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SeanF

A Family of Caligulas

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I think I've just read the real life A Game of Thrones;  the Romanovs by Simon Sebag Monetefiore.

Ever yone of them prior to the accession of Catherine the Great, seems to have been a complete monster.  Each one tried to outdo the other in their appetites for alcohol, sex, and cruelty.  Tsar Alexei had thousands of Old Believers burned alive;  Peter the Great enjoyed torturing people to death, including his own son;  he even had one of his victims wrapped in thick furs against the cold, so that he wouldn't die too quickly when he was impaled up the rectum;  Anna enjoyed getting dwarfs drunk and pelting them with food;  she made one of her chief ministers her fool.  He had to dress up as a chicken, and entertain the court for hours on end with his clucking and squawking;  she forced him to marry a giantess, and spend his wedding night in a bed and house made entirely of ice.  Elizaveta ripped out the tongues of two noblewomen who criticised her fashion sense.  None of them was sober (at least when awake) and Russian courtly life was one long round of drunken parties, sex and torture.

Under all this, the mass of the population lived in destitution, to which their rulers were completely indifferent.

Naturally, this is all immense fun to read about, and I'd recommend the book to anybody.  The most entertaining periods of history are those you would not want to live in.

 

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I wasn’t eager to read this when it came out but had other things on at the time. Will bump it back up the list.

Question for you, would you recommend getting this in hard copy or would ebook be okay?  In particular I’m thinking that if there is going to be a lot of flipping to family tress/genealogies I would be a hard copy

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34 minutes ago, HelenaExMachina said:

I wasn’t eager to read this when it came out but had other things on at the time. Will bump it back up the list.

Question for you, would you recommend getting this in hard copy or would ebook be okay?  In particular I’m thinking that if there is going to be a lot of flipping to family tress/genealogies I would be a hard copy

There are lots of family trees, so a hard copy would be best.

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It really hits home the fact that Russia was an autocracy. There is the Tsar and that's that. Nobody else had any power in this state. This is especially relevant in relation to the Orthodox Church. Peter also abolished the office of Patriarch of Moscow and it was only recreated under Lenin, which isn't the kind of thing one would have expected.

But how far these people went, and how ridiculous the excesses of power look if you look at them from a modern perspective is really chilling. Those are not personal issue, that's a consequence of the system, and it shows really well what absolute power does do to people, especially in a climate where assassination and murder basically are the only weapons the oppressed have - which they use occasionally.

And how Peter essentially used alcohol as a means to humiliate/kill his courtiers really got to me. I'd have done anything to not empty that chalice of death.

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2 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

It really hits home the fact that Russia was an autocracy. There is the Tsar and that's that. Nobody else had any power in this state. This is especially relevant in relation to the Orthodox Church. Peter also abolished the office of Patriarch of Moscow and it was only recreated under Lenin, which isn't the kind of thing one would have expected.

But how far these people went, and how ridiculous the excesses of power look if you look at them from a modern perspective is really chilling. Those are not personal issue, that's a consequence of the system, and it shows really well what absolute power does do to people, especially in a climate where assassination and murder basically are the only weapons the oppressed have - which they use occasionally.

And how Peter essentially used alcohol as a means to humiliate/kill his courtiers really got to me. I'd have done anything to not empty that chalice of death.

I think it was Stalin who re-established the Patriarch, even more surprisingly, in WWII.

If you read The Court of the Red Tsar, there are great similarities between the way that Stalin and Peter the Great operated, right down to the grotesque parties.

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31 minutes ago, SeanF said:

I think it was Stalin who re-established the Patriarch, even more surprisingly, in WWII.

Yeah, that's how I remember the footnote, too. Not having the book here right now, I checked on line, and there I only found that the the Patriarch was restored after the October Revolution.

31 minutes ago, SeanF said:

If you read The Court of the Red Tsar, there are great similarities between the way that Stalin and Peter the Great operated, right down to the grotesque parties.

Haven't read that one yet, but it would not surprise me if they were. I always wanted to read those, and remember it and the one on Young Stalin in the bookstores when they came out. What I know about Stalin's death is the perfect example of an utterly ridiculous and twisted god-king lickspittle court. If your people let you die because they fear what you would do them knowing they saw you in such a helpless state shows that things cannot be more rotten.

Things like that show that the political climate in Russia is vastly to be blamed for the continuation of the autocracy thing. I mean, you cannot really just jump into a more liberal society if there is essentially no basis for that in the society you overthrow.

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53 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

Yeah, that's how I remember the footnote, too. Not having the book here right now, I checked on line, and there I only found that the the Patriarch was restored after the October Revolution.

Haven't read that one yet, but it would not surprise me if they were. I always wanted to read those, and remember it and the one on Young Stalin in the bookstores when they came out. What I know about Stalin's death is the perfect example of an utterly ridiculous and twisted god-king lickspittle court. If your people let you die because they fear what you would do them knowing they saw you in such a helpless state shows that things cannot be more rotten.

Things like that show that the political climate in Russia is vastly to be blamed for the continuation of the autocracy thing. I mean, you cannot really just jump into a more liberal society if there is essentially no basis for that in the society you overthrow.

What struck me was how many senior communists were rapists (not Stalin himself, but he tolerated it among his entourage).   Raping serfs would have gone unremarked, of course, among Peter's nobility.

Edited by SeanF

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On 11/12/2018 at 1:03 PM, SeanF said:

There are lots of family trees, so a hard copy would be best.

Not to mention for citations and references.

This is a magnificent achievement for the author of this history.  What an accomplishment.  And it's not his only one or even his first one.  It's one thing to be a brilliant researcher.  But to pull it all together in such an easy to read coherent narrative that doesn't skimp or elide the issues and events and characters -- that is also brilliant writing, and very very very difficult and immensely hard work.  His eyesight and hands have still not yet recovered.

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The Patriarchy was not restored after the October revolution, but simultaneously to it. After the February revolution, when the church got the tsar of its back, it began the process of restoring the Patriarchy. The Patriarch (a bishop from Alaska, by the way) was elected during October, possibly on the same days as Lenin’s putsch. When that Patriarch died in the twenties, the Bolsheviks denied an election of a new Patriarch. Stalin then brought Patriarchy back after being attacked by Germany, as a means of bolstering patriotism.

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