Friday, July 18, 2008

Remembering the Romanovs

A poignant scene in Dr. Zhivago is set in the snowbound country house where the family went to escape the horrors of the Revolution. Ralph Richardson's character is reading a newspaper, probably days or weeks after the news, and says, horrified, "They've shot the Czar!" His whole world, already badly hurt, seemed to crumble with the news. Czar Nicholas II and his whole family were assassinated by the Bolsheviks ninety years ago today, July 18, 1918.

For those of us who study history academically, this is just another event. We tend to be cold-blooded about death and dying, even killing, inasmuch as everyone we read about is dead. How they died tends to draw less attention than what they did in life.

It is easy to swallow whole whatever narrative we have been fed without examining the source. And history has not been kind to Nicholas II. Books and movies have advanced a romantic, even noble image of the Romanovs, but the historical narrative depicts him as isolated, detached, ineffectual. The image of Rasputin and the sharp contrast of imperial luxury stand in sharp contrast to the grinding poverty and oppression of millions of their subjects. The Revolution, of course, would prove to be one of history's mammoth failures, but ninety years ago it seemed as inevitable as the birth of a baby. Among millions of lives lost at the time the loss of a single family, even a royal family, becomes only a footnote. Stalin famously said, "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic."

The execution of a king is irreversable. Less than thirty years later Mussolini and his mistress would be publically hanged in Italy and in recent history Saddam Hussein met the same end.

But this narrative has never been bought by lots of Russians. I was surprised to come across in my reading tonight the commemoration of the assassination of Nicholas II and his family by thousands, perhaps millions of Russians who ragard him with honor and affection. This is a footnote to contemporary history overlooked by American news reporting.

Andrew Cusack points out that members of the Imperial family have been canonized by the Russian Orthodox church. Accordingly, this day, the anniversary of their murders, is the time they are venerated.

Christians in Russia yesterday solemnly remembered the brutal killing of the country’s Imperial Family by the Bolshevik revolutionaries 90 years earlier. Tsar Nicholas II, the Tsarina Alexandra, their daughters the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, and the Tsarevich Alexei have all been added to the canon of saints of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Imperial Family were first officially recognized as saints by the Russian Orthodox Church outside the Soviet Union in 1981, and the Moscow patriarchate extended the same recognition in 2000.

Checking You Tube I found scores of videos connected with these events, including one put up today with this anti-semitic message:

u tube removed this vid i am posting again... Jewish Murderers Of The Russian Revolution The third Revolution was the Bolshevik uprising in Russia, of which this treatise focuses. The Bolshevik Revolution was financed by Jewish bankers, led by Jacob H Schiff of the Jewish Banking house, Kuhn, Loeb Co. Jews gained prominent roles in the Soviet government.IN THE DARK NIGHT OF JULY 16 1918, Tzar Nicholas II and his pious Christian family were shot and bayoneted in cold blood by these Cheka Jews...

...which he lists by name along with links to a string of other sites.

There is also Frozen Tears, sub-titled A Media Memorial to The Last Russian Imperial Family, The Romanovs. had been in the making for five years before becoming available online in 2005. Wanting to give those who follow the Romanov Saga a different way to express, share and show their appreciation for the Last Imperial Family of Russia. What we have to offer here is a bit different from your usual Romanov website. The main focus of is to bring the unavailable, available.

Who would guess that the fall of the Soviet Union would uncover this measure of nostalgia for Imperial Russia? Old habits and ideas may change, but they never really go away.

As I reflect on these events I have to wonder to what extent our own culture and history conceals ideas and memories we imagine are buried. I can assure the reader that in today's "New South" the roots of racism remain deep, strong and well-nourished. It isn't politically correct to talk about it openly, but foundations that we want to believe have been rebuilt have in reality only been painted over.

And you can believe it when I say the prospect of a President Obama is anathema to lots of otherwise well-intentioned Americans, South and North. The dog whistles are blowing and I hear them loud and clear. Places like David Neiwert's blog and the Southern Poverty Law Center are keeping up.

Howard Dean addressed Netroots nation yesterday and said it well. The torch is being passed to the next generation. Sara Robinson described it last week. If the country is to move ahead to reclaim its lost moral authority, it will be up to the next generation.

1 comment:

Hoots said...

Jill Fallon also has a post about these events.
A Defining Event on the 90th Anniversary of the Execution of the Romanovs

She underscores an important point, that the cultural significance of these events is as important as the spiritual dimension. The execution of the family was a political event. Russia had made a clean break with its monarchical, and Christian, past... The age of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" and of anti-Christian state atheism had begun.

But those victims as martyrs, later to become saints, now have a victory. Struggles between spiritual and temporal forces leave temporal forces at a disadvantage.