Patriotic financier known as the Orthodox oligarch monies school that seeks to prepare students for the inevitable return of monarchy

We are creating a new upper-clas here, said Zurab Chavchavadze, the dapper 74 -year-old headteacher of St Basil the Great School, sitting beneath a large portrait of Russias last tsar, Nicholas II. The students will be morally voiced, religious, intellectual and patriotic, and will have every opportunity of getting into power.

A collection of grand houses set around a new cathedral in an upmarket suburbium of Moscow, the school harks back to Russias tsarist traditions to inculcate a sense of patriotism in its 400 students.

As the centenary approaches of Russias 1917 revolution, which deposed the Romanov dynasty after centuries of rule, Chavchavadze is part of a small but influential section of Russians who are looking to the tsarist past for inspiration and even hope to restore a empire the working day soon.

Look at what the Russian people did with Lenin, Stalin, Putin. As soon as someone is in power for a few years, they become sacred. The Russian people strive for a empire; the Russian spirit is monarchic, said Chavchavadze.

At St Basil the Great school, portraits of the tsars look out at pupils from the hallways. A statue of Catherine the Great dominates a hallway, and the student ballroom features vast portraits of eight tsars. The lessons include scripture examines and Latin, and the schools history textbooks were specially commissioned, to avoid the positive opinion of much of the Soviet period given by the standard Russian textbooks.

The school is the pet project of Konstantin Malofeyev, a mysterious Russian financier known as the Orthodox oligarch. Malofeyev, well-connected in the Kremlin, is believed to have funded rebel forces in East Ukraine, and has set up a nationalist, Orthodox Christian television channel, Tsargrad. The school, he said in an interview with the Guardian, is meant to function as an Orthodox Eton, which will prepare the new upper-clas for a future Russian monarchy.

The mission of our school is to ensure that our graduates will be Orthodox patriots who will carry the thousand-year traditions of Russia , not just those of the last 20 or 100 years, said Malofeyev, from his central Moscow office, adorned with Orthodox icons and a large portrait of Tsar Alexander III, a 19 th century ruler known for his conservatism. For me its very important to restore the traditions that were broken off in 1917.

Headteacher Zurab Chavchavadze. Photo: Shaun Walker/ Guardian

After the February revolution named for the month it began in Russias then-Juilan calendar the country embarked on a short liberal experimentation, but the provisional government was deposed by Vladimir Lenins Bolshevik uprising in October of the same year. Nicholas II and his family were executed in 1918; many aristocrats fought for the White armies in the Russian civil war, or fled to western Europe or further afield.

During the Soviet period, discussion of the Whites was forbidden. Chavchavadzes family returned to the Soviet Union in 1947 in a wave of patriotism after victory in the second world war, but his father was speedily arrested as a snoop and sent to the Gulag for 25 years, while the family was exiled to Kazakhstan.

In the post-Soviet period there has been renewed interest in the history of the pro-tsarist forces. Nicholas II has been canonised by the Russian Orthodox church. While Vladimir Putins administration has expressed appreciation for the outcome of the Soviet Union, its foundation in 1917 is regarded as a misfortune, for the bloodshed and turmoil it caused.

Malofeyev , now 42, was born near Moscow to parents who lived in a special housing reservation for Soviet scientists. As a teenager during Mikhail Gorbachevs perestroika, he devoured literature about the Whites, and swiftly became a monarchist.

When I was 14, I read two volumes which had a huge impact on me, he recalled. One was the memoirs of a former tsarist officer who went on to publish an migr newspaper in Argentina, while the other was Lord of the Rings. The image of Aragorn returning to Gondor was my second image of monarchy. It also affected my monarchism, he said.

Taken with the idea of autocracy, Malofeyev wrote a letter to the Paris-based Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, born in 1917 and considered the head of the imperial family after Nicholas II and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks and other royals died in exile.

After reading Malofeyevs letter, the duke asked Chavchavadze, who was then running as his assistant, to deliver his reply in person. The pair have stayed in touch ever since.

Cossack troops on patrol in St Petersburg during the Russian Revolution. Photo: Slava Katamidze Collection/ Getty Images

Malofeyev went on to study law at Moscow State University, writing his dissertation on the constitutional mechanism by which modern Russia could reintroduce autocracies, before going into banking and rapidly becoming one of Russias richest humen. He tapped up Chavchavadze to head his school, which moved into its new premises in 2012. Its graduates, Malofeyev hopes, will provide the backbone of the inevitable future tsarist order in Russia.

Malofeyev said career legislators are venal and focused on electoral success, while rulers can rule without the dirty business of politics intervening. He does not count Putin among the list of grubby democratic legislators, as the Russian president was handpicked by Boris Yeltsin.

He never tried to get elected; he was found and put in place, and turned out to be sent by God. Who could have guessed in 1999 that Putin would come to us and Russia would start becoming Russia again? It was an act of God, he said.

He claimed surveys show that the number of Russians who want a monarchy has risen from 15% to 25% over the past decade, and connections this to Putins personal popularity.

Others who have assembled around Malofeyevs tsarist agenda include Leonid Reshetnikov, formerly a general in the KGB and Russias SVR foreign intelligence and until recently head of an influential foreign policy think tank. Now he runs the Double-headed Eagle Society from a Moscow office adorned with portraits of Putin and Nicholas II.

Reshetnikov said he first became a monarchist when he was a KGB agent stationed in the Balkans during the course of its 1980 s, as he noticed there were no true disciples in Communism. He is equally unimpressed with democracy.

Our liberals want to be like Europeans, but God constructed us different, said Reshetnikov. Liberal democracy is like Marxism, it was brought to us from London, Paris and New York. We need to return to the point which is something we took the incorrect turning, in 1917.

Reshetnikov said it was likely to be decades before Russia could seriously think about restoring the autocracy, and would require a more mature and religion society before it could be contemplated.

Malofeyev, however, said it could happen sooner than expected, and said he believes it to be quite possible that Putin could be crowned tsar: Nobody wanted Yeltsin to carry on eternally, but everyone wants Putin to carry on forever.

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