Rehabilitating the Romanovs

romanov100608.jpgThere are many who believe that a thorough historical reckoning is an essential step in the consolidation of a nation, and that modern governments need to put their own pasts on trial in order to achieve reconciliation – be it the United States, Germany, Japan, or Russia. Although they haven’t yet buried Lenin, released political prisoners, or attempted to unravel the human rights abuses of the Soviet Union, Russia’s rehabilitation of the Romanovs is an interesting and brave step in the right direction. This op/ed from the IHT rather aggressively states that the court’s ruling on Czar Nicholas proves that Lenin was just “a murderous thug.”

Anyone who rejects linear theories of history in favor of cycles had to feel vindicated last week after Russia’s Supreme Court rehabilitated Czar Nicholas II and his family, declaring that they were victims of “groundless” repression when they were murdered, at Lenin’s behest, in 1918. During the Soviet interregnum, schoolchildren were taught that the last czar was a criminal. The notion that he and the other Romanovs could one day be officially deemed victims of the Bolshevik terror – well, for 90 years the kindest thing to be said about such a notion was that it was delusional.

At present, however, all the old villains and bugaboos of the Bolsheviks’ political mythology are being celebrated as eternal verities of Mother Russia. Pure, undiluted patriotism is back. The Russian Orthodox Church is respected once again; political leaders pay tribute to the institution and its clerics. And czarist imperial history is held up not as a folly of the past, but as an inspiration for the future. Witness Russia’s recent military excursion into Georgia and the Kremlin’s warnings about Ukraine.The most astonishing aspect of the Romanovs’ rehabilitation is the implicit logic of the court’s ruling. If the last czar was an innocent victim, then Lenin – that ultimate hero of the Soviet Union – was nothing but a murderous thug. Yet Lenin still reposes in his mausoleum in Red Square. The day he is banished from that spot will be the day that history has come full circle.