Author Topic: Alexandra in historical memory and women who have endured a similar afterlife  (Read 566 times)

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Offline LauraO

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Hi there,

Both during her own lifetime, and certainly in the years since 1918, Alexandra has endured a strange afterlife, one which is often distorted, exaggerating the popular rumour of her own time and creating the image of a hysterical and unbalanced woman which in popular imagination at least, much more closely resembles caricature than reality.

I was wondering your thoughts on the reasons for Alexandra having taken on these images in historical memory.

To what extent has she been reshaped by the propaganda and popular rumour of the revolutionary and soviet period?
How deeply help are these ideas about her?
Why has she come under what appears to be a much much scathing judgement than Nicholas?

Moreover, can any of you think of ruling women who have undergone a similar process.
For example, Marie Antoinette has come to represent the lavish ignorance of the French Court far more regularly than her husband, and who continues to exist in the popular imagination through these images of lavishness and ignorance.


Why has Alexandra been remembered in these ways, which often in comparison to her male counterparts seem excessively scathing?
And which other ruling/ royal woman have been remembered similarly?

Thanks!

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I believe that Nicholas II or Louis XVI (I do not like to make the comparison) have passed (unfairly), for incompetent.

Marie-Antoinette and Alexandra Feodorovna were considered "bad geniuses", dealing with things that did not concern them.

Nicholas II was "weak and helpless", Alexandra "dominant and haughty". The weak is always more sympathetic.

Of course there are also feminine prejudices: foolishness, frivolity, hysteria ... It's easier to find reproaches towards a woman, than to a man.

For my part, I really like Alexandra Feodorovna, like the whole imperial family. The mystery arouses gossip. Alexandra was too mysterious. Fortunately, we know her in her true light.

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I read that in The Life and Tragedy of Alexandra Feodorovna (Sophie Buxhoeveden), p. 224:

"There was nothing in the personal conduct of the Emperor that could shake his prestige, so the undercurrents began to be directed against the Empress, in the hope of weakening his position  through her. Besides the exploitation of the exaggerated tales of Rasputine's influence, the most was made of the Empress's German origin. Tales of her pro-German sympathies were invented and assiduously spread. Stories were circulated of her desire for a separate peace, rumours which could gain credence only in the public's total ignorance of the Empress's character."

Offline LisaDavidson

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As we saw with the 2016 Presidential election in the US, women can be trashed and their reputations destroyed with far more ease than can men. It is disgusting and demoralizing to see this happen but it has happened many times throughout history. Alexandra is but an example.

Offline Превед

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Perhaps people expect more from women, because the few women who have managed to wield massive political power have been extremely shrewd and clever: Queen Margrethe I of the Kalmar Union, Queen Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel etc. Plus, there is always the "mom factor": Mom knows best, so when a senior female politician fails it's seen as catastrophic, because "mom" is supposed to always be right, know best and have her children's best interest at heart. (Whereas a dad's fall from power just is another patricide and possibility for a son / new alpha to climb to the top.)

It's interesting to see how Angela "Mutti" Merkel now is facing more and more criticism and problems. She seems to have a tendency to lock herself in her own idealistic and ideological bubble in the same way as her compatriot Alexandra. Merkel is well-meaning in a manner similar to Alexandra compared to for example Theresa May, who with the recent imprisonment of regime critic Tommy Robinson has shown a macchiavellian and totalitarian side worthy of the Soviets, in addition to her very obvious fear of upsetting extremist Muslims.


« Last Edit: June 19, 2018, 03:31:43 PM by Превед »
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Их грустный, опущённый вид,
Как речь безмолвная могилы,
Горячку сердца холодит.

(Афанасий Фет: Ивы и берёзы, 1843 / 1856)

Offline HerrKaiser

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As we saw with the 2016 Presidential election in the US, women can be trashed and their reputations destroyed with far more ease than can men. It is disgusting and demoralizing to see this happen but it has happened many times throughout history. Alexandra is but an example.

Well, that is patently untrue but quintessentially a feminist dogma. In reference to the 2016 presidential election--and its aftermath--no public figure woman has ever lived through the vile, reputation-destroying hate speech that President Trump has endured.

Relative to Alexandra and Nickolas, he was Tsar. Catherine the Great was also far above her spouses in terms of being untouchable. And let's not overlook that Alexandra's behavior was quite ripe for criticism and suspicion. The murder of Rasputin was not just for fun; she was deeply involved in his guidance and she had immense influence on the Tsar. While many who knew  her personally may have seen her in a different light, the non-dramatic historical record that is not tempered by the mystic of their demise is not complimentary. It's not uncommon; we have seen many who knew 100s of other historical villains who have viewed them differently than those who suffered from their actions.
HerrKaiser

Offline LauraO

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I'm afraid I have to disagree, and rather agree with Lisa's point. Female figures throughout history, as pointed out, have been far more commonly maligned simply because they were in positions of power, than their male counterparts. Both in a modern context (Clinton, or indeed Margaret Thatcher being good examples), or in ancient history, for example Cleopatra, women are often targeted in very specific ways. Cleopatra for example, or indeed, Catherine II, were not particularly more brutal or bloodthirsty than their male counterparts, and yet are depicted as being so. CII introduced remarkable reforms, and yet in popular history her fictitious sexual escapades are projected as more important, interesting, and central. The idea of this kind of negative imagery around sexuality being attached to a male Tsar in the same way (Alexander II for example, known for his string of mistresses) is difficult to imagine.
Even historians who take a far more right wing approach, would be hard pushed to suggest that men have had it more difficult than women historically.

More specifically in reference to Nicholas and Alexandra, the question is, was his behaviour not 'ripe for criticism'? Alexandra was certainly a difficult figure, but she was, after all, not the ruler, and yet history commonly depicts Nicholas as bumbling and incapable with good intentions, whilst Alexandra as shrewd and villainous. It seems to be, as Lisa pointed out, unfortunately part of the dialogues around women, even today.
Moreover, as Douglas Smith makes point of in his work on Rasputin, it is all too easy to overestimate the amount of Rasputin, and indeed Alexandra's, involvement in politics. Both Vyr. and Bux. state on more than one occasion that Rasputin was by no means as often in the presence of the imperial couple as has been suggested, particularly during the crucial war years. Indeed, even when looking at the Tsar's diaries, his references to seeing Rasputin or hearing from him in no way support the imagined significance of his power. Can some of this lore not be attributed to the same depiction of the Empress built upon outdated gossip and outdated misogyny?

Moreover, the historical record is surely always skewed, always grounded in some historical source, context, and ideology, and we must surely be careful to take these sources as the undiluted truth.

It is an interesting idea that women might be the source of more suspicion or judgement because they are seen as having to twist and manipulate their ways to the top. I wonder to what extent one might see this as the case with the Empress.

Offline LauraO

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PAGE, it is interesting to consider that perhaps Alix was more a point of attack because she was an easier target than the Tsar. I wonder to what extent this ease came from the fact she was A. a woman and B. a foreigner?