Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Last Tsar

Magnet # 252:  The Church of the Savior on Blood 

Material:  Paper-Mache

Purchased By:  Mom & Dad

Nicholas II was coronated on this day in 1896 at the age of 26. His father, Alexander III, had ruled Russia with an iron fist after the assassination of his own father in 1881. But as Alexander had anticipated ruling for another two or three decades, Nicholas did not have the full scope of training and experience that would have been critical to his role as Tsar. After his father died suddenly from kidney failure, Nicholas took his place, although with doubts as to whether he could handle the task. He was right to have been concerned - though he is said to have been a kind and good man who looked after his family, he was weak and ineffective as a ruler.  He lacked the ambition necessary for a powerful leader and Russia fell on hard times during his rule, losing the Russo-Japanese War and suffering great losses during World War I.  There were also food shortages and finally, rebellions broke out, removing Nicholas from power.  In just about two decades after his rise from power, the Romanov dynasty would be wiped out and the line of Tsars would come to a bloody end.

The line of Russian Tsars was begun by Ivan IV, better known as Ivan the Terrrible, who ascended to the throne in 1547.  He was ruthless at times and was able to help make Russia once of the largest countries on the planet and create a line of rulers that would last long beyond his time.  It would continue on for well over three centuries, and include several dynasties, but the longest lasting line of Tsars would be the Romanov dynasty, which included such powerful and famous figures as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, both of whom expanded and modernized the country.  However, by the time Nicholas II came to the throne, Russia had fallen on harder times and he had even seen his grandfather, Alexander II, assassinated during his life.  Although he did his best, Nicholas simply didn't have the ability to rule the country.  He abdicated the throne in 1917 and, along with his wife, four daughters, and one son, moved from one location to another.  Nicolas hoped to be granted asylum in England, but was denied out of fear that his presence might provoke a revolution there.  Finally, the Romanov family settled in a home in Yekaterinburg, where they held onto the hope that they would be smuggled to safety.  So when they were awakened one night and brought down into the basement.  But instead of being taken away, they were attacked by the very people they thought would bring them salvation.  Nicholas was the first to die, followed by his wife.  But when the murders began to shoot his four daughters, they were shocked - the bullets were not killing them.  There were diamonds sewn into their clothes that protected them, but their killers soon improvised, finishing off all five of the Romanov children.  By doing so, they were able to force the people of Russia to not turn back to the system of the Tsars and more firmly establish Socialism in the country.  But the murders are remembered as taking place in one of the darkest events in Russian history.

Although Nicholas and his family were assassinated in a terrible manner, their plight has gained them great sympathy in much of the world. When the remains of the family were unearthed decades later, their discovery was kept secret for about a decade to prevent the Communists from seizing control of the bodies. But after the Soviet Union fell, the authorities removed the bodies in 1991 and identified them in a very painstaking process.  The bodies were those of Nicholas II, his wife, and three of the daughters.  His son and one final daughter's remains would be found later in a separate grave.  Russia held a state funeral so that its fallen leader and his family could have the respect they deserved.  And as the house in which they were slaughtered had become a ghoulish tourist attraction, it was torn down and the Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land was built in its place in the early 2000s.  Like his grandfather's Church of the Savior on the Blood, Nicholas now had an elegant, impressive site to mark where he and his family had fallen.  And they were even canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and made passion bearers by the Russian Orthodox Church.  It's good to see the attention that has been brought to the last of the Romanovs in recent years.  Not only does it help atone for their brutal deaths, it also serves as a reminder of the awful acts that can be carried out when people loose control of their humanity in their quests for power and revenge.

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