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Sunday 30 August 2009

Russia, Land of the Tsars

Over the past couple of days I watched this programme again and began being enthralled by the amount of information in it, primarily because I know little about the Tsars prior to Alexander II, and am fascinated by Catherine the Great. However, tonight I watched the episodes from Alexander II onwards and was utterly appalled.

The arrogance of professors, filled with book learning and no understanding whatsoever of humanity or psychology, making such pronouncements as, "Nicholas didn't care about his people. He liked to spend his time boating and playing with his family" (accompanied by the beautiful footage of Nicky's daughters dancing on The Standardt.). He didn't care about his people??? The Tsar who, following the Khodinka tragedy paid for the burial of the victims out of his own money....the Tsar who worked tirelessly every day, meeting delegations, meeting ministers, trying to the the best for his people....the Tsar who would not turn his troops on his own people and abdicated to avoid civil war?? How I despise the way that a few letters after one's name or a position in a university or few published books allows someone to suddenly become an authority on the life of someone with whom they clearly have no empathy or understanding whatsoever. In describing Alexander III's reactionism and oppressive measures, there was a complete failure to grasp his experience of his father's views of a constitutional monarchy and his assassination. Would any of those professors who choose to label him simply as a tyrant have behaved any differently had they lived through several assassination attempts, seen their father try to bridge that gap between the distant Tsar and the people, only to be murdered by people who did not want any kind of conversation, but only to be in that position of power themselves?

It is interesting that the revolutionaries were not the poor, the 'oppressed', the people really struggling to survive. Those people actually loved the Tsar. The leaders of the revolution were intellectuals and people who had an education and who had a relatively privileged background. They didn't give a damn about 'the poor' any more than socialists today give a damn about the poor. They cared only for achieving their own position of power and manipulated the masses to appear as saviours...only to enslave them to something worse. Plus ca change.....

It was a time when the world was changing dramatically and it was very difficult for kings and tsars to adjust. Alexander II was a brilliantly wise man, in my opinion, and they blew him to bits because they knew that his reforms would help people. That wasn't what the revolutionary intellectuals wanted. They wanted people to believe they were oppressed so that they (the intellectual/envious ones) could rule instead. Jealousy and greed - nothing more. How dare someone sit in a lovely college room and say - while understanding nothing! - Nicholas didn't care about his people!!!

Wednesday 26 August 2009

How Could So Free A Spirit....

How could so free a spirit as Pablo Neruda be so espoused to Communism?

Now, you are mine. Rest with your dream inside my dream.
Love, pain, and work, must sleep now.
Night revolves on invisible wheels
and joined to me you are pure as sleeping amber.
No one else will sleep with my dream, love.
You will go; we will go joined by the waters of time.
No other one will travel the shadows with me,
only you, ever green, ever sun, ever moon.

Already your hands have opened their delicate fists
and let fall, without direction, their gentle signs,
your eyes enclosing themselves like two grey wings,
while I follow the waters you bring that take me onwards:
night, Earth, winds weave their fate, and already,
not only am I not without you, I alone am your dream.

How could a man who could write such utterly beautiful lines, and understand the need for individuality and individual choice and freedom so perfectly, align himself to a system designed to create conformity, lack of expression and lack of the freedom of the spirit to express itself?

I think this is an utterly beautiful poem and runs so contrary to everything that the starkness of Communism stands for. My images of Communist Russia as a child were of grey, dark buildings, long queues, empty shops, secret police forces and the oppression of those who had overthrown Tsardom in the name of freedom, only to bask in the Tsar's palaces and live as horrendous tyrants. I didn't take it on trust through the TV stations and newspapers in England, I looked into it by searching books in old libraries, finding interviews with people who lived in that system, trying to get beyond the propaganda of the West, to discover the truth. What I saw as a child shocked me! It shocked me most that ideals of 'freedom' in politics are invariably led by those who simply envy the wealth and power of others and want it for themselves. When power falls into the hands of such people, situations become really dangerous because most of us think, "Oh, it is one of our own....so he is bound to do the right thing..." never realizing that most of those who seek positions of power or to implement an ideal are in it for power alone. It shocks me more to hear the same lies being spouted by the same people with a need to control, but then as soon as I turn my eyes in a different direction and discover something as beautiful as this poem or see the simply divine animals going about their business, just chewing the grass and minding their own business, I am reminded of how the only power that tyrants have is that which is given to them when we believe in their power.

One of these days, I think, there will be a few so-called 'world-leaders' meeting on a stage a summit somewhere, deciding how the rest of us should live, and they will suddenly realize that no one is actually interested in what they are saying. The armies, the police forces, the council officials have all gone home to live their own lives and care for one another in their own communities, and those little boys on the world stage will look so very silly!

And I will still love this Pablo Neruda poem!

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Catherine The Great

It's fascinating that, throughout history, when a woman gains prominence in politics or leadership, some kind of backlash attempts to destroy her, usually through accusations of either madness or frigidity or wantonness. Is that the first recourse of humanity in its attempts to denigrate the role of women of the past?

It goes back a very long way - right back to the time when peoples generally worshipped a feminine form of God, and the Goddess was immediately undermined by the authors of the Old Testament, who took all the Feminine understanding and decried it in the myth of Eve bringing sin into the world by eating the apple and tempting Adam to do the same. And so it continued...Mary Magdalen (and I am not a believe in the simplistic explanations of 'The Da Vinci Code' or the book upon which that story was based "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail') was assigned the position of reformed sinner. Eleanor of Aquitaine is better known for her love affairs than the brilliance of her adventurous life. Joan of Arc was either hysteric or possessed by demons. People delved into the reasons why Elizabeth I, probably the greatest monarch England ever had, never married. It couldn't be simply that she was politically astute enough to know that any marriage would involve a difficult alliance or that her authority would be undermined, it had to be that there was something physically wrong with her. On a very different level, when they wished to condemn Marie Antoinette, they accused her - oh how cruel that was!!! - of abusing her little boy, whom she loved. When Catherine the Great - undoubtedly the most brilliant monarch of the 18th century - passed on, bizarre and ridiculous stories emerged about the cause of her death. The suffragettes, with their well-thought-out arguments and perfectly logical reasons for expecting that women be allowed to vote for laws that affected them and their children, were portrayed as bitter old spinsters. What is it that simply cannot tolerate a powerful woman? And if one speaks up for powerful women, even today one is immediately branded a feminist (which I am not).

Catherine the Great was, in my view, an incredible person. Long before Alexander II's reforms, she wanted to liberate the serfs but had an overview of the whole political situation and how it would play out that she couldn't proceed with it. She was massively interested in bringing education, literacy and new inventions to Russia, (she paid for all her footmen to learn to read, I believe, so that they wouldn't be bored when standing around in corridors) and also (rightly or wrongly) succeeded in expanding the Russian Empire to the shores of the Black Sea. She believed wholeheartedly in creating the stability of the Romanov dynasty and - were it not for the French Revolution, which shook her a lot - I think she would have gone much further in liberating the serfs and even creating an early form of constitution. The Revolution - for which Nicholas II is often so unjustly blamed - really has its roots in Catherine's successors: her silly son, Paul, who so hated his mother that he made a law banning women from the throne and was most unsuited to rule; Alexander I, who wavered on everything, far more than Nicholas II ever did. Nicholas I came to power in the midst of a revolution, and when Alexander II succeeded him, he tried to adopt more liberal views in order to uphold some kind of order, and for his efforts was blown to bits. The Russian Revolution, which is so often laid squarely at Nicholas II's feet, had its roots many years before he was even born. Nicholas was probably closer to Catherine the Great than any of his predecessors, and had she only been around in his time, the outcome might have been very different.

Thursday 13 August 2009


In the past ten or twenty years, all kinds of therapies for physical, psychological and emotional difficulties have suddenly flourished all over the place. There are so many that seem like some new-fangled craze that people follow for a while in the hope of an instant fix, and other people view as a load of rot. All kinds of people with a little learning have set themselves up as healers and advisors. It's not even possible to go to the hairdresser's sometimes, without someone telling you the benefits of various products, though there is often little understanding of what lies behind the product. Advertisers go to town on saying, "This is the only product that contains....[some bizarre name]" as though we will all be taken in by the sudden need to have such a thing!

Having once been a nurse and having seen very clearly on so many occasions, the connection between the mind/emotions and physical illnesses, and also having the unfortunate northern-English scepticism ("we were brought up the hard way...we didn't need all this airy-fairy stuff!") I have been on quite an adventure to try to discover the root of the connection and what can be done - beyond the narrow confines of science and medicine - to really resolve problems that, by the right of our being Children of Life, really shouldn't be there. Airy-fairy stuff and endlessly contemplating one's navel serves no purpose whatsoever. I think the more we delve into many alternative practices, such things become more apparent. However, if we delve a little deeper, it is clear that there are many practices which - though little understood, and often abused by people who haven't thoroughly studied them but set themselves up as 'alternative practitioners' - go right back to the wisdom of the past, combined with the advances in learning and knowledge.

I have come across one method which is truly astounding. It isn't completely new - it was first written about over a decade ago and is based on far older understandings. At first sight it looks so simple that an educated person might say, "What a load of nonsense!" but there's an interesting story in the Bible about Namaan the leper. He came to a prophet to be healed and offered him vast fortunes to be rid of his illness. The prophet told him to bath seven times in the river. It seems a silly thing to do...too simple, too easy. He did it and was healed. The method that I think is amazing is E.F.T. - Emotional Freedom Technique (also known as 'Tapping'). It is so simple that anyone can do it anywhere, at any time, for any challenge - physical, emotional, psychological....absolutely anything. It was discovered by Gary Craig, who has produced many videos and clips about it, and who has a site at:


I have no personal investment in this (I don't know Gary Craig or anyone else involved in the process), other than saying that, having seen so many other things, and having tried this, it is amazing! Don't dismiss it because it is so simple...It truly is an incredible method! It involves no drugs, no needles, no manipulation of any kind, you don't have to pay anyone to do it, you don't even have to get out of your chair! But is incredibly effective!

Sunday 9 August 2009

Original Letters

While reading a translation of some of the diaries of a member of the Russian Imperial Family, recently, I came across a statement by the translator which said something to the effect of, "The rest of the diaries are more of the same - incidental and uninteresting details about everyday life." I was horrified by the word 'uninteresting' because the incidental details were far more fascinating than widely published major events.

Some editors of letters seem quite cold with respect to the authors of the letters. Perhaps these are privileged people who are blessed to have access to some archives but don't really care for the person about whom they are writing. I have read a couple of books where the editor's notes intrude on the letters themselves and make snap judgements about what was going on (rather reminds me of a line from T.S. Eliot's poem "and that isn't what I meant at all..."). On the other hand, I adore Roger Fulford's collections of the letters between Vicky (Empress Frederick of Germany) and her mother, Queen Victoria, because the editor includes notes at the beginning but makes none of those horrid intrusions. "A Lifelong Passion" - the letters and diaries of various members of the Imperial Family - is equally beautiful! (These are the books which - along with "Le Petit Prince" by Antoine de St. Exupery and "Science of Mind" by Ernest Holmes" - that I would take to a desert island if I knew I were to be stranded for some time!).

I have just heard of what must be a wonderful collection of letters between Alix, the last Tsarina of Russia and her long-time friend, Toni Becker. Since this collection is compiled by Toni's granddaughter, Lotte Hoffmann-Kuhnt, it is sure to be written with deep respect and love and none of the intrusion. This will surely be priceless treasure to anyone interested in the Romanovs and who cares about the truth beyond the fiction!


Monday 3 August 2009

Not a Romantic Story

Some years ago, a programme described the plight of orphans in an Eastern European country, who had been raised from their earliest years in a Spartan setting in which they were given everything necessary to keep them alive - food and drink - but totally deprived of any physical contact or warmth. Depriving them of hugs and touch was as damaging as depriving them of food.

Tonight, watching the repeat of the "Revelations" programme about Edward VIII, I had exactly the same impression. Here, it appeared, was a man who functioned without any warmth of personality or humanity - even his relationship with Wallis Simpson was an attempt to gratify his own needs rather than a great romance - a man who seemed to have no sense whatsoever of the effects of his behaviour on other people, or, if he did have any awareness of it, didn't care. It's small wonder when he had father who terrified him and a mother who didn't really like children. I doubt there was any warmth at all in his childhood and he behaved like an infant for most of his life. It's a tragic tale, really, and one that speaks volumes about the influences of parents and how the world is perceived as a child. Interestingly, none of the children of George V grew up without some kind of personality issue; they all seemed to want to punish themselves in one way or another - which isn't surprising when one considers their punishing childhood regimen. Bertie - King George VI - came out best, despite his stammer (surely the result of his childhood fears, too - and not being allowed to write with his natural left hand) and it is a source of continual bafflement to me why George V was so tyrannical and humourless and such a bully to his children when he came from a loving (if overbearing!) mother, and a father who loved all the pleasures of life...

Much is written about the 'stupidity' of George V's elder brother, Albert Victor, who died so young, but he was not half as stupid as he is generally portrayed. He was a warm man, and one who understood many important political questions of the day (Ireland, for example) and would probably have made a far better king than George V. I dare say, too, that Albert Victor would have not been a bully and would have dared to rescue the Tsar and his family...George V, to my mind, was a very nasty man and it is evidenced in the effects on his children.