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23 February 2020


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I can't recall ever hearing that level of emotion toward the end in either Rome or Revolutions, even with Haiti.


I loved this episode. I like that you're not concealing your frustration with Nicholas behind a dispassionate academic reporting of facts - it wouldn't be honest; you obviously think the guy was a complete dipstick and there's no point pretending otherwise. I hope you'll continue to include anything you can find that bears on his thoughts and reactions during the conflicts to come - letters, diary entries and the like - because the question of just what the heck he was thinking and how much he understood of what was happening around him continues to fascinate me.

I keep thinking about an off-the-cuff remark you once made during a TSBTS book tour talk, about how the "Great Man" side of history is so often driven by the failures and mistakes of those who wield power, rather than by their successes or good decisions. We've certainly seen plenty of mistakes and failures and mishandling and incompetence throughout Revolutions - possibly something to include in the Great Big Compare-and-Contrast session we're all hoping for after Russia wraps up?

Though the circumstances are so different, the mistakes Nicholas has made so far seem closest in their fundamental character to those made by Charles I - refusal to give an inch, insistance on divine right, inability to accept that reality just does not match the idea they had in their heads of how the world should work. It's going to be another case of "he did it to himself - to death". It really ties things together across nearly 300 years - and look, we've gone from the True Levellers to the actual Communists! It's so neat!

Konstantinos XI Monomachos

I've read that Nicholas II kept his diary specifically to record his personal feelings, as a kind of exercise in psychological discipline - it's famously sparse on practical/political matters. He totally believed his troops were justified in firing at the crowds, which is criminal, but his diary was for privately documenting his emotional reactions, not publicly reflecting on state policy.

So, as I understand it, it's a bit like Louis XVI's hunting diary saying "nothing today" on the day of the Bastille falling - it says *something* about the monarchs' detachment from reality, but not as much as it seems at first glance.

Also, I hate to be the broken record on the Russian pronunciation... but it's painful, episode after episode, to hear blatant mistakes that could be corrected with minimal effort.

"Tsarskoye Selo" - the first consonant is pronounced like "z" in "pizza" not "z" in "zero", but, whatever, English-speakers pronounce "Tsar" as "Zar", ffffine. But it's not "Tsar-ski" - it's "TSAR-skah-yeh" - Wikipedia has an audio clip, Forvo has a couple, or you can read the transcription.

"Zubatov" - again, the STRESS is what makes or breaks Russian pronunciation. It's "Zoo-BAAH-taf". "Zoo-BAAH-tov" is imperfect, but perfectly fine for a foreign speaker. "ZOOO-bah-tov" doesn't sound Russian to a Russian ear. His name can actually be translated as "one of many teeth", which is a hilarious name for a police chief, but when you ignore the stress the meaning is lost. Again - Wikipedia tells you where the stress goes. It doesn't require special knowledge or tongue tricks.

Gregory Walker Levitsky

Excellent episode, Mike, thank you. Extremely sad, tragic, and frustrating, and of course I say that as someone broadly sympathetic to Tsar Nicholas.

I wanted to echo Konstantinos' comments on pronunciation and add Putilov - it is not "pew"(pyu)tilov, but "poo"(pu)tEElov, with the stress on the EE.

Additionally, both times you said Gapon's first name as "GrigOry" (like Rasputin). This is Russian for Gregory, which is incorrect. His name was GeOrgy, or George. They sound similar in Russian with the hard G, but are two completely different names. Remember that when Rasputin (NOT the "mad monk") eventually rears his head!

Thanks again for all of your hard work!

Konstantin T.

Mike, this episode is outstanding! This is one of the best pieces of historical podcasting I have ever heard! Thank you for improving our understanding of these tragic events. I certainly learned quite a bit, regardless of having read extensively on the subject.


Aw, we’re never gonna talk about Protocols, are we?

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