photo by nacrowe
a few weeks i came across a worn 1967 first draft copy of ROBERT K. MASSIE's historical recounting of the fall of TSARIST RUSSIA, NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA (ATHENEUM, 1967).
this is a must-read for anyone interested in RUSSIA. there was a period years ago where i learned that i was accepted into the peace corps but was waiting to be alerted as to my destination. what a time! knowing you're life was gonna dramatically change but not knowing where to prepare for. at the time i was almost certain i was gonna get UKRAINE only to later learn it was ALBANIA.
during that period i read everything i could about RUSSIAN history. what makes this book compelling is that it takes the point of view of the monarchy as they tried to figure out how to hold the country together as well as save their young son ALEXEI who was suffering from hemophilia. essentially due to a lack of platelets in his blood he would bleed profusely and sometimes lose consciousness. this caused the family to seek out unconventional methods. MASSIE knew about this since his own child had the same affliction, giving his prose an added air of empathy for his subject.
enter RASPUTIN. as a mystic from the eastern URAL mountains this soothsayer made his way into the inner workings of the royal family when he was able to calm the young prince and allay his suffering. its a fascinating story that dives deep into the psychology of both desperation and parasitism. the idea that a royal family with all the means of state and industry could be so easily manipulated by an unscrupulous leech just goes to prove how powerful emotions like hope can be. it trumps reason. MASSIE makes clear that this near-fetishistic idolatrous swooning over the royal family by the RUSSIAN masses was mirrored with the family's regard from RASPUTIN. to them he was RUSSIA. just fascinating.
for obvious reasons this novel is all the more prescient now with our current political climate. highly recommended read. will not disappoint.