You are (then-future) Russian Tsar Nicholas II in 1893; what exactly do you do?

Jun 2017
3,027
Connecticut
It's been several years since I last made a thread such as this one and we have acquired some new members since then, so I figured that it's time to make another thread about this topic. Anyway, what would you have done if you were (then-future) Russian Tsar Nicholas II in 1893 and were able to see how real life turned out but not how reality would have unfolded had you made different choices? (I really hope that this topic isn't too close to ASBs for this thread to be locked. My previous thread about this topic several years ago was fine with the moderators here.)

Anyway, here is what I would have done:

1. Not marry Alexandra (Alix of Hesse). I don't need the hemophilia gene to spread to my descendants. Find some other princess to marry instead just as long as she is willing to convert to Russian Orthodoxy and avoid intervening in affairs of state. Maybe marrying some Orleanist princess if she was willing to convert to Orthodoxy?
2. Abolish the anti-Semitic Pale of Settlement. Jews shouldn't be restricted to living in only one part of Russia. The Pale ruins Russia's international reputation and alienates its Jewish population, so I would get rid of it. I would also aggressively crack down on the anti-Jewish pogroms but keep the Jewish quotas due to them being a form of affirmative action in favor of non-Jewish Russians. In the long(er)-run, I would also hope to encourage mass intermarriage between Jews and Russians, but I fear that being open about this desire of mine early in my reign could result in massive anger against me.
3. Immediately give the Ottoman Empire an ultimatum to stop the Hamidian massacres of its Armenian population with the threat of a Russian military intervention against the Ottoman Empire if the Ottoman Empire fails to comply. If war with the Ottomans will break out over this, so be it--just as long as the other Great Powers won't militarily intervene--which they shouldn't if I will make it clear that my territorial ambitions in this war are limited to Ottoman Armenia and Pontus north of it. So, no thrust towards Constantinople--which I don't really want anyway.
4. Avoid war with Japan at all costs. Don't mess with the samurai! Make whatever compromises are necessary to avoid war with Japan.
5. Abandon the rhetoric of Pan-Slavism. I certainly don't want Russia fighting any Balkan wars with little benefit for Russia on behalf of Pan-Slavism. I would be willing to support Balkan expansion against the Ottoman Empire but I would not be willing to fight Germany (Deutschland Uber Alles!) over the fate of the Balkan countries.
6. Keep the Russian alliance with France since I need an ally as well as France loans. However, make it crystal-clear to Germany that Russia has no desire in helping France wage any revanchist wars against it.
7. End the Great Game with Britain. It's simply not worth it.
8. Move the Russian capital south to Rostov-on-Don so that Russia would have a huge city on the Black Sea comparable in population (in the long(er)-run) to Moscow and St. Pete's.
9. Encourage European/white, East Asian, and Hindu immigration to Russia just as long as the newcomers are actually willing to assimilate.
10. Aggressively listen to people such as Sergei Witte who advocated having a large focus on peace and economic development.
11. Later on in my reign (if there's no revolution and execution, I should expect to live to around 1950 or so), focus on promoting suburban development.
12. Create a Duma with universal suffrage (maybe only men initially, and later expanded to women as well) and actually give it a lot of power in regards to domestic policy. Foreign policy, of course, would remain my prerogative until shortly before my death, when I will give the Duma power in regards to this as well. Also, create a literacy test requirement for voting in Duma elections so that illiterate peasants won't be able to vote after being easily swayed by demagogues.
13. Pursue land reform in a competent manner and also promote things such as mass schooling, mass literacy, and large-scale industrialization and economic development throughout all of Russia.
14. Allow freedom of speech and freedom of expression in Russia with the exception of radical subversive ideologies such as Bolshevism. Also, abandon forced Russification programs (such as banning/restricting the Ukrainian language) and instead promote Russification in as many non-Russian parts of Russia as possible through mass Russian settlement into these parts.
15. Pursue good relations with the US, a country that I strongly want to emulate other than for its attitude in regards to race relations.
16. Give Poland and Finland their independence under their own Romanov Tsars in exchange for them agreeing to a permanent military alliance with Russia and France and in exchange for having these Romanovs permanently renounce their own and their descendants' rights of succession to the Russian throne.

Anyway, how does all of this sound?
1-Agreed. Even if Nicholas's reign survived this poses issues for the future of the monarchy.

2-Sounds good.

3-Seeing that the fear the Armenians supporting and supported Russia was the pretext(not saying it was an acceptable pretext but that's why it happened)for the genocide this seems like it would do more harm than good. Also Russia's main goal is Constantinople at this time and both the Russians and Ottomans are well aware they will try to get it at some point. Doesn't make sense to offer a party something you aren't willing to give up.

4-Without knowing the future I doubt he'd have a reason not to(as is the case in many "don't do it you'll lose" tales) but given what we know sure.

5-Thing is Pan Slavism did have Russian benefits as they came at the expense of her two traditional rivals(Ottomans and Hapsburgs) and put Russia in as dominant a position as she'd ever been relative to her neighbours. This doesn't seem relevant by 1914 when the Ottomans are powerless but on paper Pan Slavism worked, if not too well. This would be a no brainer but in 1894 it would seem insane given the Balkan countries had been largely responsible for a period of Russian foreign policy success. That relationships consequences didn't seem apparent at the time only the benefits.

6-This is great. However it's a paradox cause the reason the French wanted the alliance was to use Russia to fight Germany. That being said stringing the French alone for money would have been the best play for Russia's future.

7-I mean he did do this. Wasn't a bad move but don't see the relevance to how it worked against Russia as the Russians and UK ended up on the same side.

8-I see the benefits but this is a massive change and don't think they justify it. Remember the Germans did take the Crimean penninsula while neither St Petersburg nor Moscow fell. While St Petersburg's survived in only the literal sense and the Germans only abandoned the siege because the Eastern front as a whole was lost those two capitals locations were pluses rather than minuses.

9-Today this makes sense but in 1914 Russia's population and expected population was off the charts, almost three times that of the second largest European power.

10-Okay

11-Undecided on this

12-Sounds good. That being said if the elected representatives voted for war the Revolution would have still occurred.

13-Great

14-Ukraine isn't non Russian though. Only reason Kiev wasn't the capital of Russia and Ukraine became seperate was that Russia didn't have control when it reunified under Muscovy. Russia's entire history was also dictated by that policy(again Muscovy united a bunch of different Russian states that would be considered seperate countries by today's standards hard to argue it hadn't proven to be effective).

15-Makes sense though at this point the US was very isolationist and the long term benefits of a relationship wouldn't be apparent.

16-With Poland the Polish were Catholic and would probably want to overthrow the puppet at some point. That area was also a militarily strageic buffer zone(against not just Germany but Austria). With Finland it could work because the enemy the region buffered against(Sweden) was all but done as a threat. But this tended to be something countries did to expand influence not to exert it over already controlled areas.
 
Jun 2017
734
maine
Well, yeah. As you can tell, I am going to make an extremely strong effort to avoid dragging my country into any unnecessary wars in this scenario.
As well you should! In connection with a research project on something else, I've come across deep and real dissension among Russian generals from the time of Napoleon onwards. IMO this was not a war-ready country. I'd apply that same thinking to Mongolia and Xinjiang but I defer to Visigoth Panzer whose grasp on military matters is deeper than mine.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
23,547
SoCal
Why trade for them when you can take them for yourselves. That was Japans plan with China.
Japan only invaded China after the Great Depression struck, though. Were the Japanese prepared to engage in long wars before the Great Depression?

The Ottomans wouldn't trust them and it would end Russian expansion.
TBH, though, I'm really not interested in fighting a war over Constantinople. Must I keep up this charade?

Britain only allied with the Russians because of the circumstance of the war. They weren't "on" Russias side, just temporary allies against Germany and friends. They promised anything to everybody, sometimes the same territory to multiple countries. If they would actually give it too them is debatable.
Britain would be prepared to backstab a wartime ally after the war?

Germany holding a plebiscite during this time (after the Franco-Prussian war) could be seen as a sign of weakness, especially if they lose and give the region away. A better plan would be to give them autonomy, as Bismark advised.
Makes sense.

If Russia just stands by as Germany and Austria conquer Poland it would make them look weak and empower Germany/Austria. This could easily happen without the Polish government's support.
So, Russia would have to go to war to protect Poland.

As for Russia conquering Mongolia and Xinjiang in no ww1 scenario, yes, easily. The Soviets ruled Mongolia in everything but name in real life. Xinjiang wouldn't be much of a stretch. Europe may complain but could do little to stop them, short of supporting Japan against them.
Would Japan actually care that much about Mongolia and Xinjiang, though?
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
23,547
SoCal
1-Agreed. Even if Nicholas's reign survived this poses issues for the future of the monarchy.
Yeah, a Russian monarch that chronically worries about his own health due to him being a hemophiliac might not work out very well.

2-Sounds good.
Good. :)

3-Seeing that the fear the Armenians supporting and supported Russia was the pretext(not saying it was an acceptable pretext but that's why it happened)for the genocide this seems like it would do more harm than good. Also Russia's main goal is Constantinople at this time and both the Russians and Ottomans are well aware they will try to get it at some point. Doesn't make sense to offer a party something you aren't willing to give up.
In regards to the Armenians, I get your concern that a Russian invasion could threaten to escalate the situation and make the Ottomans begin committing genocide against the Armenians. That said, though, what alternative are you actually proposing here? I mean, I can't simply stand by and watch the Ottomans slaughter their Armenian population with impunity--especially when this is going on by my own doorstep! Would a mere threat of Russian military intervention get the Ottomans to back off in regards to this? Maybe I should cooperate with other Great Powers such as Britain to aggressively pressure the Ottomans to halt these massacres of their Armenian population (the Hamidian massacres).

4-Without knowing the future I doubt he'd have a reason not to(as is the case in many "don't do it you'll lose" tales) but given what we know sure.
OK.

5-Thing is Pan Slavism did have Russian benefits as they came at the expense of her two traditional rivals(Ottomans and Hapsburgs) and put Russia in as dominant a position as she'd ever been relative to her neighbours. This doesn't seem relevant by 1914 when the Ottomans are powerless but on paper Pan Slavism worked, if not too well. This would be a no brainer but in 1894 it would seem insane given the Balkan countries had been largely responsible for a period of Russian foreign policy success. That relationships consequences didn't seem apparent at the time only the benefits.
The thing is, though, that I'd be content to allow the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires to remain intact just as long as they will refrain from causing any trouble. Honestly, I would prefer not to fight either the Hapsburgs or the Ottomans.

6-This is great. However it's a paradox cause the reason the French wanted the alliance was to use Russia to fight Germany. That being said stringing the French alone for money would have been the best play for Russia's future.
Agreed. Also, TBH, I considered outright ending Russia's alliance with France but that might hurt Russia's reputation considering that it had just agreed to its alliance with France.

7-I mean he did do this. Wasn't a bad move but don't see the relevance to how it worked against Russia as the Russians and UK ended up on the same side.
I meant that, had WWI not occurred, there could have theoretically eventually been a resumption of the Great Game and perhaps even an eventual Russo-British war as a result of this.

8-I see the benefits but this is a massive change and don't think they justify it. Remember the Germans did take the Crimean penninsula while neither St Petersburg nor Moscow fell. While St Petersburg's survived in only the literal sense and the Germans only abandoned the siege because the Eastern front as a whole was lost those two capitals locations were pluses rather than minuses.
Rostov-on-Don isn't actually in Crimea. Also, if the Nazis will still come to power in Germany and subsequently invade Russia, then I would have utterly failed in my job as Russian Tsar. Basically, I want to prevent this from actually occurring in the first place!

9-Today this makes sense but in 1914 Russia's population and expected population was off the charts, almost three times that of the second largest European power.
Well, if it will give up Poland, it will lose some of its population. That said, though, even with a huge population, having some additional diversity could really add some vibrancy to one's country. For instance, having a Chinatown in various Russian cities could really enrich the culture there. :)

Good. :)

11-Undecided on this
Would you prefer to focus on urban development as opposed to on suburban development?

12-Sounds good. That being said if the elected representatives voted for war the Revolution would have still occurred.
What's why I advocated having foreign policy remain my own (as in, the Russian Tsar's) exclusive prerogative. I certainly don't need politicians taking Russia to war when Russia isn't actually ready to go to war.

Yeah. :)

14-Ukraine isn't non Russian though. Only reason Kiev wasn't the capital of Russia and Ukraine became seperate was that Russia didn't have control when it reunified under Muscovy. Russia's entire history was also dictated by that policy(again Muscovy united a bunch of different Russian states that would be considered seperate countries by today's standards hard to argue it hadn't proven to be effective).
As far as I am concerned, though, what matters most of all is whether or not Ukrainians themselves will actually manage to become Russians. If not, then Russifying as much of Ukraine as I can through mass Russian settlement doesn't actually seem like such a bad idea.

15-Makes sense though at this point the US was very isolationist and the long term benefits of a relationship wouldn't be apparent.
The US helped mediate the Russo-Japanese War and also helped crush the Boxer Rebellion in China, so the US wasn't completely isolationist during this time.

16-With Poland the Polish were Catholic and would probably want to overthrow the puppet at some point.
But couldn't this trigger Russian military intervention and thus an alternate WWI?

That area was also a militarily strageic buffer zone(against not just Germany but Austria). With Finland it could work because the enemy the region buffered against(Sweden) was all but done as a threat. But this tended to be something countries did to expand influence not to exert it over already controlled areas.
Couldn't having Russia withdraw from Poland make Germany and Austria feel less insecure about Russia, though?
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
23,547
SoCal
As well you should! In connection with a research project on something else, I've come across deep and real dissension among Russian generals from the time of Napoleon onwards. IMO this was not a war-ready country. I'd apply that same thinking to Mongolia and Xinjiang but I defer to Visigoth Panzer whose grasp on military matters is deeper than mine.
TBH, I'm certainly not against quick wars that are likely to yield success. Rather, I am against long wars against powerful countries such as Germany.
 
Apr 2017
1,737
U.S.A.
Japan only invaded China after the Great Depression struck, though. Were the Japanese prepared to engage in long wars before the Great Depression?

TBH, though, I'm really not interested in fighting a war over Constantinople. Must I keep up this charade?

Britain would be prepared to backstab a wartime ally after the war?

Makes sense.

So, Russia would have to go to war to protect Poland.

Would Japan actually care that much about Mongolia and Xinjiang, though?
Japan was long interested in expanding as it was critically short on important resources, that's why it invaded china and later the European colonies.

Britain promised Palestine to both the jews and arabs, they promised Istria/Trieste to the serbs and Italians, they promised the Dardanelles to Greece and Russia. They had a long record of duplicity, as it was seen as a necessity to win the war. This angered many and laid the seeds for ww2.

Japan was interested in Siberia east of lake Baikal, this to a certain degree would include Mongolia as a buffer state. Xinjiang they probably wouldn't care as much about aside from to deny Russian expansion.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
23,547
SoCal
Japan was long interested in expanding as it was critically short on important resources, that's why it invaded china and later the European colonies.
Why'd it wait until the Great Depression, though?

Britain promised Palestine to both the jews and arabs, they promised Istria/Trieste to the serbs and Italians, they promised the Dardanelles to Greece and Russia. They had a long record of duplicity, as it was seen as a necessity to win the war. This angered many and laid the seeds for ww2.
Fair enough, I suppose.

Japan was interested in Siberia east of lake Baikal, this to a certain degree would include Mongolia as a buffer state. Xinjiang they probably wouldn't care as much about aside from to deny Russian expansion.
Makes sense, I suppose.
 

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,861
Florania
St. Petersburg was the capital because Peter the Great wanted to open to Western Europe.
Since the Chinese webnovel Mythic Three Kingdoms mentions the area around Yekaterinburg, it can be a responsible choice of capital
if Russia wants to establish itself further in Central Asia.
 
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Apr 2010
1,066
evergreen state, USA
If I knew what was coming, I would've abdicated, scooped up my wealth, and retired in exile somewhere with a gentle climate on the beach, ha ha!
 
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