by Kathryn Colucci
July 17th will mark exactly a century since Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their children were murdered by the Bolsheviks. While that act of vengeance and brutality is seared into memory, the larger question is how history might have been different if the Tsar had lived and the murderous regime of Soviet communism – which claimed the lives and smothered the freedom of millions – had not.
Shortly after Nicholas abdicated in 1917 he sought protection from his cousin, the look-alike King George V of Great Britain. It was granted. But in the UK, news of asylum generated outrage by the Labor and liberal parties. Cousin George feared he might be met with the same fate as Nicky, and so, he rescinded the offer. Another plan was set-up by the provincial government at whisking the Imperial Family to the Ural Mountain during the winter and then evacuate them abroad through Japan in the spring. They were held in Alexander Palace, then a former governor’s home in the mountains. But the Red Tide was fierce, and the last ruling Romanovs became political prisoners of the Bolsheviks.
They were moved to the remote city of Ekaterinburg. There, in the pre-dawn hours of July 17th, 1918, the Romanovs and a few faithful servants were corralled into the basement of a “house of special purpose”. Here is where historians disagree as to the proceeding events. However, the general consensus is that Nicky and Alix, and their five children, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei, were assassinated by the Bolsheviks under the order of Vladimir Lenin. To Lenin, for a one-party communist dictatorship to live, an absolute monarchy had to die.
Here is where the chorus of if-onlys cries out in lamentation. If only the Czechoslovak Legion had reached the Romanovs a week earlier … If only the disorganized White Army, whose canons were within earshot of the Romanovs, had stormed Ekaterinburg … If only Cousin George had a stiffer resolve … If only they had survived.
One might call it fate, a build-up of missed opportunities, or a series of unfortunate events: Nicholas was unprepared to perform the duties of the Tsar upon the death of his father, Alexander III; he fell in love and married a German princess whose family was openly anti-Russian; he dithered in calling for peace during the Russo-Japanese War when defeat was inevitable; he hid behind palace walls when peasants and workers rioted for better working conditions and wages; he tolerated Rasputin’s seemingly ubiquitous presence with his family, which fanned negative press; he entered his woefully unprepared and outdated army into WWI where they were soundly beaten by the Germans on the Eastern Front; and he watched helplessly as a severe winter caused food shortages and riots on an already collapsing government in 1917. By this point, even the officers of the Imperial army were loath to remain loyal to the Tsar, and the spirit of revolution was flying strong and high.
Was it deserved? Was it necessary? To depose of their emperor is largely traumatic for a nation whose diverse people no longer have a common figure to rally behind. It brought an abrupt end to centuries of tradition, and curtailed a possible future in which Russia may have evolved into the Eastern mirror of Great Britain.
Had they survived and recovered the throne, Tsar Nicholas II may have been persuaded to transform Russia into a constitutional monarchy, perhaps even out of necessity due to his hemophiliac son, Alexei. The atmosphere of an imperial fairytale would have changed, certainly scaled back for economy’s sake, but it would have still been alive and significant for the morale of the people. Most importantly, the continuation of this particular monarchy would have stopped the needless abuse, backwardness, spying, secretiveness and paranoia of the subsequent dictatorship in its tracks. It may have prevented both the direct and indirect deaths of nearly 100 million people for an untried, untrue, half-baked armchair brain aneurysm in the form of Marxist-socialism, and its twin brother, communism. This cancer of a political ideology would not have rapidly metastasized into Asia, the Middle-East, Africa and Latin America. There would have been no Cold War, no Cuban missile crisis, no East-West Germany, no Maoism, no Khmer Rouge, no gulags, and in a united Korea, Kim Jong Un may have been admired as a basketball star by Dennis Rodman instead of the other way around.
On the anniversary of the death of Nicholas II, we are reminded of the thin line that separates war and peace. We reflect on how the lives people live now are closely tied to events that happened once upon a time. In this case, the action of murdering a defenseless, captive family who 99.9% of us have no relation to, caused an avalanche of destruction as the consequences rippled through the generations. Rather than delivering on the promise of liberty or independence touted by the Communists, the assassination of Tsar Nicholas II was the first omen of a revolution that would usher in tyranny. It is a tyranny whose reverberations we are continuing to fix to this day.
Kathryn Colucci is writer from the Midwest and is currently working on a historical novel concerning events in the decades before Nicholas II was deposed.
From: AMI Newswire