A novel of historical suspense which connects the last days of Imperial Russia with the present-day establishment of a constitutional monarchy—the Sovereign Nation of Russia—through the legacy of Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich Romanov
Twenty Romanov-period chapters strategically placed throughout the main story support the contemporary text
The contemporary story begins in 2002.
Living Banner is written through the eyes of STEVE SWETE, an American history professor living in the Adirondack Mountain village of Sommerville, New York. After Steve’s father, PAUL SWETE, is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Steve and his wife, LORETTA, clean out Paul’s house and find a key to safety deposit box. The only item in the box is a letter written to Paul by a Russian Orthodox priest in 1930. Out of curiosity, they visit the priest’s address which is a Russian Orthodox seminary is in Allenville, NY, only a few hours from Sommerville. FATHER DMITRY PADENOV, the seminary’s abbot, reveals Paul’s incredible secret: Paul Swete is the son of TSAR NICHOLAS II’s brother and chosen successor, GRAND DUKE MICHAEL ALEXANDROVICH ROMANOV.
Steve refuses to accept the abbot’s story until the next day when he notices a black Escalade following him home from work and observes strange activity in a vacant cabin near his home. After Steve’s dog is killed and CLARENCE CONOVER, Sommerville’s police chief, suspects Steve and Loretta are being stalked, a confused Steve realizes he is ill-equipped to deal with the sudden, strange events. He confides in his closest friend, FATHER PATRICK O’BANNON, the local Catholic priest.
When Paul’s dies from Clostridium Botulinum poisoning arranged by Romanov enemies holding high positions in the Russian Federation government, the Romanov loyalists/monarchists, secretly monitoring Paul, reveal themselves to Steve and offer to protect him as the new Romanov heir. Understanding the seriousness of the situation Steve is facing, Father Pat discloses his own secret: his family’s connection to the Boston mafia. Steve and Loretta are shocked, but decide to accept Father Pat’s family’s protection only if they agree to combine forces with the loyalists/monarchists.
Both underground groups unite to execute a dangerous, but successful ambulance accident designed to falsify Steve and Loretta’s deaths. The Swetes’ physical appearances are altered, and they hide on the Island of Kauai under false identities. While remaining hidden from their Russian Federation enemies, they are tutored by undercover Russian supporters dedicated to replacing the Russian Federation with the constitutional monarchy envisioned by Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich Romanov after his brother, Nicholas II, abdicated in his favor. The goal is to establish Steve as Emperor Stefan I.
When OSIP OLEGORVICH BARKOV, Director of the Federation’s FSB, the principal security agency which replaced the USSR’s notorious KGB, discovers the Swetes are alive and living on Kauai, he sends agents to eliminate them. Knowing their enemies will be waiting for them at the Lihue Airport on Kauai, Steve and Loretta’s protectors provide a successful escape across the seventy-two-mile channel separating Kauai from Oahu. Steve and Loretta fly safely out of Honolulu Airport into hiding again. This time it is in Salzburg, Austria where they receive continued indoctrination in the Russian language, culture, and the Orthodox religion protected by new agents: WILHELM BACKER and a married team, JANE and ROSS OATHOUT.
Only a few months later, political upheaval in Russia rapidly escalates. Federation President SEMYON ANATOLYEVICH TRUBACHEV, who has completed his two terms in office, makes a secret deal with Deputy Prime Minister VIKTOR SERGEYEVICH DUROV. Trubachev offers Durov the presidency for one term (with Trubachev as prime minister) if Durov champions the expansion of presidential limits to three terms of six years each. However, Trubachev has no idea Durov is really the clandestine leader of the loyalist movement who has systematically worked his way to the top of the Federation bureaucracy. Durov views Trubachev’s offer as a sign from God that a free, democratic Russia is finally within reach, and he agrees to Trubachev’s terms.
After Durov is elected president with Trubachev’s assistance, he secretly prepares to initiate a coup at a rally in Red Square and arranges for Steve and Loretta to fly into Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport, right under the noses of the FSB agents. When Trubachev and Barkov object to the rally, Durov misrepresents the purpose of the rally in order to ensure their attendance. He also enlists the assistance of his wife, MILENA PYOTROVNA, and PATRIARCH VADIM, the highest Orthodox Church leader. Unfortunately, Trubachev and Barkov discover Durov’s treachery the night before the rally and conspire to present their own surprise for Durov in front of the assembled crowds. But Durov has prepared for all contingencies.
On the appointed day, Red Square is filled with thousands of curious Russian citizens. Durov has ordered large monitors to be placed in strategic positions to capture the crowd’s reaction to his meticulously-planned pronouncement, knowing it will receive worldwide attention. When Trubachev and Barkov join Durov on the podium and prepare to expose Durov as a traitor, Durov surprises the two corrupt leaders by skillfully outmaneuvering them.
News organizations quickly interrupt regular broadcasting to transmit the breaking news from Russia as people from around the globe watch the historic events unfolding in Red Square. With the eloquence of a man devoted to his cause, Durov identifies himself as a loyalist leader. He explains the reason for his deception and expresses his desire to form a truly democratic Russia. After pleading with his fellow citizens to support the open and free election he is offering, Durov reveals the amazing news of a hidden, but direct Romanov heir who is anxious to speak to them.
Although Steve is extremely nervous, he seizes this opportunity to connect with the Russian people. He holds up a noticeably tattered letter he has been carrying in his pocket ever since he met with Abbot Padenov. As he reads the words Grand Duke Michael wrote in 1918 to Paul, the son Nicholas II kept hidden from him for thirteen years, the people are visibly moved. Their hearts open to the idea of a new, democratic Russia under the leadership of Grand Duke Michael’s grandson.
Durov immediately outlines a systematic plan for an election to choose a new government. And, after many months of nation-wide discussion and informational sessions, an open referendum process is held. The election results dissolve the Russian Federation and establish a new constitutional monarchy form of government. Under The Sovereign Nation of Russia, members of a new Duma are elected, Durov is chosen as prime minister, and Steve becomes Emperor Stefan I.
20 Romanov-Period Chapters:
Twenty historical chapters from the early 20th century are interwoven with the contemporary story to focus on the life of GRAND DUKE MICHAEL ALEXANDROVICH ROMANOV, the youngest brother of TSAR NICHOLAS II, who historians now regard as Michael II, the last Tsar of Imperial Russia. The characters and the settings in these chapters are historically accurate and support the fictional plot of the novel.
These historically-accurate characters come to life through the 20 historical chapters:
- Princess Beatrice of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Grand Duke Michael’s first love, and first cousin
- Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, Grand Duke Michael’s mother
- Emperor Nicholas II, Grand Duke Michael’s brother
- Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Nicholas’ wife
- Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia, Nicholas’ daughters
- Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich, Nicholas’ son and heir
- Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin, notorious holy man
- Natalia Sergeyevna Sheremetyevskaya, Grand Duke Michael’s wife
- Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich Romanov, Grand Duke Michael’s cousin
- Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, Grand Duke Michael’s younger sister
- Nikolai Johnson, Grand Duke Michael’s assistant
- Vladimir Gushchik, Commissar of Gatchina Palace
- Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Bolshevik leader who ordered the Romanov murders
Until the fall of the USSR in 1991, documentation of Michael’s importance was buried deep within the Communist Party archives. Under the direction of the Russian Federation government, recently released ancient letters and relevant period documents provide evidence of Michael’s increasing influence during the last years of Nicholas’ reign.
When Nicholas was forced to abdicate, he chose Michael to succeed him. Like their grandfather, ALEXANDER II, Grand Duke Michael staunchly supported a constitutional monarchy in which the emperor’s limited powers are shared with an elected body of representatives. But Michael wanted the people to have the freedom to choose their form of government. He immediately insisted on a public referendum. However, before the provisional government could arrange for the elections, VLADIMIR LENIN’s Bolshevik Party seized control of the government. Many members of the Romanov family were arrested, including Michael and the former Tsar and his family. Because of Michael’s popularity with the people, Lenin ordered Michael to be the first Romanov murdered. He realized Michael represented a living banner and feared the people would not change their allegiance until Michael was eliminated.