Descendant of the last Tsar:
I feel the Russian soul…
Artist, designer and entrepreneur Rotislav Romanov is one of the youngest heirs of the House of Romanov. He was born in May 1985 in Lake Forest (Illinois, USA), and currently lives in London.
The last Russian Tsar Nicholas II, whose rule lasted from November 1894 until March 1917, was shot together with his family and confidants in 1918 after the October Revolution in 1917. In August 2000, he was elevated to sainthood as a martyr by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Today, Rotislav’s key mission in Russia, which he visits often, is to represent the House of Romanov. However, the famous heir also works: in 2010, he joined the Board of Directors for the Raketa Watch Factory at the Peterhof. He is a consultant and designer for the creative department of this longstanding enterprise. The factory, which was established in 1721 under Peter the Great, Rotislav Romanov’s famous ancestor, made jewelry, including jewels for the Royal Crown.
Rotislav also provides support for Real Message, a fund and project that holds international events and festivals with the goal of promoting and diversifying cultural exchange between Russian-speaking people from all over the world. Developed by the Russian creative agency GildiYA, the project opens up opportunities for creative people working in various artistic and cultural spheres to further develop their talent and pave the way toward the future. The goal is to show the true face of modern Russia that is free of cliches and stereotypes – a country with a heroic history that created some of the greatest cultural masterpieces in the world. The descendant of the imperial dynasty talked about his relationship with Russia in an interview with Capital Ideas.
Mr. Romanov, how do you want us to call you: Your Excellency, the Grand Duke, Prince? How You are usually treated at home, by acquaintances and colleagues?
Rostislav is good for me. It is a mistake to use the term Grand Duke, as that means there is a throne. I am just an artist trying to explore my surroundings and to make my understanding of the world. My family and friends just treat me like another person, with love and care.
But, nevertheless, somehow you feel your origins?
Yes I do feel my origins it is a great strength I draw from to do what I do. A friend called Harriet Barber (she was a great British painter) told me that my name gets my foot in the door, but my artwork has to do the rest. So I never relax when it comes to art, always trying to push myself, outdo myself.
How many descendants of the Imperial Romanov dynasty are there around the world and where do they live? Do you keep in touch with them?
The Romanov family has survived and thrived after the Revolution. We are spread out all over the world at the moment, which is fantastic as I love to travel and see the family. Of course, we all keep in touch through the Romanov Family Association.
It turns out that you are the only Romanov living in Russia?
Yes at the moment, but that may change with the times as the younger family members are eager to explore Russia.
You were born in the US, your mother is American, you went to school in the UK, and yet, you are drawn to Russia. Why?
A fantastic question. To put it simply, I feel at home here in Russia. I feel the Russian soul and relate to the people better than I do anywhere else.
When did you first come to Russia? How did it feel to come here? How do you feel in your historic Homeland?
My family came to Russia when we were kids. I was thirteen at the time; I still remember how I felt. It was a homecoming. I told my family that one day I will live in Russia.
It so happened that you grew up in an English-speaking environment. Did you learn Russian? How far have you moved forward in the study of the native language of your magnificent ancestors?
I find learning Russian very hard because of my dyslexia. So learning Russian is very hard for me. I have to find the right teacher, but I will never give up.
Have you thought about applying for a Russian citizenship?
Yes, I genuinely want a Russian passport. To finally say that I am Russian.
In addition to the former and current capitals of Russia – St. Petersburg and Moscow – have you been in any other Russian cities? What did you think?
I took the Trans-Siberian railway just this year. It was a collaboration with Ortaea jewellery in London. I got to explore all of Russia. It was only the beginning, and I will carry on studying Russia as it is so beautiful and kind.
What are you doing in Russian within the scope of the Real Message project? Do you find it inspiring? How did you find out about it? And how do you provide support for it?
RM is an amazing project, and I am an ambassador for their “Inspiration by Art” movement. This movement gives opportunities to artists that they wouldn’t have otherwise. The world of art is tough, it’s hard to get noticed. It changed my life and made me want to make life better for others so that they can change the world how they like. I learned about it from my friend, who introduced me to Nina Timofeeva, the co-owner of GildiYA. I could see that we have similar perspectives on things. Nina has all the necessary official powers to represent my interests.
What exactly is the EA Design Department of the Rocket Watch Factory?
To put it simply, I am an in-house artist that helps out when I am needed. Also, now and again I design a watch, which is great fun working with the Raketa Family.
Despite the fact that you are a creative person, do you participate in the development and improvement of production?
Sadly no. The engineering team develops the watch and improves the movement of the clocks, which is a very specialised skill.
How do you see the future of the Raketa Watch Factory and its products?
I am a person that just takes it one day at a time, but I do hope that the Raketa factory and the Raketa Family keep getting stronger and make it to the forefront of Russian watch making and design.
Do you like Moscow? What kinds of changes have you noticed in the city lately?
Funny, the changes I see is the traffic is not as bad as it use to be. Also, the fashion is ever changing. It is growing and becoming more daring with a lot more color. This, of course, is having a broader effect, as new and different restaurants are opening for people to enjoy and to experience.
Do you have favorite places to visit in Moscow?
I spent three full years in Moscow; I have to admit my favourite place is the European gallery that is part of the Pushkin museum. It is a treasure trove of art and it is all but completely empty. If you see just one of the pieces from there in another gallery, it would be packed.
As the heir to the throne of the Romanovs, what are your hobbies?
In the Romanov family, there is no heir to the throne. When the family fled Russia from the Revolution, we all agreed it is up to the people of Russia to choose a person for the throne. I serve the family and Russia in any way I can. As for hobbies, I love what I do so really my art is my life, and my life is my art. I find that music helps me get where I need to go with my art so of course, I am passionate about music.