The World’s Great Age begins anew,
The Golden Years return,
The Earth doth like a Snake renew,
Her Winter Skin outworn:
Heaven Smiles, and Faiths and Empires gleam,
Like Wrecks of a Dissolving Dream,
- H. G. Wells, from In the Days of the Comet
New Lisbon, WI – On the 27th of May 1896, the celebration of the Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II’s coronation was to be held in the Khodynka Field outside Moscow. 100,000 people were in attendance. Before the food, drink, and souvenir cups were handed out, rumors spread that there wouldn't be enough for everyone. The crowd rushed to get their share and many fell and were trampled, suffocating in the dirt of the field. There were over 2600 casualties. Just four years before, a massive famine had swept the nation, killing upwards of 500,000 Russians.
There were constant revolutions over food shortages and other things, but the people always vindicated the Tsar in their minds, seeing him as above all of the corruption, and thinking that if he only knew, he would change everything. In revolutions like the one in 1905, when a member of the royal family died and part of the fleet rebelled, the protesters sang “God save the Tsar.” They even carried portraits of him.
However, when the fighting began and the Cossacks moved in, the protesters fled. The Russian Cossacks, known for their ferocity, and infantrymen were used to smash the protest. They poured fire into the rebels, killing in all about 92. The storm of bullets cut through the banners and icons the marchers held aloft, including portraits of the Tsar. The watchword was “If only the Tsar knew.” But it was the Tsar that ruled the government. It was the Tsar who commanded the troops. it was the Tsar who could change the price of grain.
Suddenly, a new chant began. “The Tsar will not help us!” The rebellion was quelled, but the damage remained.
In Russia the Tsar’s mystique slowly faded away, especially with the event of railroad. For the first time people could travel, and find that their troubles were not isolated, and also, they could visit the capital, and see the Tsar himself. A man elevated to the position of a god in the simple peasant mind was suddenly just a man.
In 1914 World War I came. For the first time hundreds of thousands of peasant boys had military style weapons. Eventually the idea occurred to them; use them on the government, not the Germans.
In America, our president’s mystique is fading. Since the beginning of the recent scandals he has dropped significantly in public opinion polls. There was once a sign in the oval office that stated “The Buck Stops Here” now the president is being seen, as the Bill O’Reilly show said, as “The Bystander in Chief.”
People need leaders, someone to set the direction. Throughout the history of the middle ages, the people always tended to see the king as the one who would save them from corrupt officials, hence the final appeals to the king-or Caesar. Baron de Montesquieu, the man whom the founding fathers quoted more often than anyone other than the Scriptures stated that the king’s role should only be to pardon, never condemn, so that when he entered the courtroom the thrill would go through the crowd that justice would now be served.
In America, the people have found that, at the IRS, in the state department, and elsewhere, that justice has not been served. The cry began with “tell the Tsar.” That cry can quickly change to “down with the Tsar” if they think he is doing nothing about it. Those that promise to do something about it will quickly be on the road to the majority.
Andrew C. Abbott