UPDATE: Nicholas II Equestrian Monument in Kulebaki

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Photo © Irina Makarova

On 13th December 2019, I published an article Nicholas II Equestrian Monument Planned for the Russian city of Kulebaki (with photos) of a truly splended equestrian monument of Nicholas II by the sculptor Irina Makarova, which is to be installed in the Russian city of Kulebaki in July of this year.

I am pleased to share the following three videos by Max Bataev, which depict the process of creating this impressive equestrian of Russia’s last emperor and tsar:

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Equestrian of Nicholas II dominates the Monument to the Heroes of World War One in Moscow

Note: the Russian media refer to this monument as the first equestrian monument of Nicholas II to be established in Russia. The Kulebaki monument will be the second equestrian monument to Nicholas II in Russia, the first was established in Moscow.

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Ministry of Defense on the Frunze Embankment in Moscow

On 16 December 2014, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu opened a sculptural composition dedicated to the heroes of World Wars I and II on the grounds of the Ministry of Defense on the Frunze Embankment in Moscow. The WWI monument features Nicholas II on horseback, recognizing and honouring his efforts during the Great War.

© Paul Gilbert. 4 April 2020

Feodorovsky Town in Tsarskoye Selo

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Pre-revolutionary view of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral in Tsarskoye Selo

For most visitors to Russia, a visit to Tsarskoye Selo (today known as Pushkin), includes the Catherine Palace and the nearby Alexander Palace. Sadly, they overlook some of the other buildings which reflect the era of Tsar Nicholas II. Among these are the Feodorovsky Gorodok (Town), which also includes the magnificent Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral, the Martial Chamber, the former barracks of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Convoy, and the ruins of the Tsar’s Railway Pavilion.  

In the course of two centuries every Russian monarch, beginning with Peter I, strove to make his or her contribution to the improvement of the royal summer residence in Tsarskoye Selo (Tsar’s Village) near St. Petersburg. The last Russian emperor Nicholas II, who chose the Alexander Palace for his permanent residence in 1905, decided to embellish the town with buildings reflecting the Russian national style. The Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral and the adjacent residential area called Feodorovsky Gorodok (Town), complete with tent roofs and towers were built between 1909-1917, with Nicholas II, his wife and their children directly involved in the project. The construction was nearing completion when the First World War began, followed by the revolutionary cataclysms which engulfed the Russian Empire. Following the October 1917 Revolution the Cathedral was closed down in 1933, while the adjacent gorodok was turned into an educational branch of the Agrarian Institute.

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Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral. Artist: Gavriil Nikitich Gorelov (1880-1966)

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Feodorovsky Gorodok

The history of these buildings, which resemble the fairytale Kitezh-town, is closely associated with the last tsar, whose tragic death, along with his wife and children in Ekaterinburg, continues to stir the interest and curiosity of people in Russia and around the world to this day. This short essay tells the story of a “little spot of the Russian land” created in Tsarskoye Selo. It is illustrated with vintage photographs and reproductions of paintings by artists who worked on them at the time of the construction of the complex.

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Feodorovsky Gosudorov Sobor, published in 1915

During the 1910s the artists G. Gorelov, L. Syrnev and M. Kirsanov painted a series of colour pictures depicting views of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral and the Feodorovsky Gorodok. They reproduced the entire architectural ensemble the way it was perceived by the last Russian emperor. Some of the paintings were published in the book Feodorovsky Gosudorov Sobor, published in 1915. The views of the Feodorovsky Gorodok reflect events of the First World War, when an infirmary for the wounded soldiers was opened in the gorodok. Pictures on canvas are wounded soldiers with bandaged legs and arms who were undergoing medical treatment in the infirmary and the nurses who cared for them. The artists strove to render the image of Old Russia, too. The artists captured the beauty of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral, particularly the interiors, each of which evoke a deep religious feeling. [These paintings are today part of the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum – PG]

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Nicholas II laying the foundation stone for the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral

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Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna inspect the progress of the Feodorovsky Cathedral

The foundation of the Cathedral was laid on 20 August 1909, in the presence of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. The design was commissioned by V.A. Pokrovsky, a great connoisseur of the Russian national tradition. The construction was financed by the tsar’s family. 

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The Feodorovskaya icon of Our Lady, patroness of the Romanov dynasty

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The Cave Church, situated in the Lower Church

The Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral became the house church for Emperor Nicholas II and his family.  The Cathedral consisted of two churches, the upper which included the main altar dedicated to the Feodorovsky Icon of Our Lady and a side-chapel consecrated in honour of the Moscow Metropolitan Alexis, the all-Russia Miracle-Worker. The lower part of the Cathedral housed a Cave Church with the altar consecrated in the name of Saint Serafim of Sarov the Miracle-Worker, and the private chapel of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. The Feodorovskaya icon of Our Lady, the main icon of the Cathedral, is the patroness of the Romanov dynasty. The icon was kept in the upper church. The Cathedral interiors impressed everyone with their decor executed in the style of 17th century church architecture – the favourite style of Nicholas II. The Cave Church decoration was supervised by the architect V. N. Maksimov.

The Cathedral walls are decorated on the outside with large mosaic panels made in St. Petersburg in the studio of the well known mosaic artist V.A. Frlov.

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View of the Feodorovsky Gorodok. 1917

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View of the Refectory Chamber, Feodorovsky Gorodok. 1917

The Feodorovsky Gorodok – a group of buildings erected for the servants of the church – was built during 1913-1917 to the design of S.S. Krichinsky, approved personally by Nicholas II. It is situated on the shore of a small island and surrounded by a fortress wall. One of the towers is decorated by a gilt figure of St. George. The buildings, varying in height and shape and joined by covered passages, occupy an area of 1.7 hectares (4.2 acres). Participating in the design of the gorodok were the architects A. Pomerantsev, V. Maksimov, and L. Shchusev.

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Interior of the Refectory, Feodorovsky Gorodok

The entire complex consisted of several buildings, the most notable among them being the White Chamber (the priests’ house), the Pink Chamber (the deacons’ house), the Yellow Chamber (the junior deacons’ house), and the Refectory building, which housed the churchwarden’s flat and office.

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The Officer’s Assembly dated 1911 (demolished after the war)

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Tsar’s Railway Pavilion, Tsarskoye Selo

Nearby in Kuzminskaya Street were the barracks of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Convoy (designed by V.N. Maksimov, 1906) and the brick building of the Officer’s Assembly dated 1911 (demolished after the war). There were a number of military barracks and stables designed and built in the Russian Style. The year 1915 marked the construction of wooden barracks for the Special Aviation Detachment. In December the same year, barracks were built for His Majesty’s Own Railway Regiment. Designed by the architect V.N. Maksimov, these barracks were situated close to the Tsar’s Railway Pavilion which was built to the design of design of V.A. Pokrovsky in 1912 in the Neo-Russian Style. The station building completed the new architectural ensemble.

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Former barracks of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Convoy

The Tsar was insistent that the newly erected buildings should resemble Old Russia by their appearance. Had all the projects conceived been realized and all the buildings survived intact, they would have formed a unique single ensemble in Tsarskoye Selo which would fill the environment of the Alexander Palace with a historic atmosphere Nicholas II desired following the whims of his fantasy.

Of all the numerous buildings in traditional Russian style erected in Tsarskoye Selo at the will of Nicholas II those surviving unchanged are the Feodorovsky Gorodok (currently under restoration) and the Martial Chamber (now the Museum of the History of the First World War).

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The Martial Chamber, restored between 2011-2014

The architectural complex of buildings near the Feodorovsky Cathedral, which came into being as a result of the Sovereign’s artistic fantasies, reflected both the artistic search of Russian architects in the early 20th century and search for spiritual ideals of the time.

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Artist concept of the Feodorovsky Gorodok after restoration

In 1913-1917 the Martial Chamber complex was built to the design of the architect S. Yu. Sidorchuk. At the start of the war against Germany in 1914 it was decided to open a portrait gallery of the holders of the St. George Cross in the Chamber building. In 1918 the Martial Chamber and the Feodorovsky Gorodok fell under the jurisdiction of the Agronomical (later Petersburg Agrarian) University. The art collections were divided among various museums in Leningrad. The buildings, damaged during World War II, are now under restoration (with the exception of the Tsar’s Railway Pavilion, which is currently in a terrible state of neglect and disrepair). Although this will work will take some years, several newly restored buildings of the Feodorovsky Gorodok have already become part of the Patriarchal residence of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral as it looks today. Russia’s first monument to
Nicholas II by the sculptor V.V. Zaiko, was established in the garden in 1993

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The reconstructed iconostasis in the Upper Church of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral

In 1991 the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral opened its doors to believers again. The entire complex of buildings closely connected with the Russian Orthodox Church and with the life of the last Russian Emperor has been taken in tutelage by the Moscow Patriarchate. It allocates funds for the restoration work. The Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral was reconsecrated on 29 February 1992. Regular liturgies are carried out in the Cave Church. Divine Liturgies are conducted in memory of the murdered Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia Nikolaevna, and Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich. The last tsar is commemorated with a bronze bust established on the grounds of the Cathedral in 1993, by the Russian scukptor V.V. Zaiko. 

© Paul Gilbert. 4 April 2020

NEW Romanov Books to be Published in 2020

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Independent researcher and publisher Paul Gilbert

March 25th marked the 1st anniversary of the publication of my book Nicholas II. Portraits. Aside from the Nicholas II 2020 Calendar, I have been unable to publish any additional books since.

Shortly after I returned from England last May, I began to develop complications of diabetes (which I have lived with for more than 30 years). These included neuropathy in my legs and feet, making if very difficult for me to walk, however, the worst of the complications affected my vision. As a result of the latter, it became increasingly difficult for me to read and write. While I was still able to create posts for my Nicholas II blog and my Facebook page, I was unable to work on any new publications without the aid of both computer glasses and a magnifying glass.

While I am happy to say that medication has helped relive the neuropathy in my legs and feet somewhat, the restoration of my vision has only slightly improved. I pray that over time, that this can be fully restored under the care of an ophthalmologist.

As a result of my personal health issues, all of my publishing projects have been delayed or put on hold by a year. It has also made it very difficult for me to stay on top of all the emails and messages I receive on a daily basis.

This year, I plan to only publish 5 new titles, while many others will be put on the back burner. I will continue to publish both Royal Russia and Sovereign, however, there will no longer be any set schedule to their publication. 

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Here is a list of the 5 titles planned for publication in 2020 – see my Note below for availability:

[1] Bones of Contention: The Russian Orthodox Church and the Ekaterinburg Remains by Paul Gilbert

[2] Royal Russia No. 15

[3] Sovereign No. 12

[4] Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint. 2021 Calendar

[5] Nicholas II. Monuments by Paul Gilbert

PLEASE NOTE that I cannot provide any publication dates for any of the titles listed above or that of any future book titles, nor any future issues of Royal Russia and Sovereign. If the title is NOT listed in my online bookshop, then it is not yet available. A listing will be added to my online shop + an email sent out, when each new title becomes available. I kindly ask that you refrain from phoning or emailing me with publication updates, because there will be delays. Under the present circumstances, I am doing the best I can. 

Thank you for your patience and understanding, and thank you for supported my research – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 30 March 2020

 

Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us!

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Icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs, Church of the Holy Blessed Prince Alexander Nevsky in Tula.

Earlier this year, a unique icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs was presented to the Church of the Holy Blessed Prince Alexander Nevsky in Tula. The top layer of the icon was gifted by local needlewomen, who spent many months sewing it together.

According to Irina Alekseevna Vishnevskaya, the head of the needle circle, more than thirty women worked on the image of the Royal Family from the beginning of last summer. Another participant of the circle, Irina Sergeyevna Romanova, noted that pebbles from the basement of the Ipatiev house in Ekaterinburg, and from the mining pit at Ganina Yama were sewn into the icon.

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Depicted in their royal robes, the women took great care to ensure accuracy, right down to the smallest detail in the colourful vestments. As you can see in the video (below), the top layer of the icon was laid on top of the wooden icon depicting the images of the Holy Royal Martyrs. The two layers of the icon were joined together by ribbons, mounted in a wooden frame and hung on the side of a pillar within the church.

On Sunday 23rd February, the icon was consecrated by the rector of the church, Archpriest Victor Ryabovol, followed by a prayer to the Holy Royal Martyrs.

CLICK on the VIDEO below to watch the consecration of the icon performed in the Church of the Holy Blessed Prince Alexander Nevsky in Tula:

© Paul Gilbert. 29 March 2020

20th March 1917 – Provisional Government decrees that Nicholas II and family should be held under house arrest in the Alexander Palace

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Iconic image of Emperor Nicholas II in the Alexander Park at Tsarskoye Selo

On this day – 20th March (O.S. 7 March) 1917 – the Provisional Government decreed that Emperor Nicholas II, his wife and five children should be held under house arrest in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.

The Tsar joined the rest of the family there two days later, having travelled from Stavka at Mogilev. He was addressed by sentries at the gate of his home as “Nicholas Romanov”.

On Alexander Kerensky’s order, Nicholas and Alexandra were kept apart in the palace for a period of 18 days. They were permitted to see each other only during meals, and only in the presence of soldiers. Kerensky conducted an investigation of the Imperial couple’s documents and letters. He failed to find any evidence which would incriminate either of them.

Kerensky interviewed Alexandra regarding her involvement in state affairs and Rasputin’s involvement in them through his influence over her. She answered that as she and her spouse kept no secrets from each other, they often discussed politics and she naturally gave him advice to support him; as for Rasputin, he had been a true holy man of God, and his advice had been only in the interest of the good of Russia and the imperial family. After the interview, Kerensky told the tsar that he believed that Alexandra had told him the truth and was not lying.

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Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna sitting in the Alexander Park, June 1917

The family had total privacy inside the palace, but walks in the grounds were strictly regulated. Members of their domestic staff were allowed to stay if they wished and culinary standards were maintained.

Even in the Alexander Park, their movements were restricted. The photo at the bottom of this post, show the prisoners at the frontier of their domain. They were not permitted to cross the bridge which led them to the big park, to the outside world and freedom.

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Nicholas II working in the vegetable garden behind the Alexander Palace in 1917

Colonel Eugene Kobylinsky was appointed to command the military garrison at Tsarskoye Selo, which increasingly had to be done through negotiation with the committees or soviets elected by the soldiers.

During his captivity, the Tsar was subject to constant harassment and humiliation from the soldiers – most of whom were thugs – stationed in and around the Alexander Palace.

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Nicholas II and his family under guard in the Alexander Park, August 1917

On the morning of 14 August (O.S. 1), 1917, the former Tsar and his family left the Alexander Palace for the last time. They exited from the Semicircular Hall of the palace, and travelled by car to the Alexandrovskaya Station where they were sent into exile to Tobolsk. 

For an eye witness account of Nicholas II and his family under house arrest in the Alexander Palace, please refer to the following book The Romanovs Under House Arrest: From the 1917 Diary of a Palace Priest, the memories of Archpriest Afanasy Belyaev, who served as priest and confessor to the Russian Imperial family.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 March 2020

St. Petersburg Hosts One Day Exhibit of Pierre Gilliard’s Photographs of the Tsar’s family

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An exhibition of photographs depicting the life of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, from the collection of Pierre Gilliard, opened 17th March at the Karl Bulla Fund for Historical Photography, situated at No. 54 Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg.

The one day exposition was timed to coincide with the release of the Russian translation of Gilliard’s book Трагическая судьба Николая II и его семьи (The Tragic Fate of Nicholas II and His Family), published in 1929 in Paris by Payot.

From 1905 Swiss citizen Pierre Gilliard (1879-1962) taught the French language to the children of Nicholas II. From 1913 he was appointed tutor to the Heir Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich. Gilliard accompanied the Imperial Family into exile to Tobolsk, but upon arrival in Ekaterinburg he was separated from the family. Gilliard was a keen photographer, and returned to Switzerland with a large number of photographs. In exile he wrote his memoirs of his life in Russia and his impressions of the daily life of Nicholas II and his family.

Today, Gilliard’s archives are stored in the Lausanne Museum of Photography, including 384 black and white photos. More than 70 photos from Pierre Gilliard’s archive, most of which never been exhibited in Russia are presented in the exhibition.

“In essence, this is the return of the memory of Pierre Gilliard, who, by the will of fate, witnessed one of the most tragic events in the history of Russia,” said the President of the Karla Bulla Foundation for Historical Photography Valentine Elbek.

He added that the photo exhibition will open at Livadia Palace in Yalta in May 2020, to coincide with the international scientific conference Russia. The Romanovs. More than a dozen photographs brought from Gilliard’s collection depict the Imperial Family during their visits to Livadia.

It is interesting to note that the idea of ​​publishing a photo album based on Pierre Gilliard’s collection is being worked out. “Our partners in Lausanne expressed a desire to host our exhibition, which will probably be shown in various European capitals,” added Valentin Elbek.

The St. Petersburg exhibition was implemented in partnership with the Ludwig Nobel Foundation. The Tsarskoye Selo Museum Reserve has shown interest in this initiative, where Gilliard’s working room is being restored in the Alexander Palace, and his heirs donated part of his belongings to the museum as a gift.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 March 2020

US Ambassador to Russia Visits Ekaterinburg

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PHOTO: From left to right: Archpriest Daniil Andreiuk, Representative of the Orthodox Church in America under the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, US Ambassador to the Russian Federation John J. Sullivan, US Consul in Ekaterinburg Amy Storrow, and Metropolitan of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky Kirill in the Patriarchal Compound in Ekaterinburg on 16th March 2020. Photo © Ekaterinburg Diocese

On 16th March 2020, Metropolitan of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky Kirill met with US Ambassador to the Russian Federation John J. Sullivan, US Consul in Ekaterinburg Amy Storrow, and Archpriest Daniil Andreiuk, Representative of the Orthodox Church in America under the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

The visit to the Ural city by Ambassador Sullivan and his entourage took place in the Synodal Hall of the Tsarsky Cultural and Educational Center, located in the Patriarchal Compound, across from the Church on the Blood.

The US ambassador thanked Metropolitan Kirill for the meeting and noted that he plans to come again.

– “Indeed, we need to pray to God and, at the same time, we will continue to work together. This is my first visit to Ekaterinburg, and I plan to return,” the ambassador said.

Mr. Sullivan also congratulated Metropolitan Kirill on the 22nd anniversary of his Episcopal ordination. Then the archpastor presented his guest with souvenirs of his visit to Ekaterinburg.

After the meeting, Archpriest Maxim Minyailo, senior priest of the Church on the Blood conducted an excursion for their American guests around the Museum of the Holy Royal Family in the Tsarsky Center and the Church on the Blood, during which Ural shrines were presented that preserve the memory of the feat of the holy Royal Martyrs.

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PHOTO: Metropolitan of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky Kirill and US Ambassador to the Russian Federation John J. Sullivan admiring a sculpture of the Holy Royal Martyrs Saints Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei in the Patriarchal Compound in Ekaterinburg on 16th March 2020. Photo © Ekaterinburg Diocese

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PHOTO: Archpriest Maxim Minyailo, senior priest of the Church on the Blood conducts an excursion for his American guests around the Museum of the Holy Royal Family in the Tsarsky Center, situated in the Patriarchal Compound in Ekaterinburg on 16th March 2020. Photo © Ekaterinburg Diocese

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PHOTO: Archpriest Maxim Minyailo, senior priest of the Church on the Blood conducts an excursion for his American guests around the Upper Church of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg on 16th March 2020. Photo © Ekaterinburg Diocese

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PHOTO: Archpriest Maxim Minyailo, senior priest of the Church on the Blood conducts an excursion for his American guests to the Imperial Room (see note below) located in the Lower Church of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg on 16th March 2020. Photo © Ekaterinburg Diocese

NOTE: The altar of the Imperial Room is situated in the lower church, sanctified in honor of the Holy Royal Martyrs. It was established on the site of the room located in the basement of the Ipatiev House, where Emperor Nicholas II, his family, and four retainers were all brutally murdered on the night of 16/17 July 1918.

In the summer of 2018, with the blessing of Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye, the altar of the Imperial Chapel of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers – the so-called Royal Room – was redesigned and decorated for the Tsar’s Days held in Ekaterinburg. The interior of the room has completely changed: like the Cuvuclia in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

Click HERE to read to read my article The Imperial Room in the Church on the Blood, Ekaterinburg, featuring 17 photos and 2 videos

© Paul Gilbert. 17 March 2020

‘The Last Tsar’ – a tale of two books

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The Last Tsar by Larissa Yermilova, 1996 edition (left) and 1997 edition (right)

Back in 1996, The Last Tsar by Larissa Yermilova was published, a joint effort by Planeta (Russia) and the Parkstone (UK) publishers. The book was one of numerous pictorials published in the 1990s, after historians were permitted access to the Romanov archives, which housed thousands of never before seen photographs from the private albums on Russia’s last emperor and his family. A second edition was published the following year (1997) in a larger format.

The Last Tsar is a major photographic record of the three last Emperors of Russia: Alexander II (pg. 41-68), Alexander III (pg. 69-122), and Nicholas II (pg.123-255).

Up until its publication in 1996, the great majority of the photographs used in this book had never been published before, and have rarely been seen even by researchers from the West, having remained hidden in the archives for 70 years, since the 1917 Russian Revolution. The many contemporary photographs depict Russian royalty in ceremonial dress and at leisure in informal surroundings.

The Last Tsar is a large format hardcover, with 255 pages, text in English. The highlight of this book is the illustrations: nearly 300 colour and black and white photographs! 

Copies of both the 1996 and 1997 editions can be found on eBay and Amazon. The original 1996 edition is the better of the two – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 16 March 2020

Why was Russia’s senior investigator and forensic expert dismissed from the Ekaterinburg remains case?

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The skull of Emperor Nicholas II

Vladimir Nikolaevich Solovyov, senior investigator and forensic expert at the Main Department of Criminalistics (Forensic Center) of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, who from 1991 to 2015 led the investigation into the death of the imperial family is calling it quits. Over the years, the case of the Ekaterinburg remains has taken up much of his professional career.

After his removal from the case, Vladimir Nikolaevich consented to the first interview, with the journalist Andrei Kamakin of the Russian media outlet MK – this is the First English translation – PG

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– Vladimir Nikolaevich, let’s start with your retirement. What are the reasons?

– The reason is age (born in 1950 – PG). The Investigative Committee generally has a term of service of up to 65 years. After that, every year you need to renew it. But 70 years is considered the age limit, after 70 – you can no longer remain in the service if you are in uniform. I began my investigative work in 1976, after graduating from Moscow State University, so it’s time to retire. 

– What is the current status of the Ekaterinburg remains? What do you know?

– I have had nothing to do with the investigation, for more than four years now. Formally, I resigned from the investigation team in May 2016, but in fact I had already been dismissed in early November 2015. I do not have any reliable information on the current status of the investigation. In addition, the case materials are classified and remain “secret”. Further, I signed a non-disclosure agreement upon my dismissal.

– The case was classified immediately after you were dismissed?

– Yes.

– And how common is this practice – classified?

– The decision is made by the investigator. It is clear that many things need to be kept secret. We once worked in Togliatti investigating the criminal activities of one gang. Well, of course, this case had to be kept secret! A small leak of information – and a dozen people can die. But as far as the Ekaterinburg remains is concerned, I have always been against the case being “classified”. On the contrary, I believe that it should be as open as possible. This is not an ordinary criminal case. Rather, it is a historical investigation with forensic elements. I can hardly imagine what needs to be classified?!

– Well, what about the period when you conducted the investigation, can you discuss this?

– I can, however, I have no right to divulge the findings of the investigation before my dismissal. I know very little about the further progress of the investigation. Prior to this, until mid-November 2015, the case, was without a bar. I gave an interview, and did not hide anything. Therefore, I do not think that I can disclose something which is still classified as “secret” on the case.

– What, then, was the picture at the time of your dismissal?

– The case was resumed on September 23, 2015. On the same day, we exhumed the remains of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. As witnesses, I invited the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg and Ladoga Barsanuphius and Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin (at that time – Chairman of the Synodal Department of the Moscow Patriarchate for the Relations of the Church and Society. – AK).

I told them: “I will not touch a single bone. Here are the packages for you, here are the specialists who will take fragments for research with you. You yourself will seal, sign these envelopes, and then I will sign them. This is a precaution, so that there would be no questions, no suspicion that ‘Solovyov might have replaced something there’ ”.

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Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008) with HM Queen Elizabeth II, during her visit to Russia in 1994

– For what purpose was this examination carried out?

– It was a request of the patriarchy to check the ritual murder theory that the heads of the emperor and empress had been separated from the bodies after their execution, and that the skulls of two other people had been buried with the remains. The church has always been very nervous about this theory. I had numerous conversations with Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008), and he repeatedly asked questions: “were their heads separated from their bodies, was their execution a ritual murder?”

The severed heads myth began with General M.K. Diterichs (head of the Kolchakovo commission to investigate the killing of the imperial family. – AK ). According to Diterichs, the heads of the Romanovs were placed in barrels filled with alcohol and brought to Moscow to Lenin and Sverdlov.

Then there were the so-called “witnesses”. For example, the monk Iliodor (Sergey Trufanov), a famous friend, and then enemy of Rasputin, claimed that Dzerzhinsky allegedly showed him a barrel containing the tsar’s head when they met in person in the Kremlin. It was all bullshit, of course!

In short, the task was to conduct a genetic examination of the skulls to make sure that they had not been replaced.

– At the first stage of the investigation, in the 1990s, such a study was not conducted?

– It was not. I was often criticized for not conducting a genetic examination on the skulls at the time. 

– Why?

– I will try to explain. Genetics can now work with microscopic volumes of matter, even with individual molecules. And in the early 1990s, after a full genetic examination, there would be little left of the skulls. At the same time, we had the categorical conclusion of anthropologists: the heads had not been separated. All the cervical vertebrae of the emperor and empress were preserved. Post-cranial skeletons, that is, the part that is below the head, corresponded to that of the skulls.

– Were the results ready when you were dismissed?

– Yes, a genetic examination confirmed that both the skulls and skeletons belonged to the same people – the emperor and the empress. There had been no substitution. 

– Did the church also ask you about them?

– No. A genetic examination was carried out on the traces of blood, on the shirt worn by Nicholas II, which he was wearing during an assassination attempt on him in Japan in 1891, as well as blood on the uniform and boot of Alexander II, which he was wearing during an assassination attempt. All these things are today stored in the State Hermitage. In addition, samples of bio-materials were taken from the descendants of Anna Demidova, Dr. Eugene Botkin and Ivan Kharitonov (a lady-in-waiting, the family doctor and the cook who were all murdered with the Imperial Family in the Ipatiev House on July 17, 1918. – AK). We were unable to locate any descendants of the valet Alexei Troupe.

The experts worked day and night, and by mid-October all the results were ready. All of them categorically confirmed that the remains found in the Porosenkov ravine near Ekaterinburg belong to the Romanovs and their servants. But the patriarch still had doubts.

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Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin (1968-2020)

– Did the Patriarch insist on the resumption of the investigation?

– Here is how it was. In July 2015, a government working group was created (on issues related to the investigation and reburial of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria. – AK), which was headed by Sergei Prikhodko (at that time – Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the Government of the Russian Federation. – AK).

All departments and organizations that were involved in the identification of the remains and historical research – the Federal Center for Forensic Medicine, Rosarchive, the Institute of General Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Investigative Committee – presented their conclusions. And all the references clearly and definitely stated that the Ekaterinburg remains were indeed those of the murdered Imperial Family. Therefore, the working group, convinced of the seriousness of the arguments, proposed a burial on October 18, 2015.

But when Vsevolod Chaplin, who represented the patriarchy in the group, was asked if the representatives of the church would give the names of members of the Imperial Family at the burial ceremony, he replied that the names would not be spoken, since the church had no confidence in the research of scientists. All the results had been allegedly obtained secretly by him.

This, I must say, was an outright lie. Nobody hid anything from the church. Moreover, from 1995, the investigation actually worked only for the church: it answered its questions and complaints. I will say more: the experts who participated in the investigation from 1995 to 1998 were appointed at the proposal of Patriarch Alexy II.

I realized that Vsevolod Chaplin voiced the position of Patriarch Kirill and that we would face the same scandal as in 1998. Then, at the funeral (July 17, 1998, the remains of 9 of 11 prisoners of the Ipatiev House — Nicholas II, Alexandra Fedorovna, three of their daughters and four servants — AK) were buried, the priest was forbidden to acknowledge the unidentified corpses by name.

We met with Chaplin face to face. “Father Vsevolod,” I said, “we must somehow get out of this situation. I suggest such an option. We will resume the criminal case. If you want the church to be involved in the investigation, then there is no problem. We will give you complete carte blanche: do what you want, invite any kind of specialists. Talk, I ask you, with His Holiness. ”

Chaplin spoke with the patriarch. The patriarch then made a request to President Vladimir Putin to conduct additional research, which would allow church representatives the opportunity to actively participate in this. The church’s proposal was forwarded to the First Deputy Prosecutor General of Russia, and Chairman of The Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General’s Office Alexander Ivanovich Bastrykin, who moved quickly to reopen both the criminal case into the deaths of the Imperial Family and a new investigation. I was ordered to lead the new investigation.

– That is, it turns out that it was you who initiated the “resumption” of the case?

– Yes, but in reality, all I wanted was to wait for the funeral, probably get a departmental medal for good service, retire and forget about the Ekaterinburg remains case.

But I saw an imminent conflict and believed that only the participation of the church in the investigation could prevent it. Conversations with Chaplin encouraged me then. I was sure that we would finish the job before the new year 2016, after which I would calmly retire. But I was wrong.

Instead of a calm, honorable resignation – it became a nightmare. I was inundated with a flurry of criticism from the press, public organizations, and pundits close to church circles. They accused me of grossly breaking the law, falsifying the tsar’s bones, bribing experts all over the world, and forcing the Russian people to pray to the devil through “fake bones”.

These outrageous accusations endured for five years. Since all my work on the Ekaterinburg Remains was being called into question, I decided to wait for the final results of the investigation.

– Do you regret intervening?

– No, not at all! It was necessary for me to go this way. This way, the church could not say later, that I did not listen to their position.

240h

Exhumation of the remains of Emperor Alexander III

– What led to your removal from the case?

– Relations with the patriarchy escalated. As an example, I can cite the conflict around the remains of Alexander III. The church commission (to study the “remains found near Ekaterinburg”, formed by order of the patriarch in September 2015. – AK ) appealed to the Investigative Committee with a request for the exhumation of the ashes of the “Tsar-Peacekeeper”. I was categorically against opening the grave.

– For what reason?

– In 1994, when we exhumed the remains of Grand Duke George Alexandrovich, the brother of Nicholas II, we were convinced of two things. First: the graves in the Peter and Paul Cathedral had not opened and not defiled, according to many, by the Bolsheviks. And the second: burials, a significant part of them, were exposed to water. Including the sea, which, apparently, was caught up in the Neva during the floods.

The remains of George Alexandrovich, in addition to a wooden coffin, were enclosed in a zinc coffin and a copper ark. And when the crypt was flooded, then, apparently, in salty sea water metal objects formed a kind of battery. Moreover, the current was generated so thorough that only a few small pieces remained of the zinc coffin. The wooden coffin, however, was perfectly preserved. But the remains themselves were also badly damaged.

I had serious doubts about how well preserved the remains of Alexander III would be. More appropriate, if the church so wanted to double-check everything, I thought to open the grave of George Alexandrovich once again. We already knew the degree of preservation of these remains. In addition, before the second burial, the grave was put in order and  drained. That is, from a technical point of view, exhumation would not be as difficult.

And most importantly: George Alexandrovich carried the genes of both the father and mother of Nicholas II, that is, from the point of view of genetics, his remains are much more important and informative than those of his father, Alexander III.

But I understand now why the patriarch and Tikhon Shevkunov (Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhovsky, secretary of the church commission on the Ekaterinburg remains.” – AK) insisted on opening the tomb of Alexander III.

In the 1920s, I recall, Poland was at war against Soviet Russia, Polish newspapers published stories about how the Bolsheviks had desecrated the graves of the Russian emperors. In particular it noted how the tombs of Alexander III and Peter I had been opened … thus raising speculation by the church.

As I understand it, the representatives of the church really wanted to prove that the grave of Alexander III had indeed been looted. Then it would be possible for the church to say that Solovyov or someone else took the bones from the graves in the Peter and Paul Cathedral, and then passed them off as the Ekaterinburg remains.

– As far as I remember, opening the tomb did not show anything which confirmed this version?

– That’s right. The exhumation, which was carried out after my dismissal, unequivocally established that the tomb had not been disturbed.

240e

Tikhon Shevkunov (Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhovsky

– But this was not the only conflict?

– Indeed, it was not the only one. I had a major disagreement with Tikhon Shevkunov during a meeting with Bastrykin. Everyone involved in this matter was invited to it, including Bishop Tikhon. And shortly before that, he held a press conference in which academician Veniamin Alekseev, the former director of the Ural Institute of History and Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, took part.

This was the first press conference of Tikhon Shevkunov in the rank of secretary of the church commission, which was to set the tone for work on the study of the remains. In theory, a specialist whom the church trusts the most should have been invited to it. And this specialist, academician Alekseev, was telling us that the Imperial Family, or part of it, may have been saved! There is supposedly a lot of documents confirming this version.

At the same meeting I, met Vladyka Tikhon. “Listen,” I said, “in 2000 the church canonized the Romanovs as martyrs, that is, acknowledging that the entire family died. They are saints precisely on the fact of their death. And you invite a “historian” who questions the decision of the church. Are you against the decision of the Council of Bishops? ” Tikhon then began to make excuses: they say, I misunderstood him. I did not.

Bastrykin intervened. He realized that any conflict could lead to unpredictable consequences. At the same meeting, I was ordered to transfer the case to Krasnov (at that time – the head of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee, since January 22, 2020 – the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation. – AK).

From that moment I could no longer examine any documents of the investigation. Krasnov advised the members of the investigative team not to communicate with me.

240g

On 17th July 2018, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill led a Cross Procession from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama

– They say that the Patriarch himself insisted on your removal. He allegedly requested this from the chairman of the Investigative Committee?

– I can’t rule that out. He really wanted another investigator to get down to business. As Vsevolod Chaplin later told me, shortly after the resumption of the case, the patriarch demanded that he “solve the problem with Solovyov.” And when Father Vsevolod replied that he could not do this, he said that then another person would do it. And Chaplin in the church commission was replaced by Tikhon Shevkunov.

As for the transfer of the case itself, I have no grievance or complaint. This is a common scenario: today the matter is in the production of one investigator – tomorrow the other. But they could use me at least as a consultant! At that time, I was the only person on the committee who thoroughly knew the case of the Ekaterinburg Remains thoroughly. For some reason, apparently, Krasnov did not like me. 

– Be that as it may, the issue of identification has been resolved. On July 16, 2018, the Investigative Committee officially declared: “The findings of the commission of molecular genetic examinations confirmed that the Ekaterinburg Remains belong to the former Emperor Nicholas II, members of his family and their retainers.”

– I never had the slightest doubt that it would be so. The truth has triumphed, and I am completely satisfied.

– Nevertheless, the case is not closed, the investigation continues. What else, do your colleagues want to find out?

– Apparently, the emphasis is now the insistence of the church on historical expertise. This topic is voluminous, and can be infinitely long. But, as far as I know from the press, no new documents have been found during this time. 

– Two years ago at a conference organized by the church, the current head of the investigation on the Ekaterinburg Remains Marina Molodtsova expressed her intention to check all possible versions, including the theory of the ritual murder of the Imperial Family. Perhaps this is the reason it has taken so long?

– This theory was checked back in the 1990s. At that time, I had requested all the data on ritual killings from the archives and investigative units of Russia and prepared a comprehensive report on this subject, which I read to the government commission. There were no objections – including from the church commission, which included Metropolitan Juvenal and church archaeologist Belyaev.

The question, I believe, has long been closed: the murder was entirely for political reasons and did not involve any satanic rites. By the way, the church’s decision to canonize the Imperial Family in 2000, was based on their recognition as a political murder. For several years, the special commission of the patriarchy studied the issue of the “ritualism” of regicide and did not find any reasons for its recognition.

But the most important thing: the resolution on the rehabilitation of the Romanovs, adopted by the Presidium of the Supreme Court on October 1, 2008, states that members of the Imperial Family “were shot on behalf of the state” and “subjected to political repression.” And this is a judicial act of higher legal force. 

Only the Presidium of the Supreme Court itself can change this verdict. Not a single court, prosecutor’s office, or investigator can do anything contrary to this ruling. Even if you do not agree with it. Incidentally, I myself do not agree with the ruling regarding the motives of rehabilitation. But the law is the law.

– Yes, I know your position: having rehabilitated the Imperial Family, but at the same time, the regicide was also rehabilitated. And indeed a criminal case turned out: there are those who were killed, there are those who killed, but there are no perpetrators.

– That’s right. Prior to this, the organizers and participants in the execution appeared in the case as murderers, as persons who committed a criminal offense. But since the Supreme Court found that they were only following the decision of a “public authority vested with judicial functions”.

However, there was one benefit from this ruling, it put an end to all the impostors, those who claimed to be heirs of the “miraculously saved Romanovs.” I told them: “Unfortunately, we can’t do anything for you. According to the decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Court, the entire Imperial Family were shot.”

So, back to your question: I was very surprised when it was announced that the investigation was even going to check the claims of the impostors, as well as the ritual murder theory. Investigative bodies do not have the right to audit the decisions of the Presidium of the Supreme Court!

In fact, the only question that the investigation could fully deal with is the identification of the remains.

– It turns out that historical examination does not make sense at all?

– Whatever the results of the historical examination, the investigation must repeat the ruling by the Presidium of the Supreme Court. Even if it came to other conclusions. The only thing the Investigative Committee can do in this case is to turn to the Presidium of the Supreme Court with a request to review its decision of October 1, 2008.

– Despite all the vicissitudes of the past five years, you remain a member of the government working group. As I understand it, no one has removed you from this position.

– Yes, no one has told me that I have been removed from this group. I think that after the publication of this interview, I will immediately be removed, but for now I officially remain a member of it.

– When was the working group meeting for the last time?

– The last meeting took place on September 11, 2015.

– How did it come about?” What prompted the prime minister to create it?

– What prompted … probably, in March 2015, I turned to Lyudmila Borisovna Narusova (member of the Federation Council, widow of the mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. – AK). We have had a very long, good relationship with her. Her husband, Anatoly Sobchak, was the main engine of the first government commission created in 1993. He provided enormous assistance when all these studies were carried out.

I said: “Lyudmila Borisovna, Anatoly Alexandrovich was very sympathetic with regard to this topic. Is it possible to somehow end it humanly, to finally bring peace to the poor bones of the imperial children?” Narusova fully supported me. She turned to Putin and Medvedev. The President and the Prime Minister were both familiar with this problem and made the appropriate decisions.

240

The remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria found in 2007, consist
of 44 bone fragments, as well as seven teeth, three bullets and a fragment of clothing

– And who proposed October 18 as the date of the funeral? I heard that the idea belongs to Putin?

– Yes, I believe that it was his idea.

– But why exactly on October 18?

– This is the name day of Tsesarevich Alexei.

– Prior to the creation of the working group, did the church show any interest in the remains of Alexei and Maria?

– None, there was absolutely no interest. I will tell you a story. In March 2011, after the case was closed and the question arose of what to do with the remains of Alexei and Maria — they were then stored in my safe — I sent a letter to the patriarch.

He wrote back, that the government does not solve the issue of burial, relatives also need not apply. According to the law, the remains in such cases are transferred to the corresponding department responsible. That is, formally, we had to deal with them as unclaimed remains. Their graves with zinc tablets are buried in unmarked graves, situated in special sections of municipal cemeteries.

In a letter to the patriarch, I asked if the church would take upon itself the burdens of burial. The answer was very short: “The Russian Orthodox Church does not claim the right to bury the “Ekaterinburg remains ”mentioned in your letter.

Is that all?

– And that’s it. That is, look: the church was asked how it relates to the fact that the saints canonized by it, the heir to the throne and his sister can be buried like homeless people. And the primate replies: “Well, bury them!” There were many other appeals to the church leadership on this subject, but I received no answer other than this letter from the patriarch. And after that, Kirill has the conscience to declare that the church has repeatedly appealed to the investigation, but no one answered it! Cynicism, of course, is complete.

Even a person with a secondary school education, a conscientious person, after many studies, understands the importance that the remains discovered near Ekaterinburg in 1991 and 2007 respectively, belong to the Imperial Family. And that the church hierarchs have a responsibility.

Since the discovery of the Ekaterinburg remains and to this day in Russia about 60 million people have died. Many Orthodox Christians died without praying to the relics of the Holy Royal Martyrs. I think Patriarch Kirill should publicly apologize to the believers for this.

– The last, as far as I could trace, the public statement of the head of the working group Sergey Prikhodko dates from July 2016. Then he said the following: “We are waiting for the end of church examinations. Timing depends on the church.” Do you know anything about these studies? What phase are they in?

– I know that the church has done some genetic research. Most likely, they have long been finished. And the results, of course, are exactly the same as those of the investigation committee.

– As for church plans for the remains, the latest information on this topic is a statement by the spokesman for the patriarch made in July 2018: “We are waiting for the final conclusions, which will then be presented to the next bishops’ council.” The next meeting is due to take place this year. That is, in theory, the issue will soon be resolved. But I believe in this, frankly, with difficulty. Do you have any forebodings about this?

– Church hierarchs can, of course, bring this issue to the Council of Bishops. But that doesn’t mean anything. At the council, I am sure it will be said that there is still not enough data to make a final decision. What you need to research is something else. 

At one time, church representatives demanded from me a detailed, almost second-to-second report on what happened during and after the execution. As if there were five operators with video cameras! I worked in the investigating authorities for many years and I can say with confidence that only in the rarest cases do we have as much information as we have on the Ekaterinburg remains.

– Do you understand the purpose pursued by the church leadership?

– As the late Vsevolod Chaplin told me at one time, the patriarch, speaking with him, said that he would not want this issue to be resolved in his lifetime. It is clear that the patriarch does not want to take responsibility for the processions to Ganina Yama (an abandoned mine, where the murderers brought the Romanovs’ bodies right after the execution and made the first, unsuccessful attempt to hide them; in 2000, the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs was founded on this site – AK). 

– What is so terrible in these religious processions?

– The church still officially adheres to the version of investigator Sokolov (Nikolai Sokolov, the investigator who investigated the execution of the Imperial Family on behalf of Admiral Kolchak. – AK): the bodies of the Romanovs were completely destroyed at Ganina Yama. In 1919, Sokolov found several dozen bone fragments – chopped and burnt. And he suggested that these were the remains of the Imperial Family.

These fragments, were taken out of Russia by Sokolov, but lost during the Second World War. But in 1998, when archaeological excavations were carried out on Ganina Pit, another 73 bone fragments were found there. In the same place and, judging by the description, similar to what Sokolov discovered. Experts found that at first these bones were welded, and then burned in a low-temperature flame, which could be a fire. But the most important thing: these are not human bones, but domestic animals – cow, goat, and chicken.

Where they came from is understandable. According to the memoirs of Yurovsky (the head of the firing squad. – AK), his men were hungry, and he ordered them to bring food from the city. Apparently, the Chekists and Red Guards cooked a soup for themselves, and then they threw the bones into the fire.

In order for the church hierarchs to recognize the remains of the Imperial Family means for them to acknowledge that all these years they led religious processions not to relics, but to animal bones. They want to delay this shame as long as possible.

– In this case, the authorities are greatly mistaken, making the decision on the burial of Alexei and Mary dependent on the position of the church.

– Yes, the prospects for church burial are not yet visible. The Patriarchate has not decided on its position to the remains, although it had all the possibilities for such. But all reasonable deadlines have passed, it is impossible to drag it out any longer. In my opinion: the question of the burial of members of the Imperial Family, of the head of a great empire cannot even be left to the mercy of even the most respected religious denomination.

It is necessary to assemble a working group and once again consider the issue of identifying the remains – taking into account the results of the new genetic examinations. And decide on a civil burial. Whether the church will take part in this ceremony and in what form is no longer a problem of the government, but of the church.

240a

Vladimir Solovyov in the State Archive of the Russian Federation

– With what mood do you leave the Investigative Committee, Vladimir Nikolaevich? With a sense of accomplishment or unfinished business?

– My feelings are contradictory. I am glad that the conclusions made by me back in 1998 were confirmed. And it doesn’t matter who puts the last point in the matter. Maybe it’s even better that it’s not me. This will once again prove the objectivity of the investigation.

But the feeling of incompleteness, of course, is also there. And I feel this, not only as an investigator, but also as a citizen of Russia. The Bolshevik Revolution and the Civil War are not over until all of their victims are buried. Do not forget that Alexei and Maria are not just ordinary victims, they were the children of Russia’s last tsar. Let them be buried with the rest of their family in peace. 

© Andrei Kamakin / Paul Gilbert. 14 March 2020

The Baron who remembered meeting Nicholas II in 1914

239a

Baron Eduard Oleg Alexandrowitsch von Falz-Fein’s
collection of art included a portrait of Tsar Nicholas II

On 17th November 2018, Baron Eduard Oleg Alexandrowitsch von Falz-Fein died in a house fire in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, at the age of 106. The Russian-born Liechtensteiner businessman, journalist, sportsman and art collector, may very well have been the last person who recalled meeting Tsar Nicholas II.

There are almost no contemporaries who knew Nicholas II,” wrote Eduard Alexandrovich von Falz-Fein in 2017 – “It has been 100 years since I saw the kind eyes of the Sovereign, and I remember the warmth of his hands when he held me as a child. Nothing can erase that cheerful and happy memory! The comprehension of those years leaves me in deep sadness. The Lord gave us a peaceful and bright joy to remember the August Family and their sincere love, their devotion to Russia!

239e

Eduard Alexandrovich von Falz-Fein was born on 14th September 1912 in the village of Gavrilovka, situated in the Kherson region of the Russian Empire. Today, it is part of Ukraine.

“We were big landowners, the peasants loved us, because we paid well,” said Eduard Alexandrovich about his childhood – “For New Year and Christmas, all employees received gifts, and on their birthday the employee was given the day off. Uncle had the largest zoological garden in the world, where more than three thousand animals and birds from around the world were collected. Every day, a distinguished guest came to see the zoo, and if no one came for a long time, mother would say: “How is this so! Nobody loves us anymore? ”

Probably the most honoured guest to the estate was made by Tsar Nicholas II. In the Spring of 1914, Eduard Alexandrovich’s uncle Friedrich invited the sovereign to Askania-Nova, who arrived on 29th April 1914, staying for 2 days. “No one knew what they talked about, noted Eduard Alexandrovich, –  “most likely, about the approaching war.”

On the occasion of their august guest, Falz-Fein announced a three-day holiday for his employees, allocating money for refreshments. The peasants raised toasts and cheered, as they drank to honour the tsar’s visit.

On the evening of the 29th, the tsar was invited to dinner, which included soup, consomme, various pies, sterlet, wild goat with croquettes, poivrade sauce, roast chicken and partridges, a traditional fried pig, caviar and Bavarian cheese, all of which was complimented with a selection of fine Crimean winse.

The following morning, the Tsar was given a lavish breakfast in the garden, and it was at this time that little –year-old Eduard Alexandrovich was honoured to be planted on the lap of Nicholas II.

Nicholas II did not boast of his title Autocrat of the Russian Empire. He was relaxed and at ease, talking freely with the senior caretaker of the zoo, Klimentiy Siyanko, the coachman Reznichenko, the shepherd Samuel Sukonko, the estate manager Iosif Kiriltsev, and the scientific observer Grote.

The sovereign was delighted with what he saw on the estate. Nicholas II gave Friedrich Eduardovich his portrait with a dedicatory inscription (a mark of highest respect) and ordered his ajutant Vorontsov-Dashkov to present gifts on his behalf to the estates’ employees.

Falz-Fein sent a gift for Empress Alexandra Feodorovna: a luxurious fan made of peacock feathers with an enamel pen made by Rene Lalique.

239b

In the photo above, Baron Eduard Oleg Alexandrowitsch von Falz-Fein (right) is visiting his friend, the senior male and former head of the Romanov Family Association Prince Nicholas Romanovich (1922-2014) at this home in Switzerland.

Together, they are looking at a copy of Romanoff: Un Album de Famille, a series of magnificent pictorials produced by Jacques Ferrand in the 1980s and early 1990s. Each volume featured hundreds of photos of members of the Russian Imperial Family, including the Tsar and his family, grand dukes and grand duchesses, princes and princesses of the imperial blood, etc. Ferrand received exclusive publication rights from members of the Imperial Family who fled Russia after the 1917 Revolution.

239d

Tsar Nicholas II (left) with Friedrich Eduardovich Falz-Fein (standing next to the tsar),
at the latter’s estate Askania-Nova, in Crimea, 29th April 1914

In a letter dated May 8, 1914, to his mother the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, Nicholas II writes about his visit to Askania-Nova:

“On April 29, early in the morning, I went by motor through Simferopol and Perekop to Askania-Nova, where I arrived at 4 p.m. There I was met by the owner himself [Friedrich Eduardovich Falz-Fein], the old mother, her daughter, who is married to Paker, the granddaughter and another son, that is, the brother of Falz-Fein. They are completely Russian and easy people to talk with. I was offered tea in the garden. Herons, ducks, geese and cranes walked around the table, looked at us and some came up and pushed with their beaks, begging us to give them bread.

“Then the master led me past large cages with all kinds of birds living together, to the pond, filled with several hundred ducks, geese, swans, and flamingos of different breeds. Then we went to the famous menagerie, the size of the military field in Gatchina, with a huge fence around. Different deer, goats, antelopes, wildebeests, kangaroos and ostriches live there, all year round in the open and in the open, and also all together.

“An amazing impression, like a picture from the Bible, as if the animals came out of Noah’s Ark! From there we went to his lovely park, which Falz-Fein planted and laid out in 1888, after he found water. All our northern bushes and trees grow here, which is also strange in the steppe. Then, in a motor, I drove around his huge herd of sheep, cows, bison, horses, zebras and camels. These herds graze for six months in the steppe, far from his house, and he encouraged me to approach them.

“Still, I did not see everything, because there was not enough time. In the evening I dined with them and went to bed early. Three gentlemen (accompanying) me were: Voeikov, Drenteln and Sashka Vorontsov.

“The next morning, April 30, we went to the steppe and continued to inspect the herds: they also showed us the shearing of the sheep. In the garden in one of the ponds, are red fish – carp, ides, and roaches. He explained to me that it is very simple: you just need to provide them with a lot of sun and feed the fish meat! He made a brood of his best horses, which is what he is most pleased with, and they are really remarkably good and beautiful! He sells 120 horses annually for cavalry repairs.

“Before I left, the Falz Feyn family served breakfast in the garden, although it was 9.30 in the morning. Having said goodbye to them, we went the other way back and examined several new peasant farms, who had been evicted from the villages after three years. They themselves are very satisfied. Their homes, households, fields and orchards make the most pleasant impression. Everything is so clean, neat and they themselves do not look like ordinary peasants!

“Then we drove to Simferopol and through Bakhchisaray to Ai-Petri, home. Arrived in Livadia before dinner. So I did 587 miles in two days, almost as much as from St. Petersburg to Moscow … ” 

The stay of Nicholas II in Askania-Nova was recorded on film by court photographer V.K. Trikler (representative of the French film rental company) and has been preserved to this day – see below:

Click HERE to watch 4 short film clips of Nicholas II visiting Askania-Nova 28-30 1914

© Paul Gilbert. 10 March 2020