Group Descriptions

Academia

Members:

Alexander Kolchak

S. Kovalevsk(aya/y)

Y. Breshko

A. Kerenski

V. Figner

Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Romanova

V. Kovalevsk(y/aya)

B. Savinkov(a)

This is an exciting time for science! So many new ideas, theories, concepts are being formed at the same time. The sciences are international, which means that you may have met halfway across Europe, in Zurich or Stockholm, and you have colleagues from a dozen countries. It’s not unusual for Russian families to send their children to study abroad, helping you absorb much of the latest thinking.

Embarrassing as it is to admit, Russia as a whole is not a haven of enlightenment. Academic freedom often gets challenged, especially by the conservative forces in power, people such as the heir to the throne O. Romanov(a). Conservatives believe universities are dangerous, and it is true that many students take part in revolutionary activities. Many believe severe restrictions should be imposed on the students and professors in the universities as a part of the state’s policy of conspiracy prevention and elimination of revolutionary ideas.

All is not doom and gloom, however. The characters in this group belong to a salon, one of the most exclusive clubs in St Petersburg.

A wonderful collection of likeminded individuals who gather to explore intellectual topics together and share their own writing! That’s what Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Romanova’s salon is all about, at least officially. 

The gatherings are extremely intimate, occurring in the bedroom, where the salonnière will lay on her bed and guests will sit around the room, taking part in delightful, intellectual discourse.

The sheer idea of a salon which will mix different social ranks and orders, as well as encourage socializing between the sexes and brings nobles and bourgeois together, is of course a scandalous and sinful one. Yet, Yelizaveta Romanova claims that breaking down social barriers in a controlled way will make enlightenment possible.

Everyone who is accepted in the salon will promise to follow the rules. 

1. A member shall only speak the truth. They will answer truthfully to any question the other members should ask, be it during a gathering or elsewhere. They may not leave a question unanswered. If they do not know the answer, they will, at the first possible moment, investigate the matter and give the answer. 

2. A member shall always assist another member in their work, no matter how extraordinary that work might be. Members are not to abuse this commitment, neither should they ever hesitate to ask for help. 

3. Members shall provide each other scholastic sanctuary. If a member is in danger, they can always seek help from other members, and they will be granted asylum. 

At the larp: You all know that the deepest questions of the soul are beyond understanding. It’s one of the paradoxes of life that sometimes a common peasant might understand God’s plan better than the most enlightened and learned individuals. Still, when confronted by the inexplicable, you may find yourselves seeking sanctuary in each other’s company.

Army

Members:

Grand Duchess/Duke O. Romanov(a)

Grand Duke Nicholai Romanov

Grand Duke Peter Romanov

Alexander Kolchak

Maria “Yashka” Bochkareva

V. Vereshchagin

Elder V

Elder K

The army is one of the pillars supporting the power of the Czar. Smarting from the defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, desperately in need of being modernized, paranoid of the flames of revolution rising from its own ranks, the army is a massive institution. At its height, the Imperial Russian Army has had over a million soldiers.

You have all experienced army life in one way or another. Veterans recognize each other and there are losses to commiserate and victories to celebrate. Military experience unites people, giving the feeling of something shared beyond limits of nationality or language. The terrible defeat against the Japanese may even have caused some lasting doubt about the infallibility of the Czar…

Still, class is very present in the army too. Officers are officers and soldiers are soldiers. They come from wildly different backgrounds, often creating situations where an officer drawn from the nobility has no understanding of the peasants serving under them. This is particularly the case with the Romanovs. They’re given sparkling military careers yet avoid serving on the front. What do you think about this?

At the larp: War tests everybody’s spiritual convictions. How can God allow this? Am I a good person if I follow the order to kill? How to navigate questions of sin and redemption in circumstances no better than hell on earth? Fortunately, you’re not alone with these questions. You have your fellow army veterans with you.

Artists

Members:

Grand Duchess/Duke M. Romanov(a)

Prince Felix Yusupov

M. Kschessinsk(aya/y)

Zinaida Gippius

Dmitry Merezhkovsky

L. Casati

Y. Azef

I. Kalyayev(a)

M. Fokin

V. Vereshchagin

Elder A

The art of 1913 pushes the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo. Realistic portrayal of life doesn’t satisfy artists any longer. Search for new forms of artistic expression produces an artistic revolution every few years.

Symbolism! Modernism! Neo-Primitivism! Impressionism! Cubism! Fauvism! Cubo-Futurism! Acmeism! Zaum!

To make an impact, an artist must be experimental, radical, and unorthodox with respect to art, culture, and society.

The spirit of fin de siècle, turn of the century, is still strong. Artists are enthralled about the closing of one era and the onset of another: a period of degeneracy but at the same time a period of hope for a new beginning.

The artists and their patrons celebrate ennui, cynicism, pessimism, and a widespread belief that civilization leads to decadence.

Poetry speaks of femmes fatales and fleshly indulgence; painting depicts twilights and satanic beasts; dance expresses the nervous tension and febrile energy of the Silver Age.

The Stray Dog Café is the best known art salon in St Petersburg, a meeting place for writers, poets, dancers, and other artists who gather to discuss theories of literature, give poetry readings, and perform theatre. They consider themselves “stray dogs” shunted aside by proper aristocratic society. And indeed, the place has been shut down by the authorities several times, sometimes because of licentious performances, other times because the owners were accused of running an opium den. (Both accusations are true.)

While smoking opium and sipping flavored vodka, the artists and likeminded friends debate topics such as “Should an artist serve their country or the other way round?”, “Should Russian art be part of the European art movement or should it develop something completely original?” and “How to make art more dangerous?”. 

Many are of the opinion that if the artist has not been sent to exile at least once, their art is not ground-breaking. Colleagues gladly give advice on how the art could be made more interesting.

Of course, art should be dangerous the right way. The artist should aim on something that will make the conservatives furious and the patrons happy. 

At the larp: You may have different perspectives on why you need redemption through sin but you’re not surprised to see each other here. The trouble is that once you look at eternity, your facade may fall away and your carefully constructed public image may be compromised by the fear that you haven’t sinned enough.

The Elite

Members:

Empress Alexandra Romanova

Grand Duchess/Duke O. Romanov(a)

Grand Duchess/Duke T. Romanov(a)

Grand Duchess/Duke M. Romanov(a)

Princess Olga Paley

Princess Milica of Montenegro

Grand Duke Nicholai Romanov

Grand Duke Peter Romanov

Prince Felix Yusupov

M. Kschessinsk(aya/y)

Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Romanova

Princess Anastasia of Montenegro

M. Paléologue

P. Rachkovsk(y/aja)

The Elite consists of the most high-born and richest members of nobility in Russia, together with their closest friends, lovers and trustees. Russia has almost two million nobles but only a tiny fraction is truly part of the St Petersburg elite. These are people even illiterate Siberian peasants have heard of – true celebrities who are recognized in every city and who can’t travel or even take a ride in St Petersburg without people gathering to stare and whisper. This is also the reason why the elite mostly socializes among themselves. 

The Romanovs’ wealth is like no other family that has ever lived.

Their net worth in today’s terms is 250–300 billion dollars – making Tsar Nicholai II richer than the top twenty Russian billionaires of the 21st century combined. 

But whereas Romanov wealth is that of their family, the single richest person in Russia is Prince Felix Yusupov. 

The Elite lives in absolute luxury. They have their choice of glitzy palaces – places like Peterhof, with its spectacular gold fountains; the vast Winter Palace on the banks of the River Neva; the Catherine Palace, where there is a room with walls covered in real amber.

Their clothes are made by French couturiers, while their shoes and hats come from top London designers and their perfumes are handmade. Baskets of flowers are delivered every day from the South of France and the palaces have all the mod cons of the day including a lift and a screening room in which they can watch the latest films.

They travel on private trains that are as comfortable as any palace and they go sailing on superyachts with mahogany-panelled rooms, crystal chandeliers and their own chapels. Their lives are filled with society balls, and lavish tours of European capitals with an entourage in tow.

Perhaps the most famous example of the Romanovs’ wealth is the fabulous, jewelled Easter eggs they commission Fabergé to create each year. The one Czar Nicholai II gave to his mother last year was made of gold and platinum studded with 1,660 diamonds on the outside and another 1,378 in a little basket hidden inside.

The Elite tries to raise their children to be respectful to others and to live a life of duty. Boasting about wealth can be extremely dangerous. For example, far from having their father’s coffers at their disposal to buy all the jewels their hearts desired, the Romanov girls were given a solitary pearl on each birthday so that they would have enough for a necklace by the age of 16. Sometimes these maneuvers help. Often – not. 

Forbidden cartoons mock the filthy rich elite, showing them gorging on caviar and lobster and lighting cigars with hundred-rouble notes while their people starve. Many members of the Elite think this is outrageous. Common people admire them for their wealth!

Both wealth and status come from God.

Most of the Elite believe that God has in his wisdom prescribed the world order so that there are those who rule and those who serve. The Elite has the God-given right to rule over the common people, but it is also their duty to take care of them. The common people have been born to serve the Elite, and through them, the Empire and God.  

At the same time, they understand that if common people would know the whole truth about the kind of life many of them live and about all the lechery and dissipation, revolution would be immediate. Some believe this is a reason to keep things private, while others think it’s not their duty to hide who they are – if people are unsatisfied, the army will surely take care of that.

At the larp: All the members of the Elite know that the conditions they will enter with the Followers require sacrifices such as adapting into extremely modest conditions. They have all accepted that and think a few days in ascetic conditions is a fair deal if in return you get redeemed.

The Inner Circle

Members:

Maria “Yashka” Bochkareva

Georgy Gapon

D. Brilliant

G. Rasputin(a)

Elder A

Elder V

Elder M

Elder K

Elder S

The Followers of Christ’s Faith have an inner circle of the most dedicated members, those who have put a lot of effort into improving their own spiritual standing as well as that of their peers. The inner circle is not an official group within the Followers. After all, the sect doesn’t believe in hierarchies that would separate people from God. Rather, the inner circle is an informal grouping where all members know each other.

As members of the inner circle, you have all prayed together, sinned together and debated theology together. It’s in the nature of the Followers that all local congregations are a bit different and members often take a creative approach to interpreting God’s will. After all, it’s not enough to hear it from a priest. You have to know it’s true deep in your heart.

Running a sect like the Followers is not without it’s everyday issues and you’ve all shared those, whether it’s been the danger of police infiltration, disgruntled members turning informants or prospective members who are not sufficiently interested in the spiritual work you do and just want to get laid. Still, when you do God’s work you have to be patient!

At the Larp: You’re very happy. Your spiritual work is moving to the next level. At the end it doesn’t matter whether someone is the Czar or a peasant, their souls need your help all the same. Still, you’re not quite so unworldly that you wouldn’t realize how helpful it is for the spread of your ideas to have distinguished members.

Occultists

Members:

Empress Alexandra Romanova

Princess Milica of Montenegro

Grand Duke Nicholai Romanov

Grand Duke Peter Romanov

L. Casati

Dmitry Merezhkovsky

Princess Anastasia of Montenegro

S. Bluvstein

N. A. Philippe

G. Rasputin(a)

V. Kovalevsk(y/aya)

M. Paléologue

Elder S

Spiritual questions are extremely fashionable among the St Petersburg elite and across Europe. The thought of being able to contact the dead in special seances, to summon creatures from the beyond… It’s extremely exciting!

Occultism mixes together genuine spiritual and philosophical questions, taboo-breaking, the real emotional need to talk to deceased loved ones and the excitement of an intense ritual. Some might wonder if the experience is really real, but that feels trivial compared to how thrilling it is to contact the dead!

You have all shared private, transgressive and spiritually meaningful experiences together. You may have differing opinions about what it all means but you have also sat around a table holding hands, seeing things that you can’t quite explain.

At the Larp: You’re moving to a deeper level of truth than anything you’ve ever attained before. You’ve been on a spiritual journey for some time now but with the Followers, it feels like this is not just about spirits or seances… This is about your own soul. Your final fate!

Paris

Members:

Grand Duchess/Duke T. Romanov(a)

Princess Olga Paley

Prince Felix Yusupov

M. Kschessinsk(aya/y)

Zinaida Gippius

Dmitry Merezhkovsky

L. Casati

S. Kovalevsk(aya/y)

Y. Azef

Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Romanova

Princess Anastasia of Montenegro

S. Bluvstein

N. A. Philippe

M. Fokin

V. Kovalevsk(y/aya)

M. Paléologue

P. Rachkovsk(y/aja)

There’s a big Russian expatriate community living in Paris, so big that sometimes it feels like you can get by just speaking Russian everywhere you go. When a Russian member of the upper classes is exiled or decides to leave the country, odds are they end up in Paris.

There are Russian nobility, artists, revolutionaries and cranks, all rubbing shoulders in the cafes of the City of Light. Some know that they will never return while many nurture dreams of how they’d like to shape the future of Russia.

The expatriate community may be large but it’s still small enough that you all know each other. You’ve been to the same restaurants, salons, parties and plays. You know what it means to miss your homeland so terribly that it makes your heart weep even as you drink vodka on the banks of the Seine.

At the Larp: France may be the center of European cultural life, of a thousand beautiful refinements, but when you want to confront real spiritual truths, the deep stuff that shapes your soul on its journey to its final fate, this is where it’s at. In the deep strata of Russian faith.

Revolutionaries

Members:

Y. Breshko

A. Kerenski

R. Zemlyachka

V. Figner

Y. Azef

I. Kalyayev(a)

S. Bluvstein

Georgy Gapon

B. Savinkov(a)

D. Brilliant

Elder M

The Czar must fall. The revolutionaries range from politicians who advocate for democratic government and peaceful change to bomb-throwing desperadoes who are always only one step ahead of the Okhrana. Many of the revolutionaries have organized around the Socialist Revolutionary Party, which seeks to bring power to the people in Russia.

Adjacent to the Party is it’s infamous Combat Organization, the source of nightmares for aristocrats, governors and the very rich. It’s a clandestine, secret terrorist group seeking to end Czarist rule through violent means.

Life among the revolutionaries is a strange mix of paranoia and comradeship. You’re all in this together, seeking to make Russia into a better place and emancipate it’s people. You sing songs of freedom together, but then you also know that anybody could be an Okhrana informant and only strict information control will prevent the entire revolution from being compromised.

Some of the revolutionaries want to bring down the Russian establishment by the simple means of assassinating those they find guilty of oppression. Being a terrorist means that they could be arrested any day, thanks to an elaborate network of spies and informers. Many have been arrested. 

The first attempt was to blow up the Czar’s train as he returned from his summer holiday. The conspirators successfully mined the railway line at three places on the route. Alas, the Tsar’s train chose another route.

The second attempt also aimed at blowing up the Czar’s train. This time the Czar came on the expected route, but there was a faulty connection somewhere. The bomb did not explode.

The third attempt at mining the railway tracks was more successful, in the sense that the Czar’s train travelled on the expected route and the bomb went off, but they blew up the wrong train.

The fourth attempt at blowing up the Czar’s train failed because the main perpetrator turned up late. He did not have a watch.

At the Larp: It’s bizarre to be in the same room with so many of the people you hate! There’s so much bad blood between you and the elites who leech the country dry. Yet this is about something even more important: Your everlasting soul. The revolution will continue after you have sought redemption here.

A Note About the Okhrana:

The Okhrana uses multiple methods, including covert operations, undercover agents, and “perlustration”—the reading of private correspondence. They try to compromise the labour movement by setting up zubatovshchina, police-run trade unions. They want to gather all revolutionaries and make sure they are neutralized. 

Okhrana’s new boss P. Rachkovsk(y/aya), who works closely with the heir to the throne O. Romanov(a), wants to harass the known revolutionists and get them out of the capital. 

During an expulsion, homes were surrounded by mounted Cossacks in the middle of the night while policemen ransacked every house. In January, in a temperature of 30 degrees below zero, Vitebsk train station was packed with suspected revolutionaries of all ages and sexes, all in rags and surrounded by meager remnants of household goods, all to be deported.