Museum of Emperor Nicholas II in Moscow

PHOTO: Museum of Emperor Nicholas II in Moscow

In the spring of 2008, art historian Alexander Vasilyevich Renzhin donated his collection dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II, as a gift to the Nikolo-Ugreshsky Monastery. It was during the 1990s that Renzhin began to collect bit by bit everything related to Emperor Nicholas II and his family. During that time, he managed to amass a collection of more than 3,000 items: postcards and photographs, books and portraits, personal belongings and household items – which reflect on the private lives of the Imperial Family and their tragic deaths in July 1918.

In 1913, Russia solemnly celebrated the 300th anniversary of the House of Romanov. Renjin’s collection features many unique items created for the anniversary. Among them is a carved decorative panel with portraits of Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich, Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and their son Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich and the date 1613-1913. The scene of the election of Mikhail Feodorovich Romanov in 1613 is depicted on a woven woolen carpet made by the Zavidov carpet factory. Candy boxes produced for the anniversary by the Einem confectionery factory with portraits of the Romanovs have been preserved.

Of particular interest are coronation memorabilia: earthenware glasses and plates decorated with the coats of arms and monograms H II [Nicholas II] and AF [Alexandra Feodorovna], miraculously preserved fine crystal glasses with engravings and paintings, cups, plates and saucers from the service with the new coat of arms introduced in 1856.

VIDEO: click on the image above to watch a 3-minute video tour of the museum at the Nikolo-Ugreshsky Monastery, before it was closed in February 2021, and moved to its current location in central Moscow

This service, made at the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg in 1882 specifically for the coronation of Emperor Alexander III, consisted of 19 thousand pieces. For the coronation of Emperor Nicholas II, the service was repeated, consisting of 47 thousand pieces. According to tradition, the Imperial table for the coronation dinner was served with a gold service, bearing the coat of arms. The service was complemented by snow-white damask linen napkins with the personal coat of arms and monogram of Nicholas II. The most important part of Renzhin’s collection are icons of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker and St. Alexandra – the heavenly patrons of the Emperor and Empress – painted for the coronation in1896.

In 1896, some 300 icons were ordered from the famous workshop of Osip Chirikov, of which Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna presented to the most honoured guests at the coronation celebrations in the Kremlin.

Of particular value are historic documents bearing autographs collected by Renzhin: the petition of the Empress Maria Feodorovna addressed to the Minister of War V.A. Sukhomlinov dated March 10, 1914 on the transfer of the building of the Main Directorate of Military Educational Institutions to the Museum of Old Petersburg; a note from Empress Alexandra Feodorovna to Adjutant General F.V. Dubasov and a prayer memorandum signed by her to a soldier walking on the battlefield. Numerous photographs, postcards, prints, books testify to life in peacetime and during the First World War.

In February 2021, the Museum of Emperor Nicholas II was forced to close its doors, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and almost 9 million rubles (more than $13,000 USD) in arrears of rent.

A Russian businessman Konstantin Malofeev, and founder of the Tsargrad TV channel, came to the rescue by providing Renzhin’s rare collection with a new venue in which to display his collection. The Museum of Emperor Nicholas II re-opened in the Museum of Russian Art, the former manor house of Nikolai Eremeevich Struisky (1749-1796) – situated in Moscow’s historical district – on 10th February 2021.

The Museum of Emperor Nicholas II is open daily to visitors.

© Paul Gilbert. 1 March 2023

Imperial Yacht Standart: Nicholas II’s Palace on the Seas

Elegant style yachts were once the norm among many of the world’s most important rulers. The British, the Royal Houses of Europe, and even the Americans have all at one time or another provided their leaders with beautifully appointed yachts that served for both recreational as well as official purposes. But few of these highly specialized ships can compare with the Imperial Yacht Standart, reserved exclusively for the use of Russia’s last emperor Nicholas II.

This handsome “ship of state” was a graceful seagoing vessel and was considered the most perfect ship of her type in the world. She was named after the famous frigate of Peter the Great, launched in 1703. Built to the Tsar’s own specifications, she was constructed in Copenhagen in 1895 by the Danish firm Burmeister-Wain. The shipyard still maintains a thriving existence but the plans no longer exist for the Standart due to the destruction of the shipyard brought on by two world wars.

Across the North Sea, however, a copy of the plans for the former Imperial Yacht are held in the archives of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. After a visit to Cowes, the future King Edward VII asked for the plans of the Standart. The plans had been preserved in 1895 by the Admiralty Office when plans for a new British royal yacht were under construction.

PHOTO: plans for the Imperial Yacht Standart

The Standart was a superb, black-hulled 5557-ton yacht measuring 401 feet in length and 50 feet wide, making it the largest private ship in the world. She was much larger and faster than that of the other Imperial Yacht’s, the Alexandria and the Polar Star reaching speeds of up to 21.18 knots. Anchored in a Baltic cove or tied up at Yalta, the Standart was as big as a small cruiser. She had been designed with the graceful majesty of a great sailing ship. She combined elegance and comfort and met all the requirements of a floating palace. A large gilded bowsprit in the shape of a double-headed eagle, lunged forward from her bow and three tall masts towered above her two white funnels. White canvas awnings stretched over smooth decks shielding the passengers from the sun, while informal wicker furniture on the main deck invited relaxation. Also on the main deck was a large dining saloon that could seat up to seventy-two guests at one long table for luncheon or dinner.

PHOTO: the Imperial Yacht Standart at Yalta (above), and Sebastopol (below)

Below deck was found a formal reception salon and drawing rooms panelled in mahogany, polished floors, brass and elegantly hung crystal chandeliers and velvet drapes. The Imperial Yacht even had its own chapel for the private use of the Imperial Family.

The Tsar’s Private Study was furnished in dark leather and simple wooden furniture. The Tsarina’s drawing room and boudoir were done in her favourite English chintz. On the walls could be found the indispensible icons or “windows to heaven” along with many photographs of her relatives and family.

Today there are hundreds of photographs in existence of the Standart taken by the Tsar and his family, their relatives and aides, whom at the time were making the most of the latest craze of Russia’s upper classes–photography.

PHOTO: a large bowsprit, covered with gold leaf, lunged forward from her bow

PHOTO: view of the deck of the Imperial Yacht Standart

Many of these photographs were family photos and never meant for public viewing. They were stuck neatly in old family albums and memory books. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, hundreds of these “windows on the past” have been published in handsome coffee-table books. To date, the most luxurious of these books has to be Русские императорские яхты каталог 17-20 век (Russian Imperial Yachts: 17th-20th Century) containing nearly 400 photographs [published in 1997, this Russian language book is now out of print].

Among these “pioneer” photographers was General Count Alexander Grabbe, who was often asked to accompany the Imperial Family when they sailed on the Standart to the Crimea and the islands of the Finnish archipelago. A selection of his photographs of the Imperial Yacht were published in 1984 by his son Paul Grabbe in The Private World of the Last Tsar: The Photographs and Notes of General Count Alexander Grabbe. A keen photographer, Grabbe’s photographs show the Tsar and his family onboard the Standart as a happy and carefree family, relaxing, playing games, dining with royalty, roller-skating and dancing.

Just before sailing and prior to the arrival of the Imperial Family, the ship was polished and cleaned from top to bottom. Sailors busied themselves above and below deck, checking the lifeboats and adjusting the awnings on the main deck. Officers and crew assembled on deck, all of whom saluted the Tsar as he came on board.

PHOTO: Nicholas II’s study (above) and chapel (below)

On the Standart, Tsar Nicholas II followed a daily routine. Early each morning he came on deck to check the weather. He also liked to make the rounds of the ship’s company as well as greet the Imperial Yacht’s warrant officers. It was not uncommon to see the young Tsesarevich Alexis, wearing a sailor’s uniform, accompany his father during these rounds. The Tsar was interested in navigation and he liked to discuss this subject with his Flag Captain, Admiral Nikov or as well as checking the yacht’s course with Captain Zelenetsky. The Tsar worked for two days each week while at sea, receiving and sending dispatches by the courier boats that arrived daily from the mainland.

When the Standart sailed, she was a glorious and spirited vessel and she attracted attention wherever she went. When the Tsar and his family were on board, a large household staff of footmen, stewards, butlers and cooks attended to their every need, in total she carried a crew of 275. The yacht was manned by a crew from the Russian Imperial Navy. Also on board was a platoon of marines as well as a brass band and a balalaika orchestra. In order to communicate with the mainland and other ships of the Russian Imperal Navy, the Standart was also equipped with radio, a novelty in 1912.

“This relationship of the Imperial Family to its entourage was very friendly and informal,” Count Grabbe recalls. “They were especially cordial with the officers of the Standart. These young men were exemplary–charming, modest, possessed of a great deal of dignity and tact, and incapable of intrigue.”

PHOTO: Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna relaxing on the deck of the ‘Standart

PHOTO: the Imperial Family in the dining room of the Imperial Yacht ‘Standart

The yacht was commanded by Rear-Admiral Lomen, who was responsible for the safety of the Tsar from the moment Nicholas II set foot on board any vessel, whether a yacht, a dreadnought or a launch. “The whole of the naval administration stood in mortal fear of the Admiral,” recalls A.A. Mossolov. “It is true that he asked a great deal, and if he was annoyed he could be extremely rude. He claimed that onboard the yacht the Tsar himself was under his orders! Off duty he was pleasant and sociable.”

The actual Commanding Officer of the Standart was Captain Tchaguin, and the second in command, Commander Nikolai Sablin. Both had the satisfaction of being thought of very highly by Their Majesties. In the letters which she wrote to the Tsar when he was at General Headquarters, the Tsarina frequently mentions Sablin.

Life at sea seemed to bring the best out in all the members of the Imperial Family. A.A. Mossolov recalls in his memoirs, “The Empress herself grew gay and communicative onboard the Standart. She joined in the children’s games, and had long talks with the officers.”

PHOTO: Empress Alexandra with her four daughters on the deck of the ‘Standart

PHOTO: Minister of the Imperial Court (1897-1917) Count Vladimir Frederiks with
Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich, on the deck of the Imperial Yacht ‘Standart’. 1911

The officers were certainly in an exceptional situation. Almost daily, the Tsar invited these officers to dinner and after the meal liked to play billiards with them or enjoy a game of dominoes. In return the Imperial Family accepted invitations to tea in the mess. On such occasions the Empress usually sat nearby, sewing, the Tsesarevich ran about with his playmates, while the Grand Duchesses, surrounded by all the young men, scattered throughout the yacht. “We form a united family,” the Empress used to remark on these memorable and happy voyages.”

The family vacations to the Crimea and their cruises on the Standart were a welcome change for the children in particular.

When the Imperial Family went onboard the Standart, each of the five children was assigned a diadka, a sailor charged to watch over the the child’s personal safety. The children played with these diadkas, played tricks on the them and teased them. Gradually the young officers of the Standart joined in the children’s games. As the Grand Duchesses grew older, the games changed into a series of flirtations, all very innocent of course. “I do not, of course, use the word ‘flirtation’ quite in the ordinary sense of the term,” remarks Mossolov, “the young officers could better be compared with the pages or squires of dames of the Middle Ages. Many a time the whole of the young people dashed past me, but I never heard the slightest word suggestive of the modern flirtation.” Moreover, the whole of these officers were polished to perfection by one of their superiors, who was regarded as the Empress’s squire of dames. As for the Grand Duchesses, even when the two eldest had grown up into real women, one might hear them taking like little girls of ten and twelve.

PHOTO: Nicholas II relaxing on the deck of the Imperial Yacht ‘Standart

“The girls loved the sea,” Count Grabbe comments, “and I well remember their joyful anticipation of these cruises on the Standart, which opened broader horizons for them, brought them new contacts, and permitted an intimacy that was other wise impossible. To be at sea with their father–that was what constituted their happiness.”

The Tsesarevich Alexis also loved the excursions on the Standart as well. He enjoyed accompanying the Tsar while he carried out his duties on board the Imperial Yacht. He loved to play games such as shuffleboard. On sunny afternoons it was not uncommon to find an exhausted Alexis stretched out and fast asleep under one of the many lifeboats on the main deck. At times, his haemophilia restricted his movements severely and photographs show the young Tsesarevich walking with the aid of a cane. Due to his illness, a favourite sailor was assigned to watch over Alexis. At first it was the sailor Andrei Derevenko who for some time was patient and conscientious in watching over his Imperial charge; his behaviour toward Alexis, however, became excessively mean after the Revolution. Fortunately, the Tsesarevich also had another sailor-attendant–the loyal Klimenty Nagorny. This sailor was later killed by the revolutionary army that overran Russia after World War I.

PHOTO: view of the Imperial Yacht Standart

PHOTO: the Imperial Yacht Standart on the Neva, St. Petersburg

So it was, that when the warm months of the summer rolled around that the Tsar and his family set sail on the Standart for their vacation off the coast of southern Finland. For the Tsar, there was no greater relaxation than these restful, seaborne excursions on his beloved Standart. Here his family and found a secluded bay surrounded by small islands where they could relax and enjoy their time together away from the palaces and rigid rules that governed the Russian court. This charming spot was such a favourite of Nicholas II and his family, that they returned to it every year and the children even nicknamed it the “Bay of Standart.”

While anchored in the bay, the Imperial Family lived on board the Standart but every day they would get into small launches and head for their chosen island. The island was uninhabited, which offered them complete freedom to picnic, relax, and enjoy the out-of-doors without fear of being observed by prying eyes. It was also on this little island that a tennis court was built for the Imperial Family, tennis being a favourite of the entire Imperial household.

PHOTO: “the wreck of the Standart“, 1907

In 1907, an unfortunate incident took place that was later known as “the wreck of the Standart.” The incident occurred on a fine day in the Finnish fjords when all of a sudden the Imperial yacht was shaken by a jolt at a moment when there was not the slightest reason for expecting anything of the sort. Immediately afterwards the yacht was heeled over. It was impossible to tell what might be coming next. The Empress rushed over to her children. She found them all expect the Tsesarevich, who was nowhere to be seen. The anguish of the two parents may only be imagined; they were both beside themselves. It proved impossible to move the yacht. Motor-boats started off towards her from every direction.

The Emperor hurried up and down the yacht, and gave the order for everybody to go in search of the Tsesarevich. It was only after some time that he was discovered safe and sound. At the first alarm his diadka, Derevenko, took him in his arms and very sensibly rushed to the “hawse-pipes,” since they offered the best chance of saving the boy if the vessel should be a total loss.

The panic subsided, and all onboard descended into the boats. An inquiry followed. The whole responsibility fell on the pilot, an old Finnish sea-dog, who was in charge of the navigation of the vessel at the moment of the disaster. Charts were hurriedly consulted and showed beyond any possible question that the rock on which the yacht had grounded was entirely uncharted.

There remained His Majesty’s Flag Captain, who was responsible in principle for the safety of the Imperial Family. At the time of the accident the post was held by Admiral Nilov, the only master, under God, of the fate of the yacht.

He was in such a state of mind after the accident that the Tsar felt bound to go to him in his cabin. Entering without knocking, the Tsar saw the Admiral bending over a chart, with a revolver in his hand. The Emperor tried to calm him. He reminded the Admiral that under naval regulations he would have to go before a court of inquiry, but, the Tsar added, there could be not a shadow of doubt that he would be acquitted, for the accident was entirely unforeseeable. The Tsar carried away the Admiral’s revolver.

“There was an immediate conspiracy of silence at Court about the wreck of the Standart, recalls Mossolov. “Everybody knew that the slightest criticism of the officers of the yacht would have brought down punishment on the head of anyone who ventured to utter it.”

“The officers were chosen for special gifts; their task was to create an atmosphere of a fairytale, a charming idyll. It may be that in technical knowledge they were not absolutely up-to-date.”

Many a royal personage was made welcome on board the Standart, including Queen Alexandra, sister of the Dowager Empress Marie, accompanied by her husband, King Edward VII, King Gustav of Sweden and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.

Despite the relaxed atmosphere of the excursions on the Standart, the safety and protection of the Imperial Family was still a top priority. The Tsar was so fearful of assassination that he had several cruisers accompany the yachts at all times. A warning, published in a Finnish newspaper in 1911, reads as follows;

“Notice to all mariners concerning seafaring regulations when the Russian Imperial Yacht is in Finnish waters: Fire will be opened on all commercial shipping and all yachts–whether motor, sail or steam-that approach the line of guard ships. All ships wishing to put to sea must seek permission not less than six hours in advance. Between sundown and sunrise, all ships underway may expect to be fired upon.”

Early in June 1914, as usual at this time of the year, the Tsar and his family went on a voyage to the Finnish fjords. The weather was hot, and stifling heat was interspersed with pouring rain. This year, Tsar Nicholas II was not to enjoy the picturesque landscape and relax with the serene joys of family life; since the end of June one piece of bad news had followed another. The assassination of the Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand–whom Nicholas and Alexandra had known very well–and the attempt on the life of Rasputin, disrupted the mental equilibrium of the Imperial couple. Within weeks, war was declared and the Standart, by order of the Tsar was placed in dry-dock, and he never again returned to the tranquility of the Finnish or Crimean coastline’s.

After the Revolution, the former Imperial Yacht was destined to be stripped of all its former elegance. In 1917, the Standart was renamed Vosemnadtsate Martza. In 1932, she was renamed Marti. Between then and December 1936, she was refitted as a drab, grey minelayer at the Marti Yard in Leningrad for service in the Soviet Navy. The heavy gun armament was fitted, as were mine rails. There were 4 rails on the mine deck, and 2 more on the upper deck. The mine deck could carry 580 mines, and 200 could be accommodated on the upper deck.

With the German invasion of Russia, the Marti laid some 3159 mines, and bombarded shore positions near Leningrad. On 23rd September 1941, Marti was damaged in an air attack at Kronstadt, but was quickly repaired to resume action on the 26th of the same month. In autumn 1941, some of her guns were used ashore at Leningrad.

After the war, Marti was refitted and converted to a training ship, renamed Oka. During the refit, the steam engines were replaced by diesels. She was scrapped at Tallinn in Estonia in 1963.

PHOTO: Nicholas II looking out to sea from the deck of the Imperial Yacht ‘Standart

FURTHER READING + additional photos and videos:

The Soviet Navy’s use of the Imperial Yacht “Standart” during WWII

The Fates of the Russian Imperial Yachts ‘Standart’ and ‘Polar Star’

125th anniversary of the first voyage of the Imperial Yacht “Standart”

© Paul Gilbert. 28 February 2023

New monument of Imperial Family to be installed at Murmansk airport

PHOTO: artist concept of new monument to the Imperial Family at the Nicholas II-Murmansk Airport (above); and the monument of Emperor Nicholas II and his family by the Russian sculptor Semyon Platonov (below)

In June 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the airport in the Russian arctic city of Murmansk would be renamed in honour of Emperor Nicholas II. Murmansk, Russia’s first ice free port was founded in 1916 by Nicholas II and named Romanov-on-Murman.

In the autumn of 2018 a nationwide online poll was held in which the Russian people could cast votes to rename 42 major airports across Russia. More than 5.5 million people took part in the ‘Great Names of Russia’ poll. More than 140,000 people in the Murmansk region took part in the poll on the renaming of Murmansk Airport. The names of Ivan Papanin and Boris Safonov were among the candidates, however. Russia’s last Tsar received 68,260 votes or 48% of the total votes tallied.

In December 2019, the head of the Kola District Administration announced plans to expand and modernize the Nicholas II-Murmansk Airport, which includes construction of a second terminal for flights within Russia began in 2021. The name of Nicholas II will be placed on the facades of each of the two terminals.

In addition is the reconstruction of the square in front of the main air terminal, of which several projects were considered. Initially, a bust-monument of Nicholas II was proposed, however, this idea has now been shelved.

In November 2020, a permanent photo exhibition dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II has opened in the terminal building of Murmansk Airport.

PHOTO: artist concept of the square in memory of Emperor Nicholas II at Murmansk Airport (above); and view of the of new monument to the Imperial Family to be installed in the center of the square (below)

On 26th January 2023, the architecture and landscaping firm Хмель in St Petersburg, published an artist’s concept by architect Marina Khmel of the new square in front of the Nicholas II-Murmansk Airport, the highlight of which will be a major sculptural composition of the last Russian Imperial Family.

The square in memory of Emperor Nicholas II will feature landscaped gardens with flowerbeds and trees, as well a place for holding events, information stands and temporary outdoor exhibitions. The square will also include a quiet space for travelers to rest, and a platform for boarding and disembarking from buses and cars.

In the center of the park will be a monument of Emperor Nicholas II and his family by the Russian sculptor Semyon Platonov. The sculptural composition is based on a famous photograph from 1913, which depicts Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna surrounded by their five children – Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei.

© Paul Gilbert. 28 January 2023

Monument to Nicholas II consecrated in Bijeljina

On 4th January 2023, a new monument to the Holy Royal Martyrs was installed and consecrated on the grounds of the Monastery of St. Petka in Bijeljina in Republika Srpska [one of the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the other being the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina].

The monument was made in bronze in the Russian style, by the Serbian sculptor from Belgrade, Milos Komad, and financed by the retired Bishop of Zvornik-Tuzla Vasilije.

The marble pedestal, and placement is the work of academician Drago Mirković, an artist, a great humanist and church benefactor. Mirkovic chose the inscriptions which appear on all four sides of the pedestal quotes by Sergei Bektayev, the Russian national poet, the texts of St. Peter of Cetinsky, Dostoevsky, Pushkin and Emperor Nicholas II’s words of support to the Serbs.

The combined height of the bronze monument and marble pedestal is almost 5 meters [16 ft.] high.

PHOTO: view of the bronze monument before it being mounted on the marble pedestal

PHOTO: full front and rear view of the Holy Royal Martyrs monument

© Paul Gilbert. 19 January 2023

Nicholas II in the news – Autumn 2022

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II on the deck of the Imperial Yacht Standart

Russia’s last Emperor and Tsar continues to be the subject of news in Western media. For the benefit of those who do not follow me on my Facebook page, I am pleased to present the following 7 full length articles, news stories and videos published by American and British media services, in addition, are several articles about Nicholas II’s family and faithful retainers.

Below, are the articles published in October, November and December 2022. Click on the title [highlighted in red] and follow the link to read each respective article:

The Officers’ Assembly Building in St. Petersburg – FREE Book

Download, print and read a FREE 94-page English-language copy of Officer Assembly Building by S. Kononov (2018), or the Russian-language edition Дом офицеров Санкт-Петербург.
The author has compiled a history of this magnificent building, and richly illustrated with vintage black and white photos, complimented with full colour photos of the building and its interiors, as they look today.

Source: Russia Beyond. 19 November 2022

British royal family and the last Romanovs pictured together + PHOTOS

Nicholas II was almost a “twin” of King George V, while THE two families had very close relative ties.

Source: Russia Beyond. 17 November 2022

‘The Crown’ Season 5 on Netflix: Fact and fiction in the ‘Russian episode’

A key episode in the new season of ‘The Crown’ – ‘Ipatiev House’ – dwells on the centuries-long relations between Britain and Russia. Here is one account of what is true in it and what is simply artistic invention, something the current season is particularly good at.

Source: Russia Beyond. 14 November 2022

Archival Documentary of the Russian Royal Family (VIDEO)

I am pleased to share the following NEW documentary prepared by the Museum in Memory of Emperor Nicholas II’s Family, which features rare footage, made from 98 fragments of film from 1896-1916.

Duration: 43 minutes. ENGLISH with closed captioning for the hearing impaired.

Source: The Romanov Royal Martyrs Project. 16 July 2022

Remembering the Romanov Children (VIDEO)

The Romanov children were extraordinary in their ordinariness. Despite being born in one of the highest and most enviable positions in the world, and having access to all possible worldly goods, they lived and were brought up like ordinary children. They were beautiful not only in their outward appearance, which was striking but primarily in their inner qualities. From their father, they inherited the traits of kindness, modesty, simplicity, an unshakable sense of duty, and an all-consuming love for their homeland. From their mother, they inherited deep faith, straightforwardness, self-discipline, and strength of spirit.

Duration: 37 minutes. ENGLISH with closed captioning for the hearing impaired.

Source: The Romanov Royal Martyrs Project. 27 October 2022

5 urban legends about Rasputin – the ‘wizard’ of the Romanovs

Did Rasputin really predict the death of the Romanov dynasty and the Revolution? And did he really treat the sickly tsesarevich with prayer alone, as well as act as gray eminence to the tsar? We did a fact check on the last Russian Royal Family’s notorious spiritual advisor.

Source: Russia Beyond. 7 October 2022

‘Fear God and Honor the Emperor

Some Thoughts on the Passing of HM Queen Elizabeth, of Blessed Memory’ by the Very Reverend Archpriest Michael Protopopov, the parish priest of the Church of Our Lady’s Dormition, Dandendong, Australia.

“Our beloved Queen of blessed memory, understood that royal power is a gift of God and that her subjects need to be educated before they can understand the deep implications of a government instituted by God and which is a reflection of the Divine Kingdom of God.

“The Queen was a perfect sovereign reigning within the bounds of Christian principles and not on the desire for personal power and authority; and she had the understanding that a true monarchical structure is a divine partnership in which God, the sovereign and the people all have an important role to play.”

Source: Orthodox Christianity. 5 October 2022


For MORE articles, please refer to the following links:

Nicholas II in the news – Summer 2022
12 articles published in July, August and September 2022

Nicholas II in the news – Spring 2022
7 articles published in April, May and June 2022

Nicholas II in the news – Winter 2022
6 articles published in January, February and March 2022

Paul Gilbert’s Romanov Bookshop on AMAZON – UPDATED with NEW titles!!

I have published more than 30 titles to date through AMAZON – featuring one of the largest selections of books on Nicholas II, the Romanov dynasty and the history of Imperial Russia.

Please CLICK on the BANNER or LINK above to review my current selection of titles in hardcover, paperback and ebook editions. Listings provide a full description for each title, pricing and a Look inside feature.

© 31 December 2022

Tula museum to host Nicholas II exhibit in 2023

Next year marks the 155th anniversary of the birth [19th (O.S. 6th) May 1868] and 105th anniversary of the death [17th July 1918] of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II. The Tula branch of the State Historical Museum in Moscow is now preparing a unique exhibition dedicated to these anniversaries.

The exhibition will give visitors an opportunity to “look” at the life of the Russian ruler and his family through the impartial lens of the camera. The exposition is emphatically documentary: rare photographs from the collection of the State Historical Museum which depict the private life of the Russian monarch. In addition, the exhibit will feature two topics: “Nicholas II as the head of the Russian Empire” and “Nicholas II as the head of the Imperial Family”.

In addition to photographs, portraits of Nicholas II and Akexandra Feodorovna, watercolors depicting episodes from the life of the Imperial Family, drawings of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, unique historical documents, including autographs of the last Romanovs, will be exhibited.

In addition, the exhibition will include precious orders presented to Nicholas II from the collection of the State Historical Museum. “These precious orders from European and Asian countries, stored in the collection of the numismatics department of the museum, rarely leave the walls of the fund,” said Director Alexey Levykin.

The exhibition presents Russian Orders awarded to Nicholas II[1], in addition to those given by Great Britain, Prussia, France, Austria-Hungary, Japan, Thailand and other European and Asian countries[2]. Many orders are exhibited for the first time.

“The orders were made of silver and gold and decorated with precious stones. Each exhibit outstanding craftsmanship, utilizing various jewelry techniques: gold embroidery, filigree, various types of enameling, engraving, and casting,” he added.

The Nicholas II exhibition will open in May 2023, the museum is planning a Russian-language illustrated exhibition catalogue.

The State Historical Museum in Moscow, opened the first regional branch in Tula at the end of September 2020 as part of the celebration marking the 500th anniversary of the Tula Kremlin.


[1] Nicholas II was the recipient of 7 national honours

[2] Nicholas II was the recipient of 51 foreign honours from 35 countries, duchies, etc

©  Paul Gilbert. 19 December 2022

Konstantin Pobedonostsev: symbol of Russian monarchal absolutism

PHOTO: Konstantin Pobedonostsev drinking tea in the garden of the Cottage Palace, the Peterhof residence of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, July 1898

Konstantin Petrovich Pobedonostsev was born in Moscow on 30th (O.S. 18th) November 1827. He remains one of the most interesting, yet controversial persons from the life and reign of Emperor Nicholas II.

Pobedonostsev was a Russian jurist, statesman, and adviser to three Tsars: Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II. Nicknamed the “Grand Inquisitor,” he came to be the symbol of Russian monarchal absolutism.

Pobedonostsev and Tsesarevich Alexander Alexandrovich [future Emperor Alexander III] remained very close for almost thirty years, through Alexander’s ascension as Tsar in 1881 and until his death in 1894. During the reign of Alexander III he was one of the most influential men in the Russian Empire. He was the mastermind of Emperor Alexander II’s Manifesto of 29th April 1881. The Manifesto on Unshakeable Autocracy proclaimed that the absolute power of the Tsar was unshakable thus putting an end to Loris-Melikov’s endeavours to establish a representative body in the empire.

Pobedonostsev was the chief spokesman for reactionary positions. He was the “éminence grise” of imperial politics during the reign of Alexander III, holding the the distinguished position of Chief Procurator of the Most Holy Synod, the non-clerical Russian official who supervised the Russian Orthodox Church [from 1880 to 1905].

In 1883, Emperor Alexander III appointed Konstantin Pobedonostsev, as chief tutor to his son and heir Nicholas Alexandrodovich [future Emperor Nicholas II].

Nicholas received a thorough training under the direction of the best teachers in Russia. Among his teachers, the one who exerted the greatest influence on him was undoubtedly the ultra-conservative Russian academic Konstantin Pobedonostsev, who was highly intelligent, widely read and very hardworking. Pobedonstsev believed that only the power and symbolism of an autocratic monarchy, advised by an elite of rational expert officials, could run the country effectively.

Pobedonostsev’s guidance and influence imbibed the principles of absolutism, dynasty, military greatness and the official religious tradition on the future Tsar. He constantly reminded Nicholas that the Tsar was anointed by God and was a divinely inspired source of wisdom and order.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II with Konstantin Pobedonostsev (far right). Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, both dressed in white (center) standing next to the Tsar. This photo was taken on the steps of the Cottage Palace, the Peterhof residence of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, July 1898

Following the death of Alexander III on 1st November [O.S. 20 October] 1894, Pobedonostev remained an aide to Nicholas II, although he lost much of his influence. While the new Tsar adhered to his father’s Russification policy and even extending it to Finland, he generally disliked the idea of systematic religious persecution, and was not wholly averse to the partial emancipation of the Church from civil control.

In 1901, Nikolai Lagovski, a socialist, tried to assassinate Pobedonostsev, shooting through the window of Pobedonostsev’s office, but missing. Lagovski was sentenced to 6 years.

It was Pobedonostsev who ordered the excommunication of the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy in 1901.

As the Chief Prosecutor of the Holy Synod – a position he held until 1905 – Pobedonostsev opposed the canonization of the Monk Seraphim of Sarov in 1903. Standing firm in his beliefs, Emperor Nicholas II ordered the canonization of Seraphim of Sarov.

Konstatnin Pobedonostsev died in St. Petersburg on 23rd March (O.S. 10th March) 1907. He was survived by his wife Ekaterina Alexandrovna, née Engelhardt (1848-1932), and their adopted daughter Martha (1897-1964).

Pobedonostsev’s funeral took place on 26th March (O.S. 13th March) 1907 at the Novo-Devichsky Convent; members of the Imperial Family were not present. He was buried at St. Vladimir Church in St. Petersburg. The church has not survived, however, the grave has survived to the present day.

© Paul Gilbert. 14 December 2022

Why Nicholas II Is Glorified As a Saint

by Ruslan Ward @ Russian Faith

People often ask why Tsar Nicholas II and his family were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church. The controversy reached a new high following the release of the controversial film ‘Matilda’ in Russia in 2017. Many people still question the sainthood of Tsar Nicholas II because of their criticism of his political and personal actions. The Russian television channel Tsargrad.TV released a video explaining the canonization. This article written by Ruslan Ward is based on a translation of the arguments in the video. It also complements the video material with other sources. 

Following the social upheaval caused by the Russian film “Matilda” in 2017, the timeworn question surfaced yet again: Why did the Russian Church canonize Tsar Nicholas II as a saint?

Some people are doubtful, saying: What kind of saint was he? He rejected the throne, destroyed the country, was a weak ruler, etc.

Though many of these accusations are actually inaccurate stereotypes, whether they’re true or not is irrelevant in this instance.

Let’s review, once again, how Christians understand “sainthood” and why the Church made the decision to name Nicholas II a saint. 

A saint is NOT a person who never sinnedA saint is definitely not someone who never made mistakes.

The Bible directly states that no man has ever lived, who has not sinned – Ecclesiastes 7:20: Surely there is no righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins. Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins.

A saint is someone who always strains towards God, becomes near to God, and, by the strength of God’s Grace, defeats evil in himself and in the surrounding world.

The Russian Orthodox Church has different categories for saints, that offer explanation what particular aspect of that person’s life made them pleasing and similar to Christ.

Here are a few examples: 

  • The Holy Martyrs are people who were faced with the choice between keeping their own lives and being faithful to Christ. They chose faith to Christ and lost their lives.
  • The Confessors are people who openly preached the faith during persecutions.
  • The Holy Unmercenaries are saints who exhibited extraordinary charity and generosity in the name of the Christian faith

In the Russian Orthodox Church, Nicholas II and his family were canonized (made saints) as Passion-bearers[1]. A Passion bearer is someone who faced his death in a Christ-like manner.

Passion-bearers die and suffer not for the explicit reason that they are Christians. They are people who were killed innocently, with no fault, but yet maintained an attitude of Christian meekness and love towards their persecutors and murderers, thus fulfilling God’s commandment.

An example of this love, of this meek approach to ones’ torturers, was given to us by Christ Himself.

Having been completely innocent on the Cross of Golgotha, Christ pronounced the words that totally changed the course history of humanity, offering a radically different approach to one’s enemies. The soldiers that had just crucified Christ were standing around the cross. They didn’t understand at all what had just happened, they didn’t understand WHO was dying on the Cross. They sat around the scene of violence and suffering, and threw lots for would take which article of Christ’s clothing home.

Yet Christ said “Lord, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

Emperor Nicholas and his entire family meekly, patiently accepted their unfair persecution, the surrounding unjust criticism and hate, the harsh treatment they received, and their violent, brutal death.

It’s well known that the Emperor was offered the chance to leave the country, to escape a horrifying end and save his own life and the life of other members of the family. But he consciously decided not to. He consciously remained in the country; he believed it was his duty. 

Nicholas II and his family have been named saints, because they accepted their sufferings and trials in a Christian manner; because they met death at the hands of those, who were moved by hatred and anger, with Christlike love and patience.

On the eve of the terrifying murder in Ipatyev house, Nicholas II’s eldest daughter, the Grand Duchess Olga wrote.

“Father asks the following message to be given to all those who have remained faithful to him, and to those on whom they may still have influence, that they should not attempt to take revenge for him, since he has forgiven everyone and prays for everyone. He wants them to remember that the evil which is now in the world will be become still stronger, but that evil will never conquer evil , but only Love…”

It was precisely for the reason of their unconquerable meekness, patience, and love, that the Tsar’s family are saints. Not for their political actions, not how saintly or “right” their lives were, but for how they met their horrible end: with Christian love and faith.

More about how they treated their trials and the people who hated and purposely tortured them from an article on Pravmir:

In Ekaterinburg they spent three hellish months of psychological torture – and yet they all retained their inward calm and state of prayer, so that not a small number of their tormentors were softened by these valiant Christian strugglers.

As Pierre Gilliard, the French tutor to the Tsarevich Alexis recalled:

“The courage of the prisoners was sustained in a remarkable way by religion. They had kept that wonderful faith which in Tobolsk had been the admiration of their entourage and which had given them such strength, such serenity in suffering.

They were already almost entirely detached from this world. The Tsaritsa and Grand Duchesses could often be heard singing religious airs, which affected their guards in spite of themselves.

Gradually these guards were humanised by contact with their prisoners.

They were astonished at their simplicity, attracted by their gentleness, subdued by their serene dignity, and soon found themselves dominated by those whom they thought they held in their power.

The drunken Avdiev found himself disarmed by such greatness of soul; he grew conscious of his own infamy. The early ferocity of these men was succeeded by profound piety.”

When this would happen, the inhuman Bolsheviks would replace the guards who had been so touched with crueller and more animalistic ones.

Seldom being allowed to go to church, they nevertheless nourished their souls with home prayers and greatly rejoiced at every opportunity to receive the Divine sacraments.

Three days before their martyrdom, in the very house in which they were imprisoned, there took place the last church service of their suffering lives.

As the officiating priest, Fr. John Storozhev, related:

“‘It appeared to me that the Emperor, and all his daughters, too, were very tired. During such a service it is customary to read a prayer for the deceased. For some reason, the Deacon began to sing it (which is usually done in memorial services for the reposed), and I joined him…As soon as we started to sing, we heard the Imperial Family behind us drop to their knees’ (as is done during funeral services)…

Thus they prepared themselves, without suspecting it, for their own death – in accepting the funeral viaticum.

Contrary to their custom none of the family sang during the service, and upon leaving the house the clergymen expressed the opinion that they ‘appeared different’ – as if something had happened to them.”

Not only the Tsar, but the whole of his blessed family, met their fate with truly Christian patience. Thus on March 13,1917, the Tsarevich Alexis wrote to his sister Anastasia:

“I will pray fervently for you and Maria. With God everything will pass. Be patient and pray.”

Shortly after the abdication the Empress said: “Our sufferings are nothing. Look at the sufferings of the Saviour, how He suffered for us. If this is necessary for Russia, we are ready to sacrifice our lives and everything.”

And again: “I love my country, with all its faults. It grows dearer and dearer to me… I feel old, oh, so old, but I am still the mother of this country, and I suffer its pains as my own child’s pains, and I love it in spite of all its sins and horrors… Since [God] sent us such trials, evidently He thinks we are sufficiently prepared for it. It is a sort of examination… One can find in everything something good and useful – whatever sufferings we go through – let it be. He will give us strength and patience and will not leave us. He is merciful. It is only necessary to bow to His will without murmur and wait – there on the other side He is preparing for all who love Him indescribable joy.


[1] The Moscow Patriarchate canonized the family as passion bearers: people who face death with resignation, in a Christ-like manner, as distinguished from martyrs, the latter historically killed for their faith. Proponents cited the piety of the family and reports that the Tsarina and her eldest daughter Olga prayed and attempted to make the sign of the cross immediately before they died.

The term “passion-bearer” is used in relation to those Russian saints who, “imitating Christ, endured with patience physical, moral suffering and death at the hands of political opponents. In the history of the Russian Church, such passion-bearers were the holy noble princes Boris and Gleb (1015), Igor of Chernigov (+ 1147), Andrei Bogolyubsky (+ 1174), Mikhail of Tverskoy (+ 1318), Tsarevich Dimitri (+ 1591). All of them, by their feat of passion-bearers, showed a high example of Christian morality and patience.

Despite their official designation as “passion-bearers” by the August 2000 Council, Nicholas II and his family are referred to as “martyrs” in Church publications, icons, and in popular veneration by the people.

*On 1st November 1981, Emperor Nicholas II, his wife, their five children and four faithful retainers were canonized as new martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR),

© Ruslan Ward @ Russian Faith. 11 December 2022

Nicholas II: News from Russian Media & Archival Sources

*This title is available from AMAZON in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia,
France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and Japan


English. Large 8-1/2″ x 11″ format, 256 pages, 300+ black & white photos

In this book, you will find more than 130 articles and news stories about exhibitions, new monuments, portraits, polls on Nicholas II’s popularity in post-Soviet Russia, updates on the restoration of the Alexander Palace, events marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Nicholas II and the 100th anniversary of his death and martyrdom, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ekaterinburg remains and much more.

These articles and news stories were originally published in Sovereign (2015-2020) and Royal Russia (2011-2020). Both of these periodicals are no longer published, the back issues out of print, therefore, I am pleased to offer these important materials in one concise volume. They are complemented with more than 300 black and white photographs, many of which have never been published in any Western newspaper, magazine or book. Each article has been sourced from Russian media and archival sources, and translated into English.

While this collection of articles and news stories, may not appeal to every one, it will prove a valuable research tool for those studying the life and reign of Nicholas II, particularly as he is perceived in modern-day Russia.

Paul Gilbert’s Romanov Bookshop on AMAZON

I have published more than 30 titles to date through AMAZON – featuring one of the largest selections of books on Nicholas II, the Romanov dynasty and the history of Imperial Russia. These include both new titles and reprints of titles which have out of print for years.

Please CLICK on the BANNER or LINK above to review my current selection of titles in hardcover, paperback and ebook editions. Listings provide a full description for each title, pricing and a Look inside feature.

© Paul Gilbert. 7 November 2022

© Paul Gilbert. 2 December 2022

Portrait of Nicholas II still bears the cuts made by Bolshevik bayonets in 1917

PHOTO: the portrait of Emperor Nicholas II, painted by Nun Emeliana (Batalov), still bears the cuts made by Bolshevik bayonets in 1917

During his reign, Emperor Nicholas II never visited the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent in Ekaterinburg, however, when a request was made by one of the nuns to paint his portrait came, the Emperor granted this favour. It was Nun Emeliana (Batalov), who painted the portrait of the Emperor wearing the uniform of the Life-Guards Hussar Regiment. The portrait – a gift marking the 1896 coronation – was sent to Moscow, where it was presented to the new Emperor at a reception held in the Grand Kremlin Palace. Nicholas was so pleased with the portrait, that he ordered that it be sent to St Petersburg, where it was to be hung in one of the rooms of his private apartments in the Winter Palace.

In October 1917, during the assault on the Winter Palace, the portrait was cut by the bayonets of Bolshevik thugs. For the next 12 years, the portrait sat gathering dust in the attic of the Winter Palace, until it was transferred to Museum of the October Revolution in Leningrad. During the Soviet years, the portrait hung in the museum or more than 70 years. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the portrait was restored, leaving, however, the cuts made by the bayonets as a poignant reminder of the dark days of the Bolshevik Revolution which swept Russia and the monarchy into an abyss.

Today, the portrait hangs in the Museum of Political History of Russia (located in the former mansion of Mathilde Kschessinska) in St. Petersburg.

© Paul Gilbert. 29 November 2022