Modern democracy gives us the best governments the world has ever seen. Or maybe Winston Churchill put it better when he said, “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried.” But democracy hasn’t taken root everywhere. And its success has robbed all other governments of legitimacy — everywhere. That includes monarchy: once the world’s most stable form of government. So a country that can’t adopt democracy has no legitimate option. The result: brutal strongmen, like Vladimir Putin, as well as authoritarian hierarchies, like the Chinese Communist Party.
It’s possible Russia’s 19th and 20th Century czars didn’t really belong to the imperial family. They were called Romanovs, members of the dynasty that had built the Russian Empire, but for some the name rang false. The last undoubted Romanov, Czar Peter III, married a German princess in 1745. History remembers her as Catherine the Great. History also remembers Catherine’s extramarital affairs. The czar was sexually uninterested or even incapable, so Catherine enjoyed serial monogamy with a long list of lovers, starting with an officer named Sergei Saltykov. In her memoirs, she suggested that Saltykov fathered Paul I, the next czar, and some historians believe her. Continue reading “Russia’s Romanov Czars Might Not Have Been Romanovs”