How the Kirillovich branch of the Russian Imperial Family supported Hitler and the Nazis

Under no pretext can we admit to the throne those whose ancestors belonged to parties involved in the 1917 revolution in one way or another. Nor can we admit those whose ancestors betrayed Tsar Nicholas II. Nor can we ignore those who ancestors openly supported the Nazis. Thus, without any reservations, the right to the succession to the throne of the Kirillovich branch should be excluded

In mid-July 2015, descendants of the Romanov dynasty were caught in the spotlight of the Russia media. Journalists reported that the “descendants of the imperial dynasty [Maria Vladimirovna and her son George Mikhailovich] intend to appeal to the Russian authorities with a request to grant official status to the Russian Imperial House and provide them with a residence in Moscow.” The message received conflicting responses.

Representatives of the Russian nobility Nikita Lobanov-Rostovsky, Alexander Trubetskoy, Pyotr Sheremetev and Sergey Kapnist took an irreconcilable position in relation to granting special status to the so-called “heirs to the throne”. In their letter to the President of Russia, they stated that Maria Vladimirovna had no right to call herself the Head of the House of Romanov, also drawing to attention of the close ties both her father Vladimir Kirillovich and paternal grandparents Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich and Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

In the years leading up to the Second World War, a number of representatives of the European royal houses also courted Fascist regimes. Even Mussolini proved in practice the possibility of combining a fascist dictatorship and the monarchy. King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, in turn, was a staunch supporter of the Duce regime. After the war, all male members of the House of Savoy were required to leave the country. The British monarch King Edward VIII did not hide his open sympathies for Hitler either, nor did Prince Bernard, the husband of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, who was both a member of the Nazi Party and the SS. Until the end of his life Bernard was forced to make excuses for his “uncomfortable episodes of his anxious youth.”

Of course, the scions of the German royal families, easily found themselves in various posts in the Hitlerite state. The Romanovs were no exception, many of whom openly supported the “brown movement”, naively hoping that Hitler would help them defeat the Bolsheviks and restore the monarchy in Russia.

From the moment of the revolution and the abolition of the monarchy in Russia in 1917, numerous representatives of the Russian Imperial House who found themselves in exile had heated debates among themselves over the possession of what was now a non-existent throne [the Russian Imperial House ended with the murder of Emperor Nicholas II on 17th July 1918].

At the time of the 1917 Revolution, Kirill was next in line to the throne, however, in exile, the sympathies of the majority of Russian refugees tended to favour Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich (1856-1929), the former Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Army. Naturally, he was fully supported by such an influential organization of the Russian diaspora as the Russian General Military Union (ROVS). However, in connection with the death of Nikolai Nikolaevich in January 1929, those in the pursuit of a “revived Russian Empire” passed to the Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich (1876-1936), and then to his descendants.

It is important to note that those members of Nicholas II’s family who managed to flee Russia following the revolution, did NOT support Grand Duke Kirill’s claim. Among those were the Tsar’s mother Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928); and his sisters Grand Duchesses Xenia (1875-1960) and Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960). They never forgave Kirill for his premature recognition of the Provisional Government, nor did they support his claim as “Emperor” to the non existent Russian throne, as it carried “no dynastic validity”.

Opponents of the “Kirillovichs” fiercely disputed this branch of the Romanovs any rights as claimants to the defunct Russian throne. Among the arguments were often accusations of support by Kirill, his wife Victoria, as well as their children – primarily the Grand Duke Vladimir (1917-1992) – of German National Socialism.

PHOTO: Grand Duke Kirill with his wife Grand Duchess Victoria
and their children Kira and Vladimir. St. Briac. 1930s

Red-brown challenge

Kirill was born on 12th October 1876 in Tsarskoye Selo. He was considered one of the brightest and most extravagant representatives of the Russian Imperial Family. At the same time, his behaviour (both in secular life and in the naval service) were a constant thorn in the side of the dynasty. Kirill, a regular at the most fashionable cafes in St. Petersburg, was noted for his haughty and nasty demeanour towards senior officers, often neglecting his official duties.

Kirill created a real scandal when he entered into an incestuous marriage with his first cousin – Princess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Victoria Melita (1876-1936). The latter was married to Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse (1868-1937), brother of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. In 1901, their marriage was dissolved, and on 8th October 1905, Victoria and Kirill got married in the Bavarian resort town of Tegernsee, where the Grand Duke was undergoing treatment for nervous depression.

Their marriage, however, was in violation of the house law which forbid the marriage of any member of the Imperial Family without the advance permission of the Tsar. Kirill’s marriage also violated the canon of the Russian Orthodox Church prohibiting marriages between cousins.

As a result, the Tsar stripped Kirill of his imperial allowance and title of Imperial Highness, his honours and decorations, his position in the navy and then banished him from Russia. In 1907 Nicholas II took mercy and, after Victoria converted to Orthodoxy, legalized the scandalous wedding by a personal decree. The tsar restored Kirill Vladimirovich and Victoria Fedorovna to the rights of members of the Imperial House, including the right to the throne.

In the same year, Victoria and Kirill had a daughter, Maria, in 1909, Kira, and in 1917, a son, Vladimir.

During the revolutionary events of February 1917, Kirill broke his oath of allegiance to the Tsar and thereby committed high treason. Putting on a red bow, he arrived at the State Duma at the head of the Guards crew and reported it to its chairman, Mikhail Rodzianko: “I have the honour to appear to Your Excellency. I am at your disposal, like the rest of the people.” It is interesting to note, that by doing this, Kirill Vladimirovich protected himself from arrest, which many other members of the Russian Imperial Family had already been subjected to.

Shortly thereafter, Kirill and his family wasted little time in making arrangements to get out of Russia. In March, they illegally left for Finland, eventually settling in Victoria’s family estate in Coburg, Germany, where Victoria Fedorovna’s cousin, Karl Edward Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (1884-1954) lived. In 1922, the Duke took a direct part in organizing the Day of the Nation in Coburg. Among the most honoured guests at this event was Adolf Hitler and his supporters.

It is interesting to note that during the Third Reich, Karl Edward, in gratitude for his financial support of the Nazis in the 1920s, was appointed Gruppenfuehrer of the Storm Troops, the Reich Commissioner for Transport, a Reichstag deputy and the President of the German Red Cross.

He later joined the Nazi Party as well as the Sturmabteilung (SA, or Brownshirts), in which he reached the position of Obergruppenführer. Charles Edward served in a number of positions in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, including President of the German Red Cross from 1933–45

PHOTO: Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich and Grand Duchess
Victoria Feodorovna, living in exile. Saint-Briac, France 1930s

The union of the double-headed eagle and the swastika

Kirill and Victoria settled quite freely in Germany, where they enjoyed an enthusiastic following, who were primarily radical Russian emigrants. In the first years following the 1917 revolution an unusually powerful stream of Russian refugees poured into Germany. By the early 1920s, about half a million exiles from the Land of the Soviets settled here.

At first, Kirill was hesitant to lay claim to his place as “future emperor of Russia”. However, the ambitious strong-willed Victoria and numerous ultra-right Russian monarchists encouraged him. As a result, in 1922, Kirill declared himself “the guardian of the throne”, and in 1924 proclaimed himself “Emperor of Russia Kirill I.” It is curious that almost everyone who at that time was in the circle of those close to the “august person” was also closely associated with the activities of the nascent Nazi party.

In general, in the first years of the existence of the NSDAP [Nazi Party], many emigrants from Russia, mainly Baltic Germans, helped to swell its ranks. Among them were included aristocrats, army officers and politicians, who fought on the side of the Whites. They were seized by the idea that the revolution in Russia was staged by the Jews and that the same thing was about to happen in Western Europe.

PHOTO: Otto von Kurzel (1887-1967) a Russian-born nobleman

Russian Germans, who were equally fluent in Russian and German, formed an intermediate link between the right flank of the Russian diaspora and the Nazis. Among them were many people who remained loyal to the House of Romanov in the person of Kirill. One of the most famous was Otto von Kurzel (1887-1967), a well-known Nazi artist, a member of the NSDAP, who founded the Russian Monarchist Union in Munich.

Influenced by Russian émigrés – the former Black Hundreds – the Nazi Party became fashionable with the expressions “Jewish Bolshevism” and “Soviet Judea”, and soon the stereotype of “Jewish Bolshevism” became the central point of the National Socialist image of the enemy.

Konrad Heiden, the author of a classic study on the early history of Nazism, noted that White Russian émigrés, who stood under the swastika banners, “were eager to involve Germany in the campaign against Lenin … It would be an exaggeration to call early foreign policy of National Socialism tsarist. But in fact, its spiritual origins are in tsarist Russia, in the Russia of the Black Hundreds and the Union of the Russian people”.

The activities of Russian émigrés were published in the central party newspaper, Völkischer Beobachter, and spoke at Nazi meetings. According to one version, the Nazis bought the newspaper itself partly with the money of Russian monarchists. The main ideologist of the party and also a native of the Russian Empire, Alfred Rosenberg, writes in his memoirs that “the most wealthy financial support was provided to the party by White Russian émigrés, who at any cost wanted to get their anti-Soviet propaganda out.”

PHOTO: General Vasily Viktorovich Biskupsky (1878-1945)

One of the main sponsors of Völkischer Beobachter, was General Vasily Viktorovich Biskupsky (1878-1945), a radical monarchist and confidant of Kirill Vladimirovich. It is known that Victoria gave Biskupsky money for the needs of the Nazi Party. Kirill’s enemies at the time claimed that the general and the Grand Duchess were involved in an intimate relationship, which was recorded in police reports.

Despite his reputation as an adventurer, Biskupsky served as Kirill and Victoria’s plenipotentiary representative in Germany. The Grand Duke told his personal secretary, Harold Karlovich Graf (1885-1966), that “in times of trouble you should not be afraid to get your white gloves dirty and rely only on people with an impeccable reputation, usually of little use in political struggle.”

PHOTO: Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter (1884-1923)

An early figure in the unification of the Nazis and radical Russian monarchists was Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter (1884-1923). He was born in Riga, and participated in the suppression of revolutionary uprisings in 1905-1907, and in December 1910 he moved to Munich, where he became an engineer. It was here that the nucleus of the “Russian-Baltic group” had already formed, which later, almost in its entirety, joined the NSDAP. In December 1917, Scheubner-Richter was appointed as an intelligence officer under the commander-in-chief of the Eastern Front in the Baltic States. He actively participated in the struggle against the Bolsheviks, and in 1919 he returned to the Bavarian capital, where through Alfred Rosenberg he established contacts with Russian emigrants.

In November 1920, Scheubner-Richter joined the NSDAP and quickly entered the closest circle of Adolf Hitler. By this time, he was already a member of Kirill’s intimate circle, and his wife Matilda was a close friend of Victoria Feodorovna. At the same time, Scheubner-Richter organized the Russian-German “Renaissance” (Aufbau) Society, the purpose of which was to unite all White Russian émigré forces under the command of Grand Duke Kirill and in alliance with the National Socialists. The plans of the society included the organization of an anti-Bolshevik “crusade”, as a result of which Soviet power would be overthrown and the nationalists would assume power in Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic states. Vasily Biskupsky became the deputy of Renaissance.

Biskupsky never broke with the Nazis. After the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch on 9th November 1923 (in the course of these events, Scheubner-Richter died, after which his organization ceased to exist), he sheltered Adolf Hitler in his apartment. At the same time, he continued to play an important role in Grand Duke Kirill’s entourage, being appointed to the post of Minister of War in Kirill’s “government in exile.” Biskupsky welcomed the triumph of the NSDAP in January 1933 and went to Berlin, where he met with various high-ranking party leaders. In May 1936, with the support of the SS and the Ministry of Propaganda, he was appointed head of the Bureau of Russian Refugees.

His task included organizational accounting, control and “nazification” of all Russian emigrants living in Germany. Biskupsky’s closest associates were Pyotr Nikolaevich Shabelsky-Bork (1893-1952) and Sergei Vladimirovich Taboritsky (1897-1980), both former members of the Renaissance Society, who were responsible for the murder of Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov (1869-1922) – the father of the famous Russian writer. With the outbreak of the war, Biskupsky’s department actively cooperated with the SS and the Abwehr [German military intelligence for the Reichswehr and Wehrmacht from 1920 to 1945] in the field of attracting emigrants for the needs of the German army (and in particular intelligence) as translators and agents.

PHOTO: Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna with Adolf Hitler. September 1923

But back to the early 1920s. At this time, Kirill and Victoria made no attempts to hide their sympathy for the Nazi movement. Generous sums for the needs of the party were transferred by them, as a rule, through Biskupsky, as well as through General Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff (1865-1937), at that time an ally of Hitler. According to one source the grand ducal couple gave 500 thousand gold marks for the “solution of the German-Russian national question”. In addition, Victoria attended the teachings of the Stormtroopers and sometimes took her young son Vladimir with her.

PHOTO: Boris Lvovovich Brazol (1885-1963)

During the crisis of the first half of the 1920s, Kirill and Victoria suffered significant financial losses. Nevertheless, Biskupsky continued to find and channel significant funds to the Nazis until Hitler came to power. He received most of this money from Victoria. It is not entirely clear where Kirill and Victoria got their financial resources after the 1923 crisis. It is only known that Boris Lvovovich Brazol (1885-1963), who was attracted by Scheubner-Richter to Vozrozhdenie as an anti-Semitic publicist, became president of the Russian Monarchist Club in New York.

During his stay in the United States, Brazol was an ardent supporter of the restoration of the monarchy in Russia and was the official representative of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich in the United States. States. He was one of the founders of the Order of the Russian Imperial Union. Several historians associate Brazol’s name with the first American edition of the Protocols of the Scholars of Zion.

Brazol was able to establish contacts with Henry Ford, the richest American automobile industrialist and a rabid anti-Semite. In 1924, when Victoria visited America, Ford allocated a large sum of money for Kirill. Brazol continued to act as an intermediary between Ford and Kirill into the 1930s.

It is important to note, that from 1957, Brazol was in charge of the Central Committee for the Collection of Funds for the Treasury of Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich [Kirill’s son].

Over time, the attitude of the Nazis towards the Russians underwent drastic changes. The growing strength of the NSDAP no longer needed the support of the Russian monarchists. After the death of Scheubner-Richter, no one in the party leadership spoke of the possibility of reviving the monarchy – neither in Germany, nor even more so in Russia. Kirill, in turn, also gradually distanced himself – at least outwardly – from the ultra-right radicals.

PHOTO: Home of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich in Saint-Briac, France

The Tsar and the Soviets

Since the authorities of the Weimar Republic, not wanting to spoil relations with the USSR, forbade Kirill to engage in political activities, the “Court” moved to Saint-Briac, France at the end of the 1920s . During this time, ties between the Kirillovich and Germany continued as before.

In 1925, Kirill’s first daughter, Maria (1907-1951), married Prince Karl of Leiningen (1898-1946). He served in the naval forces of the Third Reich, at the end of the war he was captured by Soviet soldiers and died in 1946 of typhus. In 1938, Kirill’s second daughter, Kira (1909-1967), married Louis Ferdinand Prince of Prussia (1907-1994), who served as an officer in the Luftwaffe.

As for the “emperor” Kirill, from the moment he moved to France, on the advice of Biskupsky, he began to draw himself closer to Alexander Lvovich Kazem-Bek (1902-1977), who served as head of the Union of Young Russians emigrant organization.

Calling themselves “national revolutionaries”, the Young Russians proclaimed the goal of creating a “social monarchy” that would combine the features of autocracy with the Soviet system. The older generation of Russian émigrés accused Kazem-Bek of sympathizing with Bolshevism (and, as it turned out later, not without reason).

It was at this time that Kazem-Bek invited Kirill’s son Vladimir Kirillovich to most of the organizations major events.

PHOTO: Alexander Lvovich Kazem-Bek (1902-1977)

PHOTO: Vladimir Kirillovich (center) with Alexander Lvovich Kazem-Bek (right),
taking part in a Union of Young Russians rally. December 1930

The popular slogan of the Young Russians at the time, was “The Tsar and the Soviets.” Much in the ideology and external attributes of the Young Russians was taken directly from Italian fascism. Kazem-Bek was the only major Russian émigré politician who received a personal audience with Mussolini. The Young Russians learned from their black-shirt colleagues the principles of one-man management, hierarchy, and class solidarity. The Young Russians greeted their leader with a characteristic raise of their right hand and an exclamation of “Chief!”

However, by the mid-1930s, the Young Russians began to swing to the left, their press began to publish more and more materials that heralded the “Soviet experience”. They even began to call themselves “the second Soviet party”. A scandal occurred when in the summer of 1937 Kazem-Bek was found in one of the Parisian cafes engaged in secret talks with the famous Soviet general Alexei Alekseevich Ignatiev (1877-1954) who had arrived from the USSR.

The leader of the Young Russians was openly accused of being an agent of the Bolsheviks, after which Kirill broke off all relations with him. After the war Kazem-Bek returned to the Soviet Union and until the end of his life worked for the journal of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Friend of the invaders

Meanwhile, hopes for the revival of the monarchy were rapidly dwindling. Therefore, after the death of Kirill in 1938 (Victoria died a year and a half before that, during a visit to Nazi Germany), his son and “heir to the throne” Vladimir Kirillovich made a decision to not declare himself “emperor”, as his foolish father had done.

Generally speaking, Vladimir was much less involved in politics than his father, preferring to lead a secular life. However, this did not save him from reproaches for sympathizing with the Nazis. In 1938, he even made an official statement in which he emphasized that he “never met the German Chancellor,” which was not true, since little Vladimir knew Hitler as the leader of the party which had not yet come to power.

When German troops occupied France, Vladimir Kirillovich chose to stay in Saint-Briac. His relationship with the Germans, was apparently carried out “in an atmosphere of complete mutual understanding.” A few days after the establishment of the “new order” in France, Vladimir was summoned to Paris, to the German ambassador to occupied France Heinrich Otto Abetz (1903-1958). He was very courteous, but warned Vladimir about the need to observe complete loyalty to the Reich. Vladimir Kirillovich adhered to this “line” until the very end of the Second World War.

Grand Duke Kirill with his secretary Harold Karlovich Graf. St. Briac. 1930

It was following this meeting, that Vladimir fired the long-term head of the personal office of the “Imperial House” Harold Karlovich Graf and broke off all relations with him. When the Germans placed the latter under arrest, the Grand Duke made no attempts to try to alleviate the fate of his father’s faithful assistant. [In emigration, Graf converted to Orthodoxy and received the name George]

Graf himself later wrote with bitter regret in his memoirs: “The Grand Duke [Vladimir] fell completely under the influence of the Germans. In addition, the Germans who surrounded him usually belonged to the Gestapo. Most of them are Russian émigrés who serve as German agents and for the French police (Schutzmannschaft, the collaborationist auxiliary police) in a very bad way. Even the restaurants that the Grand Duke visits with them belong to those that are in bad favour with the police and would have long been closed if it were not for the help of the Germans …

“On the Grand Duke’s last visit to Paris, he was sitting in a restaurant, while German songs were sung at his table. From the French point of view, such closeness of the Grand Duke to the occupiers greatly compromised him and should have led to the fact that when the occupation of France was over, he would have to leave.”

PHOTO: Yuri Sergeevich Zherebkov (left) and Colonel V. I. Boyarsky (right)

At this time, the notorious Yuri Sergeevich Zherebkov (1908-1980), a former ballet dancer and the son of a Cossack general, became extremely close to Vladimir Kirillovich. In 1941, he headed the Committee for Mutual Assistance of Russian Emigrants in France, created by the Nazis, an analogue of the German bureau of General Biskupsky. Zherebkov was one of the most implacable anti-Semites and a fierce supporter of the Nazis.

In 1946, a Paris court sentenced Zherebkov to 5 years of “national dishonour”, and in 1948, for aiding in the deportation of Russian Jews, to forced labour for life (however, by that time, the former collaborator had already escaped to Franco’s Spain, where he died at the end 1970s).

It was Zherebkov, following the instructions of his German curators, who was responsible for Vladimir’s “political behaviour”. The most famous result of his activity was Vladimir’s “Appeal”, published on 26th June 1941, on the occasion of the outbreak of the war between Germany and the USSR. It was a direct call to cooperate with the Nazi occupiers. Here is its full text:

Address by the Head of the
Russian Imperial House,
Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich

In this terrible hour, when Germany and almost all the peoples of Europe have declared a crusade against communism-Bolshevism, which has enslaved and oppressed the people of Russia for twenty-four years, I appeal to all the faithful and devoted sons of our Motherland with an appeal: to contribute as much as possible and opportunities for the overthrow of the Bolshevik government and the liberation of our Fatherland from the terrible yoke of communism.

Vladimir
Saint-Briac,
June 26, 1941

However, the Nazis were by no means interested in such an “ally.” They stopped the spread of Vladimir’s appeal and threatened him that if he tried to play some independent political role, he would go straight to the concentration camp.

PHOTO: Prince of the Imperial Blood Gabriel Konstantinovich (1887-1955)

For the sake of objectivity, it should be noted that Kirill Vladimirovich, Victoria Feodorovna and Vladimir Kirillovich were by no means the only representatives of the Russian Imperial Family who openly supported the Nazis. For example, Prince of the Imperial Blood Gabriel Konstantinovich (1887-1955) – the son of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich (1858-1915) – also admired the success of the Fuhrer. On 12th August 1940, in a letter to Lieutenant General Nikolai Golovin (1875-1944), he wrote: “Yesterday in the cinema we saw the ceremonial meeting of the Reichstag and the triumphant return of the troops to Berlin. A stunning picture. I had tears from excitement … The arrival of “him” [Hitler] at the Reichstag is amazing. Wonderful cars, sparkling with cleanliness, enthusiastic crowd. Himself, the very simplicity, no imagination, while greatness and strength.”

Gabriel Konstantinovich also expressed satisfaction with the successes of the fascists in other European countries. On 16th October 1940, he wrote to the same addressee: “I am very glad that the Romanian King Karol was asked to leave. He is a very weak type and God knows what he was doing in Romania in community with his Jewess Lupescu … It seems to me that good has won out over evil and the time of light has now begun in the world.”

For the pretenders to the Russian throne, however, the “time of light” had not yet come. The Nazis made it clear that they had no plans at all to provide any part of Russia they had conquered with any independent form of government, let alone a monarchical one.

Moreover, in March 1941, in the diary of the headquarters of the operational leadership of the High Command of the Wehrmacht, an entry was made regarding the goals of the occupation regime on the territory of the USSR. Among other things, the document noted: “Socialist ideas in today’s Russia can no longer be eradicated … The Jewish-Bolshevik intelligentsia, which is the oppressor of the people, must be removed from the scene. The former bourgeois-aristocratic intelligentsia, if it still exists, primarily among the emigrants, should also not be allowed to power. It will not be accepted by the Russian people, and, moreover, they are hostile towards the German nation.”

So, the Nazis used Vladimir without promising him anything in return. With this state of affairs, he seems to have resigned himself. It is ironic that at the very beginning of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), Soviet propaganda actively exploited the topic of the potential revival of tsarism by the Nazis in Russia. On one of the posters of 1941, for example, read: “The excitement in the German convoy is not in vain, – / The Nazis are taking the tsar for Russia. / He sits, swaying on a skinny horse, / And he sees himself drunk in Moscow – in a dream …”

PHOTO: Edward Raczyński and Aleksandr Bogomolov

In an article, published in International Affairs, [Vol. 42, January-February 1996, No.1] Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Yury Vasilyevich Ivanov, reveals a different scenario.

In a letter dated 28th October 1941, Polish Minister Edward Bernard Raczyński (1891-1993) wrote to Soviet Ambassador to France Aleksandr Efremovich Bogomolov (1900-1969): “Referring to our conversation yesterday concerning contacts between Hitler and Grand Duke Vladimir [Kirillovich], I take the liberty of sending you information on this count, enclosed herein, which was recently received from a reliable source.”

“In early September this year an agreement was concluded between [Nazi] Germany and Russian Grand Duke Vladimir whereby Germany gave its consent to establish to the restoration of monarchy of the Romanovs. That state should establish a national-socialist or fascist regime. The non-Russian countries of the Soviet Union would be associated into a new Russia within a single union. The grand duke would renounce all claims to Poland. In execution of this agreement, the grand duke issued guidance to the White émigrés to collaborate with countries that are at war with the USSR.” In conclusion the document said: “The émigré community received this agreement with the hope that the ‘Whites’ would remain masters of the country also in the event of a German defeat.”

In addition to having fun in Parisian restaurants, Vladimir Kirillovich took part in financing France’s “eastern battalions” that were deployed in the middle of the war on the Western Front.

On the Eastern Front, perhaps, only one attempt is known to form a collaborationist Russian monarchical unit. In 1943, Nikolai Ivanovich Sakhnovsky, an activist of the “Russian Imperial Union-Order” organization, with twenty like-minded people living in Belgium, volunteered for the Wallonia SS assault brigade. As part of the brigade, Sakhnovsky created a detachment of Soviet prisoners of war, called the “Russian people’s militia”. Upon arrival in the occupied territory of the USSR, in the Korsun-Shevchenkovsky district, Sakhnovsky tried to deploy monarchist propaganda among the local population, which, however, did not have any noticeable response.

The “militias” wore a chevron on the sleeve in the form of an Orthodox eight-pointed cross with the inscription “Victory by this symbol.” The only combat operation in which the “militia” took part occurred during an accidental collision with the advancing Soviet infantry. Most of the soldiers died, the rest, along with the Walloon SS men, were withdrawn to the rear and disbanded. Some of them remained in the ranks of the formed 28th SS Grenadier Division “Wallonia” under the command of Leon Degrel, the rest were demobilized.

As for Vladimir, who then, seriously fearing for his life, before the liberation of France, managed to evacuate to Amorbach, Germany. At the very end of the war, fleeing from the advancing Soviet troops, he found himself in Tyrol in the company of Zherebkov. In the first days of May, they joined the column of the retreating pro-Axis collaborationist First Russian National Army, under Major General Boris Holmston-Smyslovsky (1897-1988). The latter was a career German intelligence officer of Russian-Finnish origin and, having enlisted the support of the Americans, brought to the West valuable cadres of Russian collaborationist saboteurs.

It is interesting that along with Vladimir and Zherebkov were the leaders of the French pro-Nazi Vichy regime – Marshal Henri Petain and Pierre Laval.

On the night of 2 to 3 May 1945, Smyslovsky’s army crossed the border of the neutral principality of Liechtenstein. It was here that the Russian Nazi accomplices were interned and subsequently escaped extradition to the USSR. As for the French and Vladimir, the authorities of the principality flatly refused to provide them with asylum – they were all extradited to representatives of the 1st French army of Marshal Jean de Latre de Tassigny (1889-1952).

PHOTO: Prince Vladimir Kirillovich in Madrid, Spain. 1950s

Laval and Petain, as well as Zherebkov, were handed over to the French by Vladimir Kirillovich himself – in exchange for his own immunity and permission to fly to Spain. There he was greeted by the Queen of Spain [Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, wife of King Alfonso XIII, who was waiting for him.

Vladimir’s escape to Francoist Spain undoubtedly saved him from possible retribution for his collaborationist activities. For almost ten years, he did not dare to travel outside of Spain.

Despite the damning evidence against Vladimir Kirillovich and his parents Grand Duke Kirill and Grand Duchess Victoria, Maria Vladimirovna and George Mikhailovich’s followers, the so-called “Legitimists” continue to argue that the evidence is nothing more than lies. So be it . . .

Truth does not mind being questioned. A lie does not like being challenged

© Paul Gilbert. 6 May 2021

Source: Романовы и Гитлер. Как Романовы поддерживали Гитлера by Dmitry Zhukov and Ivan Kovtun. Originaally published on 6th August 2015. This is the first English translation of their work, which has been updated with additional information from a variety of Russian archival and media sources – PG

Descendants of Russian aristocrats against the Russian Imperial House

PHOTO: Rebecca Bettarini, George Mikhailovich and Maria Vladimirovna

Earlier this month, a group of seventeen descendants of Russian aristocrats penned an open letter to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, regarding the illegal claims from the descendants of the Russian Imperial House – Maria Vladimirovna Romanova and her son George Mikhailovich [of Prussia].

Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich!

On behalf of the many zealots of the history of Russia, as well as the descendants of the historical families of Russia, we appeal to you, to bring to your attention the falsification of the history of our country.

On 20th January 2021, on the website of the so-called “Russian Imperial House”, an announcement was made regarding the upcoming wedding of the so-called “Grand Duke George Mikhailovich” and a certain “hereditary noblewoman” Miss Rebecca Bettarini. The upcoming wedding was presented to the whole world, as the “event of the century”, of which Russia has not seen the likes of for more than a hundred years.

At the same time, the upcoming event is cynically compared with the marriage of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Holy Royal Martyrs, which took place in 1894.

It is painful to see how before our very eyes there is again an attempt to legitimize the rights of the descendants of the Kirillovich branch of the Romanov family to the throne – rights that they do not have and cannot have.

For 30 years now, various supporters of the so-called “Russian Imperial House” have been trying to obtain a special status from the state for Maria Vladimirovna and her son George Mikhailovich, shamelessly falsifying both the history of the Imperial House and the history of Russia itself.

We firmly declare that we do not recognize any special rights for Maria Vladimirovna and her son George of Prussia, who according to all dynastic laws belongs not to the Russian Imperial, but to the Prussian Royal House.

The great-grandfather of George of Prussia, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, due to an unauthorized marriage with a divorced cousin by the Emperor, was deprived of the right to the throne by Emperor Nicholas II.

Kirill Vladimirovich himself de facto renounced his rights in the days of the February Revolution, when on 1st March 1917 (before the abdication of Nicholas II) he marched with the Guards crew to the Duma and swore allegiance to the revolutionary authorities.

PHOTO: Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna with Adolf Hitler. September 1923.

George’s great-grandmother, Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna was an honorary guest at party congresses of the NSDAP [Nazi Party], where she was photographed with Hitler. Her son, George’s grandfather, Vladimir Kirillovich, after the outbreak of war in June 1941, openly supported Nazi Germany, in a special appeal urging the Russian emigration to rally under her banners.

After the war, fearing retaliation, Vladimir Kirillovich tried to hide in Liechtenstein, but the local authorities did not let him in. He then fled to Spain, where he settled under the protection of Franco.

In 1948, Vladimir Kirillovich secretly married the divorced Mrs. Kirby, nee Princess Leonida Georgievna Bagration-Mukhranskaya, entering into a morganatic marriage, which, according to the laws of the Russian Empire, denied any rights to the throne to his offspring.

The daughter of this marriage, Maria Vladimirovna, married Prince Franz Wilhelm of Prussia, a direct descendant of the German Emperor Wilhelm II, who, as you know, declared war on Russia in 1914.

Franz Wilhelm’s father, that is, George’s own grandfather, Prince Karl Franz of Prussia during the Second World War served as a lieutenant in the armoured division of the Nazi Wehrmacht. For military distinctions on the Polish front, he was awarded the Iron Cross.

Vladimir Kirillovich arbitrarily granted his son-in-law the title of Grand Duke, and Franz Wilhelm himself converted to Orthodoxy before marriage, becoming “Mikhail Pavlovich.” The marriage ended in divorce in 1985, and “Mikhail Pavlovich” returned to his Lutheran faith. From this marriage, a son, George, was born, who, according to all laws, belongs to the Prussian Royal House. However, in 1992, at the request of the Russian ambassador to Paris, Yuri Alekseevich Ryzhov, who did not understand the situation, George received a Russian passport with the surname Romanov, while according to German and French documents, his surname appears as Prussian.

Not finding a bride supposedly “equal” to his status, Prince George of Prussia decided to marry an Italian citizen Rebecca Bettarini, who unexpectedly became a “hereditary noblewoman” and, having converted to Orthodoxy in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg, became known as Victoria Romanovna.

The false “nobility” of Bettarini was created by Maria Vladimirovna herself, who has no right to do so. Maria actively, and completely illegally distributes orders, medals and even titles of the Russian Empire. While many orders and awards of the Russian Empire have been officially restored in the modern Russian Federation, an ordinary civilian, and not a representative of the state, distributes the same order in appearance and name to her supporters on behalf of the “Imperial House”! How can we not call them fake?

Maria Vladimirovna “awarded” the Italian diplomat Roberto Bettarini with the Order of St. Anne of the 1st degree, thanks to which his daughter turned out to be a “hereditary noblewoman of the Russian Empire”!

This whole story – the history of the Kirillovich branch of the Romanovs and their descendants in the 20th century – is a series of betrayals, lies, deceit, scams and forgeries. And now they are trying to present another forgery to the people under the guise of “Imperial House” and “Imperial wedding”.

Moreover, it has already been announced that the wedding of George of Prussia and his bride should take place in St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg, the former cathedral of the Russian Empire!

Suffice it to say that in this cathedral, when it was still made of wood, only one of the Russian sovereigns, Peter the Great, was married there! And now the self-styled heir to the Russian throne, the self-styled Grand Duke and Tsarevich, the great-grandson of the one who betrayed the oath, the grandson of the one who called on the Russian emigration to fight Russia on the side of Nazi Germany, and the man whose ancestors fought in the ranks of the Wehrmacht and before that the First World War was unleashed—will now take place there! It is impossible to imagine a greater mockery of Russian history.

We declare that neither Maria Vladimirovna nor George of Prussia have the slightest right to be considered members of the Russian Imperial Family and heirs to the Russian throne. Another adventure of this family causes irreparable damage to Russia and plays into the hands of the forces trying to discredit the great history of our country.

With deep respect and faith in the triumph of truth!

  • Natalya Aleksandrovna Vinokurova – Deputy Head of the Department for Relations with Political and Public Organizations and the Media of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Crimea to the President of the Russian Federation.
  • Vladimir Nikolaevich Grekov – Chairman of the Association in memory of His Majesty’s Life Guards Cossack Regiment.
  • Nikolai Nikitich Dobrynin is a member of the Society for the Memory of the Imperial Guard.
  • Lidia Vladimirovna Dovydenko – editor-in-chief of the Berega magazine, secretary of the Russian Writers’ Union, candidate of philosophical sciences.
  • Igor Vasilievich Zhuravkov is a full member of the Russian Geographical Society.
  • Count Sergei Alekseevich Kapnist – Chairman of the Main Directorate of the Russian Red Cross Society of the old organization.
  • Alim Alimovich Krylov is a member of the Association for the Memory of His Majesty’s Life Guards Cossack Regiment.
  • Prince Nikita Dmitrievich Lobanov-Rostovsky is an honorary member of the presidium and co-founder of the International Council of Russian Compatriots, an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Arts.
  • Gleb Borisovich Lukyanov is a member of the St. Petersburg branch of the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments.
  • Dmitry Dmitrievich Lobkov – Chairman of the Regional Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots in America, New Zealand and Australia.
  • Ivan Yurievich Matveev – Deputy Chairman of the Imperial Society of Zealots in Memory of Emperor Paul I.
  • Princess Julia Romanova is the widow of Prince Mikhail Andreevich, an honorary member of the Association of members of the Romanov family.
  • Anton Andreevich Skirda – Chairman of the Council of the Federal Building Association of Consumer Society “OUR DOM”.
  • Prince Alexander Alexandrovich Trubetskoy – Chairman of the Society for the Memory of the Imperial Guard, Chairman of the Franco-Russian Alliance Association, member of the International Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots.
  • The Marquis Ivan Farache di Villaforesta is the grandson of Prince Ioann Konstantinovich, an honorary member of the Association of the members of the Romanov family.
  • Ekaterina Sergeevna Fedorova – Doctor of Culturology, Professor of Lomonosov Moscow State University.
  • Count Pyotr Petrovich Sheremetev – Chairman of the Russian Musical Society in Paris and Rector of the Paris Russian Conservatory named after Sergei Rachmaninoff. Honorary Chairman of the Presidium of the International Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots.

Click HERE to read my article Paul Gilbert Cuts Ties with the Russian Imperial House, published on 5th February 2021.

© Paul Gilbert. 28 April 2021

Family Disloyalty: Nicholas II and the Vladimirovichi

During the final years of his reign, Emperor Nicholas II was more than aware that the various branches of his family were creating a politically dangerous situation by their open hostility towards him. Among them were his cousin Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich (1856-1929) and uncle Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich (1859-1919), however, it was the hostility which simmered from the Vladimirovich branch of the family which posed the greatest threat to him. 

The Vladimirovichi are inextricably linked to the many myths and lies which have been allowed to germinate for more than a century, and continue to overshadow the life and reign of the Holy Tsar Nicholas II to this day. Some members of the Vladimirovichi were, devoid of principle. They embodied the “treason, cowardice and deceit” that Nicholas II recorded in his diary.

Over the past year, I have been researching material for my forthcoming article ‘Family Disloyalty: Nicholas II and the Vladimirovichi’, Iwhich will be published in two parts this spring. Below, is a short summary of some of the issues which will be discussed:

In part one, Uncle Vladimir and Aunt Miechen (April 2021), I discuss the often hostile relationship between Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich and his wife Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna towards Emperor Nicholas II. During the last years of Vladimir’s life, the rift between his family and that of Nicholas II widened.

Vladimir’s German born wife, Maria Pavlovna (née Duchess Marie Alexandrine Elisabeth Eleonore of Mecklenburg-Schwerin), a vile opportunist with an over inflated ego, carried the family’s anti-Nicholas agenda to the end of her days. Known as “Miechen” or “Maria Pavlovna the Elder,” she was well known for her acid tongue and spiteful demeanour. The power hungry Maria Pavlovna had an open rivalry with her sister-in-law the Empress Maria Feodorovna (wife of Emperor Alexander III) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (wife of Emperor Nicholas II), the latter of which Maria Pavlovna was notorious for plotting against and spreading malicious gossip. She was also very crafty. Maria remained Lutheran throughout most of her marriage, but converted to Orthodoxy in April 1908, believing it would give her son Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich a better chance at the throne. 

The treachery and deceit which emanated from the Vladimir Palace was not restricted to the senior grand ducal couple, but also to their eldest son and his wife Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich and Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna. In part two, Kirill and Ducky (June 2021), I discuss Kirill marrying his paternal first cousin, Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1905, both defying Nicholas II by not obtaining his consent prior. But it was Kirill’s traitorous act during the February Revolution of 1917, in which he is most famous for. It was in Petrograd, that Kirill marched to the Tauride Palace at the head of the Garde Equipage (Marine Guard) to swear allegiance to the Russian Provisional Government, wearing a red band on his uniform. He then authorized the flying of a red flag over his palace on Glinka Street in Petrograd. In 1926, Kirill pompously proclaimed himself “emperor-in-exile”, I also discuss Kirill and Ducky’s alleged Nazi affiliations during their years in exile, Kirill’s infidelity.

It is ironic that following the 1917 Revolution, ALL the members of the Vladimirovich branch of the family managed to get out of Russia, with the exception of Grand Duke Vladimir who had died in 1909

My two-part study will feature excerpts from letters by Nicholas II, his mother Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, and information from new documents sourced from Russian media and archive sources.

Why is this story relevant?

During the Nicholas II Conference, held in Colchester, England on 27th October 2018, I announced that I would be committing myself to researching and writing about the life and reign of Nicholas II. In addition, my personal mission to clear the name of Russia’s much slandered emperor and tsar. As part of the latter, I believe that a comprehensive study of the relationship between the Vladimirovich branch of the Imperial Family and Nicholas II, was an issue which had to be addressed.

As a result, I severed all ties with Maria Vladimirovna and her son George Mikhailovich, as well as the Russian Legitimist cause. My main reason being that this branch of the Imperial Family must be held accountable for their hostility and treachery towards the Holy Tsar Nicholas II.

Many monarchists (myself included) and those faithful to the memory of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, believe that Maria Pavlovna’s malicious gossip and intrigues against Nicholas II, and her son Kirill’s act of treason in 1917, should eliminate the Vladimir branch of the Russian Imperial Family from any further consideration.

In 2011, I interviewed Maria asking her the following two questions on Nicholas II:

“For nearly a century, the last Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II, has been maligned and slandered by Western historians and biographers. In your opinion, how have these historians and authors been mistaken about Nicholas II?”

and . . . 

“In your view, why is the rehabilitation of the Tsar-Martyr Emperor Nicholas II by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation so important for a proper understanding of Russian history?”

Her responses were indeed admirable, however, her refusal to acknowledge the open hostility and treachery of her ancestors towards Nicholas II, in which she remains defensive.

On 2nd September 2020, Maria Vladimirovna, stated the following on her web site:

“She [Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna] was critical of some aspects of the official political course, but she always retained her loyalty and love for Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. She was subjected to slanderous persecution by the court intriguers, who sought to sow discord within the Imperial Family.”

Maria Vladimirovna’s attempt to whitewash the truth about her power hungry great-grandmother and her traitorous grandfather, eluding that she was the victim of “slanderous persecution” is utter nonsense! One cannot sweep history under the rug. Maria and her supporters do not want her ancestors exposed for what they are: traitors! Maria might just gain some respect if she simply spoke honestly, and admitted that her grandfather and great-grandmother were a rotten pair.

In addition, I like many others, believe that the Russian Imperial House ended with the death of Nicholas II, on 17th July 1918. The “Russian Imperial House” – as it exists today – consists of no more than two people: one, a woman who is Russian only because Yeltsin gave her family Russian passports, she failed Russian at Oxford University, and currently lives in Spain; her son, is a Hohenzollern prince and nothing more. Their claim to the now defunct Russian throne is disputed by many Russians.

© Paul Gilbert. 1 March 2021

“The Russian Imperial House ended with the murder of Nicholas II”

Earlier this month, I announced that I was severing ties with the Russian Imperial House. My post on Facebook generated nearly 700 “LIKES” and more than 200 comments, and remains the No. 1 most widely read post on my Nicholas II blog for 2021. In addition, I received dozens of emails in support of my decision. One letter in particular stood out amongst all the rest. It came from a descendant of the Galitzine family, one of the largest princely of the noble houses of Russia. 

Dear Mr. Gilbert,

I always admired your many articles and pictures that you have shared over the years with your readers, but it was a problem for me for a long time in regard to your former stance on Princess Maria Vladimirovna. The whole Kirillichivi line committed acts of treason against the late Emperor Nicholas II from the start. Even during the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, that branch of the family was malicious and constantly fetching plots to undermine the Emperor. After the revolution, the disgraceful actions of the Kyrillichi continued. My mother’s great uncle, Prince Dimitri Galitzine Mouravline who was very close to Emperor Nicholas II, initially supported Grand Duke Kirill, but eventually broke all ties with this family line. In the European emigration, the larger half of the Russian emigrants did not support the Kirillichi. No other Grand Duke or Prince pretended to be heir to the Russian throne. They lived their lives humbly and normally.

You are absolutely correct to say that the Russian Imperial House ended with the murder of Emperor Nicholas II, and there are absolutely no eligible candidates alive today to ascend to the non-existent Russian throne. Should Russia decide to elect a new monarch, they will need to convene a new Zemsky Sobor as was done in 1613 and find a suitable candidate. Emperor Nicholas II had the authority to change the Pauline Laws of Succession, but he chose not to. Thus, to recognize these self serving nobodies as claimants to the throne is like casting a stone against the sainted Emperor Nicholas II. This is a bad farce that is being perpetuated by simple con artists, and it is so sad to say that Maria Vladimirovna was nee a Romanova.

Maria Vladimirovna never had or has any authority to give out titles or awards as she is not and never was a ruling monarch. According to the Pauline Laws, no woman could ascend to the throne in Russia. After Emperor Peter the Great, the Romanov line ended. The Holstein-Gottrop line commenced with Emperor Peter III, and annexed the Romanov name to continue the “legitimate claim” for the throne. However, due to the disputed paternal identities of who fathered who in those days, the only thing that can be ascertained for sure is that the DNA indicates a direct descendant relationship from Emperor Nicholas I to Emperor Nicholas II.

According to stories of those who witnessed the trip of Emperor Nicholas II and his family to Diveevo, the Emperor received a letter from St. Seraphim of Sarov that was written over a 100 years before the last Imperial Family’s visit. The letter foretold of the demise of Russia and of their fate. The family was very saddened and depressed after having read the letter. They lived in fear for many years prior to the revolution, but Emperor Nicholas II (regardless of his short comings or what people said of him) never left Russia or abandoned his post. He met his fate head on and died for his people. He demonstrated great strength and courage to be martyred as did his family. He was a very kind person and I know of things that he did for people near him that showed his compassion and love for them. He also viewed himself as being morally responsible for his family and relatives and as such he exiled and or punished his relatives periodically, but eventually forgave them. This was perceived to be a “weakness” for which certain family members and people mocked him. He was a fun loving, gentle soul who feared God. He did not possess a personality that would have rendered him a despot, so he stayed true to his faith while others took advantage of him.

Being Orthodox and having knowledge about the rulers of Russia, I can say that the 2 key words that best describe the last Russian monarch are “atonement” and “forgiveness”. Emperor Nicholas II believed he had a responsibility to atone to God for the sins of his people and forgive those who would bring harm to him and his people. Most people do not understand this. There could not be a better last Emperor who will remain a Russian Emperor in Eternity other than St. Emperor Nicholas II. This is not to say that he was perfect or was loved by all, or accepted as a martyr, because he like all of us, was a sinner and had many weaknesses. However, God chose him to show His favor on him. God allowed him to be martyred and that says it all.

People are delusional and short-sighted. This is the sad case of Maria Vladimirovna. May God have mercy on her! All must be done for the Glory of God, not for self-serving purposes. Her actions reveal who she really is. Congratulations to you on seeing the Truth.

For privacy reasons, I have withheld the writer’s name – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 17 February 2021

Paul Gilbert cuts ties with Russian Imperial House

PHOTO: Maria Vladimirovna and her son George Mikhailovich

NOTE: this article was updated with additional information on 12th February 2021 – PG

For the record, I hereby announce that I am cutting all ties with the Russian Imperial House. I no longer support Maria Vladimirovna and her son George Mikhailovich. Further, I am severing all ties with the Russian Legitimists and their cause.

Today, I have returned by mail the Order of St. Stanislaus 3rd Class (2013), and the Order of St. Anna 3rd Class (2016), and also withdraw my oath of allegiance to Maria and her son, dated and signed 03/14/16.

During the February Revolution of 1917, Maria’s grandfather Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich (1876-1938), marched to the Tauride Palace in Petrograd at the head of the Naval Guards bearing a red armband and swore allegiance to the Russian Provisional Government. In 1926, Kirill proclaimed himself emperor-in-exile, but his claims were contested by a number of grand dukes, grand duchesses, princes and princesses of the Imperial Blood in exile, as well as monarchists in a division that continues to this day.

Many monarchists (including myself) and those faithful to the memory of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, believe that Kirill’s act of treason in 1917, should eliminate the Vladimir branch of the Russian Imperial Family from any further consideration.  

I no longer wish to involve myself in the dynastic squabbles which continue to this day between Legitimists and those monarchists who dispute Maria’s claim as Head of the Russian Imperial House.

While I am a devout monarchist, I do not recognize any person as the claimant to the now defunct throne of Russia. I believe that the Russian monarchy ceased to exist upon the abdication of the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II on 15th (O.S. 2nd) March 1917 and the murder of both the Tsar and his family on 17th July 1918. If the monarchy is ever to be restored in 21st century Russia, it is up to the citizens of Russia to make that decision, no one else.

I will continue to devote my time to researching and writing about the life and reign of Nicholas II, and committing myself to clearing his much slandered name.

© Paul Gilbert. 5 February 2021

“Heir” to Tsar Nicholas II to marry an Italian

PHOTO: George Mikhailovich with Rebecca Victoria Bettarini

NOTE: this article was updated with additional information on 28th January 2021 – PG

An interesting headline in the Russian media this morning caught my attention: «Наследник царя Николая II женится на итальянке» – which roughly translated reads “The heir to Tsar Nicholas II to marry an Italian”. 

Clearly, whoever wrote the announcement in Rosbalt.ru, needs a history lesson. It is a well known fact that Nicholas II’s only son Alexei Nikolaevich (1904-1918), was the sole heir to the Russian throne. The tsesarevich was brutally murdered along with the rest of his family on 17th July 1918.

The article which caught my attention, was referring to the upcoming nuptials of Grand Duke George Mikhailovich with Rebecca Bettarini, the daughter of Italian Ambassador Roberto Bettarini and Carla Bettarini. The announcement was made on 20th January 2021 by the Head of the Russian Imperial House Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, who lives in Madrid, her son currently lives in Moscow.

Rebecca Bettarini was received into the Orthodox faith on 12 July 2020 in the SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg, taking the name Victoria Romanovna [named after Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna, wife of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich]. The wedding is expected to take place in Russia in the fall of 2021.

Shortly before the engagement of Rebecca Bettarini with Grand Duke George Mikhailovich, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna awarded the Order of St. Anne 1st Class to the bride-to-be’s father the Italian diplomat Roberto Bettarini. This ceremony thus set the stage for awarding a “false nobility” on both father and daughter. 

The Italian surname Bettarini never had any connection with the nobility. Ms. Bettarini’s pedigree can hardly be traced back to the early 19th century. Thus, despite her conversion to the Orthodox faith, and her upcoming marriage to George Mikhailovich, their union remains a morganatic marriage.

On 23rd January, a group of 6 monarchist and Orthodox organizations in Russia issued a statement denouncing the marriage, two of the main reasons which are noted at the end of this article.

But, let us take a look back to some interesting details about this union and the hypocrisy of the Vladimir branch of the Russian Imperial Family . . . 

In January 2019, the RU_ROYALTY blog reported that Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, had made a formal request to the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, to change the law of the succession to the Russian throne, according to which the children of a representative of the dynasty who entered into an unequal marriage would be deprived of their rights to the throne.

The Russian Imperial House today consists of two people: Maria herself and her son George, and she considers all the other descendants of the Romanovs to be born in morganatic marriages.

PHOTO: Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna and her son Grand Duke
George Mikhailovich pose in front of a portrait of Emperor Nicholas II

Up until recently the 39-year-old Grand Duke George Mikhailovich was still not married and despaired of finding himself a blue-blooded Orthodox princess who would meet the requirements of the law on succession to the throne. To appear in public with his mistresses for the future “Head of the Russian Imperial House” was not comme il faut, so in order to correct this matter, Maria and her son sought the help of Patriarch Kirill.

Of course, Maria Vladimirovna wanted to remove the oath by holding a public event with the participation of the patriarch, and not as a result of some dubious behind-the-scenes negotiations. According to one source: “the Patriarchy, to put it mildly, are not delighted with the idea and are waiting for the Grand Duchess to propose an alternative plan, something which would not jeopardize the reputational risks from Kirill’s participation”.

George Mikhailovich was already is in a relationship with Ms. Bettarini at the time his mother made the request. While her timing was perfect, her request was also somewhat hypocritical. Following the 1917 Revolution, numerous Princes and Princesses of the Russian Imperial House living in exile, were ostracized from the Russian Imperial House, due to the fact that they had entered into morganatic marriages.

The descendants – many of whom make up the Romanov Family Association today – have been treated in the most appalling manner by the Vladimirovichi branch of the dynasty.

For example, according to the late Robert K. Massie, “Following the discovery of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and most of his immediate family in 1991, Maria Vladimirovna wrote to President Boris Yeltsin regarding the burial of the remains, saying of her Romanov cousins, that they “do not have the slightest right to speak their mind and wishes on this question. They can only go and pray at the grave, as can any other Russian, who so wishes”.

At the behest of the Russian Orthodox Church, Maria did not recognise the authenticity of the remains and declined to attend the reburial ceremony in 1998.

Massie further notes that she also said, regarding some of her Romanov cousins, that “My feeling about them is that now that something important is happening in Russia, they suddenly have awakened and said, ‘Ah ha! There might be something to gain out of this.”

Now, the Grand Duchess has seen it fit to “permit” a morganatic marriage, simply to suit the dynastic position of her family. One source claims that George’s “wife will be a Serene Princess, not a Grand Duchess, and their children will have no dynastic status”. There is no question that once a child is born, that Maria will make yet another change to the laws, simply to ensure that her descendants are at the head of the line – should the monarchy ever be restored in Russia!

The announcement of the marriage of Grand Duke George Mikhailovich with Rebecca Bettarini made media headlines in Russia, as well as Great Britain, France and Italy, among other countries, and generated much attention on social media.

The Director of the Chancellery of the Russian Imperial House Alexander Zakatov enthusiastically reported to journalists about the upcoming marriage, noting: “… This will be the first marriage of a member of the House of Romanov in his homeland after the revolution of 1917”.

Zakatov’s comment, however, is incorrect . . .

Between 1917 and 1920, five marriages among the members of the Russian Imperial House were concluded in their homeland: on 22nd April 1917 Prince Gabriel Konstantinovich (1887-1955) married Antonina Rafailovna Nesterovskaya (1890-1950) in Petrograd. On the same day Prince Alexander Georgievich Romanovsky, Duke of Leichtenberg (1881-1942) married Nadezhda Nikolaevna Karelli (1883-1964) in Petrograd. On 25th April 1917, Princess Nadezhda Petrovna (1898-1988) married Prince Nikolai Orlov (1891-1961). On 18th July 1917 Princess Elena Georgievna Romanovskaya, Duchess of Leichtenberg (1892-1971) married Count Stefan Tyshkevich (1894-1976) in Yalta, Crimea. And the last marriage before emigration took place on 25th November 1918 in Ai-Todor, when Prince Andrey Alexandrovich (1897-1981) married Duchess Elizabeth Sasso-Ruffo (1887-1940).

PHOTO: Grand George Mikhailovich and Rebecca Victoria Bettarini, with their retinue at the Epiphany Cathedral of the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma, on 24th January 2021. Russia currently has the 4th highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world: 3.7 million! Despite this, you see NO masks, NO social distancing among those in the photograph. This is nothing short of blatant disrespect for the nearly 69,000 Russians who have died from the disease in the past year.

As a lifelong monarchist myself, one who has lived under monarchy from the day I was born, I of course support the idea of restoring the monarchy in Russia. While many non-Russians also support a restoration, I can not stress enough that no foreigner has the right to force the issue in Russia. The Russian people of today are still trying to come to terms with more than 70 years of Soviet oppression, and struggling with their own form of democracy in a post-Soviet Russia. At the end of the day, it is up the people of Russia “if” they choose to restore the monarchy, no one else’s.

The idea of restoring monarchy in post-Soviet Russia is not popular with most Russians. In the summer of 2019, a poll conducted by REGNUM of some 35,000 Russian citizens showed that only 28% supported the idea of restoring the monarchy, more than half (52%) of which would not support placing a Romanov on the throne!

Further still, many Russians, including many self-proclaimed monarchists do not recognize Maria Vladimirovna and her son George Mikhailovich [many recognize George as a Hohenzollern, NOT a Romanov] as the heirs to the Russian throne. Their detractors cite numerous reasons, the most pressing of which are:

(a) That Maria’s grandfather Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich (1876-1938) entered into an incestuous marriage with his first cousin Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1876-1936). It was common for European royal cousins to marry, however, Kirill married without consent from Nicholas II. Kirill’s marriage was in violation of the house law which forbid the marriage of any member of the Imperial Family without the advance permission of the Emperor. Kirill’s marriage also violated the canon of the Russian Orthodox Church prohibiting marriages between cousins.

(b) That during the February Revolution of 1917, Kirill marched to the Tauride Palace at the head of the Garde Equipage (Marine Guard) to swear allegiance to the Russian Provisional Government, wearing a red band on his uniform. Kirill had authorised the flying of a red flag over his palace on Glinka Street in Petrograd. This act was nothing short of treason! 

While those who support Grand Duchess Maria and her son continue to argue their case, they overlook one simple fact: that the Russian monarchy ceased to exist upon the abdication of the reigning Nicholas II on 15th (O.S. 2nd) March 1917 and the murder of both him and his family on 17th July 1918.

A colleague of mine recently brought to my attention the following: “I met Grand Duchess Leonida in the 1990s. She was a charming, intelligent woman. I asked her “do you think the monarchy will be restored in Russia?” Without hesitation, she replied: “It will never happen!”

© Paul Gilbert. 26 January 2021

Nicholas II and the Vladimirovichi’s

PHOTO: Nicholas II with Aunt Miechen (Maria Pavlovna)

One hundred years ago today – 6th September 1920 – Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna died in exile.

Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna the Elder (née Duchess Marie Alexandrine Elisabeth Eleonore of Mecklenburg-Schwerin;), was born in Ludwigslust Palace on 14 May 1854,

On 29 August (O.S. 16 August) 1874 Duchess Marie married the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich in St. Petersburg. The couple had 5 children: Grand Duke Alexander (1875-1877), Grand Duke Kirill (1876-1938), Grand Duke Boris (1877-1943), Grand Duke Andrei (1879-1956), Grand Duchess Elena, Princess of Greece and Denmark (1882-1957).

Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna escaped Russia in late February 1920, she died at Contrexeville, France in September of the same year. She was the last Romanov to leave Russia and the first Romanov to die in exile.

Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna the Elder is the great-grandmother of Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, I note the following from the official web site of the current Russian Imperial House:

“She was critical of some aspects of the official political course, but she always retained her loyalty and love for Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. She was subjected to slanderous persecution by the court intriguers, who sought to sow discord within the Imperial Family.”

What utter nonsense!!

Following her marriage to Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich in 1874, Maria Pavlovna became a prominent hostess in St Petersburg, she was known as the “grandest of the grand duchesses.” Socially ambitious, the German born Maria Pavlovna saw herself as the “Second Empress” holding her own “Court” at the sumptuous Vladimir Palace, situated on the Palace Embankment on the Neva River in Sr. Petersburg. 

Known as “Miechen” or “Maria Pavlovna the Elder,” she was well known for her acid tongue and spiteful demeanour, responsible for spreading much malicious gossip about both Emperor Nicholas and his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

She was also very crafty, she remained Lutheran throughout most of her marriage, but adopted Holy Orthodoxy in April 1908, believing it would give her son Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich a better chance at the throne.

The power hungry Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna had an open rivalry with both her sister-in-law the Empress Maria Feodorovna (wife of Emperor Alexander III) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (wife of Emperor Nicholas II), the latter of which Maria Pavlovna was notorious for plotting against and spreading malicious gossip at her “powerful Court” which tended to influence all of St. Petersburg’s high society.

The treachery and deceit which emanated from the Vladimir Palace was not restricted to the senior grand ducal couple, but also to their eldest son Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich and his wife Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna. Maria Pavlovna along with her sons were even plotting to overthrow Nicholas II, and have Alexandra sent to a convent.

It is widely speculated that along with her sons, Maria Pavlovna contemplated a coup against the Emperor in the winter of 1916–17, that would force the Tsar’s abdication and replacement by his son Tsesarevich Alexei, with her son, Grand Duke Kirill or Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich, as regent.

During the February Revolution of 1917, Kirill marched to the Tauride Palace at the head of the Garde Equipage (Marine Guard) to swear allegiance to the Russian Provisional Government, wearing a red band on his uniform. He then authorized the flying of a red flag over his palace on Glinka Street in Petrograd. It is probable that he had hoped that by ingratiating himself with the Provisional Government he would be declared regent or tsar after Nicholas II was forced to abdicate.

“All around me I see treason, cowardice and deceit”

Please take a few moments to listen to my interview ‘The Conspiracy Against Nicholas II,’ on YouTube, in which I talk about the members of the Imperial family who were plotting against Nicholas II, including the Grand Dukes Nicholas Nikolaevich and Nicholas Mikhailovich, and the Vladimirovich branch of the family, led by the power hungry Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna.

Watch for my forthcoming article ‘Family Disloyalty: Nicholas II and the Vladimirovichi’ in which I discuss the often hostile relationship between Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, his wife Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, Grand Duke Kirill and his wife Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna towards Emperor Nicholas II, to be published later this year.

© Paul Gilbert. 6 September 2020

Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna on Emperor Nicholas II

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Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna poses near a portrait of Nicholas II

In 2016, the Head of the Russian Imperial House HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna graciously consented to an interview with Paul Gilbert, Editor of the semi-annual journal Royal Russia, in which she speaks candidly on a wide range of topics on the past, present and future of the Russian Imperial House..

Of particular interest to adherents to Russia’s last emperor and tsar, are the following excerpts from the interview pertaining to Nicholas II.

For nearly a century, the last Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II, has been maligned and slandered by Western historians and biographers. In your opinion, how have these historians and authors been mistaken about Nicholas II?

No one can prevent historical figures from being criticized. But one must distinguish objective criticism from slander and defamation. Both positive and negative assessments must be supported by evidence that emerges from the careful study and analysis of historical sources.

We are all judged by the fruits of our actions. Russia in the reign of Emperor Nicholas II grew in population by 150% and its rate of economic growth was the highest in the entire world. Labour laws in Russia were among the most progressive anywhere, which was acknowledged even by President Taft of the United States. The great Russian academic Dmitrii Mendeleev, the French economist Edmond Teri, and other researchers have written about the strength and development of Russia in these years and have shown that Nicholas II actually achieved a lot for his country during his reign.

Some might say that because the reign of Nicholas II ended in revolution, any accomplishments he may have had lose their value and meaning. But that’s not the right way to look at it.

I think you would agree that, if a driver is unable to prevent a grenade from going off in his car, it doesn’t mean that he was a bad driver or that the car had some defect or had been poorly constructed or hadn’t been maintained in good working condition.

Absolutely—Emperor Nicholas II, like any human being or statesman, was not without sin and certainly did make mistakes.

But he was a man of deep faith, a great patriot, an honourable, genuine, and humane man, who with courage and integrity bore all the hardships that fate had delivered to him, both during his reign and afterward.

In canonizing him as a passion-bearer, the Holy Church affirmed that Emperor Nicholas II was one of the principal moral guides of our people. And I believe that this decision by the hierarchy of the Church resonates in the hearts of my countrymen.

Thus while I certainly do not deny the right of historians to debate the correctness or mistakes on this or that decision made by Emperor Nicholas II, I cannot condone those who try to blacken his memory or depict him as a dull and shallow-minded man who cared only about his family.

There is simply no substantiation in the historical sources for that view of him.

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Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna at the monument to Nicholas II in Evtaporia, Crimea

In your view, why is the rehabilitation of the Tsar-Martyr Emperor Nicholas II by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation so important for a proper understanding of Russian history?

Some misunderstand the meaning of the word “rehabilitation,” thinking that it connotes a kind of “amnesty.”

In point of fact, however, the rehabilitation of the victims of political repression is a recognition that such people were the targets of illegal action perpetrated in the name of the government and that these actions be deemed formally by the government today as illegal and the victims be recognized as having being entirely innocent and have their honour, integrity, and good name fully and legally restored to them.

For the Russian government today, the rehabilitation of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearer Emperor Nicholas II, his family, other murdered members of our House, and their faithful physician and attendants, has an enormous legal and moral significance.

The Russian Federation is the legal successor of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic—the RSFSR—and of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—the USSR.

A local governmental organ, which exercised full political authority at that time—the Ural Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies—passed a death sentence on the Emperor, his family and their servants, and the supreme governmental organs of Soviet Russia—the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Soviet of People’s Commissars—recognized this decision as correct and approved it.

Until 2008, the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation had not ruled on my petition for the rehabilitation of the Royal Martyrs, and so from a legal point of view the executions continued to be considered lawful and justified.

Neither the canonization of the Royal Family by the Church nor the statements from various leaders of the country condemning the murders carried any legal weight. So we had a situation where the Church and the faithful considered Nicholas II and his family saints, many others of our countrymen considered them, if not saints, at least as innocent victims of terror, and the government? It saw them as criminals deserving of death.

Of course, that was an absurd and unsustainable situation—and a bloody burden from which the government needed to free itself.

Thank God, the highest court in the land concurred with the arguments I presented and finally made the correct and legal ruling on the matter.

I would especially like to acknowledge and thank the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Vyacheslav Lebedev, for his part in reaching this ruling. He delved deeply into the matter and put an end to this on-going violation of the law. Before the ruling came down on October 1, 2008, rehabilitating the murdered members of the Imperial Family, we did not know him at all or what he thought about our legal arguments or about us in general. But he researched the question on his own and agreed with my petition on its merits, issuing his ruling “On the Rehabilitation of the Victims of Political Repression” entirely on the basis of the historical facts alone.

This ruling on the rehabilitation of the Imperial Family, their relatives and faithful servants, all murdered by the atheistic and totalitarian Communist regime, is perhaps one of the best pieces of evidence that Russia has undergone a colossal positive change in its understanding of the country’s past and has made important strides forward in the defense of human rights today.

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CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO ORDER 

The interview was published in the No. 11 issue of Royal Russia in January 2017. The 19 page interview, features 15 black and white photographs, courtesy of the Russian Imperial House.

Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna speaks candidly on a wide range of topics on the past, present and future of the Russian Imperial House.

These include memories of her parents, Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich and Grand Duchess Leonida; the alleged treason by her grandfather Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich in the wake of the 1917 Revolution; the rehabilitation of Emperor Nicholas II in 2008; her relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church in post-Soviet Russia; the new investigation of the Ekaterinburg remains; the reunification of Crimea with the Russian Federation, the situation in Ukraine – and numerous other topics.

© Paul Gilbert. 21 February 2020