Nicholas II of Russia
|Reign||1 November [O.S. 20 October] 1894 – 15 March 1917
(22 years, 134 days)
|Coronation||26 May [O.S. 14 May] 1896|
De facto :
Georgy Lvov (chairman of the provisional government)
|Consort||Alix of Hesse|
|Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna|
Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna
Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna
Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna
Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich
|Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov|
|House||House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov|
|Father||Alexander III of Russia|
(Dagmar of Denmark)
Nicholas II of Russia (18 May 1868 – 17 July 1918) was the last crowned and holy-annointed Tsar and Emperor of Russia, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Finland. He ruled from 1st November 1894 until his forced abdication in 1917. His reign saw the high point of Pan-Slavism and Russia fatally allied to France; the catastrophic Russo-Japanese War, the subsequent 1905 revolution and Russia's first ever parliament. It is said that Nicholas proved unequal to the combined tasks of managing an Empire in political turmoil and ultimately commanding its army in the largest international war since Napoleon. Nicholas's reign ended with the Russian Revolution of 1917, after which he and his family were murdered by Bolsheviks.
The Great War was going very badly for Russia by the beginning of 1917. The Brusilov Offensive against the Central Powers had failed and the Russian armies were again in retreat. In addition, the exceptionally severe winter in January and February 1917 arguably precipitated the collapse. At Tsarskoye-Selo, as in all the great Russian cities, it froze to minus thirty degrees, and on February 22 the temperature plummeted to minus forty degrees. Two hundred locomotives failed, with burst boilers, etc., blocking the tracks. Hundreds of supply trains taking food to the front, the capital and the great urban centres were blocked. In Petrograd the bread shops were empty and there was already unrest at the government announcement that bread rationing was about to commence. In addition the reserves of flour ordered by the municipality had been sold to provincial traffickers by unscrupulous administrators. February 22 was also the European Socialist Movements' 'workers festival' and several factories and 100,000 workers in the city struck. Disorders broke out and bakers' windows were smashed and some food shops plundered. Endless queues now stretched outside the few shops that had not yet been closed or pillaged.
Unaware of the disturbances the Tsar boarded the Royal train at Tsarskoye-Selo bound for Military Headquarters at Mohylev. The following day a great wave of striking rioters was marching along the Nevsky Prospekt in Petrograd shouting "We Want bread" on the steps of parliament (Tauride Palace). On February 24 the weavers were given orders to strike and two hundred thousand more workers joined the rioters, waving Red flags. On the 25th a General Strike was called and rioters occupied all the public buildings.
On February 26th, informed of the riots, the Tsar telegraphed General Sergey Kabalov, the commander of the Petrograd Military District, to "put an end to the troubles". The cream of the regiments stationed in the cities were long decimated on the Great War's battlefields, and the city garrisons now consisted of poorly trained raw recruits. These troops now showed signs of hesitation when ordered to restore order, then openly refused to obey orders and even cheered the rioters. The Sturmer Government resigned. The Russian Revolution had begun so spontaneously that the extreme Left, the Social-Revolutionaries and the Bolsheviks, were caught unprepared and by surprise. The Labour leader, Alexander Kerensky now put himself at the head of the revolutionary movement in the capital, was elected Vice-chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, and simultaneously became the first Minister of Justice in the new government. Worried about the events in the capital, and particularly for his family, the Tsar left military headquarters for Tsarskoye early on February 28 by Royal train. On March 2 a new Provisional Government under the liberal Prime Minister Prince Georgy Lvov was established and the Duma called immediately for the Tsar's abdication. Two deputies, Shulgin and Gutchkov (later the War Minister), were despatched to Pskov where the Royal train had halted, arriving there late in the evening. It was said that most of his commanders in the field telegraphed Nicholas urging his abdication to save Russia. Basically he would become a scapegoat. After a short discussion, a perfectly calm Nicholas abdicated for himself and his son, Alexis, in favour of his brother, the Grand Duke Michael, at twelve minutes to midnight. The Tsar wrote in his diaries "my soul is oppressed by what I have just lived through. All round me there is nothing but treachery, cowardice and deceit." The Duma deputies departed immediately and at one o'clock in the morning the Royal train left Pskov to return to Mohylev (HQ).
Murder of Imperial Family
The murder of the Russian Imperial Family on July 17, 1918, was probably the greatest crime in world history second only to Jewry’s crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ nineteen hundred years before.
The Imperial family of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and his daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and his son and heir, Alexei, were pious Orthodox Christians. They exemplified all that is precious in a family – Christian piety and love for one’s neighbor. And they loved nothing more than going to Church.
In August of 1917, with the Bolsheviks rising to power, the Imperial Family were moved by Kerensky's Provisional government far from the sympathetic sentiments of the Russian people to Tobolsk in Siberia.
In the spring of 1918, the Tsar and his family were removed by the Bolsheviks to Ekaterinburg in the Urals where Jacob Yurovsky, a Jewish watchmaker from Perm and leading member of the local Cheka, was given the assignment to imprison, plan, and assassinate the Imperial Family.
Yurovsky brought the Tsar and his family to a former house of a wealthy merchant named Ipatiev, which became their prison. Just before midnight on July 17, 1918, Yurovsky brought the Imperial Family down to the basement on the pretext that they were leaving. They were led into a basement room and chairs brought for the Tsar and Tsarina. After a short while the assassins, Jacob Yurovsky, Nikulin, Pyotr Yermakov, Vaganov, and others, burst in.
Yurovsky then pulled out his revolver and aimed it directly at the Tsar’s head and fired. Tsar Nicholas II died instantly. Next, he shot Tsarina Alexandra as she made the sign of the Cross. Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, were then also shot.
As the room became silent there was a low groan. Alexei, the heir to the throne of Russia was still alive. Yurovsky stepped up and fired two shots into the boy’s ear. All the members of the Tsar’s family were lying on the floor with many wounds in their bodies. The blood was running in streams.
- Alexandrov, Victor, The End of the Romanovs, Hutchinson, London, 1966, p.122.
- Alexandrov, 1966, p.126-7.
- Alexandrov, 1966, pps:127-131.
- Tompkins, Stuart Ramsay, The Russian Intelligentsia - Makers of the Revolutionary State, University of Oklahoma Press, 1957.
- Pearson, Raymond, The Russian Moderates and the Crisis of Tsarism 1914-1917, London, 1977, ISBN: 0-333-21924-4
- Ferro, Marc, Nicholas II - The Last of the Tsars, Viking pubs. U.K., 1991, ISBN: 0-670-83880-2
- Figes, Orlando, A People's Tragedy - The Russian Revolution 1891-1924, London, 1996, ISBN: 0-224-04162-2
- Maylunas, Andrei, & Mironenko, Sergei, A Lifelong Passion - Nicholas & Alexandra, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London, 1996, ISBN: 0-297-81520-2
- Lieven, Dominic, The End of Tsarist Russia, Viking pubs., New York, 2015, ISBN: 978-0-670--2558-9
- Montefiore, Simon Sebag, The Romanovs 1613-1918 Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London, 2016, ISBN: 978-0-297-85266-7