So I had an emotion that was neither desire to drink alcohol nor desire to have sex and it was so unusual I wanted to talk about it on the podcast.  But you know, those assholes Keith and Scott never let me, and really, maybe this feeling is better talked about here.

The rough part, is that this feeling was about a dead man and also of historical relevance so maybe you won’t care about it.  Explaining it involves explaining the contents of a 700 page book, and maybe that’s too much.  I hope you do, but whatever.  I just finished reading Nicholas and Alexandra, and it was about the last Tsar of Russia.

What makes this all interesting is that despite being the last autocrat of the Russias, and thus an impossibly powerful man, Nicholas wrote volumes of diaries.  So did his wife.  And the author of this book, Robert Massie paints a portrait of these two people who are astonishingly normal.  He quotes extensively from their journals, and details this other world that more or less doesn’t exist anymore.  How much of it was an authentic translation of history I can’t know, and in trying to recap the story so it’s marginally interesting here I may fail Russia utterly (sorry, gang) but I’m gonna try because it was so fucking touching.

Someday I want a pic like this of me

 

So it starts (sort of) a hundred years before any of them are born when the future Queen of England, Victoria, is conceived.  See, she has a rogue gene, which makes it so that her male descendants all carry the possibility of having hemophilia.  Hemophilia sucks now, but it especially sucked back then.  Any slight bruising will cause huge blood loss to the sufferer, as they are unable to clot blood properly.  As the blood pools and compresses organs and joints beneath the skin it causes tremendous pain.  Sufferers are likely to die of trivial injuries, a bad tumble, a bloody nose, nearly any damage at all can incapacitate for weeks or even kill.

Nicholas never carried it, but his wife, a German Princess named Alix of Hesse did.  She had four daughters before having her first son, Alexei, and when he was found to have the disease the whole of the future of the Russian monarchy was in peril.  Imagine being a Princess, married to one of the most powerful Kings in the European realm, and the only son you manage to produce is a deeply crippled boy unlikely to survive to adulthood.

 

Dem eyes

 

It gets better.  Remember Rasputin?  The name probably rings a bell, but what he actually was was a wandering Christian mystic and faith healer.  What he was especially noted for was his hypnotic eyes.  Hypnotism is noted (according to Massie) as having a pronounced effect on sufferers of hemophilia.  It sort of makes sense, you get excited, you blood flows faster, it makes it harder for your clotting system to work.  But at the same time Rasputin was a letch and a deep drunkard and may have subscribed to some pretty hilarious Christian subsects where the more you sin, the more you repent, and therefore the more holy you are.  Sounds fun!

I’m sure you can see this coming.  The best doctors of Europe surround this boy and get tense and pissed off and frightened and more his hemophilia worse.  This gets his parents freaked out and scared and this makes his hemophilia worse.  Rasputin shows up, declares with the authority of a religious madman that everything is going to be ok, calms the boy down and he lives.  This happens a few times.

World War I hits, and it is bad bad bad for the Russian people.  Remember Enemy At The Gates, where the Russian soldiers charge into battle, one guy with the bullets and one guy with the rifle and when one dies the other picks up what he’s missing and starts shooting?  That actually happened.  Russia sent somewhere north of 12 million men to the front and lost 4 million with another 5 million wounded.  Along with famines across the empire this got the Russian people rightly pissed off, and when at war with Germany how do you think they liked having a German Queen consorting with her son and four daughters with an insane sex-crazed Siberian mystick.

Yeah, no.  Russia was comically unprepared to tangle with France, Germany, Austria, England and the others on the political stage as well.  Massie paints St. Petersburg and Moscow as crawling with German spies and informants.  Meanwhile Nicholas decides to direct the armies himself and to let Alexandra run the country.  Nothing could be a worse decision.  Nobody trusts Alexandra, given her continued proximity to Rasputin and Nicholas at the head of the armies means he gets to take personal responsibility for the horrific failures.  He wanted to fix things and ends up bearing the weight of the failures himself.

 

Weary after his abdication.

 

As the revolution gets hotter, Nicholas is more and more surrounded by yes men who tell him that the riots in the streets are minor scuffles that police can deal with.  Until the hammer falls and he is forced to abdicate the throne he has almost no idea just how bad things are.

He is imprisoned with his family in one of the main palaces, Tsarskoe Selo.  Not surprisingly, this becomes one of the happier periods of his life.  He’s relieved of the burden of commanding the failing Russian armies, he doesn’t have to tightrope through the balancing act between the aristocracy and the common people, and even when he is moved to Siberia for his “safety” he still expects to be rescued, or sent in exile to England to live with his cousins.

 

Of course, him being a King meant that the Allies (England, America, France and the others) would lose face saving him whilst fighting against imperialism.  They never came.  His last weeks he spends with his family, and then Lenin orders him dragged into a basement with his doctor, maid, wife, four daughters, and son.  His executioners try to murder them all with revolvers.  They run out of bullets.  The daughters, trying to save the crown jewels had sewn kilograms of diamonds into their clothes which turned them into makeshift armor, and so when the bullets ran out the executioners turned to bayonets.

 

I have no idea why this was so touching.  Nice dude in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Of course, the denouement of this tragedy was that while Nicholas made some awful decisions for his country he actually would have happily given his life for things to work out better for his people.  And then Russia traded him in for Lenin, and when the strokes took him, Stalin.

Could anything have worked out worse for this dude?

 

 

All images taken from Wikipedia, I love you Wikipedia <3.

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