In just a couple of weeks, the whole of Russia will celebrate 300 years of glorious Romanov rule! A grand display of wealth and power has been erected in St. Petersburg, and a week of receptions will take place at the Winter Palace.
The rituals will start in the Kazan Cathedral. The Imperial family will drive from the Winter Palace in open carriages, escorted by two squadrons of His Majesty’s Own Horseguards and Cossack riders. Czar Nicholas II will ride for the first time in public since the 1905 Revolution.
Factories will be closed for a public holiday, free meals will be given out, and 2,000 prisoners are to be released under amnesty to mark the anniversary. A luxurious ball will be held for the aristocracy; in the parks there will be concerts, and when darkness falls, fireworks will light up the sky.
The event has been on everyone’s lips for several weeks, and dignitaries from the whole Empire have gathered in the capital’s grand hotels. The city is bustling with visitors, and Nevsky Prospect experiences the worst traffic jams in history, due to the convergence of cars, carriages and trams.
The streets are decorated in the Imperial colors of blue, red and white. Statues are dressed up with ribbons and garlands. Over tram lines, chains of lights are hung, which spell out ‘God Save the Czar’ or portray the Romanov double-headed eagle with ‘1613–1913’ spelled out underneath it. For many of the provincial visitors, this is their first sight of electric light.
The spirit of Russia is incarnate in her Czar. The Czar is a representation of God on earth, and the union between the Father Czar and his Orthodox subjects, who revere and adore him, is mystical and holy.
The Czar is depicted as a man of modest lifestyle and simple tastes, intimately acquainted with each peasant, and caring for their every need.
During the jubilee, nobody should mention Bloody Sunday, the violent suppression of the 1905 Revolution, the repression of political opponents, or the Czar’s supposed responsibility for defeat in the Russo-Japanese War. And nobody should even whisper the word Khodynka.
You see, when Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra were crowned Emperor and Empress of Russia, a banquet was going to be held for the people at Khodynka Field. Everybody was to receive a bread roll, a piece of sausage, pretzels, gingerbread and a commemorative cup. As the aristocracy was preparing for a festive ball at the French embassy, 500,000 commoners gathered on the field. Rumours spread among the people that there were not enough pretzels for everybody. In a catastrophic crowd crush, 1,400 people were trampled to death. The Royal Family will not have people talk about the tragedy, which was also a terrible omen, and the nickname “Nicholas the Bloody” is never to be mentioned.
Points of Discussion
– How is your character preparing for the Romanov Tercentenary?
– How has their life been affected by the preparations, and all the buzz in St Petersburg?
– What are they planning to do during the celebrations?
– What do they wish would happen or hope they could achieve at the celebrations?
– Do they see the Khodynka events as a bad omen, as unforgivable negligence on the part of the organizers and the Czar, as a sign of the peasants’ recklessness, or simply as a tragic accident?