russian empire


The Last Four Grand Duchesses of Russia

Everyone in the nursery eventually knew that each Grand Duchess was meant to be married off, and that hopefully at least of two of them would be married into the head of other Ruling Families. The thought of being apart from each other horrified the sisters, for each felt a strong bond and a sense of duty to their homeland and to each other. The girls were closer to each other than many other imperial and royal sisters. When they were very young, they proclaimed their unity by inventing a single signature to represent all four girls, OTMA, using the first initial of their names. They shared everything: their hopes, dreams, thoughts, and fears, as well as clothing and jewelry.

For security reasons, the Imperial family was surrounded by guards and police. It was next to impossible for anyone to get near them without being cleared by the police. The unlucky soul who ran into the Grand Duchesses by accident would be immediately interrogated by the police to find out their identity, why they had spoken to the girls, and the nature of the conversation.

Press reporters and society gossips kept the family under intense surveillance. Obviously, this was one of many reasons that made meeting new people difficult for the girls. As the result, the girls became sheltered and inexperienced when it comes to socializing, mainly because of their mother’s intense desire to protect them. Being so sheltered from the Aristocratic Society that ruled St. Petersburg, of which their mother greatly disliked, they depended on each other for friendship, comfort, support, and trust. 

1. Austrian Empire: Crown of Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor
2. German Empire: German State Crown
3. Russian Empire: Great Imperial Crown
4. Kingdom of Hungary: Holy Crown of Saint Stephen
5. German Empire: Crown of the German Empress
6. Kingdom of Bohemia: Crown of St. Wenceslas
7. Kingdom of Prussia: Crown of Wilhelm II
8. German Empire: Crown of the Crown Prince
9. Kingdom of Bavaria: Royal crown of Bavaria
10. United Kingdom: Crown of St. Edward
11. United Kingdom: Crown of Queen Victoria
12. Kingdom of Italy: Royal crown of Italy
13. Archduchy of Austria: Archducal coronet
14. Kingdom of Sweden: Crown of the Swedish Crown Prince
15. Kingdom of Romania: Steel Crown of Romania

From Hugo Gerhard Ströhl’s Heraldic Atlas, 1899


Vasily Vereshchagin’s “Turkestan Series” - Part One

Vasily Vereshchagin was a famous Russian Orientalist painter who in 1867 was invited by the military governor of Turkestan, Konstantine Kaufmann. The work inspired by his visit that followed became known as the “Turkestan series” which includes scenes of daily life and the Russian Empire’s war of conquest in Central Asia. Vereshchagin himself took part in the defense of Samarkand against the Bukharan Emir’s army in 1868, was wounded in the course of the battle, for which he was awarded the Order of St. George. Vereshchagin returned to St. Petersburg at the end of 1868 and began to work on the paintings. After holding an exhibition of his work in 1869, he returned once more to Turkestan.


March 15, 1917: Tsar Nicholas II abdicates.

Crowned in 1894, Nicholas II led Russia through a disastrous and embarrassing war against Japan, a period of widespread political and social unrest, a world war in which millions of Russians were killed, and finally, the last Russian Revolution before the Tsar’s abdication. Violence and riots erupted as a result of the hardship - famine, inflation, military defeat, all-around misery - caused by the first World War, and especially the Tsar and his government’s handling of the war. In Petrograd, then the Russian capital, thousands of people converged to protest and condemn the Tsar, his disastrous policies, and the old imperial government. the Tsar attempted to use military force to put down the rebellion, but it was too late; thousands of soldiers joined the rebellion in protest as well. On March 15, 1917, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated as Emperor of All the Russias, and because he was the last to officially rule (his designated successor, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, never reigned), his abdication also brought an end to the Romanov dynasty, which had ruled Russia for over three hundred years. 

The Tsar signed his own decree of abdication in the afternoon, and his issued statement called for the people of Russia “to obey the Tsar in the heavy moment of national trials”, but the Russian Empire was dissolved that year with the proclamation of the Russian Republic and the creation of Soviet Russia following the October Revolution. Nicholas and his family (his wife, four daughters, and son) went into exile and were subsequently executed together in July of 1918. 


The last Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II, exchanging kisses with soldiers. Although cheek kissing is not as widely practiced in some parts of Europe, it is still commonplace. It is mostly used as a greeting and/or a farewell, but can also be offered as a congratulation or as a general declaration of friendship. Cheek kissing is associated with the middle and upper classes, as they are more influenced by French culture. It’s a tradition in Russia to kiss on alternate cheeks three times, instead of one or two.


During her reign, Empress Elizabeth transformed a small summer palace into a splendid residence which eclipsed the fame of many European royal residences. The reign of Elizabeth I was a golden age of Russian Barocco. This elegant, exuberant style with elaborate ornamentation and dramatic lighting effects matched perfectly well the character of the empress. She was walking through the golden enfilade admiring her reflection in multiple mirrors. Today, this luxurious palace has become known as the Catherine Palace, named after Elizabeth’s mother, Empress Catherine I.