Friday, February 15, 2019

Romanovs Part 3: House Arrest and Tobolsk

Last time on the Romanovs...

Nicholas II, former Tsar of all the Russias, has abdicated and finally arrives home to the Alexander Palace.
The Alexander Palace, main home of Nicholas II and his family
By Alexei Troshin.
Nicholas returned home to be placed under house arrest.
No longer the tsar, he was addressed as "Colonel Romanov" or
"Citizen Romanov."
Nicholas II in 1917, during house arrest

There were guards stationed all over the palace, though the family was allowed to live fairly normally--the children's tutors had stayed on, so they were kept busy--there were still servants around--but their movements were restricted. Alexandra could not sit on her balcony. After a while, her visits to church were curtailed.

On the advice of her friend Lil Dehn, who was in the palace with the family, Alexandra had been burning her diaries and some of her correspondence, especially her letters with her father and brother, since the Provisional Government was suspicious that Alexandra was pro-German and had been committing treason against Russia.

Kerensky, leader of the Provisional Government, really wanted to get the family out of Russia--the Provisional Government was not a stable entity, since there were others in Russia vying for power, like the Petrograd Soviet. Plus, Russia was still fighting in the World War.

Both Nicholas and Alexandra favored England if they had to go into exile--King George V was a first cousin to both Nicholas (George's mother was Nicholas's mother's sister) and Alexandra (George's father King Edward was Alexandra's mother's brother). At first, England was like, "Yeah, we can take them." But as Kerensky wrote in his memoirs:

But in specific English circles, especially among the liberals and laborites, the intention of the British government to offer hospitality to the former Russian Tsar was met very coldly… 

Nicholas II and George V pre-WWI
At the time, in the midst of a bloody war, George V was anxious about his own throne. Incidentally, the United States was the first country to recognize the Provisional Government of Russia. The Americans also entered World War One on the Allied side in April of 1917, just after Nicholas's abdication. Don't tell me that's a coincidence.

The tsar and tsarina were formally placed under arrest, but calls for them to be moved to a prison or to stand trial got louder and louder as time went on.

During this house arrest, the girls' hair started falling out in clumps as they recovered from measles, so the girls shaved their heads. In solidarity, Alexei has his head shaved as well. Reportedly, their mother almost fainted at the sight of her bald children.

As the weather warmed, the family was allowed to walk in their palace park, though not as free-range royals. Reportedly, people would gather at the locked and guarded gates of the palace complex to stare at their former royal family and jeer at them. They were allowed to start a vegetable garden on the grounds.

Of course, this new captive life was hard for the children to understand. For one thing, one of Alexei's sailor nannies, Derevenko, went over to the other side during the Revolution, but not before sitting in Alexei's bedroom and ordering the kid around and yelling at him until one of the tutors put a stop to it. And this from a man Alexei had known all of his life, who had carried him around and took care of him when he was ill and played with him. The confusion and betrayal must have been enormous.

And still, the Provisional Government was not stable--and especially so after April 1917, when Vladimir Lenin returned to St. Petersburg in a sealed train car. In July, there was an unsuccessful Bolshevik uprising and it grew clearer to Kerensky that he couldn't keep the Imperial family safe in Tsarkoye Selo.

England didn't want them. France didn't want them. The family, barring exile in England, wanted to travel south to the Crimea, where they had a summer palace and where quite a lot of Romanovs had gathered.

But Kerensky told them to pack warm clothes and in August 1917, with a retinue of a few servants, the Romanovs left the Alexander Palace and boarded a train flying a Japanese Red Cross flag. Why the train didn't keep rolling until it hit Vladivostock so they could get into China or Japan is one of those "what if?" moments in Romanov history.

Instead, the train stopped four days later in Tyumen, in Siberia.

They were going to a town called Tobolsk, which didn't have direct access to the TransSiberian Railroad, so everyone transferred to a boat to make the journey from Tyumen to Tobolsk.

Tobolsk was, at least, remote--and not yet Bolshevik.

The Tobolsk governor's mansion in 1920
 The family was given the Tobolsk governor's mansion to live in. It wasn't big enough for all the servants, so the servants lived in the house across the street. The side street next to the governor's mansion was fenced off and the Imperial family was allowed to walk in that space.

Inside, they sewed, played games, read the newspaper--anything to stave off boredom. The girls liked to look out the window and see ordinary citizens of Tobolsk going about their business. Lessons continued. The girls put on plays.

In October 1917, Russia had another revolution--the October Revolution, where the Bolsheviks overthrew the Provisional Government, forcing Alexander Kerensky to flee the country.

Russia was still in chaos. They were still fighting in the world war. A bunch of communist radicals had just taken over the country.

And the former Imperial family was stashed away in Siberia, heavily guarded, under house arrest, with a very uncertain future.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Happy 10th Birthday, blog!

I cannot believe it's been ten years since I essentially pulled an all-nighter, made an account on Blogger, and wrote my first blog post. At the time, I just wanted a central Internet place to post a story I was working on so my friends could read it at the same time. That was it.

Happy 10th Birthday to the blog!!




In 2009...

-Blogging was pretty popular
-Twitter was brand new
-Oh hey, YouTube! Vlogging? Like a video diary? Huh. Interesting.
-Kindles and other ebooks were also still fairly new
-Publishing was supposed to sink into a hole and die as an industry (I was about two months out of publishing grad school when I started this blog and literally, that's all we kept hearing in grad school)

In 2019....

-Blogging is not as popular. It's been replaced by podcasts, Tweeting, Snapchat, more YouTube videos, and yelling at a robot in your house who is collecting all of your information and your conversations so it can kill you in the night
-Twitter and Facebook and the Internet=still shiny and new in places but troublesome and sinister in places as well
-I read plenty on my Kindle (as opposed to my phone, because I hate reading on my phone) but I'm finding that I really prefer to read in hard copy. I remember things better when I read in hard copy.
-Publishing ain't dead. It's changed a lot--hello, Kindle Publishing! And Smashwords. And Draft2Digital and other forms of indie and self-publishing--have changed the way books and readers find each other. The publishing industry has either kept abreast or consolidated themselves into a corporate shell. But it's not dead.

In ten years, this blog has seen:
-Two URLs
-At least three name changes
-More than three layout changes
-No attempts at a regular blogging schedule or a niche topic
-At least one aborted attempt to move to Wordpress
-One movement of the mailing list
-Several Men I've Google Stalked (Okay, what's more than "several?")
-Much geekouts over history
-Guest posts!
-Deepening geekouts over theater
-Four pieces published(!)
-Four million story ideas fizzle out
-Five million plot bunnies crop up
-This is my 862nd blog post

That's...what? Average 86 a year?


Seriously. It's amazing there are still topics worth writing posts about sometimes.

Also, as of February 8th, there have been a thousand comments on this blog.

Note: I'm old now and my ability to stay up to 4 am has diminished, so although this is posting at 3:59 am, no, it's not like I sat here and typed this out right now, okay? In fact, I'm actually writing this more than a week ahead of time. Yay, blog queues!

Thank you for sticking with me for at least some (if not all) of these last ten years here on The Sunflower's Scribbles.

Much love,


Friday, February 8, 2019

A Plot Bunneh Question

Guys, I have a quick question:

Okay, so as stated in a past post Stately, Country English Houses, part of my latest Plot Bunny involves a smallish country house built in the Victorian era. The house belonged to an old woman, who inherited it from her parents. Now, the old woman's family is trying to decide what to do with the house. Do they try to build up a case to get it listed in the register of historical buildings? It's not old enough to be automatically listed, so they need to show it has historical significance.

Or maybe they'll turn it into a business venue or some type. Either way, the task is left to my contemporary hero, Liam, a half-Irish, half-English thirtysomething year old man. This is his mother's family, the side he's not very close to, having been raised in Ireland by his dad after his parents divorced. Liam has always perceived his mum's side as being secretive, but when asked by Mum to help clean the house up and hire an architect, a decorator, and an archivist to comb through the house's papers, photos, and books, Liam does so.

My question is: what kind of career should Liam be in (in London) to be handed this task of organizing all of this? Is he a lawyer? Does he work in the hospitality industry, so he might know about country houses and how they can be accomodations for businesses or hotels or whatever? Does he work for a property developer? Is he some kind of professor in an unrelated field, but clearly very responsible, mature, and capable?

I haz no idea.


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

IWSG February 6th

It's time for IWSG Wednesday. The Insecure Writer's Support Group posts their writerly insecurities out to the world every first Wednesday of month! Check out the group here.

February's question is:

Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?

Writing is my main creative outlet. Sometimes, I think it's my only creative outlet since I can't draw, can't dance and can't sing on key.

But then there's blogging, which is writing, but wayyy looser, at least for me. I've never kept a regular schedule on the blog nor have I only stuck to a narrow set of topics 'cause I'm a rule breaker like that.

I like to cook and bake--I don't cook as often as I'd like and my cooking skills are still fairly limited--as is the size of my kitchen--but I do enjoy both when I do them.

Sometimes I like to scrapbook. I have a stamp collection my grandmother left me and just last week, my mom and I decided to make a little collage with some of the stamps so we can frame it and hang it on a wall somewhere.

Lately, after watching a few episodes of Marie Kondo's Tidying Up, tidying my space has become a creative outlet lol! Trying to find effective ways of storing things--and clearing up a lot of clutter--has felt like an outlet of something.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Romanovs Part 2

Part Two of my Romanov-related blog posts!

Nicholas II at military headquarters. Courtesy of:
Romanov Family
1915: Nicholas II is at military headquarters, commanding the Russian army. He's left his wife Alexandra in charge of the governing of the empire. Alexandra hates Nicholas's ministers, appoints her own ministers (at the advice of Rasputin), and the extended Romanov family pick representatives to approach the emperor and empress to give them interventions in the whole matter of Grigori Rasputin--and the peril they thought the country was in. There were cousins planning coups, for goodness' sake. 

Mind you, this is going on while the Russian army is cannon fodder in WWI and unrest is churning at home. 

Moika (Yusupov) Palace, St. Petersburg, where Rasputin was murdered.
By A. Savin via Wikimedia Commons.
On December 30, 1916, Rasputin was invited to the Yusupov Palace, home of Prince Felix Yusupov, husband of Tsar Nicholas's niece. Also, Prince Felix is ridonculously rich. Richer than the Romanovs kind of rich. 

Anyway. Felix has Rasputin over. Felix and several other men are there, including Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, a much-younger first cousin of the tsar's.

You've probably heard the myths of how Felix tried to kill Rasputin and Rasputin just wouldn't die, right? First, he served him food laced with cyanide. Rasputin eats it, doesn't die. Then one of the men shoots Rasputin (this is what he actually died of, supposedly: gunshot wounds) and Rasputin crawls up the basement stairs and out of the back door of the palace. Then he collapses and the men take him to the Neva River and dump him and lo, Rasputin has actually died of drowning!

I mean, it's probably not true, but it's a damn good story.

Rasputin's dead, the Russian army keeps getting decimated, there are bread lines because there's a severe food shortage. Nicholas is irritating his army commanders, Alexandra is ineffectively ruling the country, and due to the war, supplies and food shortages are ongoing, and inflation rockets up. Also, Nicholas refuses to grant more power to the representative assembly he hates so much, the Duma, which he was forced to contend with after a war he fought in 1905 with Japan.

(Japan won that one)

In the meantime, their kids are growing up. Alexei seems healthier--he spent quite a lot of time with his dad at army headquarters. Olga and Tatiana, the older daughters, had been Red Cross nurses and there's evidence that they had their teenage crushes and flirtations, though neither were anywhere near getting married.
The Romanov children in a colorized photo during WWI

By 1917, things are not good. Army regiments began mutinying. The Allied forces are like, "Uh, you guys good? 'Cause we need your cannon fodder." There are protests and riots in St. Petersburg. In February 1917 (March 1917 by our calendar; Russia still used the Old calendar) the February Revolution takes place, wherein the army is sent to Petersburg quell the protests and strikes but the Petersburg garrisons start mutinying and eventually, joined the protesters and strikers.

Men in the Duma--the representative body--declared a Provisional Committee and they said they were now in charge of governing Russia. A bunch of socialists formed the Petrograd Soviet to represent workers and soldiers. The soldiers guarding the imperial family at the Alexander Palace leave to join their fellow soldiers.

Finally, Nicholas at headquarters is like, "Oh shit!" and he gets on a train headed back to Tsarkoye Selo, outside St. Petersburg, where his family lived in the Alexander Palace. Only he can't get near St. Petersburg because of the unrest and his train is stopped, then turned around to Pskov. With his military against him, his family far away and possibly in danger, and not wanting the situation to grow worse--like giving way to the German army--Nicholas II abdicated.

At first, he abdicated in favor of Alexei. Alexei was twelve. A couple of hours later, Nicholas redid his abdication documents, this time bypassing Alexei--he didn't want his son separated from the rest of the family, plus Alexei's health would always be precarious--in favor of his younger brother Grand Duke Michael.

Michael declined, saying he wouldn't be tsar until a constituent assembly could be formed. And thus, three hundred and four years of Romanov rule came to an end.

Source: Royal Russia

In the meantime, at home in the Alexander Palace, Alexandra heard the news of Nicholas's abdication. She was deeply unpopular. Crowds tried to storm the palace, but were kept at bay by palace guards--who supported the Duma. This is one of those instances in history where you wonder "what if?"

Because at this point, with the abdication still fresh, things could have gone any number of ways. Nicholas could have demanded that his family be brought to him before he abdicated. The family could have tried to join him before going into exile. Alexandra and the kids could have gone into exile with Nicholas to follow. They could have moved to a safer palace.

For example, the Dowager Empress was in the Ukraine at this time. She stayed relatively safe and unbothered.

Except for one measly quirk of circumstance: the Romanov children were sick with the measles around this time. Grand Duchess Maria nearly died. When their father returned--and the children had started to recover--it was too late to attempt a move or an escape. The Provisional Government, led by Alexander Kerensky, put the family and servants under house arrest.

Next time in the Romanov saga...

-House arrest when you live in a palace
-Omg, we can't have these reviled people so close to those socialists
-Where do we stash them?