Alexander Palace Forum

Discussions about the Imperial Family and European Royalty => Nicholas II => Topic started by: ISteinke on October 04, 2004, 09:33:46 AM

Title: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #1
Post by: ISteinke on October 04, 2004, 09:33:46 AM
I would like to start a thread, written from the spiritual standpoint of "old" pre-revolutionary Russia- not necessarily a place to debate the "pros and cons" of Nicholas' life, but a place for those who have loved him and been inspired by him to share their own feelings and reflections.
     Nicholas II is probably one of my greatest heroes, if not the greatest. When I was nine years old I got a hold of a copy of Nicholas and Alexandra- read it all through over Christmas break from school. Ever since that time, although I have now read many other books about imperial Russia, that volume has become a sort of Bible to me- read over and over again, and deeply loved. That book began a lifetime of interest in the old Russia.

     Nicholas II is amazing to me, because, of all the rulers that ever lived, he comes in his character, the closest to the ideal of a "great king." He was not only a ruler, but he lived out the soul of Holy Russia in his personal life.
     He was Christian, he was moral, he was consistent, and he was gentle. In an age when kings were becoming remote from their people, mere figureheads, somewhere safe in a palace, Nicholas wanted to personally lead his troops.
     The old ideal of a king, from long ago, was not of a wealthy aristocrat, but of a leader of men, who identified himself with those who looked up to him. Nicholas was wealthy, but unique amongst sovereigns, he was an ordinary man.
     That is part of what makes Nicholas and Alexandra [and their children] unique- They were ordinary people- down to earth people who, in their personal lives, upheld the best ideals of what monarchy is supposed to stand for.
     The tragedy of Nicholas is this. He was a great prince, but he was a poor administrator. Isn't it interesting, though, that, with the passage of time the memory of his high ideals, his passionate love for Christ and for his country, he has ended up being not the most maligned Tsar in history, but perhaps the most beloved.
     Historians write of Peter the Great, but does anyone love him? People admire the accomplishments of Catherine, and of Alexander II, but do they love them? The answer would have to be, "NO."
     Nicholas stands apart, because his legacy as a tsar is closely tied up with the legacy of who he was as a man.




Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on October 05, 2004, 09:55:39 AM
Welcome
Do check out the materials here on site. There there are also many fine books under the Topic Books about the Romanovs -- thread name "recommended books."

enjoy
Rskkiya
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: investigator on January 08, 2005, 12:01:50 AM
What were the negative attributes of Nicholas II as Tsar?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on January 08, 2005, 09:45:59 AM

Nicholas was the type of person who wanted to avoid confrontations at any cost. Because of that, he would appear to agree with officials, etc, while they were meeting face to face, but then he would send them a letter as to what he really thought. This meant that he never really said what he meant nor meant what he said. This made him appear deceptive and indecisive, terrible traits in a ruler, and it drove many people mad (justifiably so)!
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on January 08, 2005, 10:04:25 AM
Robert Massie writes that Nicholas can't be completely blamed for this because there were so many departments that he had to deal with them separately. The army, for example, could suggest a very good idea to him & he would accept it but his next meeting might be with the Finance Dept. who would say money which he wanted to give to the army was needed elsewhere so he would have to write to the military dept to say he had changed his mind....I think Mr. Massie's explanation went something like that anyway...
Even so I sometimes get the impression of the Tsar being very placid then suddenly taking a stand about something rather insignificant to try to show that he WAS Tsar (perhaps through Alix's pushing) & so he seems almost like a little boy stamping his feet...as with the case of Miechen using the Royal Box at the the theatre without his permission.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on January 08, 2005, 10:20:59 AM
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Robert Massie writes that Nicholas can't be completely blamed for this because there were so many departments that he had to deal with them separately. The army, for example, could suggest a very good idea to him & he would accept it but his next meeting might be with the Finance Dept. who would say money which he wanted to give to the army was needed elsewhere so he would have to write to the military dept to say he had changed his mind....I think Mr. Massie's explanation went something like that anyway...
Even so I sometimes get the impression of the Tsar being very placid then suddenly taking a stand about something rather insignificant to try to show that he WAS Tsar (perhaps through Alix's pushing) & so he seems almost like a little boy stamping his feet...as with the case of Miechen using the Royal Box at the the theatre without his permission.


But as a good leader, shouldn't he have known that before meeting with someone about an issue and before agreeing to something, he should make it his business to find out details about it beforehand? When you are in that position, you can't just randomly make decisions without knowing anything about it, and then just change your mind. So I think yes, he should have been held resonsible for something like that... If itf was too much for him, he could have just told them, before agreeing to it, "let me find out the details and get back to you with my decision". Instead he just agreed to everything and changed it all later. No wonder everyone thought he was indecisive and deceptive. So this is another bad trait of his - making decisions without being sufficiently informed. Not a good trait for an autocrat!

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on January 08, 2005, 10:21:31 AM
I'm sure you are right...I just like to find some excuses for him since I think it such a shame that he never really wanted to be Tsar & it is impossible to imagine the amount of responsibility held by an autocrat of so massive a country.  I think his most negative attribute in those circumstances was allowing himself to be advised by people who were ill-informed and refusing to listen to those who were wiser...e.g. de Witte in the Russo-Japanese War or even all the members of his family when Revolution seemed imminent. Perhaps he was a bit of a 'people-pleaser.'
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on January 08, 2005, 10:29:54 AM
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I think it such a shame that he never really wanted to be Tsar & it is impossible to imagine the amount of responsibility held by an autocrat of so massive a country.  I think his most negative attribute in those circumstances was allowing himself to be advised by people who were ill-informed and refusing to listen to those who were wiser...e.g. de Witte in the Russo-Japanese War or even all the members of his family when Revolution seemed imminent. Perhaps he was a bit of a 'people-pleaser.'

Yes, this is the failure of autocracy: people who are not by any stretch of imagination capable of pulling it off end up in a position where they have to. Nicholas didn't ask to be Tsar and autocrat but his failure was not to accept that he was not cut out for it and insist that he has to remain one... Yes, he thought he was doing his "duty" but had he been capable of self analysis or had he a better sense of judgment, he would have seen that the "duty" had really been the downfall.. Come to think of it, another bad attribute he had was his limited "vision" and inability to see things outside the proverbial box.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on January 18, 2005, 03:09:10 PM
Negative attributes of NII as tsar: lack of intellectual curiosity and imagination, obstinacy and passivity. In general he did not have the natural talents necessary to overcome his limited education and sheltered background. Moreover, I think he had no real will to power and was deeply uncomfortable in the exercise of it. He wanted to be an absolute monarch but as other people here have pointed out, he hated confrontations and didn't like telling people what to do. That's a recipe for disaster.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Roman_Candle on January 18, 2005, 07:56:27 PM
IMHO it is always easy to "find fault" in retrospect. There were so many issues he inherited it would have been difficult for anyone to have put Russia on the right path.

I think the most basic fault is this. If you think you are going to "rule" a Russian(s) that (you and they) are going to be in for a rough ride. It's not...and should not be considered a "divine right" but a privledge. You can "Lead" them..."Teach" them..."Protect" them, but you will never "Rule" them. That was the first mistake. The second was trying to live up to the expectations of what a Tsar should be (War with Japan...WWI). He should have carved his own destiny by modernizing Russia's Economy and improving social issues. What's that old saying "The little bombs you can blow up...but you better know how to diffuse the big ones". He didn't spend enough time diffusing the social issues.    
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on January 19, 2005, 10:35:50 AM
But that's because NII had no imagination. He couldn't imagine Russia as a modern industrial superpower. He couldn't imagine himself as a constitutional monarch. He couldn't imagine that a revolution would ever actually succeed. He couldn't imagine that his family was in any real danger from the revolutionaries. He was a man of limited intelligence and few talents. This doesn't mean he wasn't a decent human being, it simply means he was unfit to be the autocrat of all the Russias.

Early twentieth-century Russia needed a Peter the Great or better yet a Napoleon to drag it kicking and screaming into the modern era. But then, neither a Peter nor a Napoleon would have been willing to call a Duma, much less relinquish any power to it, so you still would have had an autocracy, that is, a system of government based almost entirely on personal rule and therefore too dependent for its viability on the personality and talents of the current ruler. So your Russian Napoleon or second Peter the Great dies and you get... maybe another incompetent ruler.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on January 19, 2005, 10:42:32 AM
I think that had Alexander II, Nicholas's grandfather, not been assasinated, the course of Russian and world history would have been very different. He had imagination that N lacked, and he would have followed through and probably been able to initiate some form of constitutional monarchy. Unfortunately he was killed because some factions craved immediate gratification and lacked the imagination to see that things just don't work that way. You still see this sort of mentality in modern Russia.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on January 19, 2005, 11:07:55 AM
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I think that had Alexander II, Nicholas's grandfather, not been assasinated, the course of Russian and world history would have been very different. He had imagination that N lacked, and he would have followed through and probably been able to initiate some form of constitutional monarchy. Unfortunately he was killed because some factions craved immediate gratification and lacked the imagination to see that things just don't work that way. You still see this sort of mentality in modern Russia.


I completely agree with you, Helen, you've made some excellent points. I know a lot of historians do regard 1881 as the point of no return for the Romanovs - after this, many argue, it was simply too late to turn back the tide of revolution. That single act, the assassination of Alexander II, made any ultimate reconciliation between the monarchy and the radical intelligentsia impossible.

I don't know if I'm comfortable ascribing national characteristics to an entire people, but the more I travel, the more I realize that a lot of these stereotypes have some basis in fact. And my husband, who was raised in Russia, also believes that Russians have an unfortunate predilection for extremes. But perhaps this same tendency also explains their superlative brilliancy in the arts?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Janet_W. on January 19, 2005, 11:10:19 AM
Also, from what I have read, some of those factions were aware that Alexander II's reforms would make their cause far less urgent. This, of course, was an anathma to them. They didn't want a Tsar willing to make reforms . . . they didn't want a Tsar, period. And this set the stage for Alexander III, who could state, with truth--albeit truth of the most superficial level--that reforms only encouraged revolutionaries.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on January 19, 2005, 11:19:19 AM
When you consider how many Romanov tsars died violently, it's a wonder to me that NII didn't have more imagination in 1917-18 when it came to seeing the threat the revolutionaries posed to his children, particularly the tsarevich... He witnessed his own grandfather's agonizing death. Surely that must have had a devastating impact on him. But I suppose this comment should go under the "Nicholas as a Father" thread.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on January 19, 2005, 12:55:07 PM
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When you consider how many Romanov tsars died violently, it's a wonder to me that NII didn't have more imagination in 1917-18 when it came to seeing the threat the revolutionaries posed to his children, particularly the tsarevich... He witnessed his own grandfather's agonizing death. Surely that must have had a devastating impact on him. But I suppose this comment should go under the "Nicholas as a Father" thread.
 I think that N, like his father saw the assasination of his grandfather in the opposite way. The way they perceived, it was that A II was liberal and gave everyone a lot of rights and then they killed him. So obviously this wasn't the right thing to do, they thought, this is not what the Russians can handle or should have. And this is why A III went back to the old autocratic policies when he took over... This is just an overview as to why they didn't see, but I am sure it gets a lot more complicated...
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Belochka on January 19, 2005, 08:12:55 PM
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But that's because NII had no imagination. He couldn't imagine Russia as a modern industrial superpower. He couldn't imagine himself as a constitutional monarch. He couldn't imagine that a revolution would ever actually succeed. He couldn't imagine that his family was in any real danger from the revolutionaries.


No one could imagine that the revolution would become successful, not even the revolutionaries at the time of Nikolai's arrest. Nikolai always had faith in the Russian people. His spiritual faith and his personal confidence in his people would preclude him from seeing the evil which was to envelop Russia. It is wrong to blame Nikolai. If one must place blame, then place it on those workers who were deceived into believing an impossible dream.

Russia was not as industrially backward as many perceive it was. Count Witte modernized the country by considerable bounds. The trans-siberian railway project is one such example... there was more rail tract laid than in the US. Heavy industry such as oil production, steel and coal was at its peak. These industries helped create larger urbaniztion centers, which strenghtened the worker's position in society.

[/quote]He was a man of limited intelligence and few talents. [/quote]

A person who was conversant in a number of European languages, who knew Russian history and was fully conversant on military issues can never be deemed as unintelligent. Such comments are unfair and mask the truth.


Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on January 19, 2005, 08:39:27 PM
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Also some of those factions were aware that Alexander II's reforms would make their cause far less urgent. This, of course, was an anathma to them. They didn't want a Tsar willing to make reforms . . . they didn't want a Tsar, period.  

Yes, exactly! But they made a mistake in their thinking that an "overnight" change would be effective, but of course it never is.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on January 19, 2005, 08:42:52 PM
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Such comments are unfair and mask the truth.


I think N had many talents and although he was not an intellectual, he was not unintelligent. But his particular talents were not in being an effective autocratic leader or politician. This doesn't mean that he would not have been effective elsewhere. As someone once said, he would probably have made a very good constitutional monarch, but unfortunately for him, and everyone else, he strived to be an autocrat instead.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: James1941 on January 19, 2005, 08:49:49 PM
In my opinion one of Niclolas II's faults as a ruler was that he let himself become bogged down in the minutiae of government. For example even minor requests for a change of a last name had to be personally reviewed and signed by the tsar. Franz Josef of Austria got up every morning at 4:00 am and began the daily routine of going over every report and document that flowed in from the various departments of the empire. He read and signed every one. He regarded this as doing his duty as ruler but in fact it was the work of a clerk,
Nicholas did the same. He was so secretive, as has been pointed out by others, that he refused to have a private secretary. Thus he ended up not only having to read, annotate and decide what to do about this mountain of documents but also to open the letters then to write an answer then personally seal and address replies. Again, the work of a clerk. If he had had a good Private Secretary (like the king of England) who could have weeded out the important from the mundane and who could have been a go between of various factions and advised him on the political situation,Nicholas might have had time to think about the bigger issues. Instead, buried in paperwork he complained that he never had time for anything else and came to resent having to read reports and make decisions. This was his own fault.
Also, if Russia had had a cabinet system of ministers then the kind of errors described in the first of these posts could have been avoided. Instead the individual ministers reported privately to the tsar and the mistakes and misunderstandings that have been stated occured and it all reflected badly on Nicholas.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Belochka on January 19, 2005, 10:14:18 PM
After 1905 and until Russia's entry into WWI Russia was slowly progressing towards a constitutional monarchy.

Nikolai's strength lay in his conceptualization of Russian unity within the confines of its territorial borders. This concept he defended with all his heart. Within this framework he modernized Russia.

According to Pipes, Russia had the fifth largest economy in the world on the eve of WWI. Not a bad achievement!
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on January 20, 2005, 08:38:59 AM
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No one could imagine that the revolution would become successful, not even the revolutionaries at the time of Nikolai's arrest. Nikolai always had faith in the Russian people. His spiritual faith and his personal confidence in his people would preclude him from seeing the evil which was to envelop Russia. It is wrong to blame Nikolai. If one must place blame, then place it on those workers who were deceived into believing an impossible dream.


Actually, I would place the blame more squarely on the heads of Nicholas II's predecessors, particularly his namesake Nicholas I, who wasted valuable time pursuing a retrograde political program when he could have been forcing through much-needed reforms such as the emancipation of the serfs. By the time NII came to the throne, perhaps he could not have done much to halt the disaster overtaking Russia. The country had simply run out of time. In this sense, as I have said before, NII's fatalism might not have been so misplaced. But he could have tried.

[/quote]Russia was not as industrially backward as many perceive it was. Count Witte modernized the country by considerable bounds. The trans-siberian railway project is one such example... there was more rail tract laid than in the US. Heavy industry such as oil production, steel and coal was at its peak. These industries helped create larger urbaniztion centers, which strenghtened the worker's position in society. [/quote]

All this is true, but overlooks the fact that Russia had an incredibly radicalized intelligentsia which refused to compromise on issues of reform (they wanted to get rid of the entire system, not reform it from within) and a huge peasant population (still 80 percent or so of the total population) which was also inherently radical in so far as it was just waiting for an excuse to revolt because it wanted the land and believed the land rightfully belonged to it. World War I provided that excuse.

[/quote] A person who was conversant in a number of European languages, who knew Russian history and was fully conversant on military issues can never be deemed as unintelligent. Such comments are unfair and mask the truth.[/quote]

We obviously have different definitions of intelligence. I think one cannot be truly intelligent if one is lacking in imagination. In my opinion, narrow-mindedness and an inability to change are hallmarks of the inferior mind. Nor do I see any correlation between intelligence and a talent for languages. I've met people who have an innate flair for languages who are terrible students in every other subject (although there does seem to be some correlation between a talent for languages and a talent for music).
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on January 20, 2005, 08:47:20 AM
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In my opinion one of Niclolas II's faults as a ruler was that he let himself become bogged down in the minutiae of government. For example even minor requests for a change of a last name had to be personally reviewed and signed by the tsar. Franz Josef of Austria got up every morning at 4:00 am and began the daily routine of going over every report and document that flowed in from the various departments of the empire. He read and signed every one. He regarded this as doing his duty as ruler but in fact it was the work of a clerk,
Nicholas did the same. He was so secretive, as has been pointed out by others, that he refused to have a private secretary. Thus he ended up not only having to read, annotate and decide what to do about this mountain of documents but also to open the letters then to write an answer then personally seal and address replies. Again, the work of a clerk. If he had had a good Private Secretary (like the king of England) who could have weeded out the important from the mundane and who could have been a go between of various factions and advised him on the political situation,Nicholas might have had time to think about the bigger issues. Instead, buried in paperwork he complained that he never had time for anything else and came to resent having to read reports and make decisions. This was his own fault.
Also, if Russia had had a cabinet system of ministers then the kind of errors described in the first of these posts could have been avoided. Instead the individual ministers reported privately to the tsar and the mistakes and misunderstandings that have been stated occured and it all reflected badly on Nicholas.


James makes a number of valuable and insightful points. Interestingly, Nicholas's predecessor Nicholas I has been criticized by historians for precisely the same failing - he refused to delegate work, which led to terrible bottlenecks in the imperial system because every governmental decision had to be made by the tsar himself. See W. Bruce Lincoln's brilliant biography of Nicholas I for more information.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on January 20, 2005, 08:35:28 PM
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James makes a number of valuable and insightful points. Interestingly, Nicholas's predecessor Nicholas I has been criticized by historians for precisely the same failing - he refused to delegate work, which led to terrible bottlenecks in the imperial system because every governmental decision had to be made by the tsar himself.
 Perhaps these are not the failings of individuals but of the system - the autocracy? IMO, no one person can be an effective autocrat. One way or another, this kind of a system fails simply due to human nature. I don't know how anyone could have ever thought that it could work for an extended period of time...  ???
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on January 21, 2005, 09:59:42 AM
I think, generally, you're right - the imperial system was probably designed to create bottlenecks - over-centralization, we might say, without modern technology to speed things along. But Lincoln argues that it was a question of degree: Nicholas I (and I assume, from what James has written above, Nicholas II, too) preoccupied himself with petty matters that normally would have been decided at the local level, for example by governors. He insisted on seeing all his mail and answering every petition and so on and so forth. This was not customary even for Russian emperors. One gets the impression that if a clerk wanted to order more paper and ink, a memo had to be written and presented for the tsar's approval. That's probably an exaggeration, but not much, from what I've read about it.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on January 21, 2005, 10:08:42 AM
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... it was a question of degree: Nicholas I (and I assume, from what James has written above, Nicholas II, too) preoccupied himself with petty matters that normally would have been decided at the local level, for example by governors. He insisted on seeing all his mail and answering every petition and so on and so forth. One gets the impression that if a clerk wanted to order more paper and ink, a memo had to be written and presented for the tsar's approval. That's probably an exaggeration, but not much, from what I've read about it.
 

Oh yes, of course it is a matter of degree, some were much worse at it than others! But generally speaking, due to the nature of such system, it can't possibly work in the long run, if only because of the *inherited* aspect alone: there is no way to predict what type of a ruler the country will get, and they end up in a lot of trouble if they get someone who is completely incompetent or mentally ill, since the inherited autocracy gives this person the full power to do whatever they want! This has been demostrated over and over in the history of autocratic rule, so I just can't see how anyone can think that it may be a good way to go (if anyone still does)!  :o  ;)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on January 21, 2005, 10:13:40 AM
Exactly my opinion!

Quote

Early twentieth-century Russia needed a Peter the Great or better yet a Napoleon to drag it kicking and screaming into the modern era. But then, neither a Peter nor a Napoleon would have been willing to call a Duma, much less relinquish any power to it, so you still would have had an autocracy, that is, a system of government based almost entirely on personal rule and therefore too dependent for its viability on the personality and talents of the current ruler. So your Russian Napoleon or second Peter the Great dies and you get... maybe another incompetent ruler.


Of course, a real constitutional monarchy theoretically provides protection from this danger.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on January 21, 2005, 10:19:36 AM
So I wonder how did they justify it until the 20th century? I mean some autocracy supporters were very intelligent people who by no means would be fooled by sentiments of "tradition" while they fully realized that autocracy is just not the way to go. Why did it take them until 1905 to realize that they needed something different? Although I know many did try for a change before that, but at the same time many still supported autocracy for so long! Very hard to understand.... although I am sure that it is a lot more complicated than just deciding that a system is not very good and changing it.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on January 21, 2005, 10:46:29 AM
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So I wonder how did they justify it until the 20th century? I mean some autocracy supporters were very intelligent people who by no means would be fooled by sentiments of "tradition" while they fully realized that autocracy is just not the way to go. Why did it take them until 1905 to realize that they needed something different? Although I know many did try for a change before that, but at the same time many still supported autocracy for so long! Very hard to understand.... although I am sure that it is a lot more complicated than just deciding that a system is not very good and changing it.


Gosh, what a complicated and fascinating topic for a dissertation or book. My own personal opinion is that autocracy lasted so long in Russia because the elite was simply terrified of the masses, the "narod." There was such a long history of brutal peasant revolts in Russia, going back hundreds of years. And when some 80-90 percent of the population is made up of peasants, another peasant revolt is a very frightening - and realistic - prospect.

Remember that the Russian elite, even in NII's day, was tiny and very weak by Western European standards. The middle class was developing rapidly, but still not numerous. The urban working class was a mere blip on the radar screen (something like 1% of the population). And the nobility, by European standards, was simply impoverished. Because Russia was so "backward" in terms of its population make-up, many Russians - and even Westerners - believed that it was incapable of any form of self-government.

What to do about the peasant? In Russia, that was the single most burning issue of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. No one could seem to come up with a viable solution. So this patriarchal attitude to the narod persisted even amongst thinking Russians (even to some extent amongst the radicalized intelligentsia): the narod are irrational children whose bestial impulses must be kept in check by a strong central government. For centuries the personification of a strong state was the autocrat, the "Little Father" (telling epithet). Hence autocracy: bulwark against anarchic chaos.

Just off the top of my head. I know, simplistic answer to a really, really complex question.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Belochka on January 21, 2005, 11:01:48 PM
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What to do about the peasant? In Russia, that was the single most burning issue of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. No one could seem to come up with a viable solution.


Stolypin tried to transform the peasantry away from communal organization. To be succesful Stolypin required the strength of Peter the Great and the unreserved backing of the Emperor, and the conservative ministers. He failed to achieve his agrarian reforms. Most peasants prefered to remain in the communal environment, while those who left, and staked their claim to land did so for monetary gain.  Those very persons who remained resented private ownership even by this new formed gentry class. Stolypin attempted to enrich productivity through private ownership.

Had not Stolypin been assassinated, then it is believed that his reforms would have succeeded. By 1914, some 2.5 million peasant households availed themselves of this opportunity of private ownership, which covered 1/4 of the rural number of households.

His social reforms were wiped out in 1917 by those very same communal peasants. And what was their ultimate reward?  ....
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on January 22, 2005, 08:51:35 AM
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Had not Stolypin been assassinated, then it is believed that his reforms would have succeeded.


That's what I learned in college, too, but it's not what current scholarship shows. Orlando Figes has demonstrated pretty conclusively that Stolypin's reforms were a failure even while he was still alive. This was partly the result of his own personality (he did not know how, or could not be bothered to form coalitions within the government, so remained very isolated and dependent on the tsar's favor), but mainly due to the peasantry's reluctance to leave the communal system. The initial numbers were deceptive - although even one-third of peasants leaving the commune is not terribly impressive, given the deal they were offered to do so (compare this number to the number of American settlers who took advantage of the Homestead Act). Many of these very same peasants later voluntarily returned to the commune or were pressured to do so by communal leaders. One reason Stolypin fell out of NII's favor before his death was that his agrarian reforms were simply not working.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: hissunnywife on January 22, 2005, 12:44:33 PM
Very happy with the views expressed in this chat. The essence of why God has chosen Nicky to be the Tzar despite his lack of certain admin qualities is given here. There were other great kings like that in the past. What about King Arthur, King David?

Human race inhabits this planet for a very long time. In the past, exactly as stated in the comment above, kings were supposed to be spiritual, righteous, examples of moral and ethical behaviour for their subjects. And they had a great sense of duty to God and people, just as Nicky did.

Tzar Nicholas the II was ahead (and behind) of his time, hence not understood by many contemporaries. But since nothing in God's plan is ever wrong perhaps we shall live to see what God has in store and why so many people across the world are becoming more and more interested in him. Needless to say that one of his ikons in Russia began oothing holy oil sometime around 1999 and is used by God for revival of faith in Russia.

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Yoyo on January 22, 2005, 01:51:51 PM
Belochka wrote (sorry, still can't quote :():
"His spiritual faith and his personal confidence in his people would preclude him from seeing the evil which was to envelop Russia. It is wrong to blame Nikolai. If one must place blame, then place it on those workers who were deceived into believing an impossible dream.  

Russia was not as industrially backward as many perceive it was. Count Witte modernized the country by considerable bounds. The trans-siberian railway project is one such example... there was more rail tract laid than in the US. Heavy industry such as oil production, steel and coal was at its peak. These industries helped create larger urbaniztion centers, which strenghtened the worker's position in society." (end of quote)

You can't blame the workers and peasants for dreaming of a better life. It is well known that they lived in absolute poverty, their misery unmitigated by any laws defending them against their greedy employers (even against woman and child labor abuse). They worked 12 to 15 hour days, earned a pittance and then went home (if you can call it that) to horrendous housing conditions.

It is true that Russia had a great heavy industry. But it had no light industy which means that no cheap consumer goods were available for these workers. There was probably no demand anyway; with their meager income, Russia's poor could not afford the most basic consumer goods. I am not a communist (no monarchist either), but if I were a laborer at the time, I would have probably joined the revolution too. The dream would have been impossible, but so would have been continuing to live such a miserable existence.

NII's christian faith should have taught him to read those portions of the Scriptures that teach on the major responsabilities of political leaders: to defend "the widows and orphans", as the Bible calls the most vulnerable members of society, against their oppressors and exploiters. The prophets are full of indictments against leaders who have failed to live up to those responsibilities.

The christian faith does not condone blind faith, passivity and fatalism, especially in leaders. "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Nicholas would have done Russia, himself and his innocent children a great favor if he had the vision to become a reformist tsar that took his christian responsability of defending the poor and oppressed (as father Gapon proposed), seriously. If statesmanship is a natural talent, then you can't blame him for not having it; but he should be blamed for not surrrounding himself with those who did have it and who could compensate in what he lacked.
8)
Yoyo
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Dashkova on January 22, 2005, 01:55:37 PM
Arthur and David may or may not even have existed, or may well have been a composite of several historical persons.  It is also striking that despite some very serious character flaws, they are today considered by many to have been great "kings."

I personally do not find anything redeeming in NII's character, though one can certainly feel pity for a pitiful character.  He had the great bad fortune to be born into a position to which he was completely, utterly unsuited, and yet was too weak to realize that and at least attempt to improve himself.  Nor was his character strong enough to put aside his father's negligence and abusive parenting.  That is indeed very sad.

I cannot fathom how it is that some people believe the "anointed by God" claptrap.  If "god" figured such a specimen should rule one-sixth of the planet, then "god" isn't terribly bright, is he/she?
Of course, some religious types view "god" as vengeful.  But the Russian people did not deserve such leadership, either.

Nicholas II really was a pathetic case. I cannot help but feel terribly sorry for him and his family.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on January 22, 2005, 02:42:25 PM
Very well put, Yoyo, and so appropriate that you made these comments today, on the hundredth anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

On a lighter note: the situation for workers in late imperial Russia was not completely grim. For example, skilled workers (who were admittedly the minority) earned relatively high wages for the time. Future Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev worked as a skilled metal worker in his youth and appears every bit the prosperous bourgeois in at least one photograph taken of him before the revolution. Much later, in the 1960s, he was outraged to discover that he had actually made more money as a skilled metal worker in tsarist Russia than he would make as one in the Soviet Union.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Yoyo on January 22, 2005, 02:56:19 PM
You might be right Elisabeth. But according to W. Bruce Lincoln "even an elite metalworker at the great Putilov Works did not earn enough to support a family himself." Maybe it varied a bit according to city or maybe some employers did pay their workers decently.
Yoyo
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on January 22, 2005, 03:11:58 PM
That's interesting, Yoyo. The story about Khrushchev comes from Taubman's recent biography, so it's a pretty impeccable source. Wages must have varied, as you suggest, and perhaps, too, Khrushchev did not have a family to support at the time. He would have enjoyed a higher standard of living if he was still single or had a wife but no children (yet).
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: James1941 on January 22, 2005, 04:12:17 PM
I admire Nicholas II as a man. He would have made a good constitutional king in some place like Belgium or Sweden or Romania, but, I am sorry, as the autocrat of Russia he was a hopeless failure and in large measure because of his personal failures.
In one of the posts above it was mentioned that Stolypin was a failure as prime minister and that "his reforms" were not working. Ok, let's accept that. It was Nicholas's duty therefore to find a man who could make the reforms work and who did not have the personal impediments attributed to Stolypin. Yet, because of jealousy (he feared Stolypin was outshinning him as Tsar) right up to the end in 1917 he appointed as prime minister only second rate and third rate men, time serving bureaucrats, court favorites and in one case a certified lunatic. That was a failure of Nicky.
  Also, I find him at fault for having no backbone to stand up to the war mongers in 1914. Although it seems he had a gut instinct that this war would be bad for Russia (and he was advised by many not to go to war) he buckled under to the pressures of the pan-slavists like his cousin the GD Nicholas Nicholaevich and ordered mobilization against Austria which brought Germany in against Russia. This leads to a discussion of who really started World War I and this is not the place for that. To continue my thought of why this was Nicholas' failure, by going into this war he helped destroy the strongest and most important pilar that supported his throne--the army. In 1905 the army had been willing to go out and shoot, hang and imprison the revolutionaries and thus saved Nicky's throne for him.By 1917 that army was gone, buried in snows of the Carpathians and the mud of Poland. When St. Petersburg workers went out on strike in 1917 Nicholas,
sitting at Stavka being neither tsar or commander-in-chief but playing bezique and recording the temperature, ordered a stop to the strikes. This was code word for go out with the police and army and shoot a few, hang a few, imprison a few and thus end the trouble. But the army was a different army and it refused to follow those orders. Even the elite guards regiments were made up of new recruits and these pilars of the Little Father shot their officers and went over to the revolution. When that happened Nicholas was doomed and nothing he could have done after that really mattered. And, it was Nicholas' fault that the situation had reached this point. He had for some years ceased to have any value to either the conservatives or the liberals (and certainly not to the Bolsheviks).
I wish that it could have turned out differently. How many million lives would have been spared and the horror Russia would have been spared if it could have been different but I do not think putting on rose colored glasses and saying it wasn't Nicholas' fault and that he was a good father and a decent man dosen't excuse the facts that he made many blunders when a more astute and intelligent ruler would have done it better.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on January 22, 2005, 04:22:08 PM
Quote
Arthur and David may or may not even have existed, or may well have been a composite of several historical persons.  It is also striking that despite some very serious character flaws, they are today considered by many to have been great "kings."

I personally do not find anything redeeming in NII's character, though one can certainly feel pity for a pitiful character.  He had the great bad fortune to be born into a position to which he was completely, utterly unsuited, and yet was too weak to realize that and at least attempt to improve himself.  Nor was his character strong enough to put aside his father's negligence and abusive parenting.  That is indeed very sad.

I cannot fathom how it is that some people believe the "anointed by God" claptrap.  If "god" figured such a specimen should rule one-sixth of the planet, then "god" isn't terribly bright, is he/she?
Of course, some religious types view "god" as vengeful.  But the Russian people did not deserve such leadership, either.

Nicholas II really was a pathetic case. I cannot help but feel terribly sorry for him and his family.


Well Dashkova,  that post was a very cold wet blanket spread over the warm fuzzy feelings of the previous posters.

Some people consider a man who was willing to place all of his faith in God, even to the point of sacrificing his family, as heroic.

There really is no need to mock them or their faith in  a God.

99.9 % of the time I wouldn't say this but I will here: Perhaps, this time, it may have been more appropriate to have just  silently come to the thread, read it and left in that same silence.

AGRBear

PS  Yes, Dahskova,  you have every right to your opinion.  I certainly did have mine
;D
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Dashkova on January 22, 2005, 04:42:18 PM
Oh, yes, that is a good point. I didn't realize the  thread was actually *set up* only for praise.  I don't think that's very realistic, considering the subject, but then, there is, of course, never any accounting for taste.

And I really do question anyone who would possibly consider a man a hero who just basically was incapable of logical, clear thought and just sort of shrugged his shoulders and gave up...and let his family be in a situation where they could be viciously murdered. (I am of the firm belief that between the abdication and before Ekaterinburg there were several opportunities to save at least the children).  It seems such possibilities never occured to him, which is a very serious and sad character flaw, possibly a mental deficiency (which may have been drug-induced).
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Dasha on January 22, 2005, 04:57:26 PM
I would say that Nikolai was just like any other human being.  He had good and bad qualities, and perhaps judging him is not right.  He's not here to explain his actions or to defend them.  It's not fair to tear a so to speak "defenseless" person to shreds.  He was an inept ruler, but a good person, and maybe that ought to count a little.  We're all intitled to our opinions, and perhaps it would be nice if that was remembered.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Dashkova on January 22, 2005, 06:08:36 PM
Quote
I would say that Nikolai was just like any other human being.  He had good and bad qualities, and perhaps judging him is not right.  He's not here to explain his actions or to defend them.  It's not fair to tear a so to speak "defenseless" person to shreds.  He was an inept ruler, but a good person, and maybe that ought to count a little.  We're all intitled to our opinions, and perhaps it would be nice if that was remembered.  


How is expressing one's opinion forgetting that others have an opinion? I know I certainly do not forget that there are a great many varying opinions about pretty much *everything*.
How was Nicholas II a good person?  I'm sorry, I really don't see it.  He gave a lot of lip service regarding love of country and family, but his actions indicated quite the opposite.  As for devotion to his spouse, heck, she was his "handler" and his apparent timidity kept him from asserting himself.  That's another character flaw, and another that can be pitied, but *how* can it be *admired*?
And that can't be called "picking."  The above info is established (not by words but by his *very own* actions!) and so we don't *need* him to be here to "defend himself."
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on January 22, 2005, 06:10:05 PM
Well put, James. You're right, NII inadvertently destroyed the very foundation of his own power - the army.

You know, you could start your own thread about who was really at fault in starting WWI.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on January 22, 2005, 06:27:37 PM
Quote
"  He was an inept ruler, but a good person, and maybe that ought to count a little.  We're all intitled to our opinions, and perhaps it would be nice if that was remembered.  


Hitler was also considered a lover of animals and small children...what is your point?

Nicholas was an INEPT RULER, yes he may well have loved pretty flowers and walking in the rain (I don't pretend to know about that) but the need to excuse his incompetency with romantic reports of his love for his wife and his fondness for animals is rather an embarrassing argument, don't you think?
rskkiya
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on January 22, 2005, 06:40:24 PM
Quote

Hitler was also considered a lover of animals...
 This is true. Hitler bacame a vegetarian because he didn't like to have animals killed... That bit of information never ceases to startle me.

Sorry, back to the topic.

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: James1941 on January 22, 2005, 07:13:45 PM
Thanks for the very kind words. There is already a thread on how and who started the war. It is in the section on Imperial Russian History under the thread of World War I.  I am going over there a little later to add my two cents (and a penny is worthless these days--at least a U.S. penny) to the discussion. Again, thanks for the compliment
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Belochka on January 23, 2005, 03:39:27 AM
Quote
Orlando Figes has demonstrated pretty conclusively that Stolypin's reforms were a failure even while he was still alive. This was partly the result of his own personality (he did not know how, or could not be bothered to form coalitions within the government, so remained very isolated and dependent on the tsar's favor), but mainly due to the peasantry's reluctance to leave the communal system.  


It cannot be said that Stolypin's reforms failed because of his personality alone. Stolypin had to fight against opposition from the right and left factions. Much of the nobility failed to understand Stolypin's reform program. Those from the right were desperate to retain their personal privileges, even if it meant retention of autocratic rule at all costs. They feared that the "old order" would be undermined. While those on the left prefered that the land was to be consolidated - involving whole villages, rather than allowing for dispararte parcels of land. Stolypin's most serious opponent was Nikolai, who resisted any changes which affected his perception of autocratic rule.

Granted that Stolypin was uncompromising, but this is a trait coming from an individual who believed he was right. He was fully aware that he was dealing with a nation undergoing considerable internal social and industrial changes. Such new economic ideals emerging in Western Europe during the late 19th and early 20th century proved incompatible with Russia of the old.

Stolypin's tenureship as Prime Minister has been considered by Figes to be a failure. Yet it must be realized that Stolypin, achieved a number of positive things for Russia. He restored order over the revolutionaries after the 1905/6 turmoils. The fact that he was able to introduce agrarian reforms by increasing productivity and agricultural efficiency cannot be ignored. What was wrong with allowing the peasant who were free to choose, to own land if they desired, a new concept in creating a new class of land owners, and for the establishment a special loans bank to support their financial needs? This was a huge progressive achievement in the light of what I alluded to earlier. Furthermore he extended zemstvos and promoted education and introduced insurance for workers. To undermine or ignore these achievements as inconsequential is grossly misguided.

Present leftist 'wisdom' claims that Stolypin's assasination had no effect on Russia's development. I would contend that had there been more faith and understanding of Stolypin's reforms, and had there been internal stability then there would have been an excellent opportunity for Stolypin's reforms to be fully realized.

To blame the lack of success of Stolypin's policies on his personality alone ignores the temperament of Russia, and the "will" of its Emperor. Stolypin may have failed to solve the problems, but at least he can be accredited for singularily trying to do so.

One side would tender that Stolypin's reforms were regressive, while the other side would support the notion that his policies were unusually progressive.

One's personal interpretation of this question really comes down to which ideological position is prefered, don't you think?



Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Dashkova on January 23, 2005, 10:52:04 AM
Quote

Gosh, what a complicated and fascinating topic for a dissertation or book. My own personal opinion is that autocracy lasted so long in Russia because the elite was simply terrified of the masses, the "narod." There was such a long history of brutal peasant revolts in Russia, going back hundreds of years. And when some 80-90 percent of the population is made up of peasants, another peasant revolt is a very frightening - and realistic - prospect.

Remember that the Russian elite, even in NII's day, was tiny and very weak by Western European standards. The middle class was developing rapidly, but still not numerous. The urban working class was a mere blip on the radar screen (something like 1% of the population). And the nobility, by European standards, was simply impoverished. Because Russia was so "backward" in terms of its population make-up, many Russians - and even Westerners - believed that it was incapable of any form of self-government.

What to do about the peasant? In Russia, that was the single most burning issue of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. No one could seem to come up with a viable solution. So this patriarchal attitude to the narod persisted even amongst thinking Russians (even to some extent amongst the radicalized intelligentsia): the narod are irrational children whose bestial impulses must be kept in check by a strong central government. For centuries the personification of a strong state was the autocrat, the "Little Father" (telling epithet). Hence autocracy: bulwark against anarchic chaos.

Just off the top of my head. I know, simplistic answer to a really, really complex question.


Nicely written and accurate and YES, very complex question.  And yet the very question:  "What to do about the peasant?"  as if others should decide.  When 90 percent of the population is in that category (peasant) it seems to be most fair and make most sense to allow THEM to decide what to do about themselves.
They're still waiting for that chance.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Dashkova on January 23, 2005, 10:54:41 AM
Quote
You might be right Elisabeth. But according to W. Bruce Lincoln "even an elite metalworker at the great Putilov Works did not earn enough to support a family himself." Maybe it varied a bit according to city or maybe some employers did pay their workers decently.
Yoyo


It did vary widely.  Sadly, for every situation such as Khruchev, there were dozens who worked the 12/12 shift, sharing a bed (many times complete with leg chains) with a worker with the opposite 12/12 schedule.
Grim was the rule.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on January 23, 2005, 12:48:02 PM
Under such horrid circumstances, it's difficult to imagine a worker NOT being at least sympathetic to revolutionary ideas...
rskkiya
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on January 23, 2005, 12:50:46 PM
But, believe it or not, many of them weren't! Many peasants were distrustful of the revolutionaries, and they still trusted the Tsar and his government(no matter how delusional that was). If it were entirely up to the majority in Russia, i.e. the peasants, chances are the revolution would have never happened! I read that Lenin, in fact, had nothing but disdain for the peasant, and that he felt that they were not capable of making decisions on their own.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on January 23, 2005, 01:00:52 PM
Quote
Under such horrid circumstances, it's difficult to imagine a worker NOT being at least sympathetic to revolutionary ideas...
rskkiya


Helen A
I was refering to factory workers.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on January 23, 2005, 01:06:51 PM
Quote

Helen A
I was refering to factory workers.


I guess I should have quoted Dashkova's post then, where she mentions the majority of Russia's population being peasants... Yes, most factory workers were sympathetic for someone trying to make a change, and justifiably so!

Quote
"What to do about the peasant?"  as if others should decide.  When 90 percent of the population is in that category (peasant) it seems to be most fair and make most sense to allow THEM to decide what to do about themselves.


Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Dashkova on January 23, 2005, 01:54:29 PM
Quote

I guess I should have quoted Dashkova's post then, where she mentions the majority of Russia's population being peasants... Yes, most factory workers were sympathetic for someone trying to make a change, and justifiably so!




True, many (probably most) peasants were *outwardly* averse to change, in manners almost IDENTICAL to that of American slaves.  It was a case of..."Look, don't make this worse."  
They lived in fear and their living conditions were overall WRETCHED, there are mountains of evidence of this.
Just because someone is terrified and beaten down emotionally does not mean they are satisfied with their life.  Of course they would have welcomed change if the fear could have been removed.
This business of peasants being so happily impoverished and sending out warm fuzzies to their "beloved tsar" is complete BS (not naming names, but this board is RIFE with such la-di-da types).  Those who *did* participate in tsar worship did so like kids think fondly of Santa Claus.  In other words, it was done out of ignorance.
The urban workers *were* in the minority, but living and working in the city exposed them to news and ideas not usually available in the countryside.  They were almost entirely *former* peasants. But as soon as they were enlightened in ways that were not possible in the villages, look what they did!!
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on January 23, 2005, 02:08:09 PM
Quote

They lived in fear and their living conditions were overall WRETCHED, there are mountains of evidence of this.
Just because someone is terrified and beaten down emotionally does not mean they are satisfied with their life.  Of course they would have welcomed change if the fear could have been removed.
This business of peasants being so happily impoverished and sending out warm fuzzies to their "beloved tsar" is complete BS...
Of course I never said that the peasants were blissfully happy, I am not  ignorant enough as to suggest that! What I said was that they were resistant to change, any change, which is basically human nature. My point was: had the revolutionaries allowed the majority, i.e. the peasants to make their own decision, then nothing would have happened. So perhaps Lenin was right as far as that was concerned, i.e. the peasants don't necessarily know what's best for them, or even if they do, they won't necessarily do anything about it. Personally I don't know because I don't really understand them.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Dashkova on January 23, 2005, 03:20:34 PM
Quote

This business of peasants being so happily impoverished and sending out warm fuzzies to their "beloved tsar" is complete BS (not naming names, but this board is RIFE with such la-di-da types).  


Helen, when you quoted my last post you left out the disclaimer immediately following!

It is so interesting what is presumed, especially when in the same sentence I say "not naming names", i.e., I wasn't accusing you of *anything*, you see?  You have a strong tendency to present balanced views, I didn't think I needed to say, "I'm not talking about Helen here"

Sorry for any confusion!
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on January 23, 2005, 03:32:24 PM
Quote

 I didn't think I needed to say, "I'm not talking about Helen here"

Sorry for any confusion!


It's ok, I didn't really think you meant that about me, but I just wanted to clarify my point, in case it didn't come out clear.  :)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: James1941 on January 23, 2005, 09:11:14 PM
Hooray, Belochka. I think you have stated the importance of Stolypin and his reforms excellently.
I agree wholeheartedly that he was one of the most important and influential ministers ever to govern Russia. I agree 100% that his assassination in 1911 was a major disaster for Russia and for Nicholas II (and I must say with sorrow that Nicholas was not very grateful to a man who had saved his throne).
It has always struck me as very strange that a known terrorist with a record could causually stroll into the opera house in Kiev that was swarming all over with police agents and security men to protect the Tsar and his family, walk up to within a few feet of the prime minister unchallenged and shoot him at point blank range in front of the tsar and everyone. Today there would have been a hue and cry of monumental proportions in the press and investigations and hearings and probes to see where the security had fallen down, yet in 1911 there was hardly any stir at all. A few low rankers were punished but no one else was even admonished. Am I wrong or were there dark forces at work here in the tsar's government? Had I been Nicholas I would have been pounding my desk and yelling at the top of my lungs to find out why my prime minister had been so easily murdered before my eyes amid all that security. Nicholas seem to dismiss the whole thing with a shrug.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on January 24, 2005, 07:33:19 AM
Quote

It cannot be said that Stolypin's reforms failed because of his personality alone.


I didn't say that his reforms failed because of his personality alone - I said they failed PARTLY because of his personality, but MAINLY because the majority of peasants themselves were reluctant to leave the commune, and those that did faced unrelenting pressure from the communal leaders to return.

Quote
Stolypin had to fight against opposition from the right and left factions. Much of the nobility failed to understand Stolypin's reform program. Those from the right were desperate to retain their personal privileges, even if it meant retention of autocratic rule at all costs. They feared that the "old order" would be undermined. While those on the left prefered that the land was to be consolidated - involving whole villages, rather than allowing for dispararte parcels of land. Stolypin's most serious opponent was Nikolai, who resisted any changes which affected his perception of autocratic rule.


This is all true. And we are in complete agreement that "the most serious opponent to reform" (aside from the peasantry itself) was Nicholas II. We are, after all, discussing "negative traits of Nicholas II as tsar."

Quote
Stolypin's tenureship as Prime Minister has been considered by Figes to be a failure. Yet it must be realized that Stolypin, achieved a number of positive things for Russia. He restored order over the revolutionaries after the 1905/6 turmoils. The fact that he was able to introduce agrarian reforms by increasing productivity and agricultural efficiency cannot be ignored. What was wrong with allowing the peasant who were free to choose, to own land if they desired, a new concept in creating a new class of land owners, and for the establishment a special loans bank to support their financial needs? This was a huge progressive achievement in the light of what I alluded to earlier. Furthermore he extended zemstvos and promoted education and introduced insurance for workers. To undermine or ignore these achievements as inconsequential is grossly misguided.


You misunderstand me. I give Stolypin all due credit for having attempted to reform Russia's agrarian system. My intention was not to denigrate his motives - or for that matter, his other reforms, although they, too, were of extremely limited duration in the larger historical picture. I think it was Russia's tragedy that Stolypin's reforms were ultimately inconsequential.

Quote
Present leftist 'wisdom' claims that Stolypin's assasination had no effect on Russia's development. I would contend that had there been more faith and understanding of Stolypin's reforms, and had there been internal stability then there would have been an excellent opportunity for Stolypin's reforms to be fully realized.


What you are saying is essentially "What if." What if Stolypin hadn't been assassinated, what if "there had been more faith and understanding" in his reforms, what if there had been "internal stability." The fact is there were none of these things. "What if" questions provide us with the opportunity to play interesting intellectual games, which I enjoy myself, but historically speaking, they count for nothing.  

Quote
One side would tender that Stolypin's reforms were regressive, while the other side would support the notion that his policies were unusually progressive.

One's personal interpretation of this question really comes down to which ideological position is prefered, don't you think?


Again, you misunderstand my position. I am not arguing that Stolypin's agrarian reforms were "regressive." On the contrary, I think they represented a worthy and valiant attempt to modernize imperial Russia. The fact that they failed in the end was Russia's tragedy - as Orlando Figes himself argues.

I'm afraid I don't see this particular historical issue as ideological at all.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: James1941 on January 24, 2005, 11:41:07 AM
Elizabeth:  I agree with you in what you say, especially the "what if." I think you have summed up very nicely the controversy about the Stolypin era. If all of us who are discussing this aspect of Russian history find it difficult to come to a consensus, even with the tremendous advantage of hindsight, imagine how difficult it was for the men of that time who did not have that advantage.There is very good evidence that by 1911, when he was so tragically murdered, Stolypin was a broken reed. He was tired, both mentally and physically, from fighting the battle for reforms with little or no support and his enemies inside and outside the court and government. He probably would have been dismissed soon, or retired.
Would it have made a difference. As you say, "what if.'"
All we can know for sure is what did happen.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: pushkina on January 25, 2005, 01:00:37 AM
Quote
My point was: had the revolutionaries allowed the majority, i.e. the peasants to make their own decision, then nothing would have happened.


the peasants had a traditional communal system for local decsionmaking: the zemstvo.  many reformers, i.e. prince lvov, were involved in the zemstvo system in their gubernyas.  but the centralized bureaucracies were afraid of even that system, either its use or its expansion.  and so, when stalin finished what lenin began, he went after the peasants who had participated/benefited from this system first: they had leadership qualities, they became 'kulaks'.

Quote
So perhaps Lenin was right as far as that was concerned, i.e. the peasants don't necessarily know what's best for them, or even if they do, they won't necessarily do anything about it. Personally I don't know because I don't really understand them.


having lived among pre-revolutionary peasants in iran, i learned something that my maoist friends never wanted to admit: peasants are basically very conservative, very involved with self-interest and survival, but compared to intellectuals, they are reactionary.  they are a paradox: progressive looking after their self-interests but conservative socially, because as it was explained to me by the folks i was amongst, "when society changes, it is us who suffer."

indeed.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Belochka on January 25, 2005, 05:19:54 AM
Quote
peasants are basically very conservative, very involved with self-interest and survival


That was the very point I was trying to reach. It was the peasants themselves by their own ignorance and conservatism prefering the status quo , who were untrusting as to what Stolypin's changes meant for their longterm wellbeing.

Certainly the years for reformation were too brief, and this indeed was real Russia's tragedy.

Perhaps one other factor why Nikolai turned against Stolypin was based on reasons other than contrasting authority and intellectualism. Alexandra resented Stolypin because he warned Nikolai about Grisha's growing influence in SPb and within the court. Stolypin was brave enough in 1911 to order Grisha out of the city.

Despite this particular accomplishment, Stolypin was awarded for service to the State, and made him Knight of St. Alexander Nevskii by Nikolai a few months before his death.

Nikolai needed a strong Prime Minister, but unfortunately he failed to understand Stolypin's vision. Stolypin was an ardent supporter of the monarchy to the very end. Their relationship would have not been an easy one to bear. Surviving numerous crises with the Duma and State Council, it was hardly surprising that all this would effect Stolypin's physical and mental wellbeing.

What was extraordinary, was that Nikolai failed to express any formal appreciation for Stolypin's service to Russia, after his death. Nikolai could only write in his diary a few simple words:  poor Stolypin.  Whether this can be considered as a negative Imperial trait on the part of the Emperor or was it simply a process of mental closure is an interesting question.

Stolypin's murder it seems was tolerated and appeared to be the work of the Okhrana, with General Kurlov as the prime suspect, using Dmitri Bogrov to perform the deed, for which he paid with his own life. There have been suggestions that no Okhrana heads rolled too far, simply for fear of exposing their own incompetency on security matters.

Nevertheless, Stolypin's demise altered Russia's destiny ... no ifs or buts.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on January 25, 2005, 08:34:16 AM
Given all the reasons we have discussed, I fail to understand how Stolypin's survival could have possibly changed Russia's fate. So let me bring up another issue: World War I. Could Stolypin have averted this catastrophe? I think not.

The sad truth is that Stolypin's reforms came too late for Russia. Even if Nicholas, the peasantry, and the landowning class had wholeheartedly supported Stolypin's reforms, even if the zemstvos had been encouraged to develop and more autonomous forms of local self-government had sprung up, even if, in short, we were not discussing Russia and the reign of Nicholas II but some fantasy country with an ideal tsar, World War I would still have come along and ripped apart the fabric of the entire society. Remember, even Stolypin admitted he needed 20 years to transform Russia. (A more reasonable estimate would have been several generations.) As it was, he got less than a decade.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: James1941 on January 25, 2005, 12:44:13 PM
I should like to address the threads in this post about the present day popularity of Nicholas II, Alexandra, and his family.
If, in 1917, the Provisional Government had packed Nicholas and his family off in a ship to England, or France or where ever, and they had been allowed to live out their allotted life span, would he have been remembered today as anything more than a historical footnote? I think not.
I contend that his popularity, even worship, today is the result not of anything he did while alive but because of the tragedy of his death and the mystery that surrounded it for so long. It has all the elements of a Shakespearean drama.
Also, please consider this aspect of the question. It is generally accepted by most historians, based on accounts by observers at the time, that the death of Nicholas was met with monumental indifference by the people of Russia at the time it happened. A great yawn.
Had the Bolshevik regime in Moscow given full press coverage of the death, let the bodies be buried in even a church ceremony and allowed reporters, etc. to get into the story, I contend it would all have soon been forgotten and so would have Nicholas.
He and his family were turned into martyrs because of the mystery and secrecy surrounding their last days which lasted for over 80 years, allowing all kinds of myths to be built up about the family. And because the Bolshevik regime proved to be such a greater horror than its predecessor, it has made people look back with nostalgia on Nicholas and his reign. It's the 'good old days' syndrome.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Janet_W. on January 25, 2005, 01:22:19 PM
Re: the proclivities of Hitler: I happen to be a vegetarian, and every now and then someone tries to goad me by stating that Hitler, too, was a vegetarian . . . to which I respond, "Not at all--he cannibalized [metaphorically speaking] millions of people."

Re: what James1941 just stated, I happen to agree with much of what he said. Because of their deaths, Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children have attained a tragic immortality, very much along the lines of fated characters in a Shakespearian play, that would not have been theirs had they lived out their lives in quiet exile.

On the other hand, the news of their deaths being met with "monumental indifference" is, from what I have read, highly subjective.

Since the nation was in such a state of flux, it makes sense that the deaths of the Imperial Family would have been just seven more among many to have been reported. And for those who were bitter about Romanov rule, naturally the disposal of Romanovs would have been a small matter indeed.

But there were many people who were stunned by this news. It was, after all, regicide. Removal is one thing . . . but assassination? That takes it to a different level. And many people had, for generations, had a sort of "relationship" with the Romanov family, fostered by all sort of public relations tactics, including the many photographs of his handsome family that Nicholas II encouraged to be taken and distributed. So, while I agree that bitterness and resentment and general political disfavor would have caused many people to be indifferent, if not relieved, at the news of the murders, conversely there were many people who were also shaken and distressed by the news. But, when you're in a state of emergency and struggling to keep your own life afloat, it's difficult to absorb everything . . . and would undoubtedly work against your own odds for physical and psychological survival. So it wouldn't be until a decade or so later that substantial memoirs would begin to appear, looking back at the last emperor and his family with feelings of (depending on the person and his/her experience) empathy, sentiment, nostalgia, etc.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: James1941 on January 25, 2005, 01:47:48 PM
  ;D  I find this thread so intresting. It shows again how wonderful it is to have such diversity in the world. How dull it would be if we all agreed with one another.
I should like to make a proposal to any readers who are interested,  AND, of course, with the premission and consent of the Forum Administrator.

My proposal---make a list of the positive acts of Nicholas II and of the malign acts of Nicholas II, as follows:

Positive or Goods Acts      Negative or Bad Acts
of Nicholas II                           of Nicholas II
_________________      ____________________
1.                                           1.
2.                                           2.
3.                                           3.

Each reader could list his or her acts, then they could be collated into a list to see how readers feel about Nicholas II. It would not be scientific, of course, but I think interesting.
I would volunteer to monitor this thread daily for about six weeks and take down each contribution, then weed out duplications and then collate and publish the list.
If the Forum Adminstrator or any other reader has an objection or alternative suggestions I am ready to oblige.
I would like to propose a hard and fast rule. If we do this, keep your suggestions short. No long two or three paragraphs explaining why you list this act. I am all too guilty of doing this.  We can discuss the list in subsequent posts.  For example:

Postive Acts                           Negative Acts
________________            ________________
1. Helped to estb. the              1. Took an unprepared
    the World Court at                 Russia into a war
    the Hague                              with Japan
 
Voila! There is may proposals. I humbly await your judgement.  ::)

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on January 25, 2005, 02:02:55 PM
James, I think this is an excellent suggestion, although you would have to IM me to explain how you formatted the above pros and cons!

The only potential problem I see, is that every single point can be debated back and forth (and probably will be) into infinity. Which would nevertheless be intensely interesting, and perhaps that's the point!  ;)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Dashkova on January 25, 2005, 04:15:20 PM
Quote
I should like to address the threads in this post about the present day popularity of Nicholas II, Alexandra, and his family.
If, in 1917, the Provisional Government had packed Nicholas and his family off in a ship to England, or France or where ever, and they had been allowed to live out their allotted life span, would he have been remembered today as anything more than a historical footnote? I think not.


Not that you have suggested otherwise, but I suspect the entire family, or at least the children, had they been asked, would have preferred the footnote status and kept their lives.  Sadly, the parents had their heads in the sand and other areas.

Quote
And because the Bolshevik regime proved to be such a greater horror than its predecessor, it has made people look back with nostalgia on Nicholas and his reign. It's the 'good old days' syndrome.


Only a **VERY** few Russians, and the vast majority are non-Russians that look back in the ways you describe.  Good old days indeed.  ::)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: James1941 on January 25, 2005, 10:08:54 PM
I did not mean to sound harsh about the family. What I wanted to convey was that had they been allowed to go into exile and live out their lives, which I am very much sure they would have preferred, there would not have been the oceans of ink written about them nor would there have been the whole business of martyrdom and sainthood now associated with the imperial family. Alexander II was murdered also but he is not considered a martyr nor has he achieved sainthood like Nicholas and family and Elizabeth.
The Bolshevik regime in Moscow very tentatively and very carefully released the news of the tsar's death to "test the waters." When they saw that there was no
public outcry, no mass demonstrations, etc. they let it be known that the family had been killed also. No doubt many Russians were shocked by the killing of the children but Bloody Nicholas and the German woman were so unpopular that it is generally accepted by historians that their death left "most" Russians indifferent. In the Civil War the Whites, much as they would have liked to do so, were unable to use the Tsar and his family's death as a rallying cry. Nicholas and Alexandra were so discredited that no wanted to have their agenda associated with them. Even the monarchists were evasive about who would be tsar if there was a restoration.
When I used the term "good old days" I meant, not that Russians today want to go back to that time, but that people have a tendency to look back at the past, particulary the recent past, and see all kinds of things that seem better than things are today. "Back in my day we did things better" is oftent he cliche. There were no 'good old days" and I am sure most Russians would not like to return to the pre-Soviet era any more than most Americans would want to return to the days of slavery, child labor, and women having no vote either.
My point was that the tragic method of their death has made the imperial family into cultural icons that have little or no relation to their real lives. Would that the soviets had let them go to live to whatever fate would bring them. Far better than the belief that God made them into the Holy Martyrs as part of his divine plan for Holy Orthodox Russia, implying that they were perfect in life and there should be no criticism of their revered lives or pure actions.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Robert_Hall on January 25, 2005, 11:23:57 PM
I understand what you are saying quite clearly and agree wholeheartedly.

Personally, I do not particularly care for the Romanovs themselves, but am quite interested in their chapter [footnote, whatever] in history.

On this forum, opinions one way or the other tend to bring out extremes and nasty emotions.  To my way of looking at things, this is a definite lack of historical objectivity.
So be it.  Some will stay convinced of the "royal martys' others of the "useless leeches" roles we tend to assign them.
No one is going to change another's  image of them.
You wre quite right- at least I think- in that if it had not been for the dramatic events that enveloped them, they would hardly rate a mention  by any of us.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Belochka on January 26, 2005, 12:45:33 AM
Quote
you're all making wonderful points about NII: on another thread we had /have hoped/hope to do the same albeit in trial form.  our prosecutorial team has dwindled away. maybe some of you might be available to assist the prosecution?


I would like to invite James1941 onto the Defense team, not ignoring Elizabeth or Pushkina's presence, because I am aware that you both were aligned with the Prosecution team. I am simply trying to  persuade James1941 onto my team, because you have previously expressed your admiration of Nikolai as Emperor and you have presented good discussion points. If you are interested in enjoining LisaD and myself please PM me.

Elizabeth, I understood from your previous statements that we should not introduce "what if" scenarios, therefore to discuss WWI and Stolypin in one plane would fall into this hypothetical situation would it not?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: James1941 on January 26, 2005, 12:53:43 AM
I feel I must issue an apology if I offended anyone by my comments on the sainthood of the imperial family.
Since I am not a member of the Russian Orthodox communion I have no right to judge one way or the other. I am an Anglican and therefore  I am totally ignorant of the criteria the Russian Orthodox Church sets for sainthood. Obviously the imperial family and Elizabeth met that criteria. I have no issue with that, and if I offended I ask for forgiveness.
They were made, not maliciously or to denigrate anyone's belief, but because I get carried away with my arguments, to my later regret. After all, who am I to say what God's intent is or was.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: pushkina on January 26, 2005, 02:32:09 AM
ah, belochka,

the defense is so very well populated and also carries the emotional goodwill of most of the list members while the prosecution suffers, limps even!

but i know that if he joins your team, it was by fair means, not foul...

but the invitation to join the prosecution is extended to all here who wish to critically examine NII and his actions.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Belochka on January 26, 2005, 05:15:30 AM
Of course Pushkina!

everything must be seen to be fair and reasonable for both sides.

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on January 26, 2005, 12:02:54 PM
James 1941,  I think, according to this statement that you can take the  "unprepared" off the list of "negatives" and place this under the "postitives:

Quote
When looking for something else,  I ran across Fige's statements about Russia and if it was prepared for WWI.  He said on  p. 253:  "By 1914 Russia was spending more than Germany on her armed forces:  over one-thrid of all government expenditures.  It is not true, as historians later claimed, that the Russian army was unprepared for war.  In manpower and material it was at least the equal of the German army, and, thanks to the recent improvements of Russia's western railways, took only three days more than its enemy to complete its mobilization."


Perhaps the blame should fall on the Commander-in-Chief and his generals who didn't run the war correctly.

For example:   The generals continued to charge their mounted soldiers against machine guns.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on January 26, 2005, 12:06:34 PM
James tells it better than I:

Quote
....[in part].... After the humiliation of defeat at the hands of the Japanese, there was a serious effort to modernize and reform the Russian army. Unfortunately, there were two very powerful factions that fought each other tooth and nail over how this was to be accomplished. One was the conservative wing led by such as the GD Nicholas Nicholaevich. The other was the "liberal" wing led by the War Minister Sukhomlinov. The consv wanted to rely on fortifications and big guns in those forts, and on cavalry. The lib wanted to spend the scarce budget on modern artillery and machine guns. Both got a little bit of something. The fight was so fierce that it became a custom when appointing field commanders that the commander of an army, corps, division would be from one side and the chief of staff would be from the other side. Not the best way to insure cooperation and efficiency. The forts and big guns proved to be a mistake when war broke out. Millions of roubles were spent on forts, big guns for them, and the shells for the guns. When the Russian army retreated in 1915 it left many of these forts behind in Poland with their guns intact and the shells still there, unused and unsuable and captured by the Germans. The cavalry, was useful for scounting out the enemy movements and masking the movement of units but useless as a fighting tool.
The machine gun made it obsolete as weapon of attack. Yet the Russian continued right up to the Revolution to maintain a large, useless and wasteless cavalry army.
To keep the fastidious horses feed required hundreds of railway cars to bring feed and other supplies. This contributed to the breakdown of the infrastructure and the wastage of railway cars that could have been used better for better things. Nicholas seems to have had little to do with any of this, having the good sense when he took command to let the professionals run the army while he stayed at Stavka and played bezique and recorded the temperature. ....


James goes on and tell us more about Nicholas II  and his failures as Tsar and Commander-in-Chief.  

Just click on his name and it will show his post and what else he had to say....

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: moonlight_tsarina on January 26, 2005, 08:44:51 PM
What's negative is people thought of him as unemotional, yet he just didn't show his feelings as a cover to not be thought wimpy. he wasnt passionate enough to be a tsar though..and his headstrong attitude is what ruined him! >:( :'(
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: moonlight_tsarina on January 26, 2005, 08:45:49 PM
If only he had not abdicated but gave the DUMA a bigger part, the romanovs would probly still be around today...or at least how it is in England! :-X

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: moonlight_tsarina on January 26, 2005, 08:47:16 PM
And another thing,
90% of Russia wanted to save nicholas
-BUT-
that same 90% stll ddnt want him back on the throne!
but hey, he DID abdicate, so he can't just say he changed his mind if this whole commumist thing bew over right?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: moonlight_tsarina on January 26, 2005, 08:48:58 PM
And a thing that irks me is people always say Nicki's brother Misha was the Last Real tsar, but technically yes, but he never really DID anything to be appointed as tsar. i don't think he was even coronated!(well , duh, time didn't permit!) ::)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: moonlight_tsarina on January 26, 2005, 08:50:00 PM
And was it the whole family of Romanov that was divine right?because if not how culd nicholas just say that he was passing on this diviniation to his brother?
I know im probly wrong here...< :-X>
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Olga on January 26, 2005, 08:56:27 PM
Quote
And a thing that irks me is people always say nicku's brother Misha was the Last REAl tsar, but tchnically yes, but he never really DID anything to be apponited as tsar. i dont think he was even coronated!(well , duh, time didn't permit!) ::)


Mikhail Alexandrovich was the last Emperor of Russia. Period.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: moonlight_tsarina on January 26, 2005, 09:07:30 PM
Okay, i know... but i still think that its *dumb* :-X

People always hail either him or alexei nicholaivitch as the last tsar, and they get all the credit in people's books, like the one Michael and Natasha, and others...like Romanov Autumn, when in the last story they refer to Alexei as the Last Romanov tsar, which totally contradicts the whole Mikhail thing! ::)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: James1941 on January 29, 2005, 07:48:38 PM
AGBear:
I am not sure what you mean in your post above. If you could explain just slightly more I would be happy to see if I could answer.
When I put that item in the negative column I was referring to Nicholas (and his government) in going into a war in far off Asia with an obsolete fleet of battleships against a modern Japanese navy, and having to fight a modern war in which the Russian army was still equipped with weapons from the Russo-Turkish War of 1878. Also it was along a one track railroad that had not even been completed yet while Manchuria was in Japan's back door a hop skip and jump from their supply depots.
I support you when you maintain that by 1914 Russia had reformed its army and navy and rearmed with modern weapons and training, and it was as prepared as any of the major belligerents to go to war.
In fact, it was Russian rearmament that some historians consider a major cause of the war. The German military was almost paranoid with fear that by 1917 Russia would have requippped and reformed its army to such a level that Germany could not hope to attack her. Russia would a formidable power right on Germany's eastern border. Thus, when the opportunity came the German general staff lied to and bullied a reluctant Kaiser and Chancellor (Bethman von Holweg) into mobilizing in hopes they could crush Russia and France and thus secure their safety and dominion in Europe.
Russia might have pulled it off too if she had had more competent generals in the first months of the fighting.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: James1941 on January 29, 2005, 08:11:34 PM
You may be quite right, AnastasiaFan. The German Kaiser Wilhelm II lost his throne and fled into exile and the Hohenzollerns have never recovered but his life still fascinates people to day and he is well written about.
Emperor Karl I of Austria-Hungary had a reign of only two years and was sent packing by the Austrians and Hungarians yet he is a candidate for sainthood and his life still interests people. The Duke of Windsor gave up the throne for the woman he loved and then the two of them became lounge lizards for the rest of their life yet their story still merits books and even films. Poor little Pu Yi was only three when he lost the Dragon Throne and he didn't do much after that yet he was the subject of a much admired movie. So, if the imperial family had some how managed to escape and lived the rest of their lives in exile they probably would have fascinated people a hundred years later. I doubt they would be saints but they would have been written about. Alas, we will never know will we.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on January 29, 2005, 09:13:26 PM
Quote
And another thing,
90% of Russia wanted to save nicholas
-BUT-
that same 90% stll ddnt want him back on the throne!
but hey, he DID abdicate, so he can't just say he changed his mind if this whole commumist thing bew over right?


WHAT?
Evidence please, Ms Moonlight...We would like to see your evidence for these rather outragious claims...90% indeed! :-X
Sources? Texts?

rskkiya
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Maria_Romanov_fan on January 30, 2005, 08:55:36 PM
If Nicholas was supposedly "kind and generous" how would being "overly generous" hurt his rule? He freed the serfs I think,... didn't he?  ???
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on January 30, 2005, 09:06:26 PM
Quote
 He freed the serfs I think,... didn't he?  ???


No, that was Alexander II, his grandfather....
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Dasha on January 30, 2005, 09:06:29 PM
Moonlight_Tsarina, Alexander II freed the serfs in February of 1861.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on January 31, 2005, 12:02:44 PM
Quote
AGBear:
I am not sure what you mean in your post above. If you could explain just slightly more I would be happy to see if I could answer.
When I put that item in the negative column I was referring to Nicholas (and his government) in going into a war in far off Asia with an obsolete fleet of battleships against a modern Japanese navy, and having to fight a modern war in which the Russian army was still equipped with weapons from the Russo-Turkish War of 1878. Also it was along a one track railroad that had not even been completed yet while Manchuria was in Japan's back door a hop skip and jump from their supply depots.
I support you when you maintain that by 1914 Russia had reformed its army and navy and rearmed with modern weapons and training, and it was as prepared as any of the major belligerents to go to war.
In fact, it was Russian rearmament that some historians consider a major cause of the war. The German military was almost paranoid with fear that by 1917 Russia would have requippped and reformed its army to such a level that Germany could not hope to attack her. Russia would a formidable power right on Germany's eastern border. Thus, when the opportunity came the German general staff lied to and bullied a reluctant Kaiser and Chancellor (Bethman von Holweg) into mobilizing in hopes they could crush Russia and France and thus secure their safety and dominion in Europe.
Russia might have pulled it off too if she had had more competent generals in the first months of the fighting.



I was pushing the "prepared for war" under the WWI as a "positive" rather than a negitive....  

The war in Asia was miserable, mishandled and it had a terrible ending.

One of my step-great grandfather's, who was one of the Quarter-Masters, and other people I knew,  were there.   I heard terrible stories of this defeat.

Due to my step-great grandfather's experiences,  he wrote home that the family was to sell everything and get ready to migrate to the USA, which they did a year later which was just a few days after his return to his family.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on February 04, 2005, 04:34:34 PM
I'm wondering, just for the sake of argument, how many people agree with the general (historians') consensus that Nicholas II was a weak tsar. I am not myself exactly sure how to interpret this description. Certainly Nicholas held fast to the autocratic ideal to the end of his days, which shows some strength of character. But could it be argued - again for the sake of argument only - that Nicholas II, like Louis XVI of France, was unwilling to shed blood to retain his throne? Remember the famous assault on Versailles, and how Louis XVI refused to let his defenders fire on the crowd. Napoleon was an observer that day, and supposedly made the (equally famous) remark that a "whiff of grapeshot" would have dispersed the mob. Was Nicholas as "weak" in this sense as Louis, unwilling to shed, as it were, oceans of blood to retain his throne? Was this perhaps an indication that he had been adversely affected by the tragedies of Khodinka Field and Bloody Sunday? Was he perhaps too humane, in other words, to be tsar of Russia?  ("Weak" then becomes a completely relative term, of course, signifying strength by other moral standards.) Or do you think he could simply no longer command the trust of his own army in March 1917, and he knew it? 
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Janet_W. on February 04, 2005, 05:26:41 PM
I think you make some good points, Elisabeth!

Sometimes the outcome of a regime relies on dumb luck plus the way that regime's adversaries want to play the matter. I can think of a few situations involving various United States presidencies that could fall into this category . . . i.e., a president and his administration being voted out, or ignored by another government, because a critical operation or plan didn't work. Or perhaps an adversary decided to register a slight or insult by waiting until a president left office to resume talks, release prisoners, etc.

Nations with monarchies, or nations dealing with monarchies, don't have the option of voting someone out. The king, tsar, or what-have-you either has to die or be forcibly ejected.  

I don't see Nicholas as any more weak than a laundry list of other leaders, both elected and hereditary. But Nicholas did happen to be living on an inherited powder keg, and although there are numerous examples of him working to move his country forward into the 20th century, the examples illustrating Nicholas’s commitment to old-fashioned monarchy are the ones that, due to his own violent demise and substitution of Communism for a 300 year monarchy, resonate today.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on February 04, 2005, 05:48:28 PM
Thank you, Janet, for your kind words. I agree with you that it is a very complicated issue, not easily reduced - nor should it be reduced - to simple black and white. For myself, I believe that Nicholas was deeply affected by the tragedies of Khodinka Field and Bloody Sunday, as well as by the Revolution of 1905. Because of his experiences and his character, I honestly do not think he was cold-hearted or ruthless enough to be the Peter the Great or Ivan the Terrible that Alexandra was always urging him to be. I think this was Nicholas' chief "weakness" and at the same time his greatest strength, - perhaps, too, the ultimate source of his enduring appeal? He honestly wanted the Provisional Government to work!
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Janet_W. on February 04, 2005, 06:29:46 PM
Yes, once he'd reconciled himself to no longer being Tsar, all that I've read indicates that Nicholas sincerely wanted success for the Provisional Government so that Russia's war participation would end in victory.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Belochka on February 05, 2005, 05:03:12 AM
Yes I agree with you Janet_W, Nikolai firmly believed that his abdication would help Russia become victorious. He was first and foremost a patriot.

Nikolai's enemies were not just the Austrians and Germans, but the continual tensions erupting amonst the government members and intellectuals who opposed their Emperor. Such negativities did not augur well when the unity of the nation was critical during war time.

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on February 05, 2005, 10:21:30 AM
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But could it be argued - again for the sake of argument only - that Nicholas II, like Louis XVI of France, was unwilling to shed blood to retain his throne? Remember the famous assault on Versailles, and how Louis XVI refused to let his defenders fire on the crowd. Napoleon was an observer that day, and supposedly made the (equally famous) remark that a "whiff of grapeshot" would have dispersed the mob. Was Nicholas as "weak" in this sense as Louis, unwilling to shed, as it were, oceans of blood to retain his throne? Was this perhaps an indication that he had been adversely affected by the tragedies of Khodinka Field and Bloody Sunday?  


I entirely agree with you, too, Elizabeth. The similarities between Nicholas & Louis (and to some extent Alix & Marie Antoinette) always strike me as v. tragic. A ruler placed in an impossible position doing his utmost to do his best for his people.
I would think that even if  he had not gone through the Khodinka Field & Bloody Sunday, he would not have wanted to divide his country into civil war.
His reaction to the Treaty of Brest Litovsk ("And they call me a traitor!") shows that right to the end he was putting the honour of his country first.
His character was surely just not suited to being an autocrat. He might have made an excellent constitutional monarch had he been king of England, say. But then - WHO could possibly have governed so vast a country as Russia in the midst of the great upheavals - the rapid development of industry & the migration of many of the peasants into the overcrowded & slum-filled towns (as happened everywhere else in Europe - Britain being a prime example), the sudden spread of communications and ultimately the war.
"Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown."  :(  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Denise on February 06, 2005, 07:33:31 PM
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His character was surely just not suited to being an autocrat. He might have made an excellent constitutional monarch had he been king of England, say.


Unfortunately, having been raised with the expectation of being an autocrat (however unsuited he might have been) he was not open to allowing the Duma to have any power whatsoever.  How much of this was at Alix's behest in order to preserve the autocracy for Alexei is unknown....

Denise
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on February 06, 2005, 07:42:03 PM
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His character was surely just not suited to being an autocrat.


I think there are very few people whose characters would be suited for something like that, if any at all. To me the whole concept of autocracy is very unnatural and just asking for trouble!  :o
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Denise on February 06, 2005, 07:52:01 PM
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I think there are very few people whose characters would be suited for something like that, if any at all. To me the whole concept of autocracy is very unnatural and just asking for trouble!  :o


It seems like a completely unnatural system.  Look how far removed from the reality of the Russian people's lives Nicholas was at the end.  The dream of the "happy Russian peasant worshipping the autocrtat" was not realistic in light of the unrest among the workers.  INstead of becoming more involved in finding out how the people were, Nicholas seemed to retreat and use more military force.  NOT wise....

Denise
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Robert_Hall on February 06, 2005, 08:35:12 PM
Is it really "unnatural" though.  Society is based on "leader of the pack".  From earliest tribes to now.  Perhaps dressed up a bit to "civilize" things, but it is still "survival of the fitest" at the top. Now how they get there is another game.  To me, it just seems like NII was not "fit" nor even intelligent enough to be an autocrat.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Denise on February 06, 2005, 08:43:14 PM
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Is it really "unnatural" though.  Society is based on "leader of the pack".  From earliest tribes to now.  Perhaps dressed up a bit to "civilize" things, but it is still "survival of the fitest" at the top. Now how they get there is another game.  To me, it just seems like NII was not "fit" nor even intelligent enough to be an autocrat.


You have a point Robert.  Perhaps I should have said unrealistic, especially when the country in question was as large as the Russian Empire.  In a time of unrest, there was simply too much to keep track of, especially as Nicholas would not allow others to assist him with administrative duties.  

Denise
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on February 06, 2005, 08:55:16 PM
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Is it really "unnatural" though.  Society is based on "leader of the pack".  From earliest tribes to now.  Perhaps dressed up a bit to "civilize" things, but it is still "survival of the fittest" at the top. Now how they get there is another game.  To me, it just seems like NII was not "fit" nor even intelligent enough to be an autocrat.

Sure in the "survival of the fittest" way, it is very natural. But really the only one this set up benefits is the "leader" and very few of the "pack". What I meant by "unnatural" is that it can never really work effectively, i.e. one person cannot effectively run the show single handily, no matter how smart this person is. Eventually he will run out of "steam"... or everyone else will run out of patience...
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Denise on February 06, 2005, 09:07:13 PM
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What I meant by "unnatural" is that it can never really work effectively, i.e. one person cannot effectively run the show single handedly, no matter how smart this person is. Eventually he will run out of "steam"... or everyone else will run out of patience...


And this is exactly what happened.  A country entering the industrial/technological age is no place for an autocrat.  Too many differing needs, needing an administration in tune to the people.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Georgiy on February 06, 2005, 09:11:57 PM
Still, it could be done. All you need is an extremely efficient bureaucracy propping it up (and probably the Dear Leader not knowing too much about the bureaucracy! - as long as s/he thinks s/he is in charge, that's the important part ;))
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Denise on February 06, 2005, 09:13:44 PM
You may be right.  Apparently, Nicholas was not the right man for the job, as he was unable to delegate appropriately to keep everything running smoothly.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on February 06, 2005, 09:15:53 PM
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...extremely efficient bureaucracy...  


Isn't that an oxymoron?  ;)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Georgiy on February 06, 2005, 09:17:44 PM
Yes, but the bureaucrats are working on it, so that it won't be. If there is enough red tape, everyone will forget about oxymorons!
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on February 06, 2005, 09:25:50 PM
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Yes, but the bureaucrats are working on it, so that it won't be. If there is enough red tape, everyone will forget about oxymorons!


The bureaucrats can make you forget a lot more than oxymorons   :P ;D
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Georgiy on February 06, 2005, 09:29:32 PM
We have more than a few of them around here (in NZ).
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on February 06, 2005, 09:42:29 PM
From what I understand, Russia was always, and still is, THE land of bureaucracy! Obviously it doesn't work...
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Robert_Hall on February 06, 2005, 09:48:22 PM
My take on it is that EVERY developed country is a land of bureaucracy.  Leaders & governments come & go, the paper pushers stay.  It is self-preservation fine-tuned to "the system will not work without us". No different here, in Moscow, Bejing, or a village that needs a permit to purify it's water. We all have our own experiences to prove this.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Georgiy on February 06, 2005, 09:50:47 PM
Yes, but some countries have more bureaucrats than others. Bureaucrats to manage the bureaucrats and so on......
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on February 06, 2005, 09:52:51 PM
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My take on it is that EVERY developed country is a land of bureaucracy.  Leaders & governments come & go, the paper pushers stay.  It is self-preservation fine-tuned to "the system will not work without us". No different here, in Moscow, Bejing, or a village that needs a permit to purify it's water. We all have our own experiences to prove this.
 


I suspect you may be right!  ;)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on February 06, 2005, 09:57:24 PM
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Yes, but some countries have more bureaucrats than others. Bureaucrats to manage the bureaucrats and so on......


And you're right too! I have to say from my own experience there, Russia is one of the worst places as far as bureaucracy goes! And from reading history, it sounds like it hasn't changed much in a couple of centuries...
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Georgiy on February 06, 2005, 09:59:32 PM
...and my Russian in-laws-to-be complain about the bureaucracy in New Zealand. Sometimes, it is best to hold one's tongue.... ::)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on February 06, 2005, 10:03:55 PM
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...and my Russian in-laws-to-be complain about the bureaucracy in New Zealand.  
 Maybe it all has to do with what sort of bureaucracy one is used to. They know how to deal with the Russian bureaucracy, so it's not so bad to them, but they don't know how to deal with the NZ one. Maybe I know how to deal with bureaucracy in the US but not in Russia!  ;D
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Robert_Hall on February 06, 2005, 11:00:04 PM
Try to change your parking permit tag in London !
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Silja on February 07, 2005, 12:40:48 PM
Believe me, Robert, bureaucracy in Germany is much bigger than in the U.S. for instance, and I think the situation is worse in Russia. In Russia, however, it's more often the "relations" that count. And the corruption is endemic. In Russia bureaucracy is bigger than in many other countries simply because more people are involved. The system is more extensive. This is typical of a political system that has always primarily relied on the "strong state".
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Georgiy on February 07, 2005, 02:05:08 PM
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Maybe it all has to do with what sort of bureaucracy one is used to


That's exactly right.  Every country has its own way of dealing with things, which has become a part of the culture, and in many ways, you don't even notice it because you are so used to it, it is part of the scenery. I remember when living in Japan, (foreign) friends would sometimes get frustrated with the system and moan about how things are different in their country, - I guess I was probably guilty of this too now and then, but generally thought, "Well, it's just the way things are done here, and there's nothing we can do to change it, so like it or lump it."

Inoticed that it is the things that were slightly different that seemed to frustrate people the most - big differences seemed to be more acceptable as obvious 'cultural differences.'
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: pinklady on February 28, 2005, 05:25:02 AM
I think one of the negative aspects of Nicholas 11 as Tsar was his continuous belief in everything was"God's Will" Very irritating...

What about "God helps those that help themselves?"
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Georgiy on February 28, 2005, 01:38:42 PM
Submission to God's will, from an Orthodox point of view, is in fact one of his (personal) great qualities, and it takes great strength of character to accept what happens without complaining and saying, "Oh why did things turn out this way!"  Meekness and humility while they may seem a weakness are in fact a great strength.

In the Orthodox Church we often use the phrase "God willing", or "If it's God's will." So saying Goodbye to friends, one might say "See you next week, God willing." (After all, only God knows if we shall indeed meet our friend again next week - even if we have set a date, one could become sick/get hit by a bus/die who knows!). At the end of the All-night Vigil on Saturday night, our Priest always says "Tomorrow, if it is the will of God, the Divine Liturgy will start at 9 AM."
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on February 28, 2005, 02:12:15 PM
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Submission to God's will, from an Orthodox point of view, is in fact one of his (personal) great qualities, and it takes great strength of character to accept what happens without complaining and saying, "Oh why did things turn out this way!"  Meekness and humility while they may seem a weakness are in fact a great strength.


Georgiy is right in some sense - that is, the Christian, otherworldly sense, which is diametrically opposed to the worldly, pragmatic, realpolitik secular sense. This is one of the reasons why the Orthodox Church found NII and his family so appropriate for sainthood - their humble submission to fate and their forgiveness of their murderers fit like a glove with the kenotic tradition of Russian Orthodoxy (Christ on the Cross, suffering as a complete human being emptied of the Godhead, totally helpless, yet forgiving).
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Silja on February 28, 2005, 03:39:39 PM
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, the Christian, otherworldly sense, which is diametrically opposed to the worldly, pragmatic, realpolitik secular sense. This is one of the reasons why the Orthodox Church found NII and his family so appropriate for sainthood - their humble submission to fate and their forgiveness of their murderers fit like a glove with the kenotic tradition of Russian Orthodoxy (Christ on the Cross, suffering as a complete human being emptied of the Godhead, totally helpless, yet forgiving).


Quite right. One cannot understand Nicholas II without understanding Russian Orthodoxy.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on February 28, 2005, 04:52:32 PM
From an 'outsider' (i.e. non-Orthodox) point of view, am I correct in thinking that his resignation to God's will, did not prevent him from taking any actions or helping himself? Only that when everything else failed he resigned himself to accepting that God was with him in spite of the terrible external circumstances?
I would have thought Nicholas' firm beliefs came as a great solace to him, when he was no longer in a postion to help himself. By his faith in God, he could believe that He allowed these things to happen & therefore continued to believe & trust Him.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: pinklady on March 01, 2005, 04:10:45 AM
You are all correct, and he was a very religious man ( the whole family was), however that aside, I meant that as he was an Autocrat of the largest Empire in the world, it comes across as frustrating when you read his letters and diaries.
However, the way he handled his captivity when he plumetted from such a powerful man to ever so ordinary captive re-inforces what Georgiy says, it demonstrated his great strength of character in that most difficult time.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on March 01, 2005, 10:46:56 AM
    Pinklady has made a thoughtful point. However -Kaiser Wilhelm supposedly noted that Nicholas ought to have been born a country gentleman better suited to growing turnips than to being an autocrat...
History must judge him for what he was NOT what he should have liked to have been.

    After all, I should have liked to have been born "wealthy and remarkably beautiful" but no such luck there... hehehehe ::)

rskkiya
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on March 01, 2005, 12:03:12 PM
I don't know, rskkiya  :-/ It's an interesting point - on the one hand he handled it badly, on the other he just wasn't 'made for it' & yet felt he had been saddled with it & could not get out of it.
Mmm  :-/ I don't really know what to think about it...I'll think some more....
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Georgiy on March 01, 2005, 02:22:34 PM
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From an 'outsider' (i.e. non-Orthodox) point of view, am I correct in thinking that his resignation to God's will, did not prevent him from taking any actions or helping himself? Only that when everything else failed he resigned himself to accepting that God was with him in spite of the terrible external circumstances?


I think definately the latter.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on March 01, 2005, 03:48:25 PM
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I don't know, rskkiya  :-/ It's an interesting point - on the one hand he handled it badly, on the other he just wasn't 'made for it' & yet felt he had been saddled with it & could not get out of it.
Mmm  :-/ I don't really know what to think about it...I'll think some more....


I think the problem with Nicholas was not that he was "not made for it" but that he failed to see that "he was not made for it" and therefore failed to follow the advice of those who were "made for it". The reason for this, IMHO, was because he assumed that because he supposedly was put into his position by God this automatically meant that he was "made for it". Alexandra did not help him in this view. This is the danger of so called "blind faith". I think N had a little too much "blind faith" and not enough "common sense" to help him see that one shouldn't look at it that way and that "God helps those who help themselves". So this is what he (and Alexandra) should be held responsible for.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Denise on March 01, 2005, 04:12:44 PM
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I think the problem with Nicholas was not that he was "not made for it" but that he failed to see that "he was not made for it" and therefore failed to follow the advice of those who were "made for it". The reason for this, IMHO, was because he assumed that because he supposedly was put into his position by God this automatically meant that he was "made for it". Alexandra did not help him in this view. This is the danger of so called "blind faith". I think N had a little too much "blind faith" and not enough "common sense" to help him see that one shouldn't look at it that way and that "God helps those who help themselves". So this is what he (and Alexandra) should be held responsible for.  


Very astute observation, and I believe completely correct.  One of my biggest frustrations in reading about Nicholas was his blind belief that only HE could be right.  Therefore, all the advisors who may have had a better grasp of the fragile political system were shunted aside if they disagreed with him.  And Alexandra certainly did not help--especially as she was apt to use Rasputin as a measuring rod for advisors--if the liked him, they were wonderful, otherwise not.  (At least according to Raszinsky, talking about getting a replacement for Stolypin.)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on March 01, 2005, 04:39:20 PM
I am now reading the book Michael and Natasha, and earlier today I read the part where Sandro comes to see Alix and N to try to convince them that the country is spiraling down into a black hole fast and something needs to be done. Alix's response to him was to the effect of "when you calm down and see things more rationally, you will surely realize that I was right all along and you are wrong". Nicholas just stood there and smoked.

I can imagine how frustrating it must have been for Sandro and many others to see where things were heading very clearly and not being able to convince those two to "wake up and smell the coffee" and to be patronized instead! I don't think Rasputin was responsible for this, I think Alexandra had a mind of her own and made most decisions and judgments, Rasputin just sort of conformed to her thoughts.  Both N & A should be held responsible for what happened just before the revolution broke out, no one else, not even Rasputin...
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Denise on March 01, 2005, 04:50:51 PM
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I can imagine how frustrating it must have been for Sandro and many others to see where things were heading very clearly and not being able to convince those two to "wake up and smell the coffee" and to be patronized instead! I don't think Rasputin was responsible for this, I think Alexandra had a mind of her won and made most decisions and judgments, Rasputin just sort of conformed to her thoughts.  Both N & A should be held responsible for what happened just before the revolution broke out, no one else, not even Rasputin...


Yes, I have read that it wasn't that Alexandra blindly followed all Rasputin's directions, it was that Rasputin was a very able "people reader" and said things to Alexandra that he knew she would agree with.  THerefore, he would stay in her good graces, as his political viewpoints were an added bonus to his healing abilities.  

I by no means believe that Rasputin was to blame for thew decline of the Romanovs.  His influence was icing on the cake.  All the factors added together caused the end of Imperial Russia--the political unrest after AII's reforms, Nicholas's early ascension to the throne, Alexei's hemophilia, Alexandra's introspection, the unyielding nature of autocracy.  All the factors that came together at once guarenteed the end of the Romanov rule, even had Nicholas agreed to reform.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on March 01, 2005, 05:27:23 PM
Yes I agree with you both, Helen & Denise. I find those last few weeks before the Revolution so frustrating to read about because as, one after another, members of the family & others come to warn of what is happening I cannot believe their failure not to respond. At the same time I think that by then Alix had become totally paranoid & Nicky so devoid of any idea of how to deal with the situation that he just gave up.
:-/
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on March 02, 2005, 09:48:53 AM
IMO, after Rasputin's death, Nicholas had a chance to "correct" things or at least some damage control. He chose not to by continuing on the same self destructive path, without even so much as stopping to analyze what was going on, and why all these people around him are constantly warning him. He ignorantly continued to think that only he is right (and Alix) and that everyone else is just deluded. I think it did dawn on hims eventually that he messed up big time: when he was about to abdicate he said something to the effect of "you mean all this time I was following the wrong path?", but by then it was way too late. Rasputin can't be blamed for the last few months before the revolution, N & A both did a pretty good job of finishing off the old regime on their own, it seems.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on March 02, 2005, 11:52:44 AM
It is so very easy for us in this day and age to say Nicholas II should have done this or should have done that.

How simple would it have been for Nicholas II have created change?

There is an example of how Nicholas II would have liked to have changed the kind of socks he wore:

Quote
To just give one small perspective on what Nicholas faced on a daily basis. He hated his socks...they were chosen for him, and the choice was based on what his father had worn. However, to even change the kind of socks he wore would have entailed the total disruption of a dozen of the house staff, not to mention shame on the soon to be former supplier, and the stiff competition between the 'new' suppliers, all desperately wanting the Imperial warrant. The total disruption of dozens and dozens of people, over socks, was just not worth it to Nicholas, so he just kept having the socks he hated, rather than upset so many people, merely over his socks. Imagine how he approached the firmly entrenched bureaucracy....
FA


I don't know what kind of socks Nicholas II wore, but, let's just say for the sake of this example the socks were made of wool.

The simple order of  changing the "royal socks" meant that Nicholas II would have caused:
1. telling his staff that he didn't like the socks would have sent shock ways from the staff to the supplier and the word would have reached everyone in the know that the Emperor no longer wanted these partcular socks and this would have sent caused disruption from the Tsar all the way down to the person who grew the wool on the country side.....
2.  the public would assume that there must be something wrong with the supplier, the manufacturer and all those involved down to the man who owned the sheep and every person along that chain would be viewed differently....  This may mean that everyone would withdraw their orders as had the Tsar.....  What was once a thriving business fell into ruins....
3.  the process of finding a new supply of socks would have been a different occurance and perhaps would affect two industries if the Tsar wanted cottom socks instead of wool....
4.  the process of ordering new cotton socks would have sent the same kind of wave over Russia and changes would have occured....
5.  this change would also include the fact that the Tsar only wore his socks once and these socks then were given to others... I'm not sure who rated in this staff to recieve socks or if they were given to a particular group who depended upon these socks...

The Tsar's feet were far more important than any of us would even begin to realize today in our modern world.

If it was this difficult to change the Tsar's socks, one can just imagine the difficulty in changing his brand of tea or something even more important like a point of law.

I think the old saying remains true:  Do not be so critical untill you've walked in the other person's shoes for awhile.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on March 02, 2005, 03:07:53 PM
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How simple would it have been for Nicholas II have created change?


I think it would have been relatively simple for him to do it considering that, unlike with the socks, everyone around him was begging him to make these changes.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on March 02, 2005, 03:32:05 PM
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I think it would have been relatively simple for him to do it considering that, unlike with the socks, everyone around him was begging him to make these changes.


To be fair to Nicholas: I think it would actually have been extraordinarily difficult for him to enact major reforms, as indeed it proved to be for Stolypin to enact rather minor ones.

Remember that the Russian middle class was very small and weak at this time (as indeed was the proletariat) and that both the landowning class and the village elders amongst the peasantry fought Stolypin's rather modest reforms tooth and nail. They did not want to see change. Add to this mix the thoroughly radicalized Russian intelligentsia and what you get is - Revolution.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on March 02, 2005, 03:56:33 PM
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To be fair to Nicholas: I think it would actually have been extraordinarily difficult for him to enact major reforms, as indeed it proved to be for Stolypin to enact rather minor ones.


But we are not talking about any major reforms here, just having re-appointed some credible and competent ministers would have made a lot of a difference... That's all.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Sunny on March 02, 2005, 04:24:20 PM
In light of Stolypin's experience, I think it is far from certain what other "credible" ministers might have been able to effect...especially as the radical intelligentsia
was interested in one thing, and one thing only.

Sunny
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on March 02, 2005, 08:16:30 PM
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In light of Stolypin's experience, I think it is far from certain what other "credible" ministers might have been able to effect...especially as the radical intelligentsia
was interested in one thing, and one thing only.
Sunny


At the very least, Nicholas woud have been able to retain the loyalty of the Duma and his own family had he not ignored everyone's warnings. This would have made a huge difference IMO. If it were only a matter of the "radical intelligensia", nothing would have happened for a while. It's the fact that by his actions (or lack of), Nicholas managed to turn everyone against himself, not just the radicals and the liberals, everyone, including the conservatives and the monarchists. The radicals had been around for years, and would have been around for years, they would not have been that much of a threat if it weren't for the fact that everyone else wanted him out.
You have to remember that even Lenin et al, as late as 1916, did not think that the revolution would happen in their lifetime and was ready to accept that for the time being. Basically, everything that could go wrong, did, not without Nicholas's contribution... and this is what probably brought on the revolution a lot sooner than anyone expected...
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on March 04, 2005, 01:02:32 PM
Does any of the blame for the Revolution fall on the shoulders of the men who desserted Nicholas II and demanded his abdication?

Had he not abdicated, and, had the Duma then Prov. Govt. continued and created a govt. like Englands,  the path Russia may have taken might have been a lot less bloody.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on March 04, 2005, 08:06:26 PM
In that case, Michael Alexandrovich should be blamed too - had he not refused the throne, things could have been different. And the German Kaiser should be blamed too for allowing them to send Lenin et al into Russia in a sealed train and causing the revolution. And how about Gavrilo Princip, the Serbian who assasinated the Austrian Archduke, there would have been no WWI if it weren't for that, and had there not been WWI there probably wouldn't been the Russian revolution.
And perhaps Peter the Great should be blamed too - had he not killed his son and heir Alexei, then the subsequent Tsars would be different and therefore the events leading to the Russian revolution would have been too. And while we're at it, we could also blame Ivan VI who also killed his son and heir, applying the same as above. And how about Elizaveta Petrovna? She could be blamed too for putting away the real heir Ivan and taking over the throne of Russia, things would have been different too if she didn't do that! Do you see my point?  ;) Someone has to be held responsible for the events leading directly up to what happened. IMHO, it was Nicholas, first and foremost (among some others).
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Silja on March 05, 2005, 02:32:36 PM
In my opinion it's never one person that should or can be made responsible for certain events/developments taking place.  Like anybody, Nicholas II was indeed also the product of his environment.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on March 05, 2005, 08:34:12 PM
Quote
In my opinion it's never one person that should or can be made responsible for certain events/developments taking place.  


No, it's never one person, I agree. But often - some are more responsible than others, especially when those "some" are autocrats  ;).
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on March 05, 2005, 08:40:38 PM
Quote
...[in part]...

In that case, Michael Alexandrovich should be blamed too - had he not refused the throne, things could have been different. And the German Kaiser should be blamed too for allowing them to send Lenin et al into Russia in a sealed train and causing the revolution. And how about Gavrilo Princip, the Serbian who assasinated the Austrian Archduke, there would have been no WWI if it weren't for that, and had there not been WWI there probably wouldn't been the Russian revolution.
....


Emp. Michael I did not refuse the crown.  

And, yes, Michael I can take some of the blame.

German Kaiser sending Lenin into Russia with all that gold is also to blame.

If the Archduke hadn't been murdered, I'm sure something else would have come along so the Kaiser could have his war and Krupp could make it's profit.

Would  Nicholas II have change course?   I doubt it unless someone finally was smart enough to get Nicholas II to understand the path he was taking was taking him and Russia in the wrong direction.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on March 05, 2005, 10:23:20 PM
Quote

Would  Nicholas II have change course?   I doubt it unless someone finally was smart enough to get Nicholas II to understand the path he was taking was taking him and Russia in the wrong direction.
AGRBear


Good point Agrbear
    The question remains however-- as Nicholas seemed to have felt that all his decisions (good or bad ) were somehow fated was it a real possibility for 'mere mortals' to convince him otherwise?
    I have my personal doubts, as even when under house arrest he seemed to have expressed no doubts no remorse nothing at all in fact...
I may well be wrong as its been a little while since I read his "diary" exerpts...

rskkiya
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on March 06, 2005, 04:19:14 PM
I think the autocratic system simply collapsed in March 1917, mainly because it had lost the support of the army (which it had crucially retained, remember, in 1905), as well as the support of most other segments of society. Even if Michael had accepted the throne, I think you would have seen very similar results.

Perhaps if Alexei had been allowed to ascend to the throne, things might have turned out a little differently - people in general, especially Russians (IMHO!), tend to be very sentimental about children, especially sick children - but then again, maybe not, since it was still wartime, and the provisional government was determined to stay in a war which Russia could not sustain.

As for Rskkiya's question, I think it is to Nicholas's credit that over time he came to desire the true success of the provisional government (primarily out of patriotism - he remained a great Russian patriot). He only expressed regret for having abdicated on the day of the abdication itself ("treason, treachery all around me," something to that effect), which is humanly understandable, and then - not until after the October Revolution (according to Sidney Gibbes's memoirs), because he believed the Bolsheviks would destroy Russia.

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tom on March 06, 2005, 07:01:01 PM
I have not kept up with the latest scholarly work on the Revolution, but Stolypin seems to have been remarkably successful--considering everything that had piled up and that he was in power such a short time. Lenin seems to have feared his changes and that these would give a longer life to the old regime.
Would Nicholas have continued to support Stolypin considering his wife's opposition because Stolypin so strongly opposed Rasputin?
It is very, sadly, clear that Nicholas was a weak ruler. Perhaps conditions in Russia had reached a state where no individual could do much to save or change the old regime. However, Lenin did act and change history--despite Marxist theory.
Nicholas's great and tragic failure, in my opinion, and many suffered in Russia and world wide for the communist victory,was his inability to find and give power to able leaders--Witte and Stolypin were available. Some of his minsters were quite terribly inadequate. Here Alexandra seems to have played a very harmful role.
I am reminded of Louis XIII of France, a troubled and weak man, who had the wisdom and humility to accept and strongly support Cardinal Richelieu who changed France. Louis XIII repressed his family and even his personal favorite to support the Cardinal.
Nicholas should have studied 17h century French history.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on March 06, 2005, 07:07:43 PM
Quote
Nicholas should have studied 17h century French history.


In addition to the life and times of Charles I of England to learn what not to do!
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Belochka on March 07, 2005, 12:56:34 AM
Quote
I have my personal doubts, as even when under house arrest he seemed to have expressed no doubts no remorse nothing at all in fact...
rskkiya


How could Nikolai express any remorse when he firmly believed that it was his own Generals who forced his hand to abdicate?

Nikolai's primary consideration, was always for the good of Russia, as he perceived that "good".

His final official act was his supreme sacrifice and sadly many fail to understand what had actually transpired on that day.

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on March 07, 2005, 06:53:59 AM
Quote

Nikolai's primary consideration, was always for the good of Russia, as he perceived that "good".

His final official act was his supreme sacrifice and sadly many fail to understand what had actually transpired on that day.



Yes, it's true, he did mean well. As I mentioend earlier, IMO, his faliure was not in the fact that he did not care for Russia and its people - he did. His failure as a ruler lies in the fact that he failed to realize that he was on the wrong course of action which led to Russia's "demise". He also failed to realize that he needed to take advise from people who could have helped him prevent this. Instead he was convinced he was always right because he had "divine guidance" and refused to see it any other way.... This trait, IMO, was what contributed hugely to his own demise as well as the  system's.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: princessalice on March 13, 2005, 12:45:08 PM
I've always seen Nicholas II as a kind, gentle, giving man who perhaps should not have been Tsar.  maybe a country gentleman, or a Count who lived out from society, so he would be able to deal more effectivly with the turmoil in his own family.  i think she meant well, but i've always seen Alexandra as a controlling, willful woman with many health problems, both real and not, who had him completely "broken."  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on March 13, 2005, 01:04:20 PM
I think it's interesting that we spend so much time blaming Nicholas II for the Russian Revolution, as if anything he could have done at such a late date would have really made so much difference... Compare this attitude to that of historians dealing with the French Revolution. Very few waste time blaming Louis XVI for centuries of misgovernment by his ancestors. The French Revolution is viewed as something inevitable and inexorable.

Personally, I think this is how we should view the Russian Revolution as well. Sure, Nicholas might have tried harder, although to what avail defeats me... To give the customary example, he could have tried to stay out of World War I - but in that case he would probably have been overthrown in 1914 instead of 1917, and Russia would still have gone to war, with the same disastrous results.

Because in the end, when all's said and done, the apple was already rotten to the core long before Nicholas ascended the throne. Blame is better placed on his ancestors for wasting valuable time in resisting reforms they knew to be inevitable (Catherine the Great, Alexander I, Nicholas I).

Nicholas was only too right in comparing himself to Job. His was a thankless and futile task.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on March 13, 2005, 01:11:13 PM
Elisabeth,

I agree with you, Nicholas didn't cause it, but he most certainly contributed to the cause. He probably could have conceivably put it off for another generation or two, if he "played his cards right", but he didn't, so it happened during his reign...
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on March 13, 2005, 01:52:42 PM
Quote
Elisabeth,

I agree with you, Nicholas didn't cause it, but he most certainly contributed to the cause. He probably could have conceivably put it off for another generation or two, if he "played his cards right", but he didn't, so it happened during his reign...


I would like to believe this, too, but something stands in the way... World War I. It was such a catastrophe, on such an enormous scale, how could any tsarist government have survived it? Russia simply didn't have the infrastructure to come through this disaster with the monarchy intact.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on March 13, 2005, 04:15:18 PM
Quote

I would like to believe this, too, but something stands in the way... World War I. It was such a catastrophe, on such an enormous scale, how could any tsarist government have survived it? Russia simply didn't have the infrastructure to come through this disaster with the monarchy intact.


I don't really know enough about the politics of WWI in Russia to be able to say one way or the other. Perhaps you are right. Or perhaps if there was a very strong monarch on the throne, who made the right military decisions, the monarchy may have come through. After all, as I mentioned earlier, even Lenin at el, up until practically the very last minute, did not really believe that the revolution would happen. Most likely it was a combination of things: the war, the domestic problems, Nicholas's ineffectiveness as a ruler, Nicholas's abdication on Alexei's behalf, Michael's indecision, etc. We will never be able to know for sure, because it was so very complex... we can just take educated guesses...
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on March 13, 2005, 05:59:09 PM
Quote


Because in the end, when all's said and done, the apple was already rotten to the core long before Nicholas ascended the throne. Blame is better placed on his ancestors for wasting valuable time in resisting reforms they knew to be inevitable (Catherine the Great, Alexander I, Nicholas I).

Nicholas was only too right in comparing himself to Job. His was a thankless and futile task.


I think this is absolutely right. By 1917 I don't believe that any ONE person, even one far 'stronger' than Nicholas, could have prevented the revolution, no matter what he had done. It would never have been enough to satisfy people like Lenin who demanded a complete overthrow of the monarchy & the whole of the 'world order.' It seems that throughout the 19th century technological & industrial developments had so changed the whole way of life for everyone that no one could really keep up with it. (Perhaps similar to today in a way - the speed of change after centuries of relative 'sameness.')
Nicholas was merely one man in a hugely changing sociological climate. Nothing he could have done, could have changed anything IMO. He was the victim of his times as much as all the people who suffered under previous Tsarist regimes.
How interesting it would be to see our present times a hundred or two hundred years hence & make sense of the enormous changes that are happening now. It is always so much easier in retrospect. That is why it is impossible to judge Nicholas for either his actions or his failure to act, since he was as baffled as anyone else by the changes - clinging on, perhaps, to his view of his divinely appointed role as Tsar (which is easy to criticise now) & struggling to do what was right. (I think :-/ )
 
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: felix on March 15, 2005, 02:41:09 PM
B, very well said!
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: princessalice on March 15, 2005, 07:05:01 PM
all of these are great points, but Nicholas and his family lived in a world of their own, literally....i think he was just emotionally and maybe intellectually incapable of being a leader, he buried himself behind locked doors, i don't think his wife helped matters in that regard....but, as in a lot of countries and times, the massive poor class of people were left to "rot" in so many words....the monarchy and its incredible wealth was made on the backs of the Russian people.....i wonder if they ever felt any guilt about that?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Belochka on March 15, 2005, 08:01:39 PM
Quote
Nicholas .... he buried himself behind locked doors....but, as in a lot of countries and times, the massive poor class of people were left to "rot" in so many words....


The Emperor never secreted himself behind "closed doors". Perhaps you should view the extensive photographic essays which clearly show the Emperor viewing the troops at the front, attending parades and military maneuvers. He was passionate about his health and exercized almost daily by going on morning walks, playing tennis and swimming which illustrate just a few examples of outdoor activities in which he engaged. He went on extensive tours and was fully appraised with how his nation lived.

The Emperor was always in the public eye and it is erroneous to suggest that he "hid behind closed doors" whether described literarily or physically.

Secondly, it is incorrect to suggest that the mass of poor were left to "rot". Many were indeed poor, but they were able to feed and cloth themselves. They enjoyed a rich culture. Under the guidance of Peter Stolypin's agrarian reforms, numerous peasants were freely able to borrow credit to purchase land for their own use. Reforms were in place, but many illiterate peasants not understanding what was being offered by the government, destroyed themselves after 1917.


Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on March 16, 2005, 11:45:14 AM
Quote

Secondly, it is incorrect to suggest that the mass of poor were left to "rot". Many were indeed poor, but they were able to feed and cloth themselves. They enjoyed a rich culture. Under the guidance of Peter Stolypin's agrarian reforms, numerous peasants were freely able to borrow credit to purchase land for their own use. Reforms were in place, but many illiterate peasants not understanding what was being offered by the government, destroyed themselves after 1917.



I am unsure about this: (I mean this a real question not rhetorical) While the Tsar & his ministers were attempting to bring in reforms & to enable the peasants to buy land, in reality how did the earlier landowners react to this? Going back to Alexander II's emancipation of the serfs, was it not the case that many serfs found themselves (at first at least) worse off than before since the land they were sold was quite often useless for growing crops etc. ? (Not that I think they shouldn't have been freed, but I question how the landowners reacted.)

With regard to the point about the 'illerate peasants' not understanding & ultimately destroying themselves, I think this is absolutely true. By seizing power before they were equipped to deal with power, they simply couldn't cope with the responsibility. Nicholas could not be held responsible for this. I believe they were manipulated by the intellectual revolutionaries SOME of whom had only their own ambition at heart, rather than the freedom of the people. If one considers Lenin's disappointment after 1905 when he thought the revolution would never happen because the people were too content, it demonstrates to me, that he was not so much interested in the welfare of the people, but rather in his own aggrandizement. (It is often the case that when a supposed tyrant is overthrown, he is replaced by an even greater tyrant...Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, the Rumanian dictator (whose name I cannot even begin to attempt to spell correctly) etc. etc.

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on March 16, 2005, 01:03:20 PM
I can tell you from the point of view of the German-Russians [GR] that they were buying up land as fast as they could.  And, they were producing more and more wheat, barely, rye than Russia had ever known.  Although far behind in the modern tech., they were starting to bring in tractors by the early 1900s. Animal husbandry was just as prosperous.   I have around here somehwere some stats but I don't think anyone is interested in numbers.  The city Odessa, which was the Black Sea GR's port of entry and exit,   was busy and growing by leaps and bounds. Tons of wheat was being transported.   It was these hard working farmers who were helping to create the "new" middle class.  Of course, it wasn't all "good times" for all GRs who lived at the proverty level just like the Russian masses.  But, life was improving.  And, too, we have to remember their ancestors [Black Sea GR] were brought in by Tsar Alex. I, so, they were just second and third generations improving their lives and communities.  School was required up to the level of what we have here in the USA as eight grade for boys and girls.  By the 1900s they were required to speak Russian and had classes of German, their first language spoken at home.  Communities were building hospitals, orphanges, schools for the blind and deaf,  and other important buildings for growing communities.  There were craftsmen and  families working with the "cottage industries" who  were adding to the wealth of the communities.  Those who were becoming part of the "upper middle class" were sporting homes in the country and in the cities.  People around them were getting more and more work and money in their pockets.

This growth is more difficult to see occuring in the Russian peasant masses.  They had not understood nor took advantage of the system of their new found freedom under Alexander II, The Liberator.  And, too, the Russian system in those early years had failed them and they had failed what they could have been.  But, things were improving but slowly.  

As I've said before,  I don't think a revolution was necessary, I think the Russian masses would have happened through the process of evolution  and the all important "middle class" would have occured. And this was the class upon which democracy can get a good foothold and thrive.

WWI placed Russia into a terrible state, and it was this in the end which ended Nicolas II position as Emp. and Tsar, the revolution took away the monarchy, but the counter-revolution by Lenin tore away the heart and Stalin trampled on the heart and soul until there was nothing left.   Out of the ashes is rising new countries and I hope  all the best and the rights and freedoms all the people deserve.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on March 16, 2005, 01:12:38 PM
Thank you for that information, AGRBear; it is very illuminating & your last paragraph is very poignant.
I had thought, in writing my previous post, of the quite similar situation in England (& probably other European countries) in the 19th century. Of course in Russian it was ona much larger scale & the culture was different, but the shift from a largely agrarian population to the development of cities & industry happened so quickly that the people were lived in dire poverty. Perhaps a revolution might have happened here too - there were several occasions when it came close, but without an autocracy it was not such a pressing concern as the Queen was not held responsible for the conditions of the workers.

Had WWI not happened, do you think the revolution might never have taken place?

Thank you for your insights.  :)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Belochka on March 16, 2005, 09:39:30 PM
Quote
With regard to the point about the 'illerate peasants' not understanding & ultimately destroying themselves, I think this is absolutely true.

If one considers Lenin's disappointment after 1905 when he thought the revolution would never happen because the people were too content, it demonstrates to me, that he was not so much interested in the welfare of the people, but rather in his own aggrandizement.


Thanks to Gapon's organizational skills on February 1905, Lenin was not disappointed but pleasantly surprised by the events of that day, whilst residing in the comfort of exile. That event enabled Lenin to fully appreciate the power and potential capability of mass demonstrations by the peasants and workers inside Russia. Unconcerned about the value of a single human life, committed to his cause to destroy Russian society, he sacrificed these 'good' people, by exploiting their naivety. He achieved his goal ...  and that was to assume unfettered control over Russia.

Those illitearte peasants provided the mechanism which empowered him to deceive the very "people" who believed that their "lot" would be improved. All they wanted was bread. But bread was the least of Lenin's concerns.

Unparalleled terrorism, famine and extermination and vicimization of whole classes within Russian society, in fact all who dared to exist or challenge his bloodied path to victory.

These events began before the world while Russia was still fighting a battle on another more distant front ... for the war provided a opportunistic window to strike Russia from within, when she became most vunerable.

Nikolai II can not be held responsible for the rampant extermination or displacement of the Russian people. Nor could he be accused of deceiving those he served in good faith. :'(
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on March 17, 2005, 04:53:02 AM
Quote

Thanks to Gapon's organizational skills on February 1905, Lenin was not disappointed but pleasantly surprised by the events of that day, whilst residing in the comfort of exile. That event enabled Lenin to fully appreciate the power and potential capability of mass demonstrations by the peasants and workers inside Russia. Unconcerned about the value of a single human life, committed to his cause to destroy Russian society, he sacrificed these 'good' people, by exploiting their naivety. He achieved his goal ...  and that was to assume unfettered control over Russia.

(

When I posted about his disappointment I meant after the establishment of the Duma when he skulked out of Russia complaining that the revolution would never happen in his life time.
I agree entirely with your point about his goal being to assume unfettered control over Russia. It quite often seems that extremists for any cause, lose sight of the cause itself and become engrossed in their own ambition. Much of it seems to me to be inspired by jealousy. It was not that Lenin cared for the people in their poverty - had he done so, he might have made more effort to help them directly - but rather that he was envious of the wealth & power of the
aristocracy.   It reminds me of people who go on protest marches about all kinds of human rights issues yet never raise a finger to help people around them in need??

While editing I had to add this - It is like those who protest the drilling of oil while attending the rally in their gas guzzling SUV! - Alixz 4/25/09
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Belochka on March 17, 2005, 09:22:06 PM
Quote

When I posted about his disappointment I meant after the establishment of the Duma when he skulked out of Russia complaing that the revolution would never happen in his life time.

It reminds me of people who go on protest marches about all kinds of human rights issues yet never raise a finger to help people around them in need??


Hi bluetoria,

Nikolai never believed that his own people would turn so rapidly against the monarchy.

Had some of the workers returned to the factories they would have had the bread which they sought instead of striking and marching down the streets. These protestors failed to make that initial connection and became swept by the red tides which soon enveloped them all.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Nathan_Davis on March 17, 2005, 09:30:17 PM
A good Dale Carnegie course might have done wonders for him. I think he was indecisive, too easily influenced,  and lacked the leadership skills necessary to drag Russia into the 20th Century. He was undoubtedly a good and kind-hearted man, and a wonderful husband and loving father, but seems to have been totally without the assertive and persuasive personality traits of the natural leaader.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: princessalice on March 18, 2005, 07:26:23 AM
if i have stepped on toes about the virtues of the Russian royal family, i do apologize.  perhaps "behind closed doors" was a little extreme.   i do admire Nicholas in the way that i know he was devoted to his family and that he tried to the best of his ability to be a good Tsar.

i love Russian history, but also hope i am a realist when it comes to that and other histories.  there were many negative aspects of the Russian monarchy, or maybe just the times.  they were horribly anti-Semetic and because of who they were did not really have any real idea about life among those they ruled.

i'm sure the Russian peasant did have much culture and a reasonable amount of happiness, but to paint a picture that leaves out the diseases, illiteracy, infant mortality, etc., is also not fair.

sorry again if i hurt anyone's feelings....
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on March 18, 2005, 02:54:18 PM
Quote

Nikolai never believed that his own people would turn so rapidly against the monarchy.


This is why I mentioned earlier that Nicholas's list of recommended readings should have included the biographies of Charles I and Louis XVI  ;). Actually I think he was familiar with both...  ??? Oh well.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on March 18, 2005, 05:16:19 PM
princessalice,

I think your opinions are how you feel.  And, you've read things which have created these feelings.  No need to apologize for how you feel.  

After you've been around long enough, you'll learn that what this group isn't short on and that is opinions  ;D

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: princessalice on March 20, 2005, 08:18:47 AM
thanks, bear...i have been around awhile, but mostly post on the Hesse-Darmstadt board, Princess/Grand Duchess Alice being my great favourite.  i probably have the same tender feelings for her as you all have for the Russian Imperial family!  thanks.  i wish you all well...
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: pinklady on March 21, 2005, 04:48:30 AM
Quote
the monarchy and its incredible wealth was made on the backs of the Russian people.....i wonder if they ever felt any guilt about that?

Actually, that is a good point, I wonder if they were grateful to the working classes who made their luxurious lives possible and granted them all their wealth and privelages??
And by this I mean the whole Romanov clan not just Nicky's immediate family.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Sunny on March 21, 2005, 06:10:55 AM
Quote
Actually, that is a good point, I wonder if they were grateful to the working classes who made their luxurious lives possible and granted them all their wealth and privelages??
And by this I mean the whole Romanov clan not just Nicky's immediate family.


There are many stories that provide a window into this question where the last IF is concerned.

The well known tale of Alexei asking his father to take down a light fixture (chandelier ?) he didn't like. Nicholas responding with, "No, that doesn't belong to us".

Nicholas was know to re-collar and cuff his shirts as many as seventeen times (on one shirt).

Camp beds, and cold baths for the GD's, and Nicholas setting out on all day walks in the uniform of foot soldiers, to see if they would be comfortable etc. for his
troops.

Grand Duchess Olga, saving a portion of her pocket money to send to people in need.

Imo  :), the last IF knew gratitude, and acted on it.

Sunny
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: pinklady on March 22, 2005, 03:48:45 AM
Yes, points taken, and I am aware of those, and yes,
Grand Duchess Olga when she received her inheritance did do quite a bit in the short time available to her etc...( I am sure the girls would have done well for charities) and their parents always meant well or thought they were doing well for the people for the times.
I meant more about the upkeep  of too many palaces, estates, funiture, and all the servants and retainers, the modes of transport, the jewellery, the lifestyle etc... Did they think of how the workers struggled to make this all possible for so few??
As pointed out they led extremely luxurious lives compared to the bulk of Russians.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on March 22, 2005, 05:36:20 AM
Quote
Did they think of how the workers struggled to make this all possible for so few??
As pointed out they led extremely luxurious lives compared to the bulk of Russians.


I think that the IF themselves (& especially Alix who had been brought up in an atmosphere of service to the people & had the example of her grandfather & her mother constantly before her) probably DID think very much about it.

As Governor of Moscow, Grand Duke Serge made incognito visits to discover how the people lived but even then I imagine he saw only a little of it. I believe that this is why Ella - on making her trips to the real slums - felt such a need to act. The world she had known was so secluded, in spite of its proximity to the sheer poverty of the majority of people, that it must have been a truly shocking experience at first. I think through her contact with the wounded of the Russo-Japanese War she began to understand something of their lives  (and the same is true for Alix).

Many of the extended family, though, I think probably were quite unaware much of the time of what was going on. It was a different world & one which they never saw - nor wanted to see.  :-/

With regard to the luxury/wealth though, I suppose you could use the same argument as the Queen (or the Vatican ) uses - the palaces etc. did not belong to the individual Tsars but to Tsardom. It wasn't really like private property....
(I don't agree with it at all in the Vatican.... :-X But it's perhaps different for kings & tsars?)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Silja on March 22, 2005, 02:53:26 PM
Quote

- the palaces etc. did not belong to the individual Tsars but to Tsardom. It wasn't really like private property....


But the palaces etc. of all these princes and grand dukes were of course private property.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: pinklady on March 23, 2005, 04:23:01 AM
I think that Livadia Palace in the Crimea was the only palace that Nicholas and Alexandra actually owned outright.They had it built with their private money.
I think the others were owned by the "state".
These palaces included the Alexander, Catherine, Gatchina, Peterhof, Kremlin, there was another at Livadia and a couple in Poland, I am sure there were more and all of these had to be maintained and it took thousands of human hands.
I am not sure about the other members of the family, if they owned their palaces or not.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on March 23, 2005, 05:26:30 AM
Quote
I am not sure about the other members of the family, if they owned their palaces or not.


Serge owned Ilinskoe & his own palace in St. Petersburg so I guess most of the others had some of their own & some (depending on their responsibilities) belonging to the 'state.'

The whole difficulty about whether or not it was right to have all these 'minions' toiling away to keep a few people in such luxury is really what could they have done? Dismiss all their workers? (That wouldn't help anyone) They couldn't ALL have done as Ella did could they? If they had that would I supposed be the ideal of communism/Christianity mixed - but would it work?? Probably not because not everyone would be willing to do it.
It would surely have taken generations to gradually reduce the wealth of the privileged few & increase that of the poor.
I feel that so often there is a sort of jealousy among people when they criticise the wealth of the very rich because so often the people who are most vociferous in their condemnation, are the same people who make little effort to help those who are less well off than they are  :-/
Ideally everything SHOULD have been shared and no one should have been living in poverty while SOME people were living such decadent lives; but it could be said that the same is true to day (when you look at the millions of people living in absolute poverty & the numbers of children starving). It shouldn't be like this but it is not our fault that we were born into such a world & we can only (as individuals) do what we can to remedy the problem in our own small ways. It was exactly the same for Nicholas, I think, except he had the added responsibility of being an autocrat (a position he had neither sought nor wanted).      
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: pinklady on March 23, 2005, 06:03:22 AM

But Bluetoria, he was the Autocrat of the largest empire in the world, and I know he didnt want it, but that was too bad! He did have lots of responsibilities regardless of his personal desires. ( I realise his family contained members who helped others, and headed up many different charities.)
But other members of this extended family did lead extravagent frivolous lives, with little regard to the common workers, who toiled away to allow them their incomes and lifestyles.
And unfortunatly, Nicky and Alix's innocent children paid for this later, as it all tied together in the end with everything else.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Sunny on March 23, 2005, 06:34:50 AM
Quote

Serge owned Ilinskoe & his own palace in St. Petersburg so I guess most of the others had some of their own & some (depending on their responsibilities) belonging to the 'state.'

The whole difficulty about whether or not it was right to have all these 'minions' toiling away to keep a few people in such luxury is really what could they have done? Dismiss all their workers? (That wouldn't help anyone) They couldn't ALL have done as Ella did could they? If they had that would I supposed be the ideal of communism/Christianity mixed - but would it work?? Probably not because not everyone would be willing to do it.
It would surely have taken generations to gradually reduce the wealth of the privileged few & increase that of the poor.
I feel that so often there is a sort of jealousy among people when they criticise the wealth of the very rich because so often the people who are most vociferous in their condemnation, are the same people who make little effort to help those who are less well off than they are  :-/
Ideally everything SHOULD have been shared and no one should have been living in poverty while SOME people were living such decadent lives; but it could be said that the same is true to day (when you look at the millions of people living in absolute poverty & the numbers of children starving). It shouldn't be like this but it is not our fault that we were born into such a world & we can only (as individuals) do what we can to remedy the problem in our own small ways. It was exactly the same for Nicholas, I think, except he had the added responsibility of being an autocrat (a position he had neither sought nor wanted).      


Imo, the question has received a thoughtful answer (above), but, and I say this respectfully, perhaps that isn't what is really being sought.

Sunny
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Sunny on March 23, 2005, 07:44:06 AM
Dear Bluetoria,

Your response to the question of gratitude, is the one I referred to as "thoughtful".
The rest of my post was regarding Pinklady's response.

Sorry for any confusion.

Sunny
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on March 23, 2005, 09:06:04 AM
Thank you for explaining that, Sunny. And even if you had meant my post I wouldn't have minded because you say things so graciously & respectfully  :) :)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on March 23, 2005, 09:47:35 AM
Nicholas was an incompetant tzar!
    He himself seemed to have felt that fact when he complained of his new responsabilities at the death of his father. He had many opportunies to establish a more *constitutional * monarchy with a more streamlined legal system, but he did not. He had oportunities to liberate Russian Jews from a viciously antisemitic system, but he did not. Indeed he openly supported the reactionary "Black Hundreds" political movement, whose violence against both workers and Jews is documentable! He could have worked to regulate industry and aid Russian workers with decent wages and safe working conditions, but he did not. He engaged in a pointless and costly war with Japan and went on to refutiate virtually all the concessions made after 1905. He could have worked with the Duma, but he did not.
   Nicholas may well have loved his wife and children - he may have been kind to small animals and loved flowers and looked "cute" in pictures - but this is not the point!  History has shown him to be an incompetant who sadly was aware of his incompetance! Perhaps that is the most telling statement against him.

rskkiya
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on March 23, 2005, 10:01:05 AM
Quote
Nicholas was an incompetant tzar!
     He had many opportunies to establish a more *constitutional * monarchy with a more streamlined legal system, but he did not.
rskkiya


Yes, he could - but rightly or wrongly, he believed (& had been brought upto believe) that it was his duty to maintain the autocracy.

Quote
[
He had oportunities to liberate Russian Jews from a viciously antisemitic system, but he did not. Indeed he openly supported the reactionary "Black Hundreds" political movement, whose violence against both workers and Jews is documentable! He could have worked to regulate industry and aid Russian workers with decent wages and safe working conditions, but he did not. He engaged in a pointless and costly war with Japan and went on to refutiate virtually all the concessions made after 1905.
rskkiya


Yes, all these things he should/could have done but he was a man of his time (& as you say, one who was ill-equipped to deal with his responsibilities) struggling to do what he THOUGHT was right.

Quote
[l  History has shown him to be an incompetant who sadly was aware of his incompetance! Perhaps that is the most telling statement against him.

rskkiya


Yes history has shown him to be incompetent in many ways & he himself acknowledged this. All the same, whose life is NOT full of sighs, 'if only I had done this better...' (mine certainly is!!!!) and I do not believe HE (as a man) solely can be held responsible for the situation in which he found himself & in which he genuinely struggled to do his best.  


Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Sunny on March 23, 2005, 10:17:14 AM
At the age of 26, finding himself in a position that he had not been prepared for (who knew that Alex III's robust constitution would suffer such a blow), Nicholas expressed his fears to a loved one.

Read that however you would like.


Sunny
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: hikaru on March 23, 2005, 03:38:36 PM
Nicholas and Alcohol
In the most folk legends of Nicholas is said that he liked alcohol and was like alcoholic.
But I never read about it in the memories.
What do you think about it?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: jfkhaos on March 23, 2005, 03:45:38 PM
I have read that vodka was of course served at meals and receptions, but I can't recall reading anything about Nicholas being an alcoholic.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: hikaru on March 23, 2005, 03:53:23 PM
About served vodka , it is usual for Russia( espesially in winter) .
In one Petersburg restaurant , there is vodka in Nicholas Romanov way : this is 50 g of vodka served with lemon . in one part of lemon the sugar putted  , on another part of lemon- coffee.
It is very tasty.

Thank you for reply
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on March 23, 2005, 04:46:51 PM
Also Nicholas banned vodka for the troops during the war in attempt to stop alcoholism.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: LisaDavidson on March 23, 2005, 11:52:28 PM
According to his sister Olga, Nicholas drank sparingly. This is a not so uncommon trait in someone whose parents were immoderate drinkers, as Alexander III was.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: pinklady on March 24, 2005, 02:55:56 AM
"Sandro, what am I going to do? What is going to happen to me, to you, to Xenia, to Alix, to mother, to all of Russia? I am not prepared to be a Tsar. I never wanted to become one. I know nothing of the business of ruling. I have no idea of even how to talk to the ministers." Taken from Nicholas & Alexandra by Robert K. Massie.

Poor poor young man.
I have always felt sorry for him.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: pinklady on March 24, 2005, 03:19:31 AM
Quote
Nicholas was an incompetant tzar!
      He had many opportunies to establish a more *constitutional * monarchy with a more streamlined legal system, but he did not.

rskkiya

That is very true, however we also have to remember that Russia was backward compared to some of the other European countries in many different ways.
And also, the problem with royal dynasties is that unfortunately people are just born into their roles whether they like it or not,(and the poor country is stuck with them if they are unsuitable) and you get people like Nicholas. Unlike a lot of modern systems where the leaders are elected by the people for the people.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on March 24, 2005, 04:19:29 AM
Belochka has written a very interesting and comprehensive account of Alexander III's alcohol consumption & his health/death on the Medical History of the Romanovs thread (Imperial History).
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: felix on March 24, 2005, 07:48:36 AM
Is that  Under medical history? A III would have been the last one I would think of as a drinker.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on March 24, 2005, 08:01:54 AM
Hi, Felix...it's under Imperial History - Medical History of the Russian Rulers (about 7 or 8th down the thread!). I would post the link but I don't know how to do it. Belochka (if I understand her correctly) suggests that Alexander's kidney failure wasn't alcohol-related. It's a v. interesting post. (As are all of Belochka's posts!!)  :)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: matushka on March 24, 2005, 08:06:46 AM
Do you know the Memories of protopresbiter Georgy Chavelsky? Very informative about war, clergy, the court, Nikolai Nikolaevitch, but also the Imperial Stavka. In one of his chapter, he describes with a lot of details the life in Stavka in Moghilev. He describes also the lunches with Nicolas II and answered to the question of alcohol, he explain what, when and how much drank the last Tsar. And the clear conclusion is that Nicolas had nothing of an alcholic I think this book exist in english. If you do not find it, I can try to quote some pages, to "translate" something for you.
From his diary my know that he stayed sometimes very late with officer for feast, wrote that is was very funny, and we can imagine he drank for these occasions. Nothing terrible in comparaison to Petr the Great!
I just do not answer to this last question, did Nicolas ALexandrovitch drink on his own, for example the evening. I do not know that. But it sounds strange.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: hikaru on March 24, 2005, 08:24:35 AM
Dear Matushka!

When can I find the memoirs of the protopresbiter Georgy Chavelsky ?
Russian is highly welcomed ( I am russian and live in Moscow at the moment).
thank you very much in advance.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: felix on March 24, 2005, 08:53:42 AM
Thanks B. I will look for it.Such  interesting  things, I missed  buying "Russia the Alcoholic Empire"  About a year ago.Fool that I was.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: hikaru on March 24, 2005, 08:58:35 AM
I know for sure ( from a lot of memoirs) that Nicholas liked to drink a glace of good Madera after the food
( it could not be called as alcoholism).
By the way, Madera was the Rasputin's favorite wine.
(This is Crimean Madera)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: matushka on March 24, 2005, 09:11:12 AM
Hikaru, just make a surch with Rambler or Aport, "Chavelsky, Vospominania". You will find it easily, there is 2 or 3 versions on the russian web. There is 2 tomes. I lived in Moscow also, and hope coming back in the nearest years!
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: hikaru on March 24, 2005, 09:21:38 AM
Thank you!
Where are you now ( If I allowed to ask)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: ashanti01 on March 24, 2005, 12:16:43 PM
I just remember reading Nicholas getting so drunk he had to be carried out by fellow soliders, when he was younger but other than that, never hear anything about him drinking.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: matushka on March 24, 2005, 03:18:32 PM
The tsarevitch Nicolas spend his time has all young officers, that mean also a lot of "funny" parties.
Hikaru: I am somewhere beetween Bavaria and Slovenia ;)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: hikaru on March 25, 2005, 01:33:49 PM
I have just read about one of such "funny" parties in Tsarskoe Selo (Nicholas did no participate in this)

The group of GD and officers overdrank, they pretended themselves as wolves. They naked and began to ride as animals did using hands and foots on the night avenues of Tsarskoe Selo. Then they stopped and began to howl to the moon. They continued to do it till the moment that the owner of the restaurant put out the big bowl filled with champaigne.They stopped the howl drank champaign then went to home to sleep.
I think that not every "funny" parties was like that.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Sarai on March 25, 2005, 02:00:36 PM
Quote
A III would have been the last one I would think of as a drinker.


Indeed he was a drinker. I learned to just what extent by reading this forum. This is discussed somewhat on this thread: http://hydrogen.pallasweb.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=transport;action=display;num=1075164352

Check out the post by Greg King dated 2/16/04. It is very interesting in that he mentions "His drinking had been a problem for a long time-he used to get drunk frequently, smash things, and bully Nicholas a lot-and when he did and the IF were in residence in St. Petersburg Marie Feodorovna would collect the children (at all hours of the night apparently) and flee in a carriage to the Tauride Palace, where she kept a suite of rooms-officially used when members of the family went ice skating on the pond there-but apparently maintained to provide a refuge."
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on March 25, 2005, 04:51:32 PM
Quote

The group of GD and officers overdrank, they pretended themselves as wolves. They naked and began to ride as animals did using hands and foots on the night avenues of Tsarskoe Selo. Then they stopped and began to howl to the moon. They continued to do it till the moment that the owner of the restaurant put out the big bowl filled with champaigne.They stopped the howl drank champaign then went to home to sleep.
I think that not every "funny" parties was like that.


They sound like many of our footballers (soccer players??) nowadays...young men with too much money & too much time, learning to grow up.
I don't think that the fact the Nicholas drank a lot & often had a hangover when he was a young officer means he had any alcohol addiction it's just what people did when they were young.  (It's no different in England today.)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Belochka on March 26, 2005, 09:15:49 PM
Quote
Nicholas and Alcohol
In the most folk legends of Nicholas is said that he liked alcohol and was like alcoholic.
But I never read about it in the memories.
What do you think about it?



In Mossolov's memoirs At The Court of the Last Tsar it is stated that on the Imperial Train, Nikolai would only consume a glass of Madeira at lunch, of a specially chosen vintage, which he poured himself.

At Livadia, he indulged in two glasses of vodka with his zakuski (hors-d'oeuvre) before sitting down to a hot two course lunch. This manner of vodka consumption is perfectly acceptable and is a Russian tradition, which is observed in my home as well.

For any person to assert that Nikolai was an alcoholic is vulgar and discredits Nikolai. :-/

Many of us enjoy alcohol with our meals, but can we be accused of being alcoholics? :o

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: hikaru on March 27, 2005, 08:28:04 AM
Mosolov also wrote that when Alexandra Fyodorovna participated on the dinner the people around could not ask the Emperor to give them special old super expensive vine. But when the Emperess was out , the
people around said something like today is the day of the Saint Peter or bla bla bla, so the Emperor gave the order to bring  from the caved the wine.

Of course the mentioned above is not the proove of Tsar's alcoholism.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Forum Admin on March 27, 2005, 10:04:39 AM
Spiridovitch is also very specific that Nicholas II drank only in moderation, and never to excess.  A small vodka or two with zakuski. A bit of Madeira with dinner.  During regimental toasts where required to drink many of them, his glass would be filled with white wine instead of vodka, so he would be consuming less alcohol.

Nicholas was never 'cajoled' into opening wine from the cellar. HE made the decision himself dependant on the importance of the guest.  Even then, he might not partake of the fine older vintages opened.

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: hikaru on March 27, 2005, 10:19:48 AM
It was very intresting for me to know that Alexandr III
prohibited to use foreign vines during receptions - only russian wines.
At his times Crimean wines were sour.
But this roul made motivation to develop the production of wine in Crimea and famous Madeira, Golytsin's "Novy Svet" Champagne etc entered on the stage.
I read also that in the beginning of the 20th century "Novy Svet" champagne have got the big gold medal at the exhibition in Paris.
Then before or during WWI Prince Golitsyn gave his
famous wine and champagne factory to the Nicholas as the present.
During Gorbachov times  its old and famous grape bushes were destroyed becaus of famous Non-Alcoholism Campaigne. The Director of the factory shooted himself immediately. He could not see how the 100-year vine were destroyed.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Forum Admin on March 27, 2005, 10:40:15 AM
Prince Golystin gave "Novi Svyet" to Nicholas II in May 1912.  He was considered one of Europe's greatest experts on wine, his wines did win gold medals and were considered as fine as any produced in Europe at the time.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: hikaru on March 27, 2005, 10:50:57 AM
Now we like "Novy Svet" too. The special shops of "Novy Svet" have opened recently in Moscow.
Everyone could buy  a various champagne and Massandra wines there.

Can you buy it in USA?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Georgiy on March 28, 2005, 04:46:30 PM
Quote
Unlike a lot of modern systems where the leaders are elected by the people for the people


And we've only got ourselves to blame for voting them in if they are terrible! (Or lie and say "I voted for the opposition!")

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: pinklady on March 29, 2005, 04:36:02 AM
Quote

And we've only got ourselves to blame for voting them in if they are terrible! (Or lie and say "I voted for the opposition!")


Ah, how true, who was it who said "And the truth shall set you free!" Here in Australia we are very fortunate to be able to get rid of them again after 3 years, sometimes slightly less if one is very lucky.....and the Pollies think going to election earlier will be better for themselves.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on March 29, 2005, 09:07:00 PM
There are really two tiers to the question of Nicholas' role in bringing on the revolution.  The first is his competence as a tsar.  The second is whether autocracy as a form of government could have handled the issues the 20th century was going to pose to all western nations.

By almost any measure, Nicholas was not competent to head a government.    I could come up with a very long list of failings, but two key ones probably ordained the ultimate outcomes.  First was his lack of intellectual curiosity and critical thinking.  He fell easily into stereotyping of people, events, and nations.  The more complex the problem, the more likely he was to leave it in the hands of God.  (I think his famous fatalism was really severe intellectual limitation posing as religious conviction.)  This trait showed itself most disastrously in 1914 when the intricate web of international alliances from Bismarck's time drew one government after another to the brink of a war that no one (except perhaps Kaiser Wilhelm) wanted.  Nicholas was in the best position to cut the gordian knot, but he missed the opportunity by confusing the letter of treaties with their intent.  Instead, he fell back on the pan-slavic bluster he learned at his father's knee and marched headlong into a conflict he had the last opportunity to avoid -- and for which Russia was utterly unprepared.

Second was the absence of any sense of accountability to his people.  After Russia's disastrous defeat by Japan and the Bloody Sunday massacre,  Nicholas' response was to remove himself and his family permanently from his capital.  In a governmental system that was built around the personality and presence of the monarch, Nicholas opened up a huge vacuum by his withdrawal.  The history of monarchy has been that it does not need the support of all classes in society to survive.  But it must have the support of at least one major class.  (Louis XIV, for instance, after surviving a childhood rebellion of the nobility, consciously threw his lot in with the emerging commercial classes at the expense of the nobility and probably brought the Bourbons two more generations of power as a result.)  By absenting himself from the society and bureaucracy of St. Petersburg while at the same time failing to give Stolypin and Witte the support they needed in their agrarian and industrial reforms, Nicholas effectively disenfranchised every class of Russian society from any role in government and any stake in the game.

So much for Nicholas as tsar.  What about autocracy as a form of government?  I believe its days were numbered.  In fact, although Nicholas steadfastly refused to accept it, true autocracy ended in 1905.  The only long-term hope for tsarism was to put it on the path to constitutional monarchy.  The 20th century was bringing changes that were to take society to increasing levels of complexity and scale -- the mobility of whole populations through powered transport; telecommunications; technological warfare; international commerce and industry.  No nation of the 20th century proved able to exploit these changes and then weather the social dislocations they unleashed without opening up to some form of participation in government by the governed.  Autocracy would likely have been no exception, no matter how competent the autocrat.

The great irony in this is that Nicholas was more tempermentally suited to be a constitutional monarch than he realized.  He was at ease with the ceremonial of government.  It was the substance that confounded him.  He preferred the life of a country gentleman, the pretense of the parade ground, and the warmth of a family idyll to the council chamber and the corridors of power.  As a constitutional monarch, he could have had all that -- and, most wonderfully of all, preserved the palaces and imperial splendor that we who frequent these message boards so desperately crave to see resurrected from their ashes.

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: pinklady on March 30, 2005, 06:20:29 AM
I have to agree with everything you say Tsarfan. Very well  written. And the truth shall set you free also.....
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on March 30, 2005, 01:32:26 PM
Quote
There are really two tiers to the question of Nicholas' role in bringing on the revolution.  The first is his competence as a tsar.  The second is whether autocracy as a form of government could have handled the issues the 20th century was going to pose to all western nations.

First was his lack of intellectual curiosity and critical thinking.  He fell easily into stereotyping of people, events, and nations.  The more complex the problem, the more likely he was to leave it in the hands of God.  (I think his famous fatalism was really severe intellectual limitation posing as religious conviction.)  This trait showed itself most disastrously in 1914 when the intricate web of international alliances from Bismarck's time drew one government after another to the brink of a war that no one (except perhaps Kaiser Wilhelm) wanted.  Nicholas was in the best position to cut the gordian knot, but he missed the opportunity by confusing the letter of treaties with their intent.  Instead, he fell back on the pan-slavic bluster he learned at his father's knee and marched headlong into a conflict he had the last opportunity to avoid -- and for which Russia was utterly unprepared.






I agree with much of what you say, Tsarfan, especially the part about Nicholas making a great constitutional monarch and his being at ease with the ceremonial of government, also about his holding himself accountable only to God.  But Nicholas did not fail as Tsar because of intellectual limitations.  For example, he was far more intelligent than his father, Alexander III, whose reign was looked upon at the time as very successful -- though too short.  Nicholas failed as Tsar because of bad personality flaws, rather than intellectual limitations.  He was suspicious of people, unable to delegate, stubborn, frequently broke his word, etc.  His ministers never knew where they stood with him; they always knew where they stood with his father.  Witte wrote at length about Nicholas, and although he obviously loathed Nicholas, he still says that Nicholas had the intellectual ability to do the job.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on March 30, 2005, 02:14:05 PM
Quote

 First was his lack of intellectual curiosity and critical thinking.  He fell easily into stereotyping of people, events, and nations.  The more complex the problem, the more likely he was to leave it in the hands of God.  (I think his famous fatalism was really severe intellectual limitation posing as religious conviction.)
Second was the absence of any sense of accountability to his people.  After Russia's disastrous defeat by Japan and the Bloody Sunday massacre,  Nicholas' response was to remove himself and his family permanently from his capital.  In a governmental system that was built around the personality and presence of the monarch, Nicholas opened up a huge vacuum by his withdrawal.  
So much for Nicholas as tsar.
 What about autocracy as a form of government?  I believe its days were numbered.  In fact, although Nicholas steadfastly refused to accept it, true autocracy ended in 1905.  The only long-term hope for tsarism was to put it on the path to constitutional monarchy.  The 20th century was bringing changes that were to take society to increasing levels of complexity and scale -- the mobility of whole populations through powered transport; telecommunications; technological warfare; international commerce and industry.
The great irony in this is that Nicholas was more tempermentally suited to be a constitutional monarch than he realized.  He was at ease with the ceremonial of government.  It was the substance that confounded him.  He preferred the life of a country gentleman, the pretense of the parade ground, and the warmth of a family idyll to the council chamber and the corridors of power.  As a constitutional monarch, he could have had all that -- and, most wonderfully of all, preserved the palaces and imperial splendor that we who frequent these message boards so desperately crave to see resurrected from their ashes.


Tsarfan,
   Alas you have well stated the paradox of the last Tsar - a man well suited to the ceremony of a Constitutional monarchy, but one who was too trapped by his limited education and religious faith to comprehend this fact. Had he had posessed elemental critical reasoning or some religious objectivity, he MIGHT have survived.
   Your comments are refreshingly witty and well written, and while I am no fan of the tsar - I am now keen on Tsarfan!

rskkiya
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on March 30, 2005, 02:17:39 PM
Thanks for the comments, RichC.  I did not mean to imply that Nicholas was devoid of intellect.  He did, for instance, master three languages and acquire use of two others.

However, intellect has several dimensions, and I do feel that Nicholas' intellect did not manifest as intellectual curiosity or a propensity to extract larger meaning from patterns that are often buried in details.

I have read much of his diaries, and he invariably reports on the day's mundanities (the weather, his recreational activites, his meals, etc.) in far greater detail than his governmental activities.  In fact, if one did not know the author was a monarch, one could hardly deduce it from the events that occupied his recorded thoughts.  More tellingly, if you contrast the notes he wrote in the margins of official reports with those that Catherine the Great wrote, the contrast is unsettling.  Having no information other than their two sets of notes, you would easily be able to identify which one built an empire and which one destroyed one.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on March 30, 2005, 04:08:37 PM
Quote
Thanks for the comments, RichC.  I did not mean to imply that Nicholas was devoid of intellect.  He did, for instance, master three languages and acquire use of two others.

However, intellect has several dimensions, and I do feel that Nicholas' intellect did not manifest as intellectual curiosity or a propensity to extract larger meaning from patterns that are often buried in details.

I have read much of his diaries, and he invariably reports on the day's mundanities (the weather, his recreational activites, his meals, etc.) in far greater detail than his governmental activities.  In fact, if one did not know the author was a monarch, one could hardly deduce it from the events that occupied his recorded thoughts.  More tellingly, if you contrast the notes he wrote in the margins of official reports with those that Catherine the Great wrote, the contrast is unsettling.  Having no information other than their two sets of notes, you would easily be able to identify which one built an empire and which one destroyed one.


Tsarfan, I completely agree with you about Nicholas' lack of intellectual curiosity and critical thinking. You have summarized his failings brilliantly.

I am curious, are you of the opinion that a different tsar might have made a major difference to twentieth-century Russian history? For example, IYO, would a monarch of the calibre of Catherine the Great have been able to cope with all the vast changes you so eloquently describe? Or was the power of autocracy in and of itself too corrupting for any monarch - particularly a monarch of genius - to handle? Do you think a Catherine the Great or a Napoleon would have agreed to any significant diminution of his or her powers? Perhaps they would have had the imagination to bow to the inevitable - perhaps not? (I ask because I myself have not made up my mind on this subject.)

Sometimes I think that Nicholas II was such an impressionable, well-intentioned and conscientious personality that if he had only had a different father (non-alcoholic, non-autocratic, at home and abroad), he might have turned out quite differently. He could have been, as you say, an ideal constitutional monarch. If only he had been the son of Alexander II, and not his grandson - if only there had been no March 1881. But then, history is filled with "if onlys"!  

 
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on March 30, 2005, 05:28:35 PM
Quote
Thanks for the comments, RichC.  I did not mean to imply that Nicholas was devoid of intellect.  He did, for instance, master three languages and acquire use of two others.

However, intellect has several dimensions, and I do feel that Nicholas' intellect did not manifest as intellectual curiosity or a propensity to extract larger meaning from patterns that are often buried in details.

I have read much of his diaries, and he invariably reports on the day's mundanities (the weather, his recreational activites, his meals, etc.) in far greater detail than his governmental activities.  In fact, if one did not know the author was a monarch, one could hardly deduce it from the events that occupied his recorded thoughts.  More tellingly, if you contrast the notes he wrote in the margins of official reports with those that Catherine the Great wrote, the contrast is unsettling.  Having no information other than their two sets of notes, you would easily be able to identify which one built an empire and which one destroyed one.


Thank you for the response, Tsarfan.  It is a pleasure to discuss this matter with you.  I still think that Nicholas had the intellectual capacity to do the job based on the opinions of his ministers and other contemporaries who worked with him on a daily basis.  But he lacked other very important leadership qualities (which his father possessed) which I mentioned earlier and that is my opinion why he failed.  I did not mean to convey that I thought  Nicholas had a brilliant intellect comparable to Catherine II.  

Quote
However, intellect has several dimensions, and I do feel that Nicholas' intellect did not manifest as intellectual curiosity or a propensity to extract larger meaning from patterns that are often buried in details.


How many other Tsar's (or world leaders, for that matter) possess this level of intelligence?  Catherine the Great?  Certainly.  But how often does someone of her calibre come along?  Alexander III?  I don't think so, yet wasn't he respected in his time as a great Tsar?

If Nicholas wasn't smart enough to be a good Tsar, how do you explain his father's apparent success?  Do you see what I mean?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on March 30, 2005, 05:33:41 PM
Hi, Elisabeth.  Your Catherine the Great question has occupied me for some time.  There are, of course, far too many variables involved to predict historical outcomes under different conditions.  But, so what?  It's too much fun not to try.

First, I don't think even Catherine could have made autocracy work in the 20th century.  Governing in modern conditions is simply too complex a task for the level of centralization that autocracy implies, and the range of competing interests in complex societies can only be brokered successfully with pluralistic institutions.

The point to me, though, is that Catherine would not have tried to make it work.  She was ultimately a pragmatist who both set her strategy and adjusted her tactics to the conditions that confronted her.  For instance, I do not believe Catherine went to Russia with any aspiration one day to rule in her own right.  I think she found herself saddled with a spouse of subnormal intelligence whose sadistic tendencies erupted to the surface once he found himself unconstrained.  She was confronted with only two choices -- rule or be obliterated.

While Catherine wrapped herself in a mantle of divine right for public consumption and security's sake, she was too bright a woman to have taken it seriously personally, given the manner in which she came to the throne.  Catherine survived because she set the course and adopted the tactics it took to survive in the conditions before her.

I think that, standing on the threshold of the 20th century, Catherine would have adapted her view of monarchy to one that could make government effective in changing conditions -- and that she was perfectly capable of going as far as a constitutional monarchy to do so.

This might sound silly, but I worked at General Electric during the Jack Welch era and had some dealings with him at close quarters.  (For those of you oustide the U.S., he's generally regarded as one of the two most successful business leaders of the 20th century.)  Jack was famous for breaking out of historical molds and refocusing the world's largest corporation to exploit changing conditions in the marketplace and to keep GE growing while other conglomerates were failing.

I used to get a lot of memos with Jack's notes scratched in the margins.  When I read extensive samples of the notes Catherine wrote in her diplomatic dispatches, chills literally ran up my spine.  Her tone, her matter-of-factness, her grasp of both detail and grand scheme, her irreverence for conventional wisdom, her candor were his.  It was a powerful reinforcement to me of just what makes great people great.  It's their ability to adapt adroitly to their times.

That trait is what made Catherine great in the 18th century, and it's the only trait that could have saved Holy Mother Russia in the 20th.  I think she could have pulled it off.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on March 30, 2005, 06:34:07 PM
RichC, I do see what you mean.  You're entirely right that Nicholas or, for that matter, few other monarchs can be fairly held to the Catherine II standard.

The case you pose with Alexander III is interesting.  His reign was, indeed, successful.  The question is whether it would have remained so had he lived longer.

Russian government was losing its bearings during the later reign of Alexander II.  He seemed to be moving toward liberalization, but it was a drift by fits and starts rather than a determined march.  Confusion about the direction of government and society was compounding, so that many grasped his assassination as an opportunity to re-establish some clear direction, no matter what.  Alexander III stepped up with that clear direction -- God, Autocracy, re-Russification, and Panslavism.  It was a conservative agenda and not to everyone's taste, but at least it was an agenda.  (People do seem to prefer oppressive leadership to weak leadership.)

However, it was an agenda that was building up economic and social pressures in many segments of Russian society, and ethnic pressures outside of Russia, that were all to release explosively in his son's reign.  The question we're left with is how long Alexander III could have kept the lid on the pressure cooker -- or would he have turned the heat down before it blew?  Personally, I don't think so.  I think Alexander III simply died before his crops came in.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on March 30, 2005, 07:43:53 PM
I've been reading Witte's memoirs lately and I would like to quote them as they relate to this thread .  Here is what Witte says of Nicholas (written in 1912):

"...his character is the source of all our misfortunes.  A ruler who cannot be trusted, who approves today what he will reject tomorrow, is incapable of steering the Ship of State into a quite harbour.  His outstanding failing is his lamentable lack of will power.  Though benevolent and not unintelligent, this shortcoming disqualifies him totally as the unlimited autocratic ruler of the Russian people."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: etonexile on March 30, 2005, 08:01:17 PM
Could ANYONE truly be prepared,at any age,to be an absolute monarch...?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Belochka on March 30, 2005, 08:06:28 PM
Quote
But Nicholas did not fail as Tsar because of intellectual limitations.  For example, he was far more intelligent than his father, Alexander III, whose reign was looked upon at the time as very successful -- though too short.


It should not be forgotten that Alexander III on the advice of his conservative Procurator, Konstantin Pobedonostev, ensured that his own father's continuing reforms that required the new Emperor's immediate signature were deliberately destroyed.

IMO that was a very regressive action demonstrating disrespect to the final "will" of Alexander II.  Lack of respect which should have been accorded by the son to the memory of father became a personal issue.

Alexander III could not be considered as a progressive ruler.

It is wise to look at the father before you judge his son Nikolai.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on March 31, 2005, 09:24:48 AM
Quote
First, I don't think even Catherine could have made autocracy work in the 20th century.  Governing in modern conditions is simply too complex a task for the level of centralization that autocracy implies, and the range of competing interests in complex societies can only be brokered successfully with pluralistic institutions.

The point to me, though, is that Catherine would not have tried to make it work.  She was ultimately a pragmatist who both set her strategy and adjusted her tactics to the conditions that confronted her.  For instance, I do not believe Catherine went to Russia with any aspiration one day to rule in her own right.  I think she found herself saddled with a spouse of subnormal intelligence whose sadistic tendencies erupted to the surface once he found himself unconstrained.  She was confronted with only two choices -- rule or be obliterated.

While Catherine wrapped herself in a mantle of divine right for public consumption and security's sake, she was too bright a woman to have taken it seriously personally, given the manner in which she came to the throne.  Catherine survived because she set the course and adopted the tactics it took to survive in the conditions before her.

I think that, standing on the threshold of the 20th century, Catherine would have adapted her view of monarchy to one that could make government effective in changing conditions -- and that she was perfectly capable of going as far as a constitutional monarchy to do so.

This might sound silly, but I worked at General Electric during the Jack Welch era and had some dealings with him at close quarters.  (For those of you oustide the U.S., he's generally regarded as one of the two most successful business leaders of the 20th century.)  Jack was famous for breaking out of historical molds and refocusing the world's largest corporation to exploit changing conditions in the marketplace and to keep GE growing while other conglomerates were failing.

I used to get a lot of memos with Jack's notes scratched in the margins.  When I read extensive samples of the notes Catherine wrote in her diplomatic dispatches, chills literally ran up my spine.  Her tone, her matter-of-factness, her grasp of both detail and grand scheme, her irreverence for conventional wisdom, her candor were his.  It was a powerful reinforcement to me of just what makes great people great.  It's their ability to adapt adroitly to their times.

That trait is what made Catherine great in the 18th century, and it's the only trait that could have saved Holy Mother Russia in the 20th.  I think she could have pulled it off.


Wonderful analysis, Tsarfan, full of genuine insights. I think you are absolutely right that a true sign of greatness is the ability to adapt to changing conditions. Catherine certainly demonstrated this talent in her prime (although I'm not so sure about her declining years, after the French Revolution). On the whole, you've convinced me!

Could I ask, how did you get the opportunity to read Catherine's notes on diplomatic dispatches? And Nicholas's? Were you conducting archival research?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on March 31, 2005, 09:34:13 AM
Quote

It should not be forgotten that Alexander III on the advice of his conservative Procurator, Konstantin Pobedonostev, ensured that his own father's continuing reforms that required the new Emperor's immediate signature were deliberately destroyed.

IMO that was a very regressive action demonstrating disrespect to the final "will" of Alexander II.  Lack of respect which should have been accorded by the son to the memory of father became a personal issue.

Alexander III could not be considered as a progressive ruler.

It is wise to look at the father before you judge his son Nikolai.

Belochka
    If we condemn Alexander III for ignoring his fathers wishes, that does not explain Nicholas' choice to continue on the same reactionary road. While I do think that had Alexander III been more insiteful -some things might have been better for Nicholas, it is very difficult to play "what if" with history.
   Nicholas II and Alexander III both made poor choices -and in my poor opinion all the Russian people were obliged to pay the high penalty.

rskkiya
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on March 31, 2005, 11:52:46 AM
G'day, Elisabeth.

Unfortunately, I'm not able to do archival research in Russian history.  Although I have a graduate degree in European history and speak German, I have no French or Russian language facility.  (I've toyed with trying to learn Russian, but that's probably going to have to wait for retirement.  I work in financial services and pursue history only as a hobby.  Russian history is an interest I only discovered in the past ten years.)

A few years back I read a very technical history of Russian foreign policy under Catherine.  In fact, I think it was a published PhD thesis I found in the Duke University library.  The book was almost one-quarter footnotes, with interminable references to her dispatches and her margin commentary.  I actually found the footnotes more interesting than the text, because they created such a window into her personality.  Sorry, but I don't remember the author or the title of the work.

A couple of years later, I read a similar work analyzing the diplomatic lead up to World War I (tracing the line from Bismarck's elaborate web of treaties through Russia's growing panslavic entaglements to the mobilizations that triggered the war.)  This work contained copious references from the dispatches of both Alexander III and Nicholas II.  They were certainly revealing, but in a more sinister way than Catherine's.  Again, I found the work in a university library and don't remember the details.  Maybe a university library's research department could help you track them down.  Sorry not to be more helpful.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on March 31, 2005, 11:58:59 AM
I don't see how Alexander III can be seen as having been disrespectful to his father's wishes.  His father had just been assassinated by revolutionaries.  As he saw things, his father's liberal policies were responsible for all the bombings and killings that were taking place.  His response was the iron fist -- and it worked; revolutionary activity declined dramatically during his 13 year reign.  I'm NOT advocating these policies -- but that's what happened.

I don't think anyone thinks that Alexander III was progressive...
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on March 31, 2005, 12:33:56 PM
Ironically, I think Alexander III was right that his father was assassinated because of his liberal policies.  Although Alexander II's move toward liberalism was fitful, it did have the effect of encouraging people to pin their hopes for progress on the monarchy rather than on revolutionary groups.  So the closer Alexander II's policies moved toward the revolutionaries' positions, the greater a threat he became to them.

Unfortunately, Alexander III was not sophisticated enough to understand this, and he reacted exactly the way the revolutionaries hoped -- with a solid lurch to the right.  His son then compounded the error in 1906 at his speech opening the Duma and again in 1913 in his Tercentenary address to the Duma.  On both occassions, Nicholas, standing in front of the very body that could have -- and would have -- helped him save the monarchy, took his father's tack and quashed any hopes the people could pin on the monarchy for social and economic progress in Russia.  In effect, Nicholas went out of his way be sure all of Russia understood that the monarchy stood for stasis, no matter what conditions outside the palace windows might be.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on March 31, 2005, 03:16:04 PM
I guess very broadly speaking, the 19th century Tsars lurched from regressive to progressive and back with each new reign.  

Paul -- regressive

Alexander I  -- progressive

Nicholas I -- regressive

Alexnader II -- progressive

Alexander III -- regressive

Nicholas II broke the cycle by sticking with regressive policies.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Georgiy on March 31, 2005, 03:47:23 PM
Quote
The more complex the problem, the more likely he was to leave it in the hands of God.  (I think his famous fatalism was really severe intellectual limitation posing as religious conviction.)  


I do not think it was an intellectual limitation, but a quite normal Orthodox way of thinking. The question is more did he actively pray that God would enlighten his heart, or show him what to do. How proactive was he in going about pursuing what he perceived as necessary, through God. Did he just sit back and let whatever hapened happen, or did he try and do what he thought was the will of God.

It is quite normal for a pious Orthodox believer when talking about future plans to say "God willing", or "If it is God's will."  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on March 31, 2005, 04:07:49 PM
Quote

I do not think it was an intellectual limitation, but a quite normal Orthodox way of thinking. The question is more did he actively pray that God would enlighten his heart, or show him what to do. How proactive was he in going about pursuing what he perceived as necessary, through God. Did he just sit back and let whatever hapened happen, or did he try and do what he thought was the will of God.

It is quite normal for a pious Orthodox believer when talking about future plans to say "God willing", or "If it is God's will."  


I suspect that the personal qualities that might make one a saint in the Orthodox Church are the very same qualities that would make one a very bad politician and statesman.

But to play devil's advocate for a moment (as they do officially in the Catholic Church before every canonization), I don't see much kenotic humility in Nicholas II until after he had abdicated and knew that he was facing death at the hands of his enemies. Before this, what was most remarkable about Nicholas II was his tireless obstinacy and unwillingness to compromise. His pride, as it were.

As Tsarfan has noted, time after time Nicholas went out of his way to destroy the dreams of his best-intentioned, potentially most loyal subjects and to ally them with the revolutionaries. If you interpret this as God's will, then it must have been God's will that Russia undergo a hell under the Communism of Nicholas's successors.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on March 31, 2005, 04:27:56 PM
RichC,

Your regressive/progressive oscillation is an interesting perspective that never occurred to me.  (Although there was a quaint theory at the time of Paul I's assassination that he was removed by the nobility because he sided with the lower classes, I think you properly characterize him on the regressive side of the ledger.)

Georgiy,

I think there is a difference between trying to perceive God's intent when deciding what course of action to take and simply leaving things in the hands of God.

Nicholas more often simply left it up to God to handle.  As crisis after crisis buffeted Russia throughout 1916, the Romanovs tried over and over again to spur him into action.  Instead of consulting God and then springing into action, his response was to withdraw further and further from events, to the point that he effectively turned the government over to his wife and Rasputin while he went to play soldier at Stavka.

This is not religious conviction . . . it's hiding from one's responsibilities.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: hikaru on April 04, 2005, 07:16:03 AM
 I have found in the small book about Peterhof very intresting verses  about the negative attributes of Nicholas II as the tsar. I think that they accumulate what Russians think about Nicholas II at present.
I will write it in Russian.  Maybe somebody could
transate it into beautiful English:

To Nicholas II

On byl prekrasnym chelovekom,
Khoroshy muzh, otets in syn.
No vsyoz ne mog on spority s vekom.
Ne mog on spravitysha odin
S zadachey trudnoy upravleniya
Svoey nepoznannoy stranoy.
On prinimal ne te resheniya.
Ne tam, gde nuzno, shyol on v boy.
On byl trudolyubiv i sderzan.
I muzestva emu ne zanimaty.
No vshyo ze skoro on byl poverzen.
Chtob gosudarstvom upravlyaty ,
Nuzhny sposobnosti inye.
Ikh, k sozhalenyyu, ne imel .
Do revolyutsii Rossiyu
Dovyol, khoty vovse ne khotel.
On rukovodstvovalsya chuvstvom,
Gde nuzhen zdraviy byl raschyot.
No ne vladel on sim iskusstvom,
I vse dostoinstva - ne v schyot.

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: hikaru on April 04, 2005, 10:04:34 AM
I will try

He was wonderful person
Good Husband , Father and Son
Nevertheless, he could not debate with the century.
He could not successfully do alone
The hard mission to rule
His unknown country.
He took not right decisions.
He went to battle at not right place.
He was hardworker and restrained.
He was couragous and extra-brave.
Nevertheless he was ruined soon.
To rule the country,
It is necessary to have other talents.
He , unfortunately, did not have them.
He leaded up Russia to Revolution
Which he did not desire at all.
He let his feelings  to be the leader,
Where pure calculation was needed.
But he was not fond of this art
So all his merits could not be counted.

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 04, 2005, 10:19:07 AM
Thank you for translating it, hikaru  :)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: hikaru on April 04, 2005, 11:27:21 AM
I have read that Grand Duchesses drank every day the wine "St. Raphael". (for health , of course)
Could somebody clear out please , is this some sort of kagor or not?
Is this French or Italian ?
Does it exist now?
For example, the favorite wine of Peter the First - "L'ermitage" still exists.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Forum Admin on April 04, 2005, 11:43:52 AM
I don't know what a kagor is...
St. Raphael is a French red wine, and still exists today.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: hikaru on April 04, 2005, 01:02:45 PM
Kagor is a kind of the red semi-sweet wine.
It is used in Church.
But everybody could drink it at home too.
Kagor of Massandra is very famous.

In russia kagor or wine like kagor is considered as the medicine .
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 04, 2005, 03:16:53 PM
Thanks for the poem, Hikaru.  If it's at all representative of current Russian popular views of Nicholas, it would seem the "hundred year rule" of history is at work -- a balanced view is finally taking hold.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 04, 2005, 06:43:38 PM
Quote

I suspect that the personal qualities that might make one a saint in the Orthodox Church are the very same qualities that would make one a very bad politician and statesman.



Hello Elizabeth  :)
I'm really not sure about this. If it is true, it says very little about politicians & statesmen & puts paid to any hope of creating a better world. The qualities that make a saint are surely (I may be wrong about whether or not these are the qualities accepted by the Orthodox Church) honesty, integrity, caring for one's fellow human beings...Would these qualities make a poor politician?

Quote

But to play devil's advocate for a moment (as they do officially in the Catholic Church before every canonization), I don't see much kenotic humility in Nicholas II until after he had abdicated and knew that he was facing death at the hands of his enemies. Before this, what was most remarkable about Nicholas II was his tireless obstinacy and unwillingness to compromise. His pride, as it were.


I think Nicholas's true humility lay in the fact that he considered himself God's instrument as Tsar. To our eyes it may seem misguided but he had been borught up to believe that God had called him to this role & therefore - though the office of Tsar went against all his natural instincts & abilities - he resigned himself to it.

Quote

As Tsarfan has noted, time after time Nicholas went out of his way to destroy the dreams of his best-intentioned, potentially most loyal subjects and to ally them with the revolutionaries. If you interpret this as God's will, then it must have been God's will that Russia undergo a hell under the Communism of Nicholas's successors.


I don't believe Nicholas 'went out of his way' to do this. He may have destroyed their dreams but again I believe it was because he genuinely believed he had a duty to maintain the autocracy as his father had done.

Whatever charges may be levelled against him, he always had (in his own eyes at least) the welfare of his country at heart. If he were merely trying to protect his own position, he would have summoned the regiments who remained loyal, to defend him at the time of his abdication, but knowing this would lead to civil war & unnecessarily shed Russian blood, he chose to abdicate.

He made many many mistakes, but it easy for us to judge them with hindsight & without understanding HIS thinking. (I think  :))
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 04, 2005, 11:31:37 PM
Quote

I don't believe Nicholas 'went out of his way' to do this. He may have destroyed their dreams but again I believe it was because he genuinely believed he had a duty to maintain the autocracy as his father had done.

Yes, but even Pobedonotsev (sp??) thought Nicholas' "Senseless Dreams" speech was overkill.  The facts show that Nicholas was a very reactionary Tsar.  Regardless of what he thought, the end result was disaster, wasn't it?

Quote

Whatever charges may be levelled against him, he always had (in his own eyes at least) the welfare of his country at heart. If he were merely trying to protect his own position, he would have summoned the regiments who remained loyal, to defend him at the time of his abdication, but knowing this would lead to civil war & unnecessarily shed Russian blood, he chose to abdicate.

Didn't Nicholas later regret his abdication?  He could have stood up to the men who were surrounding him and telling him his only choice was to abdicate.  But he didn't have the willpower to do so.  Do you think he would have abdicated if Alix had been on that train?  I don't think so.

Does anybody have an example of a time when Nicholas stood his ground?  Against his wife, ministers, etc??  The one famous example I can think of was marrying Alix, but that victory was only because his father was dying...
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 05, 2005, 04:58:29 AM
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Yes, but even Pobedenotsev (sp??) thought Nicholas' "Senseless Dreams" speech was overkill.  The facts show that Nicholas was a very reactionary Tsar.  Regardless of what he thought, the end result was disaster, wasn't it?



This speech WAS very unfortunate & a great mistake. In Nicholas's defence, however, it has to be said that this was what he saw as his chance to make his mark as a new Tsar. He was very young, very inexperienced & - being so frightened of taking on the responsibility of tsardom - overreached himself. I agree, though, it was a very unfortunate mistake.

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Didn't Nicholas later regret his abdication?  He could have stood up to the men who were surrounding him and telling him his only choice was to abdicate.  But he didn't have the willpower to do so.  Do you think he would have abdicated if Alix had been on that train?  I don't think so.



Nicholas abdicated to save the country from civil war & in the hope of maintaining unity in Russia so that the Russians could fulfil their pledges to their allies and continue the Great War. Patriotism was a major feature in his decision to abdicate. Since his abdication achieved neither of his hopes, it is little wonder that he later regretted his action. (It is impossible to know whether or not he would have abdicated had Alix been with him - it seems unlikely, but then she was totally opposed to the 1905 Manifesto which he granted regardless of her opinions.)

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Does anybody have an example of a time when Nicholas stood his ground?  Against his wife, ministers, etc??  The one famous example I can think of was marrying Alix, but that victory was only because his father was dying...


He had refused several 'suitable' brides in favour of Alix & their wedding had already been arranged BEFORE he had any idea that his father was dying.
He stood up to Alix on the question of opening the Duma in 1905.
He stood up to Alix in the appointment of Samarin as Procurator of the Holy Synod in 1915 (despite her desperate pleas!)
He stood up to Alix when he sent Rasputin back to Siberia.
He stood up to ALL his family immediately prior to the revolution (which was a pity - it would have been better if he had listened to them.)
He stood up to the German Kaiser's demands that he end the mobilization of his troops in July 1914.
He stood up to Alix when he refused to accept Rasputin's advice about how his troops should be manoevred.
These are just a few I thought of straight off..I'm sure there are many more occasions....

Nicholas's sister Olga writes very clearly that Nicholas may have humoured Alix about Rasputin but that he seldom acted on the advice that Rasputin offered. It isn't surprising that he wanted Alix to THINK he was listening to what Rasputin said; after all, he knew that Rasputin gave Alix reassurance & comfort in her worries over Alexei. Rather than weakness this seems to me a sign of good sense and diplomacy.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: pinklady on April 05, 2005, 06:51:56 AM
I think Nicholas was a good person, a good son, father and husband, but he was not a good Tsar, and he never would have been.(His personality and temperament did not allow this) And I think he was weak. I dont think he had good sense when it came to being the Tsar of Russia in the 20th century.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 05, 2005, 07:50:33 AM
As I was trying (quite badly) to express in my last post - or was it the last but one?  :-/ - I don't think that any ONE person could have dealt with such a situation in such a time & the fact that, as pinklady says, his character wasn't suit to the role, made it doubly difficult for Nicholas.
I have often wondered why he is called weak. In many ways I think of him as a 'weak' Tsar because he wasn't decisive in some matters...and yet, when he WAS decisive, he was accused of being obstinate or not listening to the will of the people.
Like Alexandra, he was a good person in situation that was impossible to deal with. He was a good man but one placed in a role that was outdated. Everything throughout the 19th century & early 20th century moved so quickly that no one could keep pace with it.
What exactly, I ask myself, was his weakness? And the more I think about it, the more difficult it is to answer.

(And, as another aside, I think Marie of Roumania would have made an excellent Empress of Russia.)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on April 05, 2005, 09:23:11 AM
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- I don't think that any ONE person could have dealt with such a situation in such a time & the fact that, as pinklady says, his character wasn't suit to the role, made it doubly difficult for Nicholas.
I have often wondered why he is called weak. In many ways I think of him as a 'weak' Tsar because he wasn't decisive in some matters...and yet, when he WAS decisive, he was accused of being obstinate or not listening to the will of the people.
 


Bluetoria
     I must disagree! I think that a "Peter' or a "Catherine" could have handled the massive problems with far greater skill than Nicholas. Even without such titanic wills as these, a more compromising and thoughtful leader could have lead Russia well into the 20th century with some success.
    To suggest that the circumstances were too difficult is - forgive me- a Cop Out as other nations were able to work with the needs of the people, it was the rigid autocratic and semi autocratic states that were unable to change. It was no easy task but it was possible! If I may quote (poorly :-[) from The Lion In Winter  
      If you're broken its because you're brittle
        I could face such losses as yours and laugh...


    Blue, you are a kind lady, as you often show great compassion for Nicholas and have remarked that you too often regret your past actions. But bear in mind that you are not an autocrat and that your choices may really only affect yourself.
    You're far too forgiving of an incompetent tsar who possessed no critical judgement.

rskkiya
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 05, 2005, 11:08:13 AM
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He had refused several 'suitable' brides in favour of Alix & their wedding had already been arranged BEFORE he had any idea that his father was dying.


I'm afraid I don't agree.  Several sources say that Alexander III and Empress Marie relented only after the Tsar's health began to fail.  Witte was was very clear about this in his memoirs.  As long as Alexander III was in good health, he ignored his son's wishes to marry Alix.

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He stood up to Alix on the question of opening the Duma in 1905.
He stood up to Alix in the appointment of Samarin as Procurator of the Holy Synod in 1915 (despite her desperate pleas!)
He stood up to Alix when he sent Rasputin back to Siberia.
He stood up to ALL his family immediately prior to the revolution (which was a pity - it would have been better if he had listened to them.)
He stood up to the German Kaiser's demands that he end the mobilization of his troops in July 1914.
He stood up to Alix when he refused to accept Rasputin's advice about how his troops should be manoevred.
These are just a few I thought of straight off..I'm sure there are many more occasions.....


If Nicholas had stood up to Alix on the Rasputin question, Rasputin would have been allowed to carry on the way he did.  Nicholas cannot be said to have "stood up" to Alex on Rasputin, or anything else.  If he did protest, he always backed down.  I think it was abundantly clear who was in charge in that family...

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Nicholas's sister Olga writes very clearly that Nicholas may have humoured Alix about Rasputin but that he seldom acted on the advice that Rasputin offered. It isn't surprising that he wanted Alix to THINK he was listening to what Rasputin said; after all, he knew that Rasputin gave Alix reassurance & comfort in her worries over Alexei. Rather than weakness this seems to me a sign of good sense and diplomacy.


Keeping Rasputin around was a mistake.  Certainly not a sign of good sense and diplomacy.  Rasputin's association with the imperial couple did much to damage the prestige of the throne.  A rather high price to pay for keeping Alix reassured and comforted, no?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 05, 2005, 11:48:34 AM
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I'm afraid I don't agree.  Several sources say that Alexander III and Empress Marie relented only after the Tsar's health began to fail.  Witte was was very clear about this in his memoirs.  As long as Alexander III was in good health, he ignored his son's wishes to marry Alix.


Perhaps they did only relent at that time but the fact remains that Nicholas did not agree to or even contemplate marrying anyone else in the meantime, did he? He was determined to wait for Alix.

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If Nicholas had stood up to Alix on the Rasputin question, Rasputin would have been allowed to carry on the way he did.  Nicholas cannot be said to have "stood up" to Alex on Rasputin, or anything else.  If he did protest, he always backed down.  I think it was abundantly clear who was in charge in that family...

Keeping Rasputin around was a mistake.  Certainly not a sign of good sense and diplomacy.  Rasputin's association with the imperial couple did much to damage the prestige of the throne.  A rather high price to pay for keeping Alix reassured and comforted, no?


Yes, I agree wholeheartedly that keeping Rasputin around was a terrible mistake. All the same he DID stand up to Alix on one (or possibly 2?) occasions when the moujik was sent packing.
Also, you said can anyone think of any occasions when Nicholas stood up to anyone & I made a whole list...including standing up to Alix about the appointment of Samarin. He stood up to de Witte too about the Russo-Japanese War (which was another mistake but he WAS standing his ground).

I guess at the end of the day we'll have to agree to disagree.  :)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Forum Admin on April 05, 2005, 12:04:12 PM
About Rasputin, there seems to be some "Monday Morning quarterbacking" here, hindsight being 20/20.

You MUST understand Nicholas's perspective on R, in order to make any salient judgment.  Nicholas had R investigated THREE times on his own initiative.  He found the gossip and rumor that was being brought to him was mostly made up. Rasputin was ALWAYS on his best behavior in front of the IF.  And, whether we today like it or not, the truth was that R DID have a healing influence on Alexei, for whatever reason.  Nicholas didn't "keep R. around just to placate Alexandra"... Nicholas thought he WAS a holy man, who had a demonstrable healing effect on the heir to the throne.

Nicholas almost never took Rasputin's advice on political matters, even when Alix pressed him to do so. Now, he never made an issue of it, but he did what he thought best.  

N and A were VERY isolated from Petersburg society.  They never saw Rasputin as any sort of threat to the throne.  After all three investigations, they merely turned a deaf ear to anything people said to them, as just more of the same made up stuff that had been brought earlier.

It is facile to say "Keeping Rasputin around was a mistake.  Certainly not a sign of good sense and diplomacy.  Rasputin's association with the imperial couple did much to damage the prestige of the throne.  A rather high price to pay for keeping Alix reassured and comforted, no? "  the answer is FAR more complex than that.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 05, 2005, 02:23:29 PM
Well, I think we can all agree that Rasputin did not cause the Russian Revolution. In fact, even if there had been no Rasputin, we can very safely say that there would still have been a revolution. Obviously much larger historical forces were at work.

The people's hatred of Rasputin, in the cities at least, was a symptom - not a cause - of the overall unpopularity of the autocracy with the elite (upper and middle) classes. My own opinion: if there had been no Rasputin, they would have had to invent him.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Georgiy on April 05, 2005, 03:57:57 PM
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Everything throughout the 19th century & early 20th century moved so quickly that no one could keep pace with it.  


And yet compared to the rate of change these days, the changes taking place might as well have been at a snail's pace. It's a wonder we don't all burn out from exhaustion trying to keep up with everything!

The system in Russia was obviously failing, but it is so much easier to talk about this with hindsight. How much harder it must have been for someone caught up in the very centre of the autocracy, in some ways stuck in a system very hard to alter, to see the reality of the situation. Just like some cancers, the 'victim' doesn't realise anything is wrong until it is far too late to do anything. With hindsight we can say "one should have done this or that", but if we had been in his postition do any of us feel confident to say we could have done better?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 05, 2005, 04:16:05 PM
Georgiy, the sad truth is that Nicholas had plenty of warnings all along the way that the worst was going to happen if he proceeded along his chosen course. Remember, Nicholas Nikolaevich had to threaten to shoot himself before Nicholas II would even agree to sign the October Manifesto, which saved his monarchy in 1905. There were plenty of "interventions" - not only from his advisors, members of the Duma, and the imperial family, but even from foreigners. As late as January 1917 the British Ambassador, George Buchanan, was warning Nicholas:

"Your Majesty, if I may be permitted to say so, has but one safe course open to you - namely, to break down the barrier that separates you from your people and to regain their confidence."

Good advice. Nicholas' response? Characteristic of his obstinacy and autocratic arrogance. "Do you mean that I am to regain the confidence of my people or that they are to regain my confidence?"

A complete impasse. By now Nicholas was living in a bubble of unreality largely of his own making.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on April 05, 2005, 04:30:03 PM
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Georgiy, the sad truth is that Nicholas had plenty of warnings all along the way that the worst was going to happen if he proceeded along his chosen course. Remember, Nicholas Nikolaevich had to threaten to shoot himself before Nicholas II would even agree to sign the October Manifesto, which saved his monarchy in 1905. There were plenty of "interventions" - not only from his advisors, members of the Duma, and the imperial family, but even from foreigners. As late as January 1917 the British Ambassador, George Buchanan, was warning Nicholas:

"Your Majesty, if I may be permitted to say so, has but one safe course open to you - namely, to break down the barrier that separates you from your people and to regain their confidence."

Good advice. Nicholas' response? Characteristic of his obstinacy and autocratic arrogance. "Do you mean that I am to regain the confidence of my people or that they are to regain my confidence?"

A complete impasse. By now Nicholas was living in a bubble of unreality largely of his own making.


Yes, I quite agree.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 05, 2005, 04:52:23 PM
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About Rasputin, there seems to be some "Monday Morning quarterbacking" here, hindsight being 20/20.

It is facile to say "Keeping Rasputin around was a mistake.  Certainly not a sign of good sense and diplomacy.  Rasputin's association with the imperial couple did much to damage the prestige of the throne.  A rather high price to pay for keeping Alix reassured and comforted, no? "  the answer is FAR more complex than that.


My comments about Rasputin were in the context of a response to an exchange of viewpoints between Blutoria and me.  In that context my comments are not simplistic at all.  And I (along with many others) am well acquainted with the details.  Whatever the truth about Rasputin, regardless of what Nicholas' three reports said, how isolated they were, or his healing influence on Alexis, associating with him made them look bad.  And Nicholas should have addressed this.  It seems like he wanted to, but always backtracked.  I do have a bachelor's degree in Russian History, after all, so I have some idea of what I'm talking about.

Anyway, the overriding point I was making was that Nicholas' lamentable lack of will power was one of his major failings.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 05, 2005, 07:21:25 PM
There are two aspects to the Rasputin question.  The first is whether Rasputin was or was not all the things claimed:  a healer, a charlatan, a holy man, a lecher, a naive peasant, a supreme manipulator.  Whether Nicholas had the answers to those questions right or wrong is not what brought down the monarchy.

What brought down the monarchy was Nicholas' certainty that only his answers (whether arrived at independently or through his wife's influence) mattered in Russia.  Rasputin was the symptom, not the disease.

No matter what Nicholas thought the answers were about Rasputin, the great majority of his more sophisticated subjects (the nobility, the Duma, his most credible ministers, even other Romanovs) were violently hostile to Rasputin and the malign influence they felt he exercised behind the closed doors of Tsarkoe Selo.  This is a collective chorus that even an autocrat ignores at his own peril.  (Peter III and Paul I were assasinated for going too far in ignoring the sentiments of their ruling classes.)

Upon readmitting Rasputin to St. Petersburg after Witte had banished him on his own authority, Nicholas told Witte, "better twenty Rasputins than one more day of hysterics at home."  A tsar deserving of his position would have chosen to deal with the hysterics at home before disenfranchising the political and social structure that underpinned his throne.

I am fully aware of the personal torment Nicholas must have suffered in watching his son suffer, and I admire the man who would risk so much to provide a palliative.  However history imposes a different standard on those who exert power over and draw wealth from millions of their fellow human beings.  Peter I let his son die (if, in fact, he didn't kill him) rather than see him become a focus for reactionary forces in Russia who would undo Peter's grand reach westward.  Sorry, kids, but that's sometimes the price history exacts of those who arrogate unto themselves the right to control the fates of nations.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 05, 2005, 08:52:11 PM
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Well, I think we can all agree that Rasputin did not cause the Russian Revolution. In fact, even if there had been no Rasputin, we can very safely say that there would still have been a revolution.  



I agree with you, Elisabeth.  It probably is the case that the revolution would have happened anyway.  Rasputin wasn't really around in the years leading up to the war with Japan and the 1905 revolution.  However I think his association did a lot of damage as Tsarfan says (above); damage that the Tsar could ill afford.

But wasn't it Alexander Kerensky who said, "Without Rasputin, there could have been no Lenin"?   I wonder if he really believed that or if he just said it to get himself off the hook for his own mistakes.  And isn't blaming Rasputin just another way of blaming Alix (and thereby kind of letting Nicholas off the hook??)

Comments?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Georgiy on April 05, 2005, 09:20:09 PM
That's a good point. Blaming Rasputin is too simplistic. So many things lead to the revolution, and it was probably inevitable long before Nicholas came to the throne - not if but when. I still think though that people caught up in the dead centre of tings often are quite unable to see or understand what is going on around them, and really, even if Nicholas had heeded warnings or tried to change things, in the end, I don't think it would have changed anything - there would probably still have been a revolution sooner or later. Whether there would have been Bolshevism is a different matter.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on April 06, 2005, 09:03:11 AM
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That's a good point. Blaming Rasputin is too simplistic. So many things lead to the revolution, and it was probably inevitable long before Nicholas came to the throne - not if but when. I still think though that people caught up in the dead centre of tings often are quite unable to see or understand what is going on around them, and really, even if Nicholas had heeded warnings or tried to change things, in the end, I don't think it would have changed anything - there would probably still have been a revolution sooner or later. Whether there would have been Bolshevism is a different matter.


Good point
  To blame Rasputin is pointless. Nicholas was a well meaning -but incompetant tsar - who being very insecure, depended upon his wife for support. She suffered under the double delusion that she (as equally lacking in critical judgement as her spouse) was 'strong willed'  and that she understood what Russia really needed. A more perfect pair to destroy an empire could scarsely be found! Their combined ignorance of reality and their faith in various romantic fantasies about the Russian people - plus- their refusal to work with those individuals willing to help seem almost "tailor made" for revolution!
   Even if Alexandra had been more comfortable with a constitutional monarchic system - her fanatical conversion to the elements of Orthodox Christianity which had more to do with "snake handling fundamentalists" than with the more theologically rational aspects of the church, doomed her limited comprehension to that of a rigid faith in Autocracy.

rskkiya
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 06, 2005, 10:06:36 AM
Oops.  Just re-read my message about Rasputin and realized I referred to other participants on this board as "kids".  Sorry . . . it's a bantering form of address we use in my office a lot.  I hope nobody read it as a schoolmaster lecturing to the unenlightened (although it certainly carried that whiff when I re-read the message).  For the record, I'm constantly delighted by the knowledge and insight I find on these boards.  In fact, I use references from others to help me focus my own readings in late imperial history.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Georgiy on April 06, 2005, 04:16:00 PM
I will go one further than Rsskiya and say that it wasn't only Nicholas that was well-meaning, but in her own way, I think Alexandra was too. However, by the early 20th Century Russia's problems were beyond being cured by well-meaningness (I am sure there is no such word, but I hope all know what I mean). I don't think he was necessarily a bad tsar - he could have been a good tsar under different circumstances in Russia, and indeed, by the second decade of the 20th century, Russia's economy was doing very well, but the war was the straw that broke the camel's back - as it did in several other Empires in Europe. Revolution probably would have come eventually even without the war, as I don't see that either N or A would have yielded to a more constitutional form of government. I wonder if a Tsar Alexei II would have granted constitutional reforms or would have adhered to autocracy, but that's pointless speculation, as he was still quite a child by the time he was killed, and who knows what his way of thinking may have been like had he lived to maturity.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Silja on April 06, 2005, 04:59:09 PM
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What brought down the monarchy was Nicholas' certainty that only his answers mattered in Russia.  

(Peter III and Paul I were assasinated for going too far in ignoring the sentiments of their ruling classes.)

.  Peter I let his son die (if, in fact, he didn't kill him) rather than see him become a focus for reactionary forces in Russia who would undo Peter's grand reach westward.  Sorry, kids, but that's sometimes the price history exacts of those who arrogate unto themselves the right to control the fates of nations.


When you say that it was Nicholas's certainty that only his answers mattered to Russia which brought down the monarchy, then I agree in some way. However, Peter wasn't less certain than Nicholas that only "his answers mattered" to Russia. Peter's was a sort of revolution from above, but implementing his reforms, he too quite ignored the sentiments of the ruling classes of his time.
Whether one considers Peter's reforms to have been good for Russia or not depends on one's personal ideology. Of course it is always easier to justify a person for applying the maxim that the end justifies the means when you agree with the end than when you do not.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 06, 2005, 06:29:31 PM
Peter certainly ignored the sentiments of the Boyars . . . or, more accurately, he abused their sentiments.  However, he was careful to fill the vacuum with other constituencies who would support his throne and agenda.  He brought new blood into the nobility and gave them a vested interest in his reign with property grants in his new capital and elsewhere.  More importantly, he created a system of meritocracy in the civil service that gave new groups a stake in the system.  The civil service was even made a route by which noble status could be attained after a specified level of accomplishment.  Nicholas, by contrast, cut off one constituency after another without doing anything to refill the vacuum.

But there is another key difference between the two tsars.  While Peter definitely kept his own counsel in setting the westernization agenda for Russia, he was eminently open to ideas from elsewhere about how to improve his country.  For instance, he took the unheard-of step of leaving Russia in the hands of a regent (in an era when it was impossible to stay in touch with daily developments) and donning worker garb to learn about shipbuilding, the naval sciences, and commercial trade.  Peter was, in short, hungry for new ideas and new ways to do things.  I cannot find a trace of this trait in Nicholas on matters of any real significance.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: hikaru on April 07, 2005, 09:51:35 AM
I like very much what Olga Paley said in her memoirs:
"We  ( By "we" , she means Family and Russian people) neglected Nicholas permanently, saying the bad and dirty words, but when revolution happenned etc. we
were ready to give everithing , including our lives , to be back to the past days, but it was late.
How silly were we"

Maybe it is not suitable to this thread but ..
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on April 08, 2005, 11:01:16 AM
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I like very much what Olga Paley said in her memoirs:
"We  ( By "we" , she means Family and Russian people) neglected Nicholas permanently, saying the bad and dirty words, but when revolution happenned etc. we
were ready to give everithing , including our lives , to be back to the past days, but it was late.
How silly were we"

Maybe it is not suitable to this thread but ..


I understood hikaru and so did most everyone.

Yes, the Romanovs did desert Nicholas II in the early days because many of them thought a govt. like Englands would have been best for Russia, however, once the Bolsheviks halted their dreams and began their terror, the Romanovs realized how much they caused not only the downfall of Nicholas II but also the downfall of everything in Russia which they had loved.  And, too, many realized that they would die for Russia, the Motherland.

Many stayed in Russia as long as they could.  But, in the end, they left Russia to the Bolsheviks.

In foreign countries they plotted and planned more than just the return of the Romanovs to the throne, but, the downfall of the Bolsheviks.

Some Romanovs like the GD Nicholas "the Tall One" continued his role in the anti-Bolshevik war...

By 1921,  almost all monies and energies had been spent and the Civil War was closing.

There is a great paragraph by one of the G Duchesses who talks about her and the other Romanov's love for Russia.  I'll go find it and bring it here to post.  It is touching and from the heart.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on April 08, 2005, 11:09:33 AM
EDUCATION OF A PRINCESS By Grand Duchess Maria p. 6:

"There is one thing, however, which comes to me from the past and which I treasure beyond anything else, present or to come, and that is my love for my country.  Ths devotion was implanted in me by my family.  In their great deeds and even in their failures, the Romanovs of all generations placed interests and glory of Russia above any personal calculations.  Russia was part of their soul and their body.  To them the demanded sacrifice was never too great, and this they proved with their lives.  I pray that their spirit may animate me to the end of my days."

Duchess Maria
New Yor City
1930

Maria was the dau. of GD Paul and  Alexandra, Princess of Greece [correction of original post:  Her mother was not Paul's second wife Countess Hohenfelsen (Princess Paley) which I originally wrote in this post AND RichC  kindly voice his correction in his post below.  Thanks].


Perhaps in the last days of Nicholas II and his family, they believed their fate was in the hands of their God and if he should so choose to demand they be sacrificed for Russia, then so be it.

Some may call their  [Nicholas II's and the others'] last act as heroic.

I think the Romanovs and others [brothers, sisters  on down to the private who had been loyal to their Tsar] who had failed Nicholas II believed this last act of the Imperial Family was heroic.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 08, 2005, 11:13:44 AM
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Yes, the Romanovs did desert Nicholas II in the early days because many of them thought a govt. like Englands would have been best for Russia,....
 AGRBear


Would you not agree, too - as I think Olga wrote elsewhere - that in the years leading up to the Revolution many of the members of the aristocracy were contributing to their own downfall by the way they lived their lives. They ignored all the moral standards demanded of them & were so intent on pursuing their own pleasure & whims that they overlooked their duty to the people & to the Tsar.

I sometimes wonder - when one compares this to the years immediately prior to the collapse of the Roman Empire, the French Revolution etc. etc. - whether the decline into decadence is SYMPTOMATIC of a people/nation losing its way, or the CAUSE of its being lost.  :-/  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on April 08, 2005, 11:32:14 AM
One by one the idle rich [Romanov on down to Baron] were going bankrupt and had to sell their lands, their homes and their jewels.

When these lands went up for sale,  some of my ancestsors, who were becoming part of the middle class, which was just getting a foothold in Russia, were buying these lands.

This was good for my ancestors and relatives but this wasn't very good for those in upper society who had no concept of how to save money or deal with their properties [farm land to factories to mines and forrests....] from which their income should have flowed into their hands.  And, it was the peasants who suffered this mismanagement.

In the end, nearly every Russian who had held some kind of responsibilities before WWI, the Revolutions and the Civil War should shoulder some of the blame for the rise of the Bolsheviks and the Bloody Terror under Lenin and then Stalin.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 08, 2005, 11:39:04 AM
Thank you for that post, AGRBear. Your information is always very interesting because you have this first-hand knowledge (as it were) from your own family/ancestors. Thank you.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 08, 2005, 12:32:11 PM
Quote
EDUCATION OF A PRINCESS By Grand Duchess Maria p. 6:

Duchess Maria, dau. of GD Paul and his second wife Countess Hohenfelsen (Princess Paley)
New Yor City
1930
 
AGRBear


Isn't she actually the daughter of GD Paul and his FIRST wife, the one who died giving birth to Dmitry?


Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on April 08, 2005, 12:37:25 PM
Opps.  You're right.  I had a piece of note paper in the way when I was looking at the chart.

GDuchess Maria was the daughter of GD Paul and his first wife Alexandra, Princess of Greece.

My mistake.  Sorry everyone.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on April 08, 2005, 02:00:53 PM
Unfortunately Nicholas was entirely unwilling to be a constitional monarch, he was both tempermentally and intelectually opposed to it, although, as many here have remarked - his personal qualities would have been well suited for such a role.

rskkiya
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 08, 2005, 02:02:47 PM
Yes, some of the nobility did sink into sloth and excess under Nicholas II . . . but that would have been entirely foreseeable had Nicholas been able to apply the lessons of history to his own policies.

A forcibly-idled nobility behaves exactly the way the Russian nobility behaved in the last years before the revolution.  Remember that Louis XIV endured a rebellion of the French nobility during his youth and subsequently determined to destory their political, social, and military influence.  He wanted to cut them off from their local bases of military support and from the successful management of their estates as a means of funding their activities.  He accomplished this by creating an artificial world at Versailles, making it clear that the only means of tapping into goverment largesse was year-round residence at court, and making it so expensive to live there that they couldn't make ends meet without that largesse.  It was a policy that was brilliantly successful in the short run but that ultimately turned the nobility into a liability for the crown instead of a support.

Nicholas essentially forcibly-idled his nobility, but without the need Louis had to do so.  Every signal sent by the crown to the Russian nobility during the last decades of imperial Russia was that they should stay out of the affairs of the nation -- even local government in their home districts -- except as unthinking implementers of imperial policy.

One of the first acts of Alexander III upon ascending the throne was effectively to exile one of Alexander II's brothers to his estate at Strelna because he was sympathetic to a reform agenda.  Nicholas and Alexandra continued on this path of side-lining the nobility, as one attempt after another to nudge them away from their abysmally short-sighted instincts or biases resulted only in being ostracized.

The nobility despaired to no avail over Nicholas' disastrous "senseless dreams" speech.  Nicholas Nicholaievitch had to pull a gun on himself in front of the tsar to get him to listen to any sense in 1905.  From 1903 (the year of the last imperially-hosted event for the nobility), Nicholas and Alexandra drew a thick veil between themselves and their nobility.  Even Ella, Alexandra's own sister, and Sandro, Nicholas' favorite cousin, were dismissed from the royal presence after daring to suggest a different course during the final unravelling of the monarchy.

Flush with wealth, cut off from any meaningful role in national affairs and from access to the head of their own social order, and watching helplessly as Russia careened from one domestic and international crisis to another, is it any wonder that they sank into such malaise?  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 08, 2005, 04:02:18 PM
We should keep in mind, however, that only a very small percentage of the Russian nobility was "flush with wealth" like the Yussupovs - the overwhelming majority were fairly impoverished by Western standards. Their estates had been sold or mortgaged off to pay debts; and these estates were often not very large to begin with, because unlike in England, for example, where an estate passed to the eldest son only, in Russia the estate was divided equally among all the children, male and female. This is why the number of large landowners among the Russian nobility was relatively small, again, compared to Western Europe. So the Russian nobility was far more dependent on the state than their Western counterparts for carving out careers for themselves in the administration or the army. Many Russian noblemen also entered the professions, becoming lawyers, doctors, professors; some even engaged in trade, with no apparent diminution of their social status.

But I think this is what makes the Russian nobility especially tragic, in so far as many of them were such devoted servants of the state, patriots who wanted the best for Russia, including reforms that would allow them a greater say in how their country was governed. Nicholas's "senseless dreams" speech and the self-imposed isolation of the imperial family at Tsarskoe Selo must have hit these men and women especially hard.    
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 08, 2005, 04:04:44 PM
I'm one of those who doesn't believe that the Revolution was inevitable.  I don't think it was foreordained.  

And although there was sloth and moral decline among some of the nobility, I'm not sure it was that widespread.  We shouldn't forget that during these years (before World War I) Russia's economy was EXPLODING.  Russia had the world's fastest growing economy, by many measures, during these years.  They were a major wheat exporter, I'm told.  There was also an amazing flowering of Russian culture during this time, known as the Silver Age.  It must have been a vibrant, wonderful time to live in Moscow or St. Petersburg during those years.

It wasn't all gloom and doom.  As Richard Pipes says, there was every reason to expect that Tsarism would continue in Russia into the foreseeable future....
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 08, 2005, 04:32:23 PM
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I'm one of those who doesn't believe that the Revolution was inevitable.  I don't think it was foreordained.  

And although there was sloth and moral decline among some of the nobility, I'm not sure it was that widespread.  We shouldn't forget that during these years (before World War I) Russia's economy was EXPLODING.  Russia had the world's fastest growing economy, by many measures, during these years.  They were a major wheat exporter, I'm told.  There was also an amazing flowering of Russian culture during this time, known as the Silver Age.  It must have been a vibrant, wonderful time to live in Moscow or St. Petersburg during those years.

It wasn't all gloom and doom.  As Richard Pipes says, there was every reason to expect that Tsarism would continue in Russia into the foreseeable future....


All this is true enough. I go back and forth on this question of inevitability myself. I came away from Orlando Figes' A People's Tragedy more or less convinced that the Russian Revolution was inevitable, because of four basic factors: 1) an intransigent, reactionary tsar; 2) a small but very influential, deeply radicalized intelligentsia; 3) a peasantry that made up more than 80% of the total population and was itself a nascent radical force because it was land-hungry; and 4) World War I.

Now Tsarfan has persuaded me that an exceptional tsar, a tsar of genius like Peter or Catherine the Great, might have overcome all of these factors - might even have kept Russia out of World War I (certainly the Russo-Japanese War was avoidable). But this is still a pretty big historical "what if." As one historian remarked, there was a marked downturn in the quality of European rulers in the second half of the nineteenth century - perhaps indicative of some kind of overall decline in the royal gene pool. The odds were really against another Peter or Catherine turning up - and as we know, they didn't.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 08, 2005, 06:28:58 PM
You're both right in your observations about the wider nobility, and I should have been more accurate by restricting my observations to the upper tier of nobility that interacted with the crown.

I also agree that the revolution was not foreordained.  Some people, for instance, take the rise of political assassinations in Russia as a sign of an irreversible slide toward breakdown.  However, it was an era of emergent political terrorism throughout the western world.  Three American presidents (Lincoln, McKinley, and Garfield) were assassinated during the reign of Russia's last three tsars, as was Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary.  America survived and, although the Austrian monarchy collapsed at the end of WWI, the public reverence for Franz-Josef (d. 1916) was such that his mistress was left to live out her life peacefully in her apartments at Schonbrunn Palace.

England underwent the same social dislocations during its rapid industrialization a century earlier that Russia was undergoing at the turn of the 20th century.  (Some of the London conditions Dickens depicts could have just as accurately described St. Petersburg factories.)  Yet England prospered as these social conditions were addressed.  And Germany, a nominally-autocratic nation, weathered the same dislocations in the second half of the 19th century by pioneering the first workers compensation and social welfare laws.

1917 was made inevitable by one thing and one thing only -- the mystical shroud of unreality that Nicholas and Alexandra drew about themselves in their Tsarskoye Selo isolation.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on April 08, 2005, 09:36:04 PM
Quote
    Nicholas was a well meaning -but incompetant tsar - who being very insecure, depended upon his wife for support. She suffered under the double delusion that she (as equally lacking in critical judgement as her spouse) was 'strong willed'  and that she understood what Russia really needed. A more perfect pair to destroy an empire could scarsely be found! Their combined ignorance of reality and their faith in various romantic fantasies about the Russian people - plus- their refusal to work with those individuals willing to help seem almost "tailor made" for revolution!
    Even if Alexandra had been more comfortable with a constitutional monarchic system - her fanatical conversion to the elements of Orthodox Christianity which had more to do with "snake handling fundamentalists" than with the more theologically rational aspects of the church, doomed her limited comprehension to that of a rigid faith in Autocracy.
rskkiya


     As long as this was the status quo, the Revolution was an inevitability!

rskkiya

(my apologies to any 'snakehandlers' that I may have inadvertantly offended!)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 09, 2005, 09:57:15 AM
Quote
I also agree that the revolution was not foreordained.  Some people, for instance, take the rise of political assassinations in Russia as a sign of an irreversible slide toward breakdown.  However, it was an era of emergent political terrorism throughout the western world.  Three American presidents (Lincoln, McKinley, and Garfield) were assassinated during the reign of Russia's last three tsars, as was Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary.  America survived and, although the Austrian monarchy collapsed at the end of WWI, the public reverence for Franz-Josef (d. 1916) was such that his mistress was left to live out her life peacefully in her apartments at Schonbrunn Palace.

England underwent the same social dislocations during its rapid industrialization a century earlier that Russia was undergoing at the turn of the 20th century.  (Some of the London conditions Dickens depicts could have just as accurately described St. Petersburg factories.)  Yet England prospered as these social conditions were addressed.  And Germany, a nominally-autocratic nation, weathered the same dislocations in the second half of the 19th century by pioneering the first workers compensation and social welfare laws.

1917 was made inevitable by one thing and one thing only -- the mystical shroud of unreality that Nicholas and Alexandra drew about themselves in their Tsarskoye Selo isolation.


I have to disagree with that last statement, actually. It's true that the Russian Revolution was probably not inevitable - but only as long as we accept that World War I was not inevitable.

IMO, Russia's situation at the beginning of the twentieth century was simply not comparable with that of Western nations like Germany, Austria-Hungary, Great Britain and the United States. What made those countries different from Russia (even in the nineteenth century!) was that each had a large, thriving, well educated middle class; strong, highly evolved governmental institutions; and a well developed civil society. Russia had none of these things. Yes, the situation was changing, but too gradually for it to make a difference when a real crisis like World War I came. To place the burden of blame on Nicholas and Alexandra for the total collapse of the autocratic system and the rise of Bolshevism is overly simplistic, IMO. Even if Russia had had a truly exceptional tsar in 1914, it might still have been too late to make a difference. The fact of the matter is that the reforms implemented after 1905 should have been in place long before Nicholas II ever came to the throne.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 09, 2005, 10:37:40 AM
I generally agree with you, Elisabeth.  I think the revolution was highly likely, especially once WWI ignited.  But I don't think it would have been inevitable had Nicholas been a different kind of tsar.

WWI -- or at least Russia's involvement in it -- might have been avoided had Nicholas had more understanding and foresight.  He had adopted his father's pan-slavism uncritically, and much of the reason he was so boxed in by the events of August 1914 was the intemperate statements he had made for so long about Russia's determination to protect the Slavs in eastern Europe.  I think the appeal of pan-slavism to Nicholas (who had very little Slavic blood in him) was that it was a romantic hearkening back to an old Russia that would never have to think about all that liberal claptrap going on in Europe -- things like parliaments, elections, social legislation.

The Russo-Japanese war had made clear just how out of the game Russia's military capability was.  To have blustered so about a policy that any half-witted diplomat could have told him eventually implied a collision with the far-stronger military power of Germany was the height of irresponsibility.

All of this was just one other aspect of the shroud of unreality in which Nicholas wrapped himself.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 09, 2005, 10:51:01 AM
Quote
I generally agree with you, Elisabeth.  I think the revolution was highly likely, especially once WWI ignited.  But I don't think it would have been inevitable had Nicholas been a different kind of tsar.

WWI -- or at least Russia's involvement in it -- might have been avoided had Nicholas had more understanding and foresight.  He had adopted his father's pan-slavism uncritically, and much of the reason he was so boxed in by the events of August 1914 was the intemperate statements he had made for so long about Russia's determination to protect the Slavs in eastern Europe.  I think the appeal of pan-slavism to Nicholas (who had very little Slavic blood in him) was that it was a romantic hearkening back to an old Russia that would never have to think about all that liberal claptrap going on in Europe -- things like parliaments, elections, social legislation.

The Russo-Japanese war had made clear just how out of the game Russia's military capability was.  To have blustered so about a policy that any half-witted diplomat could have told him eventually implied a collision with the far-stronger military power of Germany was the height of irresponsibility.

All of this was just one other aspect of the shroud of unreality in which Nicholas wrapped himself.


I agree that Nicholas, as tsar, should have known better than to go to war against Germany. We tend to forget, however, that his pan-slavism was a patriotic sentiment widely shared by his people, at least among the urban and educated classes, and that initially at least, the war was hugely popular among that section of the public. Imagine, then, if Russia had been a fully fledged, genuine constitutional monarchy by 1914: isn't there some likelihood that voters and statesmen alike would have demanded that Russia declare war on Germany to protect its Slavic brother Serbia? Can we be so sure that any tsar, and particularly a real constitutional monarch, would have been able to avoid World War I?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 09, 2005, 02:17:01 PM
Good point about the breadth of support for pan-slavism, Elisabeth.  But there was also widespread sentiment for governmental reform among the same groups, and Nicholas was willing to ignore those viewpoints completely.  At every major event of his reign -- his ascension, the opening of the Duma, and the tercentenary -- Nicholas took pains to insult the hopes of the educated classes for even modest reforms.  Even after his hand was forced and a Duma was instituted in 1906 with widespread support, he took every occasion to backtrack toward autocracy, including two amendments of the electoral laws to be sure the Duma was rendered as neutral as possible.

However, you are probably right that Russia would have entered WWI even had Nicholas been in less complete control of foreign policy.  But had the communications with Germany been handled by a foreign ministry and the decision to mobilize been made by a general staff both answerable to an elected authority, when that war brought Russia to its knees the blame could not have all been laid at the monarchy's doorstep.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 09, 2005, 04:03:43 PM
Quote
Good point about the breadth of support for pan-slavism, Elisabeth.  But there was also widespread sentiment for governmental reform among the same groups, and Nicholas was willing to ignore those viewpoints completely.  At every major event of his reign -- his ascension, the opening of the Duma, and the tercentenary -- Nicholas took pains to insult the hopes of the educated classes for even modest reforms.  Even after his hand was forced and a Duma was instituted in 1906 with widespread support, he took every occasion to backtrack toward autocracy, including two amendments of the electoral laws to be sure the Duma was rendered as neutral as possible.

However, you are probably right that Russia would have entered WWI even had Nicholas been in less complete control of foreign policy.  But had the communications with Germany been handled by a foreign ministry and the decision to mobilize been made by a general staff both answerable to an elected authority, when that war brought Russia to its knees the blame could not have all been laid at the monarchy's doorstep.


I am not arguing that Nicholas was a good tsar or even that he had the makings of one; as I've said repeatedly, he was intransigent and reactionary, obstinate and arrogant, all quite negative characteristics. What I am wondering is, if it would have made a substantial difference, had he - or someone more capable than he - been a constitutional monarch, in terms of Russia entering the war against Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Because this is where I think you run into difficulty with the Great Man or Great Woman scenario. Either you have a Great Tsar in the place of Nicholas, a tsar who has retained enough of his autocratic power to prevent Russia's entry into World War I; or else you have a constitutional monarch, who probably would not have been able to prevent it. In the latter case, again, I think you get a revolution. As you yourself argued so compellingly earlier in this thread, and as I have stated myself, again and again, Russia simply did not have the resources or the infrastructure or the population make-up to fight and withstand a world war. The only way to prevent a revolution was to avoid entering into a war against Germany in the first place.

Moreover, the unique problem in Russia, as opposed to Western Europe, was that you had an immense, largely uneducated peasant population, hungry for land, and an extremely tiny, but again, I repeat, extremely influential radicalized intelligentsia. It's not so much the numbers of political assassinations that are alarming in the last decades of imperial rule (although that number is alarming) - it's the fact that the Russian elite, nobility and middle class alike, by and large excused these assassinations as somehow "justified" and "necessary." This was the danger in Russia. Terror had become an acceptable means of political struggle against a repressive state (and continued to remain "acceptable" even after the October Manifesto). Add to this the horrific brutalization of tens of thousands of peasant soldiers fighting a world war and I think what you get is a recipe for Apocalypse.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 09, 2005, 08:34:21 PM
I don't think we disagree much on this.  While I think a different tsar might have kept Russia out of WWI, I'm not sure he could have.  (There were, after all, some treaties, particularly with France, that would have taken some very clever sidestepping to abrogate.)  My point was that, even if Russia had entered the war and suffered many of the same reverses (which was likely, given the other conditions you point out), the monarchy might have survived had responsibility been shared with a representative legislature and had Nicholas not already done so much to erode support for the monarchy well before 1914

Although I do believe the monarchy would have had to move toward constitutional government to survive in the long run, I think it still had time to make the transition in a more measured fashion had Nicholas not made so many mistakes.  Germany, for instance, was moving in that direction throughout the latter half of the 19th century.  And the role of England's monarchy within the constitutional system began quite strong during the Restoration.  It took England over two centuries to reduce the monarch completely to a ceremonial figurehead.

I know I earlier mentioned Catherine II as a monarch who I felt had a strong chance of avoiding the revolution.  However, I do not think only a monarch of her caliber would have had a chance.  Nicholas' problem was not so much lack of talent of the Catherine caliber, but an almost unbelievable ability to undermine the monarchy by everything he did -- his speeches crushing hopes of progress, his letting the rumors of Rasputin's conduct eat away at his family's reputation, his cutting off of the nobility and bureaucracy, his failures to support Stolypin and Witte in key reforms, his refusal to recognize Russia's military limitations, his poor choice of ministers during the war, the vacillations that paralyzed initiative in the competent ministers who might have helped him, and on and on.

Your litany of issues facing Russia is absolutely correct.  However, for all that, I think the monarchy had a strong enough hold in Russia that it would have taken extraordinary incompetence to rob it of the time needed for Russia to adjust to the 20th century.  (As RichC has noted, industrial production was growing by leaps and bounds, the economy was strengthening, and land ownership was broadening in the decade before the war.)

In the end, I think two things were necessary:  first, a tsar who could avoid an unrelenting string of ham-handed mistakes; then, at some point over the next few decades, a tsar with a vision unclouded enough to acknowledge the need for some representative elements in the government and the will to act on it.  Since the first condition was not met, we'll never really know whether the second would have been met and whether it would have turned the trick.

Gotta tell 'ya, Elisabeth . . . this is fun.  Don't get to have these kinds of conversations around the office.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 10, 2005, 09:25:33 AM
Tsarfan, this is tremendous fun for me, too. I know we'll never resolve this question, which is still (and no doubt always will be) a matter of debate for professional historians, but it's a wonderful intellectual challenge to try!

I do think we're in agreement, at least generally speaking. Something tells me, though, that a tsar of the calibre of Peter or Catherine really was required to push through a major reform program successfully. Remember Alexander II's struggles, which eventually ended in some speedy back-pedalling. Or take Stolypin, a man of many talents, who encountered seemingly insuperable obstacles in his implementation of land reforms: a broad section of the peasantry, hostile to private land ownership; lack of bureaucratic infrastructure at the local levels; a suspicious provincial nobility, and so on.

And then again there is the question of time; I think most historians agree that it would have taken several generations for Stolypin's land reforms to succeed. And that's just one (albeit large) area of reform... So, IMO, our Peter or Catherine would have had to come to the throne in 1894 and immediately set to work - no time for shilly-shallying! At least for a while he or she could ride the wave of good will and high expectations that came with the accession of a new tsar. That same good will that Nicholas II so thoughtlessly squandered.

Nevertheless, isn't there an awful sadness that attaches to arguing that the Russian revolution was not inevitable? At least if it was inevitable, the coming tragedy takes on some historical grandeur - all those millions of lives lost - a nation destroyed -  because higher, inexorable historical forces were at work. But if all the carnage was avoidable? And everything went wrong because of the accident of birth of one measly human being? "As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport."





   
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on April 10, 2005, 11:37:17 AM
Remember, or maybe you don't, anyway, there was a  period of time when Catherine II "the Great" was a liberal and bringing into Russia all things that would have started a pre-runner of a constitutional govt. and then revolutionaries  started their rise in Europe and she had to withdraw back into what I call the "old ways".  She, also, realized as she grew older that Russia wasn't ready, nor was she ready to give up her contol as a monarch.  So, using Catherine II "the Great" as an example is good but only as far as her time in history provides us.  She didn't have to deal with a well oiled machine like what the revolutionists/Bolsheviks had orgainized by the early 1900s.   Nor had she to deal with the industrial revolution or the defeats of war.  Her generals were excellent and gained a lot of land for Russia.  And, it was good land to be known as "New Russia" that was fertile and when the GR [German-Russians] took up the plow they started to provide the rest of Russia with wheat, barely, potatoes, sunflowers seeds, grapes, beef, sheep.... The Jews came in as merchants and all these things flowed into all corners of Russia..... The Italians, Greeks, Finns all were rising into the middle class.  The Russian peasant were all to often the "worker bees" but many were rising out of this fatilistic yoke and were becoming self effiencent in the factories and cottage industries....  And all of them had cream rising to the top who were becoming a middle class and there was the start of the upper middle class.

The middle class was needed for a consitutional govt. and Russia didn't have a big enough or strong enough middle class just before WW I.

It was the horror of WW I that took the lives of so many and the revolutionary strikes of the railroads, the stoppage of things like bullets and boots to the front lines, not to mention the food, made everything horric and deadly.

Just reading the stories/diaries/ letters and books about this time period are real tear jerkers.

The masses which fall under most historians as "peasants" included a huge variety of people of many cultures living within Russia at this time.

The Duma and Nicholas II were having their difficulties but each day the members of the Duma were growing stronger and stronger....  I know some of the desc. of several of the members of the Duma and all these men had such great dreams for Russia.

It was a terribly complex time that was so full of a possible bright future for Russia going into a new age and a new time, but,  WWI got in the way and sucked away the future like a whirlpool that pulled Russia down into a terrible dark time.

I think, despite Nicholas II's stuborness and arogant character that it might have in time,  realized his promises to his father were no longer the best for Russia.

But the impatience youth of the revolutionaries who wanted a change and wanted it yesterday and not tomorrow touched the masses who were weary from the yoke of the monarch and were ripe for such rhectoric spewing out of the revolutionist's mouth that the voice of reason was lost in the den of angry voices.

Men on the front didn't want to fight anymore.  They were carving wooden bullets, their boots, if they had any, has crumbled and rags were wrapped around their feet, their bellies were empty and they just wanted to go home and leave the stench of the trenches, the rotting bloated bodies of the horses and human beings....

Who knows if someone with a strong character like another Catherine II "the Great" or " Peter "the Great" could have made a difference.  The small window of opportunity was there only between March and Red Oct.  It would have taken a Herculean effort to organize a group of people who agreed upon the basic ideals for Russia's future.  

This kind of togatherness doesn't happen often in human history.  The USA was fortunate to have had their Washington, Jefferson, and others who did agree on such things as the "Bill of Rights" ...... and then won the revolution or as the British tell it the "Rebelion of the Americans".

So many many things have to fall into place and they didn't for the constutionists but they did for the Leninites, and, this was the difference.

And, in the end the ex-Nicholas II ended up in as a prisioner in a far away placed called Ekaterinburg, Siberia.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 10, 2005, 12:09:32 PM
Quote
Tsarfan, this is tremendous fun for me, too. I know we'll never resolve this question, which is still (and no doubt always will be) a matter of debate for professional historians, but it's a wonderful intellectual challenge to try!


I too am having great fun reading and thinking about these things.  This is by far the most interesting thread that I've encountered on the site!

Quote

I do think we're in agreement, at least generally speaking. Something tells me, though, that a tsar of the calibre of Peter or Catherine really was required to push through a major reform program successfully. Remember Alexander II's struggles, which eventually ended in some speedy back-pedalling. Or take Stolypin, a man of many talents, who encountered seemingly insuperable obstacles in his implementation of land reforms: a broad section of the peasantry, hostile to private land ownership; lack of bureaucratic infrastructure at the local levels; a suspicious provincial nobility, and so on.


I agree that Russia needed a Peter or a Catherine at this critical time, but I still don't agree fully with Tsarfan's wholesale condemnation of Nicholas II.  I still don't think Nicholas was as unintelligent or as foolish as Tsarfan does but I do think he was in over his head.  (I hope I'm not misreading your judgements, Tsarfan!)  


Quote
And then again there is the question of time; I think most historians agree that it would have taken several generations for Stolypin's land reforms to succeed. And that's just one (albeit large) area of reform... So, IMO, our Peter or Catherine would have had to come to the throne in 1894 and immediately set to work - no time for shilly-shallying! At least for a while he or she could ride the wave of good will and high expectations that came with the accession of a new tsar. That same good will that Nicholas II so thoughtlessly squandered.


All these things are true, but I want to say here that I'm against the inevitability theory (referring back to several previous posts) because it's basically a Marxist theory of history.  If the revolution was "inevitable" then it justifies everything that Lenin and his cronies did.  Marx is the one who says the fall of Tsarism was inevitable, and I'm not a Marxist.  I believe that people can effect changes, not just social forces.

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Nevertheless, isn't there an awful sadness that attaches to arguing that the Russian revolution was not inevitable? At least if it was inevitable, the coming tragedy takes on some historical grandeur - all those millions of lives lost - a nation destroyed -  because higher, inexorable historical forces were at work. But if all the carnage was avoidable? And everything went wrong because of the accident of birth of one measly human being? "As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport."


It wasn't all because of Nicholas' failures.  He's not the only one we can blame.  Whatever you say about Nicholas, he was the Tsar who oversaw the granting of the first constitution and the Duma.  And when it came time for the government to work with the opposition (in the first two Dumas) the latter would not work with the government.  They wanted complete revolution.  Look at Nicholas' grandfather; when he attempted to share power with the "opposition" they blew him up!  I say that even with Nicholas in power, if the opposition had tried in good faith to work with the government, things might have been very different.

Also, I do not think World War I per se had much to do with the Revolution.  As Pipes says, "...the unrelenting hostility between the government and the political opposition was the prime immediate cause of the (Imperial) regime's collapse."  There was still broad support for the war among the population at the time of the February revolution.  Support for the war only dropped after Kerensky (who I think was less qualified than Nicholas) took over.  And the October "revolution" was not really a revolution at all; it was a coup.

Nicholas' diary entry for March 2nd includes the famous line, "All around me is treachery, cowardice, and deceit!"  He was right.

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Good point about the breadth of support for pan-slavism, Elisabeth.  But there was also widespread sentiment for governmental reform among the same groups, and Nicholas was willing to ignore those viewpoints completely.  At every major event of his reign -- his ascension, the opening of the Duma, and the tercentenary -- Nicholas took pains to insult the hopes of the educated classes for even modest reforms.


Were these elements willing to work with the Tsar or did they just want to topple him?






Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 10, 2005, 01:21:03 PM
Okay, folks . . . let's keep it going.  (But, as Elisabeth said, there can be no winners here.  We're all speculating on an unknowable alternate past.)

While I've compared the situation in Russia on several occasions to those in western European nations, there was one very big difference in Russia.  It was a less integrated society than England, France, or Germany.  There were almost two Russias:  the large majority of the population who lived in untouched rural isolation in conditions that remained essentially unchanged until Stalin's tme, and the urban classes.  There was considerably less mobility and contact between these spheres than in western Europe.

Political change in Russia has always played out on a tiny stage:  the revolt of the Streltsy under Peter I and his locking away of Sophie in a convent, Elisabeth's seizing power overnight in a palace bedroom, Catherine II's deposing of her husband with just a few guards regiments . . . and Lenin's overthrow of the provisional government by occupying a few key buildings in central Petrograd.  The Revolution of 1917 occurred in a few of the cities and towns, and those towns were microcosms of the larger societies of western Europe.  They had universities, a press, a significant commercial class, middle-class professionals, a large civil bureaucracy, industrialists, artists and artisans.  Had the players on this comparatively small stage been better managed, issues in the agrarian classes would not likely have brought about a collapse of the monarchy in 1917.

While the countryside erupted in revolt in 1905, the 1917 revolution erupted in Petrograd, played out in Petrograd, and could have been avoided (at least for the time being) by managing the issues that mattered to the population of Petrograd.  Until the situation in Petrograd suddenly unwound, even Lenin felt he was not likely to see revolution in his lifetime.

Revolutions generally do not occur because specific horrible events occur.  No horrible event precipitated the Glorious Revolution in 17th-century England.  No horrible event precipitated the American Revolution, or the French Revolution, or the Decembrist Revolt under Nicholas I, or the 1848 revolutions throughout central Europe.  Revolutions occur because hope has failed for one or more key constituencies in a society.  Nicholas, by his disenfranchisement of too many people from participation in the affairs of their nation, destroyed hope for too many people in Russia.  The supreme irony is that the Soviets who succeeded him let the same thing happen, and they paid their own price in 1989.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 10, 2005, 02:15:39 PM
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Okay, folks . . . let's keep it going.  (But, as Elisabeth said, there can be no winners here.  We're all speculating on an unknowable alternate past.)

While I've compared the situation in Russia on several occasions to those in western European nations, there was one very big difference in Russia.  It was a less integrated society than England, France, or Germany.  There were almost two Russias:  the large majority of the population who lived in untouched rural isolation in conditions that remained essentially unchanged until Stalin's tme, and the urban classes.  There was considerably less mobility and contact between these spheres than in western Europe.

Political change in Russia has always played out on a tiny stage:  the revolt of the Streltsy under Peter I and his locking away of Sophie in a convent, Elisabeth's seizing power overnight in a palace bedroom, Catherine II's deposing of her husband with just a few guards regiments . . . and Lenin's overthrow of the provisional government by occupying a few key buildings in central Petrograd.  The Revolution of 1917 occurred in a few of the cities and towns, and those towns were microcosms of the larger societies of western Europe.  They had universities, a press, a significant commercial class, middle-class professionals, a large civil bureaucracy, industrialists, artists and artisans.  Had the players on this comparatively small stage been better managed, issues in the agrarian classes would not likely have brought about a collapse of the monarcy in 1917.

While the countryside erupted in revolt in 1905, the 1917 revolution erupted in Petrograd, played out in Petrograd, and could have been avoided (at least for the time being) by managing the issues that mattered to the population of Petrograd.  Until the situation in Petrograd suddenly unwound, even Lenin felt he was not likely to see revolution in his lifetime.

Revolutions generally do not occur because specific horrible events occur.  No horrible event precipitated the Glorious Revolution in 17th-century England.  No horrible event precipitated the American Revolution, or the French Revolution, or the Decembrist Revolt under Nicholas I, or the 1848 revolutions throughout central Europe.  Revolutions occur because hope has failed for one or more key constituencies in a society.  Nicholas, by his disenfranchisement of too many people from participation in the affairs of their nation, destroyed hope for too many people in Russia.  The supremene irony is that the Soviets who succeeded him let the same thing happen, and they paid their own price in 1989.


I agree that revolutions are not precipitated by single events. On the contrary, to paraphrase de Tocqueville: "Revolutions don't happen when bad governments do bad things, but when bad governments start reforming themselves." The moment of reform is the moment of danger. This has been true of most revolutions, including the Russian Revolution of March 1917. Who were the Russian people fighting for in WWI, after all? The tsar (as before 1905)? The Duma? The tsar and the Duma? These were important questions, when you consider that most of the Russian army was made up of illiterate peasants with an undeveloped sense of national identity, who did not know where Serbia was, much less Germany or Austria-Hungary. The over-arching ideology (The Tsar-Batiushka and his children, his soldiers) had already started to break down.

And certainly by March 1917 Nicholas had alienated all the constituencies that might have supported him when the crunch came - most notably and importantly the army, which simply abandoned him. Perhaps a different type of ruler - the type we have been discussing - would have been able to prevent or at least contain the March Revolution. That said - to play the devil's advocate, and purely for the sake of argument - all the good troops were at the front in March 1917. Petrograd was guarded by second-line troops, that is, the men not considered battle-ready. Most of them were raw peasant recruits. They refused to shoot at the crowds. Where was our Great Tsar to get his troops to contain the rebellion?

Remember, the provisional government that replaced Nicholas also had trouble maintaining the loyalty of the army, precisely because they insisted on continuing the war. There were large-scale desertions and mutinies in the spring of 1917; unlike the majority of their Western counterparts, Russian soldiers proved unwilling to continue the fight. They didn't understand what they were fighting for in the first place; they had already suffered unbelievable casualties; all they wanted was to go home and participate in the redistribution of land. These were not actions instigated or approved by the provisional government; they were spontaneous outbreaks of the popular will, which the Bolsheviks later exploited for their own benefit.  
 
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 11, 2005, 06:37:47 AM
Would someone mind sending me an e-mail about how to insert quotes from other messages?  The help feature is not very helpful.  Thanks.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 11, 2005, 07:09:10 AM
Tsarfan,
At the top of each post it is written 'Quote' just click on that. If you want to divide the quotation, to reply to separate parts, simply copy the whole thing & delete the parts you don't want & make your reply. Then paste the copied part & do the same again...if that makes sense!  :)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on April 11, 2005, 09:09:15 AM
Bluetoria

I do hope that you were not offended by my earlier post regarding how I thought that you were too kind to Nicholas II...
There is a wee bit less than a meter of snow outside, so I am quite house - bound! ;D

love
rskkiya
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on April 11, 2005, 09:26:48 AM
Although there are reports of soldiers deserting under Nicholas II the actual numbers were not unusal.  The large desertion started under the Prov. Govt. and this quote under another thread I explain why:

Quote
In Richard Luckett's book THE WHITE GENERALS  are some interesting details about the period of time between the Nicholas II's abdication, the rise of the Prov. Govt. and Lenin's Revolution.

One of the earliest acts the Prov. Govt. did was to abolish the death penalty p. 50.

This meant many things but at that time,  it created a terrible impact on the war against Germany.  Why?  Once the soldiers discovered that they could dessert and not be shot.... many fled....  Being caught was unlikely and if someone was part of the unlucky few,  they were imprisoned which ended with a general amnesty...

This isn't incerted here to debate if the war was good, could have been avoided or bad.   The abolishment of the death penalty was an event which affected the  "everday life" of a soldier, their families and Russia....

AGRBear


Remember the story about the troops on the line between France and Germany where both sides stopped fighting each other... I think it was nearing Christmas time.  And, the two sides started to share and talk.... This alarmed the officers and both sides and they had to take measures of restarting the conflict.  So, the French took a bunch of men, whom they claimed were deserters, pushed them over the side toward the Germans and were told if they returned they would be shot.  The presents of these deserters started to get on everyone's nerves.  Of course, a few of the French tried to return but were shot...  The Germans in the trenches on the other side didn't know what was happening.  They heard bullets flying over their heads and saw some French coming toward them.  Soon, German bullets were flying over the heads of the French.  The war continued.

War was more than hell in the era of trench warfare.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 11, 2005, 11:43:10 AM
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I agree that revolutions are not precipitated by single events. On the contrary, to paraphrase de Tocqueville: "Revolutions don't happen when bad governments do bad things, but when bad governments start reforming themselves." The moment of reform is the moment of danger. This has been true of most revolutions, including the Russian Revolution of March 1917.


Very true.


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Who were the Russian people fighting for in WWI, after all? The tsar (as before 1905)? The Duma? The tsar and the Duma? These were important questions, when you consider that most of the Russian army was made up of illiterate peasants with an undeveloped sense of national identity, who did not know where Serbia was, much less Germany or Austria-Hungary. The over-arching ideology (The Tsar-Batiushka and his children, his soldiers) had already started to break down.


Yes, but there was broad public support for the war itself until several months after Nicholas' abdication.  This is why I don't think the war had much to do with Nicholas' fall from power.  It was a much smaller group that conspired to get rid of him.  They didn't like the way he was handling the war and they thought Alexandra was a spy(!)  But they weren't against the war itself.  

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And certainly by March 1917 Nicholas had alienated all the constituencies that might have supported him when the crunch came - most notably and importantly the army, which simply abandoned him.


I don't think the army stopped fighting until several months after the Tsar was removed.



Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 11, 2005, 01:53:20 PM
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Yes, but there was broad public support for the war itself until several months after Nicholas' abdication. This is why I don't think the war had much to do with Nicholas' fall from power.  


There was not broad public support for the war! The peasantry, more than 80 percent of the total population, had turned against the war and in the spring of 1917 voted with its feet. It's true that the urban classes - primarily the upper and middle classes - still by and large supported the war, but they were in the distinct minority. This fact mattered a lot when you consider that the Russian army was made up largely of peasants, and the monarchy was ultimately dependent on the army to maintain itself in power.

Indeed, most historians think World War I had everything to do with Nicholas' fall from power, and I agree with them. I repeat, Russia did not have the resources to fight a world war. Mainly for this reason, once World War I began, the monarchy was doomed. Just to give a few examples: by the winter of 1916-17, trains carrying much-needed supplies to the cities had become stranded in the snow (there were too few rail lines to begin with!); and many soldiers themselves went into battle without weapons because none were available. The sad fact is that Russia simply could not keep up with the other powers in producing war materiel and sustaining a war-time economy.

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I don't think the army stopped fighting until several months after the Tsar was removed.


No. The army stopped fighting in Petrograd in March 1917, and that's why the monarchy fell. What was most remarkable about the March Revolution was that the army en masse abandoned Nicholas II - from its top generals, who pressured him to abdicate, to its raw peasant recruits and disaffected junior officers, who refused to shoot at the rioting crowds in Petrograd. This is what made the March Revolution different than the Revolution of 1905, when the army had stayed loyal to the tsar and thereby saved the monarchy.

Moreover, desertions and mutinies multiplied as news of the March Revolution filtered into the front lines. The Russian army was understandably disillusioned. It no longer wanted to fight a war which most considered senseless. Remember, Russia lost 1 million soldiers in the first year of combat alone. Most of these men were peasants, who had no idea what they were fighting for in the first place, and who only wanted to go home.


Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 11, 2005, 02:35:44 PM
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There was not broad public support for the war! The peasantry, more than 80 percent of the total population, had turned against the war and in the spring of 1917 voted with its feet.


This was AFTER Nicholas II had already abdicated.  You keep on saying "In the Spring of 1917" but Nicholas had abdicated at the beginning of March.  By the time the public had turned against the war, Nicholas (along with the monarchy) was already out of the picture.  They were already history...



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Indeed, most historians think World War I had everything to do with Nicholas' fall from power


Not the one's I studied under.  Also, Richard Pipes, in his excellent (short) book, Three Why's of the Russian Revolution, states categorically in the first chapter titled, Why Tsarism Fell, that the February Revolution had nothing to do with being against the War.  Pipes goes on to say that Nicholas was done in because of public support for the war.  They wanted to WIN but they didn't think they could with Nicholas (and his German wife) in charge.

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No. The army stopped fighting in Petrograd in March 1917, and that's why the monarchy fell. What was most remarkable about the March Revolution was that the army en masse abandoned Nicholas II - from its top generals, who pressured him to abdicate, to its raw peasant recruits and disaffected junior officers, who refused to shoot at the rioting crowds in Petrograd. This is what made the March Revolution different than the Revolution of 1905, when the army had stayed loyal to the tsar and thereby saved the monarchy.


Elisabeth, I agree with a lot of what you say, but why were the crowds in Petrograd rioting?  They weren't rioting against the war, were they?

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Moreover, desertions and mutinies multiplied as news of the March Revolution filtered into the front lines.


This all happened after the fact.  Nicholas did not lose his throne because people were against the war, he lost it because they were against him.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 11, 2005, 02:58:31 PM
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Bluetoria

I do hope that you were not offended by my earlier post regarding how I thought that you were too kind to Nicholas II...
There is a wee bit less than a meter of snow outside, so I am quite house - bound! ;D

love
rskkiya


No rskkiya, I didn't take any offence at all...I simply couldn't think of a reply.
Nor did I see this until now or I would have replied sooner.  :)

(Hope your snow is melting...it's been sunny here all day! )
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 11, 2005, 03:04:54 PM
I do not deny that WWI was a nightmare for Russia.  But I think the immediate causes of Nicholas' losing his throne (and thereby bringing about the end of Tsarism because nobody stepped in and took the throne) had more to do with the complete lack of support he and the Empress had from the family, upper nobility, Duma, opposition, etc.  I remember my professor, Sheila Fitzpatrick, from the Univeristy of Chicago, talking in class about the "Court Cabal" and how much damage the Rasputin scandal did to the monarchy in it's last months.  

But the people in high places who were arrayed against Nicholas had no back-up plan.  There was nobody ready to step in and take over -- and Michael said no thanks.  So, with nobody willing to take the job, the whole thing imploded.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 11, 2005, 03:26:31 PM
Rich C, I guess the point I am trying to make is that in March 1917 the Russian army proved by its actions that it was no longer loyal to the throne - the generals, because like the rest of the elite, as you say, they thought Nicholas was fighting the war incompetently (and his wife was a German spy); the junior officers and peasant soldiers, because they were sick of the war itself and no longer saw the point of fighting a losing battle (for if such disaffection had not existed before March 1917, then there would have been no mass desertions and mutinies the minute the revolution broke out; furthermore, the troops in Petrograd would have fired on the crowds as ordered and stopped the revolution in its tracks - as they had done in 1905-06).

You must admit, too, that the bulk of Petrograd's population was rebelling not because they thought Alexandra was a German spy but simply because they no longer had sufficient food and fuel at their disposal - direct consequences of the war (which Alexandra herself had foreseen but been powerless to prevent).

Whether or not Michael had accepted the throne, the situation would still have imploded, because the Russian monarchy no longer had the support of the masses. Whether this disaffection was conscious (we hate the tsar) or unconscious (we want to stop fighting and take the land, no matter what the tsar says) is moot. The monarchy could not be salvaged without the support of the army and leadership of the army was putting its faith in the Duma. And as for the peasant army itself, it had quite other ideas, as it turned out.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on April 11, 2005, 05:38:15 PM
If a man desserted under the reign of Nicholas II, he was shot.

There were men who did dessert under Nicholas II, however, it was after Nicholas II's abdication in Feb/15 March when the huge wave of dessertion took place.  Why?  Because one of the earliest acts the Prov. Govt. did was to abolish the death penalty.
 
This meant many things but at that time,  it created a terrible impact on the war against Germany.  Why?  Once the soldiers discovered that they could dessert and not be shot.... many fled and the numbers grew more and more each day....

This was spring to Red Oct/Nov.

Under Lenin:  It was no secret that Lenin wanted a peace treaty with Germany, so, from Gen. on down to private, it seemed useless to stay and fight when the war was just as good as over.  So, the  dessertion  under Lenin had nothing whats-so-ever to do with Nicholas II.  

Meanwhile, new armies lined up in Reds, Whites and Greens.... and the Russians fought each other from 1917 to 1921/2.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Robert_Hall on April 11, 2005, 06:05:06 PM
Is this a justification of the old regime's DEATH PENALTY ?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 12, 2005, 12:32:01 AM
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Rich C, I guess the point I am trying to make is that in March 1917 the Russian army proved by its actions that it was no longer loyal to the throne - the generals, because like the rest of the elite, as you say, they thought Nicholas was fighting the war incompetently (and his wife was a German spy); the junior officers and peasant soldiers, because they were sick of the war itself and no longer saw the point of fighting a losing battle (for if such disaffection had not existed before March 1917, then there would have been no mass desertions and mutinies the minute the revolution broke out; furthermore, the troops in Petrograd would have fired on the crowds as ordered and stopped the revolution in its tracks - as they had done in 1905-06).


Elisabeth, I spent the evening re-reading Fitzpatrick's The Russian Revolution, 1917-1932, and pretty much everything you are saying is also in her book.  In other words I concede that your viewpoint is that of a great many importatnt and highly respected historians.  But I would like to quote Richard Pipes on the role the war played in the February Revolution:

"It is a mistake to attribute the February Revolution to fatigue with the war.  The contrary is true.  Russians wanted to pursue the war more effectively, and they felt that the existing government was not capable of doing it, that the existing political structures were in need of a major overhaul:  remove the disloyal tsarina and let the Duma appoint ministers, whereupon Russia will really be able to fight properly and win.  Fatigue with the war set in only after the unsuccessful June 1917 offensive launched by the Provisional government to bolster its prestige and lift national morale.  Until then, even the bolsheviks did not dare openly to call for peace because it was a highly unpopular slogan."

I realize this viewpoint is opposed to yours and many others on the forum, but I think it's worth airing.  

Pipes goes on, "Having studied in minute detail the massive information regarding the steps leading up to the abdication of Nicholas II, I have not the slightest doubt that he faced no popular pressures to abdicate; the pressure stemmed exclusively from the ranks of politicians and generals who thought the Crown's removal essential to victory."

Here's what Mr. Pipe's says about his methodology:  

"...I addressed myself to what appear to me the three central problems of the Russian Revolution: the reasons for the collapse of tsarism, for the triumph of the bolsheviks, and for the ascendancy of Stalin.  My answers to these questions differ in many respects from those provided by the so-called "revisionist" school of historiography which has emerged in the West in the 1960s and today holds sway in academe.  Whereas the revisionists, like one-time Soviet historians, stress social forces, my emphasis is on politics.  The methodological disparity results in very different interpretations: in the eyes of the revisionists, events are driven by unstoppable and anonymous forces; in my eyes, the decisive factor is human will."

from "Three 'Whys' of the Russian Revolution" buy Richard Pipes.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 12, 2005, 05:58:31 AM
My goodness, this debate is assuming Tolstoyian proportions . . . and is equally interesting.  Tolstoy saw history as a tidal movement of forces that arose from the depths of collective human endeavor, not from the actions of key players.  In his view, the war of 1812 was not the result of Napoleon's self-aggrandizement.  Instead, it was the result of an inevitable surge beyond its borders as France spent the energy released by its Revoltuion.  To him, the times created Napoleon rather than Napoleon the times.

I fall much more into the Pipes camp.  Individual players matter in history.  Granted, there are some tidal forces on which they sail, but the specific courses they steer are very much a function of their individual aspirations and talents.  Take Peter the Great for instance.  In a larger Tolstoyian sense, it was inevitable that Russia would eventually turn more westward.  Europe was emerging into dominance on the world stage, and Russia was the principal source of some of the natural resources Europe needed, such as masts for military ships and pitch for their hulls.  These kinds of forces set up the chess board.

But the way the game is played is in the hands of the players.  Peter turned what probably would have been a slow drift westward into a forced march.  In the process, he overturned the northern military dominance of Sweden, destroyed the political independence of the Orthodox church as a counterweight to autocracy, turned the Boyars into a cosmopolitan nobility, transformed Russia into a naval power, and created a new civil service to power past entrenched resistance to his policies.

I see the Russian Revolution in the same light.  There were many forces at play in the decades before 1917, and their net effect implied an eventual diminution of autocratic power.  But this diminution took the form of a violent revolution because of specific decisions made by key individuals.

The speed with which every element of his government deserted Nicholas and then turned their focus on continuing the war indicates what their real agenda was -- to remove an incompetent monarch and establish control of the war effort.  Even as the Whites continued the civil war long past the conclusion of WWI in order to restore something of the old order, few aspired to return the Romanovs to an autocratic throne.  As one White general later commented, "having seen the monarchy up close, I had no desire to see its return."  Pretty much every faction in Russia had had quite enough of Nicholas and Alexandra for far too long.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 12, 2005, 09:45:44 AM
Yes, this debate is assuming certain Tolstoyan proportions! But I should make this clear, I fall into neither the Great Man nor the Tolstoyan/Marxist camps in my view of history. I think both historical perspectives apply at different times and places in history. It depends on each situation. There is no one system or rule for determining how history will develop.

So yes, I agree that there are times in history when great individuals make all the difference - Peter the Great and Napoleon are prime examples. (In fact, going back to Tolstoy for a moment, it is a running joke in Slavic Studies that the reason Tolstoy was so harshly critical of Napoleon in War and Peace was the same reason he took it upon himself to deconstruct Shakespeare in What Is Art? That is, Tolstoy suffered from the Great Man syndrome - a form of professional envy and rivalry! As Gorky described Tolstoy's relationship with God: two bears stuck in a cave together, duking it out.)

But the reverse situation also applies. As far as I know, few historians would argue that an especially outstanding emperor could have saved the Roman Empire. Indeed, there were outstanding emperors in the last centuries of Roman rule - Marcus Aurelius comes to mind - but ultimately it made no difference. The fall of the Roman Empire is rightly, IMO, seen as inevitable.

In other words, RichC and Tsarfan, I believe you are over-emphasizing the power of the elite to effect positive change in Russia as long as they continued to fight a war against Germany. As I have said before, I am perfectly willing to concede that the Russian elite (by which I mean the upper and middle classes, although not the most radical wing of the intelligentsia) still supported the war in March 1917. But the masses did not. In fact,  probably the single biggest mistake the provisional government ever made was to attempt to continue fighting Germany, when they were clearly losing the war and their troops were clearly tired of fighting it.

After all, how did Lenin and his Bolsheviks ultimately gain power - not in October 1917 so much but in the immediate aftermath of their coup d'etat? By promising a quick end to the war and the immediate redistribution of land to the peasantry - in other words, by putting a rubber stamp on what the peasantry was in effect already doing. The popular will mattered in 1917.

And the popular will was right: even before March 1917 Russia was obviously losing the war. The historian Niall Ferguson comments in The Pity of War: Explaining World War I, that if the Russian government - tsarist or provisional - had been thinking rationally, they would have made a separate peace with Germany (as Lenin later did at Brest-Litovsk). The potential problem with this scenario, of course, is what you have both argued previously - that the elite still supported the war effort and would have regarded a separate peace as treason on the part of any regime that effected it.

So the way I see it, both the tsarist and provisional governments were essentially in a no-win situation. If they had tried to end the war (which they didn't want to do, anyway), they would have lost their chief support in the cities; if they continued the war - as in fact they did - they lost the support not only of the masses but also, eventually, of the cities (since Russia continued to suffer one excrutiating defeat after another!).

A more interesting question for me, then, is whether or not the October Revolution was inevitable. I wonder if an exceptional tsar, who had enacted large-scale reforms, could have saved Russia from the October Revolution, if not the March one? I mean by that, if these reforms were already in place in March 1917, and well established, need the October Revolution have ever happened, even if the tsarist regime had fallen? But this is obviously the subject for a new thread!    
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: PucknDC on April 12, 2005, 10:13:33 AM
Perhaps we should look at this more "globally". Look how many Monarchies were toppled during this era? Was revolution inevitable because change was needed? If you look, England's Royals survived, because A) they were essentially powerless, and had a HUGE support system with both their own class, and the masses. They essentially did the job they were supposed to at the time: galvanize the nation. B) They ( whether good or bad) did not help their relatives in a time of need. Thus included Germany aftyer the war...let's face it , George V and Queen Mary were as self centered and vacuous as the the others, but managed to keep their crowns
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 12, 2005, 10:50:44 AM
Granted that George V and Mary were not towering intellects, but they did avoid the fatal pitfall of Nicholas and Alexandra by taking care not to insult the views of their key consituencies.  Nicholas was viewed as an unrepentant tyrant by most of western Europe after 1905.  By the time of his overthrow, the western war had evolved into the attrition of the trenches, and public enthusiasm for the war effort in Britain had long since turned into a grueling tolerance of necessity.

As much as George might personally have wanted to extend a hand to Nicholas, he was hemmed in by an unrelenting propaganda campaign by his government to cast the conflict with Germany in terms of ideology.  Bringing the Romanovs to the genteel haven of an English country life would have been viewed as a slap in the face to the sacrifices of English families, many of whom viewed Nicholas as little different from the Kaiser.

Yes, George sacrificed a personal agenda to save a throne.  Is that cynical?  How much less violent might the 20th century have been had Nicholas the guts and the common sense to do the same?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 12, 2005, 10:57:41 AM
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Granted that George V and Mary were not towering intellects, but they did avoid the fatal pitfall of Nicholas and Alexandra by taking care not to insult the views of their key consituencies.  



I do not think George V & Queen Mary can be compared to Nicholas in this way because in Britain any animosity about the war was aimed at the Government & the Generals. In Russia, Nicholas himself as an autocrat took the rap.

Quote

Yes, George sacrificed a personal agenda to save a throne.  Is that cynical?  How much less violent might the 20th century have been had Nicholas the guts and the common sense to do the same?
 

I disagree with you slightly here because I see it that George lacked the guts to offer asylum to his cousins. I do not believe - & cannot believe - that the British people would have revolted merely because the former Tsar & his family were to live here. George, I believe, acted for purely selfish motives - not to save the throne but to save his own skin.
I think Nicholas WOULD have had the guts to offer asylum to George had their situations been reversed.


Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 12, 2005, 11:11:06 AM
If George V had been tsar of Russia in 1917 instead of king of England, there would probably still have been a revolution. There's no way that a man of the limited intelligence and talents of George V could have made that much difference in how things turned out in Russia. Russia would still have been losing the war against Germany, there would still have been massive shortages of food and fuel in Petrograd, the people would still have rioted, the best troops would still have been at the front and the remaining troops probably still couldn't have been relied on to fire into the crowds.

And if Russia had been a true constitutional monarchy by that time (which seems doubtful - because these things do take time), those rioting crowds would have been just as angry with the Duma as they were with the tsar.

Other nations that found themselves on the losing side of the war also later had revolutions - Germany and Austria-Hungary.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: PucknDC on April 12, 2005, 11:15:56 AM
I ahve to agree with Bluetoria. While George V didn't have the advantage of mass media, I can't believe that some sort of appeal  could not be made.as well as sending them somewhere else within his authority in a discreet manner Canada??? Australia?? And I DO think Nicholas would have reacted differently ( although as Autocrat he would be more empowered to do so. )
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 12, 2005, 12:15:39 PM
I'm confused, Bluetoria.  I do not understand your distinction between George V's saving his throne and saving his own skin.  Are you suggesting the risk was assassination rather than overthrow of the monarchy?  If you're right that a revolution was unlikely in England over granting asylum, then from what was George saving himself?

I think George was more worried that support for the war might collapse rather than that there might be a revolution.  Unlike the later stages of WWII, England was fighting on behalf of allies in WWI and was not under direct attack.  People thought they were fighting against tyranny, not against homeland attacks.  And Nicholas represented tyranny in their eyes.

Elisabeth, I do not think George V could have done anything to save Russia in the later stages had he been in Nicholas' shoes.  My point was simply that his reign was not marked by the chronic insensitivities to his subjects' concerns that Nicholas' was.  And I maintain that it was the cumulative effect of those insensitivities that caused so very few among the classes one would have expected to support the throne to throw in the towel on the Romanovs.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 12, 2005, 12:38:53 PM
Sorry, Tsarfan, I am back to my original belief that the Great Man theory doesn't work with Russia in March 1917. The more I read about the cumulative effects of World War I on the Russian economy and Russian society, the more convinced I become that any regime - no matter how able - that continued to fight that war would have collapsed in the end. The only way to put off or avoid the revolution was to avoid declaring war in the first place.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 12, 2005, 01:02:41 PM
I always had the impression that George V didn't really understand what was going on (re: Nicholas' safety and the safety of his family).  Also, wasn't it Lord Stanfordham who convinced the King to pressure the government to withdraw the asylum offer?  In other words did the idea to withdraw the offer originate in the King's mind?

I'm not English, but my grandfather was and his sisters (who were in their late teens at the time) told me that the Russian Imperial family had a very bad reputation in England.  Alexandra was (1) thought to be a spy and (2) sleeping with Rasputin.  In view of this, one can see why the King would have hesitated to bring them over.  Didn't the King write in his diary that the revolution was "all Alicky's fault"?

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 12, 2005, 01:04:36 PM
Well, Elisabeth, you and I are dancing on the head of the same pin again.  I agree that entry into the war turned the possible into the inevitable.  Numerous messages ago we were talking about Nicholas' panslavism and how I felt it caused Nicholas to fail to assess means to avoid drawing Russia into a conflict in which Russia could not hope to prevail.

And, if I recall, our earlier discussion about whether a Catherine II could have avoided the revolution were in the context of her avoiding the mistakes Nicholas made throughout his reign, not just those from 1914-1917.  I agree with you that 1914 moved the situation much more onto the inevitability track and further beyond the reach of any mortal to brake.

This was Nicholas II, after all.  He had already lost one war that he launched with no means to keep his troops supplied in the Orient.  (And he pulled off the remarkable stunt of losing his fleet after he had already lost the land war.)  Lessons just did not come easily to that man.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 12, 2005, 01:10:27 PM
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I'm confused, Bluetoria.  I do not understand your distinction between George V's saving his throne and saving his own skin.  Are you suggesting the risk was assassination rather than overthrow of the monarchy?  If you're right that a revolution was unlikely in England over granting asylum, then from what was George saving himself?
.


Sorry Tsarfan; I didn't express myself clearly. I meant that IMO he was saving his own skin (& his own throne), rather than a higher motive of 'saving THE throne' for posterity, as it were. I think he was simply afraid of what would happen to him.
No I don't think for aminute there would have been a revolution, but George was, at that time, so concerned about his own image as can be seen in his decision to change all the Germanic names into English ones.

Rich, I agree that Stamfordham was behind the King's decision but ultimately it was HIS choice. His government had made the offer of safe-haven & when George decided to withdraw that offer, even the anti-Tsarist Prime Minister, Lloyd George stated that this was dishonourable.
I am English & I am thoroughly ashamed of the actions of the King, which I think were motivated by self-preservation & cowardice & cast a shadow over the honour of my country. That the King wrote 'it is all Alicky's fault' shows a lack of understanding of the whole picture - and perhaps it was an argument he used to assuage his own guilt.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 12, 2005, 01:31:44 PM
There was a lot of re-imaging going on when the Saxe-Coburgs restyled themselves the Windsors.  For instance, the Battenbergs became the Mountbattens.  St. Petersburg became Petrograd.

You probably know more about George V than I do, since I'm not very well versed on England at the time.  However, I assumed renaming the royal house was more a reflection of the general anti-German sentiment of the times than of George's personal cowardice.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 12, 2005, 02:09:45 PM
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I agree with you that 1914 moved the situation much more onto the inevitability track and further beyond the reach of any mortal to brake.

This was Nicholas II, after all.  He had already lost one war that he launched with no means to keep his troops supplied in the Orient.  (And he pulled off the remarkable stunt of losing his fleet after he had already lost the land war.)  Lessons just did not come easily to that man.


Too true! I have always wondered why, when Nicholas II was, at least according to most accounts, saddened and reluctant to go to war against Germany, he nevertheless did so. I suppose in part because, as you say, he had boxed himself in with his pan-slavist statements, but I would think that one of the many advantages of being tsar is the freedom to change one's mind.

I'm afraid I don't know enough about World War I outside of Russia to argue whether it was an inevitable conflict or not - I guess there is a growing consensus among historians that it was not. I have started reading Niall Ferguson's book but am only at the beginning and thus cannot come down on one side or the other. But Tsarfan, clearly you think the war was avoidable - any more ideas as to why? What do you think Nicholas should have done, faced with Germany's demands, and given that Serbia was Russia's ally?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 12, 2005, 02:53:54 PM
For a beautifully-written account of the immediate causes of the war, you might want to read Barbara Tuchman's "The Guns of August."  For a more scholarly and more controversial account, try A. J. P. Taylor.

Basically, Russia was aligned in the middle of the 19th century with Germany and Austria-Hungary through a series of treaties Bismarck had engineered (with strong support from Metternich in Austria) that were designed to prevent Germany from fighting a two-front war.  But through a series of intemperate actions and statements by a blustering Kaiser Wilhelm II, Russia moved out of this orbit, finally aligning with France in 1894 through the "Entente Cordiale", thereby opening up the spectre of a two-front war that Bismarck most feared.

As Russia began to pull away from Germany in the 1880's, the German General Staff under von Schlieffen responded to the two-front threat with the infamous "Schlieffen Plan", which required that the German army deliver an early knock-out blow to France and then turn its full military might eastward.

This set up the house of cards which fell down in the late summer of 1914.  

A series of partial military mobilizations escalated into full-scale mobilizations.  Germany's first significant action once open hostilities broke out was to march through neutral Belgium (gratuitously burning Europe's greatest medieval library at Liege in the bargain) in order to deliver the Schlieffen Plan's knock-out blow to France.  The breach of Belgian neutrality brought England into the war.

The crux of all this was Nicholas' attitude toward Serbia.  Austria-Hungary placed demands on Serbia that effectively destroyed her independence.  Although treaty-bound to support her in the event of attack, Nicholas could have tried to mediate reduced demands or even walked away from the situation on the basis that Serbia was not actually attacked.  Instead, he mobilized, which drew Germany into the conflict on Austria's side and triggered the activation of the Schlieffen Plan.  That, in turn, triggered the defensive treaty with France.  Nicholas would have had a full plate of crow to eat had he pressured Serbia to buckle, given all his earlier pan-slavic posturing.  And there would have been immense internal forces on him to back Serbia because, as you noted in a prior message, pan-slavism was very popular in Russia.  But it would have been better than pulling Russia into a war for which she was utterly unprepared.

It would have been a very hard decision, but Nicholas had gone against popular sentiment with his coronation speech, his 1906 speech opening the Duma, and his keynote Tercentenary speech.  As so many times in Nicholas' reign, when confronted with a difficult choice, he made the wrong one.

Ironically, the Schlieffen Plan ultimately failed.  France proved more resilient that expected and succeeded in bogging Germany down in what evolved into the trench war of attrition.  (The lingering exhaustion of this near-death struggle by France is, by some accounts, the reason she collapsed so quickly under Hitler's first onslaughts just over 20 years later.)

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: hikaru on April 13, 2005, 10:01:33 AM
I have found the extracts of the Memories of the Chansonette Plevitskaya , whose romances Nicholas liked very much: "Nicholas hardly liked the pleasant and merry company and he drank a lot, but, which was very surprising - he never got drunk. He drank same portion as  everybody around but  did not get drunk. Just laughed a lot, preffering did not move . He was sitting and was laughing. Everybody around got drunk, acteurs , you see, began to talk various anecdotical stories. He just was sitting , was laughing and no alchohol in his eyes.  He loved anecdotes , especially about Jewish life or about the silly situation of some bosses. He looked so relaxed and kind, but I felt that he was not drunk and that he took severe control over situation . People around thought how simple he is. But I did not think so. But me too , time to time, I often  used to forget about his high position and talked with him simply about things"
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 13, 2005, 02:12:25 PM
Quote
For a beautifully-written account of the immediate causes of the war, you might want to read Barbara Tuchman's "The Guns of August."  For a more scholarly and more controversial account, try A. J. P. Taylor.


I read Tuchman's book a long time ago. Taylor is one of the historians Niall Ferguson rails against. He seems to think the onus for WWI lies on Britain, not Germany - i.e., Britain declared war on Germany because of an irrational misapprehension on the part of a minority of influential people in the British government that Germany's ambitions in continental Europe were "Napoleonic" in scale, as opposed to merely defensive in nature.

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A series of partial military mobilizations escalated into full-scale mobilizations.  Germany's first significant action once open hostilities broke out was to march through neutral Belgium (gratuitously burning Europe's greatest medieval library at Liege in the bargain) in order to deliver the Schlieffen Plan's knock-out blow to France.  The breach of Belgian neutrality brought England into the war.


Ferguson says Britain would have violated Belgium's neutrality if Germany hadn't - as part of a longstanding war plan. They were very cynical about it. "Brave little Belgium" and all that. Good propaganda, especially after the Germans committed some well-publicized atrocities.

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The crux of all this was Nicholas' attitude toward Serbia.  Austria-Hungary placed demands on Serbia that effectively destroyed her independence.  Although treaty-bound to support her in the event of attack, Nicholas could have tried to mediate reduced demands or even walked away from the situation on the basis that Serbia was not actually attacked.  Instead, he mobilized, which drew Germany into the conflict on Austria's side and triggered the activation of the Schlieffen Plan.  That, in turn, triggered the defensive treaty with France.  Nicholas would have had a full plate of crow to eat had he pressured Serbia to buckle, given all his earlier pan-slavic posturing.  And there would have been immense internal forces on him to back Serbia because, as you noted in a prior message, pan-slavism was very popular in Russia.  But it would have been better than pulling Russia into a war for which she was utterly unprepared.


Yes, it would have been better, but that's a judgment made with the benefit of hindsight. They knew they were approaching Armageddon, I think, but they had no idea what a real Armageddon looked like.

What's interesting about Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm is that both of them seem to have been very reluctant to go to war and were in fact sending out diplomatic feelers well into the crisis. Nicholas even cancelled an order for general mobilisation at the last moment, and only the joint hysteria of Sazonov and Paleologue seem to have swayed him to change his mind. (At which point Sazonov told General Janushkevich, "Break your telephones!" so that the tsar couldn't change his mind yet again.) It strikes me that the men around these rulers bear a much heavier responsibility for the outbreak of WWI than Nicholas and Wilhelm.  

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It would have been a very hard decision, but Nicholas had gone against popular sentiment with his coronation speech, his 1906 speech opening the Duma, and his keynote Tercentenary speech.  As so many times in Nicholas' reign, when confronted with a difficult choice, he made the wrong one.


Yes, this is true, but again - if Nicholas had had to eat crow, then Russia would have had to do so, too. That's not in keeping with world power status... And I'm just not sure the Russian elite would have gone for that. They were afraid of losing their influence in the Balkans and perhaps even of Russia becoming a German colony in all but name. Ferguson might term this fear irrational - but then, he doesn't really address Russia's situation, but focuses on Britain, Germany and France (well, they're so much easier to follow! Their population wasn't 80 percent peasant and illiterate!). IMO, if Nicholas hadn't gone to war in 1914, revolution was a definite possibility.



Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 13, 2005, 04:22:35 PM
When taking the long view, I think Wilhelm was more responsible for WWI than Nicholas.  Nicholas was rather passively incompetent.  Wilhelm was a strutting saber-rattler who was the single most responsible person for undermining the careful diplomatic cocoon Bismarck built around Germany.  In the even longer view, Bismarck had some culpability for building an edifice by which the peace of the whole continent depended on a very complex system of treaties that would inevitably have to be interpreted and acted upon in times of extreme stress -- and almost certainly by decision-makers of far less caliber and subtlety than Bismarck.

The British group who were worried about Wilhelm's aspirations had some reason to be.  Bismarck repeatedly warned Wilhelm that his ambitions to make Germany a colonial power would inevitably bring Germany on a collision course with Britain and France that would have to be played out on the European continent and the oceans.  Bismarck correctly analyzed colonialism as having a net negative economic effect on the nations that pursued it.  He saw no advantage to Germany and only danger in Wilhelm's repeated ill-conceived and horribly-timed "place in the sun" pronouncements.  Bismarck's famous remark that "my map of Africa lies in Europe" summed up his viewpoint.

No matter what Wilhelm's real aspirations were on the continent in 1914, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk cemented the notion (albeit after the fact) that Germany's intent in 1914 had been to create a pretext for a collossal land grab anywhere he could.  That, in turn, furthered the determination at Versailles in 1919 to impose horribly punitive conditions on Germany . . . which in turn doomed the Weimar government to economic instability . . . which in turn led to the rise of Hitler . . . yada, yada, yada.  (Lordy, history can give one a headache.)

While the British government might have taken cynical advantage of Germany's violation of Belgian neutrality, the invasion did release a firestorm of popular outrage in Britain and elsewhere.  In particular, the torching of the library at Liege (which housed irreplaceable ancient and medieval manuscripts) for no military purpose whatsoever instantly formed a solid base on which the subsequent propaganda about the "barbaric Hun" could be built.

Sadly, Nicholas worried about preserving Russia's status as a European power broker without realizing that Russia had effectively ceased to be a world power in 1905 after her land and sea defeat by Japan.

Re A. J. P. Taylor, his reputation has waxed and waned, largely by his own doing.  I still think is he is one of the premier scholars and interpreters of pre-WWI diplomacy.  However, his later writings, in which he put forth a wildly revisionist view of Hitler's lack of culpability in unleashing WWII, has done much to cast a shadow of disrepute over all his work.

And I've really got to master the use of the quote tool.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 13, 2005, 05:28:59 PM
I'm going out on a limb here (Elisabeth and Tsarfan, get your saws out!)

Here's what Nicholas really should have done (and he must have considered it).  He should have ditched the French and the Brits and joined forces with the Germans and the Austrians (shelving the Serbian situation for the time being).  

Just think of how incredibly different the world would have been if the other side had won....

I know, I know, Stalin did it in 1939 and look where it got him, but things were a lot different in 1914 than they were in 1939.  

Has anyone ever read Peter Durnovo's February 1914 memo to Nicholas on the benefits of a rapproachment with Germany?  It is really a fascinating document.  Here's the link:

http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:0VvXFkaIlOYJ:www.stetson.edu/departments/russian/durnovo.html+durnovo&hl=en
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 13, 2005, 06:59:24 PM
No saws, RichC.  We're all out on limbs here and I, for one, am enoying it.

This memo is such an accurate depiction of Russia's lack of economic and military preparedness for war and so incredibly prescient in its prediction of the consequences of defeat (and the actual steps by which revolution would occur), that I have to wonder:  is it real or a later forgery?  did Nicholas read it?  did he remember it in August?

Durnovo makes some compelling points.  However, there was one serious impediment to implementing it . . . the situation in the Balkans.  As long as Russia pursued a pan-slavic policy, it was on an inevitable collision course with the Austro-Hungarian empire, which could not remain intact if ethnic independence movements (which Russia tacitly encouraged) succeeded.

Russia would either have had to back away from its pan-slavic policies or somehow drive a wedge between Germany and Austria.  The first would have been difficult;  the second close to impossible.

What is most interesting to me about this memo is that it proves that people of clear vision could readily discern Russia's incapacity to wage war in 1914 and the enormous domestic social and economic disasters a war would unleash.  Why couldn't Nicholas?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on April 13, 2005, 09:34:45 PM
A brief segue...
Has anyone here read recently Europes Last Summer by David Fromkin? It's rather interesting, and although I must disagree with Fromkin's rather sloppy interpretation of the idiologies of the various Baltic states, it's an insiteful read --so far!

rskkiya
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Georgiy on April 13, 2005, 11:08:04 PM
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The more I read about the cumulative effects of World War I on the Russian economy and Russian society, the more convinced I become that any regime - no matter how able - that continued to fight that war would have collapsed in the end. The only way to put off or avoid the revolution was to avoid declaring war in the first place

I agree, Elisabeth. The economy by 1913 was doing well in Russia, but 3 - 4 years later it was in tatters.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Silja on April 14, 2005, 11:05:57 AM
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I fall into neither the Great Man nor the Tolstoyan/Marxist camps in my view of history. I think both historical perspectives apply at different times and places in history. It depends on each situation. There is no one system or rule for determining how history will develop.

    


I agree with you. But very often it's not just that different theories apply at different times but that it's a mixture of both theories. Every "great" person is shaped by the times and surroundings he/she lives in. If the conditions are not favourable, in whatever way, even a potentially "great" person may fail.

But as to the MArch Revolution, I also think it wasn't a revolution at all, at least not initially, but indeed a military coup supported by the elite. This doesn't mean the masses weren't already disaffected with the war by then. Quite the contrary.

As to the Bolshevik Revolution (another coup of course), I think it's significant that it occurred only in Russia whereas all the other former European empires managed to prevent the socialist movements from gaining control. Also in Germany, Austria and Hungary the newly created soviets and "soviet republics" sought to establish a socialist system, but there they simply met with too much resistance both from democratic and also reactionary/conservative forces, that is, from the elites and the middle classes. In Russia on the other hand the provisional government was bound to fall, not only because they were supporting the war, but also because there was no middle class in Russia to defend their political idea of government/ that is,representative democracy.

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 14, 2005, 12:07:23 PM
Quote

I agree with you. But very often it's not just that different theories apply at different times but that it's a mixture of both theories. Every "great" person is shaped by the times and surroundings he/she lives in. If the conditions are not favourable, in whatever way, even a potentially "great" person may fail.


Yes, I agree entirely, you've put it much better than I did!

This is why I'm still a little dubious that one great man (or woman) could have prevented the Russian revolution. I wonder if the underlying problems in Russia were not simply too vast and complex for one person to make that much difference. Even if s/he had instituted a massive, far-reaching reform program and managed to keep Russia out of WWI, perhaps the revolution could only have been put off for another generation or so. Yes, the October Revolution might have been preventable, given that extra generation or two for broadening and strengthening the middle class and expanding local goverment. I'm just not sure you could have held off March forever -  it might have happened in 1929 instead of 1917.

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But as to the MArch Revolution, I also think it wasn't a revolution at all, at least not initially, but indeed a military coup supported by the elite. This doesn't mean the masses weren't already disaffected with the war by then. Quite the contrary.


I would disagree here. I think March was a genuine popular revolution, in so far as every social class in Petrograd participated in it to one degree or another - even Grand Duke Kyrill! Moreover, the revolution spread quite quickly to other cities and the provinces - proof of what Tsarfan has repeatedly stated, that Nicholas II had managed to alienate every consituency in the country that might have supported him. Tsardom wasn't toppled - it collapsed from within, completely and utterly, much the way the Soviet Union would later collapse under Gorbachev.

Quote
As to the Bolshevik Revolution (another coup of course), I think it's significant that it occurred only in Russia whereas all the other former European empires managed to prevent the socialist movements from gaining control. Also in Germany, Austria and Hungary the newly created soviets and "soviet republics" sought to establish a socialist system, but there they simply met with too much resistance both from democratic and also reactionary/conservative forces, that is, from the elites and the middle classes. In Russia on the other hand the provisional government was bound to fall, not only because they were supporting the war, but also because there was no middle class in Russia to defend their political idea of government/ that is,representative democracy.


Yes, I also think the provisional government was doomed for these reasons. Another part of the problem was that local government under the tsars was not extensive or well-developed enough to handle a collapse in the center. So when tsardom fell, there was a general collapse of authority all around the country - no one knew who was in charge, and the workers and soldiers' soviets easily stepped into this power vacuum, adding to the general chaos.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 14, 2005, 12:22:34 PM
Quote
No saws, RichC.  We're all out on limbs here and I, for one, am enoying it.


Oh, I meant that jokingly.  I'm enjoying myself too, and learning a great deal.  I definitely intend to check out the book Rskkiya mentioned.

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This memo is such an accurate depiction of Russia's lack of economic and military preparedness for war and so incredibly prescient in its prediction of the consequences of defeat (and the actual steps by which revolution would occur), that I have to wonder:  is it real or a later forgery?  did Nicholas read it?  did he remember it in August?


I have a thick packet of xeroxed primary source documents I saved from a course I took on the history of Imperial Russia.  It's now illegal to create these packets for courses, I think.  Anyway, the Durnovo memo was originally published in 1922 in something called Krasniya Nov'.  Perhaps the original is in GARF?  I really don't know if Nicholas actually read it.  I don't think it's a forgery.

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What is most interesting to me about this memo is that it proves that people of clear vision could readily discern Russia's incapacity to wage war in 1914 and the enormous domestic social and economic disasters a war would unleash.


Durnovo wasn't the only one.  Witte was aghast at the prospect of war.  He felt that Russia was playing directly into British hands.  He supposedly said that Britain would fight to the last drop of Russian blood!  This is why I love reading Witte; his writings are full of such witticisms.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on April 14, 2005, 01:04:32 PM
I agree with Rich C's post:
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I do not deny that WWI was a nightmare for Russia.  But I think the immediate causes of Nicholas' losing his throne (and thereby bringing about the end of Tsarism because nobody stepped in and took the throne) had more to do with the complete lack of support he and the Empress had from the family, upper nobility, Duma, opposition, etc.  I remember my professor, Sheila Fitzpatrick, from the Univeristy of Chicago, talking in class about the "Court Cabal" and how much damage the Rasputin scandal did to the monarchy in it's last months.  

But the people in high places who were arrayed against Nicholas had no back-up plan.  There was nobody ready to step in and take over -- and Michael said no thanks.  So, with nobody willing to take the job, the whole thing imploded.  


It wasn't that Emp. Michael I  said no thanks, he did agree to be head of the new Provl Govt., trouble was, Kerensky and others had other ideas.

Emp. Michael I [Tsar Michael IV], if you remember, hadn't been prepared to take the throne, in fact, he hadn't even known Nicholas II had skipped over Alexei...  Had Nicholas II prepared him and given GD Michael time for this huge undertaking, perhaps, events might have turned out differently.  However, the way it was rushed and delivered, Emp. Michael I was to become the "odd man out".

Quote
...[in part]...

Yes, I also think the provisional government was doomed for these reasons. Another part of the problem was that local government under the tsars was not extensive or well-developed enough to handle a collapse in the center. So when tsardom fell, there was a general collapse of authority all around the country - no one knew who was in charge, and the workers and soldiers' soviets easily stepped into this power vacuum, adding to the general chaos.


Between Feb/March and Red Oct/Nov.  the rule of order was fine from top to bottom.  The parts of the country that were in real trouble were the cities like St. Petersburg which needed railroad lines open and the areas where war was being fought against the Russian enemies.

Otherwise, local governments, newspapers, etc. etc. were feeling for the first time a "new freedom".  I'll find a quote and source for you on this.

Once the revolutionaries and Lenin's group started their counter-revolution then there was chaos created by these new leaders.  It was then the new free press was shut down or taken over for the production of the new literature supporting Lenin and socialism.  And, once the revolutionaries had control of the presses then the word was spread about the promises of Lenin and his group.

I have found great interest in those few months between Feb/March and Red Oct/ Nov.  because this was the only time in history that Russia knew real freedom of the press, freedom of religion and the removal of the death penilty and  added to this were such things like equal rights.

Course, these months had nothing to do with Nicholas II or did they?  In a round-about way, I suppose it did.  He had allowed the various structures of govt. to continue or take place under his reign, including the Duma, even though he wasn't happy with them, and it was because of this, in Feb./March the Provisional Govt. was quickly formed.

The Prov. Govt. lacked  a great leader who could have united them, instead, there were too many people running around trying to be chiefs who were all going in different polticial directions.  And this was one of main reasons that marked their doom.  What, also,  doomed the Prov. Govt. was the Prov. Govt. hadn't had enough time nor enough prearranged dealings which gave them a solid base in anything such as the military where it was greatly needed because the new govt. needed to be protected as did the capital from other revolutionaries. And, do not forget  the interventions of the foreign governments who were running their own agenda.  A good example were the  Germans who sent Lenin with a train full of gold to Russia in hopes to stop the Russians from fighting the Germans who needed to free-up their men from their eastern front to deal with their western front.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on April 14, 2005, 01:22:48 PM
Joseph S. Height's HOMESTEADERS ON THE STEPPE which is about the lives of the GR [German Russians], who were Russian citizen and who's families had lived in Russia for over a 100 years,  from the early 1800s to the 1970s.  On p. 368 Height writes:

"The February revolution of 1917 brought the colonists the long-a-waited freedom; German newspapers again appeared, German organizations were formed, and German schools re-opened.  Everything looked full of hope and promise, and the colonists set about eagerly to help wih the task of reconstruction.  But the October revoltuion of the Bolshseviks quickly suppressed all these aspriations."

I'm sure that the hopes and dreams for the  "reconstruction" was  the same in most communities be they GR, Armenian, White Russians,  Taters, Mongolians, Finns,  etc. etc. etc. .

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on April 16, 2005, 05:20:42 PM
Who is Emperor Michael?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: lexi4 on April 16, 2005, 11:18:33 PM
Everyone has really made a lot of good points here.
I think part of the problem was the system. Nicolas never wanted to tbe Tsar. He would have been happy living a quiet life in the country with Alix and his children. But the rules of succession required the oldest son to become Tsar.
I also think that he lacked the confidence he needed to follow his heart. For example, after the tragedy at Khodynka Meadow, N wanted to cancel the Ball that was being given by the French Ambassador that night.  However, his uncles intervened and convinced the young Tsar to go through with the ball. Had he followed his instincts and stuck by his decision I think it would have been better for all.
What puzzles me about all of this is that he absolutely never veered from this decision to marry Alix despite his parents opinion in the matter. That shows that he could stick to a decision he made, but he didn't seem to use that same conviction in affairs of the state.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Olga on April 17, 2005, 05:10:49 AM
Quote
Who is Emperor Michael?


Mikhail Alexandrovich.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on April 17, 2005, 11:55:30 AM
According to Hall we  incorrectly call Nicholas II a Tsar.  His real title was Emp. of All the Russias.  To make this complex, he was also  the Tsar of a certain area of Russia, which I don't recall at this moment.

When GD Michael Alexandrovich was handed the title it was as both Emp. and Tsar.  Since the title of Emp. had not exsisted when the other Tsar Michael's were in power, they were not Emp. but Tsars only.  Therefore GD Michael became Emp. Michael I and Tsar Michael IV at the same time.  Since Emp. was his major role then that was the title to which he is connected first and above all other titles such as Tsar.

If you care to disagree, please ask Hall to whom I bow to the power of having such knowledge.

And, if I have it wrong, I'll be glad to make corrections.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 17, 2005, 12:48:10 PM
Quote

What puzzles me about all of this is that he absolutely never veered from this decision to marry Alix despite his parents opinion in the matter. That shows that he could stick to a decision he made, but he didn't seem to use that same conviction in affairs of the state.


Yes, Nicholas did stick to his guns when it came to Alix.  I believe that Alexander III and Marie Feodrovna were against Alix because they didn't think she could do the job required of a public figure -- Empress of Russia.  They may have also been concerned  about hemophilia.  But I believe they also wanted Nicholas to be happily married because that would also help him carry out his duties as Emporer of Russia.  As it turned out Alix was a good wife, but she was a terrible Empress.  And Nicholas' parents did not really give in to his "will" until Alexander III was already getting sick in the Spring of 1894.  His father gave in because he was dying.

Aside from this, Nicholas knew he was lousy at standing up to people, giving orders, etc.  It must have made him feel extremely inadequate.  Here's part of a letter that Nicholas wrote to his Uncle Vladimir Alexandrovich shortly after becoming Tsar about his uncle's disregarding his wishes on various military appointments, "My kindness is responsible for this whole incident - yes, I insist on this - my stupid kindness.  I have constatly given in to avoid quarreling and disturbing family relationships ...a blockhead, without will or character.  Now, I do not merely ask, I command you to carry out my previously expressed will."
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 17, 2005, 01:36:19 PM
My memory may be rusty on titles, but I believe the title of Emperor was first taken by Peter I.  He assumed the title "gosudar imperator", which means "sovereign emperor."

Of course, the word "Tsar" itself derives from the Roman title of "Ceasar," so in a sense Tsar and Emperor are the same title.

More specifically, Nicholas was Tsar of Muscovy (the original grandy duchy surrounding Moscow, which eventually became ascendant over the earlier city states of Kiev and Nizhny-Novgorod.)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 17, 2005, 03:26:50 PM
Quote
Aside from this, Nicholas knew he was lousy at standing up to people, giving orders, etc.  It must have made him feel extremely inadequate.  Here's part of a letter that Nicholas wrote to his Uncle Vladimir Alexandrovich shortly after becoming Tsar about his uncle's disregarding his wishes on various military appointments, "My kindness is responsible for this whole incident - yes, I insist on this - my stupid kindness.  I have constatly given in to avoid quarreling and disturbing family relationships ...a blockhead, without will or character.  Now, I do not merely ask, I command you to carry out my previously expressed will."


Thank you, RichC, for continuing to provide us with such important and intriguing information... I am flabbergasted by this quote from Nicholas. Where on earth did he get such a terrible self-image? This passage is incredibly revealing. I mean, how on earth can you expect to lead others when you describe yourself to them as "a blockhead, without will or character" - ?!?

Having read this, I am now ready to believe all those stories that Nicholas' father was an alcoholic. For example, in another thread Greg King wrote that periodically, whenever Alexander went on a binge, Marie Feodorovna would have to take the children and seek refuge in a palace (can't remember which one), far away from him. The only reason I was originally inclined not to believe this anecdote is that I first heard it from a member of the Russian intelligentsia, who to this day utterly despise the last Romanovs and all their works. So naturally, I assumed this was just another story aimed at slandering the family... Now I am not so sure. Nicholas sounds very much like a brow-beaten, undervalued eldest son. He got this horrible, negative self-image from somewhere. If you ask me, Alexander III has a lot to answer for, both in terms of his political and his personal legacies to Nicholas II.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 17, 2005, 03:40:21 PM
In the only authorized biography of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (Nicholas' younger sister), GD Olga did, in fact, blame her father for Nicholas' unpreparedness for the throne.  She said her father, when approached by his ministers about putting Nicholas on the State Council, derided them for even bringing it up.  He asked whether any of them had ever seen a single serious thought enter his head.

(The reputed hide-away was at the Tauride Palace, where Marie Feodorovna was said to have kept a suite of rooms ready for herself and the children when Alexander's drinking got out of control.)

At the other end of his life, when Alexandra was debating whether or not to go with Nicholas from Tobolsk to Ekaterinburg or stay behind with Alexei, she was overheard by the commandant of the guard muttering about Nicholas doing something "stupid" if she let him out of her sight.

No one who knew the man at close quarters was ever impressed with his decision-making ability.  It's hard to tell the chicken from the egg.  Did Nicholas have no confidence in himself because he was surrounded by domineering, abusive individuals?  Or did people assert dominance over him because they saw or sensed an incapacity for sound judgment?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on April 17, 2005, 03:50:04 PM
Quote

...[in part]...
  Now, I do not merely ask, I command you to carry out my previously expressed will[/i]."


It appears that when pushed into a corner, Nicholas II did "command".

I'd love to know the source.

AGRBear

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 17, 2005, 03:55:21 PM
Quote
In the only authorized biography of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (Nicholas' younger sister), GD Olga did, in fact, blame her father for Nicholas' unpreparedness for the throne.  She said her father, when approached by his ministers about putting Nicholas on the State Council, derided them for even bringing it up.  He asked whether any of them had ever seen a single serious thought enter his head.

(The reputed hide-away was at the Tauride Palace, where Marie Feodorovna was said to have kept a suite of rooms ready for herself and the children when Alexander's drinking got out of control.)

At the other end of his life, when Alexandra was debating whether or not to go with Nicholas from Tobolsk to Ekaterinburg or stay behind with Alexei, she was overheard by the commandant of the guard muttering about Nicholas doing something "stupid" if she let him out of her sight.

No one who knew the man at close quarters was ever impressed with his decision-making ability.  It's hard to tell the chicken from the egg.  Did Nicholas have no confidence in himself because he was surrounded by domineering, abusive individuals?  Or did people assert dominance over him because they saw or sensed an incapacity for sound judgment?


I'm sure it's a combination of the two. Things are generally never as clear-cut or one-sided as they appear on the surface. For that matter, trusting Alexandra's judgment of her husband seems to me a mistake, because she herself was a remarkably unintelligent person (by which I mean, she was obstinate, short-sighted, narrow-minded, and impractical). Certainly she was totally lacking in self-awareness, which to me at least is always a sign of intelligence - whereas her husband seems to have had self-awareness in spades, perhaps erring the opposite way.

Nicholas is so reminiscent of Louis XVI. Neither were associated with any particular political circle before coming to the throne. Both were denigrated for their commonness, their "simplicity," even their stupidity. Nicholas seems to have over-compensated for what he (rightly?) perceived to be a lack in himself by holding sacred all of his father's ideals. No doubt this accounts for his absolute unwillingness to compromise the principles of autocracy, except at gunpoint.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 17, 2005, 04:09:08 PM
You've got me there, Elisabeth.  I really have reached a low ebb when I'm using Alexandra's views to make a point about anything.  As Botkin told his daughter shortly before the revolution, as a medical practitioner he could "no longer certify the Empress as entirely normal."
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on April 17, 2005, 04:12:18 PM
Quote
You've got me there, Elisabeth.  I really have reached a low ebb when I'm using Alexandra's views to make a point about anything.  As Botkin told his daughter shortly before the revolution, as a medical practitioner he could "no longer certify the Empress as entirely normal."


I'd love to know the source of this comment, too.

You're full of interesting quotes today.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on April 17, 2005, 04:19:26 PM
Quote

Having read this, I am now ready to believe all those stories that Nicholas' father was an alcoholic.


Elisabeth, when I first read about A III binge drinking, I thought "I wouldn't be surprised if this were true", and that it would explain certain things about Nicholas. He does seem to have had many traits that children of alcoholics possess.
Then I forgot all about it until you brought it up just now. Yes, this could very well explain some things, such as Nicholas's self esteem, his indecisive character, his unwillingness to have, what he thought of as, confrontations, his fatalism and his self destructiveness (some of his behavior can be seen as that). All these are ACOA traits. Just because he was a Tsar and his father was a Tsar, it doesn't mean that he couldn't end up with the same dysfunctional personality as anyone else from that situation!
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 17, 2005, 04:29:17 PM
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Yes, this could very well explain some things, such as Nicholas's self esteem, his indecisive character, his unwillingness to have, what he thought of as, confrontations, his fatalism and his self destructiveness (some of his behavior can be seen as that). All these are ACOA traits. Just because he was a Tsar and his father was a Tsar, it doesn't mean that he couldn't end up with the same dysfunctional personality as anyone else from that situation!


Thanks, Helen, for your observations. I had no idea that these traits were associated with Adult Children of Alcoholics (although I've heard this expression before). I was just so astonished by that quote of Nicholas's that I made an instantaneous connection with his (obviously domineering and no doubt alcoholic) father. BTW, is an exaggerated emotional dependency on one's spouse also a trait of ACOA?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on April 17, 2005, 04:30:00 PM
Nicholas II needed to handle each person in certain ways to get his command fullfilled.  It appears he was doing this in the letter/doc above.  These words of Nicholas II does not mean he was always presenting himself as a person with low esteem to others to whom he gave commands.

Just take ourselves.  All of us have a uncle or cousin Henry, who thinks he knows everything.  We'd ask him to do something differently in order for him to do whatever it was we wanted than we would aunt Mary, who is very meek.

Quote
..[in part]...

Here's part of a letter that Nicholas wrote to his Uncle Vladimir Alexandrovich shortly after becoming Tsar about his uncle's disregarding his wishes on various military appointments, "My kindness is responsible for this whole incident - yes, I insist on this - my stupid kindness.  I have constatly given in to avoid quarreling and disturbing family relationships ...a blockhead, without will or character.  Now, I do not merely ask, I command you to carry out my previously expressed will."


Rich C did mention to whom he wrote.  The person was Uncle Vladimir, and it was before Nicholas became Tsar.

Was good old uncle Vladimir like our uncle/cousin Henry?

This note/letter certainly tells us he was willing to swallow his pride and admit he'd made a mistake.  What was the mistake?

Also, we need to take note this was written before* he became Tsar.

AGRBear

* Correction: It was written shortly after he became Tsar
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 17, 2005, 07:53:32 PM
Hi, AGRBear.  The quote from Alexandra at Tobolsk was reported in "The Fate of the Romanovs" by Greg King and Penny Wilson, on p. 85.  She said to an attendant, within earshot of both Yakovlev and Kobylinski, "If he is taken alone, he'll do something stupid, like he did before" (apparently referring to the abdication).

She also told Yakovlev on his introductory visit that she did not allow anyone to see the Emperor outside of her presence -- a rather interesting glimpse into the nature of their relationship.

The quote from Botkin might have come from the same book, but I cannot find it on a quick perusal.  (I've read so many things that, while I'm pretty good on remembering the quotes, I lose track of the sources.)  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on April 17, 2005, 08:05:08 PM
Quote

BTW, is an exaggerated emotional dependency on one's spouse also a trait of ACOA?


I believe that co-dependency, which could go either way - either being overly submissive or overly domineering toward another person, usually a spouse. I would say it fits, but then again, it's difficult to say since the guy has been dead for almost 90 years and we never actually met him ;). But as I said before, I wouldn't be surprised if this was the case.

Here are some of the traits (from ACOA site):

-Frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.

- Live life from the viewpoint of victims and are attracted by that weakness in love and friendship relations.

- Have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility.

- Judge selves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.

- Dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment

- Reactors rather than actors
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 17, 2005, 10:28:54 PM
Quote

Rich C did mention to whom he wrote.  The person was Uncle Vladimir, and it was before Nicholas became Tsar.

Was good old uncle Vladimir like our uncle/cousin Henry?

This note/letter certainly tells us he was willing to swallow his pride and admit he'd made a mistake.  What was the mistake?

Also, we need to take note this was written before he became Tsar.

AGRBear


AGRBear, I apologize.  I should have mentioned the source in my original post.  I'm afraid I was in a hurry to go out, so I left it out.  Anyway, I read the quote in a biography of Witte titled Count Sergei Witte and the Twilight of Imperial Russia by Sidney Harcave, Sharpe, 2004.

The quote appears in chapter 6 and the note says it was from Krasnyi arkhiv 17 (Red Archive 17) published in 1926.  Apparently Red Archive was a leading Soviet historical journal and was published from the early 1920's through World War II.

BTW, Nicholas wrote the note shortly after he became Tsar, not before.


Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 18, 2005, 01:29:30 PM
Quote

I believe that co-dependency, which could go either way - either being overly submissive or overly domineering toward another person, usually a spouse. I would say it fits, but then again, it's difficult to say since the guy has been dead for almost 90 years and we never actually met him ;). But as I said before, I wouldn't be surprised if this was the case.

Here are some of the traits (from ACOA site):

-Frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.

- Live life from the viewpoint of victims and are attracted by that weakness in love and friendship relations.

- Have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility.

- Judge selves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.
 
- Dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment

- Reactors rather than actors


I've got to admit, all this sounds very much like Nicholas.

He couldn't abide personal or professional confrontations, to the extent that he would agree with a person to his face rather than openly contradict him - then sack the person once he had left.

He viewed himself as a Job-like character, born on the day of Job and sentenced to a life of suffering and self-sacrifice. Being tsar was not an opportunity but yet another cross to bear.

He was certainly attracted to suffering. Alexandra was famous for her air of melancholy long before she ever gave birth to a hemophiliac son.

I've remembered another Nicholas quote, too, that exemplifies his low self-esteem. It concerns his relationship with the army: "How can you expect them to take commands from a dwarf?" or words to that effect. He was not tall like the other Romanov men - another source of self-loathing, it seems.

Emotionally dependent and afraid of abandonment: after the Revolution, Nicholas and Alexandra refused to countenance the idea that the family might be separated - the children sent to safety on their own. The emphasis on this very close, claustrophobic family circle, with very few outsiders - or even close relatives - allowed to penetrate its confines.

A reactor rather than an actor: well that sums it up quite nicely. Nicholas never did anything original; he always followed the lead of others - most notably his father, Alexander III, but also that of Nicholas Nikolaevich, in signing the October Manifesto.

Of course we can't know for certain that the shoe fits, because as Helen rightly says, we never met Nicholas personally - but at least on the surface it appears to be a remarkably close fit...  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on April 18, 2005, 01:54:58 PM
I'm not sure if anyone can psychoanalyze Nicholas II because you cannot sit down with him and talk to him one on one.  Sure, we have a lot of "gossip", "rumors", stories, letters but much of it is based on heresay. And there is the factor of the mental state of the person writing the letter or ____.   Plus, there are too many unknowns.  We don't know how he was affected in events like his grandfather's Alex. II's death, or what kind of relationship he had with his father who may have been known to drink to much and may have been a "mean drunk"....  And, I could go on and on....  There wre rumors he was smoking "hemp" and for a time taking "cocaine" ....  We don't know if he suffered from lack of sleep or scattered moments of depression or deep depression....  Was he one of those smart people who have a hard  time with people?  Was he above average in intelligence but never had the proper guidence?  Etc. Etc. Etc. .  

I think it's best to stick to historial facts on this thread which tell us the "negative attributes" and if you want to be an arm chair psycholoist  perhaps we can  continue this line of thought over on a new thread.

AGRBear

Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on April 18, 2005, 01:57:52 PM
Thanks Rich C and Tarfan for the sources.

I always like to know where I can find all the "goodies" being thrown around on this thread which has proven quite interesting.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 18, 2005, 02:28:05 PM
Quote
I'm not sure if anyone can psychoanalyze Nicholas II because you cannot sit down with him and talk to him one on one.  Sure, we have a lot of "gossip", "rumors", stories, letters but much of it is based on heresay. And there is the factor of the mental state of the person writing the letter or ____.   Plus, there are too many unknowns.  We don't know how he was affected in events like his grandfather's Alex. II's death, or what kind of relationship he had with his father who may have been known to drink to much and may have been a "mean drunk"....  And, I could go on and on....  There wre rumors he was smoking "hemp" and for a time taking "cocaine" ....  We don't know if he suffered from lack of sleep or scattered moments of depression or deep depression....  Was he one of those smart people who have a hard  time with people?  Was he above average in intelligence but never had the proper guidence?  Etc. Etc. Etc. .  

I think it's best to stick to historial facts on this thread which tell us the "negative attributes" and if you want to be an arm chair psycholoist  perhaps we can  continue this line of thought over on a new thread.

AGRBear



Bear, whether you are aware of it or not, all this "psychoanalysis" of Nicholas makes him a much more sympathetic character than Tsarfan and a truckload of historians have made him out to be. The general historical verdict is that Nicholas was a terrible tsar: dull-witted (even stupid), weak-willed, indecisive and demonstrably incompetent.

ACOA therapy merely attempts to explain why some people, the children of alcoholics, behave in self-defeating or even self-destructive ways, as Nicholas clearly did. I don't see anything disrespectful in trying to see Nicholas as a human being who suffered from certain developmental disadvantages because of his alcoholic father.

Otherwise you are left with a massively incompetent tsar with no excuse for his incompetence - something I hardly think you want!
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 18, 2005, 04:12:18 PM
Quote

Bear, whether you are aware of it or not, all this "psychoanalysis" of Nicholas makes him a much more sympathetic character than Tsarfan and a truckload of historians have made him out to be. The general historical verdict is that Nicholas was a terrible tsar: dull-witted (even stupid), weak-willed, indecisive and demonstrably incompetent.

ACOA therapy merely attempts to explain why some people, the children of alcoholics, behave in self-defeating or even self-destructive ways, as Nicholas clearly did. I don't see anything disrespectful in trying to see Nicholas as a human being who suffered from certain developmental disadvantages because of his alcoholic father.

Otherwise you are left with a massively incompetent tsar with no excuse for his incompetence - something I hardly think you want!


I agree.  It does make him more sympathetic.  Earlier in this thread I was suggesting that Nicholas' failures had more to do with his character/personality traits rather than a lack of raw brains.  Perhaps he did suffer more than we hitherto realized from bad parenting.  Indeed, I know people who might score very well on an IQ test but nevertheless make very bad decisions in their lives because they were poorly brought-up.

Perhaps if Nicholas had been brought up by people who strove to give him the confidence in himself he seems to have lacked, things might have been different.  Also, that's really too bad about the height thing.  If his father was making fun of him over his height -- that's unforgivable.   Nicholas was a very handsome, powerfully built, man.  It's a shame if he felt inadequate because he was short.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 18, 2005, 05:05:10 PM
Now c'mon, folks . . . I never said Nicholas was not a sympathetic human being.

One of the fundamental problems of hereditary monarchy is that people often end up in roles of almost unimaginable responsibility who have neither inclination nor talent for the roles.  As much as we might pity Nicholas as a human being, he nevertheless occupied a role on which the well-being and even the lives of millions of people depended.  Thousands of Jews died or were dispossessed during the pogroms of his reign.  1.4 million Russians died in the first year of the Great War.  Untold millions died under Stalin.  The fact that Nicholas might have not been up to the role because his father was an alcoholic is small comfort for the millions of victims of his policies.

Abdication or refusing one's inheritance was not unheard of in the Romanov family.  There is compelling evidence that Alexander I might have faked his death to escape his duties.  His next-eldest brother Constantine refused the throne, which instead passed to Nicholas I.  Grand Duke Michael in 1917 refused the throne (albeit in extenuating circumstances).  The paradox is that Nicholas was too weak to be tsar and too weak not to be.

And we're all a little out on a limb here attributing so much so readily to an alcholic father.  There are a few anecdotal indications that Alexander drank to excess.  There are more indications that he didn't:  an early riser who pursued a gruelling work schedule, a wife who seemed truly devoted to him, a doting daughter (Olga) who took her father candidly to task in her old age for certain failings . . . but never his drinking.  Additionally, there are masses of writings on his reign, memoires by imperial ministers and others from the era, and correspondence within the imperial family that make no mention of it.  It's quite a stretch to pin so much of Nicholas' failures on such a thin thread of evidence.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on April 18, 2005, 05:12:25 PM
Quote
There are a few anecdotal indications that Alexander drank to excess.  There are more indications that he didn't:  an early riser who pursued a gruelling work schedule, a wife who seemed truly devoted to him, a doting daughter (Olga) who did take her father candidly to task in her old ago for certain failings . . . but never his drinking.  Additionally, there are masses of writings on his reign, memoires by imperial ministers and others from the era, and correspondence within the imperial family that make no mention of it.  It's quite a stretch to pin so much of Nicholas' failures on such a thin thread of evidence.


I have news for you  ;): being an alcoholic doesn't always mean spending most of your time in a drunken stupor, lying somewhere in the gutter and coming home to beat up your wife and children. This is a huge myth. 90% of functioning alcoholics can be described exactly how you just described A III.
In addition, in Russia, drinking to excess would not be considered that abnormal, so I don't think anyone would make a big deal out of it by documenting it in their memoirs, etc, a lot.
However, if he was indeed an alcoholic, all AIII's children (and his wife) would have been effected by it one way or another. And since NII happened to be the Tsar of all the Russias, whatever effected him, effected the rest of the country. Not everything what happened could be attributed to this, but if this indeed was the case, a lot could be. Read up on ACOA's, you'd be surprised!  :)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 18, 2005, 05:24:55 PM
I'm not as unfamiliar with alcoholism as you think.  My partner just got the 12-year medal from AA and is very active in support groups for alcoholics and their families.

However, I still want to see more evidence of Alexander's alcholism than the tales of a tour guide at the Tauride Palace, who was the original source of the story about the "hide-away".  It seems to me that parental conduct that would have been sufficient to create a character as weak as Nicholas' would have drawn more comment than we see in the record.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on April 18, 2005, 05:28:51 PM
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However, I still want to see more evidence of Alexander's alcholism than the tales of a tour guide at the Tauride Palace, who was the original source of the story about the "hide-away".  It seems to me that parental conduct that would have been sufficient to create a character as weak as Nicholas' would have drawn more comment than we see in the record.


Oh, I am definitely not trying to say that this is a historical fact, it's not! But we are just talking about some interesting possibilities, that's all...
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 18, 2005, 06:11:08 PM
Even if it turns out that Alexander III never drank and was never an alcoholic (I never read anywhere that he was one) I have read numerous sources that state he was a lousy father to Nicholas.  Shouldn't that be taken into account when discussing Nicholas' attributes?

When Nicholas won Alix's hand his father told him something like, "I never expected you to succeed."  What a thing to say!
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on April 18, 2005, 07:52:13 PM
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Even if it turns out that Alexander III never drank and was never an alcoholic (I never read anywhere that he was one) I have read numerous sources that state he was a lousy father to Nicholas.  Shouldn't that be taken into account when discussing Nicholas' attributes?
 


Absolutely. It sort of amounts to the same thing though: his parent's influence on the formation of his character.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 18, 2005, 08:50:03 PM
Granted, there were negative parental influences on Nicholas.  But such influences can produce strength of character and a determination to prove oneself as well as weakness.  A lot depends on the raw material.

Look at the great monarchs who had horrific childhood experiences:

Elizabeth I of England, whose mother was beheaded by her father, spent her childhood cycling in and out of grace in a court where the consequences could be deadly.  In fact, she came within a tentative signature of being murdered by her half sister.  She laid the economic foundations for England's future empire and oversaw England's rise to global naval domination.

Frederick the Great was bullied and abused by his father.  He was even forced to watch the beheading of his best childhood friend (and likely lover) by his father.  He went on to become a great general who established the hegemony of Prussia in central Europe and the core of what became modern Germany.

Louis XIV had a manipulative mother who ignored her son's interests to connive with her lover Cardinal Richelieu to the point that the nobility revolted, almost taking Louis captive.  His reign was the apogee of absolutism in modern Europe.

Peter the Great witnessed the wholesale murder of his mother's extended family during childhood and barely escaped with his life.  He was brought up in part by a half sister who, had she seen the necessity in time, would have probably eliminated him to clear her own way to the throne.  He went on to turn Russia into a land and sea power of the first order.

Catherine the Great was hauled from home as a teenager and parachuted into a strange world of violent politics where she was wed to a murderous sadist.  She managed to become the dominant monarch of her age.

Yes, Nicholas' father was an insensitive lout, and his mother was an overly-protective shield.  Elizabeth, Frederick, Louis, Peter, and Catherine should have been so lucky.

If monarchs can get off the hook for destroying their countries by arguing an unpleasant childhood, it's a true blessing that the institution is breathing its last in our times.  Monarchs have always set themselves above and apart from the rest of humanity.  In so doing, they lose the defense of humanness for their mistakes.

Jeez . . . now I'm wondering why I chose "Tsarfan" as my moniker.  I really do have a love/hate relationship with the institution of monarchy, I guess.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on April 18, 2005, 09:05:17 PM
I agree with you, Tsarfan, having lousy parents does not guarantee, nor excuse, ending up with weakness of character as we saw in N II, and yes everyone may  react differently to the same situation. Nevertheless, all these people would most likely end up with certain traits that were a result of growing up in a certain environment. Bottom line is that we are all affected, more or less, by what happened in our childhood, but we don't end up having identical personalities even if we grow up in the same environment. Nicholas happened to have gone one way, while the others may have gone another. Remember, what all these personality traits have in common is extremes, not identical behavior.
As I posted earlier, one can either become extremely submissive or extremely controlling as a result of being an ACOA for example, etc. So it's the extremes that they end up having in common, not necessarily identical traits. Either way, they somehow or other end up dysfunctional in some way. That's the theory... And of course, just like with anything else, there are exceptions.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 18, 2005, 09:42:45 PM
Being no stranger to people who were raised in seriously dysfunctional families, Helen, I do see the legitimacy of your points . . . at least in a general sense.

However, we're all again out on a limb here in accusing Alexander of being a lousy father.  Olga loved him dearly.  I've read a recent biography of Grand Duke Michael (Nicholas' younger brother) and saw little indication of a dysfunctional upbringing.  I know less about George's and Xenia's relationship with their father.

Yes, Alexander made some insensitive comments about Nicholas.  But then, he might have had good reason to worry about Nicholas' ability to shoulder the responsibilities of government and consequently been hard on him.  It's not the most effective or sophisticated way to deal with the problem, but it might have arisen from fear and frustration on the part of Alexander rather than from intentional brutality.

I really don't know the truth of it . . . but I feel we're assigning conduct and motives to Alexander that might be only partially correct.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 18, 2005, 10:28:45 PM
Well, in investigating Nicholas' negative attributes, I'm glad we are looking at his upbringing.  Whatever the truth, it certainly is worth looking at.  I'm not trying to find excuses for Nicholas' mistakes.  But I do want to know what led to those mistakes.  

Here's KR's diary entry for December 7, 1894

"...the Emperor saw me by the doors to His study downstairs....I asked whether He had received any advice from his Father before the latter's death.  Nicky replied that his Father had never once mentioned the responsibilities that awaited Him.  During confession Father Yanyshev had asked the dying Emperor whether he had talked to his Heir.  The Emperor had replied: No, he himself knows everything.  Nicky added that even before, when sending Him abroad to foreign courts, His Father had never given Him any instructions and had left Him to act as He thought best.  For this reason it was now both easier and more difficult for Him."

Letter from A III to N, April 14, 1894

"You can imagine the feeling of joy and gratitude towards the Lord with which we learnt of your engagement!  I have to admit that I did not believe the possibility of such an outcome and was sure your atempt would fail completely..."
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 19, 2005, 06:36:44 AM
Late in her life, GD Olga did take her father to task for not introducing Nicholas to the affairs of government, and there is plenty of other evidence to indicate Alexander failed Nicholas in this regard.  However, that is something different from abuse.  Many rulers (including Queen Victoria) were slow to admit their heirs into state affairs, perhaps because it confronted them with their own mortality.  Who knows?

Queen Elizabeth I had been barred even from court for long periods preceding her ascension.  Peter the Great took the throne as a co-Tsar with a mentally-handicapped brother, with both being under the thumb of an ambitious regent who was not inclined to let either ever acquire real power.  He spent the early years of his reign at an isolated rural estate trying to keep as low a profile as possible just to survive.  Catherine the Great was cut off from all civil communication with her husband before her coup.  Both Catherine and Elizabeth took up their sceptres amid internal and international doubts about their rights to rule.  But they figured it out.

Nicholas ascended a throne as an unchallenged monarch surrounded by a stable bureaucracy and a cadre of ministers who were not wont to be overly cantankerous with their master.  His unpreparedness to rule did not result from having missed a few state council meetings.  It arose from deeper shortcomings.

It is certainly possible to read Alexander's letter to Nicholas upon his engagement as a mean-spirited put-down.  However, it is equally supportable to read it simply as an acknowledgement that Alexandra's long-standing resolve not to change her religion had been particularly difficult to overcome (even by members of her family who urged her unsuccessfully for months to relent).  Alexander did open, after all, with hearty congratulations to Nicholas on his success.  It's not the most diplomatic document ever written . . . but does it signify an underlying relationship sufficiently abusive to incapacitate Nicholas for rule?  I'm not sure.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 19, 2005, 07:04:45 AM
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As I posted earlier, one can either become extremely submissive or extremely controlling as a result of being an ACOA for example, etc. So it's the extremes that they end up having in common, not necessarily identical traits. Either way, they somehow or other end up dysfunctional in some way. That's the theory... And of course, just like with anything else, there are exceptions.


Helen, I quite take exception to this statement, (in a non-aggressive manner!  ;) ) especially:
"Either way they end up somehow or other dysfunctional."
As children of an alcoholic parent I can say with certainty that neither of my siblings is dysfunctional, submissive or domineering (though my sister is a bit bossy!! ;D)
I cannot speak for myself  :-/

It is also said that children of alcoholics are likely to become alcoholic themselves. This is also insulting.

I do not believe that they are exceptions; it is too easy to make generalisations & suggests that people do not have the ability to rise above their circumstances.

With regard to Nicholas, I do not consider him as 'weak' as is often suggested. He may have been unsuited to his position but there were some aspects of his character which were strong.
What EXACTLY is meant by 'weakness' - I ask myself.
His father, I believe, did not prepare him for his role & showed a marked preference for Misha, but he was not cruel to Nicholas & - by the standards of royalty at the time - they were a very uinited and 'happy' family!

(SO THERE!! - I'm just being extremely dominant...oh, sorry, all that was wrong....or extremely submissive.... ;D )
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on April 19, 2005, 09:27:42 AM

    The point has been well made that having an abusive or domineering parent can drive one to become either an inspired but neurotic leader or an insecure failure. Sadly Nicholas -for all the mixed emotions that many posters may have for him- was never able to overcome his shy retiring and excessively polite nature.  
    This tendency may well be endearing in a private citizen but it is terrible in an Autocrat or any powerful public figure. Could it have been helped? Maybe, but I don't think that Alix could have been the one to do it- she seems to have had a strong need to "mother" but this sort of feedback did not inspire 'self confidence' in Nicholas - it only made him more dependent on her.

rskkiya
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 19, 2005, 11:30:48 AM
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Helen, I quite take exception to this statement, (in a non-aggressive manner!  ;) ) especially:
"Either way they end up somehow or other dysfunctional."
As children of an alcoholic parent I can say with certainty that neither of my siblings is dysfunctional, submissive or domineering (though my sister is a bit bossy!! ;D)
I cannot speak for myself  :-/

It is also said that children of alcoholics are likely to become alcoholic themselves. This is also insulting.

I do not believe that they are exceptions; it is too easy to make generalisations & suggests that people do not have the ability to rise above their circumstances.
 


Here! Here!

I too am the child of an alcoholic parent and I seem to have done ok both in my personal and professional life.  

One of the ways I dealt with my family problems was by going to the library and reading -- I would spend hours there after school and on weekends.  Adversity can breed character.  So, if there are any kids looking at this, ignore the comment about being dysfunctional.  As Blutoria says, people can rise above their circumstances -- and they do every day.  (I'm getting off the soapbox now-- since the FA has said that children read this site regularly, I had to say something)

Oh, to connect this to this thread, I very much agree with your point, Tsarfan.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Helen_Azar on April 19, 2005, 12:07:11 PM
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Here! Here!

I too am the child of an alcoholic parent and I seem to have done ok both in my personal and professional life.  

One of the ways I dealt with my family problems was by going to the library and reading -- I would spend hours there after school and on weekends.  Adversity can breed character.  So, if there are any kids looking at this, ignore the comment about being dysfunctional.  As Blutoria says, people can rise above their circumstances -- and they do every day.  (I'm getting off the soapbox now-- since the FA has said that children read this site regularly, I had to say something)

Oh, to connect this to this thread, I very much agree with your point, Tsarfan.  


Alright, if you guys insists on continuing this particular discussion, then so be it. I too am a child of alcoholic (my father also happens to be a very decent guy) and I too have been functioning pretty well in life. I think that at least 80% of everyone I know is an ACOA and many of them have done very well. Many haven't. Either way, they still all, including myself, possess traits that are a direct result of their backgrounds - it is unavoidable. These things are not necessarily negative, but they are there. Of course there are people coming from this sort of an environment who can and have "risen above it all" and have become self-aware, productive and functional members of society. If this weren't the case, then the majority of human population would not even be able to crawl out of the caves! No one is disputing this! I think you guys are missing the point completely.  :-/

Coming back to the topic, no one is insisting that it is a historical fact that A III was an alcoholic and that this was what caused NII to be what he was. In fact, I even specifically said that we don't know this, and can't know this for sure because we never met the guy (if you read my earlier posts). We were trying to look at various possibilities, things that have not been considered before, to try to explain certain things about Nicholas's character. The discussion may have got a little carried away. But ultimately, there is nothing wrong with taking this type of an approach, examining a historical character through psychology for instance, in order to find some answers. It is a hypothesis, nothing more nothing less.

To start taking it personally is not really very productive to a discussion like this... I am very sorry if this theme offended some people, it wasn't meant as a personal affront, only as an academic exercise.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 19, 2005, 01:29:36 PM
Wow, what a discussion! Sorry I missed out on so much.

All this reminds me of my ongoing debate with my husband over the nature vs. nurture question. He's a conservative, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps type whereas I am more liberal and tend to look for the reasons behind people's less than exemplary behavior - I suppose in part because I do not want to be judged harshly myself!

But honestly, I think both nature and nurture play a role in the formation of anyone's personality. In fact, isn't  this what most neuroscientists now believe? For example,  if someone has a genetic predisposition toward depression, bad or abusive parenting is going to bring it out.

As far as historical personages other than Nicholas go:

Quote
Look at the great monarchs who had horrific childhood experiences:

Elizabeth I of England, whose mother was beheaded by her father, spent her childhood cycling in and out of grace in a court where the consequences could be deadly.  In fact, she came within a tentative signature of being murdered by her half sister.  She laid the economic foundations for England's future empire and oversaw England's rise to global naval domination.


Actually Elizabeth Tudor is not a good example of someone triumphing over a bad childhood. She had a murderous father, true, but she was protected from his negative influence (indeed, she rarely saw him) by a host of loving caregivers during her most formative years: among others, Lady Bryan and later, Katherine Ashley. She remained utterly devoted to these women throughout her life and continued to protect "dear Kat" even when it went against her best interests to do so. Just one person can make the difference in a child's life - Elizabeth had several.

Quote
Frederick the Great was bullied and abused by his father.  He was even forced to watch the beheading of his best childhood friend (and likely lover) by his father.  He went on to become a great general who established the hegemony of Prussia in central Europe and the core of what became modern Germany.

Louis XIV had a manipulative mother who ignored her son's interests to connive with her lover Cardinal Richelieu to the point that the nobility revolted, almost taking Louis captive.  His reign was the apogee of absolutism in modern Europe.

Peter the Great witnessed the wholesale murder of his mother's extended family during childhood and barely escaped with his life.  He was brought up in part by a half sister who, had she seen the necessity in time, would have probably eliminated him to clear her own way to the throne.  He went on to turn Russia into a land and sea power of the first order.


About Frederick the Great and Louis XIV I know little enough. But Peter the Great turned into a murderous tyrant, whatever you think of his many accomplishments. Remember his personal participation in the very bloody execution of the Streltsy? St. Petersburg, which he built on the bones of forced peasant labor? The yurodivye, lunatics, and other homeless people he exiled to Siberia and certain death because he couldn't abide their presence in his cities? His drunken orgies with Menshikov and his other buddies? Sure, Peter was functional, and he was a great success as tyrants go, but he was not a person you would wish to emulate in your own life, by any stretch of the imagination.

Quote
Catherine the Great was hauled from home as a teenager and parachuted into a strange world of violent politics where she was wed to a murderous sadist.  She managed to become the dominant monarch of her age.


Catherine the Great had a very normal childhood with a loving father and rather domineering mother. She adapted to her situation in Russia because she had the brains - and the acquired skills - to adapt.

But what about Ivan the Terrible? Someone should mention him. He had a childhood awful beyond imagining, including the probable murder of his mother and the definite murder of other near relatives. He was by every account an abused child, both exploited and neglected by the boyars around him. He emerged from the experience psychotic, possibly even what we would call today a serial killer. Nature or nurture? Most probably a combination of both.

Quote
If monarchs can get off the hook for destroying their countries by arguing an unpleasant childhood, it's a true blessing that the institution is breathing its last in our times.  Monarchs have always set themselves above and apart from the rest of humanity.  In so doing, they lose the defense of humanness for their mistakes.


Well, I agree with the whole decline of monarchy concept. But I would disagree with the "defense of humanness for their mistakes." It's not so much a defense but a need to know why. Most of us would like to understand the nature of human evil, in as much as we wish to prevent its reoccurrence. As Alan Bullock wrote, if there is even the remotest chance that being beaten as children caused both Hitler and Stalin to become genocidal tyrants, isn't it in our best interests to prevent child abuse to the extent that it is possible? I really don't see how examining the personal lives of rulers detracts or even exists apart from a larger desire to understand the way the world works... But to each his own, I suppose. (My husband is defending your position even as I type this, the rotter!) And BTW, I still find it impossible to blame Nicholas II entirely for the Russian revolution, which could very well have happened even if another man had been standing in his shoes, indeed, even if Peter the Great had stood in them.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 19, 2005, 01:50:19 PM
Quote

But ultimately, there is nothing wrong with taking this type of an approach, examining a historical character through psychology for instance, in order to find some answers. It is a hypothesis, nothing more nothing less.

To start taking it personally is not really very productive to a discussion like this... I am very sorry if this theme offended some people, it wasn't meant as a personal
affront, only as an academic exercise.


I agree with you entirely, Helen, that it is a good thing to examine historical characters from a psychological viewpoint; this seems to me (as Elizabeth says too in the next post) part of the whole point of studying history: to examine what has happened & to use that knowledge to make future improvements.
But viewing things psychologically does, necessarily, I think involve people relating personal experiences. Unless people do so, we have no opportunity to compare reactions etc.
I don't think anything you wrote was offensive, nor was any offence taken by anyone - it was simply a response, with a view to explaining Nicholas' behaviour as much as anyone else's.

At least that was my intention.  :)


Quote

 Either way, they still all, including myself, possess traits that are a direct result of their backgrounds - it is unavoidable. These things are not necessarily negative, but they are there.

 


Like the children of an alcoholic parent might have a desperate desire to avoid conflict??  :-/  ;)  ;D


Elizabeth, I entirely agree that in examining historical characters we gain an understanding of how the world works. All these pages of writing about so many characters really do seem to me (I wrote this before on another thread) a microcosm of all humanity. I don't agree with the view that 'the past is a different country, they do things differently there' because I believe that people have been people, have been people, throughout history & there is little change.

The nature/nurture debate is one of endless fascination. Relating it to Nicholas (And Alexandra, too) is immensely intriguing.
I hope this debate will continue.
I do not think him responsible for the Revolution, either. Nor do I believe that he had an unhappy or dysfuncional childhood within his own home. He had a mother who was far more loving than many of her class & a father who, though he may have been gruff and a little frightening at times, also took the time to play with his children. He had many happy holidays, cheerful siblings & a wide range of friends, cousins etc.
One event, above all, however, I think probably had a MASSIVE effect on him and that was witnessing the appalling death of his grandfather. What terror that must have brought into the heart of a young boy who knew that one day he too would be Tsar.....


Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 19, 2005, 03:09:26 PM
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Actually Elizabeth Tudor is not a good example of someone triumphing over a bad childhood. She had a murderous father, true, but she was protected from his negative influence (indeed, she rarely saw him) by a host of loving caregivers during her most formative years: among others, Lady Bryan and later, Katherine Ashley. She remained utterly devoted to these women throughout her life and continued to protect "dear Kat" even when it went against her best interests to do so. Just one person can make the difference in a child's life - Elizabeth had several.


About Frederick the Great and Louis XIV I know little enough. But Peter the Great turned into a murderous tyrant, whatever you think of his many accomplishments. Remember his personal participation in the very bloody execution of the Streltsy? St. Petersburg, which he built on the bones of forced peasant labor? The yurodivye, lunatics, and other homeless people he exiled to Siberia and certain death because he couldn't abide their presence in his cities? His drunken orgies with Menshikov and his other buddies? Sure, Peter was functional, and he was a great success as tyrants go, but he was not a person you would wish to emulate in your own life, by any stretch of the imagination.


I don't see Elizabeth Tudor's childhood as quite that bucolic.  While others might have protected her from her father, she was aware that protection was required and that Henry had both the power to reach in at any time and the capacity for malice.  For instance, Elizabeth was reported by many at the time as never having mentioned her mother after her execution.  This is not normal behavior for a child.  Elizabeth was extremely precocious and supremely calculating from an early age.  She had desperate need to be calculating, and she knew it.

I cannot defend Peter on all counts, but I do understand his dealings with the Streltsy.  They had held the pikes onto which his mother's relatives were tossed before his eyes during the palace coup of his childhood, and they remained a volatile force to be enlisted by those who would usurp the throne.  In fact, that is exactly what happened while Peter was in Europe.  He had to race back to Russia and, to secure his throne once and for all, he had not only to eradicate the Streltsy, but to do so in a fashion that would discourage any others from assuming their place.  Gratuitously cruel?  Maybe.  Absolutely necessary?  Yes.

Regarding the exiles he ordered to Siberia . . . not laudable, but not dissimilar to a more "enligthened" Catherine II's establishing of the Pale of Settlement as a holding pen for her own "undesireable" subjects.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: AGRBear on April 19, 2005, 03:18:50 PM
Just reading some of the descriptions of how Alex. II's body was torn apart turns my stomach.  I can just imagine some of the things that must have gone through the mind of Nicholas II as he stood there in a sailor suit as a witness to this horrific event.

And what of Peter watching all those bodies pierced with pikes and what deafing cries of pain and anquish he heard....

Then Frederick II "the Great" made to watch from his prision window as his best friend was hung under the orders of Fred.'s father.

Makes me feel icy cold....

AGRBear
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 19, 2005, 03:45:41 PM
Quote
But Peter the Great turned into a murderous tyrant, whatever you think of his many accomplishments. Remember his personal participation in the very bloody execution of the Streltsy? St. Petersburg, which he built on the bones of forced peasant labor?

But what about Ivan the Terrible? Someone should mention him. He had a childhood awful beyond imagining, including the probable murder of his mother and the definite murder of other near relatives. He was by every account an abused child, both exploited and neglected by the boyars around him. He emerged from the experience psychotic, possibly even what we would call today a serial killer. Nature or nurture? Most probably a combination of both.


Sorry . . . this is just too interesting to quit.  I just thought of one more point about Peter.

While countless thousands of laborers died in building St. Petersburg, there was at least a state reason for hurrying the construction of the city.  Peter had just seized the region from Sweden, which up until then had been the dominant military power of the Baltic rim and was effectively blocking Russia's seaborne access to the West.  Peter was desperate to create a vested interest on the part of Russia's ruling classes in supporting his "window on the West" strategy, and he needed a capital to which to lure them as quickly as possible in order to put down a stake.

Contrast that to Nicholas I's behavior when the Winter Palace burned in 1837.  Although the Tsar had numerous other residences available in the vicinity, he demanded that the palace be rebuilt within a year.  The haste this required and the health risks of working on such a project through a Russian winter resulted in hundreds of deaths on the work site from accident and disease.  What was his state purpose?  Nada.

Ivan IV is a fascinating case.  Because we know how his reign ended, we forget that the long early years of his reign were among the most successful of any monarch.  Ivan consolidated royal power against the violent fractiousness of a brutal Boyar class, and he was building an empire at the rate of 50 square miles a day for many years.  In fact, at one point he dealt with the Boyars'  attempt to reassert themselves by resigning his post and putting his case to the people of Moscow.  They were horrified at losing a popular Tsar and seeing a resurgence of Boyar power.

Only after the death of Ivan's beloved wife Anastasia did his incipient instability (which, I grant, probably derived in part from his childhood experiences) take hold and send him spiralling into unbridled cruelty.

Actually, Elisabeth, you're probably right that he had the makings of a serial killer embedded deep within his psyche.  As as child he enjoyed throwing cats and dogs off a bell tower to see them screech in horror.  I've always been fascinated how often the torture of animals has been an early indicator of psychopathic tendencies.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 19, 2005, 04:25:14 PM
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Actually, Elisabeth, you're probably right that he had the makings of a serial killer embedded deep within his psyche.  As as child he enjoyed throwing cats and dogs off a bell tower to see them screech in horror.  I've always been fascinated how often the torture of animals has been an early indicator of psychopathic tendencies.


This reminds me so much of Peter III, court-martialing rats and hanging them. Or Vlad Dracul (Dracula), imprisoned by the Turks, impaling sparrows and mice for lack of any other victims. Excuse me if I'm being macabre, but it is fascinating.

To go back to an earlier question though: please don't misunderstand me, I wouldn't argue that Elizabeth Tudor's childhood was "bucolic," only that she had several strong, safe, loving adults in her life. Not to go deeply into the literature on child abuse, but the presence of merely one such adult can make all the difference in a child's personality development. Otherwise there is no safe harbor anywhere, no means of learning how to feel safe in one's self, and no chance for bonds of empathy to form with other human beings. I think we can see the results of such an absence in the life of Ivan the Terrible, a brilliant man, every bit Elizabeth's intellectual equal, but destroyed by his own internal demons, and bringing Russia itself to the brink of destruction with his disastrous Livonian War and the terror of his oprichniki. (I had one college professor who said that Ivan's reign was the turning point, the point where Russia began to go wrong. Since then I have heard many Russian intellectuals make the same argument.)

I would agree with you that Peter usually had "reasons of state" for doing what he did - still, you must admit, he was not the most humane personality. He didn't have to participate personally in the executions of the Streltsy (even Henry VIII didn't go so far!). He didn't have to torture his own son to death (he could have sent him to a monastery, for God's sake!). He didn't have to be so brutal that Alexander Solzhenitsyn has actually called him "Russia's First Bolshevik." And his legacy to Russia was not all good, you know. He left a permanent divide between the Westernized elite and the mass of the population; he left the succession question unresolved; he never managed to come up with a solution to the problem of local government either... Rather a mixed bag, I think.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 19, 2005, 05:02:47 PM
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I would agree with you that Peter usually had "reasons of state" for doing what he did - still, you must admit, he was not the most humane personality. He didn't have to participate personally in the executions of the Streltsy (even Henry VIII didn't go so far!). He didn't have to torture his own son to death (he could have sent him to a monastery, for God's sake!). He didn't have to be so brutal that Alexander Solzhenitsyn has actually called him "Russia's First Bolshevik." And his legacy to Russia was not all good, you know. He left a permanent divide between the Westernized elite and the mass of the population; he left the succession question unresolved; he never managed to come up with a solution to the problem of local government either... Rather a mixed bag, I think.


Didn't Peter also lock up his first wife (the mother of Tsarevich Alexis).  Wasn't her name Eudoxia?  

Nicholas II, as we know, was also no fan of Peter the Great.  Nicholas said that Peter was his least favorite Romanov Tsar because of his attempts to "westernize" Russia.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Silja on April 19, 2005, 05:18:09 PM
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 there was at least a state reason for hurrying the construction of the city.



But there is ALWAYS a [state] reason for all the dreadful deeds committed by all kinds of historical figures. If you argue by justifying the means by the end you'll get into deep trouble. You may justify ANYTHING by this according to what YOU consider is best for the state.

Certainly the Latin American military regimes had very good "state reasons" for torturing and annihilating all these people. Just one example.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 19, 2005, 05:34:18 PM
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But there is ALWAYS a [state] reason for all the dreadful deeds committed by all kinds of historical figures. If you argue by justifying the means by the end you'll get into deep trouble. You may justify ANYTHING by this according to what YOU consider is best for the state.



Absolutely, Silja!
Any tyrant, even Hitler, could have used that excuse.  And how often have tyrants equated the state with themselves...hence '"It is best for the state" is an excuse for, "It is best for me."
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Silja on April 19, 2005, 05:47:05 PM
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The paradox is that Nicholas was too weak to be tsar and too weak not to be.

.


Certainly Nicholas would have done well to renounce the throne, but he didn't do so because he was too weak but because he was too conscientious.
It has been mentioned before so many times, but it remains a fact that Nicholas's idea of tsardom was that you cannot abdicate a throne given to you by God.
It was a terribly naive perspective, especially in Russia, where it had long become  common practice to usurp the crown  ;D, but it was something Nicholas absolutely believed in.
So in this case it was indeed his deep conviction, or if you want to call it so, his intellectual limitation, but not his weakness, that made him accept and then hold to his office. He considered it his duty.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 19, 2005, 07:19:16 PM
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But there is ALWAYS a [state] reason for all the dreadful deeds committed by all kinds of historical figures. If you argue by justifying the means by the end you'll get into deep trouble. You may justify ANYTHING by this according to what YOU consider is best for the state.

Certainly the Latin American military regimes had very good "state reasons" for torturing and annihilating all these people. Just one example.



Yes, there's always a state reason from the perspective of the ruling despot, dictator, general secretary, ect., but not from the perspective of a historian.  That's how I read Tsarfan's post.  For example, *some* historians believe there was no "state reason" for carrying out the Oprichnina -- that there was no "method in the madness".  It was all just plain madness.

Quote

Actually, Elisabeth, you're probably right that he had the makings of a serial killer embedded deep within his psyche.  As as child he enjoyed throwing cats and dogs off a bell tower to see them screech in horror.  I've always been fascinated how often the torture of animals has been an early indicator of psychopathic tendencies.


In his youth he also ordered his kennel keepers to kill the boyarin Andrei Mikhailovich Shuiskii.  This is also sited as an example of his early insanity.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 19, 2005, 07:52:20 PM
The fact that someone dies does not, in and of itself, make an act for reasons of state good or bad.  If the prospect of deaths makes all state acts bad, then it would have been bad for the U.S. to declare war on Germany and Japan in 1941.  It would have been bad to undertake the numerous public works projects (bridges, buildings, dams, highways) that have claimed the lives of innumerable construction workers over the years.  

I did not say Peter made the "right" choice in sacrificing lives to build St. Petersburg.  I said he made the choice for reasons of state.  I was merely trying to point out that Peter's decision was to accept deaths as a price for securing his stake in newly-conquered lands, not to cause those deaths gratuitously.  

Whether anyone thinks it was a morally justified choice is a matter of personal opinion which I am not competent to argue.  What's an acceptable number of lives to pay for having an interstate highway system?  Or to defeat a Hitler?  I don't know.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Crimson_Snow on April 19, 2005, 08:37:43 PM

Why oh why does everyone want to throw poor old Nicholas under the bus. Hasn't he suffered enough. Even Job was restored to grace after a period of time.

If we must stone someone- how abot Nicholas' father. He is just as much too blame for Russia's misfortunes.

To but it simply, Nicholas was the by-product of his father's indecision to teach him the family business. He had many opportunities to do so but didn't.

And Russia paid the heavy price.

On this day of days when white smoke pours from chimneys, let me remind you of one of Nicholas' fine traits. He was deeply religious.





Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 19, 2005, 08:43:22 PM
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In his youth he also ordered his kennel keepers to kill the boyarin Andrei Mikhailovich Shuiskii.  This is also sited as an example of his early insanity.


I agree that Ivan IV carried the seeds of insanity through perhaps all of his life.  However, what seem horrid acts to us today have to be read in the context of their times and the issues of the day.  The boyars had collaborated in the palace coups and murders of his childhood.  And they were still at their intrigues in the early years of Ivan's reign.  The murder of Shuiskii orginated in a dinner hosted by Ivan at the age of 13.  Ivan had gotten word of a possible boyar coup in the making, and he announced at dinner that he intended to make clear his intolerance for these cabals once and for all by killing one of the guests as proof of his resolve.  His choice fell on Shuiskii, upon whom Ivan had his hunting dogs released.  In the context of the times, the means of death was certainly a warning signal of a disturbed psyche . . . but the execution itself was not.

Now, please, folks . . . don't interpret this as my sanctioning the dismembering of one's dinner guests.  I am trying only to point out that context matters when assessing people through the lens of history.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 19, 2005, 08:55:00 PM
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On this day of days when white smoke pours from chimneys, let me remind you of one of Nicholas' fine traits. He was deeply religious.


This fine religious sentiment nevertheless permitted him to finance the publication and distribution of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," in full knowledge that it was a hate-filled, incendiary forgery.  (It was also found among the books the family took to Tobolsk for the grand duchesses to read.)  And it allowed him to overlook some pogroms and sanction others.  White smoke signifies different things to different people.

By the way . . . I'm not Jewish.  I'm just not an admirer of religion as a justification for hatred and exclusion.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: rskkiya on April 19, 2005, 09:12:53 PM
Tsarfan
Spascibah balshoyu!
You have made some wonderful and insiteful comments before this one, but I must utterly and wholeheartedly agree with your last remark!

BRAVO
rskkiya
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Crimson_Snow on April 19, 2005, 09:29:17 PM


True.

White is sometimes mistaken for black. As often as black is mistaken for white. It is a murky world.

And I am wise enough never to discuss religion or politics. Two topics to close to one's own heart. But my post was not meant to anger anyone. Just to stroke the fires so to speak. I believe tsar Nicholas is greatly misunderstood figure in history. He was many things. Some bad and perheps some good.

"The Protocols of the Elders of Zion"-WORLD CONQUEST THROUGH WORLD JEWISH GOVERNMENT.

Got it. I had to look it up. Just what I thought though. Hate book. I'm not for them but at the period of time many people, especially those strong in the Christian faith like Nicholas or even Henry Ford.


I can't explain it. When I read the Bible it tells me to love thy neighbor.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: lexi4 on April 19, 2005, 10:15:18 PM
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You've got me there, Elisabeth.  I really have reached a low ebb when I'm using Alexandra's views to make a point about anything.  As Botkin told his daughter shortly before the revolution, as a medical practitioner he could "no longer certify the Empress as entirely normal."


That is very interesting, I was unaware of that. Could you tell me where to find it? Thank you.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: lexi4 on April 19, 2005, 10:20:05 PM
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Granted, there were negative parental influences on Nicholas.  But such influences can produce strength of character and a determination to prove oneself as well as weakness.  A lot depends on the raw material.


I agree, but at some point we all have to stand up and take responsibility for our own lives. In some ways, Nicholas was ever the victim.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Olga on April 19, 2005, 10:49:45 PM
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On this day of days when white smoke pours from chimneys, let me remind you of one of Nicholas' fine traits. He was deeply religious.


Just to let you know Crimson, not everybody here holds religion as high as you do.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: lexi4 on April 20, 2005, 12:32:24 AM
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If we must stone someone- how abot Nicholas' father. He is just as much too blame for Russia's misfortunes.
 


And the actions of Nicholas's father were in part, reactions to the actions of his father.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 20, 2005, 05:44:24 AM
Hello Crimson Snow welcome to the forum.  :)

The point that you make about Nicholas's devotion to his religion is, I think, very valid because, whether or not his decisions can be seen as justified in retrospect, he did not flinch from his faith even when faced with what must have been a devastation of all he believed in.

This leads on to another point which I have asked before.
What EXACTLY is meant by Nicholas' weakness?

There are many aspects of his character which show strength:
1. He had the sttrength of character to adhere to his faith in spite of his circumstances.
2. He had the strength of character to remain faithful to his wife - in spite of many opportunities to be unfaithful.
3. Physically he was a strong man, who exercised regularly.
4. He had the strength & stamina to work for long hours, often until very late at night, alone in his study.
5. He had the strength to stand up to his ministers when he decided to take charge of the army during WWI.
6. He had the strength to stand up to de Witte in the Russo-Japanese War.
7. He had the strength to stand up to Cousin Willy's threats at the outbreak of WWI.
8. He had the strength to accept his role as Tsar - even though it was not what he personally wanted.
9. He had the strength to maintain his belief in the divinely appointed role of the Tsar - again even though it would have been easier for him to abdicate sooner.
10. As a small boy he saw his grandfather dying after having been blown to pieces - & there is little reference to this in his later life.
11. He suffered terribly at the sight of his sick son, yet continued outwardly stoically as though nothing untoward was happening shows incredible self-control & strength of character.


These things may not (with the benefit of hindsight) always be to his credit nor were his beliefs always what we would regard today as reasonable. Nevertheless, HE believed them and had the strength to adhere to them.

Therefore I wonder again what EXACTLY is meant by weakness?
That he didn't do what people wanted him to do  (is that weakness) ?
That he would not listen to the advice of other members of his family (is that weakness) ?
That he was concerned enough about his wife's psychological health & his son's physical health to allow her to keep Rasputin (is that weakness) ?
That he enjoyed being at home with his family (is that weakness) ?
That he wept at his father's death & found the prospect of taking on so difficult a role? (is that weakness) ?

Who can say what is meant by Nicholas' weakness?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Crimson_Snow on April 20, 2005, 06:12:39 AM


Bluetoria,

Exactly my point. Nicholas was far from perfect. But who actually is. I am just saying there were times in his life when he stood strong.
For insist, if you like gazing upon the city of Paris, you have Nicholas and his imperial Russian army to thank for saving it from being occupied from the Germans in the first world war.
His army advisors told him to focus his strength to the south. Their objective Constantinople. He kept his word to French and British and attacked Germany. So  Schlieffen Plan failed because the Germans failed to listen to von Schlieffen's dying words- "Keep the right wing strong!"

Why didn't Moltke listen? He was forced to move men to the east to hold of the advancing Russians.

Thus, Nicholas decision saved Paris.

"History is full of such pranks" Sandro
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 20, 2005, 06:21:56 AM
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Hello Crimson Snow welcome to the forum.  :)
There are many aspects of his character which show strength:
1. He had the sttrength of character to adhere to his faith in spite of his circumstances.
2. He had the strength of character to remain faithful to his wife - in spite of many opportunities to be unfaithful.
3. Physically he was a strong man, who exercised regularly.
4. He had the strength & stamina to work for long hours, often until very late at night, alone in his study.
5. He had the strength to stand up to his ministers when he decided to take charge of the army during WWI.
6. He had the strength to stand up to de Witte in the Russo-Japanese War.
7. He had the strength to stand up to Cousin Willy's threats at the outbreak of WWI.
8. He had the strength to accept his role as Tsar - even though it was not what he personally wanted.
9. He had the strength to maintain his belief in the divinely appointed role of the Tsar - again even though it would have been easier for him to abdicate sooner.
10. As a small boy he saw his grandfather dying after having been blown to pieces - & there is little reference to this in his later life.
11. He suffered terribly at the sight of his sick son, yet continued outwardly stoically as though nothing untoward was happening shows incredible self-control & strength of character.

Who can say what is meant by Nicholas' weakness?


You're right . . . strength is in the eye of the beholder.

1.  Not everyone views an uncritical adherence to religion that tolerates virulent anti-semitism as a strength.  They might view it as a lack of strength to independently assess its values.
2.  He probably did remain faithful to Alexandra (at least after their marriage).  However, there was a temporary strain at one point when Alexandra developed a suspicion that something was going on between Nicholas and Anna Vyrubova (more likely Alexandra's paranoia than reality, though).
3.  Granted.
4.  Granted.
5.  Alexandra was hounding him to get to the front because she was jealous of the public's admiration for Nicholas Nicholaeivitch, whom she felt was hogging the spotlight.  Was this strength in standing up to his ministers or weakness in not being able to stand up to his wife?  Was it confidence that he was a great military commander who could turn Russia's fortunes around when no one else could or a desire to escape the pressures of the Alexander Palace?
6.  Stood up to Witte . . . and brought on a revolution.
7.  Stood up to Willy . . . and brought on a cataclysm.
8.  Did he really not want to be Tsar or did he covet the office but fear and regret the responsibilities?  I don't know.
9.  If his religion and his belief in the role God had assigned him was so strong, why did he abdicate at all?  Other monarchs have lost their heads trying to maintain their thrones until the end (Charles I, Louis XVI . . .).
10.  This simply happened.  Don't see how it signifies strength or weakness in and of itself.  The test is whether it made him wiser or stronger later.  I can't find any sign that it did, but I may be missing something.
11.  True . . . one of his truly admirable traits.  But not wise.  His determination that the illness be kept secret deprived him of the understanding and sympathy of a public that would have overlooked a lot Rasputin's antics and the imperial family's self-imposed isolation had they understood some of the reasons.  And why was Nicholas so determined to keep it secret?  If he thought it would undermine him because he was leaving no heir, he must have known he would likely outlive Alexei and have the issue emerge, anyway.  Or was he ashamed of the disease?  (This was an era when cancer, for instance, was viewed as a sign of the patient's weakness or lack of favor in the eyes of God.)
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 20, 2005, 06:38:00 AM
The episode about Anna Vyrubova was, I think, not a question of Alexandra's paranoia but rather Anna Vyrubova's somewhat childish fantasy. I don't think either Nicholas or Alexandra took it seriously. (And obviously it was all in someone's mind since Anna's meical examination showed he was certainly never her lover.)
Yes Alexandra was pressing him to go to the Front but from the start this was his own desire as well.
The outcome of events with de Witte & the Kaiser were certainly disastrous (but that isn't the point I'm making - I was thinking only that he didn't show weakness, even if his decisions were unwise. The same, perhaps, applies to his coering up of Alexei's illness. I don't think there is any evidence to suggest he was ashamed of the illness - his intention was to protect the public perception of the monarchy as strong.
Judging by his reaction to the news of his father's death, I would say he REALLY didn't want to be Tsar. He was well aware of his own shortcomings but felt he had a duty to fulfil.
The anti-semitism is, I agree, appalling & cannot be justified. Nonetheless, I do not believe that adherence to a faith is a sign of weakness - in the face of suffering it takes great strength to resign one's self to 'the will of God.'
Racism at that time (as throughout history) was not seen as it is (quite rightly) today. Many people of past generations who are now viewed as 'heroes' were very racist. I do not condone their racism but it has to be seen in the light of the era in which they lived.

I don't doubt for one second that Nicholas made many, many serious mistakes. I am quite simply wondering why he is always regarded as weak.
While I personally do not agree with this, I ask myself why is not described as arrogant or misguided or stubborn...why always WEAK?
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: pinklady on April 20, 2005, 07:20:57 AM
Many people think of Nicholas as weak and shallow as it seems to sum up their image of him in their minds.
At the same time it is agreed he was a good man, he loved his family, was deeply religious, and a proud Russian. But in a King, President, or Tsar the main thing is not their "niceness" or "love of family"but their deeds, and  Nicholas 11 was a bad Tsar, unfortuantly for him from start to finish of his reign.

Totally unsuited to being an absolute Autocrat, he would have been better if he had his cousin George's job as a constitutional Monarch.
That is why his story is so sad if we compare the two cousins. Obviuosly Poor Nicholas was on the "shakier throne".

I think blame can be laid at Nicholas father's feet, as his father failed to teach and guide him properly from a young age, so that when he became Tsar he was overwhelmed, miserable, and frightened, admitting he knew nothing! That was scary for him and his family but what about the millions of Russians??
I think Alexei's hemophilia played a huge part in Russia and Nicholas's problems, it presented him with even more worries and dilemmas.
As well, autocracy could not have survived in the 20th century without major changes, and Nicholas was only half interested in finding solutions.
I think I have said it elsewhere, but Nicholas was not suited by personality, temperment or intellect to be an absolute autocrat in the 20th century, in the largest country in the world. It was just all wrong for him, and  World War 1 was something so bad he could never recover.
In the end it didnt matter that he was a good family man, or a devoutly religious man, as in the end he was a bad Tsar, unsuitable for his post. If he had been leader of a democratic country, he would have been voted out! He was only there through birthright, and sometimes that produces the worst leaders!
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: pinklady on April 20, 2005, 08:22:44 AM
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No thankyou. I am an irreconcilable atheist.


I prefer to think of myself as a staunch athiest.

Which is why I find Nicholas frustrating as "everything was God's will"or in "God's hands".
However, everybody is entitled to their own opinions and personal convictions, and Nicholas was a religious man, who suffered from anti semitism and allowed pograms against the innocent Jewish people but that has already been discussed.... :-/ Religion causes problems all over the world so I wont say anything more :-X
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 20, 2005, 08:49:31 AM
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The outcome of events with de Witte & the Kaiser were certainly disastrous (but that isn't the point I'm making - I was thinking only that he didn't show weakness, even if his decisions were unwise.  



Read the memoirs of his ministers.  *Everyone* says the same thing -- he could never make up his mind!  Not all of the Tsar's ministers agreed on policy -- and Nicholas went along with whomever he happened to have met with last.  Somebody said the Russian state was like an automobile careening out of control with no driver at the wheel.  Others called the ship of state "rudderless".  This is all in the record.  Nicholas' dealings with his ministers cannot be shown as an example of his strength of character.

Quote
The same, perhaps, applies to his coering up of Alexei's illness. I don't think there is any evidence to suggest he was ashamed of the illness - his intention was to protect the public perception of the monarchy as strong.


They covered up Alexei's illness not because they wanted to keep the monarchy strong, but because they wanted  their child to inherit!  Not Misha, not Cyril (Kyrill), or any of the others who were available.  Again, Witte's memoirs are very specific about this -- before Alexei's birth, Nicholas brought up the possibility of changing the laws of inheritance so that Olga would inherit the throne.  The minister's (as well as the family) were unanimously against changing the law of succession.  There's a difference between having the best interests of the state in mind and your own personal interests.

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Judging by his reaction to the news of his father's death, I would say he REALLY didn't want to be Tsar. He was well aware of his own shortcomings but felt he had a duty to fulfil.  


I don't think Nicholas was particularly broken up by his father's death on a personal level.  Yes, there are a few passages in his diary ("It was the death of a saint") -- but he seems to have recovered pretty quickly.  So much so, that he insisted on marrying Alexandra one week later!  Also, I think he and Alix enjoyed being in charge in the sense that they liked all the bowing and scraping people did -- they liked being treated deferentially.


Quote
Racism at that time (as throughout history) was not seen as it is (quite rightly) today.


The level of hatred Nicholas bore toward the Jews was shocking even for that time.  


Quote
I don't doubt for one second that Nicholas made many, many serious mistakes. I am quite simply wondering why he is always regarded as weak.
While I personally do not agree with this, I ask myself why is not described as arrogant or misguided or stubborn...why always WEAK?


Stubborness, arrogance, not knowing what one is doing are weeknesses, aren't they?  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: pinklady on April 20, 2005, 09:28:59 AM
Following taken from Nicholas & Alexandra by Robert K Massie
" Nicholas never mastered the technique of forceful, efficient management of subordinates. He hated scenes and found it imposible to sternly criticize or dismiss a man to his face. If something was wrong, he preferred to give a minister a friendly reception, comment gently and shake hands warmly. Occasionally, after such an interview, the minister would return to his office, well pleased with himself, only to receive in the morning a letter regretfully asking for his resignation. Not unnaturally, these men complained that they had been deceived."

Unfortunately Nicholas was a narrow minded, weak and indecisive autocrat, with absolutely no backbone.
More than one minister complained he agreed with whoever he had seen last, and I read somewhere once that one of the ministers used to try and get the last appointment for this very reason.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 20, 2005, 10:08:05 AM
But Dominic Lieven goes on to explain this more fully. There were so many ministries, each asking for something different. The transport minister for example might come to Nicholas with a reasonable proposal & Nicholas would accept it was reasonable. The minister went away happily thinking he had what he wanted.
The next day the finance minister would come & explain to Nicholas why such a proposal was too expensive. Nicholas would be forced to go back on his original idea.

If he had no backbone, he would have let the regiments which remained loyal to him, fight to defend him. He thought only of Russia & the responsibility to his allies when he finally agreed to abdicate.

His abdication was not a sign of weakness - it was a demonstration of his patriotism & fidelity to his allies. (Who sadly, did not show the same fidelity to him.)

RichC. I HAVE read the Ministers' memoirs.
The desire for his son to succeed was not selfish; it was because he was in Nicholas' view the rightful heir. It is impossible to say he wasn't distressed at his father's death; and as I see it, his swift marriage to Alix wasn't a sign of his lack of concern for his father, but rather the opposite - he needed the comfort of a wife more than ever.
I think at the end of the day this is going to have to be something we cannot agree about.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 20, 2005, 10:33:34 AM
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They covered up Alexei's illness not because they wanted to keep the monarchy strong, but because they wanted  their child to inherit!  Not Misha, not Cyril (Kyrill), or any of the others who were available.  Again, Witte's memoirs are very specific about this -- before Alexei's birth, Nicholas brought up the possibility of changing the laws of inheritance so that Olga would inherit the throne.  The minister's (as well as the family) were unanimously against changing the law of succession.  There's a difference between having the best interests of the state in mind and your own personal interests.  


Very interesting, RichC.  You're a font of relevant details on point after point in these discussions.

Nicholas had a real facility for picking and choosing which aspects of his inheritance he felt were unalterable and which weren't.  He had a God-imposed duty to keep every single element of autocracy intact exactly as his father passed it down to him . . . except when those pesky House Laws got in the way of his personal agenda.  Or was it his wife's agenda?  She had a deep personal dislike of Mikhail Alexandrovitch and was reportedly chronically galled that he and not one of her issue was the Heir Apparent up until 1904.

You're right.  This was not an issue of keeping the monarchy robust.  It was pure hubris.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 20, 2005, 01:41:46 PM
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They covered up Alexei's illness not because they wanted to keep the monarchy strong, but because they wanted  their child to inherit!  Not Misha, not Cyril (Kyrill), or any of the others who were available.  Again, Witte's memoirs are very specific about this -- before Alexei's birth, Nicholas brought up the possibility of changing the laws of inheritance so that Olga would inherit the throne.  The minister's (as well as the family) were unanimously against changing the law of succession.  There's a difference between having the best interests of the state in mind and your own personal interests.


Except that throughout the history of imperial Russia, there was never a clear line between the autocrat's personal interests and the interests of state. Peter the Great wasn't a Napoleon, after all: he wasn't spreading liberty and enlightenment to the four corners of Europe - he had a very specific personal agenda in mind that just happened to coincide with what he saw as Russia's "best interests." (Ask the Baltic regions what they thought of Russia's "best interests.") Ditto Paul in changing the rules of succession to the Salic Law that barred females from ascending the throne - this was done not with the best interests of the state in mind, obviously, but solely as a form of revenge against his mother, Catherine the Great. It was a stupid law (as I'm sure Tsarfan would be the first to acknowledge), and Nicholas, IMO, was right to consider changing it, because from everything we know, Olga would have made a much better heir apparent than (the then unborn) Alexei, much less Michael or Kyrill, who were both by all accounts (except Witte's, admittedly) all surface and no substance. Certainly both proved the truth of that verdict in their behavior after the March Revolution (although I don't want to be too harsh with Michael, because he sincerely never wanted to rule and like his brother, had the intelligence to realize that he would not make a good tsar).

Naturally, we are judging Nicholas from the sensibility of the thoroughly secularized twenty-first century, and not from that of the turn of the twentieth century God's elect to the throne of All the Russias. But we need to keep the historical context in mind to avoid being completely anachronistic.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 20, 2005, 01:49:29 PM
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But Dominic Lieven goes on to explain this more fully. There were so many ministries, each asking for something different. The transport minister for example might come to Nicholas with a reasonable proposal & Nicholas would accept it was reasonable. The minister went away happily thinking he had what he wanted.
The next day the finance minister would come & explain to Nicholas why such a proposal was too expensive. Nicholas would be forced to go back on his original idea.


This sequence of events is any everyday occurrence in running almost any medium- or large-sized company.  Even executives of average intelligence know better than to commit to things without checking out the obvious angles:  can we afford it?  do we have the resources?  will it displace other important activity?  are there other stakeholders that need to be consulted?

The fact that all ministers did not appear on Nicholas' doorstep at once to put forward their views on an issue is hardly an excuse for letting the country descend into a state of decisional paralysis.  Most managers deal with this issue by creating a system of review that requires all these questions to be consolidated and then put before the decision-maker all at once.

One of Nicholas' problems is that he refused to employ a private secretary who would have taken care of these administrative matters.  And my suspicion is that Alexandra had a role in that refusal, since it could become a focal point of influence on Nicky that she could not control.  

Think about it.  A household staff of 17,000 -- and he had no place for a personal assistant or chief of staff.  Such incompetent management would get any mid-level executive fired in a few weeks.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Tsarfan on April 20, 2005, 02:11:58 PM
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Ditto Paul in changing the rules of succession to the Salic Law that barred females from ascending the throne - this was done not with the best interests of the state in mind, obviously, but solely as a form of revenge against his mother, Catherine the Great. It was a stupid law (as I'm sure Tsarfan would be the first to acknowledge


I would certainly not support the application of Salic law in today's world, and I do agree that Paul's motive in changing the succession law was revenge against Catherine . . . at least in part.

But there are a couple of things to keep in mind.  First, bloodlines were thought to mean something in the 18th century.  Paul viewed Catherine not only as a woman who had usurped a throne, but as a non-Romanov who had usurped it -- something which could happen again if a wife could displace a husband to sit on the throne.

And Salic law was grounded in some logic that made sense, at least in medieval and early modern times.  In a heavily male-dominated world, many elements of society would discount a woman (even a woman on a throne) to the point that a male consort might have inordinate influence.  Again, the spectre of someone out of the blood line exercising the real control.

Context.  It always matters in judging these things.
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: Elisabeth on April 20, 2005, 02:18:35 PM
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This sequence of events is any everyday occurrence in running almost any medium- or large-sized company.  Even executives of average intelligence know better than to commit to things without checking out the obvious angles:  can we afford it?  do we have the resources?  will it displace other important activity?  are there other stakeholders that need to be consulted?


Well, maybe in an ideal corporate world this is all true. But if it were true all the time, just to give one example, you wouldn't have executive officers from Enron standing trial for major fiscal malfeasance - i.e., robbing a company blind, while the CEO looked on - or perhaps away - cluelessly. Which prompts the question, how many other companies are out there, where employees are doing exactly the same thing Fastow was, and the CEO knows all about it, but everybody's so clever and secretive that no one from the outside is ever going to find out there's a major crime in progress?

Because we all know the really smart people go into the corporate world - not government, not academia - because that's where the big bucks are!  

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The fact that all ministers did not appear on Nicholas' doorstep at once to put their views on an issue forward is hardly an excuse for letting the country descend into a state of decisional paralysis.  Most managers deal with this issue by creating a system of review that requires all these questions to be consolidated and then put before the decision-maker all at once.


Yeah, that definitely describes the Enron system and the CEO Ken Lay (heavy on the sarcasm!).

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One of Nicholas' problems is that he refused to employ a private secretary who would have taken care of these administrative matters.  And my suspicion is that Alexandra had a role in that refusal, since it could become a focal point of influence on Nicky that she could not control.
  
Think about it.  A household staff of 17,000 -- and he had no place for a personal assistant or chief of staff.  Such incompetent management would get any mid-level executive fired in a few weeks.


Again, ideally. But look at how even our "democratically-elected" government reps go off on destructive tangents that would get anyone else fired in a heartbeat. Look at the amount of waste and greed that goes on even when institutional checks and balances are in place. Old codgers in Congress, well past their sell-by date and an embarrassment to their aides (remember Strom Thurmmond?). Dynastic interests at work, to the detriment of a meritocracy (the Bushes, the Clintons).

Tsarfan, I agree with you completely that Nicholas should have delegated much of his work to an executive assistant (Nicholas I had the same problem with delegating, with the same bottleneck effects), but you are speaking of an ideal situation.... in real life, lots of people get by with lots of nonsense and the degree to which they get by with it usually is a direct reflection of their innate intelligence and ability to #@!%. No kidding. Especially with the backing of large institutions, corporate or otherwise, that hear no evil, speak no evil and definitely see no evil!

And here I apologize in advance for being so cynical, just after a new pope has been elected and all....
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: RichC on April 20, 2005, 03:19:12 PM
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Except that throughout the history of imperial Russia, there was never a clear line between the autocrat's personal interests and the interests of state. Peter the Great wasn't a Napoleon, after all: he wasn't spreading liberty and enlightenment to the four corners of Europe - he had a very specific personal agenda in mind that just happened to coincide with what he saw as Russia's "best interests." (Ask the Baltic regions what they thought of Russia's "best interests.") Ditto Paul in changing the rules of succession to the Salic Law that barred females from ascending the throne - this was done not with the best interests of the state in mind, obviously, but solely as a form of revenge against his mother, Catherine the Great. It was a stupid law (as I'm sure Tsarfan would be the first to acknowledge), and Nicholas, IMO, was right to consider changing it, because from everything we know, Olga would have made a much better heir apparent than (the then unborn) Alexei, much less Michael or Kyrill, who were both by all accounts (except Witte's, admittedly) all surface and no substance. Certainly both proved the truth of that verdict in their behavior after the March Revolution (although I don't want to be too harsh with Michael, because he sincerely never wanted to rule and like his brother, had the intelligence to realize that he would not make a good tsar).

Naturally, we are judging Nicholas from the sensibility of the thoroughly secularized twenty-first century, and not from that of the turn of the twentieth century God's elect to the throne of All the Russias. But we need to keep the historical context in mind to avoid being completely anachronistic.


Olga might have made a good monarch, but that had nothing to do with Nicholas' inquiries.  And regardless what one might think about the Salic law today, at the time it was thought to have contributed to the stability of the monarchy/dynasty for close to a century-- again Witte says so in his memoirs.  

But the situation with Alexei was different -- like nothing they had previously encountered.  The poor thing had hemophilia.  And regardless of the blurred line between what was good for the monarch and what was good for the country (bravo for catching that!) Nicholas DID consult his ministers and his family about changing the law of succession before Alexei was born.  Why were there no consultations with ministers/family after he was born?  How foolish!  All of that covering up, the Rasputin scandal, etc. for nothing because in the end when Nicholas was abdicating the throne, and he consulted the doctors, he abdicated for Alexei anyway.  By-the-way, where was "God's will" then?  Tsarfan was right when he said that Nicholas was pretty choosy when it came to what was God's will and what wasn't.  
Title: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
Post by: bluetoria on April 20, 2005, 03:44:34 PM
Witte's memoirs are not the sole source of information about Nicholas and it must be remembered that Witte & the Tsar had often not seen eye-to-eye so there is every chance of a certain bias there.

I don't believe Nicholas WAS that choosy about 'God's will' as he saw it. He firmly believed from the start that he was chosen by God to be Tsar. He did not flinch from that role until it came to the point where he saw the country deteriorating into civil war. It was ONLY to save the country from civil war that he abdicated. It was not a cowardly decision.
Nor can it really be said that all the efforts on behalf of Alexei were for nothing (at least that was not how it appeared at the time - we can only say that now because we, unlike Nicholas, know the end of the story). He was simply trying to continue the dynastic line through Alexei - it doesn't seem quite such a selfish thing to do if you view it through his eyes - he believed it was his duty to pass the throne to his son as his father had passed it to him.
The ultimate decision to abdicate on behalf of Alexei was perhaps a major mistake - but it was also the first time that Nicholas had broken his 'faith' in what he saw as his & his son's role. This mistake was the result of a father's concern for his son. It WAS a mistake but an understandable one.