To mark the centenary of the Russian Royal Family’s assassination, the Sretensky Monastery Publishing House published a book by Archpriest Alexander Shargunov, The Tsar. A Book about the Royal Passion-bearers. Archpriest Alexander Shargunov regularly preaches sermons on the holy martyrs on the radio and answers readers’ letters to Russky Dom magazine; he has made several compilations of the Miracles worked by the Royal Martyrs. The present book tells us about the role of monarchy in Russian history, about the martyric life of Russia’s last emperor and his royal family, and the miracles worked by the saints after praying to them. We present a few excerpts on the miracles of the Holy Royal Martyrs.
Below is a letter I (Archpriest Alexander Shargunov) received with a request that it be transferred to the Commission on the Royal Family Canonization:
Dear members of the Commission on the Canonization of Tsar Nicholas II and the Royal Family,
For a long time I have not had the courage to speak about what happened to me, Orthodox Christian Eugenia Nikolaevna Mikhailova, and my friend, Liubov Florentievna Mironova, in October of 1991. On October 15, 1990, we arrived at Krasnitsi village, twenty-five kilometers from the town of Pushkino in St. Petersburg region, to pick some wild cranberries. We picked the berries and were about to leave before sunset (at 16:30), but could not, though we were close to taking the necessary path. Night falls early in October, and we lost the landmark—we were amidst a vast bog with myriads of little paths. At first we were guided by the sound of an electric train, but then we completely lost our way.
I was praying aloud, but the further we went the more impassable seemed the area—the swamp, fallen trees, and no way back. I persisted in moving forward, trying to feel the depth with a stick, when I unexpectedly remembered a story described in the book, Letters of the Royal Family from Imprisonment: a Cossacks’s unit, walking with a group of children and elderly people, was encircled by a bog. A priest was with them. They started to pray to the holy martyrs and managed to find a way out to join their friends.
I was desperately reading the prayer I composed in my own heart, “Holy martyrs, Tsar Nicholas, Tsarina Alexandra, Great Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, Holy Martyr, Prince Alexei, and all those who were murdered with them for our Lord Jesus Christ, lead us out of this dark forest and this swamp! Holy martyrs, save us, Eugenia and Liubov!” That was a prayer of hope and desperation, said in total darkness in the middle of a swamp; we tried to feel the ground with a stick and moved forward, but we didn’t know where.
I cried out my prayer two times and something beamed out in the darkness. It was a tree branch with bark, and then it appeared again and again. Hanging on to the branches, we walked along a tree, and there was no water under our feet. Stretching out my hand, as if I were blind, I moved forward crying my prayer to heaven. Liubov followed me. We found a broad path in about five minutes. The moon lit the path, and footprints were traceable on the ground. We went a long way along this path and finally came to Susanino.
After six hours in the darkness we returned home at midnight; we could not believe we were alive. We served a Pannikhida service for repose of the Royal martyrs. Since then I have considered Tsar Nicholas and his family to be saints. To thank the royal family, I anointed the eyes of Tsar depicted on a large portrait with oil from the Holy Sepulcher. Tears rolled out from his eyes, and my children and guests witnessed it.
My son, priest Eugene, and his wife Olga waited for me to come home from the forest, and they were so anxious. When at home, I told them everything and called Natalia, Liubov Florentievna’s daughter. I wanted everyone to know about the miracle we experienced after praying to the holy martyrs, Tsar Nicholas and his family.
Liubov Florentievna hardly believed in anything then, and the evidence she gives is even more objective.
I told this story to Vladyka Vasily (Rodzyanko) when he concelebrated with my son. He recommended that I send a letter to the Commission, but I lacked determination—I do not know why. I hope the story I have told you will make a significant contribution to the canonization of the martyrs who laid down their lives for Russia—Tsar Nicholas II, his family and all those who died with them. For us Orthodox Christians they set a good example. In their martyrdom they are the epitome of patience. Emperor Nicholas II was a truly Orthodox tsar and is worthy of being venerated as a Russian saint for our salvation.
Eugenia Mikhailova, a teacher of mathematics,
Liubov Mironova, Russian Museum employee,
The following story was told by Vladyka Melchisideck (then Archbishop of Yekaterinburg and Kurgan). In the 1970s, Vladyka was the Moscow Patriarchate representative in Berlin. Once when he was traveling to Russia, in his luggage were many books on the communists’ persecutions against the Russian Church after the revolution. These books were published outside the USSR. Closely following the criminal code, the authorities could have considered this an importation of anti-Soviet literature.
The customs officers began (for the first time in many years of traveling) to fully examine the hierarch’s luggage. Father Melchisideck had put the forbidden books in a suitcase where his vestments were, wrapping them in his sakkos.1 Had the officers found the books, Vladyka would have been forced to retire—and that would have been the most optimistic scenario. He started to pray fervently, especially to Tsar Nicholas, whom he had long venerated as a saint. The officers checked the suitcases unhurriedly, taking each item out of it. They took the sakkos out of the bag, too, as well as the books hidden in it. After they checked the bottom of the suitcase, they started packing everything back in. Meanwhile, Vladyka did not cease praying to the Tsar. The customs officers paid as much attention to the vestments and the books as they did to any other object.
Juliania Yakovlevna Telekanova, a parishioner of the Joy of All Who Sorrow Church on Bolshaya Ordynka Street, an elderly and a poorly educated woman, gave all her life to the Lord. Shortly before her death, she told me how she began to venerate Tsar Nicholas. She had always known very little about him and never reflected on his fate. When she and her relatives got into financial difficulties that seemed insurmountable and posed a great threat to the whole family, in her dream she saw the Tsar wearing his military uniform. He stretched out his hand to give her a silver ruble featuring him, saying, “Serve a Pannikhida for me, and everything will be fine.” Tsar Nicholas was right. Help came after they prayed for the Emperor’s repose. Since then, Juliania Yakovlevna has always prayed for his repose and turned to him for intercession as if he were another St. Nicholas the Wonder-worker.
In November of 1981, we (three parishioners of the Joy of All Who Sorrow Church in Bolshaya Ordynka Street) learned that the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad had canonized the New Martyrs and Confessors. Russia’s last Emperor and his family were among them. This fact aroused our indignation and even protest. We started to eagerly remember all the negative facts we knew about the tsar from Soviet history books and the very few memoirs to which we had access. We took the royal family’s canonization as nothing but a political stunt.
Our conscience was, however, extremely confused, and we turned to our spiritual father to ask for clarification. As it turned out, he had long venerated the holy Passion-Bearers; he tried to reveal the tsar’s true image purified of libel and misunderstanding. Full of the zeal and self-assuredness typical of young people, we expressed counterarguments without listening to our spiritual father. He soon stopped speaking, and we finally stopped, too. With determination and zest, he said: “They are saints.” He stood up to let us understand that our dispute was over.
I came home with a sense of unease: I had fiercely argued with my spiritual father, and the issue of canonization remained unclear—but what was most important was a revolting discontent I felt after retelling all the “objective” facts from the royal family’s life. Before going to bed, I prayed that the Lord instill peace into my soul and clarify my genuine confusion.
In the evening of the following day, a friend of mine—she was a believer—offered me a book taken from the Lenin Library’s secret archive, to read for just a night. I was confounded to see the book’s title: Letters from Tsar Nicholas II to His Family in 1914-1917. I read the book zealously; with similar zest I had read My Life in Christ by St. John of Kronstadt or Excerpts by St. Silouan of Mount Athos (who were then not yet canonized). The books possessed the same spirit, the same lightness and sorrow in Christ, the same feeling that warms the soul and embraces it after we learn even one iota about the great podvig of saints. There was nothing left of our sense of uneasiness. There was only absolute clarity and firm certainty that I had found my closest friends, the saints.
The same soon happened to my friends.
Olga Alexandrovna L., Moscow.”
A story told by Svetlana Alexandrovna Rumyantseva from Moscow:
The event I would like to tell you seems quite ordinary, but the consequences that ensued were very unexpected and significant. A few day before the commemoration day of the Royal Martyrs (July 17), my nephew was getting ready for his exam in math (algebra and geometry), but then he was sunk in despair: He would never get an excellent grade, which was the only condition that would allow him to enroll in a technical college. I advised that he trust the Providence of God and intercession of Tsar Nicholas the Martyr, and go to his exam praying, “God, have mercy on me.” I in turn, prayed to the Lord that He—if it be His will—help my nephew through the intercessions of the Royal Martyr. Tearfully I prayed for the Tsar and all his family that they plead the Lord to have mercy on us, sinners. The thing is that my mother hoped that if my nephew entered the college, he would spend less time hanging out in the streets, and start behaving himself decently.
Something amazing happened: When my nephew saw his examination card with a theorem he did not know, he got completely lost. He was as if in a dream. He remembered neither how he answered the question nor what additional questions were put to him; nevertheless, he got the desirable grade. That was a miracle—for him and for me, and what was most important, for my mother, because until very recently she had been a fervent atheist and for fifteen years made scenes every time I went to church. Nothing, neither words nor events, could shake her zealous fighting against the faith. Now she venerates Tsar Nicholas as well as other saints she knows, especially St. Seraphim of Sarov. She prays to them when in troubles or, perhaps, every day. Moreover she strives to instill faith into my sister, her daughter.
My grandfather, Feodor Pavlovich, served at the court. I do not know what rank he held, but what I do know is that for his loyal service the Tsar granted him written permission for his sons to recieve a higher education at the government’s expenses—they could get a military education because my grandfather was a military man, but he was not rich (by the standards of those times). I learned this in my early childhood from my father, Alexander Feodorovich (he died in 1989).
My father lamented that neither he nor his brother had received any serious education. He felt ashamed every time he had to fill in application forms—holding prominent military positions, he had to write something about his education. Once he tried to explain to the officers that he had studied at school for two winters, but they just laughed at him and advised that he write, “incomplete higher education”. In fact, he and his brother had received homeschooling, which was enough for the rest of both their and my lives. That is why my father was so happy when I graduated from Moscow State University (MSU), and later when my brother graduated and took a Doctor of Science degree. Then my son got his education. We were sure it was our achievement—we had come from the provinces to graduate from Russia’s most prestigious university.
Many years elapsed. His Holiness [Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow] blessed that Pannikhidas be served to pray for the innocently murdered royal family. When at a Pannikhida at the Holy Trinity Church [of the Optina Monastery Metochion], I was on my knees crying and remembering my father and my relatives who had endured terrible suffering. Both my great-grandfather and grandfather were imprisoned, while my grandmother and her children were dying of hunger. But I grieved most over my father—I loved him very much, and he loved us with his faithful paternal love. Suddenly I heard a voice, but it was soundless, it was a thought, it was not my thought—it just flashed my mind: Why are you crying? In my thoughts, I answered, “I feel sorry for my grandfathers and grandmothers who were persecuted, and I feel sorry for my father and my uncle who did not receive any education.” I immediately heard a soundless, but clear answer, “Didn’t they get their education? Though education was promised only to two people, three of you got it: you, your brother and your son. The word of Tsar is always true, even though there is no Tsar.” The voice added, “Did you really believe that a girl from the provinces could so easily come to Moscow and enter the university?”
All my tears suddenly dried up; I was so joyous that I rose from my knees and wanted to smile, but it would have been improper to smile during the Pannikhida. I am the only one who knows what a miracle it was to come to Moscow from a small town, built by a factory in an empty desert, and enter the university (it was the Imperial University before the revolution).
Holy Tsar Nicholas and his wife, Tsarina Alexandra, helped me once more in a matter that was especially important for me personally.
In my room, there is a framed photograph of the Tsar wearing his uniform. At my request, a hieromonk anointed it with the oil I had brought from the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. The picture began to weep myrrh on January 29, 1995. I immediately turned to my spiritual father for explanation. He said, “Rejoice!” (At first I was a bit frightened).
Maria Alexandrovna V.
November 8, 1995”
I would like to tell you a true story about how the holy Tsar Martyr helped a teenage boy suffering from an illness. I am the mother of this boy, and I always pray to Tsar Nicholas both at home and in church. It was my mother who told me about him and advised that I unceasingly pray to him.
My grandfather, my mother’s father, was an ordinary man from the countryside. He was a soldier in the war of 1914 and happened to see the Tsar. When he knew that the royal family had been murdered, he said, “We do not have our father any more.” Since his childhood, my son has suffered from Bekhterev’s disease,2 and I worried about him. Once I had a dream. I saw the Tsar sitting on a chair, looking at me. I knew that it was he by the photograph I saw at home, and by the spirit. I saw him and cheered up, “Tsar Nicholas, I pray for you.” He did not say anything, but continued to look at me; I saw he did not look strict. I came closer and asked, “Tsar Nicholas, will Valery get better?” He said nothing. I came closer and asked again, “Will Valery get better?” “He will,” answered the Tsar lovingly, and the dream was over.
And he was right. My son suddenly caught meningitis. We carried him into the ambulance on a bed sheet. He spent two weeks at the hospital; he was unconscious and they put him on a drip. A group of doctors gave their verdict: “The boy will either regain consciousness or remain mentally or physically challenged. I spent days and nights readings psalms by his bed. One day the illness dispersed, he rose from his bed and started to speak in an ordinary way. The doctor was confounded: It was a miracle!
As a result of this event, the administration had the hospital blessed by a priest.
Marina Vladimirovna Mikheeva
Village Voznesenka, the Sumi region.”
Here is another story, which was told by the monk Ippolit from the St. Zosima Monastery:
Before my coming to the monastery, I remember I gave my parents a portrait of Tsar Nicholas and his wife, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna.
Nurtured by the Soviet ideology of so-called “imperial despotism”, when my parents nervously gazed at the two portraits hanging in a prominent position they could not imagine what canonization we could dream about. A writer by education, my mother recalled the “Bloody Sunday” of 1905 and the Lena Massacre,3 but as she had always been pious, she abstained from making any comments; she would just ask herself, “How is that possible?”
My father however was a non-believer, as he called himself. He was very sharp with his comments, but, being angry with the communists, he sympathized with the royal martyrs’ fate.
What made the atmosphere of irritation in the family with all its criticism against the Tsar even worse was the dangerous situation my parents were placed in. To be precise, my father was in the following situation: He was on the threshold of prison because his simplicity and innocence had made him fall prey to a group of swindlers. A criminal charge was brought against him, and he had already faced some inquiries—the date for a trial was fixed.
One night my father had a dream: He saw the Tsar, wearing a Royal Army uniform, with epaulets; he had blue eyes and was surrounded by light. The Tsar stood in half-turn, and there was someone in the darkness, who said to my father, “Bow to him, and he will help you!” My father bowed. He remembered that the family was with the Tsar.
Soon my parents went to a small parish church dedicated to the Archangel Michael and All the Bodiless Powers, where they asked that a Pannikhida be served to pray for Tsar Nicholas and his family.
A few years later, the Soviet Union collapsed and the notorious Constitutional crisis arose. A local revolution broke out in the region where my parents lived; the head of the regional government was toppled—he had always hated my father and was doing his best to find him guilty and put him in prison. That coupe gave us hope that my father would be pardoned. A bit later the trial began. He faced a suspended sentence; a year later, he was granted amnesty and the charges were dismissed. By the way, of the six accused, my father was the only one who escaped prison.
He changed his attitude towards the Tsar after everything that had happened; I daresay that he even started to venerate him. My father had always been a blasphemer, but after he felt the saints’ tangible help, he turned to them (Tsar Nicholas and his family) once again, when he was faced with another problem. The story is as follows. Being a farmer, one day he had nothing to plant—there were no seeds to sow. He might have not only have been left without money, but he could also have been forced to give everything he had to pay debts. My parents again asked to serve a Pannikhida for Tsar Nicholas II. Shortly after this, an abbot of the neighboring monastery came to my father to say that he had a friend who wanted to give him some seeds to sow. They planted the entire area with those seeds.
As we have said before in the stories about miracles worked by the royal Passion-Bearer Tsar Nicholas in recent years, its particularities make him very much like St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. He rushes to help those who are in trouble or in danger, those who have lost their way. He is especially merciful to ordinary people, whom he loved and with whom he always had amicable relations in his earthly life. What is more marvelous is the fact that he often appears to those who have never even asked for his intercession, representatives of our deceived nation for whom he laid down his life and who betrayed him with their denunciation and indifference. The Tsar insists that we pray to him, for, as the Lord said, whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s award.
As St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco said, “The great crime committed against the Tsar should be redeemed by fervent veneration and glorification. Russia has to bow before the humiliated, slandered, tortured Tsar, as the Kievans bowed before Prince Igor whom they tormented, or as the people of Vladimir and Suzdal bowed before Prince Andrei. Then the Tsar and Passion-bearer will intercede before the Lord, and his prayers will save Russia from the trials it has to endure. Then the Tsar Martyr and all those who suffered with him will become new heavenly defenders of Holy Rus. Their innocently shed blood will bring Russia back to life and cover it with new glory.”
1 A bishop’s church vestment.
2 Bekhterev’s disease (ankylosing spondylitis) is a type of chronic rheumatic inflammation. The inflammation primarily affects the spine and the sacroiliac joints, which connect the spine to the pelvis. The disease features episodes of pain during the night and spinal stiffness in the morning. Over time the intervertebral joints can ossify, causing increasing stiffness in the spine (https://www.hirslanden.ch/en/corporate/disease-patterns/bekhterev-disease.html).
3 April 17, 1912—According to one contemporary account, 270 gold field workers were killed and 250 wounded when imperial soldiers fired on striking workers.