HISTORY OF SAINT NICHOLAS II OF RUSSIA
of Russia ( Nikolay Alexandrovich Romanov ) (18 May [O.S. 6 May] 1868 – 17 July [O.S. 4 July] 1918) (Russian: Никола́й
II, Nikolay II) was the last Emperor of Russia, King of Poland, and Grand Duke of Finland. He ruled from 1894 until his forced
abdication in 1917. Nicholas proved unable to manage a country in political turmoil and command its army in World War I. His
rule ended with the Russian Revolution of 1917, after which he and his family were shot by Bolsheviks. Nicholas's full name
was Nikolay Aleksandrovich Romanov (Никола́й Алекса́ндрович
Рома́нов). His official title was Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All
the Russias. He is sometimes referred to as Nicholas the Martyr due to his execution and as Bloody Nicholas because of the
tragic events during his coronation, Bloody Sunday and his government's subsequent suppression of dissent. As a result of
his canonization, he has been regarded as Saint Nicholas The Passion Bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church.
was born in Saint Petersburg, the eldest son of Emperor Alexander III and Maria Fyodorovna of Denmark. His paternal grandparents
were Alexander II of Russia and his first consort Maria Alexandrovna of Hesse-Darmstadt. His maternal grandparents were Christian
IX of Denmark and Louise of Hesse-Kassel. A sensitive child, Nicholas felt intimidated by the strength of his father, Alexander
III, though Nicholas adored him and would often speak of him nostalgically in letters and diaries after Alexander's death.
Nicholas and his mother, Maria Fyodorovna, were very close, as can be seen in their letters to one another, which have been
Nicholas II was the first cousin once removed of Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich. To distinguish both of
them, the Grand Duke was often known within the Imperial family as Nicholasha. The Grand Duke also towered over the Tsar,
so they were nicknamed "Nicholas the Tall" and "Nicholas the Short", respectively.
Known as "Nicky" to his close family
and friends, Tsesarevitch Nicholas fell in love with Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt , the fourth daughter of Louis IV ,
Grand Duke of Hesse and by the Rhine and Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, second eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and
Prince Albert, in 1884. He was sixteen; she was just twelve. His parents, however, did not approve of this match, hoping to
cement Russia's new alliance with France. They had hoped that Nicholas would marry Princess Hélène, the daughter of Count
Philippe of the House of Orléans.
As Tsarevich, Nicholas did a considerable amount of travelling. During a notable
trip to the Empire of Japan, a failed assassination attempt by a sword-wielding man left him with a scar on his forehead.
The quick action of his cousin, Prince George of Greece, who parried the second blow with his cane, saved his life. The motivation
for this attack was that the assailant was offended by a foreigner visiting a very holy temple which had never before admitted
a non-believer. The incident had an unfortunate historical effect in that Nicholas detested Japan ever after and supported
war with that country all the more readily in 1904-5, resulting in the disastrous naval Battle of Tsushima.
Deemed overly soft by his hard and demanding father, Nicholas received little grooming for his imperial role. Nicholas was
a polite and charming child but lacking in any interest or curiosity in his tutors' lessons. Even when the Tsar did decide
to initiate Nicholas into State business, Nicholas lost interest after only about twenty minutes in State Council sessions
and left to see friends at cafes. When Alexander died at the age of 49 in 1894 of kidney disease after an unexpectedly rapid
deterioration of health, Nicholas felt so unprepared for the duties of the crown that he tearfully asked his cousin, "What
is going to happen to me and all of Russia?" He nevertheless decided to maintain the conservative policies favoured by his
father. While Alexander had concentrated on the formulation of general policy, Nicholas devoted much more attention to the
details of administration.
Despite a visit to the United Kingdom before his accession, where he observed the House
of Commons in debate and seemed impressed by the machinery of democracy, Nicholas turned his back on any notion of giving
away any power to elected representatives in Russia. Shortly after he came to the Throne, a deputation of peasants and workers
from various towns' local assemblies (zemstvos) came to the Winter Palace to ask for some constitutional reforms. Although
the addresses they had sent in beforehand were couched in mild and loyal terms, Nicholas was 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."
These words astonished and horrified all who listened and began the destruction of the new Tsar's popularity and hopes for
peaceful change in Russia.
Despite these imposing words, Nicholas was timid in the presence of senior members of his
family. His brother-in-law Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich later wrote, "Nicholas II spent the first ten years of his reign
sitting behind a massive desk in the Palace and listening with near-awe to the well-rehearsed bellowing of his towering uncles.
He dreaded to be left alone with them...They always wanted something.
After 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, initially thought
to be an advisory organ. In the subsequent October Manifesto, the tsar pledged to introduce basic civil liberties, provide
for broad participation in the State Duma, and endow the Duma with legislative and oversight powers. However, determined to
preserve "autocracy" even in the context of reform, he restricted the Duma's authority in many ways—not least of which
was an absence of parliamentary control over the appointment or dismissal of cabinet ministers. Nicholas's relations with
the Duma were not good. The First Duma, with a majority of Kadets, almost immediately came into conflict with him. Although
Nicholas initially had a good relationship with his relatively liberal prime minister, Sergei Witte, Alexandra distrusted
him (because he instigated an investigation of Rasputin), and as the political situation deteriorated, Nicholas dissolved
the Duma. The Duma was populated with radicals, many of whom wished to push through legislation that would abolish private
property ownership, among other things. Witte, unable to grasp the seemingly insurmountable problems of reforming Russia and
the monarchy, wrote to Nicholas on 14 April 1906 resigning his office (however, other accounts have said that Witte was forced
to resign by the Emperor). Nicholas was not ungracious to Witte and an Imperial Rescript was published on 22 April creating
Witte a Knight of the Order of Saint Alexander Nevsky, with diamonds (The last two words were written in the Emperor's own
hand, followed by "I remain unalterably well-disposed to you and sincerely grateful, Nicholas").
After the Second Duma
resulted in similar problems, the new prime minister Pyotr Stolypin (whom Witte described as 'reactionary') unilaterally dissolved
it, and changed the electoral laws to allow for future Dumas to have a more conservative content, and to be dominated by the
liberal-conservative Octobrist Party of Alexander Guchkov. Stolypin, a skillful politician, had ambitious plans for reform.
These included making loans available to the lower classes to enable them to buy land, with the intent of forming a farming
class loyal to the crown. His plans were undercut by conservatives at court who had more influence with the Emperor. By the
time of Stolypin's assassination by Dmitry Bogrov, a student (and police informant) in a theatre in Kiev on 18 September 1911,
he and the Emperor were barely on speaking terms, and his fall was widely foreseen.
Further complicating domestic matters
was the matter of the succession. Alexandra bore him four daughters, Olga in 1895, Tatiana in 1897, Maria in 1899 and Anastasia
in 1901, before their son Alexei was born on August 12, 1904. The young heir proved to be afflicted with hemophilia, a hereditary
disease that prevents blood clotting properly, which at that time was untreatable and usually led to an untimely death. As
a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Alexandra carried the same gene mutation that afflicted several of the major European royal
houses such as Spain and Prussia. Hemophilia therefore became known as "the royal disease". Alexandra had passed it on to
her son. As all of Nicholas and Alexandra's daughters perished with their parents and brother in Ekaterinburg in 1918, it
is not known whether any of them inherited the gene as carriers.
Because of the fragility of the autocracy at this
time, Nicholas and Alexandra chose not to divulge Alexei's condition to anyone outside the royal household. In fact, there
were many in the Imperial household who were unaware of the exact nature of the Tsarevich's illness. They knew that he suffered
from some serious malady; however, the exact nature of his suffering was not revealed to all.
At first Alexandra turned
to Russian doctors and medics to treat Alexei; however, their treatments generally failed, and Alexandra increasingly turned
to mystics and holy men. One of these, Grigori Rasputin , appeared to have some success.
As an absolute ruler (and
father of four daughters until the birth of the Tsarevich in 1904) until 1905, Nicholas had the complete power to alter the
Pauline Laws of Succession for the Russian Empire in order that his daughters could succeed to the throne. The Pauline Laws
had been introduced by Tsar Paul I on the death of his mother, Empress Catherine II. Paul had introduced the laws more as
a revenge on his mother than to regulate the succession. These laws prevented a woman becoming ruler of Russia unless all
male line dynasts were no more. For reasons that remain unclear, Nicholas chose not to change or abolish the Pauline Laws.
the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Serb nationalist association
known as the Black Hand, in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, Nicholas vacillated as to Russia's course. The rising ideas of Pan-Slavism
had led Russia to issue treaties of protection to Serbia. Nicholas wanted neither to abandon Serbia to the ultimatum of Austria-Hungary,
nor to provoke a general war. In a series of letters exchanged with the German Kaiser (the so-called "Willy and Nicky correspondence")
the two proclaimed their desire for peace, and each attempted to get the other to back down. Nicholas took stern measures
in this regard, demanding that Russia's mobilization be only against the Austrian border, in the hopes of preventing war with
the German Empire. It was a foolhardy decision as Austria was a long standing ally of the German Empire. War with Austria
meant war with Germany. Nicholas had the complete ability to prevent war.
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 mobilisation of the Russian forces but chose to ignore such advice. As Germany and
Austria-Hungary had mutual defence treaties in place, this led almost immediately to a German mobilization and declaration
of war, and the outbreak of World War I. War was a great danger to the stability of the Romanov dynasty.
of war on 1 August 1914 found Russia grossly unprepared, yet an immediate attack was ordered against the German province of
East Prussia. The Germans mobilized there with great efficiency and completely defeated the two Russian armies which had invaded.
The Battle of Tannenberg where an entire Russian army was annihilated cast an ominous shadow over the empire's future. The
loyal officers lost were the very ones needed to protect the dynasty.
The Russian armies later had considerable 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.
Gradually a war of attrition set in on the vast Eastern Front, where the Russians were facing the
combined forces of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, and they suffered staggering losses. Nicholas, feeling that it
was his duty, and that his personal presence would inspire his troops, decided to lead his army directly yet again against
advice given. He assumed the role of commander-in-chief after dismissing his cousin from that position, the highly respected
and experienced Nikolai Nikolaevich (September 1915) following the loss of the Russian Kingdom of Poland. This was a fatal
mistake as he was now directly associated as commander-in-chief with all subsequent losses. He was also away at the remote
HQ at Mogilev, far from the direct governance of the empire, and when revolution broke out in St Petersburg he was unable
to prevent it being so cut-off from his government.
His efforts to oversee the war left domestic issues essentially
in the hands of Alexandra. As a German she was extremely unpopular. The Duma was constantly calling for political reforms.
Political unrest continued throughout the war. Cut off from public opinion, Nicholas refused to see how tired the people were
of his dynasty and how much the common people hated his wife. He had been repeatedly warned about the destructive influence
of Grigori Rasputin but had failed to remove him. Nicholas had refused to censor the press and wild rumours and accusations
about Alexandra and Rasputin appeared almost daily. Alexandra was even brought under allegations of treason due to her German
roots. Anger at Nicholas's failure to act and the extreme damage that Rasputin's influence was doing to Russia's war effort
and to the monarchy led to his (Rasputin's) murder by a group of nobles, led by Prince Felix Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitri
Pavlovich, a cousin of the Tsar, on 16 December 1916.
There was mounting hardship as the government failed to produce
supplies, creating massive riots and rebellions. With Nicholas away at the front in 1915, authority appeared to collapse (Empress
Alexandra ran the government from Saint Petersburg from 1915 - initially with Rasputin, who was later assassinated), and St.
Petersburg was left in the hands of strikers and mutineering conscript soldiers. Despite efforts by the British Ambassador
Sir George Buchanan to warn the Tsar that he should grant constitutional reforms to fend-off revolution, Nicholas continued
to bury himself away at the Staff HQ (Stavka) 400 miles (600 km) away at Moghilev, leaving his capital and court open to intrigues
The last known photograph of Nicholas II, taken after his abdication in March 1917In February 1917
in Petrograd (as the capital had been renamed) a combination of very severe cold weather allied with acute food shortages
caused people to start to break shop windows to get bread and other necessaries. Police started to shoot at the populace from
rooftops which incited riots. The troops in the capital were poorly-motivated and their officers had no reason to be loyal
to the regime. They were angry and full of revolutionary fervor and sided with the populace. Order broke down and members
of the Parliament (Duma) formed a Provisional Government to try to restore order but it was impossible to turn the tide of
revolutionary change. At the end of the "February Revolution" of 1917 (February in the Old Russian Calendar), on 2 March (Julian
Calendar)/ 15 March (Gregorian Calendar), 1917, Nicholas II was forced to abdicate. He firstly abdicated in favour of Tsarevich
Alexis, but swiftly changed his mind after advice from doctors that the heir would not live long apart from his parents who
would be forced into exile. Nicholas drew up a new manifesto naming his brother, Grand Duke Michael, as the next Emperor of
all the Russias. He issued the following statement (which was suppressed by the Provisional Government):
the days of the great struggle against the foreign enemies, who for nearly three years have tried to enslave our fatherland,
the Lord God has been pleased to send down on Russia a new heavy trial. Internal popular disturbances threaten to have a disastrous
effect on the future conduct of this persistent war. The destiny of Russia, the honor of our heroic army, the welfare of the
people and the whole future of our dear fatherland demand that the war should be brought to a victorious conclusion whatever
the cost. The cruel enemy is making his last efforts, and already the hour approaches when our glorious army together with
our gallant allies will crush him. In these decisive days in the life of Russia, We thought it Our duty of conscience to facilitate
for Our people the closest union possible and a consolidation of all national forces for the speedy attainment of victory.
In agreement with the Imperial Duma We have thought it well to renounce the Throne of the Russian Empire and to lay down the
supreme power. As We do not wish to part from Our beloved son, We transmit the succession to Our brother, the Grand Duke Michael
Alexandrovich, and give Him Our blessing to mount the Throne of the Russian Empire. We direct Our brother to conduct the affairs
of state in full and inviolable union with the representatives of the people in the legislative bodies on those principles
which will be established by them, and on which He will take an inviolable oath.
In the name of Our dearly beloved homeland,
We call on Our faithful sons of the fatherland to fulfill their sacred duty to the fatherland, to obey the tsar in the heavy
moment of national trials, and to help Him, together with the representatives of the people, to guide the Russian Empire on
the road to victory, welfare, and glory. May the Lord God help Russia!”
Grand Duke Mikhail declined to accept
the throne until the people were allowed to vote through a Constituent Assembly for the continuance of the monarchy or a republic.
Contrary to popular belief, Mikhail never abdicated, he deferred taking up power.The abdication of Nicholas II and the subsequent
bolshevik revolution brought three centuries of the Romanov dynasty's rule to an end. It 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 early March the Provisional
Government placed Nicholas and his family under house arrest in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo, 15 miles (24 km) south
of Petrograd. In August 1917 the Kerensky government evacuated the Romanovs to Tobolsk in the Urals, allegedly to protect
them from the rising tide of revolution. There they lived in the former Governor's Mansion in considerable comfort.
the Bolsheviks came to power in October 1917, the conditions of their imprisonment grew stricter and talk of putting Nicholas
on trial grew more frequent. As the counterrevolutionary White movement gathered force, leading to full-scale civil war by
the summer, Nicholas, Alexandra and their daughter Maria were moved during April to Yekaterinburg. Alexis was too ill to accompany
his parents and remained with his sisters Olga, Tatiana and Anastasia, not leaving Tobolsk until May 1918. The family were
imprisoned with a few remaining retainers in the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg, a militant Bolshevik stronghold. Nicholas,
Alexandra, their children, their physician, and three servants were woken and taken into a basement room and shot at 2:33
A.M. on July 17. An official announcement appeared in the national press two days after the killing of the former tsar and
his family. It informed that the former monarch had been executed on the order of the Presidium of the Ural Regional Soviet
under pressure of the dangers posed by the approach of the Czechoslovaks. Whether this was on direct orders from Vladimir
Lenin in Moscow (as many believe, though scholarly research has found no hard evidence), or an option approved in Moscow should
White troops approach Yekaterinburg, or at the initiative of local Bolsheviks, remains in dispute, as does whether the order
(if there was an order) was for the execution of Nicholas alone or the entire family.
Then in 1989, Yakov Yurovsky's
own report was published, which seemed to show conclusively what had happened that night. The execution took place as units
of the Czechoslovak Legion, making their retreat out of Russia, approached Yekaterinburg. Fearing that the Legion would take
the town and free him, the Emperor's Bolshevik jailers pursued the immediate liquidation of the Imperial Family, arguing that
there was "no turning back". The telegram giving the order on behalf of the Supreme Soviet in Moscow was signed by Yakov Sverdlov,
after whom the town was subsequently renamed, Svderdlovsk. Nicholas was the first to die. He was shot with multiple bullets
to the head and chest. The last ones to die were Anastasia, Tatiana, Olga, and Maria, who were wearing several pounds of diamonds
within their clothing, thus rendering them bullet-resistant to an extent. They were speared with bayonets.
"Church on the Blood", built on the spot where the Ipatiev House once stood. The lare sculpture in front of the church depicts
the royal familyIvan Plotnikov, History Professor at the Ural State University "M.Gorky", has established that the execution
squad comprised the following members: Y.M.Yurovsky, G.P.Nikulin, M.A.Medvedev (Kudrin), P.Z.Yermakov, S.P.Vaganov, A.G.Kabanov,
P.S.Medvedev, V.N.Netrebin, and Y.M.Tselms. All were Russians with the exception of Tselms, who was Latvian. Three other Latvians
refused at the last minute to take part in the execution.
The bodies of Nicholas and his family, after being soaked
in acid and burned, were long believed to have been disposed of down a mineshaft at a site called the Four Brothers. Initially,
this was true — they had indeed been disposed of there on the night of July 17. The following morning — when rumours
spread in Yekaterinburg regarding the disposal site — Yurovsky removed the bodies and concealed them elsewhere. When
the vehicle carrying the bodies broke down on the way to the next chosen site, Yurovsky made new arrangements, and buried
most of the bodies in a sealed and concealed pit on Koptyaki Road, a cart track (now abandoned) 12 miles (19 km) north of
Yekaterinburg. The remains of all the family and their retainers with the exception of two of the children were later found
in 1991 and reburied by the Russian government following a state funeral. The process to identify the remains was exhaustive.
Samples were sent to Britain and the United States for DNA testing. The tests concluded that five of the skeletons were members
of one family and four were unrelated. Three of the five were determined to be the children of two parents. The mother was
linked to the British royal family, as was Alexandra. (Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, grandson of Alexandra's oldest sister
Victoria, Marchioness of Milford-Haven, gave a DNA sample which matched with that of the remains) The father was determined
to be related to Grand Duke George Alexandrovich, younger brother of Nicholas II. British scientists said they were more than
98.5% sure that the remains were those of the Emperor, his family and their attendants. Relics from the tsu Scandal (a failed
assassination attempt on Tsarevich Nicholas (future Nicholas II) in Japan) failed to provide sufficient evidence due to contamination.
ceremony of Christian burial was held 80 years to the day of the their death in 1998. The bodies were laid to rest with state
honors in the St. Catherine Chapel in the St. Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, where all other Russian emperors
since Peter the Great lie. President and Mrs. Yeltsin attended the funeral along with Romanov relations including Prince Michael
of Kent. The last Imperial Family of Russia have been made saints not only by the Russian Orthodox Church in exile but also
by Patriarch Alexis II in Moscow.
Two skeletons were not found — Alexei, his teenage son and heir to the throne;
and one of his daughters, either Maria, Tatiana, or Anastasia ( the three principal investigators of the remains — Alexander
Avdonin , Sergei Abramov , and William Maples — are not in agreement concerning the identity of this daughter of Tsar
Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra). In an article in The Sunday Telegraph, 19 April 1998, Avdonin, who found the bones of
the rest of the family, stated that the missing bodies were at another site near the main grave. He claimed that the Bolsheviks
experimented with the two bodies ( Alexei and his sister ) to completely destroy the corpses after burning by crushing the
bones to powder. Despite these assertions, the remains of Alexis and his sister are alleged to have been discovered by a search
party in August 2007, although conclusive DNA testing has not yet been performed on the remains.
The Bolshevik executioners
did not have enough time to treat the rest of the bodies in the same way, hence the survival of their remains. Avdonin believes
that, as the remains are so fragmentary, "probably only a few bones - possibly only some dust and ash" - they should be left
in peace. Anna Anderson received worldwide notoriety before the bodies were even found when rumours spread that she was claiming
to be Grand Duchess Anastasia, the alleged sole survivor of the execution. Hollywood has made films based on this. Anna Anderson
helped to fuel these rumours and gained a high degree of notoriety through her claims to be Anastasia. Her supporters alleged
she knew information about the Romanovs that only an intimate member of the family would know. However, DNA testing on Anna
Anderson's remains proved she was an imposter. According to that DNA testing, she was most likely a missing Polish factory
worker, Franziska Schanzkowska.
During the interment of the bones in 1998, the remains were referred to by the Russian
Orthodox Church as 'Christian victims of the Revolution' rather than as the royal family. One reason for this dispute was
the absence of any mark from Nicholas's saber wound he received on a visit to Japan as the tsarevich. Tests done by Japanese
scientists showed that the blood of Nicholas's nephew Tikhon did not match with the published profile of Nicholas obtained
by Dr Gill. A Stanford study done in 2003 suggested contamination.
On August 23, 2007, prosecutors acting on standard
procedures have reopened the investigation surrounding the deaths of the Imperial Family. Yekaterinburg researcher Sergei
Pogorelov said that "bones found in a burned area of ground near Yekaterinburg belong to a boy and a young woman roughly the
ages of Nicholas’ 13-year-old hemophiliac son, Alexei, and a daughter whose remains also never have been found." A regional
forensics scientist, Nikolai Nevolin explained that testing will be conducted on the newly discovered remains
Nicholas and his immediate family were canonized as saints by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia as martyrs. On 14
August 2000 they were canonized by the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. They were not named martyrs, since their death
did not result immediately from their Christian faith; instead they were canonized as passion bearers. According to a statement
by the Moscow synod, they were glorified as saints for the following reasons:
The last Orthodox Russian monarch and
members of his family we see people who sincerely strove to incarnate in their lives the commands of the Gospel. In the suffering
borne by the Royal Family in prison with humility, patience, and meekness, and in their martyrs deaths in Ekaterinburg in
the night of 4/17 July 1918 was revealed the light of the faith of Christ that conquers evil.