PARIS, November 10. /TASS/. Relics from the Russian Imperial Romanov family, illegally seized by a religious organization in Nice, were returned to Russia on Friday. Among them is the blood-stained shirt of Czar Alexander II of Russia (Alexander the Liberator) which he wore in the last hours of his life before his assassination on 13 March 1881. The ceremony of returning the relics to Russia was held at the session of the "French-Russian Alliance" public association in Paris, a TASS correspondent reported from the scene.
Ambassador to France Alexey Meshkov received the relics on behalf of Russia. The diplomat thanked the French side for assistance with returning the private belongings of Czar Alexander II. "We have long tried to return the seized valuables. Now we got them back, with the help of the French authorities," he said.
Bishop Nestor of the Diocese of Korsun of the Russian Orthodox Church said this event brought a lot of joy to parishioners. "A time to gather stones together," Bishop Nestor quoted Ecclesiastes 3:5. "These relics are part of our history, it is important to preserve them," he added.
The blood-stained shirt of Czar Alexander II was brought to France after his death by his morganatic wife Princess Yurievskaya Catherine Dolgorukov. She settled in Nice and carefully preserved the late Czar's shirt and other belongings. After her death, the Imperial relics were handed over to the St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Nice.
After the Russian Revolution, the Russian Cultural Orthodox Association in Nice (Association Culturelle Orthodoxe Russe Nice - ACOR) seized the cathedral and all Imperial relics stored there. After a long legal process, the Russian side confirmed its property rights for the St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Nice, but ACOR refused to give up the relics. However, with the help of the French government, Russia was able to return them.
Among the relics are the blood-stained shirt of Czar Alexander II, three handkerchiefs with the imperial monogram, his vest and uniform, and his lifetime portrait. Bishop Nestor said that the Emperor's shirt and other belongings will be displayed at the St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Nice, where they were stored before being seized by ACOR.
Great-grandson of Czar Alexander II Duke Georgy Yurievich told TASS that this year marks the 200th anniversary of Alexander II's birth. "This is a special year, and my great-grandfather's belongings were returned [to Russia] today. I am very glad and grateful," he said.
Head of the House of Orleans Count of Paris Henri underscored the important mission of the "French-Russian Alliance" in strengthening the bond between the two countries. "We carry friendship in our hearts. As a descendant of Anne of Kiev [Queen Consort of Henry I of France in 1051-1060, daughter of Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev], I especially value our warm relations. We need to build our European home together with Russia," he said.
The participants in the ceremony of handing the relics to the Russian side were welcomed by former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, whose address was read by the head of the "French-Russian Alliance" Prince Alexander Trubetskoy. "This year you are celebrating the 200th anniversary of Alexander II's birth. He was a great reformer. Let the memory of him serve the strengthening of the relations between France and Russia," d'Estaing said.