In an exclusive interview with New Europe, the Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia – the 33-year-old heir apparent to Maria Vladimirovna, the Grand Duchess of Russia – spoke about his title, the evolution of the throne and his work in Europe.
In Brussels, you just celebrated the 400th anniversary of the House of Romanov. What does this important name mean for you? Does it make you feel proud?
All people need to remember their ancestors and try to be worthy of them, follow their examples and learn from their mistakes. Some people know about their ancestors more and some less. I was lucky in this sense because the history of our lineage is well known and can be traced for almost 700 years, during which more than 300 years, my ancestors were brought forward to rule Russia. Kinship with other dynasties binds us to the world’s history. This imposes a serious responsibility on me. Like any man, I strive to achieve positive results in life. However, like any man I can make mistakes. But my efforts on a number of initiatives cannot be comparable with the achievements of my ancestors. I know that people judge us very harshly and demandingly because they compare what we do to the acts of our predecessors. This is why I do my best in order to fulfil my duty to represent the honour of my homeland, my compatriots and the good name of the Romanovs, trying always to embody the strong values and traditions I have been brought up in and always trying to put my name at service for good causes.
Is there a historical member of your family that has most inspired you from a moral or professional point of view?
I never cease to admire the will and energy of Peter the Great and his willingness to sacrifice. He demanded a lot from others, but was just as demanding of himself. Even his death became a symbol of these qualities. He became fatally ill, saving a stranded soldier of a boat in the icy waters during winter. Peter I by his own example proved that any work is worthy of respect, that there is no “non-prestigious” profession because all professions serve the betterment of a society. He mastered many sciences and crafts. In my work, I try to follow his example given the fact that he did not stubbornly try to keep all on his own, and did not to assume that all that was foreign was better, with his extensive travel and learning of a bigger world he tried to combine the best of both worlds to make his country stronger. Other ancestors I could mention, Alexander Nevsky, Nicholas I and Alexander III, all these sovereigns, each in his own way, have embodied the most positive qualities of Russian monarchs.
Can you tell us about your work?
I started working in Brussels in 2001 as an assistant to the MEP and President of the Juridic Committee Ana de Palacio. I later worked with MEP Pilar Ayuso and eventually I was in the cabinet of Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Transports and Energy Loyola de Palacio. I later moved to Luxembourg to continue my work in the General Directorate of the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM).
In 2010, I started working for Norilsk Nickel, a Russian company and the first global producer of nickel. I started as an adviser to the general manager of the company on European related issues, and soon after I was given the responsibilities of president of Norilsk Nickel Europe in London and Brussels representing the companies interests in front of the institutions of the European Union. I also became a member of the board of directors of an association of Nickel-related companies that came together with other similar companies from across the globe to solidify our industry’s position and reputation within the European Union. I am currently pursuing a variety of initiatives – some commercial and some charitable. I am working on the creation of a public affairs, communications platform in Brussels (Romanoff & Partners) which will specialise not exclusively in representing the interests of Russian and Eastern European corporations and public interests within the European Union.
I am also working on the charitable side with the creation of The Russian Imperial Foundation for Cancer Research. It is a foundation that aims to give the opportunity to fight what is nowadays one of the greatest plagues worldwide and a major cause of mortality in Russia. We are now in the process of gathering medical experts from around the world to help us find the best way to focus our efforts. I am also hoping to give a chance to our Russian medical experts and students to be as prominent as they once were. With a little luck and God’s help we can maybe do our part to put in check this great evil of our times.
Do you have any contact with the English or the Spanish royal families?
Of course, we are in touch with our relatives. We correspond with each other regularly .We congratulate each other during the holiday seasons – there are various dynastic ceremonies. It is an integral part of the social work of the imperial house.
In Europe, there are monarchical countries that show a more modern image to the public. What do you think about this change of mentality?
A monarchy is an expression of values and traditions, but it must not remain frozen in time. Monarchs are the maximum expression of a state’s institutions and are deeply linked to the various aspects of their nation and of their societies. Each historical period has had an evolution and monarchs are the ones who in many cases have driven this process. I’m thinking about Peter the Great and his big commitment in modernising Russia, or Catherine the Great who brought into her nation the ideals of the era of the enlightenment. Considering the enormous processes of liberalisation and globalisation, I believe monarchy has evolved as well. It has become more modern though still being representative of its nations and citizens, without discarding the historical and traditional values and traditions that it embodies.