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Remarkable private pictures of the Russian royal family found in a remote Urals museum

By The Siberian Times reporter
08 May 2013

Tsar Nicholas II appears in a photograph to be teaching his daughter Grand Duchess Anastasia how to smoke.

A zoo on the Tzar's estate would be closed after the 1917 revolution, but on that day the ruler wrote in his diary: 'Took the elephant to our pond with Alexei today and had fun watching him bath'. Picture: Zlatoust City History Museum

Another picture taken by the emperor dated 1916 shows Tsarevich Alexei - heir to an autocratic throne that would be abolished the following year - posing on a tree in winter with his beloved pet spaniel Joy. 

These images of the Russian royal family, captured in photographs taken by the Tsar himself or his children, mostly date from the years of the First World War, and some very soon before the Romanov dynasty crumbled, to be rapidly replaced by Communism. 

Found in a vault in Zlatoust, the album shows the private moments of the royals as the storm clouds gather over a dynasty that had ruled for more than three centuries. 

The smoking picture shows the youngest princess Anastasia, then 15, evidently imbibing from a cigarette with every encouragement from the Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias. At the time there was not the same stigma attached to smoking and in fact a year earlier Anastasia had written to her father: 'I am sitting here with your old cigarette that you once gave me, and it is very tasty'.

She - like Alexei - would soon be central characters in the mystery of what became of the Romanov family. 

Remarkable private pictures of the Russian royal family

The smoking picture shows the youngest princess Anastasia, then 15, evidently imbibing from a cigarette with every encouragement from the Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias. Pictures: Zlatoust City History Museum

For decades there were claims that the pair had survived the 1918 shooting that took the lives of Russia's last royal ruler, his former empress Alexandra, and their other three children, Olga, Tatiana and Maria. 

In the event, DNA evidence gathered from bones found near Yekaterinburg gives credible evidence that both were indeed killed in the shooting at the Ipatiev House, where the family were held by Lenin's forces. Anastasia and her brother were, however, buried separately from the rest of the family. 

The images of Alexei show a surprisingly strong boy given that his haemophilia saw him portrayed as sickly.

Indeed it was his serious illness that led his mother to rely on debauched holy man Grigory Rasputin, a relationship that did much to undermine royal credibility as the country became embroiled in an ugly war and revolutionary fervour. 

Remarkable private pictures of the Russian royal family


Remarkable private pictures of the Russian royal family


Remarkable private pictures of the Russian royal family

These images of the Russian royal family, captured in photographs taken by the Tsar himself or his children, mostly date from the years of the First World War, and some very soon before the Romanov dynasty crumbled, to be rapidly replaced by Communism. Pictures: Zlatoust City History Museum

In one of the earlier pictures in the set, the four carefree Romanov princesses are seen in 1914 enjoying the royal yacht 'Standart' on the Black Sea. 

The same year at Peterhof, the Tsar is shown relaxing on rocks in a picture almost certainly taken by one of his children using a camera he had imported from Britain. And in another picture, the Tsar, Alexei and the boy's tutor are seen walking an elephant near their palace in Tsarskoye Selo.

A zoo on the estate would be closed after the 1917 revolution, but on this day the ruler wrote in his diary: 'Took the elephant to our pond with Alexei today and had fun watching him bath'.

With war breaking out in 1914, the heir is shown in a military game with his tutor's two smaller children. In 1916, as he commanded Russian forces in the First World War, the Tsar is seen playing with his son on the banks of the Dnieper River close to Mogilyov. Here - where the smoking picture was taken - Russian military headquarters was based during the war, and Nicholas insisted on having his family around him. 

Other pictures show the older princesses visiting wounded soldiers in military hospitals. 

Remarkable private pictures of the Russian royal family


Remarkable private pictures of the Russian royal family


Private pictures of Russian Royal family, Grand Duchess Tatiana

Remarkable private pictures of the Russian royal family


Remarkable private pictures of the Russian royal family

Top to bottom: Grand Duchess Olga and Tatiana, Grand Duchess Olga pictured looking through family album; Grand Duchess Tatiana; clockwise Grand Duchess Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia; Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna on board of Russian Royal Yacht. Pictures: Zlatoust City History Museum

The images have been released in a year which marks the 400th anniversary of the Romanov's coming to power in Russia. 

'The emperor was very fond of photography and passed his passion for it to his wife Alexandra and children,' said Milena Bratukhina, an historian at the Zlatoust Museum where the album was hidden in Soviet times.

It remains unclear how it got to Zlatoust.  One theory is that the album - which has 200-plus pictures, many never seen before - was taken from the royals by a revolutionary called Dmitry Chudinov, nicknamed Kassian, who was an escort when the exiled royals were brought westward from Tobolsk in Siberia to Yekaterinburg on their final move before they were shot. 

He was from Zlatoust and it is known that he appropriated some royal possessions. The album could have been among them.

Remarkable private pictures of the Russian royal family


Remarkable private pictures of the Russian royal family


Remarkable private pictures of the Russian royal family


Private pictures from Russian Royal family album, Tsar Nikolai II

Comments (41)

Yvette who was your phone relation to the tsar? Just I haven't found any that went to south Africa most went on go live in UK, France, Russia or Canada... Im really intrigued by this family and royalty.
stace, uk
09/03/2015 03:07
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It is no doubt that Nicholas was a tyrant of the worst kind. He sent thousands to their deaths, and never bliked an eye. It is sad that his children had to die for his atrocities. Russia was and is much better off without the imperial family, after all with out Russia we would have lost the second war, and be living under a dictatorship WORSE than some we have now.
Willhelm Kazautzki, Kelowna B.C. Canada
08/03/2015 09:39
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I love the historic pictures of Romanovs. We had numerous members of the connection in Palm Beach years ago. I knew them, particularly family of Paul Romanov Illinsky. I served as usher for his funeral at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church. Also, I have grateful memories of the Count Paul de Rodiansko and wife. I am grateful to messrs Putin and Medvedev for their gratitude of the great Russian past and diligent restoration of so many beautiful churches, palaces, etc. I hope that I can go there again.
John L. Lott, WPB, Fla., USA
27/02/2015 00:47
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It is sad that this family had to be murdered and with so many other innocent people from Russia, Ukraine, the then Czechoslavakia, Poland etc. Pure Evil, Greed and Power was the order of the day. My grandmother's mother was related to the Czar (being his sister) but she married and moved to the then Czechoslavakia (now Slovakia), I was born there but we emigrated in 1969 to South Africa when the communists invaded Czechoslavakia (now Slovakia). My father was approached by the communist and they told him to join them and that if he didn't then bad things would happen to his daughter (which was me, I was one years old), a lot of his friends got executed in front of his eyes, he was lucky to have survived, he then packed a suitcase, took my mom and me and we escaped and caught a train to Austria before they closed the borders, we had to remain in Austria until we were accepted here in South Africa, it was a difficult time for my parents leaving behind there entire family, they had to live out of one suitcase in Austria, and I got extremely sick in the cold weather, so I take my hat off to my parents for being so brave and for being my hero's and for not giving in to communism no matter what!!!!!!!
Yvette, , South Africa
06/01/2015 21:06
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Pure Evil to what had happened to the Czar, his family, holly Russia. A once beautiful and rich country destroyed by greed and pure evil. tens of millions of innocent Russians murdered by these communists. So many other millions of innocent people from Ukraine, Poland and other countries murdered by the hands of these communist bastards.

These photos are very beautiful. Thank you for sharing, True mother Russia will live on forever. The memories will continue to be past on for generations, the memories will never die.
Tatiana, Australia
02/01/2015 19:06
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Pure Evil to what had happened to the Czar, his family, holly Russia. A once beautiful and rich country destroyed by greed and pure evil. tens of millions of innocent Russians murdered by these communists. So many other millions of innocent people from Ukraine, Poland and other countries murdered by the hands of these communist bastards.
These photos are very beautiful. Thank you for sharing, True mother Russia will live on forever. The memories will continue to be past on for generations, the memories will never die.
Tatiana, Australia
02/01/2015 18:59
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i realy loved looking at the beatiful pictures of the Russian royal family.
kyle, usa, fort, wayne, indiana
13/12/2014 10:15
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Interesting how someone posts a comment that Russian needs a democratic monachy, but does not give any reasoning as to why Russian would benefit. Having toured through Russia, I can fully appreciate why the tsarist government failed and its subsequent abolition. But must say that I appreciated the work that is credited to the tsars with absolutely no recognition is given the 10s of thousands that died building St Petersburg. Nor much acknowledgement for the millions of surfs that were enslaved to around 50 aristocratic families.
Alan, Melbourne australia
24/09/2014 13:32
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Finally a clear photo of Anastasia's left ear that clearly proves that she was NOT Anna Anderson.
Chat Noir, Los Angeles
06/08/2014 08:32
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300 years of Romanovs, and the result is an IMPERIAL FOOL who wipes out not only his a dynasty, but the entire EMPIRE and delivers it to the savages.
chris, USA
27/07/2014 21:38
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Personal gift from the Dowager Empress stranded at outbreak of World War I comes up for sale at Tennants Auction House 28/3/14. Intriguing story behind the circumstances of the Empress meeting Mrs Watt a likewise stranded American in Copenhagen and her kind souvenir of a Russian Silver and Enamel cigarette case. The Empress was to return to Russia, revolution and the murder of her son and grandchildren.
Kevin Davis, Leeds Uk
27/03/2014 03:54
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Fascinating photographs -many thanks for publisihig thise pics. A small point I am picky about - the correct adjective for the Romanovs is "imperial" , never "royal". There is a huge difference. Simllarly Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia are titled "Grand Duchess" - never "Princess" , which in Russia refers to another tier of nobility altogether.
Nicholas II was an autocrat and doubtless responsible for many atrocities but he should have been brought to a proper public trial. Wartime does not excuse barbarity and the manner in which he and his entire family were covertly murdered can NEVER be excused.
Dee Hinson, Canada
08/12/2013 04:10
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I am looking for information about my family from Russia. We had an aunt that passed away telling stories for our ancestors in Russia. And how they escaped to the USA. They were supposed to be murdered. I dont know where to start. Any information would be great. Im not sure on everything but I know
Feibig is my grandmother's maiden name. Im curious to where are family really is from.
Jody, USA
19/11/2013 12:34
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i do believe in recarnation but is is like wise for most people to be unthought of when sharing information like that yasmine
Stellie Bakers, United states
26/08/2013 06:18
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Remarkable find and I don't think I seen many photographs of the Grand Duchesses photographed in profile. The quality of the photos is amazing!

It looks like in the photo of Alexis may be showing the late effects of hemophilia on his left leg which may date that post the infamous Spala attack where his left leg was drawn up to his chest.
Jeffrey Smith, Chapel Hill
31/07/2013 07:33
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