Author Topic: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2  (Read 99353 times)

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Offline AGRBear

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #15 on: April 21, 2005, 12:31:39 PM »
What position [under God, next to God....] did the Russian National Church  leaders place Nicholas II?

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Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #16 on: April 21, 2005, 12:46:21 PM »
I've never delved into this, but there seems to be a large element between the intellectuals and the peasants that played a key role in the revolution -- the industrial workers.  And I'm not sure they were entirely the creatures of the urban intelligentsia.

In fact, much of the intelligentsia's roots went back to movements that were more focused on the countryside.  One of the philosophical divides between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks was that the Mensheviks thought the peasants were the key to revolution.  Although the Bolsheviks ultimately prevailed (based largely on their superior organizational skills in the one city that mattered most in crippling the government -- St. Petersburg), they were, in fact, in a numerical minority in socialist circles right up until October of 1917.

The industrial workers certainly played a role in St. Petersburg, both in 1905 and 1917.  Ekaterinburg was remote from St. Petersburg, but it had been industrialized quite early, and its population was intensely hostile to the Romanovs from the early days of the 1917 revolution.  But far from being at the beck and call of the intellectuals, the Ural Soviet's fear was that the intellectuals in the central soviet in Moscow would be too Machiavellian or too cynical to exact the harsh retribution on the Romanovs that they deserved.

As bad as serfdom and the subsequent lot of the peasants had been, there was nevertheless an element of paternalism in the system that gave them some sense of a place in the order of things.  Industrial working conditions severed that connection without replacing it with new sense of a place in the system.

One of the great missed opportunities before the revolution was the side-lining of Witte and his industrial reforms.  Had Russia adopted Bismarck's approach of having the government step into the breach with social welfare and workers compensation programs, the intellectuals would have had a much harder row to hoe.  

Offline pinklady

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #17 on: April 22, 2005, 04:25:02 AM »
If I had been a Russian industrial worker, I would have revolted. Most of them lived under apalling living and working standards, that the western world in 2005 could not begin to imagine.

Nowhere in Europe was the lives of the rich and  poor as different as in Russia. So between the industrial workers, the nobility and the peasants was a vast difference in how the other thought about their lives.
Taken from Robert K Massie again, (sorry, I like his book)
"Between the nobility and the peasant lay a vast gulf of ignorance.
Between the nobility and the intellectuals there was a massive contempt and flourishing hatred. Each considered that if Russia survived, the other must be eliminated."
So in Russia, only a handful of the lucky lived fantastic lives, and millions and millions lived in absolute poverty and misery. I dont think they were happy. Does anyone seriously think they would have been happy as an industrial worker, working a 12 hour shift every day, or as a Russian peasant, toiling the land all day long?
And yes, the peasants thought that the Tsar was God's representative on Earth, that He was near to God. The peasants held the tsar in awe, as "He was near to God!" I am pretty sure that they also thought the Tsar knew everything! I will have to find the source.

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #18 on: April 22, 2005, 06:47:48 AM »
I'm sorry if I implied otherwise, but I certainly do not think the peasants had easy lives.  However, they had lived for centuries in rural conditions that did allow them some semblance of emotional comfort.  They had some rest during the long winter months and were enmeshed in families and church and social communities that allowed them a sense of interpersonal contact.

Industrial conditions deprived them even of this -- year-round toil, dirty and dangerous working conditions, city crowding and crime . . . and proximity to the prosperous classes of the cities to heighten their own sense of deprivation and social injustice.

I agree that at the turn of the 20th century the disparity between wealth and poverty was larger in Russia than anywhere else.  However, there was a stage of industrialization in England in which industrial working conditions were no better.  Read Dickens, for instance, whose descriptions were accepted as accurate by contemporary observers.  And the arrogance of wealth was no less in England.  An author once described a party at an aristocratic country house in which the host gazed across a teeming mining town in a valley to another country house on a distant hill.  Turning to his guests to boast of the size of his estate, he said "you see . . . between them and us there is no-one."

The difference was that England developed the resolve to deal with the situation.  Russia did not.

Grinding poverty endured in isolation has always been far less dangerous to governments than poverty experienced within line-of-sight of prosperity.  One of the reasons the Bolsheviks succeeded where the Mensheviks did not was the difficulty of getting the peasants to agree that their plight was either desperate or addressable.  I'm not aware of any peasant revolts in history that succeeded in unseating central governments.  Urban revolts have unseated several, even while the countrysides remained largely loyal.

Granted, urban revolts also succeed because all the players on both sides are more easily assembled and led because of their concentration in one or a few places.  But I still think that urban conditions produce a much deeper sense of desperation than rural conditions do among the disenfranchised.

Offline AGRBear

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #19 on: April 22, 2005, 10:40:18 AM »
It was easier to rule over a small isolated [Big Ditch] community of Great Britan as compared with ruling over All the Russias, which was how many times larger in times of Nicholas II?

When digging into the industrial question, I remember being surprised at the amount of education some of the peasants, who were going into towns and cities to work in factories, etc..  When I find the numbers, I'll bring them back to this post.


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« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by AGRBear »
"What is true by lamplight is not always true by sunlight."

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #20 on: April 22, 2005, 10:53:45 AM »
That phenomena was mentioned in "A Peoples Tragedy" - Orlando Figes work. Sorry- but its not to hand at the moment, I think agrebear will find it.

Offline Olga

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #21 on: April 22, 2005, 10:55:08 AM »
Quote
It was easier to rule over a small isolated [Big Ditch] community of Great Britan as compared with ruling over All the Russias, which was how many times larger in times of Nicholas II?


The size of the USSR/CIS.

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #22 on: April 22, 2005, 12:26:29 PM »
Certainly Russia was vastly larger than Britian.  But the British industrial class was larger and its issues every bit as complex at those in Russia.  I doubt it would have been any harder in Russia to limit work hours, legislate against child labor, and provide workers compensation for death and injury than it was in Britain.

One advantage of autocracy is the ability to drive certain outcomes against entrenched resistance.  For instance, Alexander II freed the serfs with the stroke of a pen.  The issue of slavery in the U.S. had to play out through years of congressional maneuvering, which ultimately led to a civil war.  When Lincoln did finally put his pen to paper on the Emancipation Proclamation, it remained unenforceable until the north prevailed militarily over the south.  (You can certainly argue that Alexander only started a process which was sloppily started and never effectively concluded . . . but we're still trying to clean up our house in the U.S. on this score 140 years later.)

I don't think the difference in Russia was the size of the land mass.  The difference was the resolve of the government to take on the interests of the capitalists.  If anything, the political sophistication of the capitalists in Great Britain in protecting their interests was more advanced than that of their Russian counterparts.


Offline RichC

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #23 on: April 22, 2005, 01:23:41 PM »
Quote
It was easier to rule over a small isolated [Big Ditch] community of Great Britan as compared with ruling over All the Russias, which was how many times larger in times of Nicholas II?

AGRBear


Oh, I agree.  I remember hearing in a lecture that in the 1950's Soviet authorities stumbled across a village somewhere is Siberia, whose inhabitants were blissfully unaware of World War I, the Revolution, Lenin, Stalin, World War II !!!    The village elders thought the emissaries were Tsarist officials!

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #24 on: April 22, 2005, 02:44:32 PM »
Interesting how Nicholas, with a centuries-old administrative system, could not improve factory conditions with even the simplest legislative measures, but Stalin -- with a bureaucracy less than twenty years old -- completely changed the character of Russian society by collectivizing agriculture, relocating entire industries, co-opting university curricula, etc.

I'm certainly not saying Stalin's changes were for the better (or even that they accomplished their nefarious goals in all cases), but the claim that Nicholas really had no means to effect change in Russia because of its vastness seems a stretch to me.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Tsarfan »

Offline pinklady

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #25 on: April 23, 2005, 03:12:57 AM »
Quote
I'm certainly not saying Stalin's changes were for the better (or even that they accomplished their nefarious goals in all cases), but the claim that Nicholas really had no means to effect change in Russia because of its vastness seems a stretch to me.


I agree Tsarfan, and I think it was almost done deliberatly to keep power and wealth in the hands of so few, and to keep those few happy.
And also in part because he had dreams of handing his sick son the empire "intact".

Offline Olga

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #26 on: April 23, 2005, 05:40:15 AM »
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And also in part because he had dreams of handing his sick son the empire "intact".


That's the part that really makes me angry. It's so disgustingly selfish.

rskkiya

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #27 on: April 23, 2005, 05:58:31 PM »
Olya
It does sound to my 21st century ears a bit like mother proudly telling daughter that she will receive a complete best dinner set or a complete tea service of 19th century blue willow china teacups.
But that sadly may well have been the way that Nicholas thought about this - as just something he possessed - to dispose of as he wished.

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Offline Silja

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #28 on: April 25, 2005, 01:49:54 PM »
Quote
Interesting how Nicholas, with a centuries-old administrative system, could not improve factory conditions with even the simplest legislative measures,


However, I think that far from being the solution, the centuries-old-administrative system was actually part of the problem as regards reforming the country. In the same way as it is in today's Russia!

Dominic Lieven has partly treated the subject in his Nicholas II, but it's been quite some time since I read the book, so I don't remember any details.

Anyway, I think it's a misconception that  by the nineteenth century the tsar, even though he was an autocrat, found it so easy to implement real reform even if he wanted to. This doesn't mean Nicholas II couldn't have shown more commitment!!!

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #29 on: April 25, 2005, 03:02:03 PM »

However, I don't think it's an accurate analogy to the remediation of horrific industrial working conditions.  If Nicholas could not distinguish between the concerns of a few fashion snobs and those of millions of industrial workers enmeshed in lives of despair, then he well deserved the revolution he got.

Yes, the age and decrepitude of the administrative system was a contributing factor to the paralysis of government.  But even under Nicholas, there were those who were willing and able to drive change -- Witte and Stolypin, for instance.  The problem is not only that Nicholas would not drive change himself.  He was averse to any real change in the status quo.  It was a failure of understanding and a failure of imagination.  And a lot more than the sock suppliers paid the price.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2009, 10:41:07 AM by Alixz »