04 November 2017

AN ADDRESS from the Head of the Imperial House of Russia, H.I.H. the Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, on the 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution of 1917


Dear Countrymen,

The year of the 100th anniversary of the Revolution of 1917 is drawing to a close.

As we approached the date of this anniversary, discussions in the public about the dramatic events of a century ago have increased and intensified. In 2017, the discussion of the Revolution and its consequences assumed a particularly emotional character. Along with an effort to provide an accurate and fair assessment of what happened in Russia in the 20th century, sometimes, unfortunately, there were also attempts to open old wounds and to sow again the seeds of dissension among our people.

Our understanding of any historical period should be based not on one or another party ideology, but on the system of spiritual and moral values that took shape during the long course of Russian history. If we truly want to understand the reasons and results of the internal troubles and bloody battles in our country’s history, it is all the more important for us to make the effort to see beyond one or the other side in the conflict.

The Russian Imperial House, by God’s grace, never took part in the fratricidal Russian Civil War. But it bears its own measure of guilt for the fact that the Revolution took place at all in Russia. And it had to go through much the same expiatory sufferings that millions of its countrymen had to endure. For the Holy Royal Passion-Bearer Emperor Nicholas II, his family, and other members of the dynasty who remained in Russia, this meant martyrdom, and for those who ended up abroad, this meant the harsh bitterness of separation from their homeland, grief for their relatives and friends who perished or disappeared without word, and privation and poverty.

So, indeed, our dynasty has much for which it must repent, and, at the same time, one can also see the injustice and cruelty that were delivered to it and to it supporters and friends.

But I, not in any way wanting, even inadvertently, to be among those who fan the flames of the Civil War, have decided to issue this Address on the 100th anniversary of the Revolution, not on some other day connected to the outbreak of violence and the tragedies of that troubled time, the memory of which casts a long shadow over our consciousness, but on November 4, when all citizens of Russia celebrate the Day of National Unity: a day when millions of Orthodox faithful raise their prayers to the Mother of God on the feast day of Her holy and miracle-working Kazan Icon; a day when we all recall glorious and unifying events of our national history—the victory of the Volunteer Army of Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitrii Pozharsky in 1612, and the assumption by Peter I the Great of the title of Emperor in 1721.

On this bright holiday, dedicated to peace and harmony, I want to share with you my feelings that issue not only from my head but, before all else, from my heart.

One cannot change the past. But it is within our power to learn from the mistakes of the past and to do everything we can so that our nation never again is divided into irreconcilable warring sides.

First, we all, regardless of the differences in our views, must recognize that the Revolution was a shared tragedy. Was there an alternative to revolution? Who is most responsible for the Revolution? Why did one side win and the other side lose? Were there more losses or achievements for Russia as a result of the Revolution? These are all questions that will be asked and debated for a long time. But one can never see it as a good thing when children kill their parents, and when parents kill their children, and when brother and sister exterminate each other.

The Revolution had political, social, and economic causes. However, the main cause of the Revolution, I believe, was a profound spiritual crisis. At that time, our people and a significant part of all humanity were disillusioned with the entire traditional system of values—not only with the traditional values in monarchy, but those in religion, the family, and in many other spheres of our lives.

The historical state structure of Russia was destroyed not because it had powerful opponents (though these opponents did play a role in events), but largely because its defenders were too indifferent and divided.

If the entire nation had been united and resolute, and if its leaders had had firm principles and had acted for the sake of the common good, no domestic revolutionaries or foreign powers would have been able to rock the stability of the government.

It should be acknowledged that the élite in the Russian Empire were unable at that time to find an adequate and acceptable answer to the aspirations of the people for reform. The Revolution, unfortunately, was by no means an accident caused by some momentary convergence of circumstances, but was an inevitable catastrophe, which happened as a result of a combination of historical causes, which were building over many years.

The Revolution developed in Russia in progressive stages, even with all the ethnic diversity in the Empire. The opposition and moderate revolutionaries, who had removed the Emperor from his throne in February 1917, were unable to hold on to power. They plunged the nation into chaos, and in October they were in turn replaced by the most radical of the revolutionary parties, which had promised to fulfill all the people’s hopes and aspirations, and embarked on a grandiose experiment to erect a fundamentally new world order.

This experiment was founded on the utopian idea of a perfectly just and equal society, a kind of “earthly paradise.” But no matter how outwardly beautiful and appealing such ideas are, they are utterly unattainable, and attempts to realize them in practice always turn to disappointment and disaster.

That is precisely what happened in Russia. The hopes for a world-wide revolution were never realized, and the attempt to create communism in one country was also a failure. The Communist regime was compelled to act in conditions that were determined by life itself, not by armchair philosophies and party theories.

In the Soviet period, we observe a tension between two basic realities: the implementation of a totalitarian, materialistic ideology, and the attempt to resolve the kinds of real and practical problems that any government of any political persuasion confronts. These two realities in their dialectical relationship and in their contradictions determined more than anything else the way of life of the people of our country over the course of more than seven decades.

On the one hand, party dogma and the implementation of that dogma by the government in the USSR were woven into a complex knot, and it is impossible to tease them apart. On the other hand, these were nonetheless two very different factors working in two very different directions—one artificial and imposed from above, the other organic and issuing from the necessities of the life of the people.

The Heads of our House in exile certainly understood the distinction between these two factors.

My grandfather, Emperor-in-Exile Kirill Vladimirovich, as early as 1922 began to formulate a model for national reconciliation, founded on the healing of the antagonism that existed between the Reds and the Whites. Addressing directly the participants on both sides of the Russian Civil War, he insisted that “there are not two Russian armies! On both sides of the front lines there is only a single Russian Army, selflessly devoted to Russia, to its centuries-old foundations, and to its time-honoured objectives. It will save our much-suffering Homeland.”

Emperor-in-Exile Kirill Vladimirovich categorically rejected the idea of any White revanche, and sharply condemned the plan of many leaders of the emigration to return to Russia with the help of foreigners’ bayonets. He called for close monitoring of events in Soviet Russia and for distinguishing between those developments there that were incompatible with the historical path of our homeland, and those that were the fruit of the people’s own labors. “It is not necessary to destroy institutions that have evolved organically,” he once said. “It is necessary to reject only those that corrupt the human soul.”

My father, Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich, thought the same way. While a consistent critic of the atheistic ideology and totalitarian form of government of the Communist regime, he at the same time saw the citizens of the USSR as brothers and sisters. He praised their courage and self-sacrifice and he lauded their achievements in science and culture.

The defense of the country against enslavement during the Second World War; the launching of the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin; the important innovations and inventions of Soviet scientists and engineers, the brilliant works of Soviet writers, poets, playwrights, artists, composers, actors, and filmmakers; the triumphs of Soviet athletes—all this was and remains for the Imperial House an enormous source of pride in our country.

When fundamental changes began to come to the USSR in the late 1980s, my father stated: “I always in every way support the constructive and positive aspirations of our countrymen and will resolutely reject all destructive actions, even if they come from those who declare their loyalty to our country’s great past.”

In these last words a clear warning is sounded against those who are committed to revanchism and fanaticism, those who, whilst making insane declarations, pursue their own narrow, clannish interests.

For those who truly love their country—regardless of their religious, ethnic, social, or political affiliations—atheism, totalitarianism, terroristic methods in government and mass repression, and barbaric assaults on the nation’s historical and cultural legacies can never be acceptable. These things are Evil, in whatever guise or under whatever slogans they may appear.

In post-revolutionary Russia, all this unfortunately took place. But there was also unparalleled heroism and unrivaled energy, and great heights of scientific and artistic achievement. Alongside the ruthless and cruel methods of governing the society and economy of the country, which unnecessarily entailed a great number of victims, the history of the USSR also includes positive efforts that addressed and resolved many social and economic problems, efforts that could and should be thought about as we look at the similar problems we face today.

Thus it would in no way be just to try to erase the Soviet era from the history of Russia or to depict it entirely in dark tones.

“White” revanchism, which emerged after the fall of the USSR, is as unacceptable as “Red” revanchism, or any other kind of revanchism. All revanchism produces a “pendulum effect,” inevitably generating a powerful resistance against it and, sooner or later, a backlash. If, in our struggle with one extreme we take the side of the other, we have not made things any better in the end, but have only exacerbated the situation.

The strength and well-being of the people are inconceivable without inner peace and solidarity, and peace and solidarity are unattainable without a spirit of mutual forgiveness, patience, and respect.

It is pointless to try to seek peace and create unity on the basis of a falsified history, by erasing or deliberately distorting the facts. We must not forget the sins and mistakes of our past, so that we may not repeat them. All crimes, no matter who committed them, must be condemned.

But we must also not resort to double standards, forgiving ourselves for doing precisely that for which we brand others. If we find some excuse or other for our actions, then we must apply the same criteria to the actions of our opponents.

It would be wrong to believe that national reconciliation can result from everyone adopting one particular point of view. Unanimity of thought is never a feasible goal anyway, and even the outward appearance of unanimity can be achieved only through force and violence.

True unity comes from compromise precisely between peoples with very different views and principles, and who maintain those views and principles but nonetheless respect the other side and are prepared to work together with them on the basis of the shared foundations of love of the country and conscientious service to it.

It is vitally important to see, first of all, the good, and not the bad, in others, and to find in him, before all else, a friend, not an enemy, paying attention not to those things that separate us, but those things that bring us together.

For our own well-being and for that of future generations, we must not only forgive those who have caused us pain, but also ask them for forgiveness.

Repentence is not a humiliating or demeaning thing, but something that lifts us up and cleanses. But it is unreasonable and sinful to demand repentance from others, proudly seeing ourselves as sinless judges. Only by giving an example ourselves by our own repentance can we show those around us the salvific meaning of true repentence.

If we all at least tried to act in accordance with this attitude toward life, Russia would not only overcome the sad consequences of the upheavals of the 20th century, but would surely acquire new strength and vigour, and would flourish again in all its spiritual, political, and cultural greatness.

Today, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, commemoration services are being held for all the victims of the troubles that have befallen our country. For those who fell in battle, regardless of what side of the front they fell on. For those who were tortured and executed in prisons. For those who died because of unbearable living conditions, forced on them by ruthless social experiments. For those who died in exile, far away from their homeland.

Among them were people on the Left and on the Right, people of all religions, nationalities, classes, and estates. There were ardent resisters to the government and fierce and convinced supporters of it. The majority were good, honest, and sincere people, striving for Truth, though they understood Truth differently and sometimes, to be sure, had very incompatible positions. I like to believe that their striving for Truth in and of itself, and the suffering that they all endured, opened for them, even in their last moments of life, the light of Truth, reconciled them with History, and opened to them Eternal Life before the face of God.

Remembering them all together, praying for the remission of their sins, voluntary and involuntary, we will be better able to relate dispassionately to the past and more deeply feel that which draws us together in the present.

Let us be guided by the immortal words of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearer Emperor Nicholas II, which were conveyed by his daughter, the Holy Royal Passion-Bearer Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, not long before his execution: “Evil will not defeat Evil. Only Love will defeat Evil.”

I and my son and heir, Grand Duke George of Russia, ask you all to accept our wishes for health, long life, family happiness, zeal in serving our country, strength in all your endeavors, prosperity, success in upholding our laws, and, most importantly, faith, hope, love, and peace of spirit, to you and emanating from you, to all that surrounds you.

God bless you!

(The original is signed by Her Imperial Highness’s own hand:)


October 22/November 4, 2017
Feast Day of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God
Day of National Unity

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