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Alexandra and the Romanovs
 

Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Alexandra and the Romanovs

by Linda DeLaine

Alix, Prinzessin {princess} von Hesse-Darmstadt was born on June 6, 1872, in Darmstadt, Germany.She was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England and met Tsarevich Nicholas II of Russia when she was nine years old.

A fast and true friendship began and the couple was married in 1894.

Because of her German background, Alexandra was unpopular with the Russians. She turned to an, almost fanatical, devotion to mysticism and Orthodoxy. Despite attempted reforms to Russia's government in 1905, Alexandra firmly believed in Nicholas' God-given right to absolute authority. She was certain that it was her holy call to enforce Nicholas' position as a autocratic ruler.

The bond between Nicholas and Alexandra produced four daughters; Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Olga. Desperately wanting an heir to the Romanov crown, the couple was delighted when the Tsarevich Aleksey was born July 30, 1904. But, poor Aleksey was cursed with a disease inherited from Alexandra's side of the family. Hemophilia was, at the time, fatal.

Alexandra's obvious concern for her son's life led her to a wandering, so-called, holy man named Grigory Yefimovich Novykh or Rasputin. Rasputin was born in Pokrovskoye, Siberia, in about 1872. After marrying Proskovia Fyodorovna, who bore him four children, Rasputin left home and wandered to Mount Athos and Jerusalem. He gained the reputation of a self-proclaimed holy man {starets} and was welcomed into the religious Academy of St. Petersburg in 1903. Rasputin was introduced to the royal family in 1905. and, in 1908, called to Alexander Palace on behalf of the ailing royal heir, Aleksey.

Life in Russia, at the turn of this century, was miserable. There were two classes of people; the mass population of poor peasants, workers and soldiers in contrast to the extremely wealthy and extravagant aristocracy.

The Romanov family obviously fell into the latter group. Discontent finally drove the people to unite and rebel against the seemingly insensitive ruling class. They held strikes and refused to pay their taxes. This quickly crippled the nation, economically. To make matters worse, Russia suffered a series of devastating military losses in Asia. All of this unrest led to Bloody Sunday {January 9, 1905} when ca. 400 striking workers were killed.

Nicholas was backed into a corner. The events leading up to 1905 left him with no choice but to try and appease the people. On October 17, 1905, he issued his October Manifesto . In this document, the Tsar promised to radically reduce police activity, create a more representative type of government and to assign a Council of Ministers, known as the Duma, with a Chairman or Prime Minister. The latter would have more political power than the Tsar! The wealthy, ruling class was unwilling to compromise and give up any of their power. The Tsar's wife was equally displeased, but for allegedly religious reasons. Nicholas was unable to enforce the terms of his Manifesto and was, in some historian's opinion, a weak ruler. The Duma, which legalized all political parties, was restructured by Nicholas in 1907.

Alexandra firmly believed that the common people were, in truth, still loyal to the Tsar. She saw Rasputin as a messenger from God and a true prophet. Rasputin's loyalty to the Royal Family was, probably, self-serving. However, he did perform, what appear to be, miracles and much of his prophecy came true. He is best known for his ability to ease Aleksey's pain. We will never know if Rasputin could have cured the boy as the Tsarevich was murdered with his family in 1918. Rasputin predicted, in a letter found shortly after his death, that, if he was killed, the Romanov family would perish. Even Rasputin's death was quite a mystery. Concerned about the condition of the Royal Family, Prince Felix Yussoupov {husband of Nicholas' niece, Irina} and Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich {Nicholas' cousin} took it upon themselves to do away with the mysterious Siberian monk. Rasputin survived poisoning, shooting and being bludgeoned.

Finally, on December 31, 1916 {December 17th on the Old Calendar}, his assassins bound him and submerged him in a river. When his body was pulled out, his bones were broken and lungs filled with water. This indicated that his ultimate cause of death was drowning!

Nicholas left for the front in August, 1915. In his absence, Alexandra dismissed several ministers, replacing them with less than capable or honest persons. These new members of the administration were, in reality, selected by Rasputin. The result was corruption and Alexandra was accused, erroneously, as a German spy. Accusations and threats did not daunt the Tsarina. Her belief that divine will was the reason for all events, prevented Alexandra from heeding warnings of impending doom. One has to admire her strength of faith, however misplaced it may have been.

Russia lost 2 million soldiers in 1917 alone. With the struggles at home, the Russian people must have wondered what so many of her sons and fathers were dieing for.