Author Topic: Just a Few Thoughts on King & Wilson's FOTR  (Read 856 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I know this is out of date.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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whdt5xCzwHQ

-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: http://www.alexanderpalace.org/palace/century1.html): “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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whdt5xCzwHQ

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.

Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: Just a Few Thoughts on King & Wilson's FOTR
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2017, 09:57:04 PM »
eb

After some thought and research I don't think Nicholas would have done much more in 1905 if the revolution got worse than he did in real life. Nicholas soon afterwards regreted giving up so much power in real life. One must point out that the Duma leaders who took over the Provisional government in 1917 proved to be totally inept and I don't think they would have done any better in power in 1905.

Things could have been a whole lot worse in 1905 the revolutionaries planned large scale mutinies in the Black and Baltic fleets. In the Black sea the battleship Potemkin mutiny occurred before their plans were ready and disrupted their plans. In 1906 the premature revolt of the Sveabourg fortress and mutiny on the cruiser Pamiat Azov also disrupted their plans. Nicholas was also lucky that the Army and navy's officer corps remained loyal as did the railway workers which enabled him to move troops around to crush the revolt.

Unrest in the intervening countries Germany, Austria-Hungary and England there will be some along with a possible increase in terrorism. One should point out Royalty and government officials back then did not travel around with a whole lot of security except the Tsar. This is why so many Russian officials were assassinated no real security around them in most cases. in the Western countries terrorist attackers would find a lot of easy targets. Add to this there were Russian exile communities to hide in. This will lead to increased security and even slightly better security would have saved the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914. So no cause for WW I FF  becomes Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and turns the nation into a more federated state. Kaiser Wilhelm II as the years go on is slowly striped of his power and Germany becomes a real constitutional monarchy like England by the time Crown Prince Wilhelm becomes Wilhelm III.

Offline Maria Sisi

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Re: Just a Few Thoughts on King & Wilson's FOTR
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2017, 09:35:12 PM »
I'm not so sure about the great powers coming to Russia's defense if the Romanovs came close to falling in 1905. Nicholas was not popular even in 1905. Why would they come to save someone they considered a bloody tyrant? The reaction would probably would have been similar to the one in 1917. All of them, except France, had reason to welcome it.

Franz Joseph had his chance to help Russia between 1853-1856 in the Crimean war and totally gave her the middle finger. And back then Russia was ruled by the same man who saved his butt in 1848, Nicholas I. He decided to ally himself with Britain and France instead in the conflict although with his incompetence he alienated them as well. By 1905 relations were hardly anything friendly, especially with Russia looking at the Balkans. They would have seen it as a welcomed event. Russia completely out of Balkan affairs and no mightly Russia for their Slav subjects to look at for protection. No Romanovs in 1914 probably means no Russia caring about the fate of Serbia. Therefore Austria-Hungary is free to crush Serbia and and all the Balkans.

Certainly Wilhelm would have loved to save the Russian monarchy. He would have the opportunity to proclaimed himself the savior of European peace and then try to force them away from France and into a new alliance with them as a repayment. But I doubt the German generals and politicians would have shared his enthusiasm. Remember his countless attempts to get Nicholas into signing a peace treaty with Germany, a dream pursued only by him and not anybody else in Germany. Russia being aligned with France made Russia no ally. They probably would have welcomed it and then grab more land afterwards. With Russia out of the way it gave them the opportunity to focus solely on France. They were after all already thinking of war by that time to start with.

Judging on how the British reacted after Nicholas's abdication in 1917 I highly doubt they would come in Russia's defense at any level in 1905. In fact they would have been even more thrilled in 1905 then they were 12 years later. Not to mention their open support for the Japanese against Russia in the Russo-Japanese war as well as recovering from the long Boer war. Remember the outrage in the press and parliament after the completion of the triple entente. They wanted no part in being allied with Russia so why would they then come to its rescue if it fell into trouble? Sending men to defend the autocratic Romanovs would have never been accepted. Queen Alexandra couldn't get help for brother Willy in Greece, a country the British considered their sphere, so how could she get them to help Russia, their longtime nemesis? The only reason she succeeded in getting a ship to her sister is because by then NAOTMAA were already murdered and the danger became real, not theoretical. Their response to the Russian revolution and the fall of the Romanovs was to jump at central Asia and stage a coup in Persia and finally make it their sphere alone without Russia involved. 

Only France would have reason. They need Russia to keep Germany in check. They too were preparing for war against Germany by then, as revenge for 1871. They needed the second front (all that sacrificed Russian blood as Olga Alexandrovna bitterly commented decades later) to save themselves. They had too much money invested in the country for it to become a passive player in European affairs.


Offline GDSophie

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Re: Just a Few Thoughts on King & Wilson's FOTR
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2017, 03:15:39 AM »
I'm not so sure about the great powers coming to Russia's defense if the Romanovs came close to falling in 1905. Nicholas was not popular even in 1905. Why would they come to save someone they considered a bloody tyrant? The reaction would probably would have been similar to the one in 1917. All of them, except France, had reason to welcome it.

Franz Joseph had his chance to help Russia between 1853-1856 in the Crimean war and totally gave her the middle finger. And back then Russia was ruled by the same man who saved his butt in 1848, Nicholas I. He decided to ally himself with Britain and France instead in the conflict although with his incompetence he alienated them as well. By 1905 relations were hardly anything friendly, especially with Russia looking at the Balkans. They would have seen it as a welcomed event. Russia completely out of Balkan affairs and no mightly Russia for their Slav subjects to look at for protection. No Romanovs in 1914 probably means no Russia caring about the fate of Serbia. Therefore Austria-Hungary is free to crush Serbia and and all the Balkans.

Certainly Wilhelm would have loved to save the Russian monarchy. He would have the opportunity to proclaimed himself the savior of European peace and then try to force them away from France and into a new alliance with them as a repayment. But I doubt the German generals and politicians would have shared his enthusiasm. Remember his countless attempts to get Nicholas into signing a peace treaty with Germany, a dream pursued only by him and not anybody else in Germany. Russia being aligned with France made Russia no ally. They probably would have welcomed it and then grab more land afterwards. With Russia out of the way it gave them the opportunity to focus solely on France. They were after all already thinking of war by that time to start with.

Judging on how the British reacted after Nicholas's abdication in 1917 I highly doubt they would come in Russia's defense at any level in 1905. In fact they would have been even more thrilled in 1905 then they were 12 years later. Not to mention their open support for the Japanese against Russia in the Russo-Japanese war as well as recovering from the long Boer war. Remember the outrage in the press and parliament after the completion of the triple entente. They wanted no part in being allied with Russia so why would they then come to its rescue if it fell into trouble? Sending men to defend the autocratic Romanovs would have never been accepted. Queen Alexandra couldn't get help for brother Willy in Greece, a country the British considered their sphere, so how could she get them to help Russia, their longtime nemesis? The only reason she succeeded in getting a ship to her sister is because by then NAOTMAA were already murdered and the danger became real, not theoretical. Their response to the Russian revolution and the fall of the Romanovs was to jump at central Asia and stage a coup in Persia and finally make it their sphere alone without Russia involved. 

Only France would have reason. They need Russia to keep Germany in check. They too were preparing for war against Germany by then, as revenge for 1871. They needed the second front (all that sacrificed Russian blood as Olga Alexandrovna bitterly commented decades later) to save themselves. They had too much money invested in the country for it to become a passive player in European affairs.



Yet if the 1905 Revolution ended or started with the murders of NA, OTMAA would not have suffered the same fate. Alexei was barely a year old when it started; Anastasia was 3, Maria 5, Tatiana 7 and Olga 10. They would have most likely been sent abroad to a relative or sent to live with Dowager Empress Marie. However, if NA were murdered in 1906/1907 when the Revolution was still happening; I don't think Olga would have made it out. If they can murder 13 year old Alexei without any mercy, I don't see them sparing 12/13 year old Olga. However, they most likely would have let her go as she had no political significance; the Ural Committee were not around to just kill them like in real life, so Nicholas may have been taken to Moscow for trial like planned with Alexandra and all of the children sent abroad/to Dowager Empress Marie.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2017, 03:17:31 AM by GDSophie »
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Offline edubs31

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Re: Just a Few Thoughts on King & Wilson's FOTR
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2017, 12:38:25 AM »
We have a tendency to magnify the murder of the Imperial Family but unfortunately it was a side note to the social & political struggles of the era and treated as a footnote by many early historians.

Had the Russian Revolution been an isolated incident, and merely an important chapter in the greater conflict that was the First World War I believe the response from other countries might have been differently. Certainly their interests in the outcome of a revolt followed by a toppling of the Tsarist regime followed by a protracted civil war might have been different. Not forced to allocate resources in the defense of their own societies would have afforded them the ability to intervene in a way that was not plausible to do so because of the Great War.

That to me is the difference between what the attitudes of foreign leaders might have been had a full scale revolution broken out in the wake of Russia's relatively small misadventure against the Japanese and their calamity against the Germans-Austrians a decade+ later.

One other thing. While the socialist revolutionary forces were hardly a united front in 1917, twelve years earlier it seems far less likely to me that popular support for the radicals could have been strong enough to topple the autocracy (or at least in keeping it from being quickly restored). Martov and the Mensheviks would have played a far more prominent role in 1905 and their brand of politics were much less radical & violent then the Bolsheviks. The average Russian subject likely would not have been as desperate for change and as accepting of a socialist government takeover as they were by 1917.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2017, 12:40:32 AM by edubs31 »
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Offline TimM

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Re: Just a Few Thoughts on King & Wilson's FOTR
« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2017, 05:02:44 PM »
Books like this are never out of date, IMO.

Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: Just a Few Thoughts on King & Wilson's FOTR
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2017, 10:33:52 PM »
Some interesting comments Maria Sisi. However we are talking about a full scale revolution/civil war breaking out in 1905. If this was to happen the other major powers would intervene to protect their citizens and investments and property. This is what countries did back then and still do. England if things got bad would send a Squadron of the Royal Navy to do this and if things got really bad evacuate its diplomats and citizens. there were I believe several thousand English citizens in Russia at this time including a lot of tutors and nannies.
 Germany was Russia's biggest trading partner pre -WW I. There were also over 2 million people of German decent living in Russia. There were also many people in Russia who had both German and Russian passports. Add to this investments and property. Also Wilhelm II would think his hour of glory had arrived to save civilization from revolutionary mobs.
 Austria-Hungary also had large numbers of it citizens in Russia. Franz-Joseph would not be as fast to act as Wilhelm II but he would take some action.
 France the country that has the most money invested in Russia and it biggest ally. They would have to take action.
One country I should add is the US relations were sort of strained between the US and Russia do to Russian anti-Sematic policies. The US does have large investments in Russia. Also Singer Sewing Machine had a factory there and its sewing machines were very popular in pre-WW I Russia. One must also point out the US had a very energetic President at this time Teddy Roosevelt. Also Princess Cantacuzene was formerly Julia Dent Grant, granddaughter of the late US Grant. So if she got in trouble Teddy Roosevelt would send a Squadron of the US Navy to save her ASAP. That's the way he was.