where they reside to this day.

PHOTO: in 1930 the iconostasis of the Ascension Cathedral was moved into the Cathedral of Twelve Apostles (also in the Kremlin), where it remains to this day

4 – The two chapels at the Spassky Gates (facing Red Square) were built in the “Russian style” in 1866. Both belonged to St Basil’s Cathedral. The left houses the sacred image of Our Lady of Smolensk as a reminder of the city’s return to the Russian lands in the 16th century. The right is renowned for its sacred image of Christ the Saviour, an exact replica of the icon over Spassky Gates. They were both demolished in 1929.

The 16th-century icon was bricked over during the 1930s, and restored to its original in 2010.

5 – The Church of Konstantin and Elena in the lower section of the Kremlin Garden was built in 1692 by Tsarina Natalia Naryshkina, mother of Peter I. It was demolished in 1928. It became the first church demolished on the territory of the Kremlin since the Bolsheviks came to power and the first in a large series of losses of architectural monuments of the Moscow Kremlin in 1928-1930. Today the site is home to government buildings and a helipad for Russian president Vladimir Putin.

In addition, were the Chudov Monastery and the Monument to Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich:

6 – The Chudov Monastery (more formally known as Alexius’ Archangel Michael Monastery) was founded in 1358 by Metropolitan Alexius of Moscow. The monastery was dedicated to the miracle of the Archangel Michael at Chonae on 19th September (O.S. 6th September). It was traditionally used for baptising the royal children, including future Tsars Feodor I, Aleksey I and Peter the Great.

The Chudov Monastery was demolished by the Bolsheviks in 1928, and the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet was built on the site. Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich’s body was buried in a crypt of the Chudov Monastery. The burial crypt was located underneath a courtyard of that building, which was later used as a parking lot during the Soviet years. In 1990, building workers in the Kremlin discovered the blocked up entrance of the burial vault. The coffin was examined and found to contain the Grand Duke’s remains, covered with the military greatcoat of the Kiev regiment, decorations, and an icon. He had left written instructions that he was to be buried in the Preobrazhensky Lifeguard regiment uniform, but as his body was so badly mutilated this proved impossible.

In 1995, the coffin was officially exhumed, and after a Panikhida in the Kremlin Cathedral of the Archangel, it was reburied in a vault of the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow on 17 September 1995.

7 – The Memorial Cross to Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich was consecrated on 2nd April 1908 on the spot where Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich was assassinated. The original bronze monument, set on a stepped pedestal of dark green labrador marble, was an example of ‘Church Art Nouveau’. After the October 1917 Revolution, the cross was destroyed on 1st May 1918 by Bolshevik thugs with the personal participation of Vladimir Lenin.

On 4th May 2017, the memorial cross was restored in a ceremony that was attended by President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

8 – The Church of the Transfiguration of Christ the Saviour on Boru was located in the courtyard of the Grand Kremlin Palace [seen in behind the church in the photo above]. The name “on Boru” came from the coniferous forests which once surrounded the church, that once stood on Borovitsky Hill.

In 1767, when Catherine II began the reconstruction of the Kremlin, the church was revived in brick and required major repairs.

The Church of the Savior-on-Boru was demolished on 1st May 1933 by order of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU, despite the protests of prominent restorers. The church’s ancient bells were transferred to the funds of the Moscow Kremlin Museums. Upon demolition of the church, a 5-storey service building was built on the site of the cathedral. Plans to restore one of the oldest churches in Moscow have not yet been considered.

In 2014 President Vladimir Putin proposed the restoration of the former Chudov Monastery, Ascension Convent, and Small Nicholas Palace. Opposition from UNESCO ended any hope of reconstructing these architectural gems. The proposal, had it been approved, would have restored the historical vista of Ivanovskaya Square. Instead, it has become park space for tourists visiting the Kremlin museums and churches.

© Paul Gilbert. 12 January 2023

Toys of Nicholas II’s children transferred to museum in Sergiev Posad in 1930s

PHOTO: Overview of some of the Imperial Children’s toys from the collection of the Art and Pedagogical Toy Museum in Sergiev Posad, including a collection of porcelain dolls, once owned by the grand duchesses.

Situated 74 km [45 miles] northeast of Moscow is Sergiev Posad[1] the spiritual centre of Russia with its famous Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra[2], and home to over 300 monks. In 1993, the Trinity-Sergius Lavra which comprises a unique ensemble of more than 50 buildings was inscribed on the UN World Heritage List. In 2002 the monastery was recognized as a Cultural Heritage Site of the Russian Federation.

Sergiev Posad also has a long history of toy-making, the matryoshka doll known all over the world was born here. It seems only fitting that the town should claim to its fame the Art and Pedagogical Toy Museum, which is situated opposite the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. The museum is a unique repository of more than 150 thousand toys from Russia, Europe, Asia and America. The museum was founded in 1918 by Nikolai Dmitrievich Bartram (1873-1931)[3].

Bertram was a Russian illustrator, poster designer, art historian, and collector, who also studied the history of toys in Russia. From 1900 to 1903, he travelled throughout Europe; visiting toy shops and returning with suitcases of dolls, toy soldiers, and toy animals.

In 1912, he married the artist and collector, Yevdokia Ivanovna Loseva (1880-1936), who shared his interest in toys. In October 1918, as World War I was winding down, he and Yevdokia founded the Moscow Toy Museum, comprising of toys from his own private collection; although it was not opened to the general public until 1921. 

His collection was further enriched with toys from the Stroganov School in Moscow, as well as those from the noble estates, private collections and specialty shops, all of which had been nationalized by the Bolsheviks.

In the early 1930s toys that once belonged to the children of Emperor Nicholas II from the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo and the Livadia Palace in Crimea, were transferred to the museum’s collection.

The museum was first located in Bartram’s four-room apartment on Smolensky Boulevard in Moscow The one-storey mansion with a mezzanine, consisted of 250 square meters, 200 meters of which was allocated for his toy collection.

PHOTO: view of the Toy Museum (above), situated opposite the Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad. The glass showcases (below) contain toys transferred from the Alexander Palace and Livadia Palace in the 1930s.

Officially founded on 17th October 1918, the museum was opened to visitors only in 1921, and three years later, in 1924, it moved to a new location – the former Khrushchev-Seleznevs mansion[4] on Kropotkinskaya Street in Moscow. It was here, that the Toy Museum was opened on 5th January 1921, expanding its exhibition space to 5 halls and 600 square meters to accommodate Bartram’s growing collection. Today the building is occupied by the Literary Museum of A. S. Pushkin.

In terms of attendance, the Museum of Toys was surpassed only by the Tretyakov Gallery. Nikolai Bartram remained at the head of the museum until his death in 1931.

In 1931, the Toy Museum was transferred from Moscow to Zagorsk[1] opposite – the Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra.

PHOTO: Toy Museum founder Nikolai Dmitrievich Bartram among his collection

The current Chief Curator of the Toy Museum Tamara Atyusheva explains the fate of the toys of the Tsar’s children, and how some of them came into the hands of the museum:

-“From 1918 to 1931 the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo was a museum, which included a permanent exhibition dedicated to the “Children’s Half”, which included the rooms of the Grand Duchesses and the Tsesarevich. These rooms were filled with the Imperial Children’s toys which were left after the Tsar and his family were sent into exile in August 1917.

“After 1931, the subject of everything Tsarist became a bone of contention among the Stalinists, one which did not fit into Soviet life. As a result the “Children’s Half” exhibition in the Alexander Palace was closed. Many of the toys and personal items of the Tsar’s children were distributed to orphanages and shelters. No records were kept of where the toys were distributed, and all traces of these toys have since been lost. The toys which were not lost, were transferred to our museum in in 1932. They were stored in the storerooms of the Research Institute of Toys in Zagorsk[1] located in the museum of the Lavra. They were stored without any indication that these items had any special significance. For instance, the Grand Duchesses collection of porcelain dolls were simply labeled “Nineteenth Century Dolls” and that’s it.

“It was during holidays – birthdays, name days, and Christmas – that the Imperial Children received expensive toys, many of which had been imported from Europe and Britain as gifts. In addition they received board games, which also acted as learning aids: for studying languages, geography, and royal dynasties, including one with “portraits of the Sovereigns of the Russian Land”.

“Interesting among the toys were those of Tsesarevich Alexei, who was brought up primarily as the future heir to the throne, and head of the Russian Imperial Army. He had everything a little warrior should have: a toy three-line Mosin rifle, toy sabers, a toy ship (“Battleship Sevastopol”), signal flags, a triangular red pennant with a white cross, and a collection of toy soldiers.

In addition the Heir had an electric train, which consisted of a huge steam locomotive, complete with stations and tunnels.

One of the highlights of the Imperial Children’s toys, was a collection of European made dolls of the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia in national costumes, in addition to children’s furniture, dishes, books, sporting goods and portraits.

Today the Art and Pedagogical Toy Museum welcomes more than 30,000 visitors each year. Exhibits from their collection are routinely loaned out to other museums throughout Russia, the toys of the children of Emperor Nicholas II being the most popular. In 2011, some of the toys from the museum’s collection were put on display in former Children’s Half located on the second floor of the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.

© Paul Gilbert. 10 January 2023


[1] Sergiev Posad was founded on 22nd March 1782, by decree of Empress Catherine II. The name is associated with the name of Sergius of Radonezh (1314-1392), the founder of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, around which the posad was formed. In 1919, Sergiev Posad was renamed Sergiev. On 6th March 1930, the city was renamed Zagorsk, in honor of the Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Mikhailovich Zagorsky, who died in 1919.

On 23rd September 1991, by the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR, the historical name was returned to the city – Sergiev Posad. At the walls of the Lavra was erected a monument to Sergius of Radonezh, made of bronze, the work of the sculptor Valentin Chukharkin. The monument was consecrated on 18th March 2000 by Patriarch Alexy II (1929-2008).

[2] After the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Soviet government closed the Lavra in 1920. Its buildings were assigned to different civic institutions or declared museums. In 1930, monastery bells, including the Tsar-Bell of 65 tons, were destroyed. Father Pavel Florensky (1882-1937) and his followers prevented the authorities from stealing and selling the sacristy collection but overall many valuables were lost or transferred to other collections.

In 1945, following Joseph Stalin’s temporary tolerance of the church during World War II, the Lavra was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. On 16th April 1946 divine service was renewed at the Assumption Cathedral. The Lavra continued as the seat of the Moscow Patriarchate until 1983, when the patriarch was allowed to settle at the Danilov Monastery in Moscow.

[3] Nikolai Dmitrievich Bartram died on 13th July 1931. He was buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

[4] Today the former Khrushchev-Seleznevs mansion houses the A. S. Pushkin State Museum (not to be confused with the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts).