Author Topic: Why do some see Nicholas as guilty for being rich?  (Read 102584 times)

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Offline Nadya_Arapov

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Re: Why do some see Nicholas as guilty for being rich?
« Reply #60 on: April 19, 2008, 12:55:34 AM »
I also want to add that i don't believe the claim that the tsar found himself broke before the end of each year due to all his expenditures.  If he did, there was always the state to pick up the slack. 

Well, his idea of what constituted being "broke" and ours probably differ significantly. He was certainly never really broke - ever - a day in his life until after 1917. However, I can well believe that he may have run out of liquid assets each year (until he was paid the next annual allowance). His assets were almost immeasurable, but they were tied up in land, palaces, possessions, etc. His yearly allowance (liquid assets) probably was gone well before the year's end with the way his relatives spent money. So it wasn't so much that he was broke, but rather that he had no cash on hand.

Constantinople

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Re: Why do some see Nicholas as guilty for being rich?
« Reply #61 on: April 19, 2008, 03:24:23 AM »
The main source of income after 1890 was the sale of vodka so perhaps there was a cashflow cycle involved with that.

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Re: Why do some see Nicholas as guilty for being rich?
« Reply #62 on: April 19, 2008, 04:55:44 AM »
Well i disagree with your assessment of Alexandra.  I think that Nicholas was essentially weak and would have molded his views to those of whoever married him.  She was also the person who brought Rasputin into connection with the Imperial Family.  I agree that she wanted the best for her family but that is a characteristic of most women both good and bad.  The real test would have been what did she do to benefit other families, not in piece meal charity ways but in real changes to the standard of living of those families

Offline Nadya_Arapov

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Re: Why do some see Nicholas as guilty for being rich?
« Reply #63 on: April 19, 2008, 07:15:14 AM »
I wasn't attempting to give an assessment of her character. That would take too long. I only meant to point out that IMHO she isn't the only person to blame for Russia's decline. I wasn't suggesting that she was either a good or bad person. I don’t think the issue is that black and white. I see Alexandra as a complex, desperate, tragic figure with deep-seated emotional problems. She had the drive that Nicholas lacked, but she was also oblivious, narrow-minded, and stubborn. She felt she had a good grasp of Russian politics when she was in fact was even less politically astute than her husband. She saw only what she wanted to see in life. That said, Alexandra can only be blamed for so much. I don’t feel that she can be blamed for Nicholas’ failings. Her own failings, yes, but not his.

As for her failure to improve the lot of average Russians, no, she never did undertake any substantial program to do this, but that’s not surprising. One can't improve the lot of others unless one understands what ails them. Alexandra had no real concept of how anyone in Russia actually lived. She didn't even understand the nobility. She certainly had no clue about the peasants’ and workers’ lives. That isn't an excuse. It's just the truth. Does her ignorance excuse her from any blame? No, of course not, but I think it does help explain her actions. She made an arrogant assumption from the beginning that some how, by virtue of marrying the Tsar, she had automatically reached a soul connection with the Russian people, that she understood them completely, and was loved by them. Of course, that was nonsense and folly, but it was one of many false illusions she fiercely clung to.

I agree that in some ways Nicholas could have been molded to a large extent by any woman he married. However, while Nicholas was certainly malleable, he wasn’t entirely devoid of personal opinions. It is too easy to just dismiss Nicholas as a weakling. The truth, when you read his letters, diaries, the statements he made during his life, is rather more complex. Yes, at times he was weak and her will triumphed over his, but at other times, when Alexandra was blamed with influencing him, she had in fact done nothing more than reinforce views Nicholas already held.  I think those who loved him wanted to believe that it was only a matter of a woman with a totally different agenda overriding her husband's will by force of her own, and that if he had been left to his own devices, he would have made different decisions. In some instances that would have undoubtedly been the case, but not in all of them. For example Nicholas had long held opinions almost identical to Alexandra’s regarding the supposed well-being of the peasants, the wonders and glories of divine right and autocracy, etc., he firmly believed in all of that long before he met Alexandra. She never had to convince him of any of those things.

Also, I find it doubtful that Nicholas (even had he never met Alexandra) would have found himself married to a liberal or a reformer, even a moderate one. That just seems completely out of character for him. Even if he had been attracted to someone like that, given his upbringing, I still believe Nicholas would have resisted liberalizing the government. He was never attracted, even in his youth, to reforms in the way that a small handful of the Romanovs were. Nicholas was old enough to vividly remember his Grandfather's assassination. His father blamed not only the true Revolutionaries, but even the most timid of liberal reformers for causing the assassination. Having been raised in that atmosphere must have had a lasting effect on Nicholas. By all accounts Nicholas not only feared but revered his father Alexander, and Alexander III was a diehard reactionary. Nicholas spent most of his life not only trying to please Alexandra, but also attempting to rule the way “Papa” would have wanted him to. His father’s influence should never be discounted when contemplating Nicholas’ actions.


Constantinople

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Re: Why do some see Nicholas as guilty for being rich?
« Reply #64 on: April 20, 2008, 03:17:11 AM »
A well thought out response.  I agree with a lot of what you say and would ad that the adjective that I think suits Nicholas the best is mercurial.  that is his stance on issues tended to change frequently.  He was an abysmal communicator and, as you say he wanted to emulate his father but did not have the personality to do this successfully.  As you also state, he was not always dominated by his wife but I think that the times when he expressed his will were either exceptions or times when he was away from his wife.  Both he and Alexandra lived a life that was removed from reality and I think neither did anything to compensate for the void of information. I think that your analysis of Alexandra is a good one and I agree that she wasn't the only one responsible for Tsarist Russia's demise but I think that her influence on Nicholas and her attitudes were pivotal.

Offline Janet Ashton

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Re: Why do some see Nicholas as guilty for being rich?
« Reply #65 on: April 22, 2008, 07:51:40 AM »
I wasn't attempting to give an assessment of her character. That would take too long. I only meant to point out that IMHO she isn't the only person to blame for Russia's decline. I wasn't suggesting that she was either a good or bad person. I don’t think the issue is that black and white. I see Alexandra as a complex, desperate, tragic figure with deep-seated emotional problems. She had the drive that Nicholas lacked, but she was also oblivious, narrow-minded, and stubborn. She felt she had a good grasp of Russian politics when she was in fact was even less politically astute than her husband. She saw only what she wanted to see in life. That said, Alexandra can only be blamed for so much. I don’t feel that she can be blamed for Nicholas’ failings. Her own failings, yes, but not his.

As for her failure to improve the lot of average Russians, no, she never did undertake any substantial program to do this, but that’s not surprising. One can't improve the lot of others unless one understands what ails them. Alexandra had no real concept of how anyone in Russia actually lived. She didn't even understand the nobility. She certainly had no clue about the peasants’ and workers’ lives. That isn't an excuse. It's just the truth. Does her ignorance excuse her from any blame? No, of course not, but I think it does help explain her actions. She made an arrogant assumption from the beginning that some how, by virtue of marrying the Tsar, she had automatically reached a soul connection with the Russian people, that she understood them completely, and was loved by them. Of course, that was nonsense and folly, but it was one of many false illusions she fiercely clung to.

I agree that in some ways Nicholas could have been molded to a large extent by any woman he married. However, while Nicholas was certainly malleable, he wasn’t entirely devoid of personal opinions. It is too easy to just dismiss Nicholas as a weakling. The truth, when you read his letters, diaries, the statements he made during his life, is rather more complex. Yes, at times he was weak and her will triumphed over his, but at other times, when Alexandra was blamed with influencing him, she had in fact done nothing more than reinforce views Nicholas already held.  I think those who loved him wanted to believe that it was only a matter of a woman with a totally different agenda overriding her husband's will by force of her own, and that if he had been left to his own devices, he would have made different decisions. In some instances that would have undoubtedly been the case, but not in all of them. For example Nicholas had long held opinions almost identical to Alexandra’s regarding the supposed well-being of the peasants, the wonders and glories of divine right and autocracy, etc., he firmly believed in all of that long before he met Alexandra. She never had to convince him of any of those things.

Also, I find it doubtful that Nicholas (even had he never met Alexandra) would have found himself married to a liberal or a reformer, even a moderate one. That just seems completely out of character for him. Even if he had been attracted to someone like that, given his upbringing, I still believe Nicholas would have resisted liberalizing the government. He was never attracted, even in his youth, to reforms in the way that a small handful of the Romanovs were. Nicholas was old enough to vividly remember his Grandfather's assassination. His father blamed not only the true Revolutionaries, but even the most timid of liberal reformers for causing the assassination. Having been raised in that atmosphere must have had a lasting effect on Nicholas. By all accounts Nicholas not only feared but revered his father Alexander, and Alexander III was a diehard reactionary. Nicholas spent most of his life not only trying to please Alexandra, but also attempting to rule the way “Papa” would have wanted him to. His father’s influence should never be discounted when contemplating Nicholas’ actions.



I concur completely with this assessment. Some of the memoirists etc around Nicholas and Alexandra had a tendency to attribute decisions with which they agreed to Nicholas and those they disliked to Alexandra. An example is Pierre Gilliard, who states that his brief 1916 detente with the Duma was against his wife's wishes (when in relaity it was her idea). I don't see any real evidence to comclude that Nicholas was a closet liberal driven to autocracy by his wife.

Smiliarly, I am less surprised than others often are that Alexandra leant the way she did politically, despite being a grandduaghter of Queen Victoria. QV did have to be *taught* to act as a constitutional monarch, and it seems to me that for many members of her family their consciousness of being royal and the font of government overrode everything else. Even if they were champions of elective government, this was a paternalistic instinct which came to the fore when they felt people were "ready" for self-determination, and not before.

I hope this makes sense.....
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many; they are few.

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Re: Why do some see Nicholas as guilty for being rich?
« Reply #66 on: April 23, 2008, 10:29:31 AM »
While agree with most of what you say, my view of Nicholas was not that he was a closet liberal.  He tended to idolize his father. My view taht I tried to express was that Nichols was weak and he would have leaned in the direction of whoever he was married to.  He probably chose Alexandra for her views on autocrats' rights as much as her other qualities.  Having said that, her ability to put Nicholas under her thumb was a major contribution to the political situations that culminated in the overthrow of the Romanovs.

Offline Nadya_Arapov

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Re: Why do some see Nicholas as guilty for being rich?
« Reply #67 on: April 26, 2008, 03:22:51 PM »
I seem to remember another letter in which she implored him to let Russians feel “the whip” because they needed and were used to that, or some such nonsense.

I finally found the quote about "the whip." She wrote this in a long letter to Nicholas after imploring him, yet again, to be strong and resist her/their "enemies."

Alexandra to Nicholas - 13 December 1916
...How long, years, people have told me the same – “Russia loves to feel the whip."  It’s their nature -tender love and then the iron hand to punish and guide. How I wish I could pour my will into your veins. The Virgin is above you, for you, with you, remember the miracle – our Friend's vision…

Constantinople

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Re: Why do some see Nicholas as guilty for being rich?
« Reply #68 on: April 27, 2008, 04:44:36 AM »
The timing of that quote is very interesting, coming months before the first February revolution.  It also underlines Alexandra's political blindness, her absolute inability to guage political reality and the amount of influence that Rasputin had on her and, through her, on the Tsar,

Offline Nadya_Arapov

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Re: Why do some see Nicholas as guilty for being rich?
« Reply #69 on: April 27, 2008, 11:32:29 AM »
The interesting thing is that Nicholas doesn't seem to have relished hearing about "our Friend's" visions and political suggestions, at all. In at least one letters he flat out asks her not to involve their Friend in political matters. What I find incredible is that he could find the time to read her letters during the war. She wrote him basically everyday - sometimes more than once a day - and the letters could run to over 2000 words. He was supposed to be leading an army and there he was attempting to muddle through endless daily letters.

Constantinople

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Re: Why do some see Nicholas as guilty for being rich?
« Reply #70 on: April 27, 2008, 03:36:43 PM »
Well he was an amateur in the worst possible sense, one that thought he was a professional officer.  His military training was not extensive and he was not focused on what he should have been doing which was formulating strategy.  If the Russians had employed the same tactics that Alexander I and Stalin had and let the Germans move increasingly into Russian until their supply lines could be cut easily, then I think the war would have ended a lot quicker.  Nicholas' leadership skills were almost nonexistent.  He had a hard time making decisions, he did not encourage discussion and he frequently changed his mind and his senior officers.
If you want to read about the war from a Russian perspective, Solzhenitsyn's books August 1914 and November 1917 are well worth reading.
Sadly, he was going to complete this with a book culminating with the Russian Revolution but I don't think he has been working on it.

Offline Nadya_Arapov

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Re: Why do some see Nicholas as guilty for being rich?
« Reply #71 on: April 27, 2008, 03:43:19 PM »
Thank you for the recommendations ;-)

Alixz

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Re: Why do some see Nicholas as guilty for being rich?
« Reply #72 on: April 27, 2008, 10:01:47 PM »
I seem to remember that Alexandra based her vision of the "happy Russian peasant" on her visits to Illynskoe.  And also to Archangel. It seems that both Grand Duke Serge and the Yussupovs took better care of the peasants who lived on their lands than most of the rural landlords.

Alix went home to Darmstadt after her 1889 six week visit to her sister Ella with visions of happy contented peasants bowing and presenting her with flowers.

None of the sources I have make it clear if she ever made another long country visit before 1894 or if she saw any other estates besides Illynskoe or Archangel.

Of course after 1894, she was unable to make any personal everyday type visits to anyone.  Therefore she was left with her beautiful memories of the countryside that she had seen. As she became more enmeshed in Imperial life and then began to withdraw from the social life of her station, she put herself out of touch with the masses.

She leaned on her memories of that peaceful summer visit to Ella and continued to believe that all landlords treated their peasants with the same consideration that Serge Alexandrovich and Zynaida Yussupova did.


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Re: Why do some see Nicholas as guilty for being rich?
« Reply #73 on: April 27, 2008, 11:17:59 PM »
Apparently, March 1917 and April 1917 by Solzhenitsyn are available in Russian.  One of them has been translated into French but neither are available in English. This is a shame as there are great works.
 

Offline Nadya_Arapov

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Re: Why do some see Nicholas as guilty for being rich?
« Reply #74 on: April 28, 2008, 12:11:01 AM »
Apparently, March 1917 and April 1917 by Solzhenitsyn are available in Russian.  One of them has been translated into French but neither are available in English. This is a shame as there are great works.

That is a shame. My French leaves much to be desired, but I will try to muddle through as I have always enjoyed his writing. He is nearly 90 years old now so I would assume he probably isn't still working on his book about the Russian Revolution. Then again, one never knows. My great-grandmother lived to be 97 and was sharp as a tack and lively until the last.

I seem to remember that Alexandra based her vision of the "happy Russian peasant" on her visits to Illynskoe.  And also to Archangel. It seems that both Grand Duke Serge and the Yussupovs took better care of the peasants who lived on their lands than most of the rural landlords. Alix went home to Darmstadt after her 1889 six week visit to her sister Ella with visions of happy contented peasants bowing and presenting her with flowers. None of the sources I have make it clear if she ever made another long country visit before 1894 or if she saw any other estates besides Illynskoe or Archangel. Of course after 1894, she was unable to make any personal everyday type visits to anyone.  Therefore she was left with her beautiful memories of the countryside that she had seen. As she became more enmeshed in Imperial life and then began to withdraw from the social life of her station, she put herself out of touch with the masses.
She leaned on her memories of that peaceful summer visit to Ella and continued to believe that all landlords treated their peasants with the same consideration that Serge Alexandrovich and Zynaida Yussupova did.

This is extremely true. It is just so sad. I can't help but wonder just how happy and well-provided for the peasants at Illinskoe were. I don't doubt that the kind-hearted Ella tried to help the peasants there, but her world was so far removed from theirs (at least prior to her work as a nun), I question whether she (and the equally kind-hearted Zinaida) could have truly understood either the needs of the peasants or the true state of their lives. Even at Ilinskoe, so close to the peasants in one way, they were still removed from them (whether or not they wished to be) in other ways. I do agree that Alexandra would have believed that they were happy and contented. What other face would they have shown her (or Ella and Zinaida)? Would they ever have admitted to them any resentment or dissatisfaction that they might feel...I doubt it. The whole thing is just tragic. Here is a woman (Alexandra) who IMO began her life in Russia with an earnest desire to do well as an Empress and help others, and yet, she had such a narrow understanding of the Russian people and life that in the end her reign as Empress was a complete disaster.