Author Topic: Alexandra in historical memory and women who have endured a similar afterlife  (Read 908 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!

Offline PAGE

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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.

Offline PAGE

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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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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?

Offline mek

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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.

As fascinated as I am by the IF, I'm not sure that I "like" Alexandra.  She intrigues me, but I think she would have driven me crazy to be around. I think most royals of the time somewhat fit into the same mold - I find them silly and almost child like.  From most accounts, N and A certainly underdeveloped  their daughters emotional growth. Who knows how they would have developed had they lived out full lives?  Would they have become interesting women or faded into the background overshadowed by more sophisticated and colorful royals?
« Last Edit: July 23, 2018, 06:56:25 PM by mek »

Offline Sanochka

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Those in leadership positions, whether they be president, prime minister, monarch, corporate head, etc., have always been the frequent topic of conversation.  People talk.  And as they talk, rumors arise.  The best way for any leader to combat rumors is to venture out and engage the people.  The present Queen Elizabeth and the British royal family are a perfect example.  But last tsar's reign was marked by the withdrawal and isolation of the imperial couple, and Alexandra's nearly complete absence from public life.  As Russia stumbled from one crisis to the next - from Khodinka Field to the Russo-Japanese War to the 1905 Revolution, and finally to the disaster of of WWI - Russians blamed Nicholas II, and vicious rumors about Alexandra and Rasputin's influence on her and her influence on the Tsar swirled unchecked.  She did nothing to combat those rumors save for complaining to her husband, her children, a handful of ladies in waiting, and a small circle of close friends about the unfairness of it all.  Thus, her immediate circle knew that she was truly a decent woman.  But Russia and the world had no way of knowing, and the Imperial Family died leaving legacy of baseless rumors.  Until the fall of the Soviet Union, that's all the world had.  Since then, Nicholas and Alexandra have been rehabilitated with rumors put to rest and the world looks more kindly on both.

Offline PAGE

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Reply to mek

When I first became interested in the Russian imperial family (more than a decade ago), Alexandra Feodorovna was probably the most mysterious person. Today I read a lot, I did some research, and I think he is a very remarkable and endearing person.

I do not think the imperial family (I'm talking about the little family of Nicholas II) was childish. She had a benevolent look at the world, fed by religion. She was not naive, but utopian. This was the case of Nicholas II, Alexandra Feodorovna and their children. I find it very beautiful for people who had the power and the wealth to change the world. They could not because they were alone.

Alexandra Feodorovna is a very beautiful person, full of feelings, good intentions, but very clumsy to express them. It is true that she was very religious at a time when religiosity appeared "corny". I believe it was Jules Legras (French envoy to Russia during the First World War) who said in his memory, that religion was very present in Russia in 1914, but not in hearts.

She raised her children out of the conventions. I am certain that the Grand Duchesses would have been interesting people, but probably very simple, discreet. As they say in French, they would have been "voler la vedette" by other members of the imperial family. But as emperor's daughters, I find that remarkable.

Offline PAGE

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Reply to LauraO

I remember that as soon as she arrived in Russia, Alexandra Feodorovna had two derogatory nicknames: Hausfrau (with irony and nastiness) and "The Hessian Fly" (linked to her small dowry, her status as "little parasitic princess") .

In the context of post-Alexander III Russian nationalism, part of the Russian aristocracy did not accept Alexandra Feodorovna. This part attacked a lot, using lies, hatred, propaganda ...

Most detractors of Alexandra Feodorovna are also great defenders of the tsar. I think for example of General Denikin, Vladimir Orlov...

Alexandra Feodorovna never sought to defend herself, because she believed in the intelligence of her people and because she knew that suffering, slander, is the lot of all Christians.

It should not be forgotten also that many works (even the memoirs of the contemporaries of the imperial family) were written after the revolution. He needed a guilty person. The testimonies were written mainly by Russians (who could not slander the former Tsar), by French (who could not really slander their former ally) and English (fascinated by Rasputin "the debauchee").

Alexandra Feodorovna was an ideal target in the aftermath of the First World War.

Offline TimM

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Yeah, I've seen my share of Alexandra bashing in the past.

Thankfully, that is not the case here.
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