As we approach the centennial anniversary of the murder of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, it was interesting –a little while back- to notice that Nicholas II was leading in an internet poll, in which millions voted, for the title Greatest Russian of All Time, narrowly ahead of Stalin! What does that tell us about the conflicting mentalities of Russians today?
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the restoration of the monarchy has become a conceivable solution to the troubled question of constitutional authority in Russia. The thousands who sported Imperial insignia in recent parades testify to an enduring loyalty to a monarchic ideal. The Putin settlement may not be for ever. A restoration is not helped, however, by elements of the extended Romanov family and their supporters who contest the Grand Duchess Maria’s claim and, by extension, that of her son the Grand Duke George. The discussion at http://chivalricorders.com could have considerable geopolitical relevance in the future. The restoration of the tsardom would be a possible outcome for a still troubled Russia which is in a state of constitutional limbo.
Fair enough? But I’d have thought it almost verifiable fact that the Romanovs were the most misguided and bigoted ruling house in modern history. As was said (I think by Stalin) the Bolsheviks should have erected a statue to Nicholas II to acknowledge his role in bringing about the revolution!
But “Greatest Russian of all time”? A choice between Nicholas or Stalin? Why not between Rasputin and Gorbachev?
Alexander Lyubimov, the TV producer of the contest, said at the time of the show: “There will be very negative opinions presented when we are discussing Lenin and Stalin. In my opinion these guys don’t have a chance to win because they do not relate to the lives of modern Russians.”
The Communist Party of St Petersburg determined to prove him wrong, believing that victory might revive the cult of Stalin and help to elevate the atheist dictator to sainthood! (I’m sure he’d have appreciated the irony).
“If he wins, we will ask the Russian Orthodox Church to consider canonising Stalin. Lenin was a Communist for the Church, but Stalin was a real national leader. For us, he is like Napoleon is to the French,” Mr Malinkovich said. “People remember that Stalin didn’t live for himself but for the country and the people. We see this vote as the first sign that there will be memorials to Stalin in Russia again. Of course there were gulags, but they did not have the widespread character that people in the West think. If they existed now, two thirds of bureaucrats would be in jail because they are so corrupt.”
But, apparently there are at least as many Monarchists, determined that Russia’s most significant historical figure should be Nicholas II. It’s really a choice between Russia’s imperial history and its Soviet past, isn’t it?.
Now come one, surely the Orthodox Church was never likely to heed calls to canonise Stalin, who ordered the destruction of thousands of churches after the Bolshevik revolution. Let alone a representative of a regime that in the murder of the Tsar’s family marked the start of atrocities that affected the country for decades. You think?
Well, it was all a storm in a teacup. Amidst loud calls of vote-rigging (understandable, given the openly stated prejudice of the show’s producer), Stalin was edged into third place, Nicholas disappeared and some relatively obscure figure takes top billing.
That’s Russian politics in a nutshell.