Born on 15 November [O.S. 3 November] 1895 in St. Petersburg, Russia, Olga Nikolaevna or Ольга Николаевна in Russian was the eldest child of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra of Russia; Nicholas was the last Tsar of Russia as he was forced to abdicate when the Bolsheviks came to power. Olga was born in Alexander Palace and was styled as Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna. Her title in Russian is directly translated to English as Grand Princess, but the common translation has been Grand Duchess.
Olga was known to have the nicknames of “Olishka”, “Olenka” or “Olya” throughout her childhood; she was also known to have a compassionate, temperamental and blunt personality. She loved to help others, but she was not one to hold her tongue with her thoughts. An example of this was when she, as a very young child, was posing for an artist who was painting her portrait. She grew impatient and reportedly said,”You are a very ugly man, and I don’t like you one bit!”
Olga was joined by several siblings: Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna (b. 1897), Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna (b. 1899), Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna (b. 1901) and Nicholas’s heir, Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich (b. 1904).
Her life would not be very long as her father was forced to abdicate as World War One was etching closer to its end; the Russian Revolution of 1917 that forced the abdication led to the family’s imprisonment and eventual assassination. Olga was only 22-years-old at the time of her death. She was shot and stabbed several times by Bolshevik assassins on 17 July 1918 in the basement of the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg.
Her body was later found after several decades, and a DNA test verified that the body was Grand Duchess Olga’s. She was laid to rest, along with her parents and two of her sisters, on 17 July 1998 in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Since her death, she and members of her family were canonised as saints in the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000. Decades earlier they had been canonised as holy martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.