Tsar Nicholas II
“Stubborn but without will; nervous but insensitive to everything; taut and cautious in speech, he was no longer master of the situation, and did not take one clearly conscious step…” (Blok 1916) (Lynch M 1992) p 73 “A ruler who cannot be trusted, who approves today what he will reject tomorrow, is incapable of steering the ship of state into a quiet harbour. His outstanding failing is his sad lack of will power.” (Witte S 1912) (Farmer A 2000) p 27 Despite a visit to Great Britain before his accession, where he observed the House of Commons in debate and seemed impressed by the machinery of democracy, as well as similar positive appraisal of the United States congress on an official visit to the United States as Tsarevitch, Nicholas turned his back on any notion of giving away any power to elected representatives in Russia. Nicholas ignored advice from an Imperial Family Council. In foreign relations Nicholas followed policies of his father, strengthening the Franco – Russian alliance and pursuing a policy of general European pacification, which culminated in the famous Hague peace conference. Mutual distrust existing between great powers meant The Hague convention was among the first formal statements of the laws of war. On November 1 1894 Alexander III died suddenly from Nephritis. An unprepared naïve Nicholas II took power. A bewildered Nicholas beseeched his brother in law Grand Duke Alexander, “What am I going to do? what is going to happen to me, to all of Russia? I am not prepared to be a Tsar, I have never wanted to become one, and I know nothing of the business of ruling.” (Rollins xvi) Nicholas II was a strong believer in the autocratic power of the Tsar and opposed democratic reforms. When Nicholas took the throne he had some experience in Government but due to his father’s untimely death he had not fully been elevated into the higher tiers of the Russian Government. Nicholas was also very naïve in his dealings with the Urban Intelligentsia, this would later hamper his reign. The Japanese soon took Port Arthur in the Russo – Japanese war and the Tsar realized he must admit defeat. “Russia lost not because her troops fought badly, but because her military commanders had not prepared effectively.” (Lynch M 2005) p 30-38 In autumn of 1915 Nicholas had taken direct command of the army, personally overseeing Russia’s main theatre of war and leaving his ambitious but incapable wife Alexandra in charge of the government. Reports of corruption and incompetence in the Imperial Government began to immerge and the growing influence of Grigori Rasputin in the Imperial family was widely resented. The state Duma issued a warning to Nicholas in November 1916. It stated that inevitably a terrible disaster would grip the country unless a constitutional form of Government was put in place. Nicholas ignored them and Russia Tsarist regime collapsed a few months later during the February Revolution of 1917.
World War I
Nicholas was neither trained as a Tsar to go to war nor did he want to go to war. In a series of letters exchanged with Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, known as the (Willy and Nicky correspondence), the two proclaimed their desire for peace and each attempted to get the other to back down. The Russians had no contingency plans for a partial mobilization and on 31 July 1914 Nicholas took the fateful step of confirming the order for a general mobilization. Nicholas was strongly counselled against mobilization of the Russian forces but chose to ignore such advice. The Russian army was on alert on the 25 July and although this was not mobilization it threatened the German and Austrian borders and looked like a military declaration of war. 1 August 1914 Russia was grossly unprepared. Russian heavy industry was still too small to equip the massive armies the Tsar could raise and her reserves of munitions were pitifully small. The Russian High Command was moreover greatly weakened by the mutual contempt between Vladimir Sukhomlinov the Minister of War and the redoubtable warrior giant Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich who commanded the armies in the field. The battle of Tannenberg where an entire Russian army was annihilated cast an ominous shadow over the Empires future. The loyal officers lost were the very ones needed to protect the dynasty. The Russian later had moderate success against both the Austro – Hungarian armies and against the forces of the Ottoman Empire. They never succeeded against the might of the German Army.
Other Political Parties
There aims and beliefs were Terrorism, the interests of peasants and workers were identical, to get rid of autocracy and bring about land distribution. (Murphy D & Morris T 2008) p 61-62 When the revolution of1905 led to the legalization of political parties, the right Social Revolutionaries grew in power and the moderate views led to growing support from peasants, trade unions and the middle class. In 1906 the Social Revolutionaries committed to a Revolutionary Soccalism with the major aim of returning land from big holders to the peasants. This led to great popularity in rural areas, and the breakthrough in peasant support that there forerunners The Populists could only have dreamt of. The Social Revolutionaries consequently looked more towards the peasants than other Marxist Socialist groups in Russia, who focused on Urban Workers.
The Liberal intelligentsia pressed for change and reform but they did not adopt a revolutionary attitude like the Social Revolutionaries or Social Democrats. “ They were concerned to promote welfare, education, liberty and the rule of the law. There hope was to reform the autocracy so that the Tsar would listen directly to his people and rule in conjunction with them.” (Waller S 2009) p 64-66 Through the zemsta there was a new opportunity for liberal thinkers to air their views. Since their work brought them into constant conflict with central government activities they grew increasingly vocal in their criticisms. “ By the mid 1890’s the Liberals were growing more vociferous in their demands for a national representative body to advise the Tsarist government.” (Waller S 2009)p 64-66