Monday, November 07, 2005

This day marks the 88th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. At the Russian capital of St. Petersberg the Bolsheviks overthrew the Provisional government -the one that had replaced the Tsar- on this day. The Russians followed the Julian calendar at that time; hence 7th November was read as 25 October. In view of the magnitude of other messes by the holy Commies, however, a date mess up would seem insignificant.

Yet they made sure not to mess up propaganda: the black and white sell-USSR-to-the-world documentaries of the 60s and 70s with happy, healthy and smiling faces, for instance. The print media enjoyed its own version of pandering to soviet success. Cheerful farmers, leaders comrades-in-arms with mill workers, men and women astronauts, smiling Olympic champions, robust and cheeky kids in their mothers' arms.....all greeting the readers of every Soviet journal. Before 1990, journals such as Soviet Nari were available thoroughout India at ridiculously low prices through a gazillion publishers. The fall of the USSR rendered this category of heavily subsidized journals almost extinct. Vostok was the most popular Soviet publisher in India. In its heyday, it operated across the country through numerous bookstores and offices. Now only a few metros mark its limited territory.

In addition, all those rosy-happy-healthy pictures have become sparse since 1990. When they appear, they're often juxtaposed with vignettes of the fall of Berlin wall, the long lines in ration stores, the agitating citizens on the streets and the toppling and vandalizing of the statues of leaders- such as Stalin, Lenin and Dzerzhinsky. The last by virtue of being the founder of Cheka, the precursor of KGB, could have been the winner in nastiness, most likely. The images of cheering and jubilation amongst the population as his statue fell to the ground was not, therefore, very unexpected.

There is yet another image. That of Boris Yeltsin standing in quiet prayer in this huge medieval church as the bones of the Tsar and his family were laid to rest at St. Petersberg. Strange, but it took 80 years for justice and humanity to prevail and for a man and his family to earn a decent burial.

That also put paid too all the numerous speculations on which of the Romanovs may have escaped the Bolsheviks. When the bones were dug out a few years after the execution in 1918, one set of female bones was missing. This fact received tremendous publicity: since the early 1930s, several characters appeared at different intervals at various European capitals claiming to be Anastasia (Princess Anastasia, The Tsar's youngest daughter) and Alexei (Prince Alexei, the Crown Prince or Tsarevitch). There were so many Alexeis and Anastasias that it is said that they could have started a mini Russian revolution had they so desired!! But their stories are full of holes and therefore highly suspect.

Shay McNeal in her book The Secret Plot to Save the Czar: The Truth Behind the Romanov Mystery details the possibility that the Romanovs may have escaped the firing squad. The author contends that the execution of the Romanovs was a lie fabricated by the Bolsheviks in order to weaken the forces of monarchy and hold on to power. However, one wonders that if holding on to power was the motive, then killing the Tsar would have been a better strategy. Letting him live would keep alive the possibility of his return and thus their own defeat. In 1918, shortly before the Tsar's execution the imperial army was advancing at such a pace that the Bolsheviks feared defeat.

But what might have happened to the Tsar and his family after they fled from Ekaterinberg. There are no answers. The Tsar commanded immense resources in Europe via his connections; his cousins were King George V and the Kaiser of Germany and his loyal friends occupied influential positions in France, Italy and even the United States. But he would have to escape from Russia first. And the road from Ekaterinberg to an Eurpean capital would be a long one indeed.

There have been numerous movies on the topic too. One of these, a televised serial called "Anna Anderson" was based on the life of a woman who claimed to be the lost daughter of the Tsar, till the DNA fingerprinting proved her to be an ordinary Polish worker. From a-farmin' to the Kremlin might have been a more appropriate title.

Yet Shay McNeal puts in pages and pages of painstakingly researched documents.....bolshevik documents that show that the western powers including the United States (Charles Crane, advisor to Woodrow Wilson played a leading part) were trying to negotiate the Tsar's release by paying up a huge sum to Lenin's and Trotsky's coffers. No more was heard about the negotiation later.

During Yeltsin's presidency, the bones were dug out from a mass grave in Ekaterinberg (it is rather ironic that this was the town where Yeltsin had begun his communist career decades ago) and their DNA fingerprinting revealed a match with Prince Philip of England (the closet living relative of the Romanovs). A team of experts then separated what remained of those bones into various coffins and the grand burial took place in St. Petersburg. Thus all stories of the Romanovs’ escape were laid to rest as well.


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