ESSAY: Tsar Denied Marble Gravestone, Parting Words




The misfortunes of this family are the source of the misfortunes of all of Russia in the 20th century. For 10 long years the family awaited a son, and gave birth to one girl after another: Olga, Tatyana, Maria and Anastasia. The births drove the Empress Alexandra to the state of hysteria. And finally the fifth child, the Tsarevich Alexei, was born. You can imagine the happiness that his mother felt, and then suddenly, the boy had hemophilia. This illness was a hereditary curse from the German line of the family. Alexandra's brother, uncle and two nieces had died from hemophilia. The sickness is horrible. The blood does not clot and even the slightest wound can bleed for hours, days, weeks. The smallest injury or fall can be fatal. How could such a person inherit the throne?


The empress truly loved her son, and prayed for hours to God to protect the family from affliction. Tsar Nicholas II, who was weak of character, could not cope with the huge problem troubling his wife's soul. And then Rasputin appeared.


He was without a doubt a person with unique abilities -- a Siberian zealot, medium and parapsychologist. How did he gain the trust of the empress? Very simply: She believed that he could stop the bleeding of the heir to the throne. In fact, Rasputin spat on his fingers, prayed, rubbed his saliva on the boy's wound and the bleeding stopped.


This man gained much power over the empress and the tsarist court. He could easily change the Cabinet of Ministers. Without Rasputin's approval no one could become prime minister. For all that, he did not concern himself at all about the reputation of the tsarist family. He did not care that all of Petersburg knew of his drunken bouts and wild orgies.


As a result, most of cultured society, State Duma deputies and thinking people of the capital first began to hate Rasputin, and then the tsar and his family. Nicholas turned out to be without any moral support from high society. Rumors about the misfortunes of the tsarist family reached the people, where they took on the most vulgar of forms. People said Rasputin was sleeping with the empress and that the tsar was a cuckold. This bald-face lie spread like a forest fire on the taiga and captured the souls of millions of ignorant people. It was this lie that set off tremors giving rise to the wave of revolution. The fine stream of blood on the pale thigh of the sick boy became the source of a bloody Volga, which flowed without stopping for 70 years.


When the tsar abdicated under pressure from the Duma and the military, all of Russia rejoiced in victory. Hundreds of people put on red ribbons and kissed each other on the streets. They congratulated each other that Russia had cleansed itself of a shameful stain. During those days no one could have imagined how their attitudes toward the tsar would change even within a year.


Today, on the threshold of the 21st century, we can safely look back at the last Russian emperor as a weak monarch. But he was a simple, honest and courageous man. His quiet strength was particularly evident in the final days of his disgrace. The tsar faced the blows dealt by fate stoically. He tolerated ridicule from the guards, comforted his wife and children, chopped wood for the stove, took a needle and thread to repair his old military uniform. He never complainedabout his lot to anyone, and even succeeded in giving his valuables to a convent during his exile in Siberia. He truly deserves to be numbered among the martyrs of the Orthodox Church. This was a soldier-tsar, who once participated in a march with rank-and-file soldiers for 40 kilometers to see for himself how heavy a soldier's kit was.


Russians today continue to insult the tsar's memory. This is also true of the church. The patriarch and Holy Synod did not consider the results of three genetics experts and will not be taking part in the burial. How many unidentified bodies of soldiers and homeless people without names or passports have been buried with the participation of the church. But the church has decided to abstain from the burial. Nine of the most legendary skeletons in the history of the state will be lowered into the ground without parting words from the church hierarchy.


At night the royal couple and their children were silently murdered, and they will also be quietly buried -- without an honor guard, without horse formations and cannons, without ecclesiastical banners, without money. Even the gravestone is made from wood. No pieces of marble could be found in the country for the grave. If only someone had asked Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov. Look at how much marble there is on the newly built Manezh Square. It covers the stairs, banisters, fountains and toilets.


The tsar is being buried like a holy man in the desert.


And what an opportunity for reconciliation and unification the nation has lost yet again. On the same day, Lenin himself should have been buried at last. He should be buried where he wished, in St. Petersburg, at the Volkov Cemetery, next to his mother. The place has long since been ready.


The grave site at the Peter and Paul Fortress is in the shape of a pyramid. The lower level will be occupied by servants who willingly went with the tsarist family to Siberia: the doctor Botin, the valet Trupp, the lady's maid Demidova and the cook Kharitonov. The tsar's daughters will be buried in the middle row: the oldest girl, Olga, 22, a shapely, graceful blond young woman with her father's eyes (she loved solitude and books and played the piano magnificently); the middle sister, Tatyana, 20, who was slender and elegant, the complete opposite of her older sister and the empress' secret favorite daughter; and the youngest girl, Anastasia, 16 an adolescent who knew how to discern the funny side of people, whom she mimicked to hilarious effect in small scenes.


Either the Bolsheviks succeeded in burning the bodies of Maria, 18, and the tsarevich, Alexei, 14, on a bonfire in the forest, or they simply lost them.


On the upper level are the tsarist tombs of Nicholas and Alexandra. The authorities promise that it will be a modest affair, with a modest salute and modest prayer. Neither the president nor the patriarch will be present. But former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and Luzhkov will be there, and the entire country will say, Luzhkov buried the tsar, and will vote for him in 2000.


Farewell emperor. The last soldier of the empire is finally gaining his eternal rest. He will be the last of the column of the slain family to leave this world. This is as it should be. The captain is the last to go down on a sinking ship, the last to leave the field of battle after defeat. Until the end the tsar bore his cross. He will be leaving this world on foot.


Anatoly Korolyov is a writer whose most recent novel is "Eron." He contributed this essay to The Moscow Times.