Sue Young Histories

Nikolai Alexandrovich Kulikovsky 1881 – 1958

September 27, 2009

Nikolai Alexandrovich Kulikovsky 1881 – 1958 and OlgaNikolai Alexandrovich Kulikovsky 1881 – 1958 was the second husband of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, the sister of Tsar Nicholas II and daughter of Tsar Alexander III.

Kulikovsky was an advocate of homeopathy,

Nikolai Kulikovsky was born into a military family from the Voronezh province of Russia. His grandfather was a General during the Napoleonic Wars, and his family owned two large estates in the Ukraine. He rode from an early age, and became an expert horseman. He was educated at Petrograde Real College of Gurevich, followed by the Nickolai Cavalry College, from where he graduated with a degree.

He joined the Blue Cuirassier Regiment of the Imperial Russian Cavalry shortly before 1903. In April 1903, during a military parade at the Pavlovsk Palace, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna saw Kulikovsky and begged her older brother, Grand Duke Michael, who was the Regiment’s honorary colonel, to arrange the seating at a casual luncheon so that she and Kulikovsky were adjacent.

The Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna was already married to Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg, who was covertly considered by his friends and family to be homosexual. A few days after her brief meeting with Kulikovsky, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna asked the Duke for a divorce, which he refused with the qualification that he would reconsider a divorce in seven years’ time.

Kulikovsky was appointed as captain in the Blue Cuirassiers and was posted to the provinces. By 1906, he and Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna were corresponding regularly. In 1906, Duke Peter appointed Kulikovsky as his aide de camp, and allowed him to move into their 200 room residence in Sergievskaya Street, Saint Petersburg.

The relationship between Kulikovsky and Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna was known only to a few, but gossip about their possible romance spread through society, even though it was based on little more than their holding hands in public.

Though Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna repeatedly asked her brother to allow her divorce, Tsar Nicholas II refused because he disliked divorce and believed royalty should marry within royalty. When their brother, Grand Duke Michael, eloped with his mistress, Natalia Wulfert, society (including Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna and Tsar Nicholas II) was scandalized.

Natalia Wulfert was a commoner who had been divorced twice, and one of her former husbands was an officer in the same regiment as Kulikovsky. Grand Duke Michael was banished from Russia, and the likelihood of Tsar Nicholas II ever granting Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna a divorce, or permitting her to marry a commoner looked remote.

At the outbreak of World War I, Kulikovsky was sent to the front with his regiment. Grand Duke Michael was recalled from abroad, and Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna went to work in a military hospital as a nurse. Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna continued to press Tsar Nicholas II to allow her divorce.

In a letter she wrote, “…finish with the divorce now during the war while all eyes and minds are occupied elsewhere - and such a small thing would be lost in all the greater things”.

The war went badly for the Russian imperial forces, and the Central Powers, led by Germany, advanced into Russia. Fearful for Kulikovsky’s safety, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna pleaded with Tsar Nicholas II to station him in the relative safety of Kiev, where she was stationed at a hospital.

In 1916, after visiting her in Kiev, Tsar Nicholas II officially annulled the marriage between Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg and Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna. She married Kulikovsky on November 16, 1916, in the Kievo Vasilievskaya Church on Triokhsviatitelskaya (Three Saints Street) in Kiev. Only the Dowager Empress Marie, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna’s brother in law Grand Duke Alexander, four officers of the Akhtyrsky Regiment, two fellow nurses from the hospital in Kiev and the officiating priest attended.

Their two week honeymoon was spent in a farmhouse in Podgornoye that had belonged to family friends of the Kulikovskys. After visiting Kulikovsky’s parents and grandmother in Kharkov, they returned to Kiev.

During the war, internal tensions and economic deprivation in Russia continued to mount and revolutionary sympathies grew. After her brother Tsar Nicholas II was deposed in early 1917, many members of the Romanov dynasty, including Nicholas and his immediate family, were arrested and held under house arrest.

The new government retired Kulikovsky from the army with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Dowager Empress Marie, Grand Duke Alexander, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, and Kulikovsky managed to escape to the Crimea where they lived for a time before they too were placed under house arrest at one of the imperial estates.

As a commoner, Kulikovsky was permitted more freedom of movement than the Romanovs, and was occasionally able to leave the estate in a pony cart, which allowed him to run errands, obtain food, and seek news of the outside.

On August 12, 1917, the Kulikovskys first child and son, Tikhon, was born in the Crimea. He was named after one of the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna’s favorite saints, Tikhon of Zadonsk. Although the grandson of an Emperor and the nephew of another, as his father was a commoner, Tikhon received no titles.

As newspapers were banned and letters infrequent, the Romanovs under house arrest knew little of the fate of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children, were originally held at their official residence, the Alexander Palace, but the Provisional government under Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky relocated them to Tobolsk, Siberia. Eventually, in July 1918, they were all killed by Bolsheviks.

In the Crimea, the Grand Duchess’ family were condemned to death by the Sevastopol and Yalta revolutionary councils but political rivalry between the two factions delayed any executions.

In March 1918, the Central Power of Germany advanced on the Crimea, and the revolutionary guards were replaced by German ones. When Germany surrendered to the Allies of World War I in November 1918, the German forces evacuated, allowing Kulikovsky and his family time to escape abroad.

The British warship HMS Marlborough rescued the Dowager Empress Marie and some of her family from the unstable Crimea but Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna and Kulikovsky decided to stay in Russia and travelled to the Caucasus region, where the Bolsheviks had been pushed back by the White Army.

During the journey, a coupling on the train carriage in which they were traveling developed a fault, possibly from sabotage, and Kulikovsky crawled over the carriage roofs to reach the driver and stop the train. Kulikovsky was unable to secure a military posting as the General commanding the White Army, Denikin, wished to avoid association with the Romanovs, so he took a job working on a farm.

In a rented farmhouse at the large Cossack village of Novominskaya their second son, Guri, was born on April 23, 1919. He was named after one of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna’s close friends during World War I, Gury Panayev, who had been killed serving in the Akhtyrsky Regiment.

As the White Army was pushed back and the Red Army approached, the family set out on what would be their last journey through Russia; they traveled to Rostov on Don, and from there took refuge in the residence of the Danish consul at Novorossiysk, Thomas Schytte, who informed them of Dowager Empress Marie’s safe arrival in Denmark.

After a brief stay with the Danish consul, the family were shipped to a refugee camp on the island of Büyükada in the Dardanelles Strait near Istanbul, Turkey, where the Kulikovsky family shared three rooms with eleven other adults. After two weeks, they were evacuated to Belgrade in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes where they were visited by Regent Alexander Karageorgevich, later to become King Alexander I of Yugoslavia.

Alexander offered them a permanent home there, while Dowager Empress Marie summoned her daughter to live with her in Denmark. Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna complied and the family relocated to Denmark.

On Good Friday 1920, they arrived in Copenhagen, and lived with Kulikovsky’s mother in law, Dowager Empress Marie, at first at the Amalienborg Palace and then at the royal estate of Hvidøre. Kulikovsky and Dowager Empress Marie did not get along. Kulikovsky resented his wife acting as Dowager Empress Marie’s secretary and companion, and Dowager Empress Marie was distant toward him.

Without a role or rank, Kulikovsky brooded in Denmark, becoming moody and listless. A spinal injury sustained during the war remained unhealed, and meant he had to wear a corset.

In 1925, Kulikovsky accompanied his wife to a Berlin nursing home to meet Anna Anderson, who claimed to be Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna’s niece, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia. According to Harriet von Rathlef, who witnessed the meeting, while Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna and Anna Anderson conversed, he sat in a corner and sulked.

Though Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna felt sympathy for Anna Anderson, if only because she was ill, she eventually denounced her as an impostor. Possibly, she was pressured to do so by Kulikovsky and Dowager Empress Marie.

Dowager Empress Marie died on October 13, 1928, and the Kulikovskys moved out of Hvidøre. After a brief stay in the Amalienborg Palace, the Kulikovskys moved to Holte, near Klampenborg, where a Danish millionaire, Gorm Rasmussen, engaged Kulikovsky to manage his stables.

Hvidøre and some of Dowager Empress Marie’s fabulous collection of jewellery were sold. With Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna’s inheritance, Kulikovsky and his family were able to purchase Knudsminde Farm, several miles outside of Copenhagen.

Kulikovsky was appointed to the board of a Russian insurance company based in Copenhagen, and oversaw the running of the farm. The farm estate became a center for the Russian monarchist and anti Bolshevik community in Denmark.

On April 9, 1940, neutral Denmark was invaded by Nazi Germany and was occupied for the rest of World War II. As Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna’s sons, Tikhon and Guri, served as officers in the Danish Army, they were interned as prisoners of war, but their imprisonment in a Copenhagen hotel lasted less than two months. Other Russian émigrés, keen to fight against the Soviets, enlisted in the German forces.

Despite her sons’ internment and her mother’s Danish origins, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna was implicated in her compatriots’ collusion with German forces, as she continued to meet and extend help to Russian émigrés fighting against communism.

After the surrender of German forces in 1945, the Soviet Union wrote to the Danish government accusing Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of conspiracy against the Soviet government.

With the end of World War II, Soviet troops came close to the border of Denmark, and Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna grew fearful of an assassination or kidnap attempt. She decided to move her family across the Atlantic to the relative safety of rural Canada. A decision with which Kulikovsky complied.

In May 1948, the Kulikovskys travelled to London by Danish troopship. They were housed in a grace and favour apartment at Hampton Court Palace while arrangements were made for their journey to Canada as agricultural immigrants.

On June 2, 1948, Kulikovsky, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, Tikhon and his Danish born wife Agnete, Guli and his Danish born wife Ruth, Guli and Ruth’s two children, Xenia and Leonid, and Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna’s devoted companion and former maid Emilia Tenso (“Mimka”) departed Liverpool for Canada on board the Empress of Canada.

After a rough crossing, the ship docked at Halifax, Nova Scotia. The family proceeded to Toronto, where they lived until they purchased a 200 acre farm in Halton County, Ontario, near Campbellville. Kulikovsky was relieved to move out of Toronto, and escape media attention.

By 1952, the farm had become a burden to the elderly couple. Their sons had moved away; labour was hard to come by; Kulikovsky suffered increasing back pain and disability, and some of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna’s remaining jewellery was stolen.

The farm was sold, and Kulikovsky, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, and her former maid, Mimka, moved to a smaller 5 room house at 2130 Camilla Road, Cooksville, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto (now amalgamated into the city of Mississauga). Mimka suffered a stroke that left her an invalid, and Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna nursed her until Mimka’s death on January 24, 1954.

Neighbours and visitors to the region, including foreign and royal dignitaries, took interest in Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna as the “last Romanov”, and visited their small home, which was also a magnet for Romanov impostors whom both Kulikovsky and Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna considered a menace. ]

Welcome visitors included Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, the daughter of Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia, in 1954, and Louis Mountbatten 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, and his wife, Edwina, in August 1959.

By 1952, Kulikovsky had shrunk more than 4 inches from his peak height of 6 ft 2 inches. He distrusted conventional medicine and tried homeopathy instead. By 1958, he was virtually paralyzed, and had difficulty sleeping. At the end of his life he was sleeping on the sofa in the living room of the couple’s Cooksville house, to avoid waking his wife.

He died there on the night of August 11, 1958.

His estate was valued at 12,123.47 Canadian dollars. Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna became too infirm to care for herself and went to stay with Russian émigré friends in an apartment above a beauty salon in Gerrard Street East, Toronto.

She died on November 24, 1960, at the age of 78, and was interred next to her husband in York Cemetery, Toronto.