Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia - Arrest


Michael returned to Gatchina, and was not permitted to return to his unit or travel beyond the Petrograd area. On 5 April 1917, he was discharged from military service. By July, Prince Lvov had resigned as Prime Minister to be replaced by Alexander Kerensky, who ordered ex-Emperor Nicholas removed from Petrograd to Tobolsk in the Urals because it was "some remote place, some quiet corner, where they would attract less attention". On the eve of Nicholas's departure, Kerensky gave permission for Michael to visit him. Kerensky remained present during the meeting, and the brothers exchanged awkward pleasantries "fidgeting all the while, and sometimes one would take hold of the other's hand or the buttons of his uniform". It was the last time they would ever see each other.

On 21 August 1917, guards surrounded the villa on Nikolaevskaya street where Michael was living with Natalia. On the orders of Kerensky, they were both under house arrest, along with Nicholas Johnson, who had been Michael's secretary since December 1912. A week later, they were moved to an apartment in Petrograd. Michael's stomach problems worsened, and with the intervention of British ambassador Buchanan and foreign minister Mikhail Tereshchenko, they were moved back to Gatchina in the first week of September. Tereschenko told Buchanan that the Dowager Empress would be allowed to leave the country, for England if she wished, and that Michael would follow in due course. The British, however, were not prepared to accept any Russian Grand Duke for fear it would provoke a bad public reaction in Britain, where there was little sympathy for the Romanovs.

On 1 September 1917, Kerensky declared Russia a republic. Michael wrote in his diary: "We woke up this morning to hear Russia declared a Republic. What does it matter which form the government will be as long as there is order and justice?" Two weeks later, Michael's house arrest was lifted. Kerensky had armed the Bolsheviks after a power struggle with the commander-in-chief, and in October there was a second revolution as the Bolsheviks seized power from Kerensky. With a permit to travel issued by Peter Polotsov, a former colleague of Michael's from the Savage Division who was now a commander in Petrograd, Michael planned to move his family to the greater safety of Finland. They packed valuables and prepared to move, but their preparations were seen by Bolshevik sympathisers and they were placed once more under house arrest. The last of Michael's cars were seized by the Bolsheviks.

The house arrest was lifted again in November, and the Constituent Assembly was elected and met in January 1918. Despite being the minority party, the Bolsheviks dissolved it. On 3 March 1918 (N.S.), the Bolshevik government signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which effectively ceded vast areas of the former Russian Empire to the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. On 7 March 1918, Michael and his secretary Nicholas Johnson were re-arrested on the orders of Moisei Uritsky, the Head of the Petrograd secret police, and imprisoned at the Bolshevik headquarters in the Smolny Institute.

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