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HOW VERY PECULIAR…

Interesting story in today's New York Times. It seems the Russian Supreme Court (And who knew they even had one?) ruled that the last Tzar and his family are officially recognized as being victims of unfounded repression. Repression? Is that what they call lining them and shooting them dead, little children and all? Anyway, this ruling paves the way for Tzar Nicholas Romanov to be officially rehabilitated in Russian history books. How odd, how very odd. How bad are things in Russia these days when they decide it's time to look back nostalgically at a monarchy that was every bit as tyrannical and bloodthirsty as were the Soviets, and for many centuries more than the Soviet Union lasted?

But the deal here is that Nicholas was the exception, that he was a "visionary" and a beacon of the Russian Orthodox faith. What those visions were are unclear, but the Russian Orthodox Church elevated him and his ill-fated family to sainthood in the year 2000. One supposes that getting murdered is a saintly trait. In the Tzar's case, presumably that whole getting-murdered-without-a-trial deal supersedes his anti-Semitic pogroms, his indifference to Russian military losses in their war with Japan, his general incompetence and his continuation of long-standing Imperial policies that made the life of his subjects miserable.

Perhaps it is hard for Americans, a nation founded upon the notion that all royalty stinks, to understand any nation's sentimental attachment to a monarchy. Even that otherwise practical nation, the United Kingdom, still keeps them around for window dressing, although they haven't let them anywhere near the reins of power in over a century. So, if the Bolsheviks over-reacted by killing the entire royal family in order to cement their revolution and secure power, is that any reason to start liking the whole notion of repressive monarchies again? That whole "off with his head" mentality sort of rubs people the wrong way, no?

When your most memorable Tzar was nicknamed Ivan The Terrible, you sort of need to step back and ask yourself whether or not these people were ideal role models. They had a couple nicknamed "The Great." One was Peter the Great, who was great at losing wars, the other Catherine the Great, who was great at taking lovers, then pensioning them off with estates and money from the national treasury when she tired of them. There was even a guy nicknamed "The Big Nest" for some reason, but not a one nicknamed "The Merciful" or "The Enlightened" or even "The Mellow." Russian Tzars were much like any other line of royalty, a greedy, murderous and tyrannical lot.

Nor were the Romanovs the first royal family to get murdered by their fed-up constituents. Ask Louis the 16th of France and his wife Marie Antoinette, who gave one too many pieces of diet advice to the French people. Her big mouth cost a whole lot of royal people of various ranks their heads. They were an especially decadent and insensitive bunch who went to their deaths still proclaiming their God-given right to wear makeup and powdered wigs to orgies and grand balls while their countrymen were eating tree bark. The people of France don't seem to miss them all that much.

The Russians, however, apparently care enough about the Romanovs to petition their Supreme Court to "rehabilitate" them, that leftover phrase from their seven decades under communism. Indeed, the first two Soviet leaders, Lenin and Stalin, equalled and even surpassed the Tzars in oppression, tyranny and murder, turning an already troubled nation into an ordeal for the average Russian. No wonder so many of them came to Brooklyn, where at least nobody can mess with you for no reason. So, in about 50 years, we can expect the Russian Supreme Court to declare that Stalin wasn't such a bad guy after all, maybe figure his millions of murders were tragic accidents and his occupation of Eastern Europe a goodwill gesture, only with tanks. It's pretty peculiar what people long for.

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