For nearly a century, Grigory Rasputin, spiritual advisor to Russia’s last Tsar and Tsarina, has been unjustly vilified simply because history is written by the politically powerful and not by the common man. A wealth of evidence shows that Rasputin was discredited by a fanatically anti-Semitic Russian society, for advocating equal rights for the severely oppressed Jewish population, as well as for promoting peace in a pro-war era. Testimony by his friends and enemies, from all social strata, depicts a spiritual man who hated bigotry, inequity and violence.
In order to understand why the aristocracy depicted Rasputin as mad, or demonic, it is necessary to understand Russia’s attitude toward its Jewish citizens. At the end of 18th century, Catherine the Great indicated that Jews would only be allowed to settle in an area called The Pale of Settlement, encompassing the general region of Poland, the Ukraine and parts of Latvia. Jews were not permitted to leave the Pale, with few exceptions, depending on one’s occupation and many professions and occupations were off limits to Jews. Only a small percentage of the Jewish population was permitted to attend schools and universities. A female Jewish teacher or student, for example, could not leave the Pale to pursue those endeavors, but she could travel to any region if she were a prostitute. Consequently, a number of women posed as prostitutes while they studied or taught in secret.
Generations of tsars, including the last one, Nicholas II, sanctioned regular raids, called ‘pogroms’, on the villages in the Pale. In the course of these raids, homes and properties were ransacked and burned. Entire families would be tortured and slaughtered. Rasputin was horrified by this and, on many occasions, tried to persuade the Tsar to grant equal rights to the Jews. He categorically refused. Rasputin even stated, “instead of organizing pogroms and accusing Jews of all evils, we would do better to criticize ourselves.” His position was that if a man believed in God, that was enough. The way in which he chose to worship was, to his mind, personal and it was a sin to try to convert him or discount his way of believing.
There were many incidents where Rasputin intervened to help the Jews. He alerted them whenever he knew of plans for a pogrom, even warning the Tsar to call them off. He also interceded in legal cases, such as one where over 300 dentists were imprisoned and accused of becoming dentists just to have the right to reside outside the Pale. He succeeded in freeing them. He also tried to have the Mendel Beilis case dropped. The latter was accused, in a blood libel case, of killing a young Christian boy to use his blood to make matzo. Rasputin regularly petitioned the Tsarina to allow Jewish students to attend university or pursue certain professions, above and beyond the allowed quota, to allow Yiddish theater, and to free innocent men and families from prison or Siberia. These are but a few examples of his many interventions.
Mingling with staff and fellow students beneath the Gothic vaulting of Chicksands Priory in Bedfordshire, the avuncular Herman Simm was his usual amiable self as he chatted and maybe even flirted a little with the ladies.
There are few places in Britain as hush-hush as this corner of Bedfordshire, home of Britain’s top secret Defence Intelligence Service. It was a special privilege for him to be there — and he was determined to make the most of the opportunity.
Read the rest of the story at Herman Simm: How ‘human landmine’ planted by the Kremlin penetrated a secret Home Counties HQ | Mail Online.
Story by Edward Lucas – Daily Mail
In 2015, Queen Elizabeth II, who this year has been on the throne for over 60 years, will eclipse Queen Victoria as Britain’s longest reigning monarch — 63 years.
Her namesake , Elizabeth I, reigned for 44 years — 1558-1603 — and these three women were arguably the most effective monarchs in British history. It’s an argument for passing the Crown to the eldest child, male or female, and not to favor just the male heir. While the two Elizabeths and Victoria are testaments to the value of female monarchs, and as riveting as their individual stories are, there’s another European monarch even more extraordinary than the three British queens: Catherine the Great of Russia.
Read the rest of the article at Don’t forget Catherine the Great | World | News | Toronto Sun.
Story by Peter Worthington – Toronto Sun
When you think about the major battles throughout human history, you don’t often think about how each army actually arrived at that particular place. I found this article by Saul David on the BBC to be fascinating as David looks at the logistics that Napoleon had to deal with on his road to Moscow.
Of all the challenges faced by generals through history, moving armies has been one of the greatest – and Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Russia 200 years ago illustrates just how badly things can go wrong when it is underestimated.
It is not enough just to get your forces from A to B – you have to keep them fed and watered as they go. The art of movement, therefore, is one of the most complex and vital that any commander must master, if he is going to win.
In 1812, his armies having swept all before them, Napoleon was at the zenith of his power (shades of another invader of Russia 129 years later). His Grand Armee of 400,000 men was thought to be unbeatable and he himself anticipated a rapid victory.
Read the rest of the story BBC News – Napoleon’s failure: For the want of a winter horseshoe.
As a leading World War II historian, Max Hastings has taken the monumental task of looking at World War II on a personal global scale. In Max Hastings new book, he uses personal eyewitness accounts of the horrors of the war. Vernon Bogdanor of the New Statesman reviewed Hastings new book (Originally titled All Hell Let Loose: The World at War (1939-45))
The Second World War was the most terrible event in human history, killing roughly 60 million people, most of them non-combatants, an average of about 27,000 for each day of the war. More people were slaughtered by their fellow human beings than ever before. A vast number of books has been written about the war. Is there anything new to say? Perhaps not, but this does not mean that the task of the historian has been completed. The challenge is to seek to understand this catastrophe. No doubt we will never fully understand some aspects of it, in particular the Holocaust. Nevertheless, the historian must do his best.
Max Hastings has studied the war for 35 years and has written eight previous books on specific episodes such as the Battle of Britain and D-Day, as well as a volume on Winston Churchill as war leader. Inferno is an attempt to describe not only the high politics of strategy, but also the experiences of ordinary people involved in the conflict, and what the war meant to those caught up in it. Henry James once described the Victorian novel as a large, loose and baggy monster. This book is also a large, loose and baggy monster, as it must be if it is to comprehend such vastly different experiences as those of the British housewife, the German Panzer officer in occupied territory, the Soviet peasant, the Japanese kamikaze pilot and the Polish soldier who, after fighting bravely on the Allied side, found himself an exile in his own country when it came under communist rule.