Russia Buries Last Czar, Family

Palm Beach Romanov Astonished

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Paul Romanov Ilyinsky, second cousin to Russia's last czar, stood amazed at what he had just witnessed.

Standing with 50 other descendants of the Russian imperial family, the 71-year-old mayor of Palm Beach experienced the final chapter of one of the most dramatic and bloody episodes of Russian history  one his father helped write. ``Who would have ever dreamed in their wildest imagination that the president of Russia would be standing over the coffin of the last emperor?'' he asked. ``I mean, Boris Yeltsin was a member of the Communist Party at one time.''

Ilyinsky is known in Palm Beach for his outspoken, cheerful administration. His leadership position in one of the United States' most regal towns seems somehow appropriate.

The mayor's father, known in exile as Dmitry Romanovsky-Ilyinsky, was the Grand Duke Dmitry, grandson of Czar Alexander II, the reformer who abolished serfdom in 1861.

It's not a connection Ilyinsky has flaunted  many of his friends had no idea. They know him as an avid boater, a collector of toy trains, a dog lover. But not a Romanov.

``I used to kid him and say he must come from royalty, but I never knew,'' said longtime friend Gertrude Maxwell. ``He would just smile and say nothing. He's a very unusual man.''

His father was intimately tied to the slain imperial family.

Dmitry was first cousin to Czar Nicholas II, and grew up alongside Nicholas' son and heir apparent, Grand Duke Alexis. At one point, Dmitry was betrothed to one of the czar's daughters, Grand Duchess Olga. He was raised by palace governesses as one of the czar's own children after his mother died in childbirth and his father was sent away for romantic indiscretions.

That Dmitry survived when all others in the household were slain by the Bolsheviks is due directly to Grigori Rasputin, the grungy mystic who gained sway over the court through his seeming ability to cure Alexis' hemophilia. As Rasputin gained power over the royal family, Dmitry joined two others in plotting and carrying out his murder. They invited Rasputin to dinner, and then poisoned his food. When Rasputin did not die, they shot him, bound him and threw him through a hole into the icy Neva River. The Empress Alexandra, inconsolable after Rasputin's death, insisted that Dmitry be punished, and so Nicholas II sent him penniless into exile.

Less than two years later, the imperial family would suffer a similarly heinous end.



30 июля 2010


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