02 September 2000

Interview of His Imperial Highness, the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich, with Journalists from Russian Magazines for Young People

Interview of His Imperial Highness, the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich, with Journalists from Russian Magazines for Young People

Your Imperial Highness, what are Your most vivid impressions of the present visit to Russia?

This time we have come to Russia with a sense of special joy. Something that we have long hoped for has finally happened: the canonization of the Royal Martyrs and of the entire assembly of New Martyrs of Russia. The Royal Martyrs, whom we honor as saints, are at the same time our relatives; therefore their glorification by the entire Church is an especially happy occasion for us. The newly erected Cathedral of Christ the Savior made an especially big impression on me. I was deeply impressed in my heart also by the warm reception given us by the His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II. Unfortunately, all our joy was marred by the deaths of the crew of the submarine “Kursk.” This catastrophe has shaken us. We prayed up until the last minute for the rescue of the Russian sailors. But all things happen according to God’s will. Our submariners are genuine heroes who have laid down their lives for the Fatherland, and their names should forever be remembered in the history of Russia.

What do you think of the actions of the government during this crisis?

I believe that everything possible was done to save these men. I have heard that some people have criticized President Vladimir Putin for not immediately going to Severomorsk. But what exactly could he have done there? His presence would have only disrupted the work of the rescuers who might have thought themselves less able psychologically to choose the best course of action. I do not believe that the secrecy that has surrounded this incident in any way contributed to the horrible deaths of these sailors. Times in Russia now are changing. Of course it is possible that mistakes were made by some persons. But the last word ought to be given to the experts, whom the president has charged with determining the cause of this tragedy.

The last time You were in Moscow was 1998. Have things changed much since then?

Even the last time I was here, I notice how much Moscow had changed. And this time I can see even more improvements. I am proud of our capital city and I hope that it will again become one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

For a long time, there were plans for You to attend the Nakhimov Academy. What prevented you from attending, and what do you think of plans to have you enroll in a Russian military academy?

To be honest, it was your journalistic colleagues who had me “enrolled” in the Nakhimov Academy. When I was still a student in high school and had only begun to come on visits to the Motherland, there had already begun some talk of my attending a military academy in Russia. I have not given up on the idea of getting an education at a military academy. All My Ancestors from ancient times were soldiers—that is the tradition of Our Family. I have always been interested in the Army—the army in history and today’s army. I am always happy when the opportunity presents itself to visit military units or navy ships and to meet with officers and soldiers. I can attend a military academy only in Russia, since I myself do not consider it appropriate for me to serve in a foreign army even temporarily and symbolically. I hope that this question will be resolved favorably. In general, I think that the army offers a lot in the way of experience and preparation for life, whatever a person might later choose to do. I’ve heard that there have been cases of abuse in the army and that there have been incidences when talented young soldiers have died senselessly. But one shouldn’t conclude from this that, in principle, service in the army is a burdensome and unpleasant ordeal, but rather an honorable duty. During the Russian Empire, military training was extremely highly esteemed, as it should always be. And those who defame the army should be expelled from its ranks.

What parts of the life of modern Russian young people interests you most, and do you think it in any way diminishes your title and your position to spend a lot of time with people your own age?

Some people perhaps might believe that Members of the Imperial House are only capable of thinking about their rights and titles. If this were so, then Our lives would be terribly boring. But in fact, we always have seen our position as one first and foremost of service and of duty, and not at all one of rights and privileges. My Great-Grandfather served in the navy in the same way everyone else did, rising from midshipman to vice-admiral; and My Grandfather worked for a time as a simple laborer in a factory in England in order to understand better the lives of ordinary people. And never have our titles prevented Us from being absolutely modern people and able to find immediately a common language with all people with whom we come into contact. I have many friends both abroad and in Russia. Everything about the lives of young people interests me, and I always try to know more and more about it.

Do you have hobbies, things You are especially passionate about?

I love to travel, to play sports, to watch movies, and to be with my friends. During the school year, there is very little time for all this. But a person must also have diversions, knowing, of course, the limits so as not to let these diversions conflict with studies and work. To find a sensible balance between work and personal pursuits is a kind of talent in and of itself, but the one who finds it, lives a better life.

What kind of music do you listen to?

Both to classical music and to modern music, depending on my mood.

What are you reading presently? Which authors do you prefer to read?

Just now I am rereading Chekhov. I very much like authors with a sense of humor, who can clearly and incisively portray a wide variety of personalities. Even in the most serious literary works, there must be at least some small grain of humor, otherwise it becomes lifeless. At the same time, Chekhov has quite tragic works that portray, as one says, laughing through tears.

In Madrid, You went to church quite often. Has that all changed since You have begun studies at Oxford?

Right now, I have fewer opportunities to attend church as I had in Madrid, where I received a blessing to wear the sticharion. But I go to church regularly and our priest has helped me a lot with his advice and admonitions, both in spiritual questions and in matters of everyday life.

At the present time, almost all of Your time during this visit is taken up with official appearances. Don’t You wish you could break free from all these duties and to do what you wanted, if only for one day?

Well, I think you may have a rather exaggerated view of the official side of our visits. Furthermore, although the dedication of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, and the canonization of the New Martyrs, and the audience with the patriarch was part of our official itinerary, I cannot think of them as “official appearances.” These were a time for fervent prayer, and a dynamic, informal discussion. And besides, We did fly to St. Petersburg and back for a day almost with no escort. We prayed before the graves of my grandfather in the Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul, we visited the Cathedral of Christ on the Blood, Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral, the Chesma Church, and we wandered along Nevskii Prospekt. In general, I appreciate during all Our visits those moments when I have the opportunity to talk with my countrymen, with ordinary people on the street, whose warm and touching relations with Us is sustaining and an aid to Us while we live so far from the Motherland.

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