23 August 2017

An Open Letter to Mr. S. L. Taranov, Editor-in-Chief of the Newspaper Novye Izvestiia

On August 13, 2017, an article was posted on the website of the newspaper Novye Izvestiia, which contains a number of libelous claims about Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich, the Head of the Imperial House of Russia from 1938 to 1992.

In the first version of the article posted on this site, all of the false allegations in it were mistakenly directed not at Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich, but at his father, Emperor-in-Exile Kirill Vladimirovich, who died in 1938. This error was later corrected, and now these allegations are all directed at the Grand Duke; but the error in and of itself illustrates the low quality of the editing in this publication. The article is published without any indication of who the author is, but there are numerous citations to the “philosopher and journalist” Andrei Timeskov. The lack of factual knowledge and the surprisingly slipshod argumentation of this gentleman make one doubt that he is up to the task of writing on this subject in any authoritative way. (What, for example, can one say about a person who does not understand that Maria VLADIMIROVNA cannot be the daughter of KIRILL Vladimirovich, or that noble status can be granted only to someone who has not already been born into the nobility, and so on?). Thus we must only hope that Mr. Andrei Timeskov will quickly recover from the dementia from which he so obviously suffers. But the dissemination of such clearly libellous content—so reminiscent of Dr. Goebbels ("If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it")—by such a well-known and important media outlet as yours is both bewildering and deeply unfortunate.

The article alleges that Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich was a member of the SS (that is, he is accused of belonging to a criminal Nazi organization that was condemned and convicted at the Nuremberg Tribunal), and, moreover, held the rank of Obergruppenführer in the SS (a rank that roughly corresponds to that of a General in the German army, or Wehrmacht; in the entire history of the Third Reich, this rank was bestowed only on 109 persons, including Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf Hess, Martin Bormann, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Reinhard Heydrich, Fritz Sauckel, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, and Konstantin von Neurath—that is, to major Nazi war criminals). The same false and ignorant assertion also appears in the caption of a well-known wedding photograph taken in 1938, in which Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich (in tailcoat, wearing several Russian Imperial Orders) appears together with two other members of the Imperial House of Russia (Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich and Prince Vsevolod Ioannovich), who are pictured together with Grand Duke Wladimir’s new brother-in-law Prince Louis-Ferdinand of Prussia (the bridegroom, who had just married Grand Duke Wladimir’s sister, Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna), and several other German princes, who served at that time in the German army or air force—none, it is important to note, in the SS. After the beginning of the Second World War, Prince Louis-Ferdinand, as well as other members of the German dynasty, were discharged from the army and air force by the personal command of Adolf Hitler, and afterward maintained contacts with anti-Nazi circles. The caption to this photo repeats the same libellous charge: that “Wladimir Kirillovich Romanoff served as an Obergruppenführer in the SS.”

Further on in the article, the author claims that the Grand Duke was “close to Adolf Hitler and during the war was a member of his staff, readying himself to be the Fuhrer’s puppet ruler of a conquered USSR.” In fact, after the occupation of France by Hitler’s forces in 1940, Wladimir Kirillovich lived in his own home in Brittany (in the village of St.-Briac), essentially under house arrest. This period in his life is quite well documented. During these years, he offered assistance to the best of his ability to the Soviet prisoners being held in prisoner-of-war camps in the nearby village of Saint-Malo and on the island of Jersey. Only in 1944, before the Anglo-American invasion in Normandy, was he deported by the Germans to Germany; and afterwards, until the spring of 1945, he lived with his sister, Grand Duchess Maria Kirillovna, Princess of Leiningen, in the western part of Germany. In May 1945, he left the French Occupation Zone and traveled first to Switzerland and finally to his aunt, the Infanta Beatrice of Spain (born Princess Beatrice of Great Britain), in Spain. Wladimir Kirillovich of course had no contact whatsoever with Hitler or “Hitler’s staff,” and never visited Hitler’s headquarters. As early as 1938, he had emphatically denied the false allegations of his having “contacts with Reich authorities” and announced that he never under any circumstances agreed to being a puppet “ruler.” (See P. Cherkasov, “Pod kolpakom ‘Siurte’,” Rodina, no. 7 (2005); republished here: http://www.imperialhouse.ru/rus/allnews/massmedia/1497.html). A video of the Grand Duke’s statement in 1938 (in English) is available on the Internet here: https://www.britishpathe.com/video/grand-duke-vladimir-repudiates-czar-of-russia-appo/query/Russia.

The only public address that Wladimir Kirillovich ever made during the Second World War was on June 26, 1941, which contained nothing more than a statement of the fact that the war had begun (“this terrible hour”) and a call to use this moment for the liberation of Russia from godless Bolshevism. As head of the exiled Imperial House, the Grand Duke had many times before issued this same call, including when Joseph Stalin had raised an official toast to Adolf Hitler, when units of the Wehrmacht and Red Army marched together in a victory parade in the city of Brest, and when Vyacheslav Molotov conveyed through the German ambassador his congratulations on the taking of Paris. The Statement of June 26, 1941, has been criticized by some authors as inappropriate and ill-timed, and these authors of course have a right to their opinions. Even so, there is not a single word of support in this statement for the invaders of his homeland. By the way, the leaders of the Third Reich perfectly understood the meaning of the Statement by the Head of the Imperial House of Russia, and an official Nazi government directive at the time prohibited the further dissemination of the Statement, threatening to arrest Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich if it were distributed (see Documents on German Foreign Policy. 1918-1945. Archives of the German Foreign Office. Series D:1937-1945. Vol. XIII, pp. 92-93).

In the years after the war, no one ever accused Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich of collaborating with the Nazis, that is, of committing a state crime: for deliberately, willfully, and maliciously collaborating with the enemy for his own benefit and to the detriment of his own country and its allies. Even Communist propagandists in the USSR, who made it a habit to denigrate both living and dead Romanoffs whenever they could, never sank to the level of slander of the sort that appears in the pages of this article.

The Corps of the Imperial Army and Navy, which was mentioned in the article, was an organization of veterans of Imperial Russia’s pre-Revolutionary military forces, created in emigration in 1924, and disbanded already by 1939, on the eve of the war (and revived only in the 1950s). The Corps had nothing at all to do with those few émigré paramilitary groups that took part in the war on the side of Hitler’s Germany. Several individual members of the Corps had pro-German views and hoped that Germany could become an ally of the Russian anti-Bolshevik forces, but there were just as many who understood the criminal, anti-Christian, and inhumane nature of Nazism and who participated in the Resistance movement.

And certainly there can be no question of whole “SS units” or even just the “monarchists in these units” or any other organizations of any kind, even civilian ones, being under the authority of the Head of the Imperial House of Russia. The Grand Duke was even required at this time to abolish his Chancellery, and to cease all contacts with his representatives in various foreign countries.

For more details on these fact, including references to historical sources, see the following links: http://www.proza.ru/2011/04/20/722, http://www.imperialhouse.ru/rus/extra/vin8/4343.html, http://www.imperialhouse.ru/rus/extra/vin8/4380.html and http://www.imperialhouse.ru/rus/extra/vin8/4364.html.

Regardless of what view of the Imperial House of Russia you personally have, or that the editorial board of this or any media outlet may have, journalistic ethics require a thorough verification of all published information, all the more so when this information includes accusations of criminal activity, like membership in criminal organizations or associations. The libels that you published might well damage the public’s regard for the honour, dignity, and good name of both Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich, and current, living members of the Imperial House of Russia; sow destructive doubts about their integrity among some of our countrymen; and hinder, even if only for a time, the work of the Imperial House on a number of important and ongoing social and cultural projects.

Other libellous fabrications in the article insult the honour and dignity of many prominent sons and daughters of Russia—officers in the military, clergy, and private citizens, who have deservedly been awarded the historical orders and medals of the Imperial House of Russia.

The dynastic orders, which have always been maintained in emigration, are honorary associations engaged in charitable and patriotic activities and, by the rules of international law, remain the historical property of the Imperial House of Russia, much like the orders of other formerly reigning dynasties. The Imperial and Royal Orders are recognized as such by other royal dynasties (including those still reigning), by the Russian Orthodox Church and other local Orthodox churches, the Roman Catholic Church, the Armenian-Gregorian Churches, the spiritual leaders of various non-Christian traditional confessions in Russia and other countries, and by various international academic societies. For more information, see: http://www.imperialhouse.ru/rus/extra/45/4461.html

The Truth will always win out over slander and lies. No one described Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich better than His Holiness Patriarch Aleksei II in his funeral homily, delivered in St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg on April 29, 1992: “Wladimir Kirillovich spent his entire life outside Russia, living alternately in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and France. But he always saw himself as a foreigner in each of these places, for his thoughts and feelings were always drawn to the country he always considered his true homeland. He never became a citizen or a subject of any of these countries. He believed that the sole purpose for his existence was to serve his homeland in every way he could. He considered it his sacred duty for his entire life, which was at times not an easy life, to fulfill his mission, as he understood it, as best he could” (Aleksei II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, “Homily at the Funeral of Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich,” April 29, 1992, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, St. Petersburg, published in the Zhurnal Moskovskoi patriarkhii; See here: http://patriarh-i-narod.ru/slovo-patriarha/slova-soboleznovaniya/474-slovo-pered-otpevaniem-velikogo-knyazya-vladimira-kirillovicha).

The Imperial House of Russia in no way whatsoever disputes the right of others to criticize it, nor in any way denies its own sins and mistakes, when such sins and mistakes actually occurred. It is, moreover, fully prepared to engage in an honest discussion about those many and various issues that elicit various interpretations and different points of view. But no decent person who respects himself and others, regardless of his social and political views, can ever accept as proper and permissible the methods employed by the authors of this slanderous article about Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich in Novye Izvestii.

We believe that the editorial board of Novye Izvestii permitted an obvious example of slanderous yellow journalism to be published, and that it should immediately publish a retraction, if for no other reason than to restore its own reputation.


A. N. Zakatov, Ph.D.
Director of the Chancellery
of the Head of the Imperial House of Russia

S. V. Dumin, Ph.D.
King of Arms and Head of the Office of Heraldry in the Chancellery of the Head of the Imperial House of Russia; Vice-Chairman of the Russian Nobility Association; General-Secretary of the International Academy for Genealogy

G. Iu. Lukianov
Attorney for the Imperial House of Russia;
Head of the Office of Legal Affairs of the Chancellery of the Head of the Imperial House of Russia


August 23, 2017


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