20th March 1917 – Provisional Government decrees that Nicholas II and family should be held under house arrest in the Alexander Palace

243c

Iconic image of Emperor Nicholas II in the Alexander Park at Tsarskoye Selo

On this day – 20th March (O.S. 7 March) 1917 – the Provisional Government decreed that Emperor Nicholas II, his wife and five children should be held under house arrest in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.

The Tsar joined the rest of the family there two days later, having travelled from Stavka at Mogilev. He was addressed by sentries at the gate of his home as “Nicholas Romanov”.

On Alexander Kerensky’s order, Nicholas and Alexandra were kept apart in the palace for a period of 18 days. They were permitted to see each other only during meals, and only in the presence of soldiers. Kerensky conducted an investigation of the Imperial couple’s documents and letters. He failed to find any evidence which would incriminate either of them.

Kerensky interviewed Alexandra regarding her involvement in state affairs and Rasputin’s involvement in them through his influence over her. She answered that as she and her spouse kept no secrets from each other, they often discussed politics and she naturally gave him advice to support him; as for Rasputin, he had been a true holy man of God, and his advice had been only in the interest of the good of Russia and the imperial family. After the interview, Kerensky told the tsar that he believed that Alexandra had told him the truth and was not lying.

243d

Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna sitting in the Alexander Park, June 1917

The family had total privacy inside the palace, but walks in the grounds were strictly regulated. Members of their domestic staff were allowed to stay if they wished and culinary standards were maintained.

Even in the Alexander Park, their movements were restricted. The photo at the bottom of this post, show the prisoners at the frontier of their domain. They were not permitted to cross the bridge which led them to the big park, to the outside world and freedom.

243b

Nicholas II working in the vegetable garden behind the Alexander Palace in 1917

Colonel Eugene Kobylinsky was appointed to command the military garrison at Tsarskoye Selo, which increasingly had to be done through negotiation with the committees or soviets elected by the soldiers.

During his captivity, the Tsar was subject to constant harassment and humiliation from the soldiers – most of whom were thugs – stationed in and around the Alexander Palace.

243a

Nicholas II and his family under guard in the Alexander Park, August 1917

On the morning of 14 August (O.S. 1), 1917, the former Tsar and his family left the Alexander Palace for the last time. They exited from the Semicircular Hall of the palace, and travelled by car to the Alexandrovskaya Station where they were sent into exile to Tobolsk. 

For an eye witness account of Nicholas II and his family under house arrest in the Alexander Palace, please refer to the following book The Romanovs Under House Arrest: From the 1917 Diary of a Palace Priest, the memories of Archpriest Afanasy Belyaev, who served as priest and confessor to the Russian Imperial family.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 March 2020

St. Petersburg Hosts One Day Exhibit of Pierre Gilliard’s Photographs of the Tsar’s family

242

An exhibition of photographs depicting the life of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, from the collection of Pierre Gilliard, opened 17th March at the Karl Bulla Fund for Historical Photography, situated at No. 54 Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg.

The one day exposition was timed to coincide with the release of the Russian translation of Gilliard’s book Трагическая судьба Николая II и его семьи (The Tragic Fate of Nicholas II and His Family), published in 1929 in Paris by Payot.

From 1905 Swiss citizen Pierre Gilliard (1879-1962) taught the French language to the children of Nicholas II. From 1913 he was appointed tutor to the Heir Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich. Gilliard accompanied the Imperial Family into exile to Tobolsk, but upon arrival in Ekaterinburg he was separated from the family. Gilliard was a keen photographer, and returned to Switzerland with a large number of photographs. In exile he wrote his memoirs of his life in Russia and his impressions of the daily life of Nicholas II and his family.

Today, Gilliard’s archives are stored in the Lausanne Museum of Photography, including 384 black and white photos. More than 70 photos from Pierre Gilliard’s archive, most of which never been exhibited in Russia are presented in the exhibition.

“In essence, this is the return of the memory of Pierre Gilliard, who, by the will of fate, witnessed one of the most tragic events in the history of Russia,” said the President of the Karla Bulla Foundation for Historical Photography Valentine Elbek.

He added that the photo exhibition will open at Livadia Palace in Yalta in May 2020, to coincide with the international scientific conference Russia. The Romanovs. More than a dozen photographs brought from Gilliard’s collection depict the Imperial Family during their visits to Livadia.

It is interesting to note that the idea of ​​publishing a photo album based on Pierre Gilliard’s collection is being worked out. “Our partners in Lausanne expressed a desire to host our exhibition, which will probably be shown in various European capitals,” added Valentin Elbek.

The St. Petersburg exhibition was implemented in partnership with the Ludwig Nobel Foundation. The Tsarskoye Selo Museum Reserve has shown interest in this initiative, where Gilliard’s working room is being restored in the Alexander Palace, and his heirs donated part of his belongings to the museum as a gift.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 March 2020

‘The Last Tsar’ – a tale of two books

069

The Last Tsar by Larissa Yermilova, 1996 edition (left) and 1997 edition (right)

Back in 1996, The Last Tsar by Larissa Yermilova was published, a joint effort by Planeta (Russia) and the Parkstone (UK) publishers. The book was one of numerous pictorials published in the 1990s, after historians were permitted access to the Romanov archives, which housed thousands of never before seen photographs from the private albums on Russia’s last emperor and his family. A second edition was published the following year (1997) in a larger format.

The Last Tsar is a major photographic record of the three last Emperors of Russia: Alexander II (pg. 41-68), Alexander III (pg. 69-122), and Nicholas II (pg.123-255).

Up until its publication in 1996, the great majority of the photographs used in this book had never been published before, and have rarely been seen even by researchers from the West, having remained hidden in the archives for 70 years, since the 1917 Russian Revolution. The many contemporary photographs depict Russian royalty in ceremonial dress and at leisure in informal surroundings.

The Last Tsar is a large format hardcover, with 255 pages, text in English. The highlight of this book is the illustrations: nearly 300 colour and black and white photographs! 

Copies of both the 1996 and 1997 editions can be found on eBay and Amazon. The original 1996 edition is the better of the two – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 16 March 2020

The Baron who remembered meeting Nicholas II in 1914

239a

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

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

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

239e

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

239b

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

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

239d

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Gilbert. 10 March 2020

How the Orthodox Church supported the overthrow of the monarchy

237

Early 20th century propaganda caricature depicting Emperor Nicholas II
between a member of the Holy Synod and a revolutionary

In 1917, Emperor Nicholas II abdicated the throne, and the country was proclaimed a republic. How did the hierarchs of the Orthodox Church react to this event? In response, I am pleased to present the First English translation of an interview by the Russian media outlet “MK” in St. Petersburg with Doctor of historical sciences, Professor Mikhail Babkin of the Russian State University for the Humanities (Moscow), and author of the monograph “Clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church and the overthrow of the monarchy” who discusses the topic.

– Mikhail Anatolyevich, what place did the Orthodox Church in general and the Holy Synod in particular occupy during the Russian Empire?

– The Russian Empire and the Russian Orthodox Church were a single church-state body, headed by the emperor. The supreme body of church administration in Russia was the Most Holy Governing Synod established by Peter the Great in 1721.

From 1723, the Synod had been titled as “His Holiness” and “Governing”. The first of these denominations pointed to the equality of the Synod with the Eastern patriarchs, and the second to the independence of the Synod from the Governing Senate, to which all colleges were subordinate (from 1802 they became known as ministries). That is, by its status, the Synod was not equated to the college, but to the Senate. If the Senate acted in the civil administration field, the Synod in that of the spiritual. Moreover, the buildings of the Senate and the Synod, located on Senate Square in St. Petersburg, were a single whole, connected by a triumphal arch, and surmounted by the imperial crown.

The activity of the Synod was controlled by a secular person appointed by the emperor – chief prosecutor of the Holy Synod, who was the official representative of the authority of His Majesty. The chief prosecutor was responsible for protecting state interests in the field of church administration, as well as overseeing the governing bodies of the Orthodox Church in the center and in the localities: the Synod and the spiritual consistories, respectively.

237b

The buildings of the Senate (former) and the Holy Synod, in St. Petersburg as they look today

– What was the political position of the hierarchs during the February Revolution?

– In the last days of February 1917 (I quote the dates according to the Julian calendar), in the conditions of a crisis of state power in the capital of the Russian Empire, there was an increase in the number of strikes and street demonstrations, which resulted in the treasonous defection of military units of the Petrograd garrison to the side of the Revolution. During those days, the Synod was urged to take any measures in support of the monarchy by both representatives of the public and government officials: for example, the Chief Procurator of the Holy Synod, Nikolai Pavlovich Raev (1855-1919) and his deputy (more precisely, in the terminology of those years – comrade) Prince Nikolai Davidovich Zhevakhov (1874-1946). However, the members of the Synod did not meet those motions.

On March 2, 1917, in the chambers of the Moscow Metropolitan (they were located on the courtyard of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, at 44, Fontanka River Embankment, in the building where the Mayor’s Central City Public Library is now located), a private meeting of the Synod members was held. Six of the eleven members of the supreme body of church administration took part in it. It was decided to immediately establish contact with the Provisional Government, formed that day by the Executive Committee of the State Duma. This fact allows us to argue that the members of the Synod recognized the new government even before (!) The abdication of Emperor Nicholas II from the throne, which took place on the night of March 2–3.

– During the February Revolution, the reigning dynasty was overthrown. How did the clergy of the Orthodox Church react to this event?

– Let’s do a little historical excursion. As you know, on March 2, 1917, in Pskov, Emperor Nicholas II renounced for himself and for his son in favor of his younger brother – Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich. The following day, March 3, in Petrograd, in house No. 12 on Millionnaya Street, Mikhail Alexandrovich signed a document whose official name is the “Act on the refusal of Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich from the acceptance of the supreme power and his recognition of the full power for the Provisional Government  on the initiative of the State Duma ”(source: Collection of Legalizations and Decrees of the Government. Pg., 1917. No. 54. March 6. Sep. 1. Art. 345. S. 534.). However, in early March 1917 that document which was printed in the press, controlled by the Petrograd Soviet of Workers ‘and Soldiers’ Deputies, was published under the title “Abdication of Mikhail Alexandrovich.” It was from that point, that the myth spread about the abdication of the Grand Duke. At the same time, both the Petrograd Soviet, but also the Holy Synod were involved in the creation of this myth.

Let us turn to the text of the Act of March 3, 1917, in which Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich said: “I made a firm decision only in that case to accept the Supreme (tsarist. – Approx. Ed.) Power, if that would be the will of our great people, which should […] establish a government in the Constituent Assembly and new basic laws of the Russian State. Therefore, […] I ask all citizens of the Russian Power to submit to the Provisional Government, […] henceforth before the […] Constituent Assembly, by its decision on the form of government, expresses the will of the people.” There are no words about any abdication in the Act. Moreover, it speaks of Mikhail Alexandrovich’s readiness to take the throne if the Constituent Assembly elects a monarchical form of government for Russia.

Thus, on March 3, 1917, Russia was at a historic crossroads: to be a monarchy or a republic, in one form or another.

We come back to your question. How did the Holy Synod behave in this situation? In short, from March 4, it had taken a whole range of measures to remove the issue of the monarchy from the agenda in the socio-political consciousness of the 100 million Orthodox flock. For example, on March 7, the supreme body of church administration issued a definition in which it was prescribed to all Russian clergy: “in all cases, instead of commemoration of the reigning house, to offer prayers “for the God-Preserving Russian and Noble Interim Government”. That is, on March 7, in the absence of the abdication of Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich and before the decision of the Constituent Assembly on the form of government, the reigning House of Romanov began to be commemorated in the past tense. Thus, the members of the Synod intervened in the state system of Russia, and in this context, we can say that the members of the Synod overthrew royal power as an institution.

Thus, the thesis of the Petrosoviet about the alleged “abdication of Mikhail Alexandrovich” and, as a consequence, that the “House of Romanov abdicated” was supported by the authority of the Holy Synod, after which it was introduced into the public consciousness of the Orthodox flock, turning over time into an enduring myth. It is replicated to this day in contemporary scientific works and educational literature.

237e

Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich and Emperor Nicholas II

– How did the local clergy react to the February Revolution?

– The political line for the entire clergy was determined by the Synod. Its corresponding orders in the order of church administration from Petrograd were distributed to all dioceses, monasteries, and parishes. And the clergy, in turn, brought information to their parishioners. For example, after the changes made by the supreme body of church administration in liturgical ranks, prayers of the following plan began to sound in all the churches of the Russian Orthodox Church: With such “doctrinal” texts, the Synod actually proclaimed the thesis of the divine origin of the authority of the Provisional Government.

– If, in your opinion, the members of the Synod took the side of the Revolution, what did they hope to gain from it?

– After the reform of church administration carried out by Tsar Peter I, there was no Russian patriarchate for more than two centuries. And the clergy over time (especially after 1905) began to cultivate views, but in fact – the myth that, they say, the patriarchate is the “canonical system of church administration”, and that the Russian Church, deprived of the patriarch, is “decapitated” and in a state of “enslavement”.

The actions taken by the Holy Synod in the spring of 1917 were due to motives arising from the centuries-old historical and theological problem of the “priesthood-tsardom,” the main question of which is the relationship between the tsarist and sacred hierarchical authorities, or whose authority is higher: the tsar or patriarch? 

Taking advantage of the socio-political situation prevailing during the February Revolution, members of the Holy Synod decided to “settle accounts” with tsardom. Indeed, if there is tsarist power in the state in any form, then there is the participation of the emperor, as the anointed of God, in the affairs of church administration, there is a problem of correlation of priesthood and tsardom. If in the state there is no tsar, but there is a secular republic, devoid of sacred meaning in any form, then automatically it turns out that “the priesthood is higher than tsardom.”

In other words, in the early days of March 1917, members of the Holy Synod overthrew imperial power as their “charismatic competitor.” They wanted the church in the state to exist as if under the tsar, but without the tsar: in which the clergy, as before, would enjoy special rights and privileges, that it would receive subsidies from the treasury, but that there would be no “state interference in affairs church”, so that the clergy does not have any outside supervision, control and accountability.

237f

Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow (1865-1925)

– It seems paradoxical that the restoration of the patriarchate took place in 1917 – during such a milestone in the history of Russia …

– The patriarchate was restored for the sake of the patriarchal power itself: first of all, so that it would be. Thus, the Local Council, under pressure from the “bishops’ party,” adopted the decision to restore the patriarchate on November 4, 1917, and the next day elected Metropolitan Tikhon of Moscow (Bellavin) [1] to the patriarchate. But at the same time, the powers of the first bishop and his place in the system of church administration were not delineated. Only on December 8, the Council adopted the definition “On the rights and obligations of His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.” Further, the power of the patriarch only increased, right up to his absolutization in the 2000-2010s.

In general, speaking in the context of the problem of the “priesthood of the tsardom”, the year 1917 was reduced to the following: in March there was no royal authority, and in November the patriarchate appeared. That is, the tsar was gone, but the patriarch appeared. Who benefits from this? The question is rhetorical.

***

[1] When Patriarch Tikhon learned of the vengeful execution of the Imperial Family in 1918, he commanded that Panikhidas (requiems) be served for Nicholas II as the slain Tsar—regardless of the fact that he abdicated the throne; regardless of the fact that under the Bolshevik terror this was dangerous for the Patriarch himself; regardless, finally, of the fact that ironically, it was the Tsarist government that had for two hundred years prevented the restoration of the Patriarchy in general, and would have prevented his becoming Patriarch in particular.

Tikhon was glorified (canonized) a saint by the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) on 1 November [O.S. 19 October] 1981. He was later glorified by the Moscow Patriarchate during the Bishop’s Council of 9–11 October 1989.

© Professor Mikhail Babkin / Paul Gilbert. 8 March 2020

Nicholas II monument proposed for Tsarskoye Selo

237a

© Philipp Moskvitin

The above sketch is for a proposed monument of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II by Russian artist Philipp Moskvitin. Note the crown of thorns that the tsar is holding in his right hand.

The artist’s idea has been presented to Tsarskoye Selo. It would be nice to see such a monument erected in the garden of the Alexander Palace, a perfect welcome to the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family, which is scheduled to officially open on 18th August 2020.

237b

© Philipp Moskvitin

237c

© Philipp Moskvitin

Click HERE to visit Philpp Moskvitin’s web site

© Philipp Moskvitin / Paul Gilbert. 28 February 2020

“No one is more hated than he who speaks the truth”

2020

Independent researcher Paul Gilbert

Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul
– Walt Whitman

I have devoted more than 25 years to researching and writing about the Romanov dynasty and Imperial Russia. During that period, I published dozens of books and journals.

In the 1990s, I organized special Romanov Tours to Russia, which included visits to St. Petersburg, Tsarskoye Selo, Moscow, Crimea, Livadia and Ekaterinburg. In 1997, I led the first tour group from the West on a tour of the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, and in 2000, the first tour group from the West on a tour of the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow.

I also organized and hosted the 1st International Nicholas II Conference, held on 27th October 2018, in Colchester, England. The 2nd International Nicholas II Conference will be held next year, on Saturday, 19th May 2021, at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY.

In my closing words at the 2018 Conference, I announced that I would be dedicating my efforts and resources to clearing the name of His Imperial Majesty Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II (1868-1918). I am now a full-time independent researcher on the life, reign and era of Russia’s last emperor and tsar.

My personal crusade to clear the name of Russia’s much slandered tsar, is to challenge the popular-held negative assessment of Nicholas II, which exists in the West to this day.

Part of that mission will revisit – and criticize, if necessary – books, newspaper articles, documentaries, etc., which present his life and reign based on these very negative myths and lies. While I have no personal interest in fighting with scholars, historians and authors, I am, however, prepared to challenge their research, based on new information and facts. 

Through the publication of new articles and book titles, researched primarily from Russian sources, my efforts to take a fresh look at the life, reign and era of Russia’s last monarch have been met with both praise and indignation.

The praise comes from monarchists, members of the Orthodox community, and adherents to Nicholas II, all of whom do not share the widely accepted negative assessment of Nicholas II.

The indignation comes from Nicholas II’s many detractors, among them are Russophobes, Communists, Leninites, anti-monarchists, historians and authors. They accuse me of “hagiography”, “romanticizing” or “whitewashing the truth”, or viewing Nicholas II through “rose tinted glasses”. So be it!

It is these same detractors, who are content to rehash the same negative assessment planted more than a century ago, and allowed to germinate over the past century. Much of it based on parlour room gossip among the aristocracy, and even worse, Bolshevik and revolutionary propaganda which poisoned the minds and hearts of so many of the tsar’s subjects.

What is especially frustrating is that it is these “historians” and “experts,” who refuse to examine new documents and research discovered in Russia’s archives by a new generation of Russian historians since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. These include new documents that have been declassified, diaries, letters, testimonials, among others.

Russian historian Pyotr Multatuli hit the nail on the head when he wrote:

“We combine indifference to our own history with our maximalism and categorical judgments. Thus we lose the ability to hear others. Everybody is content with his own biases without thinking that in the case of the holy passion-bearer his opinion is borrowed and that he was too lazy to form his own opinion. More than twenty-five years have passed since the collapse of the USSR, and truthful books on the Imperial Family were published since as early as perestroika. But most people don’t read them and retain the outdated stereotypical views.”

bizfb

A few months back, I created a shorter version of this post on my personal Facebook page. I was overwhelmed with the show of support which followed: 831 ‘LIKES’, 81 ‘COMMENTS’ and 43 ‘SHARES’.

Below, are just some of the encouraging words of support from people all over the world, who support me in my personal mission to help clear the name of Russia’s much slandered Tsar:

Paul, never mind what the detractors say. A fresh look at something never hurts and Nickie would be the first one to take that very approach if there was something he wanted to study or evaluate fairly and accurately. If you find positive accomplishments of his reign that amount to unassailable FACTS, able to stand on their own, then you have done scholarship in general a tremendous service. It’s only a “hagiography” if it is devoid of the foibles of human nature and willfully excludes the mistakes, the flaws, or the prejudices that we humans all have, Nicholas and Alex included, but you are out to bare the truth. What is and was, as opposed to what a preconceived ideology seeks to hide or distort. The man had character yet at least one oft-quoted Russian historian said he “lacked insides”. The man was never afraid to act, especially when he thought he was right. That’s a sure sign of character. The most reliable window into his character can be seen in his response to the months of final captivity. He trusted in events, kept his head, never wavered in fear, always displayed a controlled, patient form of quiet but impregnable courage. That’s the man you will ultimately discover. Good luck to you.” – W. Gifford

Paul, you are to be applauded and admired for your marvellous historical work. I cannot tell you how much truth-seekers appreciate you. Much rubbish was published about Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra. The truth must be told. The Imperial Sovereign and his consort must be recorded accurately and not sensationalised for any political advancement of Bolshevism or republicanism. They were good people, loving, loyal and patriotic as well as devout.” – A. Adar

Congratulations for your involvement and your great efforts to “restore” the memory of Nicholas II, our last tsar, so defamed! May God willing give you long life! God bless you!” – M. Rovanova

Thank you, Paul Gilbert, for your dedication and goal. May you be guided and rewarded by the intercessions of the Holy Martyr Nicholas II.” – B. Bennette

I support you Paul! Thank you for your hard work.” – E. Davis

Paul, be not distracted by negativism. More honor to you!” – A. von Pinoci

What a wonderful life’s work and legacy.” – R. Zisman

Keep up the good work Paul. If you are copping flak then you are definitely on target.
The honour and name of his majesty Nicholas II must be cleared, he deserves more than what he got and still gets from conformist historians.” – D. Adams

You are an example for all of us who desire the truth about Tsar Nicholas II.” – L. Young

Paul, he who strives to speak the truth is often berated. Do not be discouraged. Many support you. And your supporters fair outnumber those who wish to silence you.” – R. LeJeune

© PAUL GILBERT. 27 February 2020

Please help support my research, by making a donation today

Your donation helps me with my research, translation costs of articles and news from Russian archival and media sources, the annual maintenance fees for this Nicholas II blog, and the organization and promotion of conferences and other events.

Donations can be made by GoFundMe, PayPal, credit card, personal check or money order. CLICK on the banner of your choice below to make a donation.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

pgdonate3

pgdonate4

pgdonate5

 

 

Congratulations to Maria Dmitrievna Ivanova-Tatishcheva on her 90th birthday

234

Maria Dmitrievna Ivanova-Tatishcheva

Metropolitan of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky Kirill congratulated Maria Dmitrievna Ivanova-Tatishcheva on her 90th birthday. Maria is a direct descendant of the founder of Ekaterinburg, the sixth generation great-granddaughter of Vasily Nikitich Tatishchev (1686-1750), and niece of Adjutant General Vasily Nikitich Tatishchev (1859-1918), a devoted and loyal subject of Emperor Nicholas II.

“On this day, it’s a special joy to testify to our sincere love and deep respect for the memory of your heroic ancestor, Vasily Nikitich Tatishchev, who founded the city of St. Catherine – the city of Ekaterinburg,”said Metropolitan Kirill.

“We also honour the memory of your uncle Ilya Leonidovich Tatishchev, who was an example of high morality, nobility and self-sacrifice.”

At the invitation of Nicholas II, the devoted adjutant general followed the Tsar’s family into exile to Tobolsk, where, he played an important role, caring for the august family and offering spiritual support. When Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and her daughter Maria left Tobolsk for Ekaterinburg, Tatishchev remained with the Tsar’s children. On 23rd May 1918, upon arrival in Ekaterinburg with Tsesarevich Alexi and the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatyana, Anastasia, the Adjutant General was separated from the Tsar’s family and imprisoned in Ekaterinburg.

234b

Vasily Nikitich Tatishchev (left) and Ilya Leonidovich Tatishchev (right)

On 10th June 1918 Ilya Leonidovich Tatishchev was shot by the Bolsheviks. According to church historians, he was buried in the cemetery of the Novo-Tikhvin Convent. [Note: Tatishchev’s grace was lost during the Soviet years – PG] 

The head of the Ekaterinburg Metropolis informed Maria Dmitrievna that the diocesan commission for the canonization of saints is currently preparing documents for the canonization of her uncle. [Note: Ilya Leonidovich Tatishchev was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in 1981 – PG]

“It is known that not only did he know the gospel by heart, but lived the life a devout Orthodox Christian. The sisters of the Novo-Tikhvin Monastery, where Ilya Leonidovich was most likely buried, have plans to erect a monument to him in the coming year, and also collect information about him in order to publish a book about this worthy man,” Vladyka Kirill said.

“On such a momentous day, we sincerely wish you good health, peace of mind, joy and the abundant mercies of God! May the Lord grant you many and good summers! ” His Eminence concluded his congratulation.

Maria Dmitrievna lives in Paris. She visited Ekaterinburg in 2003, when the city celebrated its 280th anniversary.

Click HERE to read my article Divine Liturgy for Tatishchev and Dolgorukov Performed in Ekaterinburg, originally published on 12th June 2018

© Paul Gilbert. 26 February 2020

The woman who photographed the Imperial Family in Tobolsk

232a

Maria Ussakovskaya, nee Petukhova with her husband Ivan Konstantinovich Ussakovsky

Few historians know about Maria Ussakovskaya the first woman photographer in Tobolsk. Through the lens of her camera, she photographed life in the provincial capital during one of the most dramatic periods of Russia’s history, leaving for posterity a noticeable mark in the biography of this Siberian city.

Incredible progress

Maria Mikhailovna Ussakovskaya, nee Petukhova, was born on 28th December 1871 (Old Style) in the family of a Tobolak native, state adviser M.M. Petukhov. She graduated from the Tobolsk girl’s school and, in 1893, married the official Ivan Konstantinovich Ussakovsky.

Ivan was also a great lover of photography – a hobby that was fashionable and modern in Russia at the time. On the basis of her husband’s home laboratory, as well as money received in a dowry from her father, Maria opened a photo salon, which quickly gained popularity among the townspeople. It should be noted that in 1897 in Tobolsk, with a population of 20 thousand people, there were no less than nine photo shops! 

Maria kept up with all the new developments in photography. She ordered expensive Bristol cardboard for passe-partout, used interchangeable backs with different scenes, offered costume shots, and even performed photo montages. This was incredible progress for Siberia at that time.

Photographs by Ussakovskaya were distinguished by their artistic taste and original composition. These were real photo portraits, which is especially significant, because photography at that time was essentially a step into eternity to become a memory for years to come.

Unlike other female owned photo salons, Ussakovskaya perfectly mastered the techniques of photography herself. Her photo salon also began to publish postcards, which were in great demand. It is known that the famous Russian chemist and inventor Dmitry Mendeleev (1834-1907), during his stay in Tobolsk in the summer of 1899, bought a collection of art postcards with views of his native city from Ussakovskaya’s salon.

Maria continued to work after the revolution, but the portraits of young ladies in silk dresses were replaced with photographing labor collectives, fur farms, bone carving masters and ordinary workers. At the same time, the house was formally confiscated by the local Soviet, leaving Maria to rent her own photo workshop from a local farm in Tobolsk. In 1929, Ussakovskaya was deprived of suffrage. The photo salon had to be closed. In 1938, the Ussakovskys left Tobolsk for Moscow for fear of reprisals. Maria Mikhailovna died in 1947 and is buried in the Don Cemetery.

232b

Photograph of Rasputin taken at Maria’s salon in Tobolsk

Witness of events

Maria was a witness to many historical events. Of particular interest in her biography are family traditions associated with the names of prominent people of that era and carefully preserved by subsequent generations of Ussakovsky. One of them is based on the visit by the famous strannik Grigori Rasputin.

The photograph of Grigory Rasputin made by Maria Ussakovskaya is today widely known. Moreover, the famous holy man, who was hunted by Russia’s finest photographers, presented himself at Maria’s salon. Maria’s great-grandson of Vadim Borisovich Khoziev, continues to tell the story of Rasputin’s visit to his great-grandmother’s salon in Tobolsk, as told to him by his grandmother Maria Ivanovna Ussakovskaya.

232e

One of Maria’s photos of the Governors House, where the Imperial Family lived under house arrest

Photographer of the Romanov family?

It is also of great interest,  that according to the Ussakovsky family, Maria repeatedly photographed the family of Tsar Nicholas II during their house arrest in the former Governor’s Mansion in Tobolsk. Sadly, however, in 1938, her daughter Nina, fearing arrest, destroyed all the photographic plates. One can only speculate, as to what these lost plates depicted? How close did Maria get to the Imperial Family? What were they doing when she photographed them? How many photographs did she take, and later destroyed? Sadly, we will never know.

Only photos of the faithful servants of the Imperial Family have been preserved to this day. The original of this photo is now in the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum in Pushkin, a copy of which can be seen in the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II (opened in June 2018) in Tobolsk. It is interesting to add that members of their suite who enjoyed freedom to go about Tobolsk, made purchases of  postcards with views of Tobolsk, on behalf of the Imperial Family from Maria’s salon.

The fact that the Imperial Family used the services of the Ussakovskaya Salon was documented. In the financial report of Colonel Kobylinsky, security chief of the Romanovs, in addition to a few mentions of invoices for purchasing postcards, information is also provided on the account “for correcting negatives”. So Maria’s photos of the Imperial Family did in fact exist!.

The Imperial Family described their stay in Tobolsk in great detail in both their respective diaries and letters, however, there is no mention of an invitation of Maria Ussakovskaya nor the photographer in general. A visit by a female photographer would hardly go unnoticed. It is also not clear why the Romanovs would need to invite a photographer: they, as well as the tutor to Tsesarevich Alexei Pierre Gilliard, had their own cameras. Many photographs of the Imperial Family have been preserved, taken in Tobolsk by the Romanovs themselves or by members of their retinue.

Pierre Gilliard notes in his diary on 17th September 1917 that the Imperial Family were forced to have “ID cards with numbers, equipped with photographs.” Empress Alexandra Feodorovna made a similar note in her diary on 30th September 1917. Their respective entries may explain the photographer from the Ussakovskaya Salon, who was most likely Maria’s husband Ivan Konstantinovich Ussakovsky, who was invited for this compulsory photography for certificates. An invoice was issued by the salon.

Several passes to the “Freedom House” with photographs have been preserved, for example, the passes with a photograph of Dr. E. S. Botkin and maid A. S. Demidova. Their copies are also on display in the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II in Tobolsk.

232c

Photograph of the Imperial Family’s faithful servants taken at Maria’s salon in Tobolsk

“Faithful servants”

A wonderful photograph depicting *five faithful servants of the Imperial Family has been preserved to this day. The original of this photo is now in the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum in Pushkin, a copy of which can be seen in the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II (opened in June 2018) in Tobolsk.

The faithful servants of the Imperial Family, who had not lodged in the Governor’s House, but in the Kornilov House, located on the opposite side of the street and, obviously, enjoyed greater freedom of movement, could visit the Ussakovskaya Salon, which was located nearby. The famous photograph, called “Faithful Servants”, was clearly taken in the salon. Five members of the imperial retinue pose against a backdrop with a view of Tobolsk, printed or painted on canvas, This background can be seen in other photos from the Ussakovskaya Photo Salon.

*NOTE: the photo above depicts – the gentlemen: Count Ilya Tatishchev, Pierre Gilliard, Prince Vasily Dolgorukov; the ladies, Catherine Schneider, Anastasia Hendrikova. With the exception of Pierre Gilliard, the other four faithful retainers of the Imperial Family were murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

232d

The home and salon of Maria Mikhailovna and Ivan Ussakovsky in Tobolsk

The home and salon of Maria Mikhailovna and Ivan Ussakovsky which was located at No. 19 Ulitsa Mira, was illegally demolished in 2006. Requests to local authorities by a group of local historians to restore the building has fallen on deaf ears in Tobolsk. 

© Paul Gilbert. 24 February 2020

Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna on Emperor Nicholas II

229

Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna poses near a portrait of Nicholas II

In 2016, the Head of the Russian Imperial House HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna graciously consented to an interview with Paul Gilbert, Editor of the semi-annual journal Royal Russia, in which she speaks candidly on a wide range of topics on the past, present and future of the Russian Imperial House..

Of particular interest to adherents to Russia’s last emperor and tsar, are the following excerpts from the interview pertaining to Nicholas II.

For nearly a century, the last Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II, has been maligned and slandered by Western historians and biographers. In your opinion, how have these historians and authors been mistaken about Nicholas II?

No one can prevent historical figures from being criticized. But one must distinguish objective criticism from slander and defamation. Both positive and negative assessments must be supported by evidence that emerges from the careful study and analysis of historical sources.

We are all judged by the fruits of our actions. Russia in the reign of Emperor Nicholas II grew in population by 150% and its rate of economic growth was the highest in the entire world. Labour laws in Russia were among the most progressive anywhere, which was acknowledged even by President Taft of the United States. The great Russian academic Dmitrii Mendeleev, the French economist Edmond Teri, and other researchers have written about the strength and development of Russia in these years and have shown that Nicholas II actually achieved a lot for his country during his reign.

Some might say that because the reign of Nicholas II ended in revolution, any accomplishments he may have had lose their value and meaning. But that’s not the right way to look at it.

I think you would agree that, if a driver is unable to prevent a grenade from going off in his car, it doesn’t mean that he was a bad driver or that the car had some defect or had been poorly constructed or hadn’t been maintained in good working condition.

Absolutely—Emperor Nicholas II, like any human being or statesman, was not without sin and certainly did make mistakes.

But he was a man of deep faith, a great patriot, an honourable, genuine, and humane man, who with courage and integrity bore all the hardships that fate had delivered to him, both during his reign and afterward.

In canonizing him as a passion-bearer, the Holy Church affirmed that Emperor Nicholas II was one of the principal moral guides of our people. And I believe that this decision by the hierarchy of the Church resonates in the hearts of my countrymen.

Thus while I certainly do not deny the right of historians to debate the correctness or mistakes on this or that decision made by Emperor Nicholas II, I cannot condone those who try to blacken his memory or depict him as a dull and shallow-minded man who cared only about his family.

There is simply no substantiation in the historical sources for that view of him.

229b

Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna at the monument to Nicholas II in Evtaporia, Crimea

In your view, why is the rehabilitation of the Tsar-Martyr Emperor Nicholas II by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation so important for a proper understanding of Russian history?

Some misunderstand the meaning of the word “rehabilitation,” thinking that it connotes a kind of “amnesty.”

In point of fact, however, the rehabilitation of the victims of political repression is a recognition that such people were the targets of illegal action perpetrated in the name of the government and that these actions be deemed formally by the government today as illegal and the victims be recognized as having being entirely innocent and have their honour, integrity, and good name fully and legally restored to them.

For the Russian government today, the rehabilitation of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearer Emperor Nicholas II, his family, other murdered members of our House, and their faithful physician and attendants, has an enormous legal and moral significance.

The Russian Federation is the legal successor of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic—the RSFSR—and of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—the USSR.

A local governmental organ, which exercised full political authority at that time—the Ural Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies—passed a death sentence on the Emperor, his family and their servants, and the supreme governmental organs of Soviet Russia—the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Soviet of People’s Commissars—recognized this decision as correct and approved it.

Until 2008, the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation had not ruled on my petition for the rehabilitation of the Royal Martyrs, and so from a legal point of view the executions continued to be considered lawful and justified.

Neither the canonization of the Royal Family by the Church nor the statements from various leaders of the country condemning the murders carried any legal weight. So we had a situation where the Church and the faithful considered Nicholas II and his family saints, many others of our countrymen considered them, if not saints, at least as innocent victims of terror, and the government? It saw them as criminals deserving of death.

Of course, that was an absurd and unsustainable situation—and a bloody burden from which the government needed to free itself.

Thank God, the highest court in the land concurred with the arguments I presented and finally made the correct and legal ruling on the matter.

I would especially like to acknowledge and thank the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Vyacheslav Lebedev, for his part in reaching this ruling. He delved deeply into the matter and put an end to this on-going violation of the law. Before the ruling came down on October 1, 2008, rehabilitating the murdered members of the Imperial Family, we did not know him at all or what he thought about our legal arguments or about us in general. But he researched the question on his own and agreed with my petition on its merits, issuing his ruling “On the Rehabilitation of the Victims of Political Repression” entirely on the basis of the historical facts alone.

This ruling on the rehabilitation of the Imperial Family, their relatives and faithful servants, all murdered by the atheistic and totalitarian Communist regime, is perhaps one of the best pieces of evidence that Russia has undergone a colossal positive change in its understanding of the country’s past and has made important strides forward in the defense of human rights today.

* * *

229c

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO ORDER 

The interview was published in the No. 11 issue of Royal Russia in January 2017. The 19 page interview, features 15 black and white photographs, courtesy of the Russian Imperial House.

Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna speaks candidly on a wide range of topics on the past, present and future of the Russian Imperial House.

These include memories of her parents, Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich and Grand Duchess Leonida; the alleged treason by her grandfather Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich in the wake of the 1917 Revolution; the rehabilitation of Emperor Nicholas II in 2008; her relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church in post-Soviet Russia; the new investigation of the Ekaterinburg remains; the reunification of Crimea with the Russian Federation, the situation in Ukraine – and numerous other topics.

© Paul Gilbert. 21 February 2020