The Russian revolution is a fascinating story. So many surreal characters and events were involved. The people include Rasputin, Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra, their son, Alexei, Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin. The events include the end of the Russian monarchy, the revolution itself, and the fact that it took place during World War I. All of these circumstances and characters were interconnected, which is why this story is so engrossing, and why history can be stranger than fiction. Political upheaval, a demolished economy, conspiracies, revolution, and war, all make reality seem more exciting than some of the best novels of all time.
Tsar Nicholas the II was the last emperor of Russia, which makes him a significant historical figure. He was the final ruler of the Romanov family, who controlled the country from 1613-1917. That’s over 300 years! That alone would have made him worth remembering, but there were so many other factors involved with the end of his power. A main element was Lenin, who led the Bolshevik revolution, which was one of the small number of successful coup d’etats in history. This was the second of the two most significant power shifts that took place during the revolution.
Another reason that Tsar Nicholas II’s story is interesting is his relationship with Rasputin. He is one of my favourite historical characters. That’s because he supposedly had so much influence on the Tsar that people thought he was the puppet master behind the ruler. Rumours like this were perpetuated because Rasputin spent a lot of time with the royal family. Since it was long before modern medicine, this was because he was the only person able to help Alexei, Nicholas’ son. The boy was very sickly from hemophilia, which he inherited from his mother, Alexandra. It is a disease that makes it difficult for your blood to clot. This means that he had to be careful about injuring himself because he would bleed a lot more than the average person. Before modern medicine, many people with this ailment could easily die from small cuts because when your blood clots, it helps you avoid losing so much that you die.
There were also rumours about Alexandra having a secret sexual relationship with Rasputin because he spent so much time with the royal family, including instances when the Tsar was elsewhere. So there were likely many opportunities for this, and the theory is intensified by Rasputin’s reputation as a womanizer. Men cheating on their wives seems to have been more common back then, or at least more openly accepted. But he apparently did so frequently, and without shame.
Another interesting bit of information about Rasputin is that no one really knows how he healed Alexei so well. He may have had secret abilities or resources that are common today. But for the time, he seemed to have magic powers. Rasputin appeared to easily alleviate symptoms that every doctor and expert failed to treat. The suspicion against him, along with probably various other factors, led to his assassination. This brings us to my favourite aspect of his story, which most people who paid attention in high school history class likely know: He was phenomenally difficult to kill, if reports are to be believed. First, he was poisoned, which seemed to have no effect. Then, he was shot multiple times, but still didn’t die. He was drowned after that, but this didn’t work either. So he was shot again in the head, at close range, which is what finally killed him. However, this account, which has been dramatized since then, was first told by the man who ended his life. Also, autopsies apparently showed no traces of poison or drowning as the cause of death, and concluded that the final gunshot was what killed him. But perhaps Rasputin survived a lot of torture, and the rumours are fascinating nonetheless. Just look at those beady eyes staring back at you.
I’m not a historian, but it seems like Tsar Nicholas II gave up his power due to a variety of factors. These include Lenin’s Bolshevik revolution, rampant starvation caused by an eviscerated economy, and WWI increasing political turmoil. Along with other components, these created a potent necessity for abdication. Lenin succeeded him, becoming the first head of the Soviet state, under the Communist Party.
This brings us to Trotsky. He and Lenin seem similar to Che Guevara and Fidel Castro in terms of communist leaders. This is because, like Guevara, Trotsky was kind of an intellectual. He was somewhat behind the scenes, influencing changing power dynamics with his well-planned ideas. Lenin seemed to have extra charisma, and was an animated politician and speaker. Like Fidel Castro, he apparently was more of a public figure who inspired people to continue their revolutionary activities. Trotsky was well-versed in Communism, and a known Marxist. Like Guevara, he helped explain and plan his passionate leader’s actions.
The Tsar, Alexandra, Alexei, and practically everyone else with power, were executed by the Bolsheviks, Game of Thrones-style. The entire imperial family was taken to a basement, and shot. Anyone else who could have replaced them was either escaped, or was killed. You want to eliminate everyone who might take away your new-found power after a revolution, right?
Lenin controlled Russia from 1917 until his death in 1924. People expected Trotsky to take over as leader, but he was overcome by a more threatening opponent; Stalin, who is one of the most brutal dictators in history. There is some debate among historians about this, but he is likely responsible for the deaths of at least 8 million people. That’s a pretty fucking massive genocide! He gained power as the General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1922, and manipulated his way to the top after Lenin’s life ended. He led Russia until he died in 1953.
I barely glossed over this story because there is an insane amount of relevant information, so many interconnected factors were involved, and there are ample contradictory speculations. Nonetheless, regardless of what anyone thinks about the details, the Russian Revolution was a fascinating historical event. That’s why I love history. It’s like a collection of stories that may be true. I love fiction, but when you want to read about betrayal, suspense, corruption, conspiracies, political upheaval, starvation, and genocide, you need look no further than the Russian Revolution. It’s almost as exciting as Game of Thrones.