Joyous Paschal Greetings from the Head of the Russian Imperial House!

From the Chancellery of the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. The Grand Duchess Maria of Russia:

The Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. The Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and her son and heir, H.I.H. The Grand Duke George of Russia, thank all their countrymen who have sent them greetings on the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and likewise extend their warmest paschal greetings to all:

Christ is Risen!
Indeed He is Risen!

Глава Российского Императорского Дома Е.И.В. Государыня Великая Княгиня Мария Владимировна и ее сын и наследник Е.И.В. Государь Цесаревич и Великий Князь Георгий Михайлович благодарят соотечественников за поздравления с Великим Праздником Воскресения Христова и в свою очередь приветствуют их Пасхальным возгласом: 

Христос Воскресе! 

Воистину Воскресе!

An Interview of H.I.H. the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George of Russia with the online journal

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia at a service in the Maltese Chapel of the Vorontsov Palace, Suvorov Military Academy, St. Petersburg.

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia at a service in the Maltese Chapel of the Vorontsov Palace, Suvorov Military Academy, St. Petersburg.

Interview of H.I.H. the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George of Russia with the editor of the online journal, Vitaly Kotov. 

—Your Imperial Highness, we would like to ask you a few questions and we apologize in advance if they repeat in any significant way questions you may have been asked in previous interviews.

You were born and grew up in Madrid, Paris, and St.-Briac and you studied in a school with children who did not speak Russian, yet your parents strove to raise you in the language and in the traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church. How did they manage to do that, given how difficult it must have been for them and for you, when all your classmates did not speak Russian and most of them never even knew who you really were?

—Being raised in the Orthodox Faith and in Russian traditions was a necessary and completely natural part of our family life. It simply could not have been any other way. The hardest thing about being raised in exile has been preserving the language. A foreigner who doesn’t know a word of Russian can, of course, be Orthodox. Nor is it really all that necessary to speak Russian to follow Russian traditions. Many descendants of Russian emigres are Orthodox, they bake bliny on Maslenitsa and kuliches on Easter, and they even sometimes observe some Russian national traditions that have been entirely forgotten in Russia; yet they sometimes don’t speak the language of their ancestors. The fact is that, in an environment dominated by another language, where one’s native language no longer has a practical use, your knowledge of that language quickly dies out. Even those who have spoken Russian from birth, but later find themselves living in a different county, still make grammatical mistakes and have acquired an accent. And these problems are only magnified among those who were born and raised in exile. In school, when among friends, when out and about, when out shopping—in all these settings you have to speak in other languages. It’s only with your family at home or among a small group of your countrymen, who are themselves also living in exile, that you can speak what you consider to be your native language. And indeed, we have lived the better part of our lives Spain, where there are very few Russians.

The fact that I speak Russian I can attribute to my own determination, and to the insistence of my mother, grandfather, and grandmother. They always believed that it was extremely important not only to know the history of Russia and to have an understanding of its spiritual and cultural foundations, but also to speak Russian. And they believed this even in those years when it seemed that there wasn’t the slightest hope of our ever returning to Russia. So we spoke to each other in Russian at home, and my family impressed upon me the need to know Russian well, even when I was, as any young child might be, a bit unenthusiastic about working with the tutors whom my parents arranged for me, in addition to my regular school work.

Of course, I know that I still need to work on my Russian. The other languages I speak more regularly have had an impact on my Russian skills. I know I still make mistakes, that I can mix up the grammatical cases, and so on. But I understand absolutely everything said to me and I can always formulate my thoughts in Russian. Speaking Russian is an enormous source of joy for me, and I’m very grateful to my family that in my life there was never a period when I did not speak Russian. Unfortunately, many members of other exiled royal dynasties do not have the advantage of having spoken their native languages at home, and so they have to learn the language from scratch later on. My mother and I never had to go through that period of adjustment when it comes to Russian because we were raised with it.

—What are some of your brightest childhood memories? 

—I remember very fondly how we celebrated Easter and Christmas. How my grandfather would dress up as Grandfather Frost, and I wouldn’t know it was he. I remember very well the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus, when I served during the liturgical services. I was blessed to wear the sticharion and to assist the bishop, the future First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Metropolitan Laurus. And of course one of my strongest and brightest memories is of my trip to Russia in 1992. I was at that time enormously grief-stricken by the death of my grandfather, whose coffin we accompanied to Russia for burial. But together with that sadness there was also a veritable kaleidoscope of events, meetings, and new friends. And an awareness that with this trip we were restoring our connection to Russia, which I had only known through tales and stories.

—What was your relationship like with your grandfather and grandmother? At what age did you realize that you belonged to a special family? What limitations did your status place on you as you were growing up? 

—My parents divorced when I was only 4 years old. Therefore the main male influence in my life came from my grandfather. He was an extraordinary man: he was very kind, he related very well with young people, he was a good teacher, and he was a magnetic personality. My grandfather could switch effortlessly from discussing serious matters to talking with me or other children, and he always found it easy to find a common language with us.

The relationship between my grandmother and grandfather was faithful and unfailing. They never fought and they provided for all those around them an example of mutual love and respect.

My grandparents and my mother have always impressed upon me that the position of being a member of the Imperial House is first and foremost one of duty and responsibility. They taught me to be modest and they explained that one must treat everyone with genuine and true respect.

I never really had any limitations placed on my friendships. Quite the contrary, my family always wanted me to learn to interact well with my peers no matter what their background.

—In 1992, you made your first trip to Russia, as it turns out, for a very somber reason—the burial of your grandfather, H.I.H. the Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich. What impressions did Russia make upon you at that time, a Russia that had effectively just gone through a peaceful revolution? 

—Because I was so young, I was not fully able to appreciate the political, social, and economic realities of the time, but I nonetheless sensed that the country was going through something that was very difficult and painful.

—It just so happens that I was at the funeral and I remember that the ceremony was rather modest. The casket wasn’t even brought to the Church in a hearse, but came on a bus—that’s how poor and disorganized the country and the city of St. Petersburg were at that time. You’ve been to Russia and St. Petersburg many times since then. How have things changed?

—I don’t remember all the details of the protocols and ceremonies at that time, but in my heart I will forever remain grateful to my countrymen, who displayed their genuine sorrow and grief at the passing of my grandfather. St. Isaac’s Cathedral, where Patriarch Aleksei II served the funeral, was wall-to-wall with people, and all the streets leading to the cathedral were lined with those who had come to pay their respects to the Head of the House of Romanoff. Being a child at the time, I saw only a sea of people, but now I understand how great was the people’s spirit, a spirit that had been preserved despite decades of atheistic and anti-monarchist propaganda. I understand now their faith and capacity for love and compassion, and their respect for their history.

—Shortly after your first visit to St. Petersburg, it was suggested that you attend the Nakhimov Naval Academy in St. Petersburg. Did you hear about this idea directly from the Academy, and how did you and your family react to this suggestion? 

—The idea was mentioned to us indirectly during our next visit to St. Petersburg. Despite the fact that some of our supporters, including some Russian generals and officers, had expressed doubts about the feasibility of this idea, my mother and grandmother were in principle in favour of it, and it seemed to me that it might happen. But for me to receive a military education in Russia, I needed the approval of the relevant military commanders. The problem wasn’t how to create for me a special exception to all the rules, but, as you yourself might understand, in order for a plan like this one to move forward we had to settle first the legal question of the status of the Imperial House. There were some around President Boris Yeltsin who preferred to keep that matter “in limbo,” and, unfortunately, time passed and it became too late for me to enroll in the Academy. I eventually finished high school in Madrid and then went off to Oxford University.

—What are you feelings about your time at Oxford University? What subjects did you study? Did you make many friends there and do you still keep in touch with them now? 

—I remember very fondly my years as a university student. I had more independence than I had ever had before, more freedom in my personal life, and I was learning lots of new things. I mainly studied economics and law. The atmosphere of this medieval city, which since its founding has been a center of science, culture, and education, has left a lasting impression on my life. I studied with students from many different countries. It’s hard to maintain relationships with everyone I met there, of course, because we’ve all gone our own ways into the world. But if we happen to meet, our common Oxford connections always help to break the ice.

—You worked at the European Parliament and at the European Commission. Why did you choose that direction in your professional life and what did you learn from those experiences? 

—After one completes university it’s vitally important to find employment right away, so that you don’t lose what you’ve so recently learned. Fortunately, after Oxford I was offered a position with Ignacia de Loyola de Palacio, one of my mother’s university friends, who was the vice-chair of the European Commission and the Commissioner for Energy and Transport. This was for me a new and exciting learning experience—a university education of a very different sort: I learned how economic procedures work in Europe and in the world generally, and I cultivated my first business connections with my countrymen in Russia, because a large part of my job dealt with global issues.

—For five years you were the chief representative of the company Norilsk Nickel in Europe. What did you do for the company and what did you take away from that experience? 

—In 2008 I was offered a position as advisor to the General Director of Norilsk Nickel. My job was to help represent and advance the interests of the company internationally, to find ways to ease restrictions that had been placed on it as a result of unfair trade practices and regulations. Then for a while I headed a Norilsk Nickel subsidiary company based in Switzerland. In 2009, right after I began working for Norilsk Nickel, I visited the city of Norilsk and had the chance to meet workers and engineers, to learn about their working conditions and what life was like for them in this remote industrial city. Thanks to my time working at Norilsk Nickel, I had the opportunity to visit Russia very regularly and to develop new friendships and business relationships with many people in Russia. I came to understand better how the Imperial House could help its native country, not only as a repository for national traditions and as a symbol of historical continuity, but in a practical way, as well.

—What was your goal in forming the company Romanoff & Partners? What sort of business does it do? It seems worth pointing out that in the biographical notes about you on the company’s website, you are referred to as George Romanoff, without any titles. Why is that? 

—I formed the company Romanoff & Partners to defend the interests of businesses in Russia and other countries that were once part of the cultural and geographical space of the former Russian Empire. We work to promote the development of international economic relationships on the basis of honest, mutually beneficial connections, transparency, and social and civic responsibility. Because these business goals do not involve or in any way depend on my being a Romanoff grand duke, I believe that using my titles would not be appropriate in this context.

—Do the current strained relations between Russia and the countries of the European Union negatively impact the work of your company or, on the contrary, do they actually provide an additional stimulus for promoting the interests of companies from Russia and Eastern Europe in the EU?

—Of course, it has been very difficult to build a company with goals like ours during a “war of sanctions.” Naturally, we have encountered many challenges that we never expected, or, at least, never expected would be this daunting. But on the other hand, the present situation requires the implementation of structures that “build bridges,” and that put the vital interests of people over abstract schemas born of politicking—structures that help restore dialogue. So I tend to be optimistic about the future.

—What do your ceremonial duties as Heir and Tsesarevich consist of, and do these duties eat up a lot of your time? 

—It’s not quite the right word to use that my duties “eat up” time. They don’t “eat up” anything, but rather only add to my life, especially since they are an integral part of how I live my life. Sometimes, it is true, my duties are rather tedious, but they are no less interesting and certainly very important and useful. In our day and age, fortunately, my ceremonial roles have been greatly reduced. Even the most solemn ceremonies that I attend or perform, such as when I present prizes and awards, tend to be short and are not at all overly formal, but are more about recognizing and rewarding someone or some group that has made a very real contribution to the resolution of some problem, not about pomp.

My duties as Heir of the Imperial House are chiefly to support and help my mother, who, as Head of the Russian Imperial House, bears the main responsibility for the social, civic, and cultural work the dynasty does, including its many charitable activities. First and foremost among these activities is the Imperial Foundation for Cancer Research, which is a registered charitable entity in St. Petersburg. My responsibilities also include supporting a number of patriotic and sporting events in various cities across Russia.

—You founded the Imperial Foundation for Cancer Research, which is something that is not widely known by most people. Why did you decide to create this Foundation, and what goals and objectives do you have for it? 

—We had regularly participated in charity events that support patients suffering from cancer. But I noticed that there was much less support for those who are searching for ways and means to fight this dreaded disease. The idea of creating a foundation to support specialists in the field of oncology came to me in 2009. I began to research the issue and to consult with leading experts. In 2013, when we were marking the 400th anniversary of the end of the Time of Troubles and the enthronement of our House, I registered in London a foundation to support cancer research. That same year, during a visit to St. Petersburg, my mother visited the first Children’s Hospice and got to know its founder and director, Archpriest Alexander Tkachenko, and other staff members. We all got together and discussed ideas and came to the conclusion that we needed to create an independent foundation in Russia to support our own oncologists. In 2014, the Russian Imperial Foundation for Cancer Research was registered with the Russian government and immediately got to work on a range of projects. We in the Foundation are trying to maintain the traditions of Russian oncological research from both the pre-Revolutionary and Soviet periods, so that experienced scientists and medical professionals in this branch of medicine can pass on their experience to the next generation of researchers and doctors; so that young oncologists don’t find it necessary, financially or otherwise, to leave the country or quit the profession, but have the necessary means and support to continue their work at home in Russia.

We have developed programmes for supporting and publishing scientific work, we underwrite conferences, seminars, and other events that facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences in Russia and internationally, and we support a variety of programmes that provide continuing education for oncologists and medical specialists. In only a little more than a year, and with only modest funds at our disposal, we helped publish several books and collections of articles, we paid the travel expenses for young specialists, we held a conference for oncologists in the northwest region of Russia, we established a prize to recognize achievements in the field of oncology, and we held the first ever award ceremony, during which we recognized the work of a number of health care professionals. Right now I am preparing to participate in the next Congress of Pediatric Oncologists of Russia.

Besides the Children’s Hospice in St. Petersburg, we are working with and constantly exchanging information with the Raisa Gorbachev Research Institute for Oncology, Hematology, and Transplantation, the N. N. Blokhin Russian Cancer Research Center in Moscow, and with the non-profit pharmaceutical partnership “XXI Century.”

—In June, a Deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Leningrad Region came out with a new draft law he called “On the Special Position of the Imperial Family,” which would create the legal conditions necessary for the return of members of the Imperial House to Russia. What do you think about that idea? In particular, what do you think of his specific proposal to have one of the palaces in St. Petersburg and one in Crimea given over to the Imperial House?

—The basic idea here of granting the Imperial House legal status seems to me to be very appropriate and useful. Almost in every country that today is a republic but was once a kingdom or empire has in one way or another legally recognized the formerly reigning dynasty as a historical institution, and the governments of these countries provide them with support for fulfilling their social and cultural missions in society, to the extent that the laws and constitutions of these countries permit.

Right now, the majority of nations in the world are secular states. But the separation of Church and State does not prevent cooperation between Church and State institutions in preserving the moral structures of society, providing social assistance, and preserving a nation’s historic heritage. Similarly, the State, though a republic, can nonetheless work together variously with the former ruling house to support national traditions, strengthen inter-confessional, international, and internal ethnic peace and harmony, promote philanthropy, advance the nation’s educational system, and so on.

We have not set any kind of preconditions and have not made any overtures of any kind in this regard. My mother and I are citizens of Russia and we try to be useful to our country in any way we can. We respect the present government of Russia and are entirely loyal to the Constitution and the present laws. It is our deep conviction that the only government that would be unworthy of our loyalty, or that of any of its citizens, would be one that attacked religion or terrorized its own people. Short of that, we feel that one must support the government. This doesn’t mean you abandon your own personal convictions and principles or that you never take an independent position on an issue. We remain committed to, and preservers of, the monarchical ideal of the State-Family model of government, and we are legally entitled to hold that view, in accordance with Article 13 of the Constitution of Russia, which guarantees freedom of thought. And we have our own views on host of other issues, such as, for example, reforming health care and education, revising the legal rules governing charities, protecting the environment, and changing the rules and restrictions on historical and cultural monuments. But we express our views on these questions not in a spirit of confrontation with this or that person or agency, but with a view to exchanging ideas and opinions so we can reach solutions to problems together. And we call upon all our countrymen to join us in that exchange of ideas.

I think the world “special” in reference to the status of the Imperial House is not really correct. There is nothing “special” about the legal status of a dynasty. The Russian government now, and for the foreseeable future, is and will be a republic, and the legal status we seek would in no way convey any political power. It would not grant us any special privileges beyond those already enjoyed by our fellow citizens. It does not contemplate any return of properties. In fact, my mother and I have many times publicly and definitively declared that we in principle are against the restitution of property because we believe that it could easily lead to resentment and civil discord in Russia.

This status—not “special” status, just formal, legal status—would include a recognition of the Imperial House as an institution that preserves the continuity of our nation’s history, and that constitutes an integral part of the historical and cultural heritage of our country. Any legal document establishing the dynasty’s status should also define its duties, defend its spiritual, cultural, intellectual legacies, and protect its many symbols and emblems from arbitrary, and perhaps even sacrilegious, cooptation and exploitation. None of this, by the way, would violate the provisions of Russia’s current laws, and in fact would actually reinforce the provisions of Article 44 of the Constitution, which guarantees the preservation of the nation’s historical and cultural heritage.

The question of where we might live after the promulgation of this legal recognition of the dynasty’s status and after our moving back to Russia permanently could all be decided later. We will never agree, however, that someone else’s rights should be stepped on for our sake, or that someone else should loose what they have so that we have something ourselves. We see two possible ways the question of the place of our residence could be resolved: either a historical building that is in poor repair now and not occupied could be restored, or an entirely new residence could be built. In either case, the funds for the project must come from private sources, either from donations or in the framework of a joint public-private project. But in no way, shape, or form should this project be financed publicly, out of the state budget.

Our idea is that our residence (and perhaps down the road, several residences) would become not only a place where we live and work, but also a center for philanthropy, culture, and education. It should be connected to social institutions that, for example, feed the poor, provide health care to the homeless, has a chapel, has playgrounds accessible to all children, a library, an exhibition hall, and so on.

—The notion of descendants of formerly reigning dynasties returning to their home countries is not so strange. One can point to the case of the return of members of the House of Savoy to Italy, for example. There have been similar suggestions here in Russia but they all came to nothing. What do you think it would take to turn this general discussion into concrete steps that could actually bring the Imperial House back to live in Russia? 

—Every country is different. In Italy, which you mentioned, they didn’t execute the royal family, but up until 2002 the Constitution forbade members of the Savoy dynasty from entering Italy. In Russia, there was never any formal prohibition on entry into the country, even during Soviet times. However, in reality, all the members of our House who remained in Russia were executed between 1918 and 1920, and those who escaped could not return or even visit without risking immediate persecution from the authorities. However, when the situation in the country began to change, there were no obstacles—legal or otherwise—to our visiting our homeland. The process of our House returning to Russia began in November 1991, when my grandfather and grandmother visited the USSR, which was then still in existence. Even so, my grandfather made one precondition: he refused to travel to his own country on a visa. He was met on arrival by government authorities and granted entry, although he didn’t yet have a Russian passport. Our Russian citizenship was restored in 1992. And since that time the Russian Imperial House has been integrating itself continually, and in more and different ways, into the life of the nation.

But in order for the Imperial House to return permanently to Russia, the following things must happen first:

First, all our countrymen who believe that the Romanoff dynasty and its system of values can be of use to Russia must understand that others will also agree with us only if they see good, positive results from the work we do. Each of us must do more than espouse ideals; we must make those ideals part of our daily life and work. And we must do not only what’s good for us, but also what’s good for others, even if that is not always easy.

Second, it is important that those who take an interest in a particular issue, both those who speak out “for” and those who are “against” that issue, be honest with their opponents and with themselves, that they ground their views in reliable information and in an evenhanded analysis of the issues, and not be driven by prejudices, uninformed speculations, rumours, or even slander. Indeed, we see examples of that all the time. But falsehood and malice are a poor foundation to build upon. You can easily destroy things with them, but you can’t build anything good and useful with them.

In any case, we are open to dialogue with people of all convictions and beliefs, we consider no one our enemy, and we are fully prepared to work with all our countrymen constructively to strengthen Russia and improve the well-being of its citizens. To achieve real success in life, on must follow the motto: “Always do what’s right, come what may.”

The Head of the House of Romanoff mourns the loss of life in the terrorist attack in St. Petersburg

The Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. the Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and her son and heir, H.I.H. the Grand Duke George of Russia, deeply mourn the loss of life in the terrorist attack on the St. Petersburg subway.

The Grand Duchess and Grand Duke pray for the repose of the souls of those who lost the lives, for the quick recovery of the injured, and for God’s comfort to the family and friends of those who have suffered from this senseless and inhuman atrocity.

Those responsible for this enormous crime should be apprehended and punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Head of the Russian Imperial House Assumes Patronage of the Russian Ball of Washington, DC

The Russian Ball of Washington, DC -- 2017.

The Russian Ball of Washington, DC -- 2017.

It was announced by the Chancellery of the Russian Imperial House that HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna has agreed to serve as Patroness of the venerable Russian Ball of Washington DC.

The Russian Ball of Washington is an annual tradition founded in 1971 by the socialite Maria Fisher. An enthusiast of holding "heritage parties" celebrating different ethnicities, Fisher acted on the suggestion of Prince Alexis Obolensky, a Russian nobleman who resided in Washington, to organize a ball celebrating the city's "White Russian" community around the time of the old style Julian calendar New Year in mid-January. Prince Obolensky and his American wife Selene chaired the ball until his death in 2006. Princess Obolensky continued to chair the ball alone until she stepped down for health reasons in 2013.

The ball's current chairmen are Professor and Mrs. Paul du Quenoy It is co-chaired by Prince and Princess Nicholas Obolensky. The ball committee has included members of the Tolstoy, Putiatin, Shakhovskoy, Chavchavadze, Volkonsky, Roosevelt and Wanamaker families as well as His Imperial Highness Prince Ermias Selassie of Ethiopia, Congressman James W. Symington, Senator Larry Pressler, and Edward T. Wilson, grandson of the American businessman Thomas E. Wilson. 


The 100th Anniversary of the Abdication of HM the Emperor Nicholas II

The Abdication of Nicholas II




The anniversary of the abdication of His Majesty the Emperor Nicholas II  (March 3/15 1917) will be observed with commemorations and solemnities in Russia and abroad.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia has said that he will observe the important date in prayer and commemoration; the day will be marked by a Patriarchal Divine Liturgy, as established by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church at its March 9th meeting in Moscow. (Read about it here).  The date of the abdication is also the feast of the “Reigning” or “Enthroned” Icon of the Mother of God which miraculously appeared in the village of Kolomenskoye, near Moscow, on the same day as the Emperor’s abdication.

Russian Legitimist is pleased to present a new research paper on the topic of the abdication which is now on our site here, in our Research section.  The paper is a careful Legitimist interpretation the Fundamental Laws which are pertinent to the abdication, and it addresses several issues regarding the act of Abdication and the subsequent Manifesto of deferral, seen within the context of the Fundamental Laws.

To read the article. Click HERE.


Exclusive Interview with the Head of the Imperial House in "Royal Russia" No. 11

While the Canadian magazine "Royal Russia” is always of interest to readers of The Russian Legitimist for its excellent and well-researched articles on Russian Imperial history and the House of Romanoff, the latest issue (No. 11) is notable for a new, in depth and personal interview with HIH the Grand Duchess Maria Wladimirovna of Russia, Head of the Russian Imperial House.

The interview covers broad-ranging topics, from the Grand Duchess’ childhood in France and Spain, to the happy and inspiring marriage of her parents, and her relationships wth other Royal houses.  The Grand Duchess also addresses some more controversial topics, including her grandfather Grand Duke Kirill’s role during the Revolutionary days of February 1917,  the “Ekaterinburg remains” and the position of the Russian Imperial House on these and other issues.

In addition, the periodical has several excellent articles on the history of The Lower Dacha at Peterhof, Imperial hunting and fishing traditions, and a look at a day in the life of the court of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich.  Russian Legitimist highly recommends this issue, which may be acquired by visiting the Facebook page of Royal Russia, as well as at the Royal Russia bookshop which may be found online here.

2017-01-09 An Interview With the Head of The Russian Imperial House in "Rossiia. Nasledie."

Your Imperial Highness, as both a Russian who was born and raised abroad and as a descendant of the Imperial family, tell us what Russian culture means for you.

Russian culture is a priceless treasure not only for the Russian people but for all humanity. The great works of our poets, writers, composers, artists, architects, sculptors, performers and musicians strengthen the spirit of all those who see themselves as part of that cultural space we think of as Russia, and they enrich the lives of people all around the world.

We have, as you say, lived all our life abroad, and so our contacts with foreigners are quite extensive. Among them are not only those who regard our country favorably, but also those who feel free to criticize it, who see it as a rival of their own country. But no one who genuinely comes to know and experience Russian culture can ever really be an enemy of Russia. One can be, it is true, a political rival or a critic of one or another aspect of our society and politics. But not an enemy. And when there is no hate, there is always a basis for dialogue, in the course of which both sides can come to understand each other and resolve problems calmly and peacefully, in a spirit of mutual compromise.

So Russian culture is not only a spiritually edifying influence on our lives at home in Russia. It is a powerful means for engaging with the world.

You travel often to Russia, including to the “deep interior” of the country. What achievements and challenges with regard to the preservation of our national heritage come plainly into view during your travels? What architectural monuments that you have visited have made the biggest impression on you? 

Our generation was fortunate to witness the rebirth of faith and the restoration of many religious and cultural monuments in our country. During my first visits to Russia in the early 1990s I saw the sad state that most of the churches and monasteries were in. I said to Patriarch Aleksei II at that time, “Your Holiness, how can you possibly restore all that has been lost, even if the government were ever to return to the Church all these properties? Sometimes there is nothing left but a pile of bricks.” The Patriarch replied, “With God’s help, we will restore everything.” And time has shown the truth of his words.

Today, many desecrated and damaged holy sites and icons have been restored and repaired, and many that had been completely destroyed have been rebuilt and remade. And this work is continuing still. It is necessary, I think, to restore everything that has survived from pre-Revolutionary times, and I think there should be no argument about that. But there is a lot of discussion right now about restoring some sites and other lost treasures that had been destroyed, about making “replicas” of them. Of course, we have to consider many factors, and we probably cannot recreate everything that was lost. And probably we don’t need to. But several especially significant monuments do, I think, need to be brought back to life. For many today, these will be merely “replicas” but future generations will see and experience them gradually as historically authentic. I have in mind here such architectural masterpieces as the Chudov Monastery and Voznesensky Convent in the Kremlin, the Church of the Dormition on Pokrovskoe, the Sukharev tower, the Strastnoi Convent, the Red Gates in Moscow, the Church of the Savior on Sennaya Square in St. Petersburg, and so on. Similar structures that are just as important as these existed once in other cities and towns across Russia, not just in the capitals. These include churches, mosques, synagogues, Buddhist temples, secular and military buildings, cemeteries, and so on. These structures helped to shape the spiritual and cultural landscape of Russia, and so remain important to us today.

Of course, it will take time to rebuild from scratch these historical monuments so that they evoke the same or similar emotions as those monuments that happened to survive the throes of Revolution. When a building evokes the spirit of an earlier age, it really is a unique and powerful experience. I am sometimes hard-pressed to say which landmark I visit inspires or impresses me more. Each holy place conjures its own emotional connection with the past; each uniquely offers a new way to appreciate beauty and immerse oneself in the atmosphere of a by-gone era.

The Romanoff family left a significant and important architectural legacy in Russia. In particular, the palace of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, not far from the Winter Palace, comes to mind, for example. Have you visited the former homes and estates of your ancestors? Have you ever been in contact with the current owners of these properties, or with the organizations that occupy these spaces today?

Yes, I have. From my very first visit to Russia, my itineraries have included stops at the official residences of the Imperial family, as well as private estates previously owned by them. Some today are private homes or museums, others house cultural institutions or other organizations—educational, municipal, and so on. For example, the palace in Tsarskoe Selo once occupied by my great-grandfather, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, is now a Palace of Weddings, and the home in St. Petersburg once owned by my grandfather, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, is now a kindergarten.

We are very glad that these structures are being well maintained and serve the needs of our countrymen. They are in good hands. It is of course very dispiriting to see some buildings still in disrepair or utterly ruined, as, for example, the Ropsha Palace is at present. But I’m sure that eventually the palace will also be restored.

What cultural and historical projects is the Russian Imperial House currently engaged in or spearheading? What is unique about these projects as opposed to other restoration work going on in the country? 

I’ll let others decide how unique our projects are. We continue the traditions of our family, following their example in supporting educational and cultural projects, and striving to adapt the dynasty’s past experience to current circumstances and needs. We also learn from the way these kinds of issues are tackled in other countries. I think that each project, regardless of whose idea it was or who is directing it, is in its own way unique—so long as it is motivated by love and sacrifice.

I must hasten to say, however, that I think we’ve really only gotten started on this work. There is much to do. Even so, I would like to thank the people who are helping us, and perhaps here I can highlight a few of our projects.

The Foundation for the Support and Development of Education, Creativity, and Culture, working with our Chancellery and with the Imperial Society of the House of Romanoff, which was created by our Chancellery, runs a series of competitions for young people, and now also for adults, including one called “The Living Connection Across Time” [Zhivaia sviaz’ vremen], which recognizes especially distinguished essays written on historical themes, and another called “Legal Culture—The Foundation of the Harmonious Development of the Individual and Society.” The awards ceremonies for these competitions are now accompanied by conferences, concerts, and other celebratory events.

The Russian Union of Writers has instituted the “Heritage Prize,” a literary award it presents annually. In nearly every region of Russia that I visit, I have had the opportunity to meet writers and poets who participate in this competition or are preparing to do so. Preliminary rounds of the competition are held in various regional cities, such as Kostroma and Ryazan; and looking ahead, there will be even more preliminary rounds in more cities. The winners of the competition are announced in Moscow, at a ceremony held in the Central House of Writers.

My Chancellery is also working with the Andrei Rublev Museum, where the charity event “White Blossom” [Belyi tsvetok] raises money to help those in need and helps fund the restoration of cultural monuments in Russia. The Museum also hosts the regular workshop “The Living Heritage of Memory” [Zhivoe nasledie pamiati], which supports and encourages the preservation of family history and, more generally, retells the history of Russia through the prism of the history of individuals and families.

The Imperial Orders also participate in cultural and educational activities. For example, the knights of the Imperial Military Order of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker have for many years supported the restoration work of the Church of the Intercession of the Mother of God in Izmailovo. Members of this and other Imperial Orders also support the return to the Church of its holy relics and icons, the “writing” of replicas of traditional icons that had been lost or destroyed, and the transference to state, Church, and municipal museums of items that had in one way or another ended up in private hands.

A new tradition has also begun that we call “Gifts—Charity.” We’ve arranged that important holidays or other special commemorations in the life of the Russian Imperial House be marked by making donations to charitable and cultural projects in Russia of various kinds, such as the restoration or construction of churches, rather than sending gifts to me or to my son and heir.

Furthermore, members of my Chancellery write books on the history of Russia and of our House, and they publish studies of the ideas and spiritual values of Russian culture. The Chancellery takes part in a range of scholarly conferences, workshops, roundtables, and public events. We participate in and lead on-going discussions with governmental and Church institutions, and with cultural and civil organizations that are working with us to help preserve and defend the natural environment of Russia and our cultural heritage. Our Chancellery enjoys an excellent collaborative relationship with the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, the Russian Military Historical Society, the Russia Society for the Preservation of Historical Monuments and Culture, the Russian Nobility Association, the charitable foundation “Rebirth of Our Cultural Heritage,” the Union of Orthodox Women, the “Emperor” Foundation in Arkhangelsk, and many others. All these organizations—the big and the small; the old, the revived, and the newly-formed—are united by the common goal they share with our House: the preservation and continuity of Russian history and culture.

Before the 1917 Revolution, there existed the Imperial Archeological Society, the principal purpose of which was the preservation of historical monuments. Are there plans to revive this important organization? 

This is a very serious and important question, which requires the support of both the archeological scholarly community and the government. Both must be involved. The Imperial House, as you well know, does not have the financial means or resources it had before the Revolution. But if such an idea should be taken up and gain steam, I and my son and heir, the Grand Duke George of Russia, would happily support such a plan in every possible way we can.

You live full time in Madrid. In your view, how does the appearance and spirit of southern European cities differ from that of Russian cities?

The appearance and layout of cities and towns is determined in large part by the habits of mind and national character of each individual nation. Even today, in this era of globalization and as uniformity in architectural styles spreads across the world, there remains more than a hint of national traditions and styles in architecture in various cities of various countries across the world. At the same time, large cities in all countries have a lot in common: the hustle and bustle of modern city life, the diluting of the distinctive local identity, a heavier and more burdensome emotional atmosphere. Small towns have better preserved the cordiality and warmth of the past, a sense of hospitality and goodwill. You can see this pattern almost anywhere you look. We see it better, perhaps, in our own Russian cities because we know them better, but it’s the same elsewhere. There was a time once when we in our family viewed Russian cities and life in Russia generally in a rather romanticized way. My parents always told me that everything was better in Russia—the forests, the fields, the rivers, the seas, the churches, the palaces. Even the watermelons grew larger there, and the cucumbers were more delicious.

When we finally had the opportunity to come to Russia again, we of course saw that some things were in some ways, indeed, much better there than elsewhere, and that some things were not. But for us, all these aspects of life in Russia—the things that compare better to conditions elsewhere and those that don’t—are all equally dear to us.

As the Head of the Imperial House and as a citizen of Russia, what measures do you think are most important for preserving the historical and architectural heritage of Russia?

Without a doubt, one must pay more attention overall to cultural questions. One must expand the legislative foundation that provides for public funding of preservation projects, and, in particular, one must expand the patronage of the arts. The government cannot resolve all these questions, but it can create the conditions under which private citizens can legally, conveniently, securely, and profitably donate funds for the restoration of damaged or destroyed historical monuments and other projects of social and cultural importance.

No less important is the need to instill in our youth from earliest days a love for the historical heritage of our country and a deep and well-rounded understanding of its history and culture. If we don’t do that, all our efforts will be for naught, and all that we build and rebuild today will be at risk of being ruined or neglected tomorrow.

And I would also ask us all to remember that in restoring the millennium-long heritage of pre-Revolutionary Russia, we must not be like the Bolsheviks, who forced their ideology and political symbols on the nation in cruel and often barbaric ways. Even the very best and just, in our view, policies should not be introduced into society through force or as a kind of act of revenge—humiliating or harming people of other views. This would only backfire, anyhow. Only that which is the product of careful and scrupulous education work, carried out in a spirit of love and respect for others and guided by rational dialogue and objectivity, will produce truly strong and enduring results.

This interview is published in issue no. 5 of Rossiia. Nasledie on November 27, 2016, under the title “Velikaia Kniaginia Mariia Romanova: Byt’ russkoi” [Grand Duchess Maria Romanoff: To be Russian]. See