The Celebration of the 400th Anniversary
of the End of the Time of Troubles
and the Restoration of the Russian State
An Address to the Russian People from the Head of the Russian Imperial House,
Head of the Russian Imperial House, Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Maria of Russia.
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My Dear Fellow Countrymen,
Four hundred years ago, our country was consumed by the terrible and unprecedented Time of Troubles. Everything that the nation had achieved over the course of centuries and through the enormous efforts and sacrifices of the Russian people was on the verge of utter destruction. The leaderless nation was disintegrating from internal civil war and foreign invasions, from the lack of resolve and the treason of the ruling class, from indifference, bitterness, suspicion, enmity, cowardice, deceit, and from the dishonesty and greed that had engulfed every layer of society, without exception.
Then, amidst the general chaos and madness there came the courageous voice of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Hermogen. He pointed the way out of the crisis by appealing to conscience and by calling on all to embrace the most important human values—faith, hope, love, justice, duty, and honor.
The Patriarch’s appeal was heeded by Russia’s patriots, and the struggle for liberation took on a more clearly defined purpose. His appeal was not met with quick or easy success, however. The First Volunteer Army disbanded soon after forming because of internal dissension within its ranks. And later, even the greatest, most illustrious and heroic victories of Russia’s patriots were sometimes accompanied by egregious mistakes, indecision, and by the sins of individual participants along the way. But events nonetheless moved forward, so that even temporary setbacks served a useful purpose, clearing the patriotic movement of unreliable elements, uniting to it those who had formerly been rivals and opponents.
In September 1611, a Second Volunteer Army began to form in Nizhnii Novgorod under the leadership of the butcher Kuzma Minin and prince Dmitrii Pozharskii. In the middle of February 1612, the Volunteer Army began its triumphal march to Yaroslavl, while in Moscow Patriarch Hermogen—the main inspiration for resistance during the Time of Troubles—died while imprisoned in the Chudov Monastery, having suffered emotional and physical abuse and spending the last moments of his earthly life in fervent prayer for Russia. In April, a Council of All the Land was formed in Yaroslavl, uniting all the patriotic forces in a spirit of sobornost, or collegial solidarity.
On August 18 (August 31 New Style), 1612, after a molieben at Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery before the relics of the Abbot of the Russian Land, the Holy Venerable St. Sergius of Radonezh, Minin’s and Pozharskii’s Volunteer Army set off to liberate the capital, and in three days’ time they stood before the walls of Moscow.
On October 22 (November 4 New Style), 1612—on the Feast Day of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan—the Russian army won a bloody but decisive victory over the city’s occupiers, capturing the Kitai-Gorod district of the city. On October 25 (November 7 New Style), they liberated the heart of the Russian Land—the Moscow Kremlin.
The people’s leaders and military commanders had every reason to be proud of their achievement and could have decided the fate of the nation at that time and on their own. But they put aside all personal ambition, understanding that, to achieve a genuine and definitive end to the Time of Troubles, they would need to follow the will of the people as freely expressed by their elected representatives from all regions of the nation and from all social classes.
On February 1 (February 14 New Style), 1613, in an atmosphere of extraordinary spiritual and patriotic fervor, the Great Assembly of the Land was convened, which included all the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church and abbots of the largest Russian monasteries, nobles and military leaders, courtiers and Cossacks, representatives of the various peoples of Russia, merchants, townspeople, and peasants from every part of the nation. Setting the future course of Russia’s development for centuries to come, the Assembly of the Land of 1613 can certainly be regarded, using today’s terminology, as a combined “National Assembly” and “Church Council”; and as such, we must acknowledge and honor both the political, and the spiritual-canonical significance of its activities.
The outcome of the Assembly of the Land was not determined beforehand. Despite a consensus on the main goal of restoring order in the country, the people’s representatives were sharply divided on many general and specific questions. However, in the end there prevailed among all those present a very clear desire to restore the sovereignty of the Russian state and an independent, legitimate, and hereditary monarchy.
On February 21 (March 6 New Style), 1613, the Assembly of the Land firmly agreed that the essential qualities for a leader of the Russian state were not eloquence of speech, nor fleeting fame, nor even experience or heroism, no matter how important these qualities might be in a ruler, but rather indefeasible legitimacy and a living connection with the preceding epochs of Russian history.
The closest legitimate heir to the extinct House of Riurikovich was Mikhail Fedorovich Romanoff, the son of Metropolitan Philaret, the first cousin of the last tsar of the first Russian Dynasty (Tsar Fedor I Ivanovich), and a prisoner at that time languishing in a Polish prison. There were no particular qualities in the 16-year-old Mikhail Romanoff that would especially recommend him to be “elected” as tsar. But the legitimacy of his hereditary rights offered him so unique and lofty a position that he could play the role of the nation’s arbiter, bringing peace to his long-suffering country, and could pass that role on to his future descendants.
The Assembly of the Land of 1613 issued a Confirmation Charter summoning the House of Romanoff to the throne and laying out in simple and clear language the traditional and harmonious principles of the relationship between the people and the government of the country, a formulated conception of the reciprocal responsibilities between state and society.
Having learned that Russia now had a legitimate tsar, the foreign invaders sought to find and kill him. But their sinister plan was foiled by the immortal sacrifice of Ivan Susanin, a simple peasant from Kostroma. It is deeply symbolic and providential that the new young monarch was saved—and not just him, but also all the hopes of the nation for deliverance from the evils that had befallen it—not by a grand battle, not by the great and mighty nobles, but by the self-sacrifice of an ordinary man.
On March 14 (March 27 New Style), 1613, at the Holy Trinity Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma, before the miracle-working Fedorov Icon of the Most Holy Mother of God, a delegation from Moscow announced to Mikhail Fedorovich Romanoff and his mother, the nun Marfa, the decision of the Assembly of the Land. The young tsar was not filled with joy on hearing this news, but instead was overcome with sadness and trembling. The throne was not a sought-after prize, but rather a heavy Cross, and he doubted that he had the strength to carry so great a responsibility. Only the persuasion and exhortations of St. Feodorit of Riazan convinced Mikhail Fedorovich that he could not refuse the sacred duty that had been placed upon him by Divine Providence and by the will of the people.
In May, the tsar arrived in Moscow, and on July 11 (July 24 New Style), 1613, the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Efrem of Kazan, crowned him in the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. And thus began the reign of Our House.
The deliberations and decisions of the Assembly of the Land of 1613 were the culmination of a national liberation movement. But the complete victory over the Troubles and over the ruins they produced in Russia still lay in the future. A significant portion of the country’s territory remained under the control of thieves and bandits and foreign invaders. Only in 1617–1618 did the Russian armies succeed in finally liberating all of their native land from their enemies, and only then were peace treaties signed with Poland and Sweden.
The symbolic end to the events of the Time of Troubles came on June 14 (June 27 New Style), 1619, with the return to Russia from prison in Poland of Tsar Mikhail I’s father, Metropolitan Philaret (Romanoff). After his canonical election to the Patriarchal throne, the Russian Orthodox Church again had a true Helmsman. The restored Russian state thus presents one of the best examples of the great Christian ideal of Symphonia—the distinct and indivisible cooperation of spiritual and secular authorities.
During the three centuries of Romanoff rule in Russia, there were many successes, achievements, and victories. It is appropriate that we remember with honor the contributions that Our House has made to the history of Russia. But there were also many serious mistakes, dreadful miscalculations, and grave sins that were committed, as well. We repent before God for these mistakes and sins, and we ask forgiveness of the Russian people—both for myself and on behalf of my ancestors.
Imperial Russia in 1917 was certainly not a state where all prospered equally. And the Revolution did not abolish poverty, or injustice, or cruelty, nor did it reverse the general decline in morals. Quite the contrary. It merely multiplied the baser instincts and vices, glorifying violence and ruthlessly crushing the religious, moral, and ethnical foundations of society, as well as those useful customs that had formerly served as a bulwark against the triumph of evil.
This monstrous attempt to construct a new society on the basis of atheism and totalitarianism suffered its inevitable collapse. But, unfortunately, the seeds of materialism, which were abundantly planted during the decades of rule by the atheists, are still producing poisonous offshoots, and their fruits are today often hardly any less destructive than they were during the Communist regime. We find ourselves now only at the very beginning of the end of a second great Time of Troubles.
It is impossible to find the right path out of these Troubles without looking back at the experience of past generations. The marking of various historical anniversaries offers the opportunity not only to celebrate, but also to understand the past and to learn lessons from it.
A century ago, in 1913, the celebration of the end of the Time of Troubles was widely and sumptuously celebrated as the Tercentenary of the House of Romanoff. The anniversary seemed to demonstrate the indestructibility of the Empire and the genuine unity of Tsar and People. But only four years later, Russia had entered a new, even more terrible, protracted, and all-consuming Time of Troubles. In the twentieth century, our homeland twice would experience the complete collapse of the state, of its territorial integrity, and of its system of principles and ideals.
Understanding these events should bring us—the people of the Third Millennium—to the correct conclusions.
We need to understand fully that we are celebrating the 400-th anniversary of the feats of our great and much-suffering People. First and foremost, this is not a celebration honoring the dynasty, or Church hierarchs, or military leaders, or diplomats and aristocrats, despite their important contributions to the national struggle, but rather the glorification of the courage, self-sacrifice, and love of ordinary people—peasants, townspeople, monks, provincial nobles, and Cossacks—who, with God’s help, liberated and restored our nation.
It is therefore especially important that this marking of the 400-th anniversary of the end of the Time of Troubles be celebrated at the highest governmental level—appropriately, boldly, confidently. The current government of Russia has already taken the wise step of establishing a new holiday, the Day of National Unity, on the day when Kuzma Minin’s and Dmitrii Pozharksii’s Volunteer Army, blessed by the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan, defeated the foreign invaders in Moscow. This holiday acknowledges the key role the events of the Time of Troubles play in modern Russian culture. I believe that prejudice, external interference, or false ideological dogmas will never again hinder the government from acknowledging the genuine triumphs that resulted from the people’s self-conscious patriotism.
No great country can ever scorn its own glorious past. But however well-disposed government leaders and institutions may be to the celebration of the 400-th anniversary of the end of the Time of Troubles, it will be a hollow celebration if the initiative does not come from the people themselves. Even if motivated by the best of intentions, an overly officious celebration will be dry, lifeless, and devoid of any genuine national significance. Only if the Russian people recognize the importance of historical events that took place four centuries ago can there be a celebration that will serve the interests of the country now and in the future.
The Holy Russian Orthodox Church has, in addition to fulfilling its primary and universal pastoral mission of saving souls, been an indestructible stronghold for all defenders of the Motherland, and therefore to it rightly belongs the central place in the celebrations of the 400-th anniversary of the end of the Time of Troubles. Every Church service that is performed in commemoration of the feats of this epoch offers praise to the Savior, unites us in prayer with our ancestors who defended our country with His Name on their lips, and fills our souls with awe before the miracle of the Resurrection of Russia. It would be a great spiritual joy for all the faithful children of the Orthodox Church, if—were it God’s will—the Church’s hierarchs were to glorify as saints those who joined heroism and civic virtue with firm Christian piety, and helped bring about the end of the Time of Troubles.
Together with the Holy Church, all other traditional confessions, members of which fought bravely shoulder-to-shoulder with their Orthodox countrymen, will raise to God their thanksgiving and commemorative prayers in accordance with the practices of their own faiths.
For civil society in all its many dimensions, this anniversary of the end of the Time of Troubles promotes a spirit of harmony and unity. Whatever one’s religious background or nationality, there is almost none among us who does not have an ancestor who did not contribute to the victory over these Troubles of the seventeenth century. People of all political persuasions are united in their esteem for the victorious leaders of the Time of Troubles. When looking back at the lives of the saints and heroes of this period, we should understand that we also today need to find not what divides us, but what unites us—to respect, to listen, to understand each other, not to excel in mutual recriminations, but to look together for ways to overcome the difficulties and disasters that befall us.
In the fields of science and culture, this national anniversary can provide a powerful impetus for research and discovery, restoration work and the reconstruction of historical and religious monuments, for the birth of new works of poetry, prose, painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and other forms of art, for the development of folk arts and crafts, and even for achievements in sport.
The armed forces and all government institutions that maintain order and provide for the national defense will find in the events of the Time of Troubles examples of valor and honor—qualities that are essential for the strengthening of the martial spirit of the nation.
On the international stage, the celebration of the 400-th anniversary of the restoration of the Russian state will strengthen a positive image of the country as one that remembers and honors its heroes. Friends and allies will acknowledge our strength of spirit, and our opponents will be offered a reminder of the futility of trying to destroy our nation.
The celebration of this anniversary also presents significant economic possibilities. Tourism at sites of historical interest will increase because of the importance of this anniversary, and that increase will fuel economic development in regions related to the history of the Time of Troubles. The production and sale of historic symbols and images from Russia’s glorious past will likewise help promote the growth of many areas of the nation’s economy.
Everything listed above is merely a small part of what the celebration of the 400-th anniversary of the end of the Time of Troubles will mean for our country. And while it in no way diminishes the symbolic, political, religious, and social significance of this anniversary, I believe that the civic and educational potential of this celebration must be identified and especially emphasized.
Commemorations, speeches and parades, academic conferences, and public appearances—none of this will touch the hearts of people today and of future generations if we cannot explain the significance of the events of the Time of Troubles and their connection to the lives of later generations. It is necessary to exploit the potential inherent in our history for instilling patriotism in our young people. The publishing of books, the making of films, the distribution of information on the Internet, the creation and funding of prizes and scholarships named in honor of prominent figures of the period to support students, teachers, and scholars—these ways of commemorating the great sons and daughters of the Motherland are now more timely than the erection of bronze and marble statues.
Many in this country still live in necessity, and instead of feeling exuberance, they may feel ambivalence at seeing extravagant celebrations when their own needs are going ignored. Of course, the celebration of significant national historic events and the resolution of society’s ills need not be incompatible because, without deference to the achievements of our ancestors, it is impossible either to preserve our nation’s dignity or ensure the lives and welfare of the people. But there must always be a balance between the two, and that balance must reflect the actual conditions of our daily lives. And, as we can see from the way charity functioned historically in the Russian Empire, celebration and commemoration of national achievements are perfectly compatible with tackling the nation’s social problems.
I call upon all who are willing and able, to make donations to cover the costs of a fitting celebration of the 400-th anniversary of the end of the Time of Troubles, and for the celebration of other anniversaries. The majority of these funds will be used to help the poor, orphans, the sick, the disabled, the aged, and the homeless. The Holy Ascetics, monarchs, hierarchs, heroes and military leaders, whose names have been taken by various charities as a way of honoring their contributions to the nation—they will all rejoice far more in the Kingdom of Heaven if we erect monuments in their honor not only on the streets and squares of our cities, but first and foremost in the hearts of the people.
The Holy Church, in the person of His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, and in Its archpastors and pastors, has already done much and continues to do much so that we know the Truth and so that we grasp the enormous spiritual meaning of the hardship that was sent down to our ancestors by God in the seventeenth century.
As for me, I believe it is important on this important anniversary to repeat my thoughts on the mission of the House of Romanoff in the modern world.
The Russian Imperial House has, by the grace and will of God, preserved its historical, spiritual, and legal principles. Forced into exile after the Revolution of 1917, my grandfather, Kirill Wladimirovich, and father, Wladimir Kirillovich, did not allow the candle of legitimate dynastic succession to be extinguished, but instead ensured the continued existence of the Romanoff dynasty as a historical institution. The Head of the Imperial House is not, as some mistakenly believe, a “pretender to the throne,” but is rather the hereditary head of a familial institution that preserves the ideas and traditions of the millennium-long monarchical Family-State that is Russia.
For the Imperial House to abjure the idea of a monarchy is as senseless as the Church abjuring faith in God. For me to betray the centuries-old ideals of our Ancestors for the sake of some short-term political advantage would be debasing, hypocritical, and dishonorable. I am sure that this is understood not only by those who share my beliefs, but also by those who do not.
I affirm my belief that legitimate hereditary monarchy is the only form of government that is divinely ordained, and I am convinced that it is compatible with any age, including our own, and could be suitable for and useful to our multi-national country. At the same time, I understand that, right now and for the foreseeable future, the restoration of the Monarchy is premature, and I categorically reject any possibility of a Restoration without the consent of the People. Only the free, informed, legally-formulated, and all-national expression of the will of the People could authorize a rebirth of the monarchy that existed in Russia between 862 and 1917.
Neither I nor my son, Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich—nor did even the founder of Our Dynasty, Tsar Mikhail I Fedorovich or the other all-Russian sovereigns of Russia—see power as a kind of coveted award, but rather as a consuming burden which brings with it much suffering, frustration, and sorrow to those to whom God has given it. If the inscrutable will of God be such that we or our legal heirs are summoned by the people to serve on the throne, we will not break the sacred oath we have made and will not abjure our duty. But those who ascribe to us a desire for power are deeply mistaken.
The House of Romanoff now and in the future strives in every way possible to be of use to the Fatherland, regardless of what the political system might be, in any circumstances.
Believing it to be its main function to serve the cause of national unity, the Dynasty does not, out of principle, involve itself in politics. This does not, however, prevent the Imperial House from having its own positions on questions of the day.
The Russian Imperial House is by its nature a non-partisan national historical institution that is open to dialogue and cooperation with all its fellow countrymen, regardless of their religious, national, political or other affiliations. While holding firm to its Faith and principles, the Russian Imperial House openly declares and defends, but never imposes, its principles and is ready to discuss and cooperate with those holding other views and convictions, provided that that discussion and cooperation are in the best interests of the nation and strengthen its inter-confessional, international, and domestic civil peace and harmony.
We ourselves do not consider anyone our enemy, even those who are aligned against us. All our countrymen, even those who bring us sadness and sorrow, are nonetheless our brothers, sisters, and children—all members of a great Family.
It is my fervent conviction that our common national motto should be the words of Emperor Nicholas II the Holy Passion-Bearer, who said at the very beginning of the catastrophe of the twentieth century: “the evil that is now in the world will become even greater, but evil will not vanquish evil, only love can.”
The world view contained in these words lived in the actions of the heroes of the Time of Troubles. It was the guiding star during the most terrible years for the Fatherland. And it always will remain the means for ending all strife and discord.
Source & Copyright: Российский Императорский Дом