Tuesday is Christmas Day across Russia, so we wish you Merry Christmas from Siberia.
During the winter of 1917-18 they were held in Tobolsk, in western Siberia. Picture: museum of Tobolsk
The festivities are more marked each year, an old tradition born again after the fall of the Soviet Union.
The pictures below show the Russian Imperial family in exile and enjoying their final Christmas just half a year before their execution by the Bolsheviks.
During the winter of 1917-18 they were held in Tobolsk, in western Siberia, before being moved in the spring of 1918 to Yekaterinburg where they were executed in July 1918. That last Christmas - since they used the Julian calendar, it took place on what most of the world now knows as 6 and 7 January 1918, but for them it was 24 and 25 December 1917 - was still full of joy and hopes for the better future, even though 1917 was the year when the Romanovs were toppled.
In exile emperor and his family continued normal life even though they were forbidden to go into town and could leave the house just to walk in the yard.
The abdicated Nikolai II was not afraid of simple manual work, and chopped cut wood with his son Alexey following his example. The former crown prince, then 13, took care of the poultry.
Top to bottom: Alexey on his own and together with father, and Nikolai II study in Tobolsk. Pictures: museum of Tobolsk
The children continued their studies and the man who had been emperor taught them a course of Russian history. Their mother Alexandra taught German to the children, perhaps surprisingly since World War One was still underway. As Christmas approached, the former prince and his four princess sisters were given a break.
This is how Grand Duchess Olga described this period: 'Everything is peaceful and quiet, thank God. We are all healthy and not losing hope. Today my sisters' and brother's vacation begun. There is still not a lot of snow, the frost reaches -20C, and the sun shines almost all the time, it rises and sets bright and beautiful. ...It's so nice to go for walks. Mama works all day or draws and paints, keeps herself busy all the time and the time flies quickly.'
Their hope at the time was to be allowed to flee abroad to Britain, but this plan was vetoed in London amid fears their presence would stoke revolutionary sentiments. Ekaterina Schneider, their Russian language teacher, described Christmas Eve in her letters: 'In the evening today we will go for overnight prayer... Now come home after breakfast <at the emperor's house>. There I was decorating a Christmas tree with candles - had only them, no decorations, so tonight a small Christmas tree will be lit'.
'The trees here have a completely different smell, the tree smells of oranges ... Now it's 4pm, I'll go into the yard to help to make a snow mountain - tonight there was a lot of snow . It's -7C degrees. By local standards it's hot'.
'Perhaps the word 'joyful Christmas' sounds like a joke now....' Pictures: museum of Tobolsk
The deposed empress started preparations for Christmas well in advance. Despite the difficult financial situation she prepared the presents for all the family members and friends. Most of presents were handmade.
Alexandra described their Siberian Christmas in her diary: 'December 24. Sunday. Tobolsk. Christmas Eve. Preparing gifts. Breakfast downstairs. Decorated Christmas tree, laid out the gifts. Tea. Then I went to the guards from the 4th Infantry Regiment, all together 20 people'.
'I brought them a small Christmas tree and some food, and a Bible each with a bookmark that I drew. Sat there with them. 7.30 pm. Had dinner downstairs with everyone. 9pm Christmas celebration for our servants - for all our people.
'9.30 pm. Evening service at the church: a large choir sang. Soldiers came as well.'
Though seen by many as an architect of the Romanov downfall, the German-born empress did her best to support the family in the difficult times and bring the Christmas spirit into the family celebration. Perhaps thanks to her effort Romanov family enjoyed their last Christmas.
In exile emperor and his family continued normal life, even though they were forbidden to go into town and could leave the house just to walk in the yard. Pictures: museum of Tobolsk
In a letter to her lady in waiting Sophia Karlovna Buxhoeveden, the former tsarina wrote that love, hope and patience were her guides through the difficulties.
'Gently kiss you and wish you all the best. May God send you health and peace of mind, which is the greatest gift. We should pray to God for patience, because it is so important for us in this world of suffering (and the greatest madness), for comfort, strength and happiness.
'Perhaps the word 'joyful Christmas' sounds like a joke now, but after all this joy of the birth of our Lord. .... He will manifest His mercy when the time comes, and before that we have to wait patiently. We cannot change what is happening - we can only believe , believe and pray and never lose love for Him.'
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