Author Topic: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?  (Read 315175 times)

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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #1020 on: November 10, 2010, 02:18:36 PM »
With all due respect, Lisa, I think our discussion here has been a damn sight better than quoting verbatim an entire book by William C. Fuller about how Nicholas and Alexandra were betrayed by everyone around them. Poor souls. I can't believe there's an entire thread devoted to this under the Alexandra topic. Talk about one-sided. I've read the scholarly reviews of Fuller's book (there were a total of two, as I recall). They certainly found it illuminating in terms of military politics, but about court politics -- they did not pronounce any judgment whatsoever, in fact they didn't even mention the topic.

There's a reason why nobody felt any loyalty to N & A by the time of the February Revolution -- because the imperial couple had forfeited all respect and loyalty. Which is not the same thing as saying they deserved such an outcome, far from it. But politically, they were complete naifs. Nicholas II couldn't control his own family, much less the warring political factions in the duma. What's really sad is that one of his forebears like Peter the Great or Catherine the Great would have made absolute mincemeat of all these political upstarts, and thereby proved why a monarchy was still necessary in Russia.

At a time when Russia needed another Peter I or Catherine II, what they got was Nicholas II -- so who can blame the Russian people if they shrugged him off like so much bad luck. He was bad luck. He himself said he was born on Job's Day and was doomed. What kind of attitude is that for ruling an entire empire? Napoleon was once asked what he looked for in new generals. He said, the first thing he always asked, because it was the most important thing, was, "is he lucky?"

It's actually the nature of politics to suffer betrayal. The more power, the more the potential for betrayal. Grown-up politicians -- like Peter the Great or Catherine II, or for that matter, like Lenin, even (heaven forbid!) like Stalin -- realize that this is a fact of life and act accordingly. But the fact of the matter is that Nicholas II always remained a political nursling. He never grew up, and unfortunately for him and his family (not to mention his country!) he suffered the full consequences of his political immaturity.

« Last Edit: November 10, 2010, 02:24:57 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #1021 on: November 10, 2010, 04:16:14 PM »
It sounds as though I have annoyed you, Elisabeth, by being unclear in my posting. I apologize! I have no quarrel with this discussion except when it goes off topic, and then, it's my job to insist we return to topic.

It is a fact that Nicholas II was betrayed. If it's your opinion that this is just part of politics, or that everyone had lost respect for him (IOW, it was okay to behave contrary to their oaths to him), that's fine and part of the discussion. I tend to be more sympathetic than many historians about him, but I am not blind to his faults.

All I was asking was, let's return to the discussion of who betrayed Nicholas. K?

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #1022 on: November 10, 2010, 07:14:06 PM »
Hi, Lisa, no you haven't annoyed me, I was just going off on one of my habitual rants. I enjoy ranting, I'm the first to admit. Sorry if I offended you! I certainly understand your need to keep the discussion on topic.

I do think it is always the best and most correct thing in the world to "betray" (although I wouldn't term it betrayal) one's oath to an illegitimate and/or incompetent and/or unfair and/or outright evil leader. For the same reason I don't blame American revolutionaries for rebelling against the English throne (my husband does, but he's British), much less Claus von Stauffenberg for taking back his oath to Hitler because he decided Der Fuhrer was the Antichrist. Everybody should answer to their own conscience, first and foremost.

I simply don't believe that all these people -- from duma representatives to military officers on down -- were so power-hungry that they were "out to get" Nicholas II for no reason but their own political gain. Generally speaking, most people aren't that mercenary; for example, I believe that most of the Russian generals, who have been depicted elsewhere in this forum as "betraying" Nicholas, were in fact dedicated patriots who above all else wanted Russia to emerge from World War I stronger and more powerful than ever before. They simply and sincerely didn't see this happening as long as NII was at the helm of state.

And generally speaking, where there's smoke there's fire: either there was a major power vacuum in Russia by early 1917 -- in which case Nicholas II was not fulfilling his side of the bargain as tsar of all the Russias (and I mean this in the most pragmatic, political sense, not in terms of the Orthodox Church, all right?) -- or else he was really making huge mistakes. Either way, he was partly or mainly to blame for the February/March Revolution. You can't be tsar of all the Russias and claim that hey, the buck doesn't stop here. It simply doesn't do. By refusing to grant Nicholas II (an emperor!) any agency, apologists for his reign are actually casting him in the role of an utterly pathetic wimp -- who for that very reason obviously deserved to be overthrown. It's a circular argument.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2010, 07:21:04 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Petr

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #1023 on: November 17, 2010, 09:23:17 PM »
I simply don't believe that all these people -- from duma representatives to military officers on down -- were so power-hungry that they were "out to get" Nicholas II for no reason but their own political gain. Generally speaking, most people aren't that mercenary; for example, I believe that most of the Russian generals, who have been depicted elsewhere in this forum as "betraying" Nicholas, were in fact dedicated patriots who above all else wanted Russia to emerge from World War I stronger and more powerful than ever before. They simply and sincerely didn't see this happening as long as NII was at the helm of state.

And generally speaking, where there's smoke there's fire: either there was a major power vacuum in Russia by early 1917 -- in which case Nicholas II was not fulfilling his side of the bargain as tsar of all the Russias (and I mean this in the most pragmatic, political sense, not in terms of the Orthodox Church, all right?) -- or else he was really making huge mistakes. Either way, he was partly or mainly to blame for the February/March Revolution. You can't be tsar of all the Russias and claim that hey, the buck doesn't stop here. It simply doesn't do. By refusing to grant Nicholas II (an emperor!) any agency, apologists for his reign are actually casting him in the role of an utterly pathetic wimp -- who for that very reason obviously deserved to be overthrown. It's a circular argument.

Elizabeth, sadly I tend to agree with you that Nicholas' character faults (which in ordinary people would not be regarded as such) were probably more responsible for what happened than his having been betrayed by members of his family or members of the Duma although their actions didn't help (cf., Margaret Nelipa's recent book The Murder of Gregorii Rasputin which I'm now reading). That said, however, some family and Duma members did not cover themselves with glory by their actions and I believe that someone like Miliukov was more interested in improving his own political position than in the best interests of Russia, which leads me back to my thought that had AIII not died so early and suddenly there might not have been a revolution.  As an aside I heard today that a recent poll in the Ukraine indicates that the people now prefer a strong leader over what the Orange Revolution gave them (Q.E.D.).
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Offline Inok Nikolai

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #1024 on: February 09, 2012, 10:20:11 PM »


In either case, however, I find this passage interesting, as it adds another layer to the debate about betrayal.  If someone abrogates an oath to the tsar but does so in an attempt to save the dynasty, does that cast the question of betrayal in a different light?  Perhaps this rests on the wording of the oath itself.  Does it include a commitment to support the dynasty as well as the tsar?  (I have searched but cannot find the text of the actual oath.)


Better late, than never, eh?!

Here is the Russian text of the Oath of Loyalty taken by members of the Imperial armed forces:

Присяга в российской императорской армии
http://tinyurl.com/7u37ojz

«Я, нижеименованный, обещаюсь и клянусь Всемогущим Богом, пред Святым Его Евангелием, в том, что хочу и должен ЕГО ИМПЕРАТОРСКОМУ ВЕЛИЧЕСТВУ, своему истинному и природному Всемилостивейшему Великому ГОСУДАРЮ ИМПЕРАТОРУ [Имя и отчество], Самодержцу Всероссийскому, и ЕГО ИМПЕРАТОРСКОГО ВЕЛИЧЕСТВА Всероссийского Престола НАСЛЕДНИКУ, верно и нелицемерно служить, не щадя живота своего, до последней капли крови, и все к Высокому ЕГО ИМПЕРАТОРСКОГО ВЕЛИЧЕСТВА Самодержавству, силе и власти принадлежащие права и преимущества, узаконенные и впредь узаконяемые, по крайнему разумению, силе и возможности, исполнять. ЕГО ИМПЕРАТОРСКОГО ВЕЛИЧЕСТВА государства и земель Его врагов, телом и кровью, в поле и крепостях, водою и сухим путем, в баталиях, партиях, осадах и штурмах и в прочих воинских случаях храброе и сильное чинить сопротивление, и во всем стараться споспешествовать, что к ЕГО ИМПЕРАТОРСКОГО ВЕЛИЧЕСТВА верной службе и пользе государственной во всяких случаях касаться может. Об ущербе же ЕГО ВЕЛИЧЕСТВА интереса, вреде и убытке, как скоро о том уведаю, не токмо благовременно объявлять, но и всякими мерами отвращать и не допущать потщуся и всякую вверенную тайность крепко хранить буду, а предпоставленным надо мной начальникам во всем, что к пользе и службе Государства касаться будет, надлежащим образом чинить послушание, и всё по совести своей исправлять, и для своей корысти, свойства, дружбы и вражды против службы и присяги не поступать; от команды и знамя, где принадлежу, хотя в поле, обозе или гарнизоне, никогда не отлучаться, но за оным, пока жив, следовать буду, и во всем так себя вести и поступать, как честному, верному, послушному, храброму и расторопному (офицеру или солдату) надлежит. В чем да поможет мне Господь Бог Всемогущий. В заключение же сей моей клятвы целую слова и крест Спасителя моего. Аминь.»

(В принятии присяги участвовало духовное лицо того вероисповедания, к которому принадлежал принимающий присягу.)

Here is a rough English translation (sorry, but I don' have the time to polish it up right now):

“I, the below-named, promise and swear by Almighty God, and before His holy Gospel, that I both desire and am obliged to loyally and unhypocritically serve His Imperial Majesty, my genuine and rightful Most Gracious Sovereign Emperor [name and patronymic], Autocrat of All the Russias, and likewise His Imperial Highness, the Heir to the All-Russian Throne, not sparing my life, to the last drop of my blood; and, according to my utmost understanding, strength and ability, to fulfill all the rights and privileges pertaining, by power and authority, to His Imperial Majesty’s Autocracy, which have been ordained by law or shall be ordained hereafter. To bravely and forcefully oppose the enemies of His Imperial Majesty’s State and land, with my body and blood, in the field or fortress, on land or sea, in battles and engagements, in sieges and stormings, and in such like military encounters; and in every way strive to further promote what may pertain to the loyal service of His Imperial Majesty and the benefit of the State in all circumstances whatsoever. Concerning any harm, injury or loss to His Majesty’s interests, not only to declare in a timely manner as soon as I learn of them, but by all means to avert them, striving not even to permit them. I will closely keep any secrets entrusted to me, and, in all things pertaining to the benefit and service of the State, I will show proper obedience to the commanders set over me and set aright all things according to my conscience; and not act against my service or oath out of concern for my personal advantage, relations, friendship or animosity. I will never absent myself from the command or standard to which I belong, whether in the field, the baggage train, or garrison, but will follow them as long as I live, and in all things will conduct myself and act as befits an honorable, loyal, obedient, brave and perceptive (officer / soldier). In which, may the Lord, God Almighty, be my aid. In concluding my oath, I kiss the Word and Cross of my Saviour. Amen.”

(After reading the above oath in the presence of a clergyman and other witnesses, the soldier would then sign it. Appropriately-worded variants of this rite were used for Jewish and Moslem soldiers, and in the presence of their respective clergy. Usually this oath would be taken in church, or outdoors, if a large group of soldiers were being sworn in at one time.)

(Members of the Imperial Family, upon reaching their majority, were required to give a similar oath, in which they likewise pledged fealty to the reigning Autocrat, and swore to uphold the Fundamental Laws of Succession, and to abide by the Statutes of the Imperial Family.)

*******************************

Such then was the oath of loyalty taken by the generals and soldiers of the Russian Imperial Army. Of course, one is free to question whether such an oath should have been required of them, or whether they should have consented to give such an oath, but the fact remains that they did so — and in a very solemn and grave manner.

While not intending to take sides in this present debate concerning possible "betrayal", or stifle the discussion in any way, I did want to bring to your attention the context in which this oath was taken and the mindset of those swearing it.

Any even half-pious Russian Orthodox officer or soldier — one who believed in resurrection, retribution for actions good and bad, and eternal life beyond the grave — would have taken this oath quite seriously, and would have consider violation of it a very grave crime indeed, even a sin — as would his clergymen and the Autocrat to whom the soldier had made such a pledge.

Of course, far from every officer or soldier would necessarily have related to this oath so seriously, but for many, if not most, it would take a real struggle with his conscience to openly violate it for specious reasons.

And on a legal level, ones subjective feelings about having taken such an oath are irrelevant — the public oath is what counts. When, in a court of law, one publically swears "to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth", how one secretly feels about such a promise makes no difference to the court. Refuse to take such an oath, and one will be found in contempt of court; proceed to lie, and one will be prosecuted for perjury.




инок Николай

Offline DNAgenie

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #1025 on: February 09, 2012, 11:53:28 PM »
An oath is a dangerous concept.

If one swears an oath, I believe it is in the nature of a promise, BUT, the swearer will have a particular idea in his mind as to what he is promising at the time, and it may have little to do with the actual WORDS of the oath. Then, if a conflict arises at some later time, between an oath that has been sworn, and the conscience of the swearer, where are you?  How will you decide?  This will be a personal decision and it will not always come down on the side of the oath.  Nor should it.

The situation is analogous to the modern idea that a soldier is justified in disobeying an order, IF he believes it is an unlawful order, or simply an immoral one.

So I believe that betrayal of Nicholas II, in this context, could be justified in some extreme circumstances, regardless of whether or not an oath had been sworn "to loyally and unhypocritically serve His Imperial Majesty, my genuine and rightful Most Gracious Sovereign Emperor [name and patronymic], Autocrat of All the Russia" etc.

This may be somewhat off-topic as to who betrayed Nicholas II, but that's an easy question to answer. The Russian government and the Russian army and the Russian people betrayed him. And I believe they had the right to do so, in the circumstances.

Offline edubs31

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #1026 on: February 10, 2012, 10:18:03 AM »
Even the word "betrayal" itself is broadly defined...

Quote
The situation is analogous to the modern idea that a soldier is justified in disobeying an order, IF he believes it is an unlawful order, or simply an immoral one.
-- DNAgenie

I agree and after reading the translated "Oath of Loyalty" that Inok was nice enough to translate (and thank you!) one of the standout out sentences for me reads, "I will show proper obedience to the commanders set over me and set aright all things according to my conscience". Hmmm…now I don’t believe it to be intentionally so but this portion of the oath allows for some considerable ambiguity does it not?

Quote
Nicholas II couldn't control his own family, much less the warring political factions in the duma.
– Elisabeth

Well put, but the equation isn’t always so simple. In my Theodore Roosevelt studies there is an oft repeated quote where the President talks about the struggle to control his “free spirited” eldest daughter Alice; “I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both.” lol, your point is well taken and I don't mean to make light of it…just made me think of the above example :-)

Quote
What's really sad is that one of his forebears like Peter the Great or Catherine the Great would have made absolute mincemeat of all these political upstarts, and thereby proved why a monarchy was still necessary in Russia.
– Elisabeth

Certainly Nicholas II wasn’t the best person for the job, especially when compared to his predecessors. That said Peter was never exposed to the seismic shifts in changing political rule around the world and the growth of republicanism. Meanwhile Catherine’s era had ended well before Karl Marx began calling for a different type of revolution. But clearly Imperial Russia required and deserved a better leader than Nicholas II who at the very least needed the foresight to lead his country down a path towards a Constitutional Monarchy.

Quote
Napoleon was once asked what he looked for in new generals. He said, the first thing he always asked, because it was the most important thing, was, "is he lucky?"
-- Elisabeth

Yeah so much seems to depend on luck and timing. A little too much sadly. The history of Mexico could have been a lot different, for example, had the ruler Ahuitzotl been alive when Cortes and the Spanish arrived on his continent in the early-16th century. Instead the Aztec Empire got his nephew, the rather inept and greatly resented, Moctezuma II as their leader and the rest if history…

Quote
The Russian government and the Russian army and the Russian people betrayed him. And I believe they had the right to do so, in the circumstances.
-- DNAgenie

Agreed, and, as has surely been discussed in this very long thread that I'm working my way through, certain world leaders would be included on the list of those who "failed" Nicholas and the Russian people by essentially acquiescing to its Soviet rule.
Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right...

Offline Petr

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #1027 on: February 10, 2012, 01:23:19 PM »

Quote
What's really sad is that one of his forebears like Peter the Great or Catherine the Great would have made absolute mincemeat of all these political upstarts, and thereby proved why a monarchy was still necessary in Russia.
– Elisabeth

Certainly Nicholas II wasn't the best person for the job, especially when compared to his predecessors. That said Peter was never exposed to the seismic shifts in changing political rule around the world and the growth of republicanism. Meanwhile Catherine’s era had ended well before Karl Marx began calling for a different type of revolution. But clearly Imperial Russia required and deserved a better leader than Nicholas II who at the very least needed the foresight to lead his country down a path towards a Constitutional Monarchy

Well I think you don't have to go that far back. I think NI or AIII would have handled the times better (but perhaps not to our modern liking). As I have said in the past, AIII may have resisted allied demands to enter (or continue) the war which would have had a profound effect on the course of Russian history. The trick would have been to have nipped things in the bud during the 1890s and avoid the Russo-Japanese War. There may be an argument to be made that despite his defense of the autocratic principle, NII may have been influenced (perhaps subconsciously) by his English cousins and sought their approval by not reacting in a traditional, oriental despotic fashion (whether we like it or not). Certainly there were harsh governmental reprisals (viz., actions by Stolypin, Dolgoruky, Trepoff and GD Sergei Alexandrovich) but, as we are finding out in Afghanistan (why do we always have to relearn this lesson), force by itself is never the answer. While it can put a lid on things for awhile eventually, absent social reform and progress, matters tend to blow up. In Russia's case, I truly believe that social and economic progress was being made which could have delivered Russia with a “soft landing” but, unfortunately, in the face of WWI and a pent up social demand exploited by revolutionaries Russia simply ran out of time.

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Offline Inok Nikolai

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #1028 on: February 10, 2012, 03:38:48 PM »

I agree and after reading the translated "Oath of Loyalty" that Inok was nice enough to translate (and thank you!) one of the standout out sentences for me reads, "I will show proper obedience to the commanders set over me and set aright all things according to my conscience". Hmmm…now I don’t believe it to be intentionally so but this portion of the oath allows for some considerable ambiguity does it not?


Well, I'm not certain, but I think that that passage refers to internal self-correction, and not to external affairs.

BTW: I forgot to paste one link into my original posting above.

Here is the Russian text for the oath sworn specifically by members of the Imperial Family:
http://www.russia-talk.org/cd-history/naslednik/naslednik.htm#ap4
инок Николай

Alixz

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #1029 on: February 11, 2012, 09:27:05 AM »
In all countries citizens swear one kind of oath or another. Why would anyone think that this is a bad thing?

Here in the USA, we swear an oath when we register to vote. We swear an oath when elected to public office. Soldiers swear an oath upon enlisting in the service. Police officers swear an oath when graduating from the police academy. We swear an oath when giving testimony in court.

Of course we do not swear fidelity to anyone person in particular, but we do swear to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution of the US. That makes our oaths different from those sworn to a "liege lord" as Nicholas was to his family and his soldiers, but it is still an oath.

It was only after WWII that breaking an oath, especially one which allows soldiers to disobey orders, became allowable.  Especially of the Nuremberg Trials.

So the question of who betrayed Nicholas might come down to the breaking of the oaths taken by his family and his soldiers but are we now saying that those who took the oath had the right to pick it apart and only obey those parts which they in good conscience agreed to?
« Last Edit: February 11, 2012, 09:30:14 AM by Alixz »

Offline Petr

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #1030 on: February 11, 2012, 02:33:48 PM »
So the question of who betrayed Nicholas might come down to the breaking of the oaths taken by his family and his soldiers but are we now saying that those who took the oath had the right to pick it apart and only obey those parts which they in good conscience agreed to?

Also, remember that this oath was made before GOD so breaking it was not just a betrayal of the Emperor but was an affront to a higher power and presumably placed your own immortal soul at risk. Unfortunately, in this secular relativistic age where "I'm ok you're ok" and "situational ethics" seem to rule our actions, oaths and "quaint" concepts such as personal honor, like our currency, seem to have been devalued.


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Offline TimM

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #1031 on: February 11, 2012, 11:37:26 PM »
Yeah, the Russian military betrayed the man they had sworn an oath to be loyal to, and then they helped deliver the country into Lenin's waiting arms  :(
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Alixz

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #1032 on: February 13, 2012, 10:07:18 AM »
I always mention "Death before dishonor", but that is a "quaint" belief in the 21st century.

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #1033 on: February 13, 2012, 10:22:31 AM »
Remember, men in service got shot for "dishonour" in the war days. I do not know how that works now, at least in the US but I do think it was abolished in the UK. They have even posthumous pardons for some of those were indeed, shot.
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Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Who Betrayed Nicholas II?
« Reply #1034 on: February 13, 2012, 10:38:48 AM »
The death penalty has now been abolished in the British Armed Forces. A posthumous pardon for persons shot for cowardice or desertion in the face of the enemy in the First World War was included in the Armed Forces Act 2006.

I would add that I am against the rewriting of history in this fashion.

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