In 2018, Russia will mark the 100th anniversary of the murders of Emperor Nicholas II and his family in Ekaterinburg on the night of 16/17 July, 1918.
In anticipation of the centenary of the Ekaterinburg tragedy, the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF) in Moscow has made available online the documents on the history of this tragic event. In addition to documents from the collection of the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), are documents from collections of the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI), the Russian State Archive of Contemporary History (RGANI), Russian Federation President Archives (AP RF), Perm State Archive of Contemporary History, the State Archives of Sverdlovsk (JI-AP), and the Center for Documentation of Public Organizations of Sverdlovsk Region (TSDOOSO).
A total of 281 files containing nearly 1,000 documents are now available to read on GARF’s website. The documents are divided into 11 sections: renunciation, arrest, trial preparation, transfer to Ekaterinburg and others. They clarify the circumstances of the arrest of Nicholas II, his transfer to Tobolsk, and the circumstances of the death of the last Russian emperor's family.
The project is headed by GARF Director Sergei Mironenko, who was assisted by archival staff. The project, which took six months to complete now offers complete disclosure to everyone who is interested in the documents relating to the final period of the life of Emperor Nicholas II, from the time of his abdication, to his murder in the Ipatiev house. These documents were sealed during the Soviet years, completely off limits even to historians, and only become accessible after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Many of the documents were identified as a result of painstaking research in Russia’s state and departmental archives, as well as private archival collections abroad. The bulk of the material, however, was collected during the first investigation into the murder of the royal family in 1919, conducted on behalf of Kolchak investigator Omsk district court Nikolai Sokolov.
In addition, are documents from the investigations carried out after the discovery of the Ekaterinburg remains in 1993-1997. But there are more recent documents as well. For example, you can read the autobiography of Yakov Yurovsky, which he signed "chief executioner of the Romanov family”, discovered only a few months ago.
Among the documents are the encrypted telegram sent to Moscow, which informed Lenin and Sverdlov of the murder of all members of the royal family, the act of abdication signed in pencil by Nicholas II, and an important document relating to the assassination attempt on the Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (the future Emperor Nicholas II) during his visit to Japan in 1891.
Mironenko notes that the discovery of any additional documents relating to this subject, will be added to the digital collection, as they become available. In addition, GARF will supplement the project with documents pertaining to the murder of Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich in Perm, and the murder Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and other members of the Romanov family in Alapaevsk.
To review the documents (in Russian only), please refer to the following link:
After more than seven decades of neglect and ruin, the newly restored Arsenal Pavilion in the Alexander Park opened to visitors on 24th August. The pavilion will house a new display The Arsenal of Tsarskoye Selo: The Imperial Arms Collection, a joint project between the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
The highlights of the Arsenal are the finest pieces from the Asian arms collection of Russian emperors. Like before, the main attraction of the pavilion is the Hall of Knights, which is located on the second floor of the pavilion.
With over 400 exhibits, the new museum display includes the famous 1843 oil on canvas The Tsarskoye Selo Carousel by Emile-Jean-Horace Vernet, Oriental cold steel items, 18th-19th century firearms and horse harnesses, as well as pieces of historic furniture, glassware and military uniforms.
The State Hermitage has loaned to the Arsenal some rare exhibits like a 16th-century armour set from the collection of Nicholas I, which was showcased in the pavilion during the Emperor’s time.
The first and second floor rooms now present information on the history of the pavilion and of Western European and Asian arms from the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum. Modern 3D technologies in the Albanian Room help re-create the historic view of the interior from a 19th-century watercolour depiction by Alois Gustav Rockstuhl. A historical video in one peripheral room introduces into the world of medieval court festivities such as equine carousels. The Spiral Stairs Room offers e-books on the history of the Arsenal, Russian imperial libraries and arms collections.
Besides rarities from the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum’s historic collection and those loaned by the State Hermitage, visitors can see 16th-17th century Western European artefacts: plate armour, helmets, halberds and swords, purchased by the museum at different auctions.
The main pavilion of the Alexander Park, the Arsenal stands on the site of the Monbijou, a pavilion built in 1747–1750s to plans by architects Savva Chevakinsky and Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli. Considered one of the finest park structures in the Russian Baroque style, the Monbijou (French for ‘my jewel’) was created in the same fashion as the Hermitage Pavilion in the Catherine Park. It was also known as a hunting pavilion as it stood in the Menagerie, a wildlife and game preserve for the imperial hunt.
After years of neglect and ruin, the partially dismantled Menagerie lost its function. The Arsenal Pavilion was reconstructed as a Neo-Gothic building with four crenulated turrets to the design of Adam Menelaws in 1817–34. The magnificent interior decoration by architect Alexander Thon delighted who visited the Arsenal. The pavilion became home to Emperor Nicholas I’s collection of Western European and Asian arms and armour, with the finest pieces on display in the central octagonal Hall of Knights on the second floor. The Emperor willed that the remodelled pavilion should be named ‘Arsenal’.
A remarkable piece of Russian 19th-century Neo-Gothic architecture, the Arsenal made the whole ensemble of the Alexander Park seen by contemporaries as some kind of romantic mediaeval setting for novels by Sir Walter Scott, whose Abbotsford House in the Scottish Borders was a great influence to Nicholas I. The imperial arms collection in the Arsenal became Russia’s first public museum of arms, with over 5,000 exhibits and several guides.
In 1885–86, on the instructions of Emperor Alexander III, the unique collection of his grandfather was transferred to the Imperial Hermitage, where some of it is now on display in the Knights’ Hall and other rooms.
The Arsenal sustained considerable damage during the Second World War and remained in a neglected and ruined state for decades. It was finally restored by RemStroiFasad CJSC during September 2014 – December 2015 to plans developed for Tsarskoye Selo in 2011 by the St Petersburg Institute for Special Restoration Projects. The cost of the works including project documentation totalled RUB 305,000,000 and was mostly covered by the federal finances.
The renovated building, now equipped with accessibility accommodations for wheelchair users, has an effectively designed reception area on the basement floor, with a cloakroom, technical and service rooms and the Introduction Hall with information on the Alexander Park and the Arsenal.
Russian Imperial National State Flag 1914-1917 Topic: Imperial Russia
An old Russian postcard depicts the Russian Imperial National State Flag 1914-1917
August 22nd is National Flag Day in Russia. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to celebrate the last National flag of Imperial Russia.
The Russian Imperial National State Flag was the Russian National flag most used between 1914 and 1917. The white-blue-red tricolor with a canton of the imperial arms was introduced by Imperial decree on 19 November 1914. It replaced the black-orange-white tricolor, which had been the civil flag since 1858, and also the plain white-blue-red tricolor. In an attempt to link national patriotism and the imperial family, Emperor Nicholas II decreed that a gold square canton be added to the national flag. On it was the black imperial eagle (in rather simplified form, e.g. no shield on the wings), but still with the central St George shield on its chest.
The following excerpt from the journal "Chronicles of War" for the years 1914 -15 describes this event:
"During these troubled times the sanctity of our nation's soul is upheld by a total and absolute union of its thoughts and feelings with those of the Tsar-Emperor.
That is why His Imperial Majesty has deemed it necessary to make this fact clearly evident before the whole world; from this day hence, as a sign of the strong union of an Orthodox Tsar and His faithful nation, in the Russian national flag, at the base (flagpole side), between the white and blue stripes (one quarter of the total length of both stripes) the Imperial Standard shall forever be placed (a black two-headed eagle on a gold background). This should be seen as a sign of love from the Tsar to all His people."
Chronicles of War, No. 4, for September 13, 1914, page 66 .
The 1914 civil flag disappeared in 1917 when the monarchy was abolished. Curiously, it continued to fly in Washington D.C. for another 15 years. The United States refused to recognize the Soviet Government, until the beginning of the Roosevelt administration in 1933. Until then, this flag continued to fly over the Russian Embassy in Washington D.C.
Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich was born at Strelna on 22 August (O.S. 10 August) 1858. He was the second son of Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich and Grand Duchess Alexandra Joseph, and a grandson of Emperor Nicholas I. According to the existing practice, during the baptism he was awarded numerous orders, as well as put on the lists of various military units. Konstantin received a versatile education at home. Among his mentors and teachers were historians S. M. Soloviev and K. N. Bestuzhev-Rumin, music critic G. A. Laroche, cellist I. I. Seifert, writers I. A. Goncharov and F. M. Dostoevsky.
Konstantin Konstantinovich was trained from childhood for military service, namely to serve in the Russian Imperial Navy. The famous naval officer, I. A. Zelenoy, was assigned as his tutor, who taught his August student according to the curriculum of the Naval School. During two years, 1874-1876, Konstantin took part in a long voyage through the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea on board the frigate "Svetlana", after which, having passed the relevant examinations, was promoted to the rank of warrant officer.
Konstantin Konstantinovich’s “baptism of fire” took place during the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878. He served on the frigate "Svetlana", which, under enemy’s fire, accompanied pontoons from the mouth of Olta River to a bridge near Zimnitsa. For his participation in combat operations Konstantin was awarded the Order of St. George, 4th Class.
In 1878-1882 Konstantin, promoted by then to the rank of lieutenant, held various positions: commanded a company of the Guards, and navigated the Mediterranean until January 1882. However, due to poor health his service in the Navy was cut short. In 1882, due to illness, he was transferred to a land office and promoted to staff captain of Guard. His service continued in the Izmailovo Regiment, and in 1891 Konstantin was appointed commander of the Life Guards of Preobrazhensky Regiment at the rank of colonel, and later – that of major general. In 1900, he became the head of the military schools. In this position, the Grand Duke did a great job of organizing military training, especially in establishment of cadet corps and military schools. In 1901 and in 1907 Konstantin was consistently awarded the title of Lieutenant-General and General of Infantry.
In addition to military services, the Grand Duke had another passion that occupied a great part of his life - the love for art and poetry. Konstantin inherited his father's artistic tastes and abilities: he played musical instruments, and tried his hand as an actor in various productions. In 1887 he was awarded the title of honorary member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences. In 1889 Konstantin was appointed its president. On his initiative, at the Department of Russian Language and Literature, was established a Rank of belles lettres, according to which I. A. Bunin, V. G. Korolenko, A. P. Chekhov, and others were elected honorary academicians. In addition, the Grand Duke led committee for celebration of the 100th anniversary of birth of Alexander Pushkin.
As a poet, he was known by the initials K. R. under which he published several books of poetry. Although he did not have a first-class talent, he managed to take his place in the history of Russian literature. Many of his poems were notable for melody and set to music. In addition, the Grand Duke was the author of several translations of foreign writers in Russian, including Schiller and Goethe, and his translation of "Hamlet" by Shakespeare had been acknowledged by critics as quite successful and reprinted several times.
Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich died on 15 June (O.S. 2 June) 1915, in his palace at Pavlovsk. He was the last of the Romanovs, who died before the revolution. Konstantin was buried in the grand-ducal mausoleum of the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg.
Work on the long awaited recreation of the Lower Dacha at Peterhof has begun. The Peterhof State Museum Preserve have announced that work on dismantling the ruins of the Lower Dacha and Garden have commenced. Restorers have already begun an analysis of the ruins, to determine the number of original parts which have survived, and to study the buildings original foundation.
Situated on the shore of the Gulf of Finland in the Alexandria Park, the Lower Dacha was built on the orders of Emperor Alexander III for the his son and heir to the throne Grand Duke and Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (the future Emperor Nicholas II). In 1882, the architect Antonio Tomishko created a four-story building resembling an Italian villa in the neo-Renaissance style, complete with a high tower and observation deck.
Up until 1917, it was a favourite summer residence of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna during their stays in Peterhof. "The main beauty of the whole house is it’s proximity of the sea" - the Emperor wrote in his diary.
It was here that three of their daughters were born: Tatiana (1897), Maria (1899), Anastasia (1901), as well as their only son and heir to the Russian throne, Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich (1904). It was also here that in 1914, Nicholas II signed the Manifesto of Russia's entry into the First World War.
"Time has not been kind to the former summer palace," said Chief architect of the Peterhof State Museum Sergei Pavlov. Restorers have set an ambitious goal - to create a new museum complex from the ruins of the Imperial residence.
Layer by layer excavators have begun removing the soil, carefully digging around piles of broken bricks and rusty metal structures which were all that remain of the former Imperial villa.
Much to the museum's delight, Sergei Pavlov notes that excavations have already uncovered details of the building and its interiors, including iron grille work, fragments of pottery, carved stone decorations, which will be carefully preserved and become part of the new permanent exhibition.
The Lower Dacha was opened as a museum in 1918, revealing the private life of Nicholas II and his family. Later, the building was given to security officers. During the war, the Nazis used the former Imperial residence as a base for its coastal defence. The building survived the war, and stood until 1961 when it was blown up.
Who and why the imperial summer residence was destroyed remains a mystery. Documents in the archives have not been preserved. The popular theory was that the site had become popular with local Orthodox Christians and monarchists, who would often hold memorials at the ruins with candles and prayers.
The construction of the new palace-museum complex is expected to be completed by 2025.
Click on the link below to watch a video of the current excavations of the Lower Dacha at Peterhof:
A new photo exhibition "The World of the Romanov Family Children" opened on 6 August at the Dunina-Gorkavich Museum of the History of the Development and Study of Siberia in Tobolsk.
The exhibition is timed to the 99th anniversary of the arrival of Emperor Nicholas II and his family in Tobolsk on 6 August 1917, and the 115th anniversary of the birth of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna on 18 June [O.S. 5 June ] 1901, the youngest daughter of the last Emperor and Empress of Russia.
The exhibition is based on a collection of photographs which belonged to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s lady-in-waiting, friend and confidante Anna Vyrubova-Taneyeva.
The original collection consists of six albums, containing a total of 1,500 photographs. The albums were acquired by a Yale University student in 1937, who in 1951 presented them as a gift to his university, where they are stored to this day.
A total of 500 photographs from the Vyrubova collection were duplicated in 2012, and presented to at the Dunina-Gorkavich Museum of the History of the Development and Study of Siberia in Tobolsk.
The current exhibition features 250 of the photographs from Vyrubova collection, as well as additional photographs from the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF) and the State Historical Museum in Moscow. All of the photos depict the children of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in happier times. Visitors to the exhibit will see images of their private world: playing games, family relations, in the classroom, on holidays, and more.
Nicholas II and his family were sent into exile to Tobolsk by the decision of the Provisional government in the summer of 1917. The Imperial family were held under house arrest in the former mansion of the governor of Tobolsk. In the spring of 1918 the Bolsheviks transferred the Imperial family and their retainers to Ekaterinburg, where they were murdered on 17 July 1918.
This year marks the 165th anniversary of the birth of Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna, future Queen Olga of the Hellenes.
Situated on the slope of a wooded hill not far from Athens, stands Tatoi Palace, a copy of the Farm Palace, located in the Alexandria Park at Peterhof, and the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene in Chania, Crete similar to the Church of Saint Olga at Mikhailovka, near Peterhof. The reason behind these Greek reproductions was based on the love of Peterhof by Queen Olga of the Hellenes, Russian Grand Duchess, the daughter of Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich, niece of Emperor Alexander II, and granddaughter of Emperor Nicholas I.
Greece in the 19th century was plagued by war and revolution. The nation gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire with the help of Russia, England, France. With their participation they helped put the 17-year-old Prince William of Denmark (future King George I) on the Greek throne in 1863. A wife for the young king was carefully selected, with the choice falling on a Russian bride. The Greek throne - the key to the Balkans - was instrumental in the politics in the region at the time, because this union was considered a great diplomatic success for both Russia, and for Greece. Royal history has shown that few royals every married for love, however, the union of King George I and Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna (Queen Olga of the Hellenes) was one of the happiest of examples in the history of dynastic diplomacy.
"Love your new country, twice that of the native" - he admonished his Russian bride. Olga, Queen of the Hellenes - that was her official title - received the love and respect of the Greek people, she took a deep interest in Greek history and culture, and took part in a broad range of charitable activities. The forty years of the reign of George I (1863 - 1913), supported by his wife and children, was the most peaceful in the new history of Greece.
The story and destiny of Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna, who ascended the Greek throne, and her early years growing up in Peterhof, the summer residence of members of the Russian Imperial family is presented in a unique exhibition in Peterhof. The outdoor photo exhibition opened on 19 August, featuring exhibits from the collections of the Peterhof State Museum Preserve and the Russian State Historical Archive (RSHA). The exhibition records the link between Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna with the Farm Palace, located in Alexandria Park at Peterhof, a place with which Olga recalled many fond memories of her home and happy times spent with family and relatives.
The outdoor photo exhibition runs from 19 August, 2016 to 9 January, 2017 on the Marine Park Alley, located in Alexandria Park at Peterhof.
Click on the link below to watch a documentary (in Russian) on Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna:
The Forgotten Tutor: John Epps and the Romanovs Topic: Books
'The Forgotten Tutor: John Epps and the Romanovs' co-authored by Janet Epps and Dr. Gabriella Lang, is the first book written about Mr. John Epps, the first and virtually unknown English tutor to the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, between the years 1905-1908. He was replaced by Charles Sydney Gibbes, but his August pupils continued to stay in touch with Mr. Epps up until 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.
Co-authored by Janet Epps and Dr. Gabriella Lang includes 146 pages, with 66 black and white photographs and illustrations, with Foreword by Hugh Bett of Maggs Bros. Ltd., London. Price: $20.00 Canadian dollars + postage. Available from the Royal Russia Bookshop. Click on the order button below to review our book catalogue.
'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:
On This Day: Nicholas II Manifesto on Establishment of the State Duma Topic: Nicholas II
The throne draped and flanked by the Imperial Romanov regalia, the Imperial family (to the left of the throne) and members of the 1st State Duma witness Emperor Nicholas II opening the first Duma in St. George’s Hall of the Winter Palace the following year.
On 19 August (O.S. 6 August) 1905 Emperor Nicholas II signed the manifesto for the establishment of Russian State Duma - the supreme representative law advisory body of the Russian Empire. The same day was issued "Regulations on the State Duma elections".
The beginning of the project's development was an address of by Minister of Agriculture and State Property, A. S. Ermolov to Emperor Nicholas II 13 February (O.S. January 31) 1905, with a proposal to establish an elected Zemstvo Duma for preliminary consideration of major bills. In February the Council of Ministers met twice regarding this issue, but the decision had not been made. Soon, the Minister of Internal Affairs A. G. Bulygin was given a rescript, charging him the chairmanship of the Special Meeting to draft provisions on the State Duma. On behalf of its creator, this project was called Bulygin Duma.
Developed by the Ministry of Interior, the project was discussed at meetings with the Emperor at New Peterhof with attendance of the grand dukes, members of the Council of State and Ministers.
The Duma was to be convened no later than mid-January 1906. According to the project, it was granted the right to discuss all the bills, budget, report of state control and draw conclusions on them which then were submitted to the State Council, where from the bills with the conclusions of the Duma and the Council were submitted to the emperor for consideration. The Duma was to be elected for 5 year tearms. Most people did not have voting rights, including those under 25 years old, workers, women, students, military personnel, foreign nationals, as well as governors, vice governors, mayors and their aides and police officers within the areas under their jurisdiction. Elections were held in provinces and regions, and also separately in the capitals and 23 largest cities. Farmers were supposed to have four-stage elections, and landlords and bourgeoisie - two-stage elections; 42% of the electors were to be elected by congresses of representatives of the counties, 34% - by congresses of district landowners, and 24% - by congresses of urban voters.
Members of the State Duma were to be elected by the provincial election meetings of landowners and representatives of townships, under the chairmanship of the provincial marshal of nobility or urban voters meeting chaired by the mayor.
Members of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) called on the workers and peasants to actively boycott the Bulygin Duma and used their propaganda campaign to prepare for an armed uprising. The convening of the Bulygin Duma was disrupted as a result of the revolutionary events of October 1905, forcing the Russian Emperor to issue a Manifesto "On improvement of public order" on the establishment of the State Duma with legislative powers.