SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – In popular culture, the Romanovs have been romanticized. So why were they and their supporters the targets of so many assassination attempts?
I am not a fan of Disney, nor am I ever likely to be (the newly acquired Marvel and Star Wars franchises notwithstanding). But I have not escaped their influence altogether; I raised two daughters, both of whom enjoyed watching Disney films.
One of the films my eldest daughter enjoyed most was a re-telling of the end of the Romanov dynasty in which the youngest daughter, Anastasia, survived the massacre of her family. There were indeed rumours well into the 20th century that she had.
I never truly understood the fascination with the Romanov dynasty. Sure, killing the entire family including the children and the family dog was a little harsh. But what about the people the Romanovs ruled? Does not their sustained suffering also deserve our attention?
The suffering of Russian civilians at the hands of the Romanovs and their government deserves to be better known. But did their leaders deserve death?
Though most of the many assassination attempts on the Romanov Tsars were unsuccessful, their ministers were slightly more vulnerable and thus not so lucky. Case in point:
On this day in 1902
The Russian Minister of the Interior, Dmitry Sergeyevich Sipyagin, was assassinated by a 20-year-old Socialist Revolutionary (read: anarchist) named Stepan Balmashov. His assassin had entered the ministry disguised as an aide-de-camp of the tsar and managed to get close enough to his target to shoot him several times.
Sipyagin was targeted because of his absolute alliegance to autocracy, which he fervently believed was the proper form of government in Russia. He has also taken an active role in the suppression of student and labour political organisations. The cherry on top of it all was that he came from a family of old nobility: he symbolized the hereditary hierarchy that ruled the roost in Romanov Russia.
And yet it is the mythical status of the last of the Romanovs that endures, not the struggles of their subjects who chafed under the cruelty of their reign. Where is their Disney movie?
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