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’ (( l)). 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?