Nicholas, after the abdication, picked up the habit of calling himself an ‘Ex’. The habit inspired this cute little quote which was said when a rather shoddy looking ham showed up on the lunch table during their palace captivity:
“Well, this may have once been a ham, but now it is nothing but an ex-ham.”
- “Nicholas and Alexandra” by Robert K. Massie.
Rasputin: The Saint Who Sinned by Brian Moynahan
It snowed hard in Petrograd in the hours before the murder. The fall of 1916 matched the war, bleak and endless, gray skies robbing the city of its energy in the brief hours of daylight. Foul winds drove down the quays by the Neva River, pungent with chemical fumes from munitions factories. Families from territories lost to the Germans huddled in sheds near the railroad stations. Their lamentations hovered in the air; they died of typhus and simple exhaustion, “blown away like gossamer.” Two in three streetlamps were unlit. The sidewalks were no longer swept. They filled with rubbish and slush and, from four each morning, with long lines of ill-clad men and garrulous women, waiting for bread.The city’s buildings, in faultless lines of pink granite and yellow- and green-washed stucco, had risen from bogs and marshes on piles driven by gangs of forced laborers two centuries before. When onshore winds raised the level of the Neva, alarm bells warned people to flee to higher stories before the floods poured into basement rooms. Now the city was drowning in its own ill humor.
“Rasputin, Rasputin, Rasputin”; one name pounded like surf on a crumbling shore, in the food lines, salons, rooming houses—universally. “It was like a refrain,” a Petrograd lady wrote. “It became a dusk enveloping all our world, eclipsing the sun. How could so pitiful a wretch throw so vast a shadow? It was inexplicable, maddening, almost incredible.”
Grigory Rasputin was a muzhik, a dark peasant from a distant Siberian bog, a creature who had shat in the open like an animal when he was a boy, who still sucked soup from the bowl and ate fish with his fingers, whose body gave off a powerful and acrid odor, who could scarcely scrawl his name, but (what a but!) who it was rumored had the ear—enjoyed the body—of the empress; who, with her, appointed the mightiest officials of state: who treated fawning “duchesses, countesses, famous actresses, and high-ranking persons” worse than servants and maids; who was plotting a separate peace with Germany; who could see the future. Inexplicable, indeed! Incredible, except that he was visible, a shaggy figure with a sable coat thrown over peasant boots and blouse, seen about town, catching cabs, dining at Donon’s, reeling out of the Gypsy houses in Novaya Derevnya blind drunk in the early hours.His very eyes betrayed his identity to strangers. The ballerina Tamara Karsavina, the most beautiful dancer of her generation, who had not seen him before, recognized him instantly in the street through their “strange lightness, inconceivable in a peasant face, the eyes of a maniac.”
The censors did their best to hide him. They daubed ink over newspaper columns with stories that referred to him; the black blotches were called caviar. Readers knew whom the caviar was protecting, and they invented stories of their own. A society hostess, irritated that her guests talked of nothing else, put up a printed sign in her dining room: “We do not discuss Rasputin here.” But they did; nothing would stop them. The talk was at the top. “Dark Powers behind the Throne! German influence at Court! The power of Rasputin! Infamous stories about the empress!” the British ambassador’s daughter, Meriel Buchanan, noted of drawing room conversation in her diary. It ran unbroken to the city’s lower depths.”The filthy gossip about the tsar’s family has now become the property of the street,” wrote an agent of the Okhrana secret police.
Crude cartoons passed hands of Rasputin emerging from the naked empress’s nipples to tower over Russia, his wild eyes staring from a black cloud of hair and beard. Gambling dens used playing cards in which his head replaced the tsar’s on the king of spades. A caricature icon showed him with a vodka bottle in one hand and the naked tsar cradled like the Christ child in the other, while the flames of hell licked at his boots and nude women with angels’ wings and black silk stockings flew about his head. A photograph of him with a collection of society women was reproduced by the thousand. Mikhail Rodzianko, a leading politician, said he was horrified to find that “I recognized many of these worshipers from high society”; he himself had “a huge mass of letters from mothers whose daughters had been disgraced by the impudent profligate.”
Read the rest here.
Brief catalog of the Museum of the Alexander Palace
↳ Author:G. K. Lukomsky
↳ Year: 1918
↳ Language: Russian
↳ Format: PDF (19 MB)