Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Tragedy of the Romanovs, 100 Years On

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the murder of the Romanow family in the Ural city of Yekaterinburg, Russia.

The photograph above shows the Romanovs, the last imperial family of Russia, in 1913, the year of the Romanov Tercentenary; while the image at right shows the 2003 consecration of the Church on Blood in Honor of All Saints in Yekaterinburg. This church is built upon the site of the infamous Ipatiev House – the place of imprisonment and execution of the Romanovs.

After Tsar Nicholas II's abdication in March 1917, the imperial family were held captive in Russia – first by the Provisional Government and then, after the October Revolution, by the Bolshevik regime. The family included Nicholas, his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and their five children – the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, and the Tsarevich Alexei.

One of the things that draws me to the Romanovs' story is how through their responses of fortitude and love during the months of imprisonment leading up to their murder, they came to perceive more clearly the strengthening and transforming presence of God. This resulted decades later in their canonization as passion bearers by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Virginia Cowles in her book, The Romanovs, encapsulates this period of the family's life beautifully and succinctly when she writes:

The sixteen months that followed the overthrow of the monarchy revealed a new and noble Nicholas and Alexandra. These lamentable rulers, these tragic, misguided autocrats, who possessed not an inkling of understanding of the swift currents swirling around them, endured the trial and humiliation to which they were submitted with such rare dignity and courage that none but the coldest heart can fail to admire them. Their love for each other, their unquestioning faith in God, gave them a nobility that shines through the mists of time. The vacillating monarch became a man of strength; the censorious consort, a woman of compassion.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been fascinated by the story of the Romanovs since high school, when I saw Franklin J. Schaffner's film Nicholas and Alexandra on Australian TV. It had quite the impact on me, not only because of its epic depiction of the downfall of Russia's Romanov dynasty, but because it movingly told a very intimate, very human story: the story of a loving family's attempt to deal with momentous circumstances and events, many of which were beyond their comprehension and control.

In particular, I'm thinking of the then-incurable haemophilia that inflicted Alexei, the couple's son and heir, and the consequences that flowed from the way Nicholas and Alexandra chose to respond to this tragedy of fate: their clinging stubbornly to the idea of absolute monarchy, their turning to Rasputin. Such responses ensured epic and tragic consequences for their family, the Russian empire, and, indeed, the world.

Not long after, I found in the library of my high school the book upon which the film is based, Robert K. Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra. So began a fascination with the Romanov family that continues to this day. (For more about my interest in the story of the Romanovs, click here.)

Above (from left): Grand Duchess Olga, Grand Duchess Maria, Tsar Nicholas II, Tsaritsa Alexandra, Grand Duchess Anastasia, Tsarevich Alexei, and Grand Duchess Tatiana (1913).

Previous Wild Reed posts about the Romanov family:
Remembering the Romanovs
Remembering Olga Nikolaevna and Her Sisters

Related off-site links about the 100th anniversary of the family's murder:
The Terrible Fate of Russia’s Imperial Family – Joe Sommerlad (The Independent, July 12, 2018).
A Century After the Tsar and His Family Were Murdered and Lenin Seized Power, How the Daily Mail Might Have Recorded This Event If It Happened Today – Tony Rennell and Guy Walters (The Daily Mail, July 15, 2018).
A Century Ago, the Romanovs Met a Gruesome End – Anna Diamond (Smithsonian Magazine, July 2018).
The Romanovs’ Art of Survival – Anastasia Edel (The New York Review of Books, July 16, 2018).
The Legacy of the Romanovs: How Is the Last Russian Royal Family Remembered in Russia? – Helen Rappaport (HistoryExtra.com, July 16, 2018).
Russia Split Over Remains of Last Tsar on 100th Anniversary of His Murder – Alec Luhn (The Telegraph, July 16, 2018).
Fresh DNA Tests Authenticate Bones of Russian Tsar and FamilyPhys.org (July 16, 2018).
Inside the Romanov Family's Final Days – Caroline Hallemann (Town and Country, July 1, 2018).
The Race to Save the Romanovs and How It Fell Apart – Bob Ruggiero (Houston Press, July 11, 2018).
How the Royal Houses of Europe Abandoned the Romanovs – Helen Rappaport (The Economist, June 28, 2018).

1 comment:

Franco Manni said...

hen I was a child I identified myself with Alexei , because I had 4 sisters like him and no brothers (then, the were born 10 years later) whereas I longed for having a brother...

Also, your comment ("Such responses ensured epic and tragic consequences for their family, the Russian empire, and, indeed, the world.") makes me think of how much the events of this world are interconnected with one another.... Yes, thinking of my country, Italy, I think that its destiny and my destiny has been deeply influenced by the behaviour of that Royal couple...