AMANDA MADRU is from Western Massachusetts. She developed an interest in Russian imperial history after visiting a local book sale, where she happened upon an old volume on the life and times of Grigori Rasputin. This book contained photographs of the teen aged daughters of Emperor Nicholas II, and Amanda was intrigued by the four striking young women close to her own age, who met an untimely and tragic fate a century ago.
Several years later, she discovered the Alexander Palace Forum, and her foray into research began. Initially, her focus was solely on the last imperial family, but countless hours of independent study would broaden her horizons, and she started learning about royal portraiture, the genealogy of the royal and imperial dynasties of Europe, Russian rulers from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II. With an academic background in Women’s Studies, however, she is especially well-versed in the history of the lesser-known wives and daughters of the tsars.
MOLLY THATCHER grew up in a small village in Berkshire, England. She first became interested in Romanov history through her maternal Grandmother, who had worked as an Au Pair to an exiled Russian noble family in Switzerland. Her grandma remained close with the family and later brought Molly’s mother back to visit the Russian Émigré community.
This personal family connection motivated Molly to explore Romanov history and read any available books on the Romanov family or the Russian nobility. Since then, her interests have expanded to include other areas of Russian history and Russian literature. Her special interest is the influence of Russian Literature on British Modernism and she plans to write her dissertation on this subject. She is also currently in the process of learning Russian.
While in St Petersburg, she was able to further pursue her love of Russian history and the Romanovs- travelling to Tsarskoe Selo and exploring St Petersburg. Some particular highlights were being able to wander the grounds of the Alexander Palace and visit the Romanov tombs at the Peter and Paul Fortress.
Molly is currently in her second year at the University of Exeter and is studying an English Literature BA. She also currently volunteers at Pushkin House in London- a centre for Russian Culture.
You can contact Molly through her book-related Instagram account @bookish_existence or by email at email@example.com.
(*based on September / October 2019 rates, so may be somewhat different)
1. Tentative time for tour is September/ October 2020. Duration is either 10 days (St Petersburg alone), or 14 days (both St Petersburg and Moscow). I want to be able to offer an option of only St. Petersburg or St. Petersburg plus Moscow and GARF visit, but preference will be given to those who do both because of group rates. All participants will meet in St. Petersburg on first day of tour.
2. The group will be limited to 10-12 people. Please note: this is NOT a “generic” tour of Russia, so some standard places like The Hermitage, Main Peterhof Palace, etc., will not be included, but you can use the free time during the tour to visit those if you want to. I will certainly be able to assist you with those.
3. I will make all land arrangements, as well as serve as translator and guide. Participants will buy their own plane tickets
4. I chose Hotel Ekaterina in Tsarskoe Selo for several reasons. First of all, the location – it is part of the Catherine Palace complex! You can’t get any better than that. Having stayed there more than once, I can vouch that it is a wonderful place with wonderful helpful staff. Your room includes all you can eat, delicious breakfast buffet, complete with cold cuts, blini, hot food and amazing fancy lattes, cafe au lait and the like. When you look out of your window, you see the palace. One of the best parts is that the hotel is owned by the Tsarskoe Selo Museum, so your money goes back into the museum – including the Alexander Palace- so it’s a win-win for all!
5. Hotel in Moscow is Godunov Hotel, which is within walking distance of the Red Square and other popular attractions. If you join us for the optional visit to State Archives GARF, it will cost a bit extra, exact cost will depend on how many people do it.
6. I am going to put together a different version of the book which will cover just the St Petersburg and Moscow parts of “In the Steps of the Romanovs“, especially for this tour. The participants will each get a free electronic copy of the book, and will have an option to purchase a hard copy on amazon.com.
St Petersburg area (10 days, 9 nights)
Day 1 (arrival) airport transport to Hotel Ekaterina in Pushkin (mostly individual), check in. Meet in hotel lobby for orientation during lunch and/or dinner, depending on when you arrive.
Day 2. Meet up in the morning for breakfast at hotel (included), then a walking tour around the area (Feodorovsky Gorodok & Cathedral, imperial train station, White Tower, etc.) Lunch. Alexander Palace entry and guided tour. Free time. Dinner
Day 3 Meet for breakfast (included). Catherine Palace entry and guided tour; Lyceum (optional) or free time. Walk into town for lunch. Free time (explore, shopping, etc.) Dinner in town
Day 4. Breakfast at hotel (included). Van to St Petersburg, Gorokhovaya St – guided tour of Rasputin’s last apartment. Lunch. Guided tour of Yusupov Moika mansion. Dinner in StP. Van back to Pushkin (hotel) or elsewhere as decided. Free time
Day 5. Breakfast at hotel. Bus to Alexandria Park in Peterhof. Walk down to the shore to see the ruins of Lower Dacha. Guided tour of the Farm Palace. Packed picnic lunch in park. Bus back to Pushkin. Dinner in town. Free time.
Day 6. Breakfast at hotel. Bus or train to St Petersburg, boat tour, optional excursions of choice. Bus to return to hotel in evening.
Day 7. Breakfast at hotel. Bus to Gatchina. Guided tour of Nicholas II related parts of palace and park. Bus back to Pushkin. Lunch. On/off bus tour around town (Tsarskoselsky hospital, Realnoe school, former Nanny school, Brethren cemetery, Alexandrovskaya train station, and other Romanov related landmarks). Dinner and free time.
Day 8. Breakfast at hotel. Guided tour through obscure, lesser known locations in Alexander Park (real Rasputin grave, fresh water spring etc.) with local historian. Lunch in town. Free afternoon and dinner in town.
Day 4. Breakfast and check out. Transport to airport for flight home (probably in 3 shifts)
Approximate cost for land package in USD (based on 2019 prices)
St Petersburg (10 days, 9 nights) $1500 per person for shared hotel room / $500 single supplement
Moscow (4 days, 3 nights) $675 p/p for shared room / $200 single supplement
Total St Petersburg and Moscow: $2,175 each person for shared accommodations / $2,875 for single
Includes: 4 star hotel, daily full buffet breakfast; translator and guide; tours and entries to museums and parks mentioned above (except optional); transportation to and from excursions; assistance with optional activities; ebook “In the Steps of the Romanovs: St Petersburg and Moscow”
1. Russian Visa approximately $200
2. International r/t airfare
3. Airport transportation, to be arranged with each individual
4. Food other than breakfast: about $20-30 per day, but can be as low as $15 per day
5. One way domestic airfare StP to Moscow approximately $100 or less
6. Optional GARF tour approx. $60-$70 each (depending on amount of people)
7. Other optional excursions and transportation
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have specific questions.
Below are some photos and videos of the Romanov related places we expect to visit in St. Petersburg and Moscow when we walk in the steps of the Romanovs:
What exactly is “Giant Steps” the game that is so often mentioned in the Romanov diaries and letters? A number of swings with harnesses are secured to a pole by long ropes, and everyone swings around, taking giant strides.
Anastasia to Nicholas II: “31 May, 1916. Tsarskoe Selo… These days Maria and I swing on giant steps a lot. We are almost never nauseous, [although] we fell a bunch of times already, but so far have not hurt ourselves…”
Nicholas II to Maria: “Imperial Headquarters, 13 June, 1916… Alexei, Nagorny and Muravnukin are on the giant steps or we play a sort of hide-and-seek…”
The Romanov family even built a make-shift Giant Steps swing for Alexei in the backyard of Governor’s mansion in Tobolsk, obviously it was one of their favourite activities.
Apparently, “Giant Steps” is still relatively popular in modern Russia:
In Grigori Rasputin‘s native village of Pokrovskoe, in Tyumen region, lives a scruffy looking man with long white hair and beard, who practices the old Siberian tradition of healing by laying on of hands. His hometown and skills are not the only things Viktor Prolubschikov claims to have in common with the infamous starets, who was once referred to as “Our Friend” by the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II and Tsaritsa Alexandra Feodorovna. Rasputin, he claims, is none other than his grandfather, by a woman who once worked as the former’s housekeeper, possibly Akilina Loptinskaya.
It is known that Rasputin was not a model husband to Praskovia Dubrovina, his legal spouse, and was not beyond various dalliances on the side, any of which may have resulted in illegitimate offspring. Hence this claim is not completely unreasonable. Nevertheless, the final word belongs to science.
Which is why the popular Russian talk show, “Let Them Talk” decided to do just that. The show’s producers organised an in-person meeting between Laurance Solofioff, Rasputin’s acknowledged great-granddaughter through his daughter Matriona (Maria), and her alleged half-uncle, in their studio.
DNA samples were obtained from the two alleged relatives in advance, and the result was to be announced on the show.
But of course the result was not going to announced until the end of the show, so meanwhile, each participant is asked about their backgrounda.
Laurance shares her family tree and history. Her grandmother Matriona was one of Rasputin’s two daughters, who settled in France after the revolution, and had two daughters of her own: Tatiana and Maria. Laurance is one of Tatiana’s three children.
Laurance even demonstrated her gold locket with the image of a double headed eagle – the symbol of imperial Russia.
Viktor told stories of his life in Pokrovskoe and of Raspintin-esque healing abilities – he even demonstrated how he uses his hands to perform these rituals.
Later in the show, another acknowledged Rasputin descendant came into the studio. Her name is Valerie Eo-Theron, and she is a great-great-granddaughter of Rasputin, through her father, who is Laurance’s brother.
The DNA result was finally announced, but we still do not have our answer because it was… inclusive. It showed a 22% chance that Solofioff and Prolubschikov are related, and may share a common ancestor. According to the DNA expert, this result does not prove or refute the relation, and needs additional,, more thorough investigation. So stay tuned!
22 May. Wednesday. All night we stood [in a train] at a small station Kozmodemyansk. At 10 o’cl arrived in Rostov. Alix was very tired and besides that she came down with angina, hence she was lying down all day. After the welcome drove in an automobile with the children to the ancient city of Rostov-Veliky. Visited Uspensky cathedral, heard the famous ringing of bells, walked to the White chambers and the princely towers through the Kremlin walls, looking at the inner churches on the way.
Hear the bells of Uspensky Cathedral below – the same bells Nicholas and his children would have heard that day!