Living Banner Relates the Story of:
Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia
Mikhail Aleksandrovich Romanov
Михаи́л Александрович Рома́нов
Until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Grand Duke Michael’s importance during the last years of Imperial Russia was suppressed by the Soviets. Since then, the countless documents and diaries continuing to be recovered from the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF) have prompted many contemporary historians to regard Michael as the last Russian emperor.
When I learned Lenin decided to eliminate significant opposition to his communist cause by selecting Michael as the first Romanov to be murdered, I realized how important Michael had become, and I had to share his forgotten story. Lenin saw the new, popular Tsar as a living banner for the people to rally around.
Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich Romanov
12/04/1878 – 6/13/1918
Michael’s place in the family is very important. He was one of six children, five of whom were born before their father became Emperor Alexander III on March 13, 1881. Since he was the youngest son and not expected to become Emperor, his parents were more relaxed with his upbringing. They are reported to have favored him and given him a “more normal” life because he would not be expected to face the demands of governing.
Children of Emperor Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna
Nicholas May 18, 1868 July 17, 1918 murdered
Alexander June 7, 1869 May 2, 1870 meningitis
George May 9, 1871 August 9, 1899 motorcycle accident
Xenia April 6, 1875 April 20, 1960 in England
Michael December 4, 1878 June 17, 1918 murdered
Olga June 13, 1882 November 24, 1960 in Canada
As an adult, Grand Duke Michael mingled freely with the people while dispensing the duties assigned to him as a grand duke. He is described as amiable, honest, down-to-earth, a Russian patriot to the core, and liked by nearly everyone.
Michael was also a highly respected and popular military leader. He enrolled in the military, completed training at a gunnery school, and joined the Horse Guards Artillery. When World War I broke out in 1914 Grand Duke Michael was promoted to the rank of major general and given command of the Caucasian Native Cavalry. He was a capable commander, very popular with his troops and decorated with the military’s highest honor, the Decoration of the Military Order of Saint George, for his actions while commanding his troops in the Carpathian Mountains in January 1915. General Alexei Brusilov, an innovative commander during World War I, praised Michael’s leadership and courage. Michael was also awarded a second gallantry medal for valor: the Order of St. Vladimir with Swords.
Nicholas II’s Abdication on March 15, 1917, Pskov
Nicholas II abdicated in March 1917, naming Grand Duke Michael, his only remaining brother, as his successor and the next Tsar. According to the Russian Rules of Succession, the Pauline Laws, Michael automatically became Emperor Michael II as soon as Nicholas signed his Manifesto of Abdication.
News of Michael’s ascension to Tsar became known the day following Nicholas II’s abdication and spread rapidly. The response was overwhelmingly positive because the people were familiar with Michael and his support for a constitutional monarchy:
- People rushed to the churches to light candles for their new leader.
- A Te Deum (an early Christian hymn of praise) was ordered for the new Emperor in the cathedral at Pskov where Nicholas’ manifesto was read and prayers were said for Michael II, the new Tsar.
- The Orthodox Church changed the liturgy to read: Our Right Orthodox and Sovereign Lord and Emperor Mikhail Aleksandrovich.
- People gave three cheers for His Majesty the Emperor Michael II: “Long live Emperor Michael!”
- Nicholas’ portrait was replaced in shops by those of Michael II.
- Thousands of troops swore an oath of allegiance to Emperor Michael II, and for the next two days, General Krasnov decorated soldiers with the Cross of St. George in the name of their new emperor.
Grand Duke Michael’s Manifesto on March 16, 1917, Petrograd
Over the years Michael consistently pressed his brother for a representative government. When Nicholas II selected his brother to succeed him, Michael prepared his own responding Manifesto stating his preference for governing:
“A heavy burden had been laid upon me by the will of my brother, who in a time of unexampled strife and popular tumult has transferred to me the imperial throne of Russia. Sharing with the people the thought that the good of the country should stand before everything else, I have firmly decided that I will accept power only if that is the will of our great people, who must by universal suffrage elect their representatives to the Constituent Assembly, in order to determine the form of government and draw up new fundamental laws for Russia. Therefore, calling for the blessing of God, I ask all citizens of Russia to obey the Provisional Government, which has arisen and has been endowed with full authority on the initiative of the Imperial Duma, until such time as the Constituent Assembly, called at the earliest possible date and elected on the basis of universal, direct, equal, and secret suffrage, shall by its decision as to the form of government give expression to the will of the people.” MIKHAIL
As you can see, Michael did not abdicate his position as Tsar. Instead, he insisted on deferring to the will of the Russian people by offering them the opportunity, through a free and open election process, to choose a Constituent Assembly. The Provisional Government agreed with Michael’s decision. Unfortunately, Lenin’s Bolsheviks seized power in October 1917, the Provisional Government was dissolved, and Michael was arrested.
Michael’s Arrest and Death
Since the Laws of Succession stipulated that the authority of the Russian throne pass automatically to Nicholas’ designated successor, Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik leader, was very aware of what Michael represented as the country’s new leader and feared his popularity with the people. After spending seven months under house arrest in St. Petersburg, he was sent to Perm (1000 miles to the east) and jailed in March 1918. Johnson, Michael’s assistant, insisted on going with him. in the evening and early morning hours of June 12-13, 1918, they were taken into the woods outside Perm and shot to death. Even though Lenin attempted to safeguard his name from being connected to the royal family’s murders in all official documents, scholars have uncovered letters in the Federation Archives (GARF) linking him directly to Michael’s murder and also the execution of Nicholas II’s entire family one month later.
Michael was 39 years old when he was murdered.
Several testimonies have been written by those responsible for the executions of Michael and Johnson, but their remains have not been recovered. In 1996, a local group in Perm erected a simple wooden cross in the woods where they are believed to have died, but their final resting place is one of the darkest secrets of history.
Searching for Michael’s Remains
Captain Peter Sarandinaki is the president and founder of The Scientific Expedition to Account for the Romanov Children (S.E.A.R.C.H.), a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration of Truth in Russia’s history. His great-grandfather, Lt. General Sergey N. Rozanoff and grandfather, Colonel Kiril M. Naryshkin were in charge of the White Russian troops who liberated Ekaterinburg from the Reds six days after the royal family and their faithful servants were murdered. They were among first ones to enter the Ipatiev House.
After being instrumental in finding the second grave and coordinating the DNA validation process associated with uncovering the remains of Nicholas II and his family, SEARCH has turned its attention toward finding the remains of Grand Duke Michael and Brian Johnson, Michael’s faithful assistant. Sarandinaki’s on-going search is centered in the woods six kilometers from Perm where they were murdered on June 12-13, 1918. Here is the background information on Sarandinaki’s search for Michael.
Present Day Recognition–100 Years After His Murder
Grand Duke Michael’s accomplishments are gaining recognition during modern times and he is being honored posthumously.
A monument of Michael was unveiled in August 2016 in the city of Orel where he served as Commander of the 17th Hussars (51st Dragoon) of the Chernigov Regiment from 1909 – 1911. (Orel is on the Oka River, approximately 360 kilometers south-southwest of Moscow.)
A memorial plaque dedicated to Grand Duke Michael was erected in June 2011 at the former hotel in Perm where he was under house arrest until he was kidnapped and murdered. (Perm is on the banks of the Kama River in the European part of Russia near the Ural Mountains.)
The Moscow Times article on July 10, 2013: Last Russian Tsar Was Michael, Not Nicholas