Author Topic: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #1  (Read 150302 times)

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Offline ISteinke

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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.




« Last Edit: April 25, 2009, 11:58:39 AM by Alixz »

rskkiya

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #1 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

Offline investigator

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2005, 12:01:50 AM »
What were the negative attributes of Nicholas II as Tsar?
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Martin Luther King Jr.

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #3 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)!

bluetoria

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #4 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.

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2005, 10:20:59 AM »
Quote
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!


bluetoria

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #6 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.'

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2005, 10:29:54 AM »
Quote
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.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by helenazar »

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #8 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.
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Offline Roman_Candle

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #9 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.    

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #10 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.
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Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #11 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.

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2005, 11:07:55 AM »
Quote
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?
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Offline Janet_W.

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #13 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.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Janet_W. »

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #14 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.
... I love my poor earth
because I have seen no other

-- Osip Mandelshtam