This RAO gallery exhibit was originally part of the Hoover Institute's exhibition series.

"From there we went to the large palace infirmary. Mama, Olga, and Tatiana went to do the bandaging. Alexei and I went through all the wards and talked to almost every soldier."

--Grand Duchess Maria to her father, Emperor Nicholas, 21 September 1914

Empress Alexandra and her daughters participated actively in war work. In 1914 eighty- five hospitals and ten medical trains were established under the empress' patronage. Imperial palaces, including the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg and the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo, were transformed into military hospitals.

The empress herself, as well as the Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana, received medical training and certification as qualified nurses. They performed a variety of nursing tasks, including assisting during surgery.


Olga, Tatiana, Alexandra in nurse uniforms
Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana alongside their Mother, Empress Alexandra. All served as nurses in World War I
Grans Duke Mikhail portrait
Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich
Russian Pictorial Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

World War I exacerbated the unresolved problems of the imperial system, which eventually led to the demise of the Romanoff dynasty. With demonstrators filling the streets of Petrograd and mutiny in the armed forces, Nicholas' advisers recommended abdication as the way to save Russia.

On 2 March 1917 Emperor Nicholas II abdicated in favor of his brother Mikhail, saying, "We bequeath Our inheritance to Our brother the Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich and give him Our Blessing on his accession to the throne."

One day later Mikhail signed a manifesto which stated in part: I am firmly resolved to assume supreme power only if such is the will of our great people, who must now by universal suffrage and through their representatives in the Constituent Assembly establish a form of government and new fundamental laws of the Russian State.

For one day Mikhail entertained the futile hope of being elected by the people as ruler. This was not to be.

Learn more about the Romanov Dynasty ...