Why was Russia’s senior investigator and forensic expert dismissed from the Ekaterinburg remains case?

240b

The skull of Emperor Nicholas II

Vladimir Nikolaevich Solovyov, 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 death of the imperial family is calling it quits. Over the years, the case of the Ekaterinburg remains has taken up much of his professional career.

After his removal from the case, Vladimir Nikolaevich consented to the first interview, with the journalist Andrei Kamakin of the Russian media outlet MK – this is the First English translation – PG

***

– Vladimir Nikolaevich, let’s start with your retirement. What are the reasons?

– The reason is age (born in 1950 – PG). The Investigative Committee generally has a term of service of up to 65 years. After that, every year you need to renew it. But 70 years is considered the age limit, after 70 – you can no longer remain in the service if you are in uniform. I began my investigative work in 1976, after graduating from Moscow State University, so it’s time to retire. 

– What is the current status of the Ekaterinburg remains? What do you know?

– I have had nothing to do with the investigation, for more than four years now. Formally, I resigned from the investigation team in May 2016, but in fact I had already been dismissed in early November 2015. I do not have any reliable information on the current status of the investigation. In addition, the case materials are classified and remain “secret”. Further, I signed a non-disclosure agreement upon my dismissal.

– The case was classified immediately after you were dismissed?

– Yes.

– And how common is this practice – classified?

– The decision is made by the investigator. It is clear that many things need to be kept secret. We once worked in Togliatti investigating the criminal activities of one gang. Well, of course, this case had to be kept secret! A small leak of information – and a dozen people can die. But as far as the Ekaterinburg remains is concerned, I have always been against the case being “classified”. On the contrary, I believe that it should be as open as possible. This is not an ordinary criminal case. Rather, it is a historical investigation with forensic elements. I can hardly imagine what needs to be classified?!

– Well, what about the period when you conducted the investigation, can you discuss this?

– I can, however, I have no right to divulge the findings of the investigation before my dismissal. I know very little about the further progress of the investigation. Prior to this, until mid-November 2015, the case, was without a bar. I gave an interview, and did not hide anything. Therefore, I do not think that I can disclose something which is still classified as “secret” on the case.

– What, then, was the picture at the time of your dismissal?

– The case was resumed on September 23, 2015. On the same day, we exhumed the remains of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. As witnesses, I invited the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg and Ladoga Barsanuphius and Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin (at that time – Chairman of the Synodal Department of the Moscow Patriarchate for the Relations of the Church and Society. – AK).

I told them: “I will not touch a single bone. Here are the packages for you, here are the specialists who will take fragments for research with you. You yourself will seal, sign these envelopes, and then I will sign them. This is a precaution, so that there would be no questions, no suspicion that ‘Solovyov might have replaced something there’ ”.

240f

Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008) with HM Queen Elizabeth II, during her visit to Russia in 1994

– For what purpose was this examination carried out?

– It was a request of the patriarchy to check the ritual murder theory that the heads of the emperor and empress had been separated from the bodies after their execution, and that the skulls of two other people had been buried with the remains. The church has always been very nervous about this theory. I had numerous conversations with Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008), and he repeatedly asked questions: “were their heads separated from their bodies, was their execution a ritual murder?”

The severed heads myth began with General M.K. Diterichs (head of the Kolchakovo commission to investigate the killing of the imperial family. – AK ). According to Diterichs, the heads of the Romanovs were placed in barrels filled with alcohol and brought to Moscow to Lenin and Sverdlov.

Then there were the so-called “witnesses”. For example, the monk Iliodor (Sergey Trufanov), a famous friend, and then enemy of Rasputin, claimed that Dzerzhinsky allegedly showed him a barrel containing the tsar’s head when they met in person in the Kremlin. It was all bullshit, of course!

In short, the task was to conduct a genetic examination of the skulls to make sure that they had not been replaced.

– At the first stage of the investigation, in the 1990s, such a study was not conducted?

– It was not. I was often criticized for not conducting a genetic examination on the skulls at the time. 

– Why?

– I will try to explain. Genetics can now work with microscopic volumes of matter, even with individual molecules. And in the early 1990s, after a full genetic examination, there would be little left of the skulls. At the same time, we had the categorical conclusion of anthropologists: the heads had not been separated. All the cervical vertebrae of the emperor and empress were preserved. Post-cranial skeletons, that is, the part that is below the head, corresponded to that of the skulls.

– Were the results ready when you were dismissed?

– Yes, a genetic examination confirmed that both the skulls and skeletons belonged to the same people – the emperor and the empress. There had been no substitution. 

– Did the church also ask you about them?

– No. A genetic examination was carried out on the traces of blood, on the shirt worn by Nicholas II, which he was wearing during an assassination attempt on him in Japan in 1891, as well as blood on the uniform and boot of Alexander II, which he was wearing during an assassination attempt. All these things are today stored in the State Hermitage. In addition, samples of bio-materials were taken from the descendants of Anna Demidova, Dr. Eugene Botkin and Ivan Kharitonov (a lady-in-waiting, the family doctor and the cook who were all murdered with the Imperial Family in the Ipatiev House on July 17, 1918. – AK). We were unable to locate any descendants of the valet Alexei Troupe.

The experts worked day and night, and by mid-October all the results were ready. All of them categorically confirmed that the remains found in the Porosenkov ravine near Ekaterinburg belong to the Romanovs and their servants. But the patriarch still had doubts.

240d

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin (1968-2020)

– Did the Patriarch insist on the resumption of the investigation?

– Here is how it was. In July 2015, a government working group was created (on issues related to the investigation and reburial of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria. – AK), which was headed by Sergei Prikhodko (at that time – Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the Government of the Russian Federation. – AK).

All departments and organizations that were involved in the identification of the remains and historical research – the Federal Center for Forensic Medicine, Rosarchive, the Institute of General Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Investigative Committee – presented their conclusions. And all the references clearly and definitely stated that the Ekaterinburg remains were indeed those of the murdered Imperial Family. Therefore, the working group, convinced of the seriousness of the arguments, proposed a burial on October 18, 2015.

But when Vsevolod Chaplin, who represented the patriarchy in the group, was asked if the representatives of the church would give the names of members of the Imperial Family at the burial ceremony, he replied that the names would not be spoken, since the church had no confidence in the research of scientists. All the results had been allegedly obtained secretly by him.

This, I must say, was an outright lie. Nobody hid anything from the church. Moreover, from 1995, the investigation actually worked only for the church: it answered its questions and complaints. I will say more: the experts who participated in the investigation from 1995 to 1998 were appointed at the proposal of Patriarch Alexy II.

I realized that Vsevolod Chaplin voiced the position of Patriarch Kirill and that we would face the same scandal as in 1998. Then, at the funeral (July 17, 1998, the remains of 9 of 11 prisoners of the Ipatiev House — Nicholas II, Alexandra Fedorovna, three of their daughters and four servants — AK) were buried, the priest was forbidden to acknowledge the unidentified corpses by name.

We met with Chaplin face to face. “Father Vsevolod,” I said, “we must somehow get out of this situation. I suggest such an option. We will resume the criminal case. If you want the church to be involved in the investigation, then there is no problem. We will give you complete carte blanche: do what you want, invite any kind of specialists. Talk, I ask you, with His Holiness. ”

Chaplin spoke with the patriarch. The patriarch then made a request to President Vladimir Putin to conduct additional research, which would allow church representatives the opportunity to actively participate in this. The church’s proposal was forwarded to the First Deputy Prosecutor General of Russia, and Chairman of The Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General’s Office Alexander Ivanovich Bastrykin, who moved quickly to reopen both the criminal case into the deaths of the Imperial Family and a new investigation. I was ordered to lead the new investigation.

– That is, it turns out that it was you who initiated the “resumption” of the case?

– Yes, but in reality, all I wanted was to wait for the funeral, probably get a departmental medal for good service, retire and forget about the Ekaterinburg remains case.

But I saw an imminent conflict and believed that only the participation of the church in the investigation could prevent it. Conversations with Chaplin encouraged me then. I was sure that we would finish the job before the new year 2016, after which I would calmly retire. But I was wrong.

Instead of a calm, honorable resignation – it became a nightmare. I was inundated with a flurry of criticism from the press, public organizations, and pundits close to church circles. They accused me of grossly breaking the law, falsifying the tsar’s bones, bribing experts all over the world, and forcing the Russian people to pray to the devil through “fake bones”.

These outrageous accusations endured for five years. Since all my work on the Ekaterinburg Remains was being called into question, I decided to wait for the final results of the investigation.

– Do you regret intervening?

– No, not at all! It was necessary for me to go this way. This way, the church could not say later, that I did not listen to their position.

240h

Exhumation of the remains of Emperor Alexander III

– What led to your removal from the case?

– Relations with the patriarchy escalated. As an example, I can cite the conflict around the remains of Alexander III. The church commission (to study the “remains found near Ekaterinburg”, formed by order of the patriarch in September 2015. – AK ) appealed to the Investigative Committee with a request for the exhumation of the ashes of the “Tsar-Peacekeeper”. I was categorically against opening the grave.

– For what reason?

– In 1994, when we exhumed the remains of Grand Duke George Alexandrovich, the brother of Nicholas II, we were convinced of two things. First: the graves in the Peter and Paul Cathedral had not opened and not defiled, according to many, by the Bolsheviks. And the second: burials, a significant part of them, were exposed to water. Including the sea, which, apparently, was caught up in the Neva during the floods.

The remains of George Alexandrovich, in addition to a wooden coffin, were enclosed in a zinc coffin and a copper ark. And when the crypt was flooded, then, apparently, in salty sea water metal objects formed a kind of battery. Moreover, the current was generated so thorough that only a few small pieces remained of the zinc coffin. The wooden coffin, however, was perfectly preserved. But the remains themselves were also badly damaged.

I had serious doubts about how well preserved the remains of Alexander III would be. More appropriate, if the church so wanted to double-check everything, I thought to open the grave of George Alexandrovich once again. We already knew the degree of preservation of these remains. In addition, before the second burial, the grave was put in order and  drained. That is, from a technical point of view, exhumation would not be as difficult.

And most importantly: George Alexandrovich carried the genes of both the father and mother of Nicholas II, that is, from the point of view of genetics, his remains are much more important and informative than those of his father, Alexander III.

But I understand now why the patriarch and Tikhon Shevkunov (Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhovsky, secretary of the church commission on the Ekaterinburg remains.” – AK) insisted on opening the tomb of Alexander III.

In the 1920s, I recall, Poland was at war against Soviet Russia, Polish newspapers published stories about how the Bolsheviks had desecrated the graves of the Russian emperors. In particular it noted how the tombs of Alexander III and Peter I had been opened … thus raising speculation by the church.

As I understand it, the representatives of the church really wanted to prove that the grave of Alexander III had indeed been looted. Then it would be possible for the church to say that Solovyov or someone else took the bones from the graves in the Peter and Paul Cathedral, and then passed them off as the Ekaterinburg remains.

– As far as I remember, opening the tomb did not show anything which confirmed this version?

– That’s right. The exhumation, which was carried out after my dismissal, unequivocally established that the tomb had not been disturbed.

240e

Tikhon Shevkunov (Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhovsky

– But this was not the only conflict?

– Indeed, it was not the only one. I had a major disagreement with Tikhon Shevkunov during a meeting with Bastrykin. Everyone involved in this matter was invited to it, including Bishop Tikhon. And shortly before that, he held a press conference in which academician Veniamin Alekseev, the former director of the Ural Institute of History and Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, took part.

This was the first press conference of Tikhon Shevkunov in the rank of secretary of the church commission, which was to set the tone for work on the study of the remains. In theory, a specialist whom the church trusts the most should have been invited to it. And this specialist, academician Alekseev, was telling us that the Imperial Family, or part of it, may have been saved! There is supposedly a lot of documents confirming this version.

At the same meeting I, met Vladyka Tikhon. “Listen,” I said, “in 2000 the church canonized the Romanovs as martyrs, that is, acknowledging that the entire family died. They are saints precisely on the fact of their death. And you invite a “historian” who questions the decision of the church. Are you against the decision of the Council of Bishops? ” Tikhon then began to make excuses: they say, I misunderstood him. I did not.

Bastrykin intervened. He realized that any conflict could lead to unpredictable consequences. At the same meeting, I was ordered to transfer the case to Krasnov (at that time – the head of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee, since January 22, 2020 – the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation. – AK).

From that moment I could no longer examine any documents of the investigation. Krasnov advised the members of the investigative team not to communicate with me.

240g

On 17th July 2018, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill led a Cross Procession from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama

– They say that the Patriarch himself insisted on your removal. He allegedly requested this from the chairman of the Investigative Committee?

– I can’t rule that out. He really wanted another investigator to get down to business. As Vsevolod Chaplin later told me, shortly after the resumption of the case, the patriarch demanded that he “solve the problem with Solovyov.” And when Father Vsevolod replied that he could not do this, he said that then another person would do it. And Chaplin in the church commission was replaced by Tikhon Shevkunov.

As for the transfer of the case itself, I have no grievance or complaint. This is a common scenario: today the matter is in the production of one investigator – tomorrow the other. But they could use me at least as a consultant! At that time, I was the only person on the committee who thoroughly knew the case of the Ekaterinburg Remains thoroughly. For some reason, apparently, Krasnov did not like me. 

– Be that as it may, the issue of identification has been resolved. On July 16, 2018, the Investigative Committee officially declared: “The findings of the commission of molecular genetic examinations confirmed that the Ekaterinburg Remains belong to the former Emperor Nicholas II, members of his family and their retainers.”

– I never had the slightest doubt that it would be so. The truth has triumphed, and I am completely satisfied.

– Nevertheless, the case is not closed, the investigation continues. What else, do your colleagues want to find out?

– Apparently, the emphasis is now the insistence of the church on historical expertise. This topic is voluminous, and can be infinitely long. But, as far as I know from the press, no new documents have been found during this time. 

– Two years ago at a conference organized by the church, the current head of the investigation on the Ekaterinburg Remains Marina Molodtsova expressed her intention to check all possible versions, including the theory of the ritual murder of the Imperial Family. Perhaps this is the reason it has taken so long?

– This theory was checked back in the 1990s. At that time, I had requested all the data on ritual killings from the archives and investigative units of Russia and prepared a comprehensive report on this subject, which I read to the government commission. There were no objections – including from the church commission, which included Metropolitan Juvenal and church archaeologist Belyaev.

The question, I believe, has long been closed: the murder was entirely for political reasons and did not involve any satanic rites. By the way, the church’s decision to canonize the Imperial Family in 2000, was based on their recognition as a political murder. For several years, the special commission of the patriarchy studied the issue of the “ritualism” of regicide and did not find any reasons for its recognition.

But the most important thing: the resolution on the rehabilitation of the Romanovs, adopted by the Presidium of the Supreme Court on October 1, 2008, states that members of the Imperial Family “were shot on behalf of the state” and “subjected to political repression.” And this is a judicial act of higher legal force. 

Only the Presidium of the Supreme Court itself can change this verdict. Not a single court, prosecutor’s office, or investigator can do anything contrary to this ruling. Even if you do not agree with it. Incidentally, I myself do not agree with the ruling regarding the motives of rehabilitation. But the law is the law.

– Yes, I know your position: having rehabilitated the Imperial Family, but at the same time, the regicide was also rehabilitated. And indeed a criminal case turned out: there are those who were killed, there are those who killed, but there are no perpetrators.

– That’s right. Prior to this, the organizers and participants in the execution appeared in the case as murderers, as persons who committed a criminal offense. But since the Supreme Court found that they were only following the decision of a “public authority vested with judicial functions”.

However, there was one benefit from this ruling, it put an end to all the impostors, those who claimed to be heirs of the “miraculously saved Romanovs.” I told them: “Unfortunately, we can’t do anything for you. According to the decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Court, the entire Imperial Family were shot.”

So, back to your question: I was very surprised when it was announced that the investigation was even going to check the claims of the impostors, as well as the ritual murder theory. Investigative bodies do not have the right to audit the decisions of the Presidium of the Supreme Court!

In fact, the only question that the investigation could fully deal with is the identification of the remains.

– It turns out that historical examination does not make sense at all?

– Whatever the results of the historical examination, the investigation must repeat the ruling by the Presidium of the Supreme Court. Even if it came to other conclusions. The only thing the Investigative Committee can do in this case is to turn to the Presidium of the Supreme Court with a request to review its decision of October 1, 2008.

– Despite all the vicissitudes of the past five years, you remain a member of the government working group. As I understand it, no one has removed you from this position.

– Yes, no one has told me that I have been removed from this group. I think that after the publication of this interview, I will immediately be removed, but for now I officially remain a member of it.

– When was the working group meeting for the last time?

– The last meeting took place on September 11, 2015.

– How did it come about?” What prompted the prime minister to create it?

– What prompted … probably, in March 2015, I turned to Lyudmila Borisovna Narusova (member of the Federation Council, widow of the mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. – AK). We have had a very long, good relationship with her. Her husband, Anatoly Sobchak, was the main engine of the first government commission created in 1993. He provided enormous assistance when all these studies were carried out.

I said: “Lyudmila Borisovna, Anatoly Alexandrovich was very sympathetic with regard to this topic. Is it possible to somehow end it humanly, to finally bring peace to the poor bones of the imperial children?” Narusova fully supported me. She turned to Putin and Medvedev. The President and the Prime Minister were both familiar with this problem and made the appropriate decisions.

240

The remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria found in 2007, consist
of 44 bone fragments, as well as seven teeth, three bullets and a fragment of clothing

– And who proposed October 18 as the date of the funeral? I heard that the idea belongs to Putin?

– Yes, I believe that it was his idea.

– But why exactly on October 18?

– This is the name day of Tsesarevich Alexei.

– Prior to the creation of the working group, did the church show any interest in the remains of Alexei and Maria?

– None, there was absolutely no interest. I will tell you a story. In March 2011, after the case was closed and the question arose of what to do with the remains of Alexei and Maria — they were then stored in my safe — I sent a letter to the patriarch.

He wrote back, that the government does not solve the issue of burial, relatives also need not apply. According to the law, the remains in such cases are transferred to the corresponding department responsible. That is, formally, we had to deal with them as unclaimed remains. Their graves with zinc tablets are buried in unmarked graves, situated in special sections of municipal cemeteries.

In a letter to the patriarch, I asked if the church would take upon itself the burdens of burial. The answer was very short: “The Russian Orthodox Church does not claim the right to bury the “Ekaterinburg remains ”mentioned in your letter.

Is that all?

– And that’s it. That is, look: the church was asked how it relates to the fact that the saints canonized by it, the heir to the throne and his sister can be buried like homeless people. And the primate replies: “Well, bury them!” There were many other appeals to the church leadership on this subject, but I received no answer other than this letter from the patriarch. And after that, Kirill has the conscience to declare that the church has repeatedly appealed to the investigation, but no one answered it! Cynicism, of course, is complete.

Even a person with a secondary school education, a conscientious person, after many studies, understands the importance that the remains discovered near Ekaterinburg in 1991 and 2007 respectively, belong to the Imperial Family. And that the church hierarchs have a responsibility.

Since the discovery of the Ekaterinburg remains and to this day in Russia about 60 million people have died. Many Orthodox Christians died without praying to the relics of the Holy Royal Martyrs. I think Patriarch Kirill should publicly apologize to the believers for this.

– The last, as far as I could trace, the public statement of the head of the working group Sergey Prikhodko dates from July 2016. Then he said the following: “We are waiting for the end of church examinations. Timing depends on the church.” Do you know anything about these studies? What phase are they in?

– I know that the church has done some genetic research. Most likely, they have long been finished. And the results, of course, are exactly the same as those of the investigation committee.

– As for church plans for the remains, the latest information on this topic is a statement by the spokesman for the patriarch made in July 2018: “We are waiting for the final conclusions, which will then be presented to the next bishops’ council.” The next meeting is due to take place this year. That is, in theory, the issue will soon be resolved. But I believe in this, frankly, with difficulty. Do you have any forebodings about this?

– Church hierarchs can, of course, bring this issue to the Council of Bishops. But that doesn’t mean anything. At the council, I am sure it will be said that there is still not enough data to make a final decision. What you need to research is something else. 

At one time, church representatives demanded from me a detailed, almost second-to-second report on what happened during and after the execution. As if there were five operators with video cameras! I worked in the investigating authorities for many years and I can say with confidence that only in the rarest cases do we have as much information as we have on the Ekaterinburg remains.

– Do you understand the purpose pursued by the church leadership?

– As the late Vsevolod Chaplin told me at one time, the patriarch, speaking with him, said that he would not want this issue to be resolved in his lifetime. It is clear that the patriarch does not want to take responsibility for the processions to Ganina Yama (an abandoned mine, where the murderers brought the Romanovs’ bodies right after the execution and made the first, unsuccessful attempt to hide them; in 2000, the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs was founded on this site – AK). 

– What is so terrible in these religious processions?

– The church still officially adheres to the version of investigator Sokolov (Nikolai Sokolov, the investigator who investigated the execution of the Imperial Family on behalf of Admiral Kolchak. – AK): the bodies of the Romanovs were completely destroyed at Ganina Yama. In 1919, Sokolov found several dozen bone fragments – chopped and burnt. And he suggested that these were the remains of the Imperial Family.

These fragments, were taken out of Russia by Sokolov, but lost during the Second World War. But in 1998, when archaeological excavations were carried out on Ganina Pit, another 73 bone fragments were found there. In the same place and, judging by the description, similar to what Sokolov discovered. Experts found that at first these bones were welded, and then burned in a low-temperature flame, which could be a fire. But the most important thing: these are not human bones, but domestic animals – cow, goat, and chicken.

Where they came from is understandable. According to the memoirs of Yurovsky (the head of the firing squad. – AK), his men were hungry, and he ordered them to bring food from the city. Apparently, the Chekists and Red Guards cooked a soup for themselves, and then they threw the bones into the fire.

In order for the church hierarchs to recognize the remains of the Imperial Family means for them to acknowledge that all these years they led religious processions not to relics, but to animal bones. They want to delay this shame as long as possible.

– In this case, the authorities are greatly mistaken, making the decision on the burial of Alexei and Mary dependent on the position of the church.

– Yes, the prospects for church burial are not yet visible. The Patriarchate has not decided on its position to the remains, although it had all the possibilities for such. But all reasonable deadlines have passed, it is impossible to drag it out any longer. In my opinion: the question of the burial of members of the Imperial Family, of the head of a great empire cannot even be left to the mercy of even the most respected religious denomination.

It is necessary to assemble a working group and once again consider the issue of identifying the remains – taking into account the results of the new genetic examinations. And decide on a civil burial. Whether the church will take part in this ceremony and in what form is no longer a problem of the government, but of the church.

240a

Vladimir Solovyov in the State Archive of the Russian Federation

– With what mood do you leave the Investigative Committee, Vladimir Nikolaevich? With a sense of accomplishment or unfinished business?

– My feelings are contradictory. I am glad that the conclusions made by me back in 1998 were confirmed. And it doesn’t matter who puts the last point in the matter. Maybe it’s even better that it’s not me. This will once again prove the objectivity of the investigation.

But the feeling of incompleteness, of course, is also there. And I feel this, not only as an investigator, but also as a citizen of Russia. The Bolshevik Revolution and the Civil War are not over until all of their victims are buried. Do not forget that Alexei and Maria are not just ordinary victims, they were the children of Russia’s last tsar. Let them be buried with the rest of their family in peace. 

© Andrei Kamakin / Paul Gilbert. 14 March 2020

How the Orthodox Church supported the overthrow of the monarchy

237

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

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

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

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

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

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

237b

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

237e

Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich and Emperor Nicholas II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

237f

Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow (1865-1925)

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

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

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

***

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

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

© Professor Mikhail Babkin / Paul Gilbert. 8 March 2020

Church of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II under construction in Novosibirsk

203c

The Church of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II in Novosibirsk

The Church of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, is now in the second phase of construction in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, with the final phase due to be completed in 2020.

The Church of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II is being built on the site of the Zakamensky Cemetery, which was destroyed by the Soviets in the middle of the 20th century. During construction of the stone church, liturgies are carried out in a temporary wooden building nearby, which is intended for the administration building. Construction has been slow, due to lack of funding, much of which has been collected by donations collected by local parishioners. 

203c

The consecration of the church dome and cross was performed by
Metropolitan Tikhon of Novosibirsk and Berd on 19th May 2018

The future church is based on the design of the Cathedral of the Spaso-Andronikov Monastery in Moscow. The temporary wooden church is a simple architectural design. It was consecrated on 23rd March 2007. In 2009, a belfry was built. It contains six bells cast at the Svetolitie enterprise, and an evangelist cast at the Litex Moscow plant in 2012. The temporary belfry is an architectural one-story building in the form of an octahedron crowned with a crown – a dome with a cross. The tier of ringing is with eight openings located on the cardinal points.

203b

Icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs in the temporary wooden church

The church is consecrated in honour of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II. A decision of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church of 14 August 2000, Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Tsesarevich Alexy, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia were canonized as holy martyrs.

203d

Monument of Emperor Nicholas II and Tsesarevich Alexei in Novosibirsk

A monument of Emperor Nicholas II with his son and heir Tsesarevich Alexei was established on 17th July 2017, on the grounds of the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Novosibirsk.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 December 2019

Ekaterinburg diocese launches Telegram channel about Russian Imperial family

199a

NOTE: All of the articles pertaining to Nicholas II and his family which were originally published in my Royal Russia News blog, have been moved to this Nicholas II blog. This article was originally posted on 15 February 2018 in my Royal Russia News blog – PG

This article has been edited and amended from its original by Paul Gilbert

The Ekaterinburg diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church has launched a Telegram channel devoted to Tsar Nicholas II’s family. The project precedes the centenary anniversary since the Tsarist Family’s brutal murder in the basement floor of a local mansion in July 1918.

Every day, the diocese will publish excerpts from the diaries of the Tsar and Tsarina Alexandra, which they kept during their exile in the West-Siberian city of Tobolsk and in Ekaterinburg.

“Upon the blessing by Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye, the царская-семья.рф Telegram channel has come on stream,” a spokesman for the diocese said. “The project is timed for the centenary anniversary of the new regal holy martyrs’ act of martyrdom. The publication of diaries will be synchronized with the events of a hundred years ago.”

“This means, for instance, that today, on 14 February 2018, we’re publishing the entries [the Tsar and the Tsarina] made on 14 February 1918,” he said.

“The contents of the project don’t envision any evaluative judgments on the part of historians or writers living nowadays,” the spokesman said. “This is people’s direct discourse, diaries and letters.”

“By way of counterbalancing distorted information that spreads in society sometimes, we bring to spotlight the real individuals, their thoughts, hopes, aspirations, and love,” he said.

Tsar Nicholas II abdicated the throne on 15 March 1917. Soon after that, he himself, Tsarina Alexandra and their five children were interned. The provisional government that came to power in the wake of the revolutionary events of February and March 1917 sent them off to Tobolsk in August of the same year.

The Bolsheviks came to power as a result of a new revolution in November 1917. The new authorities ordered the transfer of the Imperial Family to Ekaterinburg in the Urals at the end of April 1918.

The climax of the tragedy came on the night 16/17 July 1918, in the basement floor of a mansion that formerly belonged to mining engineer Nikolai Ipatyev. On orders from Moscow – supposedly from Jacob Sverdlov, one of the top officials on the Bolshevik government – a team of members of the Ekaterinburg committee of workers deputies executed the entire family by shooting.

Executed together with them were their closest assistants – family doctor Eugene Botkin, the Tsar’s footman Alexei [Aloiz] Trupp, the Tsarina’s lady-in-waiting Anna Demidov, and chef Ivan Kharitonov.

The further plight of their bodies still gives rise to some questions. Historians and criminology experts proceeding from the findings done by the investigator Nikolai Sokolov, who worked for the anti-Bolshevik forces under the command of Admiral Kolchak from 1919 through 1921, say the bodies were destroyed by burning with the aid of the rectified oil of vitriol and no remains were left.

However, a crew of amateur detectives found the remains of several people near an old local road in 1979. Suggestions that these were the remains of members of the Czarist Family surfaced in the professional milieu. In 1989, the information was made public.

Excavations at the site were done in the early 1990’s and the investigators found more human bones. Sophisticated testing done in several countries proved these were the remains of bodies of Nicholas II’s family with the highest degree of probability.

Entombment of the remains took place in 1998 at the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul in St Petersburg but the Russian Orthodox Church did not take part in the ceremonies because it still questions the identity of the bones.

Supplementary excavation at the site near Ekaterinburg followed in 2007. It resulted in more material finds, the forensic scrutiny of which continues to this day.

On 20th August 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) canonized Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, Tsesarevich Alexis, and the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia as new holy martyrs for faith.

Note: On 1st November 1981, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) canonized the Russian Imperial family as new martyrs

© TASS News Agency / Paul Gilbert. 14 December 2019

© Paul Gilbert. 13 December 2019

Russian Singer Has Chapel built in Honour of Nicholas II in Klin

198a

NOTE: All of the articles pertaining to Nicholas II and his family which were originally published in my Royal Russia News blog, have been moved to this Nicholas II blog. This article was originally posted on 15 February 2018 in my Royal Russia News blog – PG

Honoured Artist of the Russian Federation (2016), rock singer Olga Kormukhina has financed the construction of a chapel in honour of Emperor Nicholas II in Klin.

The Chapel-monument is situated on the M-10 Russia highway near the Tchaikovsky Museum-Reserve.

“Everything that I was looking for coincided here: the ancient city of Klin, the blessings of two elders, the music of Tchaikovsky, who was revered by the Imperial family, and the imperial route from Moscow to St. Petersburg,” said Kormukhina during an interview with the TASS News Agency.

Kormukhina explained that she had been looking for location to build a chapel for 15 years. It was Nikolay Guryanov (1901-2002), a highly respected spiritual figure within the Russian Orthodox Church and reputed myrrh-bearing starets and priest, and later the elder Elijah (Nozdryn), who turned her attention to this location. After visiting Klin, she agreed that it was here that the Tsar’s chapel should be erected. The city of Klin and the history of the Imperial family shared an important connection. “This was the location of the miracle-working icon of the Mother of God Klinskaya, which was especially honoured by the Romanov dynasty, and Peter Tchaikovsky, the favourite composer of Nicholas II and his family,” noted the singer.

198b

Mosaic bearing the image of Nicholas II

The features of the chapel include a mosaic icon bearing the image of Nicholas II, which is located inside, and a bas-relief in the form of a cross.

The chapel has already become a favourite place for both locals and visitors to Klin. People come here to pray, light candles, and in the evening the glow of light coming from within the white chapel, add a special beauty to its gilded dome. The local tourist office noted that it is included in a new tourist route, which runs from the station to the Tchaikovsky House. “It blesses all those traveling along the Moscow-Saint Petersburg highway,” – said Kormukhina.

The consecration of the chapel is scheduled to take place on Forgiveness Sunday, 18th February, with the blessing of Metropolitan Juvenaly of Krutitsy and Kolomna.

© Paul Gilbert. 14 December 2019

Nicholas II Equestrian Monument Planned for the Russian city of Kulebaki

201b

Artists concept of the equestrian monument to Tsar Martyr Nicholas II on the grounds of the
Church of the Holy Martyr Michael (Gusev), located on Admiral Makarov Street in Kulebaki

“The monument will be a symbol of universal repentance”

Donations are now being collected for a monument to Tsar Martyr Nicholas II, which which will be established in the Russian city of Kulebaki, in the Nizhny Novgorod region.

With the blessing of Bishop Vyksa and Pavlovsky Barnabas, the monument is to be installed on the grounds of the Church of the Holy Martyr Michael (Gusev), located on Admiral Makarov Street in Kulebaki.

According to the initiators of the project, the installation of the monument is planned for 17th July 2020, the day marking the murders of the Imperial Family. The cost of the monument is 5 million rubles ($80,000 USD). To date, more than 1 million has been raised. Work is already underway, which includes the metal frame for the monument.

The sculptor of the future monument is Irina Makarova, the same author of the monument to the Holy Royal Martyrs established in the St. Seraphim-Diveyevo Convent in July 2017. Makarova presents the Tsar on horseback, holding an Orthodox cross in the air – truly impressive!

The initiators are inspired by the famous dictum of the old man Nikolai Guryanov :

“The reason for the spiritual illness in Russia is the conciliar sin of treason against the Tsar, in allowing the slaughter of the Holy Royal Family and in the unrepentance of hearts … We lost the pure, strengthening grace that poured out on the sacred head of the Anointed One, and through him on all of Russia. By rejecting the Tsar, we raised a hand to everything holy and to the Lord. Without true repentance, there is no true glorification of the Tsar. There must be spiritual awareness. ”

201c

201d

201e

201f

201g

In an interview with the newspaper Kulebaksky Metallist, the rector of the church Archpriest Nikolai Boldyrev spoke about the Orthodox initiative:

“The reason for our troubles is the violation of the Cathedral Oath of 1613. The fact is that Russia (the church and the people), taught by the bitter experience of the Polish yoke, at the zemstvo-local Council of 1613 made a vow to God to faithfully serve his anointed, autocratic tsars from the Romanov dynasty, until the second coming of Christ,” recalls Father Nikolai.

“Having shot the Tsar and his family in 1918, the Russian people had broken their oath,” the priest claims. “We rejected and killed the Tsar anointed by God.”

According to Father Nikolai, in order to atone for this crime, “firstly, it is necessary to deeply comprehend and realize your sin, and secondly, to sincerely repent of it. Moreover, this applies to almost all classes, including the clergy, which lacked the wisdom and strength to stop the crime against both Divine and civil laws. We all need to embark on the path of repentance. Without it, nothing good awaits us. And this is the main problem. ”

“Thank God that much has changed in recent years,” noted Father Nikolai – “The glorification of the Holy Royal Martyrs has passed. At the place of their murder, the Church on the Blood was built, penitential prayers are underway, icons are painted, books are published. People began to see spiritually. The construction of this monument in our city is a sign of repentance. We repent with the whole world – both for our ancestors and for ourselves. The monument will be an eternal reminder not only of that terrible sin, but also a symbol of universal repentance. Passing by, anyone can say: “Forgive us, Sovereign, for our sins.”

Expressing hope, Archpriest Nikolai Boldyrev added – “The place, financial expenses, the Lit-Art company from the city of Zhukovsk, which plans to cast the monument in six months, were determined, the sculptor was chosen. Like churches, we will build a monument to the whole world. We hope that Kulebachans will respond to this good deed.”

201a

Billboard promoting the monument in Kulebaki

© Paul Gilbert. 13 December 2019

Exhibition: Icons from the Era of Nicholas II

190

Icon of the Mother of God “The Sovereign”

The following exhibition ran from 18th July to 9th September 2018

On 18th July 2018, in the year marking the 100th anniversary of the martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, an exhibition will open in the Andrei Rublev Museum of Ancient Russian Art in Moscow, presenting a look at the development of the Russian icon during the more than 22-year reign of the last Russian emperor.

Russian icon painting developed in a single cultural space along with literature, music and theatrical art, experiencing an extraordinary rise during the reign of Nicholas II (1894-1917). This flourishing activity was achieved through a number of icon painting and jewelry workshops, which received the title “Supplier of the Imperial Court”. The Imperial manifesto of 1905 on the toleration and the opening of the Old Believers altars attracted wide acceptance of church art by the Old Believers’ and the creation of new works oriented to the art of pre-Petrine time.

The exhibition will feature a wide range of icons from museum and private collections, including items with memorial inscriptions, from the time of Emperor Alexander III’s death in 1894 to the fall of the Russian monarchy in 1917.

The Icon of the Mother of God “the Sovereign” – pictured above – has a unique place in Russian history. It appeared in the Kolomenskoye village near Moscow on 2 March 1917, the very day that Emperor Nicholas II abdicated the throne. Until 1812 the icon belonged to a convent in Moscow, but in the year of Napoleon’s invasion of Moscow it was hidden in the Kolomenskoye village and forgotten there for 105 years, until the time came for the icon to be revealed in accordance with God’s will. The icon was found among other old icons in the cellar of the Church of Ascension, after the peasant woman Yevdokiya Adrianova was twice instructed in a dream to go to the Kolomenskoye village and search there for a special icon of the Mother of God. After being cleaned of centuries-old dust and grime, the icon revealed an image of the Theotokos sitting on a throne, with the Infant Christ on Her knees, extending His hand in blessing. The Holy Virgin held a scepter in one hand and an orb in the other, and had a crown on Her head. With Her regal air and unusually stern visage, Her appearance was divine.

Significantly, the icon revealed itself at a time when the Russian Empire embarked on its apocalyptic course of destruction, while out of its depths came Holy Russia to gain the crown of martyrdom. The Theotokos’ red robe reflected the color of blood, while the icon’s appearance on the day of the abdication of the last Tsar, and the Theotokos’ regal air with all the attributes of royal power signified that the Mother of God Herself took sovereigny over the Russian people who had just lost their monarch.

The exhibitions Icons from the Era of Nicholas II runs from 18 July 9 September 2018 at the Andrei Rublev Museum of Ancient Russian Art in Moscow

© Paul Gilbert. 12 December 2019

150th Anniversary of Nicholas II’s Birth Marked by Divine Liturgy in Ekaterinburg

181a

Bishop’s gather for a Divine Liturgy in the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg

NOTE: All of the articles pertaining to Nicholas II and his family which were originally published in my Royal Russia News blog, have been moved to this Nicholas II blog. This article was originally posted on 19 May 2018 in my Royal Russia News blog – PG

On 19th May 2018, on the day marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich, a festive Bishop’s Divine Liturgy was held in the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg.

The Divine Liturgy was headed by the Metropolitan of Pereleimon (Greek Orthodox Church), Metropolitan of Pereleimon (Greek Orthodox Church), and also by the bishops of the Ekaterinburg Metropolis: Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye, Bishop Mefody of Bishop of Kamen and Alapayev, Bishop of Nizhny Tagil and Nevyansky Eugene, Bishop of Serov and Krasnoturinsky Alexis. The Most Reverend Bishops were served by numerous clergy of the Ekaterinburg Diocese.

Metropolitan Petyeleimon of Berea arrived in the Ekaterinburg Diocese from Greece, specially to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Emperor. Prayers and hymns in Greek were heard during the service.

Hymns for worship were performed by the choir of the Sretensky Monastery, who travelled from Moscow to the Ural capital to pay tribute to the memory of the Holy Tsar-Martyr.

181b

Participants of a public forum dedicated to Nicholas II, held in the Cosmos Theater also took part in the Divine Liturgy, including the famous historian and author Petr Valentinovich Multatuli, representative of the Russian Academy of Sciences historian Vladimir Mikhailovich Lavrov, among others.

A sacramental verse, a sermon about the holy Tsar-Passion-Bearer was read by senior priest of the Church on the Blood, Protopriest Maxim Miniyailo. Fr Maxim noted that the birthday of the sovereign, which was always a public holiday in the Russian Empire. He spoke about the personality of the sovereign himself, reminding the Faithful that Nicholas II was “our Heavenly patron and an example to each of us in faith, in service to the Lord and Fatherland , in relation to his family and neighbor, on the anniversary of the Sovereign as an occasion to think about salvation.”

The number of parishioners in attendance at the Divine Liturgy filled the Church on the Blood to capacity, with the number of faithful spilling out onto the church’s porch, and into the street.

Vladyka Metropolitan congratulated everyone on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Emperor, thanking those who travelled to Ekaterinburg to pay tribute to the memory of the Holy Tsar Martyr, including guests from Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria; thanked the bishop of Vera Panteleimon; thanked the Sretensky Choir for the wonderful concert that took place the day before, and for today’s participation in the Diving Liturgy.

© Paul Gilbert. 10 December 2019

Ekaterinburg Hosts Public Forum for the Preservation of the Heritage of Emperor Nicholas II

VIDEO of the entire Forum (in Russian only) – duration 2 hours, 20 minutes

NOTE: All of the articles pertaining to Nicholas II and his family which were originally published in my Royal Russia News blog, have been moved to this Nicholas II blog. This article was originally posted on 20 May 2018 in my Royal Russia News blog – PG

On 18th May 2018, on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the birth of the last Russian emperor, a public forum was held in Ekaterinburg to preserve the heritage of Tsar Nicholas II.

Scientists, historians and authors, along with representatives of the public, gathered to discuss the urgent issues of preserving the historical memory of the sovereign, including recognizing the merit of Nicholas II for the development of the Russian state and an assessment of the murder of the Tsar’s family committed a hundred years ago.

180a

Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye

Opening the forum was Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye, who noted that Ekaterinburg “has become a symbol of the tragedy of the Tsar’s family and, together with her, our Motherland.”

“Since these tragic events, which took place 100 years ago, tragedy befell Russia and it’s people. It is here, on the 150th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich, that our holy cause is to gather and reflect on what the Russian Empire was during his reign, what was good about our great country, and what should we take from the past, what lessons, what edifications should we learn for our own lives” – said His Eminence.

The special guest of the forum – the Chairman of the Double-Headed Eagle Society the media group Tsargrad Konstantin Valerievich Malofeev, noted “the triumph of the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, is unparalleled in the thousand-year history of Russia.

“During the history of the Russian Empire, it was the most powerful, the largest, the happiest during the reign of Nicholas II. We should not forget this, and our forum is dedicated to this, which we, the society of historical enlightenment Double-Headed Eagle Society, proudly hold together with the Ekaterinburg Metropolis where our local branch is working under the guidance of Metropolitan Kirill.”

180b

The stage is set for the Nicholas II Forum, held at the Cosmos Theater, Ekaterinburg

The forum was also attended by Bishop Evgeny of Nizhny Tagil and Nevyansky, Bishop of Serov and Krasnoturinsky Alexy, Minister of Education of the Sverdlovsk Region Yury Biktuganov, First Deputy Minister of Culture of the Sverdlovsk Region Vladimir Manturov, as well as representatives of the Double-Headed Eagle Society, the World Russian People’s Council, the Imperial Palestinian Orthodox Society, arriving from various regions of Russia.

Historians, philosophers, theologians, public figures from Russia (among them also experts from Moscow and St. Petersburg), Serbia and Bulgaria discussed issues related to the restoration and preservation of the historical memory of Nicholas II.

Within the framework of the forum, experts assessed the era of the reign of the last Russian emperor as a time, providing great breakthroughs in the development of the state and creating the foundations of socio-economic, including technological development for decades to come. Experts came to the conclusion that Nicholas II was one of the most effective Russian rulers and issued a number of initiatives to perpetuate the memory of Emperor Nikolai Aleksandrovich as an outstanding statesman.

180c

More than 2,000 people attended the Nicholas II Forum on 18th May

Among the proposals included in the final document of the forum is the need for a large-scale federal information and enlightenment campaign on Russia’s achievements in the era of Nicholas II, the development of textbooks and other scientific and educational literature on the basis of reliable scientific information on era, the state order for quality works of art in various fields of culture and art; importance of historical archival research and public dialogue among the scientific community and citizens interested in history; installation in the cities and towns of Russia monuments to the sovereign – an initiative put forward by a member of the Regional Public Chamber, chairman of the Ural branch of the Union of Russian Paratroopers Yevgeny Teterin.

An important topic of the forum was the discussion of the need for public evaluation of the murder of the Imperial Family and their faithful servants, which occurred a century ago in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg. The tragedy of 1918, crowned with the feat of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers, has not yet been properly evaluated at the state level.

The experts of the forum supported the initiative of Moscow colleagues – participants of a recent round-table hosted by the Parliamentary Newspaper (Парламентская газета) where representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, State Duma deputies, jurists and political scientists condemned the murder of the Tsar’s family as an unacceptable and unjustifiable crime.

180d

Russia’s leading expert on Nicholas II, historian and author Pyotr Valentinovich Multatuli

During the forum on May 18, in Ekaterinburg, experts presented their views on the sovereign and the era at the forum by:

– Pyotr Valentinovich Multatuli, Russia’s leading expert on the life and reign of Nicholas II, candidate of historical sciences, member of the Council of the Society for the Development of Russian Historical Education of the Double-Headed Eagle Society, and regular commentator of the television channel “Tsargrad”;

– Vladimir Mikhailovich Lavrov, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Member of the Council of the Russian Historical Education Development Society of the Double-Headed Eagle Society, Academician of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, Chief Researcher of the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences;

– Konstantin Valerievich Malofeev, chairman of the Society for the Development of Russian Historical Education of the Double-Headed Eagle Society.

– Yegor Stanislavovich Kholmogorov, publicist, blogger, editor-in-chief of the Russian Observer and New Chronicles sites, author and presenter of the 100 books website;

– Nikola Tanasich, teacher of the Faculty of Philosophy, Belgrade State University;

– Georgi Dimov, Doctor of Science, Senior Researcher of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences;

– Dmitry Borisovich Grishin, chairman of the Sergievsky Memorial Society (Moscow).

Other participants of the forum were Vladislav Nikolayevich Mayorov, military journalist, expert on the history of Nicholas II and author of the “Royal Calendar”; Vladimir Ilyich Bolshakov, Doctor of Philosophy, Vice-Rector for Research of the Russian Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture Ilya Glazunov (Moscow), as well as members of the Urals Association in Moscow and other experts.

180e

The Sretensky Monastery Choir

The Forum came to close with the singing of God, Save the Tsar and Glory! and A Life for the Tsar, performed by the Sretensky Monastery Choir – please take a moment to watch/listen at the end of the video posted at the top of this post – PG.

The Forum on the preservation of the historical heritage of the Emperor Nicholas II was held in the Kosmos Theater in Ekaterinburg. More than 2,000 people participated in the historic Forum. The event, which became a significant public event, was covered by the leading federal and regional media and was broadcast by the Orthodox television channel Soyuz to 82 countries with a multi-million audience.

© Paul Gilbert. 10 December 2019

More than 100,000 participate in Liturgy, all-night procession for 100th anniversary of Holy Royal Martyrs

168a

View of the Church on the Blood on the night of 16/17 2018

NOTE: All of the articles pertaining to Nicholas II and his family which were originally published in my Royal Russia News blog, have been moved to this Nicholas II blog. This article was originally posted on 25 July 2018 in my Royal Russia News blog – PG

In 2018, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrated the centenary of the martyrdom of the last Imperial family of Russia with numerous events held throughout Russia, with the celebrations culminating in a Patriarchal Divine Liturgy in Ekaterinburg and all-night cross procession in their honor.

On the night of 16/17 July 2018, more than 100,000 Orthodox Christians, monarchists, among others gathered in Ekaterinburg for the liturgical celebrations. The faithful came from all corners of Russia and around the world, including Azerbaijan, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Lithuania, Moldova, Netherlands, New Zealand, Serbia, USA, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, France, Estonia, South Korea, and Japan.

The first Tsar’s Days procession took place in 1992, with the participation of but a few dozen faithful.

The event began with the Divine Liturgy celebrated on the square in front of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg, built on the site where the Ipatiev House once stood, where the family was murdered. The service was headed by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill with more than 35 hierarchs and multiple clergy concelebrating.

The entire service was broadcast live on the Orthodox TV station “Union:”

A special platform was erected for the Liturgy in front of the gates of the lower church, where the “Imperial Room” is located—a chapel in honor of the Royal Martyrs, built on specific site of their martyrdom.

Following the Liturgy, the patriarch led the traditional Royal Cross Procession from the place of martyrdom of the holy Royal Martyrs and their servants to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama ravine, covering a distance of 21 km (13 miles).

168e

His Holiness leads the Cross Procession to Ganina Yama

168f

The Cross Procession nears the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama

According to law enforcement agencies, more than 100,000 took part in the procession.

According to tradition, the faithful carried banners and icons in the procession, including a 6.5-ft. icon of the Tsar-Martyr, painted in 2017 for the Church of the “Reigning” Icon of the Mother of God at Ganina Yama. Together with the kiot, the icon weighs 330 lbs. A special bier on wheels was made to move the heavy icon.

The procession was also accompanied by 25 mobile groups from an Orthodox charity service, consisting of clergy, representatives of the Dormition Orthodox Brotherhood of Ekaterinburg, sisters of mercy, and volunteers, who provided assistance to those who could not walk the entire route of the procession. Field kitchens and tests were also set up at the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs for the pilgrims to rest.

His Holiness and the procession arrived at the monastery in the morning, where the patriarch served a moleben to the Royal Martyrs in front of the memorial cross erected at Mine #7, where the bodies of the Royal Martyrs were abused and disposed of. His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008) thus referred to Ganina Yama as “a living antimens, permeated with particles of the burnt holy relics.”

168g

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia

His Holiness then addressed the sea of faithful with a primatial word:

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

Your Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine! Fellow archpastors! Dear brothers and sisters, gathered in a multitude this night before the place where one hundred years ago was committed a terrible crime—wholly innocent people, who had committed their lives to the service of their Motherland, were killed by the evil will of man!

This atrocity still chafes our conscience, still causes us to mentally return to that time and try to understand what happened to our country and to our people. Where did this insanity, this attack come from? Looking from a distance of one hundred years, even if we want to we cannot see all the nuances of the national life of our people, which fade from memory and are missed by even the most penetrating gaze. But such crimes, as were committed here, cannot be accidental. Something stood behind this crime; behind it is the collective guilt of our people, a turn in the historical life of Holy Rus’, which led the people into a heavy, terrible impasse.

What happened to our people? After all, the country was covered with churches and monasteries, an absolute majority of the people were baptized, and the churches were filled with people. Why did it happen? Why did the murderers squeeze the trigger, without trembling at what they were doing? It means not everything was favorable. It means the sunlight reflected in the gilded domes was not always refracted into human hearts to strengthen faith in the Lord in them. And we know how over the course of at least 200 years preceding the tragedy of the Ipatiev House some changes occurred in the people’s consciousness that gradually but steadily led many to a departure from God, neglect of the commandments, and a loss of spiritual connection with the Church and the centuries-old spiritual tradition.

Why did this happen to our people? Why did they at some point become like a train whose engineer didn’t calculate its speed and heads into a steep turn, rushing towards an imminent catastrophe? When did we as people start this turn? We entered when alien thoughts, alien ideals, and an alien worldview, formed under the influence of philosophical and political theories, having nothing in common either with Christianity or our national tradition and culture, began to be perceived by the intelligentsia and aristocracy and even part of the clergy as advanced thoughts by which it was possible to change the people’s lives for the better.

Indeed, the idea of changing the life of the people for the better arises whenever there is a plan to abruptly change the course of history. We know that the worst and bloodiest revolutions have always occurred in view of people’s aspirations for a better life. The leaders of these revolutions instilled in the people that there is no other way to make life better—only by blood, only through death, only through the destruction of the existing way of life. And at some point, having abandoned their spiritual birthright, having lost their true connection with the Church and God, the intelligentsia, aristocracy, and even, as I have already said, part of the clergy were darkened in mind and infected with the thought of the need to drastically change the course of our national history and to try to build as quickly as possible a world where justice reigns, where there is no bygone separation according to material indicators, where people live peacefully and happily. As a result, many of those captured by this idea reach the point of committing crimes.

A question arises: “Is it possible through crime, through blood, through violence, and through the destruction of holy sites to build a happy life?” History clearly testifies: It is impossible! And, perhaps, the first and most important lesson that we should learn today from the tragedy of a century ago is that no promises of a happy life, no hope for help from outside, from some supposedly more educated and advanced people should seduce our people. We must remember the tragedy of the past. We must develop an immunity to any call to attain to human happiness through the destruction of that which is.

Hardly did anyone who called for the destruction of the people’s lives destroy their own lives, renouncing their own wellbeing. But with what fury they proposed to do it to everyone! And the people absorbed this lie; and the crowning act of departure from the most sacred and valuable that they had was the hideous execution of the Royal Family—innocent people who had not violated the law. And what kind of law could we even be talking about if it was necessary to kill the Tsar and his family to build a happy life? We know that nothing turned out well, and taught by bitter experience, we must build a robust rejection of any ideas and any leaders who propose to strive for some obscure “happy future” through the destruction of the life of the people, our traditions, and our faith.

Today, gathered here in such a great number, we remember the tragedy of the Ipatiev House. We have lifted up prayers to the Lord, we have prayed to the Emperor and Passion-Bearer Nicholas and those who suffered with him, that they would pray in Heaven for our earthly Fatherland and for our people and strengthen the Orthodox faith in every subsequent generation of Russians; that faithfulness to God and love for the Fatherland would accompany the lives of the youth and subsequent generations, and that no tragedy of this kind would ever happen again in our land.

May the Lord preserve our Russian land and the Russian people who today live in various countries; and although they are called by various names, are the same people who came out of the Kievan baptismal font, and passing though the most severe historical circumstances, have retained the Orthodox faith until today. May God’s blessing be upon our people, upon our Fatherland, and upon our martyric Russian Orthodox Church. May the life of our people be transfigured by the prayers of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church—without any upheavals or blood, but upon the firm foundation of faith and hope that God is with us! May the Lord save us all by the prayers of the holy Royal Passion-Bearers and all the New Martyrs!

Amen.

© Paul Gilbert. 8 December 2019