Russia, though under the thumb of a brutal dictator is not like Cuba or North Korea. It has nukes certainly, but it is also the largest nation on Earth. How did it get so large? And what does Russian Historical expansion have to do with Ukraine. Learn more in this podcast.
The Largest Nation on Earth – Russian and Ukrainian History – Part III
“Peter, who broke his enemies on the rack and hanged them in Red Square, who had his son tortured to death, is Peter the Great. But Nicholas II, whose hand was lighter than any Tsar before him, is Bloody Nicholas. In human terms, this is irony rich and dramatic, the more so because Nicholas knew what he was called.”
― Robert K. Massie, author of Nicholas and Alexandra
Here is a trivia question, what is the largest country entirely in Europe by landmass. The answer is Ukraine but note the insertion of the word entirely. If the same question were stated for Asia, the answer would be China. But take out entirely, and the answer for the largest country by land in Europe is Russia. And the same for Asia. This reality of geography has been a singular definition of Russia and its history.
In my previous podcasts, I noted that the sole reason for the current Russian invasion of Ukraine is Vladimir Putin and his ambitions. Tim Miller of the Atlantic has a different take. After listing the several countries that have invaded Russia from the West, including Poland, Sweden, France, and Germany, he tries to make a case that geography has prompted this issue. “Russia has been invaded several times from the West. For example, in Poland, the plain is only 300 miles wide—from the Baltic Sea in the North to the Carpathian Mountains in the South—but after that point, it stretches to a width of about 2,000 miles near the Russian border, and from there, it offers a flat route straight to Moscow. Thus Russia’s repeated attempts to occupy Poland throughout history; the country represents a relatively narrow corridor into which Russia could drive its armed forces to block an enemy advance toward its border, which, being wider, is much harder to defend.”
First off, the concept of geography as a beckoning call to invasion is spurious. Italy has unique geography, with the top of its boot surrounded by a ring of high Alpine Mountains. However, this has not stopped the Celts, the Carthaginians, the Franks, the Germans, the French, and the Austrians from attempting and often succeeding in conquest.
And Miller’s reasoning is of a piece with Putin himself in existence in historical terms. Miller inadvertently thinks we live in the 1600s, not the 2020s. Who, exactly are the Russian invaders of our age? The Germans who cannot meet the minimal 2% defense spend required by NATO? The Swedes? The French? Does Emmanuel Macron possess the beating heart of a Napoleon Bonaparte underneath all of that liberal posturing? There are the Poles, of course, and maybe Erdogan of Turkey will want to reconstitute the Ottoman Empire, so both Iraq and Russia must watch out.
One of the few things that Miller does write makes some sense, “On the other hand, Russia’s vastness has also protected it; by the time an army approaches Moscow, it already has unsustainably long supply lines, which become increasingly difficult to protect as they extend across Russian territory. Napoleon made this mistake in 1812, and Hitler repeated it in 1941.” Yet again, who are these armies, after taking down Belarus first, that will make the trek. I used the comparison of Italian invasions. The Celts in the 400s BCE, the French in the 1400s and again in the 1800s, and the US Army in 1943 successfully conquered Italy. Russia’s would-be invaders, not so much.
And of course, we come to the NATO did it, apologists. I have addressed that in my previous podcasts, but suffice it to say that fish have to swim, and brutal dictators must distract and find justifications when they suspend personal rights and put detractors into prison.
Yet Russia is not North Korea, Cuba, Iran, or the newly constituted Nicaragua. It has nukes, which is a big problem, but also big. The biggest in terms of landmass is a nation of 144 million compared with the 25 million in North Korea or the 11 million in Cuba. It borders 14 countries as opposed to the two of the United States.
Vizzini, the clever Sicilian in the Princess bride, states, you've fallen for one of the two classic blunders! The first is never get involved in a land war in Asia but only slightly lesser-known: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA , and then he dies. The problem, in addition to Vizzini’s never suspecting that Wesley (or the dread pirate Robert if you have) had built an immunity to iocane powder, is that he was wrong about the land war in Asia. You can win if one possesses a highly mobile force that can exist on grass and fight from horseback. The Mongols won many land wars in Asia, but with their ponies, they could move in numbers at speed and never rest. In addition, the frigid temperatures of the Steppe were alleviated by bringing their shelter with them and having been bred, as well as their ponies, to suffering extreme weather. The average American gets upset if their Starbuck order is incorrect, and the average American liberal if their pronouns are mislabeled. But, on the other hand, the average Mongol would travel nearly 60 miles per day and could endure below zero temperatures or effectively fight 80 degrees.
To correct Vizzini, a modern army constituted after the 1500s should not fight a land war in European Russia. Russia has been invaded several times from the West. The Poles came across the European Plain in 1605; the Lithuanians invaded from the North and were followed by the Swedes under Charles XII in 1707. The French under Napoleon in 1812, and the Germans—twice, in both world wars, in 1914 and 1941. Of these only, the 1914 Germans were victorious though they were not really invading. The more significant part of the German army was in the Western Front, and the war on the Eastern Front did not end until the Bolsheviks assumed power in the later part of 1917 and removed Russia from the war.
The challenge for all of these armies was that modern European forces needed supplies brought in. Whether it be gunpowder or the guns themselves, cannon, and other equipment, it was impossible for the armies that invaded in the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries to live off the land the way the Mongols did. This disability was exacerbated as modern armies became mechanized in the 20th century. A Panzer unit could travel the same distance as a pony-supported Mongol army, but petrol does not arise from the ground like grass; it has to be brought in. And when the source of that supply is hundreds of miles to the West, it presents an issue. Even today, we hear of Putin facing issues with keeping his own highly mechanized army on the move. That is probably not due to a lack of petrol or long supply lines but logistical incompetence, another bane of the modern force. Napoleon stated, “The amateurs discuss tactics: the professionals discuss logistics.”
We shall now look at how an outlier of the Mongol Empire and once of the Kyivan Rus, the Grand Duchy of Moscow, became the nation we know today, and we will start with the most significant part, Siberia.
The Russian conquest of Siberia took place in the 16th and 17th centuries. Much of Siberia was being ruled by descendants of the original Mongol invasions. The Khanate of Sibir became a loose political structure of vassalages that were being undermined by the activities of Russian explorers. Although outnumbered, the Russians pressured the various family-based tribes into changing their loyalties and establishing distant forts from which they conducted raids. The Russian conquest of Siberia began in July 1580, during the last years of the reign of Ivan IV (the terrible), when a force of Cossacks (we will learn about these people later) invaded the territory of the Voguls, subjects to Küçüm, the Khan of Siberia. To subjugate the natives and collect yasak (fur tribute), a series of winter outposts and forts (ostrogs) were built at the confluence of major rivers, streams, and essential portages. The first among these was built in 1586. Other defenses and subsequent conquests were conducted in the North in 1593 and 1600 and the East in the 1590s.
Advancing up the Ob and its tributaries, the ostrogs of Ketsk (1602) and Tomsk (1604) were built. The Russians reached the Yenisei in 1605. The final ostrogs were constructed in 1619 and 1628. Following the last khan's death and the dissolution of any organized Siberian resistance, the Russians advanced first towards Lake Baikal and then the Sea of Okhotsk and the Amur River. However, when they first reached the Chinese border, they encountered people equipped with artillery pieces, and here they halted. Finally, the Russians reached the Pacific Ocean in 1639. After the conquest of the Siberian Khanate (1598), the whole of northern Asia – an area much larger than the old khanate – became known as Siberia, and by 1640 the eastern borders of Russia had expanded more than several million square miles. In a sense, the khanate lived on in the subsidiary title "Tsar of Siberia," which became part of the full imperial style of the Russian autocrats.
In our last podcast, we ended with Peter the Great. Though the Russians had fought the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish Confederation, in Sweden’s Charles XII, Russia faced an adversary who was not content with a provincial land grab but sought to destroy the Russian state.
The Great Northern War (1700–1721) was a conflict in which a coalition led by the Tsardom of Russia successfully contested the supremacy of the Swedish Empire in Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe. The Battle of Poltava (July 8, 1709) was the decisive and most significant battle of the Great Northern War. A Russian army under the command of Tsar Peter I defeated a Swedish army under the command of Carl Gustaf Rehnskiöld. Charles XII, a warrior King, was wounded and did not direct the battle. Nevertheless, Poltava put an end to the status of the Swedish Empire as a great European power and its eastbound expansion and marked the beginning of Russian supremacy in Northern Europe. And what is even more interesting is that the battle was not fought in modern-day Russia but modern-day Ukraine. Why would a Swedish army be in Ukraine?
A large army of Cossacks under Hetman Ivan Mazepa had formed, and Charles, after a terrible winter had halved his force (a theme that later struck terror into French and German soldiers), decided to move southwards into Ukraine and join Mazepa, then in revolt against Peter. With his victory over Sweden, Peter regained Ingria and Finnish Karelia and acquired Estonia and Livonia, with the ports of Narva, Revel (Tallinn), and Riga. The latter is now located in the Baltic states, as noted once part of Russia and claimed by Putin. The issue with the Baltic States? They are part of NATO, unlike Ukraine.
We have looked North and East, and now we will look South to where the Russians began to conquer what is now modern Ukraine. But first, we start with the Cossacks. So who were the Cossacks? They are a group of predominantly East Slavic Orthodox Christian people who became known as members of democratic, self-governing, semi-military communities originating in the steppes of Eastern Europe (in particular the along the Dneiper River. They inhabited sparsely populated areas and islands in the lower Dnieper, Don, Terek, and Ural river basins. The Don River is one of the great rivers of Ukraine.
Early "Proto-Cossack" groups are generally reported to have come into existence within what is now Ukraine in the 13th century as the influence of Cumans grew weaker, although some have ascribed their origins to as early as the mid-8th century.
In the 15th century, Cossack society was described as a loose federation of independent communities, which often formed local armies and were entirely independent from neighboring states such as Poland, the Grand Duchy of Moscow, and the Crimean Khanate. According to one source, the first mention of Cossacks dates back to the 14th century, although the reference was to people who were either Turkic or of undefined origin; this source states that the Cossacks may have descended from the long-forgotten Antes or groups from the Berlad territory of the Brodniki in present-day Romania. The Cossacks may have served as self-defense formations, organized to defend against raids conducted by neighbors. By 1492, the Crimean Khan complained that Kanev and Cherkasy Cossacks had attacked one of his ships in the Sea of Azov, part of the Black Sea, and the Grand Duke of Lithuania Alexander I promised to find the guilty party. Sometime in the 16th century, the old Ukrainian Ballad of Cossack Holota appeared about a Cossack near Kiliya.
In the 16th century, these Cossack societies merged into two independent territorial organizations and other smaller, still-detached groups: The Cossacks of Zaporizhia, centered on the lower bends of the Dnieper, in the territory of modern Ukraine, with a fortified capital. They were formally recognized as an independent state by a treaty with Poland in 1649. Another Cossack state was that of The River Don.
We have mentioned the hegemony of the Polish in the regions inhabited by Cossacks. The Bulavin Rebellion (Astrakhan Revolt) is the name given to war in 1707 and 1708 between the Don Cossacks and the Tsardom of Russia. Kondraty Bulavin, a democratically elected Ataman of the Don Cossacks, led the Cossack rebels. The conflict was triggered by several underlying tensions between the Moscow government under Peter I of Russia, the Cossacks, and Russian peasants fleeing from serfdom in Russia to gain freedom in the autonomous Don area. It started with the 1707 assassination of Prince Yury Vladimirovich, the leader of the Imperial army's punitive expedition to the Don area, by Don Cossacks under Bulavin's command. The end of the rebellion came with Bulavin's death in 1708. Keep in mind the quote above. Peter may be celebrated as the Great, but his rule was still highly authoritarian and brutal in the case of the Don Cossacks.
In the last podcast, we ended with Peter, but it should be noted that upon his death, his wife, Catherine I, set a precedent for Tsarina rule and for a wife to succeed a husband, something important in the other “Great” in Russian history. For a country backward economically and medieval in many of its world views, during the period from Peter’s death in 1725 to Catherine II, the Great’s death in 1796, 64 out of those 71 years saw the female rule of Russia with Tsarinas Catherine I, Anna, Elizabeth and finally Catherine II. Such is the hold of Catherine II that we have been treated to not one but two TV shows celebrating her in the past three years. The first from HBO takes a sober, historical look at the Tsarina. The second, called simply The Great, on Hulu, features a group of people named for historical figures but has no pretensions towards accuracy (as the hilarious show prominently points out).
Here we come to the confluence of Russian and Ukrainian history once again. The conquests begun under Ivan IV are primarily completed under Catherine, including the final conquest of modern-day Ukraine. For centuries, the Lithuanians and the Polish had controlled the territory, but Lithuania was largely destroyed under Peter I, and under Catherine, Poland ceased to exist as a state. Without those states vying for supremacy, Russia is left alone to finish the efforts started centuries ago and, in a sense, reconstitute the Kyivan Rus.
As historian Carolyn Harris, writing for the Smithsonian, notes, “Catherine, who ruled from 1762 to 1796 presented herself to the world as an “Enlightened” autocrat who did not govern as a despot but as a monarch guided by the rule of law and the welfare of her subjects. Yet at the same time, she annexed much of what is now Ukraine through wars with the Ottoman Empire and the partition of Poland and brutally suppressed the largest peasant rebellion in Russian history.”
Catherine was not born to rule Russia. Born Princess Sophie, she grew up the daughter of Prince Christian of Anhalt-Zerbst, a tiny German principality. She was raised to marry a Prince rather than the rule in her own right. In 1744, when Sophie was 15 years old, Empress Elizabeth of Russia selected her to be the wife of her nephew and heir, the future Emperor Peter III. They were married in St. Petersburg in 1745, and Sophie embraced her new home. Peter III came to the throne in 1762 and threatened to incarcerate her in a convent so that he could marry his mistress. Instead, Catherine seized the throne via a military coup orchestrated by her lover, Gregory Orlov, and his brothers with the support of the military class and the Russian Orthodox Church.
As Empress, Catherine intended to continue the program of Westernization begun by Peter III’s grandfather, Peter the Great. Catherine founded Russia’s first state-funded school for women in 1764 and began collecting the fine art that now comprises the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. When Catherine drafted a new law code for Russia, she made a public show of consulting her subjects. She summoned a legislative commission consisting of 142 delegates from the nobility, 209 delegates from the towns, and 200 delegates from the peasantry and ethnic minorities within her empire to contribute ideas to the legislative process.
However, Catherine risked her reputation in the West as an enlightened ruler to expand her territory into Ukraine. While Catherine entertained European royalty and thinkers at her court, her armies fought in a war with the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey) to control the Black Sea. Peter the Great had opened Russia up to the Baltic Sea, founding St. Petersburg on the Baltic Coast, but Catherine was determined to expand her southeastern frontier and develop a permanent Russian presence on the Black Sea.
When the Russo-Turkish War began in 1768, the Tatars who lived in the Crimea operated somewhat autonomously under a Khanate. The predominantly Muslim population descended from centuries of intermarriage between the native Turkic people and Mongol armies who had occupied the region during Genghis Khan’s time. They had a fractious relationship with the surrounding Russian and Polish-Lithuanian Empires because they raided their neighbors, engaging in human trafficking. As Russia expanded southward, these raids decreased in frequency but continued to occur until the annexation of Crimea. So 250 years before Putin took the Crimea from Ukraine, Catherine took it from the Tatars.
The Ukrainian peasantry could no more enjoy the freedom of mobility that they were once permitted as subjects of the Polish-Lithuanian Empire. Despite her attempts to forge an “Enlightened” image, Catherine’s espousal of serfdom led to brutal consequences and sustained criticism from her European neighbors. Moreover, Catherine owed her throne to the support of the nobility and therefore did little to improve the lives of the peasants who toiled on their estates. During Catherine’s reign, something occurred that provided one of my prized historical analogies.
One of Catherine’s ministers (and her lover) by Grigory Potemkin had a hand in conquering part of the South for her. When she journeyed to look at the newly one regions, Potemkin was concerned that the desolation wrought in their conquest would be off-putting to the Tsarina.
Therefore he built a series of fake villages to mimic prosperity. The term became known for any deceptive or false construct. I did an entire podcast on Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign, calling, rightly, a Potemkin campaign.
Today, it at times seems like Biden’s is a Potemkin presidency. Yet rumors abound that Biden sometimes still makes the decisions as to when he canceled a Polish sale of MIGs to Ukraine. So Biden can still be on hand to make the wrong calls.
And finally, we will look to the Southeast. In Alexander Morrison’s The Russian Conquest of Central Asia: A Study in Imperial Expansion, 1814–1914, the author writes, “The Russian conquest of Central Asia was perhaps the nineteenth century's most dramatic and successful example of European imperial expansion, adding 1.5 million square miles and at least 6 million people - most of them Muslims - to the Tsar's domains. From the earliest conflicts on the steppe frontier in the 1830s to the annexation of the Pamirs in the early 1900s. I talked of logistics, something that Putin himself is struggling with, and something that the Russians have not been generally celebrated. But the logistics and operations of Russian wars against Khoqand, Bukhara, and Khiva, the capture of Tashkent and Samarkand, and the bloody subjection of the Turkmen are impressive feats, especially as dictated by far, far off St. Petersburg.”
Given a nation of this size, I have no doubt left out some aspects of the conquest. As it is, I am making this walkthrough of Russian and Ukrainian history in not one but four podcasts, and I still feel as if not doing it justice. We will not be spending time with Catherine’s son Paul. Of his son, the enigmatic Alexander I, the Tsar who led Russia through the French invasion, we have to say this; Napoleon won the big battles and even occupied Moscow, but what the Austrians, Italians, Prussians or Russians could not do, the Russian winter and starvation accomplished, the permanent crippling of Napoleon Bonaparte.
After Alexander, there was the first Nicholas, and it was his successor, Alexander II, who freed the Russian serfs some 400 years it had happened in Western Europe. Alexander’s II reward for his liberal choice was to be assassinated, a lesson not lost on his son. In fact, of the final seven Tsars, three were to die through violence. Alexander II’s successor, Alexander III, tried to take Russia backward in his reversion to the authoritarianism so evident in Russian rulership. His disposition bore little resemblance to his soft-hearted, liberal father and still less to his refined, philosophic, sentimental, chivalrous, yet cunning great-uncle Tsar Alexander I. Alexander III was six foot three and broad of back and shoulders, immensely strong and mentally sure of his aims. He also died at age 49, leaving his son, Nicholas II, to reign at age 26. It is easy for historians to become pop psychologists of historical figures, which can warp the reading of history by injecting such conjecture. But it is difficult not to think that Nicholas II, 8 inches shorter and about 100 pounds lighter than his father, always lived in his shadow. It could explain his giving into his willful wife Alexandra and the family's later flirtations with Grigory Rasputin. But Alexander III would have certainly gone to war with Austria-Hungary and Germany to preserve Serbian autonomy and Russian honor. And it was in that conflict the seeds of Tsarist destruction were laid.
And again, we have covered off some of the Tsars, but critical ministers such as Catherine’s Orlov or Nicholas II’s Serge Witte, who tried to modernize Russia with his trans-Siberian railway, get short shrift. But one of the primary goals of this series of podcasts is to discern why Putin, and in that, it is best to focus on his Russian ruling predecessors.
Of the pieces I have assembled, why this trip through the Tsardom conquests? Putin was a creature of the Soviet system coming out of the KGB, but he is more Tsar than Commissar in many respects. His rejection of Lenin’s arrangement and distinction of the Republic of Ukraine, one of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, is such a case. There is only the Russian Federation for Putin, not a series of “Republics” as in the Soviet system. He would rather be Vladimir I than General Secretary Putin. And like monarchs throughout the ages, he put his personal needs, his desire for power and dominance over the needs of his people.
And it was the sheer size of the Russian Tsarist Empire that gave the pre-World War I Triple Entente of France, Great Britain, and Russia so much confidence. When arrayed against an upstart Germany, an ailing Austro-Hungary, and untested Italy, the members of the Triple Alliance, on paper, the Entente could not lose. when Peter I attempted to modernize his state, the effects of the Time of Troubles, still felt 100 years later, meant that Russia’s population at 1700 was roughly equivalent to France. By 1900 though, Russia’s 136 million people were more than Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy, combined (116 million). It was believed that the Russian “steamroller” would turn the tide. But the backwater economy, the lack of well-trained, well-equipped troops, and the rot at the heart of the Tsarist Empire would lead to ignominious defeat and the end of the Romanovs.
The erosion could be seen before the war by anyone willing to look. Japan severely defeated the Russians in a war in 1904 by a nation that had only begun modernization 50 years earlier. At one of the most surprising naval victories in history. Japanese Admiral Togo annihilated a Russian fleet at Tsushima. The war led to an uprising in 1905 and Russia’s first, though highly tentative, steps towards representative government. But the Tsar, enforced by the brutal secret police, kept all of the power. Much is made of the presence of Grigori Rasputin, a crazed monk who supposedly had mystical powers to heal Tsar Nicholas’ only son Alexei. But Rasputin only met the Romanovs in 1905 and joined the family in 1908. He had nothing to do with the disaster in the Russo Japanese war nor the uprising in 1905
In December 1914, the Russian Army had 6,553,000 men. However, they only had 4,652,000 rifles. As a result, untrained troops were ordered into battle without adequate resources. "Untrained troops were called into action without sufficient arms or ammunition. And because the Russian Army had about one surgeon for every 10,000 men, many wounded of its soldiers died from wounds that would have been treated on the Western Front. With medical staff spread out across a 500-mile front, the likelihood of any Russian soldier receiving any medical treatment was close to zero.
Despite some reforms in the preceding decade, the Russian army in 1914 was ill-equipped to fight a major war, and neither the political nor the military leadership was up to the standard required. Nevertheless, the army fought bravely, and both soldiers and junior officers showed remarkable qualities. The Russian invasion of East Prussia in August 1914 was defeated by Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff at Tannenberg, but it required the Germans to send reinforcements from the Western Front and so saved France from defeat and made possible the victory of the Marne. Interestingly, the Russians did very well against the Austria-Hungarian Army. Yet the cost of the Austrian achievements, especially that against the Germans, was appalling.
With the war going badly, in 1915, Tsar Nicholas II decided to replace Grand Duke Nikolai as supreme commander of the Russian Army fighting on the Eastern Front. He was disturbed when he received the following information from General Alexei Brusilov: "In recent battles, a third of the men had no rifles. These poor devils had to wait patiently until their comrades fell before their eyes and they could pick up weapons. The army is drowning in its own blood."
The collapse of the Tsarist regime came suddenly on March 8, 1917, planned by no one. Several factories in Petrograd (St. Petersburg’s new World War I name because the latter sounded too Germanic) were on strike, and many of their workers were on the streets, as were the women in shopping queues and other women celebrating the international socialist anniversary of Women’s Day. These crowds turned into demonstrations, and the protests took over large areas of the capital. The workers came out in the streets with political slogans: “Down with Autocracy!” and “Down with War!” Two days later, the emperor ordered the military governor to fire on the demonstrators, but the soldiers refused to use their rifles, and unit after a unit went over to the workers. The police and gendarmes did shoot, and street fighting took place. Meanwhile, the Duma, which had been prorogued, refused to disperse. A Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies was elected, like 1905.
On March 14, the Duma, which had previously set up a standing committee, formed a provisional government, headed by Georgy Yevgenyevich, Prince Lvov, and mainly composed of leaders of the Kadet and Octobrist parties. The next day a deputation visited the emperor at his headquarters in Pskov and accepted his abdication on behalf of himself and his son. However, when his brother, Grand Duke Michael, refused the throne, the Romanov dynasty ended. Nicholas was subsequently detained at Tsarskoye Selo, near his World War I headquarters, and brought back to Petrograd.
We will note that the Russian Revolution, actually two of them in 1917, in the following podcast, but we will end this one with the first brutality of what would be among the most brutal, Nazi Germany included, states in the history of humanity with the death of Tsar Nicholas. The Russian Imperial Romanov family (Nicholas II of Russia, his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, and their five children: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei) were shot and bayoneted to death Bolshevik revolutionaries on the night of 16–17 July 1918. Also murdered that night were members of the imperial entourage who had accompanied them. The bodies were taken to the Koptyaki forest, stripped, buried, and mutilated with grenades to prevent identification.
I want to be clear that despite some recent attempts, most notably the musical and movie Anastasia, to make Nicholas and his regime some royal paradise is a lie. Nicholas’ secret police were brutal thugs, and the treatment of the Russian people under the Romanovs was, at times, horrific. But Nicholas and Alexandra’s children were aged 22 to 13. Little doubt, evil men such as Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin could justify this by suggesting they were stamping out future centers of counter-revolution by brutally murdering children. But their savagery is without justification, just as Russian troops bombing hospitals and maternity wards are today.
And for our next podcast, we will take a look at the Soviet Union, and in addition to a trip through a new Time of Troubles, we will also take a look at the Americans (useful idiots in Lenin parlance), such as John Reed, Rex Tugwell, and even our won Bernie Sanders, who helped put a gloss on what is arguably the worst regime in human history.