The Reforms of Nicholas II and the Last Hurrah of the Imperial Uniform Topic: Nicholas II
Tsar Nicholas II wearing the uniform of a Russian soldier
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the March 2, 2015 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author Alexander Vershinin, owns the copyright of the work presented below.
The last years of the 19th century saw Russian military dress becoming increasingly austere. But when Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, came to the throne, he decided that the uniforms were lacking in glamor and needed the incorporation of elements that reflected Russia’s past military glory.
During his 1881-1894 reign, Tsar Alexander III extended his taste for simplicity to his army too. Fancy braiding and plumes were stripped from the uniforms of soldiers and officers, and resplendent Guards outfits and other extravagant regular-issue items were consigned to the past.
Not for long, however. Alexander’s son Nicholas II, the last Russian Emperor, shared the passion of many of his predecessors for war games, parades and flashy uniforms, and began reviving some traditions.
Nicholas II regarded ceremonial uniform elements as an integral part of military life – and all the better if they bore reminders of past glories. Shortly after he took the throne in 1894, the new tsar initiated a reform of cavalry uniforms. The new outfits resembled those worn by the Russian troops who took Paris in 1814, with close-fitting, double-breasted jackets and colored trimming on the collar and cuffs. And in place of the simple leather sword belt introduced by Alexander III, the braided ceremonial galloon made a comeback.
However, in 1904 the landmark decision was also taken to develop khaki uniforms for soldiers and officers. In the meantime, the plain white army uniforms and caps of the previous reign were retained, with disastrous results: When the Tsar’s forces went into battle in the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese they made conspicuous targets for the enemy gunners. So much so that soldiers took to dying their own uniforms to reduce their visibility.
In 1907, the entire army was kitted out in khaki uniforms, and a peaked cap was finally adopted as the principal headgear. Wide fatigues that tucked into boots completely replaced tight britches, and only cavalrymen retained their gray britches with colored piping. The officers’ white tunic and shirt were replaced by drab uniforms with breast pockets and metal buttons, while soldiers were issued with tunics with pockets but sewn with buttons made of compressed leather.
The army was also issued with new dress uniforms for ceremonial occasions. Soldiers wore double-breasted jackets with colored piping, officers’ regiment numbers were embroidered in gold on their jackets, and generals wore a special decoration in the form of oak leaves.
In a bid to boost morale in the recently defeated forces, a number of more distinctive uniform elements harked back to Russia’s glorious military past.
Some units were issued with the long-forgotten shako cylindrical hat, modeled on those worn by Russian soldiers in 1812. The Grenadier Regiment received an 18th century-style gold braid aiguillette on the right shoulder bearing the monogram of Catherine II. Officers’ silver sash belts resembled those worn under the revered military commander Alexander Suvorov in the 18th century.
But the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 gave the Russian soldier no occasion to savor the new dress uniform, which was stored away since it had no application at the front.
Officers had to wear the soldier’s uniform, while all bright or shiny elements like buttons and stars on the shoulder straps were painted in drab colors to make them invisible to the enemy.
The braided sword belt was replaced with a leather one that crossed at the back and attached to a belt fitted with a revolver holster and a sheath for an edged weapon. The ranks also began to wear a tunic modeled on that worn by the allied British Army.
Material shortages also brought changes in uniform design. Troops on the Caucasian front were allowed to wear the traditional cherkeska homespun gray cloth jacket, while leather shortages led to the broad replacement of long boots with short boots and puttees.
But such was the confidence that Russian troops would again parade through the defeated enemy capitals of Berlin and Vienna that special dress outfits were made in advance.
In another echo of past eras, the tall budenovka felt hat was specially modeled on the ancient Russian warrior’s helmet for celebrations marking the anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. A long greatcoat sewn with a vertical array of straps also evoked the past archer’s caftan, and was meant to symbolize the triumph of the Slavic spirit over the perennial German enemy.
The war dragged on beyond all expectations, however, and ultimately led to the 1917 Revolution. The newly designed uniform was inherited by the Red Army, and in the years to come came to symbolize Soviet might.
Last Survivor Who Followed Tsar Nicholas II into Exile Dies Topic: Nicholas II
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the February 20, 2015 edition of The Somerset County Gazette, who own the copyright of the work presented below Corrections to the text have been made by Paul Gilbert.
Magdalina Roberts, the last survivor of those who followed Tsar Nicholas II and Imperial family of Russia into exile at Tobolsk, in Siberia, died at Wrantage, Somerset, England aged 97.
Mrs Roberts, nee Kipasto, was named after the St Petersburg casualty hospital St Magdalina, where she was born on June 29, 1917, because her mother had been queuing for bread nearby and was too far from the nursing home that had been booked for her birth.
It was after the February Revolution and Russia was in chaos.
Her maternal grandfather, Alexei Andreevich Volkov, was Valet de Chambre to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and accompanied the Imperial family into exile.
Three months later Magda was taken with her grandmother, mother, brother and sister to Tobolsk, a journey of several days by train and river steamer, where they stayed in rooms and later at the Ivanovski Monastry.
After the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917, her grandfather Volkov was taken prisoner in May 1918, and jailed in Ekaterinburg, along with the four Grand Duchesses and remaining staff.
The Tsar and his family were murdered on July 17 and a week later Volkov was removed to a forest outside of Perm, where he then escaped from the Bolsheviks.
He spent the next three months living rough in Siberia before rejoining his family in Tobolsk and travelling east to Manchuria, where they lived for three years, then joining Magda’s father in Estonia.
In 1940 the Soviet Union occupied Estonia and in June 1941, as the Germans invaded, Magda's mother was arrested and sentenced to seven years’ labour in the Vyatka Gulag, Siberia.
In 1944 to escape the advancing Red Army, Magda moved to Latvia, then Salzwedel, in Germany, then in 1945 to Peine, in the British Occupation Zone.
There she met Major Leonard Roberts MC, of the Somerset Light Infantry, coming with him to England in 1948 ahead of their wedding at Wolverhampton.
After convalescing from TB, she joined her husband in the Cameroons and Nigeria, where he eventually became the Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence.
During this time, at an official reception attended by Leonid Brezhev of the Soviet Union, Magda scornfully told him thought of Soviet rule in Estonia.
Magda, who died on February 14, lived in Cheshire and London before moving to Somerset in 1989. Major Roberts died in 2005.
She is survived by her children Nina and Guy and grandchildren Thurstan, Sarah and Clare.
Nicholas II Memorial to be Established at Livadia Topic: Nicholas II
Natalia Poklonskaya seated at her desk, which is highlighted by a portrait of Emperor Nicholas II
A memorial dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II and his family, will be constructed at Livadia Palace, in the Crimea. Crimean prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya will pay for the construction of the memorial from her own personal funds. The announcement was made on Thursday, February 19th, by the Crimean Minister of Culture of Crimea, Arina Novoselskaya.
Poklonskaya is a proud patron of the Livadia Palace-Museum, the former Imperial residence of Emperor Nicholas II from 1911-1917. In October 2014, she presented Livadia Palace-Museum with more than 80 photographs of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. She holds great personal respect for Russia’s last tsar, and even keeps a framed portrait of Nicholas II on her desk.
Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed Natalia Poklonskaya Prosecutor of the Republic of Crimea on May 2, 2014. After the reunification of the Crimea to Russia in July 2014, Poklonskaya was presented the Imperial Order of St. Anastasia by the Head of the Russian Imperial House, HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna.
For more information on Natalia Poklonskaya, please refer to the following articles:
Notebook of Tsar Nicholas II with Sketches of Jewellery Items Topic: Nicholas II
Between 1889 and 1913 Nicholas II, Grand Duke, Tsesarevich and Emperor of Russia, painted his jewellery in a small album as a private record of his collection. His watercolours - some of which were created by jewellers such as Fabergé and Cartier - give a realistic picture of what the tsar was wearing as jewellery.
The jewel album of Tsar Nicholas II was re-discovered in the 1990s in the archives of the Moscow Kremlin Museum. It consisted of 82 pages and a total of 305 watercolour drawings of his personal collection of men's jewellery.
In 1997, the publishing firm Ermitage issued a facsimile of the album, entitled The Jewel Album of Nicholas II and a Collection Private Photographs of the Russian Imperial Family.
For more information on this rare and exquisite record of Romanov jewels, please refer to the following link:
Film on Nicholas II's Affair with Ballerina Might be Banned Topic: Nicholas II
A scene from the Russian film Mathilde
Alexei Uchitel’s historical drama Mathilde about the affair of Tsar Nicholas II with the imperial theatre ballerina Matilda Kschessinskaya might be banned from world distribution.
The film creators Vladimir Vinokur and Alexei Uchitel signed a contract with David Weisman for joint production of the historical drama three years ago. One of the contract items specified that in case if the Russian party gets to work on the project without notifying the American partner about it the latter would be entitled to a large compensation.
Now David Weisman files a lawsuit with the requirement to pay him the due amount, and if the contract terms are violated by the Russian party, he intends to out bluster the prohibition of Mathilde in world film distribution and at the international film festivals.
So far Mathilde film creators of have not reacted to the American’s claim in any way.
For more information on this film, please refer to the following article:
Personal Belongings of Nicholas II on Display at Novosibirsk Museum Topic: Nicholas II
A number of personal items of Emperor Nicholas II are now on display at the Novosibirsk City Museum. The items include a teacup with the personal monogram of the emperor, dated 1897. Judging from the abrasions, the cup is believed to have been used frequently by the tsar. According to a museum press release, cups, plates, spoons and other such items with such monograms were made for the exclusive use of members of the Imperial family.
The items originally belonged to Carolina Bergman, a maid of honour of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. She served the Imperial family up until the final months of their stay at Tsarskoye Selo. On parting with the Imperial family, the woman received a number of items as a gift in recognition of her service. Subsequently, the maid of honour was to endure many hardships, her husband was executed in 1937, and because of her own infirmity, was taken in by a kind family. In gratitude, the former maid-of-honour tried to be helpful and even taught German to one of the children. In gratitude for their kindness and friendship, Caroline bequeathed the items to the hospitable family. According to the museum staff, the personal belongings of Nicholas II from this private collection are being exhibited for the very first time at Novosibirsk.
The exhibition runs at the Novosibirsk City Museum until 19 May 2015.
Russians Divided between Nicholas II and Lenin in Recent Poll Topic: Nicholas II
Tsar Nicholas II and Vladimir Lenin
More than half of Russians believe Tsar Nicholas II played a positive role in Russia, citing a poll published Tuesday by the Levada Center.
In a question respondents were offered a choice of historical figures and asked whether those figures had, in their opinion done "more good" or "more bad" for Russia. The two figures approved most by respondents were Nicholas II (with 52% in total expressing approval for the last tsar) and Vladimir Lenin (46% total approval for the leader of the Bolshevik revolution).
The results of the poll are an indication of how many Russians are re-evaluating their perception of the last tsar. For nearly 80 years, the Bolsheviks and the Soviets were perfectly content to allow the negative myths about the last tsar to stand.
The Soviet government’s philosophy to avoid or revolutionize many facts pertaining to Imperial history, including the adoption of extreme censorship, affected what was permitted to be published inside the Soviet Union and helped the Bolshevik regime to discredit the last Emperor of Imperial Russia.
Over the last few decades many Western biographers writing about the life and reign of Nicholas II continued to base their “research” on these same negative myths. Note: for those interested in the Nicholas II, I highly recommend Last Tsar. Nicholas II, His Reign & His Russia, by Sergei S. Oldenburg (Atlantic International Press, 1975), 4 volumes. Now out of print, however, it is available at many libraries and through inter-library loan.
The poll was conducted on in November 2014 across Russia with an error margin of no more than 3.4%.
Nicholas II: The Rehabilitation of Russia's Last Tsar Topic: Nicholas II
Of all the members of the Romanov dynasty, it is Emperor Nicholas II who has always captured my personal interest. I am currently working on a new project, one in which I have already amassed a great deal of documents and photographs (many of which I took during my working visits to Russia over the last couple of years), however, I am now reaching out to Royal Russia followers and friends for their assistance.
My new project entitled Nicholas II: The Rehabilitation of Russia's Last Tsar will take a look at the public's perception of Nicholas II since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. It will focus primarily on Russia’s attitude towards the life and reign of their last tsar, one which has changed dramatically during the last quarter century.
My project will cover the following topics:
- rehabilitation of Nicholas II by the Russian government in 2008
- burial of Nicholas II at the Peter and Paul Cathedral in July 1998
- canonization of the Nicholas II by the Moscow Patriarchate
- ROC's stand on the Ekaterinburg remains and their reasons
- Nicholas II in post-Soviet Russia
I am particularly interested in hearing from monarchists and Orthodox Christians, as well as those of you who challenge the conventional beliefs held by many Western historians and biographers that Nicholas II was a weak ruler, etc.
I hereby request any articles, personal notes, and photographs on any of the above topics.
Please contact me at the following address:
41 Temperance Street
P.O. Box 163
L1C 3K9 Canada
Please contact me by e-mail at the following:
All assistance will be gratefully acknowledged in the finished publication, scheduled for release early next year.
I would like to introduce the work of Andrey Shishkin, a contemporary Russian artist from Moscow. Shishkin specializes in the historical genre, including Russian landscapes, still lifes and portraits. The artist began painting at the age of fifteen, and went on to study traditional academic painting and realism. His genre paintings, portraits, and battle scenes portray great energy and depth. Andrei Alekseevich Shishkin lives and works in Moscow.
Shishkin has painted two portraits (2013) of Emperor Nicholas II, his Coronation portrait is particularly impressive.
Poklonskaya Replaces Putin Photo with Nicholas II Topic: Nicholas II
Natalia Poklonskaya, Prosecutor General of the Republic of Crimea
On January 1st, the Russian media televised Crimean prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya New Year's greeting to residents of the Crimea. Filmed in her office which included a Christmas tree, it was a framed photograph on Poklonskaya’s desk that caught the attention of most viewers. Traditionally, all government officials host a portrait of the current president of the Russian Federation. Prominently positioned on Poklonskaya’s desk, however, was a framed photograph of Nicholas II.
During her address, Poklonskaya reflected on events during the past year in which she noted "Crimea's historic return to Holy Russia," and went on to say, "there is no sacrifice that I would not perform to save Russia" - quoting the last emperor.
President Vladimir Putin appointed the 34-year-old attorney as Prosecutor General of the Republic of Crimea on 2 May, 2014.
On July 20th, 2014, Natalia Poklonskaya was awarded the Imperial Order of Saint Anastasia by the Head of the Russian Imperial House, HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna during the latter’s official visit to Moscow.
For more information on Poklonskaya's meeting with Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, please refer to the following article: