Why abdication?

Nicholas II abdicated the Crown and appointed his brother, Grand Duke Michael, to be his successor1. However, Michael agreed to “accept the Supreme Power” only in case it was the will of the nation.2 The Provisional Government had been established to serve Imperial needs before the moment people decided on the country’s new form of government. At the very beginning of its’ work new “rulers” made a few important decisions: amnesty, freedoms, abolition of restrictions based on nationality and religion, etc.3 But why did it happen? Was that necessary?

Of course, Nicholas II made a fatal mistake by shooting into people who went to the Winter Palace. But was it necessary to leave the Throne while the country was participating in the World War? He probably knew that his brother was not going to agree being the Emperor, so why did he do that and not just gave more power to the State Duma and restricted his own? I tried to reconstruct the possible logic.

Imagine that you’re the ruler of the country, who just lost all his trust from his nation by shooting into his people, loosing the war, etc. You have a brother, whom population loves more. He says he doesn’t want to rule the country. Now you have three choices.

The first one is remain on your Throne and wait if the dissatisfaction lowers, for example, with some good news from the battlefield. But that’s going to be very dangerous if your people decide to help you understanding that it’s high time to leave.

The second one is to restrict your power and give more to some representative organ, in particular, State Duma. In this case the fundamental idea of Russian Monarchy – Ablsolutism – is lost. You and your royal family hardly will be able to return the power back ever again.

And finally, you have your brother, who speaks as if he won’t accept the Crown. But actually it could be a kind of “cheap talk”4. Because, as he gets all the power, the future of his nation is in his hands and he probably won’t let the country to have no leader at such a hard time. If population ask him for becoming a new Emperor, he possibly accept it. And, in any case, Michael is going to face the same choice: either to rule, to restrict his power or to give the Throne to the next in line for it. Why not try?

So, summarizing all written above, I came to the conclusion that Nicholas had chosen, probably, the option which costed him and his family less among the other alternatives at that moment of time. What this decision resulted to for the country? We’ll learn soon.

  1. Abdication of Nikolai II, March 15, 1917 []
  2. Declaration from the Throne by Grand Duke Mikhail, March 16, 1917 []
  3. Izvestiia, 3 March 1917. []
  4. In game theory, cheap talk is communication between players which does not directly affect the payoffs of the game. []

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *