On July 17 Russia celebrated the 90th anniversary since the murder of the last Russian czar and his family. Three days before that, on July 14, France pompously celebrated Bastille Day as the start of the French Revolution. Almost 150 years passed between these two events, although they do have a lot in common. The Romanovs surprisingly repeated the fate of the Bourbon dynasty, whereas Russia repeated the fate of the French Revolution.
Contemporaries wrote that common people and noblemen used to lead their own lifestyles on the threshold of revolutions in both Russia and France. The ruling classes of the two countries were more concerned about the issues of foreign politics. France was supporting the rebellious Americans, who challenged England, the world’s biggest empire of those times. Russia was continuing its suicidal policies supporting Christian peoples of Central Europe and the Balkans.
A plethora of internal problems had been saved in both Russia and France by the time of revolutionary uprisings. However, the monarchs of Russia and France – Nicholas II and Louis XVI – did not do a thing to improve the situation in their homelands under the influence of their wives of foreign citizenship (Alexandra of Germany in Russia and Marie Antoinette of Austria in France). The Russians and the French eventually grew to hate their foreign empresses.
It goes without saying that the forcible change of power, whether it is referred to as a revolution or a coup, does not start from scratch. Russia and France were both living in the time which could be described as the feast of the plague. Noblemen of the two countries were living in idleness, drinking expensive champagne and buying pricy jewelry and clothing. They could only careless about their starving people.
Marie Antoinette, the French Queen of Austrian origin, virtually made the French treasury bankrupt. However, her spending on coiffures, clothes and jewelry paled in comparison with the money she was spending on the reconstruction of the Petit Trianon Castle. Her nickname, Madam Deficit, was a very good reference to her spending habits.
The difference between the pre-revolutionary Russia and France was connected with Russia’s exhaustion in the world war. France reached the end of the line after its interference in the affairs of former British colonies. Most of common Russians were unaware of what was happening in the palaces. Everything changed with the arrival of Grigori Rasputin.
It is worthy of note that both Russian and French monarchs preferred to stay aside from state matters of high importance. For example, Louis XVI was going in for hunting and miniature castle making. Russia’s Nicholas II preferred to deal with his family matters.
The holy place is never empty. The imperious wives of the Russian and the French monarchs were ruling their countries behind their husbands’ backs. Louis had a heavy mind and was often unable to make a simple decision. Marie Antoinette was always there for Louis in such cases, whereas Alexandra did the same for Nicholas II.
Rumor has it that Grigori Rasputin had love affairs with Empress Alexandra and her daughters. People were lining up to the Holy Devil, as Rasputin was nicknamed, because of his administrative influence, rather than his sexual power.
Marie Antoinette was known for her passion for sexual pleasures, nymphomaniac and lesbian activities, which she was pursuing due to her husband’s sexual weakness. Similar rumors were spreading in Russia during the last year of the Romanovs’ rule.
Revolutionaries of Russia and France were very much alike too. Both Jacobins in France and Bolsheviks in Russia created their incredible theories and were ready to do everything to make them come true to life. The first stage of the Russian revolution, which began in 1905, is very much reminiscent to early events of the French Revolution. Louis XVI could not stand against the impudent parliament: he thought that his soldiers would not shoot the French people. Russia’s Fourth Duma before the revolution was the same.
The end was similar too, although the French monarch was put on trial, whereas the Russian czar was murdered without any investigation. In addition, Jacobins proved to be more merciful than their Bolshevik followers: they did not slaughter the royal children.
Revolutionaries made it all very simple. They did not need to prove the fact that France went bankrupt under Louis XVI, whereas Russia suffered immense losses during the Russo-Japanese war. Bolsheviks did not think it was necessary to investigate the reasons that led to Bloody Sunday, the massacre in St. Petersburg, when up to 5,000 innocent people were killed.
Both Russian and French revolutions had beautiful beginnings. They were led to liberate people from tyranny for the sake of freedom and equality. The struggle eventually turned into the extermination of all those who attempted to put obstacles on the way of the new regime. The dispute about the organization of new paradise unfolded into the ruthless struggle for power, when revolutionaries started to exterminate each other.
Both Jacobins and Bolsheviks wanted to save their revolutions from the legacy of the old world and numerous enemies. Russia ’s leader of the Great October Revolution, Vladimir Lenin, liked to quote one of the most outstanding Jacobins, Louis de Saint-Just: “We must govern by iron those who cannot be governed by justice.”
Both Russian and French revolutionaries tried to replace Christianity with a new religion: the religion of mind in France and communism in Russia. Political prisons – The Bastille in Paris and Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg – became the symbols of the new eras. However, Russia and France proved that revolution is reminiscent to Jupiter, who devoured his children.
Several years ago, a prominent Indonesian businessman who now resides in Canada, insisted on meeting me in a back room of one of Jakarta's posh restaurants. An avid reader of mine, he 'had something urgent to tell me', after finding out that our paths were going to be crossing in this destroyed and hopelessly polluted Indonesian capital.