Photo Exhibition: Tsarskoye Selo. Residence of the Last Emperor of Russia


The opening of the photo exhibition Tsarskoye Selo. Residence of the Last Emperor of Russia was held on Friday, 5th July in the Russian Spiritual and Cultural Orthodox Center (RDPC) in Paris. The exhibit features reproductions of unique colour images of the interiors of the Alexander and Catherine Palaces, taken several months after the abdication of Nicholas II.


“Although the Imperial palaces had been nationalized by the Bolshevik government, they were left virtually intact,” said Victoria Plauda, ​​senior researcher at the Tsarskoye Selo Museum-Reserve, at the opening of the exhibition. According to her, it was thanks to the efforts of the creative intelligentsia of Petrograd, which included the artist Alexander Benois (1870-1960), the writer Maxim Gorky (1892-1936) and the singer Fedor Chaliapin (1873-1938), who collectively managed to achieve a thorough inventory of the former Imperial residences during which these photographs were taken.


The photos were taken by military photographer Andrei Zeest. The corresponding task was entrusted to him by the architect and art historian George Lukomsky, who headed the Tsarskoye Selo Artistic and Historical Commission created to preserve and protect the property of the former Palace Administration. Filming in the Catherine Palace began in June 1917, and in the Alexander Palace in August, immediately after the family of the last Russian emperor Nicholas II was exiled to Tobolsk, and continued until October of the same year.


Precision Technology

The reproductions which are currently on display in the RDPC, reflect “stunning clarity and brightness of colours” – which were amazing for that time – are particularly noteworthy. The organizers also brought 11 black-and-white photographs from the collection of the Imperial family (the originals are kept in the library of Yale University in the USA), as well as 27 auto-chromes, not made with ordinary camera film, but with the aid of special glass dies with a special coating. Due to the microscopic size of the elements (about 0.015 mm), the structure of the image is not visible even with an increase in the resulting transparency. Some visitors even asked representatives of the museum if it was just a question of copies of authentic photographs of those times, and not about modern digital photographs.


“These photos are invaluable material for us, because we have already been working on reconstructing the historic interiors of the Alexander Palace for several years. And very soon, after a few months, our visitors will see the first restored halls of the former private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna,” the museum representative added. She also noted that the auto-chromes were invaluable to restorers and artists in the recreation of decorative items and furniture for the rooms.


The photo exhibition Tsarskoye Selo. Residence of the Last Emperor of Russia runs until Sunday, 25th August 2019, in the Russian Spiritual and Cultural Orthodox Center (RDPC) in Paris. 

Difficult fate of a unique collection

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve currently has more than 90 auto-chromes in their collection. In fact, there were many more of them, but after 1918 the trail of some of them was lost. After Lukomsky left the post of chairman of the Artistic and Historical Commission and went abroad, 843 images from black and white negatives and 83 color slides were transferred to the Kopeyka publishing house for reproduction in a publication prepared by Lukomsky but which never came to fruition. According to Plauda, ​​Lukomsky took some pictures after he left Russia.

Only in the post-war years (late 1950s- early 1960s) was it possible to form a collection of 45 images, transferred to the Tsarskoye Selo Museum by the heirs of the photographer Zeest and a member of the Oxford club by the Englishman G. Barrat. In June 2012, the museum acquired another 48 auto-chromes at an auction organized by the Drouot auction house in Paris.

Click HERE to view MORE colour auto-chromes of the Alexander Palace

© Paul Gilbert. 8 July 2019

New Revelations on Lenin’s Order to Murder the Tsar


Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin; Russia’s last Emperor and Tsar Nicholas II

In an interview with the media outlet Рамблер (Rambler), Russian historian Vladimir Khrustalev stated that researchers still lack access to many archival files related to the maintenance and fate of the Imperial family during their final days in Ekaterinburg.

He argues that all the documents of 1918-1919, which mentioned the name of the Romanovs, were carefully removed from all open archival funds. In his opinion, they could not be destroyed, but transferred to special stores, where they remain to this day.

Khrustalev sees no reason to doubt the ultimate tragic fate of Nicholas II and his family which befell them in the Urals on the night of 16/17 July 1918. According to Khrustalev, the purging of archival documents was undertaken by the leadership of the Communist Party in order to cover their tracks and defer any accusations that the top leadership of the Communists , represented primarily by Lenin and Sverdlov, purposefully undertook an act of regicide. After all, the Soviet official point of view for a long time was that the liquidation of the family of the last emperor was carried out on the initiative of the local Ural Soviet leaders, who issued the central power of the Bolsheviks with a fait accompli.


Russian historian Vladimir Khrustalev

Until now, no order issued by Lenin, Trotsky, Sverdlov, or any other Bolshevik party member concerning the massacre of the last Russian tsar and his family has been found in the archives. According to some Russian historians, this is not because no such order was given in writing, but precisely because the order was issued verbally. This was done, so as not to leave any evidence of their heinous crimes.

First, the Bolsheviks gathered almost all the arrested Romanovs (not only Nicholas II and his family, but many of their relatives) in the Urals in order to make it easier to eliminate them. And at some time gave the appropriate order. All evidence of such an order remains in sealed archives.

© Paul Gilbert. 2 July 2019

Recreation of Furniture for Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir Underway


Two views of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace, as it looked in 1917


Note the many photos of the Imperial family on the side table and shelves above the sofa

For those of you who have been following the restoration of the Alexander Palace, I am pleased to announce that work on the recreation of furniture for the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir is now underway.

According to Stavros (St. Petersburg), the firm commissioned to recreate the furniture for the historic interiors of the Alexander Palace: “We are now creating pieces for the Lilac Room. These include the frame of the sofa and wall panels.”

The Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir suffered greatly during the Second World War. It was located in the suite of rooms, between the Imperial Bedroom and the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room, and did not have a separate exit to the corridor. At one time, the walls were covered with high-quality gorgon lilac silk fabric, with vertical narrow paired stripes, and the lower part was decorated with wooden panels. During the war years, the room was completely burned out, only a few photographs remind us of it’s former luxury. 

The project is part of a recreation of the Private Apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace. 

Since the closing of the Alexander Palace in 2015, the Tsarskoye Selo Palace Museum have been very tight lipped about the restoration itself. Very little information has been released to the media, and barely mentioned on their official website. As a result, it has been an endless source of frustration trying to obtain any reliable updates on progress of the restoration. Dates for the reopening of the palace have been delayed on numerous occasions, often simply due to the lack of funding.

According to the latest information, the restoration of the Alexander Palace as a multi-museum complex is not expected to be completed until 2022 – at the earliest!

For more information on the restoration of the Alexander Palace, please refer to my article Furniture for the interiors of the Alexander Palace to be re-created (9th March 2019)

© Paul Gilbert. 22 May 2019

Monument to Nicholas II at Vasilievsky Palace in Vyritsa


The Vasilievsky Palace

Situated on the left bank of the Oredezh River in the village of Vyritsa (70 km from St. Petersburg), stands the Vasilievsky Palace (also called the Vasiliev Brothers Mansio), a tiny yet equally luxurious replica of the Catherine Palace in Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo).

The mansion was built in 2005–2006 by the St. Petersburg architect Igor Nikolaevich Gremitsky (1939–2015) and is intended for functions and receptions of high-ranking guests. The design and decor are intended to impress visitors with it’s unique architectural styles, such as the size of the rooms, height of the ceilings (the ceiling in the Grand Hall measures 14 meters or 46 feet), the solemnity of the marble staircase, and the lavish decoration of the interiors. Only natural materials and old technologies were used for decoration. 

The mansion is considered the first true marble palace in the vicinity of St. Petersburg. The area of ​​mosaic marble floors covers 600 square meters. The columns, fireplaces and pilasters are made of marble in the hall, foyer, the walls of the first floor, stairs and sculptures created by the best masters of Italy and Russia. The second floor is conceived in the form of open galleries which frame an oval double-light hall which create a large visual space. The central gallery is decorated with five-meter black marble knights. The palace complex also has a chapel, a miniature version of the one in the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.

Click HERE to view 20 colour photos of the lavish interiors of Vasilievsky Palace.


Column bearing monument of Nicholas II 

The mansion is situated on a site measuring 400 x 400 meters in size, on which a landscaped park is laid out, containing fountains, marble sculptures, cannons, and a summer arbor. A column was erected in front of the palace, with a sculptural composition which features a guardian angel supporting the last Emperor and Tsar Nicholas II with his right hand, and bearing an Orthodox cross with his left. The Emperor is depicted holding the Imperial Sceptre with his left hand, his right hand placed on his heart.

According to official documents this plot of land is owned by the International Entrepreneurial Company Litvin Limited.

The “unofficial owner” of the palace is St. Petersburg businessman Sergey Vasilievich Vasiliev, co-owner of Petersburg Oil Terminal CJSC (POT), who was born in Vyritsa in 1955. Vasiliev has controlled the automotive market in St. Petersburg, since the 1990s. His initials – “SVV” – are clearly displayed in a cartouche over the main entrance to the mansion.

In Vyritsa, the Vasilyev brothers sponsored the reconstruction of the church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God and a number of other historical monuments.

© Paul Gilbert. 14 May 2019

Pascha with the Imperial Family


Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna attending the Easter service in the Moscow Kremlin, 9th April 1900

Christ is risen! With these words, the hearts of all Orthodox Christians are filled with a feeling of ineffable joy and spiritual warmth. The same was true for the Russian Imperial Family, which is now a family of saints. They endured a great deal, but in all periods of their lives we see that they unwaveringly followed the Lord and managed to preserve the light of faith. Tsar Nicholas’s diaries enlighten us as to how they spent this holy day.

The Pascha of 1895 was the first for the newly wedded couple. Tsar Alexander III peacefully reposed in the autumn of 1894. His son, the twenty-six year-old Nicholas, immediately ascended the Russian throne and married the German princess Alice on November 14. The young emperor was on the threshold of a different life. A new page of Russian history was unfolding.


April 1, Saturday

It significantly froze tonight, though the day was sunny. I have not sensed such freedom for a long time, as today I did not have any reports and had nothing sent to me for reading. We went to the Liturgy at 11:30. <…> Alix set about coloring eggs with Misha [Grand Duke Mikhail] and Olga [Grand Duchess]. We all sat down to dinner at 8 o’clock. Presents and various surprises for one another in the eggs came in the evening. At 11:50 we headed for Paschal Matins, which was celebrated in our home church for the first time.

April 2, Sunday

The service ended at 1:45. We broke the Lenten fast at Mama’s: Alix, Xenia [Grand Duchess], Sandro [Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich] and uncle Alexei [Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich]. We slept until 9 o’clock in the morning. I had to deal with the eggs—that was a burdensome and fatiguing waste of time. Alix was distributing the gifts. At breakfast were uncle Vladimir [Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich] and aunt Miechen [Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna the elder] with the children, and George. We set out to pay visits to the entire family. The day was bright, though cold. We drank tea at home. Alix was so exhausted that she did not go to the Vigil service. We had supper at 8 o’clock. I devoted myself to reading, as usual.


March 21, Thursday

The girls received Holy Communion at the Liturgy. Ours was perfectly serene, but Irina [Grand Duchess Irina Alexandrovna] cried a little. <…> The Service of the Twelve Passion Gospels lasted 1 1/2 h.

March 23, Saturday

We attended the Liturgy at 11:30. After it was over, we had breakfast at Xenia’s place. She did not feel well and did not attend Paschal Matins, which was a pity! Benckendorff and I were sorting the eggs of glass and porcelain. <…> We set out for the Bolshaya Church at 11:45. Before the Liturgy began, I greeted 288 people. We came back to the Malachite [room] at 2:30 to break the fast.

March 24, Bright Sunday

We went to bed at about four o’clock, when the dawn was breaking. We got up by 8:30. Finally, the morning was free from all business. Khristosovanie [the Paschal triple kiss] with all the people began at 11:30 in the Malachite room; nearly five hundred people received eggs. <…> We set about paying visits to the whole family; we saw aunt Sany [Grand Duchess Alexandra Josiphovna]. After taking a horse ride along the embankment, we came back home by teatime. I did some reading after we bathed our daughter. At 7:15 we went to the Vigil service; we had dinner with uncle Misha afterward at Xenia and Sandro’s place. We gave her our presents. We took another ride to breathe some fresh air.

The year of 1905 was one of the most troublesome for Russia. It had already waged war with Japan, and was then hit by the storm of a revolution that was to be a forerunner of the imminent catastrophe. The Imperial Family was together anyway, supporting one another and praying to Lord for intercession.


April 14, Great Thursday

In the morning, we all received Holy Communion. Our Little Treasure behaved decently at the church. Then we took a walk. The weather was wonderful; the sun was burning fiercely. <…>

April 17, the Bright Resurrection of Christ

We got up at about 10 o’clock in the scorching morning. I had been greeting nearly six hundred people for an hour. We had breakfast at its time. It rained. <…> The weather was perfect. I was reading. A 7:00 we went to the Vigil service.


March 30, Great Thursday,

In the morning, we and all the children received the Holy Communion. Spiritual comfort embraced me for some hours. The Matins of the Twelve Passion Gospels lasted from 7 till 8:40.      

April 2, the Bright Resurrection of Christ

The Matins began early, at midnight. I greeted the Tsarskoye Selo garrison, including the officers. The service ended at 2:30. We came back home to break the fast at a family dinner. I slept soundly until 10. The morning was sunny, but later it started to rain. A large khristosovanie went from 11:30 till 12:45, I greeted over six hundred people. I took a stroll after breakfast. The weather got better by 4 o’clock in the afternoon, though it got a bit cooler. At 7:30 we went to the Vigil service. <…>


Nicholas II presents an egg to one of his soldiers during Pascha


April 21, the Bright Resurrection of Christ

The Matins began at 12, and the Liturgy was over at 2:15. After coming back home, we broke the fast in the Round Hall. We slept until 9:30. It was pouring rain the whole morning; the weather was chilly. I greeted seven hundred people. We listened to three numbers that the choir sang to us. We had a family breakfast. I took a stroll with Dmitry [probably Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich] and broke the ice in the pond. The weather got better. I was reading. We went to the Vigil service at 7:30. <…>


April 11, Great Thursday

At 9 o’clock we came to the Liturgy in the cave church and received the Holy Communion. We returned home at 11.

I took a walk after having some tea.

The day was radiant. All the bushes are beginning to show green buds. After breakfast the children and I broke the last blocks of ice. We had tea a bit earlier, at 4, and at 6 o’clock we headed for the Matins of the Twelve Gospels. It was in the Main church. We sat to dinner at 8:15. I devoted a lot of time to reading aloud afterward.

April 12, Friday

I had almost no work to do in the morning and took a little boat trip with Maria and Anastasia around our pond. At 2 o’clock we all went to the Vespers and came back home at 3:30. <…>

April 13, Saturday

I woke up at 4:15 in the morning; by 5 o’clock I was at the Matins in the regiment church with Olga, Tatiana and Maria. The procession around the church at a magnificent dawn reminded me of Moscow, the Dormition Cathedral and the same service! We went home on foot and arrived at 6. I slept until 9:30. Had a walk. We all went to the Liturgy, which was over at one o’clock in the afternoon. <…> The children were coloring eggs with the yacht officers. I was reading until 8 o’clock. We gave presents to one another. At 11:30 we set out to the church for the Midnight Office. This was the first service for Alexei, he went back home with Anastasia after the Matins.

The service in our nice church was festive and marvelously beautiful. <…> We returned home at 2.

We broke the fast with the elder daughters.

April 14, Pascha

I went to bed at 3:30 and got up 9:30.

The morning was gray, but the sun came out in the afternoon. The Khristosovanie took place before breakfast; I greeted 720 people. <…>

Then the First World War ensued. It was most tragic for the Russian nation—the country lost millions of people and moved closer to the revolution.


April 6, the Bright Resurrection of Christ

I greeted everyone in the church after the Matins. The Liturgy was over at 1:45, and we went to the dining room to break the fast. We came home at about 3. I slept until 9 o’clock. <…> Khristosovaniebegan downstairs at 11:30, 512 people. The whole family was together at breakfast. Alix was tired and lay down to have some rest until 5. I walked with the children and the officers to the Krestovaya hill in Oreanda, where we sat for a while and had some rest, admiring the view. We drank tea with a delicious paskha, butter and milk. I answered telegrams. The Vespers was at 7:30. <…>


April 19, Great Thursday

We all received Holy Communion. Alexei had to commune after the Liturgy lying in bed, since he had swollen lymph nodes. I went for a walk after drinking tea in his playroom. <…> Received Count Friederichs at 6 and went to the Matins of the Twelve Gospels, which was over at 8:15. I was reading for the entire evening.

April 22, the Bright Resurrection of Christ

The cathedral was beautifully lit by sparklers during the procession. It was slightly cold; the night was cloudless.

The Liturgy ended at 2 o’clock. We had festive dinner with all the daughters. I slept until 9:30. The day was sunny and bright. I greeted the court from 11 till 12:30. After breakfast I had a long walk and worked. <…>


Contemporary egg bearing the image of Nicholas II


April 7, Great Thursday

A very tough day. I went to the Liturgy at 9:20, where Alexeyev and many staff officers received the Holy Communion. Took a walk in the garden and listened to a report at 11. Few people were at breakfast and dinner. I was reading. I took a car ride along the Gomel highway and a stroll at the same place; I had walked with Alix and the children where we had made a fire. The Matins of the Twelve Gospels took an hour and a half. I devoted the evening to the work.

April 8, Friday

The twenty-second anniversary of our engagement, the second year that we have not spend this day together. <…>

April 10, the Bright Resurrection of Christ

The Liturgy ended at 1:50. They all came to my place, I greeted everyone and we broke the fast. The night was chilly and cloudless. I slept until 9:30. In an hour began khristosovanie with the staff, the managers, the clergy, the police and the locals of higher ranks.

Pascha of 1917 was preceded by the February revolution that struck the country nearly two months before, and the air of revolution and disaster permeated the Tsar’s journal entries. On March 2, Tsar Nicholas was forced to abdicate the throne and celebrated the holy feast as the ordinary “Colonel Romanov”. The entire family was together, as usual.


March 30, Great Thursday

<…> At 10 o’clock we went to the Liturgy, where many of our people received Holy Communion. I took a short stroll with Tatiana. Today the ‘victims of the revolution’ were buried in our park, in front of the middle of the Alexander Palace. We could hear the sounds of a funeral march and “La Marseillaise”. Everything was over by 5:30. At 6 o’clock we went to the Matins of the Twelve Gospels. <…>

April 2, the Bright Resurrection of Christ

The Matins and Liturgy ended at 1:40. We broke the fast altogether; there sixteen of us. I did not go to bed soon as I had eaten substantially. I got up at about 10. The day was bright and truly festive. I took a short walk in the morning. I greeted all the servants before breakfast, and Alix gave out porcelain eggs that we had managed to keep from past reserves. Overall, there were 135 people. <…> Alexei and Anastasia went outdoors for the first time. <…>

April 3, Monday

A wonderful spring day. <…> I went to the Liturgy with Tatiana and Anastasia at 11 o’clock. After breakfast we went out to the park with Alexei, I was breaking ice for the whole time by our summer embankment <…>.

In 1918, the Romanov family was separated; the Tsar, Alexandra Feodorovna and Maria we’re transferred to Yekaterinburg, while the rest of the children remained in the Siberian town of Tobolsk. Some three months before the notorious murder, that Pascha was the last in their lives.


April 19, Great Thursday,

The day was beautiful, windy, dust was rushing around the town and the sun was shining brightly, penetrating through the windows. In the morning I was reading the book La Sagasse et la destinée to Alix. Later I continued to read the Bible. The breakfast was served late, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Then we were allowed to go out to the garden for an hour, and we all, except Alix, took the opportunity. The weather turned cooler, some drops of rain fell upon the earth. It was pleasant to breathe some fresh air. When the bells rang, a sense of sadness imbued me—it is now Passion Week, and we are deprived of any possibility to attend its magnificent services, and moreover, cannot observe the fast! I had the joy of bath before tea. Dinner was served at 9. In the evening we, all the people dwelling in the four rooms, gathered in the hall, where Botkin read aloud the twelve Gospels. We all went to bed afterward.

April 21, Great Saturday

I woke up quite late; the day was grey, cold, with snowstorms. I spent the whole morning reading, writing a couple of lines in each letter from Alix and Maria to the daughters, and drawing a plan of this [Ipatiev] house. We had lunch at 1:30. At Botkin’s request, a priest and a deacon were allowed to come to our place at 8 o’clock. They served the Matins quickly and well. It was a great comfort to pray in such an atmosphere and hear “Christ is Risen!’ Ukraintsev, the commandant’s assistant, and the soldiers of the watch were present. We had dinner after the service and went to bed early.

April 22, the Bright Resurrection of Christ

For the whole evening and partly in the night we could hear cracks of fireworks that people set off in the different parts of the city. It was 3° c. in the afternoon, and the weather was grey. We greeted one other at tea and ate kulichi and eggs; we failed to get paskhas.

We had lunch and dinner at their respective times. We took a half an hour stroll. In the evening we spent a lot of time talking to Ukraintsev at Botkin’s place.

© Maria Litzman / Orthodox Christianity. 13 May 2019

“I consider Nicholas II a great reformer” – Serbian Ambassador to Russia


Serbian Ambassador to Russia Slavenko Terzic, and icon of Tsar Martyr Nicholas II

On 7th May, the opening ceremony of the photo exhibition The Romanovs: the Tsar’s Ministry was held in the Serbian Embassy in Moscow.

The exhibition dedicated to the family of the last Russian emperor, a joint project with the Moscow Sretensky Monastery, was attended by a large number of guests, including prominent figures of Serbian and Russian culture, politicians, historians, representatives of the Serbian diaspora, and students from both countries who are dedicated to preserving the memory of the Saint Sovereign Nicholas II and his family. 

“I am very happy that today, we all gathered in this Serbian house to once again honour the memory of the great Russian monarch Nicholas II, whose rule was the culmination of centuries-old relations between our two countries, one which flourished during the rule of the Romanov dynasty,” said Serbian Ambassador to Russia Slavenko Terzic during his welcoming speech. “And today the Serbs remember the most important role of Nicholas II in the fate of their country, when during the First World War the Russian emperor came to the aid of Serbia, mobilizing Russia’s army to defend our country against Austria-Hungary.”

The Serbian ambassador reminded the audience that for many years that a street had been named after Nicholas II in the center of Belgrade, and several years ago a monument to the Russian emperor had been erected in front of the presidential palace in the Serbian capital. “I consider Nicholas II a great reformer and a patriot of his homeland. The challenges of the revolution were very tough, to which it was necessary to react harshly, but since the Russian emperor was a deeply religious man, he sacrificed himself and his family in order to save the Russian empire. Eternal memory to Nicholas II and eternal gratitude to him from Serbia and the Serbian people,” concluded Slavenko Terzic.

The organizer of the exhibition Hieromonk Ignatius (Shestakov), a priest of the Moscow Sretensky Monastery, also spoke about the history of the Romanovs: “When we decided to hold the first exhibitions in Serbia – we did not expect such interest and devotion for Nicholas II and his family from the Serbian people. Many negative myths still surround the reign of the emperor, however, the Serbs share a more positive assessment of Nicholas II.”

“We understood that it was necessary to develop this exhibition and present it to cities across Serbia. The photo-exhibit has been held in schools, churches, city museums, and galleries.”

“After the 1917 Revolution, it was Serbia – then it was called the Kingdom of Yugoslavia – where thousands of White Russian emigrants were warmly received – and the veneration of Nicholas II as a saint was born. It was in Belgrade that the first museum of personal belongings of the Russian emperor appeared, which was opened in the Russian House of Culture in the center of the Serbian capital in the 1930s. It was in Serbia, long before the emperor was glorified in the face of saints, his first images appeared in churches, and Belgrade is the only capital in the world where a street bears his name, something not found in either St. Petersburg or Moscow, ”the priest said.

The organizer of the exhibition emphasized that the main objective of the exhibition is that “visitors will have an opportunity to review photos of the Imperial family with accompanying texts – which reflect the love, kindness and beauty of this family, their Christian virtues, service to the Fatherland, and deeds of charity. ” 

The exhibition The Romanovs: the Tsar’s Ministry presents photographs from the personal archives of the Tsar’s family and their entourage, state archives and private collections. The exhibition reflects the daily life of the Imperial family, and service to the Fatherland. Particular attention is given to photographs from the period of the First World War, when the empress and her daughters worked as sisters of mercy in hospitals, rendering assistance to wounded soldiers and officers.

Launched in 2016, the exhibition was timed to the 100th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Tsar’s family in 2018. The travelling photo-exhibit has been held in more than 100 cities and towns of Serbia, as well as Montenegro, the Republic of Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. The exhibition has also visited Switzerland, Argentina, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Germany, Romania, and Russia. 

The photo exhibition The Romanovs: the Tsar’s Ministry is being held at the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia in Moscow until July 2019.

© Paul Gilbert. 13 May 2019

Rare 1896 Medal Depicting Nicholas & Alexandra Sells at Auction


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


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)


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.


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.


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


[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


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. 


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