07 January 2008

Interview of the Head of the Russian Imperial House, Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, with the Senior Assistant General Editor of “INTERFAX”, Viacheslav Terekhov, on 30 December 2007.

Interview of the Head of the Russian Imperial House, Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, with the Senior Assistant General Editor of “INTERFAX”, Viacheslav Terekhov, on 30 December 2007.

Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna: “I will continue to press for the rehabilitation of my relatives until justice is done.” 

As fate would have it, your family resides in Madrid where you live to this day with your mother and son. From such a distance, how do you see Russia today and what do you think is its role in the international arena? Do you consider Russia to be your homeland?

Russia was and remains a great power. The revolution of 1917 set as its goal the destruction of Russia’s spiritual foundations and the forced transformation of the entire governmental and social structure of Russian life. This experiment was an obvious failure. Thank God we have begun to rediscover precisely our Russian national values, and not to create a new utopia.

Many difficulties lie ahead. The temporary weakening of the position of Russia after the terrible and bloody twentieth century was unavoidable. But most important is not to lose heart. Already there have been numerous successes which allow us to hope for a rapid recovery of our country in every way. We have no other homeland and never could have any other homeland.

In your opinion, what was the underlying motive, political or legal, for the rejection by the Supreme Court of Russia of the rehabilitation of the royal family? Will you attempt to obtain their rehabilitation in international court, and what do you think your chances of that would be?

The denial of the rehabilitation of the Royal Martyrs was certainly not a legal but rather a political decision. There is no doubt that the royal family and all the other executed members of the Imperial House became victims of political repression and, consequently, deserve rehabilitation in accordance with the law.

A few years ago even the attorney general seemed to agree. I received a certification of the rehabilitation of four of my relatives, four grand dukes, who were shot in the Peter and Paul Fortress where, in black and white, it was written that they “were shot because they belonged to the Imperial House of Romanoff.”

In other words, the state already officially recognized that the very fact of belonging to the dynasty had been a basis for political repression. But now they deny rehabilitation to the head of the dynasty and to his family! In Russia there is no notion of law by legal precedent, but this does not mean that one can so foolishly apply a double standard.

Behind the decision to deny rehabilitation are, I believe, certain political forces which are nostalgic for the totalitarian past, and have not abandoned the dream of revenge. I am convinced that they are profoundly mistaken. To be sure, we should be striving to preserve all that was good that came out of the Soviet period. But crimes should be officially condemned. Otherwise we have no guarantee that the terror will not be repeated one day. Such guarantees will be considered firmly established only if the decision is made in Russia.

I have been approached already many times by distinguished European and American lawyers who tried to convince me that this case could very well be favorably resolved in the international courts. To each and every one of them I have replied that it would simply be pointless to resort to applying pressures from the outside in a matter that is profoundly an internal Russian question.

I will continue to press for the rehabilitation of my relatives until justice is done. But I will do this only in the Motherland. I could refer this matter to the international courts for a legal evaluation of my rights, which the legal process in Russian courts has, unfortunately, allowed repeatedly to be violated.

In the event you do somehow succeed in the courts, do you intend then to raise the question of the restitution of property, and what is your attitude toward this problem in general?

I have on numerous occasions said that I am against restitution because I believe that a new redistribution of property would be dangerous for civil peace in Russia. That was the position that my father and grandfather also held, although in their time it would have been theoretically easier to accomplish a restitution of property.

For Russia, which has liberated itself from the legacy of revolution, what is most needed now is stability. As far as linking the matter of the rehabilitation of the Royal Family with the restitution of property, for me such a linkage of these separate issues is simply absurd. I regret that people cannot understand that in this world there is more than money and property, that there is also the notion of faith, honour, a good name, of human and civil rights. Besides, my grandfather and father had sufficient resources such that I now can do all the things I want to do without having to seek the rehabilitation of the Royal Martyrs as some ploy to obtain the restitution of property.

Do you plan to ask the Russian government to recognize the status of the Russian Imperial House and, correspondingly, to request that an appropriate building be turned over to it?

The Russian government knows full well of the unswerving desire of the Russian Imperial House to return to live in Russia. The experiences of other, republican governments in legally recognizing former imperial or royal dynasties are a secret to no one. All the years of our exile we have striven and today still strive to be of use to our country without any preconditions. In 1992, we ceased being stateless. Our Russian citizenship was restored and we now have all the rights and duties of a citizen of Russia.

Naturally, we could do a great deal more if the current government took a more determined position toward the Russian Imperial House as a historical institution of the nation. But we intend to ask nothing for ourselves. When Russia does what the majority of nations have done in this regard, and the state considers it useful to have the Imperial House return and play a more active part in social life, then I am certain that the state will work out all the legal and practical details to make that happen.

What is your view of the identification of the recently discovered remains of what seem to be two children of Nicholas II? What are your feelings as you await the outcome of the expert investigations?

I very much want to believe that the discovered remains belong to my martyred relations. But, given the sad experience of the expert investigations of the remains found earlier near Ekaterinburg, I approach the present situation with considerable caution. I hope that this time the expert investigations will be conducted in strict accordance with scientific protocols, fully open to public scrutiny, and everything will be done for the purpose of establishing the truth, not for the sake of putting on a political show. In any case, for the Imperial House, the position taken by the Russian Orthodox Church will be crucial since we are talking not only about remains, but about the relics of canonized saints.

You frequently go on trips abroad. In the course of your meetings with political leaders and figures in society, do you ever touch on the issues in the foreign policy of Russia?

Of course, in my discussions with foreign governmental and society figures, the conversation always eventually moves to Russian issues. I always try to engage my interlocutors in an open and honest conversation, to see an issue not just from one angle, but from many angles. And so that he understands the position of Russia. This does not mean that I always and on every point agree with the activities of the Russian government. On many points I have, as any citizen has, my own opinion—some things I like, some things I do not like. But I would assert that no one has the right to treat Russia in a condescending way, to dictate their will to Russia. We as a country have made mistakes and have corruption and do employ double standards. But other countries are guilty of these things no less than Russia.

When I explain this, many foreign politicians express their agreement with me. Perhaps I have in this area a large fund of trust because everyone knows that I do not participate in any political stuggles, I stand outside all party politics and I strive in these conversations always to represent the general national interests of Russia.

Does the Russian Imperial House seek to play any role in the efforts to return lost cultural artifacts back to Russia?

One of my most important functions, I believe, is to assist the ongoing rebirth of Russian culture. This work should take many forms, including working for the return of our patrimony which found its way abroad. I am very glad when I learn that one or another religious or political artifact has been sent back to Russia. In many instances, the Lord has allowed me to advise or actually myself be the one to arrange the return of these artifacts. I hope that I will be able to continue this work on into the future.

Let me take this opportunity to wish all my countrymen a Happy New Year and a Merry Christmas! May God bless you all.

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