The second-to-last tsar of Russia, Alexander III, was a rough 'n' tumble, gruff kind of guy, but he also had a soft side, especially when it came to his family. He was especially close to his daughter Grand Duchess Olga, with whom he shared a secret passion: pug dogs!

Of all her siblings, Olga, born in 1882, was her dad's fave. Her father loved her so much that he confided in a letter that her birth was the first happy thing that had happened to him since his own father was killed years earlier. The most like her bluff dad, not into fancy things or luxury of any sort, Olga was stubborn, but had a sweet, caring side, too. In particular, Tsar Alexander had a fondness for pug dogs. The tiny pups had been popular in Russia since the time of Catherine Great, his ancestor, who kept a whole room full of them.

A young Grand Duchess Olga. Image via Royal Collection/Wikimedia Commons.

Once, Alexander opened up an old sketchbook to show Olga his childhood musings. In her memoirs, Olga recalled:

“My father was everything to me. Immersed in work as he was, he always spared that daily half-hour. Once, my father showed me a very old album full of most exciting pen and ink sketches of an imaginary city called Mopsopolis, inhabited by Mopses. He showed it to me in secret, and I was thrilled to have him share his own childhood secrets with me.”

"Mopses" was another word for "pugs," indicating that, as a kid, the tsar had dreamt of living in a city solely populated by pugs. Sounds like a fun way to avoid ruling over an empire...

Feature image of Tsar Alexander III via Wikimedia Commons; feature image of pug via Josewiki/Wikimedia Commons.