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helenazar

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #360 on: April 18, 2005, 09:05:17 PM »
I agree with you, Tsarfan, having lousy parents does not guarantee, nor excuse, ending up with weakness of character as we saw in N II, and yes everyone may  react differently to the same situation. Nevertheless, all these people would most likely end up with certain traits that were a result of growing up in a certain environment. Bottom line is that we are all affected, more or less, by what happened in our childhood, but we don't end up having identical personalities even if we grow up in the same environment. Nicholas happened to have gone one way, while the others may have gone another. Remember, what all these personality traits have in common is extremes, not identical behavior.
As I posted earlier, one can either become extremely submissive or extremely controlling as a result of being an ACOA for example, etc. So it's the extremes that they end up having in common, not necessarily identical traits. Either way, they somehow or other end up dysfunctional in some way. That's the theory... And of course, just like with anything else, there are exceptions.

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #361 on: April 18, 2005, 09:42:45 PM »
Being no stranger to people who were raised in seriously dysfunctional families, Helen, I do see the legitimacy of your points . . . at least in a general sense.

However, we're all again out on a limb here in accusing Alexander of being a lousy father.  Olga loved him dearly.  I've read a recent biography of Grand Duke Michael (Nicholas' younger brother) and saw little indication of a dysfunctional upbringing.  I know less about George's and Xenia's relationship with their father.

Yes, Alexander made some insensitive comments about Nicholas.  But then, he might have had good reason to worry about Nicholas' ability to shoulder the responsibilities of government and consequently been hard on him.  It's not the most effective or sophisticated way to deal with the problem, but it might have arisen from fear and frustration on the part of Alexander rather than from intentional brutality.

I really don't know the truth of it . . . but I feel we're assigning conduct and motives to Alexander that might be only partially correct.

Offline RichC

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #362 on: April 18, 2005, 10:28:45 PM »
Well, in investigating Nicholas' negative attributes, I'm glad we are looking at his upbringing.  Whatever the truth, it certainly is worth looking at.  I'm not trying to find excuses for Nicholas' mistakes.  But I do want to know what led to those mistakes.  

Here's KR's diary entry for December 7, 1894

"...the Emperor saw me by the doors to His study downstairs....I asked whether He had received any advice from his Father before the latter's death.  Nicky replied that his Father had never once mentioned the responsibilities that awaited Him.  During confession Father Yanyshev had asked the dying Emperor whether he had talked to his Heir.  The Emperor had replied: No, he himself knows everything.  Nicky added that even before, when sending Him abroad to foreign courts, His Father had never given Him any instructions and had left Him to act as He thought best.  For this reason it was now both easier and more difficult for Him."

Letter from A III to N, April 14, 1894

"You can imagine the feeling of joy and gratitude towards the Lord with which we learnt of your engagement!  I have to admit that I did not believe the possibility of such an outcome and was sure your atempt would fail completely..."

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #363 on: April 19, 2005, 06:36:44 AM »
Late in her life, GD Olga did take her father to task for not introducing Nicholas to the affairs of government, and there is plenty of other evidence to indicate Alexander failed Nicholas in this regard.  However, that is something different from abuse.  Many rulers (including Queen Victoria) were slow to admit their heirs into state affairs, perhaps because it confronted them with their own mortality.  Who knows?

Queen Elizabeth I had been barred even from court for long periods preceding her ascension.  Peter the Great took the throne as a co-Tsar with a mentally-handicapped brother, with both being under the thumb of an ambitious regent who was not inclined to let either ever acquire real power.  He spent the early years of his reign at an isolated rural estate trying to keep as low a profile as possible just to survive.  Catherine the Great was cut off from all civil communication with her husband before her coup.  Both Catherine and Elizabeth took up their sceptres amid internal and international doubts about their rights to rule.  But they figured it out.

Nicholas ascended a throne as an unchallenged monarch surrounded by a stable bureaucracy and a cadre of ministers who were not wont to be overly cantankerous with their master.  His unpreparedness to rule did not result from having missed a few state council meetings.  It arose from deeper shortcomings.

It is certainly possible to read Alexander's letter to Nicholas upon his engagement as a mean-spirited put-down.  However, it is equally supportable to read it simply as an acknowledgement that Alexandra's long-standing resolve not to change her religion had been particularly difficult to overcome (even by members of her family who urged her unsuccessfully for months to relent).  Alexander did open, after all, with hearty congratulations to Nicholas on his success.  It's not the most diplomatic document ever written . . . but does it signify an underlying relationship sufficiently abusive to incapacitate Nicholas for rule?  I'm not sure.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Tsarfan »

bluetoria

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #364 on: April 19, 2005, 07:04:45 AM »
Quote
As I posted earlier, one can either become extremely submissive or extremely controlling as a result of being an ACOA for example, etc. So it's the extremes that they end up having in common, not necessarily identical traits. Either way, they somehow or other end up dysfunctional in some way. That's the theory... And of course, just like with anything else, there are exceptions.


Helen, I quite take exception to this statement, (in a non-aggressive manner!  ;) ) especially:
"Either way they end up somehow or other dysfunctional."
As children of an alcoholic parent I can say with certainty that neither of my siblings is dysfunctional, submissive or domineering (though my sister is a bit bossy!! ;D)
I cannot speak for myself  :-/

It is also said that children of alcoholics are likely to become alcoholic themselves. This is also insulting.

I do not believe that they are exceptions; it is too easy to make generalisations & suggests that people do not have the ability to rise above their circumstances.

With regard to Nicholas, I do not consider him as 'weak' as is often suggested. He may have been unsuited to his position but there were some aspects of his character which were strong.
What EXACTLY is meant by 'weakness' - I ask myself.
His father, I believe, did not prepare him for his role & showed a marked preference for Misha, but he was not cruel to Nicholas & - by the standards of royalty at the time - they were a very uinited and 'happy' family!

(SO THERE!! - I'm just being extremely dominant...oh, sorry, all that was wrong....or extremely submissive.... ;D )
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by bluetoria »

rskkiya

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #365 on: April 19, 2005, 09:27:42 AM »

    The point has been well made that having an abusive or domineering parent can drive one to become either an inspired but neurotic leader or an insecure failure. Sadly Nicholas -for all the mixed emotions that many posters may have for him- was never able to overcome his shy retiring and excessively polite nature.  
    This tendency may well be endearing in a private citizen but it is terrible in an Autocrat or any powerful public figure. Could it have been helped? Maybe, but I don't think that Alix could have been the one to do it- she seems to have had a strong need to "mother" but this sort of feedback did not inspire 'self confidence' in Nicholas - it only made him more dependent on her.

rskkiya
« Last Edit: April 25, 2009, 10:29:18 AM by Alixz »

Offline RichC

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #366 on: April 19, 2005, 11:30:48 AM »
Quote

Helen, I quite take exception to this statement, (in a non-aggressive manner!  ;) ) especially:
"Either way they end up somehow or other dysfunctional."
As children of an alcoholic parent I can say with certainty that neither of my siblings is dysfunctional, submissive or domineering (though my sister is a bit bossy!! ;D)
I cannot speak for myself  :-/

It is also said that children of alcoholics are likely to become alcoholic themselves. This is also insulting.

I do not believe that they are exceptions; it is too easy to make generalisations & suggests that people do not have the ability to rise above their circumstances.
 


Here! Here!

I too am the child of an alcoholic parent and I seem to have done ok both in my personal and professional life.  

One of the ways I dealt with my family problems was by going to the library and reading -- I would spend hours there after school and on weekends.  Adversity can breed character.  So, if there are any kids looking at this, ignore the comment about being dysfunctional.  As Blutoria says, people can rise above their circumstances -- and they do every day.  (I'm getting off the soapbox now-- since the FA has said that children read this site regularly, I had to say something)

Oh, to connect this to this thread, I very much agree with your point, Tsarfan.  

helenazar

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #367 on: April 19, 2005, 12:07:11 PM »
Quote

Here! Here!

I too am the child of an alcoholic parent and I seem to have done ok both in my personal and professional life.  

One of the ways I dealt with my family problems was by going to the library and reading -- I would spend hours there after school and on weekends.  Adversity can breed character.  So, if there are any kids looking at this, ignore the comment about being dysfunctional.  As Blutoria says, people can rise above their circumstances -- and they do every day.  (I'm getting off the soapbox now-- since the FA has said that children read this site regularly, I had to say something)

Oh, to connect this to this thread, I very much agree with your point, Tsarfan.  


Alright, if you guys insists on continuing this particular discussion, then so be it. I too am a child of alcoholic (my father also happens to be a very decent guy) and I too have been functioning pretty well in life. I think that at least 80% of everyone I know is an ACOA and many of them have done very well. Many haven't. Either way, they still all, including myself, possess traits that are a direct result of their backgrounds - it is unavoidable. These things are not necessarily negative, but they are there. Of course there are people coming from this sort of an environment who can and have "risen above it all" and have become self-aware, productive and functional members of society. If this weren't the case, then the majority of human population would not even be able to crawl out of the caves! No one is disputing this! I think you guys are missing the point completely.  :-/

Coming back to the topic, no one is insisting that it is a historical fact that A III was an alcoholic and that this was what caused NII to be what he was. In fact, I even specifically said that we don't know this, and can't know this for sure because we never met the guy (if you read my earlier posts). We were trying to look at various possibilities, things that have not been considered before, to try to explain certain things about Nicholas's character. The discussion may have got a little carried away. But ultimately, there is nothing wrong with taking this type of an approach, examining a historical character through psychology for instance, in order to find some answers. It is a hypothesis, nothing more nothing less.

To start taking it personally is not really very productive to a discussion like this... I am very sorry if this theme offended some people, it wasn't meant as a personal affront, only as an academic exercise.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by helenazar »

Elisabeth

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #368 on: April 19, 2005, 01:29:36 PM »
Wow, what a discussion! Sorry I missed out on so much.

All this reminds me of my ongoing debate with my husband over the nature vs. nurture question. He's a conservative, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps type whereas I am more liberal and tend to look for the reasons behind people's less than exemplary behavior - I suppose in part because I do not want to be judged harshly myself!

But honestly, I think both nature and nurture play a role in the formation of anyone's personality. In fact, isn't  this what most neuroscientists now believe? For example,  if someone has a genetic predisposition toward depression, bad or abusive parenting is going to bring it out.

As far as historical personages other than Nicholas go:

Quote
Look at the great monarchs who had horrific childhood experiences:

Elizabeth I of England, whose mother was beheaded by her father, spent her childhood cycling in and out of grace in a court where the consequences could be deadly.  In fact, she came within a tentative signature of being murdered by her half sister.  She laid the economic foundations for England's future empire and oversaw England's rise to global naval domination.


Actually Elizabeth Tudor is not a good example of someone triumphing over a bad childhood. She had a murderous father, true, but she was protected from his negative influence (indeed, she rarely saw him) by a host of loving caregivers during her most formative years: among others, Lady Bryan and later, Katherine Ashley. She remained utterly devoted to these women throughout her life and continued to protect "dear Kat" even when it went against her best interests to do so. Just one person can make the difference in a child's life - Elizabeth had several.

Quote
Frederick the Great was bullied and abused by his father.  He was even forced to watch the beheading of his best childhood friend (and likely lover) by his father.  He went on to become a great general who established the hegemony of Prussia in central Europe and the core of what became modern Germany.

Louis XIV had a manipulative mother who ignored her son's interests to connive with her lover Cardinal Richelieu to the point that the nobility revolted, almost taking Louis captive.  His reign was the apogee of absolutism in modern Europe.

Peter the Great witnessed the wholesale murder of his mother's extended family during childhood and barely escaped with his life.  He was brought up in part by a half sister who, had she seen the necessity in time, would have probably eliminated him to clear her own way to the throne.  He went on to turn Russia into a land and sea power of the first order.


About Frederick the Great and Louis XIV I know little enough. But Peter the Great turned into a murderous tyrant, whatever you think of his many accomplishments. Remember his personal participation in the very bloody execution of the Streltsy? St. Petersburg, which he built on the bones of forced peasant labor? The yurodivye, lunatics, and other homeless people he exiled to Siberia and certain death because he couldn't abide their presence in his cities? His drunken orgies with Menshikov and his other buddies? Sure, Peter was functional, and he was a great success as tyrants go, but he was not a person you would wish to emulate in your own life, by any stretch of the imagination.

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Catherine the Great was hauled from home as a teenager and parachuted into a strange world of violent politics where she was wed to a murderous sadist.  She managed to become the dominant monarch of her age.


Catherine the Great had a very normal childhood with a loving father and rather domineering mother. She adapted to her situation in Russia because she had the brains - and the acquired skills - to adapt.

But what about Ivan the Terrible? Someone should mention him. He had a childhood awful beyond imagining, including the probable murder of his mother and the definite murder of other near relatives. He was by every account an abused child, both exploited and neglected by the boyars around him. He emerged from the experience psychotic, possibly even what we would call today a serial killer. Nature or nurture? Most probably a combination of both.

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If monarchs can get off the hook for destroying their countries by arguing an unpleasant childhood, it's a true blessing that the institution is breathing its last in our times.  Monarchs have always set themselves above and apart from the rest of humanity.  In so doing, they lose the defense of humanness for their mistakes.


Well, I agree with the whole decline of monarchy concept. But I would disagree with the "defense of humanness for their mistakes." It's not so much a defense but a need to know why. Most of us would like to understand the nature of human evil, in as much as we wish to prevent its reoccurrence. As Alan Bullock wrote, if there is even the remotest chance that being beaten as children caused both Hitler and Stalin to become genocidal tyrants, isn't it in our best interests to prevent child abuse to the extent that it is possible? I really don't see how examining the personal lives of rulers detracts or even exists apart from a larger desire to understand the way the world works... But to each his own, I suppose. (My husband is defending your position even as I type this, the rotter!) And BTW, I still find it impossible to blame Nicholas II entirely for the Russian revolution, which could very well have happened even if another man had been standing in his shoes, indeed, even if Peter the Great had stood in them.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »

bluetoria

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #369 on: April 19, 2005, 01:50:19 PM »
Quote

But ultimately, there is nothing wrong with taking this type of an approach, examining a historical character through psychology for instance, in order to find some answers. It is a hypothesis, nothing more nothing less.

To start taking it personally is not really very productive to a discussion like this... I am very sorry if this theme offended some people, it wasn't meant as a personal
affront, only as an academic exercise.


I agree with you entirely, Helen, that it is a good thing to examine historical characters from a psychological viewpoint; this seems to me (as Elizabeth says too in the next post) part of the whole point of studying history: to examine what has happened & to use that knowledge to make future improvements.
But viewing things psychologically does, necessarily, I think involve people relating personal experiences. Unless people do so, we have no opportunity to compare reactions etc.
I don't think anything you wrote was offensive, nor was any offence taken by anyone - it was simply a response, with a view to explaining Nicholas' behaviour as much as anyone else's.

At least that was my intention.  :)


Quote

 Either way, they still all, including myself, possess traits that are a direct result of their backgrounds - it is unavoidable. These things are not necessarily negative, but they are there.

 


Like the children of an alcoholic parent might have a desperate desire to avoid conflict??  :-/  ;)  ;D


Elizabeth, I entirely agree that in examining historical characters we gain an understanding of how the world works. All these pages of writing about so many characters really do seem to me (I wrote this before on another thread) a microcosm of all humanity. I don't agree with the view that 'the past is a different country, they do things differently there' because I believe that people have been people, have been people, throughout history & there is little change.

The nature/nurture debate is one of endless fascination. Relating it to Nicholas (And Alexandra, too) is immensely intriguing.
I hope this debate will continue.
I do not think him responsible for the Revolution, either. Nor do I believe that he had an unhappy or dysfuncional childhood within his own home. He had a mother who was far more loving than many of her class & a father who, though he may have been gruff and a little frightening at times, also took the time to play with his children. He had many happy holidays, cheerful siblings & a wide range of friends, cousins etc.
One event, above all, however, I think probably had a MASSIVE effect on him and that was witnessing the appalling death of his grandfather. What terror that must have brought into the heart of a young boy who knew that one day he too would be Tsar.....


« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by bluetoria »

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #370 on: April 19, 2005, 03:09:26 PM »
Quote
Actually Elizabeth Tudor is not a good example of someone triumphing over a bad childhood. She had a murderous father, true, but she was protected from his negative influence (indeed, she rarely saw him) by a host of loving caregivers during her most formative years: among others, Lady Bryan and later, Katherine Ashley. She remained utterly devoted to these women throughout her life and continued to protect "dear Kat" even when it went against her best interests to do so. Just one person can make the difference in a child's life - Elizabeth had several.


About Frederick the Great and Louis XIV I know little enough. But Peter the Great turned into a murderous tyrant, whatever you think of his many accomplishments. Remember his personal participation in the very bloody execution of the Streltsy? St. Petersburg, which he built on the bones of forced peasant labor? The yurodivye, lunatics, and other homeless people he exiled to Siberia and certain death because he couldn't abide their presence in his cities? His drunken orgies with Menshikov and his other buddies? Sure, Peter was functional, and he was a great success as tyrants go, but he was not a person you would wish to emulate in your own life, by any stretch of the imagination.


I don't see Elizabeth Tudor's childhood as quite that bucolic.  While others might have protected her from her father, she was aware that protection was required and that Henry had both the power to reach in at any time and the capacity for malice.  For instance, Elizabeth was reported by many at the time as never having mentioned her mother after her execution.  This is not normal behavior for a child.  Elizabeth was extremely precocious and supremely calculating from an early age.  She had desperate need to be calculating, and she knew it.

I cannot defend Peter on all counts, but I do understand his dealings with the Streltsy.  They had held the pikes onto which his mother's relatives were tossed before his eyes during the palace coup of his childhood, and they remained a volatile force to be enlisted by those who would usurp the throne.  In fact, that is exactly what happened while Peter was in Europe.  He had to race back to Russia and, to secure his throne once and for all, he had not only to eradicate the Streltsy, but to do so in a fashion that would discourage any others from assuming their place.  Gratuitously cruel?  Maybe.  Absolutely necessary?  Yes.

Regarding the exiles he ordered to Siberia . . . not laudable, but not dissimilar to a more "enligthened" Catherine II's establishing of the Pale of Settlement as a holding pen for her own "undesireable" subjects.

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #371 on: April 19, 2005, 03:18:50 PM »
Just reading some of the descriptions of how Alex. II's body was torn apart turns my stomach.  I can just imagine some of the things that must have gone through the mind of Nicholas II as he stood there in a sailor suit as a witness to this horrific event.

And what of Peter watching all those bodies pierced with pikes and what deafing cries of pain and anquish he heard....

Then Frederick II "the Great" made to watch from his prision window as his best friend was hung under the orders of Fred.'s father.

Makes me feel icy cold....

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« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by AGRBear »
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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #372 on: April 19, 2005, 03:45:41 PM »
Quote
But Peter the Great turned into a murderous tyrant, whatever you think of his many accomplishments. Remember his personal participation in the very bloody execution of the Streltsy? St. Petersburg, which he built on the bones of forced peasant labor?

But what about Ivan the Terrible? Someone should mention him. He had a childhood awful beyond imagining, including the probable murder of his mother and the definite murder of other near relatives. He was by every account an abused child, both exploited and neglected by the boyars around him. He emerged from the experience psychotic, possibly even what we would call today a serial killer. Nature or nurture? Most probably a combination of both.


Sorry . . . this is just too interesting to quit.  I just thought of one more point about Peter.

While countless thousands of laborers died in building St. Petersburg, there was at least a state reason for hurrying the construction of the city.  Peter had just seized the region from Sweden, which up until then had been the dominant military power of the Baltic rim and was effectively blocking Russia's seaborne access to the West.  Peter was desperate to create a vested interest on the part of Russia's ruling classes in supporting his "window on the West" strategy, and he needed a capital to which to lure them as quickly as possible in order to put down a stake.

Contrast that to Nicholas I's behavior when the Winter Palace burned in 1837.  Although the Tsar had numerous other residences available in the vicinity, he demanded that the palace be rebuilt within a year.  The haste this required and the health risks of working on such a project through a Russian winter resulted in hundreds of deaths on the work site from accident and disease.  What was his state purpose?  Nada.

Ivan IV is a fascinating case.  Because we know how his reign ended, we forget that the long early years of his reign were among the most successful of any monarch.  Ivan consolidated royal power against the violent fractiousness of a brutal Boyar class, and he was building an empire at the rate of 50 square miles a day for many years.  In fact, at one point he dealt with the Boyars'  attempt to reassert themselves by resigning his post and putting his case to the people of Moscow.  They were horrified at losing a popular Tsar and seeing a resurgence of Boyar power.

Only after the death of Ivan's beloved wife Anastasia did his incipient instability (which, I grant, probably derived in part from his childhood experiences) take hold and send him spiralling into unbridled cruelty.

Actually, Elisabeth, you're probably right that he had the makings of a serial killer embedded deep within his psyche.  As as child he enjoyed throwing cats and dogs off a bell tower to see them screech in horror.  I've always been fascinated how often the torture of animals has been an early indicator of psychopathic tendencies.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Tsarfan »

Elisabeth

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #373 on: April 19, 2005, 04:25:14 PM »
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Actually, Elisabeth, you're probably right that he had the makings of a serial killer embedded deep within his psyche.  As as child he enjoyed throwing cats and dogs off a bell tower to see them screech in horror.  I've always been fascinated how often the torture of animals has been an early indicator of psychopathic tendencies.


This reminds me so much of Peter III, court-martialing rats and hanging them. Or Vlad Dracul (Dracula), imprisoned by the Turks, impaling sparrows and mice for lack of any other victims. Excuse me if I'm being macabre, but it is fascinating.

To go back to an earlier question though: please don't misunderstand me, I wouldn't argue that Elizabeth Tudor's childhood was "bucolic," only that she had several strong, safe, loving adults in her life. Not to go deeply into the literature on child abuse, but the presence of merely one such adult can make all the difference in a child's personality development. Otherwise there is no safe harbor anywhere, no means of learning how to feel safe in one's self, and no chance for bonds of empathy to form with other human beings. I think we can see the results of such an absence in the life of Ivan the Terrible, a brilliant man, every bit Elizabeth's intellectual equal, but destroyed by his own internal demons, and bringing Russia itself to the brink of destruction with his disastrous Livonian War and the terror of his oprichniki. (I had one college professor who said that Ivan's reign was the turning point, the point where Russia began to go wrong. Since then I have heard many Russian intellectuals make the same argument.)

I would agree with you that Peter usually had "reasons of state" for doing what he did - still, you must admit, he was not the most humane personality. He didn't have to participate personally in the executions of the Streltsy (even Henry VIII didn't go so far!). He didn't have to torture his own son to death (he could have sent him to a monastery, for God's sake!). He didn't have to be so brutal that Alexander Solzhenitsyn has actually called him "Russia's First Bolshevik." And his legacy to Russia was not all good, you know. He left a permanent divide between the Westernized elite and the mass of the population; he left the succession question unresolved; he never managed to come up with a solution to the problem of local government either... Rather a mixed bag, I think.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »

Offline RichC

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #374 on: April 19, 2005, 05:02:47 PM »
Quote


I would agree with you that Peter usually had "reasons of state" for doing what he did - still, you must admit, he was not the most humane personality. He didn't have to participate personally in the executions of the Streltsy (even Henry VIII didn't go so far!). He didn't have to torture his own son to death (he could have sent him to a monastery, for God's sake!). He didn't have to be so brutal that Alexander Solzhenitsyn has actually called him "Russia's First Bolshevik." And his legacy to Russia was not all good, you know. He left a permanent divide between the Westernized elite and the mass of the population; he left the succession question unresolved; he never managed to come up with a solution to the problem of local government either... Rather a mixed bag, I think.


Didn't Peter also lock up his first wife (the mother of Tsarevich Alexis).  Wasn't her name Eudoxia?  

Nicholas II, as we know, was also no fan of Peter the Great.  Nicholas said that Peter was his least favorite Romanov Tsar because of his attempts to "westernize" Russia.