Michael Romanov Founds Russian Romanov Dynasty - History

Michael Romanov Founds Russian Romanov Dynasty - History

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On March 3, 1613 Michael Romanov, then 17, was elected czar of Russia. Thus began the Romanov dynasty, which lasted until being overthrown by Lenin in 1917. It also ended the Russian Times of Trouble.

Imperial Crown of Russia

The Imperial Crown of Russia (Russian: Императорская Корона России ), also known as the Great Imperial Crown (Russian: Великая Императорская Корона ), was used by the monarchs of Russia from 1762 until the Russian monarchy's abolition in 1917. The Great Imperial Crown was first used in a coronation by Catherine the Great, and it was last worn at the coronation of Nicholas II. It was displayed prominently next to Nicholas II on a cushion at the State Opening of the Russian Duma inside the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg in 1906. It survived the 1917 revolution and is currently on display in Moscow at the Kremlin Armoury's State Diamond Fund.


Legally, it remains unclear whether any ukase ever abolished the surname of Michael Romanov (or of his subsequent male-line descendants) after his accession to the Russian throne in 1613, although by tradition members of reigning dynasties seldom use surnames, being known instead by dynastic titles ("Tsarevich Ivan Alexeevich", "Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich", etc.). From January 1762 [O.S. December 1761], the monarchs of the Russian Empire claimed the throne as relatives of Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna of Russia (1708–1728), who had married Charles Frederick, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp. Thus they were no longer Romanovs by patrilineage, belonging instead to the Holstein-Gottorp cadet branch of the German House of Oldenburg that reigned in Denmark. The 1944 edition of the Almanach de Gotha records the name of Russia's ruling dynasty from the time of Peter III (reigned 1761–1762) as "Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov". [4] However, the terms "Romanov" and "House of Romanov" often occurred in official references to the Russian imperial family. The coat-of-arms of the Romanov boyars was included in legislation on the imperial dynasty, [5] and in a 1913 jubilee, Russia officially celebrated the "300th Anniversary of the Romanovs' rule". [6]

After the February Revolution of March 1917, a special decree of the Provisional Government of Russia granted all members of the imperial family the surname "Romanov". [ citation needed ] The only exceptions, the morganatic descendants of the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (1891–1942), took (in exile) the surname Ilyinsky. [4] [7]

The Romanovs share their origin with two dozen other Russian noble families. Their earliest common ancestor is one Andrei Kobyla, attested around 1347 as a boyar in the service of Semyon I of Moscow. [4] Later generations assigned to Kobyla an illustrious pedigree. An 18th-century genealogy claimed that he was the son of the Old Prussian prince Glanda Kambila, who came to Russia in the second half of the 13th century, fleeing the invading Germans. Indeed, one of the leaders of the Old Prussian rebellion of 1260–1274 against the Teutonic order was named Glande. This legendary version of the Romanov's origin is contested by another version of their descent from a boyar family from Novgorod. [8]

His actual origin may have been less spectacular. Not only is Kobyla Russian for "mare", some of his relatives also had as nicknames the terms for horses and other domestic animals, thus suggesting descent from one of the royal equerries. [ citation needed ] One of Kobyla's sons, Feodor, a member of the boyar Duma of Dmitri Donskoi, was nicknamed Koshka ("cat"). His descendants took the surname Koshkin, then changed it to Zakharin, which family later split into two branches: Zakharin-Yakovlev and Zakharin-Yuriev. [4] During the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the former family became known as Yakovlev (Alexander Herzen among them), whereas grandchildren of Roman Yurievich Zakharyin-Yuriev [ru] changed their name to "Romanov". [4]

Feodor Nikitich Romanov was descended from the Rurik dynasty through the female line. His mother, Evdokiya Gorbataya-Shuyskaya, was a Rurikid princess from the Shuysky branch, daughter of Alexander Gorbatyi-Shuisky.

Rise to power Edit

The family fortunes soared when Roman's daughter, Anastasia Zakharyina, married Ivan IV (the Terrible), the Rurikid Grand Prince of Moscow, on 3 (13) February 1547. [1] Since her husband had assumed the title of tsar, which literally means "Caesar", on 16 January 1547, she was crowned the very first tsaritsa of Russia. Her mysterious death in 1560 changed Ivan's character for the worse. Suspecting the boyars of having poisoned his beloved, Tsar Ivan started a reign of terror against them. Among his children by Anastasia, the elder (Ivan) was murdered by the tsar in a quarrel the younger Feodor, a pious but lethargic prince, inherited the throne upon his father's death in 1584.

Throughout Feodor's reign (1584–1598), the Tsar's brother-in-law, Boris Godunov, and his Romanov cousins contested the de facto rule of Russia. Upon the death of childless Feodor, the 700-year-old line of Rurikids came to an end. After a long struggle, the party of Boris Godunov prevailed over the Romanovs, and the Zemsky sobor elected Godunov as tsar in 1599. Godunov's revenge on the Romanovs was terrible: all the family and its relations were deported to remote corners of the Russian North and Urals, where most of them died of hunger or in chains. The family's leader, Feodor Nikitich Romanov, was exiled to the Antoniev Siysky Monastery and forced to take monastic vows with the name Filaret.

The Romanovs' fortunes again changed dramatically with the fall of the Godunov dynasty in June 1605. As a former leader of the anti-Godunov party and cousin of the last legitimate tsar, Filaret Romanov's recognition was sought by several impostors who attempted to claim the Rurikid legacy and throne during the Time of Troubles. False Dmitriy I made him a metropolitan, and False Dmitriy II raised him to the dignity of patriarch. Upon the expulsion of the Polish army from Moscow in 1612, the Zemsky Sobor offered the Russian crown to several Rurikid and Gediminian princes, but all declined the honour. [4]

On being offered the Russian crown, Filaret's 16-year-old son Mikhail Romanov, then living at the Ipatiev Monastery of Kostroma, burst into tears of fear and despair. He was finally persuaded to accept the throne by his mother Kseniya Ivanovna Shestova, who blessed him with the holy image of Our Lady of St. Theodore. Feeling how insecure his throne was, Mikhail attempted to emphasize his ties with the last Rurikid tsars [9] and sought advice from the Zemsky Sobor on every important issue. This strategy proved successful. The early Romanovs were generally accepted by the population as in-laws of Ivan the Terrible and viewed as innocent martyrs of Godunov's wrath. [ citation needed ]

Dynastic crisis Edit

Mikhail was succeeded by his only son Alexei, who steered the country quietly through numerous troubles. Upon Alexei's death, there was a period of dynastic struggle between his children by his first wife Maria Ilyinichna Miloslavskaya (Feodor III, Sofia Alexeyevna, Ivan V) and his son by his second wife Nataliya Kyrillovna Naryshkina, the future Peter the Great. Peter ruled from 1682 until his death in 1725. [1] In numerous successful wars he expanded the Tsardom into a huge empire that became a major European power. He led a cultural revolution that replaced some of the traditionalist and medieval social and political system with a modern, scientific, Europe-oriented, and rationalist system. [10]

New dynastic struggles followed the death of Peter. His only son to survive into adulthood, Tsarevich Alexei, did not support Peter's modernization of Russia. He had previously been arrested and died in prison shortly thereafter. Near the end of his life, Peter managed to alter the succession tradition of male heirs, allowing him to choose his heir. Power then passed into the hands of his second wife, Empress Catherine, who ruled until her death in 1727. [1] Peter II, the son of Tsarevich Alexei, took the throne but died in 1730, ending the Romanov male line. [4] He was succeeded by Anna I, daughter of Peter the Great's half-brother and co-ruler, Ivan V. Before she died in 1740 the empress declared that her grandnephew, Ivan VI, should succeed her. This was an attempt to secure the line of her father, while excluding descendants of Peter the Great from inheriting the throne. Ivan VI was only a one-year-old infant at the time of his succession to the throne, and his parents, Grand Duchess Anna Leopoldovna and Duke Anthony Ulrich of Brunswick, the ruling regent, were detested for their German counselors and relations. As a consequence, shortly after Empress Anna's death, Elizabeth Petrovna, a legitimized daughter of Peter I, managed to gain the favor of the populace and dethroned Ivan VI in a coup d'état, supported by the Preobrazhensky Regiment and the ambassadors of France and Sweden. Ivan VI and his parents died in prison many years later.

The Holstein-Gottorps of Russia retained the Romanov surname, emphasizing their matrilineal descent from Peter the Great, through Anna Petrovna (Peter I's elder daughter by his second wife). [4] In 1742, Empress Elizabeth of Russia brought Anna's son, her nephew Peter of Holstein-Gottorp, to St. Petersburg and proclaimed him her heir. In time, she married him off to a German princess, Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst. [1] In 1762, shortly after the death of Empress Elizabeth, Sophia, who had taken the Russian name Catherine upon her marriage, overthrew her unpopular husband, with the aid of her lover, Grigory Orlov. She reigned as Catherine the Great. Catherine's son, Paul I, who succeeded his mother in 1796, [1] was particularly proud to be a great-grandson of Peter the Great, although his mother's memoirs arguably insinuate that Paul's natural father was, in fact, her lover Serge Saltykov, rather than her husband, Peter. Painfully aware of the hazards resulting from battles of succession, Paul decreed house laws for the Romanovs – the so-called Pauline laws, among the strictest in Europe – which established semi-Salic primogeniture as the rule of succession to the throne, requiring Orthodox faith for the monarch and dynasts, and for the consorts of the monarchs and their near heirs. Later, Alexander I, responding to the 1820 morganatic marriage of his brother and heir, [1] added the requirement that consorts of all Russian dynasts in the male line had to be of equal birth (i.e., born to a royal or sovereign dynasty).

Age of Autocracy Edit

Paul I was murdered in his palace in Saint Petersburg in 1801. Alexander I succeeded him on the throne and later died without leaving a son. His brother, crowned Nicholas I, succeeded him on the throne. [4] The succession was far from smooth, however, as hundreds of troops took the oath of allegiance to Nicholas's elder brother, Constantine Pavlovich who, unbeknownst to them, had renounced his claim to the throne in 1822, following his marriage. The confusion, combined with opposition to Nicholas' accession, led to the Decembrist revolt. [1] Nicholas I fathered four sons, educating them for the prospect of ruling Russia and for military careers, from whom the last branches of the dynasty descended.

Alexander II, son of Nicholas I, became the next Russian emperor in 1855, in the midst of the Crimean War. While Alexander considered it his charge to maintain peace in Europe and Russia, he believed only a strong Russian military could keep the peace. By developing the army, giving some freedom to Finland, and freeing the serfs in 1861 he gained much popular support.

Despite his popularity, however, his family life began to unravel by the mid 1860s. In 1864, his eldest son, and heir, Tsarevich Nicholas, died suddenly. His wife, Empress Maria Alexandrovna, who suffered from tuberculosis, spent much of her time abroad. Alexander eventually turned to a mistress, Princess Catherine Dolgoruki. Immediately following the death of his wife in 1880 he contracted a morganatic marriage with Dolgoruki. [4] His legitimization of their children, and rumors that he was contemplating crowning his new wife as empress, caused tension within the dynasty. In particular, the grand duchesses were scandalized at the prospect of deferring to a woman who had borne Alexander several children during his wife's lifetime. Before Princess Catherine could be elevated in rank, however, on 13 March 1881 Alexander was assassinated by a hand-made bomb hurled by Ignacy Hryniewiecki. Slavic patriotism, cultural revival, and Panslavist ideas grew in importance in the latter half of this century, evoking expectations of a more Russian than cosmopolitan dynasty. Several marriages were contracted with members of other reigning Slavic or Orthodox dynasties (Greece, Montenegro, Serbia). [4] In the early 20th century two Romanov princesses were allowed to marry Russian high noblemen – whereas until the 1850s, practically all marriages had been with German princelings. [4]

Alexander II was succeeded by his son Alexander III. This tsar, the second-to-last Romanov emperor, was responsible for conservative reforms in Russia. Not expected to inherit the throne, he was educated in matters of state only after the death of his older brother, Nicholas. Lack of diplomatic training may have influenced his politics as well as those of his son, Nicholas II. Alexander III was physically impressive, being not only tall (1.93 m or 6'4", according to some sources), but of large physique and considerable strength. His beard hearkened back to the likeness of tsars of old, contributing to an aura of brusque authority, awe-inspiring to some, alienating to others. Alexander, fearful of the fate which had befallen his father, strengthened autocratic rule in Russia. Some of the reforms the more liberal Alexander II had pushed through were reversed.

Alexander had inherited not only his dead brother's position as Tsesarevich, but also his brother's Danish fiancée, Princess Dagmar. Taking the name Maria Fyodorovna upon her conversion to Orthodoxy, she was the daughter of King Christian IX and the sister of the future kings Frederik VIII of Denmark and George I of Greece, as well as of Britain's Queen Alexandra, consort of Edward VII. [1] Despite contrasting natures and backgrounds, the marriage was considered harmonious, producing six children and acquiring for Alexander the reputation of being the first tsar not known to take mistresses.

His eldest son, Nicholas, became emperor upon Alexander III's death due to kidney disease at age 49 in November 1894. Nicholas reputedly said, "I am not ready to be tsar. " Just a week after the funeral, Nicholas married his fiancée, Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, a favorite grandchild of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. Though a kind-hearted man, he tended to leave intact his father's harsh policies. For her part the shy Alix, who took the name Alexandra Fyodorovna, became a devout convert to Orthodoxy as well as a devoted wife to Nicholas and mother to their five children, yet avoided many of the social duties traditional for Russia's tsarinas. [1] Seen as distant and severe, unfavorable comparisons were drawn between her and her popular mother-in-law, Maria Fyodorovna. [1] When, in September 1915, Nicholas took command of the army at the front lines during World War I, Alexandra sought to influence him toward an authoritarian approach in government affairs even more than she had done during peacetime. His well-known devotion to her injured both his and the dynasty's reputation during World War I, due to both to her German origin and her unique relationship with Rasputin, whose role in the life of her only son was not widely known. Alexandra was a carrier of the gene for haemophilia, inherited from her maternal grandmother, Queen Victoria. [1] Her son, Alexei, the long-awaited heir to the throne, inherited the disease and suffered agonizing bouts of protracted bleeding, the pain of which was sometimes partially alleviated by Rasputin's ministrations. Nicholas and Alexandra also had four daughters: the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. [1]

The six crowned representatives of the Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov line were: Paul (1796–1801), Alexander I (1801–1825), Nicholas I (1825–1855), Alexander II (1855–1881), Alexander III (1881–1894), and Nicholas II (1894–1917). [4]

Constantine Pavlovich and Michael Alexandrovich, both morganatically married, are occasionally counted among Russia's emperors by historians who observe that the Russian monarchy did not legally permit interregnums. But neither was crowned and both actively declined the throne.

Gallery Edit

Throne of the Tsar, the Empress and the Tsarevich in the Grand Kremlin Palace

Downfall Edit

The February Revolution of 1917 resulted in the abdication of Nicholas II in favor of his brother Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich. [1] The latter declined to accept imperial authority save to delegate it to the Provisional Government pending a future democratic referendum, effectively terminating the Romanov dynasty's rule over Russia.

After the February Revolution, Nicholas II and his family were placed under house arrest in the Alexander Palace. While several members of the imperial family managed to stay on good terms with the Provisional Government, and were eventually able to leave Russia, Nicholas II and his family were sent into exile in the Siberian town of Tobolsk by Alexander Kerensky in August 1917. In the October Revolution of 1917 the Bolsheviks ousted the Provisional government. In April 1918 the Romanovs were moved to the Russian town of Yekaterinburg, in the Urals, where they were placed in the Ipatiev House.

Contemporary Romanovs Edit

There have been numerous post-Revolution reports of Romanov survivors and unsubstantiated claims by individuals to be members of the deposed Tsar Nicholas II's family, the best known of whom was Anna Anderson. Proven research has, however, confirmed that all of the Romanovs held prisoners inside the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg were killed. [11] [12] Descendants of Nicholas II's two sisters, Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia and Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia, do survive, as do descendants of previous tsars.

Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, a male-line grandson of Tsar Alexander II, claimed the headship of the deposed Imperial House of Russia, and assumed, as pretender, the title "Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias" in 1924 when the evidence appeared conclusive that all Romanovs higher in the line of succession had been killed. [1] Kirill was followed by his only son Vladimir Kirillovich. [1] Vladimir's only child, Maria Vladimirovna (born 1953), claims to have succeeded her father. The only son of her marriage with Prince Franz Wilhelm of Prussia, George Mikhailovich, is her heir apparent. The Romanov Family Association (RFA) formed in 1979, a private organization of most of the male-line descendants of Emperor Paul I of Russia (other than Vladimir Kirillovich, Maria Vladimirovna and her son) acknowledges the dynastic claims to the throne of no pretender, and is officially committed to support only that form of government chosen by the Russian nation. [13] However the RFA's former president, Nicholas Romanovich, along with his brother Dimitri and some other family members, have repudiated the transfer of the dynasty's legacy to the female-line, contending that his claim is as valid as that of Maria Vladimirovna or her son. A great-grandson of Kirill's who is not a male-line Romanov, Prince Karl Emich of Leiningen, also claims to be the rightful representative of the Romanov Imperial heritage and has become the founder of Romanov Empire.

Late on the night of July 16, Nicholas, Alexandra, their five children and four servants were ordered to dress quickly and go down to the cellar of the house in which they were being held. There, the family and servants were arranged in two rows for a photograph they were told was being taken to quell rumors that they had escaped. Suddenly, a dozen armed men burst into the room and gunned down the imperial family in a hail of gunfire. Those who were still breathing when the smoked cleared were stabbed to death.

The remains of Nicholas, Alexandra and three of their children were excavated in a forest near Yekaterinburg in 1991 and positively identified two years later using DNA fingerprinting. The Crown Prince Alexei and one Romanov daughter were not accounted for, fueling the persistent legend that Anastasia, the youngest Romanov daughter, had survived the execution of her family. Of the several “Anastasias” that surfaced in Europe in the decade after the Russian Revolution, Anna Anderson, who died in the United States in 1984, was the most convincing. In 1994, however, scientists used DNA to prove that Anna Anderson was not the czar’s daughter but a Polish woman named Franziska Schanzkowska. [14]

Initially the gunmen shot at Nicholas, who immediately fell dead from multiple bullet wounds. Then the dark room filled with smoke and dust from the spray of bullets, and the gunmen shot blindly, often hitting the ceiling and walls, creating yet more dust. Alexandra was soon shot in the head by military commissar Petar Ermakov, and killed, and some of the gunmen themselves became injured. It was not until after the room had been cleared of smoke that the shooters re-entered to find the remaining Imperial family still alive and uninjured. Maria tried to escape through the doors at the rear of the room, which led to a storage area, but the doors were nailed shut. The noise as she rattled the doors attracted the attention of Ermakov. Some of the family were shot in the head, but several of the others, including the young and frail Tsarevich, would not die either from multiple close-range bullet wounds or bayonet stabs. Finally, each was shot in the head. Even so, two of the girls were still alive 10 minutes later, and had to be bludgeoned with the butt of a rifle to finally be killed. Later it was discovered that the bullets and bayonet stabs had been partially blocked by diamonds that had been sewn into the children's clothing. [ citation needed ] The bodies of the Romanovs were then hidden and moved several times before being interred in an unmarked pit where they remained until the summer of 1979 when amateur enthusiasts disinterred and re-buried some of them, and then decided to conceal the find until the fall of communism. In 1991 the grave site was excavated and the bodies were given a state funeral under the nascent democracy of post-Soviet Russia, and several years later DNA and other forensic evidence was used by Russian and international scientists to make genuine identifications. [ citation needed ]

The Ipatiev House has the same name as the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma, where Mikhail Romanov had been offered the Russian Crown in 1613. The large memorial church "on the blood" has been built on the spot where the Ipatiev House once stood.

Nicholas II and his family were proclaimed passion-bearers by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000. In Orthodoxy, a passion-bearer is a saint who was not killed because of his faith, like a martyr but who died in faith at the hand of murderers.

Remains of the Tsar Edit

In July 1991, the crushed bodies of Nicholas II and his wife, along with three of their five children and four of their servants, were exhumed (although some [ who? ] questioned the authenticity of these bones despite DNA testing). Because two bodies were not present, many people [ who? ] believed that two Romanov children escaped the killings. There was much debate as to which two children's bodies were missing. A Russian scientist made photographic superimpositions and determined that Maria and Alexei were not accounted for. Later, an American scientist concluded from dental, vertebral, and other remnants that it was Anastasia and Alexei who were missing. Much mystery has always surrounded Anastasia's fate. Several films have been produced suggesting that she lived on. This has since been disproved with the discovery of the final Romanov children's remains and extensive DNA testing, which connected those remains to the DNA of Nicholas II, his wife, and the other three children. [ citation needed ]

After the bodies were exhumed in June 1991, they remained in laboratories until 1998, while there was a debate as to whether they should be reburied in Yekaterinburg or St. Petersburg. A commission eventually chose St. Petersburg. The remains were transferred with full military honor guard and accompanied by members of the Romanov family from Yekaterinburg to St. Petersburg. In St. Petersburg the remains of the imperial family were moved by a formal military honor guard cortege from the airport to the Sts. Peter and Paul Fortress where they (along with several loyal servants who were killed with them) were interred in a special chapel in the Peter and Paul Cathedral near the tombs of their ancestors. President Boris Yeltsin attended the interment service on behalf of the Russian people.

In mid-2007, a Russian archaeologist announced a discovery by one of his workers. The excavation uncovered the following items in the two pits which formed a "T":

  1. remains of 46 human bone fragments
  2. bullet jackets from short barrel guns/pistols
  3. wooden boxes which had deteriorated into fragments
  4. pieces of ceramic which appear to be amphoras which were used as containers for acid
  5. iron nails
  6. iron angles
  7. seven fragments of teeth
  8. fragment of fabric of a garment.

The area where the remains were found was near the old Koptyaki Road, under what appeared to be double bonfire sites about 70 metres (230 ft) from the mass grave in Pigs Meadow near Yekaterinburg. The general directions were described in Yurovsky's memoirs, owned by his son, although no one is sure who wrote the notes on the page. The archaeologists said the bones are from a boy who was roughly between the ages of 10 and 13 years at the time of his death and of a young woman who was roughly between the ages of 18 and 23 years old. Anastasia was 17 years, 1 month old at the time of the murder, while Maria was 19 years, 1 month old. Alexei would have been 14 in two weeks' time. Alexei's elder sisters Olga and Tatiana were 22 and 21 years old at the time of the murder respectively. The bones were found using metal detectors and metal rods as probes. Also, striped material was found that appeared to have been from a blue-and-white striped cloth Alexei commonly wore a blue-and-white striped undershirt.

On 30 April 2008, Russian forensic scientists announced that DNA testing proves that the remains belong to the Tsarevich Alexei and his sister Maria. DNA information, made public in July 2008, that has been obtained from Ekaterinburg and repeatedly subject to independent testing by laboratories such as the University of Massachusetts Medical School, US, and reveals that the final two missing Romanov remains are indeed authentic and that the entire Romanov family housed in the Ipatiev House, Yekaterinburg were executed in the early hours of 17 July 1918. In March 2009, results of the DNA testing were published, confirming that the two bodies discovered in 2007 were those of Tsarevich Alexei and Maria.

Research on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was conducted in the American AFDIL and in European GMI laboratories. In comparison with the previous analyses mtDNA in the area of Alexandra Fyodorovna, positions 16519C, 524.1A and 524.2C were added. The mtDNA of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, a great-nephew of the last Tsarina, was used by forensic scientists to identify her body and those of her children. [15] [16]

On 18 July 1918, the day after the killing at Yekaterinburg of the tsar and his family, members of the extended Russian imperial family met a brutal death by being killed near Alapayevsk by Bolsheviks. They included: Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich of Russia, Prince Ioann Konstantinovich of Russia, Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich of Russia, Prince Igor Konstantinovich of Russia and Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley, Grand Duke Sergei's secretary Varvara Yakovleva, and Grand Duchess Elisabeth Fyodorovna, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and elder sister of Tsarina Alexandra. Following the 1905 assassination of her husband, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, Elisabeth Fyodorovna had ceased living as a member of the Imperial family and took up life as a serving nun, but was nonetheless arrested and slated for death with other Romanovs. [17] They were thrown down a mine shaft into which explosives were then dropped, all being left to die there slowly. [18]

The bodies were recovered from the mine by the White Army in 1918, who arrived too late to rescue them. Their remains were placed in coffins and moved around Russia during struggles between the White and the opposing Red Army. By 1920 the coffins were interred in a former Russian mission in Beijing, now beneath a parking area. In 1981 Grand Duchess Elisabeth was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and in 1992 by the Moscow Patriarchate. In 2006 representatives of the Romanov family were making plans to re-inter the remains elsewhere. [19] The town became a place of pilgrimage to the memory of Elisabeth Fyodorovna, whose remains were eventually re-interred in Jerusalem.

On 13 June 1918, Bolshevik revolutionary authorities killed Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia and Nicholas Johnson (Michael's secretary) in Perm.

In January 1919 revolutionary authorities killed Grand Dukes Dmitry Konstantinovich, Nikolai Mikhailovich, Paul Alexandrovich and George Mikhailovich, who had been held in the prison of the Saint Peter and Paul Fortress in Petrograd.

Dowager Empress Maria Fyodorovna Edit

In 1919, Maria Fyodorovna, widow of Alexander III, and mother of Nicholas II, managed to escape Russia aboard HMS Marlborough, which her nephew, King George V of the United Kingdom, had sent, at the urging of his own mother, Queen Alexandra, Maria's elder sister, to rescue her. After a stay in England with Queen Alexandra, she returned to her native Denmark, first living at Amalienborg Palace, with her nephew, King Christian X, and later, at Villa Hvidøre. Upon her death in 1928 her coffin was placed in the crypt of Roskilde Cathedral, the burial site of members of the Danish Royal Family.

In 2006, the coffin with her remains was moved to the Sts. Peter and Paul Fortress, to be buried beside that of her husband. The transfer of her remains was accompanied by an elaborate ceremony at Saint Isaac's Cathedral officiated by the Patriarch Alexis II. Descendants and relatives of the Dowager Empress attended, including her great-grandson Prince Michael Andreevich, Princess Catherine Ioannovna of Russia, the last living member of the Imperial Family born before the fall of the dynasty, [20] and Princes Dmitri and Prince Nicholas Romanov.

Other exiles Edit

Among the other exiles who managed to leave Russia, were Maria Fyodorovna's two daughters, the Grand Duchesses Xenia Alexandrovna and Olga Alexandrovna, with their husbands, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich and Nikolai Kulikovsky, respectively, and their children, as well as the spouses of Xenia's elder two children and her granddaughter. Xenia remained in England, following her mother's return to Denmark, although after their mother's death Olga moved to Canada with her husband, [21] both sisters dying in 1960. Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, widow of Nicholas II's uncle, Grand Duke Vladimir, and her children the Grand Dukes Kiril, Boris and Andrei, and their sister Elena, also managed to flee Russia. Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, a cousin of Nicholas II, had been exiled to the Caucasus in 1916 for his part in the murder of Grigori Rasputin, and managed to escape Russia. Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaievich, who had commanded Russian troops during World War I prior to Nicholas II taking command, along with his brother, Grand Duke Peter, and their wives, Grand Duchesses Anastasia and Militza, who were sisters, and Peter's children, son-in-law, and granddaughter also fled the country.

Elizaveta Mavrikievna, widow of Konstantin Konstantinovich, escaped with her daughter Vera Konstantinovna and her son Georgii Konstantinovich, as well as her grandson Prince Vsevolod Ivanovich and her granddaughter Princess Catherine Ivanovna to Sweden. Her other daughter, Tatiana Konstantinovna, also escaped with her children Natasha and Teymuraz, as well as her uncle's aide-de-camp Alexander Korochenzov. They fled to Romania and then Switzerland. Gavriil Konstantinovich was imprisoned before fleeing to Paris.

Ioann Konstantinovich's wife, Elena Petrovna, was imprisoned in Alapayevsk and Perm, before escaping to Sweden and Nice, France.

Pretenders Edit

Since 1991, the succession to the former Russian throne has been in dispute, largely due to disagreements over the validity of dynasts' marriages.

Others have argued in support of the rights of the late Prince Nicholas Romanovich Romanov, whose brother Prince Dimitri Romanov was the next male heir of his branch after whom it is now passed to Prince Andrew Romanov.

In 2014, a micronation calling itself the Imperial Throne, founded in 2011 by Monarchist Party leader Anton Bakov, announced Prince Karl Emich of Leiningen, a Romanov descendant, as its sovereign. In 2017, it renamed itself as "Romanov Empire".

The collection of jewels and jewelry collected by the Romanov family during their reign are commonly referred to as the "Russian Crown Jewels" [22] and they include official state regalia as well as personal pieces of jewelry worn by Romanov rulers and their family. After the Tsar was deposed and his family murdered, their jewels and jewelry became the property of the new Soviet government. [23] A select number of pieces from the collection were sold at auction by Christie's in London in March 1927. [24] The remaining collection is on view today in the Kremlin Armoury in Moscow. [25]

On 28 August 2009, a Swedish public news outlet reported that a collection of over 60 jewel-covered cigarette cases and cufflinks owned by Grand Duchess Vladimir had been found in the archives of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and was returned to the descendants of Grand Duchess Vladimir. The jewelry was allegedly turned over to the Swedish embassy in St. Petersburg in November 1918 by Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin to keep it safe. The value of the jewelry has been estimated at 20 million Swedish krona (about 2.6 million US dollars). [26]

The Imperial Arms of the House of Romanov, with and without background shield, which were restricted in use to the Emperor and certain members of the Imperial Family

Smaller coat of arms (elements) Edit

The centerpiece is the coat of arms of Moscow that contains the iconic Saint George the Dragon-slayer with a blue cape (cloak) attacking golden serpent on red field.

The wings of double-headed eagle contain coat of arms of following lands:

The Rasputin Connection

Grigori Rasputin was a Russian mystic who claimed to have healing powers, and Tsarina Alexandra often called upon him to pray for Alexei during his more debilitating periods. Although he held no formal role within the Russian Orthodox Church, Rasputin nevertheless had a good deal of influence with the tsarina, who credited his miraculous faith-healing abilities with saving her son’s life on several occasions.

At their mother’s encouragement, the Romanov children viewed Rasputin as a friend and confidant. They often wrote him letters and he responded in kind. However, around 1912, one of the family’s governesses became concerned when she found Rasputin visiting the girls in their nursery while they wore only their nightgowns. The governess was eventually fired and went to other family members to tell her story.

Although by most accounts there was nothing inappropriate in Rasputin’s relationship with the children and they viewed him fondly, there was still a minor scandal over the situation. Over time, the rumors began to spiral out of control, and there were whispers that Rasputin was having an affair with the Tsarina and her young daughters. To counter the gossip, Nicholas sent Rasputin out of the country for a while the monk went on a pilgrimage to Palestine. In December 1916, he was murdered by a group of aristocrats who were upset about his influence over the Tsarina. Alexandra was reportedly devastated by his death.


Parts of the land that is today known as Russia was populated by various East Slavic peoples from before the 9th century. The first states to exert hegemony over the region were those of the Rus' people, a branch of Nordic Varangians who entered the region occupied by modern Russia sometime in the ninth century, and set up a series of states starting with the Rus' Khaganate circa 830. Little is known of the Rus' Khaganate beyond its existence, including the extent of its territory or any reliable list of its khagans (rulers).

Princes of Novgorod Edit

Traditionally, Rus' statehood is traced to Rurik, a Rus' leader of Novgorod (modern Veliky Novgorod), a different Rus' state.

Grand princes of Kiev Edit

Rurik's successor Oleg moved his capital to Kiev (now Ukraine), founding the state of Kievan Rus'. Over the next several centuries, the most important titles were Grand Prince of Kiev and Grand Prince of Novgorod whose holder (often the same person) could claim hegemony.

Feudal period Edit

The gradual disintegration of Rus' began in the 11th century, after the death of Yaroslav the Wise. The position of the Grand Prince was weakened by the growing influence of regional clans. In 1097, the Council of Liubech formalized the feudal nature of the Rus' lands.

After Mstislav's death in 1132, the Kievan Rus' fell into recession and a rapid decline. The throne of Kiev became an object of struggle between various territorial associations of Rurikid princes.

In March 1169, a coalition of native princes led by Andrei of Vladimir sacked Kiev and forced Mstislav II to flee in Volhynia. Andrei's brother Gleb was appointed as prince of Kiev while Andrei himself continued to rule his realm from Vladimir on Klyazma. Since that time, Northeastern Rus′ centered in Vladimir has become one of the most influential Rus′ lands. In the southwest, Galicia-Volhynia had emerged as the local successor to Kiev. In the mid-14th century, Galicia-Volhynia fell under pressure from neighboring powers Poland conquered Galicia and Lithuania took other Western Rus′ lands including Kiev.

Grand Princes of Vladimir Edit

By the 12th century, the Grand Duchy of Vladimir became the dominant principality in Northwest Rus, adding its name to those of Novgorod and Kiev, culminating with the rule of Alexander Nevsky. In 1169 Prince Andrey I of Vladimir sacked the city of Kiev and took over the title of the grand prince to claim primacy in Rus'.

Rus state finally disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1242. Its successor principalities started paying tribute to the Golden Horde (the so-called Tatar Yoke). From the mid-13th to mid-15th centuries, princes of North-Eastern Rus received a yarlyk (a special edict of Golden Horde khan).

Alexander Nevsky was the last prince to reign directly from Vladimir. After his death, Northeastern Rus′ fell apart into a dozen principalities. The territory of the Grand Duchy of Vladimir proper was received by the Horde to one of the appanage princes, who performed the enthronement ceremony in Vladimir, but remained to live and reign in his own principality. By the end of the century, only three cities – Moscow, Tver, and Nizhny Novgorod – still contended for the title of Grand Prince of Vladimir.

After Dmitry the throne of Vladimir was succeeded only by princes of Moscow.

Grand Princes of Moscow Edit

The Grand Duchy of Moscow, founded by Alexander Nevsky's youngest son Daniel, began to consolidate control over the entire Rus' territory in the 14th century. The Russians began to exert independence from the Mongols, culminating with Ivan III ceasing tribute to the Horde, effectively declaring his independence. His son Vasili III completed the task of uniting all of Russia by annexing the last few independent states in the 1520s.

Tsars of Russia Edit

Vasili's son Ivan the Terrible formalized the situation by assuming the title Tsar of All Rus' in 1547, when the state of Russia (apart from its constituent principalities) came into formal being.

Following the death of the Feodor I, the son of Ivan the Terrible and the last of the Rurik dynasty, Russia fell into a succession crisis. As Feodor left no male heirs, the Russian Zemsky Sobor (feudal parliament) elected his brother-in-law Boris Godunov to be Tsar.

Tsars of Russia Edit

Devastated by famine, rule under Boris descended into anarchy. A series of impostors, known as the False Dmitrys, each claimed to be Feodor I's long deceased younger brother however, only the first impostor ever took the capital and sat on the throne. A distant Rurikid cousin, Vasily Shuysky, also took power for a time. During this period, foreign powers deeply involved themselves in Russian politics, under the leadership of the Vasa monarchs of Sweden and Poland-Lithuania, including Sigismund III Vasa and his son Władysław. As a child, Władysław was even chosen as Tsar by the council of aristocracy, though he was prevented by his father from formally taking the throne. The Time of Troubles is considered to have ended with the election of Michael Romanov to the throne in February 1613.

Tsars of Russia Edit

Tsars of Russia Edit

The Time of Troubles came to a close with the election of Michael Romanov as Tsar in 1613. Michael officially reigned as Tsar, though his father, the Patriarch Philaret (died 1633) initially held the real power. However, Michael's descendants would rule Russia, first as Tsars and later as Emperors, until the Russian Revolution of 1917. Peter the Great (reigned 1682–1725), a grandson of Michael Romanov, reorganized the Russian state along more Western lines, establishing the Russian Empire in 1721.

Emperors of Russia Edit

(Also Grand Princes of Finland from 1809 until 1917 and Kings of Poland from 1815 until 1917)

The Empire of Russia was declared by Peter the Great in 1721. Officially, Russia would be ruled by the Romanov dynasty until the Russian Revolution of 1917. However, direct male descendants of Michael Romanov came to an end in 1730 with the death of Peter II of Russia, grandson of Peter the Great. The throne passed to Anna, a niece of Peter the Great, and after the brief rule of her niece's infant son Ivan VI, the throne was seized by Elizabeth, a daughter of Peter the Great. Elizabeth would be the last of the direct Romanovs to rule Russia. Elizabeth declared her nephew, Peter, to be her heir. Peter (who would rule as Peter III) spoke little Russian, having been a German prince of the House of Holstein-Gottorp before arriving in Russia to assume the Imperial title. He and his German wife Sophia changed their name to Romanov upon inheriting the throne. Peter was ill-liked, and he was assassinated within six months of assuming the throne, in a coup orchestrated by his wife, who became Empress in her own right and ruled as Catherine the Great (both Peter and Catherine were descended from the House of Rurik). Following the confused successions of the descendants of Peter the Great, Catherine's son Paul I established clear succession laws which governed the rules of primogeniture over the Imperial throne until the fall of the Empire in 1917.

The Romanov Family Tree: Real Descendants and Wannabes

On the night of July 16, 1918, a Bolshevik assassination squad executed Czar Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra, and their five children, putting an end to the Romanov family dynasty that had ruled Russia for more than three centuries.

The murder of the Romanovs stamped out the monarchy in Russia in a brutal fashion. But even though there is no throne to claim, some descendants of Czar Nicholas II still claim royal ties today.

So do a handful of imposters. Since 1918, people all over the world have come forward claiming to be the young crown prince, Alexei, or one of his four sisters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. So who are the real Romanovs? 


At the time of the executions, about a dozen Romanov relatives were known to have escaped the Bolsheviks, including Maria Feodorovna, the mother of Czar Nicholas II, her daughters Xenia and Olga, and their husbands. Of the 53 Romanovs who were alive in 1917, it’s estimated that only 35 remained alive by 1920.

For Russian royalists, the continued existence of Romanov descendants keeps hope alive that at some point someone in the royal family might reclaim the throne—if only they could work out which member of the family has the strongest claim.ਊs it stands, two branches of the Romanov family disagree on who is the legitimate pretender, or claimant to a monarchy that has been abolished. Here are the people alive today with ties to the ill-fated imperial family. 

Maria Vladimirovna, Grand Duchess of Russia, attending the unveiling of a monument to Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, 2016.

Alexei Pavlishak/TASS/Getty Images

Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna

Maria Vladimirovna is the most widely acknowledged pretender to the throne of Russia. This great-great-granddaughter of Alexander II, who was Emperor of Russia until his assassination in 1881, now lives in Spain. Her father, Vladimir Kirillovich, was born in exile in Finland in 1917, and from 1938 claimed to be head of the Russian imperial family. When Grand Duke Vladimir died in 1992, his daughter succeeded him in this claim,ਊnd calls her son, the Grand Duke George Mikhailovich, the heir apparent. However, Maria Vladimirovna has never belonged to the Romanov Family Association, founded in 1979 to unite descendants, because its members include non-dynastic Romanovs (those whose ancestors married outside the dynasty), whom she and her supporters believe do not have a legitimate claim to the throne. 

Elizabeth Mangelsdorf/San Francisco Examiner/AP Photo

Prince Andrew Romanov

Andrew is the great-great-grandson of Nicholas I, who was emperor of Russia until his death in 1855. He is also the grandson of Duchess Xenia, who fled Russia in 1917 along with her mother and others on a warship sent by her cousin, Britain’s King George V. Born in London in 1923, he has lived for years in California, and is an artist and author. After the death of Prince Dmitri Romanovich in December 2016, Prince Andrew inherited the rival claim to the throne supported by the Romanov Family Association. 

Michael, Tsar of Russia

Mikhail Fyodorovich Romanov was the founder of the Romanov dynasty in Russia. The dynasty was in power from 1613 to 1917. This story tells how Michael first came into power. After reading the story, students will answer context clues and character questions.

Reading Comprehension Passage

Michael, Tsar of Russia

“Michael! Michael!” Abram raced into his friend’s room. “Michael, The Assembly of the Land is looking for you. Representatives have arrived from Moscow and are heading here right now!”

Michael’s brows shot up into his forehead. “What would they want with me?!”

Abram put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Did you forget that your grandfather, Nikita, was the uncle of the last tsar of the Rurik dynasty? You are related.”

“That’s of no matter. I don’t have an education.” Michael paced the room with nervous energy. “My mother and I live in a monastery. My father was forced to become a monk. He’s now in Poland. What would they want with me?”

Just then, Michael was summoned by his mother to come to the courtyard.

Michael and Abram were met by a group of men.

One of the group came forward. “Michael Fyodorovich Romanov, the assembly has met to choose a new tsar. Our land is in internal chaos, we are being invaded by foreign lands, and since the death of tsar Fyodor I, there has been a quick series of rulers. We need stability in our land. We want you to be the new ruler of Russia.”

Michael looked at his mother then at Abram. Thoughts pounded through his head. “But . . . but, I’m not qualified. How can I rule a land such as ours?”

“Michael,” said his mother. “You are 16 years old. You are old enough. You must answer Russia’s call.”

“I don’t know.” Michael looked at Abram again, hoping his friend could help.

Abram moved close to Michael. “You have rulership in your blood,” he whispered. "And no doubt your mother’s family will help you with governmental affairs.”

Michael lowered his head. He looked at the ground as if it could make up his mind for him. Finally, he looked up. “I would prefer not having to do this, but I must fulfill this request to honor my family.”

The representatives discussed plans with Michael for several days, then they returned to Moscow.

Four months later, on July 21, 1613, Michael was crowned Michael Tsar of Russia. He became the first tsar in the Romanov dynasty, a dynasty that reigned until 1917.

Prominent Russians: Aleksey Mikhailovich Romanov

Image from www.arthermitage.org

Aleksey Mikhailovich Romanov was the second Russian tsar (1645–1676) of the house of Romanov. Up to the age of five, according to tradition, Aleksey was surrounded by servants and nurses. He then came under the charge of a tutor, a boyar named Boris Ivanovich Morozov, who exerted great influence over his pupil for the next 30 years. At age five he learned to read, and at age seven he knew how to write. Contrary to his father, Mikhail Fyodorovich, who died when Aleksey was 16, he was quick-witted.

According to reports by his contemporaries, he was complacent, affable and simultaneously grand and serious, with kindness shining in his blue eyes. He received some formal education, but it was limited to practical subjects needed to conduct the affairs of the state. He was taught history, geography, mathematics and natural sciences, as well as military and foreign affairs.

Aleksey Mikhailovich was also encouraged to read a wide range of books, including classical works by Plato, Aristotle and Pythagoras, medical books, and works on astrology and occult arts. He even tried to write verses and left notes about the Polish War. He liked to philosophize and was a passionate hunter. He was especially fond of falconry in which he was an expert. Despite his evidently good nature, he was quick-tempered and frequently came to blows. At one session of the Duma he drove his father-in-law, Miloslavsky, from the room by beating and kicking him. However he was quick to calm down and was far from vindictive.

In general, Aleksey Mikhailovich possessed a broad, relatively liberal background that allowed him to assess political issues quickly and accurately. However, he always had difficulty grasping abstract principles, which caused him to be swayed more by good rhetoric than by sound arguments. The impulsiveness of Aleksey Mikhailovich's mind resulted in his many dramatic shifts of opinion over the years. No doubt these qualities made autocratic rule more complicated and unpredictable. On the other hand, Aleksey Mikhailovich was free to use his imagination and ingenuity to reform and invigorate the languid Muscovite bureaucracy. It is the merit of Aleksey that he discovered so many great men (like Nikon, Orduin-Naschokin, Matvyeev) and suitably employed them.

Morozov was a shrewd and sensible guardian, sufficiently enlightened to recognize the needs of his country, and by no means resistant to Western ideas. On 17 January 1648 he procured the marriage of the tsar to Maria Ilyinichna Miloslavskaya, himself marrying her sister, Anna, 10 days later, thus became the tsar's brother-in-law. Both brides were daughters of Ilya Danilovich Miloslavsky (1594 - 1668). When Aleksey married into the Miloslavsky family, they secured the most influential positions, according to well-established custom.

Image from www.arthermitage.org

The tsar’s union with Maria Miloslavskaya (16 January 1648) was a success and she bore him 13 children during 21 years of marriage: five sons and eight daughters. She died in her fourteenth childbirth. Four sons survived her (Aleksey, Fyodor, Simeon, and Ivan) but within six months of her death, two of them died, including Aleksey, the 16-year-old heir to the throne. Aleksey Mikhailovich remarried on 1 February 1671 to Natalya Kyrillovna Naryshkina (1 September 1651 – 4 February 1694). The most famous of their children was Peter (the first Russian emperor-to-be 1672-1725).

The following title was given to Aleksey Mikhailovich after coronation (September 28, 1646): “Great Tsar and Grand Duke of the whole of Russia, the Tsar of Moscow, Kiev, Vladimir, Novgorod, the Tsar of Kazan, Astrakhan, Siberia, Pskov, Tver, Yugra, Perm, Vyatka, Bulgaria, etc., the Tsar and Grand Duke of Novgorod lowlands, Chernigov, Ryazan, Rostov, Yaroslavl, Beloozero, Udor and other northern lands, the Tsar of Tver grounds, Kartalina and Georgian king’s and Kabardian lands, Cherkass and highland prince’s and many other eastern, western and northern states and the grounds from time of many ancestors and the successor to the throne, sovereign and owner”. A well-known German scholar of the time, Adam Oleary (1599 - 1671) described it this way: "Lands, provinces and cities provided an annual income of several million to the treasury. The main trade city of Arkhangel earned an incredible amount of money, namely 300 thousand rubles, equal to six tons of gold, in one year alone. Inns and pubs, taverns or "mug yards" of which the Grand Duke is sole owner, bring in staggering amounts of money. In each city there is a special house where one receives vodka, other alcoholic drinks and beer with the money being transferred to the tsar's treasury.

“He also has a large court his own magnificent table, in the Kremlin or outside, feeds up to one thousand people daily… When lunchtime comes, they do not trumpet to table as at other courts, but a special person runs to the kitchen and cellar, and shouts, ‘Food to Sovereign!’ Food immediately appears. The Tsar sits down to table separately from the others. There are up to 50 (and even more) different dishes on the table, but not all of them are given to the Tsar servants raise them a little and the main table servant points only the Tsar’s favorite dishes appear on his table."

From his contemporaries he received the nickname “the Quietest” in spite of the fact that during his reign there was not a year without social distempers and wars. The wars in which Russia was engaged and the necessity of maintaining a large and well-equipped army, together with the increasing expenses of the Court, and above all, the dishonest practices of officials, rendered the burden of taxation so unbearable that several revolts broke out. Probably the most striking and brutal experience of the tsar’s youth was the Salt Rebellion of May 1648 when the increase in salt tax resulted in an uprising in Moscow. Aleksey was compelled to dismiss and exile Morozov to a northern monastery and three notoriously corrupt officials were murdered during the riot. The success of the Moscow riots spurred disquieting disturbances all over the land, culminating in dangerous rebellions at Pskov and Great Novgorod, with which the government was unable to cope, helplessly surrendering and practically granting the malcontents their own terms.

Image from www.gelos.ru

In 1653 the weakness and disorder of Poland, which had just emerged from the savage Cossack war, encouraged Aleksey to attempt to recover the ancient Russian lands. On 1 October 1653 a national assembly met in Moscow to sanction the war and in April 1654 the army was blessed by Patriarch Nikon. That same year, the Cossacks of Ukraine, led in revolt against Poland by Bogdan Chmielnicki, voted for the union of Ukraine with Russia. The campaign of 1654 was a triumph and scores of towns, including the important fortress of Smolensk, fell into the hands of the Muscovites. Aleksey Mikhailovich tried to maintain strict discipline prompting one Polish governor to observe: "Moscow makes war in quite a new way and conquers the people by the clemency and good-nature of the tsar." The towns of White Russia opened their gates to his army and Smolensk surrendered after a five-weeks siege.

In January 1655 the rout of Ochmatov arrested their progress but in the summer of the same year, the sudden invasion by Charles X of Sweden for the moment swept the Polish state out of existence the Muscovites, unopposed, quickly appropriated nearly everything that was not already occupied by the Swedes. Fortunately for Poland, the Tsar and the king of Sweden quarreled over the apportionment of the spoils and at the end of May 1656 Aleksey declared war on Sweden.

Great things were expected of the Swedish War but little came of it. Dorpat (Tartu) was captured, but countless multitudes were lost in vain before Riga. In the meantime Poland had recovered, becomng a much more dangerous foe than Sweden, and, as it was impossible to wage war with both simultaneously, the Tsar resolved to rid himself of the Swedes first. The war lasted from 1656 to 1661 and ended with the Peace of Cardis (July 1661), whereby neither country gained any advantage. The Poles, seeing the danger they had incurred, rallied and once again war broke out with Russia. It lasted for six years until both countries were exhausted.

With the truce of Andrusovo (11 February 1667), concluded nominally for 13 years, Vitebsk, Polotsk and Polish Livonia were restored to Poland but the infinitely more important Smolensk and Kiev remained in the hands of Russia together with the whole eastern bank of the Dnieper River. The truce was the achievement of Athanasy Orduin-Nashchokin, the first Russian chancellor and diplomat in the modern sense who, after Patriarch Nikon's deposition (1666), became the Tsar's first minister until 1670 when he was superseded by the equally able Artamon Matvyeev, whose influence prevailed to the end of Aleksey's reign.

An invaluable tool in the tsar's drive for centralized authority was the Private Office. Like the CPSU Politburo three centuries later, the Private Office was an exclusive, well-informed and highly efficient body able to dominate the lower orders of government. It enabled the tsar to undermine the influence of the boyar Duma by excluding it from important government decisions. Aleksey Mikhailovich understood the danger of havoc lurking among aristocrats (boyars) like Ivan IV, he wanted to render them as helpless as possible. Thus, over the course of his reign the aristocratic share of the Duma dropped from 70 percent to 25 percent. Instead of the boyars, Aleksey Mikhailovich cultivated the gentry as a base of support, which, incidentally, contributed to the growth of Russian military power.

On 25 October 1653 Aleksey Mikhailovich adopted the Trade Statute (also known as the Customs Statute). This law brought order to the highly complicated customs system of Russia that included some 70 different internal customs duties and transportation costs and created many opportunities for corruption and cheating. The Statute was adopted in direct response to an August 1653 petition by leading Russian merchants against transit duties and for a unified rate of customs tariffs. The code combined a uniform internal rate with an overall increase in imposts. It further adopted uniform measures of weight and length throughout the country. A basic 5 percent impost was levied on sold goods, with the exception of salt (double rate), furs, fish, and horses (old duties applied). A special duty of 2.5 percent was applied to goods offered exclusively in border towns for export. In a mercantilist move, foreign merchants were required to pay a 6 percent duty in the Russian interior in addition to a 2 percent transit duty. However, exports from Arkhangel were taxed at only 2 percent.

Image from banana.by

Another important economic novelty was the monetary reform started in1654 with the aim of solving the financial problems of the Treasury by replacing part of the silver coins in circulation with copper money. The success of the initiative led to a bold decision to issue copper money exclusively, in lieu of silver coins. The expected profit was explicit and prodigious, since the prices on metals differed approximately 60 times. However, the obvious (but unexpected by the reformers) result was hyperinflation. For instance, in 1653 a pail (12,3 liters) of vodka cost 75-90 kopecks, in March 1660 the price was raised to 1.5 rubles, in October 1660 it became 3 rubles and in September 1662 the price reached five rubles. The prices of rye and oats also rose many times by 1662 - 1663. Exorbitant prices led to the stagnation and naturalization of trade. The growing discontent, which had generated a flood of petitions to the tsar, burst into the Copper Riot in Moscow on 25 July 1662. Alexey Mikhailovich ordered a merciless suppression of the unrest. As a result, up to 1,000 men were killed, hanged, or drowned in the Moscow River while several thousand were arrested and later exiled after a brutal investigation. However, the Copper Riot caused perplexity and fear among top government officials and all copper money was withdrawn from circulation in 1663. Eventually, the reform had to be totally abandoned and a retreat made to the silver kopecks which could hardly be called coins, as in fact they were flattened pieces of wire weighing about half a gram each. The archaic monetary system remained in place for another 30 years.

A new code of laws (Ulozhenie) was adopted in 1649 and remained in effect (with some alterations) until the early 18th century it favored landowners but extended serfdom of Russian peasants, increasing the number of refugee serfs, many of whom fled to the Cossack settlements along the lower Volga, Dnieper, and Don rivers. In 1670, under the leadership of Don Cossack Stepan (Stenka) Razin, a great agrarian revolt began in southeastern Russia it was quelled with great difficulty by the tsar’s troops a year later.

The overall reputation of Aleksey Mikhailovich also suffered from growing distrust and opposition throughout the country caused by church reforms, which were implemented along side monetary reforms. The church reforms were induced by similar reasons – the growth of the state and the necessity to unify religious traditions and translations of the Scriptures, especially in the newly acquired Ukrainian lands. Under the leadership of Patriarch Nikon (1605–81) authorities started to “rectify scriptures” and improve rituals according to Greek models (but foreign iconographic styles were banned). Many priests and congregations perceived this innovation as a change of religion and betrayal of Orthodoxy and saw the church reforms as the days of Last Judgment. Acts of disobedience, accompanied by self-burning and reprisals, took place all over the country. Some monasteries near Arkhangel rebelled and troops were sent against them but it was eight months before the sturdy monks capitulated. At a church council in 1667 the traditionalist dissenters, or Raskolniki, were declared schismatics and suffered persecution.

The gentle nature of Aleksey Mikhailovich did not prevent him from dealing harshly with the Old Believers. In 1671 Feodosia Morozova (known also as Boyarina Morozova), a devoted Old Believer, was arrested, interrogated and thrown into a Kremlin dungeon. Aleksey Mikhailovich sent a letter politely asking her to do him the honor and accept the Nikonian reforms. After her refusal the tsar compromised further offering to release her if she agreed not to proselytize and promised to use the three-fingered cross. At the same time he threatened to confiscate her family's estates if she continued to resist. When Morozova persisted (she even made the two fingered cross in the tsar's presence), Aleksey Mikhailovich began to wonder whether she had a special calling to martyrdom. Thus, when the Patriarch requested her release, the tsar refused in order to keep her out of sight. Soon after, she was tortured and then placed in a convent. Rumors of her mental illness were circulated, and after two years, she was put on an extreme regimen in which most of her clothing and food were taken away. She died in 1675.

Aleksey Mikhailovich was enchanted with the idea of making Moscow the acknowledged center of the Orthodox world, with himself as the great restorer of Byzantine power and tradition. So the tsar, in a move reminiscent of Ivan IV, ordered innumerable relics of saints to be brought to the Kremlin, thereby enhancing the divine authority of the Patriarch and himself.

However, in spite of all the financial, political and social troubles, by the end of Aleksey Mikhailovich's reign, the economic landscape of Russia was quite different than at the beginning. By 1676, there were roughly three times as many “gosti” (important merchants) in Moscow than in 1645 and the promotion of commerce had resulted in an "all-Russian market" stretching from Ukraine to Arkhangel and Siberia. This was facilitated by greatly improved communications between Moscow and all the provinces. Under Aleksey Mikhailovich, regular postal service was first introduced in Russia. In addition, the tsar pushed for the expansion of agricultural production, partly by recruiting foreign horticulture experts.

Aleksey Mikhailovich also sponsored many expeditions to the East in search of riches. He hoped to find a northeast or southeast naval passage to the Orient, which would enable Russia to compete with the Dutch and English trading companies. However, neither the Caspian nor the White seas offered much advantage to Russian merchants. Nonetheless, explorers managed to reach the extremities of Siberia with the help of (from the 1660s onwards) astronomical navigation. These expeditions produced better maps, which made travel through Siberia much easier. As a result, by 1667, trade contacts with China were initiated.

Aleksey continued his father's efforts to reestablish intercourse with Western Europe. But the West was still recovering from the terrible Thirty Years' War and showed little interest. Russia, meanwhile, was advancing to the status of a European power and in urban centers influences from western Europe were at last penetrating the isolation, largely remnant since the Mongol yoke.

Aleksey Mikhailovich, like Peter the Great later, seemed to believe that the traditional Russian military, led by corrupt and disorderly gunmen (“streltsy”), was hopeless, and he undertook a broad military reform, establishing Western-style regiments which consisted of two-thirds infantry and one-third cavalry. Large numbers of foreign officers and troops were also recruited in addition to Russian soldiers. Most importantly, the tsar intervened personally in battles to keep rival commanders from wasting his better regiments and he maintained a close, tireless watch over virtually every aspect of military administration.

Aleksey Mikhailovich died at age 47. One of the reasons for his early senility is thought to be excessive (even by Moscow standards) obesity. He was succeeded by his eldest son Feodor while his younger son by a second marriage, later became Peter I (Peter the Great).

Modern Descendants of the Russian Royal Family

Hundreds of living relatives, famous and infamous, can claim a Romanov connection.

Queen Elizabeth II's husband is the grandnephew of the last tsarina, Alexandra Romanov, and great-great-grandson of Nicholas I. His DNA was used to identify the murdered Romanovs' remains. His descendants, including princes Charles, William, and Harry, are therefore related to the Romanovs as well.

His grandmother was first cousin to Nicholas II, and he was one of the living Romanov relatives whose DNA was used to help identify the remains of the tsar's family. He is also first cousin to Queen Elizabeth II. In England his frequent use of royal perks earned him the tabloid nickname Rent-a-Kent.

After the unexpected death of his father in August, 25-year-old Hugh became the 7th Duke of Westminster, a billionaire, and, as the Telegraph put it, "Britain's most eligible bachelor." Grosvenor is a descendant of Mikhail Romanov&mdashand, incidentally, Alexander Pushkin.

The last king of the Hellenes his great-grandmother was a Romanov grand duchess. He was dethroned in a coup in 1967 but moved back to Greece in 2013 after a 46-year exile. King Constantine is the grandfather of T&C Modern Swan Princess Olympia of Greece.

The great-great-granddaughter of Alexander II lives in Spain and is the Imperial House of Russia's official head.

Vladimirovna's son will become head of the Imperial House on his mother's death. He recently started Romanoff & Partners, a consulting firm specializing in politics and public affairs.

Image of The Czar's Place, Kremlin, Moscow, Russia . Picture of Grand Duke George Mikhailovich not available.

Daughter of Prince Andrei Alexandrovich, Nicholas II's oldest nephew. She lives in Kent, England, and organizes the annual Russian Debutante Ball in London. Currently working on a tell-all book about her royal connections.

One of Olga Andreevna's four children, Mathew is a photographer and occasional actor. He played himself in season two of Secret Princes, a TLC realty show.

Picture of Franceis-Alexander Mathew not available.

The great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Nicholas I. An Italian actress, Nicoletta collaborated with Damiani jewelry in 2016 to create the Romanov Collection.

Daughter of Prince Andrei Alexandrovich, Nicholas II's oldest nephew. She lives in Kent, England, and organizes the annual Russian Debutante Ball in London. Currently working on a tell-all book about her royal connections.

Picture of Olga Andreevna Romanoff not available.

He was born in Illinois, but Rostislav is one of the few Romanov relatives who actually live in Russia. He is the great-grandson of Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna. Based in Moscow, he is director of a watch factory founded by his ancestor Peter the Great.

Who founded Russia and ruled it before the Romanovs?

Yes, they were most likely Varangians. Although, a 12th-century Russian chronicle calls them &ldquoRus&rdquo. According to the chronicle, Rurik (died in 879) was a Varangian prince who was called upon by the Finnic and Eastern Slavic peoples of the Northwestern lands in 862:

Discord ensued among them, and they began to war one against another. They said to themselves, "Let us seek a prince who may rule over us, and judge us according to the law." They accordingly went overseas to the Varangian Rus: these particular Varangians were known as Rus, just as some are called Swedes, and others Normans, Angles, and Goths, for they were thus named. The Chuds, the Slavs, and the Krivichians then said to the people of Rus, "Our whole land is great and rich, but there is no order in it. Come to rule and reign over us." &ndash The Tale of Bygone Years (Primary Chronicle), Russia, 12th century

Rurik, Varangian invader and Swedish ruler of Russia/Getty Images

Along with Rurik, came his allies (the chronicle calls them &ldquobrothers&rdquo), Sineus and Truvor. They established themselves and their retinue in the towns of Ladoga and Novgorod (Rurik), Beloozero (Sineus), and Izborsk (Truvor). This milestone event, also known as the 'summoning of the Varangians', was the starting point of the Russian state. Truvor and Sineus died shortly after the establishment of their territories, and Rurik consolidated these lands into his own territory. Rurik&rsquos successors, beginning with his son Igor (878-945), continued the Rurik dynasty, and were also known as &ldquoRurikids&rdquo.

2. How many Rurikids were there?

Rurik on the Monument «Millennium of Russia» in Veliky Novgorod

Several hundred. However, the exact number can not be estimated, due to the lack of historical sources. The most comprehensive genealogic tree of the Rurikids can be seen here (link in Russian).

In the 11th century, the dynasty became much wider, and sub-dynasties were formed. Numerous princes ruled over hundreds of towns across Russia, creating a feudal fragmentation of the land. There were over 5 major branches of the dynasty at the time.

3. How long did they rule Russia?

The Izborsk fortress in Pskov region, Russia. One of the places the Russian state began with.

For 748 years &ndash from 862, when Rurik and his brothers were summoned, until 1610, when the last Rurikid tsar, Vasili IV of Russia (Vasiliy Shuisky), was deposed.

4. Who were the most famous Rurikids?

Yaroslav the Wise, establisher of the first Russian law, Russkaya Pravda.

Vladimir II Monomakh, uniter of Kievan Rus.

Yuri Dolgorukiy, founder of Moscow.

'Alexander Nevsky' by Pavel Korin, 1942-1943

Alexander Nevsky, defeater of the Teutonic Order.

Ivan I of Moscow (Ivan Kalita), who began uniting the lands under Moscow as a central city.

Dmitry Donskoy, who defeated the Tatar Mongols in the Battle of Kulikovo.

Portrait of Ivan the Great of Russia, Grand Prince of Moscow

Ivan III the Great, the first Grand Prince of Moscow.

5. When and why did the rule of the Rurik dynasty end?

Basil IV Shuisky of Russia

Vladimir Boiko/Global Look Press

Vasiliy Shuisky (1552-1612) was the last Rurikid tsar to rule Russia in 1606, after False Dmitry I, a &lsquopretender tsar,&rsquo was killed. Shuisky belonged to the Suzdal branch of the Rurikids. He ruled for 4 years, but was never generally recognized. Even in Moscow itself he had little or no authority. In 1610, he was deposed by Princes Vorotynsky and Mstislavsky. Shuisky was made a monk and died 2 years later in Poland.

6. Were the Rurikids and Romanovs related?

Mikhail Fyodorovich Romanov (1596-1645), the first Russian Tsar of the house of Romanov

CORRECTION: The article previously stated that the Romanovs had an ancestor among the Rurikids &ndash Feodor Koshka (&lsquoThe Cat&rsquo), who died in 1407. Our readers pointed out our mistake: Feodor Koshka wasn't a Rurikid at all. In fact, Mikhail Romanov's father, Feodor Nikitich Romanov (1553-1633) was descended from the Rurik dynasty through the female line because his mother, Evdokiya Gorbataya-Shuyskaya, was a Rurikid princess from the Shuysky branch, daughter of Alexander Gorbatyi-Shuisky.

7. How many Rurikids remained after the Romanovs came to power? What did they do?

Rurikids have lost their rights to the throne, because Mikhail Fyodorovich (1596-1645), the first Romanov, was elected by the Zemsky Sobor of 1613 (an occasional Russian parliament of the 16-17th centuries). So, the Romanovs came to power by the law of the land.

February 20, 1613. A decree about the new, Romanov dynasty is being read in the Moscow Kremlin. 17th-century miniature.

Rurikids were greatly respected, nonetheless. They all kept their princely titles even after the reforms of Peter the Great. As of the beginning of the 18th century, there were 47 Russian princely dynasties, most of them branches of the Rurikids. By the 1880s, 36 of them remained. They led different lives, but mostly served the state as civil servants or military officers.

Collector Prince Nikita Lobanov-Rostovsky

Currently, there are thousands of people who carry the Rurikids&rsquo DNA. Nikita Lobanov-Rostovsky (born 6 January 1935), a genealogist and collector, is one of the more well known contemporary Rurikid.

Russian professor of physics, Andrey Gagarin (1934-2011), was another prominent Rurikid. He was married three times and was a father of two daughters and a son. Prince Dmitry Shakhovskoy (b. 1934), another Rurikid, is a professor in philology. He lives in Paris.

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Watch the video: Brother of the Tsar. Michael Romanov