Friday, February 7, 2014

It's That Time Again!

It's time for the Olympics!  I never can decide if I prefer the summer or winter games.  Summer has gymnastics, swimming, diving, and endless heats of track and field events to mindlessly watch all day.  And of course, there is that hypnotic crew rowing.  Winter has skiing, which I enjoy myself even though not nearly at the level of an Olympian, skating, snowboarding, hockey and all those crazy sled sports. 

This year, as everyone knows, the Olympics are in Sochi, Russia, which I had never heard of before the Olympics were awarded to them.  I am excited, since, although I don't talk about it all the time, I have been interested in Russian history since I was a teenager and read an article in Newsweek about how some human remains had been discovered that were connected to the Romanovs, the Imperial family of Russia.  The short article told a tale of intrigue so fascinating that I was hooked and started researching online and checking out books at the library on the subject.  The Romanovs were the last royals of a long line of royals in Russia and very interesting and tragic people. 

For those of you unaware, a.k.a. people who were never a nerdy teenager who spent hours on the computer and reading library books about Russian history, the Emperor and Empress were Nicholas and Alexandra and they had four daughters named Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia.  As was the case with many royal dynasties, having a boy to inherit the throne was very important and they finally had a boy, Alexis, but he turned out to be weak and sick with hemophilia.  Alexandra was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and that family was notoriously inbred and Hemophilia appeared here and there in the bloodlines of royals all over Europe.  The little boy was guarded and protected and barely allowed to make a move on his own because if he bumped his elbow or stubbed his toe it could lead to life threatening internal bleeding in the worst case and painful and grotesque swelling at the least. 

As was the case with all royal families, there was a court of close friends and advisors near the family and somehow a creepy faith healer named Grigory Rasputin weaseled his way into their circle.  He did some crazy voo doo healing stuff and Alexandra was convinced that he helped Alexis when he was in pain from bleeding episodes.  There is speculation that he influenced her politically and in turn she pushed his beliefs on Nicholas.  Some people believe she had an intimate relationship with him. 

This is Rasputin...yikes...I feel bad for that little boy waking up to those spooky eyes hovering over him.  It is very hard for me to believe that a beautiful queen who, according to all accounts, had a rare true love relationship with her royal arranged marriage husband would cheat with a creepy weirdo like this but she was so distraught about Alexis that maybe she did. 

During the rule of Nicholas is when Russia changed forever and Lenin and the Communists took over since, although life was good for the royals, there was starvation, poverty and violence in the streets.  In 1917 Nicholas gave up his throne after uprisings by the people and the family was sent to live in exile in Siberia and eventually killed by a firing squad in 1918.  There is a chilling account of their lasts moments told by a soldier who was there that you can easily find online but the short version is that they were lined up and told to pose for a photo and then killed in a barrage of gunfire.  Then supposedly their remains were thoroughly disposed of and made unrecognizable (until the 90's when dna evidence confirmed that some bones burned with acid were indeed them).  But through the years after their deaths a rumor persisted that Anastasia and Alexis made it out alive and people appeared here and there claiming to be them.  They were all proven to be fakes but it sure is interesting to read about.  I don't know how anyone would belief that Alexis survived being shot if a minor bump or bruise could have caused him to bleed to death but the fakes kept showing up. 

This is the Alexander Palace, their main residence in St. Petersburg.  I have a dream of seeing it one day.  It is a museum now.  I just saw that the website I used to look at, is still there and way better than it was fourteen years ago!  I wonder if Ben and Tessa would leave me alone for an evening so I can look at royal family trees and pictures of the royal daughters' living quarters for hours at a time?

Soooo, anyway, the Olympics are in Russian...I had a bit of a departure there.  I guess the old part of my brain that truly enjoyed learning was briefly awakened from my toddler raising numbness.  I was getting to the point that I am excited to see and hear about Russia during the next few weeks.  It's already off to a fun start with all the crazy photos coming from journalists showing the stereotypical Eastern European shoddiness of the hotels  and of course Bob Costas's swollen eye.  I have started using Twitter just so I can follow all of this foolishness and it sure is fun. #SochiProblems!!! My favorite is how that Russian official defended Putin and everyone else in charge by saying that they saw someone vandalize a shower in a hotel to make it look worse and everyone is like, "You are filming people in the shower?!"  Hahaha.  What a mess.  I guess the Opening Ceremony already happened and nothing went wrong so it's looking up for the Russians!

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