Opinions on Tsar Nicholas II. Do you feel much sympathy for him?

Oct 2017
142
South Australia
I don't know a great deal about the Tsar but from what I do know it seems more like his failings were more that he was just a weak/poor ruler and unsuited for the throne, rather than actually being tyrannical or oppressive. It seems to me like he genuinely cared about ruling his people, but just wasn't cut out for the job. Seems like a relatively soft family man actually. From what I know he didn't deliberately do anything bad that would go beyond the usual blunders of historical leaders.

I think he certainly needed to step down as a political leader, but I can't help but feel sorry for the guy that he was executed.

Perhaps my views are biased by how horrifically brutal said execution was - though you could hardly even call it an execution, more like a murder. At least other rulers deposed in revolution like Charles I or Louis XVI were allowed to go to their deaths with grace and dignity.
And the fact that they killed his wife and young family with him, its probably best described as a slaughter.

What are your thoughts on Nicholas as a ruler?

Do you feel much sympathy for him? Does the manner of his execution influence this at all, if he had been executed in a more dignified manner how would you view him?

(Not sure whether this fits in Controversial History but thought I'd play it safe)
 
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Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,762
Republika Srpska
His fate was tragic, especially if you realize his family was also killed at the same time. He was most certainly not a tyrannical man like Stalin was for example. He was unsuited to be a ruler though.
 
Oct 2017
142
South Australia
Some quotes from historians I've found:

Raymond Esthus:

"The contemporary assessments of Nicholas are remarkably uniform. He was described as shy, charming, gentle in disposition, fearful of controversy, indecisive, indulgent to his relatives, and deeply devoted to his family. Aleksandr Mosolov, who headed his Court Chancellery for sixteen years, wrote that Nicholas, though intelligent and well-educated, never adopted a definite, energetic attitude and loathed making a decision in the presence of others. Sergei Witte, who served Nicholas and his father for eleven years as Minister of Finance, commented that the Tsar was a well-intentioned child, but his actions were entirely dependent upon the character of his counselors, most of whom were bad"

And two rather more negative quotes, which despite being rather damning still support the idea of him as a "good man but a bad tsar":

Robert K. Massie:

'there still are those who for political or other reasons continue to insist that Nicholas was "Bloody Nicholas". Most commonly, he is described as shallow, weak, stupid—a one-dimensional figure presiding feebly over the last days of a corrupt and crumbling system. This, certainly, is the prevailing public image of the last Tsar. Historians admit that Nicholas was a "good man"—the historical evidence of personal charm, gentleness, love of family, deep religious faith and strong Russian patriotism is too overwhelming to be denied—but they argue that personal factors are irrelevant; what matters is that Nicholas was a bad tsar .... Essentially, the tragedy of Nicholas II was that he appeared in the wrong place in history"

Barbara Tuchman:

"[The Russian Empire] was ruled from the top by a sovereign who had but one idea of government—to preserve intact the absolute monarchy bequeathed to him by his father—and who, lacking the intellect, energy or training for his job, fell back on personal favorites, whim, simple mulishness, and other devices of the empty-headed autocrat. His father, Alexander III, who deliberately intended to keep his son uneducated in statecraft until the age of thirty, unfortunately miscalculated his own life expectancy, and died when Nicholas was twenty-six. The new Tsar had learned nothing in the interval, and the impression of imperturbability he conveyed was in reality apathy—the indifference of a mind so shallow as to be all surface"
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,750
SoCal
His fate was tragic, especially if you realize his family was also killed at the same time. He was most certainly not a tyrannical man like Stalin was for example. He was unsuited to be a ruler though.
Completely agreed with all of this. Neither Nicholas nor his family deserved to get murdered like that. Also, for all of his flaws (and there were plenty of them), Nicholas's rule was much more humane than the subsequent Bolshevik rule was:


The article above might be a bit propagandistic, but it nevertheless shows that Tsarist Russia was much milder and more humane on various aspects (at least in its late period) than the Bolsheviks were. For instance, in its last 100 years, it didn't execute that many people--at least a hundred times less than the Bolsheviks, in fact.

Nicholas II's biggest mistakes were, IMHO:

1. Marrying a wife with hemophilia genes
2. Letting his wife and Rasputin run the country
3. Entering World War I--at least when he did. Waiting a couple of decades before going to war might have very well been better
4. Not abolishing the anti-Semitic Pale of Settlement
5. Getting rid of Sergei Witte
6. Refusing to share more power with the Russian Duma (Parliament)
7. Waging the Russo-Japanese War
8. Not militarily intervening against the Ottoman Empire during the Hamidian massacres in the mid-1890s
9. The Khodynka Tragedy
10. Bloody Sunday
11. Taking personal command of the Russian military during World War I--thus associating himself with all of its subsequent failures
 
Jul 2019
809
New Jersey
I always have sympathy for people who suffer, even if they did very bad things. That's a personal flaw(?) of mine. That being said, Nicholas and his wife were vicious Jew-haters, and were active supporters of the many anti-Jewish pogroms and massacres, as well as the Beilis blood libel. That severely diminishes my sympathy for them (although again, I can't avoid feeling somewhat bad for them). I feel really bad for his children, though. Whatever the crimes of their parents, they didn't deserve to die, and certainly not in the barbaric manner that they did.
Edit: Now if we were talking about Charles I or Louis XVI, now there are kings I can feel bad for.
 
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Feb 2011
1,142
Scotland
I always have sympathy for people who suffer, even if they did very bad things. That's a personal flaw(?) of mine. That being said, Nicholas and his wife were vicious Jew-haters, and were active supporters of the many anti-Jewish pogroms and massacres, as well as the Beilis blood libel. That severely diminishes my sympathy for them (although again, I can't avoid feeling somewhat bad for them). I feel really bad for his children, though. Whatever the crimes of their parents, they didn't deserve to die, and certainly not in the barbaric manner that they did.
I agree with every word.
He can't take the credit for it as it wasn't (of course) intentional, but at least the wave of Jewish emigration caused by the pogroms sent many to Britain (which is why i'm here) and the US and meant that they at least weren't there when the Nazis came.
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,187
Kansas
I don't know a great deal about the Tsar but from what I do know it seems more like his failings were more that he was just a weak/poor ruler and unsuited for the throne, rather than actually being tyrannical or oppressive. It seems to me like he genuinely cared about ruling his people, but just wasn't cut out for the job. Seems like a relatively soft family man actually. From what I know he didn't deliberately do anything bad that would go beyond the usual blunders of historical leaders.
He was sort of the wrong guy in the right place. He was okay with the gradual liberalization being agitated for, but lacked the skills to recognize what the conservatives in Court where doing to both him and liberal elements of the body politics.
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,187
Kansas
5. Getting rid of Sergei Witte
6. Refusing to share more power with the Russian Duma (Parliament)
However both these items can be linked directly to the attitude of the Court around the Tsar rather than to his personal opinions.

I am not sure Rasputin exerted that much influence, but he did draw plenty of bad press for the Tsarine, who already had enough PR issues to deal with
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,750
SoCal
I agree with every word.
He can't take the credit for it as it wasn't (of course) intentional, but at least the wave of Jewish emigration caused by the pogroms sent many to Britain (which is why i'm here) and the US and meant that they at least weren't there when the Nazis came.
Interestingly enough, though, had the Pale of Settlement been abolished earlier, more Jews could have moved to the Russian interior before the Holocaust as well. The Jews who ended up in the Russian interior in or before 1941 largely survived the Holocaust.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,750
SoCal
I always have sympathy for people who suffer, even if they did very bad things. That's a personal flaw(?) of mine. That being said, Nicholas and his wife were vicious Jew-haters, and were active supporters of the many anti-Jewish pogroms and massacres, as well as the Beilis blood libel. That severely diminishes my sympathy for them (although again, I can't avoid feeling somewhat bad for them). I feel really bad for his children, though. Whatever the crimes of their parents, they didn't deserve to die, and certainly not in the barbaric manner that they did.
Edit: Now if we were talking about Charles I or Louis XVI, now there are kings I can feel bad for.
This article argues that Nicholas II was willing to embrace greater Jewish equality at the very end of his reign:


Of course, it is possible that this article has a bias in favor of Nicholas II--at least to some extent.