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Glimpses of the last Romanov Royal Christmas, held in Siberia 96 years ago this week

By Kate Baklitskaya
07 January 2014

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. 

Glimpses of the last Romanov Royal Christmas, held in Siberia 96 years ago this week


Glimpses of the last Romanov Royal Christmas, held in Siberia 96 years ago this week


Glimpses of the last Romanov Royal Christmas, held in Siberia 96 years ago this week

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'.

Glimpses of the last Romanov Royal Christmas, held in Siberia 96 years ago this week


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.

'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.

Glimpses of the last Romanov Royal Christmas, held in Siberia 96 years ago this week


Glimpses of the last Romanov Royal Christmas, held in Siberia 96 years ago this week


Glimpses of the last Romanov Royal Christmas, held in Siberia 96 years ago this week

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.'

Comments (5)

I find it very sad that the Royal Family in England refused to give them shelter, after all they are/were related.

Valentyna, Perth, Australia
25/01/2014 16:42
1
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Kate, I partly agree with you , It's important to stress that I'm strongly against any killings for any reason, The death of Tzar and his family is definitely a stain on Russia's past history.

Revenge and hate were the reasons for this murderous misdeed, Why were these very reasons supposedly justify their deaths? (Complicated ok )

It is one of the unusual different traits of the humanbeing when compared to other forms of animal species. REVENGE it's a word created by religion it's written everwhere in all different forms of religious teachings, It's interpreted conveniently by humans to justify their own personal gratification especially by those that have grasped any sort of power

Note: Btw its also the LAW of many civilised Countries , ie Hanging , Gas , Injection .Firing squad etc etc . You cannot hide the fact that this is simply a "LEGAL REVENGE". An abhorrent law .

Elite and very rich Rulers in the past watched people starve in their thousands and did nothing ,yet these same people were asked to fight for them whenever danger threatened these powerful rulers.

Families have been destroyed ,fathers ,mothers, sisters, brothers all killed to keep a privileged few in power ,

Lenin's brother was shot by a Tzarist force firing squad in a death sentence that was approved by the Tzar and could be revoked only by the Tzar ,

Lenin wrote personally to the Tzar begging for his brother's life to be spared but to no avail,

Revenge and hate were the reason for Tzar and his family tragic death .

Kate it's so difficult for humans not to carry this gene of revenge in their makeup , It's a lot easier to control it by having a just and fair system for all, a system where people's grievances can be heard,

The importance and deep respect for human life is paramount ,the freedom for everyone to think freely without any form of restrictions ,(Thinking for yourself isn't a crime ) You definitely don't need myopic groups of people telling you HOW to think and more importantly telling you that if you don't think their way ,there are no rewards in your next life only misery and dispair for ever and ever ,

Think freely, and respect the free thinking of others, respect the importance and the frailty of our short time on this planet ,

ALL LIFE IS SO PRECIOUS ,Revenge is an insidious excuse and should never have priority over life Revenge justifies nothing . Patrick .
Patrick Travers, Perth Australia
09/01/2014 07:06
2
0
The same evil that killed these people killed many other innocents and still does, and takes away their humanity. That evil still does the same today. It is that evil that feeds you your propaganda, Patrick Travers, and it is an evil that IS a Religion too.
E kar, travelat
08/01/2014 15:25
2
0
Patrick, can't argue with you but it's interesting to look at the most powerful people of their time from another perspective. A the end of the day they were just people with their own hopes and fears. And no matter how corrupted the system was many of them didnt choose their fait and just wanted to be happy like any of us. Not to mention that no matter what they did they surely didnt deserve the cruel death the other even less humane regime imposed on them.
Kate, Russia
08/01/2014 14:06
3
0
Kings ,Queens ,Tzars Emperors,Caesars, Kaisers were originally supported and popularised by Popes in Rome.They not only had a huge influence on these priviliged few ,but also chose who were going to hold these monarchial titles.
It always has been a corrupt and very disruptive process, a deliberate hinderance to the free thinking man.
The Church hierarchy has always been obsessed in controlling the thoughts of people to the point of putting science back hundreds of years .
Slowly these privileged Monarchs have disappeared ,most of them rightly destroyed by the very people they once ruled .Slowly but surely these suppressive Religious Organisations will also disappear when people start asking science to answer their questions about existence not the vague conception of FAITH , .
The past has shown us clearly to be ruled by Religion or Monarchs, is an out-dated concept. an unjust undemocratic way , a failure , a barrier to the truth .
We, over the centuries have seen cruelties to mankind that beggar belief , we have witnessed the end of some civilisations all due to this obsession by religious fanatics to control the free thinking of other humans .
In the recent past children have been abused by these "Religous Controllers" and Govts turning a blind eye to these atrocities becaiuse of "belief conflicts" ?This belief that religion is above the law and will have some mysterious power over you for eternally even after you die ,
Well, those days are surely gone at last , "Death the great equaliser" is final, it is the only true way mankind is reminded that it doesn't matter who you are on this planet ,the great equaliser has no discriminatory agendas. DUST is our destiny,and eventually nothingness ,
Patrick .
Patrick Travers, Perth Australia
08/01/2014 07:11
0
0
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