|A RUSSIAN SILVER MEDAL COMMEMORATING THE WEDDING OF NICHOLAS II AND ALEXANDRA FEODOROVNA, 1894|
If there's a Russian leader whose reputation has been unequivocally rehabilitated during the Putin era, it's Nicholas II. Known during communist days as 'the Bloody', Nicholas is now more commonly known to Russians as the 'Tsar-Martyr'.Share
Since Nicholas and his family were sainted by the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia in 2000, churches, chapels and shrines dedicated to the so-called 'Holy Imperial Martyrs' have appeared across Russia.In conformity with Orthodox practice, icons (devotional images) of these sainted Romanovs are for sale in a variety of poses, from mass-produced laminated cards to lavish diptychs housed in soft red velvet cases. Their former palaces and places of exile and execution have become pilgrimage destinations. A hundred years next year since the 1917 revolution, public memory has turned full circle. Where Russians were once encouraged to repudiate the Romanovs as 'oppressors of the people', today they're encouraged, quite literally, to worship them [Of course, we cannot agree with nor endorse this exaggeration—O.C.].
Inside Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral, an icon of the 'Imperial Passion-bearers' romanticises life at Russia's pre-revolutionary court: Nicholas II and his son, Alexei, wear military uniform; the Empress and her daughters elegant dresses.
On the other side of the nave, the magnificent icon of the 'Assembly of the New Russian Martyrs and Confessors' depicts Nicholas, Alexandra and their five children at the centre of a mass of bishops, priests, monks and nuns martyred by the Communist government between 1918 and 1941. To the family's left stands another sainted Romanov, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, who, after being widowed by Socialist Revolutionaries in 1905, founded a home for poor women and children on Moscow's south bank. She too was executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
Along with those of a dozen other bishops and monks, their deaths are depicted, almost cartoon-like, in a cycle of smaller images that form a border around the edge: Bolshevik soldiers gun the Tsar and his family to death, while others cast Elizabeth down a mineshaft (earlier this year the State Historical Museum on Red Square staged a four-month special exhibition on Elizabeth's life, a joint project between the Moscow Patriarchate and Ministry of Culture; the home she founded has now re-opened, embellished with a sculpture of the Grand Duchess).
Then there are the books.
Parish churches offer a range of devotional literature: The Childhood of Nicholas II; 'Give Them Love' – The Words of Empress Alexandra; The Imperial Children; The Charitable Causes of the Romanov Family. For sale in Moscow and St Petersburg bookshops are titles of a more overtly political nature: The Emperor Who Knew His Fate and Russia, Which Didn't; Emperor Nicholas II and the Plot of 1917; 'Surrounded by Treachery, Cowardice and Deceit' – The real story of the abdication of Nicholas II; 'Lord, Bless My Decisions' – Nicholas II as Commander-in-Chief and the Generals' Plot, et cetera, et cetera. (Read more.)