Did Saint Seraphim of Sarov predict the death and martyrdom of Russia’s last tsar?

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna were present at the canonization of Seraphim of Sarov (1754-1833) on 1 August (O.S. 19 July) 1903

On 1st August, Russian Orthodox Christians celebrate the canonization of Seraphim of Sarov (1754-1833), one of the most revered saints in the Russian Orthodox Church.

During his reign, the pious Emperor Nicholas II sanctioned the canonization of more saints than any previous sovereign. Among those glorified during his reign were: St. Theodosius of Chernigov (glorified in 1896), St. Isidore of Yuriev (1897), St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk (1909), St. Anna of Kashin (1910), St. Joasaph of Belgorod (1911), St. Hermogenes of Moscow (1913), St. Pitirim of Tambov (1914), St. John (Maximovich) of Tobolsk (1916) and St. Paul of Tobolsk (1917).

At the end of January (O.S.) 1903, the Most Holy Synod, having received approval from Emperor Nicholas II, announced Seraphim’s forthcoming glorification. In early July 1903, his relics were transferred from their original burial place to the Church of Saints Zosimus and Sabbatius in Sarov.

A beautiful marble shrine was arranged by Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna – “a luxurious work of art in the Russian style of Moscow,” said Metropolitan Veniamin (Fedchenkov). In addition, the August couple provided a new cypress coffin to receive the relics. The rug which covered the tomb was embroidered by the Empress’s own hands.

The solemn canonization festivities took place in Sarov on 1st August (O.S. 19th July) 1903 and were attended by Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, his mother Empress Maria Feodorovna, and numerous grand dukes and grand duchesses of the Imperial Family. More than 100,000 faithful from across the Russian Empire arrived in Sarov to take part in the Cross Procession.

The events at Sarov marked a momentous occasion in the life of Nicholas II. It was during this visit that the Emperor received a letter written by the saint some 70 years earlier. Shortly before his death in 1833, the saint had written this letter, sealed it with five wax seals and addressed it “to the fourth sovereign who will arrive in Sarov, and as yet is not known”.

PHOTO: wall painting depicting Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna with Blessed Parasceva Fool-for-Christ, in the Church of Our Lady of Kazan of the Diveyevo Monastery

He then gave it to Elena Motovilova, whose husband is now well-known for recording his conversation with the saint about the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. She kept that letter for seventy years and gave it to the Tsar at the glorification ceremony.

Although the Sovereign never revealed the letter’s contents, it is believed that it was a prophecy of the bloodshed that would engulf Russia in less than fifteen years. According to the recollections of eyewitnesses, after reading the letter the Emperor wept bitterly.

Seraphim of Sarov correctly predicted the inevitable death of the Emperor and his family. He said that after him there will be no more tsars in Russia. But he noted that Nicholas II would be elevated higher than all the tsars, apparently anticipating the canonization of the Imperial family.[1] The saint also predicted future trials for Russia: the plundering of monasteries and church property, the tragic death of a large number of people, troubled times and rebirth after.

Furthermore, on the return trip from Sarov, the Imperial Family visited St. Seraphim’s Diveyevo Convent where Blessed Parasceva Fool-for-Christ [2] spoke to them for several hours; it is said that she foretold to them their own martyrdom as well as that of Holy Russia.

Following the Bolshevik Revolution, as part of their persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Bolsheviks confiscated many relics of saints, including St. Seraphim. The fate of the letter remains unknown.

In 1991, St. Seraphim’s relics were rediscovered after being hidden in a Soviet anti-religious museum for seventy years. This caused a sensation in post-Soviet Russia and throughout the Orthodox world. A crucession (religious procession) escorted the relics, to her final resting place, near the altar of the Trinity Cathedral of the Seraphim-Diveevsky Monastery. [3]

PHOTO: Icon of Saint Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II holding an icon of Saint Seraphim of Sarov

NOTES:

[1] On 1st November 1981, Emperor Nicholas II and his family were canonized as new martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCOR), however, it was not until 20th August 2000, that they were canonized as passion bearers by the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

[2] Praskovya Semyonovna Dybina was born in 1795. The famous nun confessor died on 5th October (O.S. 22nd September) 1915, at the age of 120.

On 31st July 2004, Blessed Paraskeva was numbered among the locally revered saints of the Nizhny Novgorod diocese, and on 6th October of the same year, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church established her church-wide veneration. The holy relics were uncovered on 20th September 2004 and now rest in the Church of Our Lady of Kazan of the Seraphim-Diveevsky Monastery. Her memory is celebrated on 5th October (O.S. 22nd) September.

[3] The Seraphim-Diveevsky Monastery is situated 12 km from Sarov, and 185 km from the city of Nizhny Novgorod.

© Paul Gilbert. 1 August 2021

“ROC will not recognize Ekaterinburg remains,” claims prominent Russian forensic scientist

PHOTO: Vladimir Soloviev the State Archives of the Russian Federation in Moscow

A very troubling interview was published in today’s edition of Бизнес Online [Business Online], whereby legendary forensic scientist Vladimir Soloviev stated: “there will no recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains in November by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).” Below, is a condensed version of the interview.

Now retired, Vladimir Nikolaevich Soloviev, senior investigator and forensic expert at the Main Department of Criminalistics (Forensic Center) of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, who from 1991 to 2015 led the investigation into the deaths of the Imperial Family. Over the years, the case of the Ekaterinburg remains took up much of his professional career.

BO: Do you know what is happening today with the ROC’s investigation?

VS: All work on the identification of the Ekaterinburg remains was completed a long time ago. As far as I know, a historical examination is still underway. But this can be carried out indefinitely.

Marina Molodtsova, who heads the investigation team today, is a good and qualified specialist. I have no issues with her. But, she is a person of the system. If she is issued an order – she salutes. Putin gave carte blanche to the patriarch, and until such time that the president gives an order for closure, the investigation will continue.

BO: At the end of June, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church decided to submit the results of the examinations on the identification of Ekaterinburg remains for consideration by the Bishops’ Council, which is to be held in November. But, frankly, after everything that has happened during the last 30 years, it is hard to believe that the issue of recognizing the remains will be resolved this year.

VS: I can’t believe it either, and there will be no recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, when they meet in November. Patriarch Kirill is a very proud person. He would have to explain in front of everyone why the Lord does not love him, why he did not enlighten him during these 30 years. After all this time, Kirill was against the recognition of the remains. He was, in fact, the main ideologist of this position. Vsevolod Chaplin (1968-2020), shortly before his death, told me about a conversation he had with the Patriarch. According to Chaplin, Kirill told him that he would do anything to avoid resolving the issue of the Ekaterinburg remains during his life.

I foresee that at the Bishop’s Council they will say that the church is not completely satisfied with the results of the research and investigation, and that something is missing, yet . . . again!

BO: In an interview given to me a few days before his death, Geliy Trofimovich Ryabov (1932-2015), bitterly said: “When I decided to make our discovery public [grave of Nicholas II and family members in 1991], I naively believed that it would contribute to reconciliation, by bringing closure to our country’s history. But I did not take into account that this war would be permanent. At a certain moment, I came to the conclusion that if I knew how all this would turn out, I probably would not have disclosed the burial place of the Imperial Family.” Have you ever had such thoughts, or regrets that you got involved in this, as it is now obvious is hopeless?

VS: Of course, in terms of career, I resigned, so to speak, but not on a high note. First of all, of course, the church and the church community did their best to discredit me. They accused me of anything! But, if there was an opportunity to go back in time, 30 years ago, I would do it all over again.

I will say, however, that perhaps it was good that this case has been dragging on for as long as it has. If it was completed within the “normal” time frame and the remains were immediately buried, the image of the Imperial Family would have quickly faded away, come to naught. It is thanks to all these scandals that their tragic fate received so much attention by so many scientists and experts.

© Paul Gilbert. 18 July 2021

Saint John (Maximovich) of Shanghai and San Francisco, 1896-1966

On this day – 2nd July 1966 – St. John (Maximovich) of Shanghai and San Francisco died in the United States. During his life, he honoured the memory of the Holy Royal-Martyr Nicholas II and his family, believing that “the Russian people were entirely guilty for the death of the tsar.” On 2nd July 1994, St. John was solemnly canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Mikhail Borisovich Maximovitch (his secular name) was born on 17th (O.S. 4th) 1896, in the village of Adamovka of the Izyumsky Uyezd of the Kharkov Governorate of the Russian Empire (in present-day eastern Ukraine).

Maximovitch was a patriot of his fatherland and was profoundly disappointed by what he saw as human weakness and impermanence during the tragic events of the 1917 Revolution. As a result he made the decision to dedicate his life to serving God. His family sought refuge in Yugoslavia and brought him to Belgrade in 1921, where in 1925 he graduated from Belgrade University with a degree in theology.

In 1926 he was tonsured a monk and ordained a hierodeacon by Russian Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), who gave him the name of St. John after his saintly relative. Later that same year, he was ordained to the priesthood by Russian Bishop Gabriel (Chepur) of Chelyabinsk. Once ordained St. John would no longer sleep in a bed. He would nap in a chair or kneeling down in front of the icons, praying fervently and eating only once a day.

St.John earned the respect and devotion at the seminary where he taught. His reputation grew as he started visiting hospitals, caring for patients with prayer and communion. In 1934 he was ordained a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia by Metropolitan Anthony and assigned to the diocese of Shanghai.

PHOTO: St. Nicholas Church in Shanghai, built in 1935, dedicated to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

Shanghai, China

In Shanghai, Holy Bishop St. John found an uncompleted cathedral and an Orthodox community deeply divided along ethnic lines. Making contact with all the various groups, he quickly involved himself in the existing charitable institutions and personally founded an orphanage and home for the children of indigents. Under Holy Bishop St. John, the construction of St. Nicholas Church (1935) was completed, a memorial church dedicated to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II.

He also set about restoring church unity, establishing ties with local Orthodox Serbs, Greeks and Ukrainians. Here he first became known for miracles attributed to his prayer. As a public figure it was impossible for him to completely conceal his ascetic way of life. Despite his actions during the Japanese occupation, even when he routinely ignored the curfew in pursuit of his pastoral activities, the Japanese authorities never harassed him. As the only Russian hierarch in China who refused to submit to the authority of the Soviet-dominated Russian Orthodox Church, he was elevated to Archbishop of China by the Holy Synod of ROCOR in 1946.

When the Communists took power in China, the Russian colony was forced to flee, first to a refugee camp on the island of Tubabao in the Philippines and then mainly to the United States and Australia. Archbishop St. John personally traveled to Washington, D.C. to ensure that his people would be allowed to enter the country.

PHOTO: the Church of St. Job the Long Suffering in Brussels, consecrated in 1950, dedicated to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

Western Europe

In 1951, St. John was assigned to the archdiocese of Western Europe with his see first in Paris, then in Brussels, which was considered the official residence of Archbishop John of Brussels and Western Europe. The center of the vigorous activity of Archbishop John was the Church of St. Job the Long-suffering in Brussels, constructed between 1936-1950, as a memorial church dedicated to Tsar Nicholas II.

Thanks to his work in collecting lives of saints, a great many pre-Schism Western saints became known in Orthodoxy and continue to be venerated to this day. His charitable and pastoral work continued as it had in Shanghai, even among a much more widely scattered flock.

PHOTO: the Holy Virgin Cathedral, San Francisco, consecrated in1977

San Francisco, United States

In 1962 St. John was once again reassigned by the Holy Synod to the see of San Francisco. Here too, he found a divided community and a cathedral in an unfinished state. Although he completed the building of the Holy Virgin Cathedral and brought some measure of peace to the community he became the target of slander from those who became his political enemies, who went so far as to file a lawsuit against him for alleged mishandling of finances related to construction of the cathedral. He was exonerated, but this was a great cause of sorrow to him in his later life.

The current cathedral was founded by St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. Groundbreaking took place on 25th June 1961, construction was completed in 1965, a year before the death of The cathedral was consecrated on 31st January 1977.

PHOTO: the sepulchre of St. John in the Holy Virgin Cathedral, San Francisco

Death and Veneration

On 2nd July 1966 (O.S. 19th June), St. John died while visiting Seattle at a time and place he was said to have foretold. He was entombed in a sepulchre beneath the altar of the Holy Virgin Cathedral he had built in San Francisco dedicated to the Theotokos, Joy of All Who Sorrow, on Geary Boulevard in the Richmond district.

On 2nd July 1994, St. John was solemnly canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), the day marking the 28th anniversary of his death. His unembalmed, incorrupt relics now occupy a shrine in the cathedral’s nave.

His feast day is celebrated each year on the Saturday nearest to 2nd July. He is beloved and celebrated worldwide, with portions of his relics located in Serbia, Russia, Mount Athos, Greece (Church of Saint Anna in Katerini), South Korea, Bulgaria, Romania, United States (St. John Maximovitch Church, Eugene, Oregon), Canada (Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Kitchener), England (Dormition Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church, London) and other countries of the world.

On Tsar-Marytr Nicholas II

IN MEMORY OF THE ROYAL MARTYRS

Sermon given in 1934 by His Eminence John, Bishop of Shanghai,during the memorial service for Tsar Nicholas II and those slain with him

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

On July 17 (July 4 Old Style) the Holy Church praises Saint Andrew, the Bishop of Crete, the author of the Great Canon of Repentance, and at the same time we gather here to pray for the souls of the Tsar-Martyr and those assassinated with him. Likewise, people in Russia used to gather in churches on the day of the other Saint Andrew of Crete (Oct.17), not the writer of the Great Canon whose day is celebrated tomorrow, but the Martyr Andrew, martyred for confession of Christ and His Truth. On the day of Martyr Andrew, people in Russia thanked God for the miraculous delivery of Emperor Alexander III from the train wreck at Borki on Octo ber 17, 1888. In the terrible derailment which occurred during his journey, all the carriages of the train were wrecked, except the one carrying the Tsar and his Family.

On the day of the Martyr Andrew of Crete, martyred by enemies of Christ and His Church, the Heir to the throne and subsequent tsar, Nicholas Alexandrovich, was saved, and on the day of Saint Andrew of Crete the Canonist, who reposed in peace, the Tsar was assassinated by atheists and traitors. On the day of Martyr Andrew, Russia also celebrated the day of the Prophet Hosea, who foretold Christ’s Resurrection. Churches were built in honor of these saints wherever Russian people thanked God for the delivery of their Sovereign. Thirty years later, on the day of Saint Andrew the Canonist, who taught repentance, the Sovereign was assassinated before the eyes of the whole nation, that did nothing to save him. It is especially dreadful and incomprehensible since the Sovereign, Nicholas Alexandrovich, incarnated the best virtues of those Tsars whom the Russian people knew, loved, and esteemed.

Most of all the Tsar-Martyr resembled Tsar Alexis Michailovich Tishayshiy (the Most Meek, 1645-76) excelling in unshakable meekness. Russia knew Alexander II(1855-81) as Liberator, but Tsar Nicholas II liberated even more nations of the fraternal Slavic tribe. Russia knew Alexander III (1881-94) as Peacemaker but Sovereign Nicholas II did not limit himself to care for peace in his own days but made a significant step towards establishing peace in Europe and in all the world so that all nations should solve their controversies peacefully. To that purpose, by his dispassionate and noble initiative, the Hague Conferences were called. Russia admired Alexander I(1801-25) and called him the Blessed One because he liberated Europe from the alien rule of a tyrant, Napoleon. Sovereign Nicholas II under much more difficult circumstances rose against another ruler’s attempt, Kaiser Wilhelm II, to enslave Slavic nations, and in the defense of that nation showed a determination that was devoid of compromises. Russia knew the Great Reformer Peter I but if we recall all the reforms of Nicholas II, we would be uncertain whom to give preference and the latter’s reforms were conducted more carefully, more thoughtfully, and without abruptness. John Kalita (1328-40) and John III (1449 – 1505), Grand Princes of Moscow, were known for uniting the Russian people, but their cause was finally accomplished only by Sovereign Nicholas when in 1915 he returned to Russia all her sons, though only for a short time. Sovereign of All Russia, Nicholas II was the first Pan-Russian Tsar. His inner, spiritual, moral image was so beautiful that even the Bolsheviks in their desire to blacken him could blame him only for his piety.

It is known for certain that he always began and ended the day with prayer. He always received Communion on the days of the Church’s great holidays and often went to receive the Great Sacrament in a crowd of commoners, as for instance during the opening of the relics of Saint Seraphim of Sarov. He was an example of marital fidelity and the head of an exemplary Orthodox family, bringing up his children to be ready to serve the Russian people and strictly preparing them for the future labors and feats of that calling. He was deeply considerate towards his subjects’ needs and always wanted to ascertain clearly and acutely their labor and service. Everyone knows that he once marched alone many miles in soldier’s full equipment in order to better understand the conditions of a soldier’s service. He walked alone, which refutes the slanderers who say that he was afraid for his life. Peter I said: “know about Peter, that life is not precious for him, but may Russia live” and Sovereign Nicholas II indeed fulfilled his words. Some people say that he was credulous. But the great father of the Church, Saint Gregory the Great, says that the more pure the heart, the more credulous it is.

What did Russia render to her pure-hearted Sovereign, who loved her more than life? She returned love with slander. He was of great morality, but people began to talk about his viciousness. He loved Russia, but people began to talk about his treason. Even the people close to the Sovereign repeated the slander, passing on to each other rumors and gossip. Because of the ill intention of some and the lack of discipline of others, rumors spread and love for the Tsar began to grow cool. They started to talk of the danger to Russia and discuss means of avoiding that non-existent danger, they started to say that to save Russia it would be necessary to dismiss the Sovereign. Calculated evil did its work: it separated Russia from her Tsar and in the dread moment at Pskov he was alone; no one near to him. Those faithful to him were not admitted to his presence. The dreadful loneliness of the Tsar… But he did not abandon Russia, Russia abandoned him, the one who loved Russia more than life. Thus, in the hope that his self-belittling would still the raging passions of the people, the Sovereign abdicated. But passion never stills. Having achieved what it desires it only inflames more. There was an exultation among those who desired the fall of the Sovereign. The others were silent. They succeeded in arresting the Sovereign; succeeded, and further events were almost inevitable. If someone is left in a beast’s cage he will be torn to pieces sooner or later. The Sovereign was killed, and Russia remained silent. There was no indignation, no protest when that dread, evil deed happened, and this silence is the great sin of the Russian people, and it happened on the day of Saint Andrew, the writer of the Great Canon of Repentance, which is read in churches during Great Lent.

In the vaults of a basement in Ekaterinburg the Ruler of Russia was killed, deprived by the peoples’ insidiousness of the tsar’s crown, but not deprived of God’s Sacred Anointment. Hitherto, all the cases of regicide in the history of Russia were committed by cliques, not by the people. When Paul I was killed, people knew nothing about it and when it became known, for many years they brought to his grave compassion and prayers. The assassination of Alexander II produced in Russia a storm of indignation that healed the people’s morality and assisted the reign of Alexander III. The people remained innocent of the blood of the Tsar-Liberator, Alexander II. But in the case of Nicholas lI the entire nation is guilty of shedding the blood of its tsar. The assassins did the terrible deed, their masters approved the murder, sharing the same sin, the people did not prevent it. All are guilty and indeed we must say: “His blood is on us and on our children.” The garland with which the Russian people crowned their Tsar was made of treason, treachery, the breaking of the oath of allegiance to Tsar Michael Theodorovich, the first Tsar of the Romanov dynasty and his heirs, passivity, hardness of heart, and insensitivity.

Today is a day of sorrow and repentance. Why – we could ask – did the Lord save the Tsar [previously] on the day of Martyr Andrew and not save him on the day of the other Saint Andrew, the teacher of repentance? With deep grief we answer: the Lord could have saved him, but the Russian people did not deserve it.

The Sovereign received a martyr’s crown, but this neither justifies us, nor reduces our guilt, as the Resurrection of Christ does not justify, but condemns Judas, Pilate, and Caiphas and those who demanded from Pilate the murder of Christ.

It is a great sin to lift up a hand against the God-Anointed Sovereign. When the news of the murder of Saul was brought to King David, he ordered the execution of the messenger, although he knew that the messenger did not participate in the murder but only hurried to bring that news, and he ascribed the murder to him. Even the slightest participation in such a sin is not without retribution.

In sorrow we say, “his blood is on us and our children.”

Let us remember that this evil deed of the whole nation was committed on the day of Saint Andrew of Crete, who calls us to deep repentance. Let us remember also, that there is no sin which cannot be washed away by repentance. But our repentance has to be full, without self-justification, without reserve, condemning ourselves and the evil deed from the very beginning.

After the deliverance of the Royal Family at Borki the icon depicting the patron saints of the family was painted. Perhaps the day will come when not just the patrons but also the Royal Martyrs themselves will be depicted on icons in remembrance of the event we recollect today. But now let us pray for their souls and ask God for deep humble repentance and forgiveness for us and for all Russian people.

On 27th October 2018, I hosted the 1st International Nicholas II Conference at St. John of Shanghai Orthodox Church in Colchester, England, with the blessing of the church rector Andrew Phillips, Arch Priest of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROCOR).

© Paul Gilbert. 2 July 2021

Faithful to the End: Klimenty Nagorny and Ivan Sednev 

170a

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

Today – 28th June 2021, marks the 103rd 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.

170b

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!

170c

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 2021

Orthodox Christians still divided on authenticity of Ekaterinburg Remains

During an interview held earlier this week on the Echo of Moscow, the First Vice-President of the Center for the Political Technologies Dr. Alexei Makarkin, talked about the Ekaterinburg Remains:

On 17th June 2021, the Holy Synod reviewed a report from Metropolitan Tikhon on the genetic examinations of the Ekaterinburg remains, and with the information provided by the Investigative Committee of Russia regarding various examinations as part of the investigation of the criminal case on the murder of members of the Imperial Family. It was decided to publish information on the results of the examinations and submit them for consideration by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), which will take place in the fall.

“Prior to this, the issue of the remains of the Imperial Family (the ROC officially refer to them as the “Ekaterinburg remains”) was discussed at the Bishops’ Council in 2016 and 2017 respectively. In 2017, it was expected that the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria found in 2007 would take place on the centenary of the murder of the Imperial Family in 2018, however, this did not happen. Despite numerous exhaustive scientific tests carried out on the remains by experts, a significant number of Orthodox Christians in Russia still do not believe in the authenticity of the remains, nor do they want to recognize them as holy relics. It is psychologically impossible for them to imagine that both the Moscow Patriarchate and numerous pious believers were wrong, instead believing that the relics were destroyed with fire and acid in 1918, and that Boris Yeltsin and Boris Nemtsov, on whose initiative established the authenticity of the remains back in the 1990s, were right.

“The issue remains controversial to this day, but the position of the opponents of the recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains were weakened earlier this year following the scandalous story with the now former schema-abbot Sergius (Romanov), one of the main opponents of the recognition of the authenticity of the remains. There was concern that he, along with the priests and nuns loyal to him, would go into schism, protesting against the recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains, instead, Sergius was excommunicated by the Moscow Patriarchate. The problem of delimitation among believers still remains – but, as far as can be seen, the state authorities continue to show interest in the symbolic act of burying the last Tsar and members of his family. In order for this to take place, a decision by the Moscow Patriarchate is needed – so that the departed can be glorified as saints and their relics venerated by the faithful.

“So there will be internal church differences, and Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Tikhon will have to resolve them. Unfortunately, there is no ideal solution as there will most certainly be protests, regardless of the Church’s final verdict on the remains. But here’s what is interesting – a couple of decades ago, the topic of the authenticity of the remains was socially significant, it was actively discussed in circles far outside the Church. Sadly, most Russians have today lost interest, especially those who are not practicing believers. Interest in history (and, in particular, in the monarchy) has diminished, they are tired from all the arguments about the country’s past and, instead, desire to understand what the future holds for Russia and her people.”

© Paul Gilbert. 22 June 2021

Metropolitan Hilarion hopeful ROC will recognize authenticity of Ekaterinburg remains

PHOTO: Metropolitan Hilarion

The head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion, expressed the hope that the question of the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg remains will be resolved in November by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).

He recalled that last Thursday the Holy Synod discussed the identification of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family members during an interview on Church and Peace, a program on the Russia-24 TV channel .

According to him, the reports of the Metropolitan of Pskov Tikhon (Shevkunov) and the representative of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation were heard, which included results of the multitude of examinations – requested by the Investigative Committee – and carried out in different laboratories around the world. Members of the Holy Synod, were presented with a “very clear and unambiguous” picture, and now have a better understanding of the question on the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg remains, Metropolitan Hilarion said.

“We listened to this report with great attention for a very long time, and we passed the final decision on this issue to the discretion of the Council of Bishops, which will be held in November of this year. I think that the Council of Bishops will put an end to this epic, which has lasted almost a quarter of a century,” noted Metropolitan Hilarion.

When asked what the Council’s verdict would be, the Metropolitan clarified: “I hope that it will be a positive decision.”

PHOTO: icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama, near Ekaterinburg

Recall that in July 1991, on the Old Koptyakovskaya Road near Ekaterinburg, a burial site was opened, which contained the remains of nine people. They, according to a subsequent investigation, belonged to members of the Russian Imperial Family – Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, three of their four daughters – Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia, as well as four faithful servants. Following the exhumation and examination of the remains, their remains were buried in St. Catherine’s Chapel, a side chapel in the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg on 17th July 1998.

On 29th July 2007, during an archaeological excavation near the first burial site, the remains of two more people were found. Numerous examinations identified the remains as those of Nicholas II’s other two children – Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister Grand Duchess Maria.

On the eve of centenary marking the regicide in Ekaterinburg, the official representative of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Svetlana Petrenko, stated that a second comprehensive study confirmed the authenticity of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, who were shot 100 years ago in Ekaterinburg.

Click HERE to read my article The Fate of the Ekaterinburg Remains, originally published in 2016, and updated on 18th June 2021.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 June 2021

The Fate of the Ekaterinburg Remains

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NOTE: This article was originally published on 17th March 2016, it was updated twice since, on 4th January 2017 and 7th March 2020. It has been expanded and further updated on 18th June 2021, based on new information from Russian media sources. Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are my own based on my own research and do not reflect those of the Russian Orthodox Church.

For the record, regarding my personal position on the Ekaterinburg remains, I have now and always believed the remains discovered near Ekaterinburg in 1991 and 2007 respectively, are those of Emperor Nicholas II, his wife, their five children, and four faithful retainers. Further, not only did I attend their interment on 17th July 1998 in St. Petersburg, I have visited both Ganina Yama and Porosenkov Log on several occasions, where I have offered prayers and left flowers. Memory Eternal! Вечная Память! – PG

Bones of Contention

On 17th July 1998, the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, three of their five children: Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia, and their four faithful retainers Dr. Eugene Botkin, Ivan Kharitonov, Alexei Trupp and Anna Demidova were interred in the Saint Catherine Chapel of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

Not only was I both privileged and honoured to attend this historic event, I was also hopeful that the burial would bring some closure to what is considered one of the greatest tragedies of 20th century Russian history. Sadly, this was not to be.

The questions raised about the murders of the Russian Imperial family in 1918, the discovery of their remains in the vicinity of Ekaterinburg in 1991 and later those of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich and Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna in  2007, as well as the recognition or non-recognition of their authenticity, have been unsettling both Russian and Western society ever since.

As a result, many people looked to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) for its verdict on the Ekaterinburg remains. But expressing an objective view required the Church to conduct a thorough examination of their own, of the historical records as well as the investigation materials and the results of scientific inquiries.

Over the course of the last few years, I have published nearly 100 news stories and articles on the subject, which included many first English translations from Russian media sources. Since that time, I have received numerous emails and telephone calls from readers frustrated by the ROC’s position on the Ekaterinburg remains. I cannot stress enough, that I do not represent the Russian Orthodox Church or His Holiness Patriarch Kirill. I do, however, hope that the contents of this article will help provide some answers.

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His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and Bishop Tikhon of Yegoryevsk

New Investigation

In September of 2015, I published an article on my Royal Russia News blog announcing that the investigation into the Ekaterinburg remains had been reopened by the Russian Orthodox Church. The investigation would include a new series of genetic studies, and a comprehensive review of the evidence accumulated since 1918 into the murders of the last Russian Imperial family. With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and at his request to the Investigative Committee a new team of experts was formed. A complex examination would be carried out for the first time – a historical, anthropological and genetic one – one in which the ROC would be involved in all aspects of the investigation.

It is important to note, that had the ROC been invited to participate in the original investigation and forensic tests carried out by Western experts in the early 1990s, that this new investigation might not have been necessary.

Many viewed the 1991 investigation as a propaganda tool by then president Boris Yeltsin (1931-2007), who was anxious to bring closure to the century-long mystery, thus gaining favour with Western nations.

More than 50 descendants of the Romanov dynasty arrived in Russia for the interment in the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. The only descendants absent were Leonida Georgievna (1914-2010), her daughter Maria Vladimirovna (b. 1953) and her son George Mikhailovich (b. 1981), all of whom did not recognize the authenticity of the remains and declined to attend the reburial ceremony. 

In the face of skepticism, the late Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008) was obliged to profess agnosticism over the identity of the bodies, as a way to avoid massive internal rifts within the church. 

Many Westerners believed that the ROC were obligated to accept the findings of the original Western led investigation, however, the Moscow Patriarchate were under no obligation to accept their findings, which they believe left a number of unanswered questions and concerns about the Ekaterinburg remains. The ROC wanted to confirm 100% that the remains were authentic, in order for them to be recognized as Holy Relics.

As Archpriest Oleg Mitrov points out in his essay The Investigation Into the Deaths of the Russian Royal Family and Persons of Their Entourage (first English translation published in Sovereign No. 2 Winter 2016, pg. 7-29), in the early 1990s, the Moscow Patriarchate had suggested “a temporary burial, then completing the investigation which, once it produced indisputable results, could stop all discord that this question created in society.” Their request fell on deaf ears, “the voice of our church wasn’t heard at the time,” added Mitrov.

More than 20 years of scientific testing, extensive theological debates, and the enormous public outcry for resolution on the issue failed to deter the Moscow Patriarchate’s decision to resolve the issue. In early January 2016, Bishop Tikhon of Yegoryevsk noted that the “examination of the Ekaterinburg remains may take several years.” This statement was later confirmed during the bishops’ council of the Russian Orthodox Church, when Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia announced at the opening ceremony that “the inquiry will last as long as is necessary in order to establish the truth”.

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Members of the new ROC investigation inspect the Ekaterinburg remains

Non Orthodox Christians must understand the position of the ROC on the matter of both relics and canonization. The Russian Legitimist web site correctly notes: “Any remains of the murdered Imperial Family are ipso facto religious relics, and therefore the internal procedures of the Russian Orthodox Church in completely satisfying itself of their genuineness must be followed. The Russian Orthodox Church wants to address any remaining doubts about the remains, given the fact that, once accepted by the Church as the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, they will become relics venerated by the faithful.” 

It was hoped, that given the weight of evidence accumulated by experts in their respective fields since the early 1990s, that the Moscow Patriarchate would not dispute the remains recovered from the two burial sites in Ekaterinburg between 1979 and 2007 for much longer. A number of statements made in the Russian media offered some hope that they are moving in that direction:

“The re-examination of the criminal case is not an attempt to reconsider the evidence received earlier and established facts, but rather represents the necessity of additionally investigating the new facts, which was requested by the Russian Orthodox Church,” Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told the TASS News Agency (24 September, 2015).

Markin went on to say, “an interdepartmental working group for the study and burial of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria (discovered in 2007) gave its consent to conducting additional identification studies of the objects previously inaccessible for investigators.” To this end, the investigators exhumed the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Blood samples of Emperor Alexander II, Nicholas II’s grandfather who died in a terrorist act in 1881 and whose blood stains are found on his full-dress uniform, kept in the State Hermitage Museum, have also been taken. Additional DNA samples were extracted from Emperor Alexander III in November 2015, in a bid to conclusively answer questions about the fates of Nicholas II and his family.

Markin’s statements would suggest that the Moscow Patriarchate had already accepted the Ekaterinburg remains as authentic, although no official statement had been issued by the Church.

The Russian Orthodox Church also believed that it was necessary to continue the search for the remains of Nicholas II’s children. Only a small part of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria had been found [44 pieces of their bones had been discovered at the site], therefore, the search must be continued, said a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church. Some experts, however, believe that such a search would be in vain, and that given that any remaining bones would have been dug up and carried off by animals.

The investigation into the criminal case of the murder of the Imperial Family also included an examination of the remains found by Nikolai Sokolov in the 1920s and later transferred to St. Job’s Church in Brussels.

On 27th November 2017, the Sretensky Monastery and Seminary in Moscow hosted the conference “On the Murder of the Royal Family: New Evaluations and Materials. Discussion,” devoted to studying the results of the study of the Ekaterinburg remains.

In early 2018, the Russian media announced that Patriarch Kirill would be participating in the commemorative events marking the 100th anniversary of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ekaterinburg in 2018. Many believed that Kirill’s attendance was significant, and fueled speculation that the Moscow Patriarchate was on the verge of officially recognizing the Ekaterinburg remains. Once again, this was not to be!

On the eve of the anniversary marking the regicide, the Investigation Committee announced that the remains were “authentic”. Despite the announcement, the ROC remained silent. The commemoration could have been a great and solemn moment of truth, a time to reflect on the passage from one era of Russia’s tragic history to another. Many (myself included) were hopeful that both the examination and investigation would conclude before the 2018 centenary.

Sadly, the 100th anniversary of the Romanovs’ deaths passed with little notice in Russia. The Russian government ignored the anniversary, as it surprisingly did the year before, when Russia marked the 100th anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution. None of the prominent state museums or venues hosted events to mark the anniversary. The few exhibitions and other events organized were tellingly modest.

The most significant event, took place on the night of 16/17 July 2018, when more than 100,000 people from across Russia, and around the world gathered at the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg for the Patriarchal Liturgy, followed by a Cross Procession to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama, a journey of 21 km. Porosenkov Log, where the Imperial Family’s remains were discovered was not included in the Cross Procession.

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The tomb of the Imperial Family in the St. Catherine Chapel of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral

The Fate of the Ekaterinburg Remains

In the summer of 2000, the Moscow Patriarchate canonized Nicholas II, his wife, and five children as Royal Passion-Bearers. [Nicholas II, his wife, and five children were canonized as martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in 1981] The ROC’s official recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains would result in an elaborate glorification ceremony headed by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia.

Many people continue to ask when the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister, Grand Duchess Maria will be interred with those of the rest of their family in the Saint Catherine Chapel of the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. The ROC’s recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains would make this highly unlikely for a number of reasons.

Both the Saint Catherine Chapel and the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral are currently museums under the administration of the State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg, in which visitors must pay an admission fee to gain entry to view the Romanov tombs as a tourist attraction. This is something that the ROC would vehemently oppose, and rightly so!

It seems highly likely that the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, Tsesarevich Alexei, and their four faithful retainers would be reinterred in another church. It is quite possible that a new church would be constructed in their honour, one which would allow Orthodox Christians to enter freely to venerate the Holy relics. During the past few years, there has been some speculation in the Russian media that such a church would be constructed in Ekaterinburg – possibly Porosenkov Log, where their remains were originally discovered in 1991 and 2007 respectively.

It is interesting to add, that one unconfirmed report claims that the remains of the last Imperial Family are no longer entombed in the St. Catherine Chapel of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral. According to the report when their remains were exhumed for further testing by the new ROC commission a few years back, they were never returned to the tomb. It is believed that the Ekaterinburg remains are now in the possession of the ROC, in the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow, where the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria have been since 2015.

If there is any truth to this rumour, it only adds further speculation that the ROC have no plans to rebury the entire Imperial Family in the St. Catherine Chapel.

Should the ROC recognize the remains of the Imperial Family as Holy Relics, they cannot be returned to their tomb in St. Catherine’s Chapel, as relics cannot be returned to the earth. They must be placed in reliquaries above ground which allows the faithful to venerate them. This would be one very important reason why their remains would be interred in a new cathedral named in their honour.

It is important to add that by accepting the remains as authentic, the ROC will be forced to acknowledge that for more than 100 years, they were wrong. This in itself may be perceived by many as a great embarrassment and humiliation to the church.

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Ganina Yama

Will the Imperial Family be reinterred in Ekaterinburg?

A number of rumours have circulated in the Russian media over the past few years that once the ROC have officially recognized the remains, that all of the members of the Imperial Family will be interred in an existing or a new cathedral in or near Ekaterinburg.

For some, one option would be the Church on the Blood, built on the site of the former Ipatiev House, where the Imperial Family met their martyrdom. For others, another possible option would be a new cathedral constructed at Porosenkov Log, where the Imperial Family’s remains were discovered by two amateur archaeologists in 1978.

It is interesting to note that in March 2016, the Ministry of Culture of the Sverdlovsk Region reported that if the ROC requests the transfer of the territory in and around Porosyonkov Log (added to the cultural heritage list in 2014), would be designated as sacred land and transferred to the ROC, where a memorial and monastery, similar to that at Ganina Yama would be constructed. This in itself suggests that perhaps the ROC has already come to a decision on the authenticity of the remains, and were making preparations.

There is also the possibility that the reconstruction of St. Catherine’s Cathedral (timed to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the founding of Ekaterinburg in 2023) is being considered?

While some may scoff at the idea of interring the remains of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg, it seems only logical that their remains should be interred in the place in which they met their death and martyrdom on 17th July 1918 or the final resting place where their remains were recovered.

Once a bastion of Bolshevism, Ekaterinburg has slowly shed its status as the “capital of atheism”. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Urals have experienced a revival of faith, with Ekaterinburg at the the center of Orthodox Russia in the Urals. It should also be noted, that Ekaterinburg has done more to honour Nicholas II and his family than any other city in Russia.

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Aerial view of Ekaterinburg

“Ekaterinburg was the last capital of the Russian Empire”

The Ural city of Ekaterinburg occupies an important place in the modern spiritual life of Russia. This conclusion was reached by Russian historian Peter Multatuli following the results of the International Festival of Orthodox Culture Tsar’s Days 2019. The historian is recognized as one of Russia’s leading authorities on the life and reign of Nicholas II, having published numerous books, articles, and a popular public speaker.

“On a spiritual level, Ekaterinburg is the last capital of the Russian Empire, because the residence of the Sovereign was always considered the capital in Russia. Peter the Great never officially transferred the capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg, but since he lived there, it was the capital,” said Multatuli.

He noted that in 1918, for 78 days, Emperor Nicholas II and his family lived in Ekaterinburg, and that is why the Ural capital can be considered the last capital of the Russian Empire. [It is important to note that many historians – myself included – firmly believe that the Tsar’s signing of the instrument of abdication, his status as Tsar remained inviolate and unassailable – PG]

“Petrograd and Moscow to one degree or another welcomed his overthrow, and they bear a greater responsibility in this than any other Russian city. No matter what anyone says, it was Ekaterinburg that served as the last Imperial residence, which, according to God’s special plan, became the Royal Golgotha,” added Multatuli.

According to him, in the near future, Ekaterinburg will play a great role in the history of Russia, because “the city named after St. Catherine and becoming the Royal Golgotha ​​will be the city of Russian resurrection.”

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

The world awaits closure by the ROC

On 17th June 2021, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church met at Danilov Monastery in Moscow under the chairmanship of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill. Among the many decisions made by the Synod, it was resolved to refer the results of the extensive examinations carried out on the remains in recent years to the upcoming Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, which will meet in Moscow in November of this year.

The Synod examined the report from His Eminence Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov and Porkhov on the genetic examinations of the remains, as well as the information provided by the Investigative Committee of Russia on the various examinations (molecular-genetic, physical-chemical, trace evidence, ballistic, handwriting, historical-archival, soil science, forensic, anthropological studies, and more) appointed as part of the investigation of the criminal case of the murder of the Royal Family.

The experts have announced on more than one occasion that their examinations definitively prove that the remains belong to the Royal Martyrs. In an interview last July, senior investigator Marina Molodtsova repeated that the examinations have verified the authenticity of the remains, though investigations were continuing in order to “eliminate the slightest doubt.”

In accordance with the instructions of the Bishops’ Councils of 2016 and 2017, the Synod decided to publish information on the results of the examinations after their completion and to submit the results of the examinations for consideration by the next Bishops’ Council.

For more information about the this highly contentious issue, please refer to my book Bones of Contention: The Russian Orthodox Church and the Ekaterinburg Remains, published in 2020

© Paul Gilbert. 18 June 2021

Holy Synod meet to discuss results of Ekaterinburg Remains investigation

On 17th June 2021, a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church took place in the Throne Hall of the Patriarchal and Synodal Residence in the Danilov Monastery in Moscow under the chairmanship of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

The members of the Synod examined the report of Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhov Tikhon – submitted on 17th April 2021 – on the genetic examinations of the “Ekaterinburg Remains”, as well as information provided by the Investigative Committee of Russia on various examinations: molecular genetic, physicochemical, traceological, ballistic, handwriting, authorship, historical and archival , soil science, forensic – anthropological, forensic. In addition, members of the Synod reviewed the investigation of the criminal case on the murder of members of the Imperial Family on 17th July 1918.

JOURNAL No. 31 of the meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, 17th June 2021

LISTENED information about the progress of work on the identification of the “Ekaterinburg remains”.

Reference:

The consecrated Bishops’ Council of 2016 decreed: “The members of the Council got acquainted with the work of the church commission acting with the blessing of Patriarch Kirill for the study of the “Ekaterinburg remains”. The Council expresses satisfaction in connection with the fact that, in response to the appeal of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the state authorities decided to conduct a comprehensive historical, anthropological, genetic and forensic examination of these remains and a comprehensive study of the circumstances of the murder of the Tsar’s family. The decision on the recognition or non-recognition of the “Ekaterinburg remains” as the holy relics of the Royal Passion-Bearers may be made by the Bishops’ Council on the proposal of the Holy Synod, based on the assessments of the final materials of the comprehensive examination, which must be pre-posted for public comment. The timing of the completion of the examination should not depend on any external circumstances, but be determined by the time required for scientific research” (paragraph 10 of the 2016 Council Resolutions).

The consecrated Council of Bishops in 2017 decreed: “With the host of new martyrs and confessors, the Church glorifies the Royal Passion-Bearers. The church commission, together with state investigative bodies, is still carrying out painstaking work to identify the “Ekaterinburg remains.” Having heard a detailed report on this topic, the Council expresses the hope that in good time an end will be put in the mentioned studies ”(paragraph 3 of the 2017 Council Resolutions). The 2017 Council of Bishops emphasized that the above resolution of the Council of 2016 regarding the adoption or non-recognition of the “Ekaterinburg remains” as the holy relics of the Royal Passion-bearers and the publication of the final materials of a comprehensive examination for public discussion remains in force.

PHOTO: meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Throne Hall of the Patriarchal and Synodal Residence in the Danilov Monastery in Moscow, 17th June 2021

IT WAS RESOLVED AS FOLLOWS:

Upon acquaintance with the report of His Grace Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhov Tikhon regarding the genetic examinations of the “Ekaterinburg remains”, as well as with the information provided by the Investigative Committee of Russia regarding various examinations (molecular genetic, physicochemical, traceological, ballistic, handwriting, authorship, historical and archival , soil science, forensic – anthropological, forensic), appointed as part of the investigation of a criminal case on the murder of members of the Imperial Family:

  1. To express gratitude to all workers on the establishment of the truth in the issue of identification of “Ekaterinburg remains”.
  2. In accordance with the instructions of the Councils of Bishops in 2016 and 2017, to publish information on the results of the examinations after their completion.
  3. Submit the results of the examinations for consideration at the next Bishops’ Council.

What happens next?

The next Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church will be held in November 2021, at which time, the ROC is expected to acknowledge that the Ekaterinburg Remains are those of Emperor Nicholas II, his family and their four faithful retainers.

Click HERE to read my article The Fate of the Ekaterinburg Remains, originally published on 17th March 2016, and updated on 4th January 2017.

© Paul Gilbert. 17 June 2021

Russia’s second equestrian monument to Nicholas II to open on 17th July

At long last, Russian sculptor Irina Makarova’s magnificent equestrian monument to Emperor Nicholas II is to be erected on 17th July, on the grounds of the Church of the Holy Martyr Mikhail (Gusev) in Kulebaki of the Nizhny Novgorod region.

Russian media continually note that this is Russia’s first equestrian monument to Nicholas II, however, this is incorrect, Russia’s first equestrian monument to the Tsar was erected in Moscow in December 2014.

“The Russian people are entirely guilty for the death of the tsar,” said Archpriest Nikolai Boldyrev, who considers the monument a step of repentance “for the sins of the fathers.” He draws parallels between the last tsar and Christ, believing that a curse hangs over Russia, and calls for repentance.

The erection of the monument is timed to the date of the murders of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg by the Ural Soviet on the night of 16/17 July 1918. The opening and consecration of the monument will take place at the Church of the Holy Martyr Mikhail (Gusev). Deputies from the State Duma, Monarchist General Leonid Reshetnikov from the Double-Headed Eagle Society, the leader of the Nizhny Novgorod branch of the Russian Noble Assembly Olga Polyanskaya and other guests have been invited.

The rector of the Church of the Holy Martyr Mikhail (Gusev) Father Nikolai Boldyrev, speaking about the erection of the monument, draws parallels between the sacrifice of Christ and the death of Nicholas II:

“Our goal is to return historical memory, to reveal the true image of Tsar Nicholas, so that the Russian people may know who he was for us. He knew throughout his life that he would have to suffer. Three saints told him about that he would be a martyr and that his family would perish, and that all his nobles, military leaders would betray him” said Father Nikolai – “He died for us, for the Russian people, who betrayed him, to the Russian Golgotha. He forgave everyone who slandered him.”

PHOTO: Father Nikolai Boldyrev

Archpriest Nikolai Boldyrev also said that a curse lies on the Russian people and that they must repent for betraying the oath given to the Romanov dynasty at the Zemsky Sobor in 1613.

“The elders said that until you realize who Nicholas II was, Russia will not rise from its knees,” says Father Nikolai – “Sin hangs over us, we have become perjurers. If you have read the Bible, you know that children suffer for the sins of their parents until the third generation. All this is a curse. Grandfathers, perhaps, demolished churches, participated in persecutions. Saint John of Shanghai wrote that the Russian people were entirely guilty for the death of the tsar.”

A year ago, Father Nikolai Boldyrev gained fame because he was temporarily suspended for refusing to close churches during the COVID pandemic and wipe the communion spoons with alcohol.

Initially, the equestrian monument to Nicholas II was planned to be erected in 2020, however, a lack of funds delayed it by one year, Donations for the construction of the monument have been collected for several years. The cost of the monument is 5 million rubles [$70,000 USD].

The monument’s sculptor Irina Makarova, also created monuments to the Holy Royal Martyrs at the St. Seraphim-Diveyevo Convent in July 2017; the meeting of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna in Alushta, Crimea; and a monument to the Holy Royal Martyrs in Tyumen.

Click HERE to read my article Nicholas II Equestrian Monument Planned for the Russian city of Kulebaki + PHOTOS, originally published on 13th December 2019.

© Paul Gilbert. 15 June 2021

Historic link between Nicholas II and St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York

PHOTO: St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral was built in the Moscow Baroque style in 1902

This month marks the 120th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone for St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral, located in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City. The cathedral serves as the administrative center of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America, and houses the representation of the Moscow Patriarchate in the United States.

On 25th August 1899, a plot of land of about 700 m² was purchased on 97th Street, between Madison and 5th Avenue, on which it was planned to build a cathedral that could accommodate 900 worshipers, as well as premises for a Sunday school, festive meetings and an apartment for clergy.

The cathedral was constructed in the Moscow Baroque style by the architect Ivan Viktorovich Bergezen. In 1900, permission to raise funds for the construction of the church was issued by Emperor Nicholas II, who on his own behalf donated 7,500 gold rubles to the project.

PHOTO: the iconostasis of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral

The foundation stone of the church was laid by Bishop Tikhon, the head of the Russian Church in the Aleutian Islands and North America – the future Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Tikhon (1865-1925) on 22nd May 1901.

On 23rd November 1902, a consecration service, the first to be held in the completed church, was led by Bishop Tikhon. Bishop Charles Chapman Grafton, representing the Episcopal Church, participated in the service. The Russian Holy Synod elevated St. Nicholas Church to Cathedral status in December 1903, and the Diocesan Seat of North America was transferred from San Francisco to New York in 1905. Restoration work was carried out on the Cathedral between 1954 and 1960.

Today St. Nicholas Cathedral continues to serve the needs of the Russian Orthodox Church in this country as it has since its founding.

© Paul Gilbert. 4 May 2021