Author Topic: How Would History Have Rated Nicholas II if....?  (Read 70426 times)

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James1941

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How Would History Have Rated Nicholas II if....?
« on: January 26, 2007, 02:19:51 PM »
I would like to open an sort of op-ed thread here. Keeping in mind that it is a "what-if" situation to which there are no definitive answers.
What if: there had been no revolution. Nicholas II had been forced by the Duma during the war to accept strict limitations on the monarchy. Then, the war had been ended with a treaty with Germans, which while harsh was no where near as harsh as the Brest-Litvosk treaty. Then, say after three or four years Nicholas II had suffered a fatal heart attack and died. Alexei had become emperor.
What kind of verdict would HISTORY have rendered on the reign of Nicholas II? How would he have been judged without all the baggage of the revolution and the ultimate tragedy of Ekaterinburg?









« Last Edit: April 26, 2009, 02:29:19 PM by Alixz »

Elisabeth

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Re: How Would History Have Rated Nicholas II
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2007, 02:52:08 PM »
What an interesting question, James. I think that, if your scenario were true, then the historical verdict on Nicholas II might be far more merciful than it is today, when the last tsar is viewed by most historians as somehow indirectly responsible, if only by default, for all the hell that broke loose after him, under the Bolsheviks. Nevertheless, IMHO Nicholas would probably still be judged pretty harshly, as a weak ruler who caved into the demands of the Germans. If you think about it, Nicholas II was pretty much damned if he did and damned if he didn't as far as World War I was concerned. If he hadn't declared war, Russia would have become all but an economic colony of Germany, whereas, once he declared war, Russia was doomed to suffer a humiliating defeat, an unimaginably bloody revolution and civil war, followed by an even bloodier and unprecedented reign of terror under Stalin and yet another world war fought against Germany. And all this, only to become economically subservient to the European Union (headed by Germany) in the twenty-first century.

Of course, if Alexei II had proved to be a great tsar (although how on earth could he have done so, given the tremendous double obstacle of hemophilia and Hitler?), then his father's reign would probably have been remembered with more sympathy. But I think that in general, when discussing the last Romanovs, we're discussing a dynasty that was already doomed after August 1914, and very possibly doomed as early as March 1881, with the assassination of Alexander II.

Janet_W.

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Re: How Would History Have Rated Nicholas II
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2007, 03:37:51 PM »
I agree that with the assassination of Alexander II and the ascension of a reactionary tsar, the Romanovs were very much doomed. Nicholas would indeed have had to have been extraordinary to have reversed the slide into revolution . . .  and again I agree with you, Elisabeth, that Nicholas was very much an ordinary person with whom so many people can identify or at least empathize with: a conscientious family man, married to a problematic woman whom he nevertheless loved, with an heir of undeniably compromised health and lifespan.

Robert_Hall

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Re: How Would History Have Rated Nicholas II
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2007, 03:42:13 PM »
Incomepetent, inconsistent, naive, poor judgement, childish and submissive.  History has already judged this man.
 Perhaps charming qualities  for an "average" man, but certainly not for a leader of state.  Especially when he is the State himself.

Offline Romanov_fan

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Re: How Would History Have Rated Nicholas II
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2007, 04:56:50 PM »
I think history might have judged him better. He was quite good personally, and in fact as noted one can empathize with him. Without all the political stuff towards the end ( even while taking the political stuff into the begining in account), he would undoubtedly have been judged much better. But, knowing that there is still lots of political stuff from the begining to judge him harshly on, then he would still be seen a not wholly positive light. Undoubtedly, the main arguments against him come from the end of his reign and the revolution. However, without how the end of his life was, he might not be see as such a figure worthy of attention, and maybe as more of a historical footnote.

Robert_Hall

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Re: How Would History Have Rated Nicholas II
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2007, 05:06:26 PM »
"political stuff"? He was Emperor Of Russia. He could not be seperated from such "political stuff" He was supposed to run a government. A miltary and an Imperial Family. He ruled the lives of millions. He was responsible for foreign entanglements.  Ok, he was a "nice guy"  but the man was a looser.

James1941

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Re: How Would History Have Rated Nicholas II
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2007, 05:57:27 PM »
I am not trying to be smarmy here, nor, under any circumstances trying to compare Nicholas II with Adolf Hitler, but there are some simularities to the way people viewed their personalities.
Any number of eye witnesses have testified that Hitler a "likeable" person on a one to one basis. He treated his servants and staff and intimate associates with courtesy, charm, kindness, and was very unassuming in his personal tastes and bougeoise preferences. He liked Mickey Mouse.  Just based on that he would be considered a good person.
I am not sure history would view him in that light.

helenrappaport

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Re: How Would History Have Rated Nicholas II
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2007, 05:07:33 AM »
I think it's interesting, historically, to compare Nicky with his British cousins who became kings: Edward VIII and George VI. In many ways I think Nicholas was very similar to his ?second cousin (not sure of relationship) Edward VIII - a case of the wrong man in the wrong job.  But Edward VIII, of course, not having Nicholas's inbred sense of duty, copped out and abdicated, thus ensuring he could live out the aimless life of a weak, selfish sybarite, which is about all he was equipped for. 

Nicholas's tragedy is that he was a thoroughly decent chap in a job for which - intellectually and emotionally - he was totally ill-suited. And because of this his obligations as head of state were perpetually distracted by his obsession with his family, and, increasingly Alexey's haemophilia.  He should, of course, have been a country squire as it's clear he was often at his happiest shovelling snow, sawing logs or digging the vegetable garden at Tobolsk. I have no doubt he would have been happy as a pig in s*** living out his life in exile on a country estate in England and meeting up with his British relatives for hunting-shooting-fishing country house parties.

It strikes me Nicholas's great tragedy that all his positive qualities: kind, gentle, devoted and loving husband and father ran absolutely counter to the role of autocrat and Tsar of All the Russias.

The big question is, if he had declined the throne so unexpectedly thrust on him in 1894 in favour of one of his brothers would things have been any different? I doubt it.  The Russian monarchy was moribund by then anyway and the revolutionary movement in Russia already too well entrenched.

But we do have of course the example of a weak man coming good in his other cousin George VI, a man totally and unexpectedly prepared to be king in 1938, who, despite crippling shyness and a stammer, magnificently rose to the challenge and proved  an extremely popular king.   But the Queen mum always said it killed him.

lexi4

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Re: How Would History Have Rated Nicholas II
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2007, 05:21:27 AM »
You have all made some very good points. I doubt, however, that history would have been any kinder even under the conditions posed in the original post. He was still weak and indecisive. That was part of his personality. He still would have relyed way too much on his "problematic" wife. And would still have been unprepared to rule. For Nicholas to have fared better with history, he would have had to change personality traits and some of his core beliefts. I'm not sure he could have done that. Given who he was, I doubt he could have been forced to accept the Duma. One thing I have always wondered is, would it have been different for him had he not married Alexandra.

James1941

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Re: How Would History Have Rated Nicholas II
« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2007, 02:24:43 PM »
I would give a resounding YES to your last question about whether things would have been different if he had never married Alix of Hesse. How different, of course, is open to raucous debate. (I think he would have been a happier man without her hysteria and withdrawal. Nichky like parties and the good times with people, and he might have met men and women who could have given him different perspectives on things. Just an opinion}
I once read something that struck me as gemaine to this discussion:
The author said Charles I, Louis XVI and Nicholas II all had one thing in common. They were all mediocre men who became heroic martyrs because of thier death. Nicely sums it up IMHO.

Robert_Hall

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Re: How Would History Have Rated Nicholas II
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2007, 04:46:22 PM »
Yes, it does, James. But "matyrdom" to what cause. Politics, religion or faithfulness perhaps???

lexi4

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Re: How Would History Have Rated Nicholas II
« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2007, 05:40:12 PM »
I would give a resounding YES to your last question about whether things would have been different if he had never married Alix of Hesse. How different, of course, is open to raucous debate. (I think he would have been a happier man without her hysteria and withdrawal. Nichky like parties and the good times with people, and he might have met men and women who could have given him different perspectives on things. Just an opinion}
I once read something that struck me as gemaine to this discussion:
The author said Charles I, Louis XVI and Nicholas II all had one thing in common. They were all mediocre men who became heroic martyrs because of thier death. Nicely sums it up IMHO.

I agree James. They did not seem suited for each other. I have often thought, after reading their letters etc., that the relationship was not healthy, it was co-dependant.
Lexi

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Re: How Would History Have Rated Nicholas II
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2007, 10:45:04 AM »
Yes, it does, James. But "matyrdom" to what cause. Politics, religion or faithfulness perhaps???

Well, perhaps it stems from all of those. As well, I think it is just the human qualities that make us relate to the Romanovs. Politics and religion are never that interesting to most people. But, when you have the human qualities the Romanovs had, that makes them appeal enough to have matyrdom, perhaps. Not to say that there wasn't any, yet I am sure it contributed to the fact of matyrdom. Of course, faith, if you mean it in the sense of faith ( I'm not sure what is meant by faithfulness), contributes very much.

Offline Romanov_fan

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Re: How Would History Have Rated Nicholas II
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2007, 10:54:11 AM »
re Lexi4. I think Alexandra often gets blamed for half the troubles of the reign of Nicholas. She was only his consort, and not even ruler of the country. She did make mistakes, often not realizing what she was doing, that did not impact the monarchy well, admittedly. But, she didn't rule the country, and throwing everything at her feet is simplistic. The country had issues anyway. More than that, Nicholas was the one who ruled Russia. Yet to blame him for everything is not accurate either, in my opinion. There were so many factors in the downfall of Imperial Russia, that to just blame it on Nicholas and Alexandra's relationship is not accurate. I think it was more that Nicholas and Alexandra contributed individual things. Who knows if history would have seen Nicholas better if he hadn't married Alexandra. I'm not sure their relationship was co-dependent, it was just that it was a very close relationship and marriage.

Elisabeth

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Re: How Would History Have Rated Nicholas II
« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2007, 11:42:27 AM »
I once read something that struck me as gemaine to this discussion:
The author said Charles I, Louis XVI and Nicholas II all had one thing in common. They were all mediocre men who became heroic martyrs because of thier death. Nicely sums it up IMHO.

I have to disagree here. Traditionally Louis XVI has been regarded as a mediocre man but according to all his recent biographers and many historians of the French Revolution, he was anything but. This is a man who was so intellectually curious that he read over 200 books during the brief period of his imprisonment by the Jacobins in the Temple. I can't even remotely imagine Nicholas II performing a similar feat, much less wanting to. But I admit I'm no expert on Louis XVI - what I know about him mostly comes from fellow AP member Silja, who IMHO is as close to an expert on the French Revolution that we have in this forum.

As I recall, however, what Louis XVI and Nicholas II had in common (aside from notoriously simple tastes) was a tendency to have been more or less hen-pecked. I believe Louis XVI (catastrophically) submitted to his wife's political judgment at a critical moment during the French Revolution. And certainly we know that Nicholas II followed the same pattern in his own life not merely once but repeatedly, even before the March Revolution. However, even here it would seem that Louis XVI submitted to Marie Antoinette's will very much against his own better judgment, whereas Nicholas II's political views were never that far away from his wife's, so agreeing with her was usually not so much of a stretch.