Nicholas II through Serbian Eyes

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II and Crown Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic of Serbia

There was an interesting legend in the Serbian army between the First and Second world wars. It was said that every year, on the anniversary of the murder of the Imperial family, the Russian emperor appeared in the Orthodox Cathedral in Belgrade and prayed for the Serbian people in front of the icon of St. Sava. He then walked to the General Staff Building to check on the state of the Royal Serbian Army.

But, what relation did Nicholas II have with the Serbian army? Moreover, thse behind the legend were not Russian emigrants, but in fact Serbian officers. In order to answer this question, it is necessary to understand what role Nicholas II played in the fate of this small Balkan state.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Serbia found itself in a very difficult position. The country’s fight for liberation from Ottoman rule in 1804 was short lived for the long-suffering region. The struggle for the redistribution of borders began. Only Russia provided consistent diplomatic support to Serbia during both Balkan Wars in 1912 and 1913 respectively. Nicholas II was praised and criticized for his foreign policy in the region. Lieutenant General Evgeny.Ivanovich Martynov (1864-1937), for example, wrote that Russia “sacrificed the blood and money of the Russian people in order to make it as easy as possible for the Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs and others, our Orthodox brethren”. A certain courage was required from the emperor even then, in order not only to cast aside all possible doubts about the unity of the Slavs, but also proved himself to be a real ally of the Serbs. .

In some respects, the Balkan Wars were a pre-warning to the First World War. In the summer of 1914, Nicholas II knew firmly what position to take when the very existence of the Serbian state was under threat.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II greets Serbian generals at Tsarskoye Selo

On 11th July 1914, at the same time as the Austrian ultimatum, Nicholas II received a telegram from Crown Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic of Serbia (1888-1934): “We cannot defend ourselves. Therefore, we pray Your Majesty to help us as soon as possible … We firmly hope that this appeal will find a response in your Slavic and noble heart.” The answer came three days later: “As long as there is the slightest hope of avoiding bloodshed,” wrote the emperor, “all our efforts should be directed towards this goal. If, contrary to our sincere desires, we do not succeed in this, Your Highness can be sure that in no case will Russia remain indifferent to the fate of Serbia.”

On the 15th of July, enemy artillery was already shelling Belgrade. Russia mobilized and Austria had to transfer forces to the Eastern Front. Alexander Karadjordjevic then telegraphed the Russian emperor:

“The hard times cannot but seal the bonds of deep affection that Serbia is connected with the Holy Slavic Russia, and feelings of eternal gratitude for the help and protection of Your Majesty will be sacredly kept in the hearts of all Serbs.”

In the fall of 1915, when the Serbian army, surrounded by the Austrians, Germans and Bulgarians, was forced to retreat through Albania to the Adriatic coast, Nicholas II again came to the rescure. The German command had already announced that the Serbian army no longer existed. Despite the efforts of the Russian ambassador in Rome, however, the Italians had no intention of allowing the Serbs to linger on their territory.

PHOTO: Chairman of the Ministerial Council of the Kingdom of Serbia, Nikola Pasic 

Then the chairman of the ministerial council of the Kingdom of Serbia, Nikola Pasic (1845-1926), sent an appeal for help to the Russian emperor. Nicholas II received it on 18th January and on the same day sent telegrams to the King of Great Britain and the President of France. The telegrams stated that if the Serbian army is not saved, Russia has the right to consider itself free from allied obligations. The Italians had to allow the Serbs to enter Vlora. And ten days later, the French began to evacuate Serbian soldiers and officers to the island of Corfu by ships.

But during the First World War there was also a “Special Purpose Expedition”, which was engaged in “the passage and escort of military cargo to Serbia,” and the “River Mine Operations Command”, and a great deal of assistance to Serbian refugees. Not to mention the fact that the Eastern Front pulled back at least half of the troops of the Triple Alliance.

But when on 18th October 1918, the Serbian army victoriously entered Belgrade, not only did the Russian Empire no longer exist, but neither did the monarchy: Emperor Nicholas II and his family having been murdered by the Ural Soviet on 17th July in Ekaterinburg.

The Serbs are not only just grateful to Nicholas II for the assistance he provided in their struggle for freedom and independence. The very idea of ​​the canonization of Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov and the construction of a church in memory of the martyred emperor arose in Serbia much earlier than anywhere else – already in the 1920s.

In the minds of the Serbian people, Nicholas II is a figure as sublime and epic as the legendary Prince Lazar. Saint Lazarus of Kosovo chose the Kingdom of Heaven, giving his life and earthly crown for it. Nicholas II entered the world war to support the brotherly Serbian people. This act cost him his life, and the imperial crown, but opened the Gates of the Heavenly Kingdom for him.

How can we not recall the gift received by Nicholas II on behalf of all Serbs on the day of his coronation in May 1896. It was an old cross found in the Kosovo field. The Serbian philanthropist Draginya Petrovic who bought it, wrote to the emperor: “May the Sun of Truth shine on the Serbs, thanks to the help and participation of the Russian Monarch – the First Slav. I kneel at the throne of Your Imperial Majesty, bestowing this holy sign out of great love for the Tsar of All Russia, the defender of the Serbian people as well.”

Emperor Nicholas II did not disappoint the hopes and expectations of the Orthodox world.

Almost a quarter of a century after the start of the First World War, St. Nicholas of Serbia wrote: “The debt that Russia obliged the Serbian people in 1914 is so enormous that neither centuries nor generations can repay it. This is a debt of love, which blindfolded goes to death, saving its neighbour … Will we ever dare to forget that the Russian Tsar with his children and millions of his brothers went to death for the truth of the Serbian people? Do we dare to keep silent before Heaven and Earth that our freedom and statehood cost Russia more than we do? .. Russians in our days have repeated the Kosovo drama. If Tsar Nicholas had adhered to the earthly kingdom, the kingdom of selfish motives and petty calculations, he would, in all likelihood, still sit on his throne in Petrograd today. But he clung to the kingdom of heaven, to the Kingdom of heavenly sacrifices and gospel morality; because of this, he lost his head, and his children, and millions of his brethren. Another Lazarus and another Kosovo! This new Kosovo epic reveals a new moral wealth of the Slavs. If someone in the world is capable and should understand this, then the Serbs can and must understand it. “

And the Serbs understood.

In the twenties of the last century, the Holy Synod of the SOC began to collect facts testifying to the holiness of the murdered emperor. This decision was made after Nicholas II appeared in a dream to a Serbian woman in 1925. Two of her sons were killed during the World War, and the third went missing. The holy tsar consoled his mother, saying that her third child was in Russia. Indeed, after a few months, the soldier finally returned home.

PHOTO: frescoe depicting the image of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II by Stepan Kolesnikov

On 11th August 1927, newspapers in Belgrade reported a miracle witnessed by the Russian artist Stepan Fedorovich Kolesnikov (1879-1955). He was invited to paint the frescoes in a new church in the ancient Serbian monastery of St. Naum. The master depicted the faces of fourteen saints, while leaving the fifteenth empty. Kolesnikov returned to the church at dusk, he unexpectedly saw that at the very place where he was supposed to draw another saint, the face of Nicholas II appeared. Kolesnikov had had several conversations with the Emperor at exhibitions and remembered his face well. But the vision was so vivid that that night Stepan Fedorovich seemed to be working from nature. Having finished the fresco, he wrote below: “All-Russian Emperor Nicholas II, who accepted the martyr’s crown for the prosperity and happiness of the Slavs.” A few days later, the commander of the Bitolsky military district, General Rostich, arrived at the monastery. For a long time he stood in silence in front of the fresco of the Russian emperor, and then quietly said to Kolesnikov: “For us, Serbs, he will be the greatest and most revered of all saints.”

In 1930, a telegram from the inhabitants of Leskovets to the Holy Synod was published, in which they asked to canonize the Russian emperor as a saint. Already in 1936, at the opening of the memorial church of the Tsar-Martyr in Brussels, long before the official canonization of the Russian monarch and his family, Metropolitan Dositei of Zagreb (the future hieromartyr) announced that the Serbian church venerated Nicholas II as a saint.

In the city of Pancevo in 1934, the construction of a monument to Nicholas II was underway, but it was never completed. A memorial plaque was erected in the Alexander Nevsky Church in Belgrade with the inscription: “To the great Slavic martyrs Tsar Nicholas II and King Alexander I”. And in the heart of the Serbian capital, Vrachara Street was dedicated to Tsar Nicholas II, but after the war, most of it was renamed Mackenzie Street.

PHOTO: the Monument to Russian Glory dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II and 2,000,000 Russian soldiers of the First World War, in the Russian Necropolis, situated at the New Cemetery in Belgrade

In 1935, the Monument to Russian Glory by the sculptor Roman Verkhovsky and architect Valery Stashevsky was established in the Russian Necropolis, situated at the New Cemetery in Belgrade. Funds for the monument were donated by Russian emigrants who lived in Yugoslavia. The monument is a monolithic column crowned with the Archangel Michael bearing a sword, and at the foot of the monument above the door of the ossuary is a statue of a wounded Russian soldier. The monument is installed on the roof of the Iver Chapel, where the remains of Russian soldiers who died on the Thessaloniki front during the First World War are interred.

The Monument to Russian Glory, which is dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II and the two million soldiers of the Russian Imperial Army who lost their lives during the Great War (1914-18), and the Iver Chapel were ceremoniously unveiled on 24th May 1935, and finally completed and consecrated on 12th January 1936. One of the inscriptions on the monument reads:

Eternal memory to Emperor Nicholas II and 2,000,000 Russian soldiers of the Great War

Back in 1922, Nikola Pasic opened a savings account, in which he deposited 650 thousand dinars to help fund a monument to Nicholas II. “In the event of my death, I ask you to transfer the money from this account to the chairman of the People’s Assembly, so that the Assembly would use it to erect a monument to the Russian Tsar Nikolai as a sign of gratitude from the Serbian people,” wrote the prominent politician. Nikola Pasic died in 1926, but his will was not carried out. By 1944, there were already 1.8 million dinars in the account, however, these savings were lost after the Second World War.

PHOTO: On 16th November 2014, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia conducted the rite of blessing of a monument dedicated to the Holy Tsar Nicholas, in the presence of His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia.

Nearly a century would pass before Nikola Pasic’s hopes were finally fulfilled. On 16th November 2014, a bronze monument to Nicholas II was solemnly opened and consecrated in Belgrade. It was a gift from the Russian Military Historical Society and the Russian Federation to Serbia. It was installed in Alexandrov Park, not far from where the embassy of the Russian Empire was located at the beginning of the last century.

The 7.5-meter (25 ft.) high monument – out of which 3.5 m (11 ft) the monument itself.- was created by sculptors Andrey Kovalchuk and Gennady Pravotorov. The monument weighs 40 tons. On the sides of the granite pedestal, in Russian and Serbian, the following words are inscribed from the telegram of Emperor Nicholas II to the future King of Yugoslavia Alexander I:

All my efforts will be directed to preserving the dignity of Serbia and in any case, Russia will not be indifferent to the fate of Serbia” 

Holy Tsar Martyr Nicholas II kept his word.

© Paul Gilbert. 13 October 2020

New outdoor portrait of Nicholas II appears in Serbia’s capital

208a

Another monumental portrait image of Tsar Nicholas II has appeared in the Serbian capital of Belgrade

With the blessing of Archpriest Vladimir Levichanin, the image of Nicholas II has been painted on the wall of the parish house of the Church of St. George the Great Martyr, located on Voyvodzhanskaya Street in New Belgrade.

208b

The tradition of historical murals and street art is popular in the Serbian capital, but this is the first such case that an image of such a high artistic style has appeared on a building belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church.

208c

The creator of the portrait is the famous Belgrade artist Milan Milosavljevich, who wanted to donate his work to the church, in which he could portray Emperor Nicholas II, who is especially revered in Serbia. One of the initiators of the project is the Serbian book publisher Nikola Drobnyakovich.

208d

Currently, there is Tsar Nicholas II Street in Belgrade, and in the very center of the city there is a majestic monument to the last Russian emperor and patron of the Serbian people.

© Paul Gilbert. 2 January 2020

Watercolours of Livadia Palace and Gardens

202a

Monument to Nikolai Krasnov (1864-1939), unveiled on 9 December in Belgrade, Serbia

This month marks the 155th anniversary of the birth (5 December O.S. 23 November 1864) and the 80th anniversary of the death (8 December 1939) of the famous Russian-Serbian architect Nikolai Petrovich Krasnov.

In 1919, the architect emigrated with his family from the Crimea, lived in Malta for several years, before settling in Belgrade in 1922. For the next seventeen years, Krasnov served as an inspector of the Architectural Division. He left a significant mark in the architecture of present-day Serbia. To this day, the Serbian people deeply revere the memory of the Yalta architect, the architect most famous for Livadia Palace, the Crimea residence of Nicholas II and his family.

On 9th December 2019, celebrations were held in the Serbian capital, which included the opening of the Architect Krasnov exhibition and the unveiling of a monument to Nikolai Krasnov. As part of the Russian delegation, the Livadia Palace Museum took part in the celebrations.

The monument to Krasnov by the sculptor Neboisha Savovich Nes, was unveiled in the park of the Archive of Serbia. The sculptor captured the eminent architect sitting at his desk working on the design of the Archive building.

Krasnov died on 8 December 1939, he was buried in the Russian sector of the Belgrade New Cemetery. The architect’s grave is located near the monument of ‘Russian Glory’, the first monument in the world erected in honour of Emperor Nicholas II and soldiers of the Russian Imperial Army who died in the First World War. 

*  * *

Watercolours of Livadia Palace painted by the famous palace architect himself
Nikolai Petrovich Krasnov (1864-1939)

Livadia must have been beautiful when it was an Imperial residence before the First World War. Construction on a new white limestone palace began on 21 January 1910, and after 17 months of construction, the palace was inaugurated on 11 September 1911. Emperor Nicholas II spent about 4 million gold rubles on the palace. In November 1911 Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna celebrated her 16th birthday at Livadia.

The Imperial family visited Livadia in the fall of 1911 and 1913 and in the spring of 1912 and 1914.

Sadly, on 30th April 30 1918, German troops entered Livadia, who immediately began to plunder the palace. 

kras1

Northern facade of the Livadia Palace
Watercolour by Nikolai Petrovich Krasnov (1864-1939)

kras2

Northern facade of the Livadia Palace
Watercolour by Nikolai Petrovich Krasnov (1864-1939)

kras3

Iron grille gate leading to the Italian courtyard of the Livadia Palace
Watercolour by Nikolai Petrovich Krasnov (1864-1939)

kras4

Gallery of the Italian Courtyard in the Livadia Palace
Watercolour by Nikolai Petrovich Krasnov (1864-1939)

kras5

Gallery of the Italian Courtyard in the Livadia Palace
Watercolour by Nikolai Petrovich Krasnov (1864-1939)

kras6

Corner of the park of the Livadia estate
Watercolour by Nikolai Petrovich Krasnov (1864-1939)

kras7

Corner of the park of the Livadia estate
Watercolour by Nikolai Petrovich Krasnov (1864-1939)

kras8

Arch of blooming roses in the park of the Livadia estate
Watercolour by Nikolai Petrovich Krasnov (1864-1939)

kras9

Laurel gazebo in the park of the Livadia estate
Watercolour by Nikolai Petrovich Krasnov (1864-1939)

© Paul Gilbert. 16 December 2019

Serbs celebrate Royal Martyrs with Liturgy and procession in Belgrade

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 29 July 2018 in my Royal Russia News blog – PG

Tsar Nicholas II was “one of the greatest rulers and tsars of Russia in his moral and spiritual qualities,” the Serbian patriarch said.

While 100,000 Orthodox faithful gathered in Ekaterinburg on the night of 16/17 July 2018 to honor the 100th anniversary of the Royal Martyrs, they were honored with another Divine Liturgy and procession in Belgrade the following morning.

During the events, His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia praised Tsar Nicholas as one of the greatest Russian rulers, of high moral and spiritual character.

The day began with the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy in the courtyard of the Russian Church of the Holy Trinity in Belgrade, after which a festive procession passed through the capital city’s central streets.

The procession was announced in all Belgrade churches last Sunday, and according to police estimates, the procession gathered about 10,000 faithful, including clergy, representatives of Russian-Serbian friendship organizations, and citizens of Serbia and Russia participated in the march. As the procession moved past the Serbian Parliament building, the choir sang “God Save the Tsar.”

165a

Serbs gather in Belgrade to honour Nicholas II

The procession came to an end at Belgrade’s monument to the slain Russian Tsar, where Pat. Irinej celebrated a festive moleben and addressed the gathered faithful, in which he referred to the Tsar-Martyr’s Orthodox character.

“All his life, he was accompanied by distrust, slander, and underestimation of his personality. And this happened, if we look at the time when tsarist Russia had numerous enemies, as it does now,” the Serbian primate said. In his words, the entire Romanov family behaved in a “deeply Christian manner” to the very end.

“No one knows what would have happened with Serbia and the Serbian people if he had not entered into the First World War,” the patriarch also added.

Then wreaths were laid at the monument to Tsar Nicholas II, with the participation of representations from the Russian embassy, Serbian politicians, priests, and public figures.

165b

Monument to Emperor Nicholas II in Belgrade

The monument to Tsar Nicholas was unveiled in November 2014 by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and former President Tomislav Nikolic. On the pedestal is quoted in Russian and Serbian Tsar Nicholas’ telegram to King Alexander of Serbia, saying, “All my efforts will be directed towards maintaining the dignity of Serbia… In any case, Russia will not remain indifferent to Serbia’s fate.”

© Paul Gilbert. 7 December 2019

“I consider Nicholas II a great reformer” – Serbian Ambassador to Russia

057

Serbian Ambassador to Russia Slavenko Terzic, and icon of Tsar Martyr Nicholas II

On 7th May, the opening ceremony of the photo exhibition The Romanovs: the Tsar’s Ministry was held in the Serbian Embassy in Moscow.

The exhibition dedicated to the family of the last Russian emperor, a joint project with the Moscow Sretensky Monastery, was attended by a large number of guests, including prominent figures of Serbian and Russian culture, politicians, historians, representatives of the Serbian diaspora, and students from both countries who are dedicated to preserving the memory of the Saint Sovereign Nicholas II and his family. 

“I am very happy that today, we all gathered in this Serbian house to once again honour the memory of the great Russian monarch Nicholas II, whose rule was the culmination of centuries-old relations between our two countries, one which flourished during the rule of the Romanov dynasty,” said Serbian Ambassador to Russia Slavenko Terzic during his welcoming speech. “And today the Serbs remember the most important role of Nicholas II in the fate of their country, when during the First World War the Russian emperor came to the aid of Serbia, mobilizing Russia’s army to defend our country against Austria-Hungary.”

The Serbian ambassador reminded the audience that for many years that a street had been named after Nicholas II in the center of Belgrade, and several years ago a monument to the Russian emperor had been erected in front of the presidential palace in the Serbian capital. “I consider Nicholas II a great reformer and a patriot of his homeland. The challenges of the revolution were very tough, to which it was necessary to react harshly, but since the Russian emperor was a deeply religious man, he sacrificed himself and his family in order to save the Russian empire. Eternal memory to Nicholas II and eternal gratitude to him from Serbia and the Serbian people,” concluded Slavenko Terzic.

The organizer of the exhibition Hieromonk Ignatius (Shestakov), a priest of the Moscow Sretensky Monastery, also spoke about the history of the Romanovs: “When we decided to hold the first exhibitions in Serbia – we did not expect such interest and devotion for Nicholas II and his family from the Serbian people. Many negative myths still surround the reign of the emperor, however, the Serbs share a more positive assessment of Nicholas II.”

“We understood that it was necessary to develop this exhibition and present it to cities across Serbia. The photo-exhibit has been held in schools, churches, city museums, and galleries.”

“After the 1917 Revolution, it was Serbia – then it was called the Kingdom of Yugoslavia – where thousands of White Russian emigrants were warmly received – and the veneration of Nicholas II as a saint was born. It was in Belgrade that the first museum of personal belongings of the Russian emperor appeared, which was opened in the Russian House of Culture in the center of the Serbian capital in the 1930s. It was in Serbia, long before the emperor was glorified in the face of saints, his first images appeared in churches, and Belgrade is the only capital in the world where a street bears his name, something not found in either St. Petersburg or Moscow, ”the priest said.

The organizer of the exhibition emphasized that the main objective of the exhibition is that “visitors will have an opportunity to review photos of the Imperial family with accompanying texts – which reflect the love, kindness and beauty of this family, their Christian virtues, service to the Fatherland, and deeds of charity. ” 

The exhibition The Romanovs: the Tsar’s Ministry presents photographs from the personal archives of the Tsar’s family and their entourage, state archives and private collections. The exhibition reflects the daily life of the Imperial family, and service to the Fatherland. Particular attention is given to photographs from the period of the First World War, when the empress and her daughters worked as sisters of mercy in hospitals, rendering assistance to wounded soldiers and officers.

Launched in 2016, the exhibition was timed to the 100th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Tsar’s family in 2018. The travelling photo-exhibit has been held in more than 100 cities and towns of Serbia, as well as Montenegro, the Republic of Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. The exhibition has also visited Switzerland, Argentina, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Germany, Romania, and Russia. 

The photo exhibition The Romanovs: the Tsar’s Ministry is being held at the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia in Moscow until July 2019.

© Paul Gilbert. 13 May 2019