Author Topic: What Could Nicholas II Have Done to Preserve the Imperial Throne?  (Read 219725 times)

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Offline edubs31

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Re: What Could Nicholas II Have Done to Preserve the Imperial Throne?
« Reply #705 on: July 23, 2012, 09:32:02 AM »
Tsarfan, not to narrow the focus of your response down to one cherry picked section, but I'm curious as to this...

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During my lifetime I have seen church dogma -- and not just its "imperfect human manifestation", but the dogma itself -- anathematize members of other religions, African Americans, women, and gay people.  Church dogma has supported slavery, serfdom, the denial of rights to women, violence against Jews, burnings of heretics at stakes, religious wars, and authoritarian governments.  I do not find religion to be a very fruitful source of a "meaningful ethical system" under which to live.

Balanced against the "imperfect human manifestations" is the idea that rarely is religion followed literally and to the extreme. Even the most devout hedge or "slip" from time to time. Eating shellfish or getting a tattoo however is not sinful in the same way as theft and murder. People are always, consciously or subconsciously, modifying their religious views in order for their faith to work within the current world in which they live.

People will find excuses to commit awful acts against those who they do not agree with or cannot relate to with or without religion. Of course you might ask yourself, why then, should a society bother to base its system of morality and a guide for its laws off of religious principles if people are going to so often ignore the "good" in its teachings...? But just as many believe that, say, the Constitution of the United States is a dynamic living and breathing document, so too many treat the Bible as an allegory.

Certainly we saw what horrors were committed after the fall of Empire when adherence to no religion became the standard of the Soviet regime. I believe that the repression of religion, like that in the Soviet Union is wrong, just as I do not agree with state sponsored religion like we saw during the preceding regime. But even in supposedly "free" societies like much of the western world today people still look to a higher source of reasoning. For many that's based on their religious beliefs. For many others the "Founding Fathers" become that substitute for God/Christ/Saints, etc. When not church dogma shaped by the interpretation a particular group has of their Bible we often get sociopolitical dogma inspired by the more liberal or conservative interpretations of a constitution.

Not that human beings need religion to understand natural laws either...but a rather extreme set of moral codes, which will undoubtedly be modified throughout the course of time anyway, can act as a decent starting point, no? Atrocities have been proven to occur in Theocratic, Atheistic, and "free thinking" societies alike...
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Offline Tsarfan

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Re: What Could Nicholas II Have Done to Preserve the Imperial Throne?
« Reply #706 on: July 23, 2012, 11:03:53 AM »
Well, I see that Petr has succeeded in turning what was a very interesting discussion on a key topic of Russian history into some kind of referendum on the holy mysteries of his beloved Orthodox faith.

So you guys go ahead with this, and I'll go somewhere else to find a sensible discussion about history.

Offline Louis_Charles

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Re: What Could Nicholas II Have Done to Preserve the Imperial Throne?
« Reply #707 on: July 23, 2012, 11:19:51 AM »
I am a religious person, for what that's worth as a credential. But I tend to agree with Tsarfan in this matter. There is simply no way to interpose religious belief into a discussion here without leaving history at the doorstep. If we are religious, then we need to reconcile our beliefs with the points that Tsarfan has made --- that dogma has, in fact, been used to support oppression, that during the two thousand years of Christian history a great deal of harm has been done in Christ's name, and that off the top of my head I can't think of a single belief system ever utilized where that hasn't been true. Except maybe the Jains? Whatever. The Discussion Forum at the top of the page is the proper place for a thread about the intrinsic value of religious belief. For the record, if someone wants to start one up there I would be happy to participate. I suspect it would be an active discussion!

Simon
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Vanya Ivanova

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Re: What Could Nicholas II Have Done to Preserve the Imperial Throne?
« Reply #708 on: July 23, 2012, 11:22:58 AM »
Thank you Tsarfan for the book recommendations, I have found a copy of the Ian Grey's  ''Ivan III and the Unification of Russia'' on Amazon it was very cheap too.

I'm not saying it makes me an expert but I'm British and would just like to make a few points about the Monarchy here, in response to Petr's recent post. Its still relevant to this thread and particularly to the more recent discussion of religion in the Russian monarchy's downfall. Without going into too much detail the British were able to industrialise first because of a very early separation between Church and State. The English reformation in 1534 saw Henry VIII, severe all ties with Papal authority and declare himself 'Head of the Church of England'. This was only partially related to the general protestant reformation taking place in Europe at that time started by the German monk Martin Luther and mainly to do with Henry VIII consolidating his power and preserving his dynasty.

The reformation in England was utterly brutal but with the destruction of the monasteries it meant that the church's power base was destroyed too. Henry VIII confiscated their wealth and so it meant education, and medicine (hospitals etc) also ceased to be under church control. Then in 1642 we had the 'Civil War' which saw an end to autocracy in Britain with the execution of Charles I. This meant that again there was a further separation between not only church and state but monarchy and state also. By the restoration in 1660 with Charles II, the state in the form of parliament, had supremecy over both the Church and Monarchy.

Then in 1688, the prostestant female heir to throne, Mary II's husband William of Orange, 'invaded' with the full agreement of parliament to oust Mary's Catholic father James II. William brought with him the mercantile expertise of the Dutch ( they invented the Stock Exhange' and the idea of a stable currency) This all took place just before the British entered into a race for Empire with the French. In essence the French lost the Imperial race due to the bad credit status of the 'super' autocrat Louis XIV, who was too arrogant to pay his debts and so the French were unable to raise a fleet and soldiers in time to effectively fight the British for control of India and North America.

This all resulted in a confluence of events that enabled the British to industrialise and build an Empire the size of which has never been rivalled. However it took almost 3 centuries and enormous upheaval and bloodshed to get to the point whereby you had a state that was not hampered by religious dogma or a despotic tyrant in making economic and military decisions. By the beginning of the 20th Century the British monarchy had weathered many storms but despite its prestige and that of the Empire, from 1651 onwards it was always really just for show. ie a constitutional monarchy. From that point Monarchs were and still are under parliament's sufferance.

Most people in Britain have enormous respect for Elizabeth II personally as she really has been a paragon of dour, discreet, duty. Her reign has also coincided with one of the most tumultuous periods of social upheaval in British history with the loss of the empire just after WWII and the mass immigration that took place after that as a result. Elizabeth II represents continuity and on the whole with Prince William's wedding etc most British people would rather keep the Royal family than not. However underneath that their is a very deep running attitude that the Monarch is a public servant, and so is acceptable only so long as they behave themselves and are value for money. Elizabeth II as I have stated has always behaved impeccably, but were we to get another, Edward VIII, or George IV then it would not be too far a stretch to say that monarchy could well end here or at the very least, the troublemaker would be removed for a more palatable relative.

Russia's main problem was not that it was an autocracy or that it was hampered by religious Dogma, ( neighbouring Imperial Japan managed industrialisation perfectly well under an autocracy) but because these two things had been combined with mass slavery/serfdom up and into the second half of the 19th Century. In Britain Serfdom ended in the early 1600's a generation later there was a Civil War and a Revolution, with the monarchy being deposed, just as happended in Russia 3 centuries later.

The difference being that Russia had to contend with the combination of Serfdom/Autocracy/Dogma/ Industrialisation all at once and that is why it proved to be so explosive. It led to extremes in ideology that simply weren't present in Britain in the 1600's or France in the late 1700's. If just one of these factors had been absent then Nicholas II might have had a fighting chance of saving his throne or becoming a constitutional Monarch like his cousin George V.

 
« Last Edit: July 23, 2012, 11:39:10 AM by Vanya Ivanova »

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: What Could Nicholas II Have Done to Preserve the Imperial Throne?
« Reply #709 on: July 23, 2012, 11:34:02 AM »
Tsarfan, this too will pass.  Petr had his say and we can leave it at that. There is no denying that the ROC had influence is the Russian regimes, for better or worse, but it was a futile effort, IMO.
  I am curious though, about what he means by veneration of the monarchy of Britain.  I am fairly familiar with the UK. especially as I live there  up to 6 months a year and I do not see it. There is huge respect to the Queen, simply because she is well liked, does hre duty perfectly and is the only monarch  many  Brits know.
 As for the rest of the lot, not so much except for the Cambridges. The monarchy, as an influence in most people's daily lives has no influence whatsoever.  Unlike the monarchy of Russia, which controlled everything, life and death included.
 In Russia, the common people, whatever you want to call them, wanted to stay far away from the Emperor because of that control. [remember the line from Fiddler on the Roof- "May the good Lord keep, the Tsar far away from us"?]
 I do not participate much in this thread but I do read it . Your contribution is most welcome and I would not like to see you drop out.
 I do not agree with Petr's position, but he has the right to express it as it is topical to the discussion, but not enough to dwell on, IMO.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2012, 11:43:11 AM by Robert_Hall »
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Offline Petr

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Re: What Could Nicholas II Have Done to Preserve the Imperial Throne?
« Reply #710 on: July 23, 2012, 12:08:42 PM »
Well, I see that Petr has succeeded in turning what was a very interesting discussion on a key topic of Russian history into some kind of referendum on the holy mysteries of his beloved Orthodox faith.

So you guys go ahead with this, and I'll go somewhere else to find a sensible discussion about history.

Not my intent at all. It was just that any discussion of NII's and AF's motivations and psychology which has occupied this thread cannot avoid examining the role of religion in their thinking. Obviously, people can make judgments as to whether this was good or bad or whether Orthodoxy as a religion was good or bad for Russia but to disregard it altogether is being somewhat narrowminded in my view. Furthermore, as I keep harping on you have to put them in context of their time and class, i.e., late Victorian aristocracy. I think if you want to examine them in an objective fashion then moral judgments through modern eyes can complicate the analysis, but that does not mean that you excuse them or apologize for their actions. They did what they did but the question is how to understand their motivations. I really don't think dogma per se comes into this discussion except to the extent it serves to motivate an individual, in this case the principle actors in this sad drama.  To that extent it becomes relevant. This is NOT intended to be a referendum on Orthodoxy, nor do I think I ever suggested anything of the kind and I don't deny that religion has been the source of much misery throughout history (even to this day, witness the sectarian battles in the Middle East) so let's leave it at that. By the way, Massie was the first to really look at them through the prism of having to deal with their son's hemophilia (something he was personally familiar with) which, for the first time introduced a human component to the analysis  as opposed to the cardboard cutout view that was the norm (and which was the favorite communist party line which influenced a long line of mid 20th century historians).

By the way, the latest polls in the UK suggest that support for the monarchy is running at over 60%. Of course, this is probably because of some significant damage control after the Lady Diana debacle but that illustrates what the English monarchy learned in the 20th Century and that is that like any good politician you have to keep your finger in the wind to gauge popular sentiment. No late 19th century monarch was that particularly attuned to this modern requirement.  The rules were different then but then maybe NII should have learned this lesson (like his cousin GV) and had he done so perhaps the monarchy would have survived. Unfortunately, he was never given the chance. If  I only knew what the stock market will do tomorrow I wouldn't be huddled over my keyboard right  now.

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Alixz

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Re: What Could Nicholas II Have Done to Preserve the Imperial Throne?
« Reply #711 on: July 23, 2012, 12:29:05 PM »
Because Nicholas and his father were very religious and Alexandra became a rabid convert, it is necessary to include the effect of religion on the autocracy and what did and didn't happen to it.

This is not a judgement on the religion itself and as many have said, just about every religion from Protestant to Orthodoxy to Catholicism has been used to justify the subjugation of peoples and the exclusion of peoples and even the enslavement of peoples.

I don't know that Orthodoxy is any better or worse than the Christian Missionaries and the harm they did to the indigenous people of Africa and Hawaii - but that is not the point here.

The point here is that Nicholas II and Alexandra (after her conversion) believed that the tsar was hand picked by God and that a vow taken on coronation day could not be broken. I think they considered it a sin to break a vow taken now matter how badly it effected them or the people they ruled.

Having Podestonotsev as Procurator of the Holy Synod and the teacher and adviser to both Alexander III and Nicholas II gave both of these men a very narrow view of what the people of Russia were like and what they wanted. So I can not see removing the influence of their religious beliefs from the actions that both men took.

Nicholas did finally break his vow by signing the abdication document and it must have been a huge decision. Taking the importance of his son's life over the vow to God probably kept him from a good night's sleep for many a night.

I actually wonder how he came to take the decision in the first place. It was very unlike him to put temporal matters before heavenly ones.

Offline Louis_Charles

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Re: What Could Nicholas II Have Done to Preserve the Imperial Throne?
« Reply #712 on: July 23, 2012, 03:19:25 PM »
Alright, I'm game. What evidence do you have that the "late Victorian mindset" was heavily religious? This was a period of massive free-thinking, the rise of Marxism and at the same time, many members of the Russian aristocracy were practicing things like Ouija boards and the like, that were certainly not mainstream religious orthodoxy (or Orthodoxy). Alexandra's religious practices were highly simplistic, with overtones of fetishistic behavior that put her outside the pale of the normally observant. Figes makes the point that the Russian peasantry were far less religious than normally viewed (something that their behavior during the Revolution seems to bear out), but it may be that we are looking in Alexandra, not at a "religious" person, in the conventional or "Victorian" sense (this really needs clarification, Petr; can you imagine Queen Victoria's opinion of things like talismanic combs and bathing in holy water to achieve a son? Because I can) but someone who simply substitutes herself for God. Again, I think we have a tendency to view the good old days through rose-colored glasses. It diminishes the responsibility of the Tsar, Tsarina, aristocracy and peasantry for Nicholas' downfall. Someone's will was certainly involved when the throne collapsed. Not God's.

Simon
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Offline TimM

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Re: What Could Nicholas II Have Done to Preserve the Imperial Throne?
« Reply #713 on: July 23, 2012, 04:35:16 PM »
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Nicholas did finally break his vow by signing the abdication document and it must have been a huge decision. Taking the importance of his son's life over the vow to God probably kept him from a good night's sleep for many a night.

I actually wonder how he came to take the decision in the first place. It was very unlike him to put temporal matters before heavenly ones

The answer to that is simple, he had no choice.  He no longer had the support of the Russian military and it was clear he would either abdicate, or be removed by force.  There were simply no other options open to Nicholas at that time.
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Offline Petr

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Re: What Could Nicholas II Have Done to Preserve the Imperial Throne?
« Reply #714 on: July 23, 2012, 04:43:03 PM »
Dear Louis Charles

If you look more closely at what I said, I never said that the late Victorian mindset was religious, although there certainly were highly religious Victorians. I was thinking of the Victorian period mindset more broadly (cf., Gertrude Himmelfarb's wonderful book), for example, faith in institutions (including religious ones), concepts of honor and duty and, frankly, less attractive ones such as moral rigidity and sexual repression (and its attendant hypocrisy), nationalism, manifest destiny and colonialism justified, in part, on religious grounds, anti-semitism, social statism and the class system. I know all of these are generalizations but they were not unique to Russia. Part of the tragedy of WWI was the demise of a whole generation of young idealists who went off to war for "God, King and Country" and "Gott mit uns".  I often think that war is the biggest engine of social change (mostly in its aftermath) even in our time.  As a survivor of the period, the Vietnam war comes easily to mind which begat the 60's revolution (along with the Pill) which begat the aids epidemic, etc.  Now we have Iraq one and two and Afghanistan which begat the National Debt which begat the Tea Party, etc.   Obviously, drawing with a large brush and much hyperbole but with a grain of truth I believe. Likewise the effects of WWI as regards Russia and the rest of Europe which in its aftermath saw monarchies fall like ten pins.  

By the way, someone posted on the Forum an interesting exchange of correspondence between AF and a Protestant English cleric. Frankly, I was always led to believe (and have been roundly criticized in the Forum for this belief) that AF's mystical (and, in my view, somewhat hysterical) beliefs were the result of having converted to Orthodoxy (e.g., the often exhibited need of converts to prove their faith by strict adherence to religious norms) as opposed to the rather lax practices of the Orthodox faithful, myself included (a source of continuing clerical complaint then and now).  Again, a rather broad interpretation and difficult to prove.  This is my general objection to some of what has been posted which seems to state with absolute assurance what was going through NII's and AF's minds, with corresponding disapproval. I have difficulty figuring out what goes through my mind much less a historical figure from another age and, in my view, it smacks of armchair "profiling".   Of course the collapse of the monarchy was the result of a "perfect storm" of human action and inaction.  Whether God had a hand in it I leave to others to determine but as for me I won't enter that thicket (until I push up daisys and perhaps then I'll know).

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Offline Louis_Charles

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Re: What Could Nicholas II Have Done to Preserve the Imperial Throne?
« Reply #715 on: July 23, 2012, 04:48:48 PM »
Thanks for the reply! It seems we are of the same generation. For the record, I did not say that you said that the "Victorian mindset" was heavily religious. What i was trying to get at was whether or not there even was such a thing as a Victorian mindset? I also think that the war made the revolution inevitable, but I don't think it was until the war. Tending that way, certainly. But a more capable monarch who was not married to an hysteric might have been able to avoid it. Ah, well. I think we have exhausted this topic. What next?

Simon
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Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: What Could Nicholas II Have Done to Preserve the Imperial Throne?
« Reply #716 on: July 23, 2012, 04:55:41 PM »
I am aware, Petr that this is way off topic, but I take exception to you blaming the  social revolution of the 60s-70's being the cause of AIDS. It is an important issue that has hit many of us personally, and is not a topic in this thread.
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Offline Petr

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Re: What Could Nicholas II Have Done to Preserve the Imperial Throne?
« Reply #717 on: July 23, 2012, 05:19:23 PM »
I am aware, Petr that this is way off topic, but I take exception to you blaming the  social revolution of the 60s-70's being the cause of AIDS. It is an important issue that has hit many of us personally, and is not a topic in this thread.
I apologize if I offended you Robert, that was not my intent and I obviously was overly general in drawing conclusions regarding a terrible problem that has also hit friends of mine.  The effects of war in general and WWI in particular are, however, a topic in this thread and it is in that context that you should read my remarks.  Nevertheless, having lived through the student riots of '68 at Columbia and the general mindset of that time ("make love not war") I can tell you from personal experience that there was a direct connection between a reaction to the war and what was transpiring in America in general at that time.  By the way, there has been plenty written about the the sexual revolution of the 60's so I don't think I'm completely off base. Again please don't take my remarks as ascribing blame to any person or group for what is a disease that anyone can get plain and simple. The tragedy was that it originally carried a social stigma which delayed by years (and caused many unwarranted deaths) the development of an effective way to treat it.  But you are correct it's off thread and I apologize.   

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Alixz

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Re: What Could Nicholas II Have Done to Preserve the Imperial Throne?
« Reply #718 on: July 23, 2012, 06:26:40 PM »
I recently read Imperial Cruise which is not about Russia but about a ship that T Roosevelt sent to Asia during his term as president. He even included his daughter Alice and her future husband Nick Longworth as a distraction for the reporters.

The ship visited many ports including the Philippines and Japan.

The whole thought of the author is that the White Male Christian doctrine of the US was being sent to Asia in the belief that these people needed to be Westernized and civilized and made more like the Western idea of what was right.

This was a Christian mission to "save the natives" more than a diplomatic mission even though it was disguised as one.

Russia is not the only country in the early 1900s that was using its religion and its mores and beliefs to convert and oppress others.

I thought I could lay hands on it, but find that it must be in one of my under bed storage boxes and so what I have posted above is a paraphrase.

But my point is that when discussing religion in any country at almost any period, there was a connection (even in the US where we are supposed to guaranteed religious freedom by the Bill Of Rights) between government and the church. Even if the church was not the originator of the suppression, the idea of its necessity was somehow put into the heads of state and they went about spreading their beliefs in any way they had available to them.

In TRs case it was a "diplomatic" cruise to Asia that was more of an assessment of the ability to "civilize the natives". To bring them to heel and to expand American influence in the Pacific.  Remember this was at least 50 years before Hawaii became a state.

Alixz

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Re: What Could Nicholas II Have Done to Preserve the Imperial Throne?
« Reply #719 on: July 23, 2012, 06:35:36 PM »
Also, I can't imagine that there are many of us who grew up in the 1960s and lived with the demonstrations and the horror that was Vietnam and then Kent State who can't see that war brings the greatest change in its aftermath when everyone has time to sit and and review what happened or what didn't happen and then try to make sense out of it and make the changes that will prevent the same thing happening again.

I, too, have lost friends to AIDs. One just about two years ago. This is still a problem and it is still not being dealt with as any pandemic would normally be dealt with.

But who in the generation of the 1960s and 1970s ever imagined that "make love not war" would bring such an epidemic with it? The idea of loving not fighting would seem to make the most sense.