Monarkhist Newspaper Interview with
Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia
HIH Tsarevich and Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich
||| Back to the Royal Russia News Archive |||
||| Royal Russia Bulletin - Our Official Blog. Updated Daily With News Clips, Videos & Photographs |||
||| Royal Russia Video & Film Archive ||| Romanov & Imperial Russia Links |||
||| Our Bookshop: Books on the Romanovs & Imperial Russia ||| Gilbert's Books - Publisher of Books on the Romanovs |||
||| What's New @ Royal Russia - Updated Monthly |||
||| Return to Royal Russia - Directory ||| Return to Royal Russia - Main Page |||
1. Your Imperial Highness, you are the heir, the continuation, of a great dynasty, which is this year celebrating its 400th anniversary. What does this anniversary mean to you personally?
Everyone should remember their ancestors and try to be worthy of them—to follow their example in those good, useful, and heroic things they achieved in their lives. And also to draw lessons from the mistakes and sins they may have committed.
Some know more about their ancestors than others. I am rather lucky in this regard, inasmuch as the history of my family is well-known for more than 700 years, during 300 of which my ancestors ruled Russia. Kinship to other dynasties links us to broader world history and to even more ancient epochs. All this imposes on me an enormous responsibility. Like other people, I strive always to do the right thing, but I sometimes make mistakes and missteps. But my accomplishments are, for a whole range of objective reasons, not at all equal to those of my ancestors. And so the consequences of each mistake or weakness are greater for me than for most other people. I know and sense that people expect a lot from us and can sometimes judge us very harshly, comparing what we do with what our ancestors did. But even when we are faced with a lack of objectivity or understanding about the differences in the circumstances in which we live and those in which our ancestors lived, we nonetheless hold ourselves to the highest possible standard. After all, to whom much is given, much is expected.
I see my duty to my countrymen, to my mother, to all my ancestors and descendants, to consist of this: to protect the good name and honor of the Romanoffs. I strive to preserve our traditions and spiritual values so that they may serve the interests of Russia, regardless of the form of government it might have. I feel duty bound to learn as much as I can about my native country, to perfect my Russian, and to make every effort to bring real and lasting benefit to my countrymen, especially to those in need.
At the same time, as the heir to the headship of the Russian Imperial House, which has made an undeniable contribution to the life of our country, I am grateful that evaluations of my words and actions—even the most critical evaluations—are not heartless, ill-willed, or politicized, but well-intentioned; that my fellow countrymen would support me in those things that I do well, and will not immediately seek to teach me a lesson. And if I do not understand something or other, that they would react to this with a brotherly feeling and with understanding of the fate of our dynasty, which has spent so many years in forced exile.
2. The Orthodox monarchical tradition has been around for many centuries. What do you think about the past and future of the idea of monarchy?
The idea of monarchy is the idea of a Familial State, headed by the mother or father of the nation. A governmental system based on this idea may experience periods of growth and decline, but it will exist so long as humanity itself exists. The crisis of monarchy today or in the past does not and did not exist in a vacuum, but is and was a part of a general crisis of traditional values—of religion, the family, national sovereignty, and national identity.
Revolutions and the spread of republican forms of government have not liberated humanity from suffering and poverty, but rather have only increased it. In the 20th century, the fall of monarchies has allowed totalitarian regimes to come to power, regimes that killed tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people. In our own day, we see how some governmental systems and political methods have produced decline and degradation. In the Western world, a polarization of views has developed: on the one hand, some liberal goals have been taken to an extreme of individualism, and, on the other, in the form of a protest against these goals, there has broadly appeared a kind of xenophobia, intolerance of dissent, and the tendency to resolve problems by force or vandalism. Meanwhile, some republican governments even devolve into a new kind of totalitarianism, which places the individual under the absolute control of external powers and, in doing so, enslaves him.
I am absolutely convinced that it is precisely historical, legitimate, hereditary monarchy that will allow us to find an equitable balance between freedom and order, tradition and the needs of the modern world, the interests of the state and the rights of the individual. I do not want to say that monarchy is some kind of panacea for all the social and economic ills of humanity. But it is a path by which it may be possible to overcome them more effectively.
It is much easier in a family to achieve agreement and mutual support at difficult moments, then in settings where partners are bound to each other merely by common cause or profit motives. And in a monarchy, there are more connections, founded as they are on love, faith, honor, and duty, which unite the nation into a unified whole, than in some republics, which can regard these feelings and beliefs I have just enumerated as mere anachronisms. In the next stage in history, sooner or later the limitations and futility of materialist rationalism and consumerism will be realized. Then will come the time for the re-establishment of traditional values, among which is legitimate monarchy, which will occupy one of the foremost places. Therefore, the idea of monarchy, which has had such a glittering past, will undoubtedly also have a bright future.
3. You currently live in the West. Aren't you afraid that your views will harm your life and activities there? After all, right now a very different mood prevails in the West?
The Romanoffs have had many faults in the past, but timidity has never been one of them. I would not want to make stark statements which might offend people. If one looks hard enough, one can see some sound and positive ideas in the most varied of doctrines, whether liberal democracy or any other system. One can even find some sound ideas, among many bad ones, in communism. I do not want to impose anything on anyone. But this does not at all mean that I must abandon the traditional beliefs that are inherent to the Imperial House and held by me personally, or to fear speaking out about these beliefs.
The mission of the dynasty is to be an independent arbiter. To achieve this, it is necessary to remain impartial with respect to political parties and unbiased with respect to individual people, regardless of the views they might hold. Of course, arbitration requires being able to find compromises, sometimes difficult compromises. But compromise is an art that brings about agreement between parties on the basis of mutual respect, not by opportunism or the betrayal of one own ideals.
We do not, on principle, participate in any form of political activity and we comment publicly only on spiritual, moral, and cultural aspects of life. The more honorable of our opponents in the West and in Russia, I am sure, are capable of listening to our arguments, and understand and respect us, even if they do not agree with us. And we likewise respect and understand them.
And those who object even to the very fact of our existence will not be mollified by any concessions we might make because their position omits any opportunity for constructive dialogue. And so in those instances there really is not any point in our worrying about expressing our views.
The one place where we constantly try to exercise restraint is in the public statements of those persons who are loyal to us, so that our statements and actions do not cause anyone pain or bruised feelings. The Royal Martyr Emperor Nicholas II was surely right when he said that one cannot defeat evil and wickedness with evil. All interactions and debates with others must be conducted with respect, even when the other person positions himself in opposition to something you hold most dear. Only then will we have a chance to convince him or to find a compromise solution. The philosophy of the Imperial House is not to win the day over someone or to associate itself with some majority that will surely only be temporary, but to help to assure that among our countrymen there are no single groups that win out over others.
4. In one of your first interviews, when you were still quite young, you said that, among Russia’s rulers, your ancestors, you especially liked Emperor Peter the Great. Has your opinion changed since then?
I never cease to marvel at the will and energy of my great ancestor and his willingness for self-sacrifice. He asked a lot of others, but he asked the most of himself. Even his death became a symbol of these qualities as he fell mortally ill after saving from the icy wintry waters some soldiers who had become stranded in a grounded boat.
Peter the Great is sometimes reproached for his obsession with all things western. These criticisms tend to intensify when relations are cool between Russia and the West. But let’s not forget that Peter I did not indiscriminately borrow Western ways and knowledge, but did all things exclusively in the interests of Russia. In introducing his reforms, he did not seek to make Russia subservient to the West. Quite the contrary, he adopted Western ways in order to strength his country, to make it self-sufficient and competitive with the West in every way. Of course, Peter I made mistakes. He took some reforms too far. And we today, many years later, we can see that. However, his reign resulted in Russia attaining the status of a great power; in obtaining, after many centuries trying, access to the Baltic Sea; in the creation of the Russian navy and a modern standing army; and many other real achievements. It is not for nothing that Peter the Great was revered by such Russian patriots as M. Lomonosov and A. Pushkin, who in no way could be accused of being excessively pro-Western.
Peter I by his own example proved that all labor is worthy of respect, that there are no such thing as “dishonorable” professions, that one’s rank should never prevent one from becoming engaged in any useful endeavor. He himself studied many fields of science and technology. I try in my own endeavors to follow his example. In my current job at Norilsk Nickel, I hope to be useful to my country, helping to develop its economic ties with the wider world and defending abroad the reputation of Russian manufacturers. I try to follow in the tradition of Peter I, who did not stubbornly preserve things just because they were native to Russia, and who did not consider everything foreign as best, but who combined the best of his own culture with foreign experience so as to make his country stronger. In this way, regardless of the situation, whether that be one of cooperation or competition, we can interact with the West and with all foreign powers, on an equal footing.
Besides Peter the Great, among my favorite ancestors I would now say are Alexander Nevskii, Ivan III, Nicholas I, and Alexander III. These rulers, each in his own way, personified the very best qualities of Russian monarchs.
Head of the Russian Imperial House, HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna and HIH Tsarevich and Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich
I am very aware of the fact that the restoration of the monarchy at the present time would be premature. Indeed, the times of discord, universal indifference, extreme individualism and irresponsible and unlimited freedom are on their way out. Many who seek a way out of this crisis seek a strengthening of governmental authority. But that would not be sufficient for the restoration of the monarchy. One must understand that authoritarian governments are not monarchies, and that totalitarianism is quite foreign and hostile to the monarchist worldview. Monarchy is not a party-based doctrine, and moreover, is not a dictatorship of a strongman. Monarchy is a set of spiritual and cultural values that have evolved over many centuries, a system of traditional methods of rulership, a complex of ideas based on faith, honor, and service. It is therefore impossible to restore the monarchy by means of political alliances. Not violence, not backroom deals with influential figures, not the exploitation of a momentary burst of popular support for monarchy can bring about the restoration of the monarchy. For a restoration, first is required that the majority of the citizens correctly grasp both the advantages and disadvantages of monarchy, that they weigh all the factors and make a free and conscious decision based on an analysis and understanding of the essential features of this form of government. The task of the Imperial House and of all traditionalist elements of society at present is to calmly and confidently engage in education, restoring to the minds of the people those things which were destroyed or distorted by demagogic propaganda.
I have no doubt that monarchy in Russia has a future. Perhaps its restoration will not happen in my lifetime. But whenever it happens, it will be a modern and dynamically evolving legitimate hereditary monarchy. The monarchy is founded on Orthodoxy but guarantees freedom of religion for all traditional religious confessions as well as the freedom of those of our countrymen who are not religious. Even a monarchy that is endowed with certain levels of power nonetheless relies on a system of democratic institutions on all levels. Monarchy is entirely outside politics, is compatible with any social-political system, and plays the role of an arbiter between various political, social, ethnic, and religious communities and groups on the basis of the rule of law and justice. Monarchy provides a union of traditional structures and a healthy conservatism with a constant process of effective modernization. Beyond this, it is pointless to describe monarchy in the future. Life itself will determine the forms and subtleties of the realization of the monarchical principle in the modern world.
6. Orthodoxy has historically been one of the pillars upon which the Russian State stood. After decades of persecution from militant atheists, the Church has begun to experience a revival. But recently it has again fallen under attack. Why do you think this atheistic bias has continued, and what do you think should be done about this situation?
The issue, it seems to me, really is not atheistic biases. At least, that is not the main issue. There are actually very few committed atheists. There are people who are far from the Church or from other organized religions. But at critical moments in their lives, these people almost always call upon God. Moreover, not all atheists are hostile to the Church.
Rather, it is a comparatively small but active and aggressive element of society that is attempting to impose its views on the majority. These people seek to remove all taboos, to justify any sin, and, in the end, eradicate from people’s minds any difference between good and evil. They believe that, by doing so, life will improve. Traditional religions—and in Russia, that principally means the Orthodox Church—has become an enemy for this minority because these religions continue to insist upon the need to preserve moral principles in society. There is a never-ending struggle for the hearts and minds of the people. And so there has always been, and always will be, attacks on the Church. One must treat these attacks as simply a sad inevitability, and to respond to them accordingly.
Naturally, we should distinguish between fair criticism and malicious attacks. To acknowledge sins and mistakes is not a shameful thing. Quite the contrary, the capacity to repent and improve oneself should elicit respect and an understanding of the fact that the personal failings of the clergy and of fellow believers do not weaken the authority of religion.
However, we often see how some people who may not stir up difficulties in lives of the clergy and pastors, but will nonetheless make trouble in those areas where the Church is strong and doing things needed by the people. They deplore the growth in the number of believers and the construction of new churches. They resent the participation of the Church in the life of the state and society and strive to isolate the Church into a kind of ghetto. In a number of European countries, we see how this has already turned into open discrimination against people of faith. Fortunately, in Russia the era of militant atheism did not eradicate faith, but quite the opposite. It provided a kind of inoculation from religious indifference and extreme secularism. People do not hide their religious beliefs. The authority of the Church, of the Patriarch, and of the clergy is appropriately elevated. The majority of people understand the difference between the Church as an institution and its individual members, whose personal failings are often exploited by those who wishto discredit Orthodoxy in general.
The most important thing for preserving a sensible relationship between society and the Church is not to give in to provocations and not to accept their rules of the game, which are being imposed upon us. If we use the same methods that the hostile opponents of the Church employ against us, how then are we different from them? Rights and morality must be firmly defended, but we must also understand, as I have already said, that evil can never vanquish evil. Aggressiveness is a sign of a lack of inner confidence in one’s own strengths and the rightness of one’s own cause. If we forget about love, peace, and patience, even when we are in the midst of a struggle for our faith and ideals, then we will not achieve the best results.
7. You have for many years made frequent visits to Russia and have seen and met with many Russian people. What changes, in your view, have taken place in society over the past several years?
I have the sense that our countrymen are with each passing year acquiring more and more inner freedom. The infatuation with superficial notions of imaginary freedom, which leads to license and chaos, is going away. At the same time, there is now a strengthening of the dignity of the individual, of legal culture, of notions of balance between the rights of the individual and the obligations of a citizen. People are less manipulated, and they cannot so easily be turned into a submissive mass or into a raging crowd. Of course, we must all together do all in our power to overcome the heavy burdens imposed upon us by the Revolution, the fratricidal Civil War, totalitarianism, and the post-Soviet economic collapse. We should not idealize pre-Revolutionary Russia because it, too, had its problems. We must remember the past and revive eternal principles, not obsolete forms. And we must move forward with faith, hope, and respect for ourselves and for others.
For the published version of the interview (in Russian), see:
27 July, 2013