I was recently asked by a group of pilgrims from Russia how I, as an Englishman, had come to spiritual awakening and the understanding that Tsar Nicholas II is a saint. I answered them briefly, though giving all the essentials of a fifty-year long process, but then realised that the question deserved a more detailed and systematic answer, as it may interest others too. Here now is that detailed answer.
The first event was when as a child I collected stamps and I remember a stamp with the portrait of Tsar Nicholas on it. His face seemed to stare out at me and it struck me as different from all other stamps; why I could not tell, but it was the first impression and memory of the Tsar and it has always remained with me.
The next stage was after seeing the film Dr Zhivago in 1968, I began reading about the Russian Revolution. This was because that Revolution was clearly the essential turning point in the creation of the whole Cold War world which then surrounded me and terrorised so many. I wanted to understand how it had come about.
Pro-Bolshevik accounts that I read then stood out as false; it was clear that any work that justified the bloody genocide of millions by Marxism-Leninism could not be trusted. However, the only other books available in English, mostly written by Western academics, were no less ideologically-motivated. They all seemed to think that the February 1917 ‘Revolution’, or treason by aristocrats and generals, which had deposed the Tsar (and later led to the October 1917 power grab by Bolshevik bandits) was an excellent thing. The sole book with some interesting content was that by Robert Wilton.
However, even my soul could see that this view was only because their authors imagined that every country in the world should be westernised and have the same constitutional monarchies or else republican governments as in Western Europe and North America. But I already knew these regimes to be spiritually corrupted. In other words, the views of these academics merely reflected their subjective and self-interested agnostic or atheistic materialist cultural prejudices; they did not represent objective reality, but merely the psychological conditioning of their authors. But what could that objective reality be? Although I instinctively sensed that the truth was other and profound, I was still searching in the dark for details.
The Emigration in England
On meeting émigré Russian Orthodox in Oxford in 1974, I began to enquire further. Here I heard three different views among those whom I encountered:
The first émigré view was a minority Patriarchal one which said that the Bolshevik coup d’etat was a triumph, that the Soviet Union was remarkable, that there was no persecution of the Church in Russia and that the Tsar had got what he deserved. This was the pro-Communist view. This was the absurd self-deception of blind Soviet nationalism which put the Soviet Union above the Church. This view held no water with me.
The second émigré view, the majority one, was that, although the Bolshevik power grab had been a disaster, the removal of the Tsar by the February treason had been an excellent thing, since the Tsar had held up ‘progress’. Although he and his family had not deserved to die, there was little pity for them, since those who held this view considered that if they were in exile, it was ‘the Tsar’s fault’. This was the pro-Western or ‘Parisian’ view, as I would later learn to call it. These emigres reckoned themselves as apolitical, but in fact they were highly political. In Oxford, for example, this was the view of Anglophile exiles who admired the Western Establishment, who loved Anglicanism and read ‘The Daily Telegraph’, the newspaper of the Conservative Party. This was the absurd self-deception of blind Western nationalism, a worldly, sociological manipulation, which put the West above the Church. This view held no water with me.
The third view, also political and not spiritual, held in Oxford by only two people, but by some others who attended the church in London, was like the second one, but more extreme. These people had a symbolic respect, but little real love, for the Tsar, but what they wanted above all was revenge, their property and their money back from ‘the evil Soviets’. Some of these exiles had worked for MI6 in that spirit of revenge, which knew no forgiveness or prayer for enemies. The Church for them was in many respects a social and ethnic club. This was a rabidly anti-Communist, purely political view which knew only black and white. Typically, many in that London parish rejected the later 1981 canonisation by the Church authorities. This view held no water with me.
I was disappointed. I had expected to find some kind of spiritual sensitivity and spiritual understanding of Tsar Nicholas II among Russians who were connected with Church life. I had not found it. However, in Oxford I did find out about Fr Nicholas Gibbes, former tutor to the Tsarevich, the first Englishman in the 20th century to become a Russian Orthodox priest and the first such priest in Oxford. Arriving in Russia with typically English prejudices about constitutional monarchy, he had been so influenced by his meeting and life with the exemplary Royal Family, that after many years of reflection he had later joined the Russian Orthodox Church. Moreover, on entering the Church, he had taken the name Alexis after the Tsarevich and then, when he became monk and priest, he took the name Nicholas after the Tsar-Martyr. This was a definite influence on me.
Having read about the New Martyrs and Confessors in a book about them published by ROCOR in North America, I was shocked to realise that the fact that they had still not been canonised was clearly only for political reasons, not only inside Russia, but also in the emigration. In 1976 I therefore created my own calendar, adding the names of the New Martyrs, including the Royal Martyrs. I still have that calendar. However, at this point my understanding was still limited; I understood the Tsar only as a martyr and, out of ignorance, did not yet see the holiness in his life and policies as Tsar, which were the preparation for his martyrdom.
Towards a Deeper Understanding
The next stage was in 1977 reading about Vladyka John of Shanghai and his veneration for the Tsar-Martyr. If this saintly bishop, with his international breadth of vision and gift of prophecy, held such views – and he had wanted to see the Tsar canonised at least as early as the 1930s – then there was more for me to understand. After this I obtained copies of ‘Pravoslavnaya Rus’, the bimonthly Jordanville journal. There I read many articles in preparation for the long-awaited canonisation of the New Martyrs and Confessors, including the Royal Martyrs. One article, written by Archbishop Antony of Geneva, on the international repercussions of the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II with the active support of the Western Powers, particularly struck me.
After the long-awaited canonisation of the New Martyrs and Confessors by ROCOR in 1981, I began praying openly to the Royal Martyrs and reading more and more in Russian about the reign of Tsar Nicholas II. My mind and soul began to be illumined. One by one the Western/Bolshevik (essentially the same) anti-Tsar myths, dissolved. The stampede at Khodynka, the myths of the ‘weak’ Tsar and the ‘hysterical’ Tsarina, the pogroms, the Russo-Japanese War, ‘Bloody Sunday’ and the 1905 Revolution, violent mutinies, strikes and outrages, the myth that the Tsar opposed the re-establishment of the Patriarchate and canonical Church order, the myth of the ‘backwardness’ of the Tsar’s Russia, Rasputin, the First World War, the 1917 ‘Revolution’ and then the Bolshevik coup d’etat – all of these had a completely different interpretation from that which had been given to them by Western and Soviet anti-Tsar propaganda. My instincts had long told me this, but I had lacked the facts to piece it all together.
Living by that time in Paris, I was shocked by the views of Russophobic Paris Jurisdiction emigres, many from aristocratic families in St Petersburg, who actually agreed with the anti-Tsar propaganda and blasphemously slandered the Tsarina and Rasputin. Many of them were descendants of those who had carried out the February 1917 Revolution; they therefore had their own axe to grind. It was at this time that I finally clearly grasped that Tsar Nicholas II had lived his life as a Confessor before ever becoming a Martyr. Reading the pre-Revolutionary prophecies of holy elders, I finally understood that the Tsar had been first slandered and then removed by Satanic forces because he and the Russian Empire had been the last obstacle to universal apostasy. And those who agreed with such slanders were actually, though perhaps unknowingly, participating in a form of Satanism.
This became more and more obvious when in the 1990s materialistic Communism (the Tartar Yoke) collapsed as a result of the canonisation of the New Martyrs and Confessors in 1981. What is most to be repented for in the Church Outside Russia is that this canonisation had not taken place much earlier. After the disastrous post-Communist period of the 1990s, when the countries of the former Russian Empire were ravaged by the materialistic Capitalism of Western-supported bandit-oligarchs (the Mongol Yoke), in 2000 that canonisation was at last effectively recognised by the then freed Church in Moscow. Thus came the mystical last chance when all Russian Orthodox, of all nationalities, were called on by the Lord to prepare for the last and worldwide Orthodox harvest before the Second Coming.
And so this recognition made negotiations and then unity with our Church Outside Russia possible. It also meant that it was now only a question of time before the revival of the Russian Orthodox Church would go further and influence the political, economic and social life of the countries where it is in the majority. What is most to be repented for is that some, especially in the Patriarchate outside Russia, rejected that canonisation. How well we remember, for example, being told in 2001 that there were still no icons of the Royal Martyrs at the London Patriarchal Cathedral because there was ‘no space’ on their blank Anglican walls.
The Last Pieces of the Puzzle
Books written about the reign of Tsar Nicholas II over the last fifteen years by professional historians who have access to the archives in Russian Federation, such as Bokhanov and Multatuli (definintely not the absurd Soviet myths of the venal scandalmonger and non-historian Radzinsky, so beloved of Western Russophobes) have supplied me with the last pieces of the puzzle. Like the Jordanville historian E.E. Alfer’ev’s excellent ‘Emperor Nicholas II as a Man of Strong-Will’, Pierre Gilliard’s ‘Thireteen Years at the Russian Court’, Prince Zhevakhov’s memoirs (in Russian) and S. S. Oldenburg’s ‘The Reign of Tsar Nicholas II’ (also in Russian), they supply details, truths which primitive Western (= Soviet) anti-Tsar mythology still reject. I hope that one day the sources will be translated into English. For example
The stampede at Khodynka was caused by the greed of a small element in an unprecedentedly huge crowd of hundreds of thousands, not by the Tsar or his administration.
The Tsar was not weak or incompetent, but an incredibly strong-willed, brave, faithful and courteous man who survived War and Revolution, and, as his contemporaries noted, had his own independent vision, uninfluenced by anyone except the Gospels. Only those who deny the Gospels – like most Western academics and politicians – deny this.
The Tsarina was a self-sacrificing, pious and noble mother and Russian Orthodox patriot, like her sister the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, an example to all Russian Orthodox in the West. She was not a hysterical fanatic or pro-German traitress; only militant atheists and anti-Orthodox think of her as this.
Anti-Jewish pogroms were Europe-wide; the worst ones were in Vienna and Berlin. In the Russian Empire they took place mainly in Poland and among Romanian-speakers. Some of them were indeed started by Jews against Non-Jews and as many Non-Jews died as Jews – about 1500 on each side. The mere fact that so many Jews lived in the Russian Empire is proof of the tolerance of Jews, who had long before sought grateful refuge in the Russian Empire from Western intolerance.
The Russo-Japanese War was treacherously started without a declaration of war by the Japanese. They had been financed and armed by Britain and the USA who wanted to dominate the Pacific and Asia and use Japan as a proxy to weaken Russia. Although non-militaristic Russia spent very little on arms – about a fifth as much as other countries – and its Navy was small and very old-fashioned, by 1905 it was winning the war against a highly militaristic Japan, with its latest British ships, but which was going bankrupt as a result of the costs of the war it had initiated. Russia ended the War on very favourable terms, decided entirely by the strong-willed Tsar Nicholas, who would have continued the struggle, had it not been for the treacherous sabotage inside Russia by a foreign-financed fifth column. Even so, in Japan the peace treaty that ended the War was seen as a defeat.
‘Bloody Sunday’, not at all a peaceful demonstration, but also far less deadly than the propagandists maintain, the 1905 Revolution, violent mutinies, strikes and outrages were terrorist provocations. They had relatively little support outside certain anti-Russian and anti-Orthodox groups in St Petersburg and a few other large cities and they were successfully and courageously put down.
The Tsar had himself in 1904 proposed the re-establishment of the Patriarchate. Those without vision had rejected it. The Church had to wait for the Patriarchate until 1918, because senior representatives, used to the Synodal system, had not been ready for it before.
The Tsar’s Russia was not ‘backward’. In 1914 it was already the breadbasket of Europe and rapidly becoming the greatest industrial power in Europe. 90% of the land then belonged to the people. By 1920 90% of the population would have been literate. By 1950 it would have become the most powerful country in the world, overtaking even the USA. By 2000 it would have had a population of 600 million. What was good in the Soviet system, its world-class education, its health system and sense of national and international social justice were not inventions of the Bolsheviks – they were all inherited from the Tsar’s Russia. And that is precisely why in 1914 the Western Powers wanted to destroy it.
Rasputin was not a ‘mad monk’, but a devout married peasant layman, a good Orthodox family man with three children, who was granted an extraordinary gift of healing by God. His torture and brutal murder by British spies, supported by a transvestite, Oxford-educated Russian aristocrat, was justly seen by the Orthodox peasantry as the anti-people and anti-piety act of decadent aristocrats that it was.
The First World War was forced on the peace-loving Russian Empire by an Austro-Hungarian Empire, backed by an ultra-militaristic, Prussianised Germany, which did not want peace but conflagration. Russian setbacks against Germany, because of the small Russian military budget, lack of guns and munitions and promises on supplies broken by Britain, were matched by successes against Austro-Hungary and the planned campaign of 1917 which would almost certainly have led to victory and the end of the War in that year. Instead of this, the Western Allies chose another year of warfare by encouraging and backing treason by aristocrats.
The Revolution was not caused by the Tsar-loving masses who were suffering some sort of social injustices, but by immensely wealthy and treacherous spoilt aristocrats – conservative but anti-Traditional. Most of these right-wingers ruthlessly exploited the masses, hated the Tsar for his measures of social justice and wanted to grab power for themselves. The Tsar did not abdicate, but they treacherously abdicated from the Tsar and his legitimate authority. Then, in their incompetence, not understanding that the Tsar, God’s Anointed, was the only glue that could hold the Russian Empire together, scarcely six months later, they handed over that power to a bunch of utterly amoral bandits and terrorists – the Bolsheviks.
Retribution came to all the traitors: after 1917 retribution came to the aristocrats who had betrayed the Tsar – they were killed or went into bitter exile, having lost the source of their wealth; retribution came in 1940 to France and Great Britain which had betrayed the Tsar with the humiliating defeat of France and the British humiliation of Dunkirk and the Blitz; retribution came to the Bolsheviks in 1941 when the Soviet Union was treacherously invaded on the feast of All the Saints that have shone forth in Rus; in the Pacific retribution came to the USA in the humiliation at Pearl Harbour and to Great Britain in the humiliation at Singapore, when the Japanese did to them what they, then backed by the USA and Great Britain, had done to Russia at Port Arthur in 1904; retribution came again to Great Britain with the Battle of the Atlantic when the country was nearly starved into submission in 1942 by German U-boats, for the country which until 1914 had been fed by abundant grain from the Russian Empire now depended on North America; retribution came to Austro-Hungary and Germany when the Red Army took Vienna and a devastated Berlin in 1945.
And then all received further retribution in the Cold War, with its ‘balance of terror’, bankrupting arms race and the last generation of paranoiac American hubris, for which the whole world is still paying in 2013. None of this would have happened if Tsar Nicholas II had remained in power in 1917. They are all consequences of his illegitimate overthrow, which the whole world is still suffering to this very day. Are these evil, worldwide consequences not reason enough for universal repentance, repentance for our own sins and for those of our ancestors and nations?
As for the Orthodox Church, the consequences were catastrophic. With the Tsar removed, the Russian Orthodox Church was attacked both by the atheists from outside and by the renovationists inside. With the key Russian Orthodox Church martyred, paralysed and captive, the other much smaller and much weaker Local Churches were attacked by decadence one by one. Above all, the old but spiritually enfeebled Patriarchate of Constantinople fell under the control of Western and masonic agencies, encouraged modernist schism inside and outside Russia, enslaved by the flattering myth of the absurd interpretation of Canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon.
And so Uniatisation of calendar and ritual began to follow. The aim was a spiritually neutered and neutralised Orthodoxy, a bland, decadent and unsalted ‘Euro-Orthodoxy’, that no longer presents any danger to militant secularism or, ultimately, to the forces of Antichrist. The consequences of this are still being played out in the Phanariot interference in Russian Church life in Paris, the Ukrainian diaspora, Finland and Estonia; in all the new calendar Local Churches; and even in Serbia, Georgia, and at this very moment on the streets of Kiev and in the chancellery of the Czechoslovak Orthodox Church.
The recognition as saints of St John of Kronstadt and the prophetic St John of Shanghai, both firmly of the Orthodox calendar and both firm monarchists, has been a lodestone of Orthodoxy. It was – and is – sometimes hard for supporters of the new calendar, let alone modernism, to venerate these saints honestly and conscientiously. Today, it is the veneration of Tsar Nicholas II as a saint that is a lodestone for contemporary Orthodoxy, a sign of the spiritual awakening to authentic Orthodoxy, or, wherever it is lacking, a sign of the spiritual slumber of semi-Orthodoxy.
To recognise Tsar Nicholas II as a saint is to awaken spiritually and recognise him as the greatest sacrificial victim of the great 20th century apostasy. It is to renounce all the lies and spiritual impurity of the twentieth century and to repent for them. There may yet come a time in this faltering 21st century, which may not end, when the holy martyred Tsar will be recognised not just as a Martyr and the Martyred Lord’s Anointed, representative of all the New Martyrs, but also a Great-Martyr, as was prophesied at Optina.