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

Emperor Nicholas II tests new uniforms for the soldiers of his army in 1909

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Emperor Nicholas II tests new uniforms for the soldiers of his army. Livadia 1909

In 1909, Vladimir Aleksandrovich Sukhomlinov (1848-1926) the Minister of War was at work on an important reform, the determination of the type of clothing and equipment to be worn and carried in future by every Russian infantryman. When considering the modifications proposed by the Minister, the following provides a convincing proof of the extreme conscientiousness and sense of duty which inspired Nicholas II, as head of the army. The Tsar wanted full knowledge of the facts, and decided to test the proposed new equipment personally.

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Emperor Nicholas II tests new uniforms for the soldiers of his army. Livadia 1909

He told only the Alexander Alexandrovich Mossolov (1854-1939), who served as Minister of the Court and the Commander of the Palace of his intention. They had the full equipment, new model, of a soldier in a regiment camping near Livadia brought to the palace. There was no falang, no making to exact measure for the Tsar; he was in the precise position of any recruit who is put into the shirt, pants, and uniform chosen for him, and given his rifle, pouch, and cartridges. The Tsar was careful also to take the regulation supply of bread and water. Thus equipped, he went off alone, covered twenty kilometres out and back on a route chosen at random, and returned to the palace. Forty kilometres — twenty-five miles — is the full length of a forced march; rarely are troops required to do more in a single day.

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Emperor Nicholas II tests new uniforms for the soldiers of his army. Livadia 1909

The Tsar returned at dusk, after eight or nine hours of marching, rest-time included. A thorough examination showed, beyond any possibility of challenge, that there was not a blister or abrasion of any sort on his body. The boots had not hurt his feet. Next day the reform received the Sovereign’s approval.

The Tsar regarded himself as a soldier — the first professional soldier in his Empire. In this respect he would make no compromise: his duty was to do what every soldier had to do.

Source: At the Court of the Last Tsar by A.A. Mossolov. English edition published in 1935

© Paul Gilbert. 9 August 2019

Reconciliation Begins: Russia’s State Duma honours the memory of Nicholas II with a minute of silence

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Members of the State Duma for the first time observed a minute of silence in memory of the last Russian emperor Nicholas II, and all those killed in the Civil War (1917-1922)

Today – 17th July 2019 – Russia’s State Duma for the first time observed a minute of silence in memory of the last Russian emperor Nicholas II and all those killed in the Civil War. (1917-1922)

According to Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin,”reconciliation begins when we all understand that this cannot be repeated and this is unacceptable.”

“Today we are making a proposal to honour the memory of the last Russian tsar, to honour the memory of the innocent victims – all those who died in the crucible of the Civil War,” the speaker addressed his colleagues, who after these words, rose from their seats.

It should come as no surprise that members of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, did not comply with the moment of silence.

Step to national consolidation

The first deputy head of United Russia’s Duma Andrei Isaev noted that representatives of all political parties, regardless of their ideological positions, honoured the memory of victims of the Civil War by standing, calling it “a very important step towards national consolidation and reconciliation.” 

“This means that all political forces represented in Russia’s parliament are against civil confrontation, for settling disputes and conflicts arising through a peaceful democratic process,”

In conclusion, Isaev added, “many deputies are in favour of making 17th July, a memorial day, in memory of the deaths of the Imperial family, and to also honour the memory of all those who died as a result of the Civil War in Russia.”

This is the first time in the history of Russia’s State Duma, that they honored the memory of Nicholas II – truly unprecedented!

© Paul Gilbert. 17 July 2019

How Russia’s own Bloody Sunday turned Nicholas II into a public enemy

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“In 1905, workers marched to Nicholas II’s palace with a peaceful petition demanding broader rights. Instead, they were met with gunfire, which completely destroyed Nicholas’s reputation and sent the Russian monarchy hurtling toward its eventual demise,” writes Oleg Yegorov in the July 15th 2019 edition of ‘Russia Beyond’

– Click HERE to read the article How Russia’s own Bloody Sunday turned Nicholas II into a public enemy. My personal comments are below – PG

***

There is no question, that “Bloody Sunday” was a tragic event, which resulted in the deaths and injuries of innocent men, women and children. It is a tragedy which continues to haunt the legacy of Russia’s last tsar to this very day. Russian President Vladimir Putin has on more than one occasion, publicly referred to Nicholas II as “Nicholas the Bloody.” 

There are a couple of interesting facts which I would like to add to Oleg Yegorov’s article, on the events of Sunday, 22 January [O.S. 9 January] 1905, which are often overlooked or simply ignored by other Western writers and historians.

The Winter Palace had ceased to be the residence of Nicholas II and his family in 1895. From then on the Winter Palace became little more than an administrative office block and a place of rare official entertaining. As Yegorov rightly points out, the tsar was not in residence on the day of the demonstration.

It is important to note, that upon finding out about the idea of ​​submitting the petition to the tsar, members of three revolutionary party organizations: the Social Democrats ( Mensheviks ), the Social Democrats ( Bolsheviks ), and the Social Revolutionaries, decided to swell the ranks of the “peaceful demonstrators,” on that fateful day.

The number of victims is greatly exaggerated by many historians. According to the Tsar’s official records: 130 dead and 299 injured; while anti-government sources claimed any where from 1,000 to 4,000 dead.

That evening, the events in St. Petersburg were reported to Nicholas II. The emperor was distressed and wrote in his diary:

“A terrible day! There were serious disturbance in Petersburg as a result of the workers wishing to reach the Winter Palace. The troops were forced to open fire in several parts of the town, there were many killed and wounded. Lord, how painful and how sad!” 

Photos: Father Georgy Gapon (1870-1906) ; the house in Ozerki, where Gapon was killed

Father Georgy Gapon (1870-1906) was a charismatic speaker and effective organizer who took an interest in the working and lower classes of the Russian cities. However, Fr. Gapon also had a hidden dark side, which has been proven by post-Soviet scholars – the priest was a police informant. 

After Bloody Sunday, Gapon fled to Europe, but returned by the end of 1905, and resumed contact with the Okhrana. On 26 March 1906, Gapon arrived for a meeting at a rented cottage outside St. Petersburg. A month later, his body was found hanged. Gapon had been murdered by three members of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, after they had discovered that Gapon was a police informant.

Finally, it is interesting to draw attention to the provocative rumours spread by the Bolsheviks and later the Soviets, who claimed that “tsarist troops shot workers on the orders of Nicholas II” (which for obvious reasons later became the official point of view in Soviet historiography, and was never researched or even discussed by Soviet historians). Even more outrageous, was the claim that the tsar “personally participated in the shootings, allegedly shooting at the demonstrators with a machine gun”!!

© Paul Gilbert. 15 July 2019

Contemporary Orders Honouring Nicholas II

orders

The following article is just one of many, which reflect my personal interest in Nicholas II. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia’s reassessment of his life and reign have shifted significantly. The establishment and distribution of orders and medals in his name is just one indication of the positive direction this reassessment is heading, while at the same acknowledging the enormous contribution he made during his 22+ year (1894-1917) reign.

I have known of two of the three orders for some years now, however, it has been an arduous task to find any documents about any of them. Information provided by a phaleristics group in Russia recently, has now allowed me to complete this article.

I would like to point out that I am not an expert on orders and awards, therefore, I am appealing to readers, who may be able to provide me with additional information. I would also appreciate any errors be brought to my attention at the following email:  royalrussia@yahoo.com – PG

*  *  *

After the canonization of the the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II and his family by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) in 1981, two new orders were established simultaneously: “Order of Saint Nicholas II” and “Order of The Holy Passion-bearer Tsar Nicholas”. Both awards are awarded for merits in the revival and advancement of the finest Russian traditions which contribute to the prosperity of the state. Holders of the order include individuals, politicians, scientists, athletes, artists, among others.

Order of Saint Nicholas II / Святой Николай II

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The highest international public award was established in 1988 by the descendants of the Romanov dynasty and the noble family of Dmitrievs, the founders of the Imperial Society of Russia (IOR) charity foundation. The order was was established to mark the 70th anniversary of the murders of the Imperial family in Ekaterinburg. The order is issued on the means and donations of the Board of Trustees. Nominees are approved by the Expert Council of the IOR. Presentation of the laureates is carried out both by state authorities of different levels and by public or business associations. The Order of Saint Nicholas II is presented in a solemn atmosphere, with the involvement of the media and the general public. A number of orders have been issued posthumously. The unique insignia remains in the possession of the recipient for life and can be inherited.

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Description

The Order has three degrees, for which the insignia are:

Ist Class: gold, diamonds, white enamel on the rays of the cross, red enamel framing

2nd Class: silver, sapphires or aquamarines, blue enamel on the rays of the cross, red framing

3rd Class: Alloy of non-ferrous metals with gilding, rubies or tourmalines, red enamel on the rays of the cross, blue framing

The founder of the Imperial Society of Russia (IOR), hereditary nobleman Valery Dmitriev, the developer and manufacturer of the Heroldmeister Kiev non-state enterprise designed the order. All three Classes represent the so-called Templar Cross, each ray of which is made in the form of three symmetrical folds. The central is covered with enamel, the side ones are made of base metal and decorated with a relief pattern. Between the rays are large imperial crowns inlaid with precious stones. The whole composition is framed with an enamelled ribbon, the color of which depends on the degree of the award.

In the center – a medallion, also trimmed with precious stones along the rim. Inside on an enamel background is a profile portrait of the last Russian tsar and the inscription in a circle: “Saint Nicholas II.” The reverse contains the date of establishment – 1988, the lower beam of the cross is stamped with the serial number of the mark. The pad is a bas-relief image of the imperial crown. The Order is attached to it with the aid of the ear and ring. The size of the cross at the extreme points is 45 mm, the total height of the product is 75 mm.

Order of The Holy Passion-bearer Tsar Nicholas
Святой страстотерпец царь Николай

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On 19th May 2008, at the initiative of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCOR), another order was established, similar to Saint Nicholas II. It received the status of an international religious public award and is awarded to both civilians and the military. The direct founders: the organization Orthodox Mission for the Revival of the Spiritual Values ​​of the Russian People; Orthodox Troop Mission; and the International Award Committee of “Glory to Russia”. The statute of the award states that nominees may be persons whose activities “are aimed at strengthening Russia, the spiritual development of the people, and the protection and preservation of Orthodox values.” Candidates can be nominated to members of the Award Committee, representatives of monarchical organizations in Russia, clergymen of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and holders of the Order.

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Description

The Order is an eight-pointed silver-plated star, on which is laid a cross, covered with red enamel. On its upper beam is depicted the imperial crown, on the lower is Heaven’s rose, one of the symbols of the Virgin Mary. The right and left sides are decorated with heraldic crosses. In the central part there is an oval medallion trimmed with enamel, inside it there is an image of the Emperor’s canonized face. The inscription on the blue enamel bezel: “Holy Martyr Tsar Nicholas.” The reverse contains the number of the award and the year of establishment “2008”. Medal mount – screw with clip. Holders wear the order on the right side of the chest, below the state awards of the Russian Federation, or around the neck on a ribbon.

Recipients of the Order of The Holy Passion-bearer Tsar Nicholas include:

Chairman of the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna Charitable Foundation Mrs. Olga Kulikovsky (top)

Russian historian and author Alexander Bokhanov, 1944-2019 (bottom left);

Russian historian and author Pyotr Multatuli (bottom right)

Bokhanov and Multatuli are recognized as Russia’s leading experts on the life and reign of the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II.

All three recipients have devoted years of research, writing and public speaking to help clear the name of Russia’s much slandered tsar.

 

Holy Royal Passion-bearer Nicholas / Святой страстотерпец царь Николай078a

In addition to public awards, there is also a badge honouring the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II. It is carried out in the form of the St. George Cross, either in form identical to the prototype, or against the background of a four-pointed star. In the center there is a medallion with bearing the tsar’s profile and a circular inscription: “EMPEROR NIKOLAI II RUSSIA”.

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The mark is made of brass, the rays of the cross are covered with black enamel. It can be attached to the pentagonal strap with St. George ribbon. In the version with a star, the imperial crown is depicted on the upper beam of the cross, on the lower one – the personal monogram of Nicholas II. In addition to brass, nickel silver alloy is also used.

The order badge was issued twice in a limited edition by order of the St. Petersburg public organization Cossack Convoy in Memory of the Emperor Nicholas II: in 2017 to the 100th anniversary of the death of the Russian Empire; in 2018, to the 100th anniversary of the murder of the Imperial family and at the same time the 150th anniversary of the birth of Nicholas II. A total of 1,200 copies of the jubilee mark were made. In catalogs it is sometimes called an order, but even the price of 400 rubles indicates that this is a mistake.

© Paul Gilbert. 13 July 2019

 

 

Icon of the Mother of God, “Of the Three Hands”

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The Icon of the Mother of God, “Of the Three Hands” belonged to Nicholas II and his family

On 11th July 2019, on the feast day of the Icon of the Mother of God, “Of the Three Hands”, Mrs. Olga Nikolaevna Kulikovsky, chairman of the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna Charitable Foundation, attended a Divine Liturgy in the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg.

The Divine Liturgy was led by Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg, in front of the Icon of the Mother of God, “Of the Three Hands.” The icon belonged to the Imperial Family, who venerated the icon, during their imprisonment in the Ipatiev House in 1918. The icon was found in the basement of the house after the murder of the Tsar and his family on the night of 16/17 July 1918. In the early 1920s, through the efforts of officers loyal to the Sovereign, the icon was smuggled out of Bolshevik Russia to Denmark, and presented to Nicholas II’s mother – the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna. After her death in 1928, the icon was bequeathed to her youngest daughter Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, who took it with her when she emigrated to Canada in 1948.

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Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg, kisses the Icon of the Mother of God, “Of the Three Hands”

In 1991, when Tikhon Nikolaevich Kulikovsky, the eldest son of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, learned that Russia was discussing the construction of a Memorial Church on the site of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, he addressed a letter to His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia, in which he noted that upon completion of construction, he intended to transfer the icon to the newly established church. However, Tikhon Nikolayevich was not able to fulfill his wish during his lifetime – he died on 8th April 1993. His widow Olga Nikolaevna Kulikovsky, however, carried out her husbands wish, and presented the Mother of God, “Of the Three Hands” during the solemn consecration of the Church on the Blood in 2003.

After the service, Metropolitan Kirill congratulated everyone on the holiday and the beginning of the Tsar’s Days, noting that this day marks the beginning of “Passion Week” dedicated to the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs. His Eminence thanked Olga Nikolaevna, to whom the Church on the Blood and the Ekaterinburg Diocese acquired “a special significant icon – the image of God’s blessing on the Holy Tsar’s Family.”

Today, the icon is kept in the Upper Church of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg.

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Mrs. Olga Kulikovsky

It should be noted, that Mrs. Olga Kulikovsky (now 93 years old), has dedicated many years to charitable activities in the name of her mother-in-law Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna. Despite her age, she continues to work actively to help clear the name of Russia’s much slandered Tsar and his family. She travels to Ekaterinburg each year to take part in the Tsars Days events, culminating with the Divine Liturgy at the Church on the Blood on the night of 16/17 July, and in Ganina Yama.

© Paul Gilbert. 12 July 2019

What kind of man was Nicholas II?

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The following article (click HERE to read) by Georgy Manaev was published in July 12th 2019 edition of ‘Russia Beyond’. Sadly, it is yet another negative assessment of Nicholas II, filled with the same nonsense, myths and lies, which have endured for more than a century now.

Below, are my comments regarding two of Manaev’s misconceptions:

The author Georgy Manaev quotes Alexander Guchkov about the Emperor: “Are we dealing with a normal person?”, yet fails to mention that Guchkov along with Pavel Milyukov, openly discussed a treasonous plot to oust Nicholas II from the throne.

And again, Nicholas II is criticized that his diaries lack “little to no information about politics, international relations or court intrigues.”

Manaev adds: “in other words, the things that should have been of interest to a Russian tsar during one of the most difficult periods of Russian history. Instead, about 90 percent of the diary is dedicated to his daily routines.”

Like a broken record, Manaev rehashes one of the most popular criticisms against Nicholas II. 

Russian historian Alexander Nikolaevich Bokhanov (1944-2019) wrote:

“For more than 38 years, Nicholas Alexandrovich wrote a few sentences every evening in his diary. After the fall of the monarchy, both scholars and laymen began to study his diaries, interested to learn what kind of man and monarch he was. Sadly, the crushing majority of them stuck with a negative assessment of Nicholas II.

“Their conclusions, however, were based on his diaries, which in all fairness do not offer any broad historical conclusions. Nevertheless they have been made and continue to be made to the present day. In actuality, Nicholas II’s diaries are often nothing more than a daily list of meetings and events which allow one, fully and accurately, to establish only two biographical aspects about him: where he was and whom he dealt with.

“His diaries are a completely personal and official document reflecting the daily events, nothing more. His diary entries rarely reflect any emotion, and with the passage of time they disappear almost completely. Any kind of political judgement or evaluation are extremely rare.

“In keeping a diary, Nicholas II was not thinking about leaving a historical testimony for his descendants. He never would have imagined that his daily, terse, personal remarks would be studied for political purposes. Only during the last months of his life, finding himself in the degrading position of a prisoner, did he record on paper his pain for the fate of his dearly beloved Russia.”

Click HERE to listen to my interview, in which I discuss Guchkov and Milyukov, who openly discussed a treasonous plot to oust Nicholas II from the throne.

© Paul Gilbert. 12 July 2019