Kremlin to Restore Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich Memorial Cross

Russian President Vladimir Putin has given his approval for the restoration of the memorial cross erected on the site where the former Governor-General of Moscow Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich was assassinated in the Kremlin in February, 1905. The cross was established in 1908, but was later destroyed by the Bolsheviks.

A special committee will now discuss plans for the restoration of the memorial cross, and will include the following organizations: the All-Russian Social and State Organization, the Russian Military-Historical Society, the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with the Office of Presidential Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation. Their recommendations will be presented to President Putin on September 30, 2016.

Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (1857-1905) served as governor-general of Moscow from the spring of 1891 until January 1, 1905. He was assassinated on 17th February 1905 just 65 steps from the Nikolskaya Tower of the Moscow Kremlin - his carriage having been blown up by a bomb thrown by the terrorist Ivan Kaliayev. Historians note that this was the first murder committed in the Kremlin, and was a portent of the coming Revolution and Civil War.

The remains of the Grand Duke were buried with full military honours in a specially constructed tomb located in the Chudov Monastery. A temporary wooden memorial cross was erected at the site of his assassination. Muscovites began to leave money at the foot of the cross, to help fund construction of a monument to the Grand Duke. The city government approved the implementation of the project which included a monument and fence. The monument was created by the famous Russian artist Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926) at the personal invitation of the widow of Sergei Alexandrovich Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna.

Vasnetsov’s memorial cross was unveiled on April 1, 1908, but was demolished in May 1918 by the personal order of Vladimir Lenin. It would be the first Kremlin monument demolished after the revolutionary events.

The Chudov monastery was demolished in 1928, and the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet was built on the site. The burial crypt of the Grand Duke was located in a courtyard of that building, which had been used as a parking lot. In 1990, building workers in the Kremlin discovered the blocked up entrance of the burial vault. The coffin was examined and found to contain the Grand Duke’s remains, covered with the military greatcoat of the Kiev regiment, decorations, and an icon. He had left written instructions that he was to be buried in the Preobrazhensky Lifeguard regiment uniform, but as his body was so badly mutilated this proved impossible.

On September 17, 1995, the coffin was officially exhumed. His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II held a Panikhida in the Cathedral of the Archangel of the Moscow Kremlin. The grand duke’s remains were then transferred and reburied in a vault of the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow. In 1999, a replica of the memorial cross destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1918 was erected on the grounds of the monastery. The new monument was created by D. Grishin, and the sculptor Nikolai Orlov and based on the original sketches by Viktor Vasnetsov.