Documentary: The Return of Pierre Gilliard


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

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

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

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

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

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


Pierre Gilliard’s  Eastman Kodak Bulls Eye camera

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

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


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

© Paul Gilbert. 17 March 2019

Nicholas II: the Tsar with the dragon tattoo


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

© Paul Gilbert. 16 March 2019

15th March: Reigning Icon of the Mother of God Revealed


The original Reigning Icon of the Mother of God in the Church of Our Lady of Kazan, Kolomenskoye (near Moscow)

On this day in 1917, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated from the throne. That same day, the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God was revealed to a peasant woman in Kolomenskoye. Many believe the reappearance of the icon was an indication that the Virgin Mary was displeased with Russia for dethroning Tsar Nicholas II during the February 1917 Revolution.

The Reigning Icon of the Mother of God is believed to date from the 18th century. It is considered one of the most revered both inside Russia and in Russian emigre circles. 

The icon was originally venerated in the Ascension Convent, in the Chertolye neighborhood near the Moscow Kremlin. In 1812, as Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grande Armée approached Moscow during the French invasion of Russia, the icon was taken to the village church in Kolomenskoye for safekeeping and subsequently forgotten until 1917.

At the end of the February Revolution of 1917, on 15 March (O.S. 2 March) 1917, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia abdicated the throne. That same day, Evdokia Adrianova, a peasant woman in the village of Pererva in Moscow Province, dreamed that the Blessed Virgin appeared and spoke to her. She was instructed to travel to the village of Kolomenskoye, where she would find an old icon which, “will change colour from black to red.”


The Church of Our Lady of Kazan in Kolomenskoye has been preserved to the present day

Upon her arrival, the parish priest Father Nikolai Likhachev took Evdokia at her word and together they searched until they found, in an old storage room located in the basement, an icon covered with candle soot. When they took the icon outdoors, the sunlight revealed that the Mother of God was wearing the scarlet robes of a monarch. She also wore the Imperial crown and held a sceptre and orb — the symbols of royal regalia.

Since all this took place on the same day as the Tsar’s abdication from the throne, the appearance of the icon was immediately thought to be connected with that event. What is more, the priest was given to understand that the Crown that had fallen from the head of the Tsar had been taken up by the Theotokos, the Mother of God: henceforth, She would be the reigning Tsarina of the Russian State. Thus the icon was named the ‘Reigning’ icon and became widely revered among the Russian people”


A copy of the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God is carried in a Moscow procession

Russian monarchists believe the reappearance of the icon was an indication that the Virgin Mary was displeased with Russia for dethroning Tsar Nicholas II during the February 1917 Revolution. They believe that She will hold the Imperial Crown for safekeeping until the House of Romanov is restored.

In Soviet times, the icon was kept in the vaults of the State Historical Museum in Moscow. On 27th July 1990, the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God  was returned to the Church of Our Lady of Kazan in Kolomenskoye. After the reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in August 2007, the icon was taken to Russian parishes in Europe, the United States and Australia

© Paul Gilbert. 15 March 2019

An Atheist Among the Orthodox: Ural Correspondent Reflects on her Pilgrimage to Ganina Yama


“Nonbelievers have no place in the procession of the cross” – Olga Tatarnikova

On the morning of 17th July 2016, special correspondent Olga Tatarnikova took part in the procession from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama. After she awoke the following morning, she described what she had to go through and why she was completely unprepared for this annual event.

After returning from my first religious procession, I collapsed on my bed and slept almost the entire day. Neither my body nor my head managed to recover from this strange night. It was only the next day, noting the calluses on my feet, that I was able to more soberly evaluate everything that had taken place and understand that nonbelievers have no place in the procession of the cross.

When the editorial board at asked me to go along with the believers to Ganina Yama, I thought: “So what? It must be similar to the May Walk (a Russian physical culture event held in Ekaterinburg every 3rd Sunday of May), only the procession of the cross to Ganina Yama takes place in the early morning hours, among women in headscarves”. I could not even imagine that this would be the most difficult task in my entire career.

It all started at half past two on the morning of 17th July. At this time, a column of thousands of believers was gathering on the street below the Church on the Blood. The 20-kilometer journey, follows the route which almost a hundred years ago, the remains of members of the Imperial family were taken by their murderers to be disposed of in an abandoned mine. As the column began moving, I noticed heaps of rubbish, long lines for the toilets and crowds of people trampling down the lawn to join the procession. 

Most of the pilgrims are women, wearing color scarves and skirts, carrying packs and mats on their back, many with raincoats. On their chest – icons bearing the image of Holy Royal Martyrs. Many went on their way in rubber slippers and socks, which by the end of the procession were covered in dirt and mud.

Overtaking the column was not an easy feat. Despite the fact that there were many women, pensioners and children in the procession, they walked so fast that I had to run to catch up with them. It was amazing to see young children who were led by their mothers, and I even came across people in wheelchairs.

Photos courtesy of

And finally, I am among the believers. They hardly spoke amongst themselves. The bell ringing, and prayers gave the impression that they were in a state of trance. They repeat:

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

Sometimes people took out their phones to take pictures of the crowd, themselves and the surrounding buildings. There are many visitors among the pilgrims, who at the same time take pictures of the city’s sights.

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

As soon as I got inside the column, I felt scared and ill. Never at night in Ekaterinburg have I experienced such stuffiness. You take a breath of air – and it does not fill the lungs. You just can’t breathe. Gradually, my head began to spin, my forehead became heavy, and a strange sensation appeared in my eyes, as if someone was pressing on them. No matter how hard I tried to force myself to walk among the Orthodox, my legs carried me closer to the safety of the sidewalk.

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

The temperature was already 18 degrees Celsius. After the first few kilometers, we turned onto Verkh-Isetsky Boulevard, it became hot, the humidity oppressive.

On the side of the lawn are the Cossacks – making sure that no one walks on the grass. 

I stumble about wearing a long skirt, and disgruntled people rush at me from behind – the crowd does not stop.

  – Alyosha! – shouts one woman. She lost her son in the crowd. Nobody responds to her calls, which are drowned in the prayers of human voices around her. 

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

We pass the Karnaval shopping complex, and fear that I will soon faint. I feel sweat trickling down my back and take off my jacket.

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

Photos courtesy of

As we approach the bridge, something starts to happen. I am sure that I will lose consciousness, from all the stuffiness, chants and oppression . The asphalt seemed to buckle under my feet. I am not imagining this in my head. You take a step, and it feels as if the earth is going up and down – I panic, and jump over the fence, running through the mud onto solid ground. But even then the buckling did not stop – it was as if I had been riding a boat for several hours.

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

As we turn on Ulitsa Teknikalskaya, men run behind flower stalls and stand under the windows to relieve themselves. Women have nowhere to run, so they crouch under the trees, hiding behind flags bearing the image of the tsar. Someone went into the courtyard and upon, returning, said that the residents were swearing at the participants in the procession. Perhaps the organizers could remedy this problem by placing portable public toilets along the procession route.

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

At the half way point the brain stops working. I carry on, trying not to step on my calluses, and listen to the conversations around me.

A bald man tells his neighbor that he had been sick with cancer. At first he lamented the injustices of his life, and then he accepted it. I decided to go to church, he added. And two weeks later, a doctor came to him with all the equipment, checked the man and said that he could find no trace of cancer. noting a miracle of God

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

As we walk through the forest, every now and then people stop and shake the stones out of their shoes. On the side of the road stands a woman with a red cross on her head and with a spray gun in her hands:

  – “Who wants to be sprinkled with Holy water?”

Six in the morning. Feet continue to slowly, painfully stride forward. I hear the conversation behind. A boy of five holds his mother by the hand and complains that he is very tired. Next to him is a man who advises him to thank God for his trials:

  – Fatigue – it will pass. It will be hard for you – fold your hands like this and ask the saint for help. He sees every soul and immediately comes to the rescue. Only then do not forget to pray and say thanks to God for the difficulties he subjected you to. Work, pray and be patient.

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

Photos courtesy of

After an hour and a half we come to EKAD (Ekaterinburg Ring Road). The column blocks the road, and I can note the glare from angry drivers as we pass. Nearing Ganina Yama, we pass a growing number of beggars. And these are the same people who asked for alms at the Church on the Blood.

  – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.

As I approach Ganina Yama, I hear the ring of bells from the monastery’s churches. I am pleased with this sound. People collect their last remnants of strength, and seek out a spot to rest. I am short of being delirious, that we have reached the very end. My only desire is to finally stop and sit down.

When I come to the entrance, many people are already sleeping along the road. They have spread mats and rub their tired and sore feet. Some eat, while others sleep. I sit down near a large rock by a pine and have a blissful rest. Snoring resounds around me.

Buses were on hand to take people from the monastery back to Ekaterinburg. For the pilgrims, there was surprise that the buses would only go as far as the village of Shuvakish, to the town of Sredneuralsk and to the 9th hospital in Ekaterinburg. Traffic police officers try to reassure every one that there are enough places for everyone, but as soon as the bus approaches, the believers storm the bus fiercely, pushing, stepping on each other’s feet and cursing one another. 

Those who do not want to suffocate, go on foot to Shuvakish and from there look for a way to get home. I am among them. Four kilometers more – and you can get in a taxi (cars are not allowed closer). Half past ten in the morning. “Thank God, take me home,” I say to the driver, and I immediately fall asleep in the backseat.

© Paul Gilbert. 10 March 2019

Furniture for interiors of the Alexander Palace to be recreated


PHOTO: The corner fireplace is being recreated (right) for the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room (left) in the Alexander Palace. © Stavros

The following update on the restoration of the Alexander Palace is sure to be of great interest to those of you who are following this important project in Tsarskoye Selo

The Imperial Bedroom, the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, and the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Rooms of the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo will soon be furnished with exact replicas of their lost furniture. The work is being carried out by Stavros (St. Petersburg), a firm who manufactures fine wood furniture and interiors. 

This project is part of the recreation of the Private Apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace. The total amount for the recreation of furniture for these rooms is currently estimated at 16 million rubles ($240,000 USD).

Not long after the Imperial family were exiled to Siberia in August 1917, a museum was established within the Alexander Palace. It operated until the beginning of the Second World War. At the beginning of the war, the most valuable furnishings were evacuated to the interior of the country. The remaining parts of the collection were hidden in the basement. During the Nazi occupation, the palace was used as headquarters for the German military command, the basement was used as a prison. The area in front of the palace was turned into a cemetery for SS soldiers. Artistically and historically unique collections were partially destroyed. As the Nazi German forces were leaving the Soviet Union, many of the former imperial palaces were set ablaze. The Alexander Palace was spared, however, according to the testimony of the Soviet military leader Anatoly Kuchumov, many interiors were destroyed, and many pieces of their remaining collections stolen by Nazi soldiers.

During the years after the war, as interest in Nicholas II and his family was discouraged by the Soviet regime, so too was interest in the palace that had been their residence.


The Imperial Bedroom (above) was situated between the Dressing Room of Alexandra Feodorovna and the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir. The walls and furniture were lined with pink English Chintz print. Two vitrines contained jewellery, including the famous Fabergé Imperial Easter eggs. Set in an alcove was the Imperial bed made up of two gilt-bronze twin beds. Behind it were hundreds of icons and religious items hung on cords. To the right of the bed was an icon-stand. Most of the icons and other items, totaling 700, were gifts to the Imperial family from important monasteries, churches, religious organizations, military units and private persons. The room and its furnishings have did not survive the war.


The Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir (above) 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 Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room (above), was located between the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir and Maple Drawing Room. Nicholas II called it the “Chippendale Room” because of several furniture pieces made in the Chippendale style, including the fireplace. At the same time, the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room also served as a dining room, where the Imperial family gathered for afternoon tea. After the occupation, only the doors and the upper part of the fireplace survived, the upholstery of the walls and wall panels disappeared, and the beautiful stucco cover partially collapsed. 

The restoration of the Alexander Palace will be carried out in three stages over the next year and a half. Other historic interiors to be recreated include the Library, the Maple Drawing-Room and the Corner Drawing-Room of Alexandra Feodorovna.


In 2000, the New (State) Study of Nicholas II (above) was used by Russian director Gleb Panfilov to shoot a scene for Романовы. Венценосная семья (The Romanovs: An Imperial Family), a film on the last days of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Reproductions of furniture were made for the film and remain on display in the room to this day.

© Paul Gilbert. 9 March 2019

Why State Duma Chairman Mikhail Rodzianko Was Cursed by All


Mikhail Vladimirovich Rodzianko 1859-1924

On 21 [O.S. 9 February] February 1859, one of the leaders of the February Revolution, and a key figure in the events which led to the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II in 1917, the chairman of the State Duma, Mikhail Vladimirovich Rodzianko was born.

In January 1924 attention was focused on the death of Vladimir Lenin in the Soviet Union and in circles of Russian émigrés abroad. While workers and peasants plunged themselves into grief, White Russians in emigration happily rubbed their hands together and wondered how soon the Bolsheviks would fall from power.

Meanwhile, the funeral of another man, one who was among the most recognizable figures of the State Duma for a decade, and in February 1917 became the central figure of the Russian revolution, passed away on 24th January 1924, almost unnoticed in Belgrade. 

Younger son

Mikhail Rodzianko lived during an era of great change in Russia. He came from an old and rich noble family of Ukrainian origin. Mikhail’s father Vladimir Mikhailovich Rodzyanko (1820-1893) was promoted to the position of assistant chief of staff of the Gendarme Corps and retired with the rank of general. 

Vladimir’s first wife (from 1852) Maria Pavlovna Vitovtova (1827 – 1859), served as Maid of Honour to Grand Duchess Maria Mikhailovna (1825-1846), and from 1846, Maid of Honour to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (wife of the Emperor Nicholas I). She died in 1859, shortly after giving birth to her fourth child and third son Mikhail.

Mikhail was educated at the Corps des Pages in St. Petersburg. From 1877 until 1882 he served in Her Majesty’s Regiment of the Cavalry of the Guard. In 1884 Rodzianko married Anna Nikolaevna Galitzine (1859-1929); the couple had three children. In 1885 he retired and lived on his estate in the Novgorod Oblast. He was appointed as Marshall of the Gentry. Rozianko served as Kammerherr in 1899. In 1900 he was elected in Yekaterinoslav Governorate. From 1903 until 1905 he was editor of a newspaper, called “Herald Katerynoslav zemstvos.” In 1906 he was elected for the Zemstvo as Provincial Zemstvo Executive.


Meeting of the Union of the 17th October Party in the State Duma. 1913.

Godfather of the “Octobrists”

Settling in his native Yekaterinoslav province, Rodzianko was first elected magistrate, and then became the leader of the nobility of Novomoskovsky district.

From 1901, he became chairman of the Yekaterinoslav provincial district council, and in 1906 a state councilor. In the civil service, this rank was identical to a general in the army, so Mikhail Vladimirovich did not lag behind his brothers Nikolai (1852-1918) and Pavel (1854-1932), author of Tattered Banners: An Autobiography (published in English in 1939).

No one in the Rodzianko family was a supporter of the revolution, but for Mikhail the events of 1905 opened the way to a great political career.

The manifesto of 17 October 1905, which provided political freedoms for the citizens of the Russian Empire, led to the creation of legal political parties, some of which were hostile to both Nicholas II and the monarchy. Rodzianko became one of the founders of the Union of October 17 Party (aka the Octobrists), a moderately liberal party, whose members were firmly committed to a system of constitutional monarchy. 

Mr Chairman

In 1911, Rodzianko replaced party member Alexander Guchkov (1862-1936) as chairman of the Third State Duma. After the elections to the Fourth State Duma in 1912, Rodzianko remained chairman, noting: “I have always been and will remain a staunch supporter of the representative system on constitutional basis, which was granted to Russia by the great Manifesto of 17 October 1905, the strengthening of the foundations of which should constitute the first and most urgent care of the representation of the Russian people”.

Contemporaries noted that Rodzianko quickly adapted to his position as chairman of the State Duma, sometimes referring to himself as “the second most important person in the empire.”

His loud commanding voice and a heavy figure, earned Rodzianko the nickname “Drum” from deputies.


The Strannik [religious wanderer] Grigory Rasputin 1869-1916


Within the Imperial family, the Duma, to put it mildly, was disliked. During every conflict, the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna urged her husband to dissolve parliament. However, Rodzianko, who had developed good relations with the Imperial couple, argued that such a move would only aggravate the situation and strengthen the position of revolutionaries.

But soon Rodzianko’s relations with the Emperor, and especially the Empress, began to deteriorate.

The reason for this was Grigory Rasputin. While the Imperial couple befriended the “Strannik,” Rodzianko was convinced that he was a conman who undermined the authority of the monarchy.

Supporting Russia’s entry into the war with Germany, the chairman of the State Duma then began to criticize the methods of governing the country during this difficult period.

Rodzianko considered it necessary to create an office of people who could carry out reforms to prevent an impending disaster.

The last straw for Nicholas II was Rodzianko’s objections against the emperor’s intention to take command of the Russian army. He obtained a personal audience, at which he assured Nicholas II that this step was erroneous and would have dire consequences. The Emperor did not heed the emotional words of Rodzianko,who was in fact, among the oppositionists.


Early 20th century caricature of the State Duma Chairman Mikhail Rodzianko

Ideologue of renunciation

By the end of 1916, the Chairman of the State Duma was among those who believed that saving the country not only meant eliminating Rasputin immediately, but also by changing the monarch, who, he believed was incapable of governing the state during such a difficult period.

At the beginning of February 1917, Rodzianko, at a reception with Nicholas II, said to the monarch: without giving the country a “ministry of trust”, revolutionary upheavals are possible in the very near future.

The Emperor did not listen, but the chairman of the State Duma himself had no idea that his prediction would take place within a few days time.

During the days of the February Revolution, Rodzianko became a key figure: he informed the monarch about the situation in Petrograd and also maintained contact with the commanders of the fronts.

Rodzianko was convinced that a constitutional monarchy could help preserve the country. During the uprising in Petrograd, he headed the Provisional Committee of the State Duma, which, in fact, assumed the functions of government.

In this capacity, Rodzianko, with the support of the generals, convinced Nicholas II that the only way to save Russia was for the Sovereign to abdicate.

The Chairman of the State Duma hoped that his dreams of a full-fledged constitutional monarchy would come true. But Nicholas II abdicated both himself and that of his only son and heir Tsesarevich Alexei, in favour of his brother Mikhail.

The brother of Nicholas II, Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, sought from Rodzianko guarantees that such a decision would be supported by the people. The Chairman of the State Duma could not give such guarantees, and then Mikhail signed the Act of Refusal to Take the Throne.


Members of the Provisional Committee of the State Duma (Russian Empire) in 1917 – Rodzianko is seated to the far right, Alexander Kerensky is standing behind him

Blame Rodzianko

Rodzianko did not join the Provisional Government, remaining the head of the Provisional Committee of the State Duma. This structure was rapidly losing its influence, and Rodzianko himself gradually found himself on the sidelines of the political process, although he refused to admit it.

Rodzianko did not embrace the Bolshevik revolution, and even tried to organize resistance to it in Petrograd, but without success. Then he went to the Don, joining the Volunteer Army.

He failed to gain the trust of his contemporaries. Many officers believed that Mikhail Rodzianko was one of the main culprits of the chaos and upheaval which overthrew the monarchy.

For the right, he was too revolutionary-minded, for the left, he was an ultraconservative reactionary.

After the defeat of Wrangel in 1920, Rodzianko went to Yugoslavia, where he lived in political isolation, spending time writing his memoirs.

According to Russian historian S.A. Alekseev, “in emigration, Rodzianko was ostracized by emigrant circles and subjected to harassment as a “seditious person” and a “revolutionary.” The White Guards were so hostile to him that shortly before his death, while traveling to Belgrade, he was beaten by former Wrangel officers.” [Source: Революция и гражданская война в описаниях белогвардейцев: Февральская революция / Revolution and civil war in the descriptions of the White Guards: February Revolution. 1926]

The lack of connections with other expatriates deprived him of the opportunity to receive money for his survival. For the last four years of his life, the former chairman of the State Duma had suffered not only from harassment from monarchists, but also from a banal lack of money. According to Bernard Pares, the English historian and academic known for his work on Imperial Russia, Rodzianko died in great poverty.

The death of Rodzianko on 24th January 1924, took place in the shadow of Lenin’s death. Even fate laughed at the former Chairman of the State Duma, who once considered himself “the second most important person in the empire.”


Rodzianko’s grave in the New Cemetery Belgrade, Serbia 

Click on the links below to read more articles about Mikhail Rodzianko:

 The Man Who Maybe Sparked a Revolution published in the March 15th 2017 edition of The Moscow Times 

Mikhail Rodzianko: A monarchist turned revolutionary published in the March 21st edition of Russia Beyond

© Paul Gilbert. 5 March 2019

What Russia’s Last Emperor Lived By


Nicholas II with his son and heir Tsesarevich Alexei. 1908

Tsar Nicholas II, Russia’s last Emperor, is considered one of the most widely discussed and controversial people of the twentieth century. But what trustworthy and accurately describes his character are the diaries he carefully kept since he was fourteen. What kind of person was the Tsar? What inspired and comforted him? In this series we shall speak about personal details that are usually omitted in most history books.

Tsar Nicholas II is often considered Russia’s most family loving monarch. That must be for a reason; we can find evidence in the Tsar’s diaries. On October 20, 1894, his father, Emperor Alexander III, died after a prolonged illness. Alexander’s son’s notes made at that time are permeated with filial tenderness and love.

Click HERE to read What Russia’s Last Emperor Lived By

© Maria Litzman / 5 March 2019

How Old Believers suffered from the overthrow of Nicholas II


Nicholas II receives bread and salt from the Yaroslavl Old Believer Ascension Community. 1913

Writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) once said that if it were not for the church schism of the 17th century, the revolution of 1917 would not have happened. Some modern historians believe that the writer was correct in the literal sense and that the Russian Old Believers played a significant role in the political cataclysms of the early 20th century. 

The position of the Old Believers in Russia in the pre-revolutionary years

By the end of the 19th century, the Old Believers held considerable material resources in their hands. “The entire Russian market was dominated by the Old Believers,” says A. V. Pyzhikov, a doctor of historical sciences, and author of the book Грани русского раскола (The Edge of Russian Schism). Merchant dynasties among the Old Believers began to emerge in the era of Catherine II, who encouraged free enterprise.

The Old Believers held a fair share of the national income, particularly in Russia’s vast raw materials and manufacturing industries. They also owned banks, railways, and shipping companies. The Old Believers firms received state orders, including the manufacture of weapons.

At the turn of the 20th century, not all Old Believers dared to confess their religious affiliation openly (their actual numbers far exceeded that indicated in official documents), for fear of persecution.

In 1905, Emperor Nicholas II signed an act of religious freedom that ended the persecution of all religious minorities in Russia. The Old Believers gained the right to  build churches and monasteries, to ring church bells, to hold processions and to organize themselves. It became prohibited (as under Catherine the Great—reigned 1762–1796) to refer to Old Believers as raskolniki (schismatics), a name they consider insulting. People often refer to the period from 1905 until 1917 as “the Golden Age of the Old Faith”. One can regard the Act of 1905 as emancipating the Old Believers, who had until then occupied an almost illegal position in Russian society. Nevertheless, some restrictions for Old Believers continued: for example, they were forbidden from joining the civil service.

On 16 April 1905, divine services were allowed in the Old Believer churches of the Rogozhsky cemetery in Moscow. On 19 April, Emperor Nicholas II wrote in his diary: “I christened myself with the Old Believers.” 

The authorities clearly wanted to live in harmony with the Old Believers. But did the Old Believers want to live in harmony with the authorities?


The altar of the Old Believer Pokrovsky Cathedral, Rostov-on-Don. 1905

The attitude of Old Believers to autocracy

It is widely believed that, without exception, the Old Believers hated the Imperial House of the Romanovs to the depths of their hearts. It is not hard to substantiate this point of view, since the schism of 1650–1660, which had driven the followers of the old rite underground during the reign of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich (1645 to 1676), and lasted for more than three centuries.

The Old Believers, referred to Tsar Peter I as “the Antichrist” (although, the persecution of the schismatics was far less severe than during his father’s reign), but any Romanov on the throne, up to the early 20th century, was regarded likewise.

But even educated citizens, businessmen, publishers, politicians, who observed the strict archaic and patriarchal structure characteristic of the Old Believers in their homes, were hardly guided in their thoughts and actions for historical and religious reasons.

They were modern practical people who, like many in that era, believed that the social structure of the country conditioned by the autocracy hampered its development, including the development of its economy and business.

The manifestos of 1905 “On the improvement of the state order” and “On the establishment of the State Duma”, thanks to which Russia had its own parliament for the first time, together with the Tolerance Ordinance, gave some Old Believers hope of a better future. However, some believed that there would be no changes, and that things would return to the old ways.

O. P. Ershov, a researcher on the history of Old Believers, writes that in 1917 one of the regional meetings of Old Believers recognized the autocracy incapable of ensuring the rights granted by the Tolerance Ordinance and not in the interests of the people. This case was not an isolated one.

The relation of the autocrat to the Old Believers

The question of how Nicholas II really treated the Old Believers remains open. A number of researchers of the Old Believers, including the historian and literary critic MA Dzyubenko, believe that the emperor sympathized with them and even hoped to unite the two branches of the Russian Church, but there is no direct evidence of this.

An indirect argument is, for example, Nicholas II’s interest in Neo-Byzantine church architecture and music, which may well be explained for aesthetic and partly diplomatic reasons. Moreover, it is extremely doubtful that most Old Believers would have taken the idea of ​​uniting with the Russian Orthodox Church with any enthusiasm.


Old Believers in early 20th century Imperial Russia

The participation of Old Believers in the preparation of revolutionary events

In all likelihood, the theory gaining popularity in recent years that Old Believers were perhaps the main driving force of all three Russian revolutions is greatly exaggerated. However, the fact of the participation of the Old Believers in the revolutionary movement is indisputable.

Since the end of the 19th century, they were in active contact with various groups of the political opposition. According to the historian Pyzhikov, “the Orthodox Slavophile merchant elite is moving towards a liberal-constitutional path.”

For wealthy people, who also had access to the communal capital of the Old Believers, the most simple and convenient way to influence the events was the financing of the opposition. The most famous example is the manufacturer and philanthropist Savva Morozov, for whose money the Iskra social-democratic newspaper, the Bolshevik publications The Struggle and the New Life were published.

In addition, Morozov supplied his own workers with prohibited literature and was the author of the note “On the Causes of the Strike Movement. Requirements for the introduction of democratic freedoms”. He penned it in January 1905, a few days after Bloody Sunday, in the hope that it would be supported by the other shareholders of the Nikolskaya manufactory, which did not happen. It is also known that Savva Morozov’s funds secretly purchased weapons for the Bolsheviks.

Many Old Believers or people from Old Believer families themselves were members of opposition parties in the Duma and other factions. Often these same people who held important government positions before the February Revolution became members of the Provisional Government afterwards, allowing for assumptions to the “revolution came from above” theory.

Thus, one of the leaders of the Progressive Party A. I. Konovalov, a member of the Fourth State Duma (15 November 1912 – 6 October 1917), later occupied the post of Minister of Trade and Industry in the Provisional Government. His closest associate, P. P. Ryabushinsky, publisher of the newspaper “Morning of Russia”, was a member of the State Council and chairman of the Military Industrial Committee. The founder of the party “Union on October 17” and the chairman of the Third State Duma (7 November 1907 – 9 June 1912) A. I. Guchkov became the Provisional Government’s Minister of War and Navy.

Collapse of hope

Many Old Believers greeted the establishment of the Provisional Government with sincere joy. Thus, the magazine Слово Церкви (Word of the Church), published the greeting of the monks of the Transfiguration Monastery: “I firmly believe the brethren of your wise government, that you will try to improve everything for the good of the motherland and fatherland, and to enlighten the Russian land.”

As we know, the Provisional Government failed to cope with these tasks. In August 1917, an obvious fact was stated at a meeting held at the Bolshoi Theater: “the situation was hopelessly out of control.”

After the October Revolution, almost all the Old Believers lost their fortunes, while many others lost their freedom or their life. Those who succeeded, emigrated. Some, such as Guchkov and Konovalov, continued their political and social activities in Europe.

Note: Many congregations emigrated to the United States, where their descendants still live, observing the ancient customs of the Old Believer’s Church.


Head of the Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church, Metropolitan Cornelius

The Old Believers View of Nicholas II in Post-Soviet Russia

During an interview with the Ekaterinburg media, the head of the Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church, Metropolitan Cornelius, was asked: – In July, “Tsar’s Days” took place in Yekaterinburg, timed to coincide with the execution of Nicholas II and his family. The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill came to us, who declared the guilt of the whole people in the death of the tsar . What is the attitude of the Old Believer Church to the personality of Nicholas II? Why do you think these events happened a hundred years ago in the Urals?

Metropolitan Cornelius – Nicholas II, of all the Romanovs, did a great blessing for the Old Believers to give the Old Believers freedom in 1905 after 300 years of persecution during the rule of the Romanovs. But we must understand that Nicholas II is not in our church, he was a new believer. And there is no question of canonization.

Of course, the murder of the entire royal family and Nicholas is a tragedy, this should not have taken place. Alexander Solzhenitsyn very wisely said about this: the 17th century spawned 1917. Who ruined the church and beat the priests? Russian people themselves. Not the French, not the Germans, not the British, but the Russians, who had lost the foundations of their faith after a church schism. It was then that the destruction of the foundation of the faith began, Russia turned to the West, the Church lost its primacy: an official began to rule the church instead of the patriarch. As a result, godless people came to power, killed the tsar and destroyed everything. To prevent this from happening, we need to return to our foundations, our religion.

Click HERE to learn more about the The Russian Old Believer Church

© Paul Gilbert. 4 March 2019

“He will help you!” Stories of miraculous help of Tsar Nicholas II


To mark the centenary (2018) of the Russian Imperial Family’s murders, the Sretensky Monastery Publishing House (Moscow) published a book by Archpriest Alexander Shargunov, Царь. Книга о святых царственных страстотерпцах (The Tsar. A Book About the Royal Passion-Bearers)

Archpriest Alexander Shargunov regularly preaches sermons on the holy martyrs on the radio and answers readers’ letters to Russky Dom magazine; he has made several compilations of the Miracles worked by the Royal Martyrs. The present book tells us about the role of monarchy in Russian history, about the martyric life of Russia’s last emperor and his royal family, and the miracles worked by the saints after praying to them. We present a few excerpts on the miracles of the Holy Royal Martyrs.

Click HERE to read “He will help you!” Stories of miraculous help of Tsar Nicholas II

© Archpriest Alexander Shargunov / 3 March 2019

New web site dedicated to the era of Nicholas II launched in Ekaterinburg


The multimedia museum “Russia – My History” in Ekaterinburg was the venue for the event

On 16th February 2019, historian Peter Multatuli, Ph.D., arrived in the Urals to present a unique project. Multatuli, who is considered the country’s leading authority on the life and reign of Nicholas II, talked with local historians about the myths surrounding Russia’s last tsar, about his achievements and reforms in particular.

The presentation of the new web site “The Russian Empire in the Era of the Reign of Emperor Nicholas II ” («Российская империя в эпоху правления императора Николая Второго») took place in the multimedia museum “Russia – My History” in Ekaterinburg.  The event was hosted by the Club of Historians, a joint project of the St. Catherine Foundation and the History Park.

“The St. Catherine Foundation took part in the Tsar’s Days events held in Ekaterinburg in July 2018, and the presentation of this new site is the completion of the Imperial Year. This site is not about the Tsar’s family, it is about the many achievements of the Russian Empire during the reign of the last Russian sovereign,” noted Tatyana Balanchuk, project manager of the St. Catherine Foundation.

“It was one of the greatest epochs of reforming the country” added Peter Multatuli – “the country that the emperor accepted in 1894, and the country which he was forced to give up in 1917, were very different countries. Everything was not perfect, however, more reforms were carried out in Russia under Emperor Nicholas II,  than that undertaken by either Peter the Great and Alexander II.”


Russian historian Peter Multatuli, Ph.D.

The new site is based on the calendar “Russia in the Rra of the Reign of Emperor Nicholas II”, released last year. It has fact-filled sections detailing the essence of reforms under Nicholas II, as well as debunking the many myths which exist to this day about his reign. “We realized that we needed a more complete source of information, and launched a website which details the achievements and reforms during the reign Nicholas II,” added Balanchuk.

The site became part of a large project organized by the St. Catherine Foundation: in conjunction with the multimedia museum Russia – My History, outdoor events, as well as workshops and lectures on late 19th and early 20th century Russian history. The site was launched in September 2018 and aroused great interest among a wide audience of more than 600 thousand people.

Peter Multatuli, Candidate of Historical Sciences, gave a presentation lecture at the Saturday event. He noted, that “myths are designed to ignore facts, and to defame the last Russian tsar.” For example, the events of 9th January 1905 (Bloody Sunday) were not a planned punishment of the “insidious ruler over the unhappy workers.”

Multatuli went on to state that “although the city at the time of the execution of the Romanovs bore the name of St. Catherine, in fact it already belonged to Yakov Sverdlov.”

“Yekaterinburg was the patrimony of Sverdlov and his henchmen — including  Yakov Yurovsky and Filipp Goloshchekin. These were Sveredlov’s devotees during 1905–06, when he organized a revolutionary gang that engaged in looting, murder and expropriation,” said Multatuli.

Speakers also talked about the importance of preserving the historical names of cities. According to Tatyana Balanchuk, project manager of the St. Catherine Foundation, “the topic of preserving names and toponymy is very relevant now.”


Tatyana Balanchuk, project manager of the St. Catherine Foundation

“Russian cities were often named in relation to what was produced in a city, such as in honor of the heavenly patron or in honor of a river, which flows nearby, etc.” said Multatuli. “Many names which reflected the Tsarist era were changed after the 1917 Revolution. Many streets named after prominent figures of Russian history are forgotten, instead they reflect those from the Soviet period.”

The historian noted that the original names, which were assigned to the streets at the time of their creation at one or another period of history, could tell a lot about the history of this place, and history needs to be studied in order to educate a citizen in a person who will be responsible for his country .



Russian historian Peter Multatuli, Ph.D.

Peter Valentinovich Multatuli was born in Leningrad on 17 November 1969. He is a Russian journalist, historian and biographer. Multatuli is the author of numerous books and articles about the reign of Emperor Nicholas II. He is the great-grandson of Ivan Kharitonov (1872-1918), who served as the Head Cook of the Imperial family. He followed the tsar and his family into exile, and was murdered along with them in the Ipatiev House on 17th July 1918.

His comprehensive Russian language studies of the life and reign of Emperor Nicholas II are often overlooked or simply ignored by his Western counterparts.


Российская империя в эпоху правления императора Николая Второго
Russia During the Reign of Emperor Nicholas II


Click on the image to review the new site (in Russian only)

The era of the reign of Emperor Nicholas II (1894–1917) remains one of the most prominent in the history and development of Russia.

Rapid economic development, the strengthening of the state’s defense, peace-loving external initiatives, outstanding scientific discoveries, the successes of public education, advanced social policy for this period — were all achieved in a short historical period. Thanks to the policies and reforms of Nicholas II, sophisticated state administration and the talents of statesmen, helped shape the necessary union which produced such brilliant results.

Topics found in the new Russian site include monetary, agrarian, military reforms, industrialization, energy, public health, scientific breakthroughs, Russian Geographical Society, constitutional state, foreign and domestic trade, religious and church life, mail, telegraph and postal services, charity and patronage, the birth of Russian aviation, foreign policy, and much more.

Please note that this Russian language site is still under development, and once complete will also feature articles, news, and videos.


On a personal note, I would like to add that this new Russian site is of great importance. It allows us to reexamine what we have been led to believe is the truth on the era of Nicholas II, from the many books and documentaries produced over the past fifty years. Many have been written by people who have failed to examine all the facts, especially those from Russian sources.

As an example, during a BBC radio programme Beyond Belief held on 20th August 2018, the programmes’ host Ernie Rea was joined by four guests to discuss Russia’s last emperor and tsar. Among them was Andrew Phillips, Archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROCOR) and rector of St. John of Shanghai Orthodox Church in Colchester, England, who stated during the programme that “Nicholas II was a reforming tsar”. Fellow panelist and Romanov historian Helen Rappaport did not comment on Father Andrew’s statement, however, she wasted little time in taking to social media to rebuke him. “The assertion by Father Andrew that he [Nicholas II] was a reforming tsar took it too far” – she argued during a discussion on Facebook with her “Romanov circuit”.

I also believe that Nicholas II was a reforming tsar, the information presented in this new Russian site providing the facts. Therefore, I respectfully disagree with Dr. Rappaport’s comments, and her rebuke of Father Andrew’s comment alone raises a red flag.

I have argued for years that researchers need access to new documents discovered in post-Soviet archives in Russia. Perhaps this would help put an end to the obsessive rehashing by Western historians of the tragedies which befell Nicholas II during his reign. It is time to begin focusing on his reforms and achievements. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of an English version of the «Российская империя в эпоху правления императора Николая Второго» web site.

© Paul Gilbert. 18 February 2019