Russia in the Waning Days of the Romanov Dynasty, 1906: Doomed

The Romanovs, 1613 – 1918, p. 530:

As the pogromchiki were killing 3,000 Jews from Vilna to Kishinev, two junior bureaucrats — Alexander Dubrovin and a rabble-rousing pogromist from Kishinev, Vladimir Purishkevich — formed a Union of Russian People, a movement of noblemen, intellectuals, shopkeepers and thugs who rallied support for “Tsar, faith and fatherland” around extreme nationalism and anti-semitic violence. The Union was the political wing of rightist vigilantes, the Black Hundreds, who fought revolutionaries and slaughtered Jews. Fascists fourteen years before the word was invented in Italy, the Black Hundreds marched in the tsar’s name but despised his compromises with parliamentarians.

Clearly, dear blog readers, the seeds of the Holocaust were planted long, long before World War II. The Romanovs were anti-Semites. Tsar Nicholas II’s “table-talk was peppered with anti-Jewish banter, typical of many a European aristocrat of this era — telling his mother how a courtier ‘amused us very much with funny Jewish stories — wonderfully good at imitating Jews and even his face suddenly looks Jewish!’ . . .  To him, a newspaper was a place where ‘some Jew or other sits . . .  making it his business to stir up passions of peoples against each other.’ ”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Sentence of the Day: THE ROMANOVS, 1613 – 1918, p. 467

He may have been a primordial throwback, but now (Emperor) Alexander had to operate in the world of public opinion, stock markets and newspapers in which he found some of his most unlikely advisers, none more so than Prince Vladimir Meshchersky, known by enemies at the court as “Prince of Sodom” and among the intelligentsia as “Prince Full-Stop” after he demanded all reform must come to that punctuation mark.

Dear blog readers, self can’t even.

Stay tuned.

Books About War

Self adores reading books about war. Perhaps it is the drama, the spectacle. A good war book thrills her like no other.

She mentions this as she’s come to a point in The Romanovs where Alexander, the grandson of Catherine the Great, becomes Emperor of Russia. He was Catherine the Great’s chosen heir, only she died too quickly (at 68) and Alexander’s vicious father Paul took over (Paul was so terrible a monarch that he was strangled by his ministers after just five years in power)

When the crown is brought to Alexander, he doesn’t want it and weeps. Which means: he made a really good Emperor. And he ruled for 24 years.

Anyhoo, here we are on p. 288. Alexander, a very green monarch, has to face Napoleon. Napoleon recognizes the weakness of his opponent and says to his men, “Let’s finish this war with a thunderclap.” He launches his attack on Alexander’s forces, and 28,000 Russians are slaughtered (That is almost a third of the population of the city where self lives: Redwood City, California). Alexander is “almost run down by his own men as they” flee “for their lives.” Alexander comes down with a fever (Self would, too, if she had to watch 28,000 men slaughtered on a battlefield) and was sustained only by his doctor administering “wine and opium.”

But — Alexander does not collapse! He declares Napoleon the “Beast of the Apocalypse” and enlists the man who murdered his father to muster the Russian troops. The Russians fight Napoleon “to a grinding, bloody draw at Eylau, losing 26,000 men,” but the French lose 20,000. The carnage is appalling, but Alexander, understanding that he must be in it “for the long game,” sues for peace (Catherine the Great was right to choose him over his father!).

Alexander is twenty-nine when he and Napoleon meet at the Niemen River. Napoleon recounts that he “chattered away,” but Alexander understood his game. Alexander tells his mother (who loathed the French): “We will do everything to prove the sincerity” of Russia’s “tight alliance with France, this fearful colossus . . . until the moment when we will calmly observe his fall.”

p. 295: “As for Napoleon, he started to despise Alexander with that special hatred reserved for the beloved mistress who ends a cherished affair.”

Good stuff!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading: p. 266, THE ROMANOVS, 1613-1918

  • Everything is turned upside down at once . . . It is impossible for me to enumerate all the madness . . .  in a country that had become a plaything for the insane . . .  the army wastes all its time on the parade ground . . .  Power is unlimited and exercised perversely. You can judge how I am suffering.

— Alexander, grandson of Catherine the Great, about his own father, Paul, Emperor of Russia from 1796 (when Catherine died) to 1801

p. 154: THE ROMANOVS, 1613 – 1918

Sebag-Montefiore divides his history of the Romanovs into three Acts. Act II, which self began reading over the weekend, is called The Apogee, c. 1700 – 1800.

Instead of chapters, there are “Scenes.” Below is an excerpt from Scene 2: The Empresses.

p. 154:

  • Golitsyn, the grandson of Regent Sophia’s minister, had secretly converted to Catholicism to marry an Italian girl and, as a punishment, (Empress) Anna ordered him to abandon the wife and serve as her cupbearer . . .  Golitsyn’s speciality was to dress as a hen and sit on a straw basket nest for hours clucking in front of the court. After mass on Sundays, Golitsyn and the other fools sat in rows cackling and clucking in chicken outfits.

More scenes of depravity to follow.

Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: THE ROMANOVS, 1613 – 1918, p. 86

Self is now on p. 86. There have been many great individual sentences.

Nevertheless, she must get a move on.

It is extremely cold here in the San Francisco Bay Area, and she needs to exit the house tonight, to pick up someone from SFO. Lacking a parka, she must layer. Not only must she layer, she must wear her UGG boots, which Marie Claire told her years ago was only suitable for under 30s. She hopes she doesn’t encounter people with rheumy coughs, as she did yesterday at Walmart. She wanted to run screaming out of the store, but she was stuck in line and had no choice but to stiff-upper-lip it.

Here’s the Sentence of the Day:

The Jolly Company were toasting the trip at Lefort’s palace when, as General Gordon wrote, a “merry night” was ruined by “the accident of discovering treason against His Majesty.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

THE ROMANOVS, 1613-1918, p. 52

Hugely enjoying this massive tome, so much so that self took it with her to Black Panther, and kept reading until the theater lights went down.

Chapter on Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, also known as the “Young Monk” :

Meschersky found the chief armourer Bogdan Khitrovo, nicknamed the “Whispering Favourite,” guarding the Red Staircase, brandishing his jewel-encrusted staff of office to hold back importuning crowds. He punched Meschersky.

“You shouldn’t strike me — I’m here on duty.”

“Who are you?” asked Khitrovo, who knew perfectly well.

“The patriarch’s servitor.”

“Don’t make so much of yourself. Why should we respect the patriarch?” and with that he smashed him on the head with his baton, sending him bleeding back to Nikon.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Next on the Reading List: The Romanovs, 1613 – 1918, by Simon Sebag-Montefiore

This book weighs like a brick and, since self always lugs her books around with her, she’s going to have a sore wrist in a few weeks, she just knows it.

It’s about the Romanovs but it might as well be about U.S. politics.

page xxi of the Introduction:

  • In this book, my aim is to follow the invisible, mysterious alchemy of power to answer the essential question of politics, laconically expressed by that maestro of powerplay, Lenin: kto kogo? — who controls whom?

Love the full-color plates. Michael, the first Romanov tsar, looks like a hunchbacked troll. Catherine I used to be a “promiscuous Lithuanian peasant girl.” Peter II “fell ill” on “the day of his planned marriage.” The Empress Anna forced her courtiers “to pretend to be chickens.” And so forth.

Since this is such a behemoth of a book, might take the rest of February and most of March.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Admiral George Dewey, 1 May 1898


Admiral George Dewey defeated an outdated and woefully under-equipped Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay, 1 May 1898

“Don Alfredo and Jose Rizal” in Sou’wester, Spring 2007:

  • As Jose Rizal was lined up before the Spanish firing squad, labeled renegade and underground solidarity worker, George Dewey entered Manila Bay.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading: Manuel D. Duldulao

  • The greatest link . . .  to the Spanish past is Intramuros. For almost 400 years until its destruction, Intramuros was Manila.

The Filipinos, Portrait of a People, by Manuel D. Duldulao

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