16 May 2008

Interview with the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna in the newspaper Novye izvestiia, 16 May 2008

Interview with the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna in the newspaper Novye izvestiia, 16 May 2008

It is a strange contradiction, isn’t it, that everyone everywhere is talking about the recently discovered remains, and how they are being prepared for burial in the Peter and Paul Cathedral, and at the same time the authorities stubbornly refuse to recognize the Royal Family as victims of political repression? Why do you think this is so?

Why this is so is a question better put not to me, but to those who, despite the law and common sense, refuse to recognize the obvious, generally-recognized, and proven facts of that case. Probably, someone sees an opportunity to benefit politically from the people’s veneration of the Royal Martyrs, rather than an opportunity to make a decisive break with the politics of terror. His Holiness Patriarch Aleksei II of Moscow and all Russia just recently said, in answer to questions from journalists: “the execution of the Royal Family was the beginning of the repression of and the awful terror against all the peoples of Russia.” And the terror in Russia has not ended until our government has rehabilitated the Royal Passion-Bearers, finally overturning the ruling, still in effect to this day, by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee that the decision by the Ural Soviet to execute the Royal Family was “recognized as legal.”

Perhaps Medvedev will help?

In this matter, help is not needed since I am not, after all, asking for anything for myself. I am striving to have the law fulfilled and an injustice rectified, an injustice that remains a bloody stain on today’s government. The president of Russia is the guarantor of the observance of the laws. Dmitrii Medvedev in one of his first statements as president recognized the presence in our country of “legal nihilism” and announced his firm intention to fight against it. But I would suggest that in the given situation an appeal to the president for help would be appropriate only when we exhaust all other legal avenues granted to the citizenry of Russia.

Do you believe that the remains belong to Aleksei and Maria?

I very much want to believe it. But in the present situation, unfortunately, this is not a question only of belief, but also of the results of honest scientific studies.

Why did you not agree with the studies in 1998 and with those done now?

Concerning the studies of the recently found remains, I cannot say anything since the final results have not been made public. But in 1998, there remained too many questions, to which the State Commission could not give any concrete answers because, obviously, they were not trying to establish the truth but rather to put on a political show. For me, this was and remains the resolute position of the Russian Orthodox Church since what we are talking about here is not only my relatives, but also canonized saints. And the Church, as is well known, did not find sufficient bases to recognize the Ekaterinburg remains as authentic.

Father Vladimir Vigilianskii hinted that the opinion of the Russian Orthodox Church could change if new studies in Denmark were to confirm the authenticity of the remains.

One must respect the opinions of all and pay attention to them, but the official position of the Church can only be voiced by His Holiness Patriarch Aleksei and by the Holy Synod. Let’s wait until they issue a statement about all this.

Well, in that case, how should one consider the “old” remains”?

I think that, in any event, one ought to return to the 10 questions posed in 1998 by the patriarch. If one can now obtain more concrete answers to them, then, perhaps, something will in the future change.

But if these remains are not authentic, then where are the actual remains located?

As far as I know, some relics from the Royal Passion-Bearers were taken out of Russia thanks to the investigator N. Sokolov and are now located in the Chapel-Memorial of St. Job the Much-Suffering in Brussels. But there are still other stories which, in my view, appear to be less plausible than the story of the “Ekaterinburg remains.”

Will you continue your legal struggle for the rehabilitation of the Royal Family? In what ways will this struggle proceed?

Yes. I will make use of all the possible legal means made available by the laws of Russia.

Although Nicholas II has been included in the choir of saints, historians continue to debate what was more important during the years of his reign: his victories or defeats. Is it possible given the present circumstances to maintain objectivity on this question?

I venerate Nicholas II as a holy passion-bearer and martyr who gave his life for his people and for his faith. If one is to speak about him as a leader of the government, then of course one must acknowledge his mistakes and failure to understand the nature and complexity of the circumstances in Russia at that time—shortcomings that any government leader might have. The tragedy of the matter is that, if in any other historical situation these mistakes would have been a mere disappointing misunderstanding, in this time of revolutionary crisis at the beginning of the twentieth century, these shortcomings only helped to push the country toward catastrophe. But in any case, the sovereign has atoned for his shortcomings and miscalculations with his martyr’s death, which he accepted courageously and in a truly Christian fashion.

Hasn’t it become common to think of Nicholas II as a weak political leader, and at the same time to emphasize, to single him out as an exemplary family man?

One is not inconsistent with the other. The relationships in Nicholas II’s family were very much a model, an example for emulation. But this does not mean that the sovereign was so totally absorbed with his family that he forgot his royal duties. He was a complete personality with firm convictions. During his reign, despite troubles that started during it, there were many accomplishments in the economy, and there important reforms that were initiated. The accomplishments of Nicholas II were recognized by prominent foreign leaders, including, for example, Churchill.

What was the influence of Rasputin on the Royal Family and on the Emperor?

In Rasputin, the Royal Family saw a representative of the people, who conveyed to them the hopes of the common people. My grandfather, the Emperor-in-Exile Kirill Vladimirovich, in his memoirs, wrote quite accurately when he said: “To his credit, Rasputin had a good peasant’s sense down to the end of his life to remain a son of the people, whose well-being he always desired.” In addition, Rasputin actually did help Tsarevich Aleksei, who was horribly suffering from hemophilia, something his grieving parents could not but highly prize. As far as his political activities, even the Extraordinary Investigation Commission of the Provisional Government, made up entirely of revolutionaries, was forced to admit that, in this area, the influence of Rasputin was unsubstantiated.

What do you think of the idea of canonizing Rasputin?

This is so much whistling in the wind. One would first have to sort through the many lies that have been spread about him on account of his close relationship with the Royal Family in order to cleanse his reputation. This does not mean that I believe he was a saint. In my view, this idea has been raised by people who want to call attention to themselves.

In the years before the revolution, many had turned against the tsar, even among those who were next to him, even among the clergy, and welcomed the coming of a republic and the Provisional Government, even at the Church Council there was…

Revolution is mass psychosis, a collective darkening of the mind. Many of those who abandoned the sovereign, who betrayed him in 1917, later repented, as the Apostle Peter, who three times denied Christ, repented. Judas, that is to say, those who did not find in themselves the courage to recognize their own sin of treason and try to extirpate their guilt, were, all the same, in the minority.

Is there even the slightest truth to the theory that the Royal Family, or some members of it, might have escaped execution?

No. As far back as the investigations of N. Sokolov, it has been established with 100% certitude that all members of the Royal Family and their faithful servants were shot to death in the cellar of the Ipat’evskii House on 17 July 1917.

And what about the story about the heads of Nicholas II and his heir being in Lenin’s safe, and other such stories?

The answer to this question we will only have when the secret inventory of the contents of Lenin’s office is finally made public. Without the inventory, and given his barbarity and monstrosity, we cannot ever rule this out. But we cannot make such assertions as this without firm proof.

What were the fundamental accomplishments and mistakes of Nicholas II?

During the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, the population of Russia was not in decline, but was swiftly growing, the economic growth of our country was growing at a rate higher than most other countries in the world, reforms were directed toward the creation of a strong middle class, labor legislation was among the most progressive in the world, and Russia was a power to be reckoned with internationally. These, of course, were the accomplishments not only of the sovereign but he was the head and symbol of these achievements. Nicholas II was a genuine “proprietor of the Russian land”, as he described his occupation in the official national census. He was a “proprietor” not in the sense of possession, but in the sense of a zealous effort to care for and expand the well-being of his native country. But the main deficiency of Nicholas II I believe was that he all the same could not create around himself a harmonious circle of statesmen that he needed; could not, as his father Alexander III did, get his ministers to complete successfully their reform programs. If Nicholas II had a disagreement with one of his ministers, he preferred simply to give in. Here I see a fundamental weakness as a ruler. On the day of his abdication, the emperor wrote in his diary: “All around me is treachery, cowardice, and deceit!” But then he had himself chosen those that were around him. But for the sake of fairness, on must say that the guilt here was not only with the character of the sovereign, but also with the general spiritual crisis which was reflected in the higher layers of the Russian Empire at the beginning of the twentieth century. We should learn our lessons from the past and utilize the positive experience and attempt not to repeat the mistakes.

(Published with a few omissions in: Boris Babanov, “Prichiny tragedii Nikolaia II iasny (Reasons for the Tragedy of Nicholas II are clear),” in Novye izvestiia, 19 May 2008.)

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