Exhibits from the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II in Tobolsk

PHOTO: recreation of the dining room in the former Governors Mansion, Tobolsk

Between August 1917 and April 1918 Emperor Nicholas II and his family were held under house arrest in the the former governor’s mansion [renamed “House of Freedom” by the Bolsheviks] in Tobolsk, Siberia.

In the beginning, the Imperial family were allowed to walk to the nearby Church of the Annunciation for worship, however, this was halted due to “concerns for their safety”. Despite this, the security regime in Tobolsk was more relaxed than in Tsarskoye Selo, allowing the family to lead a fairly calm life.

On 26th April 2018, the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II opened in the former Governor’s Mansion, following an extensive restoration. The museum is the first museum in Russia, dedicated entirely to Emperor Nicholas II and his family. Many original elements from the time that the Imperial Family lived here have been preserved. The interiors have been partially restored, each room featuring unique exhibits from their daily life. The chapel, which was set up in the ballroom of the mansion was also recreated, and consists of a folding iconostasis and an altar.

In addition, the museum features many unique personal items belonging to the Imperial family: Imperial porcelain, napkins with monograms, silver appliances, etc. One of the most precious exhibits is Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s silk shawl. The Empress gave the shawl to the wife of the doctor in gratitude, who had treated the Tsesarevich Alexei.

Below, is a selection of five exhibits from the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II in Tobolsk:

Balalaika of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich [updated on 22 June 2022]

Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, a German by birth, enjoyed the sound of a three-stringed balalaika. She first heard the tunes of the Cossack-balalaika players when she first arrived in Russia. Initially, Alexandra Feodorovna wanted her daughters to take up playing a folk instrument, but in the end, it was her son Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich who became interested in the instrument. Judging by a photograph [seen below] taken on the Imperial yacht Standart in 1907, Alexei had already picked up the balalaika at the age of three.

When the Tsesarevich grew up, he was appointed a music tutor, Alexander Alekseevich Resin (1857-1933). But Resin was dedicated to commanding the tsarist guard, so instead Alexei was offered a replacement – the Court adviser Alexander Nikolaevich Zarubin.

Zarubin played in an amateur orchestra of Russian folk instruments, which became the first such group in Russia. Zarubin conducted 12 balalaika lessons with Alexei Nikolaevich. For these lessons, the Tsesarevich bought one professional instrument for himself and presented two more to his fellow cadets – Vasily Ageev and Evgeny Makarov.

Alexei’s balalaika was made by the famous craftsman Semyon Ivanovich Nalimov (1857-1916), who from 1895 to 1917, produced more than 300 models of musical instruments. The soundboard of the instrument was decorated with inlay – a small stylized image of a house, which is assembled from separate pieces of wood of different shades. The body of the balalaika was carefully polished and varnished.

PHOTO: Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich with his balalaika, 1907

Empress Alexandra Feodorovna encouraged her son’s passion. From 1917, she included mandatory balalaika lessons in his schedule of classes, which were supposed to take place twice a week. Sadly, however, these lessons never began: after the February Revolution of 1917, Nicholas II abdicated the throne, and in August of that year, the Imperial family were sent into exile to Tobolsk.

Alexei Nikolaevich took the instrument with him to Tobolsk, although there was no one to teach him in Siberia. In April 1918, when the Imperial family were transferred to Ekaterinburg, Alexei still held on to his passion for the balalaika.

Following their murders in July 1918, and the liberation of Ekaterinburg by the White Army, among the items found in the Ipatiev House, were two musical instruments, including a three-stringed balalaika. In addition, was a book Правила игры на балалайке [Rules of Playing the Balalaika], embossed with a crown and Alexei’s monogram on the cover.

Alexei’s balalaika was transferred to the collection of the Tobolsk Historical and Architectural Museum, where it remained until 2018, when the well-known St. Petersburg collector Valery Bruntsev transferred the instrument to the collection of the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II.

“Travels in the East of Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia When Tsesarevich” by Esper Ukhtomsky

On 5th November (O.S. 23rd October) 1890, Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (future Emperor Nicholas II) embarked on a seven-month journey around the greater part of the Eurasian continent.

The total length of the journey exceeded 51,000 kilometres, including 15,000 km of railway and 22,000 km of sea routes, aboard the cruiser Pamyat Azov. The Tsesearvich’s journey took him to Greece, Egypt, India, Ceylon, Siam, Singapore, French Indochina, China, and Japan.

Nicholas Alexandrovich was accompanied on the journey by a close confidant Prince Esper Esperovich Ukhtomsky (1861-1921), a diplomat, publisher and Oriental enthusiast. He later published an account of this expedition: Travels in the East of Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia When Tsesarevich. Illustrations for the publication were made by the Russian artist Nicholas Nikolaevich Karazin (1842-1908).

The book was written in close consultation with Nicholas II, who personally approved each chapter. It took six years to complete, and was published in three volumes between 1893 and 1897 by Brockhaus, in Leipzig. Despite being expensive at 35 roubles, it still ran to four editions. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna bought several thousand copies for various government ministries and departments, and a cheaper edition was subsequently printed. The work was translated into English, French, German and Chinese, with a copy being presented to the Chinese Emperor and Empress in 1899 by the Russian envoy

Manila shawl of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

This white natural silk shawl belonged to Empress Alexandra Fedorovna. The Empress’s wardrobe included several Manila shawls, which were popular in the early 20th century.

The name of the product was derived from the capital of the Philippines [a former Spanish colony] – Manila. In the 16th century, Spanish galleons arrived in the harbour, their holds full of china, precious stones, spices and fabrics including silk capes, from China. The shawls eventually found their way to Spain where they became a popular commodity. By the 18th century, they were already an important accessory of Spanish fashionistas and over time acquired the status of a luxury accessory. Not only were Manila shawls worn thrown over the shoulders: they were also used to decorate sofas, pianos and even walls. They became an important accessory for flamenco dancers.

The first silk shawls were decorated with hand-made embroidery with traditional Chinese motifs: dragons, bamboo, pagodas. Later, they were replaced by flowers and birds more familiar to Europeans, and brushes with special weaving appeared along the edges. The most common colours for Manila shawls were black, white, ivory and shades of red.

Perfume Coty of the Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna

In 1904, the French perfumer François Coty (1874-1934), created a perfume brand under his own name. The design of the bottle for his first fragrance was developed by the French company “Baccarat”. At first, few people were interested in the perfumes of an unknown perfumer, but once Francois Coty broke a bottle with them in a Parisian store, his luck changed. The scent filled the room and immediately attracted buyers. A few weeks later, Coty’s perfume was already on sale in department stores, boutiques and hairdressers throughout Paris.

François Coty became one of the most popular perfumers of the time. Before him, perfume was a luxury item available only to wealthy people. Coty created a line of fragrances in which the cost depended on the size and type of bottle. He said, “Give a woman the best product you can create, wrap it in simple but elegant packaging, set a reasonable price, and you have a business of a scale the world has never seen.”

The collection of the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II contains a glass bottle of perfume “Corsican Jasmine”, which was used by Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna. This fragrance was created by François Coty in 1906 and named after his homeland – the island of Corsica. The scent of “Corsican Jasmine” was also loved by the famous Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941).

Nicholas II and Chess

Emperor Nicholas II had many interests and hobbies. He traveled around Russia by train, sailed with his family on the Imperial Yacht Standart, cycled, rowed, hiked and played tennis. The monarch was also fond of hunting, cinematography and photography, he loved to drive a car and patronized the Imperial Russian Automobile Society.

Nicholas II did much to popularize chess in Russia. For example, the big tournament in memory of the famous Russian chess player Mikhail Chigorin (1850-1908) in 1909, was partially financed by the Emperor, who donated a thousand rubles. The Emperor personally attended the tournament and awarded the finalists with the title of grandmaster, the winners received vases made by the prestigious Imperial Porcelain Factory.

In 1914, the Emperor supported the creation of the All-Russian Chess Union. With his approval, chess tournaments, international congresses and chess competitions were held in Russia.

While in exile in Tobolsk, the Emperor spent his days usually engaged in physical activities, such as sawing wood, working in the garden, or shovelling snow in the winter. In the evenings, members of the Imperial Family whiled away the time books, embroidery and playing chess.

The chess set in the collection of the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II was made at the Kasli plant in the first half of the 19th century. Kasli casting was highly valued not only in Russia, but also in Europe, for its excellent quality and attention to detail.

***

Click on the IMAGE below to watch a VIDEO tour [in Russian] of the the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II in Tobolsk, which includes the interiors and many exhibits. Duration: 19 minutes, 32 seconds

© Paul Gilbert. 22 June 2022

Memorial plaque in memory of Nicholas II’s 1904 visit to Penza returned

PHOTO: memorial plaque in memory of Emperor Nicholas II’s visit to Penza in 1904

On 19th June 2022, a memorial plaque installed at the beginning of the 20th century on one of the columns of the Cathedral of the Saviour [aka Spassky Cathedral] in memory of Emperor Nicholas II’s visit to Penza in 1904 was returned to the Penza Diocese. During his visit, the sovereign held a review of Russian troops who were being sent to the Russo-Japanese War, followed by a liturgy held in the Cathedral of the Saviour.

This memorial plaque, installed by the Penza City Duma, became the first memorial plaque in the Penza region. The inscription on it reads: “His Imperial Majesty the Sovereign Emperor Nikolai Alexandrovich and His Imperial Highness the Sovereign Heir Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich deigned to visit the Penza Cathedral and prayed at this place on June 28, 1904 at 11 ½ o’clock in the afternoon.”

The words on the commemorative plaque turned out to be prophetic. The cathedral, located on the Cathedral Square of the city was blown up by the Bolsheviks in 1934. In 2010, reconstruction of the cathedral began, and took 12 years to complete.

On 19th June 2022, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia performed the rite of the Great Consecration of the Cathedral of the Saviour in Penza, concelebrated by the clergy of the Penza diocese, and read out a decree on conferring the status of a cathedral.

PHOTO: Igor Sergeevich Shishkin (right) holds the historic memorial plaque, during the handing over ceremony at the Cathedral of the Saviour, on 19th June 2022

For decades it was believed that the memorial plaque had been lost or destroyed. This was based on the recollections of Penza residents, who recalled that in February 1918, armed Bolsheviks came to the cathedral and smashed the plaque with their rifle butt. But as it turned out, the plaque miraculously survived. The parishioners hid it by burying it in the ground not far from the cathedral.

About twenty years ago, rumours surfaced that the memorial plaque had survived and was mostly intact [only a corner was broken off]. Local historians carried out a search of the former grounds, as a result of which the plaque ended up in the hands of the famous Penza collector Igor Sergeevich Shishkin, who today returned the memorial plaque to its rightful place.

The handover ceremony of the memorial plaque took place before the great consecration of the Cathedral of the Saviour, which was performed by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia during his primatial visit to the Penza Diocese.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 June 2022

Zhanna Bichevskaya marks her 78th birthday

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Cover of Zhanna Bichevskaya;s CD Царь Николай (Tsar Nikolai)

A very happy 78th birthday to Russian folk singer Zhanna Vladimirovna Bichevskaya, who was born in Moscow on 17th June 1944.

Известной певице Жанне Владимiровне Бичевской исполнилось 78 лет!!! Мы сердечно поздравляем её с Днём рождения!!!

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Zhanna graduated as a classical guitarist from a Moscow music school. She was a teacher of music in Zagorsk (Sergiev Posad). In the 1970s, Zhanna started to perform Russian folk songs and romances.

Zhanna refers to her bard-style singing as “Russian country-folk”. Her repertoire includes several hundred works – songs of spiritual and social content, Russian folk songs, romances, as well as songs based on poems of Russian poets of the Silver Age. Her records have sold millions of copies in more than 40 countries around the world. She has performed to sell out crowds at the prestigious Olympia Hall in Paris, on eight occasions. 

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Zhanna Bichevskaya’s songs began to have more political, nationalist and spiritual themes, she is a staunch defender of the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II and his family.

In 1999, Zhanna also became the host of her own show on Voice of Russia radio station. She was awarded People’s Artist of the RSFSR

CLICK on the links below to listen to two of her most haunting melodies:

[1] Царь Николай / Tsar Nikolai [Duration: 9 mins], which features vintage film footage of Russia’s last tsar:

[2] Святым Царственным мученикам / To the Holy Royal Martyrs [Duration: 7 mins., 34 sec.], which is much more a prayer than a song:

Click HERE to visit Zhanna Bichevskaya’s Official Website (in Russian / по-русски)

© Paul Gilbert. 17 June 2022

My cancer journey and prayers for the intercession of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

PHOTO: the miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and the Order of the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

On 22nd April, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. No one ever wants to hear their doctor utter the words “tumour” or “cancer” – each word inflicting both shock and fear into a person – I was no exception. I recall that the first thing that popped into my head at that moment, was whether the cancer had spread? I would not know for sure until a C-Scan was performed, for which I had to wait another 3+ weeks. Until then, the waiting and uncertainty only fanned the flames of my fears.

In the days leading up to my C-Scan and surgery, I filled my time with the “best medicine”: prayers, positive thoughts, and laughter. I reached out to my family, friends, and to the many people who follow me on my blog and Facebook pages. I was simply overwhelmed by the love and support I received from thousands of people – many of them from people whom I have never met – from all over the world.

In addition, prayers were being said for me by Orthodox and non-Orthodox clergy in the United States, Canada, Australia, Britain and Russia.

One of the most inspiring messages I received, one which had a very profound effect on me, was the following, sent by a friend:

“You must remember that you have your work on Nicholas II to complete and it is YOU who have been chosen from above by His Majesty. May God be with you, dear Paul!”

On 14th May, I had my C-Scan, and 3 days later, the doctor called me with the results. I was so relieved to learn that the cancer had not spread to any of my vital organs or my bones. Glory to God for all things!

PHOTO: Paul Gilbert poses in front of his lithograph copy of the original miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, gifted by Ija Schmit(1936-2018) in 1996

The intercession of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

Just two days before my admission to hospital, I was doing some spring cleaning – simply to keep my mind occupied – when I discovered a large firm envelope hidden behind some boxes in the back of my closet. I discovered that the envelope contained a large 12″ x 15″ colour lithograph copy of the miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II (seen in photo above).

This icon had been gifted to me back in 2000 by a friend in California. I could not believe that it lay hidden and forgotten alI these years! I was quite overcome with emotion, because I knew that this was an exact lithograph copy of the miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, the same miracle-working icon which has been venerated by Orthodox Christians for more than two decades.

I placed the icon in a frame and hung it on a wall in my home. I then began to pray to God through the intercession of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, to help me get through my surgery and healing. I prayed for strength and courage, and I prayed for good health. Not only do I want to live to a ripe old age, I want to return to my beloved Russia, and I also want to continue my work in clearing the name of Russia’s much slandered Emperor and Tsar.

As some of you may already be aware, I have been considering entering the Russian Orthodox Church for several years now, and during that time have spent many hours in prayer and solitude in Orthodox churches, praying to God and venerating icons of Orthodox saints. In my home, I have icons of the Holy Royal Martyrs and Russian saints, which I venerate on a daily basis.

On the morning of Friday, 20th May, I arrived at Oshawa General Hospital for my surgery. My blood pressure and blood sugars went through the roof! Prior to surgery, my blood pressure exceeded 200!!, that is how stressed I was. When I was taken into the operating room, I repeatedly made the sign of the Orthodox Cross over myself, recited the Lord’s Prayer, the Jesus Prayer, and Psalm 23. Just before the anaesthesiologist administered the medication, I was filled with calm and peace . . .  

The next thing I knew, I was coming out of the anesthetic in the hospital recovery room. The following morning, the surgeon came to see me and informed me that “the surgery went very well”, that the tumour had been successfully removed, and that I would NOT require ANY chemotherapy. “Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.” (Psalm 30:2).

I have nothing but praise for the doctors and nurses at the hospital, all of whom went over and above the call of duty to ensure that I received the best possible care. After spending a few days in Oshawa General, I was sent home. I spent much of my recovery in bed sleeping or resting in my favourite armchair with a cup of tea and a good book. I still have some minor pain, and limited mobilty, however, my health continues to improve with each new day.

My post-surgery care now requires me to have blood work done and a C-Scan every six months and an annual colonoscopy over the next two years.

While my cancer was not life-threatening, the surgeon informed me that he had also removed three pre-cancerous [changes to cells that make them more likely to develop into cancer] polyps, noting that if I had I left it another year, that my situation would be much worse. I was one of the lucky ones, as the cancer was detected in its early stages.

I am the first to admit that my cancer journey pales in comparison to those of many others, it was a journey which nevertheless has had a profound impact on me, one which God willing, will add many more years to my life, and lead me to fulfill my heartfelt aspiration to enter the Russian Orthodox Church.

PHOTO: Oleg Ivanovich Belchenko, holding the miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, at the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama

The miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

The Icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas was commissioned by Ija Schmit (1936-2018), a Russian émigré in the United States, who used money inherited from her mother to have the icon painted in 1996.

I first met Ija in October 2000, when she joined my annual Romanov Tour to Russia, which that year included Moscow and Crimea. Ija was accompanied by her husband Harvey and their daughter Nina. It was during this visit that she told me about this icon, a copy of which she later gifted me.

The icon would be dedicated to the future canonization of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas in Russia[1], and in memory of her mother. After Ija’s initial inspiration to have the icon painted, she contacted iconographer Paul Tikhomirov, himself a Russian immigrant, to see if he was interested in her project. Tikhomirov’s response was, “I will make the icon shine!” They decided to depict Nicholas II in coronation robes [1996 was the 100th anniversary of his coronation in Moscow], with St. Nicholas, his patron saint, and St. Job, on whose feast day Nicholas was born, in the upper right and left hand corners. Below the figures would be printed in Russian, “This Holy Icon is for the Canonization of the Tsar-Martyr in Russia.”

Ija received the finished icon on 12th May 1996 and then traveled to Texas, where it was blessed by Bishop Constantine (Yesensky), an old family friend, who had served as Bishop of Great Britain. The icon, however, was not intended solely for family veneration. Ija and her husband, Harvey Schmit, had already arranged to have paper copies of the icon printed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II on 27th May (O.S. 14th) 1996.

Forty-four thousand copies of the icon were printed. The distribution of the icons [printed in three sizes], was handled by Ija’s own non-profit organization, the Society Honoring Russian Nobility, and income from the icons sold in the West purchased food and medicine for needy pensioners and orphans in Russia. A fourth, smaller version of the icon was printed by the thousands and given away in Russia without charge.

As word of the icon spread, Christians from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and even Serbia, began writing and requesting copies. The Society has met all these requests and distributed more than twenty thousand icons in Russia alone.

On a visit to Russia in late 1996, Father Herman [Ija Schmit’s brother] presented a number of prints to Fr. Juvenaly, the priest at the St. Nicholas Almshouse in Ryazan. On 16th (O.S. 2nd) March 1998 (the anniversary of Tsar Nicholas II’ abdication and the miraculous appearance of the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God. Fr. Juvenaly blessed Dr. Oleg Belchenko with one of the prints, which the doctor took with him back to Moscow. The paper icon had been given to him in a glassfronted, three-dimensional wooden icon-case (a kiot) and Dr. Belchenko set it in a prominent place in his Moscow apartment. On 5th September, Dr. Belchenko noticed that a red spot had appeared over the right eyelid of the Tsar. The following day a second red spot appeared over the left eye. Dr. Belchenko first compared the icon with a smaller print to be sure that he had simply overlooked the distinctive marks. The smaller icon did not match. Dr. Belchenko then called Sretensky Monastery of the Meeting of the Lord to ask what he should do. The monks asked him to bring the icon of Tsar Nicholas to the monastery the following morning. Dr.Belchenko arrived early and stood through the liturgy holding the icon in a plastic bag at his side. At the end of the liturgy a moleben and blessing of the waters was held. The officiating priest recognized Dr. Belchenko, and knowing that he had come with the icon, had the choir sing a troparion for Tsar-Martyr Nicholas. Following the troparion, Dr. Belchenko noticed one of the parishioners staring at him. Finally, the man approached and asked, “What is that fragrance?” Dr. Belchenko replied: “You are probably smelling incense – I am sorry, I can’t smell anything myself because I have a cold.” The man persisted: “No. I tell you, the fragrance is coming from somewhere around you… the smell is much more refined than incense.” Dr. Belchenko replied impatiently, “You should be ashamed of talking such nonsense while the service is going on!” The man moved away embarrassed, but within a few moments other worshippers filtered over, curious about the fragrance and asking what was in the package. “Nothing, only an icon,” he replied. “Show it to us.” As Dr. Belchenko opened the package and took out the icon, the remarkable scent filled the church.

The icon of Tsar Nicholas II was displayed for veneration in the monastery church for three weeks. After Dr. Belchenko took it home, the fragrance continued to a lesser degree, and as word began to spread, Muscovites increasingly asked to come to his apartment to venerate the icon. Dr. Belchenko felt that his home was too small to accommodate many visitors, so he asked an Orthodox friend, Alla Dyakova, to keep the icon in her flat, where those who wished could venerate it. When asked how he was able relinquish such a treasure, Dr. Belchenko answered, “The icon is not mine. It belongs to all Russians.”

On 19th October, Alla Dyakova and Fr. Peter Vlashchenko, a married priest from the Ivanovo region, took the icon to Elder Kyril of St. Sergius Lavra, who was in Peredelkino, outside Moscow. Elder Kyril venerated the icon and blessed Fr. Peter and Alla with the words, “Go. Take the icon to whomever asks for it.”

On 1st November, the icon was brought to the Martha-Mary Convent in Moscow, founded by Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, the sister- in-law of Tsar Nicholas II and herself a new-martyr. The day not only marked the birthday of Elizabeth, but the anniversary of Tsar Nicholas’ assuming the throne at his father’s death in 1894. The icon of Tsar Nicholas was placed on the analogion next to an icon of Grand Duchess Elizabeth. Throughout the Divine Liturgy the icon of the Tsar poured forth waves of fragrance, filling the chapel.

It is worth mentioning that the popular veneration of the Tsar-Martyr played an important role in the canonization of the Imperial Family at the Jubilee Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000 among the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia.

In August 2000, the Russian Church met at a synod in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Moscow. Amongst the things discussed was the issue of canonization. The eagerly-awaited news finally escaped the cathedral’s walls to the faithful gathered outside: Tsar Nicholas II and his family were now recognized as Saints! The date of their martyrdom was now recorded in Orthodox calendars around the world as their feast day. It is certain that influential in this decision were two paper icons of the martyrs, both of which exuded sweet-smelling myrrh and so revealed those Saints to be themselves “a sweet aroma of Christ unto God” (2 Cor 2:15).

The keeper of the miraculous image, the Moscow surgeon Oleg Ivanovich Belchenko, has travelled around Russia for many years, bringing the icon to to churches and monasteries arousing veneration of the Holy Royal Martyrs wherever it went through its aromatic myrrh. Many Orthodox Christians believe that their prayers have been answered by God through the intercession of the Tsar and his family.

Lately, due to his age, Oleg has handed over this honourary mission to Alexander Fedorovich Chernavsky, a publicist, head of the Orthodox Mission for the Revival of the Spiritual Values of the Russian People. The Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Tsar Nicholas II, appears with the same unpretentious simplicity with which the late Tsar laid down his throne and bore his final months of house arrest before his death and martyrdom.

Holy Tsar Martyr Nicholas II, pray to God for us!

NOTES:

[1] The desire of many Russian Orthodox Christians for the canonization of Tsar Nicholas and his family does not stem from a belief that their personal lives were blameless, although from historical accounts and the family’s own letters it is obvious that they were Christians of great integrity. The widespread desire for the family’s canonization is based on the fact that Tsar Nicholas and his family were murdered as a result of his position as the sacramentally anointed Orthodox monarch of Russia.

© Paul Gilbert. 14 June 2022

New monument to Nicholas II installed in Vladimir

On Saturday 11th June – the eve of Russia Day and the feast of the Holy Trinity – a new monument to Emperor Nicholas II was unveiled on the grounds of the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity, located on Muzeynaya Street in Vladimir, Russia. The flags of the Russian Federation and the Russian Empire were placed on either side of the monument.

The bronze monument was created by the famous Vladimir sculptor Ilya Shanin. The pedestal was created by Nikolai Andrianov, and the memorial plaques by Yuri Tumarkin and artist Olga Rozanova.

  • Readers may recall that I reported on this new monument back in late 2021. Click HERE to read this article – PG

The initiative to install the monument came from the rector of the Holy Trinity Church, Father Evgeny Borovskikh, and Ilya Shanin. A fundraiser was announced in November 2021, the cost of casting and installation of the monument amounted to 1.5 million rubles [$20,000 USD], the entire amount of which was raised by private donors.

In January 2022, sculptor Ilya Shanin announced that he wanted the installation of the monument to take place in May 2023, to coincide with 110th anniversary of the Emperor’s only visit to Vladimir, on 16th May 1913.

PHOTOS: Close up views of the sculpture and pedestal

The bronze monument of Nicholas II was made at a factory in Smolensk. He is presented from the waist up wearing a ceremonial uniform, with a ribbon over his shoulder, crosses, orders and medals. The height of the monument is 125 centimeters [app. 4 ft.] without the pedestal. The granite pedestal was made in St. Petersburg. On the pedestal there is an inscription «Государь император Николай II» – “Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II”.

The monument is set against the backdrop of a large colourized photograph of the Imperial Family. The photo is famous, and part of a series taken in 1913 marking the 300th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty. These black-and-white photos were mass produced and sold as postcards, the proceeds of which went to various charities supported by the Imperial Family.

It is interesting to add, that within 24 hours of the announcement of plans to install this monument to Emperor Nicholas II, local Bolsheviks and atheists reared their ugly heads in protest. The local branch of the Communist Party opposed its installation. The communists declared that they were “categorically against perpetuating the memory of ‘Nicholas the Bloody'”, as he organized the mass execution of unarmed workers in St. Petersburg and dragged Russia into two unnecessary wars.

Apparently, access to the monument is at present only possible during worship. The rest of the time the gates to the church are closed. Despite this, Vladimir residents still come to look at the bronze Nicholas II and take photos through the fence bars (see photo below).

It is known that Nicholas II came to Vladimir only once – on 16th May 1913, as part of the celebrations marking the 300th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty.

The Vladimir Region is now home to two of Russia’s finest monuments to Emperor Nicholas II. In September 2021, Russia’s second largest monument to Nicholas II [featuring 8 colour photos + VIDEO] was also installed in the village of Sanino, Petushinsky District, Vladimir Region.

© Paul Gilbert. 12 June 2022

Emperor Nicholas II and King Edward VII meet at Reval, 1908

PHOTO: Pyotr Stolypin, Queen Alexandra, Emperor Nicholas II, King Edward VII, Vladimir Frederiks, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, on the deck of the Russian Imperial Yacht.

On 9th June 1908, a meeting of the Russian Imperial and British Royal families took place in Reval [today Tallinn, Estonia]. The historic meeting marked the first visit of a reigning British monarch to the Russian Empire, although Edward had previously visited Russia as His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales in 1866, when he attended the wedding of the future Russian Emperor Alexander III in St. Petersburg. The meeting at Reval in 1908, served as an important diplomatic purpose in the aftermath of the 1907 Anglo-Russian Entente, which settled colonial disputes and instigated the Triple Entente.

King Edward VII arrived on the royal yacht Victoria and Albert roadstead of the port of Reval. He was accompanied by his wife Queen Alexandra (sister of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna) and daughter of Princess Victoria of Great Britain. They were met by the Emperor, the Empress, their five children, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, and Queen Olga of the Hellenes (nee Russian Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna). In addition, the Emperor was accompanied by prominent members of his retinue, including Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin, and the minister of the Imperial Court, Vladimir Frederiks.

On the morning of 9th June 1908, the hills and the wooded shores of the bay were crowded with thousands of well wishers. At 7 o’clock, the Imperial Train arrived in Revel from Peterhof. Crowds of children lined up to greet the Emperor and his family: “It is impossible to describe the delight of the children when the Imperial Family passed by. Their Majesties … were very touched,” the head of Nicholas II’s secret personal guard Alexander Spiridovich recalled. Passing the cheering crowds, the Imperial family proceeded from the train station to the port, where they boarded the Imperial Yacht Standart. Two other Russian Imperial Yachts were also in port, including the yacht of the Dowager Empress, the Polar Star and the smaller steam yacht Alexandria.

PHOTO: Nicholas dressed in the uniform of Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Scots Greys, on the deck of the Imperial Yacht Standart. His son and heir Tsesarevich Alexei is standing beside him. 9th June 1908

Prior to meeting the British king, Nicholas dressed in the uniform of Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Scots Greys. Nicholas II was appointed an honorary member of the distinguished regiment by Britain’s Queen Victoria in 1894, after he became engaged to Princess Alix of Hesse (Alexandra Feodorovna), who was Victoria’s granddaughter. King Edward, in turn, put on the uniform of the Russian Imperial Army, but it turned out to be clearly too small for him, but despite this, the king looked by no means impressive.

The British yacht Victoria and Albert anchored in the roadstead between the Standart and the Polar Star. The Imperial and Royal yachts were surrounded by British and Russian warships, also lying in the roadstead.

On board Nicholas greeted the British King by saying, “It is with feelings of the deepest satisfaction and pleasure that I welcome your Majesty and her Majesty the Queen to Russian waters. I trust that this meeting, while strengthening the many and strong ties which unite our Houses, will have the happy results of drawing our countries closer together, and of promoting and maintaining the peace of the world.”

An eyewitness recalled: “While the guests were very cordial towards one another, it was felt that Edward showed some condescension towards his nephew – he seemed to patronize him … he warmly hugged and kissed the Empress, and then carefully looked at the grand duchesses, who looked a little embarrassed. Then he went up to the heir [Alexei], took him in his arms and kissed him.”

The Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna was delighted to once again meet her beloved sister Alexandra, the British Queen, with whom she maintained a prolific correspondence throughout her life. A luncheon was served on the Dowager Empress’s yacht, the Polar Star, but no speeches were made at this affair. The menu was traditional for such occasions: Toulouse consommé, pâté, champagne lobster, truffle and grouse rolls, vol-au-vents, Nantes duck, vanilla peaches and frozen strawberry puree.

At five o’clock, tea was arranged on the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert. The Tsar arrived without his wife, since the Empress suffered from another attack of sciatica.

PHOTO: Imperial hosts and Royal guests gather for a state banquet in the dining hall of the Imperial Yacht Standart. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna can be seen in the center of the photograph, seated between King Edward VII [on the left], and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales [future King George V, on the right]

At 8 pm, the hosts and guests gathered together for a state banquet on the Imperial Yacht Standart. During dinner, the orchestra played works by Borodin, Wagner, Liszt, Grieg, Glazunov and Gounod, while the monarchs made official speeches, both in English. The King thanked the Emperor for the warm welcome, recalling his previous visit to Russia, when he was still Crown Prince, and expressed hope for the Anglo-Russian alliance to be strengthened: “I believe that this will serve to closer uniting the ties that unite the peoples of our two countries, and I am sure that this will contribute to a satisfactory peaceful settlement of certain important issues in the future. I am convinced that this will not only contribute to a closer rapprochement between our two countries, but will also help maintain peace throughout the world,” Edward VII said. The emperor answered in the same spirit.

Early in the evening, boatloads of German and Russian residents steamed about in the roadstead and serenaded the Imperial and Royal visitors with national folk songs. After the sun set and darkness set in, the warships were all illuminated, and the Imperial Yachts Polar Star and Alexandria displayed special electrical effects.

The following day, the Emperor and Empress received a delegation from Reval, after which they again received British guests at lunch, during which a misunderstanding occurred. The King turned to the Empress and joked about the terrible accent with which the Grand Duchesses spoke English. The criticism hurt the Empress, especially since the King himself spoke English with a clear German accent. But the conclusions were made and soon the Grand Duchesses were appointed a new English tutor – Charles Sidney Gibbes, who after the revolution would follow the Imperial Family into exile to Siberia.

The inevitable exchange of gifts took place that day. The King presented his nephew with a sword made by Wilkinson, on which were engraved the words: “To His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of All Russia from His Loving Uncle Edward, Revel 1908.” The Emperor, in turn, presented his uncle with a jade vase with cabochon moonstones and chalcedony.

PHOTO: King Edward VII and and Emperor Nicholas II, Reval. 1908

That evening, dinner was served on the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert. Shortly after the arrival of the Imperial couple, the King was faced with a dilemma. Who will accompany him to dinner: the Queen or the Dowager Empress? English protocol required that the Sovereign’s wife should precede the Dowager Empress, but this could offend Maria Feodorovna, who was also his wife’s sister. On the other hand, if the Empress was forced to take second place, she might well take the opportunity to leave. The King handled the situation with his usual aplomb. Taking both ladies by the arms, he declared: “Tonight I will enjoy the unique honour of inviting two Empresses to dinner.” After dinner, the King and his Imperial guests sat in comfortable chairs, coffee and liquors were served. There were also dances during which the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna danced with the British Admiral John Fisher (1841-1920). Around midnight, the Imperial couple, having said goodbye to the guests, left the Victoria and Albert and returned to the Standart.

At 3 o’clock in the morning, the Victoria and Albert weighed anchor and arrived in Port Victoria in Kent three days later.

CLICK on the IMAGE above to view an album of photographs of the meeting of the Russian Imperial and British Royal families at Reval, on 9th June 1908

© Paul Gilbert. 9 June 2022

The Rehabilitation of Emperor Nicholas II

In December 2005, Princess Maria Vladimirovna Romanova [who lives in Madrid, Spain] sent an application to the Russian Prosecutor’s Office with a request for the rehabilitation of the murdered ex-emperor Nicholas II and members of his family as victims of political repression.

On 1st October 2008, the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation granted the judicial rehabilitation of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. Ninety years after a Bolshevik execution squad gunned down the last Tsar and his family, the country’s supreme court declared the Imperial family as “victims of political repression.” The regicide was condemned, and that the false accusations against the Tsar, that he was an enemy of the people…were at long last proven to be false.

By finding the Tsar a victim of political terror, the court has completed the remarkable transformation of the discredited man who died with his family in the cellar of the Ipatiev House in the early hours of 17th July, 1918 on the orders of the Ural Soviet.

Throughout the years of the Soviet Union, government propaganda vilified the last Tsar, giving him the derogatory nickname “Bloody Nicholas” and accusing him and his family of a litany of crimes.

It is important to note, that the Supreme Court’s decision overturned a ruling by the same court in November 2007 that the killings did not qualify as political repression, but premeditated murder. The Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation, stated in court that “the requirements for rehabilitation do not comply with the provisions of the law due to the fact that these persons were not arrested for political reasons, and no court decision on execution was made.”

Four weeks later, on 30th October 2008, it was reported that the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation ruled to rehabilitate 52 people from the entourage of Emperor Nicholas II and his family.

Some readers will argue that it was unneccessary because the Tsar had not committed any crime, which of course is true! For the sake of historical justice, however, it was the responsibility of a post-Soviet Court to overturn the Bolshevik’s decision to condemn and justify the murder of Russia’s last Tsar. In addition, his rehabilitation defeats the myths and lies of both the Bolshevik and Soviet regimes.

Up until the Supreme Court’s ruling, Nicholas II remained falsely accused of crimes in which he did not commit. According to the existing code of laws, the Russian Federation is the lawful successor of Soviet Russia and of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics [USSR]. From the purely juridical stand­point, all the criminal charges, incriminations and verdicts of repression pronounced since 7th November 1917 continue to carry legal authority until the government officially rehabilitates the victims. A paradoxical situation thus occurred, where the head of the Russian government has offered up repentance for the bloody violence carried out by representatives of the government on members of the Imperial House and their servants, relatives and friends; where the immediate members of the family of Emperor Nicholas II along with Grand-Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna have been recognized as saints by the Russian Orthodox Church; yet where, from the judicial point of view, they can legally be considered “criminals,” since they were executed as “enemies” of the government.

Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that Nicholas II, was unlawfully killed by Bolshevik authorities. The ruling negates the Bolshevik claims used to instigate the 1917 revolution, and the murder of the Tsar and his family the following year. His rehabilitation reinstates the good name of Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov, and to legally declare that he was innocent and had suffered unjustly.

Georgy Ryabykh, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church said the “decision can only be welcomed. It strengthens the rule of law, restores historical continuity and 1,000 years of state tradition”.

Ivan Artsishevsky (1950-2021), Director of the Romanov Family Association also praised the ruling: “the fact that the Russian state took responsibility for that murder is a step towards repentance … and the rehabilitation of all innocent (Bolshevik) victims.”

It should come as no surprise that the rehabilitation was denounced by the Communists, who said it was “cynical” and would “sooner or later be corrected.” In response, German Lukyanov noted that the ruling was “a final decision that cannot be challenged.” 

“Rehabilitation is necessary for the modern state, so that the image of Russia throughout the world is associated not with basements covered in blood, but with the image of a civilized state that has renounced the Soviet past and condemned it,” he added.

© Paul Gilbert. 4 June 2022

Obituary: German Yuryevich Lukyanov (1961-2022)

On 19th May, the prominent Russian lawyer German Yuryevich Lukyanov, died in Moscow at the age of 60.

Lukyanov was born on 30th October 1961 in Saratov. In 1984 he graduated from the Saratov Law Institute (forensic and prosecutorial department). In 1984-1986 he passed military service in the Armed Forces of the USSR. From 1987 to 1989 he served as an investigator of the Military Prosecutor’s Office of the Moscow Air Defense District (PVO). He retired from the reserve with the rank of Senior Lieutenant of Justice. In 1990 he began practicing law, and in 2001 became a member of the Moscow Bar Association.

In 1995, he was appointed legal representative for Princess Leonida Georgievna (1914-2010) and later her daughter Princess Maria Vladimirovna, the latter of whom he continued to serve to the present day.

Lukyanov’s legacy is worthy of honouring, because he worked for years to achieve the exoneration of Emperor Nicholas II, his family and their four faithful retainers, who were all brutally murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

German Yuryevich Lukyanov died on 19th May 2022, the day marking the 154th anniversary of the birth of Russia’s last Emperor and Tsar. Some time ago Lukyanov had developed a severe form of COVID-19, recovered and returned to work.

It is symbolic that the Lord called German Lukyanov to Himself on the birthday of the Holy-Martyr Tsar Nicholas II, whose memory he sacredly honoured.

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

© Paul Gilbert. 4 June 2022

On this day – 2nd June 1868 – the future Emperor Nicholas II was baptised

PHOTO: the baptism of Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich [future Tsesarevich and Emperor] on 2nd June (O.S. 20th May) 1868, by Mihály Zichy (1827-1906). The watercolour depicts four baptismal scenes, and two of them show Alexander II holding his grandson in his arms.

Two weeks after his birth, on 19th (O.S. 6th) May 1868, His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich was baptised in the Church of the Resurrection of Christ in the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. The baptism was performed by the Imperial family’s confessor Protopresbyter Vasily Bazhanov (1800-1883).

The infant’s grandfather Emperor Alexander II, took a very active role in this historic ceremony. He clearly understood that not only was this his first grandson, but also that a future Emperor was being baptised. It is noteworthy that during the baptism, both Alexander II and his son, Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich [future Alexander III], acted as assistants to the lady of state. The fact that the father, breaking tradition, took an active part in the baptism[1], apparently, was due to its historic significance. Two emperors, current and future, held their successor in their arms, strengthening the foundation of the infant’s legitimacy.[2]

As for the mother [future Empress Maria Feodorovna], she did not have the right to be present at the baptism of her baby at all [in accordance with a tradition that originates in the Old Testament]. However, even if Maria Fedorovna wanted to break the custom, she could not do so, due to the fact that her doctors advised her not to walk following the birth of her son, and instructed her to rest on that eventful the day. [3]

It was Alexander II and Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, who carried the baby to the font for baptism. In addition, Nicholas Alexandrovich’s godparents, his Danish grandmother and uncle, Queen Louise and Crown Prince Friedrich took part.

Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich described the day’s events as follows: “The entrance was magnificent, and there were a lot of people in the palace and also in the garden. The little one was transported in a golden carriage with much pomp and ceremony, accompanied by an escort on horseback. During the ceremonial procession through the halls of the Grand Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, the newborn was carried to the palace church by the lady of state Princess [Alexandra Aleekseevna] Kurakina (1840-1919), supported on the one side by the State Chancellor Prince [Alexander Mikhailovich] Gorchakov (1798-1883), and on the other by Field Marshal Prince Alexander [Ivanovich] Baryatinsky (1815-1879) – both old and lame, but they endured excellently and helped as much as they could. The field marshal walks very decently, although with a cane. Tsarskoye Selo was unrecognizable that day; the streets were full of people and carriages, the whole city is celebrating. At 5 o’clock, a large banquet was held in the Great Hall, which was lit splendidly by the sun. It’s been a very tiring day, and poor Mama [Empress Maria Alexandrovna] is very tired. After the baptism, the entire family gathered at my place [the Alexander Palace] to congratulate Minnie [Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna], and all little ones were there too. An excellent breakfast was served, and then everyone went home.”

Nearly 13 years later, in March 1881, Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich became the Heir Tsesarevich, and in October 1894, he became Russia’s last Emperor and Tsar.

NOTES:

[1] According to Orthodox tradition at that time, the father was required to leave the church at the time of the baptism of his child, giving way to the godfather. Emperor Nicholas II was not in the church when his son Alexei was baptised in August 1904.

[2] Zimin, Igor Viktorovich. Children’s world of imperial residences. Life of monarchs and their environment. Baptism of children. 2010

[3] Ibid.

© Paul Gilbert. 2 June 2022

Why did Nicholas II’s favourite motorcar sport a swastika?

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II’s favourite Delaunay-Belleville motorcar, sporting a left-facing swastika (counter clockwise) on the hood. Tsarskoye Selo 1913

The swastika symbol is an ancient religious symbol in various Eurasian cultures, now also widely recognized for its appropriation by the Nazi Party and by neo-Nazis. It continues to be used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It generally takes the form of a cross, the arms of which are of equal length and perpendicular to the adjacent arms, each bent midway at a right angle.

In the 1930s the German Nazi Party adopted a right-facing (clockwise) form and used it as an emblem of the Aryan race. As a result of World War II and the Holocaust, in the West it continues to be strongly associated with Nazism, anti-Semitism, white supremacism, or simply evil.

In 19th century Russia, however, the swastika had a completely different meaning. The left-facing swastika (counter clockwise) swastika, best described as a “sacred solar cross”, was adopted as a symbol of the Russian Empire. In the years before the Russian Revolution, it was used on the facades of houses, depicted on icons, clothes and dinner plates, as well as Emperor Nicholas II’s favourite motorcar.

PHOTO: the last diary [1917] of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, was embroidered with a left-facing swastika (counter clockwise)

In addition, the left-facing swastika (counter clockwise) was a favourite symbol of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. She wore a talisman in the form of a swastika, wearing it everywhere for happiness, including on her letters from Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg. In a letter dated 16 December 1917 to Anna Vyrubova, she wrote: “Always to be recognized by my sign 卐.”

According to Vladimir Kozlov & Vladimir Krustalev, in her 1917 diary, Alexandra noted the anniversary of a person’s death with a swastika. In Sanskrit, svastika means “well-being”. When her daughter, Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna gave her mother the little notebook in which the diary was kept, she embroidered a swastika on the cloth cover [depicted in the photo above] she made for it.[1]

In settling in her room in the Ipatiev House at Ekaterinburg, Alexandra inscribed a swastika on a window frame, followed by the date 17 [N.S. 30] April 1917, and another swastika on the wall over her bed.

In addition, investigator Nikolai Sokolov , who investigated the murder of the Imperial family, suggested that persons from the Emperor’s entourage were part of a secret organization. According to him, in their correspondence, among other things, they used the swastika.

NOTES:

[1] Ed. Vladimir Kozlov & Vladimir Krustalev. The Last Diary of Tsarista Alexandra. Yale University Press, 1997

© Paul Gilbert. 2 June 2022