вторник, 8 сентября 2009 г.

Interview of Grand Duchess given during the visit to Belarus

Interview with the Head of the House of Romanoff in the Newspaper “The People’s Will [Narodnaia Volia]” (Republic of Belarus)
In the pages below, we present in its entirety the interview of the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, given to the newspaper “The People’s Will [Narodnaia Volia]” (Republic of Belarus), and the version of the interview that was printed in the newspaper. As a whole, the interview reflects the responses given by Her Imperial Highness. Unfortunately, printed immediately after the interview was material of a defamatory nature, and, in addition, some parts of the statements made by Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna were omitted.
Interview with the Head of the House of Romanoff in the Newspaper “The People’s Will [Narodnaia Volia]” (Republic of Belarus)
The director of your Chancellery, Alexander Zakatov, said the following in an interview: “The first official visit of the Grand Duchess is taking place in Belarus—this is proof of the role Belarus and its leadership is playing in the unification process.” What unification process was he speaking about?
He was not speaking about any sort of concrete political unification, but precisely about a “unification process”—that is, about the on-going cooperation between Russia and Belarus in the spiritual, cultural, and economic spheres. This process has historical roots. I highly value the steps taken by the Belorussian and Russian authorities to further mutual cooperation, and I consider this to be an excellent example for neighboring countries and would like as much as I can to express support for all these measures that bring people together. The director of my Chancellery expressed precisely the long-held position of the House of Romanoff, of which I am the head. We recognize and respect the constitutions and laws of the independent states that formed after the fall of the USSR, we recognize and respect the system of international agreements that regulate the diplomatic relationship between them. In this way, we cannot be but very pleased with any step taken to strengthen and defend the common interests of these nations. Indeed, the entire world is moving toward integration. Governments are firmly preserving their sovereignty, but at the same time easing restrictions on trade across borders, creating common currencies, and establishing new international regulatory bodies. And what do we do at the end of the twentieth century but begin to erect not only new international borders, but also other, concocted barriers of various sorts. I am certain that this a temporary phase. The sooner we get past our differences—most of which are not as big as they might appear on first glance—the better it will be for everyone.
In June 2009, Grand Duchess Maria Romanoff appealed through her Chancellery to the Russian government to grant (that is, restore) to her an official status in Russia, analogous to the status enjoyed by the Russian Orthodox Church. What movement has there been in fulfilling this request?
Let me begin by pointing out that I have never made any requests of any kind to the Russian government, either directly myself or through my Chancellery. The Russian Imperial House exists on the basis of law. In this way, it is analogous with the Church, which exists eternally (even in the conditions of exile and non-recognition by the State), based on the Divine teachings and canon law. One must not, however, forget that we are speaking about analogies. The Church and the dynasty are, of course, different institutions, although they do share many of the same goals and objectives. In contemporary secular and democratic states, it is always possible to find legal mechanisms to show respect for the traditional institutions which are vital to a true civil society. The similarity of the situation between the Church and dynasty amounts to the following: if contemporary governments, while entirely secular, nonetheless recognize the special status of traditional religions, then, by analogy, though democratic, they may similarly facilitate legally the principles of cooperation with the former royal and imperial dynasties that once reigned in those states. If the Russian government will grant the Russian Imperial House the legal status of a historical institution, as has happened in one form or another in most countries—Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Albania, Hungary, France, Portugal, Italy and others—it will allow us to serve our homeland far more effectively. There are no political or financial risks posed to the government in recognizing the status of the Imperial House. Naturally, we are not seeking the return of any property, nor are we counting on public support for our household. The only things that we cherish now are our good name—the besmirching of which I, as head of the dynasty, must never allow to happen—our dignity, and the idea of service to the country, which God has appointed us to fulfill.
Your Imperial Highness, could you comment on the views expressed by some Belarusian historians and politicians regarding your visit to Belarus. For example, Prof. Anatoly Gritskevich stated that the Romanoff dynasty played the role of a colonizer in the territory of modern Belarus, and that, consequently, “when Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna arrives in Gomel, it will simply be, for her, a visit to her former territories of the Empire.”
When I am in Belarus, I truly feel as though I am in my homeland. And I in no way shy away from stating this, nor do I hide it. The House of Romanoff has throughout its history sought to unify, and it did not participate in any of the episodes that have divided the country: not in the civil war, not in the events of 1991. For me, all parts of the former Russian Empire are our homeland and form a part of a single historical and cultural space. All the peoples of the former Empire remain brothers. At present, many of these “brothers” have moved on to “have their own families,” to have their own life as independent states. But one can never forget the spiritual and familial kinship and common historical fate shared by us all. My mission as Head of the Imperial Family is to remind all the peoples of the former Russian Empire of their common roots and to promote mutual understanding, friendship, and cooperation between them—not “in terms of Empire,” but in terms of the spiritual and material interests of every ethnic group and every individual person.
The First Deputy Chairman of the BNF Party (Belorussian People's Front), Vintsuk Viachorka, stated that the Romanoffs "have waged war on Belarus, bloody war." He also believes that if the Romanoffs are the successors to the Russian monarchy, then they should be allowed to cross the border into Belarus "only after having first publically apologized to the people of Belarus for their aggressive wars of conquest, for 145 years of colonial enslavement, for genocide, and for the suppression of the Belorussian language."
It is sad when objectivity and historical truth are sacrificed to short-term political interests and populism. The return of White Russia into the united All-Russian state during the reign of Catherine the Great had nothing whatsoever to do with "colonialization." This was the unification of the Slavic peoples and the liberation of the majority of Belorussians from nationalist and religious oppression they suffered under the Rzeczpospolita. There were, of course, those who opposed this unification. But these were mostly members of the gentry, and not at all the common people. Kosciuszko, Kalinowsky, and other leaders of the opposition to unification all belonged to the ancient nobility who, for complex historical reasons, had adopted pro-Polish and anti-Russian attitudes. When my royal ancestors are accused of having "the blood of Belorussian patriots" on their hands, that is, putting it charitably, a gross distortion. Kosciuszko led an armed insurrection against Russian military forces and was eventually captured, but he was always treated as an honorable foe, without any insult to his honor. Paul I freed him, and personally received, and then returned, his sword to him. In 1815, when the Kingdom of Poland was established as a constituent part of the Russian Empire, Alexander I offered a high post to Kosciuszko. Kosciuszko refused because of a disagreement on the proposed boundaries of the Polish kingdom, but to the end of his days he maintained his respect for Russia's emperors. And he died of natural causes in Switzerland. Kalinowsky was, it is true, executed. But one cannot forget that his hands were responsible for the spilling of blood. He was convicted according to the laws of the land at the time, as someone who organized an uprising and strove to destroy the unity of the state. His acts would still, even now, be considered criminal acts in every part of the world. Today, we might very much regret that the punishment was so severe. Be that as it may, we share far more that is positive, than negative, in our common history. Let us forget neither the bad nor the good that has been in the past. But any impartial person knows that the word "genocide" of the Belorussian people is a good example of "the more monstrous the lie, the easier it is to believe it." And those who allege that the Russian Empire suppressed the Belorussian language should go to the National Library in Minsk and see the exhibit of pre-revolutionary publications. On display there are countless books and brochures in the Belorussian language, all published before the revolution…To be sure, there were tensions. And these sorts of problems, disputes, and tensions did exist, exist today, and will, alas, will continue to exist. But the basis of modern relations must always be that which unites, not that which divides.
After the murder of Nicholas II in 1918, the Romanoffs were divided by fierce dynastic disputes. The dispute is carried on now by two lines of pretenders to the throne, both of which are rather distant relatives to each other: the descendants of Alexander II, to which you belong, and the descendants of Nicholas I. Would you explain to us "mere mortals" why the descendants of the Romanoffs have not to this day been able to find agreement with each other?
Your question contains a number of inaccuracies that hinder a proper understanding of the situation. First, Alexander II, from whom our line descends, was the eldest son of Nicholas I. Therefore, we are also descendants of Nicholas I, as are the representatives of the junior lines of the dynasty. Second, there are no, nor can there be, any disagreements on what the law of succession says. The law indicates always the one and only person who is, at any given moment, the rightful head of the dynasty. It was God's will that Tsesarevich Nicholas, the eldest son of Alexander II, died during the lifetime of his father, having never married. Therefore, after the murder in 1881 of Alexander II at the hands of terrorists, Alexander II's second son, Alexander III, followed him on the throne. In 1894, he died and the throne passed to his son Nicholas II. After the executions of 1918 by the Bolsheviks of Nicholas II, his son Tsesarevich Aleksei Nikolaevich, and the emperor's brother, Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich—that is, all male descendants of Alexander III—the right to the throne passed to the descendants of the third son of Alexander II, Grand Duke Vladimir. Grand Duke Vladimir had died before the revolution, so in 1918 the right to the headship of the dynasty fell to his eldest son, Kirill, my grandfather and the first cousin of Nicholas II. After the death of Kirill Vladimirovich, his son, Grand Duke Vladimir, my father, became head of the dynasty. Since all members of the dynasty who survived the revolution married morganatically, at the moment my father died in 1992, there were no male relatives who had dynastic rights. Therefore, in accord with Article 30 of the Fundamental Laws, the headship of the dynasty moved to the female line. In this way, I became the head of the House of Romanoff. I enjoy very warm and affectionate relations with my relatives, and I am always very glad when they work for the good of the country, and I am always ready to collaborate with them toward this end. If some of them challenge my rights and present themselves as "pretenders to the throne," these are trivialities with which I do not concern myself. I am not a "pretender to the throne," but rather the legitimate heiress, by right of inheritance, to the headship of the Imperial House of Romanoff. This is a position that one cannot appropriate nor refuse. My duty is to preserve our spiritual and moral values and ideals, our traditions, and to pass them on to the next generation. I am convinced that everyone, regardless of their origins, social class, and beliefs, should strive to live so that neither their ancestors nor the descendants should ever be ashamed of them. If we would remember this, there would be far less fighting, disputes, and conflicts in the world.

Grand Duchess Maria Romanoff: "When I am in Belarus, I truly feel as though I am in my homeland." Rebus of History. August 4, 2009, No. 1, 19-120, by Olga Prudnikova
As is well known, the Head of the Imperial House of Romanoff, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, has spent several days in Belarus. Despite her full schedule, "The People's Will" was able to meet and interview the heiress of this famous family. She commented on the controversial remarks of Belorussian politicians and historians, and also spoke of the daily lives of members of the Imperial Family.
Your Imperial Highness, you have called this visit to Belarus your "first official visit to that part of the former Russian Empire which now exists as an independent state." Why have there been two different characterizations of the status of your visit, some saying it is official, others saying that it is the visit of a private citizen?
My visit came about through the invitation of the Administration of the Gomel' District. In this sense, it is official. Some assign to this expression "official visit" the meaning of "state visit," but no one [in my party] has said this and no one pretends that that is what it is.
I've never been to Belarus before, although I have wanted to come here for a long time. Many friends of our family come from Belarus, and they have told me many interesting things about your country.
It is very important to the Imperial House to support good relations between all peoples. Despite the fact that we today live in different states, we belong to a single cultural space. As Head of the House of Romanoff, I consider it my duty to support and foster these connections, and to help restore them wherever they have been broken or lost. This is one of the main areas of activity for the Imperial House of Romanoff. At all times, not only during this trip (smiles)! This is not something I thought up just the other day: I have always striven to do all I can so that we do not forget our common roots and our history. It's very much like what happens in a family—with parents, brothers, and sisters. At first, everyone lives under the same roof, but with time they have come to live apart, with the children starting their own families. So it has been with our countries: each of us has created his own family, but we should not forget our familial connections.
Having now visited Gomel', Brest, and Minsk, can you say that what your acquaintances have told you about Belarus is true?
There were even acquaintances who were surprised that I should want to come, saying that things are not so good here. But I have come, and I can now say how well the people live here, that much of the negative that is said about your country is utterly false. I am very pleased to see for myself that Belarus is, indeed, improving. In many areas, the level of things is even higher than in Russia. This is likely because one can change things more and faster when the country is smaller. And, of course, one senses the presence of a serious chief who is commanding "Forward march!"…Of course, there is nowhere on this earth a perfect paradise. And I am not saying that everyone here has it entirely good. There are problems, as there are in any country.
Your visit is perceived differently in Belarus. For example, the historian, Dr. Anatolii Gritskevich stated that the Romanoff dynasty played the role of colonizers in the territory of Belarus, and, consequently, "when Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna comes to Gomel', it will be, for her, a visit to the former territory of the empire.
In Belarus, I do, it is true, feel as if I am in my homeland. And I do not in the slightest shy away from saying this nor hide this. The House of Romanoff has throughout its history sought to unify, and it did not participate in any of the episodes that have divided the country: not in the civil war, not in the events of 1991. For me, all parts of the former Russian Empire are our homeland
The First Deputy Chairman of the BNF Party (Belorussian People's Front), Vintsuk Viachorka, stated that the Romanoffs "have waged war on Belarus, bloody war." He also believes that if the Romanoffs are the successors to the Russian monarchy, then they should be allowed to cross the border into Belarus "only after having first publically apologized to the people of Belarus for their aggressive wars of conquest, for 145 years of colonial enslavement, for genocide, and for the suppression of the Belorussian language."
It is sad when objectivity and historical truth are sacrificed to short-term political interests and populism. The return of White Russia into the united All-Russian state during the reign of Catherine the Great had nothing whatsoever to do with "colonialization." This was the unification of the Slavic peoples and the liberation of the majority of Belorussians from nationalist and religious oppression they suffered under the Rzeczpospolita. There were, of course, those who opposed this unification. But these were mostly members of the gentry, and not at all the common people. Kosciuszko, Kalinowsky, and other leaders of the opposition to unification all belonged to the ancient nobility who, for complex historical reasons, had adopted pro-Polish and anti-Russian attitudes. When my royal ancestors are accused of having "the blood of Belorussian patriots" on their hands, that is, putting it charitably, a gross distortion. Kosciuszko led an armed insurrection against Russian military forces and was eventually captured, but he was always treated as an honorable foe, without any insult to his honor. Paul I freed him, and personally received, and then returned, his sword to him. In 1815, when the Kingdom of Poland was established as a constituent part of the Russian Empire, Alexander I offered a high post to Kosciuszko. Kosciuszko refused because of a disagreement on the proposed boundaries of the Polish kingdom, but to the end of his days he maintained his respect for the Russian emperors. And he died of natural causes in Switzerland. Kalinowsky was, it is true, executed. But one cannot forget that his hands were responsible for the spilling of blood. He was convicted according to the laws of the land at the time, as someone who organized an uprising and strove to destroy the unity of the state. His acts are still, even now, considered criminal acts in every part of the world. Today, we might very much regret that the punishment was so severe. Be that as it may, we share far more that is positive, than negative, in our common history. Let us forget neither the bad nor the good that has been in the past.
Tell us, please, how different the lives of members of the Imperial House are from those of ordinary people.
I don't even know (laughs)… And what do you see when you look at me? In my opinion, I look like everyone else. I believe that everyone living in the twenty-first century should be a person of the twenty-first century. Of course, my education from a very early age was given a lot of attention—I learned that one must have self control, to look proper, to behave appropriately. And most importantly, I have learned always to be at the disposal of my people. In every other way, I believe I was surrounded by entirely normal circumstances.
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