Monday, 1 December y
How far was Nicholas II responsible for his own downfall?
Tsar Nicholas was to a great extent responsible for his own downfall, the main factor being his decision to take over as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces during World War One. Russia was economically and socially ill-prepared for war and the effects and the outcome of the war had a devastating impact upon the Russian people. There had been a continual build-up of discontent towards the Tsar as a result of Russia’s failure in the Russo-Japanese War, the ‘Bloody Sunday’ massacre and the failure of the Duma. However, it was World War One that was the ultimate factor in which the people acted upon their discontent toward the Tsar.
Nicholas Romanov was appointed the Tsar of Russia in 1894 after the premature death of his father, Alexander III. Nicholas was thrust into being the Tsar of Russia at an extremely fast pace and was faced with the task of modernising the biggest country in the world to keep pace with the other super powers in the world such as Germany, Britain and the United States. Nicholas did not have the best of relationships with the people of Russia. Russia’s defeats in the Russo-Japanese war damaged the Tsar’s relationship with the people of Russia. ‘Bloody Sunday’ and the 1905 Revolution which followed, the failure of the Dumas, and the relationship that Rasputin had with the Tsar and Tsarina all led to a deteriorating relationship between the Tsar and the Russian people. Coupled with this, revolutionary groups were seriously challenging the Tsar’s position in Russia. The climax in his rule of Russia was when the Tsar appointed himself Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army during World War One ultimately making himself open to further criticism by the Russian people.
Angered by the sudden death of his father, Alexander III, Nicholas resolved to restore the autocracy to its traditional, feared position. Alexander removed the reforms of his father and relied heavily on the reactionary ideas of Constantin Pobedonostev. Pobedonostev combined religious orthodoxy and absolute autocracy in his tutoring. The role of Pobedonostev had a damaging effect on the ideologies of the young Tsar and his view on Russia and the people who lived in the country.
After the unexpected death of his father, Nicholas was the next in line to lead Russia. He was not prepared for this role and made it known that he did not want to become Tsar. Nicholas had the enormous task of modernising Russia and bringing it to the same level as European powers such as France, Britain and Germany. What made the inexperienced Tsar’s job even more difficult was the fact that modernisation was a serious threat toward the Tsarist regime. Many industrial countries such as Great Britain had democracies and parliaments in which the middle class were featured and the power of monarchs was limited. Industrialisation in Russia created social tension when millions moved from the countryside to the cities. The need for a more educated workforce would enable people to challenge the government. The growth of the middle classes would also create pressure for political change and for more accountable and representative government. With calls for more representative government and the population becoming more politically aware of the situation in Russia, a peasant uprising was likely if the Tsar did not find a solution to the problems in Russia. The Tsar was ill prepared to deal with such issues. He lacked the necessary experience and expertise. Sergei Witte, Minister of Finance, was a key figure who served the Tsar and who might have saved the monarchy. Witte knew that the answer to Russia’ future greatness lay in industrialisation. Witte took measures to stabilise the rouble and to attract foreign loans when he introduced the ‘Gold Standard’, a system whereby a state regulates the value of its currency, and the amount of currency in circulation. It seemed that