In Search of Empire: The 400th Anniversary of the House of Romanov

New York, NY. February 16, 2013

On February 16, Rev. Vladimir von Tsurikov, Director of the Foundation of Russian History, presented a paper at a conference at Columbia University devoted to the 400th anniversary of the House of Romanovs. Fr. Vladimir’s paper, titled “New Discoveries of Russian Imperial Materials in Exile,” provided an overview of materials of Romanov provenance in Holy Trinity Seminary’s and Monastery’s library, archive and museum collections.

The “discoveries” mentioned in the paper included not only recent acquisitions, but also items that have been in the collections for some time, but have been processed and described only recently. As examples of the latter, Fr. Vladimir referred to a number of books bearing the bookplates of various Romanovs, including Nicholas I, Nicholas II, Grand Dukes Konstantin Konstantinovich and Vladimir Aleksandrovich; banners presented to His Imperail Majesty’s Own Escort by Alexander II; and icons given by members of the Romanov dynasty to various individuals.

Perhaps most interesting among the new acquisitions described by Fr. Vladimir is a number of objects found in and around the Ipatiev House, site of the murder of Nicholas II, his family and attendants in Yekaterinburg. These objects, collected and preserved as material evidence during the investigation of the murder by Nikolai Sokolov in 1919, were donated to Holy Trinity Seminary by Archibishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America in 2010. Among these items are articles of clothing; objects of daily use, such as a calendar, forks, a thermometer, clothes hangers and pillow cases; and archival documents, including bills, receipts, newspaper clippings, letters, and photographs.

Fr. Vladimir concluded his presentation by announcing that another item had been added to the collection of objects from Yekaterinburg just the previous day. A pearl and diamond earring belonging to Empress Alexandra Fedorovna was received from Metropolitan Hilarion on behalf of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. The earring was found in 1918 near the village of Koptiaki where the Bolsheviks attempted to destroy the bodies of the murdered Royal family. It should be noted that an envelope with Nikolai Sokolov’s handwritten description of the earring was among the objects and documents donated by Archbishop Kyrill. Now, after a period of several decades, the earring and the envelope that once contained it will be reunited.

The panel during which Fr. Vladimir presented his paper was titled “Romanovs in Exile.” It was chaired by Mark Schaffer (A La Vieille Russie) and included Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm (Finland), Christel McCanless (Fabergé Research Site) and Edward Kasinec (Columbia University) as presenters, with Wendy Salmond (Chapman University) as discussant. Other panels at the conference, formed with an international roster of scholars, included the following: Tercentennial Celebration of the Romanov Empire; Jubilation on the Brink of Disaster; Romanovs and the Russian Orthodox Church; Romanovs and the Jewish Question; Romanovs and Art; and Successors of the Romanov Empire.