Author Topic: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2  (Read 174834 times)

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Elisabeth

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #75 on: April 28, 2005, 01:55:13 PM »
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I know I'm on thin ice here, because killing Nicholas' family is hard to justify by even the greatest stretch of Realpolitik.  But I'm going out on that ice . . . .

First, I've never understood why killing defenseless women and children is viewed as more horrific than killing equally defenseless adult males.


Actually I don't think killing women is worse than killing men, but I draw the line at children, as I'm sure you do, too. (IMO, you are deliberately being outrageous here, for the sake of argument only - which I can appreciate!) The murder of children is the most horrific and ultimately inexcusable crime. Still, we are talking about the early twentieth century, when notions of chivalry towards women were still pervasive (the most famous example being the Titanic: "Women and children first!") and the murder of defenseless women would have been viewed, even by the most hardened revolutionary, as especially taboo. You must have a strong core of ideological beliefs to overcome such a taboo, not necessarily if you are committing the crime on paper, at long distance, but definitely if you are leading an execution squad in person, as Yurovsky did.

I think Dr. Robert Maples put it best when he told Robert K. Massie that no one could have survived the massacre at Ekaterinburg, because in order to kill their unarmed victims the Bolsheviks had to dehumanize them and regard them as nothing but symbols of oppression and tyranny. Even you at your most argumentative, Tsarfan, must agree that Dr. Botkin and the servants, not to mention the children of the IF, were complete innocents, and there was no ostensible reason for killing them - not even for reasons of realpolitik, since the servants obviously could not be regarded as political threats and as RichC says, the IF itself was so hated by every class of society by this point that a restoration of the monarchy was only the remotest and most vague of possibilities. (What's most pathetic about the last days of the IF is the absence of any real plot to save them, despite the advancing White and Czech armies - unless you believe in the highly suspicious "Officer's Plot"). And of course women couldn't inherit the throne anyway....  

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Was it fanaticism to view them all as a threat?  We will probably never agree.  I happen to view fanaticism as an irrational set of views that has no anchor in logic.  As despicable and cold-blooded and chilling as Yurovsky's logic might have been, it was logic nonetheless.  In 1918 Bolshevism still held out hope for many Russians of a better life.  The desire to protect it, even at horrible moral costs, was not quite the dastardly desire it was to become under Stalin.


Fanaticism follows its own logic and should never be discounted or intellectually underestimated simply because to the non-fanatic it appears "irrational," -  as people everywhere learned to their great cost over and over again during the course of the 20th century.

As for the Bolsheviks, they were pretty despicable even as early as the summer of 1918. As I recall it was prior to July 1918 that they lowered the age by which you could suffer capital punishment to that of twelve years (which is another reason I find the timing of the murders at Ekaterinburg suspicious - Alexei was not yet fourteen). If Lenin & Co. had not already set up concentration camps for their political and "class" enemies they would do so before the end of the year, and they had already started shooting members of the hated bourgeoisie and aristocracy out of hand.

But to understand the nature of the Bolsheviks you have to understand first and foremost the nature of Lenin, which was amorally cold, ruthless, relentless, and committed to the use of terror as a means to an end. He was a true ideological fanatic - unswerving in his beliefs, which does not mean he could not be pragmatic (as demonstrated by NEP) and give the country a breather for the sake of holding onto power (well, perhaps that just makes him a cynic, I don't know). By way of contrast, Nicholas II was not by any stretch of the imagination a fanatic as his frequent changes of heart demonstrate. Nicholas did not know his own mind. Lenin did.

Indeed, he rarely if ever changed his mind or showed himself to be swayed by other's opinions or advice. Remember, it's only thanks to Lenin that there was an October Revolution (coup d'etat) - his fellow Bolsheviks thought it would be premature, unwise, and advised against it. Lenin, typically, stuck to his guns and went ahead. Triumph of the will.

To return to RichC's scenario, if I had to be stuck on a desert island, I would choose Nicholas as my companion over Lenin or Yurovsky any day - Nicholas, as a well-brought-up gentleman, would offer me the food and water first, and know how to carry on polite if trivial conversation. Whereas Lenin would be like Sartre and talk you to death with his holier than thou opinions.

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #76 on: April 29, 2005, 11:51:03 AM »
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The murder of children is the most horrific and ultimately inexcusable crime.


I agree that killing children is horrible.  But I don't think it necessarily signals fanaticism.  Richard III probably had two young princes killed in England to ensure his hold on the throne.  He was egregiously ambitious.  But was he a fanatic?  Some Ottoman rulers had their siblings murdered upon their ascension to ensure their holds on power.  Were they fanatics?  Louis XVII was probably allowed to die of neglect, if not outright murdered, by his captors during the French Revolution.  Were they fanatics?  (Louis XVII's sister lived to old age.  Unlike Russia, France had never had a woman on the throne and probably felt such a possibility to be inconceivable.)

I really don't know what to make of Yurovsky's motives.  He did personally ensure the removal of Ivan Sednev, Alexei's playmate, before the executions.  So even he drew some lines around his murderous intentions.  He also excused those guards -- without repercussions -- who were unwilling to take part in the executions.  Fanatics don't generally appreciate the sensibilities of those who do not share their ardor.

I cannot figure out why he would do the above things and still include Botkin and the other non-royals in the execution.  I can only deduce from the circumstances that he was making some distinction based on risk of regenerating the Romanov dynasty (which was conceivable even with women, if they were all that was available) and those who displayed loyalty to the old regime.

One trait of fanaticism is the intolerance of others who might disagree with you.  Yurovsky's handling of the recalcitrant guards did not show that trait.

I have never argued that he was a moral man or that he should have done what he did.  I simply have asserted that I can find logic for it without having to resort to fanaticism as the cause.

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If Lenin & Co. had not already set up concentration camps for their political and "class" enemies they would do so before the end of the year, and they had already started shooting members of the hated bourgeoisie and aristocracy out of hand.

But to understand the nature of the Bolsheviks you have to understand first and foremost the nature of Lenin, which was amorally cold, ruthless, relentless, and committed to the use of terror as a means to an end. He was a true ideological fanatic.


Little Lenin did was without precedent in the tsarist regime.  The Cheka evolved from the Okrahna, both in purpose (the maintenance of the regime) and methodology (action without due process).  Siberian exile was a centuries-old tradition.  The concentration camps were a more organized form of this tradition, which sought the removal of undesireables without resort to the extreme measure of executing them.  Tsarist pogroms involved the "shooting of the hated [Jews] out of hand."  Simply substitute "Jews" for "bourgeoise and aristocracy", and your comment could apply just as well to tsarists as to Bolsheviks.

If these things signify fanaticism for Lenin, I think they must do the same for the tsarist regime.

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To return to RichC's scenario, if I had to be stuck on a desert island, I would choose Nicholas as my companion over Lenin or Yurovsky any day - Nicholas, as a well-brought-up gentleman, would offer me the food and water first, and know how to carry on polite if trivial conversation. Whereas Lenin would be like Sartre and talk you to death with his holier than thou opinions.


I agree with you about the choice of Nicholas over Lenin.  However, the choice RichC posed was Nicholas or Yurovsky.  I was kidding, anyway.  C'mon . . . cut me some slack here.

Offline RichC

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #77 on: April 29, 2005, 01:34:37 PM »
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I really don't know what to make of Yurovsky's motives.  He did personally ensure the removal of Ivan Sednev, Alexei's playmate, before the executions.  So even he drew some lines around his murderous intentions.  He also excused those guards -- without repercussions -- who were unwilling to take part in the executions.  Fanatics don't generally appreciate the sensibilities of those who do not share their ardor..


I thought some of these guards were eventually shot many years later because of their refusal to participate.

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I cannot figure out why he would do the above things and still include Botkin and the other non-royals in the execution.
 

My theory is that he and the other Ural Bolsheviks hated them and wanted to kill them.  The also shot all the other loyal servants in the Urals they could get their hands on except for Buxhovedin, who betrayed the Imperial family.  


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I can only deduce from the circumstances that he was making some distinction based on risk of regenerating the Romanov dynasty (which was conceivable even with women, if they were all that was available) and those who displayed loyalty to the old regime.


Wasn't there a grand duchess living in a hotel in Ekaterinburg who survived because she was the daughter of the King of Serbia?  



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Little Lenin did was without precedent in the tsarist regime.  The Cheka evolved from the Okrahna, both in purpose (the maintenance of the regime) and methodology (action without due process).  Siberian exile was a centuries-old tradition.  The concentration camps were a more organized form of this tradition, which sought the removal of undesireables without resort to the extreme measure of executing them.  


You're so far out on that limb, Tsarfan, you could give Shirley MacLaine a run for her money!   ;D  I don't think one can compare Siberian exile in Tsarist times with the gulag and keep a straight face.

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Tsarist pogroms involved the "shooting of the hated [Jews] out of hand."  Simply substitute "Jews" for "bourgeoise and aristocracy", and your comment could apply just as well to tsarists as to Bolsheviks.

If these things signify fanaticism for Lenin, I think they must do the same for the tsarist regime.


But what about the attempts to alleviate the plight of the Jews by Nicholas?  Also, isn't it true that anti-semitism was alive & well in Russia long after the Revolution.  Weren't most of the Jews in the Bolshevik government eventually shot under Stalin?  Can you really say that the Tsarist government was spearheading anti-semitism in Russia the same way the Nazis did in Germany?

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I agree with you about the choice of Nicholas over Lenin.  However, the choice RichC posed was Nicholas or Yurovsky.  I was kidding, anyway.  C'mon . . . cut me some slack here.


cut, cut, cut :)

Here's another way of thinking about it?  Which government would you rather live under?  The Tsarist government under Nicholas II or the Bolshevik government under Lenin?

Elisabeth

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #78 on: April 29, 2005, 01:44:01 PM »
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I agree that killing children is horrible.  But I don't think it necessarily signals fanaticism.  Richard III probably had two young princes killed in England to ensure his hold on the throne.  He was egregiously ambitious.  But was he a fanatic?  Some Ottoman rulers had their siblings murdered upon their ascension to ensure their holds on power.  Were they fanatics?  Louis XVII was probably allowed to die of neglect, if not outright murdered, by his captors during the French Revolution.  Were they fanatics?  (Louis XVII's sister lived to old age.)


I would make a distinction between rulers who kill because of ambition or realpolitik (e.g., getting rid of a rival claimant to the throne) and ideological fanatics who kill political rivals because they believe that these rivals constitute not only a political threat but also and perhaps just as importantly a cancerous growth in the body politic that must be excised. This is where ideology steps in. In other words, even if there was no actual political threat from the rival party or class of people, this group would still be subjected to persecution and potentially even elimination by the state.

So while I would agree with you completely that some tsarist officials and even tsars themselves were fanatically anti-Semitic and that theirs constituted an ideology of anti-Semitism, it was nevertheless an unofficial ideology, not one openly sanctioned by the tsarist state itself. Yes, some tsars themselves personally tolerated and even encouraged anti-Semitism, but anti-Semitism was not in and of itself a consistent, underpinning foundation of autocratic rule.

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I really don't know what to make of Yurovsky's motives.  He did personally ensure the removal of Ivan Sednev, Alexei's playmate, before the executions.  So even he drew some lines around his murderous intentions.  He also excused those guards -- without repercussions -- who were unwilling to take part in the executions.  Fanatics don't generally appreciate the sensibilities of those who do not share their ardor.

One trait of fanaticism is the intolerance of others who might disagree with you.  Yurovsky's handling of the recalcitrant guards did not show that trait.


I think that here we need to make a distinction between fanaticism and outright nihilism. Nihilism desires destruction for its own sake and does not make finer distinctions. If Yurovsky had been a nihilist, he would not have spared Leonka Sednev. Fanaticism, on the other hand, can be quite judicious in its application. For example, even the Nazis – who I think we can all agree were by any definition fanatical – did not insist that their men participate in mass executions of Jews, Communists and other "undesirables." Just as the Einsatzgruppen killing squads only accepted volunteers, so any of these men could ask to be transferred if at any time they found they no longer had the stomach to do the work. Another example: the Nazis wished to exterminate every Jew in Europe, but they made one exception, because they were forced to do so by public opinion: German Jews married to Christians. If you were a German Jew married to a Christian, you were exempt from deportation and certain death, unless your spouse either died or divorced you. I’m sure this special status of certain "full-blooded" Jews stuck in the craws of fanatics like Hitler and Himmler, but they were willing to grant these particular Jews a reprieve (however temporary it might have proved to be if the Nazis had won the war), in the interests of a larger goal.

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I have never argued that he was a moral man or that he should have done what he did.  I simply have asserted that I can find logic for it without having to resort to fanaticism as the cause.


No, I don’t accuse you of letting Yurovsky off the hook, I just think we have different definitions of the term "fanaticism."

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Little Lenin did was without precedent in the tsarist regime.  The Cheka evolved from the Okrahna, both in purpose (the maintenance of the regime) and methodology (action without due process).  Siberian exile was a centuries-old tradition.


Here I agree with you to a large extent. But what Lenin did was far more wide-sweeping and systematic than anything the tsars had ever envisioned (except possibly Ivan the Terrible). Essentially the Bolsheviks built a state on terror.  

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The concentration camps were a more organized form of this tradition, which sought the removal of undesireables without resort to the extreme measure of executing them.  Tsarist pogroms involved the "shooting of the hated [Jews] out of hand."  Simply substitute "Jews" for "bourgeoise and aristocracy", and your comment could apply just as well to tsarists as to Bolsheviks.

If these things signify fanaticism for Lenin, I think they must do the same for the tsarist regime.


Here I just plain disagree, again, because anti-Semitic pogroms never assumed a consistent, systematic character in imperial Russia (the tsar never decreed that such and such a number of Jewish hostages be shot on such and such a day, as Lenin did time and again with members of the bourgeoisie, aristocracy and criminal classes). Moreover, there were always officials within the tsarist government who opposed these destructive outbreaks of violence and worked (sometimes successfully) to stop them or to mitigate their ill effects. And of course, there were no concentration camps set up for Jews in imperial Russia or for anyone else for that matter.

Indeed, concentration camps were an entirely new development in Russia under the Soviets and the idea that people in these camps were not subjected to arbitrary capital punishment is entirely dismissed by any reading of camp memoirs going as far back as the late 1910s and 1920s. (Odd coincidence, but I have just been rereading Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago II in which he sets out the history of these early camps, like Solov'ki. If you haven't read it already, Anne Applebaum's Gulag is also worthy of study.)

What the Bolsheviks instituted was a terror encompassing entire social classes and political groups of people, not a single people belonging to a particular religion (and remember too, that Russian anti-Semitism was not racist - if a Jew converted to Orthodoxy, he automatically became exempt from anti-Semitic regulations. Contrast this to the ongoing Soviet persecution of children of "enemies of the people"!). The tsarist government, however bad it was on many an occasion, never instituted a program of systematic terror aimed at a broad swathe of Russian society, from the highest to the lowest.

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I agree with you about the choice of Nicholas over Lenin.  However, the choice RichC posed was Nicholas or Yurovsky.  I was kidding, anyway.  C'mon . . . cut me some slack here.


Hey, I was just kidding, too! :) I'll cut you as much slack as you want!

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #79 on: April 29, 2005, 02:33:24 PM »
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I thought some of these guards were eventually shot many years later because of their refusal to participate.


I don't know.  You may be right.  But by whose order?  And why many years later instead of on the heels of their refusal?

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My theory is that he and the other Ural Bolsheviks hated them and wanted to kill them.  The also shot all the other loyal servants in the Urals they could get their hands on except for Buxhovedin, who betrayed the Imperial family.


I'm sure Yurovsky hated the Romanovs and their hangers-on.  My quandry has been whether that hatred derived from fanaticism or from a sober assessment of the misery the government had failed to alleviate among the industrial classes.

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Wasn't there a grand duchess living in a hotel in Ekaterinburg who survived because she was the daughter of the King of Serbia?


I have read that.  If it was true, that would indicate to me that Yurovsky's wrath did not extend to all Romanovs but only to those (including women) around whom monarchists might rally for a restoration, i.e., the lineal descendants of the last tsar.  (I realize this doesn't explain the murder of the attendants.  But it does counter the claim that he had a fanatical hatred of all Romanovs.  It gets me back to my original view that Yurovsky's motives -- whatever they were -- were more complex than unbridled fanaticism.)

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You're so far out on that limb, Tsarfan, you could give Shirley MacLaine a run for her money!   ;D  I don't think one can compare Siberian exile in Tsarist times with the gulag and keep a straight face.


I'll admit to a bit of hyperbole here . . . but only a bit.  Many things were done more extremely in Soviet times (especially in the Stalin era).  I'm sure the Cheka was more brutal than the Okrahna . . . maybe by as wide a margin as the gulag was worse than mere Siberian exile.  But my point was that there were antecedents in tsarist times to the evils of Bolshevism.  (And exile to Serbia was no light punishment.  People were deprived of their property and sent into undeveloped regions where attempts to make a living did not necessarily yield success.  Not a gulag, but still a heavy price to pay for having an opinion different from the government's.)

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Also, isn't it true that anti-semitism was alive & well in Russia long after the Revolution.  Weren't most of the Jews in the Bolshevik government eventually shot under Stalin?  Can you really say that the Tsarist government was spearheading anti-semitism in Russia the same way the Nazis did in Germany?


I never, never said that anti-Semitism ended with tsarism or even that imperial Russia was more anti-semitic than other countries then or later.  I merely pointed to the tsarist pogroms to counter the argument that Lenin's government was showing fanaticism in their unbridled hatred and shooting out of hand of the bourgeoise and aristocrats.  Since Jews were also killed during tsarist pogroms based on unbridled hatred for their perceived crimes against society or established religion or whatever, I was pointing out that calling Lenin's government fanatical for what it did to the privileged classes also required calling Nicholas' government fanatical for what it did to the Jews.  (And there is plenty of evidence of government involvement in pogroms and even of Nicholas' awareness of some of it.)

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But what about the attempts to alleviate the plight of the Jews by Nicholas?


I don't really know what to make of this.  There is some evidence that Nicholas' view of the Jews was changing late in his reign.  However, there were also signals to the contrary.  For instance, the man who became known as Max Factor was initially the make-up artist to the imperial family for their official photo shoots.  He was a Jew and, upon being denied permission by Nicholas to marry, he emigrated to the U.S. and got started here by developing cosmetics that photographed properly for black-and-white cinema.

There were other personal incidents, such as Nicholas' refusing to allow a widow to return to her home in Yalta because it already had "too many Yids" and his refusal to allow an orchestra to play there because there were too many Jewish musicians in it.  Then there was the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", which was among the family's reading material in Ekaterinburg.

No matter what Nicholas came to feel, I'm aware of no case where he ever inquired into or punished official involvement in pogroms in which countless people were killed or burned out of their homes and businesses.

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Here's another way of thinking about it?  Which government would you rather live under?  The Tsarist government under Nicholas II or the Bolshevik government under Lenin?


That would depend.  If born to the nobility or capitalist classes, I would definitely have preferred to live under Nicholas.  If born into an industrial slum, I might have preferred Lenin.  If born Jewish, I'd have considered becoming an assasin of either.  Of course, once Stalin took over, suicide would have begun to look like an attractive option, no matter who or what I was.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Tsarfan »

Offline RichC

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #80 on: April 29, 2005, 04:39:53 PM »
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Many things were done more extremely in Soviet times....


In my view this makes all the difference.  Isn't going to extremes something that fanatics do?  

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I never, never said that anti-Semitism ended with tsarism or even that imperial Russia was more anti-semitic than other countries then or later.  I merely pointed to the tsarist pogroms to counter the argument that Lenin's government was showing fanaticism in their unbridled hatred and shooting out of hand of the bourgeoise and aristocrats.  Since Jews were also killed during tsarist pogroms based on unbridled hatred for their perceived crimes against society or established religion or whatever, I was pointing out that calling Lenin's government fanatical for what it did to the privileged classes also required calling Nicholas' government fanatical for what it did to the Jews.  (And there is plenty of evidence of government involvement in pogroms and even of Nicholas' awareness of some of it.)


I realize you never said anti-semitism ended with Tsarism.  I'm sorry; I didn't mean to imply you said that.  But in the context of comparing the tsarist government with the Bolshevik government which followed, it seems to me that the tsarist government always comes out looking, how should I put it, less evil and less extreme...  (see above)

What if you compare the tsarist government's treatment of the Jews with the American government's treatment of native Americans.  Didn't the American government have a policy, at least for a while, of exterminating the native American population?

Despite all the terrible things that happened, I think the worst thing one can say about Nicholas was that he was inept and he was an anti-semite.  I don't think he was fanatical about the Jews.

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I don't really know what to make of this.  There is some evidence that Nicholas' view of the Jews was changing late in his reign.  However, there were also signals to the contrary.  For instance, the man who became known as Max Factor was initially the make-up artist to the imperial family for their official photo shoots.  He was a Jew and, upon being denied permission by Nicholas to marry, he emigrated to the U.S. and got started here by developing cosmetics that photographed properly for black-and-white cinema.


Well, I googled Max Factor and it says he emmigrated from Poland in 1902; this would have been relatively early in Nicholas' reign.

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There were other personal incidents, such as Nicholas' refusing to allow a widow to return to her home in Yalta because it already had "too many Yids" and his refusal to allow an orchestra to play there because there were too many Jewish musicians in it.  Then there was the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", which was among their reading material in Ekaterinburg.


It's clear that Nicholas repudiated this book once he learned it had been written by the secret police.  This all took place long before 1917.  Perhaps the anti-semitism reasserted itself when he was in captivity.  

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That would depend.  If born to the nobility or capitalist classes, I would definitely have preferred to live under Nicholas.  If born into an industrial slum, I might have preferred Lenin.  If born Jewish, I'd have considered becoming an assasin of either.  Of course, once Stalin took over, suicide would have begun to look like an attractive option.


Chances are you would have been born a peasant, since they were the largest population group.  And a lot of peasants died under Stalin.  As far as suicide goes, you would have had a lot of company there too as Stalin's own wife killed herself.  If born Jewish, I would have emmigrated, like Max Factor did.  What point would there have been in assassinating Nicholas -- doing so would not have ended Russian attitudes toward Jews.

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #81 on: April 29, 2005, 05:42:13 PM »
Tsarfan, to be honest I'm having difficulty following your argument. You seem to be splitting hairs and I'm not sure why. What is the real difference if any between killing someone because they might possibly potentially in a blue moon be a claimant to the throne (even though they're a mere servant) and killing someone because they're related to the despised Romanov family, which just happens to have occupied that throne for the last 300 years?

And yes, anti-Semitism was and is a truly vile thing, but it was not a plank in the centuries-old tsarist platform. We are talking about a pre-modern ideology here, with feudal obligations between the Tsar-Batiushka and his "children," his subjects. Russians decided the tsar was God's representative on earth and Moscow was the Third Rome long before they ever decided they had a Jewish "problem."  

So I guess I'm failing to see any connection whatsoever between the personal anti-Semitism of the last tsars and the Gulag of the Bolsheviks. Maybe because there is no connection. Unless you take into account those unfortunate members of the Jewish bourgeoisie who weren't able to emigrate in time and ended up in the Bolshevik concentration camps of the far North. Because as a matter of fact the Bolsheviks did not distinguish between the Gentile and Jewish middle classes, persecuting both on an equal basis. Progress? I don't think so.

By the way, Webster's Ninth does not mention "hatred" as a defining characteristic of "fanaticism," only "excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion." I would say that defines a character like Yurovsky and his attitude to the revolution rather well.  

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #82 on: April 29, 2005, 08:25:32 PM »
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Tsarfan, to be honest I'm having difficulty following your argument. You seem to be splitting hairs and I'm not sure why.


I guess I am splitting hairs, and I'm starting to get confused by my own arguments.

However, this all comes down to a fundamental view I have that fanaticism is seldom an adequate explanation of history.  Any definition of "fanatic" that one advances to embrace Lenin also embraces others who are not generally called fanatics.  Take Peter the Great, for instance -- his personal torture of the Streltsy, his brutality that resulted in his son's death, his obsession with turning Russia westward no matter what the costs to her people and her national soul, the thousands of lives he cashed in to build St. Petersburg quickly.  Don't all these things carry the hallmarks of fanaticism?  Yet I've never heard his reign chalked up to fanaticism.

In the final analysis, the label "fanatic" seems to be applied not to actions but to our views of the results.  Most people like Peter's results, so he is called "the Great."  Most people abhor Lenin's results, so he is called a fanatic.  

I just think Lenin was too complex a historical figure to be encompassed by that moniker.  And I find too many cross-currents in the behavior of even someone such as Yurovsky to apply the term to him, too.

It's too long an argument over one word.  I'm done.  Honest.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Tsarfan »

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #83 on: April 29, 2005, 08:43:44 PM »
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Well, I googled Max Factor and it says he emmigrated from Poland in 1902; this would have been relatively early in Nicholas' reign.


Max Factor was born in Poland and trained as a wig-maker.  He moved to St. Petersburg where he became wig-maker and make-up artist to the Imperial Ballet.  In that capacity, he was enlisted to assist the imperial family when they were being officially photographed.  (The biography of him on the U.K. Proctor & Gamble website gives his emigration date as 1904 . . . ten years into the reign.)

I heard the rest of the story about him (including Nicholas' refusal of permission for him to marry) on a Biography Channel broadcast about a year ago.  It said that the only women at the turn of the 20th century who consistently used make-up were actresses and prostitutes.  "Decent" women had little experience with it, and even fewer women understood the way black-and-white film distorted color.  (For example, red lipstick photographed as muddy brown.)  That's why the imperial family needed his assistance.

Getting off topic, but maybe interesting nonetheless.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Tsarfan »

Offline RichC

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #84 on: April 29, 2005, 11:45:02 PM »
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However, this all comes down to a fundamental view I have that fanaticism is seldom an adequate explanation of history.  Any definition of "fanatic" that one advances to embrace Lenin also embraces others who are not generally called fanatics.  Take Peter the Great, for instance -- his personal torture of the Streltsy, his brutality that resulted in his son's death, his obsession with turning Russia westward no matter what the costs to her people and her national soul, the thousands of lives he cashed in to build St. Petersburg quickly.  Don't all these things carry the hallmarks of fanaticism?  Yet I've never heard his reign chalked up to fanaticism.


Perhaps nobody ever looked at it that way.  But I would agree wholeheartedly that Peter was fanatical in his campaign to turn Russia westward.  

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In the final analysis, the label "fanatic" seems to be applied not to actions but to our views of the results.  Most people like Peter's results, so he is called "the Great."  Most people abhor Lenin's results, so he is called a fanatic.  

I just think Lenin was too complex a historical figure to be encompassed by that moniker.  And I find too many cross-currents in the behavior of even someone such as Yurovsky to apply the term to him, too.


I grant that calling Yurovsky a fanatic is a stretch, but I wanted to explore that possibility and see where it went.  I very much enjoyed the discussion.  But I have no doubt that Lenin was a fanatic in the same way that Peter the Great was.  The difference was that Peter cared about Russia while Lenin did not.  Lenin only cared about power.  Perhaps that's why Peter's results are admired while Lenin's are abhorred.  

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It's too long an argument over one word.  I'm done.  Honest.


Well, I hope you aren't leaving the board!

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #85 on: April 30, 2005, 06:30:33 AM »
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Well, I hope you aren't leaving the board!


No way.  Just gonna live by my promise to quit haranguing everyone with my view of fanaticism.

Elisabeth

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #86 on: April 30, 2005, 12:44:39 PM »
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However, this all comes down to a fundamental view I have that fanaticism is seldom an adequate explanation of history.  Any definition of "fanatic" that one advances to embrace Lenin also embraces others who are not generally called fanatics.  Take Peter the Great, for instance -- his personal torture of the Streltsy, his brutality that resulted in his son's death, his obsession with turning Russia westward no matter what the costs to her people and her national soul, the thousands of lives he cashed in to build St. Petersburg quickly.  Don't all these things carry the hallmarks of fanaticism?  Yet I've never heard his reign chalked up to fanaticism.

In the final analysis, the label "fanatic" seems to be applied not to actions but to our views of the results.  Most people like Peter's results, so he is called "the Great."  Most people abhor Lenin's results, so he is called a fanatic.  

I just think Lenin was too complex a historical figure to be encompassed by that moniker.  And I find too many cross-currents in the behavior of even someone such as Yurovsky to apply the term to him, too.


You may be right, Tsarfan, that the term "fanatic" is reductionist and that who is labelled a fanatic and who is not depends on who wins the final battle, as it were. Most of us think of someone like Hitler as a fanatic. On the other hand there are historians out there who argue he was not, that his racism was based not on passion but on cynical political calculation.

Myself, I think it was both, and that the two don't necessarily exclude one another. As I was trying to say in an earlier post, the application of fanaticism can be judicious. The "fanatics" in charge of 20th-century killing squads were fully aware of the cultural taboos against murder and kept them in mind when recruiting and training their killers. Remember Himmler's famous speech to the SS in which he extolled them for "standing fast" (despite occasional "cases of human weakness") in the performance of "this most difficult of tasks," without suffering any "harm in our inner being, our soul, our character." George Orwell called this "doublethink," I believe.  

As for Peter, historically Russian intellectuals have held very divided opinions of him. The Westernizers of course saw him as a great man and visionary leader. But their opponents the Slavophiles viewed Peter as a catastrophe for Russia, a merciless tyrant who attempted to destroy the soul of the country. (And didn't many of Peter's contemporaries themselves view him as Anti-Christ?) In our own time, Solzhenitsyn has labelled Peter Russia's "first Bolshevik," so I think it's safe to assume that he, too, probably regards Peter as a "fanatic."

But we're really way off topic now!      
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »

helenazar

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #87 on: April 30, 2005, 03:07:22 PM »
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 Any definition of "fanatic" that one advances to embrace Lenin also embraces others who are not generally called fanatics.  Take Peter the Great, for instance -- his personal torture of the Streltsy, his brutality that resulted in his son's death, his obsession with turning Russia westward no matter what the costs to her people and her national soul, the thousands of lives he cashed in to build St. Petersburg quickly.  Don't all these things carry the hallmarks of fanaticism?  Yet I've never heard his reign chalked up to fanaticism.

In the final analysis, the label "fanatic" seems to be applied not to actions but to our views of the results.  Most people like Peter's results, so he is called "the Great."  Most people abhor Lenin's results, so he is called a fanatic.  
 


Tsarfan, I agree with your assessment of fanaticism. I think that these definitions are 'flexible' and it just depends on whom one is talking to. During the Soviet era, no one thought (at least not out loud ;)) that Lenin was a fanatic but that he was a great leader of the proletariat. The same with Stalin during his lifetime, believe it or not many many Russians had a lot of respect for him especially after WWII (and some still do!). Only after his death when things came out was he exposed as a "fanatic". Peter the Great, during his own lifetime was thought of as "the anti-Christ" by many Russian people. So there you have it... I think almost anyone who made any kind of a mark in history unless maybe if they were born into it, had to be, at least on some level, what is usually described as "fanatical".

Elisabeth

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #88 on: April 30, 2005, 03:52:49 PM »
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During the Soviet era, no one thought (at least not out loud ;)) that Lenin was a fanatic but that he was a great leader of the proletariat.


This simply isn't true. Starting to have second thoughts here... Actually the criticism of the radical intelligentsia by members of the Russian intelligentsia itself began well before the Soviet era and would have continued well into it, however secretly (see that famous collection of essays by Russian intellectuals, Vekhi, or translated, Landmarks, 1909). Plenty of people thought Lenin and his ilk were outright criminals. Most of them, hopefully, managed to emigrate. But the engineer and writer Evgenii Zamiatin, who got out only as late as 1920, left a masterful depiction of the Soviet dystopia in his novel We (which directly influenced both Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World). There were plenty of critics of the Soviet regime, well into the Stalin era and beyond. Most of them emigrated, ended up in concentration camps or were killed outright, that's all.  

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The same with Stalin during his lifetime, believe it or not many many Russians had a lot of respect for him especially after WWII (and some still do!). Only after his death when things came out was he exposed as a "fanatic". Peter the Great, during his own lifetime was thought of as "the anti-Christ" by many Russian people. So there you have it... I think almost anyone who made any kind of a mark in history unless maybe if they were born into it, had to be, at least on some level, what is usually described as "fanatical".


Actually I think we reserve the term "fanatical" for those who inflict mass killing fields on humanity in the name of an ideology - e.g., the Inquisition, the Holocaust, the Stalinist collectivization, the Stalinist Great Terror. There's a reason we have the term "fanatical" in our English vocabulary, and it doesn't have anything to do with moral relativism or the fact that most of humanity seems to be made up of sheep (sorry to be so cynical). Stalin was definitely criticized by many during his own lifetime, not only in the West - Alexandra Tolstoy leaps to mind (she emigrated very late - but of course no one in the West believed her tales of horror) as does the courageous Russian poet Osip Mandelshtam, one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, who died of starvation and exposure in a Soviet concentration camp - for having written a poem about Stalin that depicted him as a monster.

For anyone who has any doubts about the extent of dissension even during the Stalinist period, I advise you to read Nadezhda Mandelshtam's memoirs Hope Against Hope and Hope Abandoned. They constitute a real in-depth portrait of this era.
 
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »

helenazar

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #89 on: April 30, 2005, 04:03:24 PM »
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Plenty of people thought Lenin and his ilk were outright criminals.   


(P.S. I probably shouldn't have said "no one thought" in my previous post when I was talking about Lenin and Stalin, bad choice of words, I should have said "the official version"  ;))

Yes, definitely there were, but there were plenty who didn't think so (not necessarily from the intelligentsia circles, but they had their opinions neverthess. When Lenin died, and the decision was made to mummify him so that the masses could see him, people flocked from all over the country, and for years the pilgrimages continued to view his corpse. This was until something like late 1980's! People would wait for hours in line to get into the mausoleum to get a glimpse. This has to tell us something, I don't think it was just morbid curiousity although that could have played some part in it at least for some....
The same idea with Stalin. My mother grew up in the Soviet Union and was a child when Stalin died. She remembers that many people were literally in mourning, not the official governmental kind of mourning, but sincere mourning. She cried too, although she was only a small child so I wouldn't go by that. Many people from the WWII generation continued to feel this way, no matter what they learned about Stalin because they felt that it was Stalin who won the war. I know this because I have talked to people who felt and continue to feel this way, even the ones who emigrated! So my point is, yes, there were people who knew all along what these guys were about, but there were others who bought into the "great leader" image hook line and sinker... As I said earlier, it depends on whom you are talking to.

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