Tsar Nikolai II
The Last Tsar of Russiaby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
“Abdiqué! Abdiqué!” In French, the Empress continued muttering the terrible word. How had it happened? Her beloved “Nicky”, ex-Tsar of all Russians had given up his throne. In his diary, Nikolai II had written, “My abdication is necessary” when his own general asked him to abdicate. After which the Duma – a nearly powerless “parliament” – sent two men to request Nikolai’s resignation.
Born on May 6, 1868, Nikolai II was a small child and grew to be a small man – at only 5’ 6”. Nikolai tried to build his muscles to make up for his size, but he always remained slight. This seemed to have little effect on his maturity: indeed, his secluded life held him back from maturing at an average rate.
On one fateful day in 1881, a detonated bomb left Tsar Aleksandr II lethally wounded as yet another attempt on his life. This effort succeeded, and Nikolai, son of Aleksandr III, was now an heir to the throne.
Nikolai led a sheltered life, for terrorism was an extremely genuine threat to the imperial family. He and the rest of his family were never allowed anywhere without heavy guard, so Nikolai had very few friends outside of his close little world in the palaces of Russia. For this reason he held very small-minded thoughts of “honor, service and tradition.” This would later limit his ability to govern Russia, and is likely the root of some of the poor decisions he made.
Nikolai received one of the best educations an heir in Europe could receive at the time. His parents realized that 20th century obstacles could be vastly different than those of the 19th and tried to prepare him for it. Life – filled with the army, education and frolics – though perhaps monotonous, was wonderful. As a young tsarevich, Nikolai traveled to many places, including Kyoto, Japan. He rode a jinrikisha about the city with “Georgie”, the Greek prince that joined him on all his travels, and they turned down a narrow street when a Japanese policeman tried beheading him, but missed and struck Nikolai just above his right ear. Nikolai “ran off down the street,” staunching the blood that was erupting from his head with his hand. “Georgie” began to chase the policeman, finally caught up with him and gave him a severe blow with his bamboo cane, instantly knocking the policeman down. Nikolai’s father demanded he return to St. Petersburg and Nikolai once again fell into the simple yet joyous routine he had become acquainted with so well.
In 1893, still a part of the Life Guards and now a colonel, Nikolai was “formally engaged” to Aleksandra, a tall, thin and introverted German princess raised in England. This was a fortunate move, for in the autumn of 1894, Nikolai’s father contracted a serious nephritic condition, a chronic swelling of the kidneys. At age forty-seven Tsar Aleksandr III died and Nikolai was plunged onto the throne of Russia at a mere twenty-six years of age.
Nikolai, having never developed a sense of confidence in himself, thought himself unprepared to rule Russia. He felt his skill and knowledge inadequate to govern such a large country. He soon found out he was enveloped with politicians with selfish intentions and deception, and he became distrustful of humanity – a cynical, lonely man.
On November 3, 1895, the first of four daughters was born to the new Tsar. They named her Olga. She was a typically chubby baby, with spindly legs. But she did not have the appearance of a newborn at all. She was born with a full head of hair, and was a “large child.” Nikolai was constantly comparing her to his sister’s daughter, and always proud of his new daughter. Three more daughters (Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia) followed until finally a son, named Alexei, was born as heir to the throne.
Life in the Alexander Palace, the palace where the royal family spent most of their time, was blissful, if redundant. Catastrophe struck in July-August of 1914. The mobilization of Russian troops set off war, and Russia was officially engaged in combat with Germany, the beginnings of World War I.
In 1915 Nikolai undertook the control of his army, leaving the matters of the state in the hands of the Tsarina, Aleksandra. Aleksandra trusted a man called Grigory Rasputin, for he helped Alexei with his hemophilia. Rasputin, though called a priest and therefore deemed wise, made many poor choices. And the Tsar, perhaps locked in a nostalgic reverie of life before his coronation, relied on his wife whole-heartedly.
Hunger was rampant in the country, as the peasants who produced the majority of food had been drafted into the army. What little was left was commandeered by a starving army, low on even munitions and weapons. People milled about on the streets with nothing to do, and no drive left to do anything. Riots broke out in the streets of numerous cities on March 8th, 1917. The country was in turmoil, and perhaps nothing short of a revolution would pacify it.
Rasputin, loathed by the entire country, was murdered on December 17, 1916. By this time the State Cabinet began to gradually lose its power, though it tried desperately to develop more. Still the Tsar did nothing. Eventually he found resignation was a necessary step, and he turned over the power to his brother, Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich. Soon afterward the Grand Duke renounced his power: there was great risk and little honor involved in ruling Russia now. The country had decided it could get along without one, and the ex-Tsar and his family were placed under house arrest in the Alexander Palace.
The ex-Tsar Nikolai II’s life ended the day of July 16, 1918, along with his wife, Tsarina Aleksandra and his four daughters and one son: Olga, 23; Tatiana, 21; Marie, 19; Anastasia, 17 and the young tsarevich Alexei, age 14. The imperial family was taken to a house in Yekaterinburg, where they were escorted to a small room in the basement and subsequently shot barbarically. The girls, in their house arrest, had sewn their gems onto their bodices and petticoats, and when the shooting began, the bullets began to bounce off of the gems. The four girls crouched in a corner and covered their heads with their arms. Those who did not die as a result of the bullets were stabbed with bayonets.
God sets up and takes down rulers, as he did with Tsar Nikolai II and the Bolsheviks who confiscated the government to set up their own system of communism. Man thinks that he controls who rules him, but he really doesn’t. Only God can control anything. Perhaps this is a person’s only hope when enslaved by a dominant monarchy or dictatorial system of government. Or perhaps this could be a spring of despair to a man when faced with the fact that he is not in power of his own life. One must decide for oneself.
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