In spite of errors vast and terrible, the regime he personified, over which he presided, to which his personal character gave the vital spark, had at this moment (March 1917) won the war for Russia.

W. Churchill about Nicholas II

History is merciless to the final rulers of empires, particularly when their reign concludes in total collapse and disaster. The temptation is significant to identify a singular main reason, often preferring to attribute blame to a sole culprit, especially when that culprit is as conspicuous as the unfettered autocrat of a vast nation.

The life and legacy of the last Emperor of Russia are undeniably tragic, acknowledged even by many of his adversaries and detractors. Amidst the tumultuous era in which he ruled, navigating turbulent times and weighty decisions, he and his family were fated to meet a grisly end in the basement of the Ipatiev House. This heinous act marked the inception of terror by the new regime, which would, for decades, shed the blood of millions of Russia’s finest, subject them to torture, starvation, and manipulation through promises of a grand future.

Why have I chosen to delve into his story? And why now?

Before dedicating my life to the reconstruction of ancient Rome, I spent many years studying the era of the decline of the Russian Empire and the personality of Nicholas II. I was particularly interested in the February Revolution, which led to the collapse of the centuries-old monarchy and the disintegration of the Empire. I wanted to understand what exactly led to such a global catastrophe, what was the personal role of the last Tsar, and whether it could have been prevented. Years went by, turning into decades, and I continued to read extensively on this topic. I read memoirs and scholarly works, both by supporters and opponents of the monarchy. I read Lenin, Solzhenitsyn. Finally, I went through masses of documents that had at last become accessible for more or less free study. At some point, I think I managed to identify certain key factors and form my own vision of what was happening on the eve of the revolution. Since this topic still captivates me, I felt it necessary to finally share my thoughts in detail, thereby attempting to “close the gestalt”.

This topic has gained new urgency for me in light of recent events. To dispel any illusions on the part of those who came here thinking this is another standard laudatory article about Nicholas the Passion-Bearer, I will disappoint you right away – I, the author of this article, fully and unconditionally support Ukraine. Therefore, it is even more repugnant to me to see how the image and personality of the last Russian Emperor are used by Russian propaganda for their base purposes, praising him in unacceptable and vulgar forms. They simply demean him and his memory. From the other side, extremely negative position is held by some in the Russian opposition, as well as many in Ukraine. But the reasons for this are often justified and understandable in the situation we have now.

I want to offer an alternative view of Nicholas II and his role in the fate of the country. Based on what I have studied and know about him at this moment, I am convinced to my core that if he were among us today, he would, as a deeply honorable man, be profoundly disgusted by such baseness as Russia’s attack on Ukraine. And he would undoubtedly have sided with Ukraine. Furthermore, in telling you about him, I will try to convince you of this.

I will not dwell at length on the image of the last Emperor formed under Soviet power. There simply were no serious scholarly works dedicated to analyzing Nicholas’s personality from critical perspectives, nor could there have been. The Emperor was usually mentioned with derogatory quotes from Lenin, such as “the idiot Romanov,” “the dull autocrat,” “Nicholas the Bloody,” etc. In the first half of the USSR’s existence, there was also frequent talk of his supposed chronic alcoholism, complete subjugation to the will of the “German empress,” Rasputin, and lady-in-waiting Vyroubova, among others. Even the murder of the Family was hardly hidden, and in the 1930s, participants argued over who deserved the “honor” of regicide. During the post-World War II years, the topic gradually lost its relevance, although as late as 1960, one of the murderers, Nikulin, was still alive. This Nikulin gave a rather detailed interview on the radio. This recording is available on the internet; listen to it if you can. This person calmly and without a hint of remorse detailed how they carried out the mass group murder of innocent people in a basement in Yekaterinburg, focusing on the details of how the Tsar’s children were finished off, etc. What good could await a country where such monstrous revelations from those who never repented and were never punished were broadcast?

The outcomes of the country’s development under Nicholas II were discussed in more detail in Soviet encyclopedic literature, although, of course, they invariably adhered to the dogma of “economically backward” pre-revolutionary Russia, the “prison of nations,” and that only the “October Revolution opened wide opportunities for the development of the people’s forces.” Interestingly, there was quite a lot of data on the economic development of the Russian Empire in Soviet books, and they were generally truthful, but often incomplete or presented in a particular context. However, comparing figures from various sources, books, magazines, etc., one could form a somewhat objective impression even then, using only Soviet sources. For example, one of the most usual techniques of Soviet authors was comparing the industrial growth figures of the USSR and Tsarist Russia, with the USSR’s data shown dynamically and the pre-revolutionary data not, to prevent comparison of growth rates and identification of structural changes and trends. They usually compared with the famous year of 1913. But not everywhere – if desired, one could compile data from various publications on the beginning of Nicholas’s reign (1894-1900), data after the first revolution of 1905, and even data during the years of World War I (1914-1918). And all this information, even then, using only Soviet sources, allowed for quite unexpected conclusions – that industrialization was in full swing throughout Nicholas II’s reign, that the rates of industrial growth were not inferior to those declared during Stalin’s five-year plans, and some indicators (construction of railways, crop yields, etc.) even surpassed them. The growth rates were leading, and the gap between Russia and more developed countries was narrowing. In terms of several high-tech and energy-intensive industries and their concentration, Russia was even taking leading positions, alongside the USA and Germany. And much more. Subsequently, when many other archival data and Western research and scientific publications became available, this picture was only supplemented with confirming facts and assessments. It turned out that Russia’s scientific potential was recognized at the international level as one of the leading in the world. Reports by Western economists at the beginning of the 20th century acknowledged the Russian economic miracle and predicted Russia’s rise to leading economic positions in Europe by the mid-20th century at least. The true scales of electrification, economic development of the North, Caucasus, Central Asia, and Siberia were revealed. The colossal successes in implementing universal primary education and improving the quality of secondary and higher education were discovered.

By and large, the successes in economic, cultural, scientific, and demographic development of the Russian Empire in the early 20th century are no longer fundamentally contested in the academic community, even among those of a left-leaning persuasion. The debate shifts to other aspects – the condition of the masses, the personal participation of the Emperor and the government in the country’s development (“thanks to or despite?”), issues of national policy, and management problems during World War I, etc.

I should note that I do not provide references to books and publications, meaning I do not aim to give my text an academic formatting, although I strive to examine the qualities of Nicholas II as a ruler from the perspective of political science. If there’s interest, I can later add a list of the literature I’ve read and worked through on this topic over the years. Here, I primarily address those who may be willing to listen, who have shown interest in this topic, and who understand that my reasoning is based on all the reading and reflection I’ve done. I wouldn’t mind if someone borrows any of my positions from here and develops them in future genuine scientific publications; I would be pleased to see that the topic of an objective assessment of the last Russian Emperor continues to be actual.

Now, let’s move on to how Nicholas II is assessed in contemporary times. I’ve already mentioned the polarity of opinions regarding his personality and the outcomes of his reign, which is vividly reflected in journalism, quasi-historical and fictional books, and the blogosphere, etc. But if one tries to gather and analyze scientific biographical works about the Emperor, there won’t be too many. Works published in Russia after 1991 often have an apologetic and even religiously exalted tone (Multatuli, Bohanov, etc.), though they retain a scientific character in certain aspects, incorporating many new sources and conducting an objective analysis on several issues. Works published outside Russia mainly belong to the emigrant community. Earlier ones are generally complimentary towards Nicholas II (Oldenburg), among relatively modern works, only H. Troyat’s is somewhat critically inclined towards the Emperor’s personality, written from liberal-democratic point of view. However, even in this work, a lot of credit is given to a thorough analysis of actions and often positive assessment of Nicholas’s deeds. Thus, an interesting picture emerges that all serious works assess the Emperor’s personality and his role in the country’s fate either neutrally or complimentarily, and outright negative evaluations remain purely speculative, usually coming from those who are not sufficiently familiar or interested in this topic, or who base their criticism on an initially predetermined emotionally charged attitude, as well as viewing everything within their political coordinates.

Notably, critics of Nicholas often accuse him of diametrically opposed things, sometimes even within the same speech or publication. At times he’s seen as too soft and kind, at other times as an exceptionally bloody tyrant and hangman. Sometimes he’s a puppet in the hands of his ministers, other times he was stubborn, listened to no one, and insisted on his line. And finally, why did he “cling to power” and “why did he abdicate so easily”? The contradiction, a certain confusion in the stream of these rather disjointed accusations, always motivated me even more to delve deeper into what Nicholas II was really like as the ruler of a vast country. And that’s what we will discuss.

Let’s start with another accusation that, as a rule, unites almost all critics – the accusation of weakness of will. Many often explain all the Emperor’s actions and motives with this quality, saying he never had his own opinion, he drifted with the flow, succumbed to others’ influence, was not involved in anything, and followed just his family’s interests, etc. I will try to dispute this popular and, seemingly, unshakeable psychological image of the last Russian Autocrat (“the Tsar-wimp,” as even quite educated people often write nowadays) with a few examples.

Nicholas came to power at a relatively young age, at 26, and for a number of reasons was indeed not yet adequately prepared to govern the country as ideally should have been. This is often mentioned. Yet, it must be acknowledged that in the 19th century, the preparation of future Russian monarchs was taken very seriously, and besides significant moral upbringing, they received a considerable amount of knowledge on the history, geography, and economy of Russia. The laws and finances were studied in detail. Attention was also paid to military affairs. Probably, of all the 19th-century rulers, Alexander II was the most prepared when he ascended the throne, while Nicholas I was the least prepared. As for Nicholas II, he had completed the main educational course (taught by some of the most distinguished scholars in their disciplines), however, he had only begun to gain practical experience in state management, meaning he still lacked relevant experience. Alexander III, perhaps, delayed somewhat in preparing the heir, but alas, this can only be presumed in hindsight; at the time, it seemed normal. I would say that the overwhelming majority of “state actors” of the 20th and 21st centuries do not reach even the “insufficient” level of qualification of Nicholas II.

The swift and early death of Emperor Alexander in 1894 was also quite an unexpected factor. Nicholas II found himself faced with the fait accompli – he was now the unlimited Autocrat of a vast country. And here it’s worth mentioning that, according to witnesses, from the very beginning and throughout his reign, he treated his status as a duty, as a service, the responsibility for the outcomes of which he would bear before God, his own conscience, and the judgment of history. This burden was quite challenging for him; he was internally neither power-hungry nor ambitious, and he often confessed to trusted individuals that he considered himself quite an ordinary person of average intellect, not reaching for the stars. He strove to compensate for the shortcomings of his preparation throughout his reign. Officials often noticed economic journals with bookmarks and notes on his desk. Almost everyone noted that Nicholas always listened attentively to reports, grasped the essence of matters very quickly, asked relevant questions, and could coherently and logically argue his position during the discussion of an issue at meetings. These qualities are consistently emphasized by all his ministers who worked with him for over 20 years. Even Witte, who by the end of his life harbored a bitter personal resentment towards Nicholas and was critical of many of his decisions, even he said that “in terms of state experience, management skills, and knowledge of the country, he now has no equals.” Other officials were even more categorical: “the Russian Emperor himself implements his ideas.” Yes, it should be noted that in the course of discussing any most important issue, Nicholas could change his opinion several times, under the influence of arguments from different sides. This was the case during the discussion of the manifesto on freedoms of October 17th, as it was with the decision to send the squadron to Tsushima, etc. It seems, first and foremost, to indicate a desire to understand the issue and make the most optimal decision, recognizing the responsibility that lay upon him. And when that decision was made, it was unswervingly put into action. I see no lack of will here. Only a responsible attitude towards his work and mission, if you will.

Of course, when discussing the “weak-willed” nature of the Tsar, I cannot overlook the question of Rasputin. The foundation of this legend is well-known – a semi-literate, dissolute peasant subdued the will of the Tsarina first, then the Tsar, manipulated them, lived at their expense, appointed and dismissed ministers. Sometimes the rumors, both among contemporaries and now, go further – that Rasputin was a German spy during the World War, that he had intimate relationships with the ladies-in-waiting and even members of the Imperial family, etc. A significant part of these tall tales was disproven already in 1917 by the work of the Extraordinary Investigation Commission of the Provisional Government, which had the special task of finding compromising material on the fallen power. We will return to the work of this commission later. As for Rasputin, he indeed was a cunning and clever peasant from the backwoods, who became engaged in the then-fashionable wandering and elderhood, and fate brought him first to some grand duchesses, who introduced him to the Royal family. I will not dwell in detail on the personality of Rasputin; I will only mention his relationships with the Family and how much they listened to him.

As known, one of the circumstances significantly overshadowing the royal couple’s life was that the empress could not bear an heir for a long time; instead of a boy, four girls were born over six years, whom the parents nevertheless loved dearly. In hopes and efforts to bear a son, the Empress turned to God, and her religiosity gradually took on a more exalted character, as well as to any doctors and healers who promised her help. Among them were outright charlatans. All this, of course, did not positively affect the Empress’s condition, who was never known for strong health. All the more reason to pay tribute to this woman, who nobly bore the many hardships that fell to her lot, and always remained a wonderful wife and mother. She never forgot her duty as Empress, which we will mention further.

Finally, in 1904, the long-awaited heir Alexei was born. And alas, just a month later, this joy was overshadowed by a new terrible circumstance that would now forever be with the Royal family until the end – the heir had hemophilia, an incurable disease at that time, meaning the sufferer cannot lead a full life and rarely lives to 20. It’s hard to imagine how devastating this was for the royal couple. Naturally, they were grateful for any help in alleviating their son’s condition and suffering, no matter the source. And whether by coincidence or truly due to some hypnotic abilities, the heir indeed felt better in Rasputin’s presence. The Empress began to see him more often, talking about various topics, treating him also as “a man from the common people”. As for Emperor Nicholas, he met and talked with Rasputin much less frequently, as evident from his diary. However, it feels like he still regarded him with a calm, respectful sentiment. He did not obstruct Rasputin’s communication with the Tsarina, reasonably considering that it benefited her mental equilibrium and made her feel more at ease about her son. It was all the more unpleasant for him to learn that the fact of their communication with Rasputin, which they did not publicize and considered their personal family matter, became the subject of rumors and insinuations used for political purposes to try to discredit the imperial power. These insinuations, sometimes subsiding and then resurfacing, continued up until the eve of 1917. It should be acknowledged that Nicholas, as his duty dictated, acted according to his duty and, despite the Empress’s requests, expelled Rasputin from Petersburg for certain periods. However, to the demands of Stolypin and other officials to completely break with Rasputin, Nicholas consistently replied that it was his family’s personal matter.

Indeed, discussing the “weakness” of the Tsar, it’s impossible not to address the matter of Rasputin. The foundation of this legend is well-known – a semi-literate, lewd peasant supposedly subdued first the Tsarina, then the Tsar, manipulated them, lived at their expense, appointed and dismissed ministers. Sometimes rumors, both contemporary and modern, go further – alleging that Rasputin was a German spy during the World War, that he had intimate relations with the ladies-in-waiting and even members of the Imperial family, and so on. A significant portion of these fabrications were debunked as early as 1917 by the work of the Extraordinary Commission of Inquiry of the Provisional Government, which had a special task – to find compromising material on the fallen power. We will return to the work of this commission later. As for Rasputin, he indeed was a cunning and shrewd peasant from the depths of Russia, who took to the then-fashionable wandering and acting as a holy man, and fate brought him first to some Grand Duchesses, who introduced him to the Royal Family. I won’t dwell in detail on Rasputin’s persona, I’ll just speak of his relationship with the Family and how much they heeded him.

As is known, one of the circumstances significantly overshadowing the royal couple’s life was the Empress’s long inability to give birth to an heir, with four daughters born over 6 years, whom the parents nonetheless dearly loved. Hoping and striving to bear a son, the Empress turned to God, her religiosity gradually taking on an increasingly exalted character, and to any doctors and healers promising her help. Among them were outright charlatans. All this, of course, did not positively affect the Empress’s condition, who was never known for strong health. Even more reason to pay tribute to this woman, who bore many hardships with dignity, always remaining a wonderful wife and mother. She never forgot her duty as Empress, which we will discuss further.

Finally, in 1904, the long-awaited heir Alexei was born. Alas, joy was soon overshadowed by a new dreadful fact that would forever accompany the Royal Family to their end – the heir had hemophilia. This incurable disease at the time meant the patient could not lead a full life and rarely lived to 20 years. It’s hard to imagine the impact this had on the royal couple. Naturally, they welcomed any help in alleviating the plight and suffering of their son, from wherever it came. And whether by coincidence or due to some hypnotic abilities, the heir did indeed feel better in Rasputin’s presence. The Empress began to see and talk with him more often, treating him also as “a man from the common people.” As for Emperor Nicholas, he saw and talked with Rasputin much less frequently, as evident from his diary. Yet, it feels he still regarded him with a calm respectful sentiment. Nicholas did not hinder Rasputin’s communication with the Tsarina, reasonably considering it beneficial for her peace of mind and soothing for the son. It was particularly unpleasant for him to learn that the fact of Rasputin’s interaction with them, which they considered a personal family matter and did not publicize, became the subject of rumors and insinuations used for political purposes to try to discredit the imperial authority. These insinuations, waning and resurging, continued up until the eve of 1917. It should be acknowledged that Nicholas, as was fitting, acted according to his duty, and despite the Empress’s requests, sent Rasputin away from Petersburg for certain periods. However, to the demands of Stolypin and other officials to completely break with Rasputin, Nicholas consistently replied that it was a personal matter of his family.

Rumors of Rasputin’s supposed omnipotence peaked during the World War, especially from 1915, when the Emperor took personal command of the active army and was only sporadically in Tsarskoye Selo and Petrograd, spending much time at the headquarters in Mogilev. Here, in the State Duma, it was openly stated that Rasputin governed the country. But was this the case? As it turns out, this is quite easy to verify. Fate would have it that the nearly daily correspondence between the royal spouses during the war was preserved. The Empress’s letters are filled with news from the capital, usually quite accurate, and she often mentions the opinions of “our Friend” on various issues, or his suggestions to appoint this or that minister. It’s worth mentioning that Empress Alexandra often wrote this in a rather delicate and cautious manner. But how did Nicholas react? Recently, several historians conducted an interesting objective study – they simply compared Rasputin’s proposals, conveyed to the Emperor through the Empress, with the decisions actually made by the Tsar. It turned out that Nicholas simply ignored no less than 80% of such proposals. Often he left them without any response in letters. The remaining 20% of appointments were recognized as coincidences, meaning one or another decision or appointment was approved by Nicholas based on the advice and recommendation of several high-ranking officials, with Rasputin merely joining in. Rasputin’s influence on the Tsar was so negligible that he couldn’t even secure a military service deferment for his son, despite repeated requests through the Empress.

Nicholas displayed restraint regarding Rasputin one last time after his murder in December 1916. Then, the Empress demanded punishment for all participants from her side, while the Grand Dukes just as persistently called for amnesty and almost for the murderers to be honored. Nicholas denied both, and in accordance with his powers, limited himself to expulsions at that moment, postponing the substantive consideration of the case for better times. Many criticized him for such a measure, but who knows, perhaps it was justified during those turbulent pre-revolutionary weeks.

Before we move to the most important topic for me – how did Nicholas’s abdication occur and the monarchy fall? – we will briefly examine a few more popular judgments about the last Russian Emperor, analyzing how they corresponded with reality. This will allow a better understanding of Nicholas II’s psychological and personal portrait.

Much has been said about the cruelty and “bloodiness” of the last Emperor. Of course, the social democrats, followed by the Bolsheviks and communists, somewhere personally to Lenin, hold the primacy in this. This image of Nicholas the Bloody has been eagerly seized and is now often echoed by many figures of a moderately-liberal persuasion. Where does this all come from? In reality, the legend stems from just a few key tragic events. And the first of these is Khodynka.

During the coronation festivities in Moscow, the crush at Khodynka Field resulted in the death of over a thousand people. At the time, contemporaries perceived it as a tragedy or an ill omen, and only later was it cited as evidence of the monarch’s callousness and indifference. The facts tell a different story. The young Tsar’s first impulse was to cancel all celebrations and declare mourning, but the senior Grand Dukes dissuaded him from this, even persuading him to attend the planned ball in honor of the French allies. It should be said that such was the customary response in high society at the time, not only in Russia but also in Europe. It was not due to indifference or callousness but perceived as a duty and “saving face.” The young couple proved their participation in the days that followed by visiting hospitals with the injured. Nicholas ordered that funerals be conducted at the state’s expense and substantial compensations be paid to the families of the deceased and injured.

The investigation identified deficiencies in the organization of the public festivities and in controlling the accumulation of massive crowds. Unfortunately, such tragedies were not uncommon at the time (for instance, more people died in a crush during the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s jubilee), and they periodically occur even in more recent times (some may remember the terrible crush at Stalin’s funeral).

Bloody Sunday. This day was never forgotten by Nicholas himself until the end of his life and was long remembered after his death. For a time, the Soviet Union even celebrated this day with a sort of sadistic pleasure as a holiday, though not for long.

Now, the events of that fateful day have been thoroughly studied, and it is known that the procession to the Winter Palace was initially planned as a provocation, that there were shots fired from the crowd, etc. After repeated warnings to disperse, the crowds of protesters were scattered by volleys and cavalry. There were many killed and wounded, up to several hundred. It is very important to note that both the government and the Emperor himself viewed the outcome of this day as their failure and defeat, unable to prevent the tragedy and the ensuing bloodshed. Nicholas II took this very hard, as reflected in his usually emotion-sparse diary and his letters. The shadow of “Bloody Sunday” would always haunt him, and he would strive even more to avoid unnecessary bloodshed wherever possible. This played a role in the events of February 1917.

The climax of the revolutionary events of 1905 were the October 17th Manifesto and the subsequent all-Russian strike and wave of armed uprisings. Contrary to the now common belief, the granting of “civil liberties” and the creation of a parliamentary system did not lead to a decline in the revolutionary movement (when have they ever?), but served as a signal, which revolutionaries interpreted as a sign of government weakness, filled only with the impulse to finish off the regime! In this atmosphere, the authorities began to act very decisively, first by suppressing uprisings in Moscow and several other places, and then, under Prime Minister Stolypin, by implementing the system of military field courts. Nicholas sanctioned these repressive measures as a necessary means to defeat the revolution, and for this, both he and Stolypin were branded as “hangmen,” although these measures were applied to violators caught red-handed with weapons during murders and robberies. The revolution always had this unsightly side – not just rallies for freedom but also looting, riots, and marauding.

And how many speculations about pogroms? The claims that the Jewish pogroms were planned and sanctioned even by the tsarist police and security forces are sometimes heard, although no evidence to support such accusations has been found to this day. Pogroms, as one of the most unsightly phenomena of escalating confrontation exacerbated by growing revolutionary sentiments, did indeed occur, and the authorities, where they could in their readiness and awareness, intervened and separated the conflicting sides (sometimes the pogroms, organized by Black Hundred members, turned into real battles with Jewish self-defense forces, striving to protect their families, women, children, and property), reducing the number of innocent victims. It’s worth noting that revolutionary unrest was gripping Europe as well, and pogroms also occurred there in areas of dense Jewish population, for example in the German Empire.

A most vivid example of the side the authorities could take is the averted massive pogrom of Kiev’s Podil district, which Black Hundred elements intended to orchestrate following Stolypin’s assassination. Decisive actions and sanctions from the acting prime minister with the Emperor’s endorsement prevented this — significant cavalry forces were deployed to Kiev, and Black Hundred members were warned that attempts to organize a pogrom would be severely punished.

A bit about Nicholas II and the Black Hundred movement. The first 1905 revolution, as is often the case, saw a polarization of society across several factors, with extreme right elements emerging alongside the extreme left. They varied in nature and are often collectively referred to as “Black Hundred.” Typically, these were radically minded monarchist, nationalist, and anti-Semitic organizations. Anti-Semitism was then quite widespread, both in Europe and in Russia, often affecting even the most educated and intelligent classes. The reasons, both objective and subjective, are numerous, as with any complex phenomenon. Not least among these reasons was the active participation of young Jews in revolutionary parties and terrorist anti-government organizations, driven in part by national restrictions that, though somewhat softened over the 19th century, still remained quite harsh in the Russian Empire. Nicholas, by his upbringing, was initially to a certain extent prejudiced against Jews, seeing them as a source of revolutionary danger. However, it should be acknowledged that over the years of his reign, he evolved significantly in this regard for the better and by the end of his reign had shed the overwhelming majority of his national prejudices. During the First Revolution, he supported some Black Hundred members, hoping to see in them a “healthy reaction of the people” to the revolution, but subsequently turned away from them upon realizing what they represented in practice. Losing the support of the highest authority, the Black Hundred quickly declined into a marginal movement that no major state figure supported up to 1917. And for their outrages, especially under Stolypin, they faced repression alongside revolutionary elements.

The myth of Nicholas’s “indifference” to the fates of his subjects walks hand in hand with the myth about his “bloodthirstiness.” His style of diary-keeping or his unchanging calm and apparent indifference when receiving the most distressing and sad news are often cited as evidence of this indifference. Of course, even a cursory acquaintance with the memoirs of people who communicated with the Emperor more or less regularly easily refutes this. It is unanimously emphasized that absolute self-control in public and in official settings was his constant quality, instilled from childhood and remaining with him until the end of his life. This was partly reinforced by his deep and sincere Christian faith, albeit not as extreme as the Empress’s. As many testify, he deeply believed in Russia, in the peoples that inhabited it, that God would not abandon them, and that ultimately everything would be fine and that his country awaited a worthy future. This was not fatalism, as some mistakenly think. Nicholas sincerely considered it his duty to act in a way that would alleviate the country’s developmental path as much as possible.

The Emperor’s conception of the role and mission of the state is well characterized by a phrase he uttered at one of the closed meetings in response to the suggestion of additional “harsh measures”: “no cries of ‘help’ will aid the people’s sorrow, instead, we must educate the people, help them become prosperous, and develop within them the work ethic and the desire to accumulate wealth.” To me, this approach sounds absolutely adequate and contemporary even today. The difference is that Nicholas II actually followed this principle he articulated. He intended to prevent the merciless course of the revolution, which, to one degree or another, then engulfed the entire globe, through such actions.

When the former Minister of Finance and Prime Minister Kokovtsov was interrogated in 1918 by the Soviet satrap Uritsky, he was asked, “Did the former tsar realize that he was the suppressor of all things good and bright?” To which Kokovtsov replied, “I knew him and worked with him for more than 10 years, and I can conscientiously say that in all those 10 years, there wasn’t a single instance when he didn’t respond with the most sincere impulse to all that was good and bright that he encountered on his path.” Statements of a similar nature can be found from dozens of other people who worked with Nicholas II, including those who, it would seem, might have personal grievances over an unexpected dismissal, etc.

The memoirs of people in close contact with the Emperor also confirm that he took the news of disasters and the loss of lives very seriously and painfully, especially when it occurred as a direct result of his orders. The Tsushima disaster particularly shook him. Upon receiving news of the defeat of Samsonov’s corps in Prussia in 1914, he, always known for his robust health, suffered a heart attack. A similar attack would recur during the fateful days of the February Revolution.

Indeed, the appearance of a ruler and how it changes over the years of their reign can serve as one of the most objective and visible criteria of how deeply they immerse themselves in the needs and problems of their country, how hard they work, and how concerned they are about the fates of the people entrusted to them. The best and most conscientious rulers often “wear out” quite quickly, especially during times of hard trials. Many note that Nicholas II visibly aged and looked very tired and worn out during the three years of World War I, and on the eve of the revolution, he appeared exhausted, though he remained outwardly calm and composed. Yet, there are rulers who, even in the direst and most shameful hour for their country, when overwhelmed by troubles and shame, still manage to look quite good and even carefree. You probably have an idea of whom I’m referring to.

Critics often pick on the Emperor’s diary, noting that mentions of significant events are mixed with utterly mundane notes like “went for a walk,” “played dominoes,” “nice weather.” It’s baffling how anyone could draw any profound conclusions from this. Anyone who keeps a diary, not intended for outsider eyes, knows one of its purposes is to make brief entries—”hooks”—to later recall what happened that day—where they were, whom they saw, what they did. However, if you open his correspondence with trusted individuals, like his mother Empress Maria Feodorovna, you encounter a completely different picture—a quite emotional person who vividly experiences current events in the country and conducts a thorough analysis of events.

Nicholas II’s diary also dispels another myth—that he devoted little time to state affairs. The Emperor never wrote about this in detail, but behind succinct entries like “met with Goremykin, Shcheglovitov, Krivoshein” lie hours of reports and discussions with ministers and officials, and behind modest and inconspicuous phrases like “worked in the evening,” “spent a long time working,” etc., lies reading and working on state papers, writing resolutions, and more. He worked a lot, very much. The economic miracle of Russia and the improvement of its people’s welfare before the revolution are not least due to this modest and responsible man’s efforts.

Some say he could sail on a yacht for a week and neglect his duties. I, too, used to think so superficially. But it turned out that urgent messages were always sent via wireless telegraph, and the Emperor was always in touch. Moreover, he always took a special briefcase on the yacht, where he put the most complex reports, re-reading and contemplating them several times in a peaceful setting. Strictly speaking, he had no days off, as should be the case for absolute monarchs if they serve their country honestly and responsibly.

World War I changed everything, including the life of the Royal Family. The country was destined to face one of the most serious challenges in its centuries-long history. I won’t talk much about how much and sincerely Nicholas II tried to prevent this war. Nor will I delve much into the economic problems and the supply of the army. The numerous data now published allow us to draw a general conclusion about the undeniable successes in overcoming the crisis of 1915 and that by 1917 Russia had approached with a rather powerful industry and relatively well-established production of military products for the army. Economic problems were accumulating, as in any other warring country, but economic indicators were sliding slower, and it was far from collapse, with a sharp break starting only from March 1917, and an even sharper one from November 1917. Here it is appropriate to recall a very sincere and memorable quote from one of the seemingly ideological opponents of the absolute monarchy – W. Churchill. The most important conclusion of this passage I have taken as an epigraph. At the end of the 1920s, Churchill published a major work on World War I – “The World Crisis”, where, among other things, he characterizes the regime of Nicholas II. Here are a few excerpts from there:


Surely to no nation has Fate been more malignant than to Russia. Her ship went down in sight of port.

In March the Czar was on his throne; the Russian Empire and people stood, the front was safe, and victory certain.

It is the shallow fashion of these times to dismiss the Czarist regime as a purblind, corrupt, incompetent tyranny. But a survey of its thirty months’ war with Germany and Austria should correct these loose impressions and expose the dominant facts. We may measure the strength of the Russian Empire by the battering it had endured, by the disasters it had survived, by the inexhaustible forces it had developed, and by the recovery it had made.

In the Governments of States, when great events are afoot, the leader of the nation, whoever he be, is held accountable for failure and vindicated by success…Why should this stern test be denied to Nicholas II ?.. The devoted onset of the Russian armies which saved Paris in 1914; the mastered agony of the munitionless retreat;the slowly regathered forces; the victories of Brusiloff; the Russian entry upon the campaign of 1917, unconquered, stronger than ever; has he no share in these ? In spite of errors vast and terrible, the regime he personified, over which he presided, to which his personal character gave the vital spark, had at this moment won the war for Russia.


I think this is the best opinion about Nicholas II that I have read from a non-Russian person, and it gains additional strength from the fact that Churchill had no motives to defend the Russian imperial power.

And now we’ve come to 1917, to the end of the monarchy, to the end of Russia, to the end of the dynasty. Here it’s indeed time to ask – if you praise Nicholas as a worthy ruler on all these pages, but if everything was so good – why did it all collapse? I’ll answer – this is not a contradiction, but a correct formulation of the question, to which I hope I’ve led you – that everything was indeed quite good, and Nicholas was a decent ruler – but why did it all collapse?

It should be said immediately that a catastrophe is often a combination of a whole series of factors, each of which is quite unlikely on its own. Here I will draw an analogy with a topic in which I have been deeply and long interested as a hobby – the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. If there happen to be those here who are really familiar with the circumstances of the construction, preparation, and the only voyage of this liner, I hope they will attest that I am talking about verified facts, not the myths that so enrich this topic.

So, there was a liner, and it perished on its first and only voyage, colliding with an iceberg. Was this liner the most modern? It was. Were the best standards of unsinkability ensured? Definitely. Was the steel of good quality? The best! What about the lifeboats? There were even more than required by the standards of the time, and their quality was checked by the most meticulous inspector of the maritime department. And the crew? The best, the elite of the fleet! Were icebergs expected? Of course! Did everyone do everything right to avoid the collision? Absolutely everything!

And yet the Titanic is at the bottom of the ocean.

Why? Because several factors converged, something no one on Earth could have anticipated at the time. I will briefly list the main ones for those interested. The iceberg was spotted later than usual (hence, less time to maneuver), due to a combination of the following reasons: 1) a clear, moonless night, less glare from the ice 2) abnormally smooth water, complete calm “like a mill pond,” which meant there were no usual ripples or breakers around the iceberg 3) likely, the iceberg was a “flip-over,” meaning it had recently turned over and now its dark part was above water, very weakly reflecting light, and 4) an unknown atmospheric phenomenon of mirage and distortion of the horizon due to temperature differences over the surface of the water, which temporarily put the iceberg in a “dead zone.”

Had any one of these factors not been present, the “Titanic” would, in all likelihood, have continued on its way.

A state organism, especially a vast Empire, would be more complex than any modern ship. I have spent many years reading and analyzing sources related to the prerequisites and course of the February Revolution, whose active phase began with demonstrations in Petrograd on February 23, and just a week later, Nicholas II abdicated the throne for himself and his son. And the more I tried to learn and understand, the more complex and confusing it all seemed to me. Let’s see how the causes of the revolution are usually explained and try to figure out how much truth there is in all this.

Soviet historiography generally paid little attention to the events of February 1917 and focused on the October coup. It was briefly mentioned that the bourgeoisie overthrew the weak and indecisive tsar and tried to take power into their own hands. It was said to have happened due to the collapse of the economy, defeat and demoralization of soldiers at the front, lack of food in the capital, etc. As already known, and as we mentioned earlier, these arguments don’t hold up because the state of the industry, supply, and discipline in the active army were generally satisfactory, and the collapse began directly after the abdication amidst anarchy. Turmoil among the higher echelons of the intelligentsia, nobility, and even among the Grand Dukes was indeed present, finding its outlet in the opposition speeches in the State Duma, but neither the Emperor nor the police saw anything fundamentally new in this, and the opposition-minded elements might talk about removing the Empress, about an “accountable ministry,” meaning that the Council of Ministers should report not to one person but to hundreds of demagogues in the Duma. But there was much less talk about the necessity of Nicholas’s abdication, and there was no discussion of abolishing the monarchy as such.

Arguably, Solzhenitsyn approached the gathering of information from all possible participants of those events and from different sides most thoroughly and controversially in his massive work “The Red Wheel”. One may have any opinion about him and his work; personally, I am not a fan of either his style or many of his books. “The Red Wheel” is practically unreadable, so overloaded with tons of information, with events of the revolutionary days meticulously detailed by the hour, which the author collected over 50 years. Of course, I’ve spent much less time on this topic – “only” 25 years, but over these years, I was able to verify many of the facts in that book. Thus, the main thought, the main sensation that permeates between the lines in all these huge volumes, through the memories of hundreds of people, is the shock of the unexpectedness of everything that happened. Yes, everyone knew that Petrograd and partly Moscow were traditionally revolutionary hotspots among the rest of largely peaceful Russia. And as subsequent events showed, that’s exactly how it happened – almost all of Russia was stunned by the manifesto of abdication, which came as a bolt from the blue. This was all the more striking a contrast compared to the events of the 1905 revolution when the entire country was ablaze, and the Emperor’s abdication and flight were expected at any moment.

Nicholas and his entourage were aware of the moods in the capitals. The Emperor apparently realized that he had lost the battle for popularity among these layers of the population. Speaking of Nicholas’s mistakes, perhaps this was his main error – he, as a man of the 19th century, could not fully adapt to the methods of maintaining and gaining popularity among all estates of his people, amid the rapidly changing social fabric of society. This problem was not unique to Russia, as events in Europe in the first half of the 20th century would show. Nicholas sought to smooth over these issues but often could not keep up with these events. However, some of his initiatives were definitely successful – for instance, his meetings with the peasantry, especially in Sarov and on the territory of present-day Ukraine, invariably caused enthusiasm among the local population when, contrary to event protocols, he stayed and interacted with all the peasants in turn, not just the “planted” ones, as has become fashionable now. The active army at the front also remained loyal to the Emperor, emphasized in their memoirs by such critically inclined generals towards Nicholas as Denikin and Brusilov. Apparently, from mid-1916, Nicholas aimed to avoid further agitating the mood in the capitals, not to antagonize with harsh measures, but simply, ignoring minor offenses and gossip, to calmly bring the war to a victorious end, reasonably assuming that if the planned offensive in spring 1917 ended in a major success, it would lead to general calm. Almost all political circles believed this, including the far left. The success of the possible offensive was considered virtually assured by the overwhelming majority of the military. And indeed, the events of the summer of 1917 confirmed this – despite the ongoing collapse, the Russian army managed to easily break through the Austro-German front in Galicia.

Now we come to how events of February are often interpreted by historians and publicists who view Nicholas II positively. They argue that everything was going well, victory was on the horizon, but generals and “liberals”, with the “support of the West”, conspired and overthrew the Emperor. Even more inadequately, as usual, some weave into this larger fantasies of “Masonic, Jewish, ritual” conspiracies and similar nonsense. Without delving into details, let’s recall the events that occurred – strikes and demonstrations begin on February 23, and coincidentally on this day the Emperor departs from Tsarskoe Selo to the headquarters in Mogilev. The Empress remains in Tsarskoe with children ill with measles. Demonstrations continue in Petersburg for several days, initially not taken seriously by either the authorities or revolutionary organizations, acknowledged to have a somewhat spontaneous nature, as had happened several times before. The initial cause was dissatisfaction with bread supply interruptions (though other products were in order), due to abnormally heavy snow drifts on the railways. But within a couple of days, the demonstrations took on a political character, continuing on the 25th and 26th of February. In response to provocations, the authorities place the capital under siege and deploy troops. Here, another not fully understood and studied factor played its fatal role. The Petrograd garrison consisted mainly of so-called reserve battalions, that is, soldiers called up from the reserve who were undergoing training before being distributed to the front. Because Moscow and Petersburg were the largest transport hubs, such reserve units ended up concentrated precisely in the capitals. Cut off from their homes, poorly disciplined, with inflated staffs and a lack of officers, these soldier masses turned into an unexpected and powerful fuel for the revolution. Proponents of “conspiracy theories” are still searching for whose cunning plan it was to place these reserves in the capitals. Personally, I have found no evidence of malicious intent. It appears to be an oversight by the military department, which timely underestimated the potential threat level, although it was informed about the unreliability of these units. However, the authorities were guided by the fact that as soon as such units were distributed to the front, they immediately came into better shape. Additionally, it was planned to sequentially bring guard units from the front to the capitals to maintain order, but such measures were constantly postponed because the guard regiments were engaged at the front.

Nevertheless, in the first days of the unrest, these reserve units were deployed onto the streets and, obeying orders, dispersed and broke up the crowd. On the 26th, provocations by demonstrators increased, and the military finally began to shoot, which they had avoided doing until the last moment because of the “specter of Bloody Sunday, January 9, 1905”. Notably, that evening in revolutionary circles, there were already calls for demonstrators to finish and return to work, because “nothing came of it again”. But the next morning, something happened that no one expected – a mutiny and killings of officers in the reserve units began, quickly spreading to other battalions, which poured out onto the streets and flooded the city. The few policemen, numbering just over 2,000 for the entire vast city, put up heroic resistance and almost all fell in unequal combat. Many of them were beaten to death by the crowd. The military units that were not reserve but regular did not join the revolution, such as the scooter battalion, which heroically resisted in the midst of the working district for more than a day. The guard crew, under the command of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, maintained discipline but was ordered not to interfere. Military school cadets also did not join the disorder. In some of them, the cadets wanted to go out and disperse the mutiny, but their instructors prevented them from taking this risky step.

Nicholas II, being at the Headquarters, received information with some delay, as the higher ranks in Petrograd initially hoped to cope with the mutiny on their own. He received the most timely signals in telegrams from the Tsarina, who wrote to him that she was very worried about the city. Finally, the Emperor orders the dissolution of the Duma, which obeys his command but forms a Provisional Committee, attempting to curb the anarchy in the capital. By February 28, Petrograd was completely in the hands of the insurgents, with “dual power” in the capital – alongside the Duma’s Provisional Committee, a Council of Workers’ and other deputies is formed, which immediately contests power over the soldier masses and seeks to bring the revolutionary movement under its control. At this moment, news arrives in Petersburg, causing real panic among the newly minted revolutionaries – 8 reliable combat regiments have been removed from the front and sent to suppress the uprising, and the Emperor himself has left for Tsarskoe Selo. According to all accounts, no one doubted that the real regular units would simply sweep away the barely begun revolution; there wouldn’t even be any street fighting, the reserve units would just scatter in all directions. Here it’s worth reminding everyone who adheres to the theory that generals conspired against the Tsar, that the same generals, who would later be accused of treason, obediently and precisely carried out the Emperor’s orders to send regiments to Petrograd, including the supposed “revolutionary” Brusilov. In general, all of the Emperor’s orders up until his abdication were executed by his subordinates in the senior military command.

And then begins a complicated political game that lasted for 3 days. Nicholas couldn’t make it to Tsarskoe Selo because its garrison also consisted of reserves and joined the rebellion on February 28th. So, the Tsar turns to Pskov and arrives at the headquarters of the commander of the Northern Front, Ruzsky. Here Nicholas learns that the capital is fully in the hands of the insurgents. The Temporary Committee of the Duma, represented by the former speaker of the parliament Rodzianko, fearing for their fate and simultaneously trying to save face both before the “revolution” and the Emperor, negotiates with Nicholas about a meeting, speaking of how “everything is calming down” in Petersburg, that “we have joined the monarchical principle” and pleads to stop the punitive units’ march on the capital “to avoid civil war”. Initially, Nicholas quite reasonably does not heed Rodzianko’s panicky dispatches, remembering him from the previous years. At the same time, the military begins discussing with the Emperor the possibility of concessions to prevent bloodshed and to somehow brake the situation, to have a chance to end the war honorably. This argument affects Nicholas, who says he never clung to power and is ready to leave if it really benefits, if it truly helps bring the war to a victorious end. But he doesn’t believe he has the right to leave the country in such a challenging hour. Negotiations go on between generals, between the headquarters with Chief of Staff Alekseev, between the front commanders, between representatives of the imperial family. Gradually, an increasing number of them lean towards requesting a limitation of power, and then abdication. These persuasions don’t affect the Emperor for a long time, but he increasingly contemplates how to resolve the situation most honorably, without shedding rivers of blood, without mass repressions. Particularly heavy impression was made on him by the news that the soldiers of the Convoy, his personal bodyguards, had betrayed their oath (which was not true – a few convoy members in Petersburg were forced to wear red ribbons to avoid lynching). Apparently, Nicholas gets the impression that he simply has no one to rely on, that he’s simply not needed by anyone in the country anymore. And finally, after so many decades of fighting the revolution, he decides – he, by his own will, voluntarily abdicates the throne, setting no prior conditions. Despite all persuasions, this was still unexpected for all the generals and members of the Temporary Committee, who didn’t truly believe they could convince the Emperor to abdicate and were morally preparing for the likelihood that he would suppress the revolt. Interestingly, until the very last moment, they were persuading and convincing Nicholas, not forcing or compelling him.

And if many critics somehow see Nicholas as insignificant here (I don’t think so), then what to say about other monarchs, for example, the acclaimed Wilhelm II, who was always contrasted with Nicholas as a model of authority and will (this despite the fact that I have a generally positive attitude towards Kaiser Wilhelm as an effective ruler of his country)? In a year and a half, he would be overthrown under similar circumstances. Only with one difference – when approached with the demand for abdication, he refused, but no one would persuade him – Chancellor Prince Maximilian of Baden simply fabricated a manifesto and announced Wilhelm’s abdication, presenting him with a fait accompli. A pathetic end. In February 1917, such a course of action somehow didn’t even occur to the so-called “conspirators” in Russia. Moreover, many of them, including the main “persuader” General Ruzsky, later explicitly expressed regret for their actions, and that they did not support the Emperor, who showed more willpower during those days than all of them.

Why did Nicholas II make the decisions he did, unfortunately, we’ll never fully understand. It’s clear to me that his situation was emotionally terrible, given his developed sense of responsibility for the fate of the country entrusted to him. One can only guess how agonizingly he sought the right way out of the situation, and finally made a decision that he truly considered the most balanced and correct at that moment, sacrificing all his personal interests and beliefs. I won’t elaborate on His subsequent fate and the fate of His Family, which will end in a terrible tragedy on the night of July 17, 1918. I’ll just say that we should not rush to judge his decision post facto, knowing all the consequences and circumstances. I have no doubt that had he known even a fraction of what awaited his country after 1917 in the 20th century, and what would continue in the 21st century, he would have undoubtedly crushed this revolt, and as now understood, all the prerequisites for this were present – none of the units sent to Petrograd, even those that had come into contact with the insurgents, succumbed to propaganda and did not switch sides, but were stopped and returned to the front by the personal order of Nicholas II.

Think about that. Yes, the Russian Empire was not a perfect state, far from it. There were many unresolved problems of social and political order, there were national contradictions. There were relics of past centuries. But who didn’t have them? I dare not say that Russia at the beginning of the 20th century was fundamentally worse or more corrupt than the German, British empires, France, or the USA. The economic indicators do not lie. The gradually increasing standard of living for workers and peasants too. Economic and political rights of the population in some aspects were even greater than in many modern states. Social lifts worked, despite class restrictions. To defend one’s rights in court was also real and possible.

And one more argument, which I often call the “trump card” in favor of the Russian Empire and monarchy. I mentioned earlier that after the collapse of autocracy, the Provisional Government created an Extraordinary Investigation Commission, which was directly tasked with gathering compromising evidence and exposing the crimes of the tsarist regime. The commission worked for several months, tons of documents were turned over, hundreds of witnesses were interrogated, including former ministers and high-ranking officials. I’ve read these protocols, they’re now accessible. They are documents of tremendous power. But most of all, I was stunned by the conclusion of this commission – they reported to Kerensky that “they cannot bring any charges, as no crime or cases of corruption were found in the actions of neither the Emperor, members of the Imperial family, nor any of the former high-ranking officials of the Empire.” I admit, even I was not prepared for this and simply could not believe my eyes when I read this. Initially, I thought it was a fake by some “hardcore” monarchists. But no, I found it in various publications. Then I found confirmations of this in the memoirs of several participants of this commission (Melgunov and others). All of them were ideological opponents of the regime, from left cadets to SRs. Thus, it turns out, by the opponents of the tsarist regime, it was documented that the Russian Empire on the eve of the revolution, in the course of its progressive development, defeated corruption in the highest echelons of power and nurtured a responsible and qualified ruling elite. I can’t imagine how this can now be refuted. It remains only to regret that all this is irrevocably lost and will never return.

In general, I consider Russia of that era to be a quite promising “business project” that unexpectedly and foolishly collapsed as a result of a confluence of many circumstances that few could have foreseen. And this happened against the backdrop of a world that had been sick with and dreaming of revolutions for over a century by that point because being a revolutionary and hating the damned tsarist regime was simply fashionable, especially among the youth. I recall how the great ballerina Karsavina wrote about this, who in 1905 was rising in popularity but was still a very young woman. All of Petersburg was creating its revolutionary committees with demands to the government, formed by students, day laborers, janitors. Why should ballerinas be any worse? Karsavina comes home and tells her parents, saying they’ve formed a committee. The ballerina’s parents were quite oppositional to autocracy, but still asked – why? Karsavina replied, I don’t know, everyone’s doing it, so we did too, saying we opposed autocracy. Her parents again asked her what was wrong with the Emperor and autocracy? Karsavina, now uncertain and with a sense of shame, said she didn’t know. And what specific demands did they make? Then the ballerina writes that she became utterly embarrassed when they couldn’t find anything better to demand than a raise in salaries, as if they weren’t already well-paid. Her genuine impulse was to immediately leave the Committee, though her parents dissuaded her from doing so, not to expose her comrades. If anything – they would answer together. But overall, everything turned out fine, and the authorities treated such committees indulgently, seeing them as a general fad, which then settled down as suddenly as it had started.

The arguments traditionally used to explain the revolution simply do not work. Failures at the front and in supply? All of this was overcome by 1917, and the army stood firm and was disciplined in the main. The peasant movement? It simply did not exist in 1917, unlike in 1905-1907. Workers’ strikes? Yes, there were, but they were sporadic and did not lead to the collapse of the industry and widespread disorder up until the abdication. Moreover, it was often the highest-paid workers who were striking.

Talking about the revolution had been in fashion for about 50 years already, but no one expected it to unfold in the way it did in February 1917. The convergence of a series of objective and subjective factors can explain why everything happened at that particular time:

    -The accumulation of reserve battalions in St. Petersburg and Moscow

    -The temporary closure of the Putilov Factory during a strike

    -Disruptions in bread supplies to the capital due to abnormal cold and snow drifts

    -The Tsar was at the Headquarters, not in Tsarskoe Selo during the crisis

    I believe that without one of these factors, the situation could have taken a different turn, and possible victories at the front in spring 1917 could have fundamentally changed the situation. Unfortunately, history does not deal with the subjunctive mood, and we are left to continue studying and unraveling the tangled plots of history for those who are still interested.


In the 1920s, V. Shulgin, one of those who accepted the Tsar’s abdication, secretly visited the USSR. He attended a play featuring Rasputin and the Royal Couple. These memories and the reaction of someone who was never particularly a fan of the last Emperor resonate with me deeply. Shulgin wrote that yes, the Empress looked like a miserable woman to be pitied, but when the actor portraying Nicholas as an idiot and a buffoon appeared on stage, Shulgin barely contained himself, his hands gripping the armrests, wanting to yell, scream, jump onto the stage: “Stop this! It’s a lie, it’s not true! I knew Him, I spoke with Him! Hear me? He was never like that!”…

Unfortunately, this has not been stopped to this day.


I will always admire this modest man of average height, who bore his burden with such will and perseverance, not for show, but with a genuine love and faith in his country. It’s regrettable that everything unfolded as it did, both for him and his Family, and for Russia, lost forever.

I will end with words that Empress Alexandra wrote to Nicholas on the eve of the revolution, words that speak volumes about the kind of people they were:

“My dear beloved Nicky! All my tender thoughts are with you, filling my heart with endless gratitude for the love and happiness you have always given me. I doubt many wives are as happy as I am – so much love, trust, and devotion you have shown me through these long years of happiness and sorrow.”

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