The Society of Fraternal Aid was established in response to the outbreak of the First World War in the Russian Empire. To inspire members of the public to participate in charity work, the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, third daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, was made honorary head of the organization. She was very interested in the welfare of soldiers and families. Also patron of several hospitals, she spent much of her teenage years visiting the wounded, writing them letters, and assembling care packages for the front. Additionally she spent much of her life visiting orphanages. For the Grand Duchess's 17th birthday, medallions bearing her cipher were curated and approved for distribution by the Society to its contributors. At the height of its existence, the Society of Fraternal Aid provided officers, soldiers, their families, widows, and orphans with food, clothing, and monetary assistance. In addition it found many of these survivors placement in boarding schools, almshouses, and arranged new occupations for them. Few documents survive about the Society. The following is what little is on record and available to the public.
A translation of an excerpt of the original Society charter can be viewed here.
Officers' Boarding House
The Society created a permanent boarding house for wounded officers that included two factories made up of bookbinding and shoemaking cooperatives. This building was paid for in part by one ruble donations from the generous people of St. Petersburg. The Officers' Boarding House was established at house 16 on Liteiny Avenue in St. Petersburg. It still stands today, having survived the September 1941 bombings that severely damaged its exterior. It has been renovated and is now a modern apartment block.
See period photos and learn more about the Officers' Boarding House here.
Saint Sergei Monastery & Hospital
The Coastal Monastery of St. Sergei just outside St. Petersburg was responsible for the care of wounded and sick soldiers and their families. It oversaw a Red Cross hospital under the patronage of Grand Duchess Maria. They fundraised for the infirmary through charity auctions of jewelry and other items. St. Sergei's is well known in Russia for the notable people through history who have been interred on the grounds. Unfortunately much of the property - including the cemetery - was uprooted during Soviet times to serve as a labor camp.
See period photos and learn more about St. Sergei's here.
Other Cultural Impacts
In addition to Church participation, the Society of Fraternal Aid published music. Written and composed by Baroness Mikhailova (née Tom), the "Hymn to Soldiers" was released in 1916 as part of awareness and fundraising efforts.
On the 13th of February 1917, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (Grand Duchess Maria's aunt) pledged, "to subscribe as a member and deposit 500 rubles for ever and ever." It is the last record of official business of the Society prior to the Revolution. Grand Duchess Maria herself unofficially continued correspondences with soldiers for the rest of her life. She was killed with her family on the 17th of July, 1918.