February 01, 1996

Ennobling Russia

If, according to plan, the remains of Tsar Nicholas II and his family are officially laid to rest in St. Petersburg on February 25, it will end a 79-year chapter in modern Russian history: one typified by murder, persecution and exile of the former Russian gentry. The Assembly of the Descendants of Russian Nobility, on the other hand, may choose to mark the event as the beginning of a new chapter: the resurgence of a noble class in Russia which, one day they hope, will lead to the revival of the monarchy.

In central Moscow, just yards from the construction site of the Church of Christ the Savior, is the headquarters of the "Nobles' Assembly" (Dvoranskoe sobranie).

The mansion, built in 18th century classical style, reflects the history of the nobility that has occupied it. A history that is hardly auspicious. The house belonged to some highly distinguished noble families: the Vyazemskys and Dolgorukys – names synonymous with the golden age of their class. However, both families fell afoul of imperial power -- the Vyazemskys through the scheming jealousy of a political rival at the time of Ivan the Terrible, the Dolgorukys through an unsuccessful grab for power when Tsar Paul II died on the day he was to be wed to Ivan Dolgoruky’s daughter, Ekaterina.

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