Nicholas II attends opening of a sanatorium in Alupka, 1913

In 1913 – the year marking the 300th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty – Emperor Nicholas II and his family arrived in Crimea for a 4-month stay. From 14th August to 17th December, the Imperial family lived at the beautiful Livadia Palace, situated on the southern coast overlooking the Black Sea.

At the end of September 1913, a sanatorium named after Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894) was opened in Alupka for students and teachers of theological schools in Russia. It was an elongated three-story building, where on the east side the premises of the third floor were intended for the church. The interior of the church was illuminated by a large bronze chandelier, and featured a marble iconostasis and solea[1].

This sanatorium was located in the western part of Alupka on land that once belonged to the Vorontsovs, whose heirs at the beginning of the 20th century divided it into plots for long-term lease. Plot No. 72 was rented free of charge by the Synod for a climatic sanatorium for teachers of parochial schools. In 1913, here, according to the project of the architect N.P. Kozlov, at the expense of the School Council of Russia, a sanatorium building was erected, designed for 100 guests. The sanatorium had separate rooms, a well-equipped kitchen, a common refectory, and, most importantly, its own five-domed Church of St. Alexander Nevsky.

The church was consecrated in memory of the Emperor and his heavenly patron Saint Alexander Nevsky. The grand opening of the sanatorium in Alupka was attended by Emperor Nicholas II, his daughter Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, Minister of the Imperial Court Count Vladimir Frederiks, local dignitaries and members of the clergy.

Here is an excerpt from the diary of Nicholas II for 22nd September 1913: “At 9 ½ I went with Maria and Frederiks to Alupka for the consecration of the Church of the Climatic Sanatorium for students of church schools. A beautifully arranged big house for 80 and even up to 100 guests.”

Nicholas II accompanied by Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, and his retinue arrived in front of the main entrance, which was decorated with garlands of flowers and canvases with imperial monograms. They were solemnly greeted by representatives of the city authorities, their wives and the clergy, headed by V.K. Sabler, who in 1911-1915 served as chief prosecutor of the Synod.

To perpetuate the historical event of Nicholas II’s attendance at the consecration, court photographer K.F. Hahn and Alupka photographer A.E. Zimmerman, captured the historic event on camera.

Several photographs have survived to this day which show a general view of the sanatorium and the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky, the interior of the church and the arrival and procession headed by Emperor Nicholas II.

After the advent of Soviet power, by order of the Chief Commissioner for Crimea, the sanatorium for clergy, along with the church, among other noble estates of Alupka, were nationalized and became the property of the Russian People’s Republic. In June 1923, the Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Crimea issued a decision to close the Alexander Nevsky Church and transfer the movable property of the temple to the Special Storage of the Yalta District Executive Committee. The liquidated church was transferred to the property of the administration of the sanatorium of the People’s Commissariat of Railways (NKPS). In Soviet times, a climatic sanatorium named after V.I. F.E. Dzerzhinsky.

The Church of St. Alexander Nevsky suffered neglect and disrepair, and in 1927, the building sustained significant damage during an earthquake.

In the spring of 1996, through the efforts of the Crimean and Simferopol Metropolitan Lazarus, the building was returned to the Church, and now a sanitarium named after St. Luke of Crimea is located here. The Church of Alexander Nevsky was also restored, in which divine services are held, as well as a Sunday school.

Today, the five onion-shaped domes of St. Alexander Nevsky Church are visible from different vantage points in Alupka.

NOTES:

[1] a platform or a raised part of the floor in front of the inner sanctuary in an Eastern Orthodox church on which the singers stand and the faithful receive communion.

© Paul Gilbert. 18 May 2022

Nicholas II’s battle with typhoid in 1900

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II recovering from typhoid at Livadia, December 1900

During Tsarist times, typhoid, or “spotted fever”, affected every one from paupers to emperors—the often fatal illness did not discriminate. This intestinal infection caused by a specific type of Salmonella bacterium was a frequent guest in the imperial residences. And all because of poor sanitation. For example, the kitchen of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, only stopped taking water directly from the Neva River in 1868, while mineral filters and urns for boiling water were only installed in the palace in the 1920s! And we are talking here only of the water used by the Imperial Family: servants, valets, stokers and porters lived in, and bustled in and out of, the Winter Palace. The common folk and acquaintances that came to visit the Imperial Family in their tiny rooms had a very careless attitude to personal hygiene and as a result, the palace was teeming with lice, bedbugs, cockroaches and, of course, mice.

It is not surprising then that under these conditions that Empress Maria Alexandrovna, the spouse of Emperor Alexander II, their son Alexander Alexandrovich (future Alexander II) and the latter’s daughter Xenia Alexandrovna all caught typhoid fever.

During his stay in Livadia[1] in the autumn of 1900, Nicholas II became gravely ill with typhoid. Initially, doctors were afraid to diagnose the disease for a long time and then they argued about what medication to prescribe.

The Emperor fell ill with what proved to be a rather serious from of typhoid. The Empress had a great horror of the illness, but a crisis always found her self-possessed and resourceful. She nursed the Emperor herself, even doing the night nursing, and acted as his private secretary when he was able to attend to papers, transmitting his decisions to his Ministers. The Empress wrote to her sister, Princess Louis [aka Victoria of Battenberg], at the time:

“Nicky really was an angel of patience during his wearisome illness, never complaining, always ready to do all one bid him. His old valet and I nursed him. The shock of his illness and feeling myself necessary gave me new strength, as I had been very wretched before. I rebelled at a nurse being taken and we managed perfectly ourselves.”

Orchie [Alexandra’s old nurse] would wash his face and hands in the morning. She would bring the Empress her meals, where she would take them while resting on the sofa in her husband’s room. She suffered from head and heartache, the latter from nerves and many sleepless nights. When Nicholas began getting better, she read to him.

He first had a digestive upset on 22nd October 1900, and almost immediately the Emperor’s temperature rose to 39-40 degrees Celsius (102-104 degrees Fahrenheit). The high temperature and severe headache, coupled with food poisoning, continued until 12th November.

PHOTO: Alexandra Feodorovna standing behind her husband, who is seated in a wheelchair while recovering from typhoid. Nicholas II is seated in front of a table, wearing a dressing gown, and a rug placed over his legs. Livadia, Crimea. December 1900

The Emperor actually received no treatment. Despite being pregnant for the fourth time and in a lot of pain, Alexandra nursed him back to health, rarely leaving his side. While Alexandra Feodorovna was the one who looked after him, his sister Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, recorded her brother’s illness and recovery:

“Poor Nicky is lying in bed, he didn’t sleep at all at night because of terrible pains in his back. In the morning his temperature was 38.2 – during the day 38.7. His eyes are tired and pale! [Dr.] Girsh says that it’s influenza! Thank God there’s nothing in the lungs, or in general anywhere else. Poor Alix [Alexandra Feodorovna] – she looks very tired.” – Xenia’s diary, 27th October 1900

“Later on I drove to Livadia and looked in on Nicky for a minute. The back of his neck hurts terribly, and he doesn’t know where to turn his head. All the pain from his back and legs has gone upwards, and he is suffering terribly. Poor Alix has forgotten about her own sickness and is moving around more. Girsh is adamant, that it isn’t typhoid (we asked him). Girsh asked Nicky to call someone else, to put everyone’s mind at rest – it was decided to call for [Dr.] Tikhonov.” – Xenia’s diary, 29th October 1900

“We met Tikhonov, who told us that several symptoms of typhoid had developed, and that they were almost sure that it was typhoid! At Livadia we immediately questioned Girsh. It’s astounding that influenza should suddenly turn into typhoid!

“At Livadia we immediately questioned Girsh. It’s astounding that influenza should suddenly turn into typhoid! With Alix’s permission Professor Popov was sent for; we had lunch alone together downstairs; a little later [Count] Fredericks arrived, tearing his hair and saying he was in a terrible position, that everyone wanted news, while he was not allowed to tell anyone anything. He wanted us to persuade Alix to allow a bulletin to be published, which we were able to do. She agreed that there is nothing worse than trying to conceal things! We telegraphed poor Mama. Thank God Alix is so calm.” – Xenia’s diary, 31st October 1900

“Thank the Lord, Nicky had an excellent night – he slept until morning, his temperature was 38.7 and he felt well. Alix called me to see Nicky – he was in remarkably good spirits, and chatted and joked. Alix was also in a good mood, having slept well. They didn’t want to let me go, but in the end I left of my own accord, as he needs complete rest and had been talking to much.

“All the unnecessary furniture has been removed from the bedroom, and will be taken into Alix’s drawing room this afternoon. Alix is now sleeping in another bed, at least the doctors have achieved that much.” – Xenia’s diary, 1st November 1900

“They are not happy that Nicky’s temperature is so low 36°, but the pulse is good at 66. They are afraid of a haemorrhage, God preserve us! It’s so terrifying, help us God, save our Nicky!” – 13th November 1900

PHOTO: Nicholas II recovering from typhoid fever, with his sister Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna. Livadia, Crimea. December 1900.

Against this background, discussions about who should succeed Nicholas II, in the event that he should die. The Empress attempted to persuade her husband to change the Laws of Succession to allow females to inherit the throne in the absence of any male heirs in order for their four-year-old daughter Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna [2] to inherit the empire, as opposed to her uncle, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich. Ultimately, these changes did not take place.

After 13th November, the Tsar’s temperature started coming down and on 30th November, for the first time, Nicholas spent half an hour on his balcony. “It was sunny, warm and still… Thank God my typhoid was mild and I didn’t suffer at all during the whole time. I had a strong appetite and now my weight is increasing noticeably every day…”

Nicholas recovered six months later, in May-June 1901, however, little Olga came down with typhoid. Alexandra would nurse their eldest daughter through her illness.

On the 24th November 1900 Nicholas wrote to his mother:

“About my little wife I can only say that she was my guardian angel, looked after me better than any sister of mercy!”

NOTES:

[1] Up until 1911, Nicholas II and his family stayed in the Small Livadia Palace during their visits to Crimea, after which they lived in the iconic white stone palace, which was constructed on the site of the Large Livadia Palace. The Small Palace survived until the Great Patriotic War (1941-45).

[2] The Succession Prospects of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna (1895-1918) by Carolyn Harris, published in Canadian Slavic Papers, Volume 54, 2012 – Issue 1-2

© Paul Gilbert. 6 February 2021

Eccentric sculpture of Nicholas II and his family unveiled in Yalta

PHOTO: Imperial Family monument in Yalta, by the sculptor Yuri Mayorov

On 1st October 2021, a new and yet eccentric sculpture to Emperor Nicholas II and his family was installed in Yalta, one which has raised the eyebrows of local residents and a wave of criticism and ridicule.

The monument by sculptor Yuri Mayorov, depicts the Imperial Family enveloped by the wings of an angel, was unveiled on the grounds of the former “Livadia” sanatorium, which is situated near the famous Imperial palace.

Yalta residents took to social media to share their negative opinions of the sculpture, describing the wings as a “strange toothy shell” and to associate it with a “plant-predator”, or the “armour of an armadillo”, or various vulgarities of the “Freudian” sense.

For some locals, the sculpture resembles a “cocoon” and reminiscent of the “xenomorph egg” from the movie “Alien”. Other critics, noted that the faces of the members of the Imperial Family look “dead and sketchy”, while others criticized the holes in the “angel’s” wings, because they resembled bullet holes,

PHOTO: detail of Grand Duchess Olga and Emperor Nicholas II

The sculptural composition was installed five meters from the monument to the participants of the Yalta Conference – Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt. The installation of the monument depicting the murdered members of the Imperial Family near that of a monument to Stalin seemed unethical to many.

The unusual sculpture was installed on the grounds of Kurort Livadia LLC, which owns the former Livadia sanatorium. The project and its installation is that of the White Eagle Monarchist Society.

The sculpture was paid for by businessman Konstantin Malofeev, a devout monarchist, who openly supports the restoration of monarchy in Russia. Unfortunately, he openly supports the claim of Princess Maria Vladimirovna and her son Prince George Romanov-Hohenzollern. Malofeev is the owner of the Tsargrad TV channel, and the Tsargrad LLC – the founder of the Livadia Resort company.

UPDATE: SCULPTURE DISMANTLED on 11th December

Earlier today, the controversial sculpture of the Imperial Family was dismantled and taken away from its location on the former “Livadia” sanatorium, situated near the famous Imperial palace.

“There was a wave of negativity in relation to our monument. People began to write that they would come and destroy it. To spare the monument from vandalism, we decided to move it to a safe place. It will be stored in a closed area, I don’t want to tell its location,” said Andrei Krupin, director of the educational center where the sculpture was installed.

The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Crimea noted that the sculpture caused controversy due to the poor quality of execution. At the same time, the Ministry of Culture said that it has nothing to do with the Livadia Palace.

© Paul Gilbert. 10 December 2021

Nicholas II’s little known hunting dacha in Crimea

PHOTO: Beshuiskaya dacha, Nicholas II’s hunting lodge in Crimea

The beginning of His Majesty’s Own Hunt in the Crimean mountains was established by Emperor Alexander II (1818-1881) in the 1860s from the Nikitskaya dacha, situated in the Yuzhno-Berezhansky Forest, near Livadia. Subsequently, the Tsar’s Hunt in Crimea expanded, with two additional state forest dachas established in the Beshuisky and Ayan forest districts (Crown Lands).

From 14 to 18 October 1880, a hunt was organized for Tsesarevich Alexander Alexandrovich (future Emperor Alexander III) in the Beshuisky forest. It was this hunting trip which prompted the construction of the Beshuiskaya dacha, situated 60–70 yards from the Kosmo-Damianovsky Monastery. The hunting lodge was completed by September 1884. 

PHOTO: Nicholas II and Count Frederiks in front of Beshuiskaya dacha

The Beshuiskaya dacha was a one-story wooden building on a stone foundation, and consisted of 8 rooms: a living room with an office, a bedroom, two servants’ rooms, a pantry and a bathroom. Following the example of his grandfather and father, Nicholas II came here repeatedly for hunting and to visit the monastery.

The most professional and promising employees from the tsar’s hunting estates at Spala, and later from Białowieża, were transferred to Crimea. In the fall of 1913, Edmund Vladislavovich Wagner was appointed Head of His Majesty’s Own Hunt in the Crimea. In total, the staff of His Majesty’s Own Hunt in 1913-1917, including the gamekeepers, consisted of thirty people.

PHOTO: Nicholas II relaxing on the balcony of Beshuiskaya dacha

Nicholas II records one of his Crimean hunts on 17th September 1913:

“… I got up at 3 o’clock and went hunting, and killed one deer . . . The weather was excellent and the day was very warm. I returned to the house by 9 o’clock. Drank tea with my daughters, who had been at the early Mass. We sat on the porch until 12 o’clock when they brought my deer. We had breakfast and left at exactly one o’clock to Livadia, where we arrived at 3.20 … “

During his last visit to the southern coast of Crimea in the spring of 1914, the emperor made several trips to Beshuiskaya, but these were not for hunting, but entertaining and hiking with his family, relatives, officers and members of his retinue.

Empress  Alexandra Feodorovna, hoping for a miracle, chose a healing spring at the Kosmo-Damianovsky Monastery, for the treatment of Tsesarevich Alexei, who suffered with hemophilia. However, the journey from Livadia to the monastery was rather long and burdensome.

By 1910, the Imperial Garage in Livadia was completed, the roads used by the Tsar had to be made suitable for his motorcars. That same year, construction began of the Romanov Highway, a mountain route which connected Upper Massandra with the Tsar’s hunting lodge and the nearby monastery. The road was completed in the fall of 1913, making it suitable for motor traffic.

PHOTO: Count Alexander Grabbe, Emperor Nicholas II, Prince Vladimir Orlov,
unknown officer, and palace commandant Vladimir Voeikov

The advantages of the new highway reduced the distance between the Imperial residences by more than twenty kilometers. Thanks to this, the travel time was reduced: judging by the diary entries of Nicholas II, He usually got from Livadia to the Hunting Lodge in about three hours.

The date of 6th May 1914, turned out to be the last time that Emperor Nicholas II and his Family would drive along the scenic Romanov Road from Livadia to visit Beshuiskaya dacha, their hunting dacha in Crimea. Within a few short months, the outbreak of the First World War, their joyful happy days would forever remain in the past.

PHOTO: another view of Beshuiskaya dacha, Nicholas II’s hunting lodge in Crimea

© Paul Gilbert. 6 January 2021

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Dear Reader

If you find my articles, news stories and translations interesting, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMe, PayPal, credit card, personal check or money order. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Nicholas II’s visit to Eriklik, Crimea in 1914

PHOTO: Eriklik, the dacha built for Empress Maria Alexandrovna near Livadia

Eriklik was the name of a dacha, built for Empress Maria Alexandrovna (1824-1880), wife of Emperor Alexander II (1818-1881), near Livadia in Crimea. The dacha was built on the advice of her physician Dr. Sergei Petrovich Botkin (1832-1889) [father of Dr. Eugene Botkin (1865-1918), who was murdered with Nicholas II and his family by the Bolsheviks on 17th July 1918] , who recommended that the Empress spend autumn and winter in the south, where the mountainous and coniferous air would benefit her declining health.

The construction of the dacha involved designer A.I. Rezanov and the famous architects A.G. Vincent , V.I.Sychugov, and was built between April-August 1872.

A beautiful park parterre with a system of paths and a round fountain were arranged in front of the dacha, the vegetation was cleared in order to maximize the panoramic view of the mountains and the Black Sea. The architectural complex was created by assimilating the nature of Crimea set against the symbolic views of the mountain landscape.

PHOTOS: Emperor Nicholas II at the fountain in the garden at Eriklik, 1914

The wooden one-story dacha, consisted of three wings, connected to each other and 8-10 rooms. The Empress’s rooms faced the most beautiful views, an adjoining room was reserved for the dining room, behind it were the rooms for Alexander II. The servants’ quarters were located behind the Empress’s rooms. The dacha had a wooden patio. The dacha also included a wooden veranda, a gazebo in the garden and several outbuildings.

After the death of Maria Alexandrovna, the palace remained empty. During their stays in Crimea, Nicholas II with his family, often visited Eriklik, where they enjoyed quiet walks and picnics.

PHOTO: the Imperial Family  visits Eriklik in May 1914

On 28th May 1914, three days before leaving the Crimea, the Tsar’s family arrived in Eriklik for breakfast. They were joined by other members of the Russian Imperial family who were staying at their respective Crimean residences at Ai-Todor, Kharax and Kichkine, as well as officers of the Imperial Yacht Standart. After breakfast, everyone walked together and relaxed in the garden. Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna noted in her diary that the day was “warm and sunny”. It was to be their last journey to Crimea.

Following the 1917 Revolution, a health resort for tuberculosis patients was opened in the dacha. At the beginning of the 20th century, the wooden dacha fell into decay, and in the middle of the 20th century was demolished.

© Paul Gilbert. 23 December 2020

***

Dear Reader

If you found this article interesting, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMe, PayPal, credit card, personal check or money order. Thank you for your consideration – PG

The Emperor on Vacation – Set of 3 Albums

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Tucked away for decades in the Yalta Historical and Literary Museum in Crimea, are three little known albums of photographs of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. The albums were found in Livadia and confiscated by the regional Soviet after the Imperial residences were nationalized by the Bolsheviks in 1917.

I was made aware of the existence of these albums during my visit to Yalta and Crimea in 2000, however, it was not possible to view them at the time.

The albums were published last year by the N. Orianda Publishing House in Simferopol, Crimea under the title Император на отдыхе / The Emperor on Vacation in three handsome hard cover volumes. Each album is filled with photographs of the Imperial family during their stay in Crimea in 1902, 1912 and 1913 respectively. The albums are packaged in a handsome slip case. Text and captions are in Russian.

This collection of photographs are indeed special, as there are no staged portraits, they reflect the private, home life of the Imperial family: walks, picnics, excursions, family and friendly meetings – all set against the backdrop of picturesque Crimean nature, and the region’s historical and architectural monuments. Also included are a few images taken during official meetings and parades.

These albums will be indispensable to historians and any one interested in the life of Russia’s last tsar and his family. The photographs have not been published in any of the pictorials published by Western publishers over the past decades – they are new to us! What makes these albums even more unique and valuable is that only 100 sets were printed! The price is 10,000 rubles ($150 USD).

Volume I (1902) Августейшие дачники / August Summer Residents

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Volume II (1912) Земной рай Романовых / Romanovs Earthly Paradise

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Volume III (1913) Царский альбом в стиле репортажа

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Published by the N. Orianda Publishing House in Simferopol, Crimea.

ISBN: 9785604293164. Click HERE to order your set of these magnificent albums!

© Paul Gilbert. 16 June 2020

Nicholas II runs tests on new uniforms for the soldiers of his army

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Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

This series of photographs depict Emperor Nicholas II wearing the uniform of a private soldier in Livadia. The Tsar made it his duty to run tests on new uniforms for the soldiers of his army.

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Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

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

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Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

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

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Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

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

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Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

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

Excerpted from At the Court of the Last Tsar by A.A. Mossolov. English edition published in 1935

© Paul Gilbert. 14 April 2020

UPDATE: Monument to Nicholas and Alexandra in Crimea

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Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (left), Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich,
Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna (right)

On 20th February 2020, I published an article Monument to Nicholas and Alexandra to be established in Crimea, a new monument marking a unique day, to be installed in the Russian city of Alushta, (situated 36 km from Yalta in Crimea) in the autumn of this year.

The photographs depicted in this update, show the progress on the monument, which features Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (future Emperor Nicholas II, Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine (future Empress Alexandra Feodorovna), Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich and his wife Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna.

It was in the autumn of 1894, that Tsar Alexander III’s health began to further deteriorate. Nicholas obtained the permission of his dying father to summon Alix to the Imperial family’s Crimean palace of Livadia.

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Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich and Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine

The monument will be established in the Crimean town of Alushta on 10th October 2020, the same date in which the meeting of Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich and his future wife Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine took place in 1894. The cost of the monument will be 18,500,000 rubles ($242,000 USD).

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Meeting of the Tsesarevich and his bride in Alushta. 10 October 1894

Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich wrote in his diary that day:

At 9.30 I set out with Uncle Sergei to Alushta, where we arrived at one o’clock in the afternoon. Ten minutes later my beloved Alix arrived from Simferopol with Ella. After luncheon I got into the carriage with Alix and we drove together to Livadia.

My God! What a joy to meet her here at home and to have her near to me—half my cares and worries have been lifted from my shoulders. I was overcome with emotion when we went in to the dear Parents. Papa was weaker today, and Alix’s arrival, together with his talk with Father Ioann [John of Kronstadt], have worn him out!

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Memorial plaque marking the spot where the monument will be installed in Alushta

On 20th October 2019. a memorial plaque was solemnly opened in Alushta, at the site of the historical meeting between Tsesarevich Nikolai Alexandrovich and his future wife, Princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt, on 10th October 1894.

© Paul Gilbert. 5 April 2020

The Baron who remembered meeting Nicholas II in 1914

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Baron Eduard Oleg Alexandrowitsch von Falz-Fein’s
collection of art included a portrait of Tsar Nicholas II

On 17th November 2018, Baron Eduard Oleg Alexandrowitsch von Falz-Fein died in a house fire in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, at the age of 106. The Russian-born Liechtensteiner businessman, journalist, sportsman and art collector, may very well have been the last person who recalled meeting Tsar Nicholas II.

There are almost no contemporaries who knew Nicholas II,” wrote Eduard Alexandrovich von Falz-Fein in 2017 – “It has been 100 years since I saw the kind eyes of the Sovereign, and I remember the warmth of his hands when he held me as a child. Nothing can erase that cheerful and happy memory! The comprehension of those years leaves me in deep sadness. The Lord gave us a peaceful and bright joy to remember the August Family and their sincere love, their devotion to Russia!

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Eduard Alexandrovich von Falz-Fein was born on 14th September 1912 in the village of Gavrilovka, situated in the Kherson region of the Russian Empire. Today, it is part of Ukraine.

“We were big landowners, the peasants loved us, because we paid well,” said Eduard Alexandrovich about his childhood – “For New Year and Christmas, all employees received gifts, and on their birthday the employee was given the day off. Uncle had the largest zoological garden in the world, where more than three thousand animals and birds from around the world were collected. Every day, a distinguished guest came to see the zoo, and if no one came for a long time, mother would say: “How is this so! Nobody loves us anymore? ”

Probably the most honoured guest to the estate was made by Tsar Nicholas II. In the Spring of 1914, Eduard Alexandrovich’s uncle Friedrich invited the sovereign to Askania-Nova, who arrived on 29th April 1914, staying for 2 days. “No one knew what they talked about, noted Eduard Alexandrovich, –  “most likely, about the approaching war.”

On the occasion of their august guest, Falz-Fein announced a three-day holiday for his employees, allocating money for refreshments. The peasants raised toasts and cheered, as they drank to honour the tsar’s visit.

On the evening of the 29th, the tsar was invited to dinner, which included soup, consomme, various pies, sterlet, wild goat with croquettes, poivrade sauce, roast chicken and partridges, a traditional fried pig, caviar and Bavarian cheese, all of which was complimented with a selection of fine Crimean winse.

The following morning, the Tsar was given a lavish breakfast in the garden, and it was at this time that little –year-old Eduard Alexandrovich was honoured to be planted on the lap of Nicholas II.

Nicholas II did not boast of his title Autocrat of the Russian Empire. He was relaxed and at ease, talking freely with the senior caretaker of the zoo, Klimentiy Siyanko, the coachman Reznichenko, the shepherd Samuel Sukonko, the estate manager Iosif Kiriltsev, and the scientific observer Grote.

The sovereign was delighted with what he saw on the estate. Nicholas II gave Friedrich Eduardovich his portrait with a dedicatory inscription (a mark of highest respect) and ordered his ajutant Vorontsov-Dashkov to present gifts on his behalf to the estates’ employees.

Falz-Fein sent a gift for Empress Alexandra Feodorovna: a luxurious fan made of peacock feathers with an enamel pen made by Rene Lalique.

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In the photo above, Baron Eduard Oleg Alexandrowitsch von Falz-Fein (right) is visiting his friend, the senior male and former head of the Romanov Family Association Prince Nicholas Romanovich (1922-2014) at this home in Switzerland.

Together, they are looking at a copy of Romanoff: Un Album de Famille, a series of magnificent pictorials produced by Jacques Ferrand in the 1980s and early 1990s. Each volume featured hundreds of photos of members of the Russian Imperial Family, including the Tsar and his family, grand dukes and grand duchesses, princes and princesses of the imperial blood, etc. Ferrand received exclusive publication rights from members of the Imperial Family who fled Russia after the 1917 Revolution.

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Tsar Nicholas II (left) with Friedrich Eduardovich Falz-Fein (standing next to the tsar),
at the latter’s estate Askania-Nova, in Crimea, 29th April 1914

In a letter dated May 8, 1914, to his mother the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, Nicholas II writes about his visit to Askania-Nova:

“On April 29, early in the morning, I went by motor through Simferopol and Perekop to Askania-Nova, where I arrived at 4 p.m. There I was met by the owner himself [Friedrich Eduardovich Falz-Fein], the old mother, her daughter, who is married to Paker, the granddaughter and another son, that is, the brother of Falz-Fein. They are completely Russian and easy people to talk with. I was offered tea in the garden. Herons, ducks, geese and cranes walked around the table, looked at us and some came up and pushed with their beaks, begging us to give them bread.

“Then the master led me past large cages with all kinds of birds living together, to the pond, filled with several hundred ducks, geese, swans, and flamingos of different breeds. Then we went to the famous menagerie, the size of the military field in Gatchina, with a huge fence around. Different deer, goats, antelopes, wildebeests, kangaroos and ostriches live there, all year round in the open and in the open, and also all together.

“An amazing impression, like a picture from the Bible, as if the animals came out of Noah’s Ark! From there we went to his lovely park, which Falz-Fein planted and laid out in 1888, after he found water. All our northern bushes and trees grow here, which is also strange in the steppe. Then, in a motor, I drove around his huge herd of sheep, cows, bison, horses, zebras and camels. These herds graze for six months in the steppe, far from his house, and he encouraged me to approach them.

“Still, I did not see everything, because there was not enough time. In the evening I dined with them and went to bed early. Three gentlemen (accompanying) me were: Voeikov, Drenteln and Sashka Vorontsov.

“The next morning, April 30, we went to the steppe and continued to inspect the herds: they also showed us the shearing of the sheep. In the garden in one of the ponds, are red fish – carp, ides, and roaches. He explained to me that it is very simple: you just need to provide them with a lot of sun and feed the fish meat! He made a brood of his best horses, which is what he is most pleased with, and they are really remarkably good and beautiful! He sells 120 horses annually for cavalry repairs.

“Before I left, the Falz Feyn family served breakfast in the garden, although it was 9.30 in the morning. Having said goodbye to them, we went the other way back and examined several new peasant farms, who had been evicted from the villages after three years. They themselves are very satisfied. Their homes, households, fields and orchards make the most pleasant impression. Everything is so clean, neat and they themselves do not look like ordinary peasants!

“Then we drove to Simferopol and through Bakhchisaray to Ai-Petri, home. Arrived in Livadia before dinner. So I did 587 miles in two days, almost as much as from St. Petersburg to Moscow … ” 

The stay of Nicholas II in Askania-Nova was recorded on film by court photographer V.K. Trikler (representative of the French film rental company) and has been preserved to this day – see below:

Click HERE to watch 4 short film clips of Nicholas II visiting Askania-Nova 28-30 1914

© Paul Gilbert. 10 March 2020

Monument to Nicholas and Alexandra to be established in Crimea

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The above image is an artist drawing of a monument that will be established in the Crimean town of Alushta later this year, in honour of the meeting of Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich and his future wife Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine on 10th October 1894, the date that will be inscribed on the monument.

In April 1894, Nicholas’s engagement to Alix was announced. When it became clear that the health of the Tsesarevich’s father Emperor Alexander III was serious, Alix was invited to the Crimea. The couple met at the Dove Cottage, where Alix stopped on the way to Livadia. Princess Alix travelled with her sister Ella to Livadia to receive the blessing of the dying emperor. Nicholas was accompanied by his uncle Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (Governor of Moscow). It is this historic moment – the meeting of four people – that will be depicted by sculptors.

According to the project manager, vice president of the St. Basil the Great Foundation, Mikhail Wilter, “the cost is estimated at about 18.5 million rubles. This includes four bronze sculptures, a granite pedestal, and an arch. The height of the monument is five meters, the length of the stone is about four meters, and the height of the figures themselves is more than two meters. We expect this project to be implemented in 2020. Part of the funds will come from the Saint Basil the Great Charitable Foundation, and we hope that Crimeans will also contribute to this important project,” said Wilter.

“The composition will consist of four figures – the couple themselves – Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, her sister Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and her husband Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, both of whom were present at the meeting of the future Imperial Couple. The arch unites two loving hearts – Nicholas and Alexandra, and is also crowned with an Orthodox cross. I would like the monument to be consecrated so that you can approach, even baptize, as they are saints. Newlyweds can come to the monument to have their wedding photos taken, ”said Irina Makarova, one of the sculptors participating in the project.

“The uniqueness of the sculpture is that all four people died tragically, three of them canonized by the Orthodox Church: Nicholas II, Alexandra Fedorovna and Elizaveta Fedorovna. This is a real human story,” said the author of the project Maxim Batayev, the other sculptor participating in the project.

The bronze and granite monument will be installed in the garden of the city library in October, while the territory surrounding it will be improved and planted with cypress trees.

Click HERE to read my article Love of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna to be immortalized in Crimea, published on 27th September 2019

© Paul Gilbert. 20 February 2020