Author Topic: "Sam ikh privel v podval..." "he led them to the basement himself"  (Read 65208 times)

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Offline Marya Pavlovna

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Can someone please tell me the exact day of Nicolas' abdication, I'm supposto do a speech about the Romanovs tomorrow and I don't know the exact date, so can someone please post it up?

Thank you!

~Masha~
« Last Edit: April 25, 2009, 09:02:23 AM by Alixz »

Offline nigbil

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Re: "Sam ikh privel v podval..." "he led them to the basement himself"
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2005, 02:53:47 AM »
Pskov, March 2nd 1917 3:00pm (OS)
This is the 2nd and final abdication in favour of his brother GD Mikhail Alexandrovich.
(source: "The Russian Revolution & the Soviet State 1917-1921 Documents" by my old tutor Martin McCauley.)
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by nigbil »

Offline Daniel Briere

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Re: "Sam ikh privel v podval..." "he led them to the basement himself"
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2005, 09:36:44 AM »
Nigbil is right about the date and time inscribed on the Abdication manifesto. But Nicholas II didn’t sign the last one at 3:00 PM but at 11:40 PM later that day. As he had originally signed his first abdication at 3:00 PM (in favor of Alexis) and didn’t want to appear as having bowed to pressure of the emissaries of the Duma when he signed his second abdication (in favor of Michael), the original time was kept. He also signed two orders - one naming Prince Lvov as President of the Council of Minister, the other one naming Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaevich as Commander-in-Chief - both of which dated before the abdication.

As Nigbil wrote, the date of (Thursday) March 2 was according to the old Russian (Julian) calendar. In the West it was already March 15 …the Ides of March. Oddly enough, on his way to Mogilev the week before, Nicholas II had been reading Julius Ceasar. That night, after his abdication, he wrote in his diary: “Around me there is nothing but treason, cowardice, and deception”. Did he remember that on the same date – the Ides of March -  Julius Ceasar had fallen victim to his entourage’s treason?
Daniel Briere

Offline nigbil

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Re: "Sam ikh privel v podval..." "he led them to the basement himself"
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2005, 09:52:08 AM »
Daniel, that is fascinating.
So the poor man stewed on what he was doing for almost 9 hours before signing the second act. I know he did not contact the Empress but was that because the telephone lines were down?

Also within the Orthodox calendar, whose name date was March 2nd. If it was Job (I'm sure it was not) that would fit with the fatalism that shrouded his life.

Lastly, and its probably part of another thread, is a legalistic question; if he had signed once (in favour of his son) presumably in law he was no longer Tsar and Emperor of All the Russias? Therefore by a strictly legalist reading, he could not abdicate again?
Nigbil

Offline Georgiy

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Re: "Sam ikh privel v podval..." "he led them to the basement himself"
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2005, 02:41:33 PM »
Quote
Also within the Orthodox calendar, whose name date was March 2nd. If it was Job (I'm sure it was not) that would fit with the fatalism that shrouded his life.


March 2 is the feast of Hieromartyr Theodotus, Bishop of Cyrenia. He was a Bishop in the early 300s during one of the persecutions of Christians, openly proclaiming Christ. His arrest was ordered, but before they could arrest him, he went to the Governor by himself. They tortured him including by nailing him to an iron bed under which fire was lit. But all through the tortures he didn't cease from preaching Christianity. They threw him in prison, where he remained until the reign of St Constantine the Great. He died in 326.

Also commemorated that day are:St Arseny Bishop of Tver and St Sabbaty of Tver. Virgin-martyr Euthalia of Sicily, Martyr Troadius of Neocaesaria, Venerable Agathon of Egypt, and the 440 Martyrs slain by the Lombards in Sicily.

An icon of the Theotokos enthroned was discovered in Russia on the very day that the Tsar abdicated, and is commemorated on this day too. For the pious it has come to signify that the Mother of God is the protectress of Russia while there is no Tsar.

Offline strom

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Re: "Sam ikh privel v podval..." "he led them to the basement himself"
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2005, 08:05:08 PM »
"Oddly enough, on his way to Mogilev the week before, Nicholas II had been reading Julius Caesar."

I wonder how "odd" or coincidental this is.  GD. Michael had warned his brother that something was up at Stavka, and the Emperor might have heard from other sources that treason was in the air.  It is likely that the the Emperor had not counted on an alliance of the liberal Duma wing and the military, but he was right in trying to insure that his military was loyal.  When he could not force the military to fight the revolution, he tried to save what he could.  I am not sure it would have made any difference if he has stayed at Stavka because his military was not going to fight a civil war.  
The Emperor was right to plan a military dictatorship.  That was the only viable way to save the monarchy.  

Offline Daniel Briere

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Re: "Sam ikh privel v podval..." "he led them to the basement himself"
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2005, 11:11:31 PM »
I guess a whole book could be – and probably should be – written about Nicholas II’s abdication. Most historians only give it a few lines, his biographers only a few pages at the most. Participants’ self-serving memoirs aren’t questioned and many events are distorted or even never mentioned at all.

Nigbil, to my knowledge the Emperor didn’t try to contact the Empress before taking his decision to abdicate because he was forced to act much more quickly than it seems. Even if he had wanted to, he knew it could only be through General Ruzsky which wasn’t very sympathetic to either of them. For instance, when the Imperial train arrived at Pskov (March 1/14), according to Palace Commandant Voiekov, who had asked General Ruzsky if he could use his Hughes Apparatus (a type-printer telegraph used by Government and military officials) to send some of the Emperor’s telegrams, Ruzsky replied he couldn’t allow anyone to use his Staff equipment without his consent and that it was impossible to do so at the present time! If true, his insolence was close to insubordination, and should have been a sign that he couldn’t be trusted.

There were very few long-distance telephone lines in Russia at that time : no one mentions any phone conversation from Pskov (so I don’t know if there was a line there), but there indeed was a line between Tsarskoe Selo and the Headquarters in Moghilev : it was unreliable, involved some shouting and, of course, wasn’t secure. Nicholas only managed to speak on the phone with his wife after his abdication when he went back to Moghilev. They usually communicated with each other by letter (usually carried by Court messengers) or coded telegram, but during the fateful day and a half Nicholas spent wandering around on his train, the telegrams the Empress sent him came back undelivered with the mention « Address of person mentioned unknown ». She sent two officers from His Cossack Escort with some letters, but they only arrived, in Moghilev, after he had abdicated.

During the February Revolution, military and government officials had «conversations» using a «direct line». Some authors have mistaken these words as meaning they were using the telephone, but they weren’t. They were using the Hughes Apparatus instead, a type-printer telegraph which had a keyboard that enabled words to be slowly printed out at both ends of the line. Thus «conversations» could be had using two of these devices: it involved making an appointment with the other party who had to go to a place where there was such a machine. It was a time consuming process as one party would dictate one sentence to a telegraph operator, then, after having read it on tape, the other party would dictate his reply to « his » telegraph operator, and so on. A whole conversation could take hours. General Alexeev and President of the Duma Rodzianko communicated this way a few times, Grand Duke Michael had a similar conversation with Alexeev on the evening of February 27/March 12 and so did General Ruzsky at Pskov with Rodzianko and Headquarters. It doesn’t seem the Emperor ever participated in such a dialogue himself. Instead he would write a text and give it to an aide or an officer trusting that they would go to the telegraph office to have his messages or orders sent. As the Emperor had no means of communication on board his train, the telegraphs at railway stations were used to send messages or receive information. And so, from Moghilev to Pskov, at every train station where the Imperial train stopped, members of his entourage were seen running frantically to the telegraph office to get some news or send some telegram. As most of the railways and telegraphs quickly fell under the control of the Provisional Government, needless to say the information they got wasn’t always accurate. Rumors and disinformation spread all along the railway lines like wildfire so it must have been extremely difficult to get a clear picture of what was really going on. The Emperor certainly understood the importance of having reliable means of communication at his disposal. On March 1/14 at 4:00 when his train was stopped only a 100 miles from Petrograd at Malaya Vishera (the road ahead was said to be blocked by insurgents), his entourage was wondering where to go : Moscow? Back to Moghilev? He asked where was the closest Hughes Apparatus located : it was at the Northern Front Headquater at Pskov. So there they would go. Ironically, he would be prevented to use it there, but it would be used by Ruzsky to plot his downfall with Rodzianko and Alexeev.

Oddly enough, before leaving Moghilev (at 5:00 AM on February 28/March 13), the Emperor didn’t send a telegram to his wife to let her know he was leaving later than expected. His trains (there were always two of them) were not taking the direct railway line to Tsarskoe Selo in order not to hinder the movement of General Ivanov’s non-existant Expeditionary Force to Petrograd and other military trains necessary to supply the Army. Rather they were going east to Smolensk and Viazma then north. It was only when they stopped at Viazma at 3:00 PM that he managed to send a telegram to the Empress which must have been held up somewhere as it took almost 2 hours to reach Tsarskoe Selo. This route added 200 miles – 9 hours – to the trip. Who knows what could have happened if the Emperor had followed General Ivanov’s train instead : he would have probably made it to Tsarskoe Selo and thus would have escaped his «loyal» generals.
Daniel Briere

Offline Daniel Briere

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Re: "Sam ikh privel v podval..." "he led them to the basement himself"
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2005, 11:13:44 PM »
As for « stewing » for a long while about his abdication, the timeline proves he didn’t. He arrived at Pskov at 8:00 PM on March 1/14. After supper, general Ruzsky (Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Front) presented him with a plea from Alexeev to make some constitutional changes and grant a government reponsible to the Duma, with Rodzianko as Prime Minister. In less than an hour, Nicholas II had agreed to it, and later agreed to recall general Ivanov and the regiments which had been ordered to Petrograd to restore order, as it was argued the new constitutional order would be enough to calm things down (either some wishful thinking on the part of the generals of a clever ploy to prevent the remaining loyal forces in the capital receiving reinforcments). While the Tsar went to bed, General Ruzsky went to the telegraph office to have a « conversation » (using the Hughes telegraph) with the President of the Duma, Rodzianko, and inform him of his triumph. The telegraphic dialogue went on for 4 hours, until 7:30 AM on March 2/15 : Rodzianko managed to « persuade » Ruzsky (and Alexeev) that the Emperor’s decision had come too late and that the only way to stop the Revolution was to obtain his abdication in favor of his son, with GD Michael Alexandrovich as Regent. At Stavka, General Alexeev – who had received the transcripts of the Ruzsky-Rodzianko conversation, waisted no time : he asks his staff to write a draft for an abdication manifesto. A short while later, fearing that Ruzsky alone might not be able to persuade Nicholas II to abdicate, Alexeev sends a telegram to all Commanders-in-Chief and Fleet Admirals asking them to beg the Emperor to abdicate to save Russia from Revolution, Civil War and defeat.

At 10:30 AM, after having slept a couple of hours, General Ruszky boards the Imperial train and hands Nicholas the transcript of his conversation with Rodzianko. The Tsar seems ready to acquiesce, in order to prevent bloodshed. But, as they were speaking, a telegram from General Alexeev is brought to Ruszky : it is the telegram sent to all Front Commanders. As the Tsar asks Ruzsky what his answer would be, the general replies that such a momentous decision needs some reflection and that maybe they should wait for the other Commanders’ answers. At 2:30 PM a long telegram arrives from Headquarters with the answers of the 3 other Commanders-in-Chief, including Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaevich. They were all begging the the Emperor to abdicate. Ruszky, along with 2 of his generals, brought this telegram to Nicholas II. In less than 30 minutes the Tsar agrees to abdicate in favor of his son. A few minutes later, he hands Ruzsky the text of 2 telegrams: one to Rodzianko informing him he was ready to abdicate in favor of his son, as long as he would be allowed to stay with him until his coming of age. The other one, to Alexeev, saying that he was ready to abdicate in favor of his son. But he still hadn’t signed anything, apart from these telegrams.

Ruzsky had already received the text of the abdication manifesto from Headquarters and he could have had the Emperor sign it right away. But right after Nicholas II’s decision to abdicate in favor of Alexis, Ruszky receives a telegram from Petrograd saying that 2 emissaries from the Duma were en route for Pskov. Not knowing what they wanted, he informs Nicholas II and they decide that they should wait for them before Nicholas signs anything. The Duma deputies Guchkov and Shulgin arrive at Pskov at 10:00 PM. They thought they would have a tough job convincing Nicholas II to abdicate, but he told them he was ready to abdicate, only this time it was for himself AND his son. The deputies were quite surprised, but nevertheless agreed. Having an amended manifesto ready took a while and the Emperor signed it at a quarter to midnight. So he signed his abdication only once, not twice.
Daniel Briere

Offline Daniel Briere

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Re: "Sam ikh privel v podval..." "he led them to the basement himself"
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2005, 11:26:03 PM »
What strikes me is how easily the abdication of Nicholas II was achieved. In less than three days, the words of only three men – Rodzianko, Ruzsky and Alexeev – would suffice to persuade Nicholas that Russia was on the verge of revolution and that he needed to hand over the Government to the Duma, then that the situation was so desperate that the only option was his abdication. As the Emperor didn’t have any political advisor in his entourage – members of the Imperial Suite were military men for the most part and he never discussed politics with them – he had no one to turn to for « independant » advice outside his courtiers - who would never contradict him anyway - and his ministers whom he didn’t trust much, except a few odd ones (like Court Minister Freedericksz who was senile and Protopopov who was more than « odd » and out of reach). The generals would fill in the gap and themselves would be quickly out manoeuvered by a few astute politicians. During his reign, Nicholas had lived « in splendid isolation », and took care of everything himself. He didn’t even have a private secretary who could have helped him with the petty details of government which overwhelmed him. Adding the burden of Supreme Commander of the Army on his shoulders, on top of the responsability of governing a vast Empire, was really too much for one man alone. This, Nicholas II failed to understand it. On the train from Moghilev to Pskov, far from the only person he really trusted but not always listened too – his wife - he must have felt more isolated than ever. He arrived at Pskov a broken man, exhausted by the burden of waging war and trying to govern at the same time. In the last months he had suffered from what is now called a burn out and, only a few days before, while at church, had experienced all the symptoms of what he tought to be a heart attack (although he might have been a panic attack instead). At Pskov he didn’t really give his generals a good fight. Although I’m no psychologist, I think that – deep down -  he had already abdicated a while ago. Unknown to them, and to himself even, his generals provided him with a way out he could only have dreamt about and rejected on the basis of his deep faith and high sense of duty. What he couldn’t do on his own, others – his generals – would force him to do.  He had known for a while about all kinds of plots, in the Duma, in the Army, even in his own family – and did nothing. To me, his physical and mental exhaustion, and unexpressed desire to end his sufferings, is the only (psycho-)logical explanation to his quick surrender to his generals. By letting himself get « caught like a mouse in a trap » (as the Empress put it), he committed political suicide.  

He left back for Moghilev almost immediately (at 01:00 AM, March 3/16). It suddenly occured to him that he hadn’t even asked his brother’s opinion before abdicating on his favor. He wrote a telegram « To His Imperial Majesty Emperor Michael »  apologizing for not having informed him beforehand. Oddly enough, it wasn’t sent before 3 :00 PM and Michael was one of the last person to learn that he was Emperor of Russia! He had spent his only night as Emperor not knowing he even was! He learned it in the morning, apparently from Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich.  Later that day, members of the Provisional Government – under pressure from the Petrograd Soviet -managed to have him sign a very odd document which took hours for lawyers to write. Although the press reported that Michael had abdicated, he hadn’t : his manifesto didn’t say he was abdicating, nor that he had even accepted the Throne, only that he would accept it, providing a Constituent Assembly would later ask him to. This was quite clever because if Michael had indeed abdicated, the Succession would have gone to Cyril as the Throne couldn’t be vacant according to the Law. To prevent this, the new governement simply said that it had been collectively invested with the Supreme Power. No one bothered to protest, not even Cyril who had previously pledged allegiance to the new government. It took him five years to realize that the Russian Throne was vacant and two more to announce that, according to the Fundamental Law of the Russian Empire, he had automatically become Emperor. By then, of course there was no Throne for him to sit on, although some argued that since the Constituent Assembly never got to make a regime change (the Bolsheviks shut it down it after its first meeting), legally Russia still was a monarchy. Stalin must have had a good laugh!

Nigbil your « legalistic » questions about Nicholas II’s abdication are quite valid when applied to Michael Alexandrovich’s situation. More about that later.

Strom : to which plan of military dictatorship are you thinking about? There seems to have been more than one, some unknown to Nicholas II.
Daniel Briere

Offline presyork

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Re: "Sam ikh privel v podval..." "he led them to the basement himself"
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2005, 12:37:52 AM »
Daniel,


Your detail of the day of the abdication is very good, I havent found books that describe it as well as that. Specifically the point of how Nicholas II had not signed the abdication document till the duma representatives arrived and amended it to include Alexei. What I have always wondered is what happened after Nicholas II abdicated, I know he went to mogliev, and I have read the Dowager Empress spent time with him but did his Imperial Guard and aides completely abandon him? It almost seems to me that he should have made preparations to for the worst and gotten assurances for protection from the provisional government for him and his family and at worst be sent to the crimea...  

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: "Sam ikh privel v podval..." "he led them to the basement himself"
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2005, 11:09:01 AM »
Quote
What strikes me is how easily the abdication of Nicholas II was achieved. In less than three days, the words of only three men – Rodzianko, Ruzsky and Alexeev – would suffice to persuade Nicholas that Russia was on the verge of revolution and that he needed to hand over the Government to the Duma, then that the situation was so desperate that the only option was his abdication....

At Pskov he didn’t really give his generals a good fight. Although I’m no psychologist, I think that – deep down -  he had already abdicated a while ago. Unknown to them, and to himself even, his generals provided him with a way out he could only have dreamt about and rejected on the basis of his deep faith and high sense of duty. What he couldn’t do on his own, others – his generals – would force him to do.  He had known for a while about all kinds of plots, in the Duma, in the Army, even in his own family – and did nothing. To me, his physical and mental exhaustion, and unexpressed desire to end his sufferings, is the only (psycho-)logical explanation to his quick surrender to his generals. By letting himself get « caught like a mouse in a trap » (as the Empress put it), he committed political suicide.


Daniel, all of your comments are extremely insightful, and I'm particularly struck by the ones I'm quoting here... But do you really think Nicholas could have retained the crown without the support of his chief generals in the army? Do you think it might have been his own slow, dawning realization that he had lost the support of the all-important army that finally led to his psychological surrender and formal abdication? (Was General Alexeev's disloyalty perhaps the turning point?) After all, NII had retained the support of the army during the Revolution of 1905...

Or were there still army commanders in March 1917 that Nicholas could have turned to in his hour of desperate need?
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Offline Tsaritsa

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Re: "Sam ikh privel v podval..." "he led them to the basement himself"
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2005, 03:35:55 AM »
I have always believed Nicholas abdicated for the good of Russia.  When it became clear that the country would be immersed in civil war and revolution if he remained on the throne, he abdicated.  

For Nicholas his life had been spent in duty to his country and people.  While he was weak and made many errors in judgment he ruled with a pure heart.  IMHO.  

In the end, he gave his throne up to save Russia.

"Somehow it's always easier to talk brave than be brave."  Hannibal Heyes

Offline strom

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Re: "Sam ikh privel v podval..." "he led them to the basement himself"
« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2005, 11:31:48 AM »
Briere asks me what was the Emperor's plan for a military dictatorship.  The only one that I know of would have been that headed by Gen. Ivanov.  I think that was foiled by the Duma and Stavka conspirators.  It would be interesting to know more what Ivanov thought about the Emperor's plan.  
Also, the Emperor made the decision to return to Stavka very suddenly on February 21/ March 7 after a private audience with Gen. Gurko.  (Gen. Gurko had replaced Gen. Alekseev as Chief of Staff on Alekseev "illness" in Nov. 1916.)  I assume the Emperor had also talked to GD. Michael on that date and had heard of the "disaffection" of the leading military at Stavka.  Alekseev's return to Stavka on 2.19 "surprised" the staff. I wonder if the Emperor was only informed of that return after the fact and if He was not merely surprised but angered.  Was this return of Alekseev grounds in itself for the Emperor's suspician?  In any event, the plans to depose the Emperor were known in society generally because Lili Dehn heard of them probably immediately after the Emperor left for Stavka through her aunt.  
The point of all this is that the collapse of the Russian empire was a planned event.  It took organization, cooperation and money.  It would appear that most of this devolves on the head of A. Guchkov, the chairman of the War Industries Committee, who apparently diverted a percentage of the funds of the committee for his own use (per Oldenburg in Last Tsar).  One is reminded of the megalomania of J.P. Morgan and other recent "Merchants of Death."  Guchkov testified in Aug. 1917 "I decided on the need for the soveriegn's abdication long before the time of the actual overthrow."    
   
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by strom »

Offline Erichek

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Re: "Sam ikh privel v podval..." "he led them to the basement himself"
« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2005, 02:38:31 PM »
I think Daniel Briere's account is a very interesting one.

Daniel, anyone, what do you think the outcome might have been if Nicholas had not given in to the pressure to abdicate? Suppose Alexandra would have been there, or his mother, or anyone from the family?
And would the standing army (meaning the soldiers at the front) have fought for him? Would civil war have broken out already then?

Any thoughts anyone?


Erichek

Offline strom

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Re: "Sam ikh privel v podval..." "he led them to the basement himself"
« Reply #14 on: March 14, 2005, 03:43:50 PM »
Guchkov and the other conspirators figured the best place to constrict the manuverability of the Emperor would be while he was in transit.  Communication was most important to control and Ruszky effectively closed the Emperor off from outside contact as soon as the Imperial Train arrived at Pskov.  I think the conspirators were quite aware how much the Emperor depended on the Empress and figured that He could be compelled to leave Stavka if his family was personally threatened.  The Emperor was already aware of these personal threats before he left on Mogilev (Stavka).  I do not believe that the Emperor really knew the depth of the growing military and political conspiracy before he left Stavka, but once he boarded that train his fate was sealed.  As the Empress said "It was a trap!"  
  Nicolas might not have abdicated if the military had stood firm behind him or were standing firm.  Though he had tried to separate the military from political influence it is clear that his efforts in that regard were futile.  (Sometime that winter, He had demanded that Gen. Alekseev break off contact with the Duma conspirators !) It is clear that he did not understand the depth of the disaffection within his military until after arriving at Pskov and receiving the telegrams from the military commanders asking Him to abdicate.  That was the final straw.  He knew he could not win the political impasse without a military dictatorship, and his military was not going to support him.  It is important to remember that the Imperial army effectively was destroyed not long after the March revolution though I do not have the actual info at my fingertips today.  It was accomplished via a directive of the Duma!  As Shulgin would later say (I paraphrase) the Duma functioned under the aegis of the Imperial cadres but once that was destroyed there was nothing to dsave the Constitutution of Russia from the Terrorists, i.e. Bolcheviks.  
  After the Abdication, the Emperor, of course, tried to save what he could and even imagined (as he had been told) that all would be well in the short and long term.  There were many big and small lies.  
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by strom »