09 May 2015

2015-05-09 Grand Duke George of Russia: Russians at an almost genetic level always strive for peace

2015-05-09 Grand Duke George of Russia: Russians at an almost genetic level always strive for peace

In an interview with RIA-Novosti’s correspondent Angelina Timofeeva, the Grand Duke George of Russia discusses why the memory of the victory in the Great Patriotic War remains such a powerful factor in national unity, and why the remains of members of the House of Romanoff are being reburied in Russia.

© RIA-Novosti, photo by Ekaterina Shtukina

The Grand Duke George of Russia on Saturday, May 9, 2015, lays a wreath at the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park.

— Your Imperial Highness, why are you taking part in the celebrations in Berlin marking the 70th anniversary of the ending of the Great Patriotic War?

— The House of Romanoff has always striven to bring people together and to promote in other countries an understanding of Russia’s position on issues of the day. This is a vital part of our mission. Here in Berlin, I want first and foremost to honor the memory of my countrymen who gave their lives in the struggle against Nazism, and secondly, to demonstrate that Russian history is continuous and unbroken, and that the Russian people around the world are wholly united in solidarity, even if there are specific issues upon which we disagree among ourselves. The Russian Imperial House is removed from all forms of political disputes and places above all else those things which bring people together, rather than pull them apart. Our continuing memory of the victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 and our gratitude to the defenders of our country remain powerful factors of national unity in our day.

Russia has survived many horrific wars. Those who are attempting today to portray our country as some kind of “aggressor” are being very fair. Our people have borne incredible sufferings as a result of wars. Russians at an almost genetic level understand all the horrors of war and always strive for peace. But if we are attacked, we will defend ourselves. The monument to the soldier-liberators in Treptower Park is a good reminder of this. For me, it is deeply symbolic that on this day, when there is a victory parade in Moscow, I and other Russians are representing our country here in Berlin, where, thanks to the feats of our armed forces, the worst war in the history of humanity came to an end.

— Do you have plans to participate in similar ceremonies in Moscow, and if so, which ones?

— This year, my mother, the Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and I will be traveling to Russia several times and participating in memorial events in Moscow and in other cities. These events include panikhida services for fallen soldiers in churches and at military cemeteries, laying flowers and wreaths at statues and monuments, and academic conferences, among other things. And, of course, we will participate in more official events as well—in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and in other large cities.

But it is also important to us to celebrate this anniversary with our countrymen in the border areas and small towns where so many terrible battles actually took place, areas that may be somewhat lesser known. The people living in these places also deserve our attention. And the most touching moments that I have ever experienced have happened in such places. I will never forget, for example, how last year I marked Victory Day in the village of Kabona, on the “Road of Life,” over which the people of Leningrad received life-sustaining aid during the Blockade.

— What is your reaction to the reburial of the remains of Grand Duke Nicholas Romanoff and his wife in Russia, which took place on April 30, in the Chapel of the Transfiguration at the Briansk Military Cemetery in Moscow?

— Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich has every right to be buried in his homeland. But I think it was a mistake to rebury him in Moscow. The Grand Duke had very few ties to Moscow and he never expressed the wish to be buried there. I think it would have been more appropriate to bury him in the family mausoleum—in the Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg, where his father, Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich the Elder, lies buried.

I also don’t quite understand why his remains, and those of his wife, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, were reburied in Russia, but not the remains of his brother, Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich, and his wife, Grand Duchess Militsa Nikolaevna; or those of Emperor Nicholas II’s brother-in-law, Prince Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg. Russia was their homeland, and they too wanted to return to it, even if only after their deaths. And they deserve reburial in Russia no less than does Nicholas Nikolaevich—perhaps even more then he does.

Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich was a very controversial figure. He was not a successful field commander, and the emperor removed him from his post and himself assumed personal command of the Russian forces at the front. And sad to say, during the Revolution of 1917, Nicholas Nikolaevich violated his oath, took part in a conspiracy, and demanded that Nicholas II abdicate his throne. And later, while in exile, he continued to cause divisions and sow discord.

But, when speaking of the dead, we must remember more the good things about them, and there were good things. Nicholas Nikolaevich may have been a poor and unscrupulous politician, but he was also a very brave officer. That can never be taken away from him. He led a large number of charitable activities, and he donated funds for the construction of churches. Of course, he suffered greatly at being exiled from Russia. We hope that, before death, he came to recognize his sins and mistakes and repented of them.

It makes me very sad, frankly, that the Grand Duke’s remains were disturbed not for the sake of doing the right thing by him, but rather for the sake political hype and self-promotion.

For the Russian text of the interview, see:

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