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I've recently acquired a copy of "Leakages from Watertight House" an unofficial MI5 cartoon book detailing humorous events from 1914/15/16 in the life of the British Security Service.

One cartoon, dated October 1915 is called "Presentskis" and purports to show cheap version of presents that "Our Major D" could take to the Russian General Staff.

Though indexing of these things in 1915 is peculiar in the British Foreign Office files (I've tried Drake (liikeliest id on Major D), Dansey (2nd likeliiest id), Missions. Presents, Gifts, General Staff and even Russia - all to no avail.  But I'm keen to find out if the Mission ever took place - and what was discussed.

If anyone has any ideas I'd be obliged.

Phil Tomaselli

Imperial Transportation / 'Stolypinki'
« on: May 01, 2009, 06:36:21 AM »
From what I can gather 'Stolypinki' were specially adapted railway carriages designed for the mass transportation of prisoners.  Looking from the outside like ordinary carriages they contained internal cages where prisoners could be held in groups under guard.  Originally used in the Tsarist period they continued in use throughout the Stalinist period and some were used to take Polish prisoners to Katyn.

Problem is, though I know of descriptions of them I'm unable to trace any photographs or even drawings.  Does anyonme know where any might be found?

Phil Tomaselli

I have a letter from one of the British Intelligence Mission officers (not one of those so far named as part of the plot ie not Hoare, Alley, Scale or Rayner) in which he rather coyly says that rumours have reached him that Rasputin was murdered by "The finest tennis player of his generation".

Alas there are no other clues as to who this might be.  I'm not aware that either Felix or any of the British officers named were great tennis players so can anyone think who this supposed suspect might have been?

Phil Tomaselli

DNA confirms IDs of czar's children
By MIKE ECKEL, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 29 minutes ago

DNA tests carried out by a U.S. laboratory prove that bone fragments exhumed last year belong to two children of Czar Nicholas II, putting to rest questions about what happened to Russia's last royal family, a regional governor said Wednesday.

Bone fragments dug up near the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg are indeed those of Crown Prince Alexei and his sister, Maria, whose remains had been missing since the family was murdered in 1918 as Russia descended into civil war, said Eduard Rossel, governor of the Sverdlovsk region.

"We have now found the entire family," he told reporters in Yekaterinburg, 900 miles east of Moscow.

The confirmation could bring the tortured history of the Russian imperial family closer to closure and end royal supporters' persistent hopes that members of the czar's immediate family survived the massacre.

Nicholas II abdicated in 1917 as revolutionary fervor swept Russia, and he and his family were detained. The czar; his wife, Alexandra, and their son and four daughters were fatally shot on July 17, 1918, in a basement room of the merchant's house where they were being held in Yekaterinburg

The remains of Nicholas, Alexandra and three of their daughters were unearthed in Yekaterinburg in 1991 as the Soviet Union was collapsing. After genetic tests convinced forensics experts of their authenticity, they were buried in 1998 in a cathedral in the imperial capital of St. Petersburg.

The Russian Orthodox Church canonized Nicholas and his family in 2000, even as it expressed doubts that the remains were indeed those of the czar's family.

The remains of Alexei and Maria, however, had never been located, leading to decades of speculation that perhaps one or both had survived.

Last summer, researchers dug up the bone shards near Yekaterinburg and enlisted Russian and U.S. laboratories to conduct DNA tests.

"The main genetic laboratory in the United States has concluded its work with a full confirmation of our own laboratories' work," Rossel told reporters. "This has confirmed that indeed it is the children.

It was unclear which laboratory Rossel was referring to but a genetic research team working at the University of Massachusetts Medical School has been involved in the process.

The press service for Russian Orthodox Church said no one could comment on the discovery.

The Final Chapter / A British rescue plan
« on: July 04, 2007, 12:40:41 AM »
For those dear sweet people who refuse to believe, in the face of mounting evidence, that the British did have an intention to rescue TIF :-

I've been looking through a file at The National Archives, FCO 12/158.  This relates to enquiries being made in the early 70's by journalists Summers and Mangold, relating to the fate of the Russian Imperial Family in 1918.
On 5th June 1974 Rohan Butler wrote a Minute to Mr J L Bullard of the East European & Soviet Department regarding a recent conversation with Mr Tony Summers.  In his final paragraph Mr Butler writes "I should like to think over and perhaps discuss whether we could usefully take any further action on this: more particularly in view of some new, but apparently overlooked evidence which has recently surfaced, perhaps more seriously, in regard to trying to rescue the Russian Imperial family in, mainly, 1917 rather than 1918.  Mr Summers did not mention this to me, nor I to him."

I've applied to the FCO under the Freedom of Information Act for any documents withheld relating to this plan.

Phil Tomaselli

BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour (available with listen again facility from the BBC website) ran an interview with Sofka's granddaughter who has just written her biography. The interview includes an excerpt from the original 1990 intervoiew with Sofka herself in which she talks about her life at Tsarskoe Seloe.

Phil T

Imperial Russian History / British subjects in Imperial Russia
« on: January 11, 2007, 08:56:48 AM »
This is a subject that has interested me for a long time.  I estimate that there were some 10,000 British subjects throughout the Empire in 1914, about 4,000 in St Petersburg, 700 in Moscow and the rest scattered through the north (mainly timber merchants), the Urals (mining engineers) and the Caucasus (heavily involved in oil).  There was an English Shop in St P that sold marmalade, shortbread and other English goods, an English Club that offered to support the families of men who volunteered to return to Britain to fight, and English churches in St P and Moscow.

There were extended families of Carrs, Gibsons and Hills that had been there for scores (if not hundreds) of years but which maintained their Englishness by sending their wives abroad to give birth and their sons to British Public Schools.  Donald Swann the singer/entertainer from the 1950's and 1960's was from a family that went to Russia in the late 18th century.

After the revolution most of them fled, the sensible ones in 1917, the remainder coming out in 1918 and 1919 as part of a trade off with HMG to allow out Russians from Britain.  A few dozen (mainly those who were British only by virtue of possessing a British passport) stayed on and were looked after by charity from Britain.  They even had their own dacha outside Leningrad.  Unfortunately they seem to have disappeared during the siege.

Is anyone here related to any of these families?  The White Russian diaspora is one people seem to be aware of, but the tribulations of these British subjects seems to have been largely forgotten.  Presumably there were also large numbers of Frenchmen and not a few Americans also caught up in the wreck of the revolution about who we also hear little. 

Phil Tomaselli

UK members may be interested in "Three Kings at War" which looks at George V, Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm during WW1.  This is the programme that will reveal British Secret Service plans to rescue Nicholas in 1918.

It will be preceded by a repeat of "Prince Eddy - The King we never had" which I think was shown last year.

Phil Tomaselli

The Final Chapter / Nerses Ovsepian
« on: September 06, 2006, 11:01:28 AM »
Apparently a Soviet Agent named Nerses Ovsepian claimed in the 1930's to have been a witness to the execution of the IF at Ekaterinberg in 1918.  Before I waste valuable time trying to trace information on him has anyone ever come across him - is he worth the effort?

Phil Tomaselli

The Final Chapter / Ipatiev House photo
« on: April 12, 2006, 02:48:21 PM »
My  1979 copy of "The File on the Tsar" has a photo (No 7) captioned "The Ipatiev House in June 1918, after the Tsar's arrival - a second outer palisade was built in the first week of July".  Does anyone know who took this photo and where it first appeared?


Phil Tomaselli

ps What happened to the Yurovsky thread?

Forum Announcements / On this day in 1917
« on: March 17, 2006, 01:57:21 AM »
From Paleologue, vol III, ch 10:

Saturday, March 17, 1917.

"The weather is very dismal this morning. From
dark and heavy clouds the snow is falling in
dense flakes, and so slowly that I cannot even
make out the granite wall which lines the icy bed
of the Neva twenty paces from my windows. We
might be in the very depths of winter. The gloom
of the landscape and. the enmity of nature
harmonize only too well with the sinister course events are taking.

"One of those who were present gives me the
following detailed account of the meeting at the
conclusion of which the Grand Duke Michael signed
his provisional abdication yesterday.

It took place at ten o'clock in the morning at
Prince Paul Putiatin's house, No. 12, Millionaďa.
In addition to the Grand Duke and his secretary,
Matveďev, there were present Prince Lvov,
Rodzianko, Militikov, Nekrassov, Kerensky,
Nabokov, Shingarev and Baron Nolde; about
half-past ten they were joined by Gutchkov and
Shulgin, who had come straight from Pskov.

"As soon as the discussion. began, Gutchkov and
Miliukov boldly asserted that Michael
Alexandrovitch had no right to evade the
responsibility of supreme power. Rodzianko,
Nekrassov and Kerensky argued contra that the
accession of a new Tsar would release a torrent
of revolutionary passion and bring Russia face to
face with a frightful crisis; their conclusion
was that the monarchical question should be
reserved until the meeting of the constituent
assembly which would make its sovereign will
known. The argument was pressed with such force
and stubbornness, particularly by Kerensky, that
all those present came round to it with the
exception of Gutchkov and Miliukov. With complete
disinterestedness the Grand Duke himself agreed.

"Gutchkov then made a final effort. Addressing
the Grand Duke in person and appealing to his
patriotism and courage he pointed out how
necessary it was that the Russian people should
be presented at once with the living embodiment of a national leader:

'If you are afraid to take up the burden of the
imperial crown now, Monseigneur, you should at
least agree to exercise supreme authority as
'Regent of the Empire during the vacancy of the
throne,' or, to take a much finer title,
'Protector of the Nation,' as Cromwell styled
himself. At the same time you would give a solemn
undertaking to the nation to surrender your power
to a constituent assembly as soon as the war ends.'

"This ingenious idea, which might have saved the
whole situation, made Kerensky almost beside
himself with passion and provoked him to a
torrent of invective and threats which terrified everyone there.

"In the general confusion the Grand Duke rose
with the remark that he would like to think
things over by himself for a minute or two. He
was making for the next room when Kerensky leaped
in front of him as if to keep him back:

'Promise us not to consult your wife,
Monseigneur!'   His thoughts had at once gone to
the ambitious Countess Brassov whose empire over
her husband's mind was complete. With a smile the Grand Duke replied:
'Don't worry, Alexander Feodorovitch, my wife
isn't here at the moment; she stayed behind at Gatchina!'

"Five minutes later the Grand Duke returned. In very calm tones he

'I have decided to abdicate.'

"The triumphant Kerensky called out: 'Monseigneur, you are the noblest
of men!'

"The rest of the company, however, was wrapped in
a .gloomy silence; even those who had been the
strongest advocates of abdication---Prince Lvov
and Rodzianko, for instance---seemed overwhelmed
by the irreparable occurrence that had just taken
place. Gutchkov relieved his conscience by a
final protest: 'Gentlemen, you are leading Russia
to her ruin; I am not going to follow you in that baneful path.'

"A provisional and conditional abdication was
then drawn up by Nekrassov, Nabokov and Baron
Nolde. Michael Alexandrovitch interrupted them
several times in their task to make it quite
clear that his refusal of the imperial crown
remained subject to the ultimate decision of the
Russian nation as represented by a constituent
assembly. At the conclusion he took the pen and signed.

"Throughout this long and painful discussion the
Grand Duke's composure and dignity never once
deserted him. Hitherto his compatriots have had
but a poor opinion of him; he was considered to
be of weak character and lacking in brains. But
on this historic occasion his patriotism,
nobility and self-sacrifice were very touching.
When the final formalities had been concluded,
the delegates of the Executive Committee could
not help showing him that the impression he made
upon them won their sympathy and respect.
Kerensky tried to interpret the emotion they all
felt in a lapidary phrase which fell from his
lips in a theatrical outburst. 'Monseigneur! You
have generously entrusted to us the sacred cup of
your power. I promise you we will hand it on to
the constituent assembly without spilling a single
drop.' "

The Final Chapter / Yurovsky's fingers
« on: February 15, 2006, 03:02:01 PM »
I'm re-reading Francis McCullagh's "Prisoner of the Reds".  McCullagh was a pre-war journalist who spoke fluent Russian and who was attached to the British Mission in Siberia in 1919 as an Intelligence Officer.  He was captured by the Reds but persuaded them he was only a journalist and they sent him back to Britain via Ekaterinberg & Moscow.

In Ekaterinberg he interviewed Yurovsky and noted that the tips of three of his fingers were missing.  According to McCullagh these were blown off by a stray bullet during the massacre in the cellar.  Is this mentioned elsewhere?

McCullagh's account is pretty much as per the usual story, though he seems to have heard also the story of the waiter at the Red Workmen's Club who overheard the killers boasting about the burials.  Quite where he got this information, and some of the other stuff he writes, he doesn't say.

Phil Tomaselli

Forum Announcements / Imperial Russian Treasures exhibition in Brussels
« on: February 05, 2006, 11:40:37 PM »
Having just returned from a romantic weekend in Brussels I'm delighted to say we came across a small exhibition of Imperial Russian uniforms, regimental silver and momentoes donated to the National Army and Military History Museum by the White Russian community in the late 1930's.  

I particularly enjoyed a full dress uniform of the Kouban Cossack regt, an enormous silver punch bowl with enamelled portraits of Nicholas II & his father, and a small size jacket that had belonged to Alexi.

The exhibition is NOT worth travelling any great distance for, as it's quite small and took me about 20 minutes to go round.  It would also help if you can read Flemish or French (fortunately I can just about manage the latter).  If you are in Brussels howver I heartly recommend it - the military museum itself is well worth a visit.

Phil T

Rasputin / British Foreign Office Files & Rasputin
« on: January 09, 2006, 05:34:53 AM »
I though it best to start a new strand here rather than clutter up the one on the actual murder of Rasputin, though there may be some overlap.

I mentioned previously that I'd tried to find the Foreign Office file on the murder but that it was not to be located.  I thought I'd have one final look and check some other indexes.  Bad news is, it is definitely missing and probably never even reached the British National Archives.  A while ago I asked the FO archivist to search their records for me and she assures me that they hold no files at all from the period.

This being said, it is possible to create a paper trail from the indexes and to have a small idea of the contents of the telegrams sent to London from Petrograd.

First received was a telegram from Sir George Buchanan (British Ambassador) sent Dec 30th 1916 and received 31st Dec.  The contents are summarised as : "M Rasputin - informs of sudden death of: known that Prince Youssopoff is concerned in."  This signal was numbered 265108 and is noted as being kept with the next signal concerning the murder.

Next telegram was dated Dec 30th 1916 and received on Jan 1st 1917.  It is summarised as "M Rasputins murder - circumstances of" and was number 705.  It is only noted as coming from Petrograd.

Next telegram I don't have a date for but was received Jan 2nd.  Again from Petrograd it is summarised as "Conversation with GD Nicholas.  Gloomy view of internal conditions."  That this concerns the killing we can tell because it too is recorded as being filed with signal 705.

On Jan 4th another telegram from Buchanan is summarised as "Murder of Rasputin - Emperor's refusal to release Prince Youssopoff; Former reactionary leader Purishkevitch said to have planned murder."  This too is recorded as being held with 705.

There all correspondence directly to do with the killing stops.  The correspondence should all be in File 705 for Russia, 1917 but the files leap from 7 to 811.  This is not uncommon and if it wasn't for the index you wouldn't necessarily know the file is missing.

I have found a couple of other bits and bobs in the FO files relating to the general circumstances of the killing and the aftermath, including some clear warnings from consular staff and journalist that revolution is in the air.

These I will copy in due course as time allows.

Phil Tomaselli

Books about the Romanovs and Imperial Russia / “God Save the Tsar”
« on: December 30, 2005, 05:34:38 AM »
Has anyone read “God Save the Tsar” (a historical novel about the escape of the Russian imperial family from Ekaterinburg) by Susannah Hoe (Michael Joseph/St Martin's Press 1978)?

Phil Tomaselli

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