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Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #15 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...

Offline Belochka

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #16 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.




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Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #17 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.  

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #18 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.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by helenazar »

Offline James1941

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #19 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.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by James1941 »

Offline Belochka

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #20 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!
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Belochka »


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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #21 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).
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #22 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.
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Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #23 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...  ???

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #24 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.
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Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #25 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  ;)

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #26 on: January 21, 2005, 10:13:40 AM »
Exactly my opinion!

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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.
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Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #27 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.

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #28 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.
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Offline Belochka

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #29 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?  ....


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