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Offline Crimson_Snow

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #390 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
"History would be a good thing if it were only true."  T

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #391 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.)
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Tsarfan »

bluetoria

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #392 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?

Offline pinklady

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #393 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!

Offline pinklady

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #394 on: April 20, 2005, 08:22:44 AM »
Quote

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

Offline RichC

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #395 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.

Quote
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?  

Offline pinklady

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #396 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.

bluetoria

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #397 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.  
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by bluetoria »

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #398 on: April 20, 2005, 10:33:34 AM »
Quote
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.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Tsarfan »

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #399 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.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #400 on: April 20, 2005, 01:49:29 PM »
Quote
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.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Tsarfan »

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #401 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.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Tsarfan »

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #402 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!).

Quote
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....
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline RichC

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #403 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.  
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by RichC »

bluetoria

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #404 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.