Why Did the Last Tsar's Favourite Motorcar Sport a Swastika?

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Originally appeared at: tsarnicholas.org
PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II’s favourite Delaunay-Belleville motorcar, sporting a left-facing swastika (counter clockwise) on the hood. Tsarskoye Selo 1913

The swastika symbol is an ancient religious symbol in various Eurasian cultures, now also widely recognized for its appropriation by the Nazi Party and by neo-Nazis. It continues to be used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It generally takes the form of a cross, the arms of which are of equal length and perpendicular to the adjacent arms, each bent midway at a right angle.

In the 1930s the German Nazi Party adopted a right-facing (clockwise) form and used it as an emblem of the Aryan race. As a result of World War II and the Holocaust, in the West it continues to be strongly associated with Nazism, anti-Semitism, white supremacism, or simply evil.

In 19th century Russia, however, the swastika had a completely different meaning. The left-facing swastika (counter clockwise) swastika, best described as a “sacred solar cross”, was adopted as a symbol of the Russian Empire. In the years before the Russian Revolution, it was used on the facades of houses, depicted on icons, clothes and dinner plates, as well as Emperor Nicholas II’s favourite motorcar.

PHOTO: the last diary [1917] of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, was embroidered with a left-facing swastika (counter clockwise)

In addition, the left-facing swastika (counter clockwise) was a favourite symbol of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. She wore a talisman in the form of a swastika, wearing it everywhere for happiness, including on her letters from Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg. In a letter dated 16 December 1917 to Anna Vyrubova, she wrote: “Always to be recognized by my sign 卐.”

According to Vladimir Kozlov & Vladimir Krustalev, in her 1917 diary, Alexandra noted the anniversary of a person’s death with a swastika. In Sanskrit, svastika means “well-being”. When her daughter, Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna gave her mother the little notebook in which the diary was kept, she embroidered a swastika on the cloth cover [depicted in the photo above] she made for it.[1]

In settling in her room in the Ipatiev House at Ekaterinburg, Alexandra inscribed a swastika on a window frame, followed by the date 17 [N.S. 30] April 1917, and another swastika on the wall over her bed.

In addition, investigator Nikolai Sokolov, who investigated the murder of the Imperial family, suggested that persons from the Emperor’s entourage were part of a secret organization. According to him, in their correspondence, among other things, they used the swastika.


[1] Ed. Vladimir Kozlov & Vladimir Krustalev. The Last Diary of Tsarista Alexandra. Yale University Press, 1997

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