Imagine: You’re an average man. You provide for your wife and five children. You do your job. Normal things. Except for the part where your parents were Tsar Alexander III and Empress Marie Fyondoroyna daughter of King Christian of Denmark (Kalic & Gates 106). Making you the Tsar of Russia at age 26 when your father unexpectedly dies. No pressure right?
Nicholas II was the oldest of five children and taught by his father to believe in autocracy and the idea of divine right (Kalic & Gates 106). It is a generally held belief that Nicholas II did not have enough experience or understanding of politics and the state when he became Tsar, in fact some say, “because of his inexperience and political naivete, Nicholas proved obtuse to the changes overtaking the world” (Kalic & Gates 107). Which during his reign, there would be many changes that would eventually lead to the revolutions of 1905 and 1917.
Between 1891 and 1892 in Russia, before Nicholas even rose to power, there was an incredible famine in Russia that affected around 20 million people, 400,000 or so who died (Kalic & Gates 18). Another factor was that, “Tsar Nicholas II also had to contend with the growth of Russia’s middle class and the subsequent unions that emerged to represent their thoughts and ideas about how the Tsar and Russia needed to adjust the government and society to the changing realities of the early 20th century and industrialization” (Kalic & Gates 19). Conditions like this led to the events of Bloody Sunday which further angered citizens. In March of 1905, Nicholas II tried to pacify revolts by calling for the creation of a “consultative assembly”, however many were quick to notice that the assembly could only offer recommendations to the tsar. (Kalic & Gates 20). Still facing tension and revolts, Nicholas II finally issues an October Manifesto in 1905 announcing “an elected Duma with real legislative functions, which transformed the Romanov government into a constitutional monarchy (Kalic & Gates 21). However, this would not actually solve Russia’s or Nicholas II’s problems.
Nicholas II had grown up learning that he had a divine right to rule with full autocratic power, he “did not relish his role as a constitutional monarch…He therefore undermined the Duma’s independence, since he had final approval over all decision making” (Kalic & Gates 21). Constricting the little representation citizens had did not play out well in public opinion. Hardships from the Russo-Japanese war and World War I did not help matters. The beginning of 1917 was a scene of protests against food shortages and bread prices (Siegelbaum). Essentially the only way to quell the people was the abdication by Nicholas II (Siegelbaum). Which Nicholas II agreed to do and formally made a statement announcing on March 15, 1917, he announced he was abdicating and so would his son, naming his brother as successor (“Abdication of Nicholas II). However, his brother would also abdicate, formally bringing “more than three centuries of Romanov dynastic rule” to and end in 1917 (Siegelbaum).
While “the overthrow of tsarism was greeted with popular acclaim” that gave way to “unprecedented” new freedoms and expression for the Russian people, Russia still had to figure out a new political system and way of life. However, Nicholas II and his family would not live to see much of this future as they were executed in July of 1918 by the Bolshevik party (Kalic & Gates 107).
“Addication of Nicholas II” World War Document Archive N.D. .http://www.lib.byu.edu/. accessed February 11, 2018
Siegelbaum, Lewis. “February Revolution” Soviethistory.MSU.edu http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1917-2/february-revolution accessed February 11, 2018
S.J. Duncan-Clark, History’s Greatest War: A Pictorial Narrative(U.S.: E.T. Townshend, 1919), 177. (Photo) accessed February 11, 2018
Kalic, Sean N., and Gates M. Brown. Russian Revolution of 1917: the Essential Reference Guide, ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2017. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/vt/detail.action?docID=5050668. accessed February 11, 2018