8 Nov 2017

Plan for Romanov Empire in Kiribati still alive

3:46 pm on 8 November 2017

A Russian businessman who unsuccessfully tried to revive the Romanov Empire in Kiribati says the project for his 'Alternative Russia' in the Pacific is still alive.

Anton Bakov made the comment in a long interview with Russia's investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta which is profiling candidates for the Russian presidential election in March.

Mr Bakov, a millionaire and former member of Russia's parliament, will contest the election as the leader of the Monarchist Party in a bid to succeed Vladimir Putin.

Orthodox supporter of the former Russian monarchy gather in St Petersburg

Orthodox supporter of the former Russian monarchy gather in St Petersburg Photo: RNZI

In February, the Kiribati government rejected Mr Bakov's project after the Kiribati Foreign Investment Commission carried out due diligence.

Mr Bakov had offered to invest a total of $US350 million in return for rights over three uninhabited islands in the Southern Line group.

The island of Malden was earmarked as the site for the Empire, with plans of building resorts.

The Romanov Empire was toppled a century ago during the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.

But Mr Bakov has enlisted a German noble, Prince Karl Emich of Leiningen, who is a great-great-grandson of Russia's Alexander II, to be made the new Czar.

The prince converted to the Russian Orthodox Church and assumed the name Nikolai Kirillovich in a bid to become Emperor Nicholas III.

Russian businessman Bakov plans to revive Romanov Empire in Kiribati

Photo: Twitter Imperor

Mr Bakov's proposal also involved an annual injection of $US20 million for six years into the coffers of the Kiribati government - a sum amounting to about a seventh of the annual budget.

At the time Mr Bakov claimed to have the support of President Taneti Maamau, but to his surprise the government firmly rejected this.

Looking back at the rebuff in February, Mr Bakov said the entire government approved his plan, but the opposition campaigned against it.

Mr Bakov said the president regretted the rejection and told him that "unfortunately, the people are against it".

Novaya Gazeta interviews Anton Bakov

Novaya Gazeta interviews Anton Bakov Photo: Novaya Gazeta

He said it was very difficult to negotiate with the whole people, describing Kiribati as "a superdemocratic country".

Speaking to Novaya Gazeta from the Gambia, Mr Bakov said "the project in Kiribati is not closed."

He said he thought he might return to it, but gave no time line.

In April when the deal had fallen through, he said he would sell properties in Russia and move to Kiribati.

Contacted by RNZ Pacific, the Kiribati foreign and immigration ministry is yet to say whether Mr Bakov would be allowed to settle.

The search to set up his empire had led him to among other places the Gambia where he said he was building 10km/sq of artificial islands.

He said dealing with a dictator in Gambia was in a way easier because everything was decided by one person, but that all changed when he was forced into exile late last year.

Anton Bakov and Taneti Mamau in May, 2016.

Anton Bakov and Taneti Maamau in 2016 Photo: Facebook

While Mr Bakov praised the democracy of Kiribati he expressed concern about its economy.

He said international humanitarian aid to the poorest was very corrupting, amounting to a new type of neocolonialism.

Mr Bakov's drive to create new entities goes back to the time after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the Russian Federation.

In 1993, in a local referendum the Ural Republic was created in the Sverdlovsk Region, with Mr Bakov being behind creating the Ural franc as a local currency.

The experiment, acknowledged by Moscow, was put to an end by decree by President Boris Yeltsin a few month later when the region announced elections for the new republic.

His latest project is also unlikely to get off the ground.

The revival of the Romanov Empire in Kiribati appears about as likely as him succeeding Vladimir Putin as Russia's president next year.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin Photo: RNZI

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs