"During several months in 1903, my mother [...] was constantly at his side in Nice"
Russian Cathedral, Nice, France
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeRussian Cathedral, Nice, France - Credit: Michel Zacharz

The latest wave of Russians to engulf the French Riviera resort of Nice is nothing new; sun-starved Muscovites and Petersburgers have been flocking to the Côte d’Azur ever since Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna first visited in 1856.

Built between 1903 and 1912 on land bequeathed by Tsar Nicholas II, the magnificent Cathédrale Saint Nicolas is still today the most visited monument in Nice. It was the first church to be designated Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia, and it is modelled on St Basil's on Red Square in Moscow. When it was finished, the church was a place of worship for Russian aristocrats while they wintered in Nice, staying either in hotels or in their palatial villas.

The 1917 Revolution changed everything. Within a matter of years it represented a refuge for the same aristocrats such as Nabokov's family, now in exile. Nowadays, it is a place for these same pre-Revolutionary Russian refugees - now third-generation residents of Nice - to take shelter from the "new Russians" who grace the Promenade des anglais.