Is Imperial Russia on the Rise Again?
Updated: Sep 8
March is a busy month! First, I want to remind you that the Tucson Festival of Books is coming back to the University of Arizona Mall on March 12th and 13th. I will be there from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM with two of my writer friends. (In my last newsletter, I indicated that the Book Festival started at 8:30, but that was incorrect.) If you are able, I would love to see you there. I will be in booth 232 on the south side of the UA mall just in front of the UA Facilities Management Building. Look for the banner The Pirate, the Poet, and the Pilgrim.
If you love books, this is the place to be! Authors from all over the country come to this festival and you can find almost any genre you like. There will be food booths too and activities for kids. And in March the weather should be nice. Though I would encourage you to bring a hat and sunglasses. The sun here in the desert is intense.
After the Book Festival I will be visiting my Great Aunt to spend a few days delving into family records and genealogies. I love learning the family stories. Over the years as I have researched my family histories, I have stumbled upon so many fascinating stories and I am hoping this trip will be no exception!
Now I want to share an interesting historical tidbit I was reminded of recently, which I believe ties into current world affairs. I have always been fascinated with Russian history, especially Imperial Russia. The culture was so exotic compared to ours. The nobility lived a seemingly fairytale life, while the peasant endured hardship and toil. As we study history, we often focus on the upper classes, and even then, observing them through rose-colored glasses. Every little girl wishes she were a princess. No one ever wishes to be a peasant! And it is true that we often know the most about the upper classes because they were literate and left more evidence for us to study.
Many also are drawn to the tragedies of history, both on the large and small scales, wars, assassinations, falls from power. Many people across the world and over the decades were caught up in the final chapter of the Romanov Dynasty and the tragic end to the fairytale lives the four beautiful daughters and young son of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra on the night of July 18, 1918. When their collective grave was finally disclosed on April 10, 1989, people then were caught up in the mystery of the missing two bodies, those of the young tsarevich and one of the youngest two daughters. I will delve into that mystery in a future newsletter. For now, though, I want to talk a little bit about the beginning of the end for the Romanovs.
On March 2, 1917, Nicholas II signed the Abdication Manifesto, turning over power to his brother Michael and the Russian parliament, called the Duma. World War I had been raging for nearly three years and Russian forces were struggling under poor leadership, lack of supplies, and outdated weapons. Europeans, Americans, and Russians had believed that the Russia military was among the strongest in the world, only to discover it was far weaker than anyone had previously thought. Additionally, the Russian people had been clamoring for more rights and representation for decades and their protests were beginning to turn ever more violent.
Tsar Nicholas II wrote, In these decisive days in the life of Russia, we deem it our duty to do what we can to help our people to draw together and unite all their forces for the speedier attainment of victory. For this reason we, in agreement with the State Duma, think it best to abdicate the throne of the Russian State and to lay down the Supreme Power.
With these words, Russia established the Provisional Government with the intention of organizing elections for the Russian Constituent Assembly and its convention. This government lasted eight months, becoming the Russian Republic on September 1, 1917, and ending in late October when the Bolsheviks routed the ministers of the Constituent Assembly, in what became known as the October or Bolshevik Revolution.
That was just over a century ago, and where are the Russian people now? After a brutal civil war, the authoritarian government of the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics was established December 30, 1922. This government, which was supposed to bring freedom and power to the people only reestablished a new totalitarian government based on political power, rather than on inherited, divinely ordained power. In the end, the people continued to suffer. This government was eventually dissolved on December 26, 1991, as result of Premier Mikhail Gorbechev’s attempt to bring economic and political freedoms to the people (Peristroika) and to make the government more open and accountable to the people (Glasnost).
Then the presumed democratic Russian Republic was established only to see Vladimir Putin gain and expand power in a remarkably similar manner to the methods used by the former European autocrats of the 1930s – Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin. Following the pattern of his aforementioned role-models, Putin was first appointed to the position of Prime Minister in August 1999, only to then grab the reins of power completely and permanently. When President Boris Yeltsin resigned midterm, Putin served as acting president and less than four months later, he was elected president in his own right. At that time presidents could only serve two consecutive 4-year terms. So, Putin’s Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, ran for president as the front man, and immediately appointed Putin to Prime Minister, where he continued to control the course of political power.
In 2008, while Putin was Prime Minister during Medvedev’s administration, the legislature increased the length of president’s term from four to six years. Putin was reelected as president in 2012 and again in 2018. Then in 2020, the Constitution was changed to prevent a president from serving for more than two terms total, however, provision was made allowing the incumbent and former presidents to serve two additional terms.
This means that Putin is eligible to run for president again in 2024 and 2030. Putin will turn 70 in October of this year, so effectively he could serve as president until he is 84, but maybe by that time he will have declared himself Tsar of all the Russias. Certainly, he is behaving as the former Tsars, like Peter the Great, or Catherine the Great, in expanding the Russian Empire through the invasion of Crimea and now Ukraine. Has Russia nearly come full circle? And what of her people, or the Ukrainian people?
I don’t wish to get too political and start advocating for one position or another. In fact, I don’t know what position the U.S. should take in this matter. Whatever we decide to do will have consequences. I bring this up only to remind us that true democracy is rare in the world, and it is precious. America has the oldest existing democracy in the world, and we should fight to keep it.
If you are interested in what books I am reading, want more sneak peeks into what I’m writing, or to see what else I am doing, follow me on Facebook or Instagram. I am posting book reviews on BookBub and Goodreads.
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Take care and see you next month!