Nicholas II attends opening of a sanatorium in Alupka, 1913

In 1913 – the year marking the 300th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty – Emperor Nicholas II and his family arrived in Crimea for a 4-month stay. From 14th August to 17th December, the Imperial family lived at the beautiful Livadia Palace, situated on the southern coast overlooking the Black Sea.

At the end of September 1913, a sanatorium named after Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894) was opened in Alupka for students and teachers of theological schools in Russia. It was an elongated three-story building, where on the east side the premises of the third floor were intended for the church. The interior of the church was illuminated by a large bronze chandelier, and featured a marble iconostasis and solea[1].

This sanatorium was located in the western part of Alupka on land that once belonged to the Vorontsovs, whose heirs at the beginning of the 20th century divided it into plots for long-term lease. Plot No. 72 was rented free of charge by the Synod for a climatic sanatorium for teachers of parochial schools. In 1913, here, according to the project of the architect N.P. Kozlov, at the expense of the School Council of Russia, a sanatorium building was erected, designed for 100 guests. The sanatorium had separate rooms, a well-equipped kitchen, a common refectory, and, most importantly, its own five-domed Church of St. Alexander Nevsky.

The church was consecrated in memory of the Emperor and his heavenly patron Saint Alexander Nevsky. The grand opening of the sanatorium in Alupka was attended by Emperor Nicholas II, his daughter Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, Minister of the Imperial Court Count Vladimir Frederiks, local dignitaries and members of the clergy.

Here is an excerpt from the diary of Nicholas II for 22nd September 1913: “At 9 ½ I went with Maria and Frederiks to Alupka for the consecration of the Church of the Climatic Sanatorium for students of church schools. A beautifully arranged big house for 80 and even up to 100 guests.”

Nicholas II accompanied by Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, and his retinue arrived in front of the main entrance, which was decorated with garlands of flowers and canvases with imperial monograms. They were solemnly greeted by representatives of the city authorities, their wives and the clergy, headed by V.K. Sabler, who in 1911-1915 served as chief prosecutor of the Synod.

To perpetuate the historical event of Nicholas II’s attendance at the consecration, court photographer K.F. Hahn and Alupka photographer A.E. Zimmerman, captured the historic event on camera.

Several photographs have survived to this day which show a general view of the sanatorium and the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky, the interior of the church and the arrival and procession headed by Emperor Nicholas II.

After the advent of Soviet power, by order of the Chief Commissioner for Crimea, the sanatorium for clergy, along with the church, among other noble estates of Alupka, were nationalized and became the property of the Russian People’s Republic. In June 1923, the Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Crimea issued a decision to close the Alexander Nevsky Church and transfer the movable property of the temple to the Special Storage of the Yalta District Executive Committee. The liquidated church was transferred to the property of the administration of the sanatorium of the People’s Commissariat of Railways (NKPS). In Soviet times, a climatic sanatorium named after V.I. F.E. Dzerzhinsky.

The Church of St. Alexander Nevsky suffered neglect and disrepair, and in 1927, the building sustained significant damage during an earthquake.

In the spring of 1996, through the efforts of the Crimean and Simferopol Metropolitan Lazarus, the building was returned to the Church, and now a sanitarium named after St. Luke of Crimea is located here. The Church of Alexander Nevsky was also restored, in which divine services are held, as well as a Sunday school.

Today, the five onion-shaped domes of St. Alexander Nevsky Church are visible from different vantage points in Alupka.


[1] a platform or a raised part of the floor in front of the inner sanctuary in an Eastern Orthodox church on which the singers stand and the faithful receive communion.

© Paul Gilbert. 18 May 2022

Arson suspected near the Romanov Memorial

PHOTO: a large Orthodox cross marks the spot – covered with rail ties – where the remains of Nicholas II, his wife, three of their children, and four servants were exhumed in 1991

On the evening of Tuesday 3rd May, a fire broke out in the Porosenkov Log near Ekaterinburg, almost reaching the Romanov Memorial. According to Ilya Korovin, Director of the Romanov Memorial Charitable Foundation, the fire came within 50 to 70 meters of the main grave site, where the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, three of their children and four servants were exhumed in 1991.

Two emergency vehicles were dispatched to the scene at around 6:30 in the evening. Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire before coming within 10 meters of a gas pipeline, which runs in behind the memorial site. Firefighters struggled with the fire for about two hours, bringing the fire under control shortly after eight in the evening. Had the fire not been contained, a massive explosion would most certainly have occurred if the flames had reached the pipeline. According to the emergency crews, “it was definitely arson”.

The area of the fire spread to about 4 thousand square meters, mostly forest. The fire did not cause any damage to the territory in or around the Romanov Memorial. “From the gas pipeline to the road, everything burned out—an area of about 100 square meters,” added Ilya Korovin – “Where there was once a swamp, is now nothing more than a large black sport, and an unpleasant smell.”

© Paul Gilbert. 4 May 2022

Russian archival documents shed new light on Nicholas II

I am reaching out to those who follow my Nicholas II blog and Facebook pages. During the month of May 2022, I am running my annual appeal for donations in aid of my research. It is no coincidence that I chose May, as it is the month marking the 154th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Nicholas II on 19th (N.S.) 6th (O.S.) 1868.

For more than 70 years, the Romanov archives were sealed, with access denied even to Soviet historians – unless of course for propaganda purposes. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, a new cache of documents – including memoirs, diaries, and letters – have been discovered, many of which shed new light on the legacy of Emperor Nicholas II. These documents both challenge and disprove many of the popular held negative myths and lies which perpetuated during the 20th century and endure to this day.

During the years (2015-2020) that I published my semi-annual periodical Sovereign, I focused on having new works by Russian historians translated and published in English for the first time. Now that I am retired, I can devote more time to the translation of previously unpublished documents from Russian archival sources, and thus providing English readers with new works, which offer a very different assessment than that of the negative one which has endured for more than a century now.

Let us work together in helping to clear the name of Russia’s much slandered Emperor and Tsar!

Summer 2022 Appeal

If you enjoy my articles, news stories and translations, then please help support my research by making a donation in US dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by PayPal or credit card. Thank you for your consideration – PG

PHOTO: the proposed cover of the English translation, features this photo of Emperor Nicholas II and Vladimir Voeikov at the Stavka, the headquarters of the Russian Imperial Army, in Mogilev. 1915-1916

I have already embarked upon a major translation project: WITH THE TSAR AND WITHOUT THE TSAR by Major General Vladimir Nikolaevich Voeikov (1868-1947) – the first three chapters have already been translated into English by a Russian friend who lives in Ekaterinburg.

Originally published in Russian in 1936, this will be the first English translation of the sad but captivating story, about the man who, from 1913-1917, served as the last palace commandant to Emperor Nicholas II. Voeikov was the son-in-law of the Minister of the Imperial Court Vladimir Borisovich Frederiks (1838-1927). He was one of the few men at Court, who remained faithful to the Tsar.

His memoirs describe the events the February and October 1917 revolutions and their consequences for the Russian Empire and the Tsar; foreign policy intrigues and the chain of events that led to the First World War and Russia’s participation in it; Court vanity and envy; the private lives of the Tsar and his family at Peterhof, Tsarskoye Selo and Livadia; and Voeikov’s ordeals as he fled Bolshevik Russia.

Translations are very costly – this book is 330 pages – which is why I am reaching out to those who share an interest in the life and reign of Nicholas II.

Please consider making a donation to help fund the translation of Voeikov’s memoirs, a very important historical record on the life and reign of Russia’s much slandered Tsar.

Summer 2022 Appeal

If you enjoy my articles, news stories and translations, then please help support my research by making a donation in US dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by PayPal or credit card. Thank you for your consideration – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 1 May 2022

Virtual Reality journey in the Imperial Train

PHOTO: poster the VR project Journey in the Imperial Train in the Alexander Palace

Visitors to Tsarskoye Selo now have an opportunity to experience a journey in the Imperial Train.

In October 2021, the VR project Journey in the Imperial Train opened in one of the halls on the ground floor of the Alexander Palace. Wearing special goggles, visitors can know look inside the luxurious rail carriages that served the Russian emperors: Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II. With the help of modern technologies in virtual reality, the historical interiors of the carriages of one of the first trains of Imperial Russia have been recreated in great detail.

This joint project of the Tsarskoye Selo Museum-Reserve and the Museum of Russian Railways was implemented with the technical support of the Infomedia Bureau of Creative Initiatives company.

The exhibit offers two options for visitors:

Ticket No. 1: Virtual Journey in the Imperial Train introduces guests to the history of the Imperial Train. Duration: 15 minutes – 250 rubles.

Ticket No. 2: Virtual Quest in the Imperial Train offers a thematic quest in the setting of the Imperiaal carriages, interacting with various objects and internal elements. Duration: 60 minutes – 500 rubles.

The history of Russian railways is closely connected with Tsarskoye Selo and the Alexander Palace. During the reign of Emperor Nicholas I in 1837, the first public railway in the country connected St. Petersburg with Tsarskoye Selo and quickly became a favourite way for members of the Imperial family to travel from the capital to their suburban summer residence.

During the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, several branches of the railway line were built not far from the Alexander Palace, which made it possible to get from Tsarskoye Selo to the most remote regions of the Russian Empire without changing trains.

After the outbreak of the First World War, Nicholas II regularly travelled from the nearby Imperial Railway Pavilionincludes 20 photos – to headquarters in Mogilev, while visiting foreign dignitaries were personally greeted by the Emperor, who awaited their arrival on the pavilion’s platform.

On 1st August 1917, it was also by train that the Imperial family were sent into exile from the Alexandrovsky Station to exile in Tobolsk.

By 1902, the imperial fleet consisted of eight trains. Following the 1917 Revolution, the fate of the wagons were utilized in different ways: some were used by representatives of the new Provisional government, others were rebuilt and adapted for passenger traffic, and the two wagons from Nicholas II’s Imperial Trainincludes 8 photos – were installed in the Alexandria Park in Peterhof – were destroyed during the Great Patriotic War.

© Paul Gilbert. 26 April 2022

Nazi atrocities in the Alexander Park, 1941-42

PHOTO: Nazi soldiers lead a group of Jews through the streets of Pushkin (1941).
Artist: V. V. Kahn

In July 2018, a horrible discovery was made by workers in the Alexander Park in the city of Pushkin [Tsarskoye Selo], a place where Jews had been shot by the Nazis, between 17th September 1941 to 1st January 1942. According to archival documents, the execution and burial of Pushkin’s Jews were carried out near the Alexander Palace.

During the repair of drainage channels in the park, workers discovered the remains of two people. On one of the skulls, the temple had been pierced, believed to be from a blow with a rifle butt, while evidence of a bullet was found in the back of the head. Local historian Vitaly Novitsky claimed that these were the remains of Jews shot during the Nazi occupation of Pushkin in 1941.

Novitsky’s discovery marks yet another place associated with the “Leningrad Holocaust” – the extermination of the Jews of the Leningrad region during the war years. Jews were shot in Pushkin, Pavlovsk [in 1941, shot a total of 41 Jews in Pavlovsk Park], Gatchina, among other towns in the occupied territory.

The history of the Holocaust in Pushkin has not been sufficiently studied. Firstly, there were not many witnesses of the extermination of Jews. In addition, during Soviet times, the tragedy of the Holocaust was hushed up and the systematic study of the crimes of the German Nazis in Pushkin was not carried out until many years later.

It was only in 1986 that the collection of evidence about the acts of genocide carried out the Nazis in Pushkin began, and subsequently published in 1991.

Konstantin Plotkin, a historian and researcher of the Holocaust in the Leningrad region, claims that before the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), the Jewish population of the occupied part of the Leningrad region was 7,500 people. Approximately half of them were drafted into the Soviet army or evacuated. According to the reports of the Einsatz groups, the rest (3600 people) were shot by the Nazis.

It is believed that approximately 250-300 Jews were shot in Pushkin, however, some historians believe there may have been many more killed, up to 800 people. One historian claims that the bodies of about 500 Jews were buried near the White Tower – just steps from the Alexander Palace.

Plotkin also noted that during the battle for Pushkin, residents hid in the basements of Gostiny Dvor, the Lyceum and other places. And so the Germans immediately began to inspect these cellars in search of Jews. Following their arrests, many Jews were shot in the Babolovsky, Alexander and Catherine parks. On 20th September 1941, 38 people, including 15 children, were shot on the square in front of the Catherine Palace. In addition, Jews were shot in front of the Large Caprice [situated on the western boundary between the Catherine and Alexander Parks] and in the Lyceum Garden [near the Catherine Palace]. After the executions, personal items were collected from the murdered victims, and laid out on the second floor of the Lyceum, where local residents were free to help themselves.

PHOTO: The Formula of Sorrow (1972) monument by Russian artist Vadim Abramovich Sidur

On 13th October 1991, the Formula of Sorrow, a monument to Jewish victims of Nazism, killed in 1941 in Pushkin during the Great Patriotic War was unveiled in the city. In attendance were delegations from Israel, the USA, Germany, Finland and numerous compatriots.

The sculpture which was made by Soviet artist and sculptor Vadim Abramovich Sidur (1924-1986), while the architectural design of the memorial was made by Boris Bader.

The Formula of Sorrow resembles a mournful figure leaning over a lake of blood-red flowers. It is placed on a low equilateral triangular granite pedestal, which cuts like a wedge into the face of a larger triangular flower bed, the edging of the opposite faces of which is also made of granite. On the opposite corner of the flower bed from the sculpture, there are three inclined triangular plates, which, overlapping each other, form the Star of David . On the middle slab, in cast letters in Hebrew and Russian, the verse Tegilim 79:3 is displayed (Psalm 79:3): “.שפכו דמם כמים… ואין קובר // … they shed their blood like water, / and there was no one to bury them.” This text for the monument was chosen by the chairman of the Leningrad Jewish Association and Hebrew teacher Felix Fainberg. Below is a dedicatory inscription: “To the Jews of Pushkin, / fallen victims of / the fascist / genocide / 1941.”

The memorial is located in the park at the intersection of Dvortsovaya and Moskovskaya streets, not far from the Alexander Palace, near which mass execution of Jews took place.


PHOTO: the damaged Alexander Palace and SS cemetery, 1944

During the Nazi German occupation of Tsarskoye Selo (1941-44), during the Great Patriotic War, the Alexander Palace was used as headquarters for the German military command.

The basement of the Alexander Palace was used a prison, while the area in front of the palace was turned into a cemetery for SS soldiers. The bodies were later reinterred to Germany.

As the Nazi German forces were leaving the Soviet Union, many of the former imperial palaces were set ablaze – Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, the Grand Palace in Peterhof, and Pavlovsk Palace.

The Alexander Palace was spared, however, many of the interiors were destroyed, their contents left prior to evacuation were stolen or destroyed.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 April 2022

Russian Orthodox Church postpones recognition of Ekaterinburg remains . . . AGAIN!

Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us! 🙏
Святы Царственные мученики, молите Бога о нас! 🙏

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has announced that the Bishops’ Council, which was scheduled to meet in Moscow next month has been postponed until the end of 2022.

A key item on the agenda of the Bishops’ Council meeting is a definitive decision of the Church on the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg remains.

The Bishops’ Council was originally scheduled to meet in Moscow from 15th to 18th November 2021, however, this was delayed “due to the difficult COVID-19 situation.” The meeting was thus rescheduled for 26th to 29th May 2022.

The ROC are now citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the reason for the latest delay: “due to the fact that the international situation makes it difficult for many members of the Bishops’ Council to arrive in Moscow, the meeting has been postponed until the autumn or winter period of 2022”.

According to the ROC, the exact dates for the next Bishops’ Council will be discussed by the Holy Synod when they meet this summer.

© Paul Gilbert. 18 April 2022

Nicholas II attends consecration of Naval Cathedral in Kronstadt in 1913

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II speaking with an officer in front of the Naval Cathedral

One of the most iconic cathedrals constructed during the Tsarist era, one which has survived to the present day has to be the magnificent 20th-century Byzantine-style Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, situated on Anchor Square in Kronstadt, a town and naval base on Kotlin Island, just west of St. Petersburg.

Kronstadt has been a place of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians for more than 100 years due to the memory of Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1909), one of the most venerated Russian saints, served there as priest from 1855 to 1908.

The Naval Cathedral of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker in Kronstadt is a Russian Orthodox cathedral built between 1903–1913 as the main church of the Russian Imperial Navy and dedicated to all fallen seamen.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II attends the ceremony for the laying of the foundation stone for the Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas the Wonderworkder, Kronstadt, 21st (O.S. 8th) 1903

Father John of Kronstadt, who was then justly regarded the major figure in the ecclesiastical guidance of the Russian Imperial Navy, prayed for many years: “Let the house of God be created for naval ranks in Kronstadt, not hurriedly but steadily and befitting the glorious fleet. Let the blessing of the Almighty spread from it on the entire naval force.” In 1898 he urged: “You must hurry to build the Church, in the same way as you hurry to build ships. The Church is also the ship led by God Himself with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and it can protect not only the Navy, but the entire army and Russia as a whole, too.”

PHOTOS: the Imperial Family arriving at the Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker for the consecration ceremony, 23rd (O.S. 10th) June 1913

If Father John of Kronstadt regarded the Naval Cathedral as an implemented prayer, for Emperor Nicholas II, who energetically supported the idea of building the memorial naval cathedral, it became his dearest creation. On 7th March 1897 the Tsar opened a subscription for the construction of a stone cathedral in Kronstadt and allotted for its building a large sum of money together with the Imperial family. Moreover, Nicholas II ordered to provide timber, cannon bronze and copper kept in the Kronstadt Port for the construction of the new cathedral. In the same year the Committee for Collecting Donations was established, on behalf of which its chairman, Vice-Admiral Nikolay Kaznakov, appealed for a feasible financial help “to all classes of Russian society”. Father John of Kronstadt, who actively participated in the creation of the church, supported him – he was a member of the Council of Trustees responsible for the construction of the cathedral and donated a large sum of money for this purpose. Father John addressed his compatriots with the following words: “Beloved brothers-sailors and all Orthodox Russians! Living in Kronstadt for forty-two years and seeing all this time how small, poor and ramshackle it is, I’ve felt deep concern about it and a desire of a vast, durable and splendid church, and now I’ve made a donation of 700 roubles for the construction of such a church. And you, too, show good will that is within your powers to provide help for its construction.” A large contribution to this common cause was made by major commanders of the Kronstadt Port – Admirals Nikolay Kaznakov, Stepan Makarov, Alexey Birilov and Konstantin Nikonov, Minister of the Navy Ivan Grigorovich, and Admiral Robert Viren. All the ranks of the Navy took a decision to remit 0.25 per cent of their salaries without indemnity for the construction of the cathedral. Ship crews donated to the future church their articles of worship and icons without compensation. In total Russian sailors collected 280,000 roubles.

PHOTOS: the Imperial Family leaving the Naval Cathedral following the consecration

All Russia made voluntary contributions for the construction of the cathedral, but it was largely funded by the state – the general cost of the building at the time of its consecration was 1,995,000 roubles, of which 1,675,000 roubles were provided by the government.

Yakornaya (Anchor) Square in the centre of Kronstadt, between the old (Peter’s) and the new Admiralty, was chosen as a site for the construction of the cathedral. For many years it served as a warehouse of anchors, hence its name. The area was so vast that it became possible to arrange a park behind the cathedral and create a square for religious processions near the building. Besides it was decided to locate the cathedral building so that there would remain enough space for military parades.

After several competitions on 3rd June (O.S. 21st May) 1901 the project of the cathedral building designed by Vasily Kosiakov, Professor of the Institute of Civil Engineers, was approved by the Tsar. In March 1902 the Committee for the Collection of Donations was transformed into the Construction Committee supervised by Vice-Admiral Stepan Makarov. On 14th (O.S. 1st) September 1902, Archpriest St John of Kronstadt held a prayer service for the beginning of the work on cleaning the territory and preparing the foundation. On 21st May (O.S. 8th May) 1903, in the presence of the Emperor, Empresses Alexandra Feodorovna and Maria Feodorovna, Grand Duke Mikhail, son of Alexander III, and Grand Dukes Alexey and Vladimir, sons of Alexander II, a ceremony of the foundation of the cathedral’s brick walls was held. After the end of the service a 31-gun salute was made from the fortress and from ships on the Kronstadt roadway. On the same day Nicholas II and members of his suite planted 32 one-year-old oak trees in the garden around the cathedral. In 1907, the building’s construction was complete, and work on the interiors began.

PHOTO: early 20th century view of the Naval cathedral of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker in Kronstadt

On 23rd (O.S. 10th) June 1913, which marked the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, there was a great festive event in Kronstadt – the consecration of the naval cathedral. Father Georgy Shavelsky, the Proto-Presbyter of the military and naval clergy, consecrated the cathedral in the presence of Emperor Nicholas II and members of the Imperial family, thousands of Orthodox Christians and members of the naval ranks. The service was concelebrated by the mitred Archpriest Alexey Starovsky, Senior Priest of the Cathedral of St Spyridon of Trimithoundos at the Main Admiralty, and the entire Kronstadt clergy. Father John of Kronstadt, who had prophesied that “when the Cathedral will be roofed”, he would be dead, but that moment had already left this transitory life in December 1908.

The cathedral was closed in 1929, first converted to a cinema, then a House of Officers (1939) and a museum of the Navy (1980).

The Russian Orthodox Church attempted to repossess the cathedral in the 1990s, however, it took many years for the transfer to take place.

In 2002, the Russian Orthodox Church reinstalled the cross on the main dome and (for the first time since 1929) served the Divine Liturgy in the cathedral in 2005. In 2013, Patriarch Kirill of Russia, with Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev and his spouse attending, conducted the ceremony of grand reconsecration in the now fully restored cathedral.

© Paul Gilbert. 14 April 2022

Why did Nicholas II not have Lenin executed?

PHOTO: Russia’s last emperor Nicholas II and Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin

The Russian Empire experienced an explosion of terrorist activity during the reign of Emperor Nicholas II (1894-1917), a period of changing times and political unrest, when over 17,000 people were killed or wounded by revolutionary extremists[1]

By the late 1890s, capital punishment for murder in the Russian Empire was seldom carried out, instead a sentence of 10 to 15 years imprisonment with hard labour was served. Capital punishment, however, was still carried out for treason. For example, in the spring of 1887, Alexander Ilyich Ulyanov (1866-1887) was executed by hanging for conspiring to assassinate Emperor Alexander III. 

The death penalty in Tsarist Russia at that time was applied only in extreme cases of serious state crimes and only after lengthy legal proceedings, which often in the end acquitted even those whose guilt was obvious.

Alexander’s execution, however, drove his younger brother Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Vladimir Lenin) to pursue the Russian revolutionary struggle ever more fervently. Vladimir was already active in politics prior to his older brother’s arrest. Lenin also remembered how his family had been shunned by liberal circles in Simbirsk following his brother’s arrest.

Any family member related to a terrorist was rarely persecuted by the authorities. As a result, in the autumn of 1887, Vladimir Ulyanov entered the Faculty of Law at Kazan Imperial University, where he began to organize anti-government meetings.

For this, he was expelled from the university and sent into exile. Instead of being sent to one of the harsh penal colonies in Sakhalin, Solovki, or Magadan, the future Bolshevik leader was exiled to the comfort of Kokushkino estate, which served as his family’s summer residence during Lenin’s childhood.

In September 1889, the Ulyanov family moved to the city of Samara, where Lenin worked first as a legal assistant for a regional court and then for a local lawyer. He then took his exams externally from the Faculty of Law at the University of St Petersburg, where he obtained the equivalent of a first-class degree with honours. 

Upon graduating, however, Lenin continued to with his revolutionary agenda. So why did the Tsarist police not take Lenin’s revolutionary activities more seriously? Sadly, those who served to protect the Emperor continued to underestimate Lenin’s importance and growing influence.

As it turned out, Lenin was considered small fry, the Tsar’s agents did not see him as much of a threat. He was not considered a terrorist, so the authorities did not pay attention to him, as they were busy with the Social Revolutionaries and anarchists. Among these were the bombers and anarchists of Narodnaya Volya[2]. The government was more occupied with the threats from the Savinkovs, the Figners, the Chernovs, the Spiridonovs, the Bakunins, and the Kropotkins—those who plotted the assassination of key government figures in the Russian Empire. But even many of them were spared execution, and instead exiled to hard labour.

A few years later, Lenin organized an alliance of struggle for the liberation of the working class, holding impassioned speeches to the workers and writing anti-government leaflets.

The authorities then took notice, which resulted in Lenin’s arrest, and sent to a St. Petersburg remand prison for a year. Here, he is of course interrogated, but his jailers do not torture or beat confessions out of him, nor is he starved.

His time in prison [including his exile to Siberia] served as the perfect melting pot for his revolutionary agenda. Dozens of books were transferred to him in prison, and it was here that Lenin wrote the bulk of The Development of Capitalism in Russia. It was published in 1899 under the pseudonym of “Vladimir Ilyin”. It established his reputation as a major Marxist theorist. In addition, he became a regular contributor to Marxist journals.

Lenin asked for a government allowance, which was granted, and paid for his needs. In addition, his rather wealthy mother Maria Alexandrovna Ulyanova (1835-1916), who in her youth served as a maid of honour at the Imperial Court, sent her son everything he requested.

Lenin’s life in exile created the ideal lifestyle for a revolutionary: fresh air, healthy food, an abundance of meat, milk, vegetables, and hunting. His day to day routies required no duties, no service. It was in exile that he was cured of his gastric disease, which he suffered from his youth. 

Vladimir Ilyich, his wife and mother-in-law did not strain during their exile: a young peasant girl was paid 2.5 rubles a month, to clean, cook and carry out other household duties. 

Soon Lenin was allowed to live in Pskov, a little later he was allowed to travel around Russia. The police saw no reason not to issue a foreign passport to the future leader of the revolution.

Lenin repeatedly held anti-government meetings, carried out subversive activities against tsarism, wrote leaflets and writings for Marxist journals, instead of rotting in prison or being executed.

Another reason that Lenin escaped more harsher sentences and even execution, was the lesson he learned from his older brother. Vladimir Ilyich, was cunning and crafty, never leaving a paper trail of his activities, so as not to get his hands dirty or implicate him in any illegal activity. This would serve him well in the summer of 1918, when he ordered the murder of Emperor Nicholas II, his wife, and their five children. Lenin did not want his name linked with the murder of the Tsar or his family, particularly his five children – the latter of whom were innocent of any politics

Lenin and the Bolsheviks did not really carry a primary threat, nor was it Lenin who put an end to tsarism, the latter was that of the Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks gained power following the overthrow of the Kerensky government in October 1917. Once he had seized power, Lenin put a bounty on members of the Russian Imperial Family. To this day, many historians believe that the order to kill Russia’s last Tsar came directly from Lenin himself. In addition, he ordered that all remaining members of the Imperial Family should be killed, for fear that any survivors would be a beacon for the restoration of monarchy. These actions thus earned him the title of “terrorist”!

One question thus remains: had Nicholas II had Lenin executed, would it have spared the Tsar and his family the violent and horrific murder that they endured in 1918?


[1] Thou Shalt Not Kill: Revolutionary Terrorism in Russia, 1894-1917 by Anna Geifman. Published by Princeton University Press, 1993

[2] Narodnaya Volya (‘People’s Will’) was a 19th-century revolutionary political organization in the Russian Empire which conducted assassinations of government officials in an attempt to overthrow the autocratic system and stop the government reforms. Their acts of revolutionary violence culminated in the successful assassination of Emperor Alexander II in March 1881—the event for which the group is best remembered.

© Paul Gilbert. 12 April 2022

Pilgrimage to Ganina Yama – “for reflection and prayer”

PHOTO: the author [Paul Gilbert] of this article praying at Ganina Yama. A wooden causeway has been built around the edge of the mine shaft, a tall Orthodox cross marks the edge of the mine shaft – visible as a depression in the ground – where the remains of Nicholas II and his family were first discarded by the regicides.

In the pre-dawn hours of 17th July 1918, a crime of the most heinous kind was committed in the basement of the Ipatiev House in the Ural city of Ekaterinburg. It was here that members of the Ural Soviet [Bolsheviks] murdered Russia’s last Tsar, his wife and their five children, as well as the family’s four faithful retainers. The regicide remains one of the darkest pages in 20th Russian history.

Following the murders, the regicides secretly transported their bodies to the abandoned Isetsky mine, located near the Four Brothers tract, situated four kilometres southeast of the village of Koptyaki, and some 15 km (10 miles) north of the Ural city, where their remains were subsequently thrown into a 9 ft. deep pit. The site is today known as Ganina Yama.

Fearing that the burial site was no longer a secret, the regicides returned to the site the night after the first burial, retrieved the bodies from the mine and transported them to a second burial site known as Porosyenkov Log, situated 3.5 km from the original site.

On 20th August 2000, Emperor Nicholas II and his family were glorified as passion bearers[1] by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church[2]. On 23rd September 2000, during his visit to the Urals, Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2000) visited the Ganina Yama tract and, having blessed the establishment of the monastic monastery, put his signature on the master plan of the monastery[3]. The first stone of the monastery was laid on 1st October 2000. On 27th December, the Holy Synod officially “blessed the opening of a monastery in the name of the Holy Royal Martyrs in the Ganina Yama tract”. On 28th December, the all-male Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs was established here.

PHOTO: the author [Paul Gilbert] standing next to the monument to Emperor Nicholas II, installed on the grounds of Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs on 19th May 2008, the Sovereign’s birthday

Following their canonization, the Russian Orthodox Church declared the Ganina Yama site holy ground. The grounds were therefore dedicated to honour the family’s humility during their house arrest and their status as political martyrs. With financial assistance from the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company, the Church constructed the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at the site in 2001. A tall cross marks the edge of the mine shaft, visible as a depression in the ground.[3]

Seven wooden chapels were later constructed at the site, one for each member of the Imperial Family. Each chapel is dedicated to a particular saint or relic. The katholikon [the main church of the monastery] is dedicated to the Theotokos Derzhavnaya [Reigning Icon of the Mother of God], an icon particularly revered by the monarchists.

Since the opening of the monastery, Ganina Yama has become not only a place of spiritual pilgrimage, but also a historical and educational center. Up to 10 thousand pilgrims visit Ganina Yama each month. They come mostly from the Ural region, however, increasing numbers from across Russia, and foreign countries as far away as the United States and Australia make the journey to honour the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs. Most of the pilgrims are Orthodox Christians and monarchists, but Ganina Yama also welcomes the “curious” visitor, those who seek to learn about Russia’s last Tsar and his family. In July of each year, the number of pilgrims swells by the tens of thousands for the events marking Tsar’s Days.

A wooden causeway surrounds the abandoned mine shaft – visible as a depression in the ground – where the remains of Nicholas II and his family were first discarded after their brutal murder. The area is filled with fragrant white lilies[4]. In 2018, seven portraits [colourized by Olga Shirnina aka KLIMBIM] of Nicholas II and his family were installed around the causeway.

On the night of 16/17 July, a night-long service is held at the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg ]built on the site of the Ipatiev House]. At daybreak, tens of thousands of pilgrims take part in a 21 km [13 miles] Cross procession [a four hour journey on foot] from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama, where a Divine Liturgy is performed at the edge of the abandoned pit. In 2018, an estimated 100,000 people from across Russia and around the world took part.

Once a bastion of Bolshevism, Ekaterinburg has slowly shed its status as the “capital of atheism”. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Urals has experienced a revival of faith, with Ekaterinburg at the into the center of Orthodox Russia in the Urals. Ekaterinburg has done more to honour Nicholas II and his family than any other city in Russia.

For those who wish to honour the memory of Russia’s last Emperor and his family, a pilgrimage “for reflection and prayer” to the Urals is a once in a lifetime experience. If you are planning to visit Ekaterinburg during Tsar’s Days, I highly recommend visits to the places which memorialize the last days of Emperor Nicholas II and his family – in particular the Church on the Blood, Ganina Yama and Porosenkov Log.

Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us! 
Святы Царственные мученики, молите Бога о нас! 

Visiting Information

The Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama is open daily from 09:00 to 18:00. Admission is FREE, although a donation box is located in the welcome center, near the entrance.

Visitors should allow approximately 3-4 hours for their visit. The monastery also has a museum and exhibition center – located on the ground floor of the Church of the Reigning Mother of God – which hosts numerous temporary exhibitions throughout the year.

In addition, the monastery offers a small cafe with refreshments and snacks; a gift shop, which offers books, icons and souvenirs, all the proceeds of which help with the maintenance and upkeep of the monastery.

On the weekends believers can attend the evening service on Saturdays, and the Divine Liturgy on Sundays. When visiting the monastery and churches, visitors are required to adhere to the Orthodox dress code: for instance, women must cover their heads – scarves and long aprons are available for tourists at the entrance to the monastery.

In addition, the monastery offers accomodation at the Diocesan Pilgrimage Center, providing pilgrims with a place to pray, rest and eat. The hotel has standard rooms, a conference room, a children’s room and a prayer room, Wi-Fi access and parking.


[1] Despite their official designation as “passion-bearers” in 2000, by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, Emperor Nicholas II and his family are referred to as “martyrs” in Church publications, icons, and in popular veneration by the people.

[2] Emperor Nicholas II and his family were canonized as martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) in 1981, however, it was not until 2000, that they were canonized by the Moscow Patriachate.

[3] It has come to this author’s attention, that the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama is sometimes referred to by some Westerners as “Romanovland“, a disrespectful comparison to an amusement park.

[4] White lilies are considered to be a representation of Christ’s purity and divinity, also symbolizing resurrection.

© Paul Gilbert. 11 April 2022

THOSE WHO SERVED THE TSAR: Vladimir Nikolaevich Voeikov (1868-1947)

Major General Vladimir Nikolaevich Voeikov (1868-1947)

Vladimir Nikolaevich Voeikov (1868-1947) was a member of His Imperial Majesty’s Retinue, and served as Palace Commandant from 1913 to 1917. He was one of the most trusted associates of Emperor Nicholas II.

Vladimir was born in Tsarskoye Selo on 15th (O.S. 2nd) August 1868, to the family of cavalry general Nikolai Vasilievich Voeikov (1832-1898) and Princess Varvara Vladimirovna Dolgorukova (1840-1909), daughter of the Moscow Governor-General Vladimir Andreevich Dolgorukov (1810-1891).

He was educated in the Corps of Pages, after which, on 7th August 1887, he was released as a cornet in the Chevalier Guard Regiment.

In 1894, he married Eugenia Vladimirovna Frederiks (1867-1950), a maid of honour at the Russian Imperial Court (1890); and the eldest daughter of the Minister of the Imperial Court Vladimir Fredericks (1838-1927). In society, everyone called her Nina. The couple had no children.

PHOTO: Minister of the Imperial Court Vladimir Fredericks (left), with his son-in-law Vladimir Voeikov (right), Livadia 1914

Vladimir Voeikov enjoyed a successful and prestigious career, in which he received numerous promotions. In August 1891, he was appointed lieutenant, from April 1898 as headquarters captain and from May 1901 he was promoted to the rank of captain. He served as squadron commander for 5 years and 1 month, then as head of the education school for 5 years and 6 months.

From November 1905, he served as assistant commander of the Chevalier Guard Regiment, and in December 1905, he was promoted to colonel. In 1906 he was appointed adjutant wing to His Imperial Majesty.

From August 1907, Vladimir served as Commander of His Majesty’s Life Guards Hussar Regiment. In December 1909, Emperor Nicholas II promoted him to the position of major general and enrollment in His Imperial Majesty’s retinue.

Upon the birth of the Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich (1904-1918), Voeikov was named godfather to the Emperor’s only son and heir. In 1910 Vladimir began the construction of a summer residence for his godson, located on his estate, located in the Penza region.

PHOTO: after decades of neglect by its Soviet caretakers, Vladimir Voeikov’s unfinished palace for his godson Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich, today lies in ruins

The general plan of the estate initially consisted of three buildings (palace, a secondary building, and stables). The palace was designed in the style of an Italian villa, which included a park with rare trees and fountains. The palace consisted of two stories high, made in the neoclassical style, with a rotunda, surrounded by a balustrade and sloping stairs which led to the front entrance.

In 1917, the still unfinished palace was nationalized and placed at the disposal of the local Soviets, who used the building for a variety of purposes up until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The building has survived to the present day, however, it is in a terrible state of disrepair, despite the fact that the palace is recognized as a monument of history and culture of regional significance.

After the formation of the Russian Olympic Committee in 1912, Vladimir Voikov was elected its honorary chairmanm on 24th December 1913.

In 1913, Voeikov founded a mineral water bottling plant on his Kuvaka estate in the Penza region, with an annual production of 100 thousand bottles of water. The Voeikov estate was located on the territory of the modern city of Kamenka (Penza region) . During the war, Vladimir won a contract for the supply of his mineral water to the front and to hospitals.

PHOTO: in happier times, Vladimir and his wife Eugenia, wearing 17th century dress for the Costume Ball, held in February 1903, at the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg

During the February Revolution, Vladimir was arrested, kept under arrest, first in the Tauride Palace, then in the Peter and Paul Fortress in Petrograd, where he was interrogated by the Extraordinary Investigative Commission of the Provisional Government. He was subsequently released, but in the summer of 1918, under the threat of arrest by the Bolsheviks, he hid in the hospital of St. Panteleimon for the mentally ill, from where he kept in touch with his relatives.

In September 1918, having learned about the arrest of his wife, he fled to the Crimea , from where he went into exile, first to Romania, and then to Finland, where he lived at Dr. Botkin’s dacha in Terijoki (Terijoki), now Zelenogorsk. After leaving Finland, Voeikov moved to Sweden. During his years in exile, Voeikov wrote his memoirs С царем и без царя / With the Tsar and Without the Tsar [see below], published in in Helsinki in Russian in 1936.

In June 1919, during the offensive of General N. N. Yudenich on Petrograd, Vladimir’s wife Eugenia was arrested and transported to Moscow. She was held in a concentration camp in the Ivanovsky Monastery. [situated in central Moscow, inside the Boulevard Ring, to the west of Kitai-gorod]. In 1925 she received permission to leave the USSR, whereupon she moved to Finland with her father and sister. From 1939 she lived with her husband in Helsinki. In 1946 they moved to Sweden and settled in Danderyd.

Vladimir Voeikov died on 8th October 1947, and was buried in a local cemetery in the town of Djursholm, situated in the suburbs of Stockholm. Eugenia died in 1950 and was buried next to her husband. Later, their remains were reburied at the Kauniainen City Cemetery, in the same grave of Count Vladimir Fredericks – who died in 1927.

PHOTO: the proposed cover of the English translation, features this photo of Emperor Nicholas II and Vladimir Voeikov at the Stavka, the headquarters of the Russian Imperial Army, in Mogilev. 1915-1916

I am about to embark upon a major translation project: WITH THE TSAR AND WITHOUT THE TSAR by Major General Vladimir Nikolaevich Voeikov (1868-1947).

Originally published in Russian in 1936, this will be the first English translation of the sad but captivating story, about the man who, from 1913-1917, served as the last palace commandant to Emperor Nicholas II. Voeikov was the son-in-law of the Minister of the Imperial Court Vladimir Borisovich Frederiks (1838-1927). He was one of the few men at Court, who remained faithful to the Tsar.

His memoirs describe the events the February and October 1917 revolutions and their consequences for the Russian Empire and the Tsar; foreign policy intrigues and the chain of events that led to the First World War and Russia’s participation in it; Court vanity and envy; the private lives of the Tsar and his family at Peterhof, Tsarskoye Selo and Livadia; and Voeikov’s ordeals as he fled Bolshevik Russia.

Translations are very costly – this book is 330 pages – which is why I am reaching out to those who share an interest in the life and reign of Nicholas II.

Please consider making a donation to help fund the translation of Voeikov’s memoirs, a very important historical record on the life and reign of Russia’s much slandered Tsar.


Thank you for your consideration

© Paul Gilbert. 4 April 2022