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Friday, 12 February 2016
Presidential Library Developing History of the Holy Synod Collection
Topic: Russian Church

Headquarters of the Holy Synod of the Russian Empire in St. Petersburg from 1835 to 1917 and from 2009 to present day
Note: this article has been edited from its original by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia

By May 2016, the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library in St. Petersburg will have created a collection titled "Holy Synod in the History of the Russian State", which will include more than 1,000 units.

The activities of one of the two highest authorities of the Russian Empire, will show the impact of the Holy Synod not only on the spiritual but also on the social, and political developments of the country. This project is quite important for the Presidential Library because it is located in a historic complex, which housed the meetings of the Holy Synod from 1835 to 1917. In 2009, when the library opened, the Holy Synod returned to St. Petersburg. Two tablets were placed on the facade of the building at 3, Senate Square: the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Through its project the first national electronic library will show the diversity of development of this authority before the revolution, digitize the books and archival files from the library of the Holy Synod, which after the revolution were scattered around the country and abroad, collect the outstanding publications of the Synodal Press, and the history of life of its Chief Procurators.

By now, a number of editions have been digitized. Work is ongoing in cooperation with the Russian State Historical Archive, Tobolsk Historical and Architectural Museum, St. Petersburg State University, and the Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary.

The library’s comprehensive website already makes available digitized copies of documents from the Holy Synod archive: certificates of birth and death of famous compatriots, register of visits of important guests, legislative activities of the Holy Synod, reports of the Chief Procurator Konstantin Petrovich Pobedonostsev (1827-1907), codes of decrees, photos and other documents. The Presidential Library collection also contains digital copies of the "Church Bulletin issued under the Holy Governing Synod." The edition was published from 1888 twice a month and was the official press organ of the Synod. The journal was supplemented by a literary, journalistic piece, "Additions to the church Bulletin", which included selected patristic works, sermons of modern clergymen of the Russian Church, theological articles and church-historical notes.

The history of the Holy Synod began in the 18th century with the church reforms conducted by Emperor Peter I. In 1723, the newly formed department was recognized by Constantinople Patriarch Jeremiah III as an «equally patriarchal brother in Christ." From that moment began, in fact, a new chapter in the history of Russian Church: if with autocephaly of Constantinople in appointing metropolitans (and, of course, the patriarch afterwards) temporal power, having taking control over the ecclesiastical regiment hierarchically, was still looking back at the authority of pastors and bishops, now the "anointed power" both de jure and de facto took over the control of the "anointing power." The key figure in this scheme was the "sovereign's eye" - the Chief Procurator of the Synod.

In addition to its "direct" spiritual duties, the Holy Synod also performed a number of functions that depended primarily on the ambitions and abilities of the Chief Procurator. For example, Empress Catherine II, admiring the collection of ancient manuscripts of Musin-Pushkin appointed the latter chief procurator of the Holy Synod, instructing the agency to continue collecting ancient manuscripts. In just one year, the dioceses collected over one hundred books.

In the 18th century the figure of Chief Procurator rose continually. For example, Emperor Nicholas I already spoke of himself as of "the head of the Church." However, the Chief Procurator became particularly influential by 1880, when the post was taken by Konstantin Petrovich Pobedonostsev - tutor of the royal family and of the heir to the throne, in particular.

The personality of Pobedonostsev was deep, complex and contradictory. In his youth, he wrote a paper on the liberalization of political system of the empire, while in the "Moscow collection" he inveighed against "false constitutional views." He was close friend of the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky, whom he established friendly relations with. At the same time, his hostility to Leo Tolstoy was growing (later the chief procurator supported the excommunication from the church of the latter).

Having digitized not only books about the time of Pobedonostsev, but also his correspondence, reports and other materials, the Presidential Library will study the personalities of other chief procurators and members of the Holy Synod. During this work it expects many historical discoveries and findings.

© Presidential Library / Paul Gilbert. 12 February 2016


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:39 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 12 February 2016 9:13 AM EST
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Tuesday, 9 February 2016
Memories of OTMAA - The Imperial Children No. 1
Topic: OTMA

"Amongst themselves, the girls were very friendly toward one another - I have never seen them quarrelling; their attitude to the Heir bore the character of a special tenderness bordering on adoration. At that time, none of the grand duchesses spoke any other language than Russian: the two older girls were only just beginning to learn English and French. The Empress always spoke to them in Russian, and held that language almost perfectly."

Rear-Admiral Sergei Nikolaevich Timirev (1875-1932) - from his memories of sailing in the Finnish archipelago on the Imperial yacht Shtandart in 1907
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 09 February, 2016


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:37 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 9 February 2016 9:48 AM EST
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On This Day: Peter the Great Approved New Cyrillic Alphabet
Topic: Peter the Great

Note: this article has been edited from its original by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia

On 9 February (O.S. 29 January), 1710 Peter the Great completed his reform of the Cyrillic alphabet – Peter I approved the new civil alphabet and the civil type. The Russian Orthodox Church continued to use the Church-Slavonic alphabet.

The reform was provoked by the national need of a large number of educated experts and the ability to provide official information to the population. A low level of book printing focused mostly on religious works without taking into account language changes put obstacles in the way of this objective. By the end of the 18th century the alphabet which came to Russia along with the Christian written language still had the archaic features in spite of the fact that some letters in temporal texts were not used or were used incorrectly. In addition the letters’ form appropriate for the handwriting was inconvenient for printed texts typesetting due to the presence of diacritical marks. Thus in the course of the reform not only the alphabet composition changed but the letters’ form too.

Tsar Peter the Great take an active part in search of a new model of the alphabet and type. In January 1707 according to drafts made supposedly by Peter I himself, a fortification engineer Kulenbakh made the drawings of thirty three lowercase letters and four uppercase ones of the Russian alphabet. The drawings were sent to Amsterdam for the letters fabrication. At the same time under the tsar’s order the Printing yard of Moscow was conducting letter-founding works. The Russian masters Gregory Alexandrov and Vasiliy Petrov led by a letter-founder Mikhail Efremov had made another type version. However the quality of the letters did not satisfy the tsar. Thus for book printing was adopted the type made by the Dutch masters. The first book set up in a new type, ‘The geometry of Slavic land survey’, was issued in March of 1708.

Later, having examined the results of typesetting samples, the tsar decided to change the form of some letters and restore some of the rejected letters of the traditional alphabet (supposedly at the insistence of the clergy). On 18 January, 1710 Peter the Great made the last correction deleting the first versions of the new type letters and the old letter of the printing Cyrillic alphabet. The decree on the new alphabet imposition was dated 9 February (O.S. 29 January), 1710. Soon after the issue of the Decree, the “Moscow State Bulletin” listed the books, printed in new alphabet, which were on sale.

As a result of Peter’s reform the number of letters in the Russian alphabet decreased to 38, their type face became simpler and rounder. The usage of capital letters and punctuation marks was streamlined. Arabic numerals replaced literal numerals.

The Russian alphabet composition and script continued to change and become simpler. The current Russian alphabet was put in use on 5 January, 1918 (O.S. 23 December, 1917) under the decree of the People’s Commissariat for education of the RSFSR ‘On the implementation of the new orthography’.

© Presidential Library / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 09 February 2016


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:03 AM EST
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Monday, 8 February 2016
Exhibition: The First Romanovs in Moscow
Topic: Exhibitions

Note: this article has been edited from its original by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia

The House of Romanov Boyars, a branch of the State Historical Museum in Moscow on February 8, 2016 is opened an exhibition of Honoured Artist of Russia, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Arts Igor Gennadievich Mashkov “The First Romanovs". The exhibition is dedicated to important dates: the 420th anniversary of the birth of Mikhail Fedorovich Romanov and the 385th anniversary of the death of his mother Kseniya Ivanovna (nun Martha). The artist I. G. Mashkov is well known for his historical cycle of paintings devoted to the pre-Petrine Rus’.

The exhibition presents works by the artist, in which he captures one of the episodes of the first tsar’s election of the representatives of the Romanov dynasty - Mikhail Fedorovich. The paintings:  "Calling Mikhail Fedorovich Romanov to the throne in 1613", "Coronation of M. F. Romanov in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin on July 11, 1613", "The Emperor Assumes Power", depicts not only Mikhail Fedorovich, but his mother - the nun Martha, blessed his son to reign. Several of I. G. Mashkov’s paintings are associated with the first Romanovs, "Novospassky Monastery", which is the tomb of the ancestors of the Romanovs' House of Romanov boyars" - the birthplace of Mikhail Fedorovich", the Ipatiev Monastery" - which took place on vocation the kingdom of Mikhail Fedorovich. The exhibition runs until 27 April 2016.

On February 10 will be held a round table discussion "The first Romanovs. 420 years since the birth of Mikhail Romanov, and 385 years since the death of his mother Kseniya Ivanovna (nun Martha)".

© Presidential Library. 08 February 2016


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 3:13 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 8 February 2016 3:15 PM EST
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The Age of Prosperity Inspired by Romanov Dynasty - Filmmakers
Topic: Romanov


The history of the House of Romanov, the royal dynasty that ruled Russia for over 300 years, is set to be made into a blockbuster television series. “The Age of Prosperity” will be Russia's answer to the award-winning American drama “Game of Thrones.”

Each season of “The Age of Prosperity” is set to consist of 12 episodes. The Moscow-based Russian Film Group plans to run the first of the 12 seasons in early 2018.

“The Age of Prosperity project can be called an analogue to 'Game of Thrones'. We have studied the business model of the [US] TV series and talked to its creators. Like in the American series, we will also be working with several directors and cinematography directors, each of whom will be in charge of their 'own' family, their 'own' characters,” Aleksey Petrukhin, head of the Russian Film Group, told Rossiya Segodnya news agency.

The first episode will be set in the so-called Time of Troubles – 15 dramatic years in Russian history from 1598–1613. The country was plagued by a famine which killed one-third of the population between 1601–03, and also had to contend with the Polish–Russian War. 

"The Age of Prosperity" will end with the slaughter of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, his wife and five children, including his only son and heir, Alexey – all killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918, following the 1917 Revolution. Their bodies were thrown down a mine shaft and then quickly buried somewhere near Ekaterinburg in the Urals.

For almost a century, no one knew where exactly the royal family was buried. However, in 1991 the remains of Nicholas II, his wife and three of their daughters were discovered in a mass grave near Ekaterinburg. Two years later, in 1993, investigators opened a case into the murder of the Romanov family to identify the suspected remains of the Tsar’s family and their retinue. The case was closed in 1998 “owing to the deaths of the perpetrators of the crime.” It was re-opened in 2007 when new evidence appeared – the remains of Nicholas II’s last two children were discovered – his daughter Maria and his only son Aleksey, who suffered from hemophilia.

The remains of the last Russian emperor and his wife were exhumed in September last year.

© Russia Today. 08 February 2016


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:31 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 8 February 2016 2:37 PM EST
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Sunday, 7 February 2016
On This Day - Empress Anna Ioannovna Was Born
Topic: Anna Ioannovna, Empress

Portrait of Empress Anna Ioannovna (1730).
Artist: Louis Caravaque. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Note: this article has been edited from its original by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia

On 7 February (O.S. 28 January) 1693, in Moscow was born the Russian Empress (1730-1740) Anna Ioannovna - a daughter of Tsar Ioann Alexeevich and Praskovia Feodorovna Saltykova, niece of Peter I.

Until the age of 15, Anna lived with her mother in the village of Izmailovo. She studied history, geography, reading, calligraphy, foreign languages, and dance.

In 1710, Peter I, wishing to strengthen the influence of Russia in the Baltic States, so he married Anna to the young Duke of Courland, Frederick William, a nephew of the King of Prussia. However, shortly after the wedding, the Duke died. At the insistence of Peter I, Anna stayed to live in Courland, in Mitau, under the control of the Russian representative P. M. Bestuzhev-Rumin.

After the sudden death of Emperor Peter II in January 1730, the members of the Supreme Privy Council invited the Duchess-Dowager of Courland to ascend the throne. At the same time, Golitsyn initiated a reform of the political system in Russia through the virtual elimination of the autocracy and the introduction of a limited monarchy. To this end, the members of the Council proposed the future Empress to sign special "Conditions" under which she was deprived of the possibility to make independent political decisions: make peace and declare war, appoint to public office, or change the tax system.

However, the lack of unity among the supporters of the Supreme Privy Council, who tried to limit the power of the empress, allowed Anna Ivanovna supported by the nobility and guardsmen to regain all the prerogatives and publicly break the "Conditions". The Manifesto of 15 March (O.S. 4 March) 1730 was abolished by the Supreme Privy Council and a year later it was replaced by the Cabinet of Ministers, which included A. I. Osterman, G. I. Golovkin, A. M. Cherkassky.

During the decade of the reign of Anna Ioannovna, Russian foreign policy largely continued the course charted by Peter I. The Peace Treaty of Belgrade of 1739 gave Russia the opportunity to end the war with Turkey of 1735-1739 and annex the steppe between the Bug and the Donets, the right to send its goods to the Black Sea; Azov was recognized a neutral city.

The mainstay of Anna Ioannovna, who paid little attention to public affairs, were aristocratic Baltic Germans, who took dominant position in the government headed by her favourite E. J. von Biron. In 1730, was established the Secret Investigation Office (central body of political investigation), which replaced the Preobrazhensky Office abolished under Peter II. In a short term the Office gained extraordinary strength as the Empress was in constant fear of conspiracies. During the reign of Anna Ivonnovna the decree on primogeniture was repealed, the Land Noble Cadet Corps was established, new Guards regiments were formed - the Life Guards Izmaylovsky Regiment (Infantry) and the Life-Guards Mounted Regiment (cavalry), the service for nobility was limited to 25 years.

In an effort to continue the dynasty, Anna Ioannovna appointed heir to the throne her infant nephew, Ioann Antonovich.

On 28 October (O.S. 17 October) 1740, the Empress died and was buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Shortly after her death a palace coup brought to power Elizabeth, daughter of Peter I.

© Presidential Library / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 07 February, 2016


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:08 PM EST
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The Forgotten Tutor: John Epps and the Romanovs
Topic: Books


includes 146 pages, with 66 black and white photographs and illustrations

Foreword by Hugh Bett of Maggs Bros. Ltd., London

Use the order button at the bottom of this page to order your copy from the Royal Russia Bookshop

Gilberts Books - the publishing division of Royal Russia - is pleased to present our latest title - The Forgotten Tutor: John Epps and the Romanovs is the first book written about the virtually unknown tutor to the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, between the years 1905-1914.

In December 1914 the eldest daughter of the last Tsar sent her former tutor a photographic portrait of herself. The soulful picture, signed ‘Olga 1914’, was the last communication the devoted tutor received from any of his former pupils. In July 1918 the family of Nicholas II were brutally murdered by a Bolshevik firing squad in the basement of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg.

After his return to England in 1914, John Epps took particular pains to preserve his Imperial mementoes. Over nine years — between 1905 and 1914 — he collected every letter, card and drawing he received from the ill-fated children. About 30 of his papers were discovered more than a decade ago at Maggs Bros. Ltd., an antiquarian book dealer in London, England. They had lain untouched at the bottom of a tin document drawer for nearly 70 years.

The lives of the four daughters of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna have been carefully preserved through the post-Revolution memoirs of Pierre Gilliard, Sydney Gibbs, Margaretta Eagar and Anna Vyrubova. These names recorded for posterity tell the story of their lives and their influence on the Imperial children. Of John Epps, however, there was no mention. He had been totally lost to history. Until now. 

Janet Epps - an Australian descendant of the tutor - and Dr. Gabriella Lang tell the story of John Epps, who arrived in Russia in 1880 to take up a post in an English school. From 1900, he was employed as a teacher at the Imperial Lyceum in Tsarskoye Selo.

It was not until 1905, however, that he was offered the position of tutor to the four daughters of Russia's last tsar. On Monday April 25th, 1905, John Epps arrived at the Alexander Palace where he was met by Princess Sonia Orbeliani - the Tsarina’s lady-in-waiting who took him to schoolroom, where he encountered “a tall, slender woman.” He describes this meeting: “Have I the honour of speaking to the Tsarina?” he asked hesitantly. “Yes, you do,” she replied. His new August employer smiled and did her best to make him at ease.

Many of John Epps’ observations of the grand duchesses are now preserved in the pages of this charming book. To John Epps, they had not been historical figures but real people with whom he had a relationship and these historical documents were tangible proof of that.

The highlight of the book are the reproductions of the letters, cards and drawings created by the grand duchesses for their beloved tutor, and published for the first time in The Forgotten Tutor. These childish drawings and sketches - so lovingly prepared and just as lovingly collected and carefully preserved - coupled with Epps' impressions of life in the Alexander Palace, tell of a different age, a magical world that ended so brutally. The stage is now set for John Epps' story to be told, for acknowledgement of his contribution to the rich tapestry of the Romanov saga and - most importantly - to finally bring these poignant personal mementoes of the last tsar and his family into the public arena.
The Forgotten Tutor: John Epps and the Romanovs is the 25th title published by Gilbert's Books - the publishing division of Royal Russia - since 1994.

For more information on the discovery of John Epps papers, please refer to the following news articles published in the Australian press in 2004:

Romanov Children's Ephemera Found in Trunk in London (ABC - The World Today, 14 October, 2004)

A Rare Glimpse into History (The Sunday Age, 14 October, 2004)



© Gilbert's Books. 20 December, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:12 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 7 February 2016 5:22 AM EST
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Saturday, 6 February 2016
Further Recommendations Regarding Ekaterinburg Remains Made by ROC
Topic: Holy Royal Martyrs

Archpriest Oleg Mitrov, member of the Synodal Commission for the Canonization of Saints
The Russian Orthodox Church believes that it is necessary to continue the search for the remains of Nicholas II's children. Presumably, only a small part of the remains of Tsarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria have been found, therefore, the search must be continued, said a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church. The investigation into the criminal case of the murder of the royal family should also include an examination of the remains found by Nikolai Sokolov in the 1920s and later transferred to St. Job’s Church in Brussels. 

The search for the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria should continue in and around the Koptyaki Road area near Ekaterinburg, said Archpriest Oleg Mitrov at a recent conference. Mitrov, who is a member of the Synodal Commission for the Canonization of Saints, is also currently engaged in the study of the issues surrounding the murders of Russia’s last royal family.

In July 1991, the remains of nine people were found along the Old Koptyaki Road near Ekaterinburg. They belonged to members of the Russian royal family - 50-year-old Nicholas II, his 46-year-old wife Alexandra, their daughters - 22-year-old Olga, 21-year-old Tatiana, 17-year-old Anastasia, as well as four retainers - 53-year-old Eugene Botkin, 40-year-old Anna Demidova, 62-year-old Alexei Trupp and 48-year-old Ivan Kharitonov. In July 2007 during further archaeological excavations to the south of the original burial site the remains of two other people were found. Experts believe that they are the remains of 13-year-old Tsesarevich Alexei and 19-year-old Grand Duchess Maria.

In July 2007, Nikolai Nevolin, head of forensics for the Sverdlovsk region, told reporters that the remains consisted of 44 bone fragments, from a few millimetres to a few centimetres long. Also found were seven teeth, three bullets and a fragment of a piece of clothing. Archpriest Mitrov believes that there may be more than one grave containing further remains of Alexei and Maria.

According to Archpriest Oleg Mitrov the remains found were marked with "signs of exposure to high temperatures and sulphuric acid". He went on to add that according to expert data, the remains "revealed a sharp discrepancy between the calculated and the actual weight of ash (remains)".

"This indicates that only one of possibly several burial sites of the remains of two people was found during the search operations. It would seem that this conclusion requires the investigation to continue the search, the search for other graves, but it is a task which was ignored. We need to continue to search for other places in which the remains of Tsesarevich Alexis and Grand Duchess Maria were disposed of"- the priest said, noting "the colossal importance of this issue." 

Archpriest Oleg Mitrov has also suggested that the investigation into the criminal case of the murder of the royal family should include an examination of the remains found at St. Job’s Church in Brussels. The remains had been handed over by investigator Nikolai Sokolov, who led the murder case of the family of Nicholas II in the years 1919-1924, to Prince Shirinsky-Shikhmatov in 1920. Two decades later, they were solemnly handed over to ROCOR head Metropolitan Serafim and in 1950 were transferred to St. Job's Church in Brussels.

"It is hoped that, in addition to the repetition of genetic examinations, which are unlikely to give any new findings, the examination will end the investigation in other important areas (...) will be able to obtain and analyze samples of skeletal remains, Sokolov sent to Europe, and will also continue to search for other places of burial of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria"- the priest said during an interview with Interfax-Religion in Moscow. 

In July 2015, in an interview with Interfax-Religion, the director of the State Archive of the Russian Federation Sergey Mironenko also expressed hope that the Russian Church Abroad would allow the study of fragments of the Brussels remains to be analysed and compared with the relics of the Ekaterinburg remains.
For more information on the remains found by Sokolov and later transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church in Brussels, please refer to the following articles: 

New Romanov Evidence Can be Studied Without Reopening Investigation

ROCOR Refuses Research on Royal Remains

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 06 February, 2016


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 3:43 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 6 February 2016 4:27 PM EST
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Friday, 5 February 2016
Portrait of Emperor Nicholas II Adorns Serbian City Street
Topic: Nicholas II

For more than a century, the people of Serbia have held the name of the Emperor Nicholas II with special reverence, believing him to be their patron and protector. Serbs of different generations remember all too well that one of the most difficult periods of their nations’ history was during World War I, when the Russian emperor came to their aid, and defended the fraternal people against Austro-Hungarian aggression, risking his own power, and the future of his empire.

The personal participation of Emperor Nicholas II saved the lives of many Serbian soldiers and affected the final outcome of the war in which Serbs were the victors. Their grateful descendants have not forget his sacrifice.

One manifestation of Serbia’s love and memory was the action of a group of young Serbian artists from the city of Novi Sad. For three days, from 1 to 4 February, a group of enthusiasts produced a large portrait of Emperor Nicholas II in the “popular wall painting style” in the Serbian city. The portrait reflects an original of the emperor painted in 1915 by the famous Russian painter Boris Mikhaylovich Kustodiev (1878-1927).

Beneath the portrait is placed the text of a telegram from Nicholas II to King Aleksandar Karadjordjevic of Serbia: "All my efforts will be made to comply with the dignity of Serbia ... In no case will Russia remain indifferent to the fate of Serbia".

The street portrait was initiated by the Serbian League Coalition "Rodoljub" as a symbol of brotherly love and union between the Serbian and Russian peoples.

Please take a moment to review these other articles on Emperor Nicholas II and Serbia:

Restoration of Tsar Nicholas II Fresco in Serbian Monastery Church

Monument To Russian Emperor Nicholas II Unveiled In Belgrade + VIDEO

Bust of Tsar Nicholas II Unveiled in Serbian Capital

Nicholas II Depicted in Serbian Graffiti 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 05 February, 2016


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:35 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 5 February 2016 11:01 AM EST
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Topic: Royal Russia


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:05 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 5 February 2016 1:51 PM EST
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