Author Topic: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2  (Read 140161 times)

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Offline Tania+

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #375 on: April 01, 2006, 01:56:56 PM »
Last night I came to this thread, and re read it eight times. It just really struck me between what you had to say Rich C and what you stated Elizabeth. First Rich your statement, and I will quote the part that really hit me :Quote March 28, 2006 :
"The United States of America, (Tsar Nicholas) he said, was an entirely different matter, and the two cases could not be compared.  In this country [Russia], many as were the problems and the difficulties, their sense of imagination, their intense religious feeling and their habits and customs generally made a crown necessary, and he believed this must be so for a very long time, that a certain amount of decentralizing of authority was, of course, necessary but that the great and decisive power must rest with the Crown.  The powers of the Duma must go slowly, because of the difficulties of pushing on education at any reasonably fast rate among all these masses of his subjects."  End Quote

then your quote of December 15, 2005 : Quote :"I've always admired Nicholas' behavior during his captivity which, in the words of one scholar,"he bore with bravery and fortitude."  That took guts and I admire that.

I wish there could be an authoritative reading list posted on this site for those who wish to learn more about Russian history.  Perhaps then we wouldn't have so many posts condemning Nicholas for sticking so tenaciously to the autocratic system and fighting the Duma.  Certainly reforms were needed, but not necessarily the one's that are frequently mentioned on this forum.  

Instituting a democratic government would not have solved everything overnight.  Alexandra wrote that the Russian people were not ready for democracy, and she was right.  Indeed, most of Nicholas' best ministers, such was Sergius Witte, were staunch supporters of the imperial system.  The same is true of Stolypin, Pobedenotsev, etc.  These people were Russia's greatest minds.  They knew what they were talking about.  

Throughout Nicholas' reign, few people thought the system of government was the problem.  Rather they thought the Tsar himself, and later the Tsarina, were the problem.  So, in my opinion, statements deploring Nicholas' failure to "institute democratic reforms" betray a certain ignorance of what was happening in Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  End Quote

But Elizabeth's statement registered with me as well : Quote March 29, 2006 :I’m sorry if I misunderstood part of what you said, RichC, but I actually misstated myself when I wrote that the Revolution of 1905 was not solely characterized by outbreaks of peasant anarchy in the countryside. I should have said that it was not chiefly characterized by such outbreaks.  
 
Needless to say I do think the democratic movement played a far larger and more important role in the Revolution of 1905 than you give it credit for. But this is not the same thing as saying that, if the Romanov dynasty had been toppled in 1905, another dictatorship could not have taken its place. I wouldn’t go so far. I do think, however, that Russia’s chances for democracy might have been a bit better in 1905 than they were over a decade later, in 1917. Russia was not fighting a world war in 1905: the country’s army and infrastructure were both still intact. The educated segments of Russian society were not as yet completely alienated from the old regime; in particular, the intelligentsia was not yet infected with that apocalyptic mood that made them believe everything of the old world had to be swept away in order for a new society to be born. The Bolshevik party was still a tiny minority socialist party among other, much bigger, better organized and more democratically minded socialist parties. I guess all I am trying to say is that the Soviet Union of Lenin and Stalin was not necessarily inevitable, and anyway, practically any dictatorship would have been preferable to theirs.
 
Nor do I think Putin was inevitable. Three-quarters of a century of Communist rule strangled Russia's infant democratic tradition in its cradle; Russians had to start over from scratch in the early 1990s. I don't think this means, however, that Russians aren't capable of achieving real democracy at some future date. Other nations without democratic traditions have shown themselves capable of such a feat.

But I went back to that quote of yours Rich C, quoted in Nicholas & Alexandra Quote :
--quoted in Nicholas and Alexandra:"There is no culture of democracy in Russia and there never has been.  (And for all of you who can't stand Alexandra, she at least recognized that -- and she was right)."

The above more or less describes Russia politically, and until Russians realize how much they must become involved, and get genuinely involved, then they will remain at just scratching ground surface.
In closing, i agree most heartily with Elizabeth's statement of Quote : March 29, 2006 :

.."Nor do I think Putin was inevitable. Three-quarters of a century of Communist rule strangled Russia's infant democratic tradition in its cradle; Russians had to start over from scratch in the early 1990s. I don't think this means, however, that Russians aren't capable of achieving real democracy at some future date. Other nations without democratic traditions have shown themselves capable of such a feat". End Quote






« Last Edit: April 25, 2009, 11:51:15 AM by Alixz »
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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #376 on: April 01, 2006, 01:59:50 PM »
I think at this point we're only arguing different degrees of emphasis, RichC. I'm in complete agreement that much of the impetus for the Revolution of 1905 was that the tsarist government had shown itself to be incompetent in fighting the war with Japan. We see this pattern over and over again in Russian history - the demands of war, and the government's failure to live up to them, prompt a massive overhaul of the system through major reforms. Thus Peter the Great's need for a modern army and his subsequent, radical Europeanizing reforms; the disaster of the Crimean War, followed by Alexander II's equally radical reforms; the Russo-Japanese War, another disaster, followed by the Revolution of 1905 and the October Manifesto, granting limited constitutional government; the biggest disaster of all, World War I, resulting in the Revolutions of 1917 and the downfall of the tsarist regime; many decades later, the war with Afghanistan, a Soviet disaster this time, indeed the first warning that the Soviet regime could not last.

Nevertheless I still think that there was a groundswell of support for democratic reforms amongst the most educated, affluent, and therefore potentially most politically influential classes, not only in 1905 but again in 1917. Part of the problem of course is that democratization is closely linked to modernization. One of the reasons the Soviet Union continually lagged behind the West in technological innovation was that it was not an open society and the free exchange of information with foreigners was well nigh impossible. Now needless to say Russia has the opposite problem in so far as most of its scientists have fled to the West (the Russian "brain drain") and young Russians are not replacing them since they'd prefer to study business rather than science.

But to go back to the original question, I think Nicholas might have helped the longevity of his regime if he had cooperated with the democratizing forces in his society, instead of alienating them completely. For example, if he had worked more closely with the Duma and zemstvos during WWI, some of the opprobrium attaching to Russian defeats might have gone to these entities as well as to (or even instead of) the tsar. Rather than being a focus of discontent the tsar might have come to be seen as a conciliator of the different factions of society. Still, a lot of this comes down to whether or not you believe the Russian Revolution of 1917 was inevitable. I've started a thread about this in the Russian Revolution section and I'd be really happy if you'd share your views on the issue there, RichC. One aspect of this question intrigues me in particular: to what extent are Russians' pessimism and fatalism about their political system self-fulfilling prophecies? Self-defeating and self-perpetuating? Or are such views merely an accurate reading of Russian reality?
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Offline RichC

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #377 on: April 01, 2006, 02:21:40 PM »
Quote
But I went back to that quote of yours Rich C, quoted in Nicholas & Alexandra Quote :
--quoted in Nicholas and Alexandra:"There is no culture of democracy in Russia and there never has been.  (And for all of you who can't stand Alexandra, she at least recognized that -- and she was right)."

Tania, this is NOT a quote from Nicholas and Alexandra.  This is something *I* said.


Here is the quote from Nicholas and Alexandra:

Quote
First Rich your statement, and I will quote the part that really hit me :Quote March 28, 2006 :
"The United States of America, (Tsar Nicholas) he said, was an entirely different matter, and the two cases could not be compared.  In this country [Russia], many as were the problems and the difficulties, their sense of imagination, their intense religious feeling and their habits and customs generally made a crown necessary, and he believed this must be so for a very long time, that a certain amount of decentralizing of authority was, of course, necessary but that the great and decisive power must rest with the Crown.  The powers of the Duma must go slowly, because of the difficulties of pushing on education at any reasonably fast rate among all these masses of his subjects."  End Quote


« Last Edit: April 25, 2009, 11:51:53 AM by Alixz »

Offline imperial angel

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #378 on: April 19, 2006, 11:21:59 AM »
I must say that I agree with those who say that Russia needed reforms, but that it was hard to say what exactly, and that it was a complex problem, and didn't just stem from Nicholas II's reign. Things were not as simple as we might assume, who weren't there, and weren't dealing with everything they were, from their mind set. It is very easy to pass judgement, when you have no role to play, and nothing to do execpt that. Democracy may not have been the thing that was needed, but it takes alot of wisdom, and perspective outside stereotypical assumptions to say that, in my opinion.  Thanks to those who said that-it opens my eyes.

As for positive attributes Nicholas had, a few are that he was more willing to admit the need for change than Alexandra, and that he wasn't ready to be Tsar, a leader, at first. He was more willling to try to see other views, and relate to people. He could compromise, sometimes, if need be. He was a great family man, amd father, and lived a very moral personal life. He was intelligent, and I believe liked to study history somewhat. He liked the outdoors, andn a healthy life style. He wasn't as stubborn as he sometimes has been called, and he was a good man.
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Offline griffh130

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #379 on: May 20, 2006, 07:32:23 PM »
I really love this thread but I must admit that I have not read all 19 pages as I was just so excited to add some comments about Nicholas and his positive contributions to Russia and Russia’s marvelous advances under his reign.  I think because of all the negative press that Nicholas received after the 1905 revolution, that his 25 year reign of Russia the prosperity and national identity that he achieved for Russia has been overlooked.  During Nicholas’ reign Russia opened its doors to German, French, and American industry and as a result the country experienced such a rapid rise in the general well being of its subjects that Lenin gave up all hope that a revolution could occur in his lifetime.  That is an historic fact and yet no one ever credit’s Nicholas’ reign with that achievement.  

Regardless of Nicholas’s uncertainty about his own opinions and convictions, he promoted the well being of his country in the twentieth century.  To gain a proper perspective on the cultural heights that Nicholas’ reign achieved just look at a historic chronology of the world premiers of musical genius that occurred in St. Petersburg during his reign.  They read like NYC in the 1980’s.   And regardless of Nicholas' lukewarm support of the far reaching reforms of Witte and Stolypin, Nicholas’ reign gave Russia the stimulus and momentum to attain a wonderful future.  

Some historians say that if the revolution of 1917 had not interrupted Stolypin’s educational reform, which were in full force, those reforms would have educated every peasant by 1923.   If one doubts this statement then it might help to remember what it took for Stalin to exterminate the middle class farmers that Stolypin’s successful agrarian reforms created, with the generous contribution of Nicholas own holdings in Siberia.  By the 1930’s Stalin finally had to exterminate those farmers Stolypins reforms had created.  

It is also noteworthy that Nicholas’ love of Russia led him to start the first explorations into the linguistic origins of his country language and that Nicholas himself was an expert in the dialects of his country.  It has also to be remembered that his love of Russia’s  cultural heritage led to the first scientific records of  all the dialects that are included in the many cultures of Russia.  

The other thing that is remarkable about Nicholas is how modern and how current his taste remained during his reign.  From the very beginning of his reign Nicholas and Alexandra cut a very modern image of themselves.  So much so that Alexandra was criticized for the ultra modern cut of her clothes when she was photographed with a man’s tie and hat while on their tour of the European courts and added to this was the simplicity with which she dressed when she met the tragic Empress Elizabeth of Austria who had heard of the legendary beauty of Alexandra and wanted to see her in person.  Elizabeth appreciated Alexandra’s tribute to her by dressing in black and wearing no jewels when she dined with Elizabeth who had worn perpetual morning of her son Rudolf who had committed suicide at his hunting lodge at Meyerling in 1889.  

Nicholas and Alexandra remained a very modern couple and incurred a great deal of criticism for the ultra modern art nouveau style re-decoration of their apartments in the Winter Palace and later in Alexander Palace when they were first married.  The Imperial couple’s love of the modern never abated as is clear from the new Palace at Lividia which was built in 1911, boasted of every ultra modern convenience including a garage which was considered the most modern and up to date in the entire world and that is saying a great deal given the accomplishments of American millionaires.  

The other thing that has struck me is that Nicholas never exhibited the heartless and religiously bigoted opinions of many of his uncles and family members.  A case in point is Nicholas’ Uncle (and brother in law) Serge who exhibited such an excessively religious zealousness that he expelling all the Jews from Moscow within 24 hours of his appointment as Governor General.    

In contrast to this bigoted religious zealousness, one of Nicholas’ most charitable acts occurred over a decade later, in 1911, when Nicholas insisted that there would be no pogroms against the Jews in Kiev after Stolypin had been assassinated.  To understand the depth of Nicholas’ compassion, one has only to look at the anti-Semitic activities of the ultra rightwing monarchists, who even used the cinema to promote their hatred of the Jews.  One begins to realize how uninfluenced Nicholas and Alexandra were by such pseudo-patriotic fervor and they never exhibited the same kind of blind antipathy towards minorities that some members of the Romanoff family or the extreme right wing of the Russian aristocracy embraced.  

I have also wondered if the price Nicholas paid for his patronage of Rasputin came less from Rasputin’s moral lapses and more from the fact that Rasputin destroyed the right wing’s "Old Boy” political monopoly during the WWI and the war profiteering that was rabid.  Rasputin’s liberal dealing with the powerful Jewish financers destroyed the right wing exclusion of the Jewish financers and large profits that were ear-marked for the conservative right wing ended up in the hands of the Jewish bankers.  Some historians define a revolution as the transference of large amounts of money from one political group to another.  

I will continue...

Offline griffh130

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #380 on: May 20, 2006, 07:34:04 PM »
As a result of the transfer of economic prosperity from the right wing to the Jewish financiers, I can’t wonder if the “German spy mania” that discredited the
Empress Alexandra did not originate, in part, by the disenfranchised right-wing.  Perhaps the assassination of Rasputin had more with his liberal influence on the economics and war profiteering than his supposed malign moral influence on the Imperial couple.  

As further proof, there is the compassionate correspondence between Alexandra and Nicholas during the war where she encourages Nicholas to reform the severe restrictions on Jews because of the case of an American Jew that had come to fight in the war for Russia and had been severely injured and was suffering as a result from the anti-Semitic laws that forbade Jews to live in St. Petersburg or learn a useful trade.      

While it is true that, after the birth of the Czarevitch, Nicholas tended to guard his power and prerogatives, his continued reign did this more for the general prosperity of Russia than has ever been accomplished by any succeeding ruler, including Lenin, that hideous parody of the Emperor Peter I, Stalin and the rest of those tired men angry men that tore Nicholas’ accomplishments down in order to justify their own inability to bring an equal amount of prosperity to Russia.  

And just in case, to those who might think that I sound like some crazed monarchist, I have to ask, has anyone of the Soviet or Russian Ruler been able to boast that there were more cars in Moscow in 1905 than there were in NYC as Alexander Werth states in his book?  

Just look at poor Russia.  It is a skeleton of its former glory.  There is no possible comparison between what it is today and what it was during the reign of Nicholas II.  Does anyone believe that the Russian Revolution accomplished the same amount of prosperity that Russia enjoyed during the reign of Nicholas II?  Does anyone deny that the gradual reform that Stolypin instigated would not have accomplished enormous good for Russia if it had been allowed to reach maturity?  

Just look at Spain.  Who put a monarch back on the throne of Spain?  Franco.  It is a monarch that is bringing that country to its ultimate constitutional freedom.  I am not a monarchist but I feel that the second Russian revolution destroyed the national identity of Russia and set it back a hundred years.  And I think that it was the threat of the destruction of Russia’s union that Nicholas forfeited his throne to avoid.   To my way of reasoning, Nicholas, for all his inner uncertainty, was by far the man who could have brought Russia into the twentieth century in an enlightened and progressive way.  He probably might have outlived the life of the son he so loved.  Certainly if he had remained on his throne there would have been no hideous Soviet menace that overshadowed the twentieth century and eventually caused it to be named “The Century of Blood.”      

Offline RogerV

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #381 on: September 04, 2006, 02:21:15 AM »
I hope this subject hasn't been posted already, but I didn't find it in the search I made, so here goes:

Does anyone else feel "torn" as I do when considering Nicholas (and all the Romanovs for that matter)?  On the one hand, I am absolutely fascinated by the world and lives of the IF; I would love to spend a vacation just visiting their palaces and other homes.  I have read their biographies, and know all about Nicholas the loving family man, and Alexandra the devoted wife and mother.  I've also read the books written by aristocrats who managed to escape with their lives.

On the other hand, I consider Nicholas II to be one of the most inept and incompetent leaders of the 20th Century who was largely responsible for bringing his fate upon himself and his family.  His blunders began at his coronation and continued in an almost unbroken string until he was forced to abdicate.  Even then he failed in not having some kind of plan in place to assure the safety of his family (and yes I know there is a lot of discussion as to why he wouldn't have left Russia, etc.).

So the quandry is how do I reconcile these seemingly opposite attitudes?  Part of it I guess is that I love history.  I suspect that also a small part of me wishes that I could have lived in the kind of luxury the Romanovs enjoyed.  Maybe it's also the kind of compulsion one has to viewing a massive train wreck.  Possibly it's the inclination to say "if only....." things might have turned out differently.

Does anyone else have similar feelings?  I'd very much like to know.

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Offline isabel

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #382 on: September 04, 2006, 06:29:46 AM »
I don´t feel like this.

Perhaps because i don´t considere that Nicholas had all the responsability of the facts. It´s true that he was not a good leader, sure, he was not a man with the qualitys that a governor should have, but the situation in Europe during his rule was terribly complicate, and i am not sure that if an other Tzar would be in his situation the revolution won´t go on.

His own grand father was assesinated in St.Petersburg, and his father suffered the attack of the revolutionarys too. Alexander II is considered a good Tzar,Alexander III had an strong carachtere,....and they could not scape of the agitated situation of their country.

The crown Nicholas inherited was not an easy job, he was too young when suddenly he became Tzar of Russia, he had any experience, to many advisers, and an enormous and agited country to care in the difficult Europe of that time.

I don´t considere his coronation a blunder of Nicholas, he was informed about the accident late, and he wanted to suspend all the coronation festivities, but they recommend him not to do it. Sure he had to do it, but he trusted in the experience of his ministers. He was wrong, and this situation was sadly going to be repeated during his reign.

About have a plan to rescue his family my opinion is that he was not concious of the gravity of their situation, and of course of the tragedy they were going to live. Kings Queens, and governors of the rest of Europe were their relatives, and i think that he was sure until the end that they were going to be rescued.

I am not an expert but i belive that if other person would be the Tzar in that moment, he won´t be able to stop the revolution.

Offline RogerV

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #383 on: September 04, 2006, 01:16:23 PM »
What happened to the Romanovs sparked a chain of events that had repercussions throughout most of the 20th Century, and controversy around them trickles into the 21st Century.

--RogerV

« Last Edit: April 26, 2009, 03:16:00 PM by Alixz »

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #384 on: September 04, 2006, 02:42:21 PM »
I don't see it as a quandry, personally.  Nicholas II was, despite Bolshevik propoganda, a human being. One with assets and flaws, talents and ineptitudes.  A loving family man, dedicated to his postion and country and his people. Also, not nearly well trained enough for his job, overshadowed by his father and far too "perfect a gentleman" in the late Victorian sense to be a decisive and shrewd autocrat in turbulent times.

I myself have had several people take me to task for being Jewish and yet finding more positive traits about Nicholas II than negative ones.   One can not let one's religious faith color any truth, be it science or history.  It just is what it is. period.

That is what is so interesting to me about this period in history in general. The fabulous wealth, pomp and power, the desparate poor, burgeoning middle classes, and the genuine saintliness of some and the horrible beyond belief evil of others, and all too human characters caught up in it all, powerless to prevent the sweep of events which ultimately changed everything in their society from top to bottom.

Just my view

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #385 on: September 04, 2006, 07:31:58 PM »
There is no quandry for me. My paternal grandparents were part of that noble society.

For me personally it is a journey of understanding how they all lived and what circumstances surrounded Nikolai's tragic destiny and that of Imperial Russia.


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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 #386 on: September 05, 2006, 10:04:01 AM »
That is an interersting question. Nicholas was a great family man, amd a great man in his private life, we all know that. That can't be debated at all. It is on the more political side that questions arise. We here I suppose, reverence him for his private life, and for his family and all that. And indeed, we should. He wasn't a great leader, he didn't have the abilities, nor more importantly, the training. But although he made great errors sometimes, that led to his and the dynasty's fall, he never intended to do that. He was never intentionally trying to be a bad ruler, nor an inept one. He thought that what he was doing was the best he could do. I realize he wasn't a great leader, but I don't really hold him to blame for it.

Offline Bev

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #387 on: September 05, 2006, 12:57:16 PM »
I admire Washington, although I abhor his slave owning, and I admire Jefferson's complicated character and his ability to articulate a vision, but he still acted in ways quite a bit of times that I thought were cruel and meanspirited.  I believe we can admire beauty and still be sensible to how it was made and at what cost to other human beings. 

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #388 on: September 05, 2006, 04:02:30 PM »
I admire Washington, although I abhor his slave owning, and I admire Jefferson's complicated character and his ability to articulate a vision, but he still acted in ways quite a bit of times that I thought were cruel and meanspirited.  I believe we can admire beauty and still be sensible to how it was made and at what cost to other human beings. 

I pretty much agree with this view. There are statements I read, like NII's attitude towards liberty (which he expressed in a letter to his mother and in statements about the need for a Duma in Russia) that are at odds with modern beliefs. Also the question of anti-Semtism which, like Washington & Jefferson owning slaves, is hard to not view through modern eyes. This also holds to the notion of such a complete autocracy with so much power and wealth concentrated in the hands of so few and with much of the wealth and jewels that are so lovely to look at being purchased at such a cost to the many. This doesn't hold for just the Romanovs, but the excesses there (such as Princess Yussupov's bowl of precious stones that people could just run their fingers through) seem larger than most. Still, the whole Gilded Age that I enjoy reading about so much had a real dark side for those not so fortunate.

And on the flip side, there was the gentle family man who so enjoyed time with his children. Except for some who dealt with him on a political basis, who sometimes wrote unkindly about his intelligence and demeanor, opinions as to his character were often warm ones. He was a faithful husband, a religious man who tried to lead a good personal life, an attentive father and son.
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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 #389 on: September 05, 2006, 04:21:41 PM »
I think sometimes we do see those issues through overly personal or modern minds. We might have a hard time seeing these issues through the minds they saw it through; and not through our modern eyes. But we should always try to keep perspective in mind. In a different age, things are regarded differently, and each of us is a victim of our era, in view and mindset. All you said about Nicholas personally is true.There are always sensitive issues in history as in life, especially in politics. Sometimes its important to understand why historical figures did things in the context of their age, and not ours.