1917 Bible belonging to Nicholas II preserved in Pskov church museum

PHOTO: copy of the Old Testament with personal notes made by Emperor Nicholas II. On the right, is a small casket containing a milk tooth of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich

Tucked away in the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky in Zavelichye (Pskov), is a tiny little known museum. The museum was created by Archpriest Oleg Teor (born 1944), who over the years has collected and preserved numerous items and documents of historic value and significance of the diocese.

The museum’s most interesting item is a copy of the Old Testament belonging to Emperor Nicholas II, found on the Imperial Train in March 1917, which includes notes made in the margins, written in pencil. The sacred text lies in a special wooden box under glass. Sitting next to it, is a small casket containing a milk tooth of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich.

Recall that it was on on the night of 15th (O.S. 2nd March 1917, in a wagon of the Imperial train, stationed in the ancient Russian city of Pskov, Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, in the forty eighth year of his life and the twenty third of his reign, surrendered the crown that his forebears had held since 1613.

PHOTO: Church of St. Alexander Nevsky in Zavelichye (Pskov)

How did the sacred text end up in Pskov?

The Church of St. Alexander Nevsky was built in 1907-1908, for the 96th Omsk Regiment. The church was closed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. In 1992, it was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. Following an extensive restoration, the church was reconsecrated on 12th June 1995, new bells were consecrated on 2nd December 2008, marking the 100th anniversary of the church.

There are several theories among the parishioners, as to how the copy of the Old Testament ended up in Church of St. Alexander Nevsky. Some say that the Old Testament was donated to the church by an elderly woman from Pskov, while others claim that the donor was a man who wished to remain anonymous. Allegedly, he went into the church, placed the Bible on the table and, saying that it belonged to the Tsar, disappeared in an unknown direction. The most intriguing theory, however, the book was miraculously found in a looted imperial train car and passed to the woman for safekeeping from relatives.

According to Archpriest Oleg Teor, however, the Old Testament was given to him by the nephew of a veteran of the Great Patriotic War, who later took the clergy. “I know this man very well, and while still a boy, he came to visit his uncle and asked about the book. His uncle replied that it belonged to Tsar Nicholas II. Either the Emperor himself, who prior to his abdication was on the Imperial Train, or one of his aides handed the book to a relative of his uncle with the words “take it and safeguard it.” The uncle then gave the sacred text to his nephew, who some years later gave me the copy of the Old Testament repeating the words of his uncle “take it and safeguard it“. . .

The Old Testament contains two notes in the margins inscribed in a “sharp-edged graphite pencil” on pages 220 and 237. In addition, it contains many underlined passages. Perhaps the Tsar looked for answers to many of his questions in the Holy Scriptures? Perhaps the Old Testament, helped the Tsar put his thoughts and feelings in order and make the difficult decision to abdicate?

PHOTO: Archpriest Oleg Teor shows the sacred text, which lies in a special wooden box under glass

Forensic examination

In February 1997, Archpriest Oleg Teor met with Alexander Bogdanov, a forensic expert of the Internal Affairs Directorate of the Pskov Region, who was instructed to conduct an examination of the Old Testament, and establish whether the notes were indeed made by Nicholas II just before that fateful night in Pskov.

Bogdanov went to the State archives in Moscow, where he sorted through and examined Nicholas II’s documents, including the emperor’s notes, a notebook for playing dominoes and cards, as well as letters and diaries. Many of the documents contained brief alphabetic and digital notes made with a graphite pencil… the same type of pencil used in the margins of the Old Testament.

Bogdanov examined each document meticulously, then made copies with the use of a digital camera. He then took these documents back to the forensic center for further examination. But this was only the beginning of a great work that lasted several months. At the second stage, Valery Ivanov, a leading specialist in the field of handwriting, joined Bogdanov.

“Now the criminalists had to examine and compate the handwriting of the pencil notes found in the margins of the Bible with the handwriting of Emperor Nicholas II,” recalls Yuri Yashin, a colleague of Bogdanov and Ivanov, who oversaw the examination. To do this, it was necessary to identify a certain set of general and particular features of handwriting. As a result of the handwriting examination, a set of matching general and particular features was established.

Researchers of the Pskov State Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve, who examined the book dated it to the 1870s 1890s. The sacred text shows signs of repairs of the book, probably made in the 20th century by an amateur bookbinder. Putting all the pieces of the puzzle into a single picture, Alexander Bogdanov and Valery Ivanov and their team of forensic experts came to a categorically positive conclusion. “The two handwritten texts found on pages 220 and 237, of the Old Testament were executed by the All-Russian Autocrat Emperor Nicholas II”.

PHOTO: the Old Testament which belonged to Emperor Nicholas II, is today preserved in a special wooden box under glass in the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky in Zavelichye (Pskov)

NOTE: There remains some speculation that it is highly unlikely that the Emperor himself, of his own free will, parted with his personal Bible. Based on the inventory of icons, shrines and spiritual books left after the regicide, it is clear that the Imperial Family treasured such books and carried them everywhere with them.

Known, for example, is a Bible belonging to Nicholas II, which was presented to him by his mother – Empress Maria Feodorovna, when he was Tsesarevich. It was this Bible that accompanied the Tsar, first to Tobolsk, and then to Ekaterinburg. Following the regicide, it was discovered by the Whites in the deserted Ipatiev House, and then, among with other personal items which belonged to the Imperial family, the Bible was given to the Emperor’s sister, Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, who later donated it to the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Job in Uccle, Brussels.

The milk tooth of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich

The milk tooth of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich was first kept in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, where Nicholas II and his family lived until they moved to Tsarskoye Selo in 1905, then a small apartment in France and, finally, Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas in Saint-Louis, France [just one kilometer from the Swiss border].

The milk tooth of the innocently murdered Tsesarevich was carefully kept by his nurse-nanny Alexandra Alexandrovna Tegleva [wife of the Imperial children’s tutor Pierre Gilliard]. Both Tegleva and Gilliard accompanied the Imperial family into exile to Tobolsk in August 1917.

When the Empress was transferred to Ekaterinburg in April 1918, she passed her jewellery to the nanny and Alexei’s three milk teeth.

Having miraculously escaped execution, Alexandra Teglina fled Bolshevik Russia, eventually settling in Switzerland. Until her death on 21st March 1955, she carefully kept the precious box with the gifts of the Empress. After her death, her nephew gave the casket containing the Tsesarevich’s milk teeth to the Church of St. Nicholas in Saint-Louis.

The rector of the French parish of St. Nicholas ordered three icons of the Holy Royal Martyrs with three absolutely identical reliquaries for each tooth. A request was made by a member of the Russian clergy, who asked that one of these icons be sent to Russia, so that as many Orthodox as possible could see it.

One of these icons was given to the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg, built on the site of the Ipatiev House, where Nicholas II and his family met their death and martyrdom on 17th July 1918.

Another of these icons was given to Archpriest Oleg Teor by his friend the rector of the Orthodox church in Saint-Louis Vladimir Shibaev. According to Father Oleg, Father Vladimir requested that the milk tooth of the murdered Tsesarevich should be “returned home to Russia“.

To learn more about this sacred text and the Tsar’s alleged abdication, please refer to pages 62-83 of my book Nicholas II: Russia’s Last Orthodox Christian Monarch (2022), available from AMAZON in paperback and eBook editions.

© Paul Gilbert. 10 August 2022

How British intelligence tried to get Nicholas II out of Russia

PHOTO: King George V and Emperor Nicholas II

In 1917, British intelligence officers developed several options for evacuating Tsar Nicholas II from Russia without delay, but the British government and King George V did not have enough resolve to carry out this operation. An article published by the BBC News русская служба [Russian Service], by Russian journalist Olga Ivshina, revealed some interesting new details from recently declassified secret service documents and the Royal Archives,

Discussions on the possible evacuation of Nicholas II from Russia began almost immediately after the Tsar’s abdication from the throne on 2nd March 1917. Already on 19th March, British General Sir John Hanbury-Williams met with Nicholas II’s mother, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna.

Britain’s concerns for the Romanov family is explained by the fact that King George V was a cousin of both Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra. The two monarchs were close and often corresponded, calling each other ‘old Nicky’ and ‘dear Georgie’. In addition, Britain and Russia were allies in the First World War.

The British general and the dowager empress agreed that the abdicated tsar should leave Russia as soon as possible. Maria Feodorovna – born in Copenhagen and holding the title of Danish princess before marriage – advocated that her son be evacuated to Denmark. She expressed concern that in the event of a longer sea voyage, that the ship carrying her son could be sunk by a German submarine. The British general assured Maria Feodorovna that he could ensure the safety of the Tsar. He even offered to personally accompany the Imperial Family out of Russia to England. Maria Fedorovna agreed. The British Ambassador to Russia Sir George Buchanan began negotiations with representatives of the Russian interim government on possible evacuation routes.

Several obstacles remained. First, it was necessary to convince Nicholas II of the need to leave, who, judging by his diary entries, still wanted to stay and dreamed of spending the rest of his days in Crimea with some kind of special honourary status. Secondly, it was necessary to obtain the final confirmation of the operation from London. And thirdly, it was necessary to figure out how to get the Romanovs out of Russia by passing the armed detachments of the Bolsheviks.

The fact is that at that moment the Provisional Government did not fully control the volatile situation in the country. It was strongly opposed by the influential Petrograd Soviet of Workers ‘and Soldiers’ Deputies, which were against the departure of Nicholas II and demanded that he be tried.

PHOTO: Oliver Locker-Lampson (1880-1954)
© Imperial War Museum

Plan one – creative

While the politicians were negotiating, intelligence scouts got to work. Some of the documents shedding light on the events of those days remain classified. Researchers Richard Aldrich, Rory Cormac and Andrew Cook managed to piece together the details of several plans.

One of them was proposed by Oliver Locker-Lampson (1880-1954), an officer of the Royal Navy. He was simultaneously the commander of a division of machine-gun armoured vehicles and a member of the British Parliament.

In 1916, the Locker-Lampson[1] division was transferred to Russia, where he immediately took action. According to his memoirs, in 1917 he was instructed to develop a plan for the rescue of Nicholas II.

By this time, Locker-Lampson managed to recruit one of the servants who worked in the Alexander Palace – it was there that the Imperial Family were being held under arrest after the Tsar’s abdication. According to the intelligence plan, on the designated day, the servant was supposed to come, shave off Nicholas II’s beard, change clothes with him and attach himself a false beard, similar to that of the emperor.

Nicholas II then had to calmly leave the palace and walk to the place where British intelligence officers would be waiting for him in a motorcar. Then the Tsar would be transferred to an armoured vehicle, then taken to Arkhangelsk under the protection of the British military and sent to London.

At first glance, the plan looked naive. But, as subsequent events showed, Locker-Lampson had previous experience of evacuation operations. In 1933, he helped Albert Einstein escape from Nazi persecution, and in 1936 he transported Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia to England so that he would not fall into the hands of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. During World War II, Locker-Lampson evacuated dozens of Jewish families from Germany.

The officer’s plan had one weak point – it meant the salvation of only Nicholas II himself. A devout husband and father, the forsaken Emperor had made it very clear, that he would not leave Russia without his beloved wife and children.

There was still one other obstacle to Lampson’s plan: it was necessary to get the approval of London and send a warship to Russia to evacuate the Romanovs. Time was quickly running out for both the Imperial Family and the scouts. General Hanbury-Williams sent an urgent telegram after telegram to Britain, but there was still no answer.

PHOTO: Prime Minister David Lloyd George

Wasteful and bloody

The General’s telegrams reached Downing Street, but the government was in no hurry to make a decision. So, in a note from the King’s secretary, Lord Stamfordham, for example, it is mentioned that Prime Minister David Lloyd George was very interested in the question of how much money Nicholas II would need to live in England. The First World War drained Britain’s budget and the prime minister did not seem to be pleased with the prospect of any additional burden on the treasury.

“Can you find out what private savings the emperor has?” – the prime minister asked the British ambassador to Russia, George Buchanan.

At that time, there were legends in London about the extravagant wealth of the Russian Imperial Family in British and other foreign banks. The British negative perception of the Romanovs was influenced by stories about the adventures of their “friend” Grigory Rasputin.

Lloyd George also expressed concerns about the presence of the Romanovs in Britain. At that time, the socialist movement was gaining popularity in Britain. After the dispersal of the procession of St. Petersburg workers in 1905, left-wing politicians spoke of Nicholas II only in a negative way, often referring to him as “Nikolai the Bloody”. Lloyd George – among others – feared that the arrival of the Tsar would provoke an increase in revolutionary sentiments in Britain itself.

The Provisional Government in Petrograd repeatedly asked London to provide the Tsar and his family with asylum, at least for the duration of the war. Lloyd George paused for a long time, but Petrograd continued to be Britain’s ally in the First World War. As a result, the government still officially invited Nicholas II and his family to London.

By now, King George V was against any plan to bring his cousin to Britain. The monarch’s secretary in his papers notes that when he heard about the government’s decision, the king “fell into a panic.” The fact is that George began to receive more and more information from his personal secretary and acquaintances that the possible evacuation of the Romanov family to Britain is being widely discussed by workers, Labour MPs, and even members of the British nobility in a negative way.

Not only were people worried about Nicholas II, but also by his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, a German by birth. Having married Nicholas, the German princess converted to Orthodoxy and, as far as can be judged, imbued with love and respect for her adopted Russia. However, rumours continued to circulate in society that she secretly sympathized with Germany, her detractors often claiming that she was a Germn spy.

PHOTO: Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin

The second plan was ambitious

In parallel with the development of plans for the evacuation of the Romanov family, British intelligence officers also worked to undermine or overthrow the new Bolshevik order.

“A large scale invasion is the only thing that can save the situation and Russia,” the cavalier of military orders, the captain of the Royal Navy, Francis Cromie, telegraphed to London.

Together with the legendary British intelligence officer Sidney Reilly, they drew up plans for the landing of the Entente military formations in Russia. The head of the British diplomatic mission under the Soviet government, Robert Bruce Lockhart, at first was against such a plan, but later, realizing the inevitability of intervention, agreed.

In parallel, British intelligence officers tried to help the Socialist-Revolutionaries and monarchists organize an uprising against the Bolsheviks in Arkhangelsk [2]. There is one version which claims that the British were secretly organizing the assassination of Lenin, however, despite years of research, any evidence of such a plot has never been found.

Soviet historians write that diplomat Lockhart called the assassination of Lenin “the primary and most important task.” To this they added that the ambassadors of France and the United States were also involved in the conspiracy. However, Lockhart’s own reports say nothing of the kind, only about the arrest, but not the murder of the Bolshevik leader.

PHOTO: polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930)

The third plan was desperate

By August 1917, any opportunity to rescue the Imperial Family was looking more and more dismal. The provisional government, trying to somehow ensure the safety of the Tsar and his family, sent them away from radical revolutionaries in Petrograd into exile to Tobolsk in Siberia. This significantly complicated the task for British military and intelligence officers. Now they not only had to devise a plan to take Nicholas out from under the noses of the Bolsheviks, but to also overcome thousands of kilometres with him along the vast expanse of the Russian land. However, the officers did not give up.

The head of the Secret Service, Mansfield Cumming, began developing a new plan to rescue the Romanovs. This time the stake was made on Norwegian businessmen and travelers.

It is known that the British turned to the Norwegian polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) for help. This scientist attracted the attention of British intelligence because he knew well not only the main Siberian roads, but the waterways along the Yenisei, which could be very useful in the evacuation of the Tsar. The British also brought in the merchant Jonas Leed to develop the new plan. He often traveled to Siberia, representing the interests of Norwegian companies in the wood and coal mining industries.

Very little is known about the details of the plan involving Leed and Nansen. All that is known for certain is that Leed dined several times with representatives of the Secret Service, as well as with the head of intelligence of the British Navy.

Captain Stefan Ellie may also have been one of the participants in this new plan to save the Tsar. He spoke Russian fluently, since his family had lived in Russia since the 1870s. Ellie is one of the few British people who stayed to work in Russia even after the evacuation of the British embassy in late 1917.

Many details of Ellie’s mission remain unknown. But in 2006, his relatives found a notebook among his belongings. One of the spreads showed a hand-drawn map of the area in and around the Ipatiev house in Ekaterinburg, where Nicholas II was transferred in April of 1918, and a description of the house.

According to declassified data, on 24th May 1918, Ellie reported to London about his readiness to carry out an operation, during which “seven important persons” would be taken to Murmansk[3]. In the report, he listed the names of six people who were supposed to take part in the operation. Ellie noted that they were all fluent in Russian and could impersonate local residents. The scout also asked for £1,000[4] “due to increased operating costs.”

Researchers agree that this plan could not have been worked out without the prior approval of the British government and King George V.

PHOTO: Captain Stefan Ellie’s notebook helped learn details of MI6’s latest plan to rescue the Imperial Family

From recently declassified documents, it becomes clear that British intelligence had evidence that Germany was also preparing a plan to take the Imperial Family out of Russia. Technically, the Germans had a chance to do this, since a significant number of their military and equipment were already in Russian territories due to their participation in the First World War.

European royal historian and researcher Karina Urbach, who has access to German archives, confirms that there was a plan to “kidnap Nikolai Romanov” from the German special services. Information about this plan was gradually leaked to British intelligence officers.

Despite the fact that Kaiser Wilhelm II was at war with Russia, but was also the godfather of Tsesarevich Alexei and sincerely wanted to save him. Urbach notes that after the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia, it was Germany that objectively had the best opportunity to rescue the Tsar and his family.

Berlin could have done this with the help of its own spies or, with much more success, through diplomatic negotiations. Researchers believe that Germany could have raised the issue of the “extradition” of the Romanovs as one of the conditions for signing a peace treaty with the Bolsheviks.

Judging by the declassified correspondence of the British Foreign Office, on 28th May 1918, diplomats discussed for the last time whether they should raise the issue of evacuating Nicholas II’s five children during negotiations with Leon Trotsky, who at that time was chairman of the Supreme Military Council. During the discussion, they came to the conclusion that even if Trotsky agrees, the Romanovs will need to be guarded on the way to Murmansk. However, the Bolshevik guard was unreliable, and it was feared that the presence of a British guard could provoke attacks on the Imperial Family along the way. As a result, the British found themselves in a vicious circle – their intervention would only further harm those whom they were trying to save.

Historian Andrew Cook believes that telegrams with details of the evacuation plan for Nicholas II, sent by Major Ellie to London, could have been intercepted by the Bolsheviks. Perhaps this was the reason for the increased security of the Ipatiev House and the Imperial Family in the summer of 1918.

On 17th July 1918, Nicholas II with his wife, their five children and four faithful servants were all brutally murdered in Ekaterinburg—there were no survivors.

Less than a year later, the British battleship Marlborough rescued Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, along with other Romanovs with their families to the British naval base in Malta.


[1] Locker-Lampson became somewhat entangled in Russian politics at this time. He said later that he had been asked to participate in the 1916 assassination of Rasputin. It is also alleged that in September 1917 he was involved in Kornilov’s attempted coup against the provisional government of Alexander Kerensky.

[2] The city resisted Bolshevik rule from 1918 to 1920 and was a stronghold of the anti-Bolshevik White Army supported by the military intervention of British-led Entente forces.

[3] Murmansk, Russia’s first ice free port was founded in 1916 by Nicholas II and named Romanov-on-Murman.

[4] In terms of today’s money, this is approximately 50 thousand British pounds (66 thousand US dollars or 4.9 million rubles).

© Paul Gilbert. 18 December 2021

Last church where Nicholas II prayed before his abdication will be restored

PHOTO: Chapel of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Staraya Russa

The Chapel of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Staraya Russa is inextricably linked with the Imperial Family, in particular, with Emperor Nicholas II, who travelled here in 1904 to bless troops of the Villmanstrand Infantry Regiment, before being sent to fight in the Russo-Japanese War.

Members of the Imperial Court often visited Staraya Russa, celebrated for its mineral springs used for baths, drinking, and inhalations, and medicinal silt mud of nearby lakes and artificial reservoirs.

In 2017, an unknown fact from the life of the last emperor of Russia, was discovered by the Novgorod ethnographer Leonid Kirillov. According to his research, it was on 14th March (O.S. 1 March) 1917, that Nicholas II spent a whole day at the station in Staraya Russa, visiting the station’s chapel. This was the last church in which the Tsar prayed before signing his abdication at Pskov on 15 March (O.S. 2 March) 1917. The last church in which he prayed as “Citizen Romanov” was the Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin in Tobolsk.

On the morning of 13 March (O.S. 28 February) 1917, the Imperial Trains left the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief at Mogilev The following day, the train on which the Emperor was returning to Tsarskoye Selo, was stopped at the Malaya Vishera station, and forced to reroute in order to avoid an encounter with a band of rebellious soldiers, to go in a roundabout way: travelling instead through Valdai and Staraya Russa to Pskov.

At the time, an eyewitness Alexander Rozbaum, wrote in the local newspaper about the Imperial Train stopping in Staraya Russa:

“The Tsar embarked from his carriage and walked along the platform for a long time. The day was calm and clear, the station was crowded with people. A group of nuns stood near the railway station chapel. The mood of the audience, was deeply sympathetic to the Tsar. People did not shout revolutionary slogans, but, taking off their caps, bowed to their sovereign. The Tsar stopped and talked with some of them and then, leaving his retinue outside the door, went to pray in the small station chapel. Who knows, perhaps it was at that very hour in the station chapel at Staraya Russa that he made the most important decision for himself – to relinquish power”.

The chapel was built in 1899, by the Ikolo-Kosinsky Monastery (closed in 1920) at the railway station with an additional house for the sisters. Both the train station and the Chapel of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker was completely destroyed during the Great Patriotic War (1941-44).

PHOTO: bust of Nicholas II by Belarusian sculptor Igor Golubev

In 2000, local entrepreneur Nikolai Shirokov at his own expense erected a new chapel, but at a different location – to the left of the station. Governor Andrei Nikitin supports the idea of ​​restoring the chapel to its original, and is working with the regional Ministry of Transport in an effort to get the Russian Railways involved in the project.

In addition, Belarusian sculptor Igor Golubev has proposed to erect a bronze bust of Nicholas II at the Staraya Russa railway station in memory of the “last place where Nicholas II prayed before his abdication”.
© Paul Gilbert. 21 January 2021


Dear Reader

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

The myth that Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich was Russia’s last Tsar

The question of whether Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich (1878-1918) was the last Emperor of Russia, remains a subject of debate among many historians and monarchists to this day.

A heartbeat from the throne

Mikhail Alexandrovich was the youngest son and fifth child of Emperor Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna, and youngest brother of Emperor Nicholas II.

At the time of his birth, his paternal grandfather Alexander II was still the reigning Emperor. Mikhail was fourth-in-line to the throne after his father and elder brothers Nicholas and George. After the assassination of his grandfather in 1881, he became third-in-line and, in 1894, after the death of his father, second-in-line. His brother George died in 1899, leaving Mikhail as heir presumptive. The birth of Nicholas’s son Alexei in 1904 moved Mikhail back to second-in-line.

In 1912, Mikhail shocked Nicholas II by marrying Natalia Sergeyevna Wulfert, a commoner and divorcee. In a series of decrees in December 1912 and January 1913, Nicholas relieved Mikhail of his command, banished him from Russia, froze all his assets in Russia, seized control of his estates and removed him from the Regency.

After the outbreak of World War I, Mikhail returned to Russia, assuming command of a cavalry regiment. When Nicholas abdicated on 15 March [O.S. 2 March] 1917, Mikhail was named as his successor instead of Alexei. Mikhail, however, deferred acceptance of the throne until ratification by an elected assembly. Nicholas was appalled that his brother had “kowtowed to the Constituent Assembly” and called the manifesto “rubbish”.

Mikhail was never confirmed as Emperor and, following the Russian Revolution of 1917, he was imprisoned and subsequently murdered by the Bolsheviks near Perm on 13 June 1918 (aged 39).

Would Mikhail have made a good Tsar?

While many of Nicholas II’s detractors insist that Russia’s last Tsar was unprepared for the throne, his brother Mikhail was even less prepared. Mikhail had no aspirations for the throne, instead he preferred the life a playboy, and his gentle disposition would have made him an easy target for manipulative ministers and generals in helping nurture their own selfish interests.

His letters to his brother the Emperor reveal a rather devious and conniving side of Mikhail. In one such letter dated 7th November 1912, Nicholas writes to his mother:

“What revolts me more than anything else is his reference to poor Alexei’s [the Tsesarevich’s] illness which, he [Mikhail] says, made him speed things up. [Mikhail is referring to his marriage. In the event of Alexei’s death, Mikhail would have become heir to the throne]. And then the disappointment and sorrow it brings to you and all of us and the scandal of it all over Russia mean absolutely nothing to him! At a time, too, when everyone is expecting war, and when the tercentenary of the Romanovs is due in a few months! I am ashamed and deeply grieved.”

Many believe that Mikhail’s ascension to the throne would have ushered in a constitutional monarchy and that this in itself would have preserved the dynasty and saved Russia. Russia, however, was not prepared for a constitutional monarchy, nor would it have preserved the dynasty nor would it have saved Russia. A constitutional monarchy would not have appeased the socialists and revolutionaries, and most certainly driven the radical elements such as the Bolsheviks to extreme measures. It has been argued that Russia should have adopted a European style monarchy. There is little similarity. Holy Russia did not need to adopt a Western style monarchy. For centuries Russia had been led by mystic forces. Monarchy was the social system that fit Russia best.

The legality of Nicholas II’s act of abdication 

Some historians further argue that Nicholas II’s act of abdication on 15 March 1917 (O.S. 2 March) 1917 was invalid for two reasons: one, because it was signed in pencil, violating all the necessary legal and procedural methods and format, and thus had no legal force; and two, because the instrument of abdication was never officially published by the Imperial Senate.

In his scholarly book ‘Russia 1917. The February Revolution,’ historian George Katkov, throws yet another interesting coal into the fire:

“ . . . when the Tsar abdicated, and later on behalf of his son, he was accused of having done so in contravention of the law of succession and with the aim of introducing a legal flaw into the instrument of abdication that would later allow him to declare it invalid.”

If this is true, it was a very clever move on the part of Nicholas II, not realizing the terrible fate which awaited him and his family 15 months later in Ekaterinburg.

One thing, however, is certain—Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich was NOT Russia’s last tsar! Nicholas II remained Emperor and Tsar of Russia until the day of his death and martyrdom on 17th July 1918.

As God’s Anointed, Nicholas II could not be displaced during his lifetime. Since the will of God was nowhere manifest, neither in the naming of his brother Grand Duke Mikhail to the throne, nor in the Tsar’s signing of the instrument of abdication, his status as Tsar remained inviolate and unassailable.

© Paul Gilbert. 6 November 2020

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Compiled and Edited by Paul Gilbert




This book explores the milestones in the life of Grand Duke Michael in a series of essays by four distinct authors, and complemented with 50 black and white photographs.

Paperback edition. 136 pages + 50 black & white photographs


15th March: Reigning Icon of the Mother of God Revealed


The original Reigning Icon of the Mother of God in the Church of Our Lady of Kazan, Kolomenskoye (near Moscow)

On this day in 1917, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated from the throne. That same day, the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God was revealed to a peasant woman in Kolomenskoye. Many believe the reappearance of the icon was an indication that the Virgin Mary was displeased with Russia for dethroning Tsar Nicholas II during the February 1917 Revolution.

The Reigning Icon of the Mother of God is believed to date from the 18th century. It is considered one of the most revered both inside Russia and in Russian emigre circles. 

The icon was originally venerated in the Ascension Convent, in the Chertolye neighborhood near the Moscow Kremlin. In 1812, as Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grande Armée approached Moscow during the French invasion of Russia, the icon was taken to the village church in Kolomenskoye for safekeeping and subsequently forgotten until 1917.

At the end of the February Revolution of 1917, on 15 March (O.S. 2 March) 1917, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia abdicated the throne. That same day, Evdokia Adrianova, a peasant woman in the village of Pererva in Moscow Province, dreamed that the Blessed Virgin appeared and spoke to her. She was instructed to travel to the village of Kolomenskoye, where she would find an old icon which, “will change colour from black to red.”


The Church of Our Lady of Kazan in Kolomenskoye has been preserved to the present day

Upon her arrival, the parish priest Father Nikolai Likhachev took Evdokia at her word and together they searched until they found, in an old storage room located in the basement, an icon covered with candle soot. When they took the icon outdoors, the sunlight revealed that the Mother of God was wearing the scarlet robes of a monarch. She also wore the Imperial crown and held a sceptre and orb — the symbols of royal regalia.

Since all this took place on the same day as the Tsar’s abdication from the throne, the appearance of the icon was immediately thought to be connected with that event. What is more, the priest was given to understand that the Crown that had fallen from the head of the Tsar had been taken up by the Theotokos, the Mother of God: henceforth, She would be the reigning Tsarina of the Russian State. Thus the icon was named the ‘Reigning’ icon and became widely revered among the Russian people”


A copy of the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God is carried in a Moscow procession

Russian monarchists believe the reappearance of the icon was an indication that the Virgin Mary was displeased with Russia for dethroning Tsar Nicholas II during the February 1917 Revolution. They believe that She will hold the Imperial Crown for safekeeping until the House of Romanov is restored.

In Soviet times, the icon was kept in the vaults of the State Historical Museum in Moscow. On 27th July 1990, the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God  was returned to the Church of Our Lady of Kazan in Kolomenskoye. After the reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in August 2007, the icon was taken to Russian parishes in Europe, the United States and Australia

© Paul Gilbert. 15 March 2019

Archival documents regarding the murder of the Imperial family in Ekaterinburg


The State Archive of the Russian Federation have disclosed documents on the history of the murder of the Imperial family, from its funds, as well as the funds of the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASP), the Russian State Archive of Modern History (RGANI), the Archive of the President of the Russian Federation, and the State Archive of the Sverdlovsk Region. 

A total of 281 documents were published on their web site [по-русски / in Russian only], revealing the circumstances of the Tsar’s arrest, his transfer to Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg, the deaths of the Imperial family, including the materials of the investigation by Nikolai Alekseevich Sokolov (1882-1924).

Among the documents is the Act of the Abdication of Emperor Nicholas II, signed by the tsar with a simple pencil. Telegrams on the movements of Nicholas II and his family; as well as telegrams with a request to report the accuracy of the rumors spread in Moscow about the murder of Nicholas II; a telegram to Lenin and the chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee Yakov Sverdlov, that the former tsar had been shot on the night of 16th July 1918, and the family evacuated; and the Ural Regional Commissar of Supply Pyotr Voikov orders three jugs and five pounds of sulfuric acid from the
warehouse. According to investigator Sokolov, the acid was delivered to the mine on 17th and 18th of July, to help the murderers destroy the bodies of the Imperial family.


(1) Photo: State Archive of the Russian Federation

(1) The Act of Abdication of the Emperor Nicholas II. Script. Typescript. Nicholas II has signed the document with a pencil, and countersigned by the Minister of the Imperial Court, Count Vladimir B. Fredericks (1838-1927).


(2) Photo: State Archive of the Russian Federation

(2) Telegram of the Kolomna district organization of Bolsheviks to the Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom) demanding the immediate execution of “the entire family and relatives of the former tsar.”


(3) Photo: State Archive of the Russian Federation

(3) From the protocol number 3 of the meeting of the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee, paragraph 11 – “Message on the protection of the former tsar.” Decided: to ask the special purpose detachment to remain at their post until reinforcements arrive, to strengthen the supervision of those under arrest, to supply the detachment with money, machine guns and grenades.


(4) Photo: State Archive of the Russian Federation

(4) An excerpt from the diary of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna: “April 12 (25). Thursday. Tobolsk. Baby had a better night, 36 °. […] After lunch, Commissioner Yakovlev came, because I wanted to organize a visit to the church during Holy Week. Instead, he announced the order of his government (the Bolsheviks) that he should take us away (where?). Seeing that Baby was very sick, he wanted to take Nicky alone (if not willing, then obliged to use force).

I had to decide whether to stay with  ill Baby or accompany him [Nicky]. Settled to accompany him, as can be of more need and too risky not to know where and for what (we imagined Moscow). Horrible suffering. Maria comes with us. Olga will look after Baby, Tatiana – the household, and Anastasia will cheer all up. We take Valya [Dolgorukova], Nyut [Demidov], and Evgeny Sergeyevich Botkin offered to go with us […]

Took meals with Baby, put few things together, quite small luggage. Took leave of all our people after evening with all. Sat all night with the children. Baby slept, and at 3 o’clock I went to him before our departure. We went at 4 o’clock in the morning. Horrid to leave precious children. […] “

(5) Telegram No. 6707 (above) from Ekaterinburg, Chairman of the Ural Regional Council A.G. Beloborodov to Moscow, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars Vladimir Lenin and the chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee Yakov Sverdlov, about the acceptance from Commissioner Yakovlev of the “former tsar” Nicholas II, the “former tsarina” Alexandra Feodorovna and their daughter Maria Nikolaevna, and about moving everyone into the mansion [Ipatiev House] under guard.


(6) Photo: State Archive of the Russian Federation

(6) Telegram of A. G. Beloborodov, Chairman of the Ural Regional Council, from Ekaterinburg to Moscow, to the Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee Yakov Sverdlov on the delivery of Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia and Alexey by Commissioner Khokhryakov from Tobolsk to Ekaterinburg.

(7) Telegram No. 2729 (above) of Vladimir Bonch-Bruyevich, who managed the affairs of the Council of People’s Commissars in Ekaterinburg, to the chairman of the Ural Regional Council with a request to report on the accuracy of the rumors spread in Moscow about the murder of Nicholas II; on the back is the answer, recorded by Secretary Korobovkin, that the rumors “are another provocative lie.”


(8) Photo: State Archive of the Russian Federation

(8) From the diary of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna: “Ekaterinburg. 3 (16). July. Grey morning, later lovely sunshine. Baby has a slight cold. All went out for a walk in the morning for ½ hour. Olga and I arranged our medicines. Tatiana read Spiritual reading. They went out. Tatiana stayed with me, and we read Book of prophet Amos and prophet Audios. Tatted. Every morning the Kommandent comes to our rooms, at last after a week brought eggs for Baby again.

Suddenly, Lenka Sednev was fetched to visit her uncle, and he flew off – wonder whether it is true and we shall see the boy back again! […] “

(9) Telegram (above) of the Presidium of the Ekaterinburg Council to the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars V. I. Lenin and the Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee Yakov Sverdlov about the shooting of the former tsar on the night of 16 July and the evacuation of the family.


(10) Photo: State Archive of the Russian Federation

(10) Encrypted telegram of A. G. Beloborodov, Chairman of the Ural Regional Council, to Secretary of the Council of People’s Commissars N. P. Gorbunov with the message: “Tell Sverdlov that the whole family has suffered the same fate as the head. Officially, the family will die during the evacuation.”

(11) The orders (above) of the Ural Regional Commissar of Supply Pyotr Voikov and a note on the issuance of three jugs and five pounds of sulfuric acid from the warehouse.

The declassification of the Russian archives was carried out between 1992-1998. It was during this period that thousands of documents of Chekists, participants in the murder of the Imperial family, including the leader of the firing squad, Yakov Yurovsky, surfaced for the first time. 

Click HERE to review all the archival documents on the history of the murder of the Imperial family [по-русски / in Russian only]

© Paul Gilbert. 15 March 2019

Copy of Nicholas II’s Abdication Sells at Moscow Auction


The signature of Nicholas II is located in the bottom right, and co-signed by Count Vladimir Frederiks, who served as Imperial Household Minister (1897 – 1917), is located in the bottom left

A copy of the act of abdication of Russia’s last emperor Nicholas II went under the hammer during an auction held on 19th February at Sotheby’s Moscow. 

The document refers to the era of “damned days”, one of the most interesting for Russian historians. Therefore, experts had no doubt that there would be a buyer.

“Any document signed by a member of the Imperial family, particularly the last Russian emperor Nicholas II, is always popular with collectors and lovers of Russian history,” explained Dmitry Butkevich, an expert in the antique market.

“This is a very important historical document, previously such things have never been put on the market by private individuals,” Butkevich explained.

“In the state archives there are several versions of the act of the abdication of Nicholas II from the throne, and all of them are considered authentic,” added Butkevich, who explained the circumstances of this phenomenon.

“There were a lot of people who wanted to destroy this act, so a tricky move was invented: several originals were created, all with the tsar’s handwritten signature,” he explained. “Then they made copies of them — for example, the lot that was exhibited was copied using a glass scanner. Then these samples served as the basis for other reproductions of the document.

The starting price of the lot, which includes a copy of the act of the abdication of Nicholas II was 90 thousand Rubles ($1,400 USD). It sold for ten times the amount at 900 thousand rubles ($13,000 USD). Click HERE to read The Document That Ended an Empire by Charles G. Palm, from the collection of the Hoover Institute.

© Paul Gilbert. 25 February 2019