The Officers’ Assembly Building in St. Petersburg

PHOTO: view of the Officers’ Assembly Building of the Russian Imperial Army and Navy, St. Petersburg, the military capital of the Russian Empire. 1898

Situated in the very heart of St. Petersburg, on the corner of Liteyny Prospekt and Kirochnaya Ulitsa, stands a majestic building with an elegant facade and an impressive high corner tower. It is the former Officers’ Assembly Building of the Russian Imperial Army and Navy, an architectural gem of Tsarist Russia and the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, which has survived to the present day.

“Russia has only two allies: the Army and the Navy.”

– Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894)

During his short 13-year reign, Emperor Alexander III (1881-1894), 114 new warships were built and launched, and the Russian Imperial Navy took third place in the world after England and France. The army and the military department were also put in order after their disorganization during the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878. A dream of the “Tsar-Peacemaker” was the unification of the officer corps of the Russian Empire and the construction of the first Officers’ Assembly Building of the Russian Imperial Army and Navy in St. Petersburg.

Sadly, the life of Alexander III was cut short when he became ill with terminal kidney disease (nephritis), he died on 20th October (2nd November) 1894.

It was now up to his son and heir to the throne, Nicholas II, who committed himself to carrying out his father’s plans. The young Tsar decreed that no expense should be spared for the building’s construction – the Officers’ Assembly should amaze visitors with its splendor and symbolize the power and strength of the Russian army. The young emperor immediately signed all the papers for the allocation from the treasury of the enormous amount of 1,345,000 rubles, while demanding weekly reports on the building’s progress.

Sketches of the building were prepared by a talented architect, teacher of the Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design Alexander Ivanovich von Gauguin (1856-1914) and professor of the Nikolaev Academy of Engineering Viktor Mikhailovich Ivanov (1846-1919). The detailed development of the project was carried out by military engineers Wilhelm Karlovich Gauger and Alexander Donchenko, who were advised by two great architects, both members of the Academy of Arts Leonty Nikolaevich Benois (1856-1928) and Antony Osipovich Tomishko (1851-1900).

The land at the corner of Liteiny Prospekt and Kirochnaya Street – which belonged to the military department – was chosen for the buildings’ construction. The old wooden carriage house was demolished, the site was cleared and prepared by an engineer-colonel, a graduate of the artillery academy in St. Petersburg and the military academy in Freiburg, Germany, Vladimir Smirnov.

In September 1895, the construction of the building of the Officers’ Assembly began. Here is an eyewitnesses account of this event:

“The day before, a large, beautiful tent was erected,in front of the construction site, in which there were tables laden with light snacks and drinks. The event was attended by Enperor Nicholas II and members of the Imperial Family, in addition to representatives from the military ministry, the guards and the St. Petersburg military district, members of the clergy, and the city’s nobility. When the Emperor arrived, he was given a tour around the construction site. He was then presented with a silver tray bearing a brick and a silver trowel.

“Having accepted the tray, the Emperor proceeded to the erected foundation of the building and laid the first brick for the new Officers’ Assembly. According to an old Russian legend, silver and copper coins were laid in the foundation “for the happiness and prosperity of the Officers’ Assembly.”

A grand dinner was held that day to mark the occasion, attended by Nicholas II, who was accompanied by his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, his mother Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, and his uncle Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II and Empresses Maria Feodorovna and Alexandra Feodorovna arrive for the gala opening of the building of the Officers’ Assembly Building of the Russian Imperial Army and Navy, 1898

On the morning of 22nd March 1898, the building of the Officers’ Assembly of the Russian Imperial Army and Navy was decorated with numerous flags. At one o’clock in the afternoon, the naval presbyter performed a conciliar illumination of all the rooms. At two o’clock, Emperor Nicholas II arrived, where he was greeted at the entrance by members of the committee who oversaw the construction and decoration of the building. The Emperor toured the halls and rooms and later compiled the Imperial Rescript, which stated:

“Having examined in detail the premises of the new Officers’ Assembly today, I am completely satisfied with the buildings’ external appearance, the convenience of its interior furnishings and the general landscaping given to this institution. From the bottom of my heart I wish that the new Officers’ Assembly develop in the spirit of its aspirations and, contributing to the establishment of comradely communication between officers, serve for the benefit of the army and naval officer family, which is so dear to my heart.”

PHOTO: a group of officers pose at the top of the grand staircase of the Officers’ Assembly Building of the Russian Imperial Army and Navy

The Bolshoi [Large] Hall initially served as a luxurious concert hall with choir stalls. A large portrait of Emperor Nicholas II in a stucco frame topped with an Imperial crown hung at the far end of the hall. Musicians and a choir played and sang in the upper galleries, which surrounded the entire perimeter of the hall. The width of the galleries measured about four and a half meters and were supported by columns. The entrance to the galleries was from the top floor, and the hall itself occupied the space of three floors in height. Five large windows overlooked Liteiny Prospekt and the courtyard, and 24 smaller windows were placed above the choir stalls. A large summer balcony also overlooked Liteiny Prospekt.

In addition to concerts and balls, large meetings and conferences were held in the building, their organizers arranged chairs both in the hall itself and in the upper galleries. This made it possible to accomodate more participants: 560 in the hall, another 70 in the upper galleries. The walls and ceiling of the Bolshoi [Large] Concert Hall were decorated with rich stucco decoration of a military theme. Gilded electric chandeliers with crystal shades descended from the ceiling. The large central chandelier consisted 90 bulbs, while the side chandeliers consisted of 30 bulbs each.

Near the hall were men’s and ladies’ restrooms, in which the ladies and their gentlemen could refresh themselves, which was especially important during balls. Ladies could fuss over their hair, clothes, jewelry, apply makeup and perfume. The men sweating after dancing could take off their cloth uniforms, catch their breath, change their undershirts, and spray themselves with cologne. The men’s room had its own smoking room, the ladies’ room was a cozy corner, furnished with bent wood furniture and upholstered in tripe (a fine woolen fabric).

The Bolshoi [Large] Concert Hall is one of the many interiors of the building which has survived to this day. In 1934, a stage appeared in the newly refurbished 700-seat hall, the choir stalls were dismantled, and a film booth to show films was installed on the wall opposite the stage. The Emperor’s portrait and the large central chandelier, both disappeared without a trace.

PHOTO: view of the former Officers’ Assembly Building of the Russian Imperial Army and Navy, as it looks today.

Today, the former Officers’ Assembly Building is home to the House of Officers of the Western Military District, a library, and the Road of Life United Veterans Council. Many of the buildings’ original interiors and elements have been preserved to the present day.

PHOTO: Many of the buildings’ original interiors and elements have been preserved to the present day.

PHOTO: Many of the buildings’ original interiors and elements have been preserved to the present day.


CLICK on the above IMAGE to download, print and read a FREE 94-page English-language copy of Officer Assembly Building by S. Kononov (2018), or the Russian-language edition Дом офицеров Санкт-Петербург.

The author has compiled a history of this magnificent building, and richly illustrated with vintage black and white photos, complimented with full colour photos of the building and its interiors, as they look today.

© Paul Gilbert. 17 November 2022

Emperor Nicholas II tests new uniforms for the soldiers of his army in 1909


Emperor Nicholas II tests new uniforms for the soldiers of his army. Livadia 1909
Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

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


Emperor Nicholas II tests new uniforms for the soldiers of his army. Livadia 1909
Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

In 1909, Vladimir Aleksandrovich Sukhomlinov (1848-1926) the Minister of War was at work on an important reform, the determination of the type of clothing and equipment to be worn and carried in future by every Russian infantryman. When considering the modifications proposed by the Minister, the following provides a convincing proof of the extreme conscientiousness and sense of duty which inspired Nicholas II, as head of the Russian Imperial Army. The Tsar wanted full knowledge of the facts, and decided to test the proposed new equipment personally.


Emperor Nicholas II tests new uniforms for the soldiers of his army. Livadia 1909
Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

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


Emperor Nicholas II tests new uniforms for the soldiers of his army. Livadia 1909
Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

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


Emperor Nicholas II tests new uniforms for the soldiers of his army. Livadia 1909
Photo © State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

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

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


PHOTO: bas-relief depicting Emperor Nicholas II
testing new uniforms for the soldiers of his army

© Paul Gilbert. 5 October 2022

Nicholas II and Tsesarevich Alexei to be featured in monument in Grozny, Chechnya

PHOTO: information stand about the Caucasian Native Cavalry Division,
formed by order of Emperor Nicholas II, in 1914

A unique exhibit dedicated to the Caucasian Native Cavalry Division, is currently on display at the Akhmat Kadyrov Museum, in Grozny, Chechnya. The Heritage of the Empire exhibit is a project of the Grozny branch of the Union of Historical and Educational Societies.

In the center of the exhibit is a model of the future monument to the Caucasian Native Cavalry Division, to be installed in the Chechen capital of Grozny. The sculptural composition includes the figures of Emperor Nicholas II, his son Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich – both of whom visited the regiment during World War I – and Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich.

An information stand featuring photos, archival documents, and list of horsemen of the regiment is also presented, prepared by the senior researcher of the museum, candidate of historical sciences Isa Saidovich Khamurzaev.

PHOTO: model of the future monument to the Caucasian Native Cavalry Division

PHOTO: detail of Emperor Nicholas II, his son Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich
and Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich of the sculptural composition

The Caucasian Native Cavalry Division, also known as the “Savage Division” was a cavalry division of the Imperial Russian Army.

On 23rd August, Emperor Nicholas II ordered the formation of the Caucasian Native Cavalry Division, simultaneously appointing his younger brother Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich as its commander. The Grand Duke’s appointment gave the unit an elite status and many foreigners in Russian service as well as Russian and Caucasian noblemen sought to join it.

On 6th March, Mikhail Alexandrovich personally led the division in an offensive on Tlumach, defeating two Austrian battalions and seizing the town. He was later awarded the Saint George Sword for the action.

The division consisted of three brigades, broken into six regiments, each of which numbered four sotnias. The 1st Brigade incorporated the 2nd Dagestan and Kabardin Regiments.

PHOTO: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich (center),
commander of the Caucasian Native Cavalry Division

Ninety percent of the personnel were Muslim volunteers from the Caucasus, the rest belonged to various nationalities from across the Russian Empire; totaling over 60 different nationalities. Each regiment numbered 22–24 officers, 480–500 riders and 121–141 support personnel. The regiment took part in World War I, distinguishing itself in numerous engagements, including the Brusilov and Kerensky Offensives.

The February Revolution and the subsequent Abdication of Nicholas II did not negatively affect the division’s morale. In the middle of June 1917, the division joined the 12th Army Corps at Stanislavov in preparation of the Kerensky Offensive. On 8th July, the division launched an offensive on Kalush and Dolyna. On 12th July, the 1st Brigade and the 3rd Caucasus Cossack Division thwarted a German counter-offensive at Kalush.

During the course of the war, approximately 7,000 people served in the ranks of the division, 3,500 of whom received varying degrees of the Order of St. George and the Medal of St. George. Initially, non-Christians were awarded a different version of the order, which replaced St. George with the Imperial double-headed eagle. However upon the request of the riders the jigit was restored in the place of the “bird”. During the period of its operation the regiment did not record a single incident of desertion, while capturing a number of prisoners four times its own size. During the course of the Russian Civil War, many veterans of the Kabardin Regiment joined the ranks of the White Movement’s Volunteer Army. In contrast, veterans of the Ingush Regiment enlisted into the army of the Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus en masse.

© Paul Gilbert. 11 September 2022

Nicholas II orders uniforms for Victory Parade 1917

There is a common myth that during World War One, Russia’s only breakthrough was the Brusilov Offensive in September 1916. There were allegedly no other successful campaigns. This myth is absolutely incorrect. Shortly after Nicholas II assumed command of the armed forces in 1915, the Russian Imperial Army carried out at least 15 major victorious operations, not counting the Brusilov Breakthrough.

PHOTO: Victory Parade uniform on display in the Russia in the Great War Museum,
Sovereign Marshall Chamber, Tsarskoye Selo

Nicholas II was so confident of Russia’s victory against Germany and Austria during the First World War, that in 1916, he ordered a new uniform be designed for the Victory Parade he planned to hold in Berlin, and then in Constantinople in 1917.

The new uniform was designed by Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov (1848-1926), a Russian artist who specialized in mythological and historical subjects. The uniforms were sewn in Siberian factories and stored in army warehouses in Petrograd.

PHOTO: The khaki cloth  “bogatyrka” cap

The uniform consisted of a long-brimmed overcoat, with a leather jacket and trousers, leggings and and a cap designed for troops of the army and air force, as well as the crews of armoured car, armoured trains and scooters. The khaki cloth cap was called a “bogatyrka” – because of the similarity with the ancient helmets of Russian heroes.

Following the 1917 Revolution, this uniform was redesigned for use by the Cheka – the Bolshevik secret police.

© Paul Gilbert. 5 March 2021

New book on military uniforms during the reign of Nicholas II

On 18th February, a new Russian language book Униформа русской императорской армии конца XIX — начала XX века. История. Дизайн. Материалы. Технологии [Uniforms of the Russian Imperial Army of the Late 19th – Early 20th Centuries. Story. Design. Materials. Technologies], was presented in St. Petersburg.

The presentation took place in the concert hall of the Russian National Library, situated on the Fontanka River Embankment, researched and written by Doctor of Historical Sciences Alexei Aranovich and Vladimir Bezrodin.

Various ceremonial and field uniforms of officers and lower ranks of the military costume of the Imperial Russian Army were presented. They uniforms included: Life Guards of the Preobrazhensky, Semenovsky, Finland, Volynsky and Cossack regiments, the Gendarme squadron, the Marine Guards crew. All of the uniforms were created based on the original patterns and technology of the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

President of the St. Petersburg Military Historical Society Professor Alexei Aranovich, noted that his comprehensive work is the first of its kind dedicated to the study of the uniforms of the Russian Imperial Army, during the reign of Emperor Nicholas II (1894-1917).

The Russian language book not only presents the uniforms, but also the technologies used for their design. Military costume of the late late 19th to early 20th centuries are greatly admired for their historical and artistic values, as well as their design and technological aspects. The book is richly illustrated and supplemented with facts and information from Russian archival sources.

The publication will definitely be in demand by specialists in various fields – theater and film artists, historians and art historians, stylists and decorators, as well as designers working in the fashion industry. These materials are relevant both when creating replicas of historical costumes for feature films and documentaries, and in specialized educational institutions.

© Paul Gilbert. 19 February 2021

Traitors of Heroes? Officers of Nicholas II during the Great Patriotic War 1941-45


Without the tsarist officers, the victory of the Reds in the Civil War would have been impossible
– Leon Trotsky

Despite the Civil War and the repression of the 1930s, a significant number of former officers of the Russian Imperial Army and the Russian Army of the Provisional Government survived both the 1917 Revolution and the Civil War to serve under the Soviet regime during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45).

They played an important role as “military specialists” who trained the new generation of the Soviet military, transferring the traditions and spirit of the old Russian Imperial Army to the Red Army. Up to 40% of the entire officer corps of pre-revolutionary Russia joined the Bolsheviks and forge their victory. The head of the Revolutionary Military Council, Leon Trotsky (1879-1940), believed that without the tsarist officers, the victory of the Reds in the Civil War would have been impossible.

Tsarist officers contributed to the victory of the Soviet Union in the Great Patriotic War, by contributing to the training of the armed forces and commanding the Red Army. Statistically – about 35% of all commanders of the Red Army divisions during the Great Patriotic War were officers of the old Imperial Army, 35% of the commanders at the fronts in 1941-1945, a third of the commanders and 13% of the comcors had become officers before 1917. Their presence in the infantry was especially great.

Many famous Soviet marshals and generals who impressed the world with their victories, were former officers of the Imperial Army. Among those were Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov (1896-1974) who was awarded the St. George Cross twice for military merit, and promoted to the rank of non-commissioned officer for his bravery in battle. There were also men of higher rank, such as Apollon Yakovlevich Kruse (1892-1967), who served as Lieutenant General of the Red Army corps. The legendary Lieutenant General Dmitry Karbyshev (1880-1945), and Lieutenant General Alexander Bakhtin (1885-1963) had both sworn allegiance to Emperor Nicholas II.

But the most illustrious commanders of the Red Army in the war against Germany, consisted of five marshals of the USSR.


Alexander Mikhailovich Vasilevsky (1895-1977)

Alexander Mikhailovich Vasilevsky (1895-1977) had a strong Orthodox upbringing, his father was a priest, his mother was the daughter of a priest. He began his education in the local church school, and in 1909, he entered Kostroma seminary.

Vasilevsky began his military career during World War I, earning the rank of captain by 1917. Noted for his energy and personal courage, he took part in the famous Brusilov Offensive in 1916. After the October Revolution of 1917 and the start of the Civil War of 1917–1922 he was conscripted into the Red Army, taking part in the Polish-Soviet War of 1919–1921.

Vasilevsky served as a Russian career-officer in the Red Army, attained the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union in 1943. He served as the Chief of the General Staff of the Soviet Armed Forces (1942-1945) and Deputy Minister of Defense during World War II, and as Minister of Defense from 1949 to 1953. As the Chief of the General Staff from 1942 to 1945, Vasilevsky became involved in planning and coordinating almost all the decisive Soviet offensives in World War II, from the Stalingrad counteroffensive of November 1942 to the assaults on East Prussia (January–April 1945), Königsberg (January–April 1945) and Manchuria (August 1945).


Fedor Ivanovich Tolbukhin (1894-1949)

Fedor Ivanovich Tolbukhin (1894-1949) volunteered for the Imperial Army in 1914 at the outbreak of World War I. He was steadily promoted, and appointed to captain by 1916 under Emperor Nicholas II. He was also decorated for bravery multiple times.

In August 1918 Tolbukhin joined the Red Army, where he served as the chief of staff of the 56th infantry division. After the Russian Civil War ended (1921), Tolbukhin was given a number of staff positions.

Tolbukhin took part in the opening phases of Operation Barbarossa until August 1941, when he was made the chief of staff of the Crimean Front, which he held until March 1942. From May to July 1942, he was the assistant commander of the Stalingrad Military District. After that, he was the commander of the 58th Army until March 1943, and was involved in the Battle of Stalingrad, where Tolbukhin’s superior, Colonel-General Andrei Yeremenko, praised his command organization and military prowess. On September 12, 1944, Tolbukhin was promoted to Marshal of the Soviet Union.

Tolbukhin is generally regarded as one of the finest Soviet generals of World War II. Meticulous, careful, and not overly ambitious like some Soviet commanders, Tolbukhin was well respected by fellow commanders and also his men, especially since he had a dedication to keeping casualty rates low. Tolbukhin was the recipient of numerous awards and medals including the highest Soviet medal and rank, the Victory Order and Hero of the Soviet Union, respectively.


Colonel Boris Mikhailovich Shaposhnikov (1882-1945)

Colonel Boris Mikhailovich Shaposhnikov (1882-1945) joined the army of the Russian Empire in 1901 and graduated from the Nicholas General Staff Academy in 1910, reaching the rank of colonel in the Caucasus Grenadiers division in September 1917 during World War I. Also in 1917, he supported the Russian Revolution, an act unusual for an officer of his rank, and in May 1918 joined the Red Army.

Shaposhnikov was one of the few Red Army commanders with formal military training, and in 1921 he became 1st Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army’s General Staff, where he served until 1925. He was appointed commander of the Leningrad Military District in 1925 and then of the Moscow Military District in 1927. From 1928 to 1931 he served as Chief of the Staff of the Red Army.

In May 1940 he was appointed a Marshal of the Soviet Union. Despite his background as a Tsarist officer, Shaposhnikov won the respect and trust of Stalin. His status as a professional officer—he did not join the Communist Party until 1939—may have helped him avoid Stalin’s suspicions.

Fortunately for the Soviet Union, Shaposhnikov had a fine military mind and high administrative skills. He combined these talents with his position in Stalin’s confidence to rebuild the Red Army leadership after the purges. He obtained the release from the Gulag of 4,000 officers deemed necessary for this operation. In 1939 Stalin accepted Shaposhnikov’s plan for a rapid build-up of the Red Army’s strength. Although the plan was not completed before the German invasion of June 1941, it had advanced sufficiently to save the Soviet Union from complete disaster.


Leonid Aleksandrovich Govorov (1897-1955)

Leonid Aleksandrovich Govorov (1897-1955), was mobilized in December 1916, and sent to the Konstantinovskye Artillery School, from which he graduated in 1917. He became an artillery officer with the rank of podporuchik.

When the Russian Revolution broke out and the Russian Imperial Army disintegrated, Govorov returned home, but was conscripted into the White Guard army of Aleksandr Kolchak in October 1918, serving in an artillery battery in the Russian Civil War. Govorov fought in the Spring Offensive of the Russian Army, a general drive westwards by White forces in the east. He deserted in November 1919, fleeing to Tomsk, where he took part in an uprising against White authorities as part of a fighting squad. Govorov joined the Red Army in January 1920, serving in the 51st Rifle Division as an artillery battalion commander. With the division, he fought in the Siege of Perekop in November, during which Soviet forces drove Pyotr Wrangel’s White Army out of Crimea.

In World War II, Govorov rose to command an army in November 1941 during the Battle of Moscow. He commanded the Leningrad Front from April 1942 to the end of the war. He reached the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union in 1944, was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union and many other awards.


Ivan Khristoforovich Baghramyan (1897-1982)

Ivan Khristoforovich Baghramyan (1897-1982), joined the Russian Imperial Army as a volunteer on 16 September 1915. He was assigned as a private to the 116th Reserve Battalion and sent to Akhaltsikhe for basic training. With his training complete in December, he joined the 2nd Caucasus Frontier Regiment of the Russian Expeditionary Corps, which was sent to dislodge the Ottomans in Persia. Bagramyan participated in several battles in Asadabad, Hamedan and Kermanshah, the Russian victories here sending Ottoman forces reeling toward Anatolia.

Learning about the exploits of the men in the outfit, the chief of staff of the regiment, General Pavel Melik-Shahnazaryan, advised Bagramyan to return to Tiflis to enroll in the Praporshchik Military Academy. But in order to attend the school, Bagramyan needed to satisfy the academy’s requirement of having completed school at a gymnasium. This did not deter him and, after preparing for the courses in Armavir, he passed his exams and began attending the academy on February 13, 1917. He graduated in June 1917 and was assigned to the 3rd Armenian Infantry Regiment, stationed near Lake Urmia. But with the overthrow of the Russian Provisional Government in the midst of the October Revolution of 1917, his unit was demobilized.

Bagramyan’s experience in military planning as a chief of staff allowed him to distinguish himself as a capable commander in the early stages of the Soviet counter-offensives against Nazi Germany. He was given his first command of a unit in 1942, and in November 1943 received his most prestigious command as the commander of the 1st Baltic Front. As commander of the Baltic Front, he participated in the offensives which pushed German forces out of the Baltic republics.

Bagramyan was a Soviet military commander and Marshal of the Soviet Union of Armenian origin. During World War II, Bagramyan was the second non-Slavic military officer, after Latvian Max Reyter, to become a commander of a Front. He was among several Armenians in the Soviet Army who held the highest proportion of high-ranking officers in the Soviet military during the war.

* * *

It seems ironic that “Nicholas the Bloody” should play a much greater role in the history of 20th century Russia, than the Soviets would ever give him credit for. It is thanks to the excellent training during the reign of Russia’s last emperor, that former soldiers of the Russian Imperial Army should live through the 1917 Revolution and the Civil War to become marshals and generals, who fought heroic battles during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45.

It is important to recognize that each of them committed treason by breaking their oath of allegiance to Emperor Nicholas II and the Russian Empire, but should they be condemned? Certainly not. These marshals and generals, demonstrated sincere patriotism and a willingness to sacrifice themselves for the Soviet Union, and saved the country from certain oblivion at the hands of the Nazi war machine. Their acts of bravery saved the lives of millions of Russians, had they not pushed the invaders back to Berlin, we may very well be living in a very different world today.

© Рaul Gilbert. 22 January 2020

Monument to General who remained faithful to Nicholas II established in Russia


Monument to General Count Fyodor Arturovich Keller, Peterhof,

On 5th September, Russia’s first monument to General Count Fyodor Arturovich Keller was established in Peterhof, where the Izmailovsky Life Guard Regiment, which had been under Keller’s command from 1906, had been housed before the 1917 Revolution.

Sadly, the barracks have only been partially preserved, and currently house the Military Institute of Railway Troops and Military Communications, where there is also a museum dedicated to the history of Izmailovsky Life Guard Regiment. It is here that the monument to their legendary commander was established.

The sculpture was made by Moscow sculptor Victoria Alexandrovna Tishchenko (born 1986), the completion of the project is thanks to the efforts of the Emperor Alexander III Educational Society.


Monument to General Count Fyodor Arturovich Keller, Peterhof,

General who did not betray Nicholas II

The abdication of Nicholas II, continues to be shrouded in controversy, myths and lies. Historians have led us to believe that the tsar was betrayed by all of his generals in the days leading up to his abdication.

This is incorrect.

Commander of the Guard Cavalry Corps Huseyn Khan Nakhchivanski (1863-1919), a Muslim by religion, turned out to be one of two Tsarist generals, who remained loyal to the Russian Orthodox emperor and refused to swear allegiance to the Provisional Government.

The second general whose loyalty and readiness to defend the tsar was the commander of the Third Cavalry Corps of the Russian Imperial Army, General Count Fyodor Arturovich Keller (1857-1918).

Both sent telegrams to the tsar at Mogliev expressing their loyalty to Nicholas II, offering their troops to defend the monarchy. Neither telegram ever reached their sovereign, having been intercepted by supporters of the Provisional Government.

Keller was shot by Petliurists on 21 (O.S. 8) December 1918. His body was buried under a false name in the Intercession Monastery in Kiev. His grave has not been preserved.

© Paul Gilbert. 6 September 2019