Last national of Russian Empire dies in Paris

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Russia’s oldest ‘first-wave’ emigrant has died in Paris after a long fight against illness. Andrey Shmeman, who was 88, was among those who fled during the country’s civil war after the October Revolution of 1917.

He spent most of his life as a military instructor, who raised Russian youth abroad in the tradition of the Motherland’s army officers as they had been before 1917.

He was head of the Association of Emperor Nicholas II Cadets and a member of the Russian Royal Guards Association. He carefully preserved the traditions of tsarist Russia’s officers and collected unique relics and documents on the history of the country’s emigration.

Shmeman was one of two twin brothers born on September 13, 1921, in Tallinn (in those years called Revel) in Estonia.

Their father, Dmitry, had been an officer with the Russian Life Guards Semyonovsky regiment until the October Revolution. That was one of the two oldest regiments in Russia, set up by the young tsar Peter the Great.

In 1929 the Shmemans emigrated to France. In 1930 Andrey was sent to Emperor Nicholas II's Cadet Corps in Versailles and graduated in 1939.

Instructors in that corps were selected among emigrant officers of the tsarist Russian Army. They inculcated the trademark Russian officers' intelligence and love for their remote but not lost Motherland into their minds.

Neither Andrey nor his parents ever applied for French citizenship. He lived with a so-called Nansen Passport, a temporary identity card for stateless refugees.

The passports were introduced by the League of Nations in 1922 on the basis of the Geneva Agreements. But in 2004, then Russian president, Vladimir Putin, handed a Russian passport to Shmeman and thanked him for helping maintain Russian national traditions.