Orthodox Christmas Celebrated in St. Nicholas Church, Shanghai


St. Nicholas Church in Shanghai, China

The solemn liturgy on the occasion of the Nativity of Christ was held on Monday in St. Nicholas Church in Shanghai, China. The liturgy was performed by the priest of the local Orthodox community, Father Ioann Shchelokov.

The Christmas liturgy was attended by members of Shanghai’s Chinese and Russian Orthodox communities, as well as many foreigners in the local Orthodox community: Belarus, Bulgaria, Greece, Moldova, Romania, the USA, Serbia, Ukraine and Ethiopia.


Father Ioann Shchelokov performs solemn liturgy on the occasion of the Nativity of Christ

St. Nicholas Church was built in 1932 by Cossack general Thaddeus Lvovich Glebov (1887-1945), in the former French Concession of Shanghai at 16 rue Corneille, now known as Gāolán Lù. It was designed by the architect Alexander Ivanovich Yaron (1875-1935), and funded by White Russians who settled in China in the 1920s-1930s after the Russian Civil War.

The church was consecrated in 1934 in honour of St Nicholas the Wonderworker, patron saint of Nicholas II. St. Nicholas church was the first church monument to Russia’s last tsar in the history of Russian emigration.

In 1936, Yaron wrote: “… how much this holy building is a monument to the Russian heart, a monument to the sufferings endured by the Russian people during the revolution, the symbol of which is the torment and death of Tsar Martyr and His August Family”

Local authorities only permit worship in the church on Orthodox holidays. The rest of the time, the church which is listed as a state-protected historical building is not used as a place of worship.

The last time that a liturgy was held in the church was on 19th December 2018, on the occasion of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker’s Day. From 2015, no services were held until April 2018, when the Easter service was held, attended by more than 300 faithful.

In 1949, most of the Russian émigrés left Shanghai. The church was closed in 1955. It was first converted into a warehouse and then a laundry. It was spared desecration during the Cultural Revolution by a portrait of Mao Zedong, hung strategically from the dome. From May to October during EXPO 2010, its loft was reconsecrated to allow Russian Orthodox services to be held there. The church later hosted a French restaurant, Ashanti Dome, on the upper floor, and a Spanish tapas bar on the ground floor called Boca. The building was declared a protected monument in 1994.

Initially, the central dome of the mosaic work at the church was turquoise in colour, the four domes on the sides were dark blue with gold stars, and the dome under the bell tower was of the three colors of the Romanov house (white, orange and black). There are currently no crosses on the church, which were once gilded. Inside the church was notable for its rich decoration and carved iconostasis, the top row of icons of which were painted by icon painter Andrei Stepanovich Berezin. The original frescoes are believed to be preserved under layers of plaster.

During a recent interview, the Russian Consul General in Shanghai Alexey Evsikov,  noted that local authorities have plans for the restoration of the church interiors in the near future. He noted that the building could be used as a platform for Russian-Chinese cultural exchanges.


Icon of the Holy Royal Passion Bearers, St. Nicholas Church in Shanghai, China

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 7 January 2019


Ekaterinburg Approves Final Design for St. Catherine’s Cathedral


Artist rendering of St. Catherine’s Cathedral in Ekaterinburg

After years of planning, discussions and protests, the design for the reconstruction of St. Catherine’s Cathedral in Ekaterinburg have been finalized. Construction of the cathedral is expected to be completed by 2023, when the Ural city marks its 300th anniversary. The large-scale project will also include the development of the adjacent territory.

The announcement was made on 7th December, the day in which Ekaterinburg celebrates its heavenly patroness. 

St. Catherine is currently immortalized in Ekaterinburg only by means of a chapel on Labour (formerly Ekaterinskaya Square), the original site of the cathedral. St. Catherine’s Cathedral was closed on 15th February 1930, and subsequently demolished the following month on 15th March.

On 18th August 1991, a memorial cross was erected, on the place where the altar of the former cathedral was located. A prayer service is held here each year in honour of the feast of St. Catherine ( 7 December). In 1998, the year marking the 275th anniversary of Ekaterinburg, a stone chapel with five domes designed by architect A.V. Dolgov was erected.


St. Catherine’s Chapel, built on the site of the cathedral in Ekaterinburg


In March 2010, the Ekaterinburg Diocese with the support of the Governor of Sverdlovsk announced a plan to reconstruct the cathedral. This plan was met with much opposition, especially after the idea to erect a “church on the water” was proposed. Protests forced organizers to reconsider the location. For more information, please refer to my article Proposed Ekaterinburg Cathedral Divides City, published on 14 March 2017.

After further debate, other sites were considered. The final choice for the construction of the cathedral will be on the Oktyabrskaya (also known as Drama Theater) Square, which is situated on the embankment of the City Pond near the Yeltsin Center. 

“People should see that we respect our history and respect traditions, since the Church of St. Catherine was originally the historical foundation of our city,”- said Alexander Andreev, Director of the St. Catherine Foundation – “the cathedral was blown up in 1930, and the city has been living with a shattered foundation for nearly a century. In our understanding (and judging by the results of a poll conducted by the Socium Foundation), the construction of the cathedral is to correct a mistake based on Soviet dogma and the restoration of historical justice.”


Artist rendering of St. Catherine’s Cathedral in Ekaterinburg


The original plan was to construct the cathedral in the Russian Revival style, reflecting the style that arose in second quarter of the 19th century and was an eclectic melding of pre-Petrine Russian architecture and elements of Byzantine architecture. This idea, however, was abandoned, and the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir was taken as the basis for the new project, it will feature five-pillars and five-domes, designed according to the traditions of Old Russian architecture.

According to the first project renderings by architect Vladimir Rudnev from APM-1 bureau, the height of the cathedral was 58 meters. However, after all the improvements, the cathedral will now reach a height of 75 meters. According to the chief architect of Ekaterinburg, Andrei Molokov, the building will now blend more successfully into the city’s skyline.

The exterior decoration of the cathedral will be made from Vladimir limestone, decorated with carvings, and gilded copper domes. At night, the building will be illuminated with architectural lighting.

” The interior of the cathedral will be decorated with mosaics,” – said Alexander Andreev – “This is a unique project for Russia, which we plan to complete and consecrate by 2023. It should be noted, however, that some of the works, such as frescoes on the walls, the creation of which takes a large amount of time, will be completed after the official opening.”

The cathedral will be designed to accommodate a maximum of 2.5 thousand worshipers. The first floor will include a church shop and a tea room for parishioners, a room for tanks with holy water, a baptismal room, a hall for the Patriarch, priests and guests, as well as a refectory and rooms for the clergy. On the second floor, the architects will provide a prayer hall for 800 people. 


Artist rendering of St. Catherine’s Cathedral in Ekaterinburg


According to the architects, not only a cathedral, but also a new urban space will be created. As Alexander Andreev explains, the park and Oktyabrskaya Square will be landscaped with more than 100 new trees. Moreover, the project will feature a pedestrian area between the drama theater and the Yeltsin Center. Also, the city embankment, which the city has not been upgraded since its construction, is subject to restoration.

The park itself will be divided into several zones – a children’s playground, a workout area and a skating rink.

“Our task is to “strengthen” this place, to attract there more young people”, – said Alexander Andreev – “It will be a new urban space. We are trying to create a comfortable urban environment and public space that will attract both adults and the younger generation. Our main task is to create a social and functional design. To this end, the project will involve the finest architects and designers.”

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 12 December 2018

Monument to Four Faithful Subjects of Nicholas II to be Established in Ekaterinburg

A monument to four faithful subjects who followed Emperor Nicholas II and his family into exile in 1917, and later murdered by the Bolsheviks will be established on the grounds of the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent in Ekaterinburg.

Craftsmen from the Glyptica-Stone Company in St. Petersburg are currently working on a stone stele monument, which will depict life-sized images of the four loyal subjects of the Imperial family.

Adjutant General Ilya Leonidovich Tatishchev (1858-1918), Marshall of the Imperial Court Prince Vasiliy Aleksandrovich Dolgorukov (1868-1918), sailor Klimentiy Grigorievich Nagorny (1887-1918) and boatswain Ivan Dmitrievich Sednev (1881-1918). All of them were buried in the territory of the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent. 

– Now the place of their burial is unknown. All the graves at the convent cemetery were destroyed during the Soviet years. But for the sake of preserving historical memory, with the blessing of Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye, a stele will be installed on the territory of the monastery to these selfless noble people, said a spokesperson for the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent.


Adjutant General Ilya Leonidovich Tatishchev is one of four subjects depicted in the monument

The manufacture of the 4-meter monument, designed to perpetuate the memory of the martyrdom of the Royal Passion-bearers, was ordered by the Alexander Nevsky Novo-Tikhvin Convent in Ekaterinburg.

“It is a great honour that we received such an order, such an opportunity, ” said Mikhail Sergeyevich Parfentiev, general director of the Glyptica-Stone Company. – This is a piece of Russia’s history.

As Mikhail Sergeevich notes, this project is a great responsibility for all participants in the process.

Among the images of the subjects of Nicholas II, who voluntarily followed the sovereign into exile, first to Tobolsk, and then Ekaterinburg, the sculptors portray Adjutant-General Ilya Leonidovich Tatishchevas- a man full of nobility and love for his neighbors, who loved the Gospel and knew it by heart.

The figure of Tatishchev, is depicted holding the gospel in his hands. He received this as a gift from his mother and carried it with him throughout his life. 

The monument of the four loyal Imperial subjects, will take place next year, on the territory of the Alexander Nevsky Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent. Thus, this monument will remind people for centuries of the martyrdom of the saints of the Royal Martyrs and their loyal subjects.

A Divine Liturgy was performed in Ekaterinburg on 10th June 2018 for General Ilya Leonidovich Tatishchev and Prince Vasili Alexandrovich Dolgorukov. Tatishchev and Dolgorukov were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in October 1981. Click HERE to read more.

A Divine Liturgy was performed in Ekaterinburg on 28th June 2018 for Ivan Dmitriyevich Sednev and Klimenty Grigorievich Nagorny.  Nagorny and Sednev were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) on 14 November 1981. Click HERE to read more.

They were listed among 52 confidants of the Imperial family, who were rehabilitated by the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation on 16 October 2009, as victims of political repression.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 9 November 2018

World’s Third Tallest Orthodox Cathedral to be Built for Russia’s Armed Forces near Moscow


The future Cathedral in the Name of Christ’s Resurrection, will become the main cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces, and the world’s 3rd largest Orthodox church.

Earlier this month, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced plans to build an Orthodox cathedral, located some 50 km to the southwest of Moscow, that will be dedicated to the country’s armed forces.

The house of worship will be built in Patriot Park, a military theme park and exhibition center, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said during a conference with senior officers.

“This idea was approved by the public, state authorities, military administration and the blessing of Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill I,” said Shoigu.

A sleek animation on the cathedral’s homepage depicts an army green structure with glass panels and six shimmering golden domes dedicated to the patron saint of each service branch.

The cathedral will overlook expansive grounds that include monuments to military-related patron saints.

“The cathedral is being built to unite all Orthodox believers, and for the moral and psychological support of the troops. It will symbolize the spirituality of the Russian army raising the sword only to protect its Motherland,” the church’s website explains.

Deputy Minister of Defense, Chief of the Main Military-Political Directorate of the Armed Forces Andey Kartapolov said “The cathedral should become the personification of the historical unity of the army, the people and the church, a spiritual, educational and methodological and educational center for servicemen, members of their families, clergymen and all Orthodox Christians,” the deputy minister added.

The church will also house a museum and exhibition center that will use virtual reality technology to immerse visitors in three-dimensional reconstructions of historical battles.


A scale model of the cathedral and the adjacent territory

Shoigu urged senior officers to get actively involved in the fundraising campaign for the new military cathedral. “Naturally, everything should be absolutely voluntary,” he was quoted as saying.

The cathedral will be built on a grand scale, in a monumental Byzantine style. Once construction has been completed, it will become the third tallest Orthodox church in the world, second only to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior (height 103 m) in Moscow, and St. Isaac’s Cathedral (101.5 m) in St. Petersburg.

The height of the cathedral will stand 95 meters, with an area of 10,950 square meters, large enough to hold up to 6 thousand parishioners.


The Cathedral in the Name of Christ’s Resurrection will feature a beautiful iconostasis

The cathedral will include five domes and, accordingly, five chapels. In addition to the central side-chapel in honor of the Resurrection of Christ, the four side-chapels will be dedicated to the “heavenly patrons” of the branches of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation:

  • The chapel of St. Alexander Nevsky – patron of the Land Forces;
  • The chapel of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called – patron of the Navy;
  • The chapel of St. Elijah the Prophet – patron of the VKS and Airborne Forces;
  • The chapel of St. Barbara the Great Martyr – patroness of the Strategic Missile Force.

According to Main Military-Political Directorate, Colonel-General Andrey Kartapolov, apart from the five chapels,  the new cathedral will also include “lecture halls, classes for working with the military clergy and the conference hall.” The church will become a spiritual and educational center for servicemen, Orthodox priests and citizens of Russia. It will house an exposition dedicated to the history of setting up the Russian state and the Military Forces.


President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill take part in the September 19th ceremony

On 19th September, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu took part in a ceremony of blessing the foundation stone of the future main cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces. The Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill I conducted the service of consecration of the stone.

Putin told the public that had gathered for the ceremony the consecration of the corner stone of the future Cathedral in the Name of Christ’s Resurrection was an important historic event, as the cathedral would be dedicated to victory in World War II.


President Putin and Patriarch Kirill are shown a scale model of the cathedral

Vladimir Putin was shown a scale model of the cathedral and the adjacent territory after the ceremony. The display featured murals of the cathedral’s side-chapels, which are under-the-dome spaces and frontals, as well as icons that Moscow Patriarchate will commission for the cathedral.

On 21st September, the Interfax News Agency announced that more than 1 billion Rubles ($15 million USD) had already been donated to the Resurrection Foundation, the charitable fund which collects donations for the construction of the cathedral.

The construction is planned to be completed by the 75th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War in 2020.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 24 September 2018


Divine Liturgy for Countess Anastasia Hendrikova Performed in Ekaterinburg


Countess Anastasia Vasilievna Hendrikova (1888-1918) in Tobolsk 1917 

Sunday 4th September, marked the 100th anniversary of the death and martyrdom of the Countess Anastasia Vasilievna Hendrikova (1888-1918), the personal lady in waiting of the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

A Divine Liturgy was performed in the Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, situated in the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent in Ekaterinburg. 

–  Today, exactly 100 years have passed from the day of the martyrdom of Anastasia Vasilievna Hendrikova, the personal maid of honour of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. She was killed by the Bolsheviks in Perm on September 4, 1918. Anastasia Vasilievna was distinguished by deep piety, nobility, selflessness and in the most difficult circumstances retained her faith in God. In our metropolia, they collect materials for the glorification of Anastasia Hendrikova in the saints’ face. And today we will honor her memory, serve liturgy, pray for her, and she will pray for us before the throne of God,” said the priest who performed the Divine Liturgy.

Countess Anastasia Vasilievna Hendrikova was born in 1888. Although Anastasia Vasilievna born to the nobility, she was very simple in her way of life from early youth, she dressed very modestly, even old-fashioned and, unlike most noble girls, never participated in balls and entertainments.

In her youth, the Countess Hendrikova became the personal maid of honour of the Empress. The Empress, the Grand Duchesses, and the courtiers loved her for her kindness, affability, meekness, simplicity and openness in communication.

In February 1917, Countess Hendrikova, at the insistence of the Empress, went to a seriously ill Sister of Mercy in Kislovodsk, but when she arrived there she learned that the Emperor had abdicated the throne. Anastasia Vasilyevna hurried back to Tsarskoye Selo. It is known that at that time the majority of courtiers and servants, under different pretexts, took leave of the Tsar’s family, basically everyone cared only about their own well-being. Anastasia Vasilyevna could have remained in Kislovodsk where she would have been safe, but she, unlike the other courtiers, overcame all obstacles and returned to the Imperial family. A few hours after she arrived at the Alexander Palace, the former Imperial residence became a prison for all who voluntarily wished to remain in it. That evening, she wrote in her diary: “Thank God, I managed to arrive on time to be with them.” Her presence was a great support for the royal prisoners. Always happy, meek, smiling, she cheered everyone up. 

Anastasia Vasilievna followed the Tsar’s family into exile to Tobolsk. Before leaving, she wrote in her diary: “I can not leave here without thanking God for that wonderful peace and power that He sent me and supported me for all these almost five months of arrest. I close my eyes, give myself completely, without questions or murmurings into the hands of God with confidence and love. “

In May 1918 Anastasia Vasilievna arrived in Ekaterinburg with four of the Tsar’s children. But she was not admitted to the Ipatiev House, but was instead transferred to a Perm prison. Anastasia Vasilievna, prayed fervently and tried to remain cheerful, although she was exhausted by the illnesses and burdens of imprisonment.

On the night of 4th September 1918, Countess Hendrikova was awakened and taken with a group of prisoners outside the city where they were killed. Only a few months later, after the arrival of whites, the bodies of the dead were discovered, and Anastasia Hendrikova was buried in the cemetery in Perm.


The corpse of Countess Anastasia Vasilievna Hendrikova, discovered in Perm between November 1918 to January 1919


Memorial cross to Countess Hendrikova and Ekaterina Schneider in the Yegoshikha Cemetery, Perm

The bodies of Hendrikova and Ekaterina Adolfovna Schneider (1856-1918) were recovered by the Whites in May 1919, and were reburied in the Yegoshikha Cemetery. However, their graves were later destroyed when the Bolsheviks regained control of the city. In October 2012, thanks to the efforts of a group of parishioners from churches in the city, and with the blessing of the Metropolitan of Perm and Solikamsky Methodius, a new cross was erected at the site where their remains had been initially buried.


Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Perm

A memorial service with prayer was also performed for Hendrikova and Schneider on 4th September, at the alleged burial site in the Yegoshikha Cemetery, which is situated near the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Perm.

In October 1981, Hendrikova was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). On 16th October 2009, the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation decided to rehabilitate 52 persons of the Imperial family and their retainers who had been subjected to repression, including Countess Anastasia Vasilievna Hendrikova. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 4 September 2018

Memorial Cross to the Holy Royal Martyrs erected in London


On 13th July 2018, the day after the Feast of the Holy Apostles Sts Peter and Paul, a new memorial Cross to the Holy Royal Martyrs was erected on the grounds of the Diocesan Cathedral of the Mother of God and the Royal Martyrs in London.

The memorial Cross, which has been commissioned to mark the centenary of the martyrdom of the Imperial Family, was carved of red granite by special commission of the parish. The lower Altar of the Cathedral is dedicated to the honour of the Holy Royal Martyrs, and it seemed fitting to the faithful of the community to pay homage to the holy intercessors by erecting a Cross in their honour, to serve as a perpetual monument to the God-pleasing lives of these saints.

The initial erecting of the Cross will be followed by landscaping of the nearby territory to accommodate the new monument, which will be formally blessed on the day of the Cathedral’s full consecration on the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, 21st September 2018.

The Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Holy Royal Martyrs took place at the London Cathedral at 9.00 a.m. on Tuesday, 17th July 2018 (n.s.), served in the Lower Church. It was celebrated by His Grace Bishop Irenei together with clergy of the Cathedral, Diocese, and guests from the surrounding areas. The new memorial Cross was visited as part of the Cross Procession of the Altar Feast. 

© Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland (ROCOR). 22 August 2018

Russian Orthodox Church in Dispute Over Porosenkov Log


Royal Russia Founder at Porosenkov Log, during his visit to Ekaterinburg, July 2018

Back in March 2016, I reported that Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye had made a request to the Sverdlovsk regional government to transfer the land in and around Porosenkov Log (3.7 hectares) to the Ekaterinburg Diocese. The territory is simultaneously claimed by the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local History in Ekaterinburg. My report was followed up by a second article on the dispute in July 2017 (see links below for both articles – PG). 

Since the events marking the 100th anniversary of the death and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family last month, the subject is again making headlines in the Urals media.

According to a document signed by the head of the regional forestry department Oleg Sandakov, as early as 2016, Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye made a request to the regional government to transfer Porosenkov Log to the diocese “for gratuitous urgent use for religious activities.” Scans of the relevant documents (see below) were published last week on the Memorial of the Romanovs Facebook page.


In June 2014, a request was made to recognize Porosenkov Log as a cultural heritage site. Then, the regional ministry of culture planned to transfer the Romanov Memorial site to the Sverdlovsk Museum of Local History. The official opening of the memorial was planned to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the deaths and martyrdom of the Holy Royal Martyrs in July 2018.

In 2016, however, the Ekaterinburg Diocese began to interfere with the plans. In February of the same year, Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye sent an appeal to the Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region Evgeny Kuyvashev, in which he asked to declare invalid the document on the transfer of the site to the museum. The governor granted the Metropolitan’s appeal, with the regional ministry of culture subsequently putting the project on hold. 

“Due to the historical and spiritual significance of the territory, and in order to avoid any disagreements between secular and religious parties, an official note was sent to the governor of the Sverdlovsk region on the expediency of organizing a discussion on the development of the territory as a cultural heritage site with all interested parties,” said the head of the regional department of forestry Oleg Sandakov.

On the eve of the Tsar’s Days held in Ekaterinburg last month, the Russian Investigative Committee confirmed that genetic examinations on the remains found at Porosenkov Log belong to the murdered Imperial family. It was hoped that Patriarch Kirill would officially recognize the remains during his visit to Ekaterinburg, however, this did not happen. An estimated 100,000 people took part in the pilgrimage from the Church on the Blood to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama, where once again the final prayer service was held, which is still considered by the ROC to be the final burial place of the bodies of the royal martyrs. Porosenkov Log was not included in the pilgrimage.

Despite the fact that the authenticity of the “royal remains” has not been recognized by the ROC, the Ekaterinburg Diocese is unlikely to back away from its plans. It can not be ruled out that the dispute over the site will be put on hold until the time when the church changes its position.

It is believed that not “if” but “when” the Moscow Patriarchate officially recognize the “Ekaterinburg remains”, that a new monastery in honour of the Holy Royal Martyrs, similar to the one situated 3.8 km down the road at Ganina Yama, will be constructed at Porosenkov Log.


Paul Gilbert at the second grave where the remains of Alexei and Maria where discovered in 2007

Click HERE to read my article ROC Seeks Claim to Site of Royal Remains Grave Near Ekaterinburg (3 March 2016); and HERE to read my article Ekaterinburg Eparchy and Local Museum Argue Over Future of Porosenkov Log (24 July 2017)

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 13 August 2018

Photos of the Imperial Family Adorn the Streets of Banja Luka


В честь семьи Романовых (In honor of the Romanov family).

Banja Luka, the largest city in the Republika Srpska, is located in the west of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the days marking the centenary of their martyrdom, the Royal Passion-Bearers were honoured in a special way, wereby stands with photographs of the family of Nicholas II, were established on the streets of the city, bearing the words: В честь семьи Романовых (In honour of the Romanov family).


Bust of Nicholas II installed in Banja Luka on 21 June 2014

During the spring, an exhibition and a solemn evening dedicated to the Tsar’s family were held in the city, and a bust of Nicholas II was installed on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I – 21 June 2014.

The bust was presented to the Republika Srpska as a gift by the Russian Military Historical Society and the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies. The author of the monument is the famous Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli. The bronze monument is more than 2 meters in height. A plaque installed on the pedestal, features the bilingual –  Russian and Serbian – inscription: “In memory of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II, the defender of the Serbian people, and the fallen soldiers of the Serbian Volunteer Corps.” 


The Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord, currently under construction in Banja Luka

A Russian-Serbian church in honour of Nicholas II is currently under construction in Banja Luka. The Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord will be built in the Old Russian architectural style. It will also have a side-chapel in honour of the Royal Passion-Bearers. The architectural project was prepared by Moscow architects Alexei Kapustin and Alexandra Skabichevskaya. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 3 August 2018

Bust of Nicholas II Established in New York City


This monument is considered the most faithful to the likeness of Emperor Nicholas II

On Tuesday, 17th July, the feast day of the Holy Royal Passion-bearers, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York celebrated Divine Liturgy in the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York City.

Attending the divine services were parishioners and faithful of various parishes, representatives of the Romanov family, and Cossack delegates.

Upon completion of the service, Fr. Tikhon read aloud Metropolitan Hilarion’s Epistle on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the martyrdom of the holy and right-believing Royal Passion-bearers.

His Eminence and the clergy served a short moleben before icons of the Royal Passion-bearers and other holy relics housed at the Synodal cathedral: a reliquary with the right hand of the Holy Nun-Martyrs Elizabeth and Barbara.

Metropolitan Hilarion then thanked all those who prayerfully honored this day with their presence, and gave the floor to the general director of the Russian National Creative Workshop “Art-Project,” LLC, and the International Foundation for Mutual Development & Strengthening of Spiritual Unity and the Religious & Historical Values of Russian Orthodoxy in the Homeland & Abroad “Under the Protection of the Theotokos,” Eugene (Evgeny) Korolev. It was these organizations that presented the cathedral a gift: a bust of the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II. 

“This image was first made before the revolution, out of stone. During Perestroika in the Soviet Union, vandals desecrated it,” Korolev explained. “After the fall of the USSR, in 1993, the bust was brought from Crimea to Moscow, to the workshop of Russian national artist Vyacheslav Klykov. They created a mold of the bust and poured it in bronze. Unfortunately, we do not know the identity of the original artist who created this marvelous work. But we do know that this monument is considered the most faithful to the likeness of Emperor Nicholas II. I would like to offer my respect to Vyacheslav M. Klykov for granting new life to this work of art.

“In Russia they are currently celebrating the ‘royal days,’ and I think the most important thing for us is to learn lessons from this tragedy and never repeat them.”

Korolev congratulated everyone on the occasion of the feast, and presented Metropolitan Hilarion with a dove prepared in the workshop, as well as pouches with soil from the holy sites of Yekaterinburg, where Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, and their children were held captive, and where they were all murdered.

For his work with the Cossacks, Eugene Korolev presented Fr. Tikhon with the Order of Emperor Nicholas the Second.

Flanked by clergy, the First Hierarch proceeded to the entrance to the cathedral, where the bust of the Tsar-Passionbearer Nicholas II had been installed, and blessed it.

The festivities concluded with a banquet in the cathedral hall. 

© Eastern American Diocese | Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. 3 August 2018

Putin’s Russia and the Ghost of the Romanovs

This article was originally published in The Economist on 17th July 2018

The commemoration of an act of regicide falls short of expectations

The awkwardness of remembering the Romanovs

THE commemoration could have been a great and solemn moment of truth, a time to reflect on the passage from one era of Russia’s tragic history to another. 

As it was, the proceedings were impressive enough: tens of thousands people gathered in the city of Yekaterinburg in the Ural mountains for a nocturnal act of worship to recall the killings which had taken place there exactly 100 years ago. The victims were Tsar Nicholas, the Empress Alexandra and their five children, along with their doctor and three servants. Many worshippers trudged for miles between the spot where the killings took place and the mineshaft where the bodies, doused in acid, were thrown.

But in one important respect, this was a flawed act of remembrance which disappointed some people, including quite a few surviving relatives of the Romanov family. In defiance of overwhelming scientific evidence, the Russian Orthodox church is still refusing to accept as genuine the remains of the royal family, most of whom were solemnly buried in St Petersburg in 1998. The two bodies which were discovered only in 2007, those of the crown prince Alexei and his sister Maria, have yet to receive a decent interment, in part because of the church leadership’s unwillingness to settle the matter. 

It was widely hoped any remaining doubts over the identity of the remains could be cleared up in time for this month’s centenary. This nearly happened, but not quite. On the eve of the anniversary, the secular authority which was responsible for probing the evidence made its clearest statement to date that the remains were all genuine. As one Russian news report put it, a spokeswoman for the investigative committee said:

the findings of comprehensive DNA tests confirmed that the remains found outside Yekaterinburg were those of former Emperor Nicholas II, his family members and people close to them. The molecular and genetic tests have shown that seven of the 11…remains are of members of one family: mother, father, four daughters and a son.


Patriarch Kirill leads a procession of tens of thousands of pilgrims from the Church on the Blood to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama on the morning of 17th July 2018

This unambiguous verdict from secular experts could have been a good moment for the church, at the 11th hour, to overcome its professed doubts, but the cue was not taken. Instead, a church spokesman merely said the Patriarchate of Moscow had “taken note” of the new findings but it would plod on with its own analysis of the evidence.

The reasons for the Patriarchate’s reluctance to accept the scientific data have been something of a mystery, even to close observers of Russia’s religious scene. But some light on the matter has been shed by Sergei Chapnin, a Russian Orthodox journalist who was editor of the Patriarchate’s journal until his dismissal in December 2015.

Mr Chapnin told The Economist that as far as he was aware, all the scientific information presented over the years to senior members of the church affirms the authenticity of the remains. If there had been any tiny shred of doubt over the remains buried in 1998, it had been cleared up after the discovery of Alexei and Maria in 2007, who were swiftly identified as part of the same family as the previously interred bodies, thanks to laboratory techniques which were growing ever more sophisticated. 

Why then the reluctance to accept these conclusions? Mr Chapnin believes the church leadership is unwilling to confront, or disappoint, a contingent of 100,000 or so fervent royalists who have long been nostalgic not just for the martyrs of 1918 but for the general principle of divinely appointed, absolute monarchy. 

People in this ultra-conservative camp were sceptical, back in 1998, when the first set of bodies were interred; that was partly because of their antipathy for the liberal government of the day, headed by President Boris Yeltsin, which organised the interment. In the face of this scepticism, the late Patriarch Alexy was obliged to profess agnosticism over the identity of the bodies, as a way to avoid massive internal rifts within the church.


The Holy Royal Martyrs

Over the years since, being sceptical about the identity of the Romanov relics has become a sort of touchstone of zealous religious nationalism. In Mr Chapnin’s view, the church leadership is nervous about contradicting this group, and above all it is unwilling to admit that its own reluctance to accept the relics has been a mistake.

Perhaps there are also some deeper reasons why July 2018 is not a good moment for Russia’s political and religious leaders to reflect honestly on the tragedy of the royal murders, or on the millions of humbler folk who would be killed in the years that followed.

It helps to remember how much has changed in Russian thinking about the past since July 1998, when most of the Romanov family was interred in St Petersburg. At that time, President Yeltsin made a moving speech, drafted by one of Russia’s most respected liberal thinkers, the historian and camp survivor Dimitry Likhachev. He said the Russian people should reflect on the killings, and on the orgy of slaughter which the Bolsheviks carried out, in a spirit of self-questioning and repentance. 

But self-doubt and repentance are not popular sentiments in today’s Russia. Blaming the wickedness of outsiders for the nation’s woes, and trumpeting one’s own moral superiority, have become much more fashionable, and that new spirit of the times affects everybody, in high and low places. In an ideal world the church would rise above these fluctuating intellectual currents. But it seems unable to do that—and this is unfortunate. A religious leadership which cannot bring itself to accept the conclusions of a scientific laboratory, for fear of acknowledging its own fallibility, will surely have difficulty speaking truth about other, even more painful episodes of 20th-century history. 

© The Economist. 2 August 2018