New perspective on Tsarist Russia

It seems that once your name becomes known on the internet, strange things happen.

Several years ago when relations between the U.S. and Russia were on an even keel, several excerpts from my Gazette columns that dealt with U.S.-Russian relations were broadcast on the Voice of Russia. It was relayed to 160 countries, in 38 languages and reached an audience of more than 100 million people.

As a result, I have received an invitation from the founder of “Royal Russia,” which celebrates the Romanov Dynasty, the Russian Monarchy and the History of Imperial Russia, to join his organization.

The organization was founded by Paul Gilbert, who in the introduction to his biography proclaims, “I, personally, support a restoration of the monarchy in Russia. I believe a devout Christian monarchy must rule Russia. Holy Russia has no need of Western democracy. It is a country moved by mystical forces. Monarchy is a political form best suited to Russia. The country needs a monarch, the mother of nation, one that is above the nation’s law. I acknowledge HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna as Head of the Russian Imperial House and the rightful claimant to the Russian throne.”

Gilbert was born in Cornwall, England, and as a child immigrated with his parents to Canada. To his knowledge, he has no Russian roots, but a book given to him many years ago whetted his appetite to learn more about the rich history of Tsarist Russia.

“Even though I was baptized into the Church of England, I have great interest and respect for the Russian Orthodox Church. While traveling in Russia, I make a point of visiting as many churches that I possibly can… When I step into a Russian Orthodox Church, I feel transported back in time…. It is in the churches of Russia that I find an inner peace that I do not find anywhere else,” Gilbert wrote.

Gilbert’s fascination with the Romanov Dynasty and Imperial Russia has transformed him into a powerhouse for propagating the restoration of the monarchy. His more than 30 years of experience in the publishing business has prepared him well to launch the “Imperial Russian Journal,” the only publication of its kind dedicated to the Romanovs and Tsarist Russia. His website, “Royal Russia: A Celebration of the Romanov Dynasty & Imperial Russia in Words and Photographs,” had more than 1.2 million visitors from all over the world.

He writes that for more than 100 years after the fall of the monarchy in Russia, the world’s fascination with the Romanov Dynasty and Imperial Russia endures. But for decades after the 1917 Revolution, the archive materials related to the imperial family were inaccessible. Contrary to widely-held belief, he noted, nothing was destroyed.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, researchers have been able to access diaries, letters and other documents that shed new light on the Romanovs and their legacy.

“I have visited the Romanov Archives in the State Central Archives in Moscow on more that one occasion,” he writes. “I held in my hands the personal letters between Nicholas II and Alexandra, the diaries of their children and the numerous personal photo albums of the Russian Imperial family.”

To honor the 400th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty, Gilbert launched a new series of “Royal Russia Collectors Editions” devoted to the Russian Imperial family and their legacy.

“It is my fervent hope that through my work I can leave behind a legacy of better understanding and appreciating the Romanov Dynasty and the immense contribution that they have made to the history of Russia,” Gilbert wrote.

To join the “Royal Russia” organization, apparently, you don’t need to be of Russian descent. Nevertheless, I have declined Mr. Gilbert’s kind invitation.

Shatz is a Williamsburg resident. He is the author of “Reports from a Distant Place,” the compilation of his selected columns. The book is available at the Bruton Parish Shop and Amzon.com.

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