20th anniversary of the Canonization of Nicholas II and his family

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Bas-relief on the wall of the Chapel of the Royal Passion-Bearers in Kostroma

On this day – 20th August 2000 – after much debate, Emperor Nicholas II and his family were canonized as passion bearers by the Moscow Patriarchate

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.

NOTE: The family was canonized on 1st November 1981 as new martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR).

This bas-relief also depicts their servants, who had been killed along with the Imperial family. They were also canonized as new martyrs by the ROCOR in 1981 The canonized servants were Yevgeny Botkin, court physician; Alexei Trupp, footman; Ivan Kharitonov, cook; and Anna Demidova, Alexandra’s maid. Also canonized were two servants killed in September 1918, lady in waiting Anastasia Hendrikova and tutor Catherine Adolphovna Schneider. All were canonized as victims of oppression by the Bolsheviks.

On 3 February 2016, the Bishop’s Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) canonized Dr. Botkin as a righteous passion bearer. They did not canonize the servants, two of whom were not Russian Orthodox: Trupp was Roman Catholic, and Schneider was Lutheran.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 August 2020

Putin, the Church and the last Tsar

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

Since coming to power in 1999, Russian President Vladimir Putin has embraced the Russian Orthodox Church and the symbols of Imperial Russia

Today, the Romanovs are the subject of a rather unusual debate between two powers that have reconciled in Putin’s Russia: the Church and the State.

For more than two decades, the heads of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) – Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008) and Patriarch Kirill (2009-present) – both refused to recognize the remains found in the vicinity of Ekaterinburg as those belonging to the Imperial family.

Even after successive DNA tests, the ROC prevented the bones of Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister Grand Duchess Maria from being buried with the rest of the their family in the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul in St. Petersburg.

The issue made headlines again in July, when the Russian Investigative Committee, the country’s top criminal investigation body, confirmed that, after 37 new forensic analyzes, it was possible to conclude – again – that the bones belonged to members of the Imperial family.

“Based on the numerous findings of the experts, the investigation came to the conclusion that the remains belong to Nicholas II, his family and their retainers,” said a committee spokesperson.

But why does Russia’s leading criminal investigation body continue to reconfirm facts related to a homicide that happened more than a century ago?

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President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia

A long way

The whereabouts of the remains of the Imperial family were one of the best kept secrets during the Soviet period.

Only in 1979 did a geologist with an amateur detective streak, Alexander Avdonin, discover the first bones in the vicinity of Porosenkov Log, near Ekaterinburg.

Citing fear of reprisals from the regime, he reburied them where he found them and kept them there until 1991, after the Soviet Union disintegrated.

An extensive investigation and a series of DNA tests (for which even Prince Philip donated blood) proved that the bones belonged to Nicholas II, his wife, three of their five children and four retainers who were also murdered with the Imperial family.

One of the big questions Russia was asking at the time was where were the remains of the Imperial couple’s other two children. Anastasia’s whereabouts were also cause for speculation, but evidence has since proven that she died along with her family.

“In 1998, after a five-year investigation, the Russian government decided to bury the bones in the Romanovs family tomb in St. Peter and St. Paul’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg, as a political gesture of reconciliation and atonement for the crimes committed in the Soviet period”, says Marina Alexandrova, a professor at the University of Texas, in the United States.

The Holy Synod, the governing body of the Orthodox Church, however, opposed the decision and called for a more thorough investigation before the burial.

“Due to the political motivation of the event and the absence of consultation with the Russian Orthodox Church, the patriarch did not participate in the ceremony and rejected the test results,” says the professor.

The country’s president at the time, Boris Yeltsin, challenged the Church and gave the green light for the funeral. The act was the background of great friction that marked the Yeltsin government and the head of the Orthodox Church – at the time still weakened by decades of Soviet oppression.

Yeltsin would resign shortly afterwards, on the night of December 31, 1999, leaving the post in the hands of his then prime minister, a former KGB agent who had become his discreet shadow: Vladimir Putin.

A new stage in the relationship between State and Church then began.

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Emperor Nicholas II and Russian President Vladimir Putin

Putin, the Church and the last tsar

As Pablo de Orellana, professor at King’s College London, UK, explains, the beginning of Putin’s government marked a new phase, of “rescuing” the Romanov dynasty, which went beyond the golden double-headed eagles and other symbols of Imperial Russia.

“In his administration, some traditions of Tsarist Russia were re-instituted,”  he points out, “But I believe that one of the most important elements in this regard is the rebirth of the Orthodox Church, which has returned to being as powerful as before and is now recognized as the country’s official religion.”

In a referendum held in June to determine whether Putin would remain in power until 2035, Russians also voted Orthodoxy the country’s official religion, which was seen as a consolidation of relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Kremlin.

And it is in this new context that the Romanovs become key figures for the powers. “The Russian Imperial family is vital for the current regime and for the nationalist narrative that drives it, because it is the connection between Russia’s past and present, between the before and after of the Soviet regime,” says De Orellana.

“For the Church, the Romanovs’ theme is central, because the Russian Orthodox Church is part of the Imperial family and the Imperial family is part of the Church.”

Since Putin’s rise to power, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church has proclaimed the last tsar, his wife and children, as saints, which was viewed with fear in a country where the Imperial family are still victims of a century of myths and lies, much of which are based on Bolshevik propaganda.

In addition to canonization, the Church also decided to build a grand church on the spot where the family was murdered in Ekaterinburg.

But one theme remained an obstacle: the authenticity of the remains of the last tsar.

“The Russian Church has been reluctant to recognize the bones as belonging to the Romanov family since they were officially exhumed in 1991 near Ekaterinburg,” says Alexandrova.

“And although multiple DNA tests and forensic analyzes in Russia and other countries have shown that they do indeed belong to the Imperial family, their doctor and three faithful servants, the issue remains controversial to this day.”

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Alexei and Maria

The remains of the tsar’s two other children who were not found with the family were not discovered until many years later, in 2007.

“DNA tests carried out both inside and outside Russia have confirmed that they are the remains of Alexei and Maria,” says the professor at the University of Texas.

“The Russian Orthodox Church, however, again refused to acknowledge the discovery and denied the burial in the family tomb.”

In the years that followed, the boxes containing 44 bone fragments remained on dusty shelves in the Russian State Archives. In December 2015, their remains were transferred to the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow, where they remain to this day.

“Their remains have not yet been buried, which, ironically, runs counter to orthodox tradition in general.”

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Members of the Imperial family were exhumed so that new DNA tests could be performed

New investigations

In 2008, the Russian Supreme Court officially rehabilitated the Imperial family and recognized that Nicholas II and his family were victims of political repression.

Two years later, another Russian court ordered the investigation into the murder to be reopened, which was in charge of the country’s top criminal investigation body.

In 2015, as determined by instances of the Orthodox Church, the remains of the Imperial family were once again exhumed and subjected to DNA tests, which confirmed again that it was the Tsar and his family – including Alexei and Maria.

The funeral of the last Romanovs was scheduled to take place in October of this year, but the Church asked to postpone the ceremony again to conduct an investigation of its own. “To date, no results have been announced,” says Alexandrova.

On the eve of the centenary of the massacre in 2018, the Russian government announced that the new investigation had once again confirmed that the bones belonged to the Romanovs. This year, again on a date close to the anniversary, they again released the findings.

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The reasons for the debate

According to De Orellana, the dispute over the authenticity of the remains found in Ekaterinburg shows how, during the Putin government, the Church once again became a “legitimizing institution” – and that, therefore, “also legitimizes what one wants to tell about history. “.

“We see this in how the Church on several occasions had the final say, as in the question of where the bodies will be”, he points out.

In this sense, the expert believes that the position of the church in the case of the Romanovs generates a delicate political conflict.

“The Putin government needs to end the story, it needs the bodies to be ‘found’ also symbolically, ‘to bring them home’ and to have a place where they can be celebrated.”

“All this reconstruction is important, because Putin reinvented Russian nationalism based on the same nationalist theories as the tsars. In other words, it is not just an obsession to demonstrate that the bones actually belong to the last Tsar and his family, but an effort to establish continuity between the past and today’s Russia”, he adds.

Roman Lunkin, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society, a state organization, assesses that both the government and the Church are involved in a mutual process of revisionism of the history of Tsarism for “their own benefit”.

“The Russian Church does not want to recognize that the remains belong to the Imperial family, because there is a risk of internal division as a consequence of this,” he ponders.

According to Alexandrova, according to orthodox beliefs, it is a serious sin to pray before “false images”. The church, for its part, is reluctant to accept the result of the investigations carried out until today on the grounds that it was not invited to participate in the process.

There are still some people who believe that members of the Imperial family had managed to escape and live in secrecy in Europe and the United States.

“They think that what happened in 1918 was a ritual murder by Bolsheviks of Jewish origin. There is also a movement that sees Nicholas II as a Christlike figure who died for the sins of the Russians.”

Even if these movements are not really popular, he says, they would be strong enough to cause repercussions in the media, something that the head of the Church would certainly like to avoid.

“For the Church, the murder of the Imperial family is a symbol of all the evil of the Soviet period, of Satanism and of Marxist ideology. For the State, however, the Soviet period is also a period of victories – and the last tsar is not an example of a strong leader, “says Lunkin.

“So it is evident that the glorification of the Imperial family means different things for both the state and the church.”

© Paul Gilbert. 10 August 2020

ROC Investigation Committee confirms (again) the authenticity of Ekaterinburg remains

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On the eve of the 102nd anniversary of the death and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family at Ekaterinburg on 17th July 1918, the senior investigator of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Marina Molodtsova provided an update on the criminal investigation initiated in 2015 by the Russian Orthodox Church.

During an interview with the Izvestia News Agency, Molodtsova was asked, “you have been investigating the circumstances of the death and burial of the Tsar and his family for more than three years. What new information did the investigation manage to find out during this time?”

“Since the resumption of the case in 2015, 37 new forensic examinations have been carried out, including forensic (anthropological), molecular genetic, trasological, and handwriting analysis among others,” she stated. “In addition, various kinds of investigative experiments were conducted as part of the investigation. In some cases, their results allowed us to reconstruct a more complete picture of events.”

“For example, in the murder room located in the basement of the Ipatiev House, the dimensions of the room were reproduced. This recreation refuted the arguments by some researchers that 11 victims and the participants in the murders could not fit into such a small room.”

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The basement room in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, where the Imperial Family were murdered

“Another investigative experiment refuted the popular held version that the bodies of the dead were destroyed using sulphuric acid and fire.” But many people consider this a fact, asked Izvestia.

“Yes, this theory has been rehashed for many years in popular science and historical publications. However, it was found that applying concentrated sulphuric acid to the surface of biological tissue slows down the process of their subsequent burning,” added Molotsova.

When asked what else was learned from the forensic examinations, Molodtsova replied:

“As part of the investigation, handwriting examinations were carried out on the notes of Commandant of the House of Special Purpose Yakov Yurovsky. His notes set out the events which occurred, including those on the night of 16/17 July 1918. The experts determined that on the now famous “Yurovsky Note” stored in the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF) in Moscow, corrections made to the note were made by Yurovsky himself, while another person added marginal notes and the addition at the end of the text.”

“Also, handwritten corrections in the transcript of Yurovsky’s speech at the meeting of the old Bolsheviks on 1st February 1934 (where he boasted about the regicide in Ekaterinburg) were made by Yurovsky himself.”

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Senior investigator of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Marina Molodtsova

Molodtsova also noted, “in order to solve the questions posed as part of the judicial, historical and archival examination of the fate of the Imperial Family, a systematization of some 2,000 historical sources, including those located abroad, was carried out. Some of these sources are multi-volume. A lot of books and scientific papers have been written about the events surrounding the murder of the Imperial Family. The media regularly report a variety of versions and assumptions. We have checked all these contemporary versions as well. However, in this case, we have only taken into account the data from archival documents, primary sources and the results of both the previous and recent examinations.”

Not everyone recognizes that the remains found in 1979 near Ekaterinburg belong to members of the Imperial Family, so what is the situation with their identification now?

“Based on numerous examinations, the investigation has concluded that the remains belong to Nicholas II, his family and their faithful retainers,” added Molodtsova. “Nevertheless, we continue to collect materials and conduct further forensic examinations which we deem necessary in order to eliminate the slightest doubt. At the end of all examinations, their results will be evaluated.”

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Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich in Nagasaki, Japan. 1891

“For example, now experts are proposing to make a 3D-model of a hat, which was on the head of Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich at the time of the assassination attempt on his life in Japan. It is now kept in the Collection of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Three-dimensional copies of the hat and skull, identified as “N.A. Romanov,” can be compared and assessed if the marks found on the hat and the wound found on the skull match. The healed wounds were found on the right side of the cranial vault during an anthropological examination.”

“According to the mechanism of occurrence, localization, relative position, shape and dimensional characteristics, they are similar to the description of the injuries on the head of Nicholas Alexandrovich inflicted on him in 1891.”

Molodtsova was also asked which experts the investigation team turned to work with on the criminal case:

“Honoured scientists, doctors and candidates of science – honoured doctors of the Russian Federation, highly qualified forensic experts, prominent historians and archivists; geneticists were involved in conducting historical-archival, forensic (anthropological) and molecular genetic forensic examinations. Among them are the President of the History Department of Moscow State University Sergey Pavlovich Karpov; Rector of the Russian State Humanitarian University Alexander Bezborodov; Olga Yuryevna Vasilieva (Minister of Education of the Russian Federation from 2016 to 2020); associate professor of the Historical Archive Institute of the Russian State Humanitarian University Evgeny Vladimirovich Pchelov; chief specialist of the State Archives of the Russian Federation Zinaida Ivanovna Peregudova; and chief specialist of the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political Sciences Lyudmila Anatolyevna Lykova,”

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Search for the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria in 1999

“I want to emphasize that all the specialists we have recruited are not exempt from their official activities and conduct research on a gratuitous basis,” Molotsova added.

The senior investigator was also asked about the study of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria found in 2007, and where their remains are stored today:

“According to the conclusion of molecular genetic examinations, the remains of two persons discovered in the summer of 2007 near the first burial place of nine other victims belong to the daughter and son of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. Biological kinship for both parents was established with the maximum probability for both Alexei and Maria.”

“Due to the small number of bone fragments found, it can be assumed that one or more additional burial sites may be located near the place of discovery of the remains of two persons in 2007, that of Alexei and Maria. Their remains are in storage at the Novo-Spassky Monastery in Moscow, since all the necessary expert studies have not yet been completed.”

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Investigator Nikolai Sokolov

But what about the documents of the investigator Nikolai Sokolov:

“Copies of these materials are attached to our criminal case and are considered part of the evidence. As part of a historical and archival examination, data from official inspection reports compiled by Nikolai Sokolov and those cited in his book The Murder of the Tsar’s Family were initially compared with other materials. Significant discrepancies were revealed in the details and circumstances of the discovery of Sokolov’s investigation. This is of great importance: public opinion on this case was mainly based on the facts set forth in Sokolov’s book, since the primary sources on this issue were not available.”

“We are in regular communication with the Church Commission to study all the results of the remains found near Ekaterinburg. The investigation, in the manner prescribed by law, answers all questions that come to us from representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is important to note that locating materials on this criminal case has been a very complicated and laborious process. No single register of all the documents in the case of the murder of the Imperial Family exists.’

“We have researched sources from around the world. These include public and private archives, museums and libraries in various cities in both Russia and abroad.”

“Finally, this important investigation has been the quintessence of many years of work by investigators, experts, scientists and researchers. The purpose of the investigation is to recreate and examine all the events and their participants as thoroughly as possible, objectively, using all the achievements of modern science. This is the task that the Chairman of the Investigative Committee set when he decided to transfer the criminal case to the Main Directorate for the Investigation of Highly Important Cases. We try to do our job professionally, efficiently and in strict accordance with the law. And the solution of questions of this kind does not apply to our work – rather, it needs to be asked to the public.”

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The remains of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg, 1997

On a final and personal note, as the investigation seems to be coming to a close, can we at last see a light at the end of the tunnel? Will the Russian Orthodox Church, at long last bring closure to this highly emotional and contentious issue? For the time being, we will have to wait until October when the bishops of the Holy Synod meet. Let us all hope and pray that they will at last accept the truth.

© Paul Gilbert. 19 July 2020

Faithful to the End: Klimenty Nagorny and Ivan Sednev 

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

Today – 28th June 2020, marks the 102nd anniversary of the death and martyrdom of two faithful servants to Emperor Nicholas II and his family – Klimenty Grigorievich Nagorny and Ivan Dmitriyevich Sednev. 

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

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Nagorny and Tsesarevich Alexei in Tsarskoe Selo, 1907

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

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

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

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

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

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

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Sednev and Alexeei Nikolaevich, in the Finnish skerries, 1914 

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

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

© Paul Gilbert. 28 June 2020

Tsar’s Days in Ekaterinburg 2020

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A Divine Liturgy is held on the night of 16/17 July at the Church on the Blood

Despite the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Tsar’s Days events will go ahead as planned in the Ural city of Ekaterinburg. Russia has been hard hit by the coronavirus, reported more than 371,000 cases to date.

A press release from the Ekaterinburg City Hall has confirmed that in 2020, Tsar’s Days will be held from 12 to 21 July. Tsar’s Days is the annual festival of Orthodox culture in Ekaterinburg and the Sverdlovsk Region, marking the deaths and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, who were murdered by the Bolsheviks in the Ipatiev House on 17th July 1918. The festival includes divine services, religious processions, exhibitions, concerts and other events.

The main event, for which thousands of Orthodox pilgrims come to Ekaterinburg, is the solemn liturgy, which takes place on the night of the murder of the Holy Royal Martyrs – 16/17 July, in the Church on the Blood. At the end of the Liturgy, tens of thousands of pilgrims take part in the 21 km Cross procession from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama.

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Pilgrims take part in the 21 km Cross procession from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg
to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama

In addition, several exhibitions will be held in Ekaterinburg, including From Repentance to the Resurrection of Russia, which will be held from 12-19 July. Representatives of the largest Orthodox churches from across Russia, Ukraine, Greece and other countries will take part.

The first Tsar’s Days was held in Ekaterinburg in 2001. In 2018, the year marking the 100th anniversary of the regicide in the Ural capital, attracted more than 100,000 Orthodox pilgrims, monarchists, among others from across Russia and around the world.

© Paul Gilbert. 27 May 2020

“It is important for our society to reconsider Nicholas II” – Metropolitan Kirill

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Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye

On 19th May 2020, the day marking the 152nd anniversary of the birth of Emperor Nicholas II, Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye, gave a sermon at the Church on the Blood, urging Russian society to make a fresh assessment of Russia’s much slandered Tsar.

Emperor Nicholas II was born on the day of the Righteous Job the Long-suffering, and his memory is celebrated by the Church on 6th May in the old calendar or on 19th May according to a new style.

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The birthday of Saint Tsar Nicholas Alexandrovich on 19th May almost always falls during the days of Pascha, the feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Church on Blood in the Ural city of Ekaterinburg, on the Russian Golgotha, the memory of the Holy Tsar Martyr, born 152 years ago, on the day of memory of the Righteous Job the Long-suffering, and who was martyred 102 years ago in Ekaterinburg, who suffered for Christ, is especially celebrated. for the Orthodox faith and for Holy Russia.

In Ekaterinburg, the earthly life of a great, very kind and decent man, the anointed of God, whom we revere with love today, has ended. Today, the veneration of the Tsar-Martyr is strong among believers, however, Bolshevik myths and lies about the “weak-willed ruler Nicholas the Bloody” remain embedded in our modern-day secular society.

If we use the language of images that is inherent in modern society, whom are less and less inclined to read and think for themselves, one can weigh the enormity of the atrocity without words, it is enough to compare the photographs of the victims and the executioners. On the one hand is a photograph of the Holy Family: Tsar Nicholas, Tsarina Alexandra and their five children, and on the other is a photograph of their killers. Two very different worlds are clearly reflected In this “mirror”: light, mercy and kindness, almost heavenly beauty, on the one side, anger and black-hearted hatred, on the other.

We must understand that the people who committed the massacre of the Imperial Family and their followers for decades ruled the Russia in which we live today. The ideologists of Bolshevism needed to justify the murder of the Tsar’s family and their loyal subjects, to justify their brutal reprisals and repressions, which were committed during their reign of terror. Having launched their campaign of murder and oppression, the Bolsheviks and later the Soviets completely erased from the textbooks of history and public consciousness the large-scale achievements and great achievements of Nicholas II’s reign.

This glaring contradiction in many respects affects our contemporaries today who cannot understand and accept a Christian life and the Orthodox worldview of the Holy Tsar Nicholas. And he was truly a Christian – sincere, kind, decent, warm-hearted, pious and honourable. Therefore, for us, this date is the day of our constant and pure repentance for the atrocity committed by our ancestors …

Repentance is a change of consciousness. In relation to the Tsar’s family, this is a rethinking of the role of the Tsar Martyr in Russia’s history, a change in our attitude towards him. Yes, this activity is ongoing, but its scope is extremely modest in the absence of state ideology.

But in a world where the image of the Holy Tsar still remains slandered and distorted, and the streets, squares, and even entire regions bear the names of murderers, to this day there is no repentance. Is spiritual healing of our society possible without such a change? Is it any wonder today when among us there are those who draw the swastika, raise their hands in a Nazi salute, try to include Nazi photographs in the Immortal Regiment, putting the murderers and those killed in the memorial march? These are people brought up on the very contradictions of our public and state life.

Therefore, until sincere repentance occurs, we are doomed to suffer from the lack of spirituality of modern society, having Victory Day as the only national holiday, forgetting the Kulikovo Field, the Battle of Borodino and many other glorious victories of the Russian soldier, Russian people, sanctified by Orthodox prayer and faith. Until then, people will continue to desecrate the churches of the Fatherland, for whom there is nothing sacred in this life, because it was destroyed a century ago, when Russian history was swept into an abyss, the Russian state, including here in Ekaterinburg, where a memorial church stands today on the sight of the Ipatiev House, where on the night of 16/17 July 1918, the blood of the Holy Royal Martyrs was spilled. This seal of regicide lies today in the city where the atrocious crime took place. It’s regrettable, but much less attention is paid to preserving the memory of the Holy Tsar than the memory of their monster killers,

Therefore, today, living here, on the site of Russian Calvary, we have a great and special responsibility before God, before the Holy Church, before our Russian Motherland and before the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs. If others around us do not repent, we must do this all the time. The memory of the Holy Tsar and the fact that the last days of his holy life passed here in Ekaterinburg, that it was here that he accepted his martyrdom – this is our personal responsibility to the Holy Church and to all those future generations of people who, hopefully, have something they can change within their own environment and our region will not bear the name of any of the men who participated in regicide.

And while we are serving the Divine Liturgy at the Tsar’s Altar, while we honour the memory of the Holy Martyr Tsar Nicholas and all the new martyrs who were killed for the Orthodox faith and for our Holy Fatherland, until then we can still hope for God’s mercy. We will pray to God and meekly, humbly – like the Holy Tsar himself – to wish salvation to everyone who lives among us, who is our compatriot, and who today does not know or does not want to know the feat of the Holy Tsar and all the new martyrs and confessors of the Russian Church – who to this day they stand for Holy Russia, they protect us and do not let everything that has been gathered in our Fatherland for centuries and that today is held by some special Divine power, preserving our people, our country on this earth in peace and prosperity .

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, great efforts by historians and the Russian Orthodox Church to research and establish a fresh and honest reassessment of the last Russian Tsar, but in the absence of a state ideology and a clear position on this issue, all this is but a small fraction.

It was in Ekaterinburg in May 2018, on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the birth of the last Russian Emperor, on the initiative of the World Russian People’s Cathedral and the Double-Headed Eagle Society, that a public forum was held to preserve the heritage of Tsar Nicholas II. Scientists and members of the public raised the issue of preserving the historical memory of the Sovereign, gathered to recognize the merits of Nicholas II on the development of the Russian state and public assessment of the murder of the Tsar’s family, committed a century ago. Today, the results of this forum require further development.

 

© Paul Gilbert. 26 May 2020

78 nightly Divine Liturgies in the Church on the Blood for the Holy Royal Martyrs

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An icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs set against the backdrop of the entrance to the so-called
Royal (aka Imperial) Room, in the lower church of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg

On 30th April, an evening Divine Liturgy was served in memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs in the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg. A Divine Liturgy will be held every night from 30th April to 17th July – marking the 78 days in which Emperor Nicholas II along with his family and faithful retainers were held under arrest in the Ipatiev House.

Night liturgies are traditionally held in the so-called Royal (aka Imperial) Room, situated in the lower church of the Church on the Blood. An altar was erected on the site of the murder of the Imperial family in the early morning hours of 17th July 1918. In 2018 the room and the altar were decorated with the blessing of the Metropolitan of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky Cyril to the 100th anniversary of the death and martyrdom of the Imperial family.

The tradition of holding 78 nightly Divine Liturgies in the Church on the Blood from 30th April to 17th July was established with the blessing of the ruling bishop in 2018.

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

Click HERE to read my article The Imperial Room in the Church on the Blood, Ekaterinburg + 17 PHOTOS and 2 VIDEOS

© Paul Gilbert. 5 May 2020

NEW BOOK! Bones of Contention: The Russian Orthodox Church and the Ekaterinburg Remains

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CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Full-colour covers, 156 pages + 55 black & white photographs
Author: Paul Gilbert                     Price: $20 + postage

The reopening of the investigation into the death of Nicholas II and his family in 2015, caused a wave of indignation against the Russian Orthodox Church. This book presents the position of both the Moscow Patriarchate and the Investigation Committee.

This is the first English language title to explore the position of the Orthodox Church in Russia with regard to the Ekaterinburg remains. The author’s research for this book is based exclusively on documents from Russian media and archival sources.

This unique title features an introduction by the author, plus three essays and three interviews, on such topics as the grounds for the canonization of Nicholas II and his family by the Moscow Patriarchate in 2000; comparative details of the Sokolov investigation in 1919, and the investigations carried out in the 1990s to the present; reluctance of the Moscow Patriarchate to officially recognize the remains as authentic; interesting findings of Russian journalist, producer and screenwriter Elena Chavchavadze in her documentary Regicide. A Century of Investigation; and the author’s own attempt to provide some answers to this ongoing and long drawn-out investigation for example: “Will Alexei and Maria be buried with the rest of their family?” and “Will the Imperial Family remains be reinterred in a new cathedral in Ekaterinburg?”.

Interviews with Vladimir Soloviev, Chief Major Crimes Investigator for the Central Investigate Department of the Public Prosecution Office of the Russian Federation and Archpriest Oleg Mitrov, a member of the Synodal Commission for the Canonization of Saints – BOTH key players in the Ekaterinburg remains case, reveal the political undertones of this to this ongoing and long drawn-out investigation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Independent researcher Paul Gilbert has spent more than 25+ years researching and writing about the Russian Imperial Family. His primary research is focused on the life, reign and era of Nicholas II. On 17th July 1998, he attended the tsar’s interment ceremony at the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Twenty years later, he attended the Patriarchal Liturgy on the night of 16/17 July 2018, held at the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg. Since his first visit to the Urals in 2012, he has brought prayers and flowers to both Ganina Yama and Porosenkov Log on numerous occasions.

© Paul Gilbert. 2 May 2020

Feodorovsky Town in Tsarskoye Selo

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Pre-revolutionary view of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral in Tsarskoye Selo

For most visitors to Russia, a visit to Tsarskoye Selo (today known as Pushkin), includes the Catherine Palace and the nearby Alexander Palace. Sadly, they overlook some of the other buildings which reflect the era of Tsar Nicholas II. Among these are the Feodorovsky Gorodok (Town), which also includes the magnificent Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral, the Martial Chamber, the former barracks of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Convoy, and the ruins of the Tsar’s Railway Pavilion.  

In the course of two centuries every Russian monarch, beginning with Peter I, strove to make his or her contribution to the improvement of the royal summer residence in Tsarskoye Selo (Tsar’s Village) near St. Petersburg. The last Russian emperor Nicholas II, who chose the Alexander Palace for his permanent residence in 1905, decided to embellish the town with buildings reflecting the Russian national style. The Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral and the adjacent residential area called Feodorovsky Gorodok (Town), complete with tent roofs and towers were built between 1909-1917, with Nicholas II, his wife and their children directly involved in the project. The construction was nearing completion when the First World War began, followed by the revolutionary cataclysms which engulfed the Russian Empire. Following the October 1917 Revolution the Cathedral was closed down in 1933, while the adjacent gorodok was turned into an educational branch of the Agrarian Institute.

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Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral. Artist: Gavriil Nikitich Gorelov (1880-1966)

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Feodorovsky Gorodok

The history of these buildings, which resemble the fairytale Kitezh-town, is closely associated with the last tsar, whose tragic death, along with his wife and children in Ekaterinburg, continues to stir the interest and curiosity of people in Russia and around the world to this day. This short essay tells the story of a “little spot of the Russian land” created in Tsarskoye Selo. It is illustrated with vintage photographs and reproductions of paintings by artists who worked on them at the time of the construction of the complex.

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Feodorovsky Gosudorov Sobor, published in 1915

During the 1910s the artists G. Gorelov, L. Syrnev and M. Kirsanov painted a series of colour pictures depicting views of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral and the Feodorovsky Gorodok. They reproduced the entire architectural ensemble the way it was perceived by the last Russian emperor. Some of the paintings were published in the book Feodorovsky Gosudorov Sobor, published in 1915. The views of the Feodorovsky Gorodok reflect events of the First World War, when an infirmary for the wounded soldiers was opened in the gorodok. Pictures on canvas are wounded soldiers with bandaged legs and arms who were undergoing medical treatment in the infirmary and the nurses who cared for them. The artists strove to render the image of Old Russia, too. The artists captured the beauty of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral, particularly the interiors, each of which evoke a deep religious feeling. [These paintings are today part of the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum – PG]

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Nicholas II laying the foundation stone for the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral

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Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna inspect the progress of the Feodorovsky Cathedral

The foundation of the Cathedral was laid on 20 August 1909, in the presence of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. The design was commissioned by V.A. Pokrovsky, a great connoisseur of the Russian national tradition. The construction was financed by the tsar’s family. 

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The Feodorovskaya icon of Our Lady, patroness of the Romanov dynasty

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The Cave Church, situated in the Lower Church

The Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral became the house church for Emperor Nicholas II and his family.  The Cathedral consisted of two churches, the upper which included the main altar dedicated to the Feodorovsky Icon of Our Lady and a side-chapel consecrated in honour of the Moscow Metropolitan Alexis, the all-Russia Miracle-Worker. The lower part of the Cathedral housed a Cave Church with the altar consecrated in the name of Saint Serafim of Sarov the Miracle-Worker, and the private chapel of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. The Feodorovskaya icon of Our Lady, the main icon of the Cathedral, is the patroness of the Romanov dynasty. The icon was kept in the upper church. The Cathedral interiors impressed everyone with their decor executed in the style of 17th century church architecture – the favourite style of Nicholas II. The Cave Church decoration was supervised by the architect V. N. Maksimov.

The Cathedral walls are decorated on the outside with large mosaic panels made in St. Petersburg in the studio of the well known mosaic artist V.A. Frlov.

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View of the Feodorovsky Gorodok. 1917

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View of the Refectory Chamber, Feodorovsky Gorodok. 1917

The Feodorovsky Gorodok – a group of buildings erected for the servants of the church – was built during 1913-1917 to the design of S.S. Krichinsky, approved personally by Nicholas II. It is situated on the shore of a small island and surrounded by a fortress wall. One of the towers is decorated by a gilt figure of St. George. The buildings, varying in height and shape and joined by covered passages, occupy an area of 1.7 hectares (4.2 acres). Participating in the design of the gorodok were the architects A. Pomerantsev, V. Maksimov, and L. Shchusev.

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Interior of the Refectory, Feodorovsky Gorodok

The entire complex consisted of several buildings, the most notable among them being the White Chamber (the priests’ house), the Pink Chamber (the deacons’ house), the Yellow Chamber (the junior deacons’ house), and the Refectory building, which housed the churchwarden’s flat and office.

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The Officer’s Assembly dated 1911 (demolished after the war)

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Tsar’s Railway Pavilion, Tsarskoye Selo

Nearby in Kuzminskaya Street were the barracks of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Convoy (designed by V.N. Maksimov, 1906) and the brick building of the Officer’s Assembly dated 1911 (demolished after the war). There were a number of military barracks and stables designed and built in the Russian Style. The year 1915 marked the construction of wooden barracks for the Special Aviation Detachment. In December the same year, barracks were built for His Majesty’s Own Railway Regiment. Designed by the architect V.N. Maksimov, these barracks were situated close to the Tsar’s Railway Pavilion which was built to the design of design of V.A. Pokrovsky in 1912 in the Neo-Russian Style. The station building completed the new architectural ensemble.

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Former barracks of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Convoy

The Tsar was insistent that the newly erected buildings should resemble Old Russia by their appearance. Had all the projects conceived been realized and all the buildings survived intact, they would have formed a unique single ensemble in Tsarskoye Selo which would fill the environment of the Alexander Palace with a historic atmosphere Nicholas II desired following the whims of his fantasy.

Of all the numerous buildings in traditional Russian style erected in Tsarskoye Selo at the will of Nicholas II those surviving unchanged are the Feodorovsky Gorodok (currently under restoration) and the Martial Chamber (now the Museum of the History of the First World War).

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The Martial Chamber, restored between 2011-2014

The architectural complex of buildings near the Feodorovsky Cathedral, which came into being as a result of the Sovereign’s artistic fantasies, reflected both the artistic search of Russian architects in the early 20th century and search for spiritual ideals of the time.

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Artist concept of the Feodorovsky Gorodok after restoration

In 1913-1917 the Martial Chamber complex was built to the design of the architect S. Yu. Sidorchuk. At the start of the war against Germany in 1914 it was decided to open a portrait gallery of the holders of the St. George Cross in the Chamber building. In 1918 the Martial Chamber and the Feodorovsky Gorodok fell under the jurisdiction of the Agronomical (later Petersburg Agrarian) University. The art collections were divided among various museums in Leningrad. The buildings, damaged during World War II, are now under restoration (with the exception of the Tsar’s Railway Pavilion, which is currently in a terrible state of neglect and disrepair). Although this will work will take some years, several newly restored buildings of the Feodorovsky Gorodok have already become part of the Patriarchal residence of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral as it looks today. Russia’s first monument to
Nicholas II by the sculptor V.V. Zaiko, was established in the garden in 1993

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The reconstructed iconostasis in the Upper Church of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral

In 1991 the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral opened its doors to believers again. The entire complex of buildings closely connected with the Russian Orthodox Church and with the life of the last Russian Emperor has been taken in tutelage by the Moscow Patriarchate. It allocates funds for the restoration work. The Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral was reconsecrated on 29 February 1992. Regular liturgies are carried out in the Cave Church. Divine Liturgies are conducted in memory of the murdered Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia Nikolaevna, and Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich. The last tsar is commemorated with a bronze bust established on the grounds of the Cathedral in 1993, by the Russian scukptor V.V. Zaiko. 

© Paul Gilbert. 4 April 2020

Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us!

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Icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs, Church of the Holy Blessed Prince Alexander Nevsky in Tula.

Earlier this year, a unique icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs was presented to the Church of the Holy Blessed Prince Alexander Nevsky in Tula. The top layer of the icon was gifted by local needlewomen, who spent many months sewing it together.

According to Irina Alekseevna Vishnevskaya, the head of the needle circle, more than thirty women worked on the image of the Royal Family from the beginning of last summer. Another participant of the circle, Irina Sergeyevna Romanova, noted that pebbles from the basement of the Ipatiev house in Ekaterinburg, and from the mining pit at Ganina Yama were sewn into the icon.

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Depicted in their royal robes, the women took great care to ensure accuracy, right down to the smallest detail in the colourful vestments. As you can see in the video (below), the top layer of the icon was laid on top of the wooden icon depicting the images of the Holy Royal Martyrs. The two layers of the icon were joined together by ribbons, mounted in a wooden frame and hung on the side of a pillar within the church.

On Sunday 23rd February, the icon was consecrated by the rector of the church, Archpriest Victor Ryabovol, followed by a prayer to the Holy Royal Martyrs.

CLICK on the VIDEO below to watch the consecration of the icon performed in the Church of the Holy Blessed Prince Alexander Nevsky in Tula:

© Paul Gilbert. 29 March 2020