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Russian Duke Seeks Place Among Soviets

<i> From Associated Press</i>

The pretender to the Russian throne celebrated his 74th birthday Friday with a wish to return to his ancestral land, whether as the possible first czar since the 1917 revolution or simply as an adviser.

“Czardom in some form could be a good solution. I have got information that it could be possible. It could act as a balancing factor,” said Grand Duke Vladimir Kirilovich Romanov during a birthday reception at Haiko Manor, near the town of Porvoo, where he was born.

He said he had sent a letter to Russian Federation President Boris N. Yeltsin, saluting him for helping lead resistance to last week’s failed coup against Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

The grand duke--the second cousin to the last Russian Czar Nicholas II--was born in 1917, the year that the Communist Party ousted the Romanovs.

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In that year, the grand duke’s family came to this Finnish town at the beginning of a lifetime of exile. Duke Vladimir spent the first three years of his life at Haiko Manor, now a private home and restaurant. The town, 30 miles east of Helsinki, is the nearest that Duke Vladimir has come to his native land in 61 years.

The Romanov family moved to Switzerland and France when he was 3 years old. The grand duke now lives in Madrid, Paris and the small coastal village of St. Briaci in Brittany, France.

The grand duke, who is the oldest member of the Romanov family, said he hopes that recent changes will make it possible to return to Russia.

He said his family wants to serve the country “as we did for quite a few centuries, in any form--in the form of advice, in the form of economic, political contact with other countries.”

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Czar Nicholas II, his wife, children and many of his closest relatives were killed in 1918, after the Communist Party’s seizure of power. In later years, descendants of those who escaped to Europe have made conflicting claims to the throne, but the current grand duke is generally acknowledged as having the best claim.

Duke Vladimir told reporters he was pleased, but not surprised, by reports of renewed Russian interest in the period of the czars.

“It makes me glad. The past interests all nations, but in the Soviet Union (the interest) is especially valuable because its brilliant history has been forgotten.”


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