28 February 2008

Tsar Nicholas II

Никола́й II, Никола́й Алекса́ндрович
Nikolay Alexandrovich Romanov
Born-19 May 1868
Died-17 July 1918
Reign-November 1, 1894 – March 15, 1917
Title-Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias

Father-Alexender III
Mother-Maria Fyodorovna of Denmark
Children- Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna
Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna
Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna
Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna
Grand Duke Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich
Standing-Alexander III
Sitting-Alexander II and Empress Maria(parents)
The last emperor of Russia.
Nicholas was the luckiest of all the Russians as life in starist Russia was very tough and there were many poor people in Russia who were peasants and there was not much industrialization at that time. Russia was described as still a backward country and far behind that of the European countries. In Europe there were kings and queens, Russia had a Tsar and not all of these Tsars were adored although there were some who had strived to help the nation there was always a number who disliked their ruler and that number would grow to such a size during Nicholas’s, Nicholas’s grandfather Tsar Alexander II who was given the name Tsar-Liberator who freed the peasants was assassinated although he had always worked to improve the country and help his people. Tsar Nicholas was to suffer the worse of all the Tsars .
Alexander III with wife and their children

He was born into the royal family in Tsarskoe Selo,he was the eldest son and had two sisters and three brothers-[Alexander (1869-1870), George (1871-1899) and Michael (1878-1918) and two sisters: Xenia (1875-1960) and Olga (1882-1960)]. and became the Tsarevich on 1 March 1881 because of the assassination of his grandfather Alexander II and his father Alexender III became the emperor.
Nicholas with his mother 1870

The Romanovs were said to live in luxury however he and his siblings did not enjoy these things when they were small, at the nurseries they slept on a thin mattress with a hard pillow and they had ordinary tables and chairs with some toys and books.Although they were in Russia, they practised English customs,porridge for breakfast, cold baths, and plenty of fresh air.Nicholas spent most of his childhood at Gatchina Palace, about forty miles west of Saint Petersburg and at no great distance from Tsarskoe Selo.
Alexander and his wife Empress Maria Fyodorovna(1893)
Like all other royals he received an excellent education unavailable to many peasants in Russia at that time and some received none. He had language tutors, geography tutors, a philosopher and a dancing tutor. He had an excellent memory and done well in History and could speak French, German and good English. He also was taught to keep a diary. He completed his education in 1890.Alexander III expected to rule for 20 to 30 years more and was not serious in giving his son the experience to rule the country which would make him an inefficient ruler when he comes to power.

Prince George of Greece and Denmark

As the heir tp the throne Nicholas travelled, somehow the first attempt on his life did not happen in Russia but in Japan where a Japanese policeman had attacked him with a sword but was saved by his cousin, Prince George of Greece and Denmark who parried the second blow with his bamboo cane. Luckily for Nicholas he had only a scar o his forehead. Alexander III commanded that the cane which parried the blow was encrusted with diamonds and returned to Prince George. However that incident caused Nicholas to detest Japan and supported war with Japan in 1904-05 with ended in defeat.
Engagement photo

In April 1894 Nicholas became engaged to Alix of Hesse,a german princess however Alix was a little hesitant because she had to convert from Lutheranism to Russian Orthodoxy and renounce her former faith. For her conversion ceremony, that aspect was eliminated, making it easier for her to convert with a clear conscience. On April 8 1894 Alix and Nicholas became formerly engaged and in November she converted to Russian Orthodoxy and took the name Alexandra Fedorovna.
Coronation of Tsar Nicholas and Empress Alexandra

Throughout 1894 Alexander III health unrepentantly declined rapidly and he died on the same year at the age of 49 of kidney disease. Nicholas was unprepared for the duties but nevertheless maintain the conservative policies favored by his father and devoted much more attention to the details of administration. Nicholas insisted to bring forward the wedding between him and Alexandra as he did not want the person who gives him confidence to leave his side.

Tsar Nicholas with his cousin King George V,their mothers were sisters

Despite visiting England before his accession he observed the House of Commons in debate and seemed impressed by the machinery of democracy but turned his back on any notion of giving away any power to elected representatives in Russia. Shortly after he came to the throne, a crowd of peasants and workers from various provinces came to the Winter Palace to ask for some constitutional reform and they had deliver their words in loyal terms.
Photograph by the Levitsky Company of the last Russian Imperial Family. Clockwise from top: the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, the Grand Duchess Anastasia, the Tsarevich Alexei, the Grand Duchess Tatiana, Tsar Nicholas II, the Grand Duchess Olga, and the Grand Duchess Maria. Livadia, 1913

Nicholas became angry and ignored advice from an Imperial Family Council by saying to them"... it has come to my knowledge that during the last months there have been heard in some assemblies of the zemstvos the voices of those who have indulged in a senseless dream that the zemstvos be called upon to participate in the government of the country. I want everyone to know that I will devote all my strength to maintain, for the good of the whole nation, the principle of absolute autocracy, as firmly and as strongly as did my late lamented father."
This showed that he wanted to continue his fathers policies and thus begins the start of the Tsars unpopularity

Siege at Port Arthur

By the turn of the 20th century war between Russia and Japan became inevitable and the Japanese launched a surprise attack against the Russian fleet in Port Arthur in 1904.Shortly before the war Nicholas believed that a war with Japan would not happen and he felt that there would be no war and it was his divine power to rule and protect Russia.The war happened and Nicholas still believed in final victory although a string of defeats had already happened. His stubbornness and confidence was looked upon as indifference by his people. And the war ended with the defeat of Russia in 1905 with the fall of Port Arthur and the defeat of the Russian fleet and by March 27-28 Nicholas finally decided to pursue peace.
Grand Duke Sergei

And as if peace with Japan was the end of problems new ones started in Russia.The imperial government collapsed, ensuing revolutionary outbreaks of 1905-1906. Demonstrators were shot in front of the Winter Palace in St.Petersburg.Even the Emperors own uncle Grand Duke Sergei was not spared and was blown up by a revolutionary's bomb in Moscow as he left the Kremlin. The Black Sea fleet mutinied, and a railway strike developed into a general strike which paralysed the country

Protestors march to the Winter Palace

The worst was yet to come which would earn him the name Bloody Nicholas. On Saturday, 21 January 1905, a priest named George Gapon informed the government that a march would take place the following day and asked that the Tsar be present to receive a petition.The ministers hurriedly met to think about the problem. Nicholas at that time was at Tsarskoe Selo and was not informed about the march or the petition.A suggestion that a member of the Imperial family receive the petition was rejected. The newly appointed Minster of the Interior, Prince Sviatopolk-Mirsky, and his colleagues could think of nothing to do except bring additional troops into the city and hope that matters would not get out of hand. On 22 January 1905 Father Gapon began his march. Locking arms, the workers marched peacefully through the streets. Some carried crosses, icons and religious banners, others carried national flags and portraits of the Tsar,as they walked they sang religious hymns and the Imperial anthem, 'God Save The Tsar'.The crowd found themselves blocked by soldires and were fired upon by them.The day was then known as Bloody Sunday

Soldiers firing on protestors on Bloody Sunday

Problems and more problems begin to surface for Nicholas. Under pressure from the attempted Russian Revolution of 1905, on August 5, 1905 Tsar Nicholas II issued a manifesto about the convocation of the State Duma. The duma,a sort of Russian parliament had restricted powers as Nicholas wanted to preserve autocracy.The duma was formed for four times in the course of a few years.This part about the Duma is too long so I will not put much on it.The Tsarevitch and his hemophilia disease worried the tsar as he was the heir to the throne.
Russian soldiers in WWI

World War I then happened and Russia was pulled into the conflict in 1914 but was unprepared. Although Russia had more soldiers than Germany, various factors cause their defeat. Nicholas once went to the battlefield and assumed the role of commander-in-chief after dismissing his cousin from that position but was unexperienced and proved uncapable as a military commander,he left all matter o the state to his wife but angry at what Rasputin is doing to the war effort and was subsequently murdered by nobles.While Nicholas was still at the front in 1915,authority collapsed.And a series of event occurred which led to the downfall of Nicholas.

Grand Duke Michael

By the end of the February Revolution of 1917 on March 1917,he was forced to abdicate in favour of Tsarevich Alexei but he was found to be not fit and drew up a new manifesto naming his brother, Grand Duke Michael, as the next Emperor of all the Russias but declined until the people was allowed to vote for a Republic or Monarchy. Grand Duke Michael never took the throne but he deferred taking up power.

The subsequent Bolshevik revolution brought three centuries of the Romanov dynasty's rule to an end and also paved the way for massive destruction of Russian culture with the closure and demolition of many churches and monasteries, the theft of valuables and estates from the former aristocracy and monied classes and the suppression of religious and folk art forms. In Russia, the announcement of the Tsar's abdication was greeted with many emotions. These included delight, relief, fear, anger and confusion.Next post is about the end of the Tsar and his family.

10 February 2008

Tsarist Russian banknotes

The ruble has been the Russian unit of currency for about 500 years. From 1710, the ruble was divided into 100 kopecks.Here are the banknotes during the reign of Tsar Nicholas II.The ruble became a victim of inflation when Russia entered World War 1 as the government increased the amount of paper money to pay for the war.There are notes with the serial number and some with just two alphabets and three numbers as serials.The ones with short serial numbers are according to someone printed during the inflation.
1 ruble
3 ruble
5 ruble
10 ruble25 ruble(Alexander III)

100 ruble(Tsarina Catherine)
500 ruble(Tsar Peter)This note before inflation could buy one small house.Imagine one banknote buying one house.