Sunday, July 17, 2011
Monarch Profile: Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Part V - The End
This final act has been the cause of a little controversy in historical arguments. Could he have abdicated for someone else, even his son? If he had signed his own abdication first, how could he have had the legitimate power to do so? With his first signature he lost all power and Alexei automatically became Tsar and no one but he could have signed his position away. Most, however, accepted that as Alexei was a minor, Nicholas II, as his father, could do as he pleased on his behalf. In any event, none of it would ultimately matter anyway and Nicholas only did it because he feared for the life of his beloved (and frail) son. Doctors assured him that were Alexei separated from his family, as he surely would be if he remained in Russia as a figurehead Tsar while the rest were sent into exile, he would surely die. No parent would have allowed that and would have done anything to prevent it. Once the abdications were done, Nicholas was allowed to go to his family and all of them were taken into “protective custody” by the provisional government. Nicholas fully expected that they would be allowed to leave the country and that his cousin and ally King George V of Great Britain would give them sanctuary.
To his credit, Nicholas II took it all with his usual calm and good nature. In quick order most of the guards and officers were won over by Nicholas and his charming family. The only one to suffer any torment was poor Alexei whom many of the guards seemed to delight in bullying. However, on the whole, everyone who had contact with Nicholas could only marvel at how wrong their previous opinion of him had been. This was also true of Alexandra of whom the very worst lies and slander had been told, yet, when the revolutionaries actually met her and talked to her they realized what a distorted view they had entertained. However, with the October Revolution the radical Bolsheviks seized power in Petrograd away from the provisional government and the situation for the Imperial Family became much worse. There were rumors about civil war breaking out, monarchists sending them support and even of rescue plans but nothing ever came of them. Finally, the Tsar was told to prepare for a trip to Moscow.
Trotsky himself later wrote that the massacre was necessary saying, “The severity of this summary justice showed the world that we would continue to fight on mercilessly, stopping at nothing. The execution of the Tsar’s family was needed not only in order to frighten, horrify and dishearten the enemy, but also in order to shake up our own ranks to show that there was no turning back,”. To the last, Nicholas II had behaved with dignity and gentility. The inhumane murder of the Tsar and his entire family set the tone for the civil war that followed and that should be kept in mind when any talk of the many atrocities of the Russian Civil War. The atrocities started at Yekaterinburg with the Romanovs. The suffering of Russia was only beginning but for Nicholas II and his family, their sorrows had finally come to an end. In 1981 the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia formally canonized Tsar Nicholas II as a saint and martyr, along with his family. In 2000 the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church also recognized their saintly status but as “Passion Bearers”, as people who died in a Christ-like way.