Grand Duchess Maria Romanova the head of the House of Romanov, talks to Elena Novikova of Russia Beyond the Headlines about her position and what role her family could play in modern Russia.
Russia Beyond the Headlines: The House of Romanov is celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2013. What is the meaning of this date?
Maria Romanova: For me, the 400th anniversary of the House of Romanovs is only a part of a great national celebration of the 400 years that have passed since the end of the Time of Troubles and the restoration of the Russian sovereignty.
How did the Romanovs come to power?
In 1598, Fyodor, the last tsar of Russia’s founding Rurik Dynasty died without leaving an heir. The next 15 years, known as the Time of Troubles, were ones of turmoil, during which Russia was invaded by the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania. A coalition of Russian nobles and peasants defeated the invaders in late 1612. On Feb. 21, 1613, a gathering of Russia’s landed nobles and a few peasants elected Mikhail Romanov tsar, establishing the Romanov Dynasty, which lasted until the murder of Emperor Nicholas II and his family by the Bolsheviks on July 17, 1918.
Our dynasty was offered the crown by the Great Local Church Council and Zemsky Sobor (“assembly of the land”) in 1613. This was a decision that set the outcome of the fight for liberation in stone, a historical fact that cannot be undone. This victory was won thanks to the sacrifice and valiant efforts of the representatives of all Russian social classes.
I am convinced that the 400th anniversary of the end of the Times of Troubles will be celebrated with due splendor. However, I believe that this date we needs to be commemorated first and foremost with prayer, charity and educational campaigns.
RBTH: You were born in Madrid, went to school in Oxford and have lived most of your life in Spain. That notwithstanding, in your interviews you have frequently called Russia your true home. What is stopping you from going home?
M.R.: If I were a private person I could return to Russia at any moment. However, as head of the Russian Imperial House I am entrusted with the task of its preservation as a historical institution. In civilized countries, dynasty heads were only able to return to their homelands after the states had clearly defined their legal status.
As proven by France, Italy, Portugal, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Afghanistan and many other countries whose royal houses had been banished and later returned, a legal status of a non-ruling dynasty is absolutely compatible with a republican political system and does not go against the local constitutions and laws.
I am not putting forward any political claims at all, nor am I trying to reclaim any of my ancestral property. I do not expect any preferential treatment either. However, I am justified in my hopes that the reintegration of the imperial dynasty in modern Russia’s contemporary life will be as successful as in other European countries.