Author Topic: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2  (Read 140158 times)

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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 #405 on: December 18, 2006, 03:33:44 PM »
Well, I guess it's in how you look at it. I try not to train a very academic eye to them, I think they were real people, and the values of their world however much we might criticize them, can never be judged by the values of ours. That's taking two different eras, and two different mindsets, and it just doesn't work that way, unfortunatly. I think people from any era of history always have some qualities in common, even from seemingly different worlds. We just have to try to understand each other, I believe. As well, nobody ever really brings their tragedy down on themselves, because there are always things that could have gone differently, that don't have anything to do with them, that lie more in circumstances.

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #406 on: December 18, 2006, 08:39:25 PM »
My fascination with the Romanovs is kind of like reading a historical novel (that really isn't fiction.)  My life is so absolutely middle class I can only visit the people and places we discuss in my imagination.  I am saving travel and “palace hopping” for my retirement. 
The problem with Nicholas II is that he apparently really believed that he was anointed by God and that He would protect him.  I believe in an all powerful God but I don't believe in an all powerful autocrat.
My quandary is that it is almost becoming an obsession!  I can't wait to get home and see what everyone is talking about. 

Sara

Offline Ra-Ra-Rasputin

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #407 on: December 19, 2006, 04:06:03 AM »
Well, I guess it's in how you look at it. I try not to train a very academic eye to them, I think they were real people, and the values of their world however much we might criticize them, can never be judged by the values of ours. That's taking two different eras, and two different mindsets, and it just doesn't work that way, unfortunatly. I think people from any era of history always have some qualities in common, even from seemingly different worlds. We just have to try to understand each other, I believe. As well, nobody ever really brings their tragedy down on themselves, because there are always things that could have gone differently, that don't have anything to do with them, that lie more in circumstances.

Oh, I agree.  We can't possibly judge Nicholas and Alexandra by some of the values we have today, such as the way we parent today and the way we view democracy, women's rights, etc, because those things were done very differently only one hundred years ago. 

However, the common perception that people living in the nineteenth century were wholly different to us and the way we live today is fundamentally flawed and there are plenty of new historical assessments of the era that expose this 'myth' that has developed around the Victorians and their way of life throughout the twentieth century.  They were not the sexually repressed prudes they have been made out to be by disapproving modernists (1920's) who wanted to portray the Victorians as oh-so-different from themselves.  There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the vast majority of Victorians (I'm using this as a blanket term for people living in the 19th c, not just literally Victorians, as in people living in the British Empire) were really not that dissimilar from us and were very forward thinking and progressive in their mindsets.  While you do have a minority of mainly upper class people who didn't want women to have the vote, didn't want lower class people to have the vote and didn't talk about sex, etc, you also have upper class men involved in homosexuality (a lot of them, trust me) and social investigations designed to help the poor, trade unions, new philosophical thoughts such as utilitarianism, the discovery of Darwin's theories and the breakdown of religion, etc.  The 19th century was, like our own 20th and 21st centuries, a time of progress and change and the people living during that time were also progressing and changing and were really not that dissimilar from us.

I think it is important to sometimes take a step back and stop viewing Nicholas and Alexandra from such a personal point of view, because looking at them in that way leaves them in some sort of rose tinted fantasty world of crinolines and covered up piano legs, and we find ourselves excusing their behaviour by saying 'but people did things differently in those days.'  Yes, people did do things differently in those days, but that doesn't excuse the ignorance and pride of Nicholas and Alexandra's behaviour, their complete unsuitability to jointly rule an Empire, all of the mistakes they made and the opulent way in which they lived.  Let's not romanticise here; Nicholas and Alexandra were surrounded by a world of modern, progressing ideas.  They were at the forefront of an era of change.  They chose to shut the door on it and retreat into their own little world of chintz and afternoon tea, and it is because of that that they ended up in a cellar in Ekaterinburg, in my opinion.

You can make excuses all you like, but at some point, the responsibility for their actions has got to be placed on Nicholas and Alexandra's shoulders and not on vague notions of 'circumstances'.  Circumstances come about for reasons.  And reasons come about because of actions.  And who is performing those actions? Nicholas and Alexandra.

Rachel
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'History teaches that history teaches us nothing' ~ Hegel

Offline Helen

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #408 on: December 19, 2006, 11:30:05 AM »
You can make excuses all you like, but at some point, the responsibility for their actions has got to be placed on Nicholas and Alexandra's shoulders and not on vague notions of 'circumstances'.
Circumstances come about for reasons.  And reasons come about because of actions.  And who is performing those actions? Nicholas and Alexandra.
Like all human beings, Nicholas and Alexandra did not live on a desert island nor were they all-powerful. 'These circumstances' were not the result of Nicholas' and Alexandra's actions alone. They were also the result of the actions of milions and millions of other people who were living in these days, and let's not forget the actions of all those millions and millions of people who had lived before them.
"The Correspondence of the Empress Alexandra of Russia with Ernst Ludwig and Eleonore, Grand Duke and Duchess of Hesse. 1878-1916"  -  http://www.bod.de/index.php?id=296&objk_
"Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig and Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine in Italy - 1893"

Offline Ra-Ra-Rasputin

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #409 on: December 19, 2006, 12:46:26 PM »
I agree, Helen.  Hence why I used the term 'their actions'.  I'm not suggesting that they be held responsible for the actions of everyone else over the past century, but for their own, yes, they must be held responsible.

Nicholas and Alexandra were killed alongside their family partly because of circumstances outside of their control but also because of circumstances that had come about because of their actions.  I am not saying Nicholas and Alexandra were wholly responsible for the Russian Revolution; that would be absurd and imply that I had no knowledge whatsoever of Russian history.  What I am saying, however, is that Nicholas and Alexandra have to be held responsible for the actions they performed that led to their unpopularity, to the instability of the Russian throne, to the enforced abdication of Nicholas, and almost certainly to their murder.

If the Revolution had happened during Nicholas' father's reign, I don't believe that the IF would have been murdered.  I think that the reason the IF were murdered was because they had become such hate figures in the public eye.  Why? Because of Nicholas' behaviour and because of Alexandra's behaviour.  They brought it upon themselves.  They didn't mean to, they didn't deserve it to, but they did.  And pretending that they were innocents swept up in a tide of mean revolutionaries doesn't get us anywhere.  Nicholas and Alexandra were inept rulers.  They were both lacking in intelligence and foresight.  They both preferred to believe in outmoded traditional ideas that kept Russia in a state of backwardness more suitable to the 16th than the 19th century.  They ignored the wishes of their people in favour of what they wanted.  In short, they were pretty useless rulers, and so they were removed forceably, which sadly but inevitably led to their deaths at the hands of very angry people who blamed them for their own misfortunes.  Which, I believe, they had some reason to. 

We can read the works of sentimental historians like Robert Massie and feel sorry for Nicholas and Alexandra and see them as people just like us who made mistakes as much as we like, but we can't get away from the fact that the pair caused a hell of a lot of suffering for a hell of a lot of people and they've got to take some of the blame for that.  I'm sure they were very nice people and loved each other and their children, etc, but the decisions they made affected lives, and some of them were not very nice decisions, such as ordering pogroms and forcing non Russian people to become Russian against their will.  And really, in Russia, they were all powerful.  Nicholas may have introduced a parliament (and that under duress), but he didn't have to listen to it, remember.

Vanity working on a weak head causes all kinds of mischief.  Vanity working on two weak heads who were married to each other leads to disaster.  No matter how 'nice' those weak heads may have been.

I know I'm in the minority on this board, because most people prefer to pop their rose tinted glasses on and gush about how wonderful N and A were and how pretty their clothes were.  But I'm a cynic and I don't wear glasses, so...I don't subscribe to that sentimental portrait. I probably take quite a harsh standpoint on this, and some people would argue that I attribute too much personal blame on the revolution and their fate to Nicholas and Alexandra, but history is all about interpretation, and that is how I interpret it.

Rachel
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'History teaches that history teaches us nothing' ~ Hegel

Offline Helen

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #410 on: December 19, 2006, 03:16:38 PM »
Rachel, I agree with you that Nicholas and Alexandra were responsible for their own actions, like any human being is, and that there is no need to look at them through rose-coloured glasses, but I also think your standpoint is harsher than they deserved.
Quote
I think that the reason the IF were murdered was because they had become such hate figures in the public eye.  Why? Because of Nicholas' behaviour and because of Alexandra's behaviour.  They brought it upon themselves. ... And really, in Russia, they were all powerful.
Hatred may have been the reason why the IF was murdered, but it's not true that Nicholas and Alexandra were hated purely because of their own behaviour. Part of the hatred was stirred up by others through lies and unfair criticism, and in many cases this was done deliberately to undermine Nicholas' and Alexandra's position. Take for instance a small matter that took place shortly after Nicholas and Alexandra had married.  In the spring of 1895, there was a lot of commotion about dresses. Alexandra was criticised for buying new ones instead of wearing the dresses she had received as a wedding gift. She was called ungrateful and a bigspender. Did she really bring it upon herself that she was criticised? ??? After all, she was merely buying 'maternity clothes'! Wouldn't it be fairer to hold gossiping courtiers responsible for putting her in an unfavourable light in this specific case? There are dozens of other examples of more or less malicious actions of other people that helped create a negative image of Nicholas and Alexandra. Nicholas and Alexandra were NOT all-powerful and could only do so much to prevent gossip, scheming and nasty lies. They were responsible for their own actions, but they were certainly not the only ones responsible for the hatred the public felt for them. Relatives, court officials, members of  noble families, factory workers, farmers, communists etc. etc. who started rumours or lies, who spread rumours or lies - either orally or in letters or newspapers, legal or illegal - or who schemed against the tsar with a view to personal gain or out of pure boredom helped to blacken N.&A.'s names and were also responsible for the hatred felt for Nicholas and Alexandra.
"The Correspondence of the Empress Alexandra of Russia with Ernst Ludwig and Eleonore, Grand Duke and Duchess of Hesse. 1878-1916"  -  http://www.bod.de/index.php?id=296&objk_
"Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig and Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine in Italy - 1893"

Offline Eddie_uk

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #411 on: December 19, 2006, 04:05:51 PM »
Also, in times of trouble people resent/hate those better off than themselves- sad but true. Like in the french revolution. They turned on those better off than themselves. Very unjust and wicked. Just shows you what happens when the mob takes over!!
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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #412 on: December 19, 2006, 04:44:18 PM »
I wondered about what could have been "lost in the translation".  I am sure that is is very hard to translate Russian poetry into English.

I thought that might be the reason that people sing raptures over his poetry and I find it dull.

But, even though this one was written some 20 years before the end of the dynasty, and I am sure that he wasn't seeing into the future or in anyway pre-cognizant, it just stuck me as I said before as a fitting epitaph for the entire clan.

As I said before, too, I think that he meant "care free" not careless.  Not careless in the way we, who speak English, use it.

A quandry?  Yes.  There is little to be admired in the the Romanov family toward the end of the 19th centruy.  But then, there is a fascination in examining their "lost world".

Edited:  Oops!  I missed a few pages while catching up on my reading.  Ra Ra makes a lot of sense and so does Helen.  I know that the rumors were spread and that neither Nicholas or Alexandra thought they had to "do" anything about them.  They were "above" that kind of thing, but rumors were spread and Marie P the elder was responsible for a great deal of misinformation and malicious gossip. 

Nicholas and Alexandra were weak headed.  They couldn't even control their own family and how it perceived them.

But in a way, those who view them with "rose colored glasses" are seeing their life as an historical romance novel.  A way to "escape" into a world that none of us will ever live in or even see.  (Who would want to see the ugly underbelly of that world?)

Two places that the public should never see.  The basements of hospitals or the kitchens of great restaurants.  Both are as ugly as the the underworld of Nicholas and Alexandra.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2006, 04:58:36 PM by Alixz »

Offline imperial angel

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #413 on: December 20, 2006, 12:48:15 PM »
It seems the quandry is to be critical of them or not. ;) Of course, some of their fate can be laid at their door, but I think it is more that '' character is destiny'' as Nietszche wrote. You can't help your character, even though it makes your destiny. And the results of this behaviour might not be good, but it is behavior that is outside your control, in your personality. Nicholas and Alexandra have been cited for many mistakes, and they were human, they made mistakes. But, they were also human in the sense they went through what all of us do, and more at a very high level, and they had more to deal with than most of us, indeed as mentioned gossip and rumour. This was on a very bad scale, and was worse than just the gossip some of us might know has been said about us ( like in a certain town I used to live in  ;)), and they became victims of this. They controlled many destinies, ruling Russia as they did, as autocrats, but in some ways they could not control their own destinies. They were in the midst of so many forces that overwhelmed them, that took them onto the tide of history, wherever that led. In my opinion, that's another quandry, right there.

Offline Mazukov

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #414 on: December 20, 2006, 03:49:10 PM »
It is something to be said about the Russian people as well. For all it’s worth Russians tends to be more in need of a strong single head leadership than a weak one. Where as we in the west can get by on a weak leader Russia on the other hand can not.

I’m not trying to diss our Russians at all but the fact is Russia is a harsh land the people are tougher in sprit than most others. It has a lot to do with the harshness of the land and climate and the nature of the Russian soul. Even now in the 21st century we see that Russia can not progress without some sort of harsh handed government tactics a pone her people.

The last tsar being weak minded and weak in government affairs, adding to the mix the millions lost in the war, the cure rumors that exploded about the capital about the IF made the situation all the more ripe for revolution. When that revolution did come it was curl, full of anger and hatred which was mostly fueled by rumors and rhetoric like a wild fire that hatred spread throe out the land. And the only way to contain it was by a government body that was as equal in curtly and hatred.   

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #415 on: December 20, 2006, 05:27:26 PM »
One reason that any government, especially the US Government, can withstand a weak ruler is that we have three branches of government with "checks and balances".

In an autocracy, even one with a Duma as Nicholas had there were no others to check or to balance the weakness of the head.

We can diss our president, but we know that ultimately that congress declares war and only congress has that power under the constitution.  We can vote our president out of office or even vote out our senators and representatives.  We can have "impeachment" hearings as we did with Clinton.  We can take a sitting president to trial and convict him if necessary. We can even force a resignation as happened to Nixon.

In theory and so far in practice, no one branch of our government can "run amok".

The bottom line is we can change the make up of our government without revolution. 

Russia of the early 20th century could not.


Offline Belochka

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #416 on: December 23, 2006, 06:38:31 PM »
One reason that any government, especially the US Government, can withstand a weak ruler is that we have three branches of government with "checks and balances".

In an autocracy, even one with a Duma as Nicholas had there were no others to check or to balance the weakness of the head.

We can diss our president, but we know that ultimately that congress declares war and only congress has that power under the constitution.  We can vote our president out of office or even vote out our senators and representatives.  We can have "impeachment" hearings as we did with Clinton.  We can take a sitting president to trial and convict him if necessary. We can even force a resignation as happened to Nixon.

In theory and so far in practice, no one branch of our government can "run amok".

The bottom line is we can change the make up of our government without revolution. 

Russia of the early 20th century could not.



In fact the Duma "ran amok" to use your expression, before it went into recess in December 1916. With the asssistance of the military a number of government representatives that included Guchkov, Shulgin and Rodzianko helped to overthrow the Emperor.

In the absence of support from the military Stavka any remnants of those so called "checks" became so overbalanced they forced Nikolai to abdicate.

The bottom line was that the provisional government was a change in government achieved by a few. It was certainly not a revolution.

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Offline Belochka

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #417 on: December 23, 2006, 06:55:23 PM »
The bottom line is we can change the make up of our government without revolution. 

Russia of the early 20th century could not.



But let us not forget the later part of the 20th century either.

Gorbachev resigned in December 1991 and paved the way for the collapse of the soviet regime.

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #418 on: December 23, 2006, 07:11:58 PM »
Belochka

Actually, I was thinking that Nicholas was the one who "ran amok" and that here in the US that can't happen.  Nicholas was out of control and so far in over his head that the change of government was forced upon him by those you have mentioned.  However, this was not a change brought about by democratic means.  Perhaps that is why the Provisional Government didn't last very long.

I tend to discount the short and temporary sitting of the Provisional Government.  The final change came in the form of the Bolshevik Revolution.  The Provisional Government was not truly a change in policy toward the war or toward conditions at home. (Maybe they just didn't have enough time.)

As an autocrat, Nicholas had no checks or balances.  That is how Alexandra could rule in his stead.  I know that it is rumored that US First Ladies have "ruled" while their husbands were sick or disabled, but the Vice President is there for that reason.  And after the Vice President then the Speaker of the House of Representatives. (Although I believe that some form of offical paperwork has to be signed for the transfer of power and that is why the rumors of the First Ladies governing came into being.  In the two cases I can think of no paperwork was done and so in theory the President was still in charge and since in both cases, the men wer unable to do the job, their wives (so it is rumored) stepped in.)

Nicholas had no democratically approved successor, just an governmentally uneducated woman and a sick boy.

A government with a weak head breeds and ferments revolutionary ideas.  History shows us that ultimately the population will take things into their own hands and over throw the weak ruler.  By force if necessary. By voluntary abdication if not.

But in the US it is the Congress and the Supreme Court who would take charge of the removal of the "weak head".  No revolution would be necessary nor should it be.  When Nixon resigned, the government did not fall.  When Nicholas abdicated his government ceased to exist.

And as you mentioned Gorbachov, again, the resignation of the head led to the fall of the regime.  In the US that hasn't happened (so far).

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Re: Reflections on Nicholas II - His Character Traits Good and Bad #2
« Reply #419 on: February 13, 2007, 03:10:35 PM »
"In my end is my beginning," was Mary, Queen of Scots's motto long before she was beheaded. She was certainly correct in at least two senses: her son, James VI of Scotland, went on to become James I of England, and Mary herself, after her tragic death, entered history as a mythological queen on par with Cleopatra - a seductive femme fatale, according to some writers, and a much-wronged and misunderstood Romantic heroine, according to others - but at any rate, on some level, an immortal archetype, who would be fast approaching goddess status in a more credulous age. Certainly, Mary Stuart's overall mystique and her ageless appeal to the ordinary man - or even, for that matter, his not-so-ordinary and over-educated counterpart - has never been in question.

But how do you define and explain Nicholas II's so-called mystique, as it has developed in the last century or so? Is it solely the product of his and his family's violent deaths at the hands of the Bolsheviks in July 1918? Or are other elements at work? To the extent that this so-called mystique might even be said to exist, what possible purpose could it serve in this, the twenty-first, post-Soviet century?
« Last Edit: February 13, 2007, 03:13:42 PM by Elisabeth »
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