Tsar’s Days in Ekaterinburg 2020


A Divine Liturgy is held on the night of 16/17 July at the Church on the Blood

Despite the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Tsar’s Days events will go ahead as planned in the Ural city of Ekaterinburg. Russia has been hard hit by the coronavirus, reported more than 371,000 cases to date.

A press release from the Ekaterinburg City Hall has confirmed that in 2020, Tsar’s Days will be held from 12 to 21 July. Tsar’s Days is the annual festival of Orthodox culture in Ekaterinburg and the Sverdlovsk Region, marking the deaths and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, who were murdered by the Bolsheviks in the Ipatiev House on 17th July 1918. The festival includes divine services, religious processions, exhibitions, concerts and other events.

The main event, for which thousands of Orthodox pilgrims come to Ekaterinburg, is the solemn liturgy, which takes place on the night of the murder of the Holy Royal Martyrs – 16/17 July, in the Church on the Blood. At the end of the Liturgy, tens of thousands of pilgrims take part in the 21 km Cross procession from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama.


Pilgrims take part in the 21 km Cross procession from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg
to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama

In addition, several exhibitions will be held in Ekaterinburg, including From Repentance to the Resurrection of Russia, which will be held from 12-19 July. Representatives of the largest Orthodox churches from across Russia, Ukraine, Greece and other countries will take part.

The first Tsar’s Days was held in Ekaterinburg in 2001. In 2018, the year marking the 100th anniversary of the regicide in the Ural capital, attracted more than 100,000 Orthodox pilgrims, monarchists, among others from across Russia and around the world.

© Paul Gilbert. 27 May 2020

New Exhibits Dedicated to the Holy Royal Martyrs Open in Ganina Yama


New permanent outdoor exhibit on the grounds of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs

A photo exhibition “We” presents the work of Ekaterinburg photographer Yaroslav Kulakov, opened this week in the Museum and Exhibition Center of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama. The exhibit features photos of the participants of the Tsar’s Days and the Cross Procession over a 20-year period from 1998 to 2018.

“The Lord has not created anything more beautiful than a spiritual and joyful human face,” said Yaroslav Kulakov. Many of his photographs have become historical. The photographs include the first designer of the monastery, Tatiana Alekseevna Petkevich, icon painter Tatiana Fedorovna Vodicheva, the confessor of the monasteryAbel (Odintsev) among many others.


New permanent outdoor exhibit on the grounds of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs

A second exhibit, a permanent outdoor exhibition dedicated to the Imperial Family and their faithful companions who perished with them on the night of 16/17 July 1918, also opened on the grounds of the monastery.

The exhibition which is located near the monument to Emperor Nicholas II, includes 12 stands featuring a photo and biography of members of the Imperial family and their faithful retainers.

This brief, yet information excursion into Russian history will help those who are just starting to get acquainted with the history of the Holy Royal Family.

The photo exhibition “We” will run until 13th September 2019, in the Museum and Exhibition Center of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama, from 10:30 to 16:30 daily, except Monday.

© Ekaterinburg Diocese / Paul Gilbert. 26 July 2019

Exhibition dedicated to Nicholas Sokolov opens in the Urals


On 8th June 2019, the Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye opened the exhibition Penza – Paris. The Way of the Tsar’s Investigator N.A. Sokolov, in the Museum and Exhibition Center in Ganina Yama.

The exhibition, is timed to the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the work of the investigator Nikolai Alekseevich Sokolov (1882-1924)  in Ekaterinburg and at the Four Brothers mine in 1919.

Metropolitan Kirill reminded guests that the name of N.A. Sokolov is inextricably linked with the Imperial family, since Sokolov was a monarchist, he loved Russia and would not accept the changes brought about by the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. 

“Nikolai Alekseevich crossed the front line to reach the troops commanded by General Vasilyevich Kolchak (1874-1920), who was recognised as the “Supreme Leader and Commander-in-Chief of All Russian Land and Sea Forces” by the other leaders of the White movement from 1918 to 1920. Sokolov became one of the closest assistants to the Supreme Commander, who entrusted him with the investigation into the case of the regicide. This year also marks 95 years since the death of investigator Sokolov, a man who made an enormous contribution in gathering evidence about the last days of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg,” noted Kirill.

The ruling bishop said that it was NA Sokolov who was the first to follow the path of the cross from the Ipatiev House to Ganina Yama, and it was he who conducted most of the research at the site of the murder and burial of the Holy Royal Passion-bearers.

“We value his sincere work no less than the work of those who remained faithful to the Tsar, his family and and their faithful retainers – Dr. Botkin, cook Kharitonov, maid Demidova and the tsar’s valet Troupe, and all those who wanted to remain with them, but who were separated from the Imperial Family, at Tsarskoye Selo, Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg,” he added.

In conclusion, Metropolitan Kirill thanked the staff of the museum who preserve the memory of the Imperial family.

Visitors to the exhibit can see unique archival materials that give an idea of ​​the difficult task of the investigator. Also presented are rare family photos of N. Sokolov, which are kept by his descendants in France and in Russia. Many of them are displayed for the first time.

The exhibition will be open to visitors until the end of 2019, admission is free.

Click HERE to read Memorial Plaque to Nikolai Sokolov Unveiled in Mokshan, published on Royal Russia News 27th December 2018;

and HERE to read Nikolai Sokolov: The man who revealed the story of the Romanov killings by Alla Astanina, published on 18 April 2015 on Russia Beyond the Headlines.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 June 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, 66.ru 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 66.ru 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 66.ru

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 66.ru

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 66.ru

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