Nikolai II: Two Little Too Late

The document detailing Nikolai’s abdication in 1917 shows to readers that the tsar either possessed a very poor grasp on reality or that he couldn’t bear to really tell the Russian people why he chose to abdicate. In the opening of his abdication, Nikolai remarks that ‘it pleased god to send Russia a further painful trial’1. This frame of thinking completely neglects the real reason Nikolai abdicated–namely that his subjects felt angry and didn’t see him as a fit tsar if he couldn’t (and wouldn’t) change with the times and create liberal-minded policies to appease the general public.

That being said, it’s important to look at his family history in order to fully understand why he chose to be a reactionary monarch, rather than a proactive and forward-thinking one.┬áMembers of the Narodnaya Volya assassinated Nikolai II’s grandfather, Alexander II, a great reformer. Nikolai II’s father, Alexander III, adopted reactive tendencies upon ascending to the throne, presumably in response to his father’s violent death.

While there’s a chance that Nikolai didn’t know precisely why he failed as a tsar, it seems unlikely that he would know so little about the feelings of Russians in the time. Rather, did he want to change and make reforms, but felt too afraid to actually follow through with them in the end? Did his grandfather’s death, the death of a reforming tsar, frighten him into not providing the Russian people with the reforms and privileges they so desperately wanted?

  1. http://community.dur.ac.uk/a.k.harrington/abdicatn.htm l []

3 thoughts on “Nikolai II: Two Little Too Late

  1. You raise some interesting points about the reasons for tsar Nicholas II’s abdication. However, perhaps he was aware of his subjects’ dissatisfaction with his rule and policies. In his abdication speech, he states,”Internal troubles threatened to have a fatal effect on the further progress of this obstinate war.” This statement as well as those regarding Russia’s military organization indicate that he not only recognizes Russia’s social strife but also the disorganization and military failures that his policies have caused within the Russian military. Therefore, Nicholas II appears to be aware of his subjects’ criticism, and believes that abdicating is the best solution for Russia.

  2. It can be contended, that Nikolai II abdication from the throne is due to the fact he lacked a grasp on reality, which is true of other monarchs during this time period, even today most people are unaware of the plight of the less fortunate beyond a superficial knowledge. That in itself did not topple Nikolai from power no more than it topples the legislative elite from power in the US today. Nikolai represented the past and not the current reality of the time period he lived in. The church, the army and rural peasants still supported him. In the urban areas, the effects of modernity became apparent in the advent of industrialization. Urban dweller considered him old fashion and disenfranchised with the thinking and feelings of the growing population in urban centers as new thinking crowded out the traditional thinking of the past.

  3. I had never before considered if Nikolai II had wanted the reforms. I assumed that he was steadfastly against reform due to his conservative tendencies, but it is quite possible that he was more liberal-leaning than I had thought. I’m sure his grandfather’s death influenced his decision to avoid reform, but I would argue that he was most influenced by his father, Alexander III. In many ways, particularly in his father’s passing, the throne was thrust upon Nikolai. He might have not had the time or the heart to decide what kind of ruler he wanted to be. Many of Nikolai’s errors resulted from him being inexperienced and simply ignorant of the real issues his people faced. For example, poor working conditions had been an issue before Nikolai’s rule, but when forced to look at these problems, Nikolai had no previous, viable example of how to enact change while still holding onto his power.

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