Alexander Zakatov, Director of the Chancellery of the House of Romanoff, explained why the Romanoffs desire to return to Russia and why they have set conditions that must be met before they can return.
Moscow, 6 June. INTERFAX.RU. The Director the Chancellery of the House of Romanoff, Alexander Zakatov, stated in an interview with the correspondent of “INTERFAX” Ekaterina Komissar, that the head of the Imperial House, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, who currently lives in Spain, has always hoped to return to Russia.
Does the House of Romanoff plan to return to Russia, and if so, when might this happen?
For members of the Russian Imperial House, Russia has always been the only true homeland. All the years of their exile, the Imperial Family has lived with the constant hope of returning home. They held this firm conviction even during the darkest times of the Communist dictatorship. The process of returning to their homeland began only in 1991, with the first visit of Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich to St. Petersburg.
After his death in 1992, the responsibility for the fate of the dynasty fell on his daughter, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna. She has, to date, made around 60 visits to the Russian Federation, having traveled in and visited nearly every corner of the country—from Smolensk to Vladivostok—and having visited several states that, while now independent since the fall of the USSR, belonged and belong even now to the same historical and cultural expanse that was once the Russian Empire.
The Imperial Family desires to return to Russia to live permanently. This will certainly happen, but only when certain matters in regard to the status of the dynasty in Russia have been resolved.
Will the House of Romanoff require some kind of official status in Russia, and have there been negotiations about this with officials in the Russian government?
The Imperial House has never requested, required, or demanded anything, and never will. One must understand that a legitimate government and civil rights cannot exist without the support of traditional historical institutions.
Historical institutions: these are entities which, without a doubt, have a historical connectedness from the moment of their appearance and which exist in accordance with their own internal historical laws, inasmuch as they do not contradict the Constitution or the legal system. Such entities in Russia include the Russian Orthodox Church and its canonical laws, and the Russian Imperial House of Romanoff, with its dynastic laws. Not very long ago, the Church in our country did not enjoy the status of a legal entity. Now, however, Church-State relations are developing a truly legal, mutually beneficial and mutually supportive foundation. The State has found the legal and formal grounds for respecting the Orthodox Church and other traditional religions. In the exact same way, by analogy, our democratic government can find the legal and formal grounds for the recognition of the Russian Imperial House and for cooperation with it. This is entirely possible to do in accordance with the laws of the Russian Federation, and so in no way would contradict the democratic structure of the government. In order to make a proper decision on the issue, an authorized commission, made up of lawyers and historians, would work with relevant documents. I want especially to emphasize that the legal recognition of the Russian Imperial House by the current Russian government is not in any way to be linked with any sort of effort at restitution of property or with any sort of “governmental role” to be played by the Imperial Family, despite the irresponsible and utterly baseless claims some have made. Moreover, the Head of the Dynasty, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, has clearly and categorically rejected the notion that any such legal status granted her and her family should include any personal privileges or preferences to members of the House of Romanoff from the State, but should rather constitute only a non-financial form of legal respect for the dynasty, which for more than 300 years ruled our country and gave to it such historically significant figures as: Peter I the Great, Catherine II the Great, Alexander II the Tsar-Liberator, and Alexander III the Tsar-Peacemaker.
The dynasty is a living symbol of our past, without respect for which we cannot build our present or our future. Questions about the life and role of the House of Romanoff in Russian society would of course be decided with the involvement and help of our countrymen. For the government, the recognition of the status of the Imperial House would be little more than a piece of paper on which the formal document is to be written. But the uses and advantages of that piece of paper—both spiritual and material—will be tangible, as the example of neighboring nations has amply demonstrated. The position of Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna on the return of the Imperial Family to Russia and on the legal status of the Imperial Family in Russia is public and well-known. There are no “negotiations” whatsoever proceeding at the present time with any official representatives of the government.
What do you make of the declaration of representatives of the Romanoff Family Association that Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna does not have the right to call herself the head of the House of Romanoff?
This kind of disinformation is inspired by statements similar to the one heard recently by Dmitrii Romanoff—a statement full of demagoguery, totally muddled in logic, and utterly unsupported by any legal or historical arguments. In point of fact, the titles and position of the Grand Duchess pose absolutely no legal problems whatsoever. The status of the head of the House of Romanoff is established entirely by the dynastic law, and does not depend on the recognition or non-recognition by one or another individual. The Family Statute, promulgated by Emperor Paul I in 1797, does not allow for multiple claimants to the throne and provides always for a clear, single heir who is to have the rights and fulfill the duties of the head of the House. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna is not a “pretender to the throne,” but rather is, by right of law and inheritance, the head of the dynasty.
The Imperial House of Romanoff is the embodiment and preserver of an established idea and ideals. It will always have friends and, of course, enemies. Whoever the head of the dynasty may be, he or she will have opponents on this side and on that. It can hardly be otherwise.
But there are honorable, thoughtful opponents, and then there are ill-meaning opponents who employ the methods of “negative PR.” They very much want to create the illusion that, in the question over the headship of the House of Romanoff, there exist some unresolved contradictions, that in fact none of the Romanoffs have any rights to the headship of the dynasty, that they cannot among themselves resolve the matter and that there is constant bickering over the succession to a non-existent throne.
If we are to speak about recognition, then one must readily see that the vast majority of knowledgeable authorities (not some random collection of relatives), like the Church and foreign royal houses, fully recognize the status of Maria Vladimirovna, and that this status is established in official documents. She herself sees her position not as some sort of privilege, but as a duty which one cannot possibly appropriate for oneself, nor that cannot possibly be abjured. The “Romanoff Family Association” consists of relatives of the dynasty who are descended from unequal marriages, and therefore, in accordance with the Family Statute, do not legally belong to the Imperial House. This Association was formed as a group for Romanoff relatives, but it has an entirely different legal nature from that of the Imperial House, membership in which, in addition to kinship, requires the observance of a series of conditions and requirements.
And it should be pointed out that not all of the members of the Romanoff Family Association are opponents of the Grand Duchess. Far from it. The majority are either entirely neutral or are well-disposed toward her. During her visits to Russia, the Grand Duchess has met and warmly greeted the great-grandson of Alexander II, Prince G. A. Yurievsky; the grandson of Grand Duke Dmitrii Pavlovich, Prince M. P. Romanovsky-Ilynsky, and with the great-grandson of Grand Duchess Olga Aleksandrovna, P. E. Kulikovsky.
This constant hostility comes, in fact, only from two elderly brothers, representatives of one of the more junior branches of morganatic relatives—Nikolai Romanovich and Dmitrii Romanovich, who inherited from their father, Prince Roman Petrovich, his animosity toward the senior line of the dynasty. There has not yet been an instance when either of them has had a kind or agreeable word to say to or about the Grand Duchess. If she is “for” something, then they are “against” it; and if she is “against” something, then they are “for” it. This is quite sad and, perhaps, a bit comical.
It is certainly not a healthy thing for the descendants of our great emperors to abandon—for reasons of ambition, for the sake of a fleeting popularity—the values by which their ancestors lived. They are committed republicans. They see no purpose in preserving the status of the Imperial House as a historical institution. They were against the rehabilitation of the murdered members of the royal family for the simple and sole reason that it was the Grand Duchess herself who was leading this legal effort. When the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in 2008 affirmed the correctness of the Grand Duchess’s legal position and rehabilitated the royal martyrs, they attempted to diminish the significance of this ruling. They ignored the opinion of the Church on the question of the “Ekaterinburg Remains,” they do not recognize the Family Statute, and so on, and so forth.
One may not agree with the views and opinions of the Grand Duchess, but she is, at least, honestly and consistently standing up for and defending the ideals of the House of Romanoff.
All her relatives she treats with deep and sincere love. Not once has she ever uttered an ill word. And, of course, the Head of the House of Romanoff will not in the least allow herself to be drawn into some forced, artfully concocted polemic with the Romanoff Family Association.
You mentioned the royal remains. What is the position of the House of Romanoff on the question of their authenticity?
On this question, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna shares fully the position of the Russian Orthodox Church, having not found sufficient foundation for recognizing the “Ekaterinburg Remains” as belonging to the members of the Royal Family. No one in this world wants more that these remains should be the relics of the royal martyrs than the Church and the dynasty. For the Church, these would be yet one more set of relics for veneration by the faithful, and for the Imperial Family, in addition to that, it would be also the identified remains of their dear relatives. And if the Church and dynasty are in no hurry to recognize them and continue to call for caution and care in the matter, it surely means that they have solid reasons for it.
One can sit all day and count up the contradictions and oddities in the investigation: the inconsistencies in the memoirs of the murders, the absence of any markings on the skull that supposedly belongs to Nicholas II, the account of the beheading of Nicholas II and his son, and the confused and not very accurate story about the discovery and movement of the remains after 1979.
We cannot with one hundred percent certainty affirm that the remains are false, but neither has their authenticity been just as firmly established, either. The final and most significant word on this matter—for all parties, including, first and foremost, the Imperial House—comes of course from the Church. If the questions posed by the reposed Patriarch Aleksei II are one day given convincing and intelligent answers, then thank God! In the meantime, it would be criminal to mislead the people, risking that in the future new scientific methods that will provide the means for a radically new reexamination of remains, won’t force a revision to the hasty results of the government commission.