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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #90 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? 
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Janet_W.

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #91 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.

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #92 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!
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Offline Janet_W.

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #93 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.

Offline Belochka

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #94 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.



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bluetoria

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #95 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."  :(  
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by bluetoria »

Offline Denise

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #96 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
« Last Edit: April 25, 2009, 09:39:57 AM by Alixz »

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #97 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

Offline Denise

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #98 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

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #99 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.
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Offline Denise

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #100 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.  

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Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #101 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...
« Last Edit: April 25, 2009, 09:41:45 AM by Alixz »

Offline Denise

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #102 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.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Denise »

Offline Georgiy

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #103 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 ;))
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Georgiy »

Offline Denise

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Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad
« Reply #104 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.