Saturday 15 September 2012

Would you adam and eve it?!

 Russian history is rather bloody, and reads something like an Eastenders script. The most interesting of the dynasties was the Romanov family. Here is their story (soap style).

Peter the Great (exactly as he looked, very weird proportions!)

Peter I (the great) was the first Romanov King. So, ‘e was married to Catherine I –not to be confused with Catherine the great. I don’t know that much about ‘im but down the line a couple of generations came Peter III. And this is where it all starts to kick off. He married Catherine II (she’s the one they called ‘the great’). More fool ‘im really, cos she was at it with all and sundry. In fact, I ‘eard Paul (her first born) wasn’t even Peter’s son! So anyway, she ended up having her husband bumped off, although of course no one knew it was down to her and the people of Russia bloody loved her! Think of that! And she wasn’t even Russian born! Terrible!
She died in 1796 of a stroke, and her son Paul became King. No thanks to Catherine though. She’d tried to stop him ascending and get his son, Alexander crowned instead! What a carry on!
Catherine the Great (and all her lovers surrounding the statue)
Well, Paul didn’t have a good time of it, I can tell you. In 1801 he was murdered too. His son, Alexander is in the frame for this one, but we’ll probably never know now.
Alexander I then took the throne, but he caught typhus after going on holiday. (Gotta be careful when you go abroad, never know what’s in the water!). So, now he’s dead and the second brother, Constantine obvs, should now be King. But, Nicolas (the youngest) has his eye on the prize. What do you think happened? Of course Nicolas becomes Tsar Nicholas I. Well, as you can imagine, not everyone was best pleased about that, and also people were getting antsy about Serfdom and the monarchy in general, so a load of toffs (many who fought in previous wars) organised a coup! (ya know, when you all get together to fight your boss, or whatever). Nicholas was ‘avin none of that though and them lot (the Decemberists) were shipped off to the back of beyond (Siberia). I ‘eard they did a lot of good work there though and helped people get educated and go to balls and stuff so it wasn’t all bad.

Now we come to the worst business of the lot. Nicholas II, all that communist business and that Lenin fella. Well, Lenin and his mates got their revolution, and Nicholas abdicated the throne. He was gonna come to England, but George V didn’t want him to give anyone over here any ideas about a revolution or becoming a republic so Nicholas had to spend his exile in Siberia instead.

One of the Decemberist's houses in Irkutsk
Them Bolsheviks were still wary about having the King alive and people helping them out, so you’ll never guess what they did? Only bloody shot ‘em all! Seriously, in the middle of the night, basement of their ‘ouse! As if that wasn’t enough, they took the whole family, his five children, pets, servants and all after the murder out to an old mineshaft. Then they burned the bodies! It just gets worse and worse! In those days people were all gettin’ suspicious of everyone finding out so later they took the bones and separated them to try and hoodwink the authorities. That wasn’t all though, they also got Alexandra’s sister-in-law, Elizabeth. Poor woman was beaten up and left for dead down another mine. She was the religious sort and prayed everyday for their souls. People around the place were moaning about all the noise and the blokes came back and piped gas into the mine. They filled it in with earth and then left the poor woman there. Turns out later when they found her body she was sitting there, all peaceful, just looked like she was takin’ a kip! Her body weren’t rotten or nothin’!
Nicholas II

Back to the royal family anyway, some novel-writer found their remains in the 70s but he thought the secret police would probably be ‘fter him if he told anyone so he re-buried them! And he didn’t say a peep. Not a word! It wasn’t until 1991 that they were ‘officially’ found again and DNA tested to check they were real. Our own Prince Philip was related somehow (cousin or somethin’) and helped out the investigation. I mean this is the stuff of Jeremy Kyle!

Now all the remains; family, servants and all are buried in a nice little chapel in St Petersburg.

It’s a sorry business, I can tell you. After the remains were identified as the real Romanovs the relatives of this other woman ‘Anna Anderson’ were left pretty red-faced because she’d been posing as the youngest daughter Anastasia her whole life. Sayin’ she’d escaped before the murders, and fled Russia. Turns out she was a Polish refugee! You just couldn’t make it up!

The Romanov's final resting place
During our travels through Russia, from Irkutsk to St. Petersburg we had some excellent guides take us around the cities and explain their history to us. In Irkutsk we visited two of the Decemberists houses, in Ekaterinburg we went to the Ganina Yama, the spot where the Romanovs were burned and initially left in the mine. In Moscow we saw the church where the coronations of Russian Tsars were traditionally held and another were many are buried. Then when we got to St Petersburg we visited the Sts Peter and Paul Fortress, the final resting place of the Romanov family. I really loved hearing about the intrigue and betrayal of Russian history and standing in the spots where years ago all that history, and more was made.

St Peter and Paul Cathedral

Alexandra Romanov

A  little friend we made in Ganina Yama

The remains of the old mineshaft where the bodies were burned

A statue depicting the children

There are eight (soon to be nine) churches on the site, one for each person who died.

This cross stands at the place where some of the remains were found in 1991
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