Rare 1896 Medal Depicting Nicholas & Alexandra Sells at Auction

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Only two medals were cast, each made of 300 grams of gold

On 24th March 2019, a rare and beautiful medal (300 grams of gold) marking the 1896 visit to Paris by Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, sold at auction for nearly €90,000 ($100,000 USD) at the Hôtel des Ventes de la Seine auction house in Rouen, France.

The gold medal was struck on 7th October 1896, on the occasion of the visit of Emperor Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra to the Monnaie de Paris (Mint) with the president of the French Republic Felix Faure.

In competition were six buyers, all bidding over the telephone. Under the hammer of Mr. Guillaume Cheroyan, the object was sold to an annoymous Swiss buyer, for the tidy sum of € 73,000 (€ 89,060 with fees), and selling for more than double its initial estimate, set at € 30,000. 

The profiles of the Imperial couple are engraved on the front by the famous Jules-Clément Chaplain. Only two copies of this diplomatic gift were made, one presented to Emperor Nicholas II, the second to President Felix Faure.

Its provenance, however, remains a mystery. “We are not certain,” admitted Cheroyan, however, he was optimistic that his hammer fell on one of the two copies presented to  Nicholas II. Cheroyan noted that the seller – a local numismatist – had reported to the auctioneer that the medal had belonged to an émigré Russian aristocrat. “One can then imagine that, after Lenin nationalized the personal property of the Imperial family, that the Bolsheviks sold as many items as possible.”

This did not prevent him from sending an email to the Kremlin, to inform the Russian government of the sale of this 300 gold gram piece of Imperial Russia’s history.

© Paul Gilbert. 26 March 2019

 

Dispute over the colour of Nicholas II’s eyes

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Many people who met Nicholas II, whether friend or foe, testify to his overwhelming charm. “With his usual simplicity and friendliness,” wrote his Prime Minister, Vladimir Kokovtsov. “A rare kindness of heart,” commented Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov. “A charm that attracted all that came near him,” wrote British Ambassador Sir George Buachanan. “Charming in the kindly simplicity of his ways,’ said his niece’s husband Prince Felix Yusupov.

It was Nicholas II’s eyes, in particular, which attracted people to him. His cousin Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich wrote of “that clear, deep, expressive look that cannot fail but charm and enchant.”

Yet it is the colour of Nicholas II’s eyes seems to be in dispute. His early biographer Sergei Oldenburg refers to his “large radiant grey eyes,” which “peered directly into one’s soul and lent power to his words”; Hélène Vacaresco who met Nicholas when he was Tsesarevich, also wrote of his “large grey eyes.” One of his most intimate cousins Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, on the other hand, refers to the “beauty of his frank blue eyes.” More strangely Kokovtsov, who had the chance to stare into those eyes many times, writes that they were “usually of a velvety dark brown.”

The true colour of Nicholas II’s eyes is captured in Serov’s famous portrait, painted in 1900, the eyes are a grey-blue, matching the colour of his uniform. 

© Paul Gilbert. 25 March 2019

Last Tsar. Nicholas II, His Reign & His Russia by S. S. Oldenburg (1939)

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4-volume edition of Last Tsar. Nicholas II, His Reign & His Russia by S. S. Oldenburg (1975) 
Photo © Paul Gilbert

I have been collecting books on Nicholas II now for decades, and there is nothing I enjoy more than a good book hunt! The title which I wanted most to complete my library was the English language 4-volume edition of Last Tsar. Nicholas II, His Reign & His Russia by the noted Russian historian and journalist Sergei Sergeiivich Oldenburg (1888-1940). This title has been out of print for many years now, however, several years back, I was able to track down a set in mint condition, through a Dutch bookseller for €75. This is the only study of Russia’s last emperor and tsar that I would recommend to any serious student of the life and reign of Russia’s last emperor and tsar.

It was the Supreme Monarchist Council[1], a monarchist organization created by Russian émigrés in 1921, who commissioned Oldenburg to write a comprehensive history of the reign of Emperor Nicholas II. The first volume which appeared in Russian, was published in 1939 in Belgrade (Serbia), and the second was not published until a decade later, and posthumously in 1949 in Munich (Germany). The first Russian edition published in Post-Soviet Russia was in 1991. Numerous reprints have been issued since.

The English language edition was published in 1975 by Academic International Press in Gulf Breeze, Florida. Of particular note is the 18-page introduction Searching for the Last Tsar by Associate Professor of History Patrick J. Rollins (now deceased) of Old Dominion University (est. 1930), a public research university in Norfolk, Virginia. As Rollins notes in the study’s preface:

“Oldenburg’s [ Last Tsar. Nicholas II, His Reign & His Russia] is a major document in modern Russian historiography. The final contribution of a Russian nationalist historian, it provides uniquely sensitive insights into the character, personality, and policies of Russia’s last tsar. It has no rival as a political biography of Nicholas II and is without peer as a comprehensive history of his reign.”

His comprehensive study of Nicholas II is apologetic in nature. Oldenburg substantiates that the revolution interrupted the successful progressive economic development of Russia under Nicholas II: “in the twentieth year of the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, Russia had reached a unprecedented level of economic prosperity”.

Oldenburg was able to undertake such a study of Russia’s last tsar, having had access to a unique collection of documents. These included copies of authentic historical acts of the Russian Empire held in the Russian Embassy in Paris on Rue Grenelle. Long before the First World War, duplicates of the originals had been made as a precautionary measure, and sent to the Russian Embassy in Paris for storage. In October 1917, the Provisional Government appointed Vasily Alekseyevich Maklakov (1869-1957), to replace Alexander Izvolsky as Russia’s Ambassador to France. 

When he arrived in Paris, Maklakov learned about the takeover by the Bolsheviks. Regardless, he continued to occupy the splendid mansion of the Russian embassy for seven years, until France found it necessary to recognize the Bolshevik government. Fearing that the Embassy’s archival documents would fall into the hands of the Bolsheviks, Makloakov packed them up, including Oldenburg’s manuscript, the Okhrana archives, among other items and arranged for their transfer to the Stanford University.

Oldenburg’s fundamental historical research on the life and reign of Emperor Nicholas II, is sadly overlooked or simply ignored by Western historians.

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Sergei Sergeiivich Oldenburg was born on 29 [O.S. 17] June 1888, in the town of Malaya Vishera, Russia. His father Sergey Fedorovich Oldenburg (1863-1934), was a famed academician (1900), and Orientalist specializing in Buddhist studies. He served as permanent secretary of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (from 1904), Russian Academy of Sciences (from 1917), USSR Academy of Sciences (1925-1929), and Minister of Public Education (July — September 1917). His mother Alexandra Pavlovna Oldenburg (nee Timofeeva), was a graduate of the Mathematics Department of the Pedagogical Courses. She died in 1891.

He graduated from the law faculty of Moscow University, and later worked as an official in the Ministry of Finance of Russia.

Unlike his father, who adhered to liberal political views, Sergei from a young age adhered to right-wing views, a member the Union of October 17[2].

In 1918 Oldenburg went to the Crimea, where he joined the White movement. In the fall of 1920, he was unable to evacuate with the Russian Army, headed by General Baron P.N. Wrangel, because he was sick with typhoid . Having recovered, with fake documents, he travelled from Crimea to Petrograd, where he met his father, who helped him to emigrate. 

He crossed the border into Finland, settling in Germany and then Paris, France, where he lived in poverty. Sergei Sergeiivich Oldenburg died at the age of 51, in Paris on 28 April 1940.

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Russian language editions of Oldenburg’s study of Nicholas II have been issued since 1991 

NOTES:

[1] The First Monarchical Congress, was held between 29th May to 6th June 1921, in the Bavarian restort town of Reichengal. The international congress of Russian monarchists in Germany, was intended to organize the activities of of monarchists both in emigration and in Russia (now the Soviet Union). 

The congress was attended by 100 delegates from 30 countries, Metropolitan Anthony (Honorary Chairman), Archbishop Eulogius, Archimandrite Sergius, five senators, two army commanders, five members of the State Council, eight members of the State Duma, fourteen generals and many other statesmen. The chairman of the congress was Alexander Nikolaevich Krupensky (1861-1939).

During the Congress, the question of succession was declared untimely, since the possibility of saving the Imperial family was not ruled out. At the congress, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna was recognized as the undisputed authority among Russian monarchists.

[2] The Union of October 17, commonly known as the Octobrist Party, was a political party in late Imperial Russia, firmly committed to a system of constitutional monarchy.  

Founded in late October 1905, from 1906 the party was led by the industrialist Alexander Guchkov (1862-1936) who drew support from centrist-liberal gentry, and businessmen, who shared moderately right-wing, anti-revolutionary views. They were generally allied with the governments of Sergei Witte in 1905-1906 and Pyotr Stolypin in 1906-1911.

With the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, moderate political parties became moribund in Russia. By 1915, the Octobrists all but ceased to exist outside the capital, Petrograd. Several of its prominent members, particularly Guchkov and Mikhail Rodzianko, continued to play a significant role in Russian politics until 1917, when they were instrumental in convincing Nicholas II to abdicate during the February Revolution and in forming the Russian Provisional Government. With the fall of the Romanovs in March, the party became one of the ruling parties in the first Provisional Government.

Some members of the party later participated in the White Movement after the October Revolution and during the Russian Civil War (1918-1920), becoming active in White émigré circles after the Bolshevik victory in 1920. By that time, the October Revolution had given the term “Octobrist” a completely different meaning and connotation in Russian politics.

© Paul Gilbert. 26 March 2019

Icon of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

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Lieutenant Colonel Johnny Biggart holds the icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

Lieutenant Colonel Johnny Biggart, commander of the elite Scottish military unit Scots Dragoon Guards, holds the icon of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II. This photo was taken in 2012 in Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan.

The icon was presented to the regiment in August 2001 by the Moscow Caledonian Club “on behalf of the Russian people”. The icon of the holy martyr Nicholas II accompanies the Scots Dragoon Guards Scottish regiment wherever they are deployed. 

Tsar Nicholas II was appointed an honorary member of the Royal Scots Greys by Britain’s Queen Victoria in 1894, after he became engaged to Alexandra Feodorovna (Princess Alix of Hesse), who was Victoria’s granddaughter.

To this day Tsar Nicholas II is commemorated by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (which the Royal Scots Greys became in 1971), by the playing of the Russian Imperial anthem at certain mess functions. 

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Newspaper article shows Vitaly Mironov presenting icon to Major-General Hall

The Director of the Moscow Caledonian Club Vitaly Mironov notes that the idea to present an icon to the Scots Dragoon Guards Scottish regiment was one shared with historian Dr. Dmitry Fedosov, who then commissioned a church artist to paint this special icon. The icon was solemnly handed over by Mironov to the regimental commander on 24th August 2001, during a special ceremony in Edinburgh Castle in the presence of Mr. Smironov, the Consul General of the Russian Federation; the oldest member of the British Parliament Tam Dalyell; a large number of journalists and artists of the Russian Cossacks State Dance Company, who regularly perform in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. 

When the producer of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Brigadier Melville Jameson asked Mironov “on behalf of whom do we want to present this icon to the regiment?”, he replied – “please mention that it was not done on our own behalf, but on behalf of ALL RUSSIAN PEOPLE.”

“This is extremely important for us,” added Mironov,  “because we considered the very fact of painting this icon and its presentation to the glorious Scottish regiment, as an act of the deepest repentance of ALL OF OUR PEOPLE for the greatest evil that our ancestors did to the Tsar, his family and members of the household … It is our history and our common historical memory.”

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Vitaly Moronov for supplying me with this information and the importance of this icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II.

Click HERE for more information about the Moscow Caledonian Club

© Paul Gilbert. 23 March 2019

Nicholas II: Noteworthy Articles No. 1 (2019)

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This new series features links to full-length articles from English media sources. They include contemporary assessments of the lies and myths about Nicholas II, exhibitions, book reviews and more.

“PAINFUL POINTS” OF NICHOLAS II’s REIGN
Truth and Fiction

Yuri Pushchaev spoke with doctor of historical sciences and associate professor in the department of history at Moscow State University Fedor Gaida about the most frequent claims against the last Russian Emperor and how fair and appropriate they are.

A NEW LOOK AT THE LAST TSAR + VIDEO

An exhibition at the State Historical Museum in Moscow presents over 750 photographs of Nicholas II and his family, as well as paintings, objects and memorabilia, and some commentary from people who knew the tsar and his family. Many of the exhibits are rarely shown or have never been shown before.

NICHOLAS II ORTHODOX TSAR

After the extreme westernization of the eighteenth-century Tsars, Tsar Nicholas began to restore Russia, and the Russian autocracy, to her Byzantine and Orthodox roots.

HOW THE ROYAL HOUSES OF EUROPE ABANDONED THE ROMANOVS

They were all related but, as Helen Rappaport shows, nationalism prevailed over sentiment.

There is bitter irony in the story Ms Rappaport skilfully tells. Posterity finds something horrifying about the sovereigns of Europe, who virtually formed a single extended family, sending their subjects to slaughter one another. But in the end, nationalism also constrained the family loyalties of the continent’s monarchs, who could or would not save their Russian relatives from murder — the centenary of which was commemorated in Russia in 2018. The rites were solemn, but the massacre was a gruesome mess.

© Paul Gilbert. 23 March 2019

The Canonization of Nicholas II

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The canonization of the last Imperial Family of Russia was the elevation to sainthood of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra, and their five children, the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and the Tsesarevich Alexei – by the Russian Orthodox Church. The family were murdered by the Bolsheviks on 17 July 1918 at the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg; the site of their murders is now beneath the altar of the Church on Blood.

They are variously designated as new martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCOR) and as passion bearers by the church inside Russia. The family was canonized on 1 November 1981 as new martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. Their servants, who had been killed along with them, were also canonized. The canonized servants were their court physician, Yevgeny Botkin; their footman Alexei Trupp; their cook, Ivan Kharitonov; and Alexandra’s maid, Anna Demidova. Also canonized were two servants killed in September 1918, lady in waiting Anastasia Hendrikova and tutor Catherine Adolphovna Schneider. All were canonized as victims of oppression by the Bolsheviks. The Russian Orthodox Church did not canonize the servants, two of whom were not Russian Orthodox: Trupp was Roman Catholic, and Schneider was Lutheran.

In 2000 Metropolitan Laurus became the First Hierarch of the ROCOR and expressed interest in the idea of reunification. The sticking point at the time was the ROCOR’s insistence that the Moscow Patriarchate address the slaying of Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1918 by the Bolsheviks. The ROCOR held that “the Moscow Patriarchy must speak clearly and passionately about the murder of the tsar’s family, the defeat of the anti-Bolshevik movement, and the execution and persecution of priests.”

Some of these concerns were ended with the jubilee Council of Bishops in 2000, which canonized Tsar Nicholas and his family, along with more than 1,000 martyrs and confessors.

On 20 August 2000, the Moscow Patriarchate ultimately canonized the family as passion bearers: people who face death with resignation, in a Christ-like manner, as distinguished from martyrs, the latter killed explicitly for their faith. They noted the piety of the family and reports that the Tsarina and her eldest daughter Olga prayed and attempted to make the sign of the cross immediately before they died. On 3 February 2016, the Bishop’s Council of the Russian Orthodox Church canonized Botkin as a righteous passion bearer.

Despite their official designation as “passion-bearers” by the Moscow Patriarchate, they are nevertheless spoken of as “martyrs” in Church publications, icons, and in popular veneration by the people.

In particular icons of both the Tsar and his family are displayed in a growing number of churches across Russia, where the faithful come to venerate them. Gift shops in Ganina Yama and the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg sell icons depicting the image of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearer Nicholas II.

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Click HERE to read the Report of the Holy Synod Commission on the Canonization of Saints with Respect to the Martyrdom of the Royal Family / 9-10 October 1996

© Paul Gilbert. 20 March 2019

Nicholas II’s Image Depicted on Soviet Submarine

Russia marks the ‘Day of the Submariner’ on 19th March. The date was not chosen by chance – it was on this day in 1906 that the submarines in the Imperial Russian Navy were ordered by the Secretary of the Navy – under orders from Emperor Nicholas II – to be allocated as a separate class of warships.

Today, the Double-Headed Eagle Society have honoured the memory of the founder of Russia’s first submarine fleet Emperor Nicholas II by depicting his image on the Soviet submarine K-21.

Launched in 1939, the Soviet submarine K-21 was a K-class submarine of the Soviet Navy during World War II. In the spring of 1981, she was moved to the city of Polyarny, Murmansk Oblast to be converted into a museum ship. After renovations, she was eventually moved to Severomorsk, Russia. The museum was opened in 1983. In the late 1990s, the boat underwent some general repairs. From 2008 to 2009, the museum was further renovated.

During the reign of Emperor Nicholas II the Imperial Russian Navy continued to expand in the later part of the century, regaining its position as the third largest fleet in the world after Britain and France.  It had a revival in the latter part of the century, but lost most of its Pacific Fleet along with the Baltic Fleet, both of which were sent to the Far East and subsequently destroyed in the disastrous Russo-Japanese of 1904. The second phase of Nicholas II’s military life was marked by his participation in the reorganization of the navy after the catastrophic Russo-Japanese War. 

Today, a century after his death, post-Soviet Russia recognizes the contribution of the last Russian Emperor to the development of the country’s underwater fleet.   

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Nicholas II, the founder of the Russian submarine fleet

On 19 March 1906, by decree of Emperor Nicholas II, the Maritime General Staff was organized with the Main Naval Staff, which assumed the functions of the operational body of the Imperial Navy. At first, attention was directed to the creation of mine-laying and a submarine fleet.  

Unfortunately, the name of the last emperor in this area of Russia’s military history is unjustly forgotten, thanks to Soviet dogma. From 1903 to 1917, Nicholas II ordered the construction of a total of 78 submarines – including the purchase of 11 foreign made submarines.

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Submarine and battleship of the Imperial Russian Navy

Click HERE to read my article The Imperial Russian Navy Under Nicholas II 1894-1917, which includes 2 videos + photographs

© Paul Gilbert. 19 March 2019

Nicholas II and the Boy Scout Movement in Russia

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A copy of the second edition of Young Scout (Юный Разведчик, published in 1910. Priced at 1 ruble, 25 kopecks

After reading the English language edition of Robert Baden-Powell’s book Scouting for Boys, Tsar Nicholas II immediately issued an order for its translation and publication. An initial printing of 25,000 copies of the Russian edition of  ‘Юный Разведчик’ (Young Scout) were issued in 1908.

The book inspired a young Russian officer, Colonel Oleg Ivanovich Pantyukhov (1882-1973),  to set up the first Russian Scout patrol the following year.

Colonel Oleg Ivanovich Pantyukhov was born in Kiev on 25 March 1882, to a family of a military physician and an anthropologist. From 1892 to 1899 he studied at Tifflis cadet school. During his studies he became a member of the group named Pushkin club. The group was somehow similar to the modern Boy Scouts. Every weekend they went on hiking trips with camping in the nearby mountains.

From 1899 to 1901, Pantyukhov studied at the Pavlovsk Military School. After graduation he became an officer of the Leib Guard (Russian Imperial Guard) 1st infantry battalion stationed in Tsarskoye Selo. In 1908 he married Nina Mikhaylovna Dobrovolskaya, who later became one of the pioneers of the Girl Guide movement in Russia. 

In 1908–09 Pantyukhov became acquainted with the works of Robert Baden-Powell and decided to try these ideas on Russian soil. He organized the first Russian Scout troop Бобр (Beaver) in Pavlovsk, on 30 April [O.S. 17 April] 1909. By late 1910 scout organizations existed in Tsarskoye Selo, St. Petersburg and Moscow.

 

Nicholas II extended a personal invitation to Baden-Powell to visit St. Petersburg and Moscow in December 1910 – January 1911. The Tsar personally received the Boy Scout leader in his study in the Alexander Palace on 2 January 1911.

“There was no ceremony about him,” Baden-Powell recorded in his diary. “He shook hands and, speaking in very good English, asked me about my visit and then went on to talk about the Boy Scouts.” They then had “a very cheery talk (no one else present) of over half an hour,” after which they parted. 

The Tsar had explained to Baden-Powell how he had ordered the translation and publication of the Boy Scout handbook and reviewed the first Russian Scout detachment, and went on to outline his hopes for the movement. According to Baden-Powell, Nicholas II was “much impressed by the possibilities which lie in the Movement for developing discipline, patriotism and character,” and approved “teaching the boys by methods which really appealed to their imagination and keenness.”

Baden-Powell departed fully convinced that the Tsar was absolutely sincere, and that he had “grasped the idea” of scouting. There is no question of Nicholas II’s interest in scouting was clearly genuine. Apart from ordering the Russian publication of Scouting for Boys, he seems personally to have arranged to meets its author. With Baden-Powell installed in the Imperial capital’s grand Hotel de France, the Tsar could have left any official interview to one of his ministers. Instead, he issued a private invitation through the British Embassy, a request that apparently took his visitor by complete surprise. This encounter was also quite unlike those with his Ministers and Duma politicians, meetings that the Tsar could not avoid, however much he disliked the advice they forced upon him. Put differently, with Baden-Powell it was Nicholas and Nicholas alone who both took the initiative and the agenda, and had no need to disguise his opinions or dissemble behind a mask of good manners.

On 19 December 1910, Pantyukhov met in St. Petersburg with Baden-Powell, the pair becoming good friends. The latter invited Pantyukhov to visit Scout organizations in England, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. On his return he wrote the first Russian Scouting books “Памятка Юного Разведчика” (Handbook for the Young Scout) and “В гостях у Бой-скаутов” (Visiting the Boy Scouts) (both 1912). In 1913 he wrote a book named “Спутник Бойскаута” (The Boy Scout Companion). Pantyukhov met Nicholas II and gifted a Scouting badge for Tsesarevich Alexei, who formally became a Scout.

In 1914, Pantyukhov established a society called Русский Скаут (Russian Scout ). The first Russian Scout patrol consisting of seven boys campfire was lit in the woods of Pavlovsk Park. A Russian Scout song exists to remember this event. Scouting spread rapidly across Russia and into Siberia, and by 1916 there were about 50,000 Scouts in Russia.

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Pantyukhov with scouts in 1915

During World War I Pantyukhov received the Cross of St. George, for bravery. During the October Revolution of 1917, he was the leader of the cadets who unsuccessfully defended the Kremlin from the Bolsheviks. In 1919 in Novocherkassk (controlled at the time by the White Army), Pantyukhov was unanimously elected the Chief Scout of Russia

With the advent of communism after the October Revolution of 1917, and during the Russian Civil War from 1917 to 1922, most of the Scoutmasters and many Scouts fought in the ranks of the White Army and interventionists against the Red Army. In 1918, a purge of the Scout leaders took place, in which many of whom perished under the Bolsheviks. Those Scouts who did not wish to accept the new Soviet system either left Russia for good, like Pantyukhov and others, or went underground.

However, clandestine Scouting did not last long. On 19 May 1922, all of those newly created organizations were united into the Young Pioneer organization of the Soviet Union (it existed until 1990). Since that year, Scouting in the Soviet Union was banned.

In closing, it is interesting to note that the quiet support of Nicholas II played a crucial role in the survival of the scouting movement in pre-revolutionary Russia. This fact is notable, since it is indicative of preferences and insights not usually associated with the last tsar. If Baden-Powell is only partially correct in his depiction of Nicholas’s motives, intentions, and a vision of a future Russia, the picture presented still suggests a man somewhat different from the shallow autocrat of legend. 

© Paul Gilbert. 18 March 2019

Documentary: The Return of Pierre Gilliard

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Pierre Gilliard and Nicholas II sawing wood during their house arrest in Tobolsk

«Возвращение Пьера Жильяра» (The Return of Pierre Gilliard) is the name of a new Russian language documentary film dedicated to the the French language tutor to the five children of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia from 1905 to 1918.

Work on on the documentary began in 2018, and was recently completed at the “NATAKAM” film studio; the script was written and directed by Lyudmila Shakht and Konstantin Kozlov. The premiere was held earlier this month in the House of Cinema, with additional viewings scheduled on 20th March at the Knowledge of Russia Society, and on 24th April at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library in St. Petersburg. Gilliards’ grand-nephews – writer Pierre-Frederic Gilliard and doctor Jacques Moser talk about the life and fate of Pierre Gilliard (1879-1962). The film is based on family memories, diaries, letters and photographs, on their famous uncle, a true friend of the Imperial family.

After returning from Russia to Switzerland, he wrote and published the book Le tragique destin de Nicolas II et de sa famille (1921). An English language edition Thirteen Years in the Russian Court was published in 1927. 

The Swiss-born Pierre Gilliard first gave French lessons to Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana, then to Maria and Anastasia. He first began to teach French to the Tsesarevich and Heir Alexei in 1913. Gilliard grew fond of the family and following the Russian Revolution of 1917, he followed them into internal exile to Tobolsk, Siberia. The Bolsheviks prevented Gilliard from joining his pupils when they were moved to the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg in May 1918.

Gilliard remained in Siberia after the murders of the Imperial family, assisting White Russian investigator Nicholas Sokolov. In 1919, he married Alexandra Tegleva (1894-1955), who had been a nurse to Grand Duchess Anastasia. In 1920, he returned to Switzerland through Vladivostok, along with wife. He managed to save his archive – diaries, letters, memorabilia, photographs. In 1958, Gilliard was severely injured in a car accident in Lausanne, Switzerland. He never fully recovered and died four years later on 30 May 1962

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Pierre Gilliard’s  Eastman Kodak Bulls Eye camera

It is important to note that in recent years Pierre Gilliard descendants have donated several memorial items to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum. Among these are the *Eastman Kodak Bulls Eye camera (above)  from which he photographed the Imperial family in Tsarskoye Selo and later in exile in Tobolsk. According to Mr. Moser, his mother, the goddaughter of Gilliard, inherited this camera and explained that “Uncle Pierre” took all the photos at the Russian Court, and that “the emperor himself actually held the camera in his hands.” She showed pictures – in particular the one in which Gilliard and the Tsar sawed wood in Tobolsk (above). The photos which are featured in the documentary film illustrate the dramatic fate of the last Russian emperor and his family. The museum also received a tea set and a set of tableware, a gift to Gilliard from Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, as well as a Faberge brooch and a Paul Bure golden pocket watch gifted by Empress Alexandra to Gilliard’s wife Alexandra Tegleva.

*Pierre Gilliard’s Eastman Kodak Bulls Eye camera was recently displayed in The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution Exhibition, at the Science Museum in London, England

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In recent years photos taken by Gilliard of the Imperial family were sold at auction

© Paul Gilbert. 17 March 2019

Nicholas II: the Tsar with the dragon tattoo

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A dragon tattoo can be seen on Nicholas II’s right forearm

In 1890, the Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich (future Tsar Nicholas II), embarked on a 9-month journey on-board the Imperial Russian cruiser Pamyat Azova (Memory of Azov) to the Far East. He travelled through Austria-Hungary, Greece, Egypt, India, Ceylon, Singapore, Siam, China and Japan – the total length of the journey exceeded 51,000 kilometres, including 15,000 km of railway and 22,000 km of sea routes. 

It was during his visit to Otsu, Japan, that by Tsuda Sanzō (1855–1891), one of his escorting policemen, who swung at the Tsesarevich’s face with a sabre. Nicholas was left with a 9 centimeter long scar on the right side of his forehead, but his wound was not life-threatening.

Tsesarevich Nicholas showed great interest in Japanese traditional crafts, and in Nagasaki he decided to get himself a tattoo on his right forearm. Local residents were surprised by this, because tattoos were only associated to criminals, or members of the lower classes.

It should be noted, that from the mid-19th century, tattoos had became fashionable among young European and British aristocrats. The first British monarch to be tattooed was Prince Edward, the future king Edward VII, “the Uncle of Europe”. While still an heir, he had a Jerusalem cross tattooed on his chest. His sons followed their father’s example – George (future King George V) and Albert Victor – both of whom had their tattoos in Japan, renown for having the best tattoo artists at the time.

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This image appears to show that Nicholas II had a dragon tattoo on each arm

In April 1891, during an official event held in Kyoto headed by Prince Arisugawa Taruhito (1835-1895), that Nicholas made a request to his Japanese host to introduce him to local tattoo artists. The following day, two masters from Nagasaki were brought aboard the flagship of the Russian squadron. One of them tattooed the image of a black dragon with yellow horns, green paws and a red belly, on the Tsesarevich’s right forearm. The painful process lasted seven hours.

A number of photographs exist which clearly show that Nicholas II had indeed had a dragon tattoo on his right forearm. These photos were taken at Livadia, where the tsar loved to play tennis with his daughters and officers of the Imperial yacht Standart.  The above image, however, depicts Nicholas relaxing with his shirt sleeves rolled up revealing a dragon tattoo on each forearm. 

© Paul Gilbert. 16 March 2019