Family Devotion

I recently read Nicholas and Alexandra, a history of Russia’s last royal family by Robert Massie. It’s an old (1967) and wonderful account.

The basic story line is simple. Nicholas and Alexandra were kindly, devout and family-oriented people. Their only son Alexei was born with hemophilia, which he inherited from his great-grandmother Queen Victoria of England. This excruciating disease dominated the attention of his loving parents, particularly his mother. She would give anything to see him live. Through her son’s repeated near-death crises, only one person could help–Rasputin, a peasant who posed as a holy man. Rasputin had a mesmerizing personality, and more importantly, his presence or advice did, on several occasions, lead to a miraculous recovery for Alexei. Alexandra came to rely on him, almost desperately. He came to dominate Alexandra, making key government appointments through her, especially when Nicholas was on the field with the army. Due to numerous dreadful decisions, the royal government grew increasingly incompetent, unable to respond to the crises of the world war and the rapid changes in Russian society. The Revolution came. All the royal family were murdered and the tsar replaced by Vladimir Lenin, a man who was certainly not kindly, devout or family-oriented.

Massie suggests that a very different outcome was possible. Russia could have followed England’s lead, with a constitutionally limited monarch, beloved but constrained by Parliament. It did not happen because the Romanovs loved each other too deeply to see clearly. They dug their own grave—and Russia’s—with shovels made of family devotion.

I take it as a warning that it’s not good enough to be good. You have to think.



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2 Responses to “Family Devotion”

  1. Atkinson Ron Says:

    Great book report Tim…you’re better than Clift Notes!

  2. Dustin Ellington Says:

    Very thought provoking. Thank you.

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