15 October 2008

An Interview with the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, in the newspaper «Russian News» [Rossiiskie Vesti]

Your Imperial Highness, the process that culminated in the legal rehabilitation of Emperor Nicholas II and his family went on for many years. The rulings of all the lower courts had uniformly been negative—that is, the murder of the royal family was deemed to be a criminal act…nothing more or less…. Was it something of a surprise, then, to learn about the ruling of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation?

I always believed that the rule of law and justice would triumph. And that this matter would be resolved in Russia. But this ruling of the Presidium of the Supreme Court was, to a certain extent, rather unexpected. I had appealed the previous, unlawful rulings of lower courts and moved to have the matter reviewed again. But I had not foreseen that on 1 October 2008, my relatives would be finally rehabilitated. But, thank God, I am delighted no less by this unexpected turn of events.

What do you make of the ruling of the Supreme Court: as merely a validation of the historical record, or as the reestablishment of historic justice, the rebirth of spiritual principles in Russian government?

I see it as both of these things. The state cannot be strong without the observance of the rule of law. Society is ruined if a spiritual and moral grounding is void in it. We perhaps do not yet fully realize it, but surely a very important event has taken place: the modern Russian state—from the moment it recognized the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers as victims of political repression, in full accordance with the laws—no longer bears the bloody responsibility for the regicides of 17 July 1918! Therefore, I affirm that this is not a personal victory for me, but a general victory for my country.

Does the ruling of the Supreme Court open the door to the restitution of lost properties for the House of Romanoff and to the descendants of Russian émigrés of the first wave?

I have, like my father and grandfather, always been against the restitution of property in principle since it would entail a threat to the civil order in Russia. Moreover, I have never linked property or monetary issues with the question of the rehabilitation of the royal family. If I had wanted to receive property or money, I would have acted through any number of international legal bodies without any reference at all to the rehabilitation. But we have not sought anything and we do not require anything for ourselves. Since 1991, we have actively participated in Russian life, we have been in Russia many times, and have never once voiced any such pretentions. When the government implements what has already been recognized in the overwhelming majority of the country, that the Russian Imperial House is a historical institution, and allows its return to Russia on these terms, then the government itself will determine how and in what form it will provide maintenance for us and what aid it will provide for the expansion of our social and cultural activities.

It is possible that someone looking at the prospects of your return to Russia would see it as an attempt to restore the monarchy, and therefore fear it.

The reestablishment of the monarchy is one thing, and the legal recognition of the status of the Imperial dynasty is altogether something else. Not in any of the countries of the world that have allowed the return of their Imperial or Royal dynasties has there been any resulting discord. Just look at Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Hungary, Albania…. Everywhere that the former dynasties have returned, the governments have in one way or another determined its formal legal relationship to it. And nowhere has this shaken the existing constitutional order, but has only made possible a further establishing of the authority of the state. As far as the reestablishment of the monarchy is concerned, only the people can make that decision. We hold to the monarchist idea and believe that legitimate monarchy is most suited to Russia. But we would never agree to a restoration except by the expressed will of the people. In any case, we want to serve our country, and seek no personal advantages.

Interest in the former Russian Empire cannot help but touch on the very relevant question today of the international relationship between the currently independent states that once formed part of the Empire. I would like to know what your opinion is about recent events in the Caucasus, about how it could be that Georgia, which once, of its own free will, became part of Russia, should today be a military adversary? What is your take on the claims of independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia?

You have touched on an extremely tragic and sensitive topic. The present enmity between Russia and Georgia goes against the very interests of Russians and Georgians. It is the result of the irresponsible actions of political leaders who are doing nothing but fulfilling the wishes of foreign powers and who are transforming their territory into a firing range for foreign weaponry, aimed at the citizens of these regions.

The Imperial House has never participated in the dismemberment of the country or in fratricidal civil war. We have always felt ourselves to be in our homeland, whether we be in the Russian Federation, of which we are a citizen, or in any of the other countries that formed after December 1991 in territories of the former Russian Empire. I believe that sooner or later, unity of all the peoples of the Russian Empire will be reestablished. This does not mean the reestablishment of the empire in the same form it had before 1917, and, of course, this does not mean the reestablishment of the USSR. But at an appropriate point in the future, one might find a kind of Commonwealth which would correspond to the present realities and, at the same time, lean on traditions, on the centuries-long experience of our ancestors, who together created a great world power. As for the recognition by Russia of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, this is a convoluted question. Of course, Russia simply cannot abandon to their own fates the peoples of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, the Pridnestr, and the countless other peoples of all nationalities in other countries, who, when the USSR fell, found themselves in these territories and were suddenly and unexpectedly citizens of a foreign country. All of these people trust Russia and expect protection from her. I firmly am convinced that this is one of the important historical missions of the Russian Federation, and, at the same time, I very much hope that Russia’s recognition of the independence of these lands you ask about will not deepen the conflict, and will not be used in the future as a precedent by our geopolitical rivals against the territorial integrity of Russia itself. In such matters it is necessary to show both a strong will and extreme sensitivity, and in no way to permit any double standards in relation to our own interests or to those of the people who expect from Russia help and protection.

(Published without abridgement: “Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna: The Present Russian Government No Longer Bears the Responsibility for Regicide,” an interview by A. Tolstikovich, “Russian News” [Rossiiskie vesti], 2008, 15-21 October, no. 36 (1932).

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