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

Nicholas II: Noteworthy Articles No. 1 (2019)


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.

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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.   


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.


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


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.


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