The Downfall Of Nikolai II Alexandrovich Romanov
- Tanya Katre
It’s the 30th May, 1896, the day of the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II. You wake up at 5am, hours before the actual ceremony. You get dressed, kiss your kids goodbye and begin the hour-long walk to the Khodynka campus. The recent wide scale famines in 1891-92, pushed you and your family into a huge economic crisis, and the announcements of free food distributions made the coronation ceremony a must for you to visit. Hundreds of thousands of people were already gathered there, it's 7 am and the celebrations weren’t to begin until 10am, so you stand alongside your neighbors awaiting further instructions. A while later, abruptly, one of the ministers from the winter palace announces a shortage of the free food gifts. So, you immediately rush to the food stalls where they slowly begin distributing the food. There are thousands of hungry people and barely any food stalls. So, you push and shout and try to make your way to the stall, and just in a matter of minutes you find yourself right in the middle of a huge stampede.
Nikolai II Alexandrovich Romanov was the last of the Romanov dynasty to rule Russia. Tsar Nicholas II reigned over imperial Russia from 1st November 1894 to 15th March 1917. The downfall of Nicholas II was a culmination of the growing social ideologies as well as the deteriorating social, economic and political conditions of the Russian empire and its people.
The Khodynka tragedy, or the massive stampede during the king's coronation ceremony, was one of the first events that led to the emergence of the desire to overthrow the regime, amongst the Russians. The government had hid the entire tragedy from the public for quite a while, however, when the news began to spread, great resentment was created towards the emperor, who was mockingly nicknamed “Nicolas the Bloody”. The Khodynka tragedy marked the beginning of the end of the autocratic monarchy.
In the beginning of the 20th century, Russia was one the most impoverished countries in Europe. On 22nd January 1905, frustrated by the poor working conditions and low wages, a group of workers (led by father Gapon) marched to the Winter Palace with their demands. It was just an ordinary Sunday and the rich and wealthy who lived alongside the king's palaces, the government offices and the fashionable areas of the city, went about their daily routines. However, the worker protests drove all the civilians back into their houses, a curfew was announced and eventually, the protestors were attacked by the police and the Cossacks. In the exchange that followed, over 100 workers were killed and about 300 wounded. Popularly, this event came to be known as ‘The Bloody Sunday’, and it created a domino effect across the country that led to a series of events that came to be known as the “1905 Revolution”.
Apart from the workers many Russians including socialists and revolutionaries also participated. The magnitude of the strikes and protests eventually caused the Tsar to concede their demands of the formation of a constitution and the establishment of an elected legislature called the Duma. However, the Tsar did not want any questioning of his authority or any reduction in his power. Hence, soon after, severe restrictions were placed on political activity and over time even voting laws were changed. The Tsar struggled to maintain a civil relationship with the Duma.
Another factor that caused the downfall of monarchy was the first world war, which began almost a decade later, in 1914. At first, the war was highly popular amongst the Russians. However, later, when the Tsar refused to consult the Duma, support began to decline. The initial enthusiasm soon turned to hostility. Moreover, the growing influence of a monk named Rasputin over the Romanov family, coupled with Tsarina Alexandra’s German origins, led to increasing suspscions amongst the public.
By 1916, the wars caused railway lines to begin to break down and able-bodied men were called up to the war leading to labour shortages in the country. Large supplies of grain were sent to feed the army, as a result, bread and flour became scarce in the cities. By the winter, riots at bread shops were common.
Furthermore, There were over 7 million casualties by 1917. In addition to that, the destruction of crops and buildings by the Russian army on their retreat, led to over 3 million refugees in Russia. The situation highly discredited the government and the Tsar and Soldiers did not wish to fight such a war.
One of the most prominent events that led to the immediate abdication of the Tsar was the February revolution of 1917. This revolution started with a lockout in one the many factories in Russia, on the 22nd of February. Following the lockout, workers around the country organised strikes in sympathy. In addition to that, the Tsar suspended the Duma on 25th of February against the wishes of the parliamentarians.As a result, the streets thronged with people raising slogans about bread, wages and democracy. The economic conditions caused by the world war also led to widespread resentment against the Tsar. Soon, the petrograd soviet was formed and the tsarist power collapsed. Tsar Nicholas II finally abdicated on the 2nd of March 1917.
The imperial family fell out of favor with the Russian public long before their execution by Bolsheviks in July 1918. The Russian Revolution was a result of long-term causes including Tsar Alexander's inability to satisfy his people and Tsar Nicholas II's inability to rule the Russian empire all together. The collapse was also an outcome of the immediate effects of World War One on Russia and the 1917 revolution that took place in Petrograd.
Finally, the people of Russia managed to successfully dismantle the well-established Russian doctrine of “Oneness of the Tsar and the People, and of the People and the Tsar” and establish a revolutionary government based on ideas of socialism and communism.