17 February 2010

Interview of H.I.H., the Heir, Tsarevich, and Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich with the Newspaper “Zavtra” [Tomorrow], 3 February 2010 (published 17 February 2010)

Interview of H.I.H., the Heir, Tsarevich, and Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich with the Newspaper “Zavtra” [Tomorrow], 3 February 2010 (published 17 February 2010)

Your Highness, as the heir of the Imperial House, do you think of yourself as a potential monarch?

The status of the Head of the Imperial House, who at present is my mother, Grand Duchess Maria Wladimirovna, and of her heir, naturally enough includes the possibility sometime in the future of being not only the head of the dynasty, but also of our homeland. Of course, this can only happen if the Russian people decide that they want and require the monarchy once again. If the day comes when I am called to this service, I will not turn away from it. But at present, I, following the example of all the heads of our House in exile—my great-grandfather, my grandfather, and my mother—strive to live according to the maxim: “Do your duty now, and let the future take care of itself.” It would be senseless to sit and dream: “What will I do if I ascend the throne.” I strive to be useful to my homeland in the position that I hold now, to help my mother to fulfill her duties, and to accumulate professional experience and knowledge that will be useful under any circumstances I may find myself in the future.

In your opinion, how should the monarchist idea be implemented in our present day circumstances?

The restoration of the monarchy should happen only by means of a deliberative and free expression of the people’s will. I feel sure that if the people got honest and objective information, they would make the correct conclusions and would make a choice that corresponds best with their genuine national interests. History shows that a formal majority often can make mistakes. But if the people regard themselves not as a “mass” and not as a “population,” but as a collection of individuals united with common values, respectful of their ancestors, and themselves desiring that this respect should be preserved by future generations—then the people will not make a mistake. I’m sure you’ll agree that the reestablishment of the monarchy after the Time of Troubles in the early seventeenth century—the 400-th anniversary of which we will soon be celebrating—dramatically illustrates my point.

Can the Russian monarchy exist without an Empire, in the context of a more limited “nation-state”?

In the foreseeable future, I cannot imagine conditions whereby Russia would lose its multinational character, no matter what form of government it should have. But if we are talking theoretically, a genuine empire is not a system in which one people dominates the others, but rather a familial and fraternal collection of people united by common goals and interests, and which preserves unity within plurality. Russia has from the beginning been a multinational state and over the length of its entire history has striven to integrate its peoples into a unified Empire. But at the same time, there were periods in the past when centrifugal forces prevailed. Over the course of centuries, the Muscovite principality succeeded in forming a unified, centralized state, even though at first it was quite small territorially and inferior to other surrounding “local national states.” The reason for this success was, in my view, the fact that the Muscovite state, on the one hand, managed to adhere to a firm monarchical principle, and on the other, its political system was sufficiently flexible and appropriate for the time period. Indeed, the Muscovites were able to make compromises, but in so doing they did not betray their ruler; and in the course of several generations, they determinedly achieved the unification and liberation of their country. Today, Russia has, because of the harsh consequences of several revolutions in the twentieth century, certainly been handed a set back. But, I repeat that I am convinced that we shall never sink to being a “local national government.” On the contrary, I believe that Russia has the chance not only to preserve its present territorial wholeness, but may also find the peoples of the former Russian Empire attracted to Russia and to a new model of integration. I well understand that this would not be the pre-revolutionary Russian Empire or the USSR. However, reference to the best examples from the past would permit us to preserve at least a unified cultural space.

The political platforms for many conservative groups begin with the obligatory denunciation of the Soviet period. What in your view does the restoration of the monarchy mean for Russia? Is it a kind of political revenge, or a kind of avant-garde project for the Russian future? Is it a restoration, or an nuanced attempt at uniting the nation with a sensitivity to the aftermath of the Soviet experience?

That is a very good question. The restoration of the monarchy cannot under any circumstances become an opportunity for revenge. Emperor Nicholas II abdicated his throne precisely so as to foster reconciliation and to prevent fratricide. The Russian Imperial House never took part in the Civil War when it broke out. We are neither “Reds” nor “Whites; and we have never held hopes of exacting revenge. The revolution was a horrendous national tragedy. Our dynasty suffered enormously from it. But so did the entire nation, including even those who created and participated directly on both sides of those momentous events. If our thoughts and hopes are directed toward the future, we can not hope to reach that future by opening old wounds and remembering old grievances. My mother has long called upon our countrymen to seek not that which disunites us, but that which draws us all together. If we want to return Russia to its rightful place in the world, we must not continue to do injury to each other, but rather to begin to forgive and to ask forgiveness. And to move forward with goodwill and solidarity, and not with hatred and grudges.

Monarchy is an idea that fosters genuine unity of the people. Being, as it is, a system that is based on laws and inheritance—that is, a system that is continuous and unbroken over time—it brings together the citizens of a country not only for short-term goals, but, building on a centuries-long tradition, for the sake of the future. The monarchy is duty-bound to consider all lessons of history—both the good and the bad. To forget the past surely is no help in avoiding the mistakes of the past. It is necessary to provide a moral and legal appraisal of the events of the past. For example, nothing can justify the violent atheistic character of totalitarian regimes and the class-based and racial genocides they engineered, when millions of people were butchered for things they could not change—like their national origins or the social backgrounds. But in condemning the crimes and mistakes of those times, one does not throw the baby out with the bath water. In the Soviet period, in the life of our people, there were many bright and heroic moments. My great-grandfather, Emperor Kirill Vladimirovich, and my grandfather, Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, always called for the sharp distinction between the atheistic and inhumane Marxist-Leninist ideology, on the one hand, and the indomitable spirit of the people, which no chains could ever hope to hold captive.

The Russian Imperial House is certain that monarchy is a modern and progressive form of government which has a place in the modern world. It is capable of synthesizing together the positive experiences of all periods of our history, including even the Soviet period. As my great-grandfather put it quite well in one of his addresses: “It isn’t necessary to eradicate every single institution that arose out of these life circumstances, but it is necessary to reject those that destroy the human spirit.” I fully share this view. These words encapsulate precisely my own position.

A monarchical system must necessarily depend on a group of “supporters.” What stratum of society, in your view, should constitute that group of supporters? The Oligarchs? The army? The intelligentsia?

Monarchy is an all-national idea. It cannot depend on individual classes or social groups. One of the main features of legitimate, hereditary monarchy is that the head of the state derives his power only from God. And therefore the ruler is able to be a genuine arbiter, a Father of the Nation, to whom all citizens are equally dear and regarded as members of his family. The monarchy should enjoy the support of all segments of society. Of course, the state cannot exist without some form of hierarchical structure. But the ruling class should be open, constantly being infused with the best representatives of all social classes and groups. And these same classes and groups should rightly be permitted to function in the legal system and in civil society, possessing all the necessary rights and responsibilities.

Your ancestors, the tsars and emperors: do you sense your own specialness, your belonging to the history of your family; do you, so to say, not dream about the former dynasty?

Dreams…no dreams, really, but certainly a sense of belonging, as, I am sure, any person feels a sense of connection to one’s own ancestors. And even if one never thought about it, there are, of course, the genetic links that tie one to one’s ancestors. My ancestors have departed this life, but a part of them remains in us, influences our character, our temperament, and consequently, our actions. The sense of belonging I feel fosters self-discipline in me. We must strive always to behave in such as way as to never bring shame upon our ancestors, and also so that our descendants should never be ashamed of us.

Is your position as heir to the Imperial house a burden for you? Does your status disrupt your private life?

Well…answering no to your question would imply a certain lack of seriousness on my part, and a yes would perhaps signal excessive pride. To be sure, it is an enormous responsibility any time you have people putting their trust and hopes in you because of the position you occupy. But at the same time, it is also a source of encouragement, especially in difficult times. I cannot say that my position is at all a burden. But I understand that this is an enormous responsibility. I have the right to a private life, especially because I do not at the present time have any official governmental responsibilities. But I nonetheless cannot do many of the things that private individuals do. My mother and my grandparents have raised me with a consciousness of my role as a torchbearer. If I were even to have the passing thought: “And why shouldn’t I after all be able to do this or do that?”, then immediately a red light would go off in my head. There have been times when I was annoyed that I missed some or other opportunities, but then, later, when I was thinking about things a little more clearly, I saw that I had usually made the correct and wise decision to exercise restraint. God has arranged our lives such that all things work out in the end, so it really is pointless to complain about it.

Do you have any favorite heroes or villains in Russian history?

I admire the calm and confident style of governance of Alexander III. During his reign, Russia was a genuine great power, whose international standing was based not on fear and enmity, but on genuine respect. When he died, even the geo-political enemies of our country paid tribute to him because he had been a guarantor of international stability. Someone who is often overlooked is Ivan III, who in 1480 ended through peaceable means the Tatar Yoke. After all, it was he was the father of the independent sovereignty of our state. Rulers like Ivan III may not be noted as much for their vast conquests or their important reforms, but in fact they did more for the country than many other, better-known rulers. But in general, the most important hero of Russian history is, of course, the Russian people themselves. It has been their lot to make enormous sacrifices for passing “state interests.” But what kind of interests were these, and whose interests were these, if they should require the sacrifice of millions of people? The genuine heroes are not those who won the struggle for power, having bumped off their fellow citizens without any punishment for their actions, but those who did the most to save and preserve lives. And whenever there has been a threat to our national existence, our people did not have to be convinced to make sacrifices for their country, as all the wars from the campaigns of Oleg and Sviatoslav, down to the Second World War of 1941-1945, plainly show.

Interviewed by Andrei Smirnov and Andrei Fefelov


Published as “The Grand Prince: ‘History is made by the People….’ The Heir to the House of Romanoff is interviewed by Correspondents of “Zavtra,” 17 February 2010, no. 7 (848)

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