November 01, 2016

Russia After Rasputin

One legend about Rasputin is that he supposedly told the tsar that when he (Rasputin) died, Nicholas would not have long to live. This prophecy was more or less fulfilled. Rasputin died in December 1916, and a year and a half later the entire royal family was killed. If Rasputin’s murder was intended to save Russia, it did not exactly work.

By December 1926, one decade later, neither Grishka nor his royal patrons would have recognized the country. The First World War – which Rasputin tried and failed to dissuade the tsar from joining – was over, as was the brutal civil war that came in the aftermath of world war and revolution. Lenin was dead and the country was in the throes of a ruthless power struggle.

Looking back, the “ministerial leapfrog”* of the empire’s final years, or the appointments of Rasputin’s protégés to government posts now looked like child’s play compared with Stalin’s steady march toward dictatorship after he out-maneuvered Trotsky and slowly but surely put his loyalists in charge of the secret police, the army, and the party. It would take more than a year before the opposition was utterly defeated, but by late 1926 its back had been broken, even if Trotsky, Kamenev, and Zinoviev did not yet fully realize it.

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