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Dennism 10-28-2004 02:55 AM

Romanovs and the Revolution: What Happened and How Did the Survivors Manage?

A battle is under way in Russia for the stately homes of the country's former aristocracy - confiscated by the Bolsheviks during the 1917 Revolution.
Officials in St Petersburg are seeking to privatise some of the palaces by selling them off to the highest bidder. However, some relatives and descendents of the Russian nobility want them back, or compensation from the state.

Princess Vera Obolensky - of 34th-generation nobility, but currently living in an apartment block in the city - is among those seeking to get back the palace that she believes is her right. "I really want to live in the mansion that was my family's, the Obolenskys, before the Revolution," she told BBC World Service's Assignment programme. "It's really a very beautiful place, one of the most beautiful places in St Petersburg."

After the 1917 Revolution, all Princess Vera's family estates were seized by the authorities. Her family fled Russia disguised as peasants, and went to Paris, where the she was born and raised. Only after the fall of Communism did she come back to live in St Petersburg and she is now seeking to get part of that property back. The home she claims is hers is next to the Peter and Paul Fortress, which is famed for the role it had in the founding of the city. It has a direct view, across the water, of the Winter Palace.

Princess Vera is not alone - she is backed by a number of like-minded aristocrats, who have formed themselves into a group called The Assembly Of Nobles. In total, around 100,000 buildings were seized from the property-owning classes. Princess Vera argues that, with so many architectural treasures in government hands, the authorities have not had the money or the expertise to preserve the buildings properly. This, she contends, is the reason they are now heading onto the market. "The state has not been able to look after so many properties, and now they want to privatise them and get rich by selling the buildings they were unable to take proper care of," she said. "This whole proposal is a complete shame and disgrace. Of course we can't all have all our properties back, but one of the houses that my family once owned would be enough."

But the issue is complicated by the fact that after the Revolution, all buildings became state property - and as a result, the palace was turned into communal apartments. Many were used to house the poor - a situation that continues in St Petersburg to this day. "It all depends on circumstances," said Dr Igor Shaob, a professor of cultural history whose family home was partly seized in the Revolution and completely taken after World War II. There will be no open competition for this type of property... in certain cases, they will ask for permission further up, in the Kremlin. "But if you see officials trying to sell what never belonged to them, that has no justification. That deserves only criminal prosecution."

Dr Shaob admits he has "no chance" of getting the property back. But he added that he believed the buildings will go to those with most money or political influence. This speculation has recently been fuelled by reports surrounding two former palaces on the "English Embankment" which runs along the South Bank.
One is Tenisheva's Palace, the St Petersburg HQ of Chelsea chairman Roman Abramovich. Mr Abramovich acquired the property in 2002 in his capacity as governor of the Chakotka region. Further down the Embankment is a building belonging to energy Lukoil, which may well soon acquire the right to buy it. Both Lukoil and the governor's office have, in the past, denied any impropriety.

But political analyst Igor Leshukov, of the St Petersburg Institute of International Affairs, told Assignment he believes the best stately homes for sale will go to those with the strongest links to government. He also fears few properties will be properly restored. "The main danger is many old and historic buildings will be simply destroyed and replaced by newly-done fakes," he said. "The Hotel Europe is one of the masterpieces of Art Nouveau in St Petersburg - now we have just a facade, inside all the interior's been lost. "The same situation is in the Hotel Astoria. So in that case, we can easily see what could happen in any palace owned by a private company and used as their luxury office."

It is expected that those most interested in renovating the seized properties will be representatives of private business appointed by the administration.
The fears are that this will be a repeat of events in the mid-1990s, where state assets were sold off at rock bottom prices to what Mr Leshukov called an "appointed oligarchy". "I think there will be no open competition for this type of property," he said. "It will be done by permission, and it will be decided by the city authorities. And cities will not decide that by themselves - in certain cases, they will ask for permission further up, in the Kremlin."

However, the City Committee For Protection Of Private Buildings - which plans the sale of stately homes - has strongly denied that recent history would repeat with the privatisation of the properties. "I absolutely exclude that - there's no way it can happen," the Committee's head Vera Demenchieva said. "What we have in St Petersburg is the cultural heritage of all the people of Russia. That's why I can't understand why such questions appear - such suggestions sound as an insult to me as the head of the committee." She stressed that laws had changed in Russia since the 1990s. And further, she argued that also the attitude of the people had also changed, with many more interested in their cultural heritage - and therefore taking a keen interest in who is in charge of it. "It's not really possible to buy a valuable asset at a low cost," she said. "On the other hand, the conscience of people and of those in administration has changed greatly. It simply won't allow any indecent person to come and buy in his or her own interests."

msfroyste 01-09-2005 06:27 AM

some of the nobility/royalty didn't leave russia during the revolution. some of them came back shortly after and some have just returned. there has been talk of the govt giving the palaces and estates back to the aristocracy b/c the govt needs the money. as a result of this, they've begun to sell of palaces all around russia to the highest bidder on the grounds that the new owner restores the palace or estate to its former glory. however, they've been doing this without the consent of the former owners of the property(ies). so there's been lots of huplah about the whole property subject as a whole. as for them using their titles in russia, i've heard mixed things. hope this helps.:)

branchg 06-26-2005 08:19 PM

This is not quite accurate. None of the former nobility or Romanovs who remained in Russia at the time of Lenin survived the Revolution. They were all executed. The survivors had either escaped from Russia or were living in another country at the time of the Revolution.

After the deaths of the Tsar and his family, the next eligible dynast under the Pauline laws was Grand Duke Cyril, a cousin of Nicholas II. He became the Head of the Imperial House in exile, while the Tsar's mother, Dowager Empress Marie, and his two sisters, Grand Duchess Xenia and Grand Duchess Olga, lived in Denmark and England.

Cyril's family, the children of Grand Duke Vladimir and his wife, Grand Duchess Marie Pavolvna, included Grand Duke Boris, Grand Duke Andrew and Grand Duchess Helen (who married Prince Nicholas of Greece and is the mother of Princess Marina, who became the Duchess of Kent) all survived as did another uncle, Grand Duke Nicholas.

With the exception of the Dowager Empress Marie, who brought her substantial collection of jewels with her into exile and was supported generously by her nephews, King George and King Christian, the rest of the family had very little money or possessions other than their jewels and whatever money was in their foreign bank accounts. All of their substantial holdings in Russia (worth many billions of dollars) was confiscated by the Communists in the name of the people.

There has been considerable speculation in recent years that Grand Duke Vladimir, son of Grand Duke Cyril and former head of the Imperial House, received a sizable settlement from Yeltsin before his death. In addition, Yeltsin supposedly signed a presidential decree stating that Grand Duke Vladimir and his family were the heirs to the former Imperial throne. Naturally, there is no way of knowing if this is true.

Vladimir's daughter, Grand Duchess Maria, his widow, Grand Duchess Leonida, and her son, Grand Duke George (Prince of Prussia as well), have been very active in visiting Russia, are well-received by the Government and maintain strong relations with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Of course, this too has been very controversial with the remaining family, headed by Prince Nicholas Romanov, a morganatic descendant who heads the Family Association, contesting the status and treatment of Maria, whom they do not recognize as the curatrix of the Imperial throne.

Sissy219 01-04-2006 09:58 PM

The Russian Revolution; What happened to Who?

This link allows you to click on the children of the Romanovs to see who survived and where they went. For example, if you click on Alexander II's daughter Xenia, then on her son Andrei, then on his son Andrei, then on his son Andrei (from the 2nd marriage), you see that Natasha Kathleen, Princess Romanova was born in San Rafael, CA in 1993. Wow!

Raskolnikov 06-22-2006 12:39 AM


Originally Posted by branchg
This is not quite accurate. None of the former nobility or Romanovs who remained in Russia at the time of Lenin survived the Revolution. They were all executed. The survivors had either escaped from Russia or were living in another country at the time of the Revolution.

This is not true, many members of the nobility stayed behind, as did 2 Romanov's, one died in 1999 in Moscow I belioeve

Marengo 02-25-2008 06:04 AM

The Russian Revolution; What happened to Who?
This thread is created to discuss the members of the Romanov family during the last revolution, in other words: what happened to who?

Marengo 02-26-2008 08:01 AM

Princess Elena Petrovna of Russia (born Jelena of Serbia) was imprisoned in Perm I believe. She later was able to leave the country with her two children Vsevolod and Catherine on a Swedish ship, together with her mother-in-law Grand Duches Elisabeth Mavrikievna and Elisabeths two youngest children Prince George and princess Vera of Russia.

Elena's husband, Prince Ioann Constantinovtich was one of the Romanovs that were thrown into the mine at Alapaevsk. Apparently Elena accompanied her husband first, and voluntairily. She left later to take care of her two children though. I wonder why was she allowed to leave? Because she was a Serbian princess maybe?

Anna was Franziska 02-26-2008 06:35 PM

There is a very long story of her ordeal and escape from Russia which is one of the more interesting stories. She did not have the children with her, they were with her mother in law and she met them later in Sweden. It was said that the children were so traumatized they didn't remember her. It's in the book "Romanov Autumn" by Charlotte Zeepvat.(sp?)

Anna was Franziska 02-26-2008 06:50 PM

Other interesting stories of those who got away:

Sophie Buxhoevedon(lady in waiting) traveled with Sidney Gibbes, Pierre Gilliard(tutors) and a few others across Siberia, eventually making it to Vladivostock where she took a ship from Japan to Hawaii, another to San Francisco, train across the US, boat from NY back to her family in Denmark. They were all separated from the royal family in Ekaterinburg because the Bolsheviks didn't want to anger other countries by harming foreign nationals (Gibbes was British, Gilliard Swiss) Sophie was Russian born, but had a Danish name they took for Swedish. That probably saved her life. The group met with many perils along the way and were in almost constant fear for their lives. It was only after meeting up with the British military in Omsk that they found safe passage out of Russia.

Anna Vyrubova, best friend of Alexandra, was first arrested by Kerensky on suspicion of being guilty of in league with Rasputin to overthrow the gov't. As fate would have it, she was in prison when the Romanovs were sent to Siberia, so she couldn't go with them. She was released by the Provisional Gov't after a few months, but imprisoned by the Bolsheviks several times. She had one of the more theatrical and interesting escapes- on her way to be executed, she managed to lose herself in the city crowd with the help of some old friends and fans of her father who just happened to be there (he was a composer) Though she got away, she still spent a long time hiding in horrible conditions and frightening situations, in and out of prison and in frequent danger. She was finally able to leave Russia in Dec. 1920 when her mother sold her last necklace to pay for their passage on a boat which snuck refugees over to Finland. She eventually became a nun and lived to be 80 years old.

The Dowager Empress, her daughter Xenia, and Xenia's whole family, including son in law Felix Yussoupov and Felix's parents, all left the Crimea on the British ship HMS Marlborough. They, too, had been in danger of being killed by the Bolsheviks before. There are very long and interesting stories about this if anyone is interested.

Olga Alexandrovna, whose husband was basically a common soldier, and their two little boys had one of the easiest times getting out of Russia, but faced other ordeals later when they were accused of hiding Russian deserters at their home in Denmark, forcing them to move to Canada.

Alexei Volkov, valet for the family, made a run for it as he and two other prisoners were being taken out and shot. He made it, and wrote his memoirs.

Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich also survived the revolution by a twist of fate. He had been stationed in Persia as a punishment for his involvement in the Rasputin murder, and because he was there instead of in Russia, he was able to make his way to Europe safely. He lived in Paris where he dated wealthy socialite Coco Chanel, but eventually married American heiress Audrey Emery. After their divorce, Audrey took her son Paul home to America with her. He served in the US Marines in Korea, and in his later years was elected mayor of Palm Beach, FL. He passed away in 2004. His offspring still live in that area under the name Illynski. Dmitri died of TB in Switzerland in 1941.

Jason R Maier esq 02-26-2008 07:28 PM

The others that were thrown into the mine pit were Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, Prince Igor Konstantinovich, Prince Ioann Konstantinovich, Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna, and Vladimir Pavlovich Paley . . . . .

All the bodies but Elizabeth's were later buried in an Orthodox Monestary in Beijing, which was later demolished during the Cultural Revolution in the 60's

lexi4 02-27-2008 12:25 AM

Nicholas's brother Micheal was executed. His wife, Natalia Romanova, escaped. She died of cancer in 1952.

lucien 03-11-2008 01:12 PM


Originally Posted by lexi4 (Post 734508)
Nicholas's brother Micheal was executed. His wife, Natalia Romanova, escaped. She died of cancer in 1952.

Misha's secretary,Johnson (british citizen),was shot point blanc as he wanted to leave the carriage that brought both him and Misha to a deserted forest road,Misha,who had left the carriage first,was shot next as he tryed to come to Johnson's aid.Killed like animals,by scum.

lexi4 03-11-2008 04:36 PM


Originally Posted by lucien (Post 740645)
Misha's secretary,Johnson (british citizen),was shot point blanc as he wanted to leave the carriage that brought both him and Misha to a deserted forest road,Misha,who had left the carriage first,was shot next as he tryed to come to Johnson's aid.Killed like animals,by scum.

Right on Lucien. They were killed like animals. But imo, anytime killing is involved it is like animals.

sinuhe 03-27-2008 04:13 PM

GD Olga Alexandrovna left finally for Canada, as you said. She lived on the second floor of a hairdresshop belonging to a russian couple, they took care or her until she died early 60'.

Prince Paley was so young, I have seen photos of him and his murder is moving. He did not died inmediatly, and GD Ella help him, in vain. All died...

Marengo 04-07-2008 07:52 PM

Romanovs after the Revolution; How did they Manage?
I was wondering about how the Romanovs dealt with their new fate after the revolution? I have a picture in a royalty book with Prince George of Russia selling lamps in a shop. Something in which he shouldn't have been too good btw, Dutch diplomats checked with his employers and found out they weren't too positive about the Prince (hence they did not bother to ask him over to 'meet' Juliana).

Russophile 04-07-2008 07:58 PM

They sold a lot of jewels which glutted the market and managed as best as they could. Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna the younger (Dmitry's sister) knitted sweaters for income to help support themselves. This from her book: A Princess in Exile.

Cumberland 05-04-2008 10:17 AM

Xenia Alexandrovna became involved with a couple of conmen who sold her a bill of goods, promising to make them all rich again, she pawned 5 different pearl necklaces at different times. The men were arrested and sentenced to prison, she did win money back in a lawsuit.

I believe Marie Pavlovna the younger wrote her memoirs, worked for Chanel, sold her jewels, but had a pension from the Bernadottes.

Dimitri I beleive married Audrey Emery a champagne heiress.

Both of George & "Greek" Minnie's daughters married well.

However then you have Countess Brassova who died in abject poverty, Olga Nicolaevna dying over a barbershop in Toronto, and I belive the Paleys did well, as did the Yussopov's.

Russophile 05-05-2008 06:47 PM


Originally Posted by Cumberland (Post 761778)

I believe Marie Pavlovna the younger wrote her memoirs, worked for Chanel, sold her jewels, but had a pension from the Bernadottes.

From her book I believe she and Chanel had a "falling out". If memory serves, she wanted more money and Chanel, ever the penny pincher, shrugged her shoulders and got another producer.
I did not know about the pension from her Swedish relations, though that would make sense since she had to leave her son for political and successive reasons.
Cumberland, do you have any information on her when she died? For some reason there is a big blank there and I don't know if I never read anything or if there just wasn't anything to read.

OlgaNikolaievna 05-09-2008 01:50 PM


Originally Posted by Cumberland (Post 761778)
Olga Nicolaevna dying over a barbershop in Toronto

Only for the record for information to all readers, I would like to emphasize that was Olga Alexandrovna (sister of the Tsar) who is referred to in this post. Olga Nikolaievna was the name of his daughter who perished with the family in Ekaterinburg.

Odette 05-09-2008 02:13 PM

I do not know his name but one of the Grand Dukes became a train conductor in Alexandria Egypt. He was a tall imposing man, obviously aristocratic but still had to eat so he was working for the tram system.

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