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Topic: What if Alexander III lived longer  (Read 7195 times)
« on: December 12, 2009, 03:49:04 AM »
Sergei Witte Offline
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Suppose the Borki train disaster didn't happen, AIII who was in good shape, strong person, would live on to become 75 years old. So he would be tsar in the times of social unrest in Russia.

What things would change in Russian history you think? (Somewhere I read that AIII probably would change the course of history by letting the Germans invade instead of invading Germany himself), but also domestic politics could be different.

I would be very interested in what you think of this.

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Reply #1
« on: December 12, 2009, 01:53:48 PM »
Elisabeth Offline
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I think that if Alexander III had lived to be 75, then things might actually have been substantially worse in Russia than they were under his son, Nicholas II. If only because the rift between the autocracy and educated society was ever widening and deepening during the reigns of Alexander III and Nicholas. You can't alienate such a large segment of society (upper middle class, middle class, petite bourgeoisie, intelligentsia) without eventually suffering the consequences. Isn't this precisely why Nicholas II's first speech as the new tsar went over so badly with the public at large? Because he called their ambitions for increasing autonomy and self-government "senseless dreams"? He was parroting his father, so where's the difference between father and son?

I think the only difference is that Nicholas was a weaker character and eventually - of course, under tremendous pressure - granted a constitution and a parliament, whereas Alexander III, strong-willed as he was, would have preferred death before such "dishonor," and would have called out the troops to kill the rebels of 1905 en masse. Which in turn would have created a tremendous backlash in educated society, and ultimately resulted in the overthrow of the monarchy. And no, I don't think the resulting democracy could have survived the vicissitudes of World War I. Probably the Bolsheviks would still have come to power, by hook or by crook.

The post-Soviet nostalgia in Russia for Alexander III is an interesting thing, but completely delusional, IMHO. I think Russia's fate was written in large bloody capital letters on March 1, 1881, with the assassination (murder by terrorism, really) of the Tsar Liberator, Alexander II. After that it was all downhill for Russia, to hell in a handbasket.
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Reply #2
« on: December 12, 2009, 04:05:20 PM »
Sergei Witte Offline
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I didnt know there was a AIII nostalgia. I thought his reign period was more or less forgotten because it was so 'uneventful'.

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Reply #3
« on: December 12, 2009, 04:42:02 PM »
Nicolá De Valerón Offline
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Elisabeth, glad to hear you again.
It will be very strange, but I'll try to be a defender of just a simple Russian man Alexander III.

Of course he was just another one Russian typical tsar, big (physically) man with a very common intellect and with the familiar tools of a Russian governance - Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Russian Nationality. Nothing more nonsense, like liberty, human rights, etc.

However, you would be definitely surprised, but I can understand him and his politics. After every Russian brief liberalisation follows a very strong reaction (certain liberal politics of Alexander I - "freezing" of Nicholas I,) for example. But we have a more recent citation Yeltsin in 1991 - and ?.....? You know whom I mean;)
That's why I can understand all the politics of Alexander III, who have seen what happened with his father after his reforms. And of course he decided to start another, but very common for Russia course - Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Russian Nationality. But it doesn't mean, that "freezing" politics for Russia is absolutely suitable! If you are a Russian leader, and if you are not a self-destroyer you must be a high-class political player and skillfully varies with liberal qualities and traditional Russian Orthodox imperialism. Sadly, but this was not the role of a simple Russian man Alexander III. His tragedy was, that he was just a simple Russian big and a kind man. Nothing more.

Totally agree with you. Main tragedy of Russia, and maybe in the near future this would be a fatal tragedy, are great, but unfinished reforms of a great Emperor Alexander II. This Loris-Melikov's constitution, which he wanted to sign in his last day of his life, could consolidate all his reforms. But we cannot change the course of the History.....
« Last Edit: December 12, 2009, 04:49:00 PM by Nicola De Valeron » Logged

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Reply #4
« on: December 13, 2009, 04:05:03 AM »
Sergei Witte Offline
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Elizabeth and Nicola,

In fact I was more aiming at his foreign policy.

AIII was known as 'the peacemaker'. This was because he wouldn't take the risk of becoming involved in a war. We know that when a Tsar started a war, the results were mostly dramatic. Eg the Crimean war, the Russ-Turk. war of 1877-1878 led to economical problems and internal unrest. I don't need to mention the R-J war and WWI.

Now, if AIII could prevent R-J war and postpone WWI or even avoid it at all, then the social unrest could have been dealt with another - less violent - way even when AIII was more strong-willed not to give in to the pressure to reform.
The R-J war could have been prevented if he wanted to. And they didn't need to be the first to mobilize in august 1914 and then hastily and unpreparedly invade East Prussia.

This doesn't mean that I support his repression methods. After all, it was HE who started the pogroms which went from bad to worse.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2009, 04:06:39 AM by Sergei Witte » Logged
Reply #5
« on: December 31, 2009, 07:32:42 AM »
Sergei Witte Offline
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I hope to put a little spark in this thread.

We all judge the last Tsars in our, 21th century western Europe (or American) outlook. We think of democracy and well fare as natural and good things.

If we look at Russia of today, things are quite different. We have White Russia which even today is an autocracy and in Russia proper if you are a danger to the government you still have to fear for your life as we have seen with some journalists.

What i am trying to say is that perhaps Russia was not ripe for reforms at the time when they were done (1861-1881). A country needs to have some basic level of infra structure on many forms, knowledge, schools etc etc to have a sound structure in which reforms can be done and can be carried on. B.e. if you propose a jury system in court you need enough lawyers and if you free the slaves, you need to have a decent alternative for them. In 19th century Russia this was not the case and reforms made things only worse. (The latter example perhaps more so than the first)

So I think it is better not to make reforms than to make reforms that can't be carried out properly. First make society ripe with strong measures, and give the infrastructure before you give freedom. Look at the way even Stalin today is sometimes loved for being a strong autocratic leader. People often need that. (By the way: I am aware of the atrocities of both Lenin and Stalin and the other communists, so please no misunderstandings about that. Comminism is the biggest mistake of the 20th century.)

Back to Alexander III:
He was the Peacemaker. When the risk of war occurred, he held back. This was a healthy attitude, which the government of Nicholas lacked. Consider that in the absence of the Russo-Japanese war, there would be no Bloody Sunday. War leads to shortage, especially in the Russian economy of 1900, of bread. War leads also to hyperinflation, which means also poverty. This is usually the spark that leads to revolution, it is not the underlying cause, but those causes could be dealt with otherwise in the absence of war.

Also do not forget that under Alexander III there were some measures to improve the conditions of the working class. Especially under minister Bunge several measurements were taken. In our eyes it may not be much but it was there. Made under strict rule of course and under strict control of power.

I would be happy to discuss some more on this topic. So please have some more input on this.

Thanks in advance.

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Reply #6
« on: December 31, 2009, 09:25:22 AM »
Nicolá De Valerón Offline
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Well, you wrote a rather interesting and sober words, but at the same time they are incompatible to each other and very specific for a man, who has a nickname of the best Russian liberal minister of all time. (Do not be offended; Happy New Year to you!!)

The main problem and the most weakest point in your words is an idea about strong leaders and democracy. I think that you can't be half a democrat and half a liberal;) And you can't separate your policy something like, for foreign countries I'm a democrat, for my own country I'm a despot and contrary.

Hitler, for example, by your theory ("society ripe with strong measures"), was in a certain way a very effective manager and even a liberal! He built an excellent roads, constantly praise German nation (Germans liked him), built an excellent German army, created great infrastructure ("give the infrastructure before you give freedom") Porsche is a best example (love this car and drove it several times, excellent handling;), etc, - that were his first steps, and if we would based on your words, that was his first step on the way to German democracy! Just how you said, - democracy for unprepared nations. First build infrastructure (repressions, killed workers) and build the power, only then liberalization. But suddenly!!, Hitler decided otherwise, he didn't made the second liberal step. Or he made it, but it was a very different step from democracy and liberalisation. You know what I mean, Holocaust, their, organised with our beloved Joseph Stalin (Molotov-Ribbentrop) Second World War, clothing from human's skin, etc.

And these words are very suitable for other rulers of this type. We are always searching in them a good point and can't look on them with sober eyes (happily I can) look through their persons, to their entire nature. Stalin, Lenin, etc.....and even, the man of course inconsistent with them (by his leadership and intellectual level) big Russian man Alexander III are all in this list.

All in all, I don't want to make a long reply.
Just concluding. Democracy is a democracy, Liberalism is a liberalism, Dictator is a dictator. Democracy on a half is even worse the strong Autocracy.
And these termins don't depend on a country type (Russia, U.S.A, Zimbabwe, Antarctic with Penguins) and don't depend on any other factors.

Just quote from Bible (rather interesting and useful book):
"Let your speech be: "Yes, yes," "no, no"; but anything else comes from evil".
« Last Edit: December 31, 2009, 09:28:09 AM by Nicolá De Valerón » Logged

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« on: December 31, 2009, 12:43:22 PM »
Sergei Witte Offline
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Thank you for your reply.

What I don't understand is that you say (at least what I think you say) is that strong leaders and democracy are opposites. Why? Strong leaders can also implement democracy. I think they do it when they think it is the right time and not do it hastily.

Our 21th century minds fool us sometimes in making us believe that democracy was always the obvious and right way to go. It was not. I think only after WWI it was commonly acknowledged that it was.
So my pont really is: we are to harsh in our judgment on the last 2 tsars.

Perhaps this is a good thought to end 2009 and start with 2010.

Happy new year!!
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Reply #8
« on: December 31, 2009, 01:22:25 PM »
Nicolá De Valerón Offline
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Happy New Year to you too.

I'm glad that you understand me.
But you understand me not quite correct;)

I did not meant that strong leaders can't be democratic. Pinochet, Franco and Mannerheim, all of them are very different men, but all were very strong leaders, and through an endless human losses (in Finnish Civil War were killed ~10000 Reds, just incredible number for small Finland) they finally gave their countries a chance to became modern, European and civilised states. Now Chile and Spain are free and democratic countries. And moreover Finland now, compared to 1918 is one of the most developed countries in the world.

The problem is, that we are talking on this topic about Alexander III. And this is very different thing. He was just another tsar and nothing from Pinochet power, army of Franco and military intellect of Mannerheim.

Of course, in that case democratic leader can be strong, and on certain stages even had some brutal features, if all those things can help him to create a democratic and liberal country. But this is not about Alexander III;).
« Last Edit: December 31, 2009, 01:24:42 PM by Nicolá De Valerón » Logged

"I think that if Shakespeare lived in our times he would not be able to write. Many of his works are not welcome on stage nowadays: The Merchant of Venice – anti-Semitism, Othello – racism, The Taming of the Shrew – sexism, Romeo and Juliet - hideous heterosexual show..." - Vladimir Bukovsky.
Reply #9
« on: January 01, 2010, 04:33:27 AM »
Sergei Witte Offline
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I mostly agree with you.

Alexander III I believe, had a capacity of knowing exactly what he didn't want (European influence). Because of this capacity he HAD power, he was a strong leader, but not for his intellectual capacities.
But if history would have wanted it he could be great for being the Peacemaker. It happens more ofter that we see a leader as being great but that they had a lot of good fortune on their way. Perhaps Alexander III with good fortune e.g. no Borki train disaster, could have become such a leader.

Earlier on this forum and other forums I have made this assumption: that Alexander III would not have gotten Russia in the Russo-Japanese war and perhaps could have delayed the outbreak of WWI by a couple of years making it a completely different war with different outcome, not as devastating for Russia. I have received disappointingly few responses to this assumption.

Do you have any ideas on this?

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Reply #10
« on: January 01, 2010, 08:10:27 AM »
Janet Ashton Offline
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So I think it is better not to make reforms than to make reforms that can't be carried out properly. First make society ripe with strong measures, and give the infrastructure before you give freedom.

This was the assumption that royalty made: that political rights and freedoms would be granted by themselves when they deemed people ready to handle them. But people do not look at things that way, and nor should they; that negates the whole philosophical basis of a democracy. There has never been a perfect democracy, but it tends to work better than the alternatives, and democracy cannot wait indefinitely until the higher beings decide that the time has come.
As far as Alexander III and his son were concerned, I am not even sure that they ever expected to reform the political system they inherited. Surely the intention of Alexander III's economic reforms were to render talk of democracy obsolete by shoring up his own system and increasing peoples' sense of "buy-in" to a government that brought them prosperity and let them sleep easy in their beds. It was not the precursor to political reform.

Back to Alexander III:
He was the Peacemaker. When the risk of war occurred, he held back. This was a healthy attitude, which the government of Nicholas lacked. Consider that in the absence of the Russo-Japanese war, there would be no Bloody Sunday. War leads to shortage, especially in the Russian economy of 1900, of bread. War leads also to hyperinflation, which means also poverty. This is usually the spark that leads to revolution, it is not the underlying cause, but those causes could be dealt with otherwise in the absence of war.


I am not sure that Alexander would have been able to avoid the Russo-Japanese War. It was Alexander who set Nicholas on an eastward course, precisely in order to avoid another war in Europe. Some of the "occult influences" around Nicholas before the war were also his father's associates (e.g. Badmaev, and Vorontsov-Dashkov, the former Minister of Court who was a prominent member of the Bezobrazov gang). It was also Alexander who taught Nicholas to be jealous of his own power and suspicious of what his ministers were up to - leading to the rise of these "occult influences" in the first place.
And, had Nicholas been more confident in delegating responsibility, he would not have allowed the Japanese situation to drift in 1903, while he himself was off in Europe attending family weddings and worrying about repairing Russia's relationship with Germany. Who is to say that exactly the same thing would not have happened if Alexander had been on the throne, with his similar outlook?

Of course, there were riots in Russia before the war, notably in 1900 as a consequence of depression and student unrest. So although I agree that war has always been "locomotive of change", I am not sure that something would not have happened eventually even without it....
« Last Edit: January 01, 2010, 08:12:30 AM by Janet Ashton » Logged

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« on: January 01, 2010, 05:53:07 PM »
Sergei Witte Offline
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Hi Janet,

thanks for your reply.

Right now I am investigating on the net the persons who belonged to the Bazobrasov-gang. So far I haven't found that Vorontsov-Dashkov was part of it. The other person you mention - Badmaev I can find nothing on him on the internet. Perhaps you have some information in him, and also on the exact relationship these persons had with the B-gang?

Interesting stuff to read how this adventurers - later they were backed by Minister Plehve - could prevent Nicholas to listen to his ministers (most of them, the clever ones e.g. S Witte). Those courtiers certainly had power.

Nicholas was just a playing ball for those forces. Alexander III on the other hand, would have crushed them. He didn't like adventuring at all.

If you have more info on the persons who were involved with the B-gang, please inform me.

Thanks in advance.
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Reply #12
« on: January 02, 2010, 09:04:00 PM »
Alixz
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Also, even if Alexander II have lived longer, he could not have had any control over the timing of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.  When that was decided it would have set off the Balkan powder keg no matter what.

I don't think that it could have been delayed by any delay in the onset of the Russo Japanese War.

Also, Nicholas and probably Alexander were both feeling a tad small in the shadows of their illustrious ancestors who had increased the size of Russia while they had not.  Alexander backed away from European War, but he may not have backed away from the Russo-Japanese War especially after the Otsu attack on his son.

Hopefully, though, he may have backed away from fighting with Germany and Austria over the Balkans thus either delaying or simply preventing the fighting with both countries.

Just remember though that when Greece refused to fight, the French made them by blockading Greece and making their life hell.  It would seem that neutrality was not something to be tolerated by the warring countries.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2010, 08:39:56 AM by Alixz » Logged
Reply #13
« on: January 03, 2010, 04:59:11 AM »
Janet Ashton Offline
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Hi Janet,

thanks for your reply.

Right now I am investigating on the net the persons who belonged to the Bazobrasov-gang. So far I haven't found that Vorontsov-Dashkov was part of it. The other person you mention - Badmaev I can find nothing on him on the internet. Perhaps you have some information in him, and also on the exact relationship these persons had with the B-gang?


If you have more info on the persons who were involved with the B-gang, please inform me.

Thanks in advance.

Hi SW,
       David McLaren McDonald's book, United government and foreign policy in Russia is partially avilable online (Google books) and makes a few references to Vorontsov D's association with Bezobrazov. Other names to look out for are Abaza, Alexeev (the Admiral, who did not fully trust Bezobrazov but was willing to work with him), Alexander Mikhailovich (the Grand Duke), Julius Brinner (a Swiss businessman who founde dthe Yalu Timber Co and was, believe it or not, father of the actor Yul Brynner), and so on. There is a book on Brinner, written by his grandson, but I forget the title right now (serach Amazon for Brynner and it will come up, I think), and "Sandro" left memoirs, of course .

Badmaev had no direct association that I am aware of with Bezobrazov, but he was one of the people who encouraged Nicholas to see himself as Emperor of the east, so to speak. He was Buriat ethnically, originally Buddhist, but became Orthodox under the name of Peter with Alexander III as his godfather. He ran a school for Buriat children in Petersburg and also peddled alternative medicine of various kinds to high society - Witte was one of his patients. It was said of Badmaev that "the way to a ministerial appointment was through his waiting room". Sound familiar? :-) - Many historians have erroneously described him as someone who met Nicolas and Alexandra through Rasputin, but his friendship with the imperial family predates Rasputin's by an age.....

J

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Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many; they are few.
Reply #14
« on: January 27, 2010, 10:23:47 PM »
rjhowie Offline
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Now what if the Tsar who was the liberator of the serfs had ruled in 1917 - that could possibly have been different. I suspect he would be a different helmsman and things would not have been such an upheaval. He genuinely wanted to move Russia on. The Monarchy may well have survived under him and the whole history of Europe would have been much different?
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