This week saw the passing of the 101st anniversary of the murder of the Romanovs by the Communists in Russia. On the 17th of June, 1918, the Romanovs, whose dynasty had reigned in Russia for 300 years, were brought into a small basement room in a house in Yekaterinburg, and either shot, stabbed or beaten to death. Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, was 50; the Tsaravich, Prince Alexei, was only 14.
Their official crime, as read out by the firing squad, was that their family and wider relative circle was continuing in their efforts against the new Soviet regime.
When one reads of Nicholas II’s reign, it is a series of miscalculations, poor decisions and dire attempts to hold on to autocratic rule in a democratising world. When, in 1905, a revolt for greater (any) democratic representation forced Nicholas to establish a constitutional parliament of sorts (the duma), it had such limited powers it was hardly even notional. But it was a sign of the times that, though Nicholas himself had never committed a crime, he was executed for the crimes of his family and historic dynasty. (For a full exposition on this legacy of ideology, see my essay on The Mallard, here.)
In comparison to the British civil wars and the execution of our King Charles I, ours was not a rebellion against monarchy, but a particular monarch, and the abuse of monarchical position. In Russia in 1918, under the intoxicating influence of ideology, Nicholas and his innocent children were executed as representatives of the Tsarist regime, and the misuses and abuses of royal power in their long 300 years.
I don’t think anyone, monarchist or otherwise, could argue that what came after the murder of the Romanovs was an improvement in Russia’s politics. 101 years on, let the Romanov murders remind us of the value of making peace with authority as it is, and coming to understand the devil you know, rather than risk the horrors of the devil you don’t.
Photo by Beinecke Library on Flickr.