Arson suspected near the Romanov Memorial

PHOTO: a large Orthodox cross marks the spot – covered with rail ties – where the remains of Nicholas II, his wife, three of their children, and four servants were exhumed in 1991

On the evening of Tuesday 3rd May, a fire broke out in the Porosenkov Log near Ekaterinburg, almost reaching the Romanov Memorial. According to Ilya Korovin, Director of the Romanov Memorial Charitable Foundation, the fire came within 50 to 70 meters of the main grave site, where the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, three of their children and four servants were exhumed in 1991.

Two emergency vehicles were dispatched to the scene at around 6:30 in the evening. Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire before coming within 10 meters of a gas pipeline, which runs in behind the memorial site. Firefighters struggled with the fire for about two hours, bringing the fire under control shortly after eight in the evening. Had the fire not been contained, a massive explosion would most certainly have occurred if the flames had reached the pipeline. According to the emergency crews, “it was definitely arson”.

The area of the fire spread to about 4 thousand square meters, mostly forest. The fire did not cause any damage to the territory in or around the Romanov Memorial. “From the gas pipeline to the road, everything burned out—an area of about 100 square meters,” added Ilya Korovin – “Where there was once a swamp, is now nothing more than a large black sport, and an unpleasant smell.”

© Paul Gilbert. 4 May 2022

Pilgrimage to Ganina Yama – “for reflection and prayer”

PHOTO: the author [Paul Gilbert] of this article praying at Ganina Yama. A wooden causeway has been built around the edge of the mine shaft, a tall Orthodox cross marks the edge of the mine shaft – visible as a depression in the ground – where the remains of Nicholas II and his family were first discarded by the regicides.

In the pre-dawn hours of 17th July 1918, a crime of the most heinous kind was committed in the basement of the Ipatiev House in the Ural city of Ekaterinburg. It was here that members of the Ural Soviet [Bolsheviks] murdered Russia’s last Tsar, his wife and their five children, as well as the family’s four faithful retainers. The regicide remains one of the darkest pages in 20th Russian history.

Following the murders, the regicides secretly transported their bodies to the abandoned Isetsky mine, located near the Four Brothers tract, situated four kilometres southeast of the village of Koptyaki, and some 15 km (10 miles) north of the Ural city, where their remains were subsequently thrown into a 9 ft. deep pit. The site is today known as Ganina Yama.

Fearing that the burial site was no longer a secret, the regicides returned to the site the night after the first burial, retrieved the bodies from the mine and transported them to a second burial site known as Porosyenkov Log, situated 3.5 km from the original site.

On 20th August 2000, Emperor Nicholas II and his family were glorified as passion bearers[1] by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church[2]. On 23rd September 2000, during his visit to the Urals, Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2000) visited the Ganina Yama tract and, having blessed the establishment of the monastic monastery, put his signature on the master plan of the monastery[3]. The first stone of the monastery was laid on 1st October 2000. On 27th December, the Holy Synod officially “blessed the opening of a monastery in the name of the Holy Royal Martyrs in the Ganina Yama tract”. On 28th December, the all-male Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs was established here.

PHOTO: the author [Paul Gilbert] standing next to the monument to Emperor Nicholas II, installed on the grounds of Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs on 19th May 2008, the Sovereign’s birthday

Following their canonization, the Russian Orthodox Church declared the Ganina Yama site holy ground. The grounds were therefore dedicated to honour the family’s humility during their house arrest and their status as political martyrs. With financial assistance from the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company, the Church constructed the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at the site in 2001. A tall cross marks the edge of the mine shaft, visible as a depression in the ground.[3]

Seven wooden chapels were later constructed at the site, one for each member of the Imperial Family. Each chapel is dedicated to a particular saint or relic. The katholikon [the main church of the monastery] is dedicated to the Theotokos Derzhavnaya [Reigning Icon of the Mother of God], an icon particularly revered by the monarchists.

Since the opening of the monastery, Ganina Yama has become not only a place of spiritual pilgrimage, but also a historical and educational center. Up to 10 thousand pilgrims visit Ganina Yama each month. They come mostly from the Ural region, however, increasing numbers from across Russia, and foreign countries as far away as the United States and Australia make the journey to honour the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs. Most of the pilgrims are Orthodox Christians and monarchists, but Ganina Yama also welcomes the “curious” visitor, those who seek to learn about Russia’s last Tsar and his family. In July of each year, the number of pilgrims swells by the tens of thousands for the events marking Tsar’s Days.

A wooden causeway surrounds the abandoned mine shaft – visible as a depression in the ground – where the remains of Nicholas II and his family were first discarded after their brutal murder. The area is filled with fragrant white lilies[4]. In 2018, seven portraits [colourized by Olga Shirnina aka KLIMBIM] of Nicholas II and his family were installed around the causeway.

On the night of 16/17 July, a night-long service is held at the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg ]built on the site of the Ipatiev House]. At daybreak, tens of thousands of pilgrims take part in a 21 km [13 miles] Cross procession [a four hour journey on foot] from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama, where a Divine Liturgy is performed at the edge of the abandoned pit. In 2018, an estimated 100,000 people from across Russia and around the world took part.

Once a bastion of Bolshevism, Ekaterinburg has slowly shed its status as the “capital of atheism”. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Urals has experienced a revival of faith, with Ekaterinburg at the into the center of Orthodox Russia in the Urals. Ekaterinburg has done more to honour Nicholas II and his family than any other city in Russia.

For those who wish to honour the memory of Russia’s last Emperor and his family, a pilgrimage “for reflection and prayer” to the Urals is a once in a lifetime experience. If you are planning to visit Ekaterinburg during Tsar’s Days, I highly recommend visits to the places which memorialize the last days of Emperor Nicholas II and his family – in particular the Church on the Blood, Ganina Yama and Porosenkov Log.

Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us! 
Святы Царственные мученики, молите Бога о нас! 

Visiting Information

The Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama is open daily from 09:00 to 18:00. Admission is FREE, although a donation box is located in the welcome center, near the entrance.

Visitors should allow approximately 3-4 hours for their visit. The monastery also has a museum and exhibition center – located on the ground floor of the Church of the Reigning Mother of God – which hosts numerous temporary exhibitions throughout the year.

In addition, the monastery offers a small cafe with refreshments and snacks; a gift shop, which offers books, icons and souvenirs, all the proceeds of which help with the maintenance and upkeep of the monastery.

On the weekends believers can attend the evening service on Saturdays, and the Divine Liturgy on Sundays. When visiting the monastery and churches, visitors are required to adhere to the Orthodox dress code: for instance, women must cover their heads – scarves and long aprons are available for tourists at the entrance to the monastery.

In addition, the monastery offers accomodation at the Diocesan Pilgrimage Center, providing pilgrims with a place to pray, rest and eat. The hotel has standard rooms, a conference room, a children’s room and a prayer room, Wi-Fi access and parking.


[1] Despite their official designation as “passion-bearers” in 2000, by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, Emperor Nicholas II and his family are referred to as “martyrs” in Church publications, icons, and in popular veneration by the people.

[2] Emperor Nicholas II and his family were canonized as martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) in 1981, however, it was not until 2000, that they were canonized by the Moscow Patriachate.

[3] It has come to this author’s attention, that the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama is sometimes referred to by some Westerners as “Romanovland“, a disrespectful comparison to an amusement park.

[4] White lilies are considered to be a representation of Christ’s purity and divinity, also symbolizing resurrection.

© Paul Gilbert. 11 April 2022

Tsar’s Days: Journey to Ekaterinburg

*This title is available from AMAZON in the USA, UK, Canada,
Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands and Japan





Hardcover and Paperback editions. 152 pages + Richly illustrated with nearly
200 COLOUR PHOTOS, 65 of which were taken by the author


On 17th July 1998, independent researcher and writer Paul Gilbert travelled to St. Petersburg, for the interment of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. Twenty years later to the day, he journeyed to Ekaterinburg, to take part in the events marking the 100th anniversary of the Tsar’s death and martyrdom.

In his own words and photographs, the author shares his experiences and impressions of this historic event, which include visits to the Church on the Blood, Ganina Yama, Porosenkov Log, the Patriarchal Liturgy, exhibitions, and much more.

In addition are 24 illustrated news articles about events leading up to Tsar’s Days in the Urals, from 1st to 31st July 2018.

Gilbert’s solemn journey to the Urals allowed him to experience history in the making, and to honour the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs, a century after their death and martyrdom.

© Paul Gilbert. 4 February 2021

Russian sculptor proposes removal of monuments to Bolsheviks in Ekaterinburg

PHOTO: monuments to Lenin and Sverdlov in Ekaterinburg

The famous Russian sculptor Konstantin Vasilievich Grunberg has proposed replacing monuments of the Bolshevik leaders Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin) and Yakov Sverdlov in Ekaterinburg with monuments to Emperor Alexander II (1818-1881) and *Empress Catherine I (1684-1727).

*Ekaterinburg was founded on 18th November 1723 and named after the Russian emperor Peter the Great’s wife, who after his death became Empress Catherine I, Yekaterina being the Russian form of her name.

Grunberg believes that by replacing the Bolshevik monuments will help solve the problem with city-planning concept. Although Ekaterinburg is called the capital of the Urals, little of the city’s history is reflected in the the center of Russia’s 4th largest city.

“Lenin’s monument should be removed from the 1905 Square, and in his place a bronze monument to Emperor Alexander II should be returned to its original pedestal” said Konstantin Grunberg.

In 1906, a monument to Alexander II [demolished by the Bolsheviks in 1917] was installed on Cathedral Square [renamed 1905 Square],near the Epiphany Cathedral [demolished by the Bolsheviks in 1930]. The monument to Lenin was installed on the site in the early 1950s.

Grunberg made the same proposal regarding the monument to Sverdlov [opened in 1927], which is situated on the Paris Commune Square in the middle of Lenin Avenue between the Ural Federal University and the Opera and Ballet Theater. The sculptor has proposed that a monument to Empress Catherine I would look more appropriate.

“Throw the monuments to Lenin and Sverdlov into a pit!” Grunberg suggested.

PHOTO: ‘You reap what you sow’ – local monarchists take revenge on the Bolshevik revolutionary and murderer Peter Zakharovich Yermakov (1884-1952), by dosing his grave with red paint symbolizing blood

Konstantin Grunberg also called for debunking the image of the revolutionary “hero” Pyotr Yermakov, who participated in the murder of the Imperial Family and whose grave is located in the cemetery next to the grave of the writer Pavel Bazhov. “People still bring flowers to his grave. We need to destroy this regicide’s grave!” the sculptor said.

Yermakov died in Sverdlovsk on 22 May 1952 from cancer at the age of 67 and was buried in Ivanovo Cemetery in Ekaterinburg.

In 1951, at a reception, which gathered all the local Party elite in Sverdlovsk, Yermakov approached Soviet Red Army General Georgy Zhukov [1896-1974] and held out his hand. Frowning in disgust Zhukov looked Yermakov in the eye, and muttered, “I do not shake the hands of the murderers.”

Yermakov’s Mauser revolver, which he alleges fired the fatal shot which ended the life of Russia’s last Tsar is preserved today in the Museum of History and Archaeology of the Urals in Ekaterinburg.

Every year, since the 1990s, Yermakov’s grave has been vandalized by local monarchists, who douse his gravestone with red paint.

The red paint symbolizes the blood which this evil man spilled, and his involvement in the brutal murder of Nicholas II and his family on 17th July 1918.

PHOTO: Grunberg’s monument to the Holy Royal Martyrs, Church on the Blood

Konstantin Vasilievich Grunberg [born in Sverdlovsk in 1944] is a famous Russian sculptor who has eight monuments to his credit. Among them is the sculptural composition of the Holy Royal Martyrs situated at the entrance to the Lower Church of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg. The composition which was officially unveiled and consecrated on 28th May 2003, depicts the Imperial Family descending the 23 steps in the basement of the Ipatiev House, where they met their death and martyrdom on 17th July 1918.

© Paul Gilbert. 15 January 2022

Moscow to host conference on Imperial Family’s murder

On 28th November 2021, the international scientific conference “Secrets of the Murder of the Royal Martyrs. New Materials of the Investigation and Independent Examinations,” will be held in the large congress hall of the Cosmos Hotel in Moscow.

The conference is a joint project of three Orthodox foundations in pursuance of the resolutions of the Councils of Bishops in 2016 and 2017, which provide for a broad public discussion of the materials of a comprehensive examination of the investigation, which were carried out between 2015 to 2021.

The conference will be attended by more than 15 scientists involved in the process of studying the Ekaterinburg Remains, currently interred in the Catherine Chapel, a side chapel of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Each speaker will be alloted 15-20 minutes.

The first cohort of specialists consists of “experts of modern investigation”: forensic physician, doctor of medical sciences, professor Vyachesl av Popov, forensic physician, doctor of medical sciences, professor Vladimir Trezubov, geneticist, doctor of biological sciences Yevgeny Rogaev, anthropologist, candidate of biological sciences Denis Pezhemsky , forensic doctors, Doctor of Medical Sciences Viktor Z vyagin and Sergey Nikitin, Doctor of Historical Sciences Lyudmila Lykova, Candidate of Historical Sciences, Associate Professor Evgeny Pchelov. The participation of the investigator V. Soloviev and M. Molodtsova is also expected.

The second cohort of conference participants includes “independent experts”: forensic expert, candidate of medical sciences Yuri Grigoriev, forensic medical expert-criminalist, candidate of medical sciences Konstantin Teplov, dentist-orthopedist of the highest category Emil Agadzhanyan, doctor of historical sciences , professor at the Sorbonne Andrey P Achinsk th (France), Candidate of Historical Sciences Peter Valentinovich Multatuli, historians Leonid Bolotin, Inn and Simon, Mark Knyazev, a lawyer, a doctor juridich Sgiach Science Mikhail l Kuznetsov, a lawyer, PhD in law, Ph.D. George Shayryan.

The organizers of the conference are President of the St. Basil the Great Russian Educational Foundation Vasily Boyko, Chairman of the Women’s Orthodox Patriotic Society of the Patriarch Hermogenes Foundation Galina Ananyina, Director of the International Foundation for Slavic Writing and Culture Aleksander Bochkarev.

NOTE: the conference will be telecast LIVE [in Russian] at 6:00 am EST on 28th November.
CLICK on the image below to set a REMINDER

© Paul Gilbert. 26 November 2021

“ROC will not recognize Ekaterinburg remains,” claims prominent Russian forensic scientist

PHOTO: Vladimir Soloviev the State Archives of the Russian Federation in Moscow

A very troubling interview was published in today’s edition of Бизнес Online [Business Online], whereby legendary forensic scientist Vladimir Soloviev stated: “there will no recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains in November by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).” Below, is a condensed version of the interview.

Now retired, Vladimir Nikolaevich Soloviev, senior investigator and forensic expert at the Main Department of Criminalistics (Forensic Center) of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, who from 1991 to 2015 led the investigation into the deaths of the Imperial Family. Over the years, the case of the Ekaterinburg remains took up much of his professional career.

BO: Do you know what is happening today with the ROC’s investigation?

VS: All work on the identification of the Ekaterinburg remains was completed a long time ago. As far as I know, a historical examination is still underway. But this can be carried out indefinitely.

Marina Molodtsova, who heads the investigation team today, is a good and qualified specialist. I have no issues with her. But, she is a person of the system. If she is issued an order – she salutes. Putin gave carte blanche to the patriarch, and until such time that the president gives an order for closure, the investigation will continue.

BO: At the end of June, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church decided to submit the results of the examinations on the identification of Ekaterinburg remains for consideration by the Bishops’ Council, which is to be held in November. But, frankly, after everything that has happened during the last 30 years, it is hard to believe that the issue of recognizing the remains will be resolved this year.

VS: I can’t believe it either, and there will be no recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, when they meet in November. Patriarch Kirill is a very proud person. He would have to explain in front of everyone why the Lord does not love him, why he did not enlighten him during these 30 years. After all this time, Kirill was against the recognition of the remains. He was, in fact, the main ideologist of this position. Vsevolod Chaplin (1968-2020), shortly before his death, told me about a conversation he had with the Patriarch. According to Chaplin, Kirill told him that he would do anything to avoid resolving the issue of the Ekaterinburg remains during his life.

I foresee that at the Bishop’s Council they will say that the church is not completely satisfied with the results of the research and investigation, and that something is missing, yet . . . again!

BO: In an interview given to me a few days before his death, Geliy Trofimovich Ryabov (1932-2015), bitterly said: “When I decided to make our discovery public [grave of Nicholas II and family members in 1991], I naively believed that it would contribute to reconciliation, by bringing closure to our country’s history. But I did not take into account that this war would be permanent. At a certain moment, I came to the conclusion that if I knew how all this would turn out, I probably would not have disclosed the burial place of the Imperial Family.” Have you ever had such thoughts, or regrets that you got involved in this, as it is now obvious is hopeless?

VS: Of course, in terms of career, I resigned, so to speak, but not on a high note. First of all, of course, the church and the church community did their best to discredit me. They accused me of anything! But, if there was an opportunity to go back in time, 30 years ago, I would do it all over again.

I will say, however, that perhaps it was good that this case has been dragging on for as long as it has. If it was completed within the “normal” time frame and the remains were immediately buried, the image of the Imperial Family would have quickly faded away, come to naught. It is thanks to all these scandals that their tragic fate received so much attention by so many scientists and experts.

© Paul Gilbert. 18 July 2021

Tsar’s Days in Ekaterinburg 2021

PHOTO: members of the Double-Headed Eagle Society carry an icon of the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II on the square in front of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg

On the night of 16/17 July, a Divine Liturgy in memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs, took place on the square in front of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg. The Divine Liturgy and Cross Procession are the highlights of the annual Tsar’s Days held in the Ural capital.

Traditionally, several tens of thousands of people participate in the Tsar’s Cross Procession – 10 thousand in 2020 [due to COVID], 60 thousand in 2019 and 100 thousand in 2018 [100th anniversary]. Despite the pandemic, an estimated 3 thousand Orthodox Christians and monarchists took part in this year’s Divine Liturgy.

PHOTO: on the night of 16th July 2021, an estimated 3 thousand pilgrims attended the Divine Liturgy at the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg

In addition, the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs was honoured with Divine Liturgies held in Orthodox churches across Russia and around the world. In addition, many people lit candles in front of icons, while offering prayers in the privacy of their homes around the globe. The author of this article was one of them.

The Divine Liturgy was led by eight bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church: Metropolitan Eugene of Yekaterinburg and Verkhotursky, Metropolitan of Tashkent and Uzbekistan Vikentiy, Metropolitan of Chelyabinsk and Miassky Alexy, Bishop of Orsk and Gaysky Irenaeus, Bishop of Isilkul and Russian-Polyansky, Bishop Theodosius of Nizhny Novgorod and Nizhny-Polyan Kamyshlovsky Methodius, Bishop of Zlatoust and Satka Vincent.

PHOTO: Orthodox Christians gather on the square in front of the Church on the Blood to honour the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs

Metropolitan Eugene addressed the faithful, who had assembled on the square in front of the church:

“The sacred, solemn, tragic, joyful night has come, which we call the Tsar’s night within the Tsar’s Days. A night that combines in itself the tragedy of Good Friday, the Gethsemane struggle that the Holy Royal Martyrs experienced at this place. And on the same night, the great joy of the Resurrection of Christ and the glory into which the Holy Royal Martyrs entered from this place is revealed. All this is experienced very closely by every person, and we have the opportunity to draw here both the hope of the resurrection and our strength to endure these Gethsemane temptations.

“At this time 103 years ago, the August Family, having prayed to God, saying: “In Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit,” just like we do when to go to sleep. And after a few minutes, footsteps sounded along the corridors, they began to be raised, woken up and taken to the basement. We know today what glory it ended with. And I would like to wish everyone to be inspired by their faith, humility and patience,” – said Metropolitan Eugene.

The night service was broadcast live by the Soyuz Orthodox TV channel to 87 countries around the world. You can watch the Divine Liturgy in its entirety, by clicking on the VIDEO below, duration 2 hours and 41 minutes:

Vladyka conveyed to the participants in the Divine Liturgy the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill to be attentive to each other and to observe all the necessary health and safety measures during the pandemic. He called on everyone to pray for the sick and also for their doctors. Metropolitan Eugene also emphasized, that when the Cross Procession to Ganina Yama begins, “I will put on a mask and, which I hope, will set a good example so that we all show humility – this is our discipline, this is our strength.”

Following the Divine Liturgy, a Cross Procession took place from the Church on the Blood to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama. Pilgrims follow the route in which the bodies of the Imperial Family were transported to Ganina Yama – a distance of 26 km (16 miles), taking about four to five hours to walk on foot.

PHOTO: in the early morning hours of 17th July 2021, an estimated 2 thousand pilgrims participated in a Cross Procession from the Church on the Blood to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama

Due to the fact that the Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region cancelled this years Cross Procession (due to the COVID situation), the head of the Ekaterinburg Diocese, Metropolitan Eugene of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky defied the order, and led 2 thousand believers on today’s Cross Procession to Ganina Yama. This year, however, the roads were not closed to traffic, forcing the pilgrims to walk on narrow sidewalks and the shoulder of the highway to safely make the journey.

PHOTO: pilgrims arrive on foot at the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama, after walking a distance of 26 km (16 miles) from the Church on the Blood, a journey taking about four to five hours

At approximately 6:30 am, another Divine Liturgy was performed at Mine No. 7, where the bodies of members of the Imperial Family and their loyal servants were thrown into the mineshaft by their killers. More than 80 clergymen prayed together with the arch-pastors of the Russian Orthodox Church.

PHOTO: Divine Liturgy was led by Metropolitan Eugene of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye at the Cross, erected over Mine No. 4, where the bodies of the Holy Royal Martyrs were thrown by their killers into an abandoned mine

The Divine Liturgy was led by Metropolitan Eugene of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye, Metropolitan of Tashkent and Uzbekistan Vikenty, Bishop of Isilkul and Russian-Polyansky Theodosius, Bishop of Nizhny Tagil and Nevyansk Theodosius.

Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us! 🙏
Святы Царственные мученики, молите Бога о нас! 🙏

© Paul Gilbert. 17 July 2021

The last divine service for the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg

On this day – 14th July (O.S. 1st July) 1918 – the last divine service was held for the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg

In October 1918 – three months after the death and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family – Fr. John Storozhev, recalls this service in the Ipatiev House on 14th July (O.S. 1st July) :

“… Taking up our [Fr. John Storozhev and Deacon Vasily Buimirov] places, the deacon and I began the reader’s service [similar to a liturgy, but much shorter since it does not include the Eucharist]. At a certain moment in the service, it is required to read the prayer “With the Saints Give Rest”. For some reason, on this particular occasion, the deacon, instead of reading, sang the prayer, and I, too, began to sing, somewhat disconcerted by this departure from the customary practice. But we had scarcely begun when I heard the members of the Romanov family, standing behind us, fell to their knees, and here I suddenly felt the sublime spiritual comfort that comes from shared prayer.

“This experience was even stronger when, at the end of the service, I read a prayer to the Mother of God, which, in highly poetic and moving words, expressed the plea of the afflicted person to be supported in his sorrows and receive the strength to bear his cross worthily.

“In addition, the deacon recited the Ectenia [often called by the better known English word litany], and I sang. Two of the grand duchesses sang along with me, and sometimes Nicholas Aleksandrovich sang in a low bass (for instance, he sang the “Our Father” and some other things). The service was uplifting and good, and the family prayed fervently.

“The Tsar was clad in a khaki tunic and trousers with tall boots. On his chest he wore a St. George’s Cross. He had no shoulder boards [epaulettes]. He impressed me with his firm gait, his calmness. and especially his manner of looking steadfastly and firmly into one’s eyes. I didn’t notice any fatigue or traces of low spirits in him. It seemed to me that he had barely visible gray hair in his beard. His beard had been longer and wider when I saw him the first time. It seemed to me now to be trimmed.

“After the service, everyone approached the cross and the deacon handed prosphora [a small loaf of leavened bread used in Orthodox liturgies] to Nicholas Alexandrovich and Alexandra Feodorovna. Upon departing, I walked very close to the former grand duchesses, and heard a whispered “Thank you”. I don’t think it was just my imagination

“The deacon and I were silent until we reached the Art School building, and here, suddenly, he said to me: “You know, father, something’s changed there. Something’s happened”. His words struck a chord with me, and I stopped and asked why he he had gotten that impression. “Well, they were all different somehow. And also nobody sang.” And I have to say that, truly, this service of 14/1 July was the only one at which none of the Romanov’s sang with us (and the deacon had been present at all five services at the Ipatiev House).”

Source: The Last Sacred Service Observed by the Imperial Family in Yekaterinburg. The Testimony of Archpriest Ioann Vladimirovich Storozhev. First English translation published in Sovereign No. 6 (2018) , pg. 129-140

© Paul Gilbert. 14 July 2021

Ekaterinburg’s annual Tsar’s Cross Procession cancelled

PHOTO: tens of thousands participate in the annual Cross Procession in Ekaterburg

The Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region Yevgeny Kuyvashev announced today, that the traditional Tsar’s Cross Procession, which is held annually in Ekaterinburg on the anniversary of the death and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, has been cancelled due to a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the region.

In the past four days, more than 300 new cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in the region every day. Since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, more than 96 thousand people contracted the virus in Ekaterinburg and the Sverdlovsk region, 3.9 thousand of whom died. Russia is now experiencing a third wave and ranks fifth in the highest number of cases. More than 5.6 million cases have been recorded in Russia with more than 138 thousand deaths.

“This year the Cross Procession during Tsar’s days will not be held … The new strain t hat is spreading throughout the region is even more dangerous. Many more people are now in need of oxygen, the hospitals are filled to capacity. Therefore, we are cancelling the procession this year,” the governor stated.

Kuyvashev also published a photo from last year’s procession, in which, according to the Ekaterinburg Diocese, only 10 thousand people participated. The governor noted that despite the pandemic, many of the pilgrims did not use masks and did not practice social distancing. As a result, many of those who participated in last years’ Cross Procession, fell ill with the coronavirus shortly thereafter. He stressed that next year, providing the pandemic has been eliminated, it will be possible to hold a procession “on an even larger scale than before.”

Traditionally, several tens of thousands of people participate in the Tsar’s Cross Procession in the Ural city – 60 thousand in 2019 and 100 thousand in 2018. The procession follows the same route that the regicides carried the murdered remains of the Imperial Family and their faithful servants to an abandoned mine at Ganina Yama. The procession does not go to Porosnkov Log, where the regicides buried them in a second unmarked grave. The route of the procession begins at the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama – a distance of 26 km (16 miles), taking about four to five hours to walk on foot.

PHOTO: Metropolitan Evgeny of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky

The head of the Ekaterinburg Diocese, Metropolitan Evgeny of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky was quick to respond to the governor’s announcement, by writing in his Telegram page about the importance of upholding the tradition of the Tsar’s Cross Procession, sacred to many Orthodox Christians and monarchists, and about the choice of each of us in a situation where there can be no ideal solutions.

“The tradition of the Tsar’s Cross Procession from the Church on the Blood to Ganina Yama has outgrown the framework of the so-called Tsar’s Days events and has become sacred for tens of thousands of people. And now people will continue to follow the holy path. But, will they walk along safely blocked streets? Or on narrow sidewalks next to dangerously speeding cars? Time will tell.

“In the current pandemic situation, there are no perfect solutions. Everyone must independently find a balance between courage and fear, responsibility and caution.

I will definitely go!”, declared Vladyka Yevgeny.

“The decision of the authorities, who have cancelled this years Tsar’s Cross Procession, is well founded, however, one should not stigmatize believers as the culprits of the spread of the coronavirus.

“Our goal is not death from fear of the coronavirus or from the coronavirus itself, but life with God and love for our neighbours.

“I urge everyone to take maximum precautions to protect themselves and of those around them. I pray that the Lord will preserve all of us in health and long life, and I bless you to add caution and love for your dearest to your prayer” Vladyka Yevgeny concluded.

© Paul Gilbert. 8 July 2021

30th anniversary of the exhumation of the remains of Nicholas II and his family

PHOTO: Avdonin and his team excavate the burial site at Porosenkov Log in 1991

WARNING: please be aware that this post includes graphic images which some readers may find disturbing.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the exhumation of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and members of his family, discovered at Porosenkov Log in 1979. The Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore in Ekaterinburg have published archival photos of the excavations, which were not carried out until 1991.

The photos show the excavations, which were initiated in the Porosenkov Log area on the Old Koptyakovskaya Road on 11th July 1991. Geologist Alexander Nikolaevich Avdonin and curator from the Institute of History and Archaeology of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Lyudmila Koryakova and their team experts, all participated in the exhumation of the skeletons, which, were later established as the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, their three daughters Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia and their four faithful retainers.

PHOTO: Avdonin and his team excavate the burial site at Porosenkov Log in 1991

According to the museum “1991 was a turning point for Russia” and “the country’s political future was uncertain.” On 12th June 1991, the presidential elections of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) were held, which was won by Boris Yeltsin – Russia’s first president. It was at this point that “more than 70 years of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was coming to an end.” This is what prompted Avdonin to initiate excavations.

It was in 1979, that Avdonin and Gely Trofimovich Ryabov (1932-2015) discovered the unmarked grave containing the skeletons of the Romanovs in the north-western outskirts of Sverdlovsk. At first Avdonin believed that the time was not yet right to announce their discovery, however, Yeltsin’s victory convinced him that it was high time. On 10th July 1991, he turned to Governor Eduard Rossel and said that he knew where the remains of the Imperial Family were buried.

PHOTO: remains of the Imperial Family exhumed from the burial site at Porosenkov Log in 1991

Despite the fact that the political situation in Russia seemed extremely unstable, Rossel decided to exhume the remains. On 11th July 1991, Avdonin and Rossel assembled a team of local archaeologists, who began the excavation of the grave at Porosenkov Log. Upon the discovery of the remains, the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation opened a criminal case. The outcome of the investigation divided many Russian Orthodox Christians – some of whom recognized the authenticity of the remains, while many others did not. The investigations and examinations are still ongoing, however a final decision on the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg remains will be made by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), which will take place in November of this year.

PHOTO: Alexander Avdonin (right) with Nikolai Borisovich Neuymin, director of the Romanov Memorial Hall in Ekaterinburg, standing at the burial site at Porosenkov Log

Emperor Nicholas II and his family were all shot in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg on the night of 16/17 July 1918. The bodies were taken out of the city, where their murderers attempted to destroy the remains with fire and acid in the area of ​​old mines in the Ganina Yama tract. Their horrific mission failed, after which the remains were transported 3.8 km and buried near the Old Koptyakovskaya Road [Porosenkov Log]. The grave remained a secret until 1979, when the remains were found by a team of enthusiasts led by the Ural geologist Alexander Avdonin, who worked under the patronage of Geliy Ryabov, at that time assistant to the head of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs.

It was not possible to extract and study the remains at that time. Avdonin’s team, together with archaeologists, did this in 1991, only to discover that two skeletons were missing. It was not until 2007, that the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria, were discovered in a second grave just meters from the main burial site.

© Paul Gilbert. 7 July 2021