Plans for the construction of St. Catherine's Cathedral - also known as the Church on the Water - in the Ural city of Ekaterinburg, have been met with both praise and opposition. The cathedral, large enough to accomodate 2,000 people, would be constructed on an artificial island in the waters of the city pond (formed by the Iset River), and connected to the embankment by two bridges.
Some opponents believe that the proposed cathedral would ruin the natural ambiance of the area, while proponents believe it would be a symbol of repentance and a tourist attraction.
St Catherine's Cathedral will be constructed in the Russian Revival style, reflecting the style that arose in second quarter of the 19th century and was an eclectic melding of pre-Peterine Russian architecture and elements of Byzantine architecture. Some of the finest examples of the Russian Revival style include the Church of the Saviour on Blood (St Petersburg), SS Peter and Paul Cathedral (Peterhof), the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (Borki - blown up by the Soviets in the late 1940s), among many others.
According to the project's architect Mikhail Goloborodskogo, if the project is approved, construction would commence in 1.5-2 years, to be completed by 2023, the year marking the 300th anniversary of Ekaterinburg.
The proposed St. Catherine's Cathedral (left) would mirror the Church on the Blood (right)
On a personal note, I think that the concept is both beautiful and fitting for Ekaterinburg, the setting on the waterfront ideal. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ekaterinburg has made tremendous efforts in coming to terms with the regicide which took place here on the night of 16/17 July 1918, and the persecution of the ROC by the Bolsheviks and later the Soviets. During the 20th century, the city was a bastion of Bolshevism, and the "capital of atheism". The construction of this cathedral could indeed by a symbol of repentance in a city, which many now consider the center of Orthodox Russia in the Urals. The final decision, however, rests with the citizens of Ekaterinburg, whom I respect and admire immensely.
Ekaterinburg Preparing for Centenary Marking Imperial Family Deaths Topic: Ekaterinburg
The Church on the Blood (left) and the Patriarchal Compound (right) which houses the Museum of the Holy Royal Family
Ekaterinburg remains my favourite Russian city. I have visited Ekaterinburg on two occasions - in June of 2012, and most recently in June of 2016. I am already making plans to return next year for the events marking the 100th anniversary of the deaths of Emperor Nicholas II and his family.
*Please note that I will not be offering a tour to Ekaterinburg in 2018. My last organized group tour to Russia was in 2006, and I have no plans to resume these tours in the future. For the past decade, my annual visits to Russia are independent work visits, in which I conduct research for my web site and publications.
The centenary marking the deaths of Nicholas II and his family will take place on the evening of 16/17th July, 2018. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill will participate in the commemorative events marking the anniversary. The divine liturgy will be culminated by a pilgrimage from the Church on the Blood to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama. A special committee has been established to organize the centenary Royal Days events, which is expected to attract more than 100,000 people from across Russia and abroad - myself included!
Ekaterinburg is still trying to come to terms with the regicide which took place here on the night of 16/17 July 1918. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Nicholas II and his family have been memorialized in the construction of the Church on the Blood, and the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama.
Once a bastion of Bolshevism, Ekaterinburg is saying good-bye to its status as the "capital of atheism," and transforming into the center of Orthodox Russia in the Urals.
Upon returning from Ekaterinburg, I wrote a summary of each visit in the No. 2 and No. 10 issues of Royal Russia. These articles offer my impressions of the many sites associated with the last days of Nicholas II and his family, including many little known museums and exhibits. Each article is richly illustrated with my own photographs. Some of the photographs from my June 2016 visit can be seen here.
One of the new publishing projects which I am currently working on is My Russia. Ekaterinburg. This title will provide information on the sites associated with the months that Nicholas II and his family were held under house arrest in the Ipatiev House, including churches and museums, accomodations, dining, maps and much more. This title will be based on my visits to the city, and supplemented with my own photographs. This title will be available in early 2018.
Police have charged a male video blogger who filmed himself playing 'Pokemon Go' inside the Church of All Saints in Ekaterinburg. More commonly known as the Church on the Blood, it was built on the site of the Ipatiev House, where the Russian Imperial family were murdered in 1918. This blatant act of disrespect is a very sad reflection on our society today.
Police have charged Ruslan Sokolovsky, the video blogger who filmed himself playing Pokemon Go inside a Ekaterinburg church, with committing extremism and offending religious sensitivities. Sokolovsky has been detained and awaits trial on September 3 to determine if he will be arrested, his lawyer says. If convicted, Sokolovsky could face several years in prison.
On August 11, Sokolovsky published a video on his YouTube channel showing him entering the Church of All Saints in Ekaterinburg and playing Pokemon Go on his iPhone throughout the cathedral. In a short speech at the beginning of the video, Sokolovsky says he rejects warnings reported in the media that playing Pokemon Go in churches could result in a prison sentence.
“This is complete nonsense,” Sokolovsky said, standing outside the Church of All Saints. “Who could get offended if you’re just walking around with your smart phone in a church?”
In mid-August, Valery Gorelykh, the regional police spokesperson, told local reporters that he personally wanted to see Sokolovsky sent to prison for “at least five years,” arguing that an example should be made, to discourage more Pokemon Go players from committing such blasphemy.
In early 2016, Sokolovsky launched a self-titled atheist magazine, writing, “We have been inspired by Charlie Hebdo and have decided that there are also too few such publications in Russia that take an absolutely amoral approach to ridiculing the contemporary national reality. Using the written word to take on the censorship piling on from all sides and what’s practically a police state now isn’t a new idea, but it’s just as relevant today as ever.”
Click on the link below to watch Sokolovsky’s video (in Russian):
On 30 May, 2016 the head of the Ekaterinburg city administration Alexander Yakov signed a decree to rename a portion of Ulitsa Tolmacheva (Tolmacheva Street) to Ulitsa Tsarskaya (Tsar’s Street). From 1830, it was known as Ulitsa Kolobovsky, until 1919, when it was named after the Bolshevik Nikolay Gurevich Tolmachev (1895-1919).
The section of Ulitsa Tsarskaya extends from Ulitsa Pervomayskaya to Ultisa Nikolaya Nikonova, and includes six non-residential buildings which include the Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land and Patriarch’s Compound.
The proposal to rename the street was first made public in the autumn of 2015 at a meeting of the city’s special commission. A number of names were proposed, including: Romanov, Ipatievskaya, Tsarskaya and Nikolaevskaya.
The meeting was also attended by Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye who voiced the opinions and wishes of the diocese regarding the issue. In the end, the commission voted unanimously on Ulitsa Tsarskaya as the new name.
The renaming of this section of the street will be a tribute to the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his family, who were all murdered in the early morning hours of 17th July 1918, in the Ipatiev House. The Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land now stands on the site of the former engineers’ house which was demolished in 1977.
The Ekaterinburg City Senate has sent a proposal (pictured below) to Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye, for the renaming of the city’s districts in honour of the Holy Royal Martyrs, who were all murdered in the Ipatiev House on 17 July, 1918. The Ekaterinburg Senate is an independent civil body was created in 2013 to provide social control for official Ekaterinburg authorities such as City Duma (Council). A copy of the proposal was also sent to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus.
The Senate proposed to rename the seven city districts as follows: the Upper Iset district would be renamed Alexandrovskii in honour of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna; the Railway district would be renamed Alekseevskii in honour of Tsesarevich Alexei; the Ordzhonikidze district would be renamed Olginskii in honour of Grand Duchess Olga; the Kirov district would be renamed Anastasievskii in honour of Grand Duchess Anastasia; the October district would be renamed Nikolaevskii in honour of Emperor Nicholas II; the Chkalovsky district would be renamed Tatyaninskii in honour of Grand Duchess Tatiana; and the Lenin district would be renamed Mariinskii in honour of Grand Duchess Maria. Also, a proposal was made to build seven churches, one in each district in honour of the Holy Royal Martyr for which it was renamed.
For many years the citizens of Ekaterinburg have tried to come to terms with the murder of Russia’s last emperor and his family in 1918. Earlier this year, a proposal was made to rename the city’s main street from Tolmacheva Ulitsa (Street) to Tsar Ulitsa. This new proposal to rename the city districts is the latest effort to rid Ekaterinburg of crimes crimes committed during Soviet times against the Russian Imperial family and the Church.
Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church have reacted positively to the initiative, now it is up to the authorities to review the proposal and come to a decision, one with great historic significance.
Man Commits Suicide in Ekaterinburg's Church on the Blood Topic: Ekaterinburg
A terrible tragedy has occurred in the Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land in Ekaterinburg. On the evening of July 7th, a 27-year-old man walked into the cathedral, proceeded to the altar and fatally stabbed himself in the heart.
Investigators studying footage of the sequence of events leading up to the final moments of the young mans’ life reveal that a set of surveillance cameras at the church show a young man in a brown shirt and light trousers walking from to the church from the Patriarchal Compound on the opposite side of the square 8:02 in the evening. First he tries to enter through a side entrance of the church - but it is closed, he then proceeds to the stairs - but it is also closed. Finally, he proceeds to the main entrance located on Tolmachev Ulitsa (street).
Upon entering the church, he walks directly toward the altar. At 8:05 he is seen one last time. His right arm is lowered into his pocket, and he walks toward an area not under camera surveillance, where a witness later said, he delivered a strong blow to his chest.
Judging from the video, everything happens almost silently - the parishioners in the church continue to pray after the suicide, apparently unaware of the horrific event that has just taken place. The victim was seen by a man who accidentally turned and watched. He pauses, trying to understand what happened, and then runs for help.
Security officials in the church immediately called emergency services at 8:15. An ambulance and police arrived at 8:27, however, it was too late. The victim had stabbed himself with a knife between the ribs, piercing the heart and died instantly. A note was apparently found in the victim’s hand was only a note, signed by the name Romanov. Local media sources have since revealed that the young man believed himself to be a descendant of the last Russian royal family. His mother later explained to police that her son was mentally ill, and in fact no relation to Nicholas II.
The Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land is built on the site of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, where Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia, and several members of his family and household were murdered in cold blood by the Bolsheviks, in the early morning hours of July 17th, 1918.
The young man’s suicide has shaken parishioners who come daily to pray at the church, and offered prayers for the deceased. Sadly, his suicide comes on the eve of the Royal Days festival which honours the last Emperor Nicholas II and his family.
Nikolai Sokolov: The Man Who Revealed the Story of the Romanov Killings Topic: Ekaterinburg
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the April 18th, 2015 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author Alla Astanina, owns the copyright of the work presented below.
In March 1917, the Russian Tsar Nicholas II Romanov abdicated. A year and a half later his life and the lives of his family were cut short at the hands of the Bolsheviks. The details of the execution of the Romanovs may have remained in shadow forever had it not been for the investigative work carried out by Nikolai Sokolov, whose papers later formed the basis for a further probe by the Russian authorities after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
A little-known figure in Russian history, in many respects the story of Nikolai Sokolov differs little from millions of other provincial Russians who rose to regional prominence in the latter days of the Russian Empire by dint of their education and ambition. However, it is due to this man that the world can now be sure that it knows the full story of the death of the last Russian tsar.
Sokolov was born in the province of Penza (350 miles southeast of Moscow) on May 22, 1882 and received a degree in law. Before the revolution, he served as a court investigator. By 1917, he had risen to the post of a major case investigator at the Penza district court. After the revolution and the overthrow of the monarchy, he remained faithful to the old system.
"Having taken sick leave, Sokolov went to Siberia," says Vladimir Solovyov, a senior investigator and criminologist of the Main Department of Criminology at the Investigative Committee of Russia and the man who headed the reopened investigation into the case of the murder of the Romanovs from 1993 to 2011.
Beyond the Urals, Sokolov met with representatives of the Siberian government, which was organized by the White Army during the Civil War, and was subsequently hired by the Prosecutor's Office of Irkutsk and, later, Omsk. He found himself in Yekaterinburg with the army of the Siberian government, eight months after the Bolsheviks had executed Nicholas II along with his family in the same city.
Instructions from the top
"On February 5, I was summoned by the Admiral [Alexander Kolchak, White Army commander – RBTH] ... and entrusted with the investigation," Sokolov wrote. He realized that he had been assigned a case that would become of crucial importance for the history of the whole of Russia. "In our judicial work, we often seek the truth, operating with well-known facts. They have a special character here – they are historical facts," he wrote later in his book, Ubiistvo Tsarskoi Semi (“The Murder of the Royal Family").
Now it is clear it would be difficult for our contemporaries to understand the events of that time without his evidence. "The main achievement of Sokolov was that he was able to prove that the royal family was indeed shot," says Solovyov today. "There were a variety of theories about the fate of the Romanovs at that time, including those that led to the appearance of false heirs."
Both testimony and physical evidence led to a single conclusion: "The murder took place on July 17," Sokolov would write later.
As we now know, the Bolshevik officers of the Cheka (the predecessor of the KGB), anticipating the entry of White troops in the city and fearful that the royal family would be rescued, took the family and the members of the household into the basement of Ipatiev House, where they had been kept under house arrest since April 30, and shot them.
Since time was of the essence, after executing their prisoners they took the dead bodies of the Romanovs from Ipatiev House to the village of Ganina Yama, where there was an abandoned mine. "The investigator found a large number of small chopped and burnt bone fragments, things and objects that have been identified by persons close to the royal family," historian Lyudmila Lykova says. At the time Sokolov came up with the suggestion that the bodies were burned, but this conclusion was later disproved. It turned out that after unsuccessful attempts to burn the bodies, the Cheka officers buried them.
Emigration and death
Even when the Whites were forced to retreat to the east after suffering a series of defeats, Sokolov did not call a halt to the investigation. He collected priceless documents, preserved them and took them out of the country, Lykova says. The documents were sent to France in two parts; on a warship and in a special carriage with diplomatic seals. Sokolov himself left Russia for Paris in March 1920.
In Europe, the relatives of the Romanovs distrusted the investigator; they believed that the Tsar's family was alive. In the last years of his life, Sokolov prepared a full report of the investigation for Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, the mother of Nicholas II, and wrote his book based on the investigation. There is evidence that the investigator wanted to secretly return to Russia and to continue the investigation. Sokolov died at the age of 42 in France in 1924.
Colour Photographs of the Ipatiev House Topic: Ekaterinburg
Colour photographs of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, 1975
The Ural city of Ekaterinburg is notoriously known as the scene of the murders of the Russian Imperial Family in 1918. It was here that they were taken under house-arrest in the Ipatiev House, also known as the “House of Special Purpose.”
During the Soviet years, the Ipatiev House was used for a number of purposes. The rare colour photographs presented with this article were taken in 1975, just two years before the building was demolished.
On August 4, 1975, Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union authorized the demolition of the Ipatiev House, where the last Tsar of Russia and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks almost sixty years earlier.
On of the most dramatic events in Russia’s history is the brutal murder of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra and their five children in July 1918. The entire Romanov family was herded into the basement of the infamous house in Ekaterinburg and shot. Their remains were not discovered until 1979.
At first, the Ipatiev House was turned into a museum devoted to the Russian Bolshevik Revolution. The communists took pride in the last prison and execution site of the family, and it was celebrated as a “symbol of justice”. It was often visited by Communist Party members, who would gather around and pose for photographs before the bullet-damaged wall of the basement. Conversely, the house was slowly becoming a place of worship for those wishing to honour the memory of the imperial family. More and more often, the house keepers would find flowers placed at the steps of the house.
The museum was closed down in 1932, and throughout the years served as place for various administrative establishments, before becoming an Anti-Religious Museum in 1938. During the years of World War II, the Ipatiev House turned into a hiding place for exhibits of the State Hermitage museum of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).
With the upcoming 60th anniversary of the execution looming in 1978, the site where the tragedy played out was attracting even more attention, especially from foreign visitors and press. The KGB Chairman, Yury Andropov, had sent a secret note to the Politburo with the proposal to order “the demolition of Ipatiev House in the course of a planned reconstruction of the city,” arguing that “anti-Soviet circles in the West are conspiring various propaganda campaigns around the Romanov Tsar family.”
Within days, the Politburo had approved the proposal, but it was not until two years later that the house was brought down. The task was passed on to the first secretary of the Sverdlovsk region, Boris Yeltsin, who later wrote in his memoirs, “It was impossible to oppose…sooner or later we will be ashamed of this piece of barbarism." On September 6, 1977 the house was bulldozed.
Despite the government’s attempts to try to destroy forever the memory of Russia’s last tsar; people kept coming in secret during the night to leave tokens of remembrance on the vacant site, turning it into a place of pilgrimage. With the beginning of Perestroika, the plot of land where the Ipatiev House once stood attracted an increasing number of faithful. In September 1990, the Executive Committee of Sverdlovsk Region allocated the land to the Russian Orthodox Church and allowed the building of an official memorial site.
Architect Konstantin Efremov took on the role as lead designer, but construction was delayed due to the difficult economic situation in the country during the 1990s. The works resumed in 2000, after Nicholas II and his family were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church. Finally, in May 2003, a five-domed Church on the Blood in Honor of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land was completed to commemorate the Romanovs’ sainthoods.
For more information on the Ipatiev House, please refer to the following article in Royal Russia News:
Ekaterinburg Prepares for Royal Days Topic: Ekaterinburg
The Ural city of Ekaterinburg is preparing for its annual celebration of “Royal Days" to be held July 12-20, 2014. During these days, thousands of believers will honour Emperor Nicholas II and his family, who were all murdered in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg in the early morning hours of July 17th, 1918.
The event which honours the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs draws large crowds in Ekaterinburg each year. Events during this year’s festival include exhibitions, lectures, concerts, liturgies and a religious procession from the Church on the Blood to Ganina Yama. Admission is free.
The ceremonial centres of worship during the "Royal Days" will, according to tradition, be the Church on the Spilled Blood, built on the site of the Ipatiev House, and the Monastery at Ganina Yama, built on the site where the remains of the martyrs were originally disposed of by their murderers.
Many of the pilgrims will begin arriving in Ekaterinburg on July 16th. According to a press service of the Ekaterinburg Diocese, the number of pilgrims from across Russia, and even abroad is growing each year. About 300 people attended in 2000, the first year the "Royal Days" was marked, and last year, in 2013 their number exceeded 50 thousand. Organizers are expecting an even greater number of pilgrims at this year’s event.
In order to accommodate the large crowds, the ceremonies and a Divine Liturgy will be organized in the open air. A large tent with an altar platform will be erected in front of the Church on the Blood, large video monitors, and a powerful sound system and lighting will be installed.
A Divine Liturgy is scheduled to begin at 11:30 on the evening of July 16th, after which the faithful will participate in a 20 km religious procession from the Church on the Blood to the monastery at Ganina Yama in the early morning hours of July 17th.
As in previous years, Royal Russia will offer full coverage of this year’s "Royal Days" at Ekaterinburg, complete with news, photographs and videos.
This is an enormous event, spreading to more Russian cities each year. Take a moment to review Royal Russia's coverage of the "Royal Days" at Ekaterinburg in 2013, 2012 and 2011: