Author Topic: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2  (Read 176506 times)

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Elisabeth

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #90 on: April 30, 2005, 04:32:34 PM »
Sorry to wax so indignant, Helen. I understand your point.

I guess my point would be: we can judge regimes by their outcomes. The Soviet regime literally collapsed in 1991, as a result of its own inertia and, dare I say it, loss of fanaticism. Simply put, the powers that be no longer had the will to inflict mass killing on its own people - similarly to the tsarist regime in March 1917 - because the ideology itself was dead and had been dead for some 20 years at least (contrast this to the Chinese and Tianamen Square! or perhaps you could say the will to power in the Chinese Communist Party has persisted long after the death of its ideology). During the Lenin and Stalin periods, there was this will to exterminate the "insects" and "parasites" (I am quoting Lenin) who were supposedly nibbling away at the heart of the great revolution. That is why I call Lenin and his ilk fanatics, whatever their innate or acquired gifts at realpolitik (because both Lenin and Stalin showed great flexibility where the other European powers were concerned - it was only with their own people that they were utterly intolerant).

Well, what can I say, I'm not a postmodernist by any stretch of the imagination, and I still believe, as Shelley put it, that poets are the "unacknowledged legislators of the world." (So here let me put in another plug for Mandelshtam. Everyone should read this great Judeo-Christian poet who eventually turned against the Russian revolution. He's all but unknown in the West, and it's so unfair - he's easily the equal of Pound and Eliot!)

bluetoria

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This is going back a bit to the mention of Nicholas's anti-semitism but I thought it was relevant to this thread anyway. There is a letter from Alix in 1916 in which she sends Nicky a petition for one of 'Aunt Olga's wounded men.' He is a Jew, she says who left to live in America because "here it is always difficult for  Jew who is always hampered by legislative restrictions."
He returned to fight in the war & lost an arm. Alix writes:

"One sees the bitterness, & I fully grasp it - such a man ought to be treated the same as any other soldier who received such a wound....one would like him to be justly treated."

Since she was able to write like this to Nicholas, I think there is an implication that he personally was not so anti-semitic but rather that the regime was. Alix, certainly cannot have been, nor 'Aunt Olga' who had first presented the petition. Doesn't this suggest that individual members of the IF were caught up in this injustice, rather than being responsible for it?
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by bluetoria »

Offline Tsarfan

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I find it hard to grasp the distinction between a tsar's views and the policies of his regime.  Who had created those "legislative restrictions" that Alexandra is bemoaning?

I don't know that such a letter necessarily signifies that Nicholas was not anti-semitic.  I grew up in close quarters with southern racists during the U.S. civil rights movement, and many white racists had their "special" cases of pity for one individual or one circumstance while maintaining their general stance that blacks as a group were dangerous, unsanitary, of subpar intelligence, and easily led by "agitators."

Alexandra's letter could be read to mean she feels simply that an exception should be made for Jews who fight and are injured in military service.  It's very much like the southern women I grew up around.  They all felt their own maids were deserving of better treament than other blacks and should be granted limited exceptions to laws that otherwise these women supported whole-heartedly.  The mindest was, "they are to be tolerated when serving me and my interests.  They are to be hindered in all other things."

Racism is a very complex and internally-inconsistent phenomenon.  The fact is that Jews were burned out and killed numerous times during Nicholas' reign, with the tolerance and sometimes outright participation of his regional officials.  I have never encountered a single mention that he ever investigated one of these incidents, much less did anything to curb them.

This letter was written in 1916.  But in 1918, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was found on the Grand Duchesses' nightstand, although Nicholas knew it to be a forgery of his own Okrahna.

The man went to his own death with the blood on his hands of many innocents whose only crime was to have been born into a different faith.

I understand many of the arguments on this board that Nicholas was overwhelmed by events beyond his control and even that he may have stood at the end of the line of a string of historical trends that were inexorably coming to a head during his reign.  But I can never absolve an individual of the choices of conscience he makes.  To say "I was raised that way" is a recipe for any number of evils to continue unchallenged.

Sorry to wax so indignant on this point . . . just one of my hot buttons.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Tsarfan »

bluetoria

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Mmm...I know you're right. But could we agree that it is very unlikely that Alexandra shared these anti-semitic views? After all, she had been largely raised in England where her grandmother had worshipped Disraeli & where the Jewish people were widely accepted?

I agree there is no excuse in saying, "I was raised that way" & that it could be used to justify anything, but I wonder if Nicholas had many opportunities to view the situation from a different angle. How many Jewish people had he ever come into contact with, for example?

Here, in Britain, I know many older people who have very racist views & are quite unaware of the fact that they are being racist. It comes over most clearly when they make a comment like, "Oh he's a [wherever he's from] but he's very nice." (As though the colour/race of the person should make any difference.) I think this partly due to their upbringing & experience.

I know people too who make similar remarks about people of other religions. I am a Catholic & have worked in places where people have said to me, "Oh, I always thought Catholics were a bit weird before..."

I'm not excusing such attitudes, rather I'm trying to understand where they come from. I wonder if part of Nicholas' problem was simply his lack of contact with the Jewish people - which may or may not have been his own fault.  


Offline Tsarfan

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You're probably right that Alexandra wasn't anti-semitic, or at least not to the extent of most Russians.  In using the example of southern women and their maids, I meant to point out one of the mindsets of racism but not to  represent it as Alexandra's own view.  Sorry for the muddy writing.

Offline RichC

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I wrote a long paper about Disraeli many years ago and I'm sure he wasn't Jewish -- he was Christian (probably Anglican) but he did come from a Jewish background.  Disraeli probably would never have gotten very far in his political career if he hadn't converted (it may have been his parents' generation who converted -- I can't remember).

I think Tsarfan made a really good point when he said that, "racism is a very complex and internally-inconsistent phenomenon."  It's not unusual for a bigot to be heard saying nice things about individual members of a group he or she normally denigrates as a whole.  

bluetoria

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Oh yes, I know Disraeli converted (& was reputed to have done so in order to further his career) but the question still remains about whether it was question of religion or race. Also, Edward VII had many Jewish friends.

Yes, I agree with your last point but I don't think this applied to Alexandra..

Offline Ilana

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Right on Tsarfan!

I'm sorry, but coming from Alice and having an Aunt like Vicky, Alix should have known better.

Oh, well, we can argue that all day long....
So long and thanks for all the fish

Elisabeth

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There are differing degrees of any prejudice. Many Germans who were anti-Semitic nevertheless drew the line at Hitler's order to kill the Jews (Claus von Stauffenberg's brother was one). Similarly, Bluetoria raises a valid point when she states that many people who are raised in an anti-Semitic environment merely parrot anti-Semitic views without really "living" them. Not to mention the fact that anti-Semitism was so pervasive in the West during the late 19th, early 20th centuries that Edward VII of England drew strong criticism while still Prince of Wales for his friendship with many Jews.

Anyway, there is an entire thread, "The Romanovs and Anti-Semitism," devoted to this issue, which has been discussed imo to such an extent that it rather throws into the shade the Russian imperial government's (or for that matter the Soviet) treatment of other ethnic and religious minorities in the empire. We never hear about them. And I think that's a little strange.

But I also think we should move away from the largely discredited idea that Alexandra exerted influence over public policy. It has been demonstrated that she did not exert any such influence, no matter how strenuous her efforts. The very fact that she could stand up so staunchly for one Jew, but her daughters still read "The Protocols of Zion," speaks to that fact. I think Alexandra was more subservient to her husband's views than vice versa.

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

Silja

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Quote


  But I can never absolve an individual of the choices of conscience he makes.  To say "I was raised that way" is a recipe for any number of evils to continue unchallenged.

.


True. However, it is always rather easy to judge somebody from a perspective such as ours, a perspective which has been formed by an upbringing in a pluralistic society. I actually assume Nicholas had a fairly clear conscience as to the "systematic" discrimination against Jews, not because he was against Jews as individuals but against Judaism as a threat to the national idea of Russian - and this meant Orthodox - national identity. And this is where the upbringing comes in. If from childhood you are filled up with a certain ideology - in this case about a certain idea of nationhood and national identity -  and in addition have never been taught to think in a more relativistic way and to question general "truths" you are often bound to fall prey to that respective ideology.

Speaking about conscience one must always bear in mind that a conscience, too, must be formed and always is.

Obviously, one must severely criticize Nicholas for not having seen to it that those responsible for and involved in the pogroms were prosecuted for it. Nothing can excuse that. But it was his education that made him adhere to and believe in the idea that "the Jews" as a group represented something contradicting and threatening Russian national identity. It formed part of his general idealistic view of the Russian people.  

Offline RichC

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #100 on: May 09, 2005, 08:17:31 AM »
I don't really appreciate it when people say things like "it's always rather easy to judge...".  One is attacking the arguer rather than the argument.  This is basically just a put-down.


It doesn't matter what environment one is raised in, people ought to know better.  
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by RichC »

Elisabeth

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #101 on: May 09, 2005, 09:20:51 AM »
Quote
I don't really appreciate it when people say things like "it's always rather easy to judge...".  One is attacking the arguer rather than the argument.  This is basically just a put-down.


It doesn't matter what environment one is raised in, people ought to know better.  


In an ideal world, people would know better, but any cursory reading of history shows that most people do not - they adopt the views of their immediate milieu without questioning them. Of course in every era there have been exceptional people who could see past the prejudices of their time and place - otherwise we would not have seen any progress over the centuries in civil rights for women and minorities, for example. But Silja is right, most people just go with what they are taught and what others around them think.

Furthermore, even very exceptional people like Abraham Lincoln did not start out thinking that slavery was an evil. His views about race underwent dramatic change during his lifetime and were still evolving when he was assassinated in 1865. So I don't think Silja intended any "put-down" with her comments. She was just stating a basic truth about human nature, not about a specific individual. It is easy for us to sit in judgment, when most of us have no idea how we would turn out if placed from birth in an overwhelmingly racist or anti-Semitic environment.

P.S. This thread is too long! It takes five minutes for me to load it in order to respond. Maybe it's time we started a new thread, "Negative Attributes II"?  
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »

Offline RichC

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #102 on: May 23, 2005, 06:32:44 PM »
What were Nicholas II's positive attributes?

Offline Forum Admin

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #103 on: May 24, 2005, 09:14:59 AM »
Rich, What an EXCELLENT question to counter the other thread! I'll start.

Nicholas II truly felt responsible for the welfare of the Russian people.  Every decision he made, right or wrong, he made believing in his heart was best for Russia.

Nicholas was devoted to his family and showed the greatest personal courage and strength possible during the period of captivity even up to the instant of his death.

Nicholas was an interested engaging person. Reading everything he could find and eager to talk to people he met and learn from them.

He wanted to act as a peacemaker and avoid conflict whenever possible.

Carry on!

hikaru

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #104 on: May 24, 2005, 09:48:47 AM »
He was in good sportive form.
He liked sport and recommended sport to others.

He liked ballet and french comedies.
The budget of Imperial Theaters was very good, so they could use good artists.

He was very polite and charming.

He was  very good to Lenin - He sent him to Switzerland but not to the North Pole.