Author Topic: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2  (Read 134244 times)

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Offline Sarushka

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #420 on: February 13, 2007, 05:00:58 PM »
Short answer: I think it has to do with the contrasts in his life.

He was a lovely family man, and a crummy tsar.
He grew up in opulence to be murdered in a cellar.
He ruled one sixth of the globe, and died a prisoner.
And on and on....

People are fascinated by dramatic changes and unexpected contradictions, and the life of Nicholas II is full of them.
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Offline Katherine The O.K.

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #421 on: February 13, 2007, 05:22:46 PM »
I agree with Sarushka, for the most part.

I think he'll remain an interesting and important figure in history because he and his family truly symbolized the 'age of innocence' and that age died with them, much like the Tutor Age did with Elizabeth I and the Ancien Regime with Marie Antoinette. He's also memorable for his iconic children: The four little girls always dressed in white pinafores with picture hats and the little hemophiliac son in a sailor suit. You rarely see images of OTMAA taken after 1910 in popular media, and the images of these five adorable little kids are usually followed by, "They would later be shot to death in a cellar" (or some variation thereof). People don't realize that the imperial children were all teenagers or adults by the time of their deaths, and by the time they do, they've already fallen in love with their personalities. The same goes for Nicholas. He was probably bald, had poor teeth, and was very aged by the time of his death. But people always seem to envision the youthful Nicholas in place of the old one when the murders are mentioned. The idea of a young, beautiful family being murdered in such a brutal way is inescapably fascinating. You feel as if you just have to know, how did they go from this to dying in some cellar?

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Offline Janet_W.

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #422 on: February 13, 2007, 07:29:52 PM »
I come from a different set of experiences and perspectives re: this question.

What I saw, repeatedly, in books and in magazines, were those famous posed photos taken during the tercentenary. All but the two youngest children, therefore, would in today's venacular be called teenagers--and that was my age at the time. The father and mother were attractive but obviously older and despite their formal apparel, as nonglamorous as my own parents; as for Anastasia and Alexei, they were about the same age as the children I was at the time babysitting. I therefore was fascinated by the attractive family which, at least in terms of age, reminded me of the family of which I was a part and the families with whom I interacted. Added to this interest was my already in-place fascination for the turn-of-the-century, as well as for royalty, who are generally well-documented and therefore good "case studies" for anyone interested in family dynamics. But the clincher, of course, was that this family had been executed, together, and the togetherness of these sepia-tinted photos emphasized that fate.

Then I read Robert Massie's book. And others. And so forth and etcetera.

For anyone who has pondered the concept of self-determination versus the concept of inescapable fate, the story of Nicholas and Alexandra is a tremendous "for example."  The story also is also just a century old and therefore more immediate than, say, that of Mary Stuart. The children in particular seem very accessible, and through innumerable photos and quite a few filmstrips, we see them behaving much as we did when their age.

I also think the "if" factor and issues regarding critical thinking and good decision making is part of the so-called mystique. Shakespeare tackled these matters in his plays. Centuries later, a famous American poem explored the issue of coming upon a fork in the road, and that the road finally chosen made "all the difference." And we have other examples in popular culture--the film Sliders is but one--which tackle that same concept. In reviewing the lives of Nicholas and Alexandra, we repeatedly come up against life situations and circumstances and the decisions they made--separately and jointly--which kept them headed straight towards their violent demise. But we also know they were conscientious Victorians, almost always convinced they were on the right path, which begs the question: Are today's politicians--not to mention each one of us--making the correct decisions . . . or are we also only sealing our doom?

The story of the last Romanovs is distant enough to possess a certain cachet of romance, yet contemporary enough to scare the bejabbers out of those who compare past events with current events. And obviously it has attracted thousands of posters to this website. Some idolize the last Romanovs, some regard them as dolts and even villains. With that in mind, "mystique" might not be the right term for some of us. But none of us would be here if we didn't have an ongoing interest.

Offline lexi4

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #423 on: February 13, 2007, 09:30:17 PM »
Elisabeth,
Very intereseint topic. I am going to have to put some thought into your questions before I respond.
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Offline imperial angel

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #424 on: February 14, 2007, 10:38:44 AM »
It seems that it is the ordinary and the glamorous qualities that account for the mystique of Nicholas II. He was in many ways an ordinary man, yet he ruled an empire. He was of high position, but was down to earth and you can relate. His family was in many ways glamorous, and the symbol of a lost age, yet in other ways they seem just like any family that struggled with real life things. They struggled with Alexei's illness, and that of Alexandra as well, she was under much stress and Olga and Alexandra didn't get along at times, Alexandra tended to dominate Nicholas, and Marie might have felt left out, as the middle child. Those are things any family can relate to, and yet, on the more positive side, Nicholas's marriage was a love story fit for modern times, and he dearly loved his children. Yet, in the end tragedy overtook all of it in a way not so ordinary, which along with the fact they were royalty, interests us. Nicholas II's life was a story familiar to us all, but made far away and glamorous by the tragedy, being royalty, that fabulous world they lived in.

Offline hikaru

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #425 on: February 23, 2007, 05:46:17 AM »
We have to remember that the end19-beginning of 20 is a mysique lovers time.
Everybody liked Mystique things, Eastern parfumes, table-mooving, extrasenses,
magiciens, Blavatskaya books, Old Egypt things - before the revolution mystique
mood covered everybody (excepts Lenin and bolysheviks).
I think that the mysitque things are in the air in anytime and anywhere.
But the point is  in accents or in the grade of attention to such things.
For example: the Lives  of the Pavel the First, Alexandr II etc. were very mistical too. The duration of the ruling of the Pavel as the Tsar is just 4 years 4months and 4 days . 4- is the figure of death in Japan.
The Mystique is in the life of everybody of us or our families.
Just the death of Nicholas was so extraordinary and tragic, so after his death , a lot of people began to
try to explaine such tragedy by using of such matters as mystique.

Offline lori_c

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #426 on: February 23, 2007, 09:45:26 AM »
I also think it's the old adage that one always "remembers the last party."  NII was the last Tsar, the last to be associated w/the dynasty.  In addition to all that's mentioned above, IMO part of his mystique is that his story has been associated w/the collective conciousness and it's impression of many facets of what was happening in the world when his reign came to an end and how this reverberates even now into the 21st century. 

Offline Janet_W.

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #427 on: February 23, 2007, 01:32:22 PM »
I agree, Lori C.  "The last" immediately hints of mystery and possible tragedy, i.e., "The Last Hurrah," "The Last Emperor" (in this case referring to China's imperial family), etc.  Then add an attractive wife--a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, no less--five attractive children, plus a mysterious "mad monk," all played out against (take your pick) the "belle epoque" /"fin de siecle" / "silver age," and ta-da, instant mystique!

But regarding Nicholas himself, there's another issue: For all of his good qualities, Nicholas is definitely a highly flawed protagonist. (Please note I didn't use the term "hero" but "protagonist.") As I alluded earlier, had Shakespeare lived in the early 20th century he might well have framed a play around Nicholas II, much as he did around Hamlet, MacBeth, Othello, Richard III, et al. . . . make of THAT what you will!

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #428 on: February 23, 2007, 11:34:44 PM »
Dying young is something that we all have unresolved feelings about.

We idolize those who have died young from Marilyn Monroe and JFK to James Dean and Buddy Holly, to the Imperial Family of Russia.

There is a feeling of "life unfinished" and the curiousness of "what could have been".

If we do believe in fate, then we must see that their lives ended when and how they were supposed to.  But most of us believe in "free will" and we believe that we have some control over our lives and so we continue to mourn that which never was but perhaps that with just a slight change in decision or direction could have been.

And above all, because Nicholas and his family are close in time to us and their lives both private and public are available for us to view all be it in black and white, we feel closer to them than to Mary Stuart or Marie Antoinette whom we can only see through the eyes of a portrait painter.

From the hundreds of photos that are available to us of the Imperial Family, we get the feeling that "this was a real family with real problems and they weren't all so different from us."  It is almost if we can reach back through time while looking at those photographs and just for a moment feel what they felt.


Offline lori_c

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #429 on: February 26, 2007, 10:41:55 AM »
I agree, Lori C.  "The last" immediately hints of mystery and possible tragedy, i.e., "The Last Hurrah," "The Last Emperor" (in this case referring to China's imperial family), etc.  Then add an attractive wife--a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, no less--five attractive children, plus a mysterious "mad monk," all played out against (take your pick) the "belle epoque" /"fin de siecle" / "silver age," and ta-da, instant mystique!

But regarding Nicholas himself, there's another issue: For all of his good qualities, Nicholas is definitely a highly flawed protagonist. (Please note I didn't use the term "hero" but "protagonist.") As I alluded earlier, had Shakespeare lived in the early 20th century he might well have framed a play around Nicholas II, much as he did around Hamlet, MacBeth, Othello, Richard III, et al. . . . make of THAT what you will!
Thank you Janet.  It was the Last Hurrah I was trying to think of as in comparison to the Last Emperor. (I couldn't think of the phase!)   I don't feel Nicholas was a hero but it doesn't diminish his appeal or lack thereof that has ceased to become a topic of "mystique". That for ME is in and of itself an mystique.   An interesting point you made, he really would have been an excellent subject for a Shakepearean play or a Greek Tragedy. ;)

Offline dmitri

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #430 on: July 04, 2007, 01:51:32 PM »
I guess not being a good listener and being inherently weak. His mind was inflexible to the idea of change. He also was foolhardy in putting himself in a position beyond his competency - Commander-in-Chief during ww1 and his greatest folly was leaving his capital in the hands of his wife with no loyal troops to defend his throne.

Offline strom

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #431 on: February 12, 2008, 12:08:06 PM »
I heartily agree with Griffith's last post.  However, things did not work out for Russia's material benefit throughout most of the 20th cen.  It might be better in the 21st.  Peace is required. 

As for the liberalization of Jewish policy in Russia, I think the old regime was moving in that direction and conservative forces in Russia were moving against it.  It was another of those questions that could not be fully addressed during the war.  Anya said something to the effect that the preceived liberaism of the Imperial couple as regards the Jewish question actually precipitating the abdication of the Emperor --I suppose she could be right.  It has been said that the sovereigns of Russia anticipated enlightened public policy over the history of modern Russia.  It is another good reason to revere the old regime.     
« Last Edit: February 12, 2008, 12:16:31 PM by strom »

Offline Mexjames

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #432 on: February 12, 2008, 01:14:57 PM »
I think that the Bolsheviks capitalized largely on the infrastructure that Russia had from the last stage of the Empire.  Clearly workers and peasants had difficult times, but that was not only in the Empire, and climate didn't help at all. 

The very fact that the Trans-Siberian railway was there made a big difference.  Surely it didn't help Russia against Japan in the war, but it was never intended to support a war, it was intended to promote trade.  Had it not been for the Trans-Siberian, the Soviet Union might not have accomplished anything at all. 

Also, during the Empire we saw a number of Russian scientists discover new things that set the necessary frameworks that others followed.  The Periodic Table, Tsiolkovsky's own pioneering work in astronautics, there was none other than Igor Sikorsky building huge planes in Russia before anyone else.  We can only imagine the faces of the German soldiers when they saw the huge Ilya Muromets planes approaching to drop bombs.  Pavlov's experiments paved the way in understanding how mental conditioning works.

The Tsar was interested in all this and it's my understanding he was keen on adopting new technologies wherever possible.

In the arts, just see how many composers lived in Russia during the Empire, whose contributions to world culture endure even to this very day.  Tchaikovsky's works still fill whole theaters, be it with the "Sleeping Beauty" or "Eugene Onegin" or the "Pique Dame".  Chekhov's plays still have a large number of followers al over the world. 

Serov's famous painting of the Emperor and others are nothing but modern.

These scientific and cultural achievements came on their own, and contrary to the Soviet Union, the Empire had no written policies as to what should be or shouldn't be coming from the artists and scientists.  Sure enough, the Soviet Union provided us with great scientists, whose work went for the benefit of the State, and most Russian artists left the country much to their chagrin but for the benefit of mankind. 

I think that his positive attributes were his undoing.  Maybe his personality didn't "go" with being an autocrat.  Most people didn't understand how the Empress' mind worked.

Maybe the Tsar was full of good intentions and like so many others before and after him, he couldn't see them materialized.  And sometimes people don't appreciate a good person as a ruler.


Offline 10fadeevan

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #433 on: June 25, 2008, 07:24:28 PM »
What are some of Nicholas' successes as tsar or good things about his reign?
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Offline Mexjames

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #434 on: July 02, 2008, 10:51:33 AM »
There are several things that come to mind.  Notably, the work of the great Igor Sikorsky in aviation.  During WWI he designed and built what was then the largest airplane in the world, the Ilya Murometz bomber.  This is reported some place else in alexanderpalace.org.  Mr. Sikorsky was decorated by the Emperor, and he even climbed into the bomber using a ladder, although to the best of my knowledge he never flew.  The Ilya Murometz was very advanced for its time.  After the revoultion Mr. Sikorsky went to the U.S., where he continued his research, as a result of which he built the first practical helicopter.  His company survives to this day.

Another scientist that comes to mind is Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, recognized as the father of astronautics.  He conceived rockets and I think space travel as early as 1903.  A moon crater is named after him (I think it's in the dark side of the moon).

Ivan Pavlov was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work in medicine in 1904. 

Established since the reign of Tsar Peter the Great in the 18th century, this institution gained respect and notoriety during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Composer Sergei Rachmaninoff lived in Russia and left after the revolution as well; this caused him enormous problems and his creativity was hampered, he needed psichologic treatment for this.  Dancers like Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Mathilde Kschessinska, etc., were trained in Saint Petersburg.  The celebrated Fyodor Chaliapin, an opera singer, toured the world in the days of the Empire, as did Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, with among others, the famous Nijinksy.  Choreographer Fokine was also a product of the Empire,

We have none other that the famous P. Fabergé, jeweler.

Anton Chekhov died in 1904, L. Tolstoy in 1910, Skriabin, the composer, died ca. 1915, and Stravinsky made it through the revolution and chose to stay there.  Sergei and Alexander Tanneyev were well known in Russia but not outside.  The latter was the father of Anna Vyrubova.

I chose to limit myself to those who lived during Nicholas II's reign, but who can forget the great Tchaikovksy or the celebrated Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin, who was also a noted chemist?  Who can forget Dostoievsky?

For all its problems, the Empire also provided the conditions under which all of the above thrived and made important contributions to humanity.  If the Soviet Union became a world power, it's because of the work of those cited above, among many others.

Russia was an industrial power in her own right too.  I don't have my sources handy but it was an industrial power, and in its heyday, it was also a net grain exporter from Ukraine, via Odessa (Odesa in Ukrainian), to other countries all over the world.  The Trans-Siberian railroad was a huge achievement, even for today's standards.  Also, Russia had the capability of building her own ships, both for civil and military use, since the time of Tsar Peter I.

This list is too shorts for all the achievements that Russia had during the Empire.  I hope someone else will expand it. 

I just want t end my comment by stressing again that had it not been for the progress made during the reign of Nicholas II, the Soviet Union would have never been as powerful as it was.