S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “Russian Orthodox Church”

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg by Helen Rappaport

RomanovsThis powerful account of the Romanovs’ internment and regicide at “The House of Special Purpose” at Ekaterinburg, July 1918, is compelling, evocative, and horrifying. I suspect that Rappaport’s book on this ghoulish event is the most meticulously researched and accurate account of the Bolshevik’s liquidation of Czar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, and their five children.

She weaves the historical events in a storybook style that imbues life into the Royal Family.  We look askance at the Czar who lacks moral courage, is fearful of innovation and change, and refuses to see the social and political problems engulfing Russia. We wonder at Empress Alexandra’s idiosyncratic brand of Victorian prudery, her impulsive sensuality and her hysterical passion, and her onerous addiction to narcotics: morphine and cocaine.  We empathize with soft tears at the naive innocence of their daughters: Maria, Olga, Tatiana, and Anastasia.  We sympathize with the hemophiliac, Tsarevich Alexy.

We abhor the Bolsheviks’ regicide of the Royal Family as they perished in a fusillade of bullets, bayonets, and blood.  We are appalled that the family’s servants also were included in this senseless butchery: their physician, Doctor Eugene Botkin; valet. Alexey Trupp; cook, Ivan Kharitanov; and maid Anya Demidova.

Lastly, we recoil at the senseless killing of Tatiana’s Pekinese dog “Jimmy”.

We damn Vladimir Lenin who ordered the regicide, Commissar Yakov Yurovsky, the leader of the assassination squad, and the Cheka guards who took unbridled, and unnatural pleasure in their perverse passion.

I wonder if Rappaport had to detail the gruesome details of the regicide and the Cheka’s inept attempts to destroy the corpses.

The Last Days of the Romanovs is a must read for the aficionados of the Russian Revolution.  For the faint of heart, I would suggest an alternate book.

You may also read St. Catherine’s Crown, historical fiction based on the regicide that begs the question, what if Anastasia survived?

Russian Julian Calendar

Imperial Russia used the “old style” Julian calendar that was seriously out of kilter with the solar seasons and religious holidays—in particular Christmas and Easter.   The Russian Orthodox Church had political and religious issues with the Pope in Rome that dated back centuries, and refused to change to Pope Gregory XIII’s Gregorian reform calendar introduced in 1582.

The Julian calendar lagged the Gregorian calendar by 12 days.  For example, Christmas, 25 December 1916 in the Gregorian calendar was 7 January 1916 in the Julian calendar.  On the first of February 1918, Vladimir Lenin ordered the Soviet government to switch to the “new style” Gregorian calendar—so that the USSR would be in synchronization with the rest of the world.


 Julius Caesar, Emperor of Rome. (July 100 BC to 44 BC)

Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar in 45 BCE (Before Common Era) to reform the old Roman calendar that was inordinately complex and seriously out of date.  Over the following years, most of the civilized world adopted this calendar—even though it had serious errors.  For example, this calendar introduced a one-day gain every 128 years, or about three days every four centuries as compared to the equinox and the seasons.

I invite you to join the Czar Nicholas’ Christmas ball on the 7th of  January 1917 in the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Imperial Russia— set in my historical novel titled St. Catherine’s Crown.   Formal gowns for the ladies and with a tiare russe and gentlemen with white-tie, tails, and miniature medals if you’ve earned them.


Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great of Russia, (1729 to 1796). Reigned from 9 July 1762 to 17 November 1796. Catherine became Czarina on the death of her husband, Czar Peter III.  Her reign is a study in contrast. Legend has it that she organized a plot to have some of her sycophants murder Peter, and that her sexual proclivities were legend.  On the other hand, the actual historical record is replete with accomplishments. Catherine the Great

In 1757, Voltaire called her an “enlightened despot.” For example, Catherine established the Free Economic Society in 1765 to encourage the modernization of agriculture and industry. She promoted trade and the development of under-populated regions by inviting foreign settlers, and she founded new towns. Catherine patronized the arts, letters, and education. She permitted the establishment of private printing presses and relaxed censorship rules. Under her guidance, the University of Moscow and the Academy of Sciences became internationally recognized centers of learning; she also increased the number of state and private schools. Finally, Catherine greatly expanded the Russian empire–prizes from two successful wars with Turkey. After her death, the Russian Orthodox Church proclaimed her a saint.

In my historical novel St. Catherine’s Crown  Catherine the Great’s diadem is the raison d’être that threads the narrative and is the Alfred Hitchcock’s MacGuffin.  Follow the adventures and trials of those Whites that want to keep the crown from the Bolsheviks, and those Reds that want to recover and exploit it.  Follow from afar, I might suggest.  The narrative is fraught with hidden perils.

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