The Head of the Russian Imperial House
Visit to St. Petersburg, April 23-27, 2012

H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and H.I.H.
and the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George of Russia

H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and H.I.H. and the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George of Russia at Peterhof.
Photo © Peterhof Museum

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H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and H.I.H. and the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George
arrive at the Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral to attend a memorial service (panikhida) for the Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich.

On April 23-27, 2012, the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and H.I.H. the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George of Russia, visited St. Petersburg, Russia. Their Imperial Highnesses arrived in Russia to take part in the church services and other events related to the 20th anniversary of the blessed repose of the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich, and the 20th anniversary of the assumption by his daughter, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, of the rights and duties of Head of the Dynasty (on April 8/21 1992).

On April 23, the Grand Duchess and Grand Duke arrived at Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg from Istanbul, where they had attended the wedding of Prince Rudolf of Liechtenstein and Miss. TilsinTanberk.

On April 24, on Radonitsa (or “Day of Rejoicing”—the date when Russian Orthodox Christians commemorate the departed), Their Imperial Highnesses attended a memorial service (panikhida) in the Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in the Peter and Paul Fortress, at the grave of Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich, which was officiated by His Grace, Bishop Nazarii of Vyborg, the vicar bishop of the St. Petersburg Diocese and the rector of the St. Alexander Nevskii Lavra. Also serving were Archimandrite Mstislav (Diachina), who had just prior to these services been designated in Moscow as bishop of Lodeinopol, a vicariate of this same diocese, along with other clergy. During the memorial service, all the emperors, empresses, grand dukes and grand duchesses who are buried in the cathedral were also commemorated by name. The Russian government was represented at the service by V. N. Kichedzhi, the vice-governor of St. Petersburg.

After the memorial service, His Grace Bishop Nazarii gave a touching speech to the Grand Duchess, the Tsesarevich, and all those present, and relayed to them the blessing and best wishes of His Eminence, Metropolitan Wladimir of St. Petersburg and Ladoga.

There then followed an investiture ceremony for those receiving Imperial and Royal Orders of Knighthood. The devices of the Order of St. Anna Second Class were presented to Bishop Nazarii of Vyborg, to Archimandrite Mstislav, and to Archpriest Sergei Kuksevich. The devices of the Order of St. Anna Third Class were presented to Archimandrite Alexander (Fedorov); to Archpriest Gennadii Belovolov; Priest Ilian Lavrentiev; Protodeacon Andrei Levin; to the director A. V. Bogatyrev; to the advisor for Heraldry in H.I.H.’s Chancellery, S. A. Man’kov; to the organizer of Her Imperial Highness’s recent visit to Armenia, K. R. Mrktchjan; and to the head of security in H.I.H.’s Chancellery, M. G. Shakhov. The Order of St. Stanislav First Class was presented to the president of the Jewelry Firm “Goringor,” A. S. Gorynia; and the certificate for the Order of St. Stanislav First Class was presented to the First Vice-Chairman of the Russian Nobility Association, A. Iu. Korolev-Pereleshin. The device and certificate of the Order of St. Stanislav Third Class were presented to the head of the Military Archeological Service O. B. Alekseev; to the philanthropists V. Iu. Veisenberg and V. A. Kim; and to the composer A. S. Shelkovnikov. The Medal of St. Anna was presented to Priest Nicholas Savchenko. The Imperial Military Order of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker Third Class was presented to Colonel D. V. Smirnov. The Grand Duchess also personally presented documents bestowing hereditary noble status to Boris Nikolaevich Morozov, an eminent historian and advisor to the Genealogy Bureau of the Office of Heraldry in H.I.H.’s Chancellery. The Grand Duchess also presented a charter confirming the coat-of-arms of A. Iu. Korolev-Pereleshin.

In addition, Grand Duchess Maria of Russia formally became the patron of the Foundation for the Restoration of the Nikolo-Berliukovskii Monastery, and Her Imperial Highness personally presented the official documents (rescript) establishing her patronage to the Foundation’s directors, A. N. Panin and S. Ia. Vaksman. The President of the Foundation, A. N. Panin, gave a short speech wishing Grand Duchess Maria of Russia health and God’s help in all her endeavors; and on behalf of the monastery, he presented to Her Imperial Highness a copy of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan, as well as an original photograph of her grandfather, Emperor Kirill I, and an original document from the 52nd Vilna Infantry Regiment, of which her grandfather was honorary colonel.

The editor-in-chief of the newspaper Monarchist (in St. Petersburg), M. N. Kulybin, and his wife, Maria, presented the Grand Duchess with an Icon of the Mother of God, which Maria Kulybina had embroidered in the traditional Russian fashion.

The military historian and the commander of the military archeological team “St. George” of the Inter-regional Association of Archeological Services “North-West,” O. B. Alekseev, presented to the Grand Duchess a very touching gift: a 125 gram bread ration of the sort that was distributed during the blockade of Leningrad, and a holy relic from the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, the medal “For the Defense of Leningrad,” which was discovered during an archeological dig.

The composer A. S. Shelkovnikov, who came to St. Petersburg to be at this memorial service from Prokopievsk (in Kemerovo Province), presented to the Grand Duchess and Grand Duke his new composition: a nocturne entitled “In Honor of H.I.H., the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George of Russia.”

Grand Duke George presented the prize to the “researcher” Fedor Il’in, the winner of the competition “Living Connection with the Past,” who wrote a historical essay on Dr. Evgenii Sergeevich Botkin, the Imperial Family’s doctor who died a martyr’s death along with the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers in the cellar of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg.

All those who were present in the church—the representatives of social groups, political figures, and residents of the city—had the opportunity to speak with Their Imperial Highnesses, to express their warm wishes to them, to share their remembrances and impressions about Grand Duke Wladimir and Grand Duchess Leonida, and to present gifts to them in the form of books, articles, and other mementos.

A memorial meal (trapeza) followed the church service, at which the chairman of the Knights Council of the Imperial Military Order of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, V. A. Dvoriankov, delivered a formal greeting on behalf of the Knights Council and the organization “Military Nobility of Russia.” V. A. Dvoriankov presented the Grand Duchess with a medallion with a depiction of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, marking the 20th anniversary of the ascension of Her Imperial Highness to the position of Head of the House of Romanoff.

Several of those present at the memorial meal shared their remembrances of H.I.H. Grand Duke Wladimir, and offered their warm greetings to H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia and H.I.H. the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George, including representatives of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, the Russian Nobility Association, and other monarchist and civic groups. Everyone present was deeply moved by the eloquent speech delivered by Brien Purcell Horan, who recounted the last moments of the life of Grand Duke Wladimir, who died while fulfilling his royal service to Russia.

That evening, Grand Duchess Maria of Russia received a report from the head of the Legal Office of H.I.H.’s Chancellery, G. Iu. Luk’ianov; met with the chairman and vice-chairman of the Russian Nobility Association, Prince G. G. Gagarin and A. Iu. Korolev-Pereleshin, respectively; and gave an interview for a documentary on the spiritual and cultural heritage of the House of Romanoff.

H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and H.I.H. and the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George
meet with the Governor of St. Petersburg, G. S. Poltavchenko,at the Smolny Institute.

On April 25, the Head of the Russian Imperial House and Her Heir met with the Governor of St. Petersburg, G. S. Poltavchenko,at the Smolny Institute. Also at this meeting were the Vice-Governor of St. Petersburg,V. N. Kichedzhi; the Chairman of the Committee for the External Relations of the City of St. Petersburg, A. V. Prokhorenko; the famous St. Petersburg philanthropist, Prince V. N. Svirskii-Zhimirov; the Director of H.I.H.’s Chancellery, A. N. Zakatov; the Head of the Office for Inter-regional and International Communications of H.I.H.’s Chancellery and the coordinator of Her Imperial Highness’s itineraries, Prince V. O. Lopukhin; the Director of the Office of Heraldry of H.I.H.’s Chancellery, S. V. Dumin; the Head of the Office for Public Communication of H.I.H.’s Chancellery D.G. Mepurichvili, and the official in H.I.H.’s Chancellery in charge of contacts with governmental bodies and public and civic organizations, K. K. Nemirovich-Danchenko.

The Grand Duchess and Grand Duke thanked the governor for the many kindnesses he has showed to the Imperial House, and for remembering Their most august father and grandfather, Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich. Grand Duchess Maria remarked, “The city is beautiful, and it has changed so much since the first time I came here.” She also noted the enormous efforts devoted to the restoration of historical landmarks in St. Petersburg. The governor discussed with the Grand Duchess the preparations for the 36th session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, which this year will meet in St. Petersburg and will be devoted to the preservation of the historic center of the city. The governor noted that the city’s historic-preservation program is being funded by the Russian Federal and municipal governments, as well as by private investors. The program will permit a comprehensive approach to addressing the question of the historic preservation of Russia’s northern capital.

G. S. Poltavchenko described for Their Imperial Highnesses the new trends in the social and cultural life of St. Petersburg, and the problems that remain to be resolved by the city government. In the course of this friendly conversation, the topic of the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the Russian victory in Patriotic War of 1812, and of the 400th anniversary of the end of the Time of Troubles, were discussed. The Grand Duchess emphasized with the governor her view that charity and education should be the underlying goal of all the celebrations of these anniversaries.

At the conclusions of the meeting, Governor G. S. Poltavchenko presented to the Head of the House of Romanoff a small ornate box containing a miniature of the city of St. Petersburg, and the Grand Duchess presented to him several books on the history and current status of the Russian Imperial House. Also, during this meeting with Governor Poltavchenko, an investiture ceremony took place, at which the Order of St. Stanislav First Class was presented to A. V. Prokhorenko.

Then Grand Duchess Maria of Russia answered questions from the press, after which she and her son departed for Kronstadt.

The visit to Kronstadt began with a tour of the restored Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas, which had recently been consecrated by His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and All Russia.

Grand Duchess Maria of Russia and her Heir, Tsesarevich George of Russia, were greeted in the cathedral by Archpriest Sviatoslav Mel’nik; by the general director of the “Kronstadt Naval Cathedral Foundation,” A. A. Kononov, by representatives of the city of Kronstadt, and by high-ranking officers of the Baltic Fleet. During the tour, representatives of the “Kronstadt Naval Cathedral Foundation” and the chief architect on the restoration project, Prince N. V. Obolenskii, narrated for the Their Imperial Highnesses how the cathedral was restored. This cathedral is especially dear to Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, because her great-grandfather, Grand Duke Wladimir Aleksandrovich and his wife, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, participated on May 8, 1903, in the ceremony marking the erection of the cathedral’s walls. Also present at the ceremony were Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. Photographs from that ceremony depicting the Grand Duchess’s great-grandfather were part of an exhibit on the history of the cathedral, which the Grand Duchess viewed as part of her tour.

The cathedral, which was erected to honor the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Russian Fleet, was conceived as a memorial church—a living prayerful memorial—for all sailors who had given their lives in the service of their country; and as such, there are along the entire perimeter of the main floor of the cathedral 130 memorial plaques, each with the names, inscribed in gold lettering, of more than one thousand sailors who perished between 1695 and 1910. One of these memorial plaques is dedicated to the heroes who died in the explosion of the battleship Petropavlovsk on March 31/April 13, 1904, when the Grand Duchess’s grandfather, Grand Duke Kirill Wladimirovich, miraculously escaped what seemed like certain death. These plaques were destroyed during the Communist regime, but now have been fully restored to their original location and appearance.

When the tour was completed, Archpriest Sviatoslav Mel’nik served a Litya for the repose of the souls of all sailors, after which the Grand Duchess presented the certificates (gramata) bestowing the medal “For Service” to all those who participated in the restoration of the cathedral.

H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and H.I.H. and the Heir, Tsesarevich, visit the Naval Cathedral of St. Nicholas
at Kronstadt, where H.I.H. is presented with a portrait of Saint John of Kronstadt.

The chief iconographer for the cathedral, N. V. Nuzhnyi, presented to the Grand Duchess a portrait of St. John of Kronstadt, which he had painted especially for the occasion of the Her Imperial Highness’s visit to Kronstadt.

Then, in the Kronstadt Naval Officers’ Club, and in the presence of many of the commanders of the Baltic Fleet, the administration of the city, civic leaders and the press, a formal agreement was signed by the Head of the House of Romanoff whereby she became the formal patron of the frigate Yaroslav the Wise. The agreement was signed at the request of the “International Association of Social Organizations of Veteran Sailors and Submariners,” and with the consent of the commander of the Baltic Fleet, Vice-Admiral V. V. Chirkov. The agreement was signed by H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia and by Captain Second Rank A. Suglobov, the commander of the frigate Yaroslav the Wise.

After a press conference, there was a lunch to celebrate the signing of the agreement.

The visit to Kronstadt continued with a visit to the apartment of St. John of Kronstadt, where this great saint of Russia lived for more than 15 years and which is now a museum. H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia and the Heir, Tsesarevich George of Russia were met at the apartment by the founder of the museum, the rector of the church of St. John the Theologian (a dependency of Leushino Convent) in St. Petersburg, Archpriest Genadii Belovolov. Fr. Gennadii served an intercessory prayer service (moleben) to St. John of Kronstadt, then gave a tour, recounting the history of the apartment and aspects of the biography of St. John and others as they relate to the apartment. Of special note were St. John’s personal belongings. Their Imperial Highnesses, Grand Duchess Maria and Grand Duke George, devoutly venerated the holiest of the relics in the apartment—St. John’s pectoral cross and his Gospel.

Especially timed to coincide with this visit by Their Imperial Highnesses, a previously unknown painting of St. John of Kronstadt was ceremoniously unveiled in the apartment. Portraits of St. John done during his lifetime are exceedingly rare: for a time, it was even believed that only one such portrait existed. Therefore the discovery of a new portrait of St. John is truly a significant historical event.

The visit to Kronstadt ended with a tour of some of the city’s historic fortifications. The Grand Duchess and her Heir, the Tsesarevich, along with representatives of the Baltic Fleet, toured some of the city’s best known fortifications, and then departed for Oranienbaum.

H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia signing the guestbook at Peterhof.
Photo © Peterhof Museum

During their visit to Oranienbaum, the Grand Duchess and the Heir, the Tsesarevich toured the ensemble of palaces including the Grand Menshikov Palace and the Chinese Pavilion. Then Their Imperial Highnesses visited the Grand Peterhof Palace, where N. B. Vakhaniia, the director of the Grand Palace and Museum of the Lower Park, led a tour, beginning at the recently restored palace chapel of Ss. Peter and Paul.

After the detailed tour of the Grand Palace, Grand Duchess Maria of Russia expressed to the staff of the palace museum her appreciation for the on-going work they do to preserve this cultural inheritance from Russia’s past. She also wrote a note in the signature book for honored guests of the museum.

On the next day, April 26, Grand Duchess Maria of Russia paid an official visit to the town of Krasnoe Selo.

The visit to the summer military capital of the Russian Empire began with an intercessory prayer service (moleben) in the Church of the Holy Trinity in the military parish of the St. Petersburg Diocese, served by the rector of the military section of St. Petersburg Diocese, Archpriest Alexander Ganzhin. Then the Grand Duchess met the head of the administration of KrasnoeSelo, A. V. Galich, who recounted for her the history of the city and outlined the preparations for the celebration in 2014 of the 300th anniversary of the city’s founding. Then the Grand Duchess toured the “Bridges” exhibit located the Museum of Bridge Construction in the building of the Directorate of Bridges, No. 19, in Krasnoe Selo.

The museum exhibit “Bridges” is the only one of its kind in Russia or the Commonwealth of Independent States, portraying the development of bridge construction in St. Petersburg and of railway bridges across Russia, from the eighteenth century on. During the tour, Her Imperial Highness spoke with the Director of the Directorate of Bridges, No. 19, V. N. Kudriashov (who also oversees the “Bridges” Museum), and remarked how it important it is to preserve the models on display in the exhibit.

Then the Grand Duchess visited the Federal Selective-Genetic Center for Fish (the Ropsha Fishery Center). According to a decision of the government of the Russian Federation, the Ropsha Fishery Center is now the umbrella organization for the commercial breeding of fish in Russia, and is responsible for the breeding and raising of four varieties of commercial fish. The Director of the Ropsha Fishery Center, V. Z. Krupkin, led the Head of the Imperial House on a tour of the facility, familiarizing her with the Center’s work on both natural and farm-raised rare and commercially valuable fish.

After the completion of the facilities at the Fishery Center, Archpriest Alexander Ganzhin hosted a luncheon in the office of the military parish of the St. Petersburg Diocese in honor of the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia. Present at lunch were: the director of urban development for the city of Krasnoe Selo, V. A. Galich; the head of the municipal district of the city of Lomonosov, V. S. Gusev; and the director of the Ropsha Fishery Center, V. Z. Krupkin.

After lunch, the Grand Duchess and her party departed for St. Petersburg.

H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and H.I.H. and the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George
with Father Nikhon, at the monument to St. John of Kronstadt.

In the afternoon, in the Grand Hotel “Europa,” the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, gave a number of audiences, during which she discussed preparations underway for the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the end of the Time of Troubles and the ascension to the throne of the Romanoff Dynasty. Alexander Reikhrudel [Reichrudel] reported on the preparations by the Russian community in Germany to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the House of Romanoff; Boris Sergeevich Turovskii, the director of the St. Petersburg Branch of the Russian Imperial Union-Order, and O. B. Filipov, a member of the board of the Imperial All-Russian Aero-Club, reported to Her Imperial Highness on their collaborative plans for the celebrations in 2013. Then Grand Duchess Maria of Russia met with S. A. Mankov and V. P. Pestiak-Golovatyi, representatives of the social movement “For Faith and Fatherland.”

The Master of Heraldry in H.I.H.’s Chancellery, Stanislaw Vladimirovich Dumin, presented to the Grand Duchess a series of documents for her signature, and also informed her of plans for the Office of Heraldry to prepare Volume 22 of the work “The General Armorial of the Russian Nobility.” The Grand Duchess approved the project and instructed that it should include coats-of-arms approved by the Imperial House between 1930 and 2012.

In the evening, the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and Her most august son, H.I.H. the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George of Russia, were very pleased to attend a friendly dinner arranged by the Russian Imperial Union-Order.

In addition to Their Imperial Highnesses, members of her entourage, and representatives of H.I.H.’s Chancellery, the honored guests at this dinner included: members of the City Council of St. Petersburg, representatives of Orthodox and monarchist groups (the Russian Imperial Union-Order, the All-Russian social movement “For Faith and Fatherland,” the Russian Nobility Association, the Russian Inter-regional Monarchist Movement, the Alexander II Historical Society, members of the Cossack community, national-cultural groups, and others), as well as foreign guests. It is symbolically significant that the dinner was held in a restaurant in the former barracks of the Imperial Horse Guards Regiment, which was for many years commanded by the Grand Duchess’s great-grandfather, Grand Duke Wladimir Alexandrovich, whose 165th birthday fell on the first day of Her Imperial Highness’s visit to St. Petersburg—April 10/23, 2012.

On April 27, Grand Duchess Maria of Russia visited Tsarskoe Selo, while Grand Duke George of Russia had meetings on a range of issues at his hotel with members of H.I.H.’s Chancellery and foreign friends of the Russian Imperial House. That evening, the Head of the Russian Imperial House, Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and H.I.H., the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George of Russia, departed for Madrid.

A.N. Zakatov
Director of H.I.H.’s Chancellery

H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and H.I.H. and the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George
attend a memorial service (panikhida) in the Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral at the grave of Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich.

Sermon of His Grace Bishop Nazarii of Vyborg at the memorial service for the pious and right-believing Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich, and all sovereigns and members of House of Romanoff, April 24, 2012, in the Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul, St. Petersburg

“We gather again in this holy place because here are buried the most worthy and honorable sons and daughters of Russia. Today, in these April days, we gather here also to mark the 20-th anniversary of the repose of His Imperial Highness, the pious Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich. It seems as if these tremendously important historical events happened not so very long ago at all. It was precisely then that historical truth returned to Russia. It was precisely here that Wladimir Kirillovich’s coffin stood. Later, we met again, when at this same place we served the funeral of Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna.

“Your Imperial Highness, I hope you will not object if we remember in prayer also all the other members of the Imperial House, because we are standing on the threshold of a special year, when we will commemorate 400 years of the House of Romanoff. And we today are to getherwiththem. Why? Because the Romanoffs had but one profession, regardless of what they may have done in their lives. This profession was to be a servant of Russia. And being a servant of Russia is the most important dignity the family possessed…”

Source & Copyright: Российский Императорский Дом
16 June, 2012