Russia’s national educational project of Emperor Nicholas II

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The educational accomplishments during the reign of Russia’s last tsar were nothing short of impressive. It was during the years 1894-1917, that illiteracy was rapidly declining. In 1914, 40 per cent of the population was literate. The institutions of higher learning were turning out considerable numbers of loyal bureaucrats, skilled professionals and eminent scholars. To this extent, educational reform had been highly effective under Nicholas II.

NOTE: this 2-part article has been researched exclusively from Russian sources, translated, and presented in English for the first time – PG

The reign of Nicholas II was a period of unprecedented growth for Russia in all areas from economy to culture. It is foolish to deny this growth, especially since in the USSR this growth was recognized and even in 1913 was considered the standard of development with which the Soviets compared their own achievements. This unprecedented growth in Tsarist Russia was obvious to both contemporaries and people of the Soviet period.

The Romanov emperors – from Alexander I to Alexander III – wasted much of the 19th century, missing opportunities for the evolutionary modernization of Russian society. As a result, Russia’s last emperor Nicholas II inherited a rotten feudal medieval state with an illiterate peasant indigenous population, degenerate nobility, frontier townspeople and even more backward rural and remote areas, where the population lived well even in feudal order.

Nicholas II identified his personal desires and dreams with those of the Russian people. The era demanded drastic reforms and the destruction of the rotten past of the empire and its modernization.

Let’s look at the problem of education, which under Nicholas II achieved unprecedented success. His detractors claim that everything during the reign of Russia’s last emperor was bad, particularly education. Let’s see what the statistics say . . .

According to statistics published in the popular «Справочник патриота (Руксперт)» [Handbook of the Patriot (Rukspert)], the number of literate and educated people grew significantly under Nicholas II:

– There were 78 thousand elementary schools in 1896, and 119.4 thousand in 1914
– The number of elementary school students in 1896 was 3.8 million, in 1914 – 9.7 million.
– The number of gymnasiums (secondary schools), was 239 in 1892, and 2300 in 1914.
– The number of secondary school students in 1890 was 12.5 thousand, in 1914 – 127 thousand.
– The number of teachers in 1896 was 114 thousand, in 1914 – 280 thousand.
– Thanks to these measures adopted by the tsarist government, the number of literate people in the country steadily increased. In 1894 there were 37.8% of literate conscripts [enlist (someone) compulsorily, typically into the armed services], in 1901 – 50%, in 1913 – 67.8%. 

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Regardless of the denial by the Bolsheviks and later the Soviets, the Russian Empire experienced a quantitative increase in literate people under Nicholas II. This in itself is also confirmed by the increase in the number of books published in Russia:

According to В. Кожинов «Россия, век ХХ. 1901-1939». [V. Kozhinov Russia, XX Century. 1901-1939], in 1893, 7783 titles were published in Russia (with a circulation of 27.2 million copies), and in 1913 – 34,006 titles were published (with a circulation of 133 million copies).

In order to correctly compare these numbers with those of other nations: in 1913 almost as many titles were published in Russia in the same year as England (12,379), USA (12,230) and France (10,758). Germany alone competed with Russia in this respect (35,078 titles in 1913), but, having the most developed printing base, German publishers executed numerous orders from other countries and, in particular, Russia itself, although these titles (more than 10,000) were taken into account as a German product.

According to the “Patriot Handbook”: “In 1893, a total of 43 million rubles were allocated for education, which amounted to 4.1% from the State budget, and in 1914 – approximately 270 million rubles, which amounted to 8% of all budget expenditures.”

In 1914 there were 91 universities with 112 thousand students in the Empire, and 295 technical schools, where 36 thousand students studied.

In 1913 the Empire had 13.9 thousand libraries, with a total of 9.4 million books.

The situation in education under the reign of Nicholas II can be best described as successful. Historians can now only speculate what further advances Russia could have made had the First World War, and revolutionary activity in 1917 forced Nicholas II from the throne and the Russian Empire to collapse. 

***

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On 16 May 1908, the Russian Empire passed a law on compulsory primary education to be phased in over a period of 10 years.

The beginning of the twentieth century was one of the most dramatic and turbulent periods in Russia’s history. The revitalization of the revolutionary movement, driven underground, together with a heavy war in the Far East, undermined internal stability in the country. The Revolution of 1905-1907 determined its own path of development for the country – the path to the collapse of the established centuries-old state system, which would plunge the country into an abyss of general chaos. The supreme power, having suppressed revolutionary speeches, proposed an alternative – the path of the quiet development of the empire through progressive reforms. 

It was for this purpose that Emperor Nicholas II put at the head of the government Pyotr Stolypin (1862-1911), discerning in him a talented, energetic reformer. The joint work of the emperor and the prime minister over five years made it possible to work out a series of government reforms. It is interesting to note that despite Liberal opposition, which, during the years of the revolution, repeatedly called for the need for reform, however, could not offer any concrete ideas to such. Moreover, even in the Duma, they were pushed into a corner, believing that they had no choice but to publish angry attacks in the press against the supreme power. The period from 1907 to 1914 was marked by stormy legislative activity. The State Duma, at last, became an efficient body, and not a hotbed of frantic revolutionaries. Unfortunately, many initiatives made by the authorities were not brought to fruition, due to the outbreak of the First World War.

One of the most important changes was the reform in primary education. Western society still held a long-standing stereotype that the population in the Russian Empire was practically illiterate, and the government spent insignificant amounts on education. Universal primary education is generally presented as the achievement of the Soviet government, however, this is incorrect.

In order for the empire to develop evenly in all regions, skilled personnel were required. With the direct participation of Emperor Nicholas II, a number of new laws on the development of public education were introduced. One of them was the law of 3 (16) May 1908 on the introduction of universal primary education in Russia.

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The Law of 3rd May 1908, signed by Nicholas II, also provided for additional financing (credit) of 6.9 million rubles for the needs of primary education, which contributed greatly to its accelerated development. At the same time, according to the decree of 3rd May 1908, education in all schools, to which additional state funding was extended (including in rural schools), was free. Nearly 10,000 schools were opened annually, and by 1913 their total number exceeded 130,000 [including parish schools]. Although the discussion of the bill in the Duma was delayed for three years, and amended several times, universal primary education in the Russian Empire became a fait accompli.

Throughout the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, the supreme power contributed to the planned development of primary education. Of course, the results were not long in coming. We give the most popular indicator – the literacy rate, which critics of the imperial power so willingly operate on. Yes, in 1897 the literacy rate was quite low – 21.1%. However, by 1917, this figure is estimated at around 40-43%. By simple calculations we come to the conclusion that the growth of the literacy level in the empire was slightly more than 2% per year.

Thus, a fairly fair conclusion can be made: universal primary education, the creation of which in Russia is still considered by the overwhelming majority of citizens to be an achievement of Soviet power, dates back to the 1890s. In the last ten years of the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, a “national project” was carried out – an extensive network of schools was created, access to which was provided to all children of the empire. Such measures were quite consistent with the global trends in the development of primary education.

© Paul Gilbert. 8 July 2020

Recommended Reading

Education and the State in Tsarist Russia, by Patrick L. Appleton. Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1969.

Please help support my research by making a donation to my project The Truth About Nicholas II

Unknown writer defends Nicholas II against Western myths and lies

On 1st July 2020, I received a very interesting eleven-page letter from H.I.H. Baron Alexander Alexis von Braun – a person who up until yesterday I had never heard of. His open letter is addressed to Romanov historian and author Helen Rappaport and copied to the St. Martin’s Press, New York; Paul Gilbert, Editor Of The Journal Sovereign & Nicholas II Blog; Russian Historian, Dr. Peter Valentinovich Multatuli, Ph.D., who is considered as the country’s Leading Authority on the Life and Reign of Nicholas II; the Curator of the Multi-Media Museum “Russia My History” in Ekaterinburg; the Club Of Historians; and Tatyana Balanchuk, Project Manager of the St. Catherine Foundation among others.

I have known Helen Rappaport for many years, together we have shared a vast correspondence on all things “Romanov,” a subject of which we have seldom seen eye to eye on, particularly the reign of Nicholas II. Over the years I have sat back quietly as Dr. Rappaport has published books and articles, or appeared as a guest on televised interviews and documentaries in which she fervently clings to the popular held negative assessment of Russia’s last Tsar. I remain critical of much of her research, citing it as “stuck in the 1970s,” and one of the reasons why she was not invited as a speaker to the Nicholas II Conference which I organized and hosted in England in 2018. 

It is very important for me to emphasize that just because I disagree with Dr. Rappaport’s research does not mean that I hate her, not in the least! Having said that, however, I must also emphasize that as an independent researcher on the life, reign and era of Nicholas II, I have every right to challenge and dispute her research. As Dr. Rappaport recently noted on her Facebook page, she refers to any one who disagrees with her negative assessment of Nicholas II, as someone who views him with “rose coloured glasses” or “hagiographic“.

It is so refreshing to know that persons such as H.I.H. Baron Alexander Alexis von Braun support me in my mission, and not afraid to voice their own critical assessment of Western historians such as Helen Rappaport. I am sorry if reprinting this letter offends or hurts her in any way, but I cannot emphasize strongly enough that Dr. Rappaport is not being targeted, but she, like all of her Western contemporaries who continue to promote their anti-Nicholas propaganda are ON NOTICE! 

During my closing words at the 1st International Nicholas II Conference held in Clochester, England on 27th October 2018, I noted that I would be dedicating my time and resources to clearing the name of Russia’s much slandered tsar Nicholas II.

I am today leading an IMPERIAL MOVEMENT, a voice for the truth about Russia’s last Tsar, one which also acknowledges his reforms and many achievements. My supporters include Orthodox Christians, monarchists, historians, and other adherents of His Imperial Majesty Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II and Tsar-Martyr – PG 

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Here is the text of H.I.H. Baron Alexander Alexis von Braun’s eleven-page letter, with several minor edits. Some of his text is repeated, however, I have left it unedited:

Helen Rappaport
Historian/Russianist
Key Contributor – Historical Consultant
Specialist Interviewee On Things Russian
Romanov Expert

Attention: Ms. Helen Rappaport

Subject: Tsar Nicolas II And Family

Greetings Ms. Rappaport,

Judging from your Contact Information, you are calling yourself a Historian/Russianist, Key Contributor, Historical Consultant, Specialist Interviewee On Things Russian and Romanov Expert. You also welcome hearing from readers with their queries about your work. My Colleagues and I seriously question your alleged wide ranging experience in public speaking, seminars and literary festivals and as a Historian/Russianist can offer talks on a variety of subjects. We are also questioning your alleged credentials as a Historian/Russianist, Key Contributor, Historical Consultant, Specialist Interviewee On Things Russian and Romanov Expert. We have more than sufficient cogent evidence that will prove otherwise. I have been very preoccupied in the past and it’s only now that I am able to address this matter.

On July 17, 2018, your article appeared in TIME Magazine entitled, “The Romanov Family Died A Century Ago – It’s Time To Lay The Myths About Them To Rest”, By Helen Rappaport. You state in your article, for a century the Romanov story has exercised a seductive power that has never ceased to fascinate. Now, with 100 years passed, the centenary offers an opportunity for that fascination to be refocused on the facts of what really happened to the last Tsar and his Family. We understand that you are the author of four (4) back-to-back books written about the Romanovs, the latest being “The Race To Save The Romanovs”, Published In The U.S.A. by St. Martin’s Press.

Before I continue, I will bring to table another matter involving your alleged knowledge about Tsar Nicolas II and Family. In an article written by Paul Gilbert on February 25, 2020, (see his credentials enclosed), he writes, “The era of the Reign of Emperor Nicholas II (1894-1917) remains one of the most prominent in the history and development of Russia. Rapid economic development, the strengthening of the state’s defense, peace loving external initiatives, outstanding scientific discoveries, the successes of public education, advanced social policy for this period were all achieved in a short historical period. Thanks to the policies and reforms of Tsar Nicholas II, sophisticated state administration and the talents of statesmen, helped shape the necessary union which produced such brilliant results. Topics found in the new Russian Web Site include: Monetary, Agrarian, Military Reforms, Industrialization, Energy, Public Health, Scientific Breakthroughs, Russian Geographical Society, Constitutional State, Foreign And Domestic Trade, Religious And Church Life, Mail, Telegraph And Postal Services, Charity And Patronage, The Birth Of Russian Aviation, Foreign Policy and much more. Please note that this Russian/English Language Web Site is still under development and once complete, will also feature articles, news and videos.” On a personal note, I would like to add that this new Russian Web Site is of great importance. It allows us to reexamine what we have been led to believe is the truth on the era of Tsar Nicholas II. This can be achieved from the many books and documentaries produced over the past fifty years.

Many have been written by people who have failed to examine all the facts, especially those from Russian Sources. As an example, during a BBC Radio Program “Beyond Belief”, held on 20th August 2018, the programs’ host Ernie Rea was joined by four guests to discuss Russia’s last Emperor and Tsar. Among them was Andrew Phillips, Arch Priest of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROCOR) and Rector of St. John of Shanghai Orthodox Church in Colchester, England, who stated during the program that “Nicholas II was a Reforming Tsar”. Fellow Panelist and Romanov Historian, Helen Rappaport did not comment on Father Andrew’s statement, however, she wasted little time in taking to Social Media to rebuke him. “The assertion by Father Andrew that he [Nicholas II] was a Reforming Tsar, took it too far”, she argued during a discussion on Facebook with her “Romanov Circuit”. I also believe that Nicholas II was a Reforming Tsar, the information presented in this new Russian Web Site providing the facts. Therefore, I respectfully disagree with Dr. Rappaport’s comments and her rebuke of Father Andrew’s comment alone raises a red flag. I have argued for years that researchers need access to new documents discovered in post Soviet archives in Russia. Perhaps this would help put an end to the obsessive rehashing by Western Historians of the tragedies which befell Nicholas II during his reign. It is time to begin focusing on his reforms and achievements.

Ms. Rappaport, Paul Gilbert is being much too kind in respectfully disagreeing with your comments when you state that, “The assertion by Father Andrew that he [Nicholas II] was a Reforming Tsar, took it too far”. Paul Gilbert further states that your rebuke of Father Andrew’s comment alone raises a red flag. That’s it, that’s all the criticism you get, for “Big Time Foul-Ups”? Further to your July 17, 2018 article in TIME Magazine entitled, “The Romanov Family Died A Century Ago – It’s Time To Lay The Myths About Them To Rest”. This vindictive statement is very damaging. You state in your article, for a century the Romanov story has exercised a seductive power that has never ceased to fascinate. Now, with 100 years passed, the centenary offers an opportunity for that fascination to be refocused on the facts of what really happened to the last Tsar and his Family. As an alleged Expert on the Romanov Dynasty, you must have known what has been said about Tsar Nicolas II through the media and related publications. They depict Tsar Nicolas II as a weak incompetent ruler, making him out to be an unimaginative and limited man, he was suited neither by his abilities, nor temperament to rule during such turbulent times. He was chronically indecisive and not a progressive overlord, he firmly believed in his divine right to rule. As a Leader, Tsar Nicholas II knew few successes. When World War I came in 1914, Nicholas allegedly led his people into a conflict that would strain the nation’s resources and unfortunately cost many lives.

As a result of his reign, he was responsible for a series of events which led to the downfall of the Monarchy and Russian Empire. Imperial Splendor Nicholas was, however, a family man, he loved his wife, Alexandra and she loved him. His brutal execution, nor to that of his family members were unwarranted. Soon after his and his family’s deaths, all Personal Belongings, Palaces and Lands belonging to Tsar Nicolas II and Family were seized by Vladimir Lenin and Associates. The Decree on Land ratified the actions of the peasants who throughout Russia seized private land and redistributed it among themselves. The Bolsheviks viewed themselves as representing an alliance of workers and peasants and memorialized that understanding with the hammer and sickle on the flag and coat of arms of the Soviet Union. Other decrees:

– All private property was seized by the state
– All Russian Banks were nationalized
– Private Bank Accounts were confiscated
– The Church’s Properties (including Bank Accounts) were seized
– All Foreign Debts were unacknowledged
– Control of the factories was given to the Soviets

So what you are saying now Ms. Rappaport, is that the myths being that Tsar Nicolas II as a weak incompetent ruler, make him out to be an unimaginative and limited man, he was suited neither by his abilities, nor temperament to rule during such turbulent times. He was chronically indecisive and not a progressive overlord, he firmly believed in his divine right to rule. As a Leader, Tsar Nicholas II knew few successes. When World War I came in 1914, Nicholas allegedly led his people into a conflict that would strain the nation’s resources and unfortunately cost many lives. So just let “Sleeping Dogs Lie” and “Close The Book On Tsar Nicolas II” Ms. Rappaport, is that not correct? The following are some excerpts of new documents, letters and diaries discovered in Russian Archives since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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Russia’s Last Emperor And Tsar Nicolas II Is One Of The Most Documented Monarchs In Modern History Who Have Endured To This Very Day

Russia’s last Emperor and Tsar Nicolas II is one of the most documented Monarchs in modern history who have endured to this very day. Contemporary Western Historians have been content to carry these negative myths and lies turning them into books, magazine articles and documentaries. They depict him as a weak incompetent ruler, who was responsible for a series of events which led to the downfall of the Monarchy and Russian Empire. New documents, letters and diaries discovered in Russian Archives since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 have aided a new generation of Russian Historians to address many of the myths and lies about Nicolas which challenge and dismiss those held by their Western counterparts. I am committed to clearing the name of Russia’s most slandered Emperor and Tsar. I am able to achieve this through much research and work. My research and work is followed by many people around the world, from all walks of life including Orthodox Christians, Monarchists and those who hold the Tsar-Martyr and his family close to their hearts. These are people who seek the truth. For nearly a century, the last Emperor of Russia, Tsar Nicholas II, has been maligned and slandered by Western Historians and Biographers. I often wonder, how have these historians and authors been mistaken about Tsar Nicholas II. Come to think of it, no one can prevent historical figures from being criticized, but one must distinguish objective criticism from slander and defamation. Both positive and negative assessments must be supported by evidence that emerges from the careful study and analysis of historical sources. We are all judged by the fruits of our actions.

Russia in the Reign of Emperor Nicholas II grew in population by 150% and its rate of economic growth was the highest in the entire world. Labour Laws in Russia were among the most progressive anywhere, which was acknowledged even by President Taft of the United States. The Great Russian Academic Dmitrii Mendeleev, the French Economist Edmond Teri and other researchers have written about the strength and development of Russia in these years and have shown that Nicholas II actually achieved a lot for his country during his reign. Some might say that because the reign of Nicholas II ended in Revolution, any accomplishments he may have had lose their value and meaning. But that’s not the right way to look at it. Emperor Nicholas II, like any human being or statesman, was not without sin and certainly did make mistakes. But he was a man of deep faith, a great patriot, an honourable, genuine and humane man, who with courage and integrity bore all the hardships that fate had delivered to him, both during his reign and afterward. In canonizing him as a Passion Bearer, the Holy Church affirmed that Emperor Nicholas II was one of the principal moral guides of our people. And I believe that this decision by the Hierarchy of the Church resonates in the hearts of my countrymen. Thus, while I certainly do not deny the right of historians to debate the correctness or mistakes on this or that decision made by Emperor Nicholas II, I cannot condone those who try to blacken his memory, or depict him as a dull and shallow minded man who cared only about his family. There is simply no substantiation in the historical sources for that view of him.

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The Rehabilitation Of The Tsar-Martyr Emperor Nicholas II By The Supreme Court Of The Russian Federation Is So Important For A Proper Understanding Of Russian History

Some misunderstand the meaning of the word “rehabilitation”, thinking that it connotes a kind of “amnesty”. In point of fact, however, the rehabilitation of the victims of political repression is a recognition that such people were the targets of illegal action perpetrated in the name of the government and that these actions be deemed formally by the government today as illegal and the victims be recognized as having being entirely innocent and have their honour, integrity and good name fully and legally restored to them. For the Russian Government today, the rehabilitation of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearer Emperor Nicholas II, His Family, other murdered members of our House and their faithful physician and attendants, has an enormous legal and moral significance. The Russian Federation is the legal successor of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, the RSFSR and of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics the USSR. A local governmental organ, which exercised full political authority at that time the Ural Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies passed a death sentence on the Emperor, His Family and their servants. The Supreme Governmental Organs of Soviet Russia, the All Russian Central Executive Committee and the Soviet of People’s Commissars recognized this decision as correct and approved it.

Until 2008, the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation had not ruled on my family’s petition for the rehabilitation of the Royal Martyrs and so from a legal point of view the executions continued to be considered lawful and justified. Neither the canonization of the Royal Family by the Church nor the statements from various leaders of the country condemning the murders carried any legal weight. So we had a situation where the Church and the faithful considered Nicholas II and His Family Saints, many others of our countrymen considered them, if not Saints, at least as innocent victims of terror and the government. It saw them as criminals deserving of death. Of course, that was an absurd and unsustainable situation and a bloody burden from which the government needed to free itself. Thank God, the highest Court in the land concurred with the arguments my family presented and finally made the correct and legal ruling on the matter. I would especially like to acknowledge and thank the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Vyacheslav Lebedev, for his part in reaching this ruling. He delved deeply into the matter and put an end to this on going violation of the law. Before the ruling came down on October 1, 2008, rehabilitating the murdered members of the Imperial Family, we did not know him at all or what he thought about our legal arguments, or about us in general.

But he researched the question on his own and agreed with our petition on its merits, issuing his ruling “On The Rehabilitation Of The Victims Of Political Repression” entirely on the basis of the historical facts alone. This ruling on the rehabilitation of the Imperial Family, their relatives and faithful servants, all murdered by the atheistic and totalitarian Communist Regime, is perhaps one of the best pieces of evidence that Russia has undergone a colossal positive change in its understanding of the country’s past and has made important strides forward in the defense of human rights today. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, there has been a growing interest in the Romanov Dynasty and their legacy in modern day Russia. Since that time, we have worked tirelessly to restore the name and the image of the Romanov Dynasty. It is so important for new generations of Russians to understand the contributions that the House of Romanov made to Russia’s History and Culture.

It is important not only to remember the contributions that our Dynasty has made, but also to know the history of our country, to glean lessons from its past, to offer an accurate moral evaluation both of the good that happened and the bad, to try to avoid the mistakes of the past and to use that past to chart a course for the nation moving forward. So, when I talk about my ancestors, it is not only to praise them. I do not idealize this history of the rule of our House. To the contrary, I always say that while there is much to be proud of in our past, there is also much to regret and so I do ask for forgiveness of the Creator and of my people on my own behalf and on behalf of previous generations of the Dynasty. None of my countrymen are my enemies. Whether it be those who vehemently disagree with me, or those who are on the other side of an ideological divide, or acid critics of everything I hold most dear all are my brothers and sisters. I stand ready at all times to meet and discuss the past, present and future with people of all views in order to find a way to work together to serve Russia.

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All Around Me I See Treason Cowardice And Deceit

“All Around Me I See Treason, Cowardice And Deceit”, are not only the words Emperor Nicholas II used to reproach his contemporaries for forsaking him, they express the agony he felt for them, “for they know not what they do”. Had he not felt this agony, the Sovereign’s daughter would not have written, “He forgave everyone”, which was the message of reconciliation he asked her to give everyone who had remained faithful to him. He also forgave us, only do we really “not know what we do”? After the toxic gas of the revolutionary propaganda evaporated, after the whole of Soviet historiography had insulted and spit in the face of the Royal Family, after the archives were opened for public perusal, after the letters, diaries, memoirs and eye witness accounts were published and after we became free to take sober account of the tragedy of the Royal Family’s murder, we suddenly hear from the television screens and from the incompetent historian, “The Empress was a idiot”. While another philosophizing TV anchorman, primping and preening, would say sneeringly, “I am not one of those who believes Nicholas II was a man of strong will”.

These people cannot “not to know”, they simply do not want to know. The world is quicker to defend its villains than its Saints. A few stalwartly souls would try to break their way into Tsarskoe Selo to defend the family to whom they had given their oath of allegiance. And these were not the high ranking Generals who unanimously advised the Emperor to abdicate from the Throne, who saw, like no one else in Russia, how much effort, mind and soul the Sovereign had invested in rectifying the situation in the Army. “Holding victory in his hands, he fell to the earth alive”, Winston Churchill wrote in his book ”World Crisis”, 1916-1918, London, 1927 Volume 1 – Page 476, about Emperor Nicholas II. This is how people fall when struck perfidiously from behind. One young Cornet was lucky enough to find his way into the palace. The abdication had been announced, but the Emperor was not at court. Fear for his life and the future of his children were growing with each passing hour. “With a single gesture, the Empress bade me to stand.

Her magnificent eyes were even more sunken from sleepless nights and anxiety and expressed the unbearable torment of her long suffering heart. What unearthly beauty and stateliness emanated from this eminent Imperial figure”! But Alexandra Feodorovna did not feel sorry for or try to comfort herself. “I am very grateful that you have come to see me and not abandoned me on this difficult and dreadful day! I would really like you to stay with me, but that, to my immense regret, is impossible. I know and understand how hard this is for you. I ask you to please take off my insignia, because I could not bear it if some drunken soldier tore them away from you in the street! I believe that you will continue to wear them in your heart”, she said to the Cornet, comforting him. Her Majesty, was simply a woman in the true meaning of this word, was being called an “idiot” throughout the country. Why? Well, you see, Count Witte had once been summoned to Her Majesty, whereby she compassionately expressed her surprise that there were so many poor and impoverished people in Russia and almost demanded that he stop this disgrace. “Oh! What naivety”? Yes, what treasured naivety! While filming a movie about Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, the film crew worked in Darmstadt, the home town of the two Imperial Sisters. Everyone was amazed at the attention Alix and Elizabeth’s Family gave to the impoverished, orphans.

Especially to all the needy citizens in this modest duchy of their father, the size of which could, naturally, in no way compete with Russia’s expanses. Of course, the Grand Duchy of Hesse was a European Province. At first, the Empress could not and I think, was unable her entire life to reconcile herself to that fact that what could be done in her former homeland was impossible in her new, boundless homeland, which she came to love with all her heart. Who can reproach her for this? “I love those who yearn for the impossible”, said the great Goethe. Incidentally, Alexandra Feodorovna received the Cornet wearing a white nurse’s gown. From the very beginning of the war, she and her daughters had been caring for the wounded and the entire family had donated large sums of their own money to set up hospitals, equip hospital trains and purchase medication, equipment and clothing for the front line soldiers. On the eve of the war, no other European Government did more to defend peace than the Government in St. Petersburg. In November 1921, at the Washington Naval Conference, the U.S. President would say that the proposal to limit arms by reaching an agreement among the nations was nothing new. It was enough to recall the noble strivings expressed 23 years ago in an Imperial Rescript from His Majesty the Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russia’s. This was followed by an extensive quote from Nicholas IPs note, in which he appeals to the whole world to convene an International Conference in order to curb the arms race and develop mechanisms for preventing wars in the future.

The world was surprised that this proposal did not come from a weak, defenseless state, but from a vast and omnipotent Empire. All the great powers ignored this proposal. Kaiser Wilhelm II said that in practice he would continue to rely only on God and his sharp sword. England, which had the strongest navy in the world, refused to go for any reductions. Japan, which was hatching its own plans in the Far East, ignored the Russian note. Russian Foreign Minister Count Muraviev figuratively noted that the people reacted enthusiastically and the governments distrustfully. Anyone else would have given up, but Nicholas II continued his efforts. A repeat note followed and the Hague Peace Conference was indeed convened in 1899 under the chairmanship of the Russian Ambassador to London. A whole series of extremely important decisions was made, including on the non use of poison gases and explosive bullets. Conditions were drawn up regarding the upkeep of prisoners of war, as well as principles for peacefully settling conflicts and the International Court that functions to this day in The Hague was founded. Were these not rather too many achievements for a “weak willed” and “weak minded” Czar, before the perseverance and foresight of whom stubborn Europe was bowing? The main ideas of the Russian initiative were more fully realized in the creation of the League of Nations, which later passed the baton on to the United Nations. It is no accident that the original document calling on the states to take part in The Hague Peace Conference of 1899 signed by Nicholas II is exhibited in the UN building in New York.

Alexandra Feodorovna, as we know, was the granddaughter of British Queen Victoria. In his letters, the heir to the Russian Throne wholeheartedly called her “my dearest grandmother”, since she played an important role in their marriage. After breaking the resistance of his father, about the “staunch will” of whom the entire world had no doubt and who was not in favor of the heir marrying a Darmstadt Princess, the enamored Crown Prince came up against another obstacle. The protocol demanded that the future Empress convert to Russian Orthodoxy. This created a serious bone of contention for the young couple and it was Queen Victoria who managed to persuade her granddaughter to agree to this step. Nicky’s letters were full of genuine warmth and gratitude toward his “dearest grand mother” for her inestimable service. However, in one letter she scolded the young Czar with respect to the anti-British articles that appeared in Russian Newspapers. To which she received the following reply, “I must say that I cannot prohibit people from openly expressing their opinions in the press.

Don’t you think I have not been upset myself by the rather frequent unfair judgments about my country in the English newspapers? Even the books I am constantly being sent from London give a false account of our actions in Asia, our domestic policy and so on”. Several months later, the young couple expressed their joy over Queen Victoria’s consent to be godmother to their first child, Grand Princess Olga. Being accustomed to the European sound of the Royal Family’s names, Queen Victoria was evidently rather puzzled over the Russian Emperor’s choice of name for his daughter. “We chose the name Olga, because it has already been used several times in our family and it is an age old Russian name”, Nicky wrote in November 1895. But in the very next letter sent from Darmstadt, Queen Victoria, his “dearest grandmother”, was in for a rude awakening when she tried to put pressure on Nicky in the interests of British policy in the East. “As for Egypt, dear Grandmother, this is a very serious issue that affects not only France, but also all of Europe.

Russia is very interested in its shortest routes to Eastern Siberia being free and open. Britain’s occupation of Egypt is a constant threat to our sea routes to the Far East. It is clear that whoever controls the Nile valley also controls the Suez Canal. This is why Russia and France do not agree with Britain’s presence in this part of the world and both countries wish for real integrity of the canal”. March, which saw the murder of Alexander II and the abdication of Nicholas II, was a fateful month for the Romanov Dynasty. “Perhaps when we throw them the Romanov Crown, the people will have mercy on us; General Headquarters, Commander in Chief Alexeev and the Generals have long been in favor of the idea of a state coup”, mumbled Alexander Guchkov, Duma’s Chairman, “deathly pale with a trembling chin”, in those days to a handful of frightened State Duma Deputies. So, whose side are we on? On their side, or on the side of he who, after removing his Crown, said, “If Russia needs a sacrifice for its salvation, I will be that sacrifice”!

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The Presentation Of The New Web Site -The Russian Empire In The Era Of The Reign Of Emperor Nicholas II Took Place In The Multi-Media Museum Russia My History

The Multi-Media Museum “Russia My History” in Ekaterinburg was the venue for the event on 16th February 2019, Historian Peter Multatuli, Ph.D., arrived in the Urals to present a unique project. Multatuli, who is considered the country’s Leading Authority on the Life and Reign of Nicholas II, talked with local historians about the myths surrounding Russia’s last Tsar. He taked especially about his achievements and reforms in particular. The presentation of the new Web Site “The Russian Empire In The Era Of The Reign Of Emperor Nicholas II” («Российская империя в эпоху правления императора Николая Второго») took place in the Multi-Media Museum “Russia My History” in Ekaterinburg. The event was hosted by the Club Of Historians, a joint project of the St. Catherine Foundation and the History Park. The St. Catherine Foundation took part in the Tsar’s Days events held in Ekaterinburg in July 2018 and the presentation of this new Web Site is the completion of the Imperial Year. 

“This Web Site is not about the Tsar’s Family, it is about the many achievements of the Russian Empire during the reign of the last Russian Sovereign”, noted Tatyana Balanchuk, Project Manager of the St. Catherine Foundation. “It was one of the greatest epochs of reforming the country” added Peter Multatuli, “the country that the Emperor accepted in 1894 and the country which he was forced to give up in 1917, were very different countries. Everything was not perfect, however, more reforms were carried out in Russia under Emperor Nicholas II, than that undertaken by either Peter the Great and Alexander II”. The new Web Site is based on the calendar, “Russia In The Era Of The Reign Of Emperor Nicholas II”, released last year. It has fact filled sections detailing the essence of reforms under Nicholas II, as well as debunking the many myths which exist to this day about his reign. “We realized that we needed a more complete source of information and launched a Web Site which details the achievements and reforms during the reign Nicholas II”, added Balanchuk. The Web Site became part of a large project organized by the St. Catherine Foundation, in conjunction with the Multi-Media Museum Russia My History, outdoor events, as well as work shops and lectures on late 19th and early 20th Century Russian History. The Web Site was launched in September 2018 and aroused great interest among a wide audience of more than six hundred (600) thousand people. Peter Multatuli, Candidate of Historical Sciences, gave a presentation lecture at the Saturday event.

He noted, that “myths are designed to ignore facts and to defame the last Russian Tsar”. For example, the events of 9th January 1905 (Bloody Sunday) were not a planned punishment of the “insidious ruler over the unhappy workers”. Multatuli went on to state that “although the city at the time of the execution of the Romanovs bore the name of St. Catherine, in fact it already belonged to Yakov Sverdlov”. “Yekaterinburg was the patrimony of Sverdlov and his devoted killer henchmen, including Yakov Yurovsky and Filipp Goloshchekin. These were Sveredlov’s devotees during 1905-1906, when he organized a revolutionary gang that engaged in looting, murder and expropriation”, said Multatuli. Speakers also talked about the importance of preserving the historical names of cities. According to Tatyana Balanchuk, Project Manager of the St. Catherine Foundation, “the topic of preserving names and toponymy is very relevant now”. “Russian cities were often named in relation to what was produced in a city, such as in honor of the heavenly patron or in honor of a river, which flows nearby and et-cetera”, said Multatuli. “Many names which reflected the Tsarist era were changed after the 1917 Revolution. Many streets named after prominent figures of Russian History are forgotten, instead they reflect those from the Soviet period”. The historian noted that the original names, which were assigned to the streets at the time of their creation at one or another period of history, could tell a lot about the history of this place.

History needs to be studied in order to educate a citizen in a person who will be responsible for his country. The era of the Reign of Emperor Nicholas II (1894-1917) remains one of the most prominent in the history and development of Russia. Rapid economic development, the strengthening of the state’s defense, peace loving external initiatives, outstanding scientific discoveries, the successes of public education, advanced social policy for this period were all achieved in a short historical period. Thanks to the policies and reforms of Nicholas II, sophisticated state administration and the talents of statesmen, helped shape the necessary union which produced such brilliant results. Topics found in the new Russian Web Site include: Monetary, Agrarian, Military Reforms, Industrialization, Energy, Public Health, Scientific Breakthroughs, Russian Geographical Society, Constitutional State, Foreign And Domestic Trade. Also, Religious And Church Life, Mail, Telegraph And Postal Services, Charity And Patronage, The Birth Of Russian Aviation, Foreign Policy and much more. Please note that this Russian/English Language Web Site is still under development and once complete will also feature articles, news and videos. On a personal note, I would like to add that this new Russian Web Site is of great importance. It allows us to reexamine what we have been led to believe is the truth on the era of Nicholas II, from the many books and documentaries produced over the past fifty years. Many have been written by people who have failed to examine all the facts, especially those from Russian Sources.

As an example, during a BBC Radio Program Beyond Belief held on 20th August 2018, the programs’ host Ernie Rea was joined by four guests to discuss Russia’s last Emperor and Tsar. Among them was Andrew Phillips, Arch Priest of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROCOR) and Rector of St. John of Shanghai Orthodox Church in Colchester, England. They stated during the program that “Nicholas II was a Reforming Tsar”. Fellow Panelist and Romanov Historian, Helen Rappaport did not comment on Father Andrew’s statement, however, she wasted little time in taking to Social Media to rebuke him. “The assertion by Father Andrew that he [Nicholas II] was a Reforming Tsar, took it too far”, she argued during a discussion on Facebook with her “Romanov Circuit”. I also believe that Nicholas II was a Reforming Tsar, the information presented in this new Russian Web Site providing the facts.

We all totally disagree with Dr. Rappaport’s comments and her rebuke of Father Andrew’s comments.

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© H.I.H. Baron Alexander Alexis von Braun. 2 July 2020

All Around Me I See Treason, Cowardice and Deceit!

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The following editorial was published in the 11th March 2010 edition of
International Affairs. Click HERE for the original editorial

There are times when the human soul is filled from within with such an overbearing and unassailable feeling of evil and gloom that it requires inhuman power, some extraordinary exploit to overcome it … This is when the person prone to suicide shouts faint-heartedly: “I don’t want to live, and I’m not going to live,” while the long sufferer beseeches: “I can’t live, but I yearn for Life.” This is akin to the Agony in the Garden, when Jesus prayed in such earnest that it was as if great drops of blood were falling to the ground, when he prayed for this cup to pass him by.. .so that the light would not be engulfed by darkness. And not somewhere remote, in far-off galaxies, but right here in the heart, and only then in the galaxies, which, compared with the human heart, are nothing but dust and ashes… “All around me I see treason, cowardice and deceit” are not only the words Emperor Nicholas II used to reproach his contemporaries for forsaking him, they express the agony he felt for them, “for they know not what they do.” Had he not felt this agony, the Sovereign’s daughter would not have written, “He forgave everyone…,” which was the message of reconciliation he asked her to give everyone who hadremained faithful to him. He also forgave us, only do we really “not know what [we] do…”? After the toxic gas of the revolutionary propaganda evaporated, after the whole of Soviet historiography had insulted and spit in the face of the royal family, after the archives were opened for public perusal, after the letters, diaries, memoirs, and eye-witness accounts were published, and after we became free to take sober account of the tragedy of the royal family’s murder, we suddenly hear from the television screens and from the incompetent historian: “The empress was a idiot.” While another philosophizing TV anchorman, primping and preening, would say sneeringly: “I am not one of those who believes Nicholas II was a man of strong will.” These people cannot “not to know”; they simply do not want to know. 

The world is quicker to defend its villains than its saints. A few stal-wartly souls would try to break their way into Tsarskoe Selo to defend the family to whom they had given their oath of allegiance. And these were not the high-ranking generals who unanimously advised the emperor to abdicate from the throne, who saw, like no one else in Russia, how much effort, mind, and soul the Sovereign had invested in rectifying the situation in the army. “Holding victory in his hands, he fell to the earth alive…” Winston Churchill wrote in his book World Crisis, 1916-1918, London, 1927, Volume 1, p. 476, about Emperor Nicholas II. This is how people fall when struck perfidiously from behind.

One young cornet was lucky enough to find his way into the palace. The abdication had been announced, but the emperor was not at court. Fear for his life and the future of his children were growing with each passing hour. “With a single gesture, the empress bade me to stand; her magnificent eyes were even more sunken from sleepless nights and anxiety and expressed the unbearable torment of her long-suffering heart.

What unearthly beauty and stateliness emanated from this eminent imperial figure!” But Alexandra Feodorovna did not feel sorry for or try to comfort herself. “I am very grateful that you have come to see me and not abandoned me on this difficult and dreadful day! I would really like you to stay with me, but that, to my immense regret, is impossible. I know and understand how hard this is for you… I ask you to please take off my insignia, because I could not bear it if some drunken soldier tore them away from you in the street! I believe that you will continue to wear them in your heart!” she said to the cornet, comforting him. And this Sovereign, Her Majesty, no, she was simply a Woman in the true meaning of this word, was being called an “idiot” throughout the country. Why? Well, you see, Count Witte had once been summoned to Her Majesty, whereby she compassionately expressed her surprise that there were so many poor and impoverished people in Russia and almost demanded that he stop this disgrace. “Oh! What naivety!” Yes, what treasured naivety!

While filming a movie about Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, our film crew worked in Darmstadt, the home town of the two imperial sisters. Everyone was amazed at the attention Alix and Elizabeth’s family gave to the impoverished, orphans, and all the needy citizens in this modest duchy of their father, the size of which could, naturally, in no way compete with Russia’s expanses. Of course, the Grand Duchy of Hesse was a European province. At first, the empress could not and, I think, was unable her entire life to reconcile herself to that fact that what could be done in her former Homeland was impossible in her new, boundless Homeland, which she came to love with all her heart. Who can reproach her for this? “I love those who yearn for the impossible,” said the great Goethe.

Incidentally, Alexandra Feodorovna received the cornet wearing a white nurse’s gown. From the very beginning of the war, she and her daughters had been caring for the wounded, and the entire family had donated large sums of their own money to set up hospitals, equip hospital trains, and purchase medication, equipment, and clothing for the frontline soldiers.

On the eve of the war, no other European government did more to defend peace than the government in St. Petersburg. In November 1921, at the Washington Naval Conference, the U.S. President would say that the proposal to limit arms by reaching an agreement among the nations was nothing new. It was enough to recall the noble strivings expressed 23 years ago in an Imperial Rescript from His Majesty the Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias. This was followed by an extensive quote from Nicholas IPs note, in which he appeals to the whole world to convene an international conference in order to curb the arms race and develop mechanisms for preventing wars in the future. The world was surprised that this proposal did not come from a weak, defenseless state, but from a vast and omnipotent empire. All the great powers ignored this proposal. Kaiser Wilhelm II said that in practice he would continue to rely only on God and his sharp sword. England, which had the strongest navy in the world, refused to go for any reductions.

Japan, which was hatching its own plans in the Far East, ignored the Russian note. Russian Foreign Minister Count Muraviev figuratively noted that the people reacted enthusiastically and the governments distrustfully. Anyone else would have given up, but Nicholas II continued his efforts. A repeat note followed, and the Hague Peace Conference was indeed convened in 1899 under the chairmanship of the Russian ambassador to London. A whole series of extremely important decisions was made, including on the non-use of poison gases and explosive bullets, conditions were drawn up regarding the upkeep of prisoners-of-war, as well as principles for peacefully settling conflicts, and the International Court that functions to this day in The Hague was founded. Were these not rather too many achievements for a “weak-willed” and “weak-minded” czar, before the perseverance and foresight of whom stubborn Europe was bowing? The main ideas of the Russian initiative were more fully realized in the creation of the League of Nations, which later passed the baton on to the United Nations. It is no accident that the original document calling on the states to take part in The Hague Peace Conference of 1899 signed by Nicholas II is exhibited in the UN building in New York.

Alexandra Feodorovna, as we know, was the granddaughter of British Queen Victoria. In his letters, the heir to the Russian throne wholeheartedly called her “my dearest grandmother,” since she played an important role in their marriage. After breaking the resistance of his father, about the “staunch will” of whom the entire world had no doubt and who was not in favor of the heir marrying a Darmstadt princess, the enamored crown prince came up against another obstacle. The protocol demanded that the future empress convert to Russian Orthodoxy. This created a serious bone of contention for the young couple, and it was Queen Victoria who managed to persuade her granddaughter to agree to this step. Nicky’s letters were full of genuine warmth and gratitude toward his “dearest grand-mother” for her inestimable service. However, in one letter she scolded the young czar with respect to the anti-British articles that appeared in Russian newspapers. To which she received the following reply: “I must say that I cannot prohibit people from openly expressing their opinions in the press. Don’t you think I have not been upset myself by the rather frequent unfair judgments about my country in the English newspapers? Even the books I am constantly being sent from London give a false account of our actions in Asia, our domestic policy, and so on.”

Several months later, the young couple expressed their joy over Queen Victoria’s consent to be godmother to their first child, Grand Princess Olga. Being accustomed to the European sound of the royal family’s names, Queen Victoria was evidently rather puzzled over the Russian emperor’s choice of name for his daughter. “We chose the name Olga because it has already been used several times in our family and it is an age-old Russian name,” Nicky wrote in November 1895. But in the very next letter sent from Darmstadt, Queen Victoria, his “dearest grandmother,” was in for a rude awakening when she tried to put pressure on Nicky in the interests of British policy in the East. “As for Egypt, dear Grandmother, this is a very serious issue that affects not only France, but also all of Europe. Russia is very interested in its shortest routes to Eastern Siberia being free and open. Britain’s occupation of Egypt is a constant threat to our sea routes to the Far East; for it is clear that whoever controls the Nile valley also controls the Suez Canal. This is why Russia and France do not agree with Britain’s presence in this part of the world and both countries wish for real integrity of the canal.”

March, which saw the murder of Alexander II and the abdication of Nicholas II, was a fateful month for the Romanov dynasty … “Perhaps when we throw them the Romanov crown, the people will have mercy on us; General Headquarters, [Commander-in-Chief] Alexeev, and the generals have long been in favor of the idea of a state coup,” mumbled Alexander Guchkov, Duma’s Chairman, “deathly pale with a trembling chin” in those days to a handful of frightened State Duma deputies.

So, whose side are we on? On their side, or on the side of he who, after removing his crown, said: “If Russia needs a sacrifice for its salvation, I will be that sacrifice!”

© International Affairs. 4 June 2020

The myth that Nicholas II was a drunkard

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1917 caricature depicting Nicholas II as a drunk

During the latter years of Nicholas II’s reign, myths and lies about his private life filled the parlour rooms of St. Petersburg, and fueled the propaganda of revolutionaries. Among the most outrageous lies, were that the Tsar was a drunkard and even took drugs.

When censorship was abolished, the Tsar’s enemies wasted little time in their vicious attacks. Forbidden topics, such as writing about Nicholas II, were now fair game. Slanderous criticisms and demeaning caricatures poured into the Russian press, and quickly became “hype”. They were believed not only be readers, but also by the journalists themselves. Anti-monarchist themes were the most popular. They were published by humorous journals, the yellow press, and even respected publications.

In particular, people discussed the betrayal of Russia by Nicholas II, due to his alleged alcoholism. Numerous publications published insulting caricatures depicting the Tsar in an inebriated state. Of course, none of this was true, as can be attested by the reliable eyewitness accounts of two persons who observed the Tsar on a regular basis.

General Alexandré Spiridovitch (1873-1952) who served as personal security chief to Nicholas II from 1906-1916 noted in his memoirs:

“As for wines, he [Nicholas II] only drank port at table. Since the Japanese war, the Tsar had given up spirits; it was only when he traveled by sea that he would take (and very rarely at that) one or two small glasses before dinner.”

He further noted: “The Emperor was seated in the place of honour. Before him was a bottle of a special Port, the gift of the King of England, and a small, golden goblet. He never drank more than one goblet of this wine, and never tasted any other.”

In his memoirs, Semyon Fabritsky, an Aide-de-Camp to Nicholas II, further addressed the stubborn gossip which persisted about the Tsar’s alleged drunkenness:

“I personally can attest to the fact that these tales were both false and malicious” he wrote. “At most, the Emperor would sometimes drink one or two shots of vodka before dinner and a glass of his favorite port during the meal (or one goblet of champagne at gala dinners).”

Even at regimental dinners, Fabritsky notes, “When the Emperor attended such dinners, he did not change his custom of drinking very little. He would sit there all evening — and once in awhile all night — nursing a single glass of champagne, delighting in the joyful faces of the young officers whom he adored, and in whom he had so much faith.”

This post is an abridged excerpt from my forthcoming book Nicholas II: A Century of Myths and Lies – scheduled for publication sometime in 2021

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© Paul Gilbert. 22 May 2020

The myth of hunger during the reign of Nicholas II

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For many years, Soviet historiography was dominated by the notion of “eternal” famine in Imperial Russia. With this lie, the Bolsheviks tried to justify the monstrous famines of the 1920s, 30s and 40s, as well as the constant shortage of food during the Soviet years.

In fact, there were many poor harvests leading to food shortages in Russia before 1912. The largest of them was in 1891, during the reign of Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894). This was the result of a global agrarian crisis in the 1880s, which also affected England, France, Germany, and parts of the United States. The terrible famine in Ireland between 1845-1850, claimed the lives of 1.5 million people. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the consequences of this famine reduced the Irish population by more than 30%.

The crop failure of 1891-92, was caused by severe drought. It affected 25 provinces in the Russian Empire. Between 1891-92, some 30 million people were starving. In 1897, another crop failure in 18 provinces was again caused by drought, worsened by an unfavorable winter, and an invasion of insect pests. Between 1897-98, 27 million people were starving.

In the summer of 1905, there was a subsidence in the Chernozem, Volga, Trans-Volga, and eastern provinces. The crop failures mainly affected traditionally agricultural areas, which, according to official data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, occupied up to 43% of all arable land in Russia. The last “royal” crop failure occurred in 1911 – it was a reflection of a serious pan-European crop failure due to drought. The crop failure covered a vast territory: all the districts of the Astrakhan, Orenburg, Samara, Saratov, Simbirsk and Ufa provinces, as well as many districts of the Vyatka, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Penza, Perm provinces and the Don Army Region, affecting more than 20 million people in one way or another. In the affected areas, only 1/3 of the grain harvest was harvested against the annual average.

However, it should be noted that crop failures and malnutrition in Imperial Russia did not lead to mass mortality. All the Bolshevik allegations that up to 4 million people a year allegedly starved to death in Russia are an outright lie, which is based on false “annual reports of the College of the Life Chancellery.” It is worth noting that such a body did not even exist in the Russian Empire.

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Minister of Agriculture and State Property Aleksei Sergeevich Ermolov (1847-1917)

Between 1892-1905, Minister of Agriculture and State Property Aleksei Sergeevich Ermolov (1847-1917), then the head of the Central Committee for the provision of medical and food assistance to the population, wrote that “not a single death from starvation, or from the complete absence of any food, not to mention the cases of suicides or murders of children due to hunger, were not recorded any where.” Ermolov noted that the population growth in 1906-07 in some provinces (Oryol, Tambov, Ufa) surpassed that of the previous year.

There is no data on deaths due to starvation among Soviet and Russian demographers. In his studies, Russian demographer Adolf Grigorievich Rashin (1888-1960) argued that in the period from 1890-1913 mortality steadily decreased: from 36.7 deaths per 1000 population in 1890 to 27.4 per 1000 population in 1913.

The multi volume work Население России в ХХ веке (The Population of Russia in the 20th Century) unequivocally states that “by 1913 all regions of European Russia reported a significant increase in population”. The Chernozem region and the Volga region, experienced one of the highest rates of population growth in the Empire.

In 1907 a very high natural population growth was recorded (18.1%), 1911 (17%) and 1912 (16.9%). The lowest increase in the first 15 years of the twentieth century was recorded during the troubled year of 1905 (13.9%).

During the alleged “great famine” of 1911-1912, the population grew by more than 3 million people. You can compare this to data on the years of the Soviet famines (1921-22, 1931-33, 1946-48): which resulted in complete cessation of the country’s population growth, and a sharp decline in life expectancy.

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Hundreds of corpses piled up at the local cemetery, during the 1921 Famine in Russia

Thus, the only conclusion that can be made: after the famine of 1891-92, which was accompanied by an acute epidemic of cholera, the Russian Empire did not entail any “starvation deaths”.

It should be noted that the Imperial Government made great effort to combat the effects of crop failures.

In 1897, loans amounting to 5.4 million rubles were granted from the All-Empire capital, in 1898 – 35.2 million (34.4 million poods were purchased for the foodstuffs of the population – bread, and support of cattle breeding by peasants), public works were organized, in particular, the transportation by peasants of grain purchased by the government to provide bread for the hungry.

The death of horses caused by the lack of fodder was compensated by the purchase of horses from the steppe inhabitants of the local breeds and their delivery on favorable terms by the beginning of field work. The supply of feed to needy households was carried out on a “loan basis” (with payment over 3-5 years), in 1898 7 million rubles were spent on these needs.

In the canteens opened by the Red Cross, up to 1.5 million people were fed, mainly women, children, old people and the weak, but in exceptional cases, able-bodied men (in the absence of earnings), more than 2 million received rations.

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Canteen to feed the hungry in Nizhni Novgorod province, during the famine of 1891-1892

The Guardianship of Diligence and Workers’ Houses, created at the initiative of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, began to take effect. Among the private philanthropists, the Bessarabian landowner Purishkevich was especially distinguished – thanks to his ebullient activity, some 20 canteens were opened, financed with donations and thereby saving hundreds of people from starvation. His efforts were noticed and greatly appreciated in St. Petersburg.

Everywhere where hunger arose, food centers were opened for children, women, and those incapable of work, each of which fed up to 1000 people.

According to observers, “the food campaign of 1906-1907. was carried out by the Food Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs with much success.

At the same time, charitable organizations actively supported the hungry. One branch of the Red Cross, with the assistance of local authorities, opened free canteens and food outlets, which issued 270 million meals and rations during the famine. The Holy Synod introduced a gathering for the hungry on all Sundays and twelve feasts.

Private charity played an increasingly significant role. Numerous private trusteeships, local societies, unions, and committees were established. The assistance offered by  “private owners” turned out to be of great help to the state, whose stocks were greatly depleted as early as 1905.

For the supply of feed during the crop failure of 1911-12, the government spent 9-12 million rubles, issued loans for food (for example, in Siberia they issued 300 rubles per cow allowance), 16 thousand horses were distributed on favorable terms. Public work for peasants as an experiment decided this time to make the main form of assistance. 42 million rubles were allocated for their implementation, with 84% of the amount spent on wages. The hungry were provided with 222 million meals, under the guidance of priests and teachers in the Volga region alone, more than 7 thousand canteens were opened in schools, where 24 million lunches were provided to children. In general, the campaign was carried out at on a gargantuan level – and it is interesting to note that the state, who were in full control over the situation in both 1901 and 1911, managed to prevent starvation.

Thus, it can be seen that by the beginning of the twentieth century, the state had formed an integrated system of redistribution of food resources, which functioned effectively during periods of crop failure and with the depletion of bread in peasant farms. In addition, measures were constantly taken to support residents of the territories affected by crop failure. The Russian public actively participated in helping the victims, which caused widespread development of charity, and the formation of effective structures for providing assistance to the population. After 1892, deaths from starvation were avoided even under the most unfavorable conditions (such as the “revolutionary situation” of the mid-1900s).

Source: Petr Multatuli

© Paul Gilbert. 27 April 2020

How Yeltsin justified the demolition of the Ipatiev House

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The Ipatiev House before 1917

On 22-23 September 1977, the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg where the Russian Imperial Family were held under house arrest for 78 days before being murdered, was razed to the ground. The decision of the Soviet authorities was perceived rather ambiguously, but what was the reason behind the destruction of this historic building, and could it have been saved?

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The Ipatiev House in 1918

A house with a tragic fate

The two-storey stone Ipatiev House was built in the 1880s by state adviser I.I. Redikortsev, on the western slope of the Ascension Hill – a notable hill in Ekaterinburg. It was located at No. 49/9 on the corner of Voznesensky Prospekt and Voznesensky Lane (renamed Karl Libnecht and Klara Zetkin respectively, after 1917). The eastern facade (facing Voznesensky Prospekt) was one-story, and the western (facing the garden) had two floors.

Redikortsev did not remain the owner of the house for long, he was accused of corruption, and in order to improve his shaky financial condition in 1898 he sold the house to the gold miner I. G. Sharaviev.

In 1908, the Ipatiev House was purchased by military civil engineer Nikolai Nikolaevich Ipatiev, who paid 6,000 rubles to the former owner. The Ipatiev family lived in the upper floor, while the the lower floor was used as Ipatiev’s office. The house had running water and sewer, electricity and telephone. The interiors were richly decorated with cast iron, stucco mouldings, and artistically painted ceilings.

On 27th April 1918, the Bolsheviks ordered Ipatiev to vacate the mansion within two days, for the maintenance of the Imperial family, who were to be transferred from Tobolsk. Due to the fact that Ipatiev was away, his personal belongings were locked in a basement pantry next to the room in which the Imperial family were later shot. Subsequently, the basement was sealed in the presence of the owner. It is believed that the choice of the house was due to the fact that Ipatiev was well acquainted with the members of the Ural Council and, in particular, Yakov Yurovsky who served as a prominent representative of the cadet party, and who, after the February Revolution, was appointed a member of the local public security committee.

Machine guns were installed in the attics of neighbouring buildings, the house itself was surrounded by a high wooden double fence, the height of which was higher than the windows of the second floor of the Ipatiev House, with a single wicket gate, which was  constantly guarded, two security posts were located inside, eight outside, thus completely prepared for the arrival of “Citizen Romanov” Nicholas II, his wife and their daughter Maria.

Immediately after the murder of the Romanovs, which occurred on the night of 16/17 July 1918, the house was returned to Ipatiev. Five days later, White Army units entered the city. Nikolai decided to emigrate, and sold the mansion to representatives of the White Army, and for a short time the mansion served as the headquarters of the Siberian Army, and representatives of the Russian government.  Their stay in the Ural capital was cut short, after the city was recaptured by the Bolsheviks.

From 1922, the Ipatiev House housed a dormitory for university students and apartments for Soviet employees. For some time there was even a kindergarten, and in the basement, where the Imperial family were murdered, a children’s shower was installed.

In 1927, it was decided to open the Museum of the Revolution in the building. The Museum of the Revolution was open daily except Monday and Thursday from 12 noon to 6 pm, the cost of tickets was 5 kopecks for tourists, 10 kopecks. for union members and 25 kopecks for every one else. The tour of the museum included a visit to the basement and the room where the Imperial Family were shot. To complete the exhibit, a decision was made to restore the bullet riddled wall in the murder room, since the retreating White Guards had  disassembled the genuine one and took it with them. [N.B. if there is any truth to this, the fate of the original wall from the “killing room” remains yet another mystery – PG] 

In 1938, the former mansion housed expositions of the Anti-Religious and Cultural-Educational Museum, as well as offices of various departments. If turning the Ipatiev House into an “Anti-Religious” Museum was not enough, in 1923, the Bolsheviks imposed one further indignity on the murdered tsar and his family, by issuing postcards of the house surrounded by the wooden fence, bearing the insulting and disrespectful caption “the last palace of the last tsar”.

From the beginning of the 1970s, a branch of the Chelyabinsk Institute of Culture was moved here: in the basement, students even staged performances, as evidenced by preserved photographs.

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Andropov’s “secret note No. 2004-A” on the Ipatiev House

The KGB and Politburo take action

The day of 26th July 1975 was a turning point in the fate of the Ipatiev House. On this day, a secret note No. 2004-A was issued.

“On the demolition of the Ipatiev mansion in the city of Sverdlovsk” was sent from the KGB to the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). The text of the document read:

“Anti-Soviet circles in the West periodically inspire various kinds of propaganda campaigns around the Romanov royal family, whereby the former mansion of the merchant Ipatiev in Sverdlovsk is often mentioned. Ipatiev’s house continues to stand in the center of the city. It houses the training center of the regional Department of Culture.

“The mansion is of no architectural or historic importance; only a small number of the townspeople and tourists are interested in it. Recently, foreigners began to visit Sverdlovsk. In the future, the number of foreigners is expected to increase significantly, and Ipatiev’s house will no doubt become an object of their curiosity and interest. In this regard, it seems appropriate to entrust the Sverdlovsk Regional Committee of the CPSU to resolve the issue of demolishing the mansion in the order of the planned reconstruction of the city. The draft resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU is attached. Please consider.”

The document was signed by the chairman of the State Security Committee, *Yuri Andropov (1914-1984). * Andropov later served as third General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, from November 1982 until his death in February 1984.

In the 1990s, Vladimir Solovyov, an investigator from the Prosecutor General’s Office, who investigated the murder of the tsar’s family, stated that the KGB had received information about how, every year, on the anniversary of the death of the Imperial Family, people came to the Ipatiev House, to light candles and offer prayers. The authorities referred to these annual visits “of painful interest” while declaring them as “anti-Soviet activity.” The Party bosses could not allow these pilgrimages to continue.

On 30th July 1975, Andropov’s proposal was unanimously adopted by the Politburo. Upon learning of the impending demolition of the Ipatiev House, the director of the museum, gave the order to save everything that could be carried away.

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Boris Yeltsin. First Secretary of the Sverdlovsk Regional Committee of the CPSU 1977

“It was impossible to resist”

The elimination of the Ipatiev House was entrusted to local authorities. The order was executed by Boris Yeltsin, First Secretary of the Sverdlovsk Regional Committee of the CPSU . “It was impossible to resist, not to fulfill the Politburo Resolution,” Yeltsin would later note in his memoirs. “They assembled the equipment and demolished it in one night. If I had refused, I would have been left without work, and the new secretary of the regional committee would have complied with the order anyway,” he concluded.

The unofficial reason behind the demolition of the Ipatiev House was the need for reconstruction of the entire block – therefore, according to the “reconstruction” plans, all houses located in the entire block were to be demolished. The fact that the houses and merchant buildings located in the quarter were of architectural and historical value of late 19th-early 20th century Ekaterinburg, was of no interest to the authorities.

Experts noted that having destroyed the entire block, the authorities made it difficult to find the exact place where the Ipatiev House was located.

After the construction of the Church on the Blood, some people claimed that the Imperial Room – built on the site of the basement room of the Ipatiev House, where the family were all murdered – located in the Lower Church of the Church on the Blood is inaccurate. Each year on the anniversary of the regicide, a small group of people gather and create a square on one of the marble stones on the territory of the Church on the Blood. Here, they lay flowers, light candles and offer up prayers. It is ironic that given that the experts could not determine the exact spot, that a group of amateurs could?! 

Prior to the demolition of the Ipatiev House, local historians removed many valuable interior elements, including a fireplace, door handles, tiles, stucco molding from walls, iron bars from windows, etc. These items can be seen today in local museums in Ekaterinburg and Ganina Yama. It is interesting to note, when opening the floor in the grand duchesses bedroom, a golden bracelet with precious stones and the monogram ‘T’ was found hidden under the baseboard and wrapped in a newspaper. The whereabouts of this bracelet is unknown to the author.

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A simple wooden cross marked the spot of the Ipatiev House after its demolition

Could the Ipatiev House have been saved?

As previously noted in his memoirs, Yeltsin claimed that the house was destroyed in one night, but in reality it took two days to raze the building to the ground. Perhaps he just forgot. Here’s what else is remarkable. The destruction of the mansion began on 22nd September 1977, that is, more than two years after the decision of the Politburo. 

The thing is that in 1975 the First Secretary of the Sverdlovsk Regional Party Committee was Yakov Petrovich Ryabov – Yeltsin replaced him in this post only on 2nd November  1976. Journalists later asked Ryabov why he was in no hurry to comply with the highest order? “And why should I be in a hurry? The house stood in a lowland, it was not bothering anyone,” the former head of Sverdlovsk replied. According to Ryabov, he told his subordinates that when the reconstruction plan for the entire micro-district was ready, then a demolition decision would be made. Rumor had it that Ryabov wanted to keep the house and that even Brezhnev had taken an interest in it. In any case, it is known that the demolition of the house was opposed by representatives of the All-Union Society for the Protection of Monuments of History and Culture, and Ryabov helped them in every way. Many communists who were not members of the Politburo did not agree with the destruction of the historical building.

Perhaps such a confrontation contributed to the postponement of the demolition? It is also possible that those in Moscow would eventually have forgotten about their decision, however, the new secretary of the Sverdlovsk regional committee, Yeltsin, took the initiative and brought it to an end. Most historians agree that Boris Yeltsin was keen to improving his political position by transferring to Moscow and took advantage of an opportunity given to him.

* * *

In August 2000, Nicholas II and his family were canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate as Royal Martyrs. In 2000-2003, the Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land was built on the site of the former Ipatiev House. On the night of 16/17 July 2018, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill delivered a Divine Liturgy here. This was followed by a cross procession by an estimated 100,000 people from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama (21 km).

On 16 June 2003, 85 years after the murders of the former imperial family, the main church was consecrated by Metropolitan bishop Yuvenaly, delegated by Patriarch Alexy II who was too ill at the time to travel to Ekaterinburg, assisted by Russian Orthodox clergy from all over the Russian Federation.

Click HERE to read my article Doomed to Resurrection: Is it Possible to Reconstruct the Ipatiev House?, published on 2nd July 2018 and my article “What if” the Ipatiev House was reconstructed?, published on 29th November 2019

© Paul Gilbert. 25 February 2020

 

The Emperor’s Musical Preferences: Favourite Performers of Nicholas II

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Design for the Imperial-era curtain of the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg

In pre-revolutionary Russia, special attention was paid to the musical education of children from noble families. Girls were taught to play music and sing, and boys had to understand music. Naturally, the last Russian emperor Nicholas II was also musically educated. While he could play the piano, he was not fond of playing music and did not sing, even though he understood music, he loved romances and folk songs.

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Varya Vasilyevna Panina (1872-1911)

Varya Panina

In the early twentieth century, gypsy music was in fashion in Russia, and the first star was Varya Panina (1872-1911), whose voice was greatly admired by the famous Russian opera singer Fyodor Chaliapin himself, who often enjoyed the singer’s performances in the fashionable Yar Restaurant in Moscow.

Born into the family of Gypsy horse traders in Moscow, the performer was small in stature, suffered from being overweight, smoked cheap cigarettes and always performed while sitting in a chair, bowing infrequently simply to indulge her audience. However, she possessed outstanding vocal abilities. Famous for her deep contralto voice, Panina became one of the most popular music stars of early 20th century Russia.

In 1902 Varya Panina debuted on stage at the Dvoryanskoye Sobranye (The Gentry Assembly) in St. Petersburg. After her success, she performed only on stage, giving solo concerts, performing Gypsy songs and Russian romances to rapturous response. Among her fans were the poet Alexander Blok, writers Leo Tolstoy, Alexander Kuprin, Anton Chekhov, the artist Konstantin Korovin and members of the Imperial family. 

In 1906, Varvara Panina’s fame had reached the Imperial capital St. Petersburg and it was decided to invite her to the Mariinsky Theater with a solo concert.

The entire Imperial family was present at the concert, and after its completion, Varya Panina was invited to meet Nicholas II. The emperor jokingly chided the performer that his collection had not a single recording of the singer, one which all of Russia listened to. The representative of the Gramophone Company, who was present during the conversation between the tsar and Varya Panina, immediately took note of the tsar’s comment, and shortly thereafter, the emperor was presented with an amazing gift edition, which included 20 recordings of the gypsy singer.

Two songs from the repertoire of Varya Panin which the tsar enjoyed the most were: «Лебединая песня» Swan Song and «Мы были молоды с тобой» We Were Young With You. The words to the last romance were written by Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich (1858-1915).

Sadly, the talented performer died very young (age 38) of a heart attack on 28th May 1911, and was buried at the Vagankovo cemetery.

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Nadezhda Vasilyevna Plevitskaya (1884-1940)

Nadezhda Plevitskaya

She was a real prima donna, famous for her Russian folk songs. It was the Minister of the Imperial Court Count Vladimir Fredericks, through whose efforts the singer was invited to perform concerts at the Russian Court. It has been said, that during the performances of Nadezhda Vasilyevna Plevitskaya (1884-1940), Nicholas II sobbed without hesitation, having been so moved while listening to the singers heartfelt compositions about the hard life of the Russian peasants.

Nadezhda Plevitskaya began to sing in Kiev, in the chapel of Alexandra Lipkina, changing her maid’s uniform to a concert dress. The girl, born to a peasant family in the village of Vinnikovo, near Kursk, did not know and had not learnt music, but her vocal talent and  ear for music allowed her to become a professional singer. She performed in Minkevich’s Lapotniki Choir, and then began to sing in the same Yar Restaurant in Moscow, where Varya Panina had achieved her fame.

The famous opera singer Leonid Sobinov heard Plevitskaya in the Naumov Restaurant during the Nizhny Novgorod Fair, and from there helped the performer organize performances at the Moscow Conservatory. Nadezhda Plevitskaya enjoyed incredible popularity, was friends with the famous Russian opera singer Fyodor Chaliapin and actors of the Art Theater.

Through Nicholas II, the performer became known as the “Kursk nightingale”, and the wife of the emperor Alexandra Fedorovna even presented Nadezhda Plevitskaya with a beetle design diamond brooch.

Rising from the bottom, Nadezhda Plevitskaya began to receive very high fees for her performances, and she never refused to help those in need, becoming one of St. Petersburg’s most well-known philanthropists. During World War I, she worked as a nurse in a hospital, after the revolution she emigrated to France, where in 1937 she was sentenced to 20 years of hard labor for collaborating with the NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) in the Soviet Union, and complicity in the abduction of Yevgeny Miller, the chief plenipotentiary for military and naval affairs under General P.N. Wrangel.

Nadezhda Plevitskaya died in a Rennes prison of a heart ailment on 1 October 1940, during the German occupation.

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Yuri Spiridonovich Morfessi (1882-1949)

Yuri Morfessi

Fyodor Ivanovich Chaliapin christened Yuri Spiridonovich Morfessi (1882-1949) “the accordion of the Russian song”, while journalists and fans hailed him as: “the prince of the gypsy song”. In the 1910s, Yuri Morfessi was at the peak of his fame, adored by fans, reaping unusually high fees for his performances. The handsome income of the artist allowed him to purchase a luxurious apartment on Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg, and open his own restaurant «Уголок» “Corner”.

In the summer of 1914, he performed a private concert on the Imperial yacht Polar Star «Полярная звезда» in the presence of the Imperial family. Nicholas II listened to the singer with undisguised pleasure, and then personally shook hands with Yuri Morfessi, thanking him for his performance.

A month after the performance, the performer was presented with a pair of diamond double-headed eagle cuff-links as a gift of thanks from the Emperor. In 1914, it was planned to invite Morfessi for a three-day guest voyage on the imperial yacht, but these plans were cancelled due to the outbreak of the First World War.

In the fall of 1917, while touring the Far East, Morfessi learned about the coup in Petrograd. He returned to Petersburg, but, after learning about the murder of the tsar and his family the following year, he left for Odessa. It was here, where he opened the Artist’s House and organized performances of famous artists.

In 1920, he emigrated to Europe, where he sang in Paris, Belgrade, and Zagreb. With the outbreak of World War II, he became a member of the concert crew of the Russian Corps, created by Russian emigrants in Yugoslavia. In 1943, he toured Berlin, where he recorded records.

Yuri Morfessi died of a heart attack on 12 July 1949 in Füssen, Bavaria. Obituaries were published in Russian Thought (France) and LDCs (USA). Sadly, the grave of the singer was not preserved..

© Paul Gilbert. 14 January 2020

Nicholas II and the Armenian Genocide

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Although the Russians began World War I by losing terribly to the Germans, their battles against the Turks went much better. After several serious defeats, it seemed that Russia was on the cusp of freeing the Armenian people from the Turkish yoke. However, that’s not what happened. Seeing how badly they were losing, the Turks vented their frustration on the Armenian population. The genocide began.

Because of the failures on the Western Front, many troops were siphoned off from the war with Turkey. Despite this reduction, the Russians continued to advance on the Turks through 1914 and 1915. However, the reduced number of soldiers made it impossible for the Russians to prevent the genocide. It began on 24th April 1915.

As soon as the killings began, Emperor Nicholas II ordered his army to do everything possible to save the remaining Armenians. Of the roughly 1.65 million Armenians living in Turkey, 375,000 escaped into Russia. That’s almost 25% percent of the entire population.

According to G. Ter-Markarian’s seminal work on the Armenian Genocide, this is how Nicholas II managed to rescue so many Armenians:

‘In the beginning of the disaster of 1915, the Russian-Turkish border was opened by order of the Russian Tsar. Massive crowds of refugees entered the Russian Empire. I heard eye-witness accounts of the extreme joy and tears of gratitude of the sufferers. They fell on Russian soil and kissed it. I heard that the stern, bearded Russian soldiers had to hide their own tears. They shared their food with Armenian children. Armenian mothers kissed the boots of Russian Cossacks who took two, sometimes three Armenian boys on their own saddles. Armenian priests blessed the Russian soldiers with crosses in their hands.

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Cover of the June 30, 2016 issue of ‘Excelsior’ carried an illustration of a Russian soldier on horseback with a refugee child in his arms. The picture was captioned, ‘The Symbol of Protection of the Armenians by Russians.’

‘At the border, many tables were set up. Russian government workers accepted the Armenians without any papers. They gave each member of a family a single ruble and a special document that allowed them to travel anywhere in the entire Russian Empire for a year. The document even gave them free public transportation! Soup kitchens were set up nearby as well.

‘Russian doctors and nurses handed out free medicine. They were present to offer emergency services to the sick, wounded, and pregnant.’

A number of committees and organizations were engaged in the Armenian refugee relief effort, among them the Committee of Her Highness Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna. The Tatiana Committee, established on Sept. 14, 1914, was a major initiative. Among the committee’s main responsibilities were providing one-time financial support for refugees; assisting in repatriation or resettlement, as well as refugee registration; responding to inquiries from relatives; and arranging employment and housing assistance.

The state treasury supported the activities of the Tatiana Committee, and donations from various institutions, committees, and individual donors offered significant sums. The committee also deployed the power of the press and placed appeals in newspapers to raise money. As a result, by April 20, 1915, it had raised 299,792 rubles and 57 kopeks (about $150,000). Acknowledging the potential of artistic events in promoting fundraising, the Tatiana Committee hosted charity concerts, auctions, performances, and exhibitions. A.I. Goremykina, the wife of the prime minister, organized an arts night in Marinskii Palace on March 29, 1915, which was a great financial success. An auction of paintings by famous Russian artists brought the Tatiana Committee 25,000 rubles from that one event alone.

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On 24th October 2015, a monument to Emperor Nicholas II was unveiled in the Armenian Museum in Moscow

As a result of the 375 thousand Armenians saved, that is, the Russian Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II saved 23% of the entire Armenian population of Turkey. As historian Paul Paganutstsi wrote: “For one thing it is his [Nicholas II’s] salvation for which he can be counted among the saints.”

At the insistence of Nicholas II, a declaration of allied countries was adopted on 24th May 1915, in which the genocide of the Armenian population was recognized as a crime against humanity.

On 24th October 2015, a monument to Emperor Nicholas II was unveiled in the Armenian Museum in Moscow. It is regrettable, however, that in Armenia itself there is still no monument to Emperor Nicholas II, and in Armenian publishers books of falsifiers and Russophobes are coming out, which are trying to slander the great emancipating mission of the Russian Empire. But the memory of the Armenian nation Russia will always be a liberator.

© Paul Gilbert. 2 November 2019

Moscow thanks US for return of historic documents related to Russia’s last tsar

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US Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman (left) with deputy head of the Rosarchive Andrei Yurasov (right), review the sixteen stolen documents returned to Russia

During a ceremony held on 18th September at Spaso House, the residence of U.S. Ambassador in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed its gratitude to the US Embassy in Russia and US law-enforcement agencies for the return of historic documents, dated from the reign of Tsar Nicholas II (1894-1917) and stolen from Russian archives in the 1990s.

“The documents include sixteen original decrees, signed by Tsar Nicholas II on bestowing the Russian Empire’s state imperial and royal awards of 1905, 1913 and 1914,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “We express our gratitude to US law enforcement agencies and the US Embassy in Moscow for their contribution in restoring the historical justice.”

The documents were stolen from the Russian State Historical Archive of St. Petersburg in 1994, and surfaced 10 years later at an auction in the United States. At auction, a single document can sell for $3,000 USD or more.

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Stolen decrees bearing the signature of Nicholas II, were returned to Russia on 18th September, during an official ceremony hosted at Spaso House, the residence of U.S. Ambassador in Moscow

In 2014, US Department of Homeland Security received information from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation that documents of historical importance were being sold by a US auction house. After an investigation was held, the documents were found to be genuine.

This is the fifth stolen document transfer ceremony to take place in the past 13 years, thanks to the US Department of Homeland Security. “These documents are of great importance for studying the history of Russia, the award system of the Russian Empire, biographies of state, military, public figures of the beginning of the 20th century,” said the deputy head of the Rosarchive Andrei Yurasov.

The looting of cultural property is one of the oldest types of crime that has spread around the world, said Katie Bay, the regional attache of the US Department of Homeland Security Investigation Service, promising to continue cooperation with Russia in the search for documents and memorabilia of historic significance, declared as missing from Russian archives and museums, which resurface on the US antiquarian market.

Katie Bey stated during a news conference that the US authorities suspect the theft of documents by Vladimir Weinberg, who is currently allegedly hiding from justice in Israel.

He is professionally interested in art, said Katie Bey. – He was already arrested in the 1980s by Russian law enforcement agencies and spent some time in prison. But immediately after his release, he took up the old. I believe that he had accomplices who provided him access to the archives, where he stole thousands of various documents.

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This *ukase bearing the signature of Nicholas II was one of sixteen stolen in the 1990s.
*A ukase, or ukaz, in Imperial Russia, was a proclamation of the tsar that had the force of law

The director of the Department of Museums of the Ministry of Culture Vladislav Kononov also added, that during the past 10 years of cooperation with the United States, more than 100 stolen items had been returned to Russia. In particular, were documents with authentic autographs of the Russian Emperors.

“The joint meticulous work between the two states’ relevant government agencies to locate missing valuables and return them to Russia shall continue for many years, thus demonstrating a great positive potential of a constructive approach to bilateral ties,” the ministry added.

Prior to transferring them back to the archive, US Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman was told in detail which figures were awarded the last Russian emperor. For example, he awarded the Order of St. Anne, 3rd Class to the photographer of the Imperial family Alexander Yagelsky.

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Ukase bearing the signature of Nicholas II was one of sixteen stolen in the 1990s.

At present, our relationship is undergoing a crisis of confidence. And there is no better way to take it to a new level than to take such steps. This confirms that there are areas where the United States and Russia can cooperate and truly cooperate. And our goal as diplomats is to create such trust. Today we are taking a small step in a positive direction, and I would be glad if we could take such steps every day. In that case, in a year we would have advanced far,” the US ambassador to Russia smiled.

According to Andrei Yurasov, in the 1990s, thousands of documents were stolen from Russian archives, many of which have not been recovered so far. But today the level of theft has been reduced to zero thanks to improved security systems, the establishment of control over the use of scripts in reading rooms and the digitization of the most requested documents. 

And Andrei Yurasov assured him that now the archive, where 6.5 million files are stored, is equipped with the most modern security systems – thieves shall not pass!

© Paul Gilbert. 26 September 2019

 

Consecration of monument to Alexander II in the presence of Emperor Nicholas II in Kiev 1911

VIDEO: The consecration of monument to Alexander II in the presence of Emperor Nicholas II, Kiev 30th August 1911. Duration: 11 minutes, 17 seconds. Music.

In 1911, a monument to Emperor Alexander II by the sculptor Ettore Ximenes and architect Hippolyte Nikolaev, was established in Kiev. The monument was established in connection with the 50th anniversary of the abolition of serfdom and was the largest monument to Alexander II in the Russian Empire.

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Photo: Emperor Nicholas II, Metropolitan of Kiev, members of the imperial family including Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and her five children, and Crown Prince Boris of Bulgaria

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Photo: Members of the Clergy, Emperor Nicholas II, Grand Duchesses Olga (left) and Tatiana (right), Minister of the Imperial Court Count V. B. Frederiks (second right), and Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich (far right)

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Photo: Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchesses, members of the Clergy at the tomb of Iskra and Kochubey, in the Kiev Pechersk Lavra

Description

The monument to Alexander II was located in the central part of Kiev, on Tsarskaya Square at the entrance to the Merchants Garden.

The monument consisted of three pedestals. On the central tower stood a bronze statue of the emperor. He was depicted in full height in a uniform and a mantle thrown over his shoulders, in his right hand he held the Manifesto on the abolition of serfdom, his other hand resting on the arm of his throne. Around the monument on the lower pedestal was a bas-relief depicting peasants – representatives of the peoples of the empire in national costumes, among which stood out the figure of a woman in traditional Russian costume symbolizing Russia.

The central pedestal was decorated with the emblem of the Russian Empire – a two-headed eagle – and the inscription: “The South-Western Territory is grateful to the Tsar-Liberator. 1911″. In front of the flank pedestals, sculptural compositions of Mercy and Justice were installed. All three pedestals were united by a wide pediment with bas-reliefs depicting individual moments of the emperor’s life and work. The pedestal was made of pink granite, the steps of grey granite. Imperial bronze crowns were installed on the side ledges of the steps

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Photo: Participants at the opening ceremony of the monument before the parade

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Photo: The mayor of Kiev brings the traditional bread and salt to Emperor Nicholas II

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Photo: A moleben is performed at the monument to Emperor Alexander II

Consecration

A visit to Kiev by Emperor Nicholas II with his family and members of the Imperial Court was scheduled for August 1911. The delegations prepared a special program of events during their stay in Kiev, including solemn prayers, theatre visits, troop reviews, a walk along the Dnieper to Chernigov among other events. The main event of the program and the main purpose of the tsar’s visit to Kiev was the opening of the monument to Alexander II on Tsarskaya Square.

The construction of the monument to Alexander II was completed. Triumphal arches were built. The streets and the facades of buildings were richly decorated with flags, wreaths and buntings. Troops of the Russian Imperial Army arrived in the city to participate in manoeuvres.

Nicholas II arrived to open the monument to his grandfather in late August 1911. The ceremony itself took place on 12th September (O.S. 30th August) 1911), the day of memory of the Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky, in whose honour his emperor grandfather Alexander Nikolaevich was named. The monument was opened in the presence of Emperor Nicholas II and members of his family, Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin , Chief Prosecutor of the Holy Synod Vladimir Sabler , chief of the gendarmes Kurlov, Minister of Education Kasso, son and heir of Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, government and Court officials, representatives of the Austro-Swedish and Swiss consulates. During the festivities, citizens received postcards with photographic reproductions of the monument.

Sadly, the celebration on the occasion of the unveiling of the monument in Kiev was overshadowed by the assassination of Prime Minister Peter Stolypin, whom the terrorist Social Revolutionary Dmitry Bogrov shot dead on 14 (O.S 1 September 1911.

Work on the improvement of the monument continued after its opening. In particular, in July 1914, elegant bronze grates were installed, decorated with state emblems, and a parterre lawn was built around the monument. The monument was illuminated by four lamps.

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Photo: Emperor Nicholas II and members of the City Duma at the monument to Emperor Alexander II

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Photo: Priests and Emperor Nicholas II at the monument to Emperor Alexander II

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Photo: Emperor Nicholas II greets Crown Prince Boris Of Bulgaria at the monument to Emperor Alexander II

Destruction by the Soviets

The monument as part of the city’s history was a short one, ending nine years after its consecration. In April 1919, the Bolshevik city newspaper raised the question of liquidating the monument to Alexander II by 14 (O.S. 1 May), but the plan failed, and the monument was covered with a large black drape. The tsar’s figure was removed from the pedestal in November 1920, while all the metal parts were dismantled and sent to the Arsenal smelting plant.

The preserved pedestal of the monument has long been used by the Bolsheviks as a propaganda tool. In particular, in place of the tsar, an eight-meter figure of a Red Army soldier made of plywood in a Budenovka coat, overcoat and a rifle in his hands was installed. This work was called the “Monument to the Red Army – Defender of the Masses.” There were plans to replace the Monument to the Red Army, and replace it with a monument to the October Revolution on this site, however, the project never came to fruition.

In 1932, the city authorities decided to dismantle the pedestal, which had previously been designed as a decoration for the entrance of the Proletarian Garden. At the end of the 1930s, a cascade of fountains was built here and a statue of Joseph Stalin was installed. After the liberation of Kiev from Nazi troops, the statue of Joseph Stalin was restored; while the square itself was renamed in honour of Stalin (on the eve of his 65th birthday in December 1944). But this lasted only until the decisions of the XX Congress of the CPSU in 1956. Since that time, no monuments stood in the park. Now where the monument to Alexander II stood, the entrance to Khreshchaty Park is located, there are pedestrian sidewalks, a small amount of green space, an entrance to the underpass, advertising signs.

© Paul Gilbert. 29 August 2019