Thursday, July 14, 2011
Monarch Profile: Tsar Nicholas II, Part II - The Trouble Begins
The police made no effort to stop the marchers and they converged on the Winter Palace demanding to see the Tsar. A thin line of nervous soldiers confronted them and someone fired and then the troops opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds. The Tsar was immediately blamed for refusing to see the protestors and even for ordering the shooting. However, the Tsar was not at the Winter Palace that day, in fact he was not even in St Petersburg but was at his country residence of Tsarkoe Selo. He had no idea about what had happened until it was over and he did meet with a delegation of the workers once he found out about it. However, that made no difference to the revolutionary agitators who had infiltrated the workers unions and who portrayed the Tsar as a callous murderer all in their own pursuit of power. The socialist priest Gapon, of course, survived, went into hiding and revealed his true intentions by blaming the incident he had started totally on the Tsar and calling for the overthrow of the Russian Empire.
Many, then and now, like to pretend that political ideologies are the answer to everything. The socialists and communists, for instance, argued that if they were given total power and could implement their ideology Russia would be peaceful, prosperous and ideal. The more moderates said the same and many still look at the problems Russia was going through and blame the principle of autocracy or the person of Tsar Nicholas II himself. However, this thinking totally removes the human element from the equation. No system is perfect and any system will fail if the people, certain people or enough people do wrong and behave wickedly. It is worth considering how many concessions the Tsars had made by that time. Serfdom had been abolished, there were elections, political parties, labor unions, civil rights and so on. Yet, none of this mattered because the revolutionary elements who did not really care about the people but who wanted power for themselves continued to foment discontent and rebellion against the Romanov monarchy. Nicholas II was a very good man, he was not cruel or oppressive or in any way malicious in the least, yet nothing he could have done would have changed the actions of the revolutionary agitators.
A great opportunity had been lost, again, not because of anything bad that the government was doing, but because of its effectiveness. Nicholas II was a little troubled by some of the proposed changes and conservatives could justly argue that the Duma had not been essential in bringing about the changes that were enacted. However, the revolutionaries, power-mad fanatics that they were, wanted to tear down, not build up. They were opposed to anything that would be of benefit to the Russian Empire because that would ensure the survival of the monarchy. They specifically targeted those ministers who were most effective, whose policies worked or had the best chances of success. However, there was a period of calm and much credit for this goes to the Tsar. His crackdown on the revolutionary groups after their numerous assassinations left them weakened, disorganized and divided -often fighting amongst themselves. In 1913 there was also an upsurge in patriotic sentiment as the Tsar inaugurated the celebrations for the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. He also encouraged the emergence of the “Union of the Russian People”, a movement started in 1905 to encourage support for the monarchy. As 1914 approached, there were problems, but also considerable reason for hope.
To be continued in Part III