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Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Stolen Diaries of Emperor Alexander III Recovered by Russian Police
Topic: Alexander III

The Moscow Criminal Investigation Department recently arrested a man after he attempted to sell some rare books of “great historical and cultural value” to a Moscow dealer. Among the books were three unique volumes, including the 1864 diary of Tsesarevich Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich - the future Emperor Alexander III, who ruled Russia from 1881 to 1894. This sensational find, miraculously coincides with the examination of the remains of Emperor Alexander III currently being held in St. Petersburg and Moscow. 

The 1864 diary contains daily handwritten entries by the future Russian emperor. On the last page, he wrote: "A Good Year." The other two volumes - dated 1888 and 1892 are calendars or day timers, with handwritten notes made by the emperor on each page.

During the investigation it became clear that the diaries originated from the collections held in the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF) in Moscow, but disappeared from the collections many years ago under mysterious circumstances. According to GARF Deputy Director Elena Aniskina, the diaries went missing sometime in the 1980's, however, the theft was only discovered 10 years ago. 

The Moscow Criminal Investigation Department presented the diaries to Sergei Mironenko, Director of the State Archive of the Russian Federation in Moscow today.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 01 December, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:05 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 1 December 2015 12:19 PM EST
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100-Year-Old White Army General's Daughter Gets Russian Citizenship
Topic: World War I

Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the November 30th, 2015 edition of The Guardian. Shaun Walker own the copyright of the work presented below. 

Irene de Dreier, whose family fled Russia for Paris when she was five, gets her Russian citizenship back days before she turns 100

After 95 years in exile, the daughter of a Tsarist-era army general has been granted Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin, before her 100th birthday on 15 December.

Irene de Dreier left Russia when she was just five. Her father, Vladimir von Dreier, was an imperial officer who fought for the White Army against the Bolsheviks during the Russian civil war, which broke out after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.

The family fled to Crimea, where the last stand of the Whites took place, and left the peninsula by ship in 1920. The Von Dreiers eventually settled in Paris where the former general opened a wine shop. Irene won second place in a 1936 Miss Russia beauty contest held in Paris among émigrés from the nobility. She was married three times – to a Frenchman, an Italian and an American – and has travelled widely, but always dreamed of returning to Russia.

In 1920 thousands of White Army soldiers board ships in the Crimea
De Dreier had appealed to Putin in recent weeks: “I want to meet the creator not as a foreigner but as a real citizen of Russia, as a Russian in my heart and soul.”

The Russian television station NTV featured an appeal by De Dreier, speaking in both English and Russian, asking for Putin to return her citizenship. Apparently in sound mind and good humour, and drinking a glass of champagne, the 99-year-old said she had always felt Russian but since her mother died did not have anyone left to speak the language with. If her health allows, she wants to visit Russia before she dies. 

During the Soviet period, the White Army were portrayed as evil villains in literature and cinema, but in recent years there has been a different approach. Putin has promoted a patriotic interpretation of all elements of Russian history, encouraging Russians to take pride both in the achievements of the Soviet state but also respect members of the White Army who fought against its creation.

A 2008 film, the Admiral, told a fictionalised story about Admiral Kolchak, one of the leading White commanders. Like the Red Army forces, the Whites engaged in terror as a tactic. But the film’s director, Andrei Kravchuk, said at the time that the White officers were an example to modern Russians: “These people have what we are severely lacking today – a sense of duty, honour, morals and an ability to remain dignified and composed in any circumstances.”

Putin approved De Dreier’s request, according to a decree published on the Russian government’s website on Monday.

© Shaun Walker / The Guardian. 01 December, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:52 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 1 December 2015 6:10 AM EST
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Monday, 30 November 2015
Who Are The Kulikovskys?
Topic: Kulikovsky

The noble family of Kulikovsky was largely unknown until Colonel Nicholas Kulikovsky married Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna in 1916.  Today, the family still has close ties to the Romanoff family and is most publicly represented by Olga Kulikovsky and Paul Edward Kulikovsky.

On November 24, 2015, Australian and international newspapers noted the death of Leonid Gurievich Kulikovsky, the great-grandson of Emperor Alexander III. Many of these newspapers referred to Mr. Kulikovsky as a member of the Russian Imperial House and an “heir” to the Russian throne.  Mr. Kulikovsky was neither.  As a result, we have received questions from our readers about the Kulikovsky family, who they are, and how they are related to the Imperial House.

Click on the link below to read the full article at the Russian Legitimist web site:

Who Are the Kulikovskys? 

© The Russian Legitimist. 30 November, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:00 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 29 November 2015 7:50 PM EST
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Sunday, 29 November 2015
Little Chance of Finding Remains of Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich - State Archives
Topic: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexan

A memorial plaque dedicated to Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich was erected at the former hotel in Perm in 2011
According to Sergei Mironenko, the Director of the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF),  experts currently involved in the investigation into the murder of the Russian imperial family will not lead to any further sensational discoveries, including finding the remains of Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, the younger brother of Emperor Nicholas II.
In March 1918, Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich and his secretary Brian Johnson were sent to Perm where they were imprisoned. They were both murdered by the Bolsheviks on the night of June 11th, 1918.

"The burial of the remains of the children of Nicholas II - Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria will likely be the last representatives of the Romanov family who were killed during the Revolution to be buried," - Mironenko said during an interview with the TASS News Agency on Friday - "The chances of finding the remains of Nicholas II’s brother, Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, in whose favour the emperor abdicated on 15 March (O.S. 2 March) 1917, are very small." 

"There is very little chance of finding the remains of Mikhail Alexandrovich and his secretary Nicholas Johnson - said Mironenko. - They were murdered on the road between Perm and Motovilikha, but I do not think we will be able to find any documents indicating the exact location."

Mironenko went on to say that during the investigation into the murder of Nicholas II and his family, that historians and investigators had collected a database of several thousand documents, including the investigation, which was conducted by the District Court of Omsk investigator Nikolai Sokolov in 1919. "The documentation gathered during the investigation into the murder of the imperial family is still of interest to historians," - said Mironenko.

"It was a miracle that we managed to find the remains of Alexei and Maria, and, most likely, their burial will be the last representatives of the Romanov family," - said Mironenko.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 November, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:45 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 29 November 2015 6:00 PM EST
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Saturday, 28 November 2015
On This Day: Count Vladimir B. Frederiks, Minister of the Imperial Court Was Born
Topic: Frederiks, Count Vladimir

On 28 November (O.S. 16 November) 1838, in St. Petersburg, into the family of a serviceman was born Vladimir B. Frederiks, Russian statesman, Minister of the Imperial court (1897-1917), count (1913), member of the State Council of the Russian Empire (1905).

Frederiks descended from a captive Swedish officer who was settled in Archangelsk. One of the officer’s descendants became a banker of the Russian Empress Catherine II and was granted the barony. Vladimir Frederiks was educated at home. At first he served as a non-commissioned officer in the 4th division of the Life Guards, and gradually became the commander of the mounted guards. The baron moved rapidly up his military career ladder and in the mid 1890s received the rank of the General of Cavalry.

Frederiks’ career as a statesman began in 1871 when he occupied the post of the aide-de-camp to the Emperor Alexander II. In the reign of Alexander II the baron was first appointed the superintendent of the Imperial stables, then, as the deputy minister, occupied the post of the minister assistant of the Imperial court and apanages. In 1897, by order of the Emperor Nikolai II, he was assigned the Minister of the Imperial court. This agency created in 1826, was out of control of the Senate and other supreme government bodies, reporting directly to the emperor. The Ministry united all parts of management of the affairs of the court agency, including land possessions of the emperor, the income of which maintained the life of the emperor, members of his family and the Imperial court. At the ministerial post Frederiks did not seek power, glory or influence at the court which provided him the confidence of the tsar and his family.

In 1900 Frederiks was made General of Cavalry, five years later became a member of the State Council and the superintendent of the main apartment of the emperor. From this moment up to the abdication of Nikolai II in March of 1917 he was one of the retainers of the emperor, accompanying him in his trips. Being keen on automobiles, he was one of the pioneers in this transport in Russia. When the Russian Imperial Automobile Society was created in 1909, baron became its president. His high position at the imperial court and the full confidence of the Russian emperor provided a significant impact of the Society on the solution of problems of motoring and sport in Russia.

Baron Frederiks was awarded with highest Russian orders: the Order of St. Stanislaus, 1st class (1883), the Order of St. Anna, 1st class (1886), the Order of St. Vladimir, 2nd class (1889), the Order of the White Eagle (1895), the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky (1899), the Order of St. Vladimir, 1st class (1906), the Order of Saint Andrew the First-Called (1908). In 1908 he was elected an honorary citizen of the town of Novonikolaevsk “for his services rendered to the town in redemption of lands from the Office of His Majesty”. The same year, for the 50th anniversary of his “exemplary service”, by the Imperial decree Frederiks was awarded the Order of Saint Andrew the First-Called. In honor of the 300th anniversary of the reign of the Romanovs, in 1913 he was granted the title of count. Frederiks became famous in Russia not only because of his faithful service to the monarch but also owing to his charity.

After the outbreak of the World War I in 1914, count Frederiks accompanied Nikola II in his trips around the country and to the headquarters of the Russian commandment in Mogilev, enjoying a great confidence of the emperor. However, by that time the count’s health worsened: he was no longer engaged with state affairs but focused on managing the property of the emperor in the Office of the Ministry of the Imperial court. Nevertheless, Frederiks went down to history as one of those who signed the document crucial for Russia – the Manifesto of abdication of Nikolai II. Soon after that the city council of Novonikolaevsk resolved to “deprive the first honorary citizen of the town of Nikolaevsk, Minister of the court, count Frederiks, of this honorary title”. The reason for this resolution was the discontent of local deputies by the count’s deed, in spite the fact that fixing the emperor’s signature was his direct duty as the Court’s Minister.

After the abdication of the Russian emperor, the count was forced out of the residence of Nikolai II on the demand of the Provisional government, and a few days later was arrested in Gomel by railway workers. While Frederiks was being searched in a coach of a train, he was deprived of the ministerial seal, arms and diaries. By the personal order of A. F. Kerensky and A. I. Guchkov, he was brought to the Tauride Palace and interrogated by investigators of the Extraordinary Investigation Committee. After that he was freed and had been undergoing a long course of treatment in the Evangelical hospital. Then he lived in Petrograd without break.

In 1924 Vladimir Frederiks received a permission from the Soviet government to emigrate. The same year he and his daughter went to Finland in their estate near Grankulla, where he died 1 July, 1927.
For more information on the life of Count Vladimir Frederiks, please refer to the following article:

Servant to Three Emperors - Count Vladimir Frederiks

© Presidential Library. 28 November, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:17 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 28 November 2015 3:29 PM EST
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Friday, 27 November 2015
BREAKING NEWS! Update on the Ekaterinburg Remains Investigation
Topic: Holy Royal Martyrs

Members of the Russian Orthodox Church participate in the new investigation of the Ekaterinbug remains
The Interfax News Agency (Moscow) issued the following articles today in the ongoing investigation of the murder of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, including the new forensic studies on the Ekaterinburg remains and Emperor Alexander III. 

Experts Open Grave of Alexander III in St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg, November 27, Interfax - Specialists have opened the sarcophagus of Alexander III and are taking samples for tests, a source with knowledge of the situation told Interfax.

"The sarcophagus has been opened, samples of the remains of Alexander III are being taken for tests. Earlier procedures showed that, according to tentative information, the sarcophagus was not [previously] opened," the source said.

Samples of Remains of Alexander III will be Taken to Moscow Soon - Head of Russian State Archive

Moscow, November 27, Interfax - Samples of the remains of Russian Emperor Alexander III will be taken to Moscow from St. Petersburg for further genetic tests in the nearest future, Sergey Mironenko, the head of the Russian State Archive, told Interfax on Friday.

"The grave has been opened," he said.

Mironenko, who is a member of the special working group of the Russian government, said the theory that the grave of Alexander III was opened under the Soviets was not confirmed.

"I have said it many times: it was a theory, which was not based on any archive or other evidence. Thank God, everything turned out the way I said many times. It was not opened by anyone," Mironenko said.

"I think it will be done very soon," Mironenko said, responding to a question as to when the samples of the remains of Alexander III will be taken to Moscow, where genetic tests are performed.

Specialists Decide not to Open any More Romanov Graves in Nicholas II Family Death Case

Moscow, November 27, Interfax - Experts do not plan any new openings of Romanov graves as part of the genetic tests in the case involving the death of the family of Russia's last tsar, Sergey Mironenko, a member of the government working group and the head of the State Archive, told Interfax on Friday.

Experts opened the grave of Alexander III in St. Petersburg's Petropavlovsky Cathedral on Friday. Samples of the remains will be sent to Moscow, where genetic tests are performed, in the nearest future.

"Nothing else is currently planned. I hope that will be it," Mironenko said, responding to a question as to whether there are plans to open other Romanov graves.

Experts earlier did not rule out that forensic tests will be performed on samples of the remains of Great Princess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna, the sister of Alexandra Fyodorovna, wife of Nicholas II. The great princess was buried in Israel in a Russian Orthodox church in eastern Jerusalem.

Samples of the remains of Russia's last Emperor Nicholas II and his wife, and also samples of clothes bearing the blood of Emperor Alexander II, were brought to Moscow from St. Petersburg for tests in the fall.
Alexander III's Tomb not Opened Under Soviet Rule - Russian Investigative Committee

Moscow, November 27, Interfax - A commission of scientists and investigators, which on Friday exhumed the remains of Alexander III, has confirmed that no one had touched tomb before, Russian Investigative Committee (RIC) spokesman Vladimir Markin has said.

"Investigative procedures of opening the tomb of Alexander III were today conducted at the Peter and Paul's Cathedral in St. Petersburg as part of a criminal inquiry into the death of family members of the Russian Imperial House of Romanov," Markin told Interfax on Friday.

As well as investigators, criminal scientists and leading experts in genetics and forensic medicine, the exhumation procedure was attended by representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and RIC Chairman Alexander Bastrykin.

"The entire exhumation procedure was photographed and filmed. It was established definitively that there had been no earlier infiltrations into the vault of Alexander III," Markin said.

© Interfax / Edited by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 27 November, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:42 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 27 November 2015 9:03 AM EST
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Thursday, 26 November 2015
My Hermitage. How the Hermitage Survived Tsars, Wars and Revolutions
Topic: Books

Richly illustrated with nearly 300 colour photographs

In a memoir, the museum’s long-time director takes the reader on a private tour of this global treasure. Holding one of the largest collections of Western art in the world, the Hermitage is also a product of Russia and its dramatic history. Founded by Empress  Catherine the Great in 1764, the stunning Winter Palace was built to house her growing collection of Old Masters and to serve as a home for the imperial family. Tsars came and went over the years, artworks were acquired and sold, buildings were burned down in terrible fires, and still the collections grew. After the violent upheavals of the Russian  Revolution in 1917, the palaces and collections were opened to the public.

Now, in an unprecedented collection of illuminating essays, Piotrovsky explores the cultural history of a collection as rich in adventure as art. From fascinating intrigues to revelatory scholarship on the collection’s incredible art and artefacts, My Hermitage is a profound and captivating story of art’s timelessness and how it brings people together.

In July 1992, Dr. Mikhail Borisovich Piotrovsky was appointed Director of the Museum by a decree of the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.


© Royal Russia. 26 November, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:44 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 27 November 2015 11:48 AM EST
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Monday, 23 November 2015
Bones of Contention: Russia Tries to Lay Royal Remains Row to Rest
Topic: Holy Royal Martyrs

Locked in a safe in Russia’s state archive lie two white cardboard boxes holding a few fragments of darkened bones, each numbered and stored in a plastic bag.

Geneticists, forensic experts and investigators have long been certain who these remains belonged to — Alexei, the 13-year-old son of the last tsar Nicholas II, and his sister Maria, who were shot along with their family by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

But despite DNA evidence of their identity, objections from the country’s powerful Orthodox Church mean the bones remain unburied almost a century after the brutal slaying.

Now a new probe is aiming to finally lay the controversy to rest — and the remains too, next to the other members of Russia’s last royal family, interred back in 1998 in their former capital Saint Petersburg.

“What’s at stake is whether to recognise the supposed remains of the tsar’s family as holy relics,” Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida told a recent press conference.

The Church does not accept that any of the remains of the tsar’s family are authentic and says it needs to make sure beyond doubt, as it has proclaimed all the family members saints and martyrs.

Russia’s government went ahead regardless with the other burials in 1998 but is now seeking to resolve the row with the Church before burying the others.

This summer, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev renewed calls to lay Alexei and Maria to rest with their parents and sisters.

The Church broke the stalemate, agreeing with the government to reopen the probe into the murders and carry out additional DNA testing of the other Romanovs, with clerics present as samples are taken.

Exhuming the Tsars

To satisfy them, investigators reopened the tombs of Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra, and are set to exhume Nicholas’s father Alexander III.

The first results of the new tests are coming back once again confirming their identity and experts say they are struggling to see what further objections the Church could have.

But the Church is still hesitant to recognise the DNA evidence and argues that although it is willing to make the historic move, it must “rule out the possibility of any mistake whatsoever” and conduct its own research.

For experts working on the remains of the last royal family, any recognition will not come before time.

The remains of Alexei and Maria were found together in 2007 in Yekaterinburg — the central Russian city where the last tsar, his family and their servants were massacred.

That discovery came some 16 years after the rest of the family were found in another grave, and nearly a decade after the remains of the tsar and his other three children were buried at a ceremony overseen by then-president Boris Yeltsin.

“I announce with absolute responsibility that enough evidence has been collected to prove that in the graves found in 2007 were the remains of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna and Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolayevich,” Mr Sergei Mironenko, the head of the state archive, told AFP in his Moscow office.

“To be honest, if you ask me, I don’t understand the position of the Russian Orthodox Church.”

After all this time, those seeking a burial for Alexei and Maria — including descendants of the family — say they want the remains to finally leave their limbo in the state archive.

“The Russian government have accepted they have not done what is supposed to be done,” Mr Paul Kulikovsky, great-grandson of Nicholas’s II’s sister, told AFP.

“I’m sure now that we are seeing is just a process towards that... actually the funeral will take place,” said Mr Kulikovsky.

“Now when the Church is participating, it’s a different story.” 

© AFP / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 November, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:53 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 23 November 2015 7:58 AM EST
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Alexander III's Tomb to be Opened for DNA Study on Tuesday
Topic: Alexander III

Emperor Alexander III
Note: this article has been edited from the original by Paul Gilbert

Experts are planning to begin the study of the remains of Emperor Alexander III this week in a new DNA study within the criminal probe into the death of the last Russian Imperial family in July 1918.

"It is expected that the tomb of Emperor Alexander III in the St. Peter and Paul's Cathedral in St. Petersburg will be opened up on Tuesday," a source told  Interfax on Nov.23.

The emperor's remains will be exhumed and his samples will be sent to Moscow for analysis.

Russia's Investigative Committee resumed the investigation into the death of the last Russian emperor Nicholas II and his family in September. Investigators said that additional studies were organized to confirm the authenticity of the remains of Nicholas' children, Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria. Their remains are currently kept in the State Archive in Moscow.

The remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his wife, Empress Alexandra were sent to Moscow for the purpose of the comparing their DNA with pieces of clothing containing blood samples of Emperor Alexander II.

The new DNA study is confirming earlier conclusions of the authenticity of the remains of the last Russian imperial family that were murdered by the Bolsheviks in Ekaterinburg, Evgeny Rogayev, head of the human genomics and genetics department of the Institute of General Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Interfax in November.

© Interfax / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 November, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:48 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 23 November 2015 7:50 AM EST
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Saturday, 21 November 2015
Muscovites Step Up Effort To Rename Metro Station Honouring Tsar's Killer
Topic: Holy Royal Martyrs

Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the November 21st, 2015 edition of Radio Free Europe (RFE). Lilya Palveleva and Robert Coalson own the copyright of the work presented below. 

Moscow's Voikovskaya metro station -- named in 1964 in honor a Bolshevik revolutionary who participated in the 1918 murder of the Russian royal family -- has inexplicably escaped the wave of name changes that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In the early 1990s, 11 Moscow metro stations honoring Soviet figures from Vladimir Lenin to secret police founder Feliks Dzerzhinsky were renamed. The station honoring Pytor Voikov, however, has gone untouched despite a 25-year effort to see its name changed.

Now the effort has gained new urgency, with activists launching an online petition to make their case to the city authorities amid fears that a nearby railway platform to be opened next month might also be named after Voikov. 

The fight against honoring Voikov has created a strange coalition, ranging from the Russian Orthodox Church to Stalinist-monarchist political figures to liberal human-rights activists. Yet doubts remain whether the city government will heed their calls.

Opened in 1964 on the northwestern outskirts of the capital, the station is named after Bolshevik revolutionary and Soviet diplomat Voikov, a man of remarkably little distinction even by Soviet standards.

His only claim to fame is that he was actively involved in fabricating "evidence" of alleged counterrevolutionary activity by the Russian royal family that the Soviet government used as justification for executing the deposed Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, and their five children. Russian archives contain a gruesome document in Voikov's handwriting ordering a pharmacy in Yekaterinburg to provide 165 kilograms of sulfuric acid that was used to dispose of the royal remains.

"I was one of the most ardent supporters of [executing the Romanovs]," Voikov wrote in a memoir. "Revolutions must be cruel to deposed monarchs."

Later, in Moscow, Voikov oversaw the sale abroad of Russian cultural treasures from the Kremlin -- including many famous Faberge eggs from the Romanov family collections. In 1924, he was sent as the Soviet representative to Poland, and he was assassinated three years later by an emigre Russian monarchist. He is buried in the Soviet necropolis in the Kremlin wall.

"Almost no one denies the fact that Voikov was involved in the murder of the tsarist family," says Yevgeny Sosedov, head of the Moscow Oblast branch of the Society For the Preservation of Monuments, "or that he participated in the discussions and voted for execution. This is a historically proven fact."

A 'Terrorist And Destroyer'

Activists worry that when the new railway platform opens in December, it too will bear Voikov's name because municipal transport guidelines recommend that such platforms have the same name as the nearest metro station.

The array of support for renaming the station is impressive. The remaining Romanov family has asked the Russian government to rename it. The powerful Russian Orthodox Church -- which has canonized the entire royal family as "passion-bearers" -- has described Voikov as "a terrorist and a destroyer" who merits "eternal punishment and dishonor."

"It is a rare occasion when I agree with the Russian Orthodox Church," long-time rights activist Lyudmila Alekseyeva told the Interfax news agency in July. "Voikov is an unsavory figure; his reputation is besmirched; and his name shouldn't grace a metro station or anything else."

In 2010, a majority of deputies in the State Duma passed a nonbinding call for the Moscow city government to change the station's name.

The latest effort to provoke a change was initiated by Aleksandr Zakondyrin, a local council deputy in Moscow's northern Voikov district, where the contentious metro station and rail platform are located. He set up a petition on the website of the Moscow city government to solicit the opinions of citizens. Voting in the nonbinding opinion poll will close on November 23.

According to a local Moscow news agency on November 18, nearly 290,000 people have cast ballots on the poll so far, with 35 percent supporting renaming the station and 53 percent opposing.

Supporters of the name change, however, have expressed concern that the city's poll will not accurately reflect opinions. People can cast votes merely by inputting a Russian telephone number, which means that people from around the country can vote and there is nothing to stop people from voting multiple times.

Sosedov, who is not a resident of Moscow, says that when he tried to vote in favor of changing the station's name, he had to try repeatedly before the site accepted his vote. However, when he voted in favor of leaving the current name, his vote registered immediately. He says others have complained to him of similar problems.

'Liberal Maidan'

He also expresses concern about how Moscow media have covered the story.

"In particular, the media that in one way or another are connected with the Moscow government, literally on the first day of voting -- even in the first hours of voting -- were running headlines to the effect that Muscovites had voted against renaming the station," he says. "But the voting had only just begun."

The conservative Regnum news agency, for instance, on November 13 published an article under the headline, "In Russia There Are Calls For Bringing Down Lenin. Are They Preparing A Liberal Maidan In Moscow," referring to the popular uprising in Ukraine that toppled the government of President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.

Anton Khudyakov, a coordinator of the Rename Voikovskaya civic group, says he doesn't see why an online referendum is necessary at all. His group has submitted to the authorities a petition with the verified signatures of 6,500 residents of the Voikov district calling for the name change and for the new railway platform not to be named in Voikov's honor.

"I really don't understand why we needed to collect signatures," he says. "After all, we have been pushing for this for 25 years. Moreover, just recently, in connection with the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of victory [in World War II], the station Ulitsa Podbelskogo was very quickly renamed Rokossovsky Boulevard [after Soviet Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky]. No one asked anyone about that."

"And when they renamed the station Brateyevo to Alma-Atinskaya, they didn't pay any attention to the 7,000 signatures collected on a petition against this."

Khudyakov says his group has no problem in theory with the idea of a referendum, but insists that participants must be required to submit their passport information to participate.

"That would be honest," he says. "And after such a transparent, representative process, the authorities could take a responsible decision. But in the current case, we don't see anything like this."

'No Reasoned Discussion'

Supporters of keeping the old name offer few arguments. Communist Duma Deputy Valery Rashkin said in July that the party opposes attempts to "rewrite history," calling on Muscovites to respect "the decision our ancestors made to immortalize someone's memory." It was an odd position to take considering that, when the communists were in power, they routinely changed tsarist-era place names, including the names of major cities and entire oblasts.

"We often hear: 'this is our history; let's not change our history or rewrite it," says Sosedov, of the Society for the Preservation of Monuments. "This is a strange line of argument since our history has many figures who can be viewed negatively. There were traitors and murderers and terrorists."

In addition, Sosedov says, opponents of changing the name cite the experience of Ukraine, which has seen a lively campaign in recent months to remove Soviet-era monuments and replace Soviet place names.

"I have noticed that opponents of changing the name generally produce some emotional arguments," Sosedov says. "They say, 'you are making us sick with all your name changing' and 'you want to provoke a Maidan, like they had in Ukraine.' You don't see any reasoned discussion of the topic."

Proponents of the name change have suggested various alternatives. In 2013, two Duma deputies appealed to the Moscow mayor to name the station after South Africa's first black president, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela.

Activists have also proposed naming it after Soviet cosmonaut Vladislav Volkov, a two-time Hero of the Soviet Union and a Moscow native who died tragically when the Soyuz-11 space capsule depressurized during reentry on June 30, 1971. This year marks the 80th anniversary of Volkov's birth.

"Not a single metro station so far has been named after a cosmonaut," Khudyakov notes.

© RFE / Lilya Palveleva and Robert Coalson


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 3:32 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 21 November 2015 3:41 AM EST
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