The Empire Strikes Back.

The Romanov family was the last imperial dynasty to rule Russia. They first came to power in 1613, and over the next three centuries, 18 Romanovs took the Russian throne.

The Empire Strikes Back.

For us mere mortals or commoners, the pomp and pageantry of royalty fire up our imagination. Kings and queens, who God anointed and appointed for eons to rule over us are bright and shiny aspirational figures in the gray of our everyday. Their dynasties appear to us as a better version of the human condition. We are mesmerized by the mystery surrounding their richly embroidered lives. The dynastic clan of the Russian Romanovs ruled the родина, the Russian homeland, for over 300 years. Now their descendants are back for a royal wedding.

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (October 1, 2021) Descendants of the Romanov dynasty were married in Russia’s first royal wedding in over a century. NPR was in attendance. Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov, 40, married Victoria Romanovna Bettarini, 39, in an Orthodox ceremony on Friday before priests and a throng of guests. Grand Duke George is the great-grandnephew of Nicholas II. His great-grandfather, the czar’s first cousin Kirill, fled Russia after the Revolution.

Reuters Photograph

Under the dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral in Russia’s imperial capital city with all the Czarist trappings of yesteryear, the Romanovs returned to public life. The Russian Orthodox Church’s top official in St. Petersburg, Metropolitan Varsonofy, blessed the ceremony. The two-day event included notable royals, Queen Sofia of Spain, Princess Leia of Belgium, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, brother of the Emir of Qatar.

Ceremony is stagecraft for the powerful to legitimize their rule to the masses. The current Russian leader chose not to send a congratulatory message to the Romanov couple. The Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “We’re happy for all our newlyweds. In Moscow and St. Petersburg and other cities across Russia, there are weddings every day,”

The Bolsheviks drove the royals out of Russia during the revolution. On March 15, 1917, the last sitting Russian czar, Nicholas II, was overthrown and taken into Bolshevik custody. Czar Nicholas’ family, his wife, and five children were banished to the city of Yekaterinburg. Only months later on July 17, 1918, the Czar and his family were executed by a Bolshevik firing squad in a merchant’s cellar. The House of Romanov reigned as the imperial house of Russia from 1613 to 1917. The remaining Romanovs quietly scattered throughout the western world.

While the Romanovs tarry in ceremony, Russia battles the growing perception of being an energy profiteer. “We are not using any weapons,” Putin said in an interview with CNBC. “Even during the hardest parts of the Cold War Russia regularly has fulfilled its contractual obligations and supplies gas to Europe,”

There is no hiding from the complexities of East-West geopolitics. The majority of natural gas going into Europe already comes from Russia. In 2020, Russia represented about 43% of the total gas imports to the bloc, according to Eurostat. Much of that gas is transported through Ukraine (see map #1 below) and Belarus (see map #2 below), both troubled hotspots as of late.

BELARUS – Map #2

Be careful with the new dimension of domestic freedom distracting from Putin’s grand strategy. Tensions in Belarus and Ukraine could be a mere pretense for a military move on Russia’s part. Stay frosty my friends.