Author Topic: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?  (Read 271834 times)

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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #930 on: August 15, 2010, 08:53:49 AM »
Dear Sergei, I think Alexander III was willing to use repressive measures (e.g., his Russification policy throughout the Russian empire, his clampdown on revolutionary movements) but he was not willing to resort to state-imposed terror against the general civilian population, as Lenin and Stalin and their cohorts certainly were. This is one of the many problems, as I see it, with arguing that AIII could have coped effectively with the arrival of modernity in Russia, had he lived after 1894.

I honestly can't believe you're arguing against Alexander II's great reforms of the 1860s and 70s. Surely the debacle of the Crimean War under Nicholas I proved the absolute necessity of these reforms?!? Russia could not have remained a world power after 1855 if it had not been for Alexander II's willingness to reform the system as best he and his advisors could. Russia had to modernize if it wanted to keep up with the rest of Europe (not to mention the United States), and it couldn't modernize with antiquated institutions like serfdom dragging it down. (Even Nicholas I had recognized the need to abolish serfdom - hence his formation of a special committee to deliberate the problem, a committee that as far as I know lasted until the day he died and never could figure out a workable solution, one that would satisfy both the nobility and the peasantry! But Alexander II was forced by historical circumstances, and by his regard for Russia's best interests as a European power, to find a solution, however wanting that solution ultimately turned out to be, in many respects, in practice.)

And it's all well and good to say that the Russo-Japanese War and World War I could have been prevented, but while I think that while it's possible in the former case, it was highly unlikely in the latter one. All the European powers were gearing up for a major continental war in the first decade of the twentieth century. Not everybody in power wanted this war (definitely not) but it was nevertheless viewed even at the time as somehow inevitable. Which in and of itself helped to make it happen.

Anyway, it's problematic to argue that if one major thing hadn't happened in history, all other factors would have remained the same. This makes for a great narrative, but it ignores the overall tendency for everything in complex systems to be interrelated, so that the substitution of one factor for another would automatically mean the substitution of multiple other factors (i.e., in any complex system of interrelated parts, the change in one variable necessarily results in the change of other variables). So the resulting picture would be entirely different from anything we could have predicted. So I think it's kind of pointless to argue that if AIII had lived into ripe old age, everything would have worked out for the better in Russia, unless you're writing a novel. Of course, such a novel would have all the potential to become a bestseller in Russia, which has a major, in my view utterly misplaced and even pathetic, nostalgia for Alexander III, as well as for Nicholas I.
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Alixz

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #931 on: August 15, 2010, 10:46:28 AM »
I tend to look at the past and the events of the past as I think Serge does.  To me time is not rigid but fluid and the changing of one of the circumstances of the past would change many of the possible paths to the future.

Put a rock into a stream and watch the water, which was before flowing in only one direction, now split and swirl and eddy.  This is how I see time.

But one thing to remember about the difficulty in freeing the serfs is the same difficulty that the US and Abraham Lincoln found in freeing the slaves.  There was no contingency program.  Now that the slaves (serfs) were free where would they go and what would they do?   Many had never lived any other way and no idea of how to live a free and independent life.  They had no way of making a living and no new homes to go to. That is what created the "ghettos" (not a word in use during the US Civil War) around the big cities.

In the US, Lincoln was all for sending the freed slaves to Africa to the country Liberia:

Africa's first republic, Liberia was founded in 1822 as a result of the efforts of the American Colonization Society to settle freed American slaves in West Africa. The society contended that the emigration of blacks to Africa was an answer to the problem of slavery and the incompatibility of the races. Over the course of forty years, about 12,000 slaves were voluntarily relocated. Originally called Monrovia, the colony became the Free and Independent Republic of Liberia in 1847.


Read more: Liberia: History, Geography, Government, and Culture Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107718.html#ixzz0wgpCIotW

When that didn't work, the freed slaves were promised "40 acres and a mule" to begin farming on their own land.  That didn't work either.  You can offer things to people, but that doesn't mean they will take advantage of your offer.

I believe that Russia and in turn her Tsars from Nicholas I through his son Alexander II, knew that something had to be done, but after the pen signs on the bottom line - then what?

You have to have that contingency plan in place.  Russia never had one, until Stolypin tried his plans and the US did have two but neither was acceptable to those who were expected to take advantage of them.

Alexander II was so angered by the assassination of his father, that he totally backed away from any change to the status quo.  Nicholas II had no idea what he was doing, so he read his "Senseless Dreams" speech and stuck his head back in the sand that his father had piled up around him and Russia with his reactionary government.

The betrayal of Nicholas II is the topic of this thread, but that betrayal could actually have begun with the murder of Peter III and the take over of the throne by Catherine II.  Russia was itself betrayed and the betrayal continued for 150 years until the ultimate betrayal of Nicholas II in March of 1917.
« Last Edit: August 15, 2010, 10:55:38 AM by Alixz »

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #932 on: August 15, 2010, 11:08:16 AM »
I tend to look at the past and the events of the past as I think Serge does.  To me time is not rigid but fluid and the changing of one of the circumstances of the past would change many of the possible paths to the future.

Put a rock into a stream and watch the water, which was before flowing in only one direction, now split and swirl and eddy.  This is how I see time.

But one thing to remember about the difficulty in freeing the serfs is the same difficulty that the US and Abraham Lincoln found in freeing the slaves.  There was no contingency program.  Now that the slaves (serfs) were free where would they go and what would they do?   Many had never lived any other way and no idea of how to live a free and independent life.  They had no way of making a living and no new homes to go to. That is what created the "ghettos" (not a word in use during the US Civil War) around the big cities.

In the US, Lincoln was all for sending the freed slaves to Africa to the country Liberia:

Africa's first republic, Liberia was founded in 1822 as a result of the efforts of the American Colonization Society to settle freed American slaves in West Africa. The society contended that the emigration of blacks to Africa was an answer to the problem of slavery and the incompatibility of the races. Over the course of forty years, about 12,000 slaves were voluntarily relocated. Originally called Monrovia, the colony became the Free and Independent Republic of Liberia in 1847.


Read more: Liberia: History, Geography, Government, and Culture Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107718.html#ixzz0wgpCIotW

When that didn't work, the freed slaves were promised "40 acres and a mule" to begin farming on their own land.  That didn't work either.  You can offer things to people, but that doesn't mean they will take advantage of your offer.

I believe that Russia and in turn her Tsars from Nicholas I through his son Alexander II, knew that something had to be done, but after the pen signs on the bottom line - then what?

You have to have that contingency plan in place.  Russia never had one, until Stolypin tried his plans and the US did have two but neither was acceptable to those who were expected to take advantage of them.

Sorry, Alixz, I'm having a hard time following your point. You seem to be agreeing with Sergei (and I'm not even sure if I'm even reading him right?!?) that Alexander II's reforms, and particularly the abolition of serfdom, were a bad thing for Russia. In your opinion, because there was no "contingency plan." Frankly I don't know what that means. Any reform is a step into the great unknown. Nobody can predict its outcome. "Contingency plans" in such instances are utter nonsense. As was Lincoln's plan to evacuate American blacks to Liberia, by the way. It turned out very badly, did it not? Up to the present day? So much for contingency plans!!

Look, any Russian ruler who took over the empire after Nicholas I's death in 1855 faced huge crises on virtually every front - military, political, economic, social. Everything was rapidly going to hell in a hand basket. What exactly do you and Sergei think Nicholas I's successor, his son Alexander II, should have done? Just clamped down on everything and pretended nothing was wrong - pretty much as AII's son Alexander III did, with ultimately quite disastrous results in the next reign?

IMHO, what Alexander II and his advisors accomplished was only just shy of a miracle, given the tremendous obstacles facing them (look at it this way: unlike the US, Russia didn't experience a civil war at this juncture! That alone was a major accomplishment). As far as I'm concerned, neither Alexander III nor Nicholas II had the imagination or the intellectual calibre, much less the political skills, to effect such huge changes in such a short period of time. Compared to Alexander II, they were both total mediocrities, and compared to rulers like Peter the Great or Napoleon, veritable microbes.
« Last Edit: August 15, 2010, 11:25:10 AM by Elisabeth »
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Alixz

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #933 on: August 15, 2010, 05:25:51 PM »
I agreed with Serge on the way that time works and the change that one event in the past can or did make on the future.  I agreed that I don't see time as rigid but as fluid.

I didn't say that Alexander II's plans to free the serfs and to reform the country was wrong, I just said that he didn't think it through and had no plans of what to do after the paper was signed. I already said that the contingency plans in the US didn't work (even though there were some) - I did say that people are not always ready to take what you want to give them.  This left the freed slaves living in filth and poverty at the edges of the larger cities as they streamed away from the only way of living they had ever known.  I didn't say that way of living was a good way, only that they were freed without a thought as to what would happen to them.  Only what would happen to the economy of the South. And the fact that freeing them would cripple the economy of the South and bring the war to a quicker end in favor of the North.

Russia had no plans at all.  The serfs were free, but had to buy the land which they could not afford, or they were share cropping on strips of land that were so far separated from each other that it took a good part of the day to travel from one to the other.  If Alexander II had lived longer he would have signed the document creating a constituent assembly that day! Alexander II was the last great tsar (maybe the only great one).  But he, too, left the details and the consequences to someone else and the serfs were the ones who suffered.

But time got a rock stuck in its flow and he died and Alexander III with justified horror at his father's assassination recoiled and set the clock back about 50 years.  I didn't say he was justified at setting the clock back only that his horror at his father's assassination was justified.

But the betrayal of Nicholas II did not start with Alexander III.  As I said, to me, it began with the murder of Peter III or perhaps even Peter the Great's murder of his own son Alexei.

We are the some total of everything that came before us.  We are also the some total of everything that shapes us as we grow.  We make choices as does everyone who comes in contact with us.

It is still my opinion that the greatest betrayal of Nicholas II came from his own family.  I still stand by that opinion.

Offline AGRBear

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #934 on: August 15, 2010, 05:36:24 PM »
Look, Alixz, in the event of misfortune everybody in politics tries to cover their ass as best as they know how. It has nothing to do with betrayal - that is, loyalty or disloyalty or treachery or whatever. It has only to do with power, the acquisition of it, the keeping of it, the extension and enhancement of it. Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich was not consciously or unconsciously undermining Nicholas II when he advised his nephew to attend the French ambassador's ball, even in the wake of Khodynka tragedy. He was doing precisely what he thought was right, and which by Alexander III's own playbook was probably the politically correct thing to do: never explain, never apologize, act as if any awful event has nothing to do with you and none of the dirt will stick. Maybe with teflon (but basically very strong) leaders like Reagan this attitude can work, but not with weak leaders like Nicholas II who are perceived even by their own family and courtiers as very weak, very early on.

Plus remember that NII had already disillusioned the Russian educated classes long before his coronation, when he gave his "senseless dreams" speech at the very beginning of his reign - basically saying that democratization in Russia was a "senseless dream." So even before his coronation he was not nearly as popular with the elites as he might have been (indeed this is a good example of how most of NII's growing unpopularity during his reign had nothing to do with any "conspiracy" against him, and everything to do with his own actions, or inaction as the case may be).

The reality of politics is that jockeying for power occurs with every change of administration, whether we're talking about imperial Russia or the modern-day United States. I think, really, this whole issue of the "betrayal" of Nicholas II misses the point. In the modern age the pursuit and retention of power is not personal (as the term "betrayal" in this context certainly implies). Power is only personal on this level in a feudal system. That was one of NII's (and his wife's) many fatal flaws - or put more precisely, one of his many fatal misreadings of his situation as ruler of the Russian empire at the turn of the 20th century. That is, Nicholas truly believed he was still ruling a feudal society, in which subjects owed personal loyalty to their monarch above all else. Whereas in fact the feudal system (such as it still persisted after the Napoleonic wars) had died a very quick death in Russia around the time Nicholas II himself was born, that is, during Alexander II's major reforms of the 1860s and 1870s.

In other words, Nicholas and Alexandra were living in a ("senseless") dream world, in which personal monarchy did not only still matter - it counted for everything. And it pains me to see members of this forum treating this self-same dream world as somehow a real historical fact, when it was fiction, even fantasy, long before the Revolution of 1905.

This "dream world" you call it was created out of an empire that was just a few steps out of a feudal state where the majority of her people believed their Emperor sat  at the right hand side of God.   Leading the pack were his family, his priests and high officials who enforced this belief.  At some point in Nicky early life,  Nicky realized he wasn't good enough for the awesome position of Emperor.  But,  Nicky, who had wanted his brother George to be Emperor, learned this wish was  impossible when George came down with tb.    The timing of his father's early and unexpected death meant Michael was too young, and, so,  despite what Nicky had wanted,    became Emperor Nicholas II.

  Somewhere along the line he probably asked himself:   Why me God?  I don't think he ever heard God speaking to him,  but being Emperor was proof to him that  God had chosen him....  

The military and others swore  their loyalty to Emperor Nicholas II.  [I believe earlier in this thread we discussed the meaning of the  oath of loyalty.]  Nicholas II  beleived  every Russian from border to border and those living outside of Russia where to be considered his loyal subjects. Therefore, Nicholas II believed anyone  who broke their loyalty toward Nicholas II,  betrayed him.  Herein lies the reason I used the term:  "Who Betrayed Nicholas II".  

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« Last Edit: August 15, 2010, 05:43:42 PM by AGRBear »
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Offline Sergei Witte

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #935 on: August 16, 2010, 05:49:29 PM »
Elisabeth, I am not against reforms of Alexander II. It is just: they missed the point. The main cause of dissatisfaction of the people was the autocracy itself and Alexander II stayed a true autocrat, reforms or no reforms. He wanted to buy the love of the people by granting them some rights which didn't do much harm to his power. The main author of the 'Loris Melikov constitution' was count Stroganoff, which came from a noble family who owned about 50.000 slaves. He was even against abolition of serfdom. His first son Nicholas Alexandrovich was a bright pupil but he also supported autocracy (not so strange: he was the pupil of Stroganoff, btw he was also a pupil of Pobedonostsev). So I don't believe he was really giving up his power nor was he giving this political aim through to his sons.

But autocrats don't give up power deliberately. Perhaps if the Decembrist uprising had been successful, Russia could have gone the path of constitutional monarchy with real democracy. The Decembrists were, as fas as I know, the only real opposition to the power of the tsars until 1905 in the sense that they had the potential to overthrow him. (Please correct me if you think I am wrong on this). But in the end, as long as the army stands behind the boss, there will be no revolution.

Constantinople

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #936 on: August 17, 2010, 04:52:06 AM »
There were several attempts at moderate compromise to extreme centralist government but they were opposed by successive Tsars.  For example, the Zemstvo movement.  The Tsars opposed any form of democracy and when appeared, they suppressed it and reverted to a more severe form of autocratic repression. 

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #937 on: August 17, 2010, 10:18:48 AM »
Elisabeth, I am not against reforms of Alexander II. It is just: they missed the point. The main cause of dissatisfaction of the people was the autocracy itself and Alexander II stayed a true autocrat, reforms or no reforms. He wanted to buy the love of the people by granting them some rights which didn't do much harm to his power. The main author of the 'Loris Melikov constitution' was count Stroganoff, which came from a noble family who owned about 50.000 slaves. He was even against abolition of serfdom. His first son Nicholas Alexandrovich was a bright pupil but he also supported autocracy (not so strange: he was the pupil of Stroganoff, btw he was also a pupil of Pobedonostsev). So I don't believe he was really giving up his power nor was he giving this political aim through to his sons.

But autocrats don't give up power deliberately. Perhaps if the Decembrist uprising had been successful, Russia could have gone the path of constitutional monarchy with real democracy. The Decembrists were, as fas as I know, the only real opposition to the power of the tsars until 1905 in the sense that they had the potential to overthrow him. (Please correct me if you think I am wrong on this). But in the end, as long as the army stands behind the boss, there will be no revolution.

Hi, Sergei, yes, I suspected I had totally misread you. I sort of see what you mean now (correct me if I'm wrong), however, I disagree that the Russian people as a whole had a problem with autocracy. The peasantry made up approximately 80 percent (or more) of the population in the Russian empire at the time of AII's assassination. The vast majority of them had no quibble with autocracy whatsoever, they didn't even know what the concept meant. But I think I know what you mean, it was the Russian intelligentsia who were thoroughly fed up with autocracy by 1881.

However, I do think it's important to remember that in 1881 the vast majority of the nobility and gentry, no matter how much they had suffered loss of income during the Great Reforms of Alexander II (mainly the abolition of serfdom) remained loyal to the principle of monarchy (if not necessarily that of autocracy). As did the tiny Russian middle class. They had looked on with horror as hundreds if not thousands of their sons and daughters had "gone to the people" in the 1870s, that is, attempted to educate and enlighten the peasantry, even to incite them to revolution. This is because like Alexander Pushkin in an earlier age, most upper and middle class Russians at this time still viewed the monarchy as the major civilizing force in Russia, without which Russia would be overwhelmed by the ignorant, illiterate, barbaric, etc., peasant masses, and plunged into anarchy and civil war. (Understand, I am not myself calling the peasantry ignorant or barbaric, but this is how I think most educated Russians until the end of the 19th century regarded that class - not only the nobility and gentry, either - even later, even after the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks were very suspicious of and despised the Russian peasantry as backward and a major hindrance to the establishment of pure socialism.)

My impression is that the level of disenchantment with monarchy itself remained pretty marginal, as far as the Russian educated elite goes, until rather late in the imperial regime, that is, until the very turn of the twentieth century, and the disenchantment occurred largely because of Nicholas II's "senseless dreams" speech, and even more so thanks to his incompetent if not criminal handling of Bloody Sunday, which finally destroyed their liberal progressive dreams of a very liberal and progressive ruler ultimately taking charge of Russia, after the repressive years of Alexander III. By this time, too, the politically conscious and active educated class, what might properly be termed the Russian intelligentsia, as I said before, spanned many social classes, in fact possibly all social classes in Russia - it included members of the aristocracy, gentry, merchant class, professional middle class, working class, and peasantry. So it was much more a political force to be reckoned with than it had been back in 1881, when Alexander II was assassinated. It had actually become a very major, important political force.

For all these reasons I think that back in 1825, before all these developments, the aristocratic revolutionaries known as the Decembrists, if they had achieved their goals (which would have been very difficult indeed, since there were various Decembrist political groupings, almost all of which had different goals than the others), would have been an unmitigated disaster for Russia. Firstly because they were a politically disparate bunch, secondly because at least one of their leaders advocated a very advanced form of dictatorship (more advanced even than autocratic rule), thirdly because they had almost no public support whatsoever, either from their own class or the army, much less the masses. In such circumstances, it's almost certain that any Decembrist government would have wound up being a dictatorship, and civil war would have broken out, and possibly a terror like that of the French Revolution, too. In other words, Russia would have been flung into the abyss almost exactly one hundred years before the Bolsheviks.
 

« Last Edit: August 17, 2010, 10:32:56 AM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Sergei Witte

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #938 on: August 18, 2010, 05:18:03 PM »
Elizabeth,
Thank you for your very informative reply.

I regret that Alexander II did not gradually give away some of his powers and implement real democracy. Since literacy was growing and with literacy, common discontent against autocracy was growing. Since now he didn't, it was possible for Alexander III to withdraw most of the reforms or undermining them. If he would have gone a step further there would not have been a way back (I doubt if the Loris Melikov constitution was such a step further). Perhaps he had become doubtful about further reforms because of the attacks on his life.


Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #939 on: August 18, 2010, 06:07:47 PM »
Elizabeth,
Thank you for your very informative reply.

I regret that Alexander II did not gradually give away some of his powers and implement real democracy. Since literacy was growing and with literacy, common discontent against autocracy was growing. Since now he didn't, it was possible for Alexander III to withdraw most of the reforms or undermining them. If he would have gone a step further there would not have been a way back (I doubt if the Loris Melikov constitution was such a step further). Perhaps he had become doubtful about further reforms because of the attacks on his life.



Well, I would certainly agree with everything you say here, Sergei. And I do think you're right that AII probably had become fearful of instituting further reforms because of the increasing radicalism of educated youth, which as we all know culminated in an actual hunt to kill the tsar by the People's Will terrorist organization. But then don't you think by this time the radical intelligentsia - that is, the new revolutionary movement that wanted to destroy all of the old institutions in order to start over from scratch - brave new world, all that nonsense - don't you think that they and the autocracy were locked into a kind of danse macabre by 1881, a real death spiral (as they call it in figure skating, not to be too fanciful)? I mean, was there any way out at that point? And who's fault was it really? Ultimately the tsar's of course, since he was the absolute ruler, but surely he had made the best of efforts to liberalize Russia as well as he knew how... and from everything I've read about these radical extremists ranged against him, trying to kill him in the most underhanded and cowardly way imaginable (assassins are always by definition cowards, in my book) they were an incredibly unpleasant lot. Ideological fanatics, nihilists, and terrorists always are.
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Offline Sergei Witte

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #940 on: August 19, 2010, 05:50:10 PM »
Well, I would certainly agree with everything you say here, Sergei. And I do think you're right that AII probably had become fearful of instituting further reforms because of the increasing radicalism of educated youth, which as we all know culminated in an actual hunt to kill the tsar by the People's Will terrorist organization. But then don't you think by this time the radical intelligentsia - that is, the new revolutionary movement that wanted to destroy all of the old institutions in order to start over from scratch - brave new world, all that nonsense - don't you think that they and the autocracy were locked into a kind of danse macabre by 1881, a real death spiral (as they call it in figure skating, not to be too fanciful)? I mean, was there any way out at that point? And who's fault was it really? Ultimately the tsar's of course, since he was the absolute ruler, but surely he had made the best of efforts to liberalize Russia as well as he knew how... and from everything I've read about these radical extremists ranged against him, trying to kill him in the most underhanded and cowardly way imaginable (assassins are always by definition cowards, in my book) they were an incredibly unpleasant lot. Ideological fanatics, nihilists, and terrorists always are.

I believe the educated youth was very strongly drawn into radicalism. A kind of youthful idealism that doesn't have to become a real danger when they are not in the possession of weapons by the thousands. The image we have of the Russian Revolution of Lenin is such a strong image largely due to communist propaganda like the movie Potemkin etc that we seem to think that no one on earth would be able to stop them. But that is not true. Our minds fool us into thinking that these events of history were inevitable because of the impact they have on history later on. We can hardly imagine a world in which the revolution didn't take place.
Yes, I like a certain psychologic way of looking at historical events.  :)

But that said, the new revolutionary movement as you call it, The SR party and so on, were indeed a political weapon. But I believe that these political parties were founded not until the late nineties and became really big in the early 1900s. They gave expression of growing discontent from all the classes. Discontent that may be fed by the poor fysical circumstances of the workers. I believe there were committees in order to improve workers conditions but they were mostly sabotaged by the rulers. If they wouldn't do that then there would really lay a chance for more appreciation from the workers. Which in the end would become so important. Same with the peasants.

Among those parties were the marxists and partly the social revolutionaries who wanted chance with violence. NII and the court didn't know how to handle this threat. They chose for the completely lunatic option of war. ('A short victorious war to appease the people', 'fight your way out of troubles'). This was a great mistake of NII: to choose for Nationalism as a way out of internal unrest. I think that this is his biggest mistake and may be the prime cause of the ultimate downfall. Because from 1905 on, during and after the war he lost his grip and the organsation of his state apparatus fell apart. A little more trust in the right people and a little less trust in the royal family could have been enough for him to change history.

Nicholas felt betrayed by the people he could trust most. I think that is a sad story all in all.

But to finally answer your question if I think that by 1881 the revolutionaries and the autocracy were trapped in a dance macabre I say I think that in 1881 there was still a way out but by 1905 it was too late.



Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #941 on: August 20, 2010, 11:45:16 AM »
But Sergei, on second thought maybe the rot had already settled into the tsarist regime by 1878. This was when the young Vera Zasulich went on trial for the attempted assassination of the governor of St. Petersburg, General Fedor F. Trepov, and despite overwhelming evidence against her, was found not guilty by the jury. Not only that, she was whisked away by the crowds waiting outside of the courtroom before the police could re-arrest her, and she immediately became famous throughout Europe as a crusader against tsarist oppression. Even Oscar Wilde wrote about her, and an entire new generation of Russian revolutionaries were inspired by her example to take up political terrorism.

Rather understandably, Alexander II and his government (as well as generations of historians studying late imperial Russia) interpreted her acquittal and the popular reaction to it as evidence that the Russian public at the very least condoned acts of terrorism committed against the state and its representatives, and, worst case scenario, perhaps even supported such acts. Hence a new round of increasingly repressive measures, which of course only got worse after Alexander II himself was assassinated almost exactly three years later, in March 1881.

The irony is, argues Richard Pipes in his new biography of Zasulich, entitled The Trial of Vera Z. (and published in its entirety for the first time in the journal Russian History, v. 37, no. 1, 2010), that the "not guilty" verdict and the public's reaction to it most likely did not reflect any widespread desire to overthrow the monarchy; rather, it was testimony to the Russian public's hatred of General Trepov himself, a martinet infamous for his cruelty toward prisoners, especially political prisoners. Indeed, Zasulich did not consider herself a terrorist, and some would not even consider her a real revolutionary because she did not advocate the overthrow of the tsarist regime, merely its reform. True, she always had dealings with revolutionaries - in her youth with the nihilist Sergei Nechaev, and in her later years as a political exile in Switzerland and England, with figures such as Georgii Plekhanov (whom she liked) and Vladimir Lenin (to whom, much to her credit, she took an immediate and visceral dislike). But apparently even after her conversion to socialism she never became an ideologue and always disapproved of political violence. She had acted against Trepov because he had unjustly ordered a political prisoner to be flogged. In other words, at the time she had acted from moral outrage and personal conviction, not revolutionary ideology or the desire to set an example.

Still, I think it's hard to overestimate how fearful tsarist officials, much less Alexander II and his successors themselves became, in the wake of an attempted assassination of one of their own (and a "not guilty" verdict for the would-be assassin!). Particularly once the "tsar hunt" of the People's Will terrorist organization started, eventually culminating in Alexander II's own murder. As we all know, both his son the future Alexander III and his grandson the future Nicholas II were eyewitnesses to the Tsar Liberator's agonizing death at the hands of his (ungrateful) subjects. They could hardly have come away from his deathbed with any desire to continue on the path of political reform.

« Last Edit: August 20, 2010, 12:06:50 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline AGRBear

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #942 on: August 28, 2010, 02:50:22 PM »
Someone a while back asked about Dagmar's [Dowager Empress Marie's] part in the festivities  durning Nicholas II's coronation.  Here is what I found in Coryne Hall's LITTLE MOTHER OF RUSSIA p. 181:

>>Dagmar took little part in the official festiities.  She had given Xenia one of her ball gowns....<<  

>> ...although she could barely stand the sound of the music coming from the hall above in the Kremlin.  She told Queen Louise that she felt as if her grave was being violated.<<

>>Although Dagmar shunned most of the celebration, she crossed Mathilde Kschessinka's name from the list of dancers at the Gala performance, saying that the appearance of the Tsar's former mistress would be a scandal.  Kschessinska had equally powerful backers.  She went straignt to Grand Duke Vladimir, who persudaded Nicholas to have her reinstated.   Dagmar was furious.<<

About the tragedy at Khodynka Fields.  Hall tells us  :  >>Nicholas, misled about the magnitude of the disasters, decided the fete should continue.<<  She added:  >>When Dagmar learned the full extent of the catastrophe she was appalled.  She was determined that someone's head must fall and immediately demanded a commission of enquiry.  She also insisted that all further festivities be cancelled, including the French Ambassador's ball that evening.  Nicholas agreed but, once again, his uncles had their say.<<

>>Dagmar spent that evening at the hospitals...<<

p.182
>>The Dowager Empress was the only member of the the Imperial family to visit the hospitals that day.<<

At this time >>......Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovitch recorded the first outward sings of a veiled animostiy between the two Empresses.<<

AGRBear
« Last Edit: August 28, 2010, 02:54:02 PM by AGRBear »
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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #943 on: August 28, 2010, 05:28:32 PM »
Once again, Bear, this just proves how weak and politically inept Nicholas II was as tsar. What do your quotes boil down to? Summary: Nicholas was at the beck and call of his mother and uncles... in the end, the opinion of his uncles prevailed.

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Offline AGRBear

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #944 on: August 29, 2010, 12:46:33 PM »
Someone a while back asked about Dagmar's [Dowager Empress Marie's] part in the festivities  durning Nicholas II's coronation.  Here is what I found in Coryne Hall's LITTLE MOTHER OF RUSSIA p. 181:
...[in parts]....

>> ...although she could barely stand the sound of the music coming from the hall above in the Kremlin.  She told Queen Louise that she felt as if her grave was being violated.<<

...[in part]...
AGRBear


No remarks on this??!

Was she saying, "Oh, poor me.  Now I have to play second fiddle." ?
AGRBear

PS
Found an old thread about Khodynka Field:

  Who is really responsible for the disaster at Khodynka field. Is it Serge? Or was he just a scapegoat. Was it insensitive of Nicholas to dance at a ball when so many of his subjects had just died? In the end, was it a better move to appease the French Ambassador or his own people?
« Last Edit: August 29, 2010, 12:54:38 PM by AGRBear »
"What is true by lamplight is not always true by sunlight."

Joubert, Pensees, No. 152