Monday, June 25, 2018

Probably best not to mess with the occult (only because it's tricky)

I've been re-reading "Nicholas and Alexandra" by Robert K. Massie for the first time since my teens. The first time, I wallowed in the seemingly inevitable horror of it. This time, I'm paying a bit more attention to the details --- still trying to figure out "what went wrong," of course, but trying to be a bit more realistic about it... (Yes, I understand the Marxist fervor sweeping both Europe and Russia. And, yes, Nicholas II was a relatively weak ruler --- whose rule also saw several mass shootings of protesters in an attempt to rein them in, which created antipathy among the people.)

The mystic Rasputin entered the Royal Family's life in 1905, during an especially life-threatening hemophiliac episode of their son Alexis. Formerly a hanger-on, Rasputin was invited in to pray over Alexis; when he did, the heir's pain miraculously subsided. From that point on, Rasputin was a welcome companion in the royal household.

Which was fine until the war. Nicholas went to the front to oversee the troops, and wife Alexandra was left at home with Rasputin in her ear. (Please, no jokes about "and other places.")

After Nicholas was away, author Massie documents letter after letter from Alexandra to her husband saying "our Friend [Rasputin]" thinks this, he thinks that. About various ministers of the country, about actual war policy. Most of the time, Nicholas acceded to his wife's wishes.

Insane. But the precedent: Rasputin actually HAD, on numerous occasions, alleviated the pain of Alexis simply by praying over him, a feat that no doctor had been able to accomplish.

Rasputin had also previously accurately predicted the deaths of several associates of the Tsar. Rasputin also predicted his own death, and the end of the Romanov dynasty, in a late-1916 letter: If he were killed by peasants, the Tsar and his family would survive; if killed by a member of the Romanov family, however, the dynasty would not only fall, but all would die within 6 months.

What was Nicholas to do? The sane members of the Russian government despised Rasputin and the hold he seemed to have over the Empress while Nicholas was away at the front. Every rational person wanted Rasputin gone. (A drunken, transvestite party-boy relative of the Tsar, Felix Yusupov, killed Rasputin on New Year's Eve, 2016.)

On the one hand, Rasputin helped the Tsar's son and was eerily accurate in many predictions. On the other hand, Rasputin was not helpful at all in determining who should be ministers of the Russian government (decisions, backed by the Empress, based primarily on who personally liked and respected him, Rasputin).

Probably Nicholas should have been a hard-core stern ruler/Man and utterly ignored his wife and her "feelings" and her "Friend."


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