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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Tribute to Modern Romanovs

When the Grand Princess Leonida Georgiyevna visited Russia this spring, she stopped at a two-story yellow mansion tucked in an industrial neighborhood in northwestern Moscow. There, at the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family, she perused an exhibit about none other than herself.

"For me it was an unforgettable event," said Gennady Alexeyev, a museum guide and amateur historian who boasts an encyclopedic knowledge of the Russian royal family. "The grand princess is a passionate lover of Russian history and culture. Her devoted patronage is invaluable to this museum."

The little-known museum, a favorite of elderly Russian immigrants visiting their homeland, largely consists of items donated by the 81-year-old princess, who is now the senior living member of the Romanov family, and her late husband, Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, who until he died in 1992 was the closest living relative of Tsar Nicholas II.

The display, which has little of the opulence one might expect from nobility, features an amazingly detailed collection of the couple's personal things -- the grand duke's trousers, jacket and shoes, the watch he was wearing on the day he died, his membership card to the Russian musical society in Paris, even his driver's license.

The contemporary nature of the exhibit reflects the basic idea of the museum, which is to chronicle the lives of the Romanovs since the Russian Revolution and to show realistically how they live.

"It's very important that the museum, which is like no other exhibit in Russia, tells visitors about the present day of the Romanov dynasty," said Alexeyev. "The creation of this museum was an act of repentance" for the fall of the Romanovs, he said.

Built in 1880s, the mansion that houses the museum once belonged to Vassily and Yevfimiya Nosov, wool merchants and dedicated arts patrons. A magnetic place for Moscow's cultural elite before 1917, the luxurious mansion was later turned into a kindergarten, a house of culture and young pioneers, and finally into a museum of local lore.

The Museum of the Russian Imperial Family, founded by the Russian Culture Foundation and the Monarchist Center in 1991, occupies the second floor of the mansion. The display is divided into two sections: the first covers the period of World War I and the imperial family's tribute to it, and the second highlights contemporary Romanovs. The foyer, which leads to both halls, was once Yevfimiya Nosova's prayer room and is decorated with azure paintings by the Russian artist Mstislav Dobuzhinsky.

The museum tracks the story of the imperial family starting from Grand Prince Kirill Vladimirovich (1876-1938), the cousin of Nicholas II, reinterred with his wife in St. Petersburg earlier this year. In 1917, he left for Finland to escape the Bolsheviks and remained there for several years before moving to Germany. In 1924 he was recognized as the legal Tsar Kirill I by the Russian aristocracy in exile. On this occasion he wrote "The Manifesto to the Russian People," a copy of which is at the museum.

The most striking objects in the exhibit are the stone remains of the Ipayev House in Yekaterinburg, where on July 17, 1918, Nicholas II and his family were shot by a Bolshevik firing squad. A museum until 1945 and a pilgrimage site for thousands of Russians, the house was destroyed in 1977.

The Museum of the Russian Imperial Family is located at 1 Malaya Semyonovskaya Ulitsa. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed Saturday and Sunday. Nearest metro: Elektrozavodskaya. Tel. 963-8995.