Proceedings of the 1st International Nicholas II Conference

*This title is available from AMAZON in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia,
France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and Japan



I am pleased to offer the proceedings of the 1st International Nicholas II Conference, in both hard cover and paperback editions, available exclusively from AMAZON.

The original edition of these proceedings published in 2018 is out of print. This NEW edition, has been revised and updated, featuring three additional articles, plus a comprehensive bibliography featuring more than 100 English-language titles on the life, reign and era of Russia’s much slandered Tsar.

In addition, this new edition also features full-colour photographs of the event, illustrated with 50 colour and black and white photographs.

* * * * *

In the autumn of 2018, people from nearly a dozen countries gathered in Colchester, England for a conference marking the 150th anniversary of the birth and the 100th anniversary of the death martyrdom of Russia’s last Tsar.

Five speakers, including Paul Gilbert, Archpriest Andrew Philips (ROCOR), Nikolai Krasnov, authors Frances Welch and Marilyn Swezey presented seven papers on Nicholas II.

Lectures included “A Century of Treason, Cowardice and Lies,” “Why Nicholas II is a Saint in the Russian Orthodox Church,” “Nicholas II and the Sacredness of a Monarchy,” “Nicholas II in Post-Soviet Russia,” among others.

The Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov Society UK were kind enough to provide 10 exhibit banners from the society’s mobile exhibition Romanovs During the First World War: Charity and Heroism. Click HERE to read a short summary of the Nicholas II Conference, held in Colchester, England on 27th October 2018.

The conference was timed to coincide with two exhibitions, held in London: The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution at the Science Museum and Russia: Royalty and the Romanovs at the Queen’ Gallery, Buckingham Palace.

© Paul Gilbert. 6 September 2022

Taking a stand against social media trolls

I can truly understand why some people get so fed up with the drama acted out by narcissistic trolls on Facebook and other social media outlets. During the past 30 years of researching and writing about the history of the Romanov dynasty and Imperial Russia, my name and work have been a regular target for their nasty comments and criticisms. As far as I was concerned, most of these criticisms were water off a duck’s back. Having said that, however, I was forced to grow a thick skin against some of the more hostile attempts to discredit my work.

While Dodinsky’s comments above are indeed true, they also beg the question: where exactly is one expected to draw the line between constructive criticism and outright libel and slander, made by toxic narcissictic social media trolls?

Last month, it came to my attention that Nick Nicholson, had accused me of “ripping off” Romanov writer Helen Azar, and even going as far as accusing me of committing “plagiarism” of all things!

Not only did Nick tell an outright lie, he also committed libel in the process. Given that many people who follow me on Facebook, also follow either Helen and/or Nick, I decided to take the matter in hand and set the record straight once and for all.

Nick was referring to my article What kind of ice cream was served to Nicholas II?, which I published on my Nicholas II blog on 2nd August 2022. It was this article, which he claims I “ripped off” from Azar. The idea for this article was in fact inspired by a short article, which I found on Russian media: Какое мороженое подавали Николаю II?, published on 20th July 2022.

Nick’s post on Helen Azar’s Romanov Facebook group generated a flurry of nasty comments by Helen Azar and Marlene Eilers-Koenig, among several others. Nick continued to fan the flames, from which a flurry of spiteful jibes ensued, many of them made by Azar herself. Nick even referred to me as “a jerk”. I laugh, because I have been called much worse, and by better people.

Such immature and childish behaviour by this trio of toxic trolls is nothing short of laughable! I suppose I should take some solace in knowing that by attacking and bullying me on social media, they spared some other poor soul of their toxic behaviour.

I think what was most hurtful and disappointing was to discover that several of my so-called FB “friends” took part in Nick’s attack. Needless to say, I “unfriended” them.

I am not quite sure what Helen’s problem with me is, as I have never had anything to do with this egotistical woman. I have never taken any interest in her work, or followed her on Facebook, nor purchased or promoted any of her books. Quite frankly, I find her crude and vulgar, I don’t like her, and never have.

Back in the days when I administered my popular Royal Russia Facebook group – which at its peak had more than 175,000 followers – Helen took numerous liberties by posting and promoting herself on my FB page without my permission. Perhaps my rebuff and my declining her friend requests over the years was reason enough for her to belittle me and my work?

As far as Marlene Eilers-Koenig goes, I have no idea why she decided to stick her oar in the water? This toxic woman has been around for a long time, and is well known for her acid tongue and poison pen. I, like so many others, absolutely despise her.

Getting back to Nick’s post, which he later deleted [I made a copy of the post beforehand], and then issued an apology to Azar’s Romanov group, citing that he did so because he did not think it proper to encourage an “argument” on a group page. Another lie, to spare embarrassment. The post was in fact removed by Facebook, because I reported it! My action then prompted Helen Azar to block me from her Romanov Facebook page.

Nick Nicholson is well known among the tightknit “Romanov circuit” on Facebook and other socia media. From April 2020 to September 2021, he served as Curator of the Russian History Museum in Jordanville, NY. In addition, he serves on the Board of Directors of the Russian Nobility Association In America.

Nick has had an axe to grind against me ever since I terminated our friendship of many years in April 2018. I unfriended and blocked him from my Facebook page, simply because I was sick and tired of his patronizing and condenscending attitude towards others. He has now made it his mission to discredit both myself and my work at every opportunity, and to any one who will lend him an ear. Helen Azar is no better.

Nick Nicholson is NO gentleman! In addition, his slanderous attacks against me are unbecoming of the good and caring Orthodox Christian, which he so desperately tries to portray to others. Quite frankly, I am so tired of people like Nick Nicholson, running around with a mouthful of scripture and a heart full of hate. May God forgive this man for his behaviour.

So, let me conclude by saying, I believe that my record of 30+ years speaks for itself. Not every one has to agree with my articles and posts, but that does not give them any right to attack me or my work on social media. Most people would tell me to ignore them, but again, and in my own defence, just where does one draw the line?

Dear reader, if you read any further toxic posts penned by Nicholson or Azar, I ask you to first give me the benefit of the doubt, and then to look at the source of these nasty spiteful comments: if you didn’t hear it from the horse’s mouth, stop listening to the ass who told you! And always remember . . . rumours are carried by haters, spread by fools and accepted by idiots.

© Paul Gilbert. 5 September 2022

Nicholas II’s Imperial Train at Mogilev

PHOTO: the Imperial Train at the specially built station at Mogilev. Artist unknown.
From the Collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum

In August 1915, after the German advance, the Headquarters [Stavka] of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, was re-located from Baranovichi to Mogilev. The following month, September 1915, Emperor Nicholas II assumed personal command of the Russian Imperial Army, after dismissing his cousin, Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich from the post.

In the years 1915-1917, Nicholas II spent long periods at the Stavka in Mogilev. He would arrive on the Imperial Train, which made frequent journeys back and forth between Tsarskoye Selo and Stavka.

With the outbreak of World War I, the number of carriages of the Imperial Train was reduced to three. The Imperial Train became both a travelling residence for the Emperor, as well as a military field office, equipped with telephone and telegraph communications.

PHOTO: the Imperial Train set in a pine grove near the Stavka near Mogilev. Nicholas II often went for walks in the surrounding forest, with walking stick in one hand, a cigarette in the other.

As the Imperial Train approached Mogilev, it was diverted to a separate branch line and station, specially constructed for the Imperial Train. It was from this station, that the Emperor and his retinue traveled by motorcar to General Headquarters – where Nicholas II lived, often with his son Tsesarevich Alexei – in Mogilev and back.

The location of the branch was determined by the fact that the forest masked the train from German bombers. The entire area surrounding the station was heavily guarded by police agents and gendarmes.

Trees were felled, and a wooden platform and protective roof were constructed on a privately owned pine forest just north of Mogilev. Pathways and landscaped gardens were laid out, as well as the installation of electric lighting for the tracks, water supply, sewerage, telephone and telegraph wires.

As Prince Michael of Greece notes in his pictorial album ‘Nicholas and Alexandra: The Family Albums‘: “It creates a romantic picture to see these luxurious wagons appear between the vertical tree trunks”.

The special branch line and station for Nicholas II’s Imperial Train at Stavka were both destroyed during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45).

To learn more about the Imperial Train of Nicholas II, please read my article – with photos – The fate of Nicholas II’s Imperial Train, published on 12th January 2021

© Paul Gilbert. 3 September 2022

“We went to bed in St. Petersburg, and woke up in Petrograd!” 

On 31st (O.S. 18th) August 1914, St. Petersburg was renamed Petrograd, by decree of Emperor Nicholas II.

The following day, on 1st September 1914, the Highest Order of Emperor Nicholas II to the Governing Senate was published on renaming St. Petersburg to Petrograd. The decision on renaming the capital of the Russian Empire: Sankt Peterburg / St. Petersburg to Petrograd, meaning “Peter’s City”, was to remove the German sounding words “Sankt” and “Burg”. [ “Sankt-Peterburg,” was actually the Dutch-influenced name that Peter the Great gave the city in 1703].

The Emperor’s decree was just the beginning of a large-scale anti-German campaign that swept Russian society at the beginning of the First World War. Not without excesses: Russian nationalists vented their anger against German shops, restaurants and businesses, even the German embassy was not spared. Anti-German sentiment launched conspiracies, and many people were accused of being spies. The Empress Alexandra Feodorovna herself was even accused of being a German spy! The entire anti-German campaign that swept Russian society was of course further fuelled by the press.

It is believed that the initiator of the renaming of the city was the Minister of Land Management and Agriculture Alexander Vasilyevich Krivoshein (1857-1921). On 11th August 1914, he was received by Nicholas II and convinced the Emperor of the need to issue a decree renaming the capital.

The Russian poet Ivan Ivanovich Tkhorzhevsky (1878-1951), later wrote that Krivoshein himself told him: “Many attack him [the Sovereign] for renaming the city Petrograd. Rukhlov (Minister of Railways) allegedly said to him: ‘who are you, Your Majesty, to correct Peter the Great!,’ of which the Sovereign responded: ‘The Russian name is dearer to the Russian heart … “.

The Emperor received support of the renaming of the capital, from the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Nikolai Alekseevich Maklakov (1871-1918), and the chief prosecutor of the Holy Synod, Vladimir Karlovich Sabler (1845-1929). It is interesting to note that with the outbreak of World War I, with Germany as Russia’s chief opponent, Vladimir Karlovich chose to replace his German sounding surname with his wife’s maiden name, Desyatovsky.

As the military historian Anton Antonovich Kersnovsky (1907-1944) noted, “yesterday’s cosmopolitans have suddenly turned into ardent nationalists. Fury against everything “German” became the dominant note. People who seemed to be quite reasonable, suddenly demanded that their surnames of German origin be changed into a Russian form.”

The very next day after Nicholas II’s decree, one St. Petersburg newspaper announced: “We went to bed in St. Petersburg, and woke up in Petrograd! .. The St. Petersburg period of our history with its German tinge has ended … Hooray, gentlemen! ..”

PHOTO: map of Petrograd, 1914

Their euphoria was echoed by Petrogradskie Vedomosti: “Somehow this name sounds much nicer to the Russian ear! In Petrograd … from now on a new era will shine, in which there will no longer be a place for German dominance which has affected St. Petersburg. Fortunately, it has outlived its time and place in our city’s history”.

It should be noted, that the idea of renaming of St. Petersburg was discussed back in the days of Empress Catherine II and Emperor Alexander I. Writers, in particular Derzhavin and Pushkin, sometimes referred to St. Petersburg as “Petropole” in their works. In some decrees issued by Catherine II herself, the place of their publication was the “City of St. Peter”.

The Russkoye Slovo newspaper recalled that as early as the 1870s, Savophiles began a movement in favor of renaming St. Petersburg to Petrograd: “Historical documents confirm that the Slavophiles tried to introduce the use of this name into all aspects of everyday life in the capital. For instance, in correspondence and in personal conversations, they completely avoided using the name Petersburg, and even on the envelopes of letters they wrote “Petrograd”, as a result of which misunderstandings often arose between the Slavophiles and representatives of the post office, who claimed that they could not guarantee the delivery of letters bearing the destination city as “Petrograd”. This movement, however, failed to have any real effect on changing the city’s name at the time.”

It was assumed that not only the capital would be renamed, but other Russian cities bearing German sounding names as well. They wanted to rename Ekaterinburg – Ekaterinograd, Orenburg – Orengrad. They also wanted to rename both Shlisselburg and Oranienbaum, among many others. These plans, however, did not materialize.

The renaming of St. Petersburg caused a mixed reaction in society. According to Tkhorzhevsky, “the city was renamed without consulting the city’s residents: it was as if St. Petersburg had been demoted.” Lawyer and writer Anatoly Fedorovich Koni (1844-1927) was also not happy: “The historical name associated with the founder of the city and borrowed from Holland, reminiscent of the “eternal worker on the throne [Peter the Great]”, was replaced under the influence of some patriotic whim by the meaningless name of Petrograd, in common with Elizavetgrad, Pavlograd and other similar,” he wrote . Even the mother of Nicholas II, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, sarcastically remarked on this occasion that, “Peterhof would soon be renamed Petrushkin Dvor”.

Kersnovsky even called the renaming of St. Petersburg as the “crown of stupidity”. He wrote: “the ignorance of our educated circles, from which the initiative came, was amazing. Tsar Peter I named the city “St. Petersburg”, which he founded in honor of his saint [St. Peter] – and on a Dutch, not a German model and, of course, did not think to name it after himself. St. Petersburg in Russian could be translated “Svyatopetrovsk”.

PHOTO: a Metro station in St. Petersburg reflects the city’s name changes

Petrograd was by no means to be the last change in the name of the great Russian city.

On 26th January 1924, five days after Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin’s death, Petrograd was renamed Leningrad. a name which the city retained for nearly 70 years. On 12th June 1991, simultaneously with the first Russian presidential elections, the city authorities arranged for the mayoral elections and a referendum upon the name of the city. A majority favoured restoring the city’s pre-World War One name St. Petersburg again.

It should also be noted the surrounding administrative region still retains the name “Leningradskaya Oblast”

In June 2019, Russian politician and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Vladimir Zhirinovsky (1946-2022), called for renaming St. Petersburg to its pre-revolutionary name PETROGRAD. Nothing, of course, ever came of his request.

© Paul Gilbert. 31 August 2022

2 new Romanov titles coming this fall

I have not offered any new book titles through my AMAZON Bookshopspecializing in books on the life, reign and era of Nicholas II – since April. My cancer diagnosis in April, surgery in May, and chemo treatment since, pretty much brought my work to a grinding halt.

Despite the side effects from the chemo – which on some days leaves me very tired and drained of energy – I am pleased to say, that I am now slowly returning to my writing.

Pending no further health setbacks, I plan on publishing 2 NEW titles in September [with additional titles planned for the remaining months of this year]: one on Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, the other on Anna Vyrubova. Both titles will be available exclusively through AMAZON.

An annoucement will be made here on my blog, my Facebook page, and to those who subscribe to my bi-weekly news updates (by e-mail), when these titles are available.

THANK YOU to all of you who support my work in keeping the memory of the Imperial Family and the history of Imperial Russia alive!

Paperback. 148 pages

This book is a tribute to one of the most beloved and respected members of the Russian Imperial Family: Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960).

The first part explores her Russian, Danish and Canadian years respectively; the second part explores her love of painting – Olga painted more than 2,000 in her life; the third is about her work and dedication as a nurse during WWI; the fourth is an interview with her daughter-in-law Olga Kulikovsky-Romanoff (1926-2020), who shares her husband Tikhon’s anecdotes and details about his mother: the Grand Duchess of Russia.

Richly illustrated with more than 100 black and white photos

Paperback. 172 pages

Anna Alexandrovna Vyrubova (née Taneyeva), was born on 16th July 1884. She is most famous as the lady-in-waiting, the best friend and confidante of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. She also become one of Grigorii Rasputin’s (1869-1916) most influential advocates.

This new book features 7 chapters, including a synopsis of Vyrubova’s memoirs – published in the 1920s; her home in Tsarskoye Selo; an interview with Anna in 1917; her life in exile in Finland; efforts to have her canonized, among others.

Vyrubova died in exile on 20th July 1964, at the age of 80. She was buried in the Orthodox section of Hietaniemi cemetery in Helsinki.

Illustrated with more than 60 black and white photographs

© Paul Gilbert. 31 August 2022

Nicholas II’s apartments in the Winter Palace

CLICK on the IMAGE above to watch a VIDEO about the Imperial Apartments
in the Winter Palace. Duration: 12 minutes, 53 seconds. English subtitles

Please note that this article focuses on specific interiors of Emperor Nicholas II’s private apartments in the Winter Palace, it is part of a larger publishing project I am currently working on, that will feature a more comprehenvive study of this Imperial residence during the reign of Russia’s last Tsar – PG

On his accession, Nicholas II was keen to return to the Winter Palace residence in the capital. The palace architect, Alexander Feodorovich Krasovsky (1848-1918), was entrusted with creating private rooms for the Emperor and his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna. In December 1895 they moved into the Winter Palace and lived there permanently in the winter. Following the events of Bloody Sunday [22nd January (O.S. 9th) 1905], the Imperial Family moved to the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, visiting the Winter Palace only for formal ceremonies, banquets and receptions.

Receptions and balls became rare events. The most famous ball held in the Winter Palace during the reign of Russia’s last Tsar was the luxurious Costume Ball, held in two stages on 11th and 13th February 1903. All the visitors dressed in bejeweled 17th-century style costumes. Nicholas II wore the costume of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich (1629-1676); while the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna wore the costume of his first wife Tsarina Maria Ilyinichna Miloslavskaya (1624-1669).

It was in 1897, that Emperor Nicholas II approved the project for a new colour of the facades of the Winter Palace. A brick-red hue was chosen, to match the red sandstone colour of the new fence of Her Majesty’s Own Garden. The Emperor’s decision was carried out in 1901 after the construction of the fence of the garden was completed.

PHOTO: view of the north-western corner block of the Winter Palace and Her Majesty’s Own Garden. The door in the center is the Saltykov Entrance, which led to the personal apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, located on the 2nd floor

The personal apartments of Nicholas II and his wife were created in the second floor of the north-western corner block, beyond the Malachite Room that was among the state rooms of the palace whose historical appearance was preserved. The rooms which Alexander Bryullov (1798-1877) had decorated for Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1798-1860) in 1838-39, were converted for Russia’s last Emperor and Empress.

The rooms were a self-enclosed complex, a separate apartment, designed to embody the young couple’s domestic ideal, a cosy, welcoming home. The Emperor’s diaries show that they both devoted much attention to the fitting out of their new apartments. Many of the rooms belonging to Nicholas II were small, narrow, dark and awkward in design, especially the Emperor’s narrow study.

Krasovsky, showed himself to be a master with immense erudition and superb taste. The combination of brilliant historical stylization with Moderne (Art Nouveau) elements made the apartments of the last Russian Emperor’s family a unique work of art. Each room that Krasovsky created was an elegant paraphrasing of the style of a particular historical era.

The second enfilade overlooked the Admiralty, which included the Imperial Bedroom, Nicholas II’s Study, the Gothic Library, the Billiard Room, Nicholas II’s private bath, a drawing room, lavatory and a small Checkpoint at the Saltykov staircase. A private garden was created beneath the windows of the Imperial apartments on the site of a former parade ground, surrounded by a high wall topped with decorative iron-grille railings.

PHOTO: view of the Imperial Bedroom

PHOTO: the bed which Nicholas and Alexandra shared, and the icon case

The Imperial Bedroom featured an alcove highlighted by two white stucco columns. The walls were decorated with cretonne, a heavy English cotton fabric featuring red flowers and green leaves. The wall panels and furniture were made of Karelian birch.

A small living room was created in front of a large folding screen which separated it from the alcove. It featured a number of pieces of furniture, including a comfortable sofa and chairs. In addition, where wicker furniture for the children. Alexandra Feodorovna spent many hours here, relaxing on the sofa with a book or needlework, while her children played nearby.

In the alcove, separated from the rest of the room by a folding screen was a large bed – unlike most sovereigns of the day, Nicholas II and his wife shared a bedroom. A large folding icon case – covered with icons – was situated against one wall.

PHOTOS: two views of Emperor Nicholas II’s Study

Nicholas II’s Study was arranged in the English Gothic style, decorated with oak. The beauty of the wood was enhanced by the matte surface of the upper part of the walls, painted in an oak colour and the rich green and yellow silk draperies which decorated the double-windows of the interior. The wall between the two arches was decorated with a huge fireplace, the upper part decorated with coloured tiles.

All the details of the interior and the furniture were enhanced with Gothic-style carvings. An important element in in this interior was the Gothic fireplace embellished with griffons and lions, heraldic figures from the arms of the Romanov House and the Hesse-Darmstadt House, to which the Empress belonged.

The Emperor’s desk was decorated with small busts of his grandfather Emperor Alexander II and great-grandfather Nicholas I, and numeroud framed family photographs. The walls were decorated with portraits of Nicholas II’s ancestors. In another part of room stood a piano, which the Imperial couple often played four hands. In the evenings, after returning from the theater, they often had dinner in front of the fireplace.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II’s bath, located next to his Study

A large marble bath was installed next to the Emperor’s Study, behind the lavatory and the Checkpoint. A small staircase connected to the Emperor’s dressing room and his Valet’s room. The pool was a rectangular recess with a marble staircase of 9 steps.

In 1898, the size of the pool was increased to a size of 387 [152 in.] x 385 cm [151 in.] and a depth of 159 cm [63 in.]. The architect, Nikolai Ivanovich Kramskoy (1865-1938), who carried out the renovation managed to preserve the original marble wall cladding and frieze design seen in the photo above.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II’s Gothic Library

The Gothic library was the largest room of the suite refurbished for Nicholas II by Krasovsky, who used the same English medieaval style used in the Emperor’s Study. The two-tiered interior, which included the ceiling, the bookcases, the stairs and upper gallery were trimmed with wax-polished walnut. They were decorated with ornaments characteristic of the Gothic style. The walls between the cabinets and the upper gallery were covered with embossed leather. This magnificent decoration was made at the worskhop of Nikolai Fedorovich Svirsky (1851-1915) – supplier to His Majesty’s Imperial Court.

A huge white stone fireplace, reminiscent of a Gothic portal with a frieze dominated the interior. Nicholas and Alexandra liked to spend their evenings reading in front of the fireplace.

Furniture was made in the Gothic style, according to Nabokov’s drawings, which included several tables, the Emperor’s desk in front of the fireplace, chairs and a lectern. A unique smoking table, decorated with gold and diamonds, with a well stocked selection of cigarettes and cigars was a unique addition. In this interior, reminiscent of a medieval hall, the Emperor often received officials.

The interior of the Gothic Library has survived, click HERE to read more about this interior.

Emperor Nicholas II’s Billiard Room

Nicholas II, like many of his predecessors and relatives loved billiards. Sometimes he played a game or two with his adjutant wing on duty, whose post was in the adjoining Reception Room.

The interior of the Billiard Room was designed in the Neo-Classical style. The doors were framed in the form of portals with pilasters topped with a entablature and acroterium. The classic styled white marble fireplace was decorated with a frieze depicting cupids in chariots. Wall panels, doors and furniture were made of polished mahogany and decorated with copper inserts. Paintings and vases collected by Nicholas II during his Far Eastern journey in 1891-92, decorated the walls and shelves. The parquet floor from the Pompeian Dining Room, created by Alexander Pavlovich Bryullov (1798-1877) in 1838-39, was transferred to this interior.

PHOTO: the Small Dining Room

Formerly known as the Pompeian Dining Room, the Small Dining Room was redecorated in 1894–95, by Krasovsky. A rococo plaster-work style was chosen to frame 18th-century St Petersburg tapestries. It was in this room, that Nicholas and Alexandra and their guests gathered for meals. The crystal chandelier was made in England in the 1760s, it was electrified during Nicholas II’s reign.

The hands of the clock on the mantle [seen on the far wall in the photo above] are stopped at 2.10, the time when the ministers of the Provisional Government were arrested in this room, during the early morning hours on 26th October 1917.

The Winter Palace had been the seat of the Provisional Government since July 1917. It’s leader Alexander Kerensky (1881-1970) wasted little time in acquisitioning the Emperor’s Gothic Library for his own personal use.

Following the Government’s arrest in the Small Dining Room, an eyewitness account records a systematic destruction of the apartments by the Bolsheviks:

“The Palace was pillaged and devastated from top to bottom by the Bolshevik[s]…Priceless pictures were ripped from their frames by bayonets. Packed boxes of rare plate and china…were broken open and the contents smashed or carried off. The library….was forced open and ransacked…..the Tsaritsa’s salon, like all other rooms, was thrown into chaos. The colossal crystal lustre, with its artfully concealed music, was smashed to atoms. Desks, pictures, ornaments—everything was destroyed.”

On 30th October 1917 the Military Revolutionary Committee of the government of the Russian Republic declared the palace “a state museum on a par with the Hermitage”. The palace was given over to the administration of the museum in 1922. In 1923 a programme was initiated under the direction of the architect Alexander Vladimirovich Sivkov (1890-1968) to convert the palace ensemble into a museum complex. This programme included the reconstruction of the Winter Palace that in the post-revolutionary period became known as the Palace of the Arts.

For a brief period following the revolution, the private apartments were open to the public to display the life of the former rulers, as this was the area of the palace where entry had been gained by the revolutionaries, and as a consequence, much had been destroyed so it is hard to know how accurate the depiction of the imperial private lives could have been.

In time the state rooms of the former imperial residence came to be used for exhibitions, while the living rooms and service premises were converted into display rooms, losing their decorations. In 1926, the “Historical Rooms of Emperor Nicholas II” were closed, dismantled and given over to exhibition use.

The only historic interiors which have survived from the time of Nicholas II are the Gothic Library and the Small Dining Room. Sadly, the remaining interiors have not survived and today we only have photographs, architect’s drawings and archive documents which preserve the memory of the former private apartments of Russia’s last emperor and tsar.

© Paul Gilbert. 30 August 2022

Paul Gilbert’s Romanov Bookshop on AMAZON

I have published nearly 30 titles to date through AMAZON – featuring one of the largest selections of books on Nicholas II, the Romanov dynasty and the history of Imperial Russia.

Please CLICK on the BANNER or LINK above to review my current selection of titles in hardcover, paperback and ebook editions. Listings provide a full description for each title, pricing and a Look inside feature.

22nd anniversary of the Canonization of Nicholas II and his family


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

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

The Moscow Patriarchate canonized the family as passion bearers: people who face death with resignation, in a Christ-like manner, as distinguished from martyrs, the latter historically killed for their faith. Proponents cited the piety of the family and reports that the Tsarina and her eldest daughter Olga prayed and attempted to make the sign of the cross immediately before they died.

The term “passion-bearer” is used in relation to those Russian saints who, “imitating Christ, endured with patience physical, moral suffering and death at the hands of political opponents. In the history of the Russian Church, such passion-bearers were the holy noble princes Boris and Gleb (1015), Igor of Chernigov (+ 1147), Andrei Bogolyubsky (+ 1174), Mikhail of Tverskoy (+ 1318), Tsarevich Dimitri (+ 1591). All of them, by their feat of passion-bearers, showed a high example of Christian morality and patience.

Despite their official designation as “passion-bearers” by the August 2000 Council, Nicholas II and his family are referred to as “martyrs” in Church publications, icons, and in popular veneration by the people.

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

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

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

© Paul Gilbert. 20 August 2022

Nicholas II: the amateur photographer


Shortly after his Coronation at Moscow in May 1896, Emperor Nicholas II acquired a new camera, for which he began photographing himself and his family at play. It was also at this time that he began placing his snapshots of family members in his diaries and compiled his first photo album.

Among the many albums of Romanov family photographs held in the Russian archives, at least two of them were Emperor Nicholas II’s personal photo albums, in which he personally selected and pasted the photos.

Nicholas II was a keen amateur photographer. It is widely known that his wife and children all shared his passion, but it is thanks to him that we have a vast collection of photographs taken by the emperor himself and by members of his family in addition to those taken by official photographers. These photographs not only give us an official portrait of Russia’s last emperor and tsar, but also a pictorial record of his private life and reign.

Nicholas II took pictures throughout his life, leaving to posterity a collection of photographs astonishing in their breadth and variety. It is a collection which allows us to study him in all his guises: emperor, husband and father. As GARF managing director and researcher Alia Iskhakovna Barkovets notes: “Everyone who looks at these photographs will see the last Tsar of Russia in their own way. One feeling, however, unites us: these photographs attract us because in them we see a human life. And regardless of the time and tragedy that separates us from that life, we can comprehend it and identify with it.”

In 1925, the vast collection of documents and photographs of Nicholas II and his family were transferred to the New Romanov Archive, which formed the basis of the Archive of the October Revolution, and was renamed The Department of the Fall of the Old Regime. It was Joseph Stalin who ordered the Romanov archives closed and sealed. They were even off limits to historians, unless for propaganda purposes. Up until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, these private documents and photographs effectively lay untouched.

While it is known that Nicholas II started to take amateur photographs, it is not known where and when the Emperor acquired his first camera, but his personal accounts for November 1896 contain an entry about a payment to the firm ‘London Stereoscopic & Photographic Co,’ for photographic accessories amounting to 9 pound sterling. In December of the same year an invoice from the owner of a warehouse for photographic and optical accessories in St. Petersburg was paid for 25 roubles to cover photographic work, two boxes of film and a camera cover.

That Nicholas himself glued photographs into albums is shown by a diary entry 29th October 1896: “Fussed with some photographs, singling them out for gluing into the big album”. It is apparent that he among the members of his family was mostly concerned with their presentation, also ensuring that each photograph was captioned with date and place, all handwritten by the Emperor himself.. This favourite occupation calmed him and brought him into a state of mental equilibrium. 

Beginning in 1896, small amateur photographs began to appear in the pages of his diary alongside the entries. In almost every diary after this year the Emperor illustrated various entries with his own photographs.

Nicholas II’s private album for 1900-1901 is particularly interesting as it highlights the growing confidence of his skills as a photographer. Nicholas had obtained a special camera which allowed panoramic pictures to be taken. The Emperor’s passion for taking panoramic photographs included those of ships, his beloved Standart, and above all, the Crimean countryside and the architecture of the Livadia Palace. Although the artistic merit of these photographs is questionable, their historic significance is undeniable.

In August 1917, when the Imperial Family was exiled from Tsarskoye Selo to Tobolsk and later Ekaterinburg, they took with them a camera of the ‘panorama company Kodak from the Karpov shop . . . along with instructions, and two boxes containing 33 negatives’.  These items were found after the murder of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg at the apartment of Mikhail Letemin, the guard for the Ipatiev House, during a search by the investigator Alexei Nametkin on 6th August 1918. As well as the items found at the Ipatiev House, three reels of Kodak film were recovered from the stoves and rubbish at the Popov house, where the guards of the Imperial Family were accommodated. So, what were these photos? Who took them? Why were they destroyed? Perhaps they contained the last photographic images of the final days of the Imperial Family, or were they destroyed to conceal evidence which the murderers did not want to fall into the hands of monarchists, the Whites or the Western press? Sadly, we will never know!

In conclusion, Alia Barkovets adds: “the photographs from the Tobolsk period of the family’s incarceration are missing from the State Archive, but a few pictures survive in private collections. There are no known photographs of the Imperial Family during their house arrest in Ekaterinburg. If we believe the evidence of of the guard Mikhail Letemin, Nicholas’s camera was stolen by him from the Ipatiev House after the murder of the Imperial Family. Whether or not it contained film we can only surmise.”


I am pleased to share with you, a preview of the cover of my next book ‘NICHOLAS II. PHOTOGRAPHS‘, which is due to be published by the end of this year and available exclusively from AMAZON.

This large-sized book – 8-1/2″ x 11″ – title, will be available in both paperback and hard cover editions.

It is my most ambitious publishing project to date, 200+ pages and richly illustrated with more than 200 high-quality black and white photos – most of them full-page!

Unlike other Romanov pictorials, this book focuses specifically on Nicholas II.

My book will be divided into 12 parts + an interesting chapter on the many albums and individual photos held in archives and private collections; Nicholas’s own interest in photography; efforts to preserve and restore images currently held in Russian archives; and much more.

This beautiful album is a labour of love, and my personal tribute to the memory of Russia’s last emperor and tsar.

I am so proud of this book, and trust that this book will one day become a much coveted and sought after collectors title.

© Paul Gilbert. 19 August 2022 

“For us, Serbs, Nicholas II will be the greatest and most revered of all saints.”

PHOTO: fresco 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).

Kolesnikov had been invited to paint the frescoes in a new church in the ancient monastery of St. Naum. The master depicted the faces of fourteen saints, while leaving the fifteenth empty. He returned to the church at dusk, and unexpectedly saw that at the very place where he was supposed to draw another saint, the face of Nicholas II appeared.

Kolesnikov, who had met the Emperor on several conversations at exhibitions and remembered his face well. But the vision was so vivid 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.”

PHOTO: the Monastery of Saint Naum

The Monastery of Saint Naum is an Eastern Orthodox monastery in North Macedonia, named after the medieval Bulgarian writer and enlightener Saint Naum who founded it. It is situated along Lake Ohrid, 29 kilometres (18 mi) south of the city of Ohrid.

The monastery was established in the Bulgarian Empire in 905 by St Naum of Ohrid himself. St Naum is also buried in the church.

Since the 16th century, a Greek school had functioned in the monastery. The area where the monastery of St Naum lies belonged to Albania for a short period from 1912 until June 28, 1925, when Zog of Albania ceded it to Yugoslavia as a result of negotiations between Albania and Yugoslavia and as a gesture of goodwill.

Today, the Monastery of Saint Naum, is under the jurisdiction of the Macedonian Orthodox Church – Archdiocese of Ohrid, although many Serbs claim that the monastery is under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Click HERE to read my article Nicholas II through Serbian eyes, published on 13th October 2020

© Paul Gilbert. 11 August 2022

1917 Bible belonging to Nicholas II preserved in Pskov church museum

PHOTO: copy of the Old Testament with personal notes made by Emperor Nicholas II. On the right, is a small casket containing a milk tooth of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich

Tucked away in the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky in Zavelichye (Pskov), is a tiny little known museum. The museum was created by Archpriest Oleg Teor (born 1944), who over the years has collected and preserved numerous items and documents of historic value and significance of the diocese.

The museum’s most interesting item is a copy of the Old Testament belonging to Emperor Nicholas II, found on the Imperial Train in March 1917, which includes notes made in the margins, written in pencil. The sacred text lies in a special wooden box under glass. Sitting next to it, is a small casket containing a milk tooth of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich.

Recall that it was on on the night of 15th (O.S. 2nd March 1917, in a wagon of the Imperial train, stationed in the ancient Russian city of Pskov, Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, in the forty eighth year of his life and the twenty third of his reign, surrendered the crown that his forebears had held since 1613.

PHOTO: Church of St. Alexander Nevsky in Zavelichye (Pskov)

How did the sacred text end up in Pskov?

The Church of St. Alexander Nevsky was built in 1907-1908, for the 96th Omsk Regiment. The church was closed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. In 1992, it was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. Following an extensive restoration, the church was reconsecrated on 12th June 1995, new bells were consecrated on 2nd December 2008, marking the 100th anniversary of the church.

There are several theories among the parishioners, as to how the copy of the Old Testament ended up in Church of St. Alexander Nevsky. Some say that the Old Testament was donated to the church by an elderly woman from Pskov, while others claim that the donor was a man who wished to remain anonymous. Allegedly, he went into the church, placed the Bible on the table and, saying that it belonged to the Tsar, disappeared in an unknown direction. The most intriguing theory, however, the book was miraculously found in a looted imperial train car and passed to the woman for safekeeping from relatives.

According to Archpriest Oleg Teor, however, the Old Testament was given to him by the nephew of a veteran of the Great Patriotic War, who later took the clergy. “I know this man very well, and while still a boy, he came to visit his uncle and asked about the book. His uncle replied that it belonged to Tsar Nicholas II. Either the Emperor himself, who prior to his abdication was on the Imperial Train, or one of his aides handed the book to a relative of his uncle with the words “take it and safeguard it.” The uncle then gave the sacred text to his nephew, who some years later gave me the copy of the Old Testament repeating the words of his uncle “take it and safeguard it“. . .

The Old Testament contains two notes in the margins inscribed in a “sharp-edged graphite pencil” on pages 220 and 237. In addition, it contains many underlined passages. Perhaps the Tsar looked for answers to many of his questions in the Holy Scriptures? Perhaps the Old Testament, helped the Tsar put his thoughts and feelings in order and make the difficult decision to abdicate?

PHOTO: Archpriest Oleg Teor shows the sacred text, which lies in a special wooden box under glass

Forensic examination

In February 1997, Archpriest Oleg Teor met with Alexander Bogdanov, a forensic expert of the Internal Affairs Directorate of the Pskov Region, who was instructed to conduct an examination of the Old Testament, and establish whether the notes were indeed made by Nicholas II just before that fateful night in Pskov.

Bogdanov went to the State archives in Moscow, where he sorted through and examined Nicholas II’s documents, including the emperor’s notes, a notebook for playing dominoes and cards, as well as letters and diaries. Many of the documents contained brief alphabetic and digital notes made with a graphite pencil… the same type of pencil used in the margins of the Old Testament.

Bogdanov examined each document meticulously, then made copies with the use of a digital camera. He then took these documents back to the forensic center for further examination. But this was only the beginning of a great work that lasted several months. At the second stage, Valery Ivanov, a leading specialist in the field of handwriting, joined Bogdanov.

“Now the criminalists had to examine and compate the handwriting of the pencil notes found in the margins of the Bible with the handwriting of Emperor Nicholas II,” recalls Yuri Yashin, a colleague of Bogdanov and Ivanov, who oversaw the examination. To do this, it was necessary to identify a certain set of general and particular features of handwriting. As a result of the handwriting examination, a set of matching general and particular features was established.

Researchers of the Pskov State Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve, who examined the book dated it to the 1870s 1890s. The sacred text shows signs of repairs of the book, probably made in the 20th century by an amateur bookbinder. Putting all the pieces of the puzzle into a single picture, Alexander Bogdanov and Valery Ivanov and their team of forensic experts came to a categorically positive conclusion. “The two handwritten texts found on pages 220 and 237, of the Old Testament were executed by the All-Russian Autocrat Emperor Nicholas II”.

PHOTO: the Old Testament which belonged to Emperor Nicholas II, is today preserved in a special wooden box under glass in the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky in Zavelichye (Pskov)

NOTE: There remains some speculation that it is highly unlikely that the Emperor himself, of his own free will, parted with his personal Bible. Based on the inventory of icons, shrines and spiritual books left after the regicide, it is clear that the Imperial Family treasured such books and carried them everywhere with them.

Known, for example, is a Bible belonging to Nicholas II, which was presented to him by his mother – Empress Maria Feodorovna, when he was Tsesarevich. It was this Bible that accompanied the Tsar, first to Tobolsk, and then to Ekaterinburg. Following the regicide, it was discovered by the Whites in the deserted Ipatiev House, and then, among with other personal items which belonged to the Imperial family, the Bible was given to the Emperor’s sister, Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, who later donated it to the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Job in Uccle, Brussels.

The milk tooth of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich

The milk tooth of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich was first kept in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, where Nicholas II and his family lived until they moved to Tsarskoye Selo in 1905, then a small apartment in France and, finally, Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas in Saint-Louis, France [just one kilometer from the Swiss border].

The milk tooth of the innocently murdered Tsesarevich was carefully kept by his nurse-nanny Alexandra Alexandrovna Tegleva [wife of the Imperial children’s tutor Pierre Gilliard]. Both Tegleva and Gilliard accompanied the Imperial family into exile to Tobolsk in August 1917.

When the Empress was transferred to Ekaterinburg in April 1918, she passed her jewellery to the nanny and Alexei’s three milk teeth.

Having miraculously escaped execution, Alexandra Teglina fled Bolshevik Russia, eventually settling in Switzerland. Until her death on 21st March 1955, she carefully kept the precious box with the gifts of the Empress. After her death, her nephew gave the casket containing the Tsesarevich’s milk teeth to the Church of St. Nicholas in Saint-Louis.

The rector of the French parish of St. Nicholas ordered three icons of the Holy Royal Martyrs with three absolutely identical reliquaries for each tooth. A request was made by a member of the Russian clergy, who asked that one of these icons be sent to Russia, so that as many Orthodox as possible could see it.

One of these icons was given to the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg, built on the site of the Ipatiev House, where Nicholas II and his family met their death and martyrdom on 17th July 1918.

Another of these icons was given to Archpriest Oleg Teor by his friend the rector of the Orthodox church in Saint-Louis Vladimir Shibaev. According to Father Oleg, Father Vladimir requested that the milk tooth of the murdered Tsesarevich should be “returned home to Russia“.

To learn more about this sacred text and the Tsar’s alleged abdication, please refer to pages 62-83 of my book Nicholas II: Russia’s Last Orthodox Christian Monarch (2022), available from AMAZON in paperback and eBook editions.

© Paul Gilbert. 10 August 2022