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Saturday 2 January 2010

The 'Weakness' of the Courageous Tsar Nicholas II

I read yet again on an otherwise beautiful website, Tsar Nicholas II passed off as 'weak'. It is truly amazing how glibly that word is added to his name when it is a word so little understood and written of a man so little understood.

Nicholas was in an impossible situation due to the rapid advance of industrialisation, which made governing so vast an empire virtually impossible - and let us remember he was not the only monarch swept away by the rising tide of socialist fervour. Why he has come down through history as 'weak' is beyond comprehension. Here was the one monarch who remained totally true to his allies and to his people. The sole cause of his abdication - which cost him dearly as he firmly believed in his Coronation Oath - was to prevent those regiments which remained loyal to him from attacking his own people, and to ensure that Russia would not abandon her allies who, treacherously then abandoned him. I would say that if anyone in those circumstances was weak, it was the cowardly George V who withdrew his offer of assistance to the cousin who had sacrificed his own throne so as not to abandon his commitment.

Nicholas was popular among his fellow soldiers as a young man (that is hardly a sign of weakness). Physically, he was hardy and enjoyed active physical pursuits such as chopping wood and being outdoors. His concern for his soldiers was such that he walked many miles carrying the pack of an ordinary soldier to see what hardships he would have to endure. Intellectually, he spoke several languages fluently; had an excellent grasp of history and literature and was widely-read. As a husband he was clearly a passionate man whose wife adored him and at the same time, here was a man with great moral strength, continuing his duties in the face of caring for a desperately ill son and a wife who was so stressed that she could barely think.

Ultimately Nicholas was betrayed by the careless members of his own family and his own allies. Small wonder that many people who carried the guilt of that betrayal were happy to see him passed off as 'weak'. Then, of course, the despotic tyrants Lenin and Stalin were happy to continue that lie...and sadly the lie continues to this day and is taken for granted so glibly by so many people.

I would love someone to explain why Nicholas is so often so unjustly described as 'weak'.


Nikki said...

I could not agree with you more. Nicholas II was clearly an intelligent and often stubborn man, hardly "weak". I believe that many historians and certainly the general public love to "parrot" each other, because if they do that, then they believe no further research is needed to come to their own conclusions. Nicholas II was a sensitive man, yes. The people that say he was "the wrong man, at the wrong time", completely ignore the facts that you have outlined above. Nicholas made decisions himself in most cases, as you learn when you actually research the subject. The idea that Alexandra and/or Rasputin were actually running the government is absurd. If there was a bounty of weakness, it was in the ministers, whom Nicholas II relied on to run such a vast empire. The bottom line I believe is that history has been very unfair and very misguided in it's judgement of Nicholas II. A "good Tsar", following the logic of most of these historians, would then, actually have been more despotic! If Nicholas II had been more like his father, then he would have been criticized as a tyrant. Either way, people believe what they are told, without properly researching the subject. I am very glad to read your piece, it is long overdue and I wish there were more writings like it on the internet.

Christina said...

Thank you so much, Rolf, for your comment. What you have written of how he would have been criticised as a tyrant if he had been more like his father, is so interesting and so true. Whatever he did, he would have been criticised and I absolutely agree with out about how poorly served he was by his ministers. Thank you, again, for writing this!

Unknown said...

Nicholas was more intelligent end capable of George V, but he really was not able to understand the real Russia. He was not able to separate the important think from the less important and did not trust his ministers, he was nota able to delegate and this lead to burocratic chaos.

Christina said...

Thank you for commenting :-) Perhaps some of his inability to separate the important from the unimportant things came from his having so much to do, so many minor things to deal with as well as so many major things.