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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Burying Past Confusion




Those politicians who refused to attend the burial do not know how to relate either to the last tsar or to the past 70 years of Soviet history.


This is the first in a series of comments on the burial of the tsarist family's remains.


The three main events that have made the news this month -- the World Cup, the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to save the Russian ruble and the burial of the last Russian emperor -- are linked in very particular ways.


You name it, just about anyone who is anyone has not come to St. Petersburg for the ceremony of burying the remains of the last tsar. The hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, headed by Alexy II, refused to come. Half of the descendants of the Romanov dynasty have not come. Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov was offended and refused to come: In his opinion the remains should have been buried in Moscow. Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel did not come because he was also offended: The tsarist relics should have remained in Yekaterinburg. Yegor Stroyev, chairman of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, announced definitively that he would not come, offering an incomprehensible explanation: either because he was following the patriarch, or because the parliament was reviewing a package of anti-crisis bills, or because the "they've got the wrong bones." The State Duma delegation did not come because "they've got the wrong bones," and because the Bolshevik world view deeply ingrained in the majority of deputies forbids them from doing so. They are acting like badly behaved relatives who demonstratively do not come to a funeral because the deceased insulted them at one time.


Until the very last moment, people within the presidential administration fought over whether or not the president should go. And in the end, he acted not like a shrewd politician, but simply like a real man. By doing so, he showed once again that, despite all the abuse directed at him, he remains one of the few Russian politicians at the top who is capable of taking strong, courageous actions. True, he also put all the "refusniks" in a very awkward position.


It was President Boris Yeltsin who had organized everything -- the painstaking expert examinations of the remains, their transport from Yekaterinburg, making the burial ceremonies an affair of state. How could he not come?


The refusniks are hiding -- either their own Bolshevism or simply their lack of principles -- behind the hollow pretense that the experts did not give a 100-percent guarantee that the bones were really the tsar's. They did not guarantee the authenticity 100 percent, but only 99.99 percent. The 0.01 percent allowed the refusniks, so they think, to avoid any accusations against them. They clearly had at one time seen the television coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial where there was just about the same probability that he did not commit murder.


Russian citizens do not have a clear idea of how to relate to the last emperor. Some are so nostalgic for monarchy that they would like to see it restored; others live in a less distant past, and for them the monarchy is what they have learned by rote from Soviet textbooks. Still others do not know anything about the funeral, or about the arguments surrounding it, or about the Romanov emperor.


It is precisely for this reason that Yeltsin was simply obliged to attend the burial -- even if doubts about the authenticity of the remains had been greater. A strong person is not someone who does not make mistakes, but someone who tries to do something when everyone else is afraid of committing errors.


All these refusals, caprices and spectacles surrounding the burial on the part of Russian politicians have most often been described as farce. But this is not quite the right word. A more accurate way of describing the situation is "confusion." These people simply do not know how to relate either to the last emperor, or to his murderers, or to the Orthodox Church -- which successfully cohabited with the regime of "tsarist murderers" and now affirms that it does "not have the right to make a mistake" -- or to the past 70 years of Soviet history and accordingly the seven years of post-Soviet history.


The above-mentioned IMF, too, is a source of confusion, perhaps even more than the tsar's remains. For some, the Russian financial system has already had its share of economic experiments by incompetent domestic thieves. The eternal question in Russia is: "Can Stolz be good when Oblomov has already brought the household to ruin?" And there is another category of citizens who could not care less about the IMF, or who have never even heard of it.


In this category, soccer enjoys great popularity. You name it, Russian fanatics were rooting for just about anyone. They were for the Europeans against the Latin Americans, for the Dutch or the Brazilians, for the Italians or the French. And even for the Germans. The Russians didn't make it to the World Cup. This is probably even for the better. When you think about how loudly the French sang the "Marseillaise" before their victory over the Brazilians, you can't help wondering what the Russian team would have done in their place. They would have had no national anthem to sing.


Thus the three main news events of July are tied to one another. So long as we cannot agree on the last tsar, burying him along with Vladimir Lenin, we are doomed to discord, and as a result economic crises, ending each time in another loan from the IMF and the West. So long as we remain absorbed only in our own quarrels and complaints about supposedly unresolvable economic difficulties that someone else should solve for us, we will always play soccer poorly and ask for money from the IMF.


By deciding to attend the burial, Yeltsin has made a first small step forward. He has moved at least toward making sure that during the next World Cup, the Russian team will have a national anthem to sing.


Georgy Bovt is a staff writer for Segodnya. He contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.