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The murder of Elisabeth Feodorovna

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This beautiful, doomed woman was the sister of the Tsarina Alexandra of Russia, and of Prince Ernest of Hesse-Darmstadt, and the daughter of Princess Alice of Great Britain, which made her a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Her other sisters were Princess Victoria of Battenberg (who became Marchioness of Milford Haven), and the Princess Henry of Prussia.

Elisabeth was tall and slim, with a gentle expression that hid a will of steel. She married the Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovitch, fourth son of Tsar Alexander II. In 1891 her husband was made Governor-General of Moscow, and Elisabeth became a much loved figure in both St. Petersburg and Moscow. In February of 1905, as the Grand Duke was crossing the Senate Square in a carriage, a terrorist took his opportunity and threw a bomb, which blew both the carriage and the Grand Duke to pieces. Elisabeth was working at one of many charities in a workroom in the Kremlin and heard the violent explosion.In the square, she found the badly hurt coachman and two dead horses, but the vehicle and the Duke were scattered over the snow. Some of his fingers, still wearing rings, were found on the roof of of one the great houses facing the square. (more…)

By | 2015-08-29T11:46:18+00:00 August 29th, 2015|German History, Russian history, World History|2 Comments

Nikolai G. Chernyshevsky



The name is unknown to most of us in the 21st century, and seems to be in a state of banishment from the minds of some of today’s historians too. Yet Nikolai was, as a revolutionary, greatly admired by, among other, Karl Marx himself.

He was born in 1828, and never saw the twentieth century, or its dreadful beginnings in Russia. As the son of an Orthodox priest, he grew to hate injustice, and hoped in the 1850s that Tsar Alexander’s reforms might improve conditions for the serfs, and go some way towards removing injustice. His hopes were in vain, for though Alexander introduced the Emancipation of the Serfs, results were inconclusive and disappointing. The rebel in Nikolai Gavrilovitch itched to overthrow the Tsar and seek a total change of government. (more…)

By | 2015-08-06T10:39:44+00:00 August 6th, 2015|Russian history|0 Comments

More thoughts on that Yalta Conference

The 'Big Three' from l. to r. 'Exhausted', 'Dying', and 'Exuberant' /

The ‘Big Three’ from l. to r. ‘Exhausted’, ‘Dying’, and ‘Exuberant’ /

In February, 1945, the second ‘Big Three’ conference took place at Yalta in the Crimea. The first had been in Teheran in Persia. What was agreed at Yalta changed the face of Europe, prepared the ground for the Cold War, and put millions of ordinary people into a condition of near-slavery. The three major protagonists were the respective leaders of the United States, Great Britain, and Russia – Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. The first was dying slowly but certainly, the second was old and exhausted, and the third was younger, fitter, and unable to see any point of view that was not his. He was also a fully-qualified dictator. (more…)


Julius Martov, a leader of the Mensheviks /

Julius Martov, a leader of the Mensheviks /

The word means ‘members of the minority’; Mensheviks were another revolutionary party in Russia, similar in their aims, but not as radical as the Bolsheviks. The Russian Social Democratic Party broke up in 1903, and a minority group involved in the split failed in its attempt to control the party’s newspaper Iskra (meaning ‘the spark’). Bolsheviks and other revolutionaries sarcastically called them members of the minority as a result.

Mensheviks differed from Bolsheviks at least four ways: (a) how the party should behave, (b) the role it should take in the coming revolution, (c) how the peasants should be employed to provide manpower for the revolution, and (d) how a middle class revolution could be changed into a socialist one. (more…)

By | 2015-05-12T10:36:48+00:00 May 12th, 2015|Russian history|0 Comments

Stalin’s Five Year Plans



By the year 1928 Josep Stalin was firmly in the saddle in the Sovietized Russia. The dictator was determined to add Russia to the list of world powers – the USA, Great Britain, her dominions and colonies, and France. Germany was still staggering from the cost of the Great War. Japan was rising fast. Stalin knew that massive industrialization was essential. There was also the threat of an attack from any or all of the great powers, as they all feared the largest country in the world, especially under a cruel and despotic dictatorship that had materialized during and after a genuine attempt by agricultural workers and the armed forces to better their lot across the board by revolution. But how was Stalin to do it? (more…)

By | 2015-05-06T09:35:59+00:00 May 6th, 2015|Russian history|0 Comments

The beginnings of Soviet Russia

The February Revolution (1917)



It is easy enough to say that the origin of the Revolution in Russia was mainly due to the unpopularity of the Tsar; but that would preclude other, deeper origins. The Great War had demoralized, decentralized and depopulated this huge country, a state always prepared to send more young men to be killed in battle even when mass slaughter was not required for reasons of strategy. Russian losses (dead, wounded or captured) during the great conflict had been more than half of those conscripted, perhaps fifteen million men. The war had to be paid for and the Russian government did this by the unintelligent method of printing more money, which in turn produced massive inflation. Prices of staple food supplies had quadrupled between 1914 and 1916. The serfs would not sell their grain, because there was nothing in the shops to buy with whatever cash they could obtain. Peasants therefore gave the grain to their animals, so animals got more grain than townspeople or the army. There were more strikes, because the average worker had noted his purchasing power in decline. (more…)

By | 2015-03-31T12:04:01+00:00 March 31st, 2015|German History, Russian history, World History|0 Comments

The Treaty of Nerchinsk

The Treaty is signed / epicworldhistory,

The Treaty is signed / epicworldhistory,

Before the seventeenth century China had been almost a myth; a legendary giant land in the Far East, barely visited by Europeans, a subject for dreams. But in September, 1689, China must have woken up to her existence in the rapidly developing world, because a treaty was drawn up between her and another mysterious giant – Russia.

   During previous centuries, Russia had been mentioned,if she was mentioned at all, by the Mandarins as a kind of vassal state of China, but now trouble was brewing between the two enormous countries, especially on the borders between Tsarist Russia and Quing Dynasty China (q.v.). Russia was expanding across Siberia. By 1642 Russian traders were travelling southwards into the Amur region of Northern Manchuria. Not only that, but the same traders were demanding tribute from Amurian tribes that owed allegiance to the Quing. The Russians even built a large stockade, defended by a garrison, at Albazin on the River Amur, and the ruling Chinese dynasty was perturbed enough to send a siege force there.

   Extreme violence was avoided because both great nations were sensible enough to call for a peace settlement, knowing that if they made war on each other, either one side or the other would ally with neighbouring Mongol tribes in the west. This was the very last alliance both China and Russia desired.

   Representatives of both nations met at Nerchinsk, a Russian-founded town, and a treaty was made whereby control of the Amur river region was awarded to the Quing Dynasty in return for which Russia would be permitted to send trading caravans to the Chinese capital at Pekin (now Beijing). Though difficult to believe, the Nerchinsk Treaty lasted until the middle of the nineteenth century, when energetic and uncaring Russian expansion in the Amur region led to further territorial concessions being forced out of a generally enfeebled Quing Dynasty.

By | 2014-12-12T12:36:39+00:00 December 12th, 2014|Asian History, History of China, Russian history|0 Comments

Eduard Shevardnazde



This politician came from Georgia, a Soviet state until democratization. He was born in 1928, did well in history studies at the Kutaisi Institute of Education and joined the Communist party in 1948 at the age of twenty.

Enroled in the Komsomol youth league, he shot upwards through the party machinery during the 1950s and became head of the Georgian Ministry of Interior in 1964. Though it seems strange, given his later reputation, he was strongly against political corruption, becoming an energetic opponent. His bête noir was Mahavanadze, the Party Secretary, who received verbal assaults from every direction, except that it was Eduard who was behind them.

With established fame for courage, he became Party Secretary himself in 1972. He introduced startling reforms,especially in agricultural policies, but his enemies said they were only experimental, and would not last. In 1978 he was in the Politburo as a candidate member, having the advantage of long-standing acquaintance with Mikhail Gorbachev. Quite soon he received full Politburo status and was appointed Soviet Russia’s Foreign Minister in 1985. He was wholly different from his predecessor, the grim Gromyko who never smiled, whereas Shevardnazde’s attractive feature was his smile. You cannot win though, because his enemies pronounced that it was the smile of a tiger.

It was he who overhauled the foreign policy machinery; working alongside Gorbachev, he greatly helped towards ending the Cold War with the West. He was charming, and he listened to people. But his most important contribution was his invariable insistence on political reform within the USSR. During the winter of 1990/91 he repeatedly warned Gorbachev of the impending danger of a coup orchestrated by Soviet hard-liners who feared the two of them intended to turn from away Communism and install a democracy. They may well have been right, but outwardly both Shevardnadze and Gorbachev remained Marxist party apparatchiks.

In 1992 a parting of the ways took place and Eduard returned to his home state of Georgia, now in the middle of what could be termed a civil war. When independence came he eventually became President, and survived two attempts on his life in 1995 and 1998. Unfortunately his regime was reputed by the world press as politically corrupt, with E.S. heavily involved in the corruption. He was forced to resign in 2003, vanished from view, and died in July, 2014.

By | 2014-12-02T17:33:19+00:00 December 2nd, 2014|Russian history, World History|0 Comments

Purges in Soviet Russia

Josef Stalin /

Josef Stalin /

Stalin ordered the arrest, summary trial and subsequent execution of millions of people in Communist Russia, particularly between the years 1936 – 8. His aim was simply to put potential or actual opponents out of the way, and imprisoning or killing them seemed the best way. When his fellow leader of the Revolution Kirov was murdered in 1934, Stalin used the crime as a convenient excuse.

   Looking closely at revolutions during the last six hundred years, it is clear they follow the same pattern. In Stalin’s purges he arranged three show trials in Moscow. In them especially chosen judges simply ate up most of the Russian Revolution’s creators, in just the same way as the ‘Committee of Public Safety’ and ‘The Terror’ (q.v.) had done towards the end of the French Revolution. (more…)

By | 2014-10-22T19:16:07+00:00 October 22nd, 2014|Russian history|0 Comments

The Russo-Polish War of 1929

Following the collapse of Germany at the end of the Great War, Poland foundf herself independent, a most unusual position for that sad country. It was November, 1918; Marshal Pilsudski was commander of Polish forces and Prime Minster of Poland. He saw Russia as the principal opponent of Polish independence, and as a soldier recognised Russia’s weaknesses as a result of the Great War. In a moment of insanity, he thought there was an opportunity to recover Polish territory lost to Russia during the partitions of the 18th century.

   To the great surprise of the world’s newspapers, and the annoyance of Russia, Pilsudski launched a surprise attack on the Ukraine. The Ukrainians, astonished, provided little resistance and the Poles occupied Kiev. But then the Red Army got itself together and counter-attacked, forcing the Poles back to their own frontier. Among the Soviet leaders only Trotsky wanted to let sleeping dogs lie, but Lenin, true to form, decided to invade Poland, with two objects in mind; first, to occupy Poland, and second, to start a proletarian revolution there too. It did not work, for the presence of Russian troops in Poland roused Polish nationalism, and the vast Red Army was halted by the dogged Poles before it reached Warsaw. Not only halted but pushed backwards. Luckily peace was signed by both parties at Riga in Latvia in 1921. (more…)

By | 2014-10-16T09:50:33+00:00 October 16th, 2014|A History of Poland, Russian history, World History|0 Comments
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