Program for the XXII Tsar’s Days in the Urals – 2022

From 12th to 20th July, the 22nd annual Tsar’s Days will be held in the Urals [Ekaterinburg and Alapaevsk], which includes a series of solemn events [16th to 18th July] dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II and his family, who met their death and martyrdom in Ekaterinburg 104 years ago, on 17th July 1918.

The main events are the night Divine Liturgy, which is performed on the square in front of the Church on the Blood, built on the site of the Ipatiev House, where members of the Imperial Family and their faithful subjects ended their earthly days, and the 21-km [13 miles] Cross Procession to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama, on the site of which the regicides first disposed of the Imperial family’s remains, before returning the following day to exum thre remains and bury them in two separate graves at *Porosenkov Log.

On 18th July, similar events will be held in Alapaevsk, where 8 additonal members of the Romanov dynasty and their faithful servants [see below] met their death and martydom.

The Ekaterinburg Martyrs – 11 victims

Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich, and their four faithful retainers Dr. Eugene Botkin (court physician), Alexei Trupp (footman), Ivan Kharitonov (cook), and Anna Demidova (Alexandra’s maid).

The Alapaevsk Martyrs – 8 victims

Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, Princes of the Imperial Blood Ioann, Konstantin and Igor Konstantinovich, Prince Vladimir Paley (son of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich), and two faithful servants: sister of the Marfo-Mariinsky Convent Varvara Alekseevna (Yakovleva), and Fyodor Semyonovich (Mikhailovich) Remez, secretary of the Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich.

In addition, the XXI International Festival of Orthodox Culture will be held in Ekaterinburg from 12th-20th July. The festival features many events in honour of the Holy Royal Martyrs, including divine services, religious processions, exhibitions, concerts, conferences and other events.

PHOTO: icon depicting the Ekaterinburg and Alapaevsk Martyrs

SERVICE CALENDAR

July 16, Saturday

09:00 – Divine Liturgy at the altar of the Holy Royal Martyrs, situated in the Lower Church of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg.

13:00 — Cross procession along the route in which the Holy Royal Martyrs travelled upon arriving in Ekaterinburg [from Tobolsk] on 30th April 1918, from the Shartash Train Station [Kuibysheva street, 149-a] to the Church on the Blood. Route: [Tsarskaya street, 10] along the route: railway station Shartash – Kuibyshev street – Vostochnaya street – Chelyuskintsev street – Sverdlov street – K. Liebknecht street).

15:00 – Small Vespers with Akathist to the Holy Royal Martyrs. Confession. In the Lower Church of the Church on the Blood.

16:30-20:00 – All-night vigil, on the square in front of the Church on the Blood.

17:00-20:00 – All-night vigil, at the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama.

23:30-02:00 – Divine Liturgy, on the square in front of the Church on the Blood.

July 17, Sunday

~ 02:30 – Traditional 21-km [13 miles] Cross Procession from the Church on the Blood to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama Route: Tsarskaya street, 10 – st. Tolmacheva – Lenin Ave. – V. Isetsky Boulevard – st. Kirov – st. Bebel – st. Technical – st. Reshetskaya – Railway forest park – pos. Shuvakish – Ganina Yama.

Upon the arrival of the procession, a Liturgy to the Holy Royal Martyrs will be performed at the Field kitchen.

06:00 – Divine Liturgy (early). Church on the Blood. In the Lower Church, altar at the site of the martyrdom of the Holy Royal Martyrs aka the Imperial Room [built on the site of the murder room, located in the basement of the Ipatiev House].

09:00 – Divine Liturgy (late). Church on the Blood, Upper Church

09:00 – Divine Liturgy. Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama.

17.00 – All-night vigil. Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh, at Ganina Yama.

17.00 – All-night vigil. Monastery in the Name of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church, Alapaevsk.

July 18, Monday

00:00 – Divine Liturgy. Holy Trinity Archbishop’s Compound, Alapaevsk.

02:30 – Small Vespers with Akathist to the Holy Royal Martyrs Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and nun Varvara. Holy Trinity Archbishop’s Compound, Alapaevsk.

03:30 – Procession from the Holy Trinity Bishops’ Metochion to the Napolnaya School [where Grand Duchess Elizabeth along with other members of the Imperial family and their servants were held under arrest] and further to the Monastery in the Name of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church, Alapaevsk.

05:30 – Divine Liturgy (early). Monastery in the Name of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church, Alapaevsk.

09:00 – Divine Liturgy (late). Monastery in the Name of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church, Alapaevsk.

Tsar’s Days in the 21st century

The first procession in memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs, headed by Metropolitan of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye Kirill, took place in 2002, in which more than 2 thousand pilgrims and about 100 clerics participated. In 2012, for the first time since the construction of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg, an all-night vigil and Divine Liturgy were performed in the open air.

In 2017 an estimated 60,000 people took part; in 2019, 60 thousand participated; in 2020, 10 thousand people [due to COVID], and in 2021, 3 thousand people [once again, due to COVID]. In addition, up to 2 thousand people gathered an alternative religious procession of the schismatic and tsarist monk Sergius (Romanov) in the Sredneuralsk Convent in Honour of the Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In 2018, more than 100,000 Orthodox Christians, monarchists, among others from across Russia and around the world took part in the Patriarchal Liturgy and procession of the cross from the Church on the Blood to the Ganina Yama.

Click HERE to read my article What is Tsar’s Days? – published on 15th May 2021

*NOTE: due to the fact the Moscow Patriachate does not yet recognize the Ekaterinburg Remains as authentic, the Cross Procession does not stop at Porosenkov Log, where the remains of the Imperial family were unearthed in two separate graves in the late 1970s and 2007.

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) have confirmed that the Bishops’ Council, will meet in Moscow at the end of 2022, during which they will review the findings of the Investigative Commission and deliver their verdict on the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg Remains.

Summer 2022 Appeal

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

© Paul Gilbert. 5 July 2022

Faithful to the End: Klimenty Nagorny and Ivan Sednev 

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Klimenty Grigorievich Nagorny (left). and Ivan Dmitriyevich Sednev (right)

Today – 28th June 2022 – marks the 104th anniversary of the death and martyrdom of two faithful servants to Emperor Nicholas II and his family – Klimenty Grigorievich Nagorny and Ivan Dmitriyevich Sednev. 

Klimenty Nagorny and Ivan Sednev selflessly served the Tsar’s children. Nagorny in particular, lay the great responsibility of protecting the Tsesarevich, even the slightest injury could put the heir to the Russian throne in danger, due to his hemophilia. Alexei was very fond of Nagorny, who in turn showed complete devotion to the Tsesarevich, faithfully sharing with him all the joys and sorrows.

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Nagorny and Tsesarevich Alexei in Tsarskoe Selo, 1907

Klimenty Nagorny and Ivan Sednev voluntarily stayed with the Tsar’s family during their house arrest in Tsarskoe Selo, and then followed them to Tobolsk, where Nagorny shared a room with the Tsesarevich, serving him day and night. Together with the Imperial family, Nagorny also attended all the divine services, and the only member of the family’s retinue who was a member of the choir organized by the Empress: he sang and read for the Imperial family during services held in the house church.

In the spring of 1918 Nagorny and Sednev once again, voluntarily followed the Imperial family to Ekaterinburg. They spent only a few days in the Ipatiev House, and then were separated from the Imperial prisoners. They were arrested and imprisoned, their sole crime had been their inability to hide their indignation on seeing the Bolshevik commissaries seize the little gold chain from which the holy images hung over the sick bed of the Tsesarevich.

On 28th June 1918, they were shot in the back by the Bolsheviks, in a small wooded area behind the Yekaterinburg-2 railway station (modern name – Shartash). Nagorny and Sednev were “killed for betraying the cause of the revolution” – as indicated in the resolution on their execution. The murderers left their bodies unburied.

When Ekaterinburg was occupied by the Whites, the the half-decayed bodies of Nagorny and Sednev, were found and solemnly buried near the Church of All the Afflicted (demolished). Witnesses at the funeral recall that the graves of the former sailors of the Imperial Yacht Standart were strewn with white flowers. Their graves were not preserved – they were destroyed when the Soviet authorities built a city park on the site of the cemetery.

Both Nagorny and Sednev were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) on 14 November 1981, and both rehabilitated by the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation on 16 October 2009. They have yet to be canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate. 

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

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Sednev and Alexei Nikolaevich, in the Finnish skerries, 1914 

Nagorny, Klementy Grigorovich (1887—1918) – from 1909, he served on the Imperial yacht Standart and appointed as a footman to the imperial children. He received the Court title Garderobshik (wardrobe keeper) in 1909 and accompanied the Imperial family on every tour. In November 1913, he was appointed assistant dyadka to guard the Imperial children. He travelled with the Tsesarevich Alexei to Mogilev during 1914-16. After the Tsar’s abdication, he lived under detention with the Imperial family in Tsarskoe Selo, Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg.

Sednev, Ivan Dmitrievich (1881—1918) – was recruited into the Russian Imperial Navy in 1911, where he began as a machinist on the Imperial Yacht Polyarnaya Zvezda (Polar Star) then transferred onto the Imperial yacht Standart. By invitation he became a Lakei (liveried footman) to the Grand Duchesses, and subsequently to the Tsesarevich. Ivan lived under detention with the Imperial family in Tsarskoe Selo, Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg.

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On 13th June 2022, a new monument (seen in above photo) to four faithful servants – including Nagorny and Sednev – of Emperor Nicholas II, was installed and consecrated on the grounds of Novo-Tikhvin Convent in Ekaterinburg.

© Paul Gilbert. 28 June 2021

Moscow Patriarchate issues student calendar dedicated to Nicholas II and his family

The Department of Children’s Literature of the Publishing House of the Moscow Patriarchate, have published a special Orthodox student’s 2023 calendar, dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and their children.

The calendar «Патриарх — детям. Царская семья. Уроки из жизни» [Patriarch to Children. Tsar’s family. Lessons from life] is designed to guide students and children on the holidays and fasts of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The 32-page calendar includes a preface, written by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, a troparion and kontakion to the Holy Royal Martyrs, prayers for before and after lessons. The calendar also features blank pages, where students can record their schedule of additional lessons, as well as birthdays and name days of their family, relatives and friends.

The preface for the student calendar, written by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, reads:

“Dear children! We perceive the family as a small Church, as a circle of the closest people, united by the paternal faith. It is no coincidence that the Gospel says: “Where two or three gather in My name, there I am with them (Matthew 18:20).” It is the dispensation of the family in the name of the Lord that makes it possible to build relationships between children and parents, relationships in which any act is accompanied by a willingness to serve one’s neighbour as oneself. A striking example of a Christian family is the family of the Royal Martyrs, Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II, his wife and children, who together carried out their public service. In joy and in sorrow, in prosperity and in persecution, the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers strengthened prayed with all their hearts for Russia, for the hardships and problems of the Fatherland. It is in such families that today our people can and must draw their strength.”

The 2023 students calendar is available from the Publishing house of the Moscow Patriarchate – price 65 rubles.

© Paul Gilbert. 22 June 2022

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

Metropolitan Hilarion hopeful ROC will recognize authenticity of Ekaterinburg remains

PHOTO: Metropolitan Hilarion

The head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion, expressed the hope that the question of the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg remains will be resolved in November by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).

He recalled that last Thursday the Holy Synod discussed the identification of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family members during an interview on Church and Peace, a program on the Russia-24 TV channel .

According to him, the reports of the Metropolitan of Pskov Tikhon (Shevkunov) and the representative of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation were heard, which included results of the multitude of examinations – requested by the Investigative Committee – and carried out in different laboratories around the world. Members of the Holy Synod, were presented with a “very clear and unambiguous” picture, and now have a better understanding of the question on the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg remains, Metropolitan Hilarion said.

“We listened to this report with great attention for a very long time, and we passed the final decision on this issue to the discretion of the Council of Bishops, which will be held in November of this year. I think that the Council of Bishops will put an end to this epic, which has lasted almost a quarter of a century,” noted Metropolitan Hilarion.

When asked what the Council’s verdict would be, the Metropolitan clarified: “I hope that it will be a positive decision.”

PHOTO: icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama, near Ekaterinburg

Recall that in July 1991, on the Old Koptyakovskaya Road near Ekaterinburg, a burial site was opened, which contained the remains of nine people. They, according to a subsequent investigation, belonged to members of the Russian Imperial Family – Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, three of their four daughters – Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia, as well as four faithful servants. Following the exhumation and examination of the remains, their remains were buried in St. Catherine’s Chapel, a side chapel in the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg on 17th July 1998.

On 29th July 2007, during an archaeological excavation near the first burial site, the remains of two more people were found. Numerous examinations identified the remains as those of Nicholas II’s other two children – Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister Grand Duchess Maria.

On the eve of centenary marking the regicide in Ekaterinburg, the official representative of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Svetlana Petrenko, stated that a second comprehensive study confirmed the authenticity of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, who were shot 100 years ago in Ekaterinburg.

Click HERE to read my article The Fate of the Ekaterinburg Remains, originally published in 2016, and updated on 18th June 2021.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 June 2021

The Fate of the Ekaterinburg Remains

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NOTE: This article was originally published on 17th March 2016, it was updated twice since, on 4th January 2017 and 7th March 2020. It has been expanded and further updated on 18th June 2021, based on new information from Russian media sources. Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are my own based on my own research and do not reflect those of the Russian Orthodox Church.

For the record, regarding my personal position on the Ekaterinburg remains, I have now and always believed the remains discovered near Ekaterinburg in 1991 and 2007 respectively, are those of Emperor Nicholas II, his wife, their five children, and four faithful retainers. Further, not only did I attend their interment on 17th July 1998 in St. Petersburg, I have visited both Ganina Yama and Porosenkov Log on several occasions, where I have offered prayers and left flowers. Memory Eternal! Вечная Память! – PG

Bones of Contention

On 17th July 1998, the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, three of their five children: Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia, and their four faithful retainers Dr. Eugene Botkin, Ivan Kharitonov, Alexei Trupp and Anna Demidova were interred in the Saint Catherine Chapel of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

Not only was I both privileged and honoured to attend this historic event, I was also hopeful that the burial would bring some closure to what is considered one of the greatest tragedies of 20th century Russian history. Sadly, this was not to be.

The questions raised about the murders of the Russian Imperial family in 1918, the discovery of their remains in the vicinity of Ekaterinburg in 1991 and later those of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich and Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna in  2007, as well as the recognition or non-recognition of their authenticity, have been unsettling both Russian and Western society ever since.

As a result, many people looked to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) for its verdict on the Ekaterinburg remains. But expressing an objective view required the Church to conduct a thorough examination of their own, of the historical records as well as the investigation materials and the results of scientific inquiries.

Over the course of the last few years, I have published nearly 100 news stories and articles on the subject, which included many first English translations from Russian media sources. Since that time, I have received numerous emails and telephone calls from readers frustrated by the ROC’s position on the Ekaterinburg remains. I cannot stress enough, that I do not represent the Russian Orthodox Church or His Holiness Patriarch Kirill. I do, however, hope that the contents of this article will help provide some answers.

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His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and Bishop Tikhon of Yegoryevsk

New Investigation

In September of 2015, I published an article on my Royal Russia News blog announcing that the investigation into the Ekaterinburg remains had been reopened by the Russian Orthodox Church. The investigation would include a new series of genetic studies, and a comprehensive review of the evidence accumulated since 1918 into the murders of the last Russian Imperial family. With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and at his request to the Investigative Committee a new team of experts was formed. A complex examination would be carried out for the first time – a historical, anthropological and genetic one – one in which the ROC would be involved in all aspects of the investigation.

It is important to note, that had the ROC been invited to participate in the original investigation and forensic tests carried out by Western experts in the early 1990s, that this new investigation might not have been necessary.

Many viewed the 1991 investigation as a propaganda tool by then president Boris Yeltsin (1931-2007), who was anxious to bring closure to the century-long mystery, thus gaining favour with Western nations.

More than 50 descendants of the Romanov dynasty arrived in Russia for the interment in the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. The only descendants absent were Leonida Georgievna (1914-2010), her daughter Maria Vladimirovna (b. 1953) and her son George Mikhailovich (b. 1981), all of whom did not recognize the authenticity of the remains and declined to attend the reburial ceremony. 

In the face of skepticism, the late Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008) was obliged to profess agnosticism over the identity of the bodies, as a way to avoid massive internal rifts within the church. 

Many Westerners believed that the ROC were obligated to accept the findings of the original Western led investigation, however, the Moscow Patriarchate were under no obligation to accept their findings, which they believe left a number of unanswered questions and concerns about the Ekaterinburg remains. The ROC wanted to confirm 100% that the remains were authentic, in order for them to be recognized as Holy Relics.

As Archpriest Oleg Mitrov points out in his essay The Investigation Into the Deaths of the Russian Royal Family and Persons of Their Entourage (first English translation published in Sovereign No. 2 Winter 2016, pg. 7-29), in the early 1990s, the Moscow Patriarchate had suggested “a temporary burial, then completing the investigation which, once it produced indisputable results, could stop all discord that this question created in society.” Their request fell on deaf ears, “the voice of our church wasn’t heard at the time,” added Mitrov.

More than 20 years of scientific testing, extensive theological debates, and the enormous public outcry for resolution on the issue failed to deter the Moscow Patriarchate’s decision to resolve the issue. In early January 2016, Bishop Tikhon of Yegoryevsk noted that the “examination of the Ekaterinburg remains may take several years.” This statement was later confirmed during the bishops’ council of the Russian Orthodox Church, when Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia announced at the opening ceremony that “the inquiry will last as long as is necessary in order to establish the truth”.

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Members of the new ROC investigation inspect the Ekaterinburg remains

Non Orthodox Christians must understand the position of the ROC on the matter of both relics and canonization. The Russian Legitimist web site correctly notes: “Any remains of the murdered Imperial Family are ipso facto religious relics, and therefore the internal procedures of the Russian Orthodox Church in completely satisfying itself of their genuineness must be followed. The Russian Orthodox Church wants to address any remaining doubts about the remains, given the fact that, once accepted by the Church as the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, they will become relics venerated by the faithful.” 

It was hoped, that given the weight of evidence accumulated by experts in their respective fields since the early 1990s, that the Moscow Patriarchate would not dispute the remains recovered from the two burial sites in Ekaterinburg between 1979 and 2007 for much longer. A number of statements made in the Russian media offered some hope that they are moving in that direction:

“The re-examination of the criminal case is not an attempt to reconsider the evidence received earlier and established facts, but rather represents the necessity of additionally investigating the new facts, which was requested by the Russian Orthodox Church,” Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told the TASS News Agency (24 September, 2015).

Markin went on to say, “an interdepartmental working group for the study and burial of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria (discovered in 2007) gave its consent to conducting additional identification studies of the objects previously inaccessible for investigators.” To this end, the investigators exhumed the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Blood samples of Emperor Alexander II, Nicholas II’s grandfather who died in a terrorist act in 1881 and whose blood stains are found on his full-dress uniform, kept in the State Hermitage Museum, have also been taken. Additional DNA samples were extracted from Emperor Alexander III in November 2015, in a bid to conclusively answer questions about the fates of Nicholas II and his family.

Markin’s statements would suggest that the Moscow Patriarchate had already accepted the Ekaterinburg remains as authentic, although no official statement had been issued by the Church.

The Russian Orthodox Church also believed that it was necessary to continue the search for the remains of Nicholas II’s children. Only a small part of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria had been found [44 pieces of their bones had been discovered at the site], therefore, the search must be continued, said a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church. Some experts, however, believe that such a search would be in vain, and that given that any remaining bones would have been dug up and carried off by animals.

The investigation into the criminal case of the murder of the Imperial Family also included an examination of the remains found by Nikolai Sokolov in the 1920s and later transferred to St. Job’s Church in Brussels.

On 27th November 2017, the Sretensky Monastery and Seminary in Moscow hosted the conference “On the Murder of the Royal Family: New Evaluations and Materials. Discussion,” devoted to studying the results of the study of the Ekaterinburg remains.

In early 2018, the Russian media announced that Patriarch Kirill would be participating in the commemorative events marking the 100th anniversary of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ekaterinburg in 2018. Many believed that Kirill’s attendance was significant, and fueled speculation that the Moscow Patriarchate was on the verge of officially recognizing the Ekaterinburg remains. Once again, this was not to be!

On the eve of the anniversary marking the regicide, the Investigation Committee announced that the remains were “authentic”. Despite the announcement, the ROC remained silent. The commemoration could have been a great and solemn moment of truth, a time to reflect on the passage from one era of Russia’s tragic history to another. Many (myself included) were hopeful that both the examination and investigation would conclude before the 2018 centenary.

Sadly, the 100th anniversary of the Romanovs’ deaths passed with little notice in Russia. The Russian government ignored the anniversary, as it surprisingly did the year before, when Russia marked the 100th anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution. None of the prominent state museums or venues hosted events to mark the anniversary. The few exhibitions and other events organized were tellingly modest.

The most significant event, took place on the night of 16/17 July 2018, when more than 100,000 people from across Russia, and around the world gathered at the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg for the Patriarchal Liturgy, followed by a Cross Procession to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama, a journey of 21 km. Porosenkov Log, where the Imperial Family’s remains were discovered was not included in the Cross Procession.

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The tomb of the Imperial Family in the St. Catherine Chapel of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral

The Fate of the Ekaterinburg Remains

In the summer of 2000, the Moscow Patriarchate canonized Nicholas II, his wife, and five children as Royal Passion-Bearers. [Nicholas II, his wife, and five children were canonized as martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in 1981] The ROC’s official recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains would result in an elaborate glorification ceremony headed by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia.

Many people continue to ask when the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister, Grand Duchess Maria will be interred with those of the rest of their family in the Saint Catherine Chapel of the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. The ROC’s recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains would make this highly unlikely for a number of reasons.

Both the Saint Catherine Chapel and the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral are currently museums under the administration of the State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg, in which visitors must pay an admission fee to gain entry to view the Romanov tombs as a tourist attraction. This is something that the ROC would vehemently oppose, and rightly so!

It seems highly likely that the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, Tsesarevich Alexei, and their four faithful retainers would be reinterred in another church. It is quite possible that a new church would be constructed in their honour, one which would allow Orthodox Christians to enter freely to venerate the Holy relics. During the past few years, there has been some speculation in the Russian media that such a church would be constructed in Ekaterinburg – possibly Porosenkov Log, where their remains were originally discovered in 1991 and 2007 respectively.

It is interesting to add, that one unconfirmed report claims that the remains of the last Imperial Family are no longer entombed in the St. Catherine Chapel of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral. According to the report when their remains were exhumed for further testing by the new ROC commission a few years back, they were never returned to the tomb. It is believed that the Ekaterinburg remains are now in the possession of the ROC, in the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow, where the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria have been since 2015.

If there is any truth to this rumour, it only adds further speculation that the ROC have no plans to rebury the entire Imperial Family in the St. Catherine Chapel.

Should the ROC recognize the remains of the Imperial Family as Holy Relics, they cannot be returned to their tomb in St. Catherine’s Chapel, as relics cannot be returned to the earth. They must be placed in reliquaries above ground which allows the faithful to venerate them. This would be one very important reason why their remains would be interred in a new cathedral named in their honour.

It is important to add that by accepting the remains as authentic, the ROC will be forced to acknowledge that for more than 100 years, they were wrong. This in itself may be perceived by many as a great embarrassment and humiliation to the church.

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Ganina Yama

Will the Imperial Family be reinterred in Ekaterinburg?

A number of rumours have circulated in the Russian media over the past few years that once the ROC have officially recognized the remains, that all of the members of the Imperial Family will be interred in an existing or a new cathedral in or near Ekaterinburg.

For some, one option would be the Church on the Blood, built on the site of the former Ipatiev House, where the Imperial Family met their martyrdom. For others, another possible option would be a new cathedral constructed at Porosenkov Log, where the Imperial Family’s remains were discovered by two amateur archaeologists in 1978.

It is interesting to note that in March 2016, the Ministry of Culture of the Sverdlovsk Region reported that if the ROC requests the transfer of the territory in and around Porosyonkov Log (added to the cultural heritage list in 2014), would be designated as sacred land and transferred to the ROC, where a memorial and monastery, similar to that at Ganina Yama would be constructed. This in itself suggests that perhaps the ROC has already come to a decision on the authenticity of the remains, and were making preparations.

There is also the possibility that the reconstruction of St. Catherine’s Cathedral (timed to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the founding of Ekaterinburg in 2023) is being considered?

While some may scoff at the idea of interring the remains of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg, it seems only logical that their remains should be interred in the place in which they met their death and martyrdom on 17th July 1918 or the final resting place where their remains were recovered.

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 have experienced a revival of faith, with Ekaterinburg at the the center of Orthodox Russia in the Urals. It should also be noted, that Ekaterinburg has done more to honour Nicholas II and his family than any other city in Russia.

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Aerial view of Ekaterinburg

“Ekaterinburg was the last capital of the Russian Empire”

The Ural city of Ekaterinburg occupies an important place in the modern spiritual life of Russia. This conclusion was reached by Russian historian Peter Multatuli following the results of the International Festival of Orthodox Culture Tsar’s Days 2019. The historian is recognized as one of Russia’s leading authorities on the life and reign of Nicholas II, having published numerous books, articles, and a popular public speaker.

“On a spiritual level, Ekaterinburg is the last capital of the Russian Empire, because the residence of the Sovereign was always considered the capital in Russia. Peter the Great never officially transferred the capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg, but since he lived there, it was the capital,” said Multatuli.

He noted that in 1918, for 78 days, Emperor Nicholas II and his family lived in Ekaterinburg, and that is why the Ural capital can be considered the last capital of the Russian Empire. [It is important to note that many historians – myself included – firmly believe that the Tsar’s signing of the instrument of abdication, his status as Tsar remained inviolate and unassailable – PG]

“Petrograd and Moscow to one degree or another welcomed his overthrow, and they bear a greater responsibility in this than any other Russian city. No matter what anyone says, it was Ekaterinburg that served as the last Imperial residence, which, according to God’s special plan, became the Royal Golgotha,” added Multatuli.

According to him, in the near future, Ekaterinburg will play a great role in the history of Russia, because “the city named after St. Catherine and becoming the Royal Golgotha ​​will be the city of Russian resurrection.”

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

The world awaits closure by the ROC

On 17th June 2021, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church met at Danilov Monastery in Moscow under the chairmanship of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill. Among the many decisions made by the Synod, it was resolved to refer the results of the extensive examinations carried out on the remains in recent years to the upcoming Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, which will meet in Moscow in November of this year.

The Synod examined the report from His Eminence Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov and Porkhov on the genetic examinations of the remains, as well as the information provided by the Investigative Committee of Russia on the various examinations (molecular-genetic, physical-chemical, trace evidence, ballistic, handwriting, historical-archival, soil science, forensic, anthropological studies, and more) appointed as part of the investigation of the criminal case of the murder of the Royal Family.

The experts have announced on more than one occasion that their examinations definitively prove that the remains belong to the Royal Martyrs. In an interview last July, senior investigator Marina Molodtsova repeated that the examinations have verified the authenticity of the remains, though investigations were continuing in order to “eliminate the slightest doubt.”

In accordance with the instructions of the Bishops’ Councils of 2016 and 2017, the Synod decided to publish information on the results of the examinations after their completion and to submit the results of the examinations for consideration by the next Bishops’ Council.

For more information about the this highly contentious issue, please refer to my book Bones of Contention: The Russian Orthodox Church and the Ekaterinburg Remains, published in 2020

© Paul Gilbert. 18 June 2021

Vandals destroy monument to Tsar’s family in Tatarstan

PHOTO: the memorial dedicated to the Holy Royal Martyrs situated on a cliff overlooking the Volga River, near the village of Pechishchi, consists of a Cross, a black-granite monument and a simple bench

Vandals have destroyed a memorial dedicated to the Holy Royal Martyrs situated on a cliff overlooking the Volga River, near the village of Pechishchi, Verkhneuslonsky district of Tatarstan. The monument bearing the images of Nicholas II, Alexandra Feodorovna and their five children was knocked from its pedestal and thrown over the side of a cliff. The Orthodox Cross was untouched by the vandals.

The composition includes an iron veneration cross and black granite monument were erected on 17th July 2013, to mark the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, and to honour the memory of Nicholas II and his family, who were murdered in Ekaterinburg on 17th July 1918. A small bench was added, allowing visitors a place for solitude and reflection at the Holy Orthodox site.

PHOTOS: the black granite monument to the Holy Royal Martyrs – before (above) and after (below) Bolshevik sympathizers threw it over the nearby cliff

The plaque’s inscription on the Cross (below) reads:

“Императору великому мученику, его царственной семье, его верным слугам, с ним мученический венец принявшим, и всем россиянам, богоборческой властью умученным и убиенным. Россияне, склоните головы. Париж, Александро-Невский храм”.

“To the great martyr Emperor, his royal family, his loyal servants, who accepted the martyr’s crown with him, and to all Russians tortured and slain by the godless power. Russians, bow your heads. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Paris.”

Who the vandals are and how they managed to throw the multi-ton slab over the cliff remains unknown. although local officials claim those responsible would have needed heavy equipment to carry out their act of vandalism.

During the last decade, a number of monuments to Russia’s last emperor and tsar have been the target of vandals – mostly Bolshevik radicals.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”

© Paul Gilbert. 22 April 2021

First iconostasis in Russia dedicated to the Tsar’s family

PHOTO: Russia’s first iconostasis to the Holy Royal Martyrs
© Вести / Vesti News Agency

The first iconostasis in Russia dedicated to the Holy Royal Martyrs is being erected in the church of the St. Elisabeth Convent in the village of Priozerye, situated 120 km from Kaliningrad.

Within the walls of the church of the convent, preparations are underway for the installation of an icon depicting Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich. A prayer is said as the image takes its place in the iconostasis.

The convent is dedicated to the Holy Royal Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, but Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and his family are especially revered in the convent.

PHOTO: Entrance to St. Elisabeth Convent ;
monument to Holy Royal Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth

Nun Anastasia, Sister of the St. Elizabeth Convent, spoke to the Vesti News Agency this week, and stated the following:

“The iconostasis that is installed in our convent is dedicated to the Imperial Family and all the royal martyrs. It is unique in its kind for the whole of Russia. There is no such iconostasis anywhere else in Russia, only in our church.

“Once completed, the iconostasis will be in the shape of a cross. The images are distinguished by a special subtlety of writing. The colours of the elements: red, blue and gold stand out. The works were specially made for the convent by an artist from Kaliningrad.

“The top of the iconostasis will feature an icon of the Archangel Michael, then the icon of the Alapaevsk Martyrs, then Job the Long-Suffering. In the center are Tsarina Alexandra, Tsesarevich Alexei, and Tsar Nicholas II.

Once assembled, this unique iconostasis will stand as tall as a three-story building. It will become one of the main decorations of the convent cathedral.

At the base of the royal iconostasis will be an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos Theodorova, patroness of the Romanov family.”

© Paul Gilbert. 14 February 2021

New Metropolitan of Ekaterinburg confirms: “ROC in no hurry to recognize Ekaterinburg remains”

PHOTO: Bishop Evgeny of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky

According to Bishop Evgeny of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky the Russian Orthodox Church ( ROC ) will not rush to recognize the Ekaterinburg remains – those of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. The newly appointed metropolitan made the comments during a press conference held on Saturday, 12th December in Ekaterinburg. On 8th December 2020, by the decision of the Holy Synod, Vladyka Evgeny was appointed Metropolitan of the Ekaterinburg Diocese.

“I had an opportunity to communicate with those on the commission who investigated the remains … there are many arguments and evidence that these are indeed the remains of the Tsar and his family. But at the same time, there are still many questions that have not yet been answered. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia stated that the ROC is not in any hurry to complete their investigation by a certain date. We will wait for answers to these questions. This is not some kind of artifact … For us it is a matter of principle, these are holy passion-bearers, these are people who have played a significant role in the spiritual life of our people, and in the state, so the church is in no hurry, fulfilling the words of the holy patriarch,” added Vladyka Evgeny.

“The church will recognize the remains only if there is not an ounce of doubt. If doubts remain, then we will not rush, we will wait. We do not want to offend their memory by making hasty decisions,” he added.

In the summer of 2018, the official representative of the Investigative Committee, Svetlana Petrenko, said that a repeated comprehensive study confirmed the authenticity of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, who were shot on 17th July 1918 in Ekaterinburg.

Earlier, Evgeny Pchelov, associate professor of the Historical and Archival Institute of the Russian State Humanitarian University, who took part in the research, told journalists about the completion of the historical and archival examination, which, according to him, confirmed the authenticity of the “Ekaterinburg remains.” According to Pchelov, thanks to a comprehensive analysis of primary sources, it was possible to recreate a fairly complete picture of what happened in the days leading up to the deaths of the Imperial family, and the subsequent days which followed the brutal murder. He emphasized that some specific  questions remained unclear, but “the main picture was clarified.”

On 16th July 2018, the eve of the 100th anniversary marking the deaths of Nicholas II and his family, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation reported that since the resumption of the investigation in 2015, investigators carried out a wide range of new tests, including 37 different forensic examinations. In total, more than two thousand historical sources were analyzed.

The Investigative Committee stated that “on the basis of numerous expert examinations, the committee concluded that the remains belong to Nicholas II, his family and their four retainers.” At the same time, the committee noted that, “excluding the possibility of ambiguous interpretation of certain circumstances associated with the murders, other examinations necessary for the investigation shall continue.”

In addition, the investigation into the murder of Nicholas II and members of his family intends to identify all those involved in the execution and qualify their actions in accordance with the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. This part of the investigation is extremely important! Should the *regicides be found guilty of their heinous crime, then lawmakers and historians will be forced to rewrite history. It is a well known fact that after the murders of the Tsar and his family, that many of the *murderers [Yurovsky, Ernakov, etc.] enjoyed a “celebrity” status among the Bolsheviks and revolutionaries. To now find them guilty of their crime a century later, this then clears the way for the names of streets, squares and buildings named in their “honour” of these criminals to be changed, and the removal of any monuments and memorials from the Russian landscape.

*For more information on the regicides, please read my article: The fate of the regicides who murdered Nicholas II and his family, published on 28th October 2020 – PG

Human remains, presumably belonging to the Imperial family, were found in July 1991 on the Old Koptyakovskaya road near Ekaterinburg. The remains of nine people were found in the grave. Forensic studies confirmed the identity of the remains as those of Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, three of their five children and their four retainers.

In July 2007, during archaeological excavations south of the site of the first burial, the remains of two more people were found, presumably Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister Maria. Forensic studies concluded the identity of the remains as those of Alexei and Maria.

In 2000, the Moscow Patriarchate canonized Nicholas II and his family members as passion-bearers. After the opening of the burial near Yekaterinburg, the remains of members of the imperial family were buried in St. Catherine’s Chapel of the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. However, the Church did not recognize these remains as genuine due to a lack of evidence. In the fall of 2015, the investigation into the death of the Imperial family was reopened.

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

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CLICK on the IMAGE above or the LINK below to order my book
‘Bones of Contention: The Russian Orthodox Church and the Ekaterinburg Remains’
Published 2020. 156 pages + 55 illustrations. Price: $20 + postage

© Paul Gilbert. 13 December 2020