QUEEN Elizabeth II turned her back on royal scandals at home during a historic visit to Russia this week, determined not to let the already bruised monarchy's image further deteriorate abroad.
Looking regal in a diamond tiara and mink coat, the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, and Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd on Oct. 17 attended an evening performance of the ballet Giselle at the Bolshoi Theater, sitting with President Boris Yeltsin in the box that traditionally was reserved for the czar.
The gesture was a signal that the British royal family has forgiven the country that killed its last czar, Nicholas II, and his family in 1918. The Romanovs were the queen's distant cousins.
"For Russia, this visit is the utmost recognition that our country is on the road to democracy," said President Yeltsin, whose shaky reputation at home may get a boost from the queen's highly publicized trip.
But in an unforeseen snub, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who next week faces a no-confidence vote in his government, did not return as planned from a Black Sea holiday to welcome the monarch.
And Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, apparently miffed by Britain's cool attitude to his diplomatic initiative in Iraq, did not return from New York to meet his British counterpart, Douglas Hurd.
The queen's four-day visit, designed to help Britain reconcile with Russia following decades of cold war hostility, marks the first time a reigning British monarch has set foot on Russian soil.
When Edward VII made the only previous state visit to what was then the Russian empire in 1908, he never stepped ashore, meeting Nicholas II instead on royal yachts off the Baltic port of what is now Tallinn. …