S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “Soviet Union”

Book Review – The 1929 Sino-Soviet War: The War Nobody Knew

Rating – Four Stars

Congratulations to Michael Walker on his assiduous research and lucid manuscript about this seminal 1929 conflict between the Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) over control of the China Eastern Railroad (CER). The CER runs through Chinese Manchuria and links the Russian Far East city Chit with Vladivostok. This railroad spur is a shortcut of about 1,200 miles between these two cities on the northern loop of the Trans-Siberian Railroad that skirts Manchuria. If you study a map of this area, you will understand why both its economic and its military value have been apparent to Imperial Russia, the USSR, Russia, and China.

In 1896, after the first Sino-Japanese War, 1894–1895, the Chinese Qing dynasty was weak and adrift under the inept leadership of the Empress Dowager Tz’u His. Under intense Russian pressure, the Qing government granted a concession to Czar Nicholas II of Imperial Russia to construct the CER through northern Manchuria. Work began on the CER in July 1897. The contract provisions provided for dual control by the USSR and Imperial China, and for employment of Chinese executives and workers.

A large Russian army occupied Northern Manchuria to control the CER and protect it from bandit raids and Japanese incursions. The Japanese were gravely concerned that Russia was appropriating their sphere of influence; this led in large measure to the Russo-Japanese war of 1904–1905.

Freight traffic on the CER line started in November 1901, and regular passenger traffic from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok across the Trans-Siberian railway and the CER began in July 1903.

Problems of ownership of the CER and its operations festered for years.. In July 1919, the Soviets promised to return the CER to Chinese control without compensation. The Soviets had laid the foundation for a double-cross to regain complete control of the CER and its auxiliary lines. In 1924, the Soviets, under the reign of Joseph Stalin, reneged, and began a campaign of subterfuge to get rid of all Chinese control and interest in the CER. The Soviet Comintern spread Marxist agitprop among the Chinese executives and workers, led strikes, and encouraged sabotage.  In the ensuing years, the controversy escalated.

In 1929, Generalissimo Chang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang government in Nanking was weak and controlled only about fifty percent of the land area of China. A collage of warlords controlled the remainder. The powerful warlord Chang Hsuch-liang (Wade-Giles spelling), the leader of the Fengtian clique, governed Manchuria with a large, well-trained, and well-armed modern army

The Soviets intensified their perfidious campaign with wide-ranging agitations, purloining of CER funds, and assassinations. In turn, Chang began retaliation activities including the kidnapping of Soviet CER executives—leading to his goal of a forced hostile takeover. Realizing that armed conflict with the USSR was inevitable, Chang Hsuch-liang pledged his army and his loyalty to the Kuomintang government in Nanking. In turn, Chang Kai-shek pledged what support he could. Warlords in other cliques also offered backing.

The armed conflict started slowly in the summer of 1929 with skirmishes along the Amur and Songhua Rivers. The first battle started on 17 August 1929, when the Soviets attacked Chalainor. Chang’s troops retreated to a heavily armed trench line. The Soviets advanced into a killing zone, and suffered heavy losses. Following that, the Chinese troops fought a valiant and bloody defensive campaign. However, by late November, the USSR’s overwhelming military power forced the Chinese to sign a treaty on Soviet terms on 13 December 1929.

The most serious negative I find with Walker’s narrative is the absence of a series of small-scale maps to detail the conflict areas and include the many geographical names mentioned in his text.

Note. The USSR conceded ownership of the Chinese Eastern Railway to the People’s Republic of China in 1952.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!






July 17, Anniversary of The Regicide

In the early hours of 17 July 1918, the Cheka firing squad (the Soviet secret police) fired volley after volley into Nicholas Romanov, Czar of all the Russias, and his family: Empress Alexandra, son Nikkei, and four daughters, Maria, Olga, Tatiana, and Anastasia.

In the March 1917 Revolution, the Bolsheviks successfully overthrew the Romanov’s régime of Russia. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Union of Socialist’s Republics. His clutch on power was tenuous—two White Armies were in revolt against his Communist dictatorial rule. Western armies had invaded Murmansk, the Caucasus, and the Japanese captured Vladivostok. And the large and well-armed Czech Legion had captured the Trans-Siberian Railroad and was fighting its way to the Pacific.

Lenin, fearful that Romanovs could rally the proletariat to fully support the White armies, had the royal family imprisoned in the Ipatiev House in the Siberia city Ekaterinburg. Lenin and his Bolsheviks cohorts dubbed this place “The House of Special Purpose.”

Around 0200 hours, Cheka guards awoke the royal family and told them to dress, and led them to the basement. The guards told the family that this move was for their protection—elements of Admiral’s Kolchak’s White Army were close by as were the Czech’s trains. In the upcoming fire-fights, this house would be in danger.

Yakov Yurovsky, the Bolshevik commanding officer, insured that the family was positioned correctly and ordered, “Fire.”


To those who have an interest in this topic, please enjoy the following short story from my book, Aviators, Adventurers, and Assassins, a conglomeration of 20th Century novellas, short stories, and flash fiction quips. Some of the characters are real (usually disguised in a nom de plume), some are fiction, some of the stories are based on real incidents, and some are figments of my imagination. Nonetheless, take none seriously—even though your empathy may be intense. Also, at the end of the story a free book offer! 

The Regicide


Kremlin, Moscow

16 July 1918

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin is writing at his desk with an intense focus. He wears a grey suit with a scarlet tie over his off-white shirt. It is a dark afternoon that matches the dull grey of his suit and office. On the walls are photographs and posters extolling the virtues of collectivism.

Lenin, the leader of the Russian Revolution, is now the Chairman of the People’s Commissars of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He is fifty-eight-years old, bald, with a full mustache and a Van Dyke beard. His deep brown eyes are alive with passionate fervor.Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 9.53.57 AM

He writes with slow precision on a paper bearing the official seal of the Soviet government—the hammer and sickle in yellow on a red background—then he puts down the pen and leans back in his chair. As he reads the document, a faint smile spreads over his face.

Satisfied, he hands it to Felix Dzerzhinsky, the ruthless leader of Lenin’s secret police, the Cheka. He is exactly the kind of unbridled sociopath that Lenin wants as his lead henchman. Dzerzhinsky is a medium-sized man with a brown, stony face and a fixed expression. He wears a walrus mustache and a short, pointed Van Dyke beard. Lenin leans forward and dictates, “Read it, Felix. Read it out loud. I want to hear how it sounds. I want the world to hear it. Read it now!”

Dzerzhinsky looks mildly interested as he begins to read the short note. Now, seriously interested, he reads it again, then once again. He looks up from the document to Lenin and tentatively asks him, “You are positive that this is the correct action at this time?”

“Of course I’m sure.”

Dzerzhinsky, with a mild retort, suggests, “Comrade, my point is that I wonder if it would not be prudent to wait until we have consolidated more control over the country. Our political and military positions are still in flux.”

Lenin snaps, “Comrade Dzerzhinsky, you keep the Cheka working to eliminate the counter-revolutionaries and I will lead our socialist country.” Irritated, he shifts in his chair, then picks up a pen and taps it on his desk. He stares blankly out a window as the Kremlin glows scarlet in the dusk. Clearly, he is evaluating Dzerzhinsky’s comments because they have a ring of truth. The tap, tap, tap of the pen continues. Lenin puzzles over the scarlet sunset. Is it an omen—red for Red?

After a minute or so he shifts in his chair to face Grigory Zinoviev, the third man in the room. Lenin holds him in a thoughtful gaze for a few moments then says in a spirited voice, “Let us hear what Comrade Zinoviev has to say.”

Dzerzhinsky turns to Grigory Zinoviev, the Interior Minister, revolutionary, and close confidant to Lenin. Zinoviev is a big brute of a man with icy blue eyes and long midnight-black hair. His face is littered with smallpox scars, but he is clean shaven, almost proud of his disfigurement.

After a brief pause and in a gruff bass voice Zinoviev responds, “My respects, Comrade Lenin, but I ask you to reconsider. The majority of the proletariat still loves their Czar, who is also the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Church. Such an audacious action will cause many loyal people to question your motives. I do not recommend this precipitous order. Over the next few months, let us reflect on some of the alternatives.”

Lenin shouts, “Stop! Stop it, Zinoviev. Am I surrounded by naysayers? The Communist Party and the Third International Congress of Soviets made me Party Chairman and Head of State. I know what is best for our Soviet Union. The peasants will do as the State directs.”

Zinoviev, who has remained standing, straightens his shoulders and responds deferentially, yet with conviction, “If you insist on this course of action, our socialist government will be in extreme peril and may well fall to the Western imperialists. We are fighting them on five fronts. The White Armies of General Denikin and Admiral Kolchak defeat our Red Army in every engagement. Our desertion rates are excessively high. The Northern Russian Expedition of fourteen battalions of British Commonwealth, American, and French colonial troops have occupied Murmansk and Archangel, and they are advancing into the interior.”

Lenin is clearly annoyed that his old friend should question his judgment. He rises from his chair, glares at Zinoviev, shakes his closed fist at him and snaps, “The Soviet Union will prevail over these Western interlopers. Our allies—the sharp winter and the vast steppes—ultimately will engulf and destroy them.”

Zinoviev, stunned by Lenin’s sharp rebuke, looks to Dzerzhinsky for support. Dzerzhinsky looks away and shakes his head from side to side. Then he says, “Comrade Lenin has made his decision. I manage the Cheka on his authority.”

Realizing that he is alone in this discussion, Zinoviev counters, “Comrade Lenin, we have been together for years. Please do not dismiss my report with such a cavalier comment, or underestimate the seriousness of these Westerners on our soil. Hear me out.”

Lenin, still irritated, returns to his chair, and says, “Speak your piece, Grigory.”

“There is more. American and Japanese troops have occupied Vladivostok, and the Japanese are moving up the peninsula and assembling at our border with Mongolia near Nomanhan. They have occupied all of Sakhalin Island. The Japanese are continuing the war of 1904 unopposed, in violation of the Treaty of Portsmouth. British and Indian troops have invaded the Southern Caucasus. And perhaps most important, the Czech Legion has control of the Trans-Siberian Railroad from Kazan to Novosibirsk.”

Lenin snaps, “Your point, Comrade? Make it. I have a country to run.”

Zinoviev responds forcefully, “Comrade Lenin, my point is critical. We cannot defeat them all. We are isolated from the rest of the world. If our socialist government is to survive we must have peace—peace at any cost. We do not need more armed hostility. We need Western recognition and wheat, lots of wheat, if we are to survive this winter. I implore you to reconsider.”

“Zinoviev, you were my loyal ally in our Bolshevik Revolution that overthrew the Czar and his imperialist lackeys. Remain loyal to me now. Read my telegram. Read it out loud.” demands Lenin.

With trepidation Zinoviev whispers, “Your telegram is headed Top Secret. It reads: ‘To: Comrade Major Vasili Yurovsky, Commanding Officer, Cheka, Ekaterinburg. No later than tomorrow evening, you are to execute the prisoners held in the Ipatiev House. Specifically, I name the Romanov royal family of Imperial Russia, the Czar Nicholas, Empress Alexandra, Czarevich Alexis, and the Grand Duchesses Marie, Olga, Tatiana, and Anastasia. Confirm results. Signed, Lenin.”

Lenin smirks and tells Zinoviev, “Give this telegram to Comrade Roman Malinovsky, our new Commissar of Posts and Telegraphs. Have him encrypt it in our Omega code for immediate transmission.”

Ipatiev House, Ekaterinburg, Siberia,

17 July 1918

The corner windows in the second story are lit in the Ipatiev House, an elegant two-story dacha on several hundred acres of well-tended gardens, fountains, ponds, and virgin birch forest. The Bolsheviks have dubbed this dacha “The House of Special Purpose.” It is shortly before midnight, but the house is astir with activity.

The imperial family has been prisoners of the Cheka in this house since April, closely confined and daily suffering the insults of their Red guards. Their only comfort is the fact that they are together. Rumors of impending rescue reach them periodically, but each time they wait in vain.

This evening the family calmly retired at the usual time. About an hour later, the sergeant of the guard aroused them and ordered them to dress and hurry downstairs to the cellar. He explains that the Czech Legion and a unit of the White Army are approaching Ekaterinburg, and the Regional Soviet has ordered that they be moved.

The family rushes to dress and pack a few personal belongings. “Put on your blue dress,” Alexandra whispers to Anastasia as they pass in the upstairs hallway. When the family arrives in the cellar, the sergeant tells them that their transportation will arrive shortly. A Cheka guard brings a chair for the Empress. For a moment, Alexandra’s heart fills with hope. If the Czech and White Army are so near, rescue might be imminent. Soon they might all be free, on their way to England. She was right, she thinks, not to send Anastasia away on her own. Now the family will be together. She puts an arm around her youngest daughter’s waist. Thanks be to God.

Suddenly a squad of Cheka soldiers with their rifles at port arms marches single file and at double time into the cellar. After the last soldier is in position, the first sergeant commands, “Squad, halt! Right face.” The soldiers turn to face the Romanovs. After a moment, the sergeant shouts, “Squad, ah-ten-hut!” The sound of rifle butts hitting the concrete floor reverberates throughout the cellar.

Several minutes later, Major Vasili Yurovsky enters. He is the senior Cheka office in the area. He wears the summer grey short-sleeved tunic uniform with red piping and his major’s pips on the shoulder boards.

“Present. Arms!” commands the first sergeant.

The soldiers bring their rifles to the present-arms position to salute their commanding officer.

In return, Major Yurovsky returns a snappy hand salute.

The Czarevich giggles in delight at the military prompt.

However, fear and concern race through the rest of the Romanov family. Alexandra knows exactly what is happening. The Czar, Anastasia, and her three sisters wonder what this military demonstration has to do with their rescue by the Whites or the Czech Legion.

“Order arms!” commands the sergeant. The soldiers return their rifles to their right side. The pounding of the rifle butts hitting the concrete floor sends chills through the Romanovs, causing them to wonder what is happening.

Yurovsky orders Alexandra to stand. The indignity of this crass Bolshevik officer ordering the Empress of All the Russias to comply with his command is unthinkable. She stares with smoldering hostility at Yurovsky. But, no longer enjoying the resources of royal status, she complies. After a moment or two she slowly moves a few paces to her left, next to Anastasia.

With his arms akimbo, Yurovsky walks down the line of the imperial family. He stops in front of each person and looks intently into their eyes. All but the Empress turn away from him. Summoning all her courage, she returns her most imperious glower of disdain. He smiles faintly at her feeble attempt at bravado.

The Czarevich is dressed in his sailor uniform. Maintaining proper military protocol, he salutes Yurovsky. The major stares at him contemptuously and does not return the salute.

This military display does not look like a rescue to the four daughters. Extreme apprehension engulfs Maria and Tatiana. Unsure of what is happening and fearing the worst, they cannot control their fear and sob softly.

Major Yurovsky turns to the first sergeant and snaps, “On my orders!”

“As you say. Sir!”

Yurovsky moves to the cement steps and climbs three. “Port arms!” he shouts. He surveys the scene to ensure that the Romanovs are positioned correctly and that his soldiers are ready.

Satisfied that the staging is correct, Yurovsky commands, “Fix bayonets!”

There is a loud clanging of metal as the soldiers snap their bayonets onto their rifles.

Anastasia now understands with crystal clarity the task that her mother assigned to her so long ago. They are not going to be rescued, and she and her family are going to be murdered by the Bolsheviks. An overwhelming fear of death engulfs her. Her family is in this cellar for an execution. She fights to be brave and to hold back her tears. Her mother cannot help her.

“Load!” The soldiers pull back the bolts of their rifles, then jam the bolts forward, loading a round into the rifles’ chambers. The metal-on-metal clicking sends a vibration of horror through the cellar.

The other three daughters begin to sob and make the sign of the cross as they realize their fate is death. Alexandra commands, “Be brave. You are Romanovs. St. Nicholas will guide you.”

The Czar has been standing silently, as if he were in a dream. Aroused by the loud clicking of metal, he exclaims, “What!”

“Aim!” The riflemen select the nearest target.

The Romanovs see the loaded rifles with bayonets pointed at them. Their fate is all too clear. Cries. Screams.

The deafening thunder of the first volley reverberates through the cellar. Agonized screams! Another volley. Another. And another. Silence.

Major Yurovsky, obeying Lenin’s orders, has assassinated the Romanov imperial family. He cannot see clearly in the small, smoke-filled cellar. He checks the mutilated human forms askew on the concrete floor. There are no heartbeats. There is no light in any of the eyes. He grimaces at the bloody corpses. Even for a hardened Cheka officer it is a gruesome scene. In a few minutes, the basement window goes dark.Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 9.55.51 AM

Satisfied that the regicide has been successfully executed, he orders his communications officer to send an encoded telegram to Lenin and Dzerzhinsky, in care of the Presidium of the Central Executive Council, Moscow: “The Romanovs are dead this night. Yurovsky.” In the upstairs lounge, he and his Cheka soldiers celebrate the foul deed well done, and toast frequently with shots of vodka.


Some believe that the youngest daughter, Anastasia escaped the assassins. My book, St. Catherine’s Crown tells the story of Anastasia making a perilous journey across Siberia via the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Starting today, the anniversary of the assassination of the royal family, my book, St. Catherine’s Crown will be available for free from Amazon. Enjoy this free download with my compliments from July 17-21.

crown frt


Book Review: Air War Over Khalkhin Gol: The Nomonhan Incident

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 2.43.51 PM

Rating – Three Stars

From May to September, 1939, the Union of Socialists Soviet Republics and the Empire of Japan waged an undeclared war near the Khalkhin Gol (River) over the border between Soviet controlled Mongolia and the Japanese puppet state Manchukuo (formerly the Chinese Province Manchuria). In this little remembered war, casualties in men and equipment were exceedingly high in this vicarious conflict in the remotest and worthless real estate on the planet.

Kotelnikov presents a detailed account of the air war from the Soviet Union’s perspective.  In many ways, his account reminds one of the aerial “dog fights” over the Western Front in the Great War of 1914 to 1918. Unfortunately, his narrative fails to engender empathy in the audience. It’s a dry, statistical account, strung together in a continuous flow of text. The presentation would have been more comprehensible if he would have bulleted the data of the day-by-day air significant battles. His narrative has almost no personal details. We get some of the names of the Soviet and Japanese aviators but we do not get to know them—who they are, what they think, what they do in their off duty hours. The narrative is a dry telling of “just the facts.”

He fails to develop a broad perspective of this conflict. We do not understand very much about the war itself. He does not tell us what the war was really about (a continuation for control of the Pacific provinces—as in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905?). We need some details about the ground war to understand the implications of the air war.  We need information about the belligerent’s political thoughts and implications. At the time, the Second Sino-Japanese war was in full force, and war clouds were building aplenty over Europe.

I fault Kotelnikov severely for not providing comprehensive maps of the conflict. The few maps he offers are miniscule and unreadable. On the positive side, he presents an array of black and white photographs of Soviet aircraft and airmen, beautiful color drawings of the aircraft involved, and a supplement that details the background of the aircraft, their specifications, and performance.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton

BOOK REVIEW: Killing Reagan: A Violent Assault that Changed a Presidency by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

killing reaganAn outstanding book.  Exceptionally well written—no nonsense, no extraneous jabberwocky, no political twists—just the facts presented in a sterile, compelling narrative.

O’Reilly strips the Holy Grail sheen off Ronald Reagan and renders him an ordinary human being—much as the rest of us with all our frailties. At times, Reagan was petty, angry, vindictive, chapfallen, humdrum, and in his younger days a voluptuary. Nonetheless, his unswerving conservative principles engendered an accomplished presidency.

“Tear down this wall, Mister Gorbachev” (the Berlin Wall), and the fall of the Soviet Union best highlights his presidency.  Some of his stellar achievements were: his close association with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom, his firing of all the US air-traffic controllers (who went on strike and refused to return to work on Reagan’s orders), his “deal” with Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran to release the fifty-two American diplomats they illegally held for 444 days, and his orders to invade the Caribbean Island of Grenada and overthrow the pro-Cuban regime and capture the 9,000 foot airstrip capable of accommodating the largest Soviet aircraft.

Perhaps it was the Iran-Contra scandal the besmirched his presidency the most and seriously eroded his credibility.  That kerfuffle is far too complicated to detail here.  However, the Tower Commission concluded that President Ronald Reagan was culpable.

John Hinckley, Junior, a schizophrenic, fired a twenty-two Devastator bullet into President Raegan. The bullet pierced Reagan’s left lung and settled one inch from his heart. Close to death, medical professionals conducted a difficult surgery and found and removed the bullet. I recall this incident and it was much more serious than we were told initially.

Kept from us was the fact that Alzheimer’s disease had invaded President Reagan’s brain sometime during his first term.  It was so severe during his second term that his team was near to encouraging him to resign. He had “good” days and “bad” days.  It was Nancy Regan who was the de facto president.

International Brigades in Spain 1936-39 by Ken Bradley: A Book Review

ImageThe clue to the authors political bent is in his Dedication: “To the volunteers of the international brigades who gave all they had to oppose international fascism and to preserve a free Spain.” (My emphasis on “free.”) Republican Spain (again another euphemism) was anything but free or a republic. In 1936, when the Spanish Revolution began, Spain was in the firm grip of the Soviet Union’s Communist International (Comintern), and the government was pro-Marxists, and the USSR was the primary supplier of arms to its Army. Spain pair for these arms in silver coins from it colonial glory-days—not at its numismatic value but rather at its current price in troy ounces.

“Republican” was the Comintern’s successful agitprop to disguise the true nature of the Spanish Communist government. It launched severe oppression against the Catholic Church, monarchist, Carlists, and any group opposed to its dictatorial-socialists agenda. In this chaotic environment, Fascists General Francisco Franco started the civil war.

Here a few snips from Bradley’s narrative illustrating the Comintern’s influence in Spain and the International Brigades:
• “…there was a meeting at NKVD (Soviet Secret Police) in the Lubianka (Prison) in Moscow.”
• The Comintern organized a network to get foreign volunteers to join the International Brigades in Spain.
• Communist Parties in various countries handled recruitment for the International Brigades)
• Political Commissars were included in each company, battalion, and brigade.
• George Orwell served in the Catalan (Socialists) militias.
• Commissar Walter Tapsell had been the leader of the Young Communist League in Britain and circulation manager of the Daily Worker.
• General Emilio Kleber, Thaelmann (German) Brigade was an agent of the Comintern military section of the Red Army.
• Captain Tom Wintringham, British Battalion, was a member of the Communist Party, editor of The New Left Review, and later a correspondent for the Daily Worker.

Bradley gives short shrift to the campaigns in this Civil War. He skims over key battles yet inundates us with city and province names without providing a map. In detail, he discusses the names and official numerical designation, composition, and affiliation of the International Brigades—actually done in more detail that I need to know. He notes that most of the soldiers were fighting for ideals and not for money. Most soldiers were working-class people, intellectuals, and labor leaders.

His primary focus is on the uniforms of the soldiers of the International Brigades—illustrated in twelve-color plates. This book is more of a reference book than an exploration of the Spanish Civil War for the curious reader.

Romanov Jewelry

Fabulous hardly describes the vast treasure of the Romanov jewelry cache.  Below are a few samples of this vast collection.  For those who have a keener interest I recommend the book titled Jewels of the Romanovs, Stefano Papi, Thames&Hudson, New York, 2010.

The Imperial Arms of the House of Romanov

The Imperial Arms of the House of Romanov

Faberge Emerald Necklace

Faberge Emerald Necklace


Empress Alexandria's Double-Eagle Pendant

Empress Alexandria’s Double-Eagle Pendant

Faberge Egg with Diamond

Faberge Egg with Diamond

Coronet Created for Grand Duchess Maria Fedorovna

Coronet Created for Grand Duchess Maria Fedorovna

Diamond and Emerald Kokoshnik for a Grand Duchess

Diamond and Emerald Kokoshnik for a Grand Duchess

Imperial Nuptial Crown, 1840 with Antique Brazilian  Diamonds at 275 Carats

Imperial Nuptial Crown, 1840 with Antique Brazilian Diamonds at 275 Carats

Imperial Orb, in Red Gold, 1784 with Diamond Surround and Indian Light-Blue Diamonds of 47 Carats

Imperial Orb, in Red Gold, 1784 with Diamond Surround and Indian Light-Blue Diamonds of 47 Carats

Diamond and Sapphire Ring

Diamond and Sapphire Ring

Join the Czar’s1916 Christmas Ball in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg—formal gown or white tie and tails required—as seen in the narrative of my historical novel St. Catherine’s Crown.   See the diamond encrusted Imperial Crown on Empress Alexandra, the magnificent collier ruse on Grand Duchess Tatiana,  The diamond chain of the Order of Saint Andrew on Grand Duchess Maria, the coronet of diamonds and emeralds on Grand Duchess Olga, and the double-strand diamond collier d’esclave on Grand Duchess Anastasia.

Read More


What compelled me to pen this historical novel, St. Catherine’s Crown, about the Russian Revolution?

St. Catherine's Crown Final Cover

I chose to write about the Russian Revolution—the overthrow of the monarchy and installation of an atheistic Communist regime—to refresh our minds of its monumental impact on world events for seventy years.    The Bolshevik’s leaders—Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Felix Dzerzhinsky head of the Soviet secret police, for examples—exercised their unmitigated evil and bilious paranoia by slaughtering some twenty- to thirty-million Russians.  The malevolent cruelty and manifestly unnecessary regicide, is a horror of their rabid Communist orthodoxy that engendered the slaughtered of Czar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra and their five children, including their youngest daughter, Anastasia.

The Comintern apparatchiks spread its tenancies worldwide to overthrow western democracies and corrupt its citizens with agitprop in the media, films, and universities.  For several decades, we fought the Soviets in Winston Churchill’s  “Cold War,” oftentimes on the cusp of a real nuclear war.

Since I was a nipper, I had interest in Anastasia because of the films, stories, and flimflam hustlers hawking the fiction that she survived the regicide and was living incognito in some exotic locale.  During my naval career and after retirement, I studied Russian/Soviet and modern-day Chinese history.

Scribing St. Catherine’s Crown was a classic evolution process.  It started as a short story about fifteen-years ago.   I combine my two interests: Russia and China into one narrative. I started with the tale of the regicide and the then acceptable idea that Anastasia survived and escaped to a refuge in China.

As a young lad, I enjoyed stories about the orient—especially the comic strip titled “Terry and the Pirates,” by Milton Caniff—who featured such gorgeous femme fatales as the Dragon Lady, Burma, and CopperCanyon.

My tale grew into a novella as I developed Anastasia’s China adventures with blackguards that included the femme fatale, Black Orchid: whom I based on The Dragon Lady.

For reasons I cannot explain I could not leave this tale alone.  Then several years ago, I stumbled on an article about the Czech Legion—never heard of this outfit.   Did research, got interested, and decided to incorporate the Legion into my narrative.  My novella evolved into a complete historical novel.

St. Catherine’s Crown will be available for purchase in August 2013.

Vladimir Lenin


Vladimir Llich Lenin

Lenin was born into a wealthy middle-class family in Simbirsk, Russia—a town on the Volga river about 850 miles east of Moscow.  He became a leftist revolutionary after the OHKRANA (the Czar’s secret police)  arrested and executed his brother in 1887. He attending the Kazan State University, but he was suspended for his anti-Tsarist protests.  Eventually he earned a law degree, and embraced radical politics and became an avid Marxist.

In 1893, while in St. Petersburg, the OHKRANA arrested Lenin for sedition and exiled him to Siberia for three years.  After his release, he married Nadezhda Krupskaya, and lived in Western Europe.   In 1909, Lenin published Materialism and Empirio-criticism that set the course for socialist revolution, and became the philosophic foundation of Marxism-Leninism.  At the start of World War I in 1914, he was living in Switzerland and in poverty.

The February Revolution of 1917, precipitated by the Russian military disasters on the Eastern Front and the revolutionary chaos forced, Czar Nicholas II to abdicate.  Germany seized this opportunity to weaken the Russia war effort by sending the rabble-rouser Lenin to St. Petersburg in a sealed train.

Lenin realized that his Bolshevik party had the advantage and must seize the moment.  From the steps of the post and telegraph building, he shouted the mantra of the Marxist revolution: “Workers of the world unite! Throw off your chains. You are the vanguard of the proletariat. Today, the armed revolution has begun,  We will have peace, land, and bread.”


This is the locomotive that brought Lenin to St. Petersburg in 1917

Young Lenin

Lenin in disguise in 1917: clean-shaven and with wig

Then, much to Lenin’s chagrin, the Petrograd Soviet, with its Menshevik and Socialist majority, elects Alexander Kerensky as minister of justice and commander-in-chief of the army. In effect, Kerensky becomes the premier of the provisional government. He promises democracy, abolition of the death penalty, and a continuation of the war.


 Alexander Kerensky (1881-1970)

 The provisional government under Kerensky isolated the Czar and his family at the TsarskoeSeloPalace—about thirty miles from St. Petersburg.  And, on March 21, Kerensky placed Czar Nicholas and his family under house arrest.

 In late October, Lenin’s Bolsheviks launch the second revolution with the goal to overthrow Kerensky’s provisional government. Bolshevik troops invade the Duma of Deputies in Petrograd and arrest the top two hundred leaders, including Kerensky and Leon Trotsky.


 Leon Trotsky (1879-1940)

 On November 8, the Bolsheviks’ All-Russian Congress of Soviets elected Lenin chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars—in essence, the head of government.  Lenin pronounced, “Communism is Soviet power. “Henceforth the government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics will be totalitarian Communism.” Bolshevik commissars throughout Russia establish socialist Soviet Councils of Workers’ Deputies to govern provinces and cities. Felix Dzerzhinsky’s Cheka begins the Red Terror.

On March 3, 1918, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics signs the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, ending its participation in World War.

Lenin ruled the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for the next seven years with an iron-hand dictatorship.  His secret police, the Cheka, reigned unchecked and murdered an estimated 2,000,000 people—anyone who opposed him, or his revolutionary policies.

The Royal family was under house arrest in the “House of Special Purpose” in Ekaterinburg, Siberia,   On 17 July 1918 Lenin signed the regicide telegram that ordered his Cheka lieutenant to eliminate the Czar, the Empress and their five children and others in their entourage.

Lenin died of a massive stroke on 21st January 1924.

It’s a gloomy day in the Kremlin and Lenin sits at his desk in my historical novel St. Catherine’s Crown.  He solicits comments from his revolutionary comrades about the regicide telegram he has just drafted.   When he asks for your opinion, try to dissuade him from signing that telegram—the regicide will engender the enmity of the western nations.  May I suggest that soon afterward you skedaddle tout de suite to the nearest friendly border and seek asylum.   The Cheka has alerted its worldwide network to arrest you:  or to “terminate with prejudice.”

Post Navigation