Author Topic: Just a Few Thoughts on King & Wilson's FOTR  (Read 261 times)

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Offline Jeremiah

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Just a Few Thoughts on King & Wilson's FOTR
« on: September 28, 2017, 12:58:12 PM »
I know this is out of date.

I’m only now reading FOTR and I have great difficulty going through the first chapters. I’m sure that most of what I shall write here have been discussed thoroughly on the special threads on FOTR. I confess that I have not read the threads yet –I don’t have the time right now, due to an ongoing project with strict deadlines. I need to finish King’s & Wilson’s book the soonest. BUT, I couldn’t help taking the time to express just a few thoughts on these first couple of chapters of the book before moving on. Forgive me.

-On Nicholas’ “impotence”

King & Wilson, p. 30: “It was the empire’s misfortune, and Nicholas II’s personal tragedy, that he took the throne at this crucial moment. Hopelessly ill equipped to deal with the burdens of his exalted position, and incapable of decisive action in the face of impending catastrophe…”

Vyrubova, Memories, p. 66: “He had qualities of leadership with very limited opportunities to exercise those qualities.”
Dehn, Real Tsaritsa, p. 87: “"He is accused of weakness," she said bitterly. "He is the strongest-not the weakest. I assure you, Lili, that it cost the Emperor a tremendous effort to subdue the attacks of rage to which the Romanoffs are subject. He has learnt the hard lesson of self-control, only to be called weak; people forget that the greatest conqueror is he who conquers himself." … "I wonder they don't accuse him of being too good: that, at least, would be true!".”
Hanbury-Williams, The Emperoro Nicholas, p. 67: “He is so keen, if he were well supported.”
Ibid, pp. 72-73: “Had a long talk to Alexeieff and Admiral Russin on munition matters, in which there appears to be some improvement, due no doubt to the energy with which the Emperor pursues this all-important question.”

According to Dominic Lieven, specialist on Imperial Russia who teaches at the London School of Economics, Nicholas II was not stupid. Nor was he nearly as weak as is commonly thought. The dilemmas of ruling Russia were vast and contradictory, and it was an illusion to think that simply by agreeing to become a constitutional monarch Nicholas could have preserved his dynasty and empire. Drawing many eerie parallels to events unfolding in Russia today, Lieven shows that social and technological change had far outstripped the existing political and executive structures.

Listen to his remarkable lecture at Gresham College:

-The distortion of his sense of orderliness

King & Wilson, p. 35: “Nicholas ruled his empire as a man might jealously guard his mistress, keeping secrets from his own government and neglecting to inform one ministry what the other was doing, in an attempt to maintain the illusion that only he truly remained in control. So complete was this jealousy that he would not even have a private secretary, for fear that another might come between him and his prerogatives.”

Vyrubova, p. 55: “The study was a perfect model of orderliness, the big writing table having every pen and pencil exactly in its place. The large calendar also with appointments written carefully in the Emperor's own hand was always precisely in its proper place. The Emperor often said that he wanted to be able to go into his study in the dark and put his hand at once on any object he knew to be there.”

-On Nicholas’ “cruelty”

King & Wilson, Entire 1st paragraph of p. 38

Amalia Kussner Coudert, The Human Side of the Tsar (see: “This well-authenticated story stated that the Tsar thus caught sight of a party of students who were being marched through the street on their way to Siberia, and, so the story went, at once ordered the release of the students. Afterward, the lady told me in a whisper, the police marched their prisoners on streets through which the Tsar did not drive.”

Spiridovich (quoted in Massie’s, Nicholas and Alexandra, p. 128):
[The story is very touching. It’s a bit long though, so I’m not copying fully here –just the end of it . If you like, I would happily do so.]
“I thank you very much for acting the way you did,” said Nicholas. “One must never hesitate when one has the chance to save the life of a man. Thank God that neither your conscience nor mine will have anything to reproach themselves for.” Quickly, he wrote a telegram to the Minister of Justice: “Defer the execution of S. Await orders.” He handed the paper to a court messenger and added, “Run!”
Orlov returned to the girl and told her what had happened. She fainted and Orlov had to revive her. When she could speak, her first words were, “Whatever happens to us, we are ready to give our lives for the Emperor.” Later, when Orlov saw Nicholas and told him her words, the Tsar smiled and said, “You see, you have made two people, her and me, very happy.”

-On his “stubbornness”

King & Wilson, p. 36: “Thus Nicholas once declared: “I shall never, under any circumstances, agree to a representative form of government because I consider it harmful to the people whom God has entrusted to my care.” … his blind devotion to its principles drove the country headlong to revolution.”

The authors contradict themselves just two pages after that (p. 38), where they present “stubborn” Nicholas granting a constitution simply just because (!): “the grand duke [Nicholas] stormed into his nephew’s study, brandishing a pistol and threatening to shoot himself on the spot unless the emperor granted a constitution. Faced with this, Nicholas reluctantly signed the Manifesto of October 17, 1905, which created Russia’s first elected legislature, the Duma.”

This was just a spontaneous necessity dictated by the voice of my consciousness. Sorry... Soon I shall read the threads on FOTR. I know that most of the controversies are solved -or at least dealt with- there. Thanks.

Offline Превед

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Re: Just a Few Thoughts on King & Wilson's FOTR
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2017, 05:32:25 PM »
Listen to his remarkable lecture at Gresham College:

Interesting scenario of alternative history that he presents in the beginning: What would the great powers have done if the Revolution of 1905 had been sucessfull and the monarchy had fallen? Germany would have intervened on behalf of the German minority in Russia (Baltic Germans and others), France and Britain would have reacted to that and acted to protect their economic interests in Russia (loans and investments). WW1 would no doubt have errupted, with Russia as a passive part.

It would have been the 1905 Dissolution of the Swedish-Norwegian Union x 1000!
« Last Edit: September 28, 2017, 05:35:45 PM by Превед »
Березы севера мне милы,—
Их грустный, опущённый вид,
Как речь безмолвная могилы,
Горячку сердца холодит.

(Афанасий Фет: «Ивы и березы», 1843 / 1856)

Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: Just a Few Thoughts on King & Wilson's FOTR
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2017, 01:00:37 PM »
If it looked like the Russian Monarchy was going to collapse. Austria-Hungary and Germany would march to the rescue. The Russian army helped save the Hapsbergs in 1848. So no doubt old Franz Joseph would feel bound to save the Romanovs. IN Germany Wilhelm II would think saving a fellow monarch a really great idea. England a lot of people didn't like Russia for various reasons.  However, the thought of the fall of the Russian monarchy might scare enough of the people in power that England might intervene in a limited fashion. Maria Feds sister was Queen Alexandra of England. France Russia was an ally, they had a great deal of money invested in Russia depending who is in power this week the French might intervene also in a limited fashion. Long run Russia remains a monarchy with the help of the other major powers. However it is greatly weakened and it might not remain intact. There is no WW I because after the intervention which may last several years all the countries involved will want several years of peace to recover.

Offline edubs31

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Re: Just a Few Thoughts on King & Wilson's FOTR
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2017, 11:07:30 PM »
Is it also reasonable to assume however that a more successful 1905 uprising would have forced more serious reform measures from Nicholas and his government?

We are used to learning that events of 1994/05 were a dress reversal for the calamities of 1916/17. That the competitively smaller war with Japan and limited uprising by Gapon and his supporters presaged World War I and Russian revolution a dozen or so years later.

But would supportive monarchies in Germany, Austria and England essentially coming to the rescue of Tsarism in Russia spur on bitter revolutionary uprisings within their own borders? Instead of fighting each in a world war would they have spent the next decade+ submerged in Civil War at home?

Certainly monarchical governments would have had more support from their respective populations in 1905 than they had by 1917...and the draining effects of War World I - which as James points out likely would not have happened - was the main reason for that decline in support. But as the Nazi party proved in 1930s Germany and the Bolsheviks proved in 1910s Russia a noisy and violent minority can capsize a government that is already unstable or disorganised. Puppet states governed by figureheads and faux democracies along with longstanding but brittle monarchies, where the "subjects" themselves have little to no skin in the game, seem especially susceptible to this.
Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right...

Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: Just a Few Thoughts on King & Wilson's FOTR
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2017, 07:00:24 PM »
Hi eb :) good points

The US WW I museum and memorial has a presentation "Between a Rock and a hard place" by Dr Gary Armstrong it show the problems faced by the goverments of Europe on social change and is quite interesting.

The book "The Last Tsar" Serge S Oldenberg also points out Nicholas was not as weak as he is often made out to be.