23 March 2017

Interview of the Head of the House of Romanoff with the Spanish News Agency EFE, March 9, 2017

Interview of the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. the Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, with the Spanish News Agency EFE, March 9, 2017.  Below is republished a translation of sthe official text of the interview, which has been authenticated by Her Imperial Highness.

Why do you think Emperor Nicholas II decided to abdicate his throne?  Were the deciding factors political, or had the Russian monarchy become alienated from the people?

Monarchy is a structure of government and a system of values, which organizes a nation around the principle of a family.  Therefore whatever mistakes at this or that moment in history that may have been made, it in its very nature cannot ever really “become alienated from the people.”  The abdication of Emperor Nicholas II was, in fact, dictated by his love for and connection to the people, his wish to prevent a civil war or at least to minimize the number of victims of it.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t prevent the fratricide that followed.  But he was motivated first and foremost not by political calculations but by his own religious beliefs and patriotism.

Was there an alternative to abdication?  Could he have saved the monarchy?

Of course, one can imagine the emperor making different decisions at that critical moment.  Some people think that he should have crushed the uprising with an iron fist.  But those who say that do not take in consideration that the revolution was not simply the result of a conspiracy or even the result of broad political, economic, and social problems.  The root causes of the revolution lie, first and foremost, in a profound crisis in the entire system of traditional values, a crisis that was affecting the entire world, not just Russia.  This was a crisis not only of monarchy, but of religion, the family, and the entire moral foundations of society.

Given the state of public consciousness in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century, no ruler, no matter how wise or strong he may have been, could have prevented the Revolution.  Inevitably, the “time had come for throwing stones,” and we had to go through monstrous trials and tribulations so that now, nearly 100 years later, we can begin to pick up all these stones strewn about the ground.

Do you consider Nicholas II to have been a good tsar?  What were his major achievements and gravest mistakes during his reign? 

Emperor Nicholas II was a deeply religious man, who loved his country and strove to bring peace to it and to the entire world.  He cared deeply for the welfare of his people.  During his reign, during all 23 years that he was on the throne, the population of Russia grew by one and a half times.  By most economic indicators, Russia still lagged behind other more developed countries, but its rate of increase outstripped every other nation in the world.  Russia’s labor legislation was one of the most progressive in the world, something that even US President William Howard Taft acknowledged publicly.  The Russian Empire had a bright future.  These favorable forecasts for Russia were shared by some of the greatest minds of the time, like, for example, the great Russian scientist Dmitry Mendeleev and the prominent European economist Edmond Teri.  Emperor Nicholas II made significant contributions to all these advances and achievements.

If we are going to talk also about mistakes, then I would point out that, in all his intelligence and firm convictions, in all his willingness to adopt and implement progressive changes, Nicholas II was simply not the one to take the lead on instituting major reforms in the nation.  And he, his government, and members of the elite in general were unable to explain to the people the meaning of the policies he was pursuing.  They were unable to identify the necessary catchwords and public relations methods that would convey their ideas broadly among the populace. 

There were egregious gaps in the education system, as well.  While it did well at providing an intellectual and professional preparation, education in Russia in this period in many ways fell into the hands revolutionaries and members of the opposition, who introduced into the minds and souls of the nation’s young people, from the earliest years, many anti-religious, anti-government, and anti-patriotic ideas.  They succeeded in politicizing and radicalizing the educational process, and the government was unable either to stop this radicalization, nor to substitute its own effective model for the formation of a healthy national consciousness among the country’s young people. 

And one must also acknowledge that, quite unlike his father Emperor Alexander III, Nicholas II never was able to build around himself a “team.”  This wasn’t his fault alone; it was a by-product of the general spiritual crisis of the times.  However, the “treachery, cowardice, and deceit,” of which the tsar-martyr wrote in his diary on the day of his abdication, was very much in evidence long before the revolution erupted in Russia.

What do you think about the figure of Rasputin?  Was his influence on the Imperial Family positive or negative? 

Gregory Rasputin has been the target of much slander.  Most of the rumours that circulated about him were unsubstantiated.  He wasn’t a saint, but nor was he a demon in human form.  The Imperial Family considered him a friend who conveyed the feelings and aspirations of the people to them.  Moreover, he provided real healing help of one kind or another to the ailing heir to the throne, Tsesarevich Aleksei, who suffered, as we all know, from hemophilia. 

His closeness to the emperor of course produced much envy.  Many hated Rasputin and spread gossip about his personal life and his interference in governmental affairs.  But in point of fact, even after the Revolution, when the Special Investigation Commission of the Provisional Government, which was hardly impartial on this question, looked for evidence of Rasputin’s influence on governmental decisions, it was, at the end of the day, unable to find any traces of that influence at all.

My grandfather, Emperor-in-Exile Kirill Vladimirovich, who was, of course, an eyewitness to all these events and knew all these persons, wrote in his memoirs about Rasputin and his relationship to the Imperial Family.  Let me quote from his memoirs: 

“It may be said to his credit that he had the common sense of a peasant to remain to his end a son of the people to whose cause he was always greatly attached.  He was often approached by various people for honours and advancements.  The whole Rasputin episode has been greatly exaggerated.  Those who consulted him and sought his company were seeking to curry favour, and the flattery and admiration thoroughly demoralized this peasant, as was only natural for a man of his extraction.  Meanwhile the Czarevitch lived, and that was the most essential thing to the Imperial couple.  They have not deserved the calumny which has been poured over them because of Rasputin.”  

What role now does the Russian Imperial House play in Russia and what role should it play in the future?

At present, our main role is to keep alive our connection with the past.  The Russian Imperial House does not participate in politics, but it remains a historical institution and a living symbol of the more than 1000-year history of Russia.  We take an active part in the civic life of our country, without setting any preconditions.  Our activities mainly are in several spheres, including philanthropy, promoting the religious, ethnic, and civil harmony of our society, the restoration and maintenance of good relations between Russia and the independent states that have formed on the territories of the former Russian Empire, the preservation of the cultural and natural heritage of our country, helping the Orthodox Church and other traditional religious confessions defend the moral foundations of our society, and the promotion of a positive image of Russia on the international stage.

As for what role that we or our descendants will play in the future, this entirely depends on the Will of God and the desires of the people of Russia.

Do you think that the monarchy in Russia might one day be restored?  What would be the conditions under which a restoration might happen? 

I believe in the future of monarchy as a form of government, rooted in history, and in the spiritual, moral and cultural values of Russian civilization; a form of government that can guarantee continuity and stability, which can harmoniously combine the quest for freedom with the need for social order, which is capable of introducing modernizing breakthroughs without breaking with the legacy of the past, which is independent of political parties and plays the role of a neutral arbiter, protecting the interests of the nation as a whole.

Many who speak out against monarchy are often uninformed or have been fed propaganda full of distortions.  As interest in and respect for our country’s history increases, we see a decline in these negative attitudes about monarchy.  But it is much more complicated and requires much more time to build something than it is to tear something down. 

In any event, the restoration of the monarchy can only happen in accordance with the expressed will of the people, based on a clear understanding of the nature of the monarchist principle of a State-Family, on an understanding of all aspects of this form of government, after a comparative analysis of other systems of government.

A formulaic, mechanical restoration of the monarchy through some political deal making or conspiracy among and between elites would not be acceptable to me or to the people of Russia.  Any restoration of the monarchy should be preceded by a serious and extensive period of education and preparation.  Otherwise, the restored monarchy will not last nor achieve fully its potential benefits for the nation.

Do you see your son George as the future Tsar of Russia, or do you imagine some other role from him in Russian society?

We live by the principle that we inherited from our ancestors:  “Always do what’s right, come what may.”  Therefore we don’t like to take anything for granted about the future. 

From the very beginning of the dynasty, the Romanoffs have looked on their position not as some coveted brass ring, but as a burdensome cross to bear.

If our people should call upon us, or upon our successors, to fulfill their ancestral duty, we will not ignore them.  But it would be false and wrong to attribute to us any aspirations for power.

Whatever the future of the monarchy might be, we will strive to be of use to our country in any way that God deigns.

Do you happen to know what President Putin thinks about the restoration of the monarchy?

We know from his own statements that President Putin is not against monarchy as an institution, and is objective in his thinking about its role in the modern world.  He certainly respects the history of the Russian monarchical tradition.  But he, as the democratically elected president of the republic, also operates within confines of a republican worldview.  So it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to discuss these questions with him, nor certainly even to raise these kinds of questions ourselves with him.

As far as the restoration of the monarchy in Russia is concerned, no matter how different our views might be from President Putin’s, both we, as the preserver of the monarchist idea, and the president, who officially of course supports democratic ideals, are united in the view that neither now nor in the foreseeable future does there appear to be the right conditions for a restoration of the monarchy.

At this stage, with the situation inside the country and in the surrounding world being what it is, a strong presidential republic is optimal for Russia.  At the same time, there is sufficient freedom of thought and expression in Russia today for the idea of monarchy to continue to live, be debated and discussed, and influence the social and culture life of the country.

Article 13 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation prohibits the establishment of an official state ideology and guarantees freedom of thought.  This provision in the Constitution creates the basis for harmony in society and fosters dialogue between the present government, various social groups and organizations, and traditional historical institutions.

Is there much support for the idea of monarchy today in Russia?

Social scientists cite a range of statistics—from 10% to 12% in favor of monarchy, to as much as 28% to 30%.  But I very much suspect that the current methods for taking surveys do not fully accurately measure the numbers of those who favor the restoration of the monarchy versus those who favor a republic.

Many who call themselves monarchists do not really mean “monarchy” when they use that word, but rather mean dictatorship, or a figurehead monarchy, or something else.  In the same way, many who declare themselves in favor of a republic in fact are much closer to a monarchist mentality than they probably even realize.

When the conditions are right for an honest and open discussion of all the pluses and minuses of both monarchy and republics, then we can know which really is more popular.  The fruits of many decades of politicized and dishonest anti-monarchist propaganda can still be felt in society, which continues to have its effects on public opinion.  It is still very much a “lop-sided game” against monarchy and traditional values.  But the imbalance is gradually being corrected as more and more freedom becomes the norm in Russia.

What do you think about the October Revolution and its consequences for Russia and the world? 

The events of October 1917 were the natural outcome of what began in February of that same year.  Moderate revolutionaries were able to compel the emperor to abdicate, to overturn the historic foundations of the state, and to seize power, but they weren’t able to hold onto it.  They were replaced by still more radical revolutionaries, who completely broke with Russia’s historical heritage and embarked on a sweeping and global social experiment.  However, the attempt to construct an atheistic and totalitarian “earthly paradise,” was, like all such utopian experiments, doomed to failure from the very beginning.  Along the way, it took countless lives, killed off a whole generation, and caused incalculable damage to the cultural heritage of Russia and the other countries that fell under the power of this experiment in Communism.

Do you think that the Russian people have healed the divisions that the events of 100 years ago produced?

Unfortunately, the consequences of the Civil War still reverberate today.  The wounds inflicted by the Revolution do not heal overnight.  Sometimes they can manifest themselves years later, in completely unexpected ways and in unanticipated forms.  We can see this sort of thing in Russia, in Spain, and in other countries.  And so we can never just ignore these manifestations and pretend that everything now is good and fine. 

One of the main goals of the Imperial House is constantly to urge our countrymen, regardless of their different political beliefs, to avoid mutual recrimination and to let go of the idea of seeking revenge from the “other side,” whether that other side be the “reds” or the “whites.”

I always like to remind others of the words of Emperor Nicholas II, which were included in a letter sent by his daughter from captivity, not long before his martyrific death:  “Evil will never be defeated by evil.  Only love can defeat evil.”

What did the Soviet Union mean to you?

My country continued to exist, though called then the Soviet Union.  Both my grandfather, Emperor-in-Exile Kirill, and my father, Grand Duke Wladimir, always made a distinction between the political regime ruling Russia, and the interests of the great multi-ethnic people of our homeland.

For us, the militant state-led atheism, totalitarianism, and the terroristic methods of rule that were inherent in the Communist regime of the USSR will always remain utterly abhorrent. 

But we reverently and very sincerely honour the achievements of the people during the Soviet period, who, in such difficult circumstances, worked so tirelessly for, so deeply loved, and so heroically defended their homeland; who defeated Nazism; and who produced enormous achievements in many fields of science and the arts.

Please publish modules in offcanvas position.