Nicholas II or Nikolai II Alexandrovich Romanov; spelled in pre-revolutionary script. ( 186817 July 1918), known in the
Russian Orthodox Church , native_name_lang = ru , image = Moscow July 2011-7a.jpg , imagewidth = , alt = , caption = Cathedral of Christ the Saviour The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour ( rus, Храм Хр ...

Russian Orthodox Church
as Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer,. was the last
Emperor of Russia The emperor or empress of all the Russias or All Russia, ''Imperator Vserossiyskiy'', ''Imperatritsa Vserossiyskaya'' (often titled Tsar Tsar ( or ), also spelled ''czar'', ''tzar'', or ''csar'', is a Royal and noble ranks, title used to d ...
, King of Congress Poland and
Grand Duke of FinlandGrand Duke of Finland, alternatively the Grand Prince of Finland ( fi, Suomen suuriruhtinas, sv, Fürst, Storfurste av Finland, russian: Великий князь Финляндский), was, from around 1580 to 1809, a title in use by most Swedish ...
, ruling from 1 November 1894 until his abdication on 15 March 1917. During his reign, Nicholas gave support to the economic and political reforms promoted by his prime ministers,
Sergei Witte Count Sergei Yulyevich Witte (; ), also known as Sergius Witte, was a Russian statesman who served as the first Prime Minister of Russia, "Prime Minister" of the Russian Empire, replacing the Tsar as head of the government. Neither a liberal no ...

Sergei Witte
Pyotr Stolypin Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin ( rus, Пётр Арка́дьевич Столы́пин, p=pʲɵtr ɐˈrkadʲjɪvʲɪtɕ stɐˈlɨpʲɪn; – ) was a Russian politician. He was the third Prime Minister of Russia, and Minister of Internal Affairs ...
. He advocated modernization based on foreign loans and close ties with France, but resisted giving the new parliament (the
Duma A duma (дума) is a Russian assembly with advisory or legislative A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind ...
) major roles. Ultimately, progress was undermined by Nicholas's commitment to
autocratic rule Autocracy is a system of government in which supreme power over a State (polity), state is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control (ex ...
, strong aristocratic opposition and defeats sustained by the Russian military in the
Russo-Japanese War The Russo-Japanese War (russian: Ру́сско-япóнская войнá, Rússko-yapónskaya voyná; ja, 日露戦争, Nichiro sensō, Japanese-Russian War) was fought between the Empire of Japan The was a historical natio ...
World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world". The term is usually reserved for ...

World War I
. By March 1917, public support for Nicholas had collapsed and he was forced to abdicate the throne, thereby ending the
Romanov dynasty The House of Romanov (also transcribed Romanoff; rus, Рома́новы, Románovy, rɐˈmanəvɨ) was the reigning imperial house of Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country s ...
's 304-year rule of Russia (1613–1917). Nicholas signed the
Anglo-Russian Convention The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 (russian: Англо-Русская Конвенция 1907 г., translit=Anglo-Russkaya Konventsiya 1907 g.), or Convention between the United Kingdom and Russia relating to Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet (К ...
of 1907, which was designed to counter
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inh ...
's attempts to gain influence in the Middle East; it ended the
Great Game "The Great Game" was a political and diplomatic confrontation that existed for most of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century between the British Empire and the Russian Empire, over Afghanistan and neighbouring territories in Central ...
of confrontation between Russia and the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

British Empire
. He aimed to strengthen the
Franco-Russian Alliance The Franco-Russian Alliance (french: Alliance Franco-Russe, russian: Франко-Русский Альянс, translit=Franko-Russkiy Al'yans), or Russo-French Rapprochement (''Rapprochement Russo-Français'', Руссо-Французское ...
and proposed the unsuccessful
Hague Convention of 1899 , The Second Hague Conference in 1907 The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 are a series of international treaties A treaty is a formal legally binding written agreement between actors in international law. It is usually entered into by sov ...
to promote disarmament and solve international disputes peacefully. Domestically, he was criticised for his government's repression of political opponents and his perceived fault or inaction during the Khodynka Tragedy, anti-Jewish pogroms,
Bloody Sunday Bloody Sunday may refer to: Historical events * Bloody Sunday (1887), a police and military attack on a demonstration in London against British rule in Ireland * Bloody Sunday (1900), a day of high casualties in the Second Boer War, South Afric ...
and the violent suppression of the
1905 Russian Revolution The Russian Revolution of 1905,. also known as the First Russian Revolution,. was a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire The Russian Empire, . commonly referred to as Imperial Russia, ...
. His popularity was further damaged by the Russo-Japanese War, which saw the
Russian Baltic Fleet , image = Great emblem of the Baltic fleet.svg , image_size = 150 , caption = Baltic Fleet Great ensign , dates = 18 May 1703 – present , country = , allegiance = (1703–1721) (1721–1917) (1917–1922) (1922–1991)(1991–present) , ...

Russian Baltic Fleet
annihilated at the
Battle of Tsushima The Battle of Tsushima (russian: Цусимское сражение, ''Tsusimskoye srazheniye''), also known as the Battle of Tsushima Strait and the Naval Battle of the Sea of Japan (Japanese: 日本海海戦, ''Nihonkai-Kaisen'') in Japan ...
, together with the loss of Russian influence over Manchuria and Korea and the Japanese annexation of the south of Sakhalin Island. During the
July Crisis The July Crisis was a series of interrelated diplomatic and military escalations among the major powers of Europe in the summer of 1914, which led to the outbreak of World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also kno ...
, Nicholas supported
Serbia Serbia (, ; Serbian Serbian may refer to: * someone or something related to Serbia, a country in Southeastern Europe * someone or something related to the Serbs, a South Slavic people * in both meanings, depending on the context, it may ref ...
and approved the mobilization of the
Russian Army The Russian Ground Forces (russian: Сухопутные войска В Sukhoputnyye voyska ''Overland Troops'') are the Army, land forces of the Russian Armed Forces. Mission The primary responsibilities of the Russian Ground Forces ...

Russian Army
on 30 July 1914. In response, Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August 1914 and its ally France on 3 August 1914, starting the
Great War World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainmen ...

Great War
, later known as the First World War. The severe military losses led to a collapse of morale at the front and at home; a
general strike A general strike (or mass strike) is a strike action in which a substantial proportion of the total labour (economics), labour force in a city, region, or country participates. General strikes are characterised by the participation of workers ...
and a mutiny of the garrison in
Petrograd Saint Petersburg ( rus, links=no, Санкт-Петербург, a=Ru-Sankt Peterburg Leningrad Petrograd Piter.ogg, r=Sankt-Peterburg, p=ˈsankt pʲɪtʲɪrˈburk), formerly known as Petrograd (1914–1924) and later Leningrad (1924–1991), ...

sparked the
February Revolution The February Revolution ( rus, Февра́льская револю́ция, p=fʲɪvˈralʲskəjə rʲɪvɐˈlʲutsɨjə, tr. ), known in Soviet historiography Soviet historiography is the methodology of history History (from Greek , ...
and the disintegration of the monarchy's authority. After abdicating for himself and his son, Nicholas and his family were imprisoned by the
Russian Provisional Government The Russian Provisional Government ( rus, Временное правительство России, Vremennoye pravitel'stvo Rossii) was a provisional government of Russia established immediately following the abdication of Nicholas II. Th ...
and exiled to Siberia. After the
Bolsheviks The Bolsheviks (Russian language, Russian: Большевики, from большинство ''bolshinstvo'', 'majority'),; derived from ''bol'shinstvo'' (большинство), "majority", literally meaning "one of the majority". also know ...
took power in the
October Revolution The October Revolution,. officially known as the Great October Socialist Revolution. under the Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence ...

October Revolution
, the family was held in
Yekaterinburg Yekaterinburg (; rus, Екатеринбург, p=jɪkətʲɪrʲɪnˈburk), alternatively romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system ...
, where they were
executed Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the State (polity), state-sanctioned killing of a person as punishment for a crime. The sentence (law), sentence ordering that someone is punished with the death penalty is called a dea ...
on 17 July 1918. In 1981, Nicholas, his wife, and their children were recognized as martyrs by the
Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (russian: Ру́сская Правосла́вная Це́рковь Заграни́цей, lit=Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, translit=Russkaya Pravoslavnaya Tserkov' Zagranitsey), also called Rus ...
, based in New York City. Their gravesite was discovered in 1979, but this was not acknowledged until 1989. After the fall of the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a of multiple national ; in practice and were highly until its final years. The ...
, the remains of the imperial family were exhumed, identified by DNA analysis, and re-interred with an elaborate state and church ceremony in St. Petersburg on 17 July 1998, exactly 80 years after their deaths. They were
canonized Canonization is the declaration of a deceased person as an officially recognized saint, specifically, the official act of a Christianity, Christian communion declaring a person worthy of Cult (religious practice), public cult and entering his ...
in 2000 by the Russian Orthodox Church as
passion bearer In Eastern Christianity Eastern Christianity comprises Christian traditions and church families that originally developed during classical and late antiquity in Western Asia, Egypt Egypt ( ; ar, مِصر ), officially the Arab Re ...
s. In the years following his death, Nicholas was reviled by
Soviet historians This list of Russian historians includes the famous historians, as well as archaeologists, paleographers, genealogists and other representatives of auxiliary historical disciplines from the Russian Federation, the Soviet Union, the Russian Empire an ...
state propaganda Propaganda is communication that is primarily used to Social influence, influence an audience and further an Political agenda, agenda, which may not be Objectivity (journalism), objective and may be selectively presenting facts in order to enco ...
as a "callous tyrant" who "persecuted his own people while sending countless soldiers to their deaths in pointless conflicts". Despite being viewed more positively in recent years, the majority view among historians is that Nicholas was a well-intentioned yet poor ruler who proved incapable of handling the challenges facing his nation.Ferro, Marc (1995) ''Nicholas II: Last of the Tsars''. New York: Oxford University Press, , p. 2

Family background

Grand Duke Nicholas was born on 1868, in the
Alexander Palace The Alexander Palace (russian: Александровский дворец) is a former imperial residence near the town of Tsarskoye Selo in Russia, on a plateau about south of Saint Petersburg. The Palace was commissioned by Empress/T ...
Tsarskoye Selo Tsarskoye Selo ( rus, Ца́рское Село́, p=ˈtsarskəɪ sʲɪˈlo, a=Ru_Tsarskoye_Selo.ogg, "Tsar , by Ivan Makarov Tsar ( or ), also spelled ''czar'', ''tzar'', or ''csar'', is a Royal and noble ranks, title used to designate ...
south of
Saint Petersburg Saint Petersburg ( rus, links=no, Санкт-Петербург, a=Ru-Sankt Peterburg Leningrad Petrograd Piter.ogg, r=Sankt-Peterburg, p=ˈsankt pʲɪtʲɪrˈburk), formerly known as Petrograd (1914–1924) and later Leningrad (1924–1991), ...

Saint Petersburg
, during the reign of his grandfather . He was the eldest child of then-
Tsesarevich Tsesarevich (russian: Цесаревич, ) was the title of the heir apparent An heir apparent is a person who is first in an order of succession An order of succession or right of succession is the line of individuals entitled to hold ...
and his wife, (née Princess Dagmar of Denmark). Grand Duke Nicholas' father was
heir apparent An heir apparent is a person who is first in an order of succession An order of succession or right of succession is the line of individuals entitled to hold a high office when it becomes vacated such as head of state A head of state ...
to the
Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the eastern region of . There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly because th ...
n throne as the second but eldest surviving son of Emperor Alexander II of Russia. He had five younger siblings:
Alexander Alexander is a male given name. The most prominent bearer of the name is Alexander the Great, the king of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia (ancient kingdom), Macedonia who created one of the largest empires in ancient history. Etymology T ...
George George may refer to: People * George (given name) George (, ) is a masculine given name derived from the Greek language, Greek Georgios, Geōrgios (; , ). The name gained popularity due to its association with the Christian martyrs, Christian ...
(1871–1899), Xenia (1875–1960),
Michael Michael is a masculine given name derived from the Hebrew phrase ''mī kāʼēl'', 'Who like-El', in Aramaic: ܡܝܟܐܝܠ (''Mīkhāʼēl'' ). The theophoric name is a rhetorical question – "Who like
he Hebrew God He or HE may refer to: Language * He (pronoun) In Modern English Modern English (sometimes New English or NE (ME) as opposed to Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language spoken after the N ...
El?", whose answe ...

(1878–1918) and
Olga Olga or Olha may refer to: Dominic and Olga People and fictional characters * Olga (name) Olga is an East Slavs, East Slavic female given name, derived from the Old Norse name Helga. It is used in Russia (Ольга), Ukraine (Ольга, transl ...
(1882–1960). Nicholas often referred to his father nostalgically in letters after Alexander's death in 1894. He was also very close to his mother, as revealed in their published letters to each other. His paternal grandparents were Emperor Alexander II and (née Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine). His maternal grandparents were
King Christian IX Christian IX (8 April 181829 January 1906) was King of Denmark The monarchy of Denmark is a constitutional political system, institution and a historic office of the Kingdom of Denmark. The Kingdom includes Denmark proper, as well as t ...

King Christian IX
and . Nicholas was of primarily German and
Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity * Danis ...
descent, his last ethnically Russian ancestor being
Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna of Russia Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna of Russia, Tsesarevna of Russia russian: Анна Петровна; 27 January 1708, in Moscow – 4 March 1728, in Kiel Kiel () is the capital and most populous city in the northern Germany, German state of ...
(1708–1728), daughter of
Peter the Great Peter the Great ( rus, Пётр Вели́кий, Pyotr Velíkiy, ˈpʲɵtr vʲɪˈlʲikʲɪj), Peter I ( rus, Пётр Первый, Pyotr Pyervyy, ˈpʲɵtr ˈpʲɛrvɨj) or Pyotr Alekséyevich ( rus, Пётр Алексе́евич, p=ˈp ...

Peter the Great
. Nicholas was related to several monarchs in Europe. His mother's siblings included Kings
Frederick VIII of Denmark Frederick VIII ( da, Christian Frederik Vilhelm Carl; 3 June 1843 – 14 May 1912) was King of Denmark The monarchy of Denmark is a constitutional political system, institution and a historic office of the Kingdom of Denmark. The ...
George I of Greece George may refer to: People * George (given name) George (, ) is a masculine given name derived from the Greek language, Greek Georgios, Geōrgios (; , ). The name gained popularity due to its association with the Christian martyrs, Christian ...

George I of Greece
, as well as the United Kingdom's
Queen Alexandra Alexandra of Denmark (Alexandra Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia; 1 December 1844 – 20 November 1925) was Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Empress of India from 1901 to 1910 as the wife of King-Emperor Edward ...

Queen Alexandra
(consort of
King Edward VII Edward VII (Albert Edward; 9 November 1841 – 6 May 1910) was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland There have been 12 British monarchs There have been 12 British monarchs since the political union A political ...

King Edward VII
). Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, and German emperor Wilhelm II were all first cousins of . Nicholas was also a first cousin of both
King Haakon VII Haakon VII () (born Prince Carl of Denmark; 3 August 187221 September 1957) was the King of Norway from November 1905 until his death in September 1957. Originally a Danish prince, he was born in Copenhagen Copenhagen ( da, København ) ...
Queen Maud of Norway Maud of Wales, (Maud Charlotte Mary Victoria; 26 November 1869 – 20 November 1938) was List of Norwegian consorts, Queen of Norway as the wife of King Haakon VII. She was the youngest daughter of King Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark, Queen ...

Queen Maud of Norway
, as well as and . Nicholas and Wilhelm II were in turn second cousins once-removed, as each descended from , as well as third cousins, as they were both great-great-grandsons of
Tsar Paul I of Russia Paul I (russian: Па́вел I Петро́вич; ''Pavel I Petrovich'') ( – ) was Emperor of Russia from 1796 until his assassination. Officially, he was the only son of Peter III of Russia, Peter III and Catherine the Great, although Cather ...
. In addition to being second cousins through descent from
Louis II, Grand Duke of Hesse Louis II (26 December 1777 – 16 June 1848) was Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine from 6 April 1830 until 5 March 1848, resigning during the German Revolution of 1848. He was the son of Louis I, Grand Duke of Hesse, and Princess Louise of He ...
and his wife
Princess Wilhelmine of Baden Princess Wilhelmine of Baden (21 September 1788 – 27 January 1836), was by birth Princess of Baden and by marriage Grand Duchess consort of Hesse and the Rhine. She was the youngest daughter of Charles Louis, Hereditary Prince of Baden and Am ...

Princess Wilhelmine of Baden
, Nicholas and Alexandra were also third cousins once-removed, as they were both descendants of King Frederick William II of Prussia. Tsar Nicholas II was the first cousin once-removed of Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich. To distinguish between them the Grand Duke was often known within the imperial family as "Nikolasha" and "Nicholas the Tall", while the Tsar was "Nicholas the Short". In his childhood, Nicholas, his parents and siblings made annual visits to the Danish royal palaces of
Fredensborg Fredensborg () is a railway town A railway town, or railroad town, is a settlement that originated or was greatly developed because of a railway station Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers a ...
Bernstorff Bernstorff is a Germany, German-Denmark, Danish nobility, noble family of Mecklenburgian origin.Familie von Bernstorff
N ...
to visit his grandparents, the king and queen. The visits also served as family reunions, as his mother's siblings would also come from the United Kingdom, Germany and Greece with their respective families. It was there in 1883, that he had a flirtation with one of his British first cousins, . In 1873, Nicholas also accompanied his parents and younger brother, two-year-old George, on a two-month, semi-official visit to the United Kingdom. In London, Nicholas and his family stayed at
Marlborough House Marlborough House, a listed building, Grade I listed mansion in St James's, City of Westminster, London, is the headquarters of the Commonwealth of Nations and the seat of the Commonwealth Secretariat. It was built for Sarah Churchill, Duches ...

Marlborough House
, as guests of his "Uncle Bertie" and "Aunt Alix", the Prince and Princess of Wales, where he was spoiled by his uncle.


On 1 March 1881, following the assassination of his grandfather, Tsar Alexander II, Nicholas became heir apparent upon his father's accession as Alexander III. Nicholas and his other family members bore witness to Alexander II's death, having been present at the
Winter Palace The Winter Palace ( rus, Зимний дворец, Zimnij dvorets, p=ˈzʲimnʲɪj dvɐˈrʲɛts) is a palace A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence, or the home of a or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a o ...

Winter Palace
in Saint Petersburg, where he was brought after the attack. For security reasons, the new Tsar and his family relocated their primary residence to the
Gatchina Palace The Great Gatchina Palace (russian: Большой Гатчинский дворец) is a palace , the official residence of Emperor of Japan The Emperor of Japan is the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the p ...

Gatchina Palace
outside the city, only entering the capital for various ceremonial functions. On such occasions, Alexander III and his family occupied the nearby
Anichkov Palace The Anichkov Palace, a former imperial palace , the official residence of Emperor of Japan The Emperor of Japan is the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona who officially embodies a state (polity ...

Anichkov Palace
. In 1884, Nicholas's coming-of-age ceremony was held at the Winter Palace, where he pledged his loyalty to his father. Later that year, Nicholas's uncle, , married Princess Elizabeth, daughter of
Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse Louis IV (german: Ludwig IV; 12 September 1837 – 13 March 1892) was the Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine from 13 June 1877 until his death in 1892. Through his own and his children's marriages he was connected to the British Royal Family, to ...
and his late wife
Princess Alice of the United Kingdom Princess Alice of the United Kingdom (Alice Maud Mary; 25 April 1843 – 14 December 1878) was Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine This is a list of the Landgravine, Electress and Grand Duchess of Hesse, the consorts of the Landgrave of H ...

Princess Alice of the United Kingdom
(who had died in 1878), and a granddaughter of
Queen Victoria Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland There have been 12 British monarchs since the political union of the Kingdom of England The Kingdom of En ...

Queen Victoria
. At the wedding in St. Petersburg, the sixteen-year-old Tsesarevich met with and admired the bride's youngest surviving sister, twelve-year-old . Those feelings of admiration blossomed into love following her visit to St. Petersburg five years later in 1889. Alix had feelings for him in turn. As a devout Lutheran, she was initially reluctant to convert to Russian Orthodoxy to marry Nicholas, but later relented. In 1890 Nicholas, his younger brother George, and their cousin
Prince George of Greece Prince George of Greece and Denmark ( el, Γεώργιος; 24 June 1869 – 25 November 1957) was the second son and child of George I of Greece George may refer to: People * George (given name) George (, ) is a masculine given name deriv ...
, set out on a
world tourWorld Tour may refer to: Sports International sports world tours and series * IAAF Diamond League, Athletics * BWF Super Series, Badminton * FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, Beach volleyball * World Tour (bodyboarding) * Rugby sevens **IRB Sevens ...
, although Grand Duke George fell ill and was sent home partway through the trip. Nicholas visited Egypt, India, Singapore, and Siam (Thailand), receiving honors as a distinguished guest in each country. During his trip through Japan, Nicholas had a large
dragon A dragon is a large, serpent Serpent or The Serpent may refer to: * Snake Snakes are elongated, limbless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes . Like all other squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote Amniotes (fro ...
tattooed on his right forearm by Japanese tattoo artist Hori Chyo. His cousin George V of England had also received a dragon tattoo from Hori in
Yokohama is the second-largest city in Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an in . It is situated in the northwest , and is bordered on the west by the , while extending from the in the north toward the and in the south. Ja ...

years before. It was during his visit to Otsu, that Tsuda Sanzō, one of his escorting policemen, swung at the Tsesarevich's face with a sabre, an event known as the
Ōtsu incident The was a failed assassination attempt on Nicholas Alexandrovich, Tsesarevich of Russian Empire, Russia (later Emperor of Russia, Emperor Nicholas II of Russia) on , during his visit to Japan as part of Eastern journey of Nicholas II, his easter ...
. Nicholas was left with a 9 centimeter long scar on the right side of his forehead, but his wound was not life-threatening. The incident cut his trip short. Returning overland to St. Petersburg, he was present at the ceremonies in
Vladivostok Vladivostok ( rus, Владивосто́к, , a=Владивосток.ogg) is the largest city and the administrative centreAn administrative centre is a seat of regional administration or local government Local government is a generic term f ...

commemorating the beginning of work on the
Trans-Siberian Railway The Trans–Siberian Railway (TSR) ( rus, Транссибирская магистраль, r=Transsibirskaya magistral', p=trənsʲsʲɪˈbʲirskəjə məgʲɪˈstralʲ) is a network of railways connecting Moscow Moscow (, ; rus, links=no ...
. In 1893, Nicholas traveled to London on behalf of his parents to be present at the wedding of his cousin to
Princess Mary of Teck Mary of Teck (Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes; 26 May 186724 March 1953) was List of British consorts, Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions from 1910 until 1936 as the wife of King George V. She was c ...

Princess Mary of Teck
. Queen Victoria was struck by the physical resemblance between the two cousins, and their appearances confused some at the wedding. During this time, Nicholas had an affair with St. Petersburg ballerina
Mathilde Kschessinska Mathilda-Marie Feliksovna Kschessinskaya ( pl, Matylda Maria Krzesińska, russian: Матильда Феликсовна Кшесинская; 6 December 1971; also known as Princess Romanovskaya-Krasinskaya after her marriage) was a Polish ...

Mathilde Kschessinska
. Though Nicholas was heir-apparent to the throne, his father failed to prepare him for his future role as Tsar. He attended meetings of the
State CouncilState Council may refer to: Government * State Council of the Republic of Korea, the national cabinet of South Korea, headed by the President of South Korea, President * State Council of the People's Republic of China, the national cabinet and ch ...
; however, as his father was only in his forties, it was expected that it would be many years before Nicholas succeeded to the throne.
Sergei Witte Count Sergei Yulyevich Witte (; ), also known as Sergius Witte, was a Russian statesman who served as the first Prime Minister of Russia, "Prime Minister" of the Russian Empire, replacing the Tsar as head of the government. Neither a liberal no ...

Sergei Witte
, Russia's finance minister, saw things differently and suggested to the Tsar that Nicholas be appointed to the Siberian Railway Committee.Pierre, Andre (1925) ''Journal Intime de Nicholas II'', Paris: Payot, p. 45 Alexander argued that Nicholas was not mature enough to take on serious responsibilities, having once stated "Nikki is a good boy, but he has a poet's soul...God help him!" Witte stated that if Nicholas was not introduced to state affairs, he would never be ready to understand them. Alexander's assumptions that he would live a long life and had years to prepare Nicholas for becoming Tsar proved wrong, as by 1894, Alexander's health was failing.

Engagement and marriage

In April 1894, Nicholas joined his Uncle Sergei and Aunt Elizabeth on a journey to Coburg, Germany, for the wedding of Elizabeth's and Alix's brother,
Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse , spouse = , issue = , house = House of Hesse-Darmstadt, Hesse-Darmstadt , father =Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse, Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine , mother =Princess Alice of the United Kingdom , birth_d ...
, to their mutual first cousin
Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha , later Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna of Russia (25 November 1876 – 2 March 1936) was the third child and second daughter of Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and of Grand Duchess Maria ...

Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
. Other guests included Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm II, the (Kaiser Wilhelm's mother and Queen Victoria's eldest daughter), Nicholas's uncle, the
Prince of Wales Prince of Wales ( cy, Tywysog Cymru, ) is a title traditionally and ceremonially granted to the heir apparent An heir apparent is a person who is first in an order of succession An order of succession or right of succession is the line o ...

Prince of Wales
, and the bride's parents, the Duke and . Once in Coburg Nicholas proposed to Alix, but she rejected his proposal, being reluctant to convert to Orthodoxy. But the Kaiser later informed her she had a duty to marry Nicholas and to convert, as her sister Elizabeth had done in 1892. Thus once she changed her mind, Nicholas and Alix became officially engaged on 20 April 1894. Nicholas's parents initially hesitated to give the engagement their blessing, as Alix had made poor impressions during her visits to Russia. They gave their consent only when they saw Tsar Alexander's health deteriorating. That summer, Nicholas travelled to England to visit both Alix and the Queen. The visit coincided with the birth of and
Duchess of York Duchess of York is the principal courtesy title held by the wife of the duke of York Duke of York is a title of nobility in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. Since the 15th century, it has, when granted, usually been given to the second son o ...
's first child, the future
King Edward VIII Edward VIII (Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David; 23 June 1894 – 28 May 1972) was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominion The word Dominion was used from 1907 to 1948 to refer to one of several self-governing colonies ...
. Along with being present at the christening, Nicholas and Alix were listed among the child's godparents. After several weeks in England, Nicholas returned home for the wedding of his sister, Xenia, to a cousin, ("Sandro"). By that autumn, Alexander III lay dying. Upon learning that he would live only a fortnight, the Tsar had Nicholas summon Alix to the imperial palace at . Alix arrived on 22 October; the Tsar insisted on receiving her in full uniform. From his deathbed, he told his son to heed the advice of Witte, his most capable minister. Ten days later, Alexander III died at the age of forty-nine, leaving twenty-six-year-old Nicholas as Emperor of Russia. That evening, Nicholas was consecrated by his father's priest as Tsar Nicholas II and, the following day, Alix was received into the Russian Orthodox Church, taking the name Alexandra Feodorovna with the title of Grand Duchess and the style of ''
Imperial Highness His/Her Imperial Highness (abbreviation HIH) is a style used by members of an imperial family to denote ''imperial'' – as opposed to ''royal'' – status to show that the holder in question is descended from an Emperor An emperor (fr ...
''. Nicholas may have felt unprepared for the duties of the crown, for he asked his cousin and brother-in-law, Grand Duke Alexander, "What is going to happen to me and all of Russia?" Though perhaps under-prepared and unskilled, Nicholas was not altogether untrained for his duties as Tsar. Nicholas chose to maintain the conservative policies favoured by his father throughout his reign. While Alexander III had concentrated on the formulation of general policy, Nicholas devoted much more attention to the details of administration. Leaving Livadia on 7 November, Tsar Alexander's funeral procession—which included Nicholas's maternal aunt through marriage and paternal first cousin once removed
Queen Olga of Greece Olga Constantinovna of Russia ( el, Όλγα; 18 June 1926) was Queen of the Hellenes as the wife of King George I. She was briefly the regent A regent (from the Latin : ruling, governing) is a person appointed to govern a state ''pro tempore ...

Queen Olga of Greece
, and the
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—arrived in Moscow. After lying in state in the Kremlin, the body of the Tsar was taken to St. Petersburg, where the funeral was held on 19 November. Nicholas and Alix's wedding was originally scheduled for the spring of 1895, but it was moved forward at Nicholas's insistence. Staggering under the weight of his new office, he had no intention of allowing the one person who gave him confidence to leave his side. Instead, Nicholas's wedding to Alix took place on 26 November 1894, which was the birthday of the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna, and court mourning could be slightly relaxed. Alexandra wore the traditional dress of Romanov brides, and Nicholas a
hussar A hussar ( , ; hu, huszár, pl, huzar, sr, хусар, husar, hr, husar) was a member of a class of light cavalry, originating in Central Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries. The title and distinctive dress of these horsemen were sub ...

's uniform. Nicholas and Alexandra, each holding a lit candle, faced the palace priest and were married a few minutes before one in the afternoon.

Accession and reign


Despite a visit to the United Kingdom in 1893, where he observed the
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House of Commons
in debate and, seemingly impressed by the machinery of
constitutional monarchy A constitutional monarchy, parliamentary monarchy, or democratic monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the monarch exercises his authority in accordance with a constitution and is not alone in deciding. Constitutional monarchies differ from ...
, Nicholas turned his back on any notion of giving away any power to elected representatives in Russia. Shortly after he came to the
throne A throne is the seat of state of a potentate or dignitary {{Short pages monitor to sign the October Manifesto agreeing to the establishment of the State Duma (Russian Empire), Imperial Duma, and to give up part of his unlimited autocracy. The freedom of religion clause outraged the Church because it allowed people to switch to evangelical Protestantism, which they denounced as heresy. For the next six months, Witte was the List of heads of government of Russia, Prime Minister. According to Harold Williams (linguist), Harold Williams: "That government was almost paralyzed from the beginning." On 26 October (O.S.) the Tsar appointed Trepov Master of the Palace (without consulting Witte), and had daily contact with the Emperor; his influence at court was paramount. On 1 November 1905 (O.S.), Princess Milica of Montenegro presented Grigori Rasputin to Tsar Nicholas and his wife (who by then had a hemophiliac son) at Peterhof Palace.

Relationship with the Duma

Under pressure from the attempted
1905 Russian Revolution The Russian Revolution of 1905,. also known as the First Russian Revolution,. was a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire The Russian Empire, . commonly referred to as Imperial Russia, ...
, on 5 August of that year Nicholas II issued a manifesto about the convocation of the State Duma of the Russian Empire, State Duma, known as the Alexander Bulygin, Bulygin Duma, initially thought to be an advisory organ. In the October Manifesto, the Tsar pledged to introduce basic civil liberties, provide for broad participation in the State Duma, and endow the Duma with legislative and oversight powers. He was determined, however, to preserve his autocracy even in the context of reform. This was signalled in the text of the Russian Constitution of 1906, 1906 constitution. He was described as the supreme autocrat, and retained sweeping executive powers, also in church affairs. His cabinet ministers were not allowed to interfere with nor assist one another; they were responsible only to him. Nicholas's relations with the Duma were poor. The First Duma, with a majority of Constitutional Democratic party, Kadets, almost immediately came into conflict with him. Scarcely had the 524 members sat down at the Tauride Palace when they formulated an 'Address to the Throne'. It demanded universal suffrage, radical land reform, the release of all political prisoners and the dismissal of ministers appointed by the Tsar in favour of ministers acceptable to the Duma. Grand Duchess Olga, Nicholas's sister, later wrote: Minister of the Court Count Vladimir Frederiks commented, "The Deputies, they give one the impression of a gang of criminals who are only waiting for the signal to throw themselves upon the ministers and cut their throats. I will never again set foot among those people." Massie (1967) p. 242 The Dowager Empress noticed "incomprehensible hatred." Although Nicholas initially had a good relationship with his prime minister, Sergei Witte, Alexandra distrusted him as he had instigated an investigation of Grigori Rasputin and, as the political situation deteriorated, Nicholas dissolved the Duma. The Duma was populated with Political radicalism, radicals, many of whom wished to push through legislation that would abolish private property ownership, among other things. Witte, unable to grasp the seemingly insurmountable problems of reforming Russia and the monarchy, wrote to Nicholas on 14 April 1906 resigning his office (however, other accounts have said that Witte was forced to resign by the Emperor). Nicholas was not ungracious to Witte and an Imperial Rescript was published on 22 April creating Witte a Knight of the Order of Saint Alexander Nevsky with diamonds (the last two words were written in the Emperor's own hand, followed by "I remain unalterably well-disposed to you and sincerely grateful, for ever more Nicholas."). A second Duma met for the first time in February 1907. The leftist parties—including the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, Social Democrats and the Social Revolutionaries, who had boycotted the First Duma—had won 200 seats in the Second, more than a third of the membership. Again Nicholas waited impatiently to rid himself of the Duma. In two letters to his mother he let his bitterness flow: A little while later he further wrote: After the Second Duma resulted in similar problems, the new prime minister
Pyotr Stolypin Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin ( rus, Пётр Арка́дьевич Столы́пин, p=pʲɵtr ɐˈrkadʲjɪvʲɪtɕ stɐˈlɨpʲɪn; – ) was a Russian politician. He was the third Prime Minister of Russia, and Minister of Internal Affairs ...
(whom Witte described as "reactionary") unilaterally dissolved it, and changed the electoral laws to allow for future Dumas to have a more conservative content, and to be dominated by the liberal-conservative Octobrist Party of Alexander Guchkov. Stolypin, a skilful politician, had ambitious plans for reform. These included making loans available to the lower classes to enable them to buy land, with the intent of forming a farming class loyal to the crown. Nevertheless, when the Duma remained hostile, Stolypin had no qualms about invoking Article 87 of the Russian Constitution of 1906, Fundamental Laws, which empowered the Tsar to issue 'urgent and extraordinary' emergency decrees 'during the recess of the State Duma'. Stolypin's most famous legislative act, the change in peasant land tenure, was promulgated under Article 87. The third Duma remained an independent body. This time the members proceeded cautiously. Instead of hurling themselves at the government, opposing parties within the Duma worked to develop the body as a whole. In the classic manner of the British Parliament, the Duma reached for power grasping for the national purse strings. The Duma had the right to question ministers behind closed doors as to their proposed expenditures. These sessions, endorsed by Stolypin, were educational for both sides, and, in time, mutual antagonism was replaced by mutual respect. Even the sensitive area of military expenditure, where the October Manifesto clearly had reserved decisions to the throne, a Duma commission began to operate. Composed of aggressive patriots no less anxious than Nicholas to restore the fallen honour of Russian arms, the Duma commission frequently recommended expenditures even larger than those proposed. With the passage of time, Nicholas also began to have confidence in the Duma. "This Duma cannot be reproached with an attempt to seize power and there is no need at all to quarrel with it," he said to Stolypin in 1909. Massie (1967) p. 246 Nevertheless, Stolypin's plans were undercut by conservatives at court. Although the tsar at first supported him, he finally sided with the arch critics. Reactionaries such as Prince Vladimir Nikolayevich Orlov never tired of telling the tsar that the very existence of the Duma was a blot on the autocracy. Stolypin, they whispered, was a traitor and secret revolutionary who was conniving with the Duma to steal the prerogatives assigned the Tsar by God. Witte also engaged in constant intrigue against Stolypin. Although Stolypin had had nothing to do with Witte's fall, Witte blamed him. Stolypin had unwittingly angered the Tsaritsa. He had ordered an investigation into Rasputin and presented it to the Tsar, who read it but did nothing. Stolypin, on his own authority, ordered Rasputin to leave St. Petersburg. Alexandra protested vehemently but Nicholas refused to overrule his Prime Minister, Massie (1967) p. 247. who had more influence with the Emperor. By the time of Stolypin's assassination in September 1911, Stolypin had grown weary of the burdens of office. For a man who preferred clear decisive action, working with a sovereign who believed in fatalism and mysticism was frustrating. As an example, Nicholas once returned a document unsigned with the note: Alexandra, believing that Stolypin had severed the bonds that her son depended on for life, hated the Prime Minister. In March 1911, in a fit of anger stating that he no longer commanded the imperial confidence, Stolypin asked to be relieved of his office. Two years earlier when Stolypin had casually mentioned resigning to Nicholas he was informed: "This is not a question of confidence or lack of it. It is my will. Remember that we live in Russia, not abroad...and therefore I shall not consider the possibility of any resignation." He was assassinated in September 1911. In 1912, a fourth Duma was elected with almost the same membership as the third. "The Duma started too fast. Now it is slower, but better, and more lasting," stated Nicholas to Sir Bernard Pares. The First World War developed badly for Russia. By late 1916, Romanov family desperation reached the point that Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich, younger brother of Alexander III and the Tsar's only surviving uncle, was deputed to beg Nicholas to grant a constitution and a government responsible to the Duma. Nicholas sternly and adamantly refused, reproaching his uncle for asking him to break his coronation oath to maintain autocratic power for his successors. In the Duma on 2 December 1916, Vladimir Purishkevich, a fervent patriot, monarchist and war worker, denounced the dark forces which surrounded the throne in a thunderous two-hour speech which was tumultuously applauded. "Revolution threatens," he warned, "and an obscure peasant shall govern Russia no longer!"

Tsarevich Alexei's illness and Rasputin

Further complicating domestic matters was the matter of the succession. Alexandra bore Nicholas four daughters, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna of Russia, the Grand Duchess Olga in 1895, Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia, the Grand Duchess Tatiana in 1897, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna of Russia, Grand Duchess Maria in 1899, and Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, Grand Duchess Anastasia in 1901, before their son Alexei Nikolaevich, Tsarevich of Russia, Alexei was born on 12 August 1904. The young heir was afflicted with Hemophilia B, a hereditary disease that prevents blood from clotting properly, which at that time was untreatable and usually led to an untimely death. As a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Alexandra carried the same gene mutation that afflicted several of the major European royal houses, such as Prussia and Spain. Hemophilia, therefore, became known as "Hemophilia in European royalty, the royal disease". Through Alexandra, the disease had passed on to her son. As all of Nicholas and Alexandra's daughters were assassinated with their parents and brother in Yekaterinburg in 1918, it is not known whether any of them inherited the gene as genetic carrier, carriers. Before Rasputin's arrival, the tsarina and the tsar had consulted numerous mystics, charlatans, "holy fools," and miracle workers. The royal behavior was not some odd aberration, but a deliberate retreat from the secular social and economic forces of his time – an act of faith and vote of confidence in a spiritual past. They had set themselves up for the greatest spiritual advisor and manipulator in Russian history. Because of the fragility of the autocracy at this time, Nicholas and Alexandra chose to keep secret Alexei's condition. Even within the household, many were unaware of the exact nature of the Tsarevich's illness. At first Alexandra turned to Russian doctors and medics to treat Alexei; however, their treatments generally failed, and Alexandra increasingly turned to mysticism, mystics and holy men (or ''starets'' as they were called in Russian). One of these starets, an illiterate Siberian named Grigori Rasputin, gained amazing success. Rasputin's influence over Empress Alexandra, and consequently the Tsar himself, grew even stronger after 1912 when the Tsarevich nearly died from an injury. His bleeding grew steadily worse as doctors despaired, and priests administered the last rites, Last Sacrament. In desperation, Alexandra called upon Rasputin, to which he replied, "God has seen your tears and heard your prayers. Do not grieve. The Little One will not die. Do not allow the doctors to bother him too much." The hemorrhage stopped the very next day and the boy began to recover. Alexandra took this as a sign that Rasputin was a ''starets'' and that God was with him; for the rest of her life she would fervently defend him and turn her wrath against anyone who dared to question him.

European affairs

In 1907, to end longstanding controversies over central Asia, Russia and the United Kingdom signed the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, Anglo-Russian Convention that resolved most of the problems generated for decades by The Great Game. The UK had already entered into the Entente cordiale with France in 1904, and the Anglo-Russian convention led to the formation of the Triple Entente. The following year, in May 1908, Nicholas and Alexandra's shared "Uncle Bertie" and "Aunt Alix," Britain's King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, made a state visit to Russia, being the first reigning British monarchs to do so. However, they did not set foot on Russian soil. Instead, they stayed aboard their yachts, meeting off the coast of modern-day Tallinn. Later that year, Nicholas was taken off guard by the news that his foreign minister, Alexander Izvolsky, had entered into a secret agreement with the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister, Count Alois Lexa von Aehrenthal, Count Alois von Aehrenthal, agreeing that, in exchange for Russian naval access to the Dardanelles and the Bosporus Strait, Russia would not oppose the Austrian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a revision of the 1878 Treaty of Berlin (1878), Treaty of Berlin. When Austria-Hungary did annex this territory that October, it precipitated the Bosnian crisis, diplomatic crisis. When Russia protested about the annexation, the Austrians threatened to leak secret communications between Izvolsky and Aehernthal, prompting Nicholas to complain in a letter to the Austrian emperor, Franz Joseph I of Austria, Franz Joseph, about a breach of confidence. In 1909, in the wake of the Anglo-Russian convention, the Russian imperial family made a visit to England, staying on the Isle of Wight for Cowes Week. In 1913, during the Balkan War (1912–13), Balkan Wars, Nicholas personally offered to arbitrate between Serbia and Bulgaria. However, the Bulgarians rejected his offer. Also in 1913, Nicholas, albeit without Alexandra, made a visit to Berlin for the wedding of Kaiser Wilhelm II's daughter, Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia, Princess Victoria Louise, to a maternal cousin of Nicholas, Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick, Ernest Augustus, the Duke of Brunswick. Nicholas was also joined by his cousin, King George V and his wife, Mary of Teck, Queen Mary.


In February 1913, Nicholas presided over the Romanov Tercentenary, tercentenary celebrations for the Romanov Dynasty. On 21 February, a ''Te Deum'' took place at Kazan Cathedral, and a state reception at the Winter Palace. In May, Nicholas and the imperial family made a pilgrimage across the empire, retracing the route down the Volga River that was made by the teenage Michael I of Russia, Michael Romanov from the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma to Moscow in 1613 when he finally agreed to become Tsar. In Grand Duchy of Finland, Finland, Nicholas had become associated with deeply unpopular Russification of Finland, Russification measures. These began with the proclaimed by Nicholas II in 1899,John Wargelin, A.M.:
The Americanization of the Finns
' – Genealogia
which restricted Finland's autonomy and instigated a period of censorship and political repression. A petition of protest signed by more than 500,000 Finns was collected against the manifesto and delivered to St. Petersburg by a delegation of 500 people, but they were not received by Nicholas. Russification measures were reintroduced in 1908 after a temporary suspension in the aftermath of the 1905 Revolution, and Nicholas received an icy reception when he made his only visit to Helsinki on 10 March 1915.

First World War

On 28 June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the Austria-Hungary, Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated by a Bosnian Serb nationalist in Sarajevo, who opposed Austria-Hungary's Bosnian Crisis, annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The outbreak of war was not inevitable, but leaders, diplomats and nineteenth-century alliances created a climate for large-scale conflict. The concept of Pan-Slavism and shared religion created strong public sympathy between Russia and Serbia. Territorial conflict created rivalries between
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and France and between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, and as a consequence alliance networks developed across Europe. The Triple Entente and Triple Alliance (1882), Triple Alliance networks were set before the war. Nicholas wanted neither to abandon Serbia to the ultimatum of Austria, nor to provoke a general war. In a series of letters exchanged with Wilhelm II, German Emperor, Wilhelm of Germany (the "Willy–Nicky correspondence") the two proclaimed their desire for peace, and each attempted to get the other to back down. Nicholas desired that Russia's mobilization be only against Austria-Hungary, in the hopes of preventing war with Germany. On 25 July 1914, at his council of ministers, Nicholas decided to intervene in the Austro-Serbian conflict, a step toward general war. He put the Russian army on "alert"Merriman, John (2009) ''A History of Modern Europe Volume Two'', W. W. Norton & Company, , p. 967 on 25 July. Although this was not general mobilization, it threatened the German and Austro-Hungarian borders and looked like military preparation for war. However, his army had no contingency plans for a partial mobilization, and on 30 July 1914 Nicholas took the fateful step of confirming the order for general mobilization, despite being strongly counselled against it. On 28 July, Austria-Hungary formally declared war against Serbia. On 29 July 1914, Nicholas sent a telegram to Wilhelm with the suggestion to submit the Austro-Serbian problem to the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, Hague Conference (in Permanent Court of Arbitration, Hague tribunal). Wilhelm did not address the question of the Hague Conference in his subsequent reply. Count Witte told the French Ambassador, Maurice Paléologue that from Russia's point of view the war was madness, Slav solidarity was simply nonsense and Russia could hope for nothing from the war. On 30 July, Russia ordered general mobilization, but still maintained that it would not attack if peace talks were to begin. Germany, reacting to the discovery of partial mobilization ordered on 25 July, announced its own pre-mobilization posture, the Imminent Danger of War. Germany requested that Russia demobilize within the next twelve hours. In Saint Petersburg, at 7 pm, with the ultimatum to Russia having expired, the German ambassador to Russia met with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Sazonov, asked three times if Russia would reconsider, and then with shaking hands, delivered the note accepting Russia's war challenge and declaring war on 1 August. Less than a week later, on 6 August, Franz Joseph signed the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on Russia. The outbreak of war on 1 August 1914 found Russia grossly unprepared. Russia and her allies placed their faith in her army, the famous 'Russian steamroller'.#Tames, Tames, p. 42 Its pre-war regular strength was 1,400,000; mobilization added 3,100,000 reserves and millions more stood ready behind them. In every other respect, however, Russia was unprepared for war. Germany had ten times as much railway track per square mile, and whereas Russian soldiers travelled an average of to reach the front, German soldiers traveled less than a quarter of that distance. Russian heavy industry was still too small to equip the massive armies the Tsar could raise, and her reserves of munitions were pitifully small; while the German army in 1914 was better equipped than any other, man-for-man, the Russians were severely short on artillery pieces, shells, motorized transports, and even boots. With the Baltic Sea barred by German U-boats and the Dardanelles by the guns of Germany's ally, the Ottoman Empire, Russia initially could receive help only via Arkhangelsk, Archangel, which was frozen solid in winter, or via
Vladivostok Vladivostok ( rus, Владивосто́к, , a=Владивосток.ogg) is the largest city and the administrative centreAn administrative centre is a seat of regional administration or local government Local government is a generic term f ...

, which was over from the front line. By 1915, a rail line was built north from Petrozavodsk to the Kola Gulf and this connection laid the foundation of the ice-free port of what eventually was called Murmansk. The Russian High Command was moreover greatly weakened by the mutual contempt between Vladimir Sukhomlinov, the Minister of War, and the incompetent Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich who commanded the armies in the field. In spite of all of this, an immediate attack was ordered against the German province of East Prussia. The Germans mobilised there with great efficiency and completely defeated the two Russian armies which had invaded. The Battle of Tannenberg (1914), Battle of Tannenberg, where an entire Russian army was annihilated, cast an ominous shadow over Russia's future. Russia had great success against both the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman armies from the very beginning of the war, but they never succeeded against the might of the German Army. In September 1914, to relieve pressure on France, the Russians were forced to halt a successful offensive against Austria-Hungary in Galicia (Eastern Europe), Galicia to attack German-held Silesia. Gradually a war of attrition set in on the vast Eastern Front (World War I), Eastern Front, where the Russians were facing the combined forces of the German and Austro-Hungarian armies, and they suffered staggering losses. General Denikin, retreating from Galicia wrote, "The German heavy artillery swept away whole lines of trenches, and their defenders with them. We hardly replied. There was nothing with which we could reply. Our regiments, although completely exhausted, were beating off one attack after another by bayonet ... Blood flowed unendingly, the ranks became thinner and thinner and thinner. The number of graves multiplied."#Tames, Tames, p. 46 On 5 August, with the Russian army in retreat, Warsaw fell. Defeat at the front bred disorder at home. At first, the targets were German, and for three days in June shops, bakeries, factories, private houses and country estates belonging to people with German names were looted and burned.. The inflamed mobs then turned on the government, declaring the Empress should be shut up in a convent, the Tsar deposed and Rasputin hanged. Nicholas was by no means deaf to these discontents. An emergency session of the Duma was summoned and a Special Defense Council established, its members drawn from the Duma and the Tsar's ministers. In July 1915, King Christian X of Denmark, Christian X of Denmark, first cousin of the Tsar, sent Hans Niels Andersen to Tsarskoye Selo with an offer to act as a mediator. He made several trips between London, Berlin and Petrograd and in July saw the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark), Maria Fyodorovna. Andersen told her they should conclude peace. Nicholas chose to turn down King Christian's offer of mediation, as he felt it would be a betrayal for Russia to form a separate peace treaty with the Central Powers when its allies Britain and France were still fighting. The energetic and efficient General Alexei Polivanov replaced Sukhomlinov as Minister of War, which failed to improve the strategic situation. In the aftermath of the Great Retreat (Russia), Great Retreat and the loss of the Kingdom of Poland, Nicholas assumed the role of commander-in-chief after dismissing his cousin, Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich, in September 1915. This was a mistake, as the Tsar came to be personally associated with the continuing losses at the front. He was also away at the remote HQ at Mogilev, far from the direct governance of the empire, and when revolution broke out in Petrograd he was unable to halt it. In reality the move was largely symbolic, since all important military decisions were made by his chief-of-staff General Michael Alexeiev, and Nicholas did little more than review troops, inspect field hospitals, and preside over military luncheons. The Duma was still calling for political reforms and political unrest continued throughout the war. Cut off from public opinion, Nicholas could not see that the dynasty was tottering. With Nicholas at the front, domestic issues and control of the capital were left with his wife Alexandra. However, Alexandra's relationship with Grigori Rasputin, and her German background, further discredited the dynasty's authority. Nicholas had been repeatedly warned about the destructive influence of Rasputin but had failed to remove him. Rumors and accusations about Alexandra and Rasputin appeared one after another; Alexandra was even accused of harboring treasonous sympathies towards Germany. Anger at Nicholas's failure to act and the extreme damage that Rasputin's influence was doing to Russia's war effort and to the monarchy led to Rasputin's eventual murder by a group of nobles, led by Prince Felix Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, a cousin of the Tsar, in the early morning of Saturday 17 December 1916 (Old Style, O.S.) / 30 December 1916 (New Style, N.S.).


As the government failed to produce supplies, mounting hardship resulted in massive riots and rebellions. With Nicholas away at the front from 1915 through 1916, authority appeared to collapse and the capital was left in the hands of strikers and mutineering soldiers. Despite efforts by the British Ambassador George Buchanan (diplomat), Sir George Buchanan to warn the Tsar that he should grant constitutional reforms to fend off revolution, Nicholas continued to bury himself away at the Staff HQ (Stavka) away at Mogilev, leaving his capital and court open to intrigues and insurrection.#Tames, Tames, p. 52 Ideologically the tsar's greatest support came from the right-wing monarchists, who had recently gained strength. However they were increasingly alienated by the tsar's support of Stolypin's Westernizing reforms taken early in the Revolution of 1905 and especially by the political power the tsar had bestowed on Rasputin. By early 1917, Russia was on the verge of total collapse of morale. An estimated 1.7 million Russian soldiers World War I casualties, were killed in World War I. The sense of failure and imminent disaster was everywhere. The army had taken 15 million men from the farms and food prices had soared. An egg cost four times what it had in 1914, butter five times as much. The severe winter dealt the railways, overburdened by emergency shipments of coal and supplies, a crippling blow. Russia entered the war with 20,000 locomotives; by 1917, 9,000 were in service, while the number of serviceable railway wagons had dwindled from half a million to 170,000. In February 1917, 1,200 locomotives burst their boilers and nearly 60,000 wagons were immobilized. In Petrograd, supplies of flour and fuel had all but disappeared. War-time prohibition of alcohol was enacted by Nicholas to boost patriotism and productivity, but instead damaged the funding of the war, due to the treasury now being deprived of alcohol taxes. Warth, p. 199 On 23 February 1917 in Petrograd, a combination of very severe cold weather and acute food shortages caused people to start to break into shop to get bread and other necessities. In the streets, red banners appeared and the crowds chanted "Down with the German woman! Down with Alexander Protopopov, Protopopov! Down with the war! Down with the Tsar!" Police shot at the populace which incited riots. The troops in the capital were poorly motivated and their officers had no reason to be loyal to the regime, with the bulk of the tsar's loyalists away fighting World War I. In contrast, the soldiers in Petrograd were angry, full of revolutionary fervor and sided with the populace.#Tames, Tames, p. 53 The Tsar's Cabinet begged Nicholas to return to the capital and offered to resign completely. The Tsar, 800 kilometres (500 mi) away, misinformed by the Minister of the Interior Alexander Protopopov that the situation was under control, ordered that firm steps be taken against the demonstrators. For this task, the Petrograd garrison was quite unsuitable. The cream of the old regular army had been destroyed in Poland and Galicia. In Petrograd, 170,000 recruits, country boys or older men from the working-class suburbs of the capital itself, were available under the command of officers at the front and cadets not yet graduated from the military academies. The units in the capital, although many bore the names of famous Imperial Guard regiments, were in reality rear or reserve battalions of these regiments, the regular units being away at the front. Many units, lacking both officers and rifles, had never undergone formal training. General Khabalov attempted to put the Tsar's instructions into effect on the morning of Sunday, 11 March 1917. Despite huge posters ordering people to keep off the streets, vast crowds gathered and were only dispersed after some 200 had been shot dead, though a company of the Volinsky Regiment fired into the air rather than into the mob, and a company of the Pavlovsky Regiment, Pavlovsky Life Guards shot the officer who gave the command to open fire. Nicholas, informed of the situation by Rodzianko, ordered reinforcements to the capital and suspended the Duma. However, it was too late. On 12 March, the Volinsky Regiment mutinied and was quickly followed by the Semenovsky Regiment, Semenovsky, the Izmaylovsky Regiment, Ismailovsky, the :fr:Régiment de la Garde Litovski, Litovsky Life Guards and even the legendary Preobrazhensky Regiment of the Imperial Guard, the oldest and staunchest regiment founded by Peter I of Russia, Peter the Great. The arsenal was pillaged and the Ministry of the Interior, Military Government building, police headquarters, Law Courts and a score of police buildings were set on fire. By noon, the fortress of Peter and Paul, with its heavy artillery, was in the hands of the insurgents. By nightfall, 60,000 soldiers had joined the revolution. Order broke down and members of the Duma and the Soviet (council)#Russian Revolution, Soviet formed a Russian Provisional Government, Provisional Government to try to restore order. They issued a demand that Nicholas must abdicate. Faced with this demand, which was echoed by his generals, deprived of loyal troops, with his family firmly in the hands of the Provisional Government, and fearful of unleashing civil war and opening the way for German conquest, Nicholas had little choice but to submit.


Abdication (1917)

Nicholas had suffered a coronary occlusion only four days before his abdication. At the end of the "
February Revolution The February Revolution ( rus, Февра́льская револю́ция, p=fʲɪvˈralʲskəjə rʲɪvɐˈlʲutsɨjə, tr. ), known in Soviet historiography Soviet historiography is the methodology of history History (from Greek , ...
", Nicholas II chose to abdicate on 2 March (Old Style, O.S.) / 15 March (New Style, N.S.) 1917. He first abdicated in favor of Alexei, but a few hours later changed his mind after advice from doctors that Alexei would not live long enough while separated from his parents, who would be forced into exile. Nicholas thus abdicated on behalf of his son, and drew up a new manifesto naming his brother, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia, Grand Duke Michael, as the next Emperor of all Russias. He issued a statement but it was suppressed by the Provisional Government. Michael declined to accept the throne until the people were allowed to vote through a Constituent Assembly for the continuance of the monarchy or a republic. The abdication of Nicholas II and Michael's deferment of accepting the throne brought three centuries of the Romanov dynasty's rule to an end. The fall of Tsarist autocracy brought joy to liberals and socialists in Britain and France. The United States was the Russian Provisional Government#World recognition, first foreign government to recognize the Provisional government. In Russia, the announcement of the Tsar's abdication was greeted with many emotions, including delight, relief, fear, anger and confusion.

Possibility of exile

Both the Provisional Government and Nicholas wanted the royal family to go into exile following his abdication, with the United Kingdom being the preferred option. The British government reluctantly offered the family Right of asylum, asylum on 19 March 1917, although it was suggested that it would be better for the Romanovs to go to a neutral country. News of the offer provoked uproar from the Labour Party (UK), Labour Party and many Liberal Party (UK), Liberals, and the British ambassador Sir George Buchanan (diplomat), George Buchanan advised the government that the extreme left would use the ex-Tsar's presence "as an excuse for rousing public opinion against us".Massie, Robert K. ''Nicholas and Alexandra: The Last Tsar and His Family'' (1967) p. 461 The Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George preferred that the family went to a neutral country, and wanted the offer to be announced as at the request of the Russian government. The offer of asylum was withdrawn in April following objections by King George V, who, acting on the advice of his secretary Arthur Bigge, 1st Baron Stamfordham, was worried that Nicholas's presence might provoke an uprising like the previous year's Easter Rising in Ireland. However, later the king defied his secretary and went to the Romanov memorial service at the Russian Church in London. In the early summer of 1917, the Russian government approached the British government on the issue of asylum and was informed the offer had been withdrawn due to the considerations of British internal politics. The French government declined to accept the Romanovs in view of increasing unrest on the Western Front and on the home front as a result of the ongoing war with Germany. The British ambassador in Paris, Lord Francis Bertie, advised the Foreign Secretary that the Romanovs would be unwelcome in France as the ex-Empress was regarded as pro-German. Even if an offer of asylum had been forthcoming, there would have been other obstacles to be overcome. The Provisional Government only remained in power through an uneasy alliance with the Petrograd Soviet, an arrangement known as "The Dual power". An initial plan to send the royal family to the northern port of Murmansk had to be abandoned when it was realised that the railway workers and the soldiers guarding them were loyal to the Petrograd Soviet, which opposed the escape of the tsar; a later proposal to send the Romanovs to a neutral port in the Baltic Sea via the Grand Duchy of Finland faced similar difficulties.


Tsarskoye Selo

On 20 March 1917, the Provisional Government decreed that the royal family should be held under house arrest in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. Nicholas joined the rest of the family there two days later, having traveled from the wartime headquarters at Mogilev. The family had total privacy inside the palace, but walks in the grounds were strictly regulated. Members of their domestic staff were allowed to stay if they wished and culinary standards were maintained. Colonel Eugene Kobylinsky was appointed to command the military garrison at Tsarskoye Selo, which increasingly had to be done through negotiation with the committees or Soviet (council), soviets elected by the soldiers.


That summer, the failure of the Kerensky Offensive against Austro-Hungarian and German forces in Galicia led to anti-government rioting in Petrograd, known as the July Days. The government feared that further disturbances in the city could easily reach Tsarskoye Selo and it was decided to move the royal family to a safer location. Alexander Kerensky, who had taken over as prime minister, selected the town of Tobolsk in Western Siberia, since it was remote from any large city and from the nearest rail station. Some sources state that there was an intention to send the family abroad in the spring of 1918 via Japan, but more recent work suggests that this was just a Bolshevik rumour. The family left the Alexander Palace late on 13 August, reached Tyumen by rail four days later and then by two river ferries finally reached Tobolsk on 19 August. There they lived in the former Governor's Mansion (Tobolsk, Russia), Governor's Mansion in considerable comfort. In October 1917, however, the
Bolsheviks The Bolsheviks (Russian language, Russian: Большевики, from большинство ''bolshinstvo'', 'majority'),; derived from ''bol'shinstvo'' (большинство), "majority", literally meaning "one of the majority". also know ...
seized power from Kerensky's Provisional Government; Nicholas followed the events in October with interest but not yet with alarm. Boris Soloviev, the husband of Maria Rasputin, attempted to organize a rescue with monarchical factions, but it came to nothing. Rumors persist that Soloviev was working for the Bolsheviks or the Germans, or both. Separate preparations for a rescue by Nikolai Yevgenyevich Markov were frustrated by Soloviev's ineffectual activities. Nicholas continued to underestimate Vladimir Lenin, Lenin's importance. In the meantime he and his family occupied themselves with reading books, exercising and playing games; Nicholas particularly enjoyed chopping firewood. However, in January 1918, the guard detachment's committee grew more assertive, restricting the hours that the family could spend in the grounds and banning them from walking to church on a Sunday as they had done since October. In a later incident, the soldiers tore the epaulettes from Kobylinsky's uniform, and he asked Nicholas not to wear his uniform outside for fear of provoking a similar event. In February 1918, the Council of People's Commissars (abbreviated to "Sovnarkom") in Moscow, the new capital, announced that the state subsidy for the family would be drastically reduced, starting on 1 March. This meant parting with twelve devoted servants and giving up butter and coffee as luxuries, even though Nicholas added to the funds from his own resources. Nicholas and Alexandra were appalled by news of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, whereby Russia agreed to give up Poland, Finland, the Baltic States, most of Belarus, Ukraine, the Crimea, most of the Caucasus, and small parts of Russia proper including areas around Pskov and Rostov-on-Don. What kept the family's spirits up was the belief that help was at hand. The Romanovs believed that various plots were underway to break them out of captivity and smuggle them to safety. The Western Allies lost interest in the fate of the Romanovs after Russia left the war. The German government wanted the monarchy restored in Russia to crush the Bolsheviks and maintain good relations with the Central Powers. The situation in Tobolsk changed for the worse on 26 March, when 250 ill-disciplined Red Guards (Russia), Red Guards arrived from the regional capital, Omsk. Not to be outdone, the soviet in
Yekaterinburg Yekaterinburg (; rus, Екатеринбург, p=jɪkətʲɪrʲɪnˈburk), alternatively romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system ...
, the capital of the neighbouring Ural (region), Ural region, sent 400 Red Guards to exert their influence on the town. Disturbances between these rival groups and the lack of funds to pay the guard detachment caused them to send a delegation to Moscow to plead their case. The result was that Sovnarkom appointed their own commissar to take charge of Tobolsk and remove the Romanovs to Yekaterinburg, with the intention of eventually bringing Nicholas to a show trial in Moscow. The man selected was Vasily Yakovlev, a veteran Bolshevik, Recruiting a body of loyal men ''en route'', Yakovlev arrived in Tobolsk on 22 April; he imposed his authority on the competing Red Guards factions, paid-off and Demobilization, demobilized the guard detachment, and placed further restrictions on the Romanovs. The next day, Yakovlev informed Kobylinsky that Nicholas was to be transferred to Yekaterinburg. Alexei was too ill to travel, so Alexandra elected to go with Nicholas along with Maria, while the other daughters would remain at Tobolsk until they were able to make the journey.


At 3 am on 25 April, the three Romanovs, their retinue, and the escort of Yakovlev's detachment, left Tobolsk in a convoy of nineteen tarantasses (four-wheeled carriages), as the river was still partly frozen which prevented the use of the ferry. After an arduous journey which included two overnight stops, fording rivers, frequent changes of horses and a foiled plot by the Yekaterinburg Red Guards to abduct and kill the prisoners, the party arrived at Tyumen and boarded a requisitioned train. Yakovlev was able to communicate securely with Moscow by means of a David Edward Hughes, Hughes' teleprinter and obtained agreement to change their destination to Omsk, where it was thought that the leadership were less likely to harm the Romanovs. Leaving Tyumen early on 28 April, the train left towards Yekaterinburg, but quickly changed direction towards Omsk. This led the Yekaterinburg leaders to believe that Yakovlev was a traitor who was trying to take Nicholas to exile by way of
Vladivostok Vladivostok ( rus, Владивосто́к, , a=Владивосток.ogg) is the largest city and the administrative centreAn administrative centre is a seat of regional administration or local government Local government is a generic term f ...

; telegraph messages were sent, two thousand armed men were mobilized and a train was dispatched to arrest Yakovlev and the Romanovs. The Romanovs' train was halted at Omsk station and after a frantic exchange of cables with Moscow, it was agreed that they should go to Yekaterinburg in return for a guarantee of safety for the royal family; they finally arrived there on the morning of 30 April. They were imprisoned in the two-story Ipatiev House, the home of the military engineer Nikolay Nikolayevich Ipatiev, which ominously became referred to as the "house of special purpose". Here the Romanovs were kept under even stricter conditions; their retinue was further reduced and their possessions were searched. Following allegations of pilfering from the royal household, Yakov Yurovsky, a former member of the Cheka secret police, was appointed to command the guard detachment, a number of whom were replaced with trusted Latvian members of the Yekaterinburg "special-service detachment". The remaining Romanovs left Tobolsk by river steamer on 20 May and arrived in Yekaterinburg three days later. By the first weeks of June, the Bolsheviks were becoming alarmed by the Revolt of the Czechoslovak Legion, whose forces were approaching the city from the east. This prompted a wave of executions and murders of those in the region who were believed to be counter-revolutionary, counter-revolutionaries, including Grand Duke Michael, who was murdered in Perm, Russia, Perm on 13 June. Although the Bolshevik leadership in Moscow still intended to bring Nicholas to trial, as the military situation deteriorated, Leon Trotsky and Yakov Sverdlov began to publicly equivocate about the possible fate of the former tsar. On 16 July, the Yekaterinburg leadership informed Yurovsky that it had been decided to execute the Romanovs as soon as approval arrived from Moscow, because the Czechs were expected to reach the city imminently. A coded telegram arrived in Moscow from Yekaterinburg that evening; after Lenin and Sverdlov had conferred a reply was sent, although no trace of that document has ever been found. In the meantime, Yurovsky had organized his firing squad and they waited through the night at the Ipatiev House for the signal to act.


There are several accounts of what happened and historians have not agreed on a solid, confirmed scope of events. According to the account of Bolshevik officer Yakov Yurovsky (the chief executioner), in the early hours of 17 July 1918, the royal family was awakened around 2:00 am, got dressed, and were led down into a half-basement room at the back of the Ipatiev house. The pretext for this move was the family's safety, i.e. that anti-Bolshevik forces were approaching Yekaterinburg, and the house might be fired upon.''Nicholas & Alexandra – The Last Imperial Family of Tsarist Russia'', Booth-Clibborn Editions, 1998, Present with Nicholas, Alexandra and their children were their doctor and three of their servants, who had voluntarily chosen to remain with the family: the Tsar's personal physician Eugene Botkin, his wife's maid Anna Demidova, and the family's chef, Ivan Kharitonov, and footman, Alexei Trupp. A firing squad had been assembled and was waiting in an adjoining room, composed of seven Communist soldiers from Central Europe, and three local Bolsheviks, all under the command of Yurovsky. Nicholas was carrying his son. When the family arrived in the basement, the former Tzar asked if chairs could be brought in for his wife and son to sit on. Yurovsky ordered two chairs brought in, and when the empress and the heir were seated, the executioners filed into the room. Yurovsky announced to them that the Ural Soviet of Workers' Deputies had decided to execute them. A stunned Nicholas asked, "What? What did you say?" and turned toward his family. Yurovsky quickly repeated the order and Nicholas said, according to Peter Ermakov, "You know not what you do." The executioners drew handguns and began shooting; Nicholas was the first to die. Yurovsky took credit afterwards for firing the first shot that killed the Tsar, but his protege – Grigory Petrovich Nikulin, Grigory Nikulin – said years later that Mikhail Medvedev had fired the shot that killed Nicholas. "He fired the first shot. He killed the Tsar," he said in 1964 in a tape-recorded statement for the radio. Nicholas was shot several times in the chest (sometimes erroneously said to have been shot in his head, but his skull bore no bullet wounds when it was discovered in 1991). Anastasia, Tatiana, Olga, and Maria survived the first hail of bullets; the sisters were wearing over 1.3 kilograms of diamonds and precious gems sewn into their clothing, which provided some initial protection from the bullets and bayonets. They were then stabbed with bayonets and finally shot at close range in their heads. An announcement from the Presidium of the Ural Regional Soviet of the Workers' and Peasants' Government emphasized that conspiracies had been exposed to free the ex-tsar, that counter-revolutionary forces were pressing in on Soviet Russian territory, and that the ex-tsar was guilty of unforgivable crimes against the nation.
In view of the enemy's proximity to Yekaterinburg and the exposure by the Cheka of a serious White Guard plot with the goal of abducting the former Tsar and his family… In light of the approach of counterrevolutionary bands toward the Red capital of the Urals and the possibility of the crowned executioner escaping trial by the people (a plot among the White Guards to try to abduct him and his family was exposed and the compromising documents will be published), the Presidium of the Ural Regional Soviet, fulfilling the will of the Revolution, resolved to shoot the former Tsar, Nikolai Romanov, who is guilty of countless, bloody, violent acts against the Russian people.
The bodies were driven to nearby woodland, searched and burned. The remains were soaked in acid and finally thrown down a disused mineshaft. On the following day, other members of the Romanov family including Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, the empress's sister, who were being held in a school at Alapayevsk, were taken to another mine shaft and thrown in alive, except for Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich of Russia, Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich who was shot when he tried to resist.


In 1979, the bodies of Tsar Nicholas II, Tsaritsa Alexandra, three of their daughters, and those of four non-family members killed with them, were discovered near Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk (Yekaterinburg) by amateur archaeologist Alexander Avdonin. In January 1998, the remains excavated from underneath the dirt road near Yekaterinburg were officially identified as those of Nicholas II and his family, excluding one daughter (either Maria or Anastasia) and Alexei. The identifications—including comparisons to a living relative, performed by separate Russian, British and American scientists using DNA analysis—concur and were found to be conclusive. In July 2007, an amateur historian discovered bones near Yekaterinburg belonging to a boy and young woman. Prosecutors reopened the investigation into the deaths of the imperial family and, in April 2008, DNA tests performed by an American laboratory proved that bone fragments exhumed in the Ural Mountains belonged to two children of Nicholas II, Alexei and a daughter. That same day it was announced by Russian authorities that remains from the entire family had been recovered. On 1 October 2008, the Supreme Court of Russia ruled that Nicholas II and his family were victims of political persecution and should be rehabilitated. In March 2009, results of the DNA testing were published, confirming that the two bodies discovered in 2007 were those of Alexei and one of his sisters. In late 2015, at the insistence of the Russian Orthodox Church, Russian investigators exhumed the bodies of Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra, for additional DNA testing, which confirmed that the bones were of the couple.


After the DNA testing of 1998, the remains of the Emperor and his immediate family were interred at Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, Saint Petersburg, on 17 July 1998, on the eightieth anniversary of their assassination. The ceremony was attended by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who said, "Today is a historic day for Russia. For many years, we kept quiet about this monstrous crime, but the truth has to be spoken." The British Royal Family was represented at the funeral by Prince Michael of Kent, and more than twenty ambassadors to Russia, including Andrew Wood (diplomat), Sir Andrew Wood, John Bukovsky, Archbishop John Bukovsky, and :de:Ernst-Jörg von Studnitz, Ernst-Jörg von Studnitz, were also in attendance.


In 1981, Nicholas and his immediate family were Canonization, recognised as martyred saints by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. On 14 August 2000, they were recognised by the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. This time they were not named as martyrs, since their deaths did not result immediately from their Christian faith; instead, they were canonized as
passion bearer In Eastern Christianity Eastern Christianity comprises Christian traditions and church families that originally developed during classical and late antiquity in Western Asia, Egypt Egypt ( ; ar, مِصر ), officially the Arab Re ...
s. According to a statement by the Moscow synod, they were glorified as saints for the following reasons: However, Nicholas' canonization was controversial. The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad was split on the issue back in 1981, some members suggesting that the emperor was a weak ruler and had failed to thwart the rise of the Bolsheviks. It was pointed out by one priest that martyrdom in the Russian Orthodox Church has nothing to do with the martyr's personal actions but is instead related to why he or she was killed.#Massie1995, Massie (1995) pp. 134–135. The Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia rejected the family's classification as martyrs because they were not killed on account of their religious faith. Religious leaders in both churches also had objections to canonising the Tsar's family because they perceived him as a weak emperor whose incompetence led to the revolution and the suffering of his people and made him partially responsible for his own assassination and those of his wife, children and servants. For these opponents, the fact that the Tsar was, in private life, a kind man and a good husband and father or a leader who showed genuine concern for the peasantry did not override his poor governance of Russia. Despite the original opposition, the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia ultimately recognised the family as "passion bearers," or people who met their deaths with Christian humility. Since the late 20th century, believers have attributed healing from illnesses or conversion to the Orthodox Church to their prayers to the children of Nicholas, Maria and Alexei, as well as to the rest of the family.


Contemporary evaluations of Nicholas portrayed him as a well-meaning but indecisive leader, whose actions as monarch were heavily influenced by his advisors. Historian Raymond Esthus states: During the Soviet Union, Soviet period, Nicholas II's legacy was widely criticised within Russia, although discussion was heavily influenced by
state propaganda Propaganda is communication that is primarily used to Social influence, influence an audience and further an Political agenda, agenda, which may not be Objectivity (journalism), objective and may be selectively presenting facts in order to enco ...
, which described him as a bloodthirsty tyrant. Pavel Bykov, who wrote the first full account of the downfall of the Tsar for the new Soviet government, denounced Nicholas as a "tyrant, who paid with his life for the age-old repression and arbitrary rule of his ancestors over the Russian people, over the impoverished and blood-soaked country". Soviet-era historians described Nicholas II as unfit for rule, arguing that he had a weak will and was manipulated by adventurist forces. He was also criticised for fanning nationalism and chauvinism, and his regime was condemned for its extensive use of the army, police, and courts to destroy the revolutionary movement. During his reign, Nicholas had become known as "Nicholas the Bloody" for his role in the Khodynka Tragedy and the suppression of the 1905 Revolution. For most of the 20th century, Nicholas was generally considered by historians to have been incompetent at the colossal task of ruling the enormous Russian Empire, although the influence of Soviet propaganda on general opinion must be considered. Barbara Tuchman provides a damning evaluation of his reign in her 1962 book ''The Guns of August'', describing his sole focus as sovereign as being "to preserve intact the absolute monarchy bequeathed to him by his father", and writing that, "lacking the intellect, energy or training for his job", Nicholas "fell back on personal favorites, whim, simple mulishness, and other devices of the empty-headed autocrat ... when a telegram was brought to him announcing the annihilation of the Russian fleet at Tsushima, he read it, stuffed it in his pocket, and went on playing tennis." Historian Robert K. Massie provides a similar indictment of his incompetence, although he emphasises Nicholas' personal morality, describing him as a tragic figure: Following the Dissolution of the Soviet Union, collapse of the Soviet Union, present-day Russian historians give Nicholas a more positive assessment, particularly when evaluating the reforms made by the Russian state during his reign.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

* 18 May 1868 – 13 March 1881: ''His Imperial Highness'' Grand Duke Nikolai Alexandrovich of Russia * 13 March 1881 – 1 November 1894: ''His Imperial Highness'' The Tsesarevich of Russia * 1 November 1894 – 15 March 1917: ''His Imperial Majesty'' The Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias * 15 March 1917 – 17 July 1918: Mr. Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov Nicholas II's full title as Emperor, as set forth in Article 59 of the Russian Constitution of 1906, 1906 Constitution, was: "By the Grace of God, We Nicholas, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, of Moscow, Kiev, Vladimir-Suzdal, Vladimir, Novgorod; Tsar of Kazan, Tsar of Astrakhan, Tsar of Poland, Tsar of Siberia, Tsar of Tauric Chersonesus, Tsar of Georgia (country), Georgia; Lord of Pskov, and Grand Prince of Smolensk, Lithuania, Volhynia, Podolia, and Finland; Prince of Estonia, Livonia, Courland and Semigalia, Samogitia, Białystok, Bielostok, Karelia, Tver, Yugor, Perm, Russia, Perm, Kirov, Kirov Oblast, Vyatka, Bogar and others; Sovereign and Grand Prince of Nizhni Novgorod, Chernigov, Ryazan, Polotsk, Rostov, Jaroslavl, Beloozero, Udoria, Obdoria, Kondia, Vitebsk, Mstislav, and Ruler of all the Severian country; Sovereign and Lord of Caucasian Iberia, Iveria, Kartli, Kartalinia, the Kabardian lands and Armenian province: hereditary Sovereign and Possessor of the Circassian and Mountain Princes and of others; Sovereign of Turkestan, Heir of Norway, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, Stormarn (gau), Stormarn, Dithmarschen, and Duchy of Oldenburg, Oldenburg, and so forth, and so forth, and so forth."


Emperor Nicholas II Land (russian: link=no, Земля Императора Николая II, ''Zemlya Imperatora Nikolaya II'') was discovered in 1913 by the Arctic Ocean Hydrographic Expedition led by Boris Vilkitsky on behalf of the Russian Hydrographic Service. Still incompletely surveyed, the new territory was officially named in the Emperor's honour by order of the Secretary of the Imperial Navy in 1914.Архипелаг Северная Земля — один из наиболее крупных районов оледенения на территории России
My.krskstate.ru. Retrieved on 5 December 2018.
The archipelago was renamed "Severnaya Zemlya" in 1926 by the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union. ;NationalRussian Imperial Army – Emperor Nicholas II of Russia
(In Russian)
* Order of St. Andrew, Knight of St. Andrew, ''1 June 1868'' * Order of St. Alexander Nevsky, Knight of St. Alexander Nevsky, ''1 June 1868'' * Order of the White Eagle (Russia), Knight of the White Eagle, ''1 June 1868'' * Order of St. Anna, Knight of St. Anna, 1st Class, ''1 June 1868'' * Order of Saint Stanislaus (House of Romanov), Knight of St. Stanislaus, 1st Class, ''1 June 1868'' * Order of St. Vladimir, Knight of St. Vladimir, 4th Class, ''11 September 1890'' * Order of St. George, Knight of St. George, 4th Class, ''7 November 1915'' ;Foreign Nicholas II was granted honorary senior rank in a number of foreign armies, reciprocating by extending similar distinctions to a number of his fellow monarchs. These included the Imperial German, Spanish, Italian, Danish and British armies. He was Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Scots Greys from 1894 until his death. On becoming Colonel-in-Chief he presented the Regiment with a white bearskin, now worn by the bass drummer of the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. The Imperial Russian anthem is still played at dinner nights in the Officers' Mess, where there remains a portrait of the Tsar in Scots Greys uniform. Since his death, the Regiment has worn a black backing behind its cap badge as a symbol of mourning.





Estimates of Nicholas II's personal wealth have been vastly exaggerated. As ''Emperor of All The Russias'', and an Autocracy, autocrat, the resources under his command were virtually incalculable. However, the vast majority of this was owned by the state as Crown property; the Romanov family's ''personal wealth'' was only a small fraction of this. As monarch, the income of Nicholas was 24 million gold Ruble, roubles per annum: this derived from a yearly allowance from the Treasury, and from the profits of Crown farmland.Massie, Robert K. ''Nicholas and Alexandra'', New York, Atheneum, 1967, p. 64 From this income, he had to fund staff, the upkeep of imperial palaces and imperial theatres, annuities for the royal family, pensions, bequests, and other outgoings. "Before the end of the year, the Tsar was usually penniless; sometimes he reached this embarrassing state by autumn." According to the Grand Marshal of the Court, Count Paul Benckendorff, the family's total financial resources amounted to between 12.5 and 17.5 million roubles. As a comparison, Prince Felix Yusupov estimated his family's worth in real estate holdings alone as amounting to 50 million gold roubles.Ferrand, Jacques ''Les Princes Youssoupoff & les comtes Soumarkoff Elston'', Paris 1991

Documentaries and films

Several films about Nicholas II and his family have been made, including ''Anastasia (1956 film), Anastasia'' (1956), ''Nicholas and Alexandra'' (1971), ''Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna'' (1986), ''Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny'' (1996 HBO), ''Anastasia (1997 film), Anastasia'' (1997), and two Russian adaptations ''Assassin of the Tsar'' (1991) and ''The Romanovs: An Imperial Family'' (2000). In 2017 the film ''Matilda (2017 film), Matilda'' was released. ''The Last Czars'' was released by Netflix in 2019. ''God Save Russia'' – documentary film by Włodzimierz Szpak (1990).

See also

* Execution of the Romanov family * Bibliography of the Russian Revolution and Civil War * Emperor railway station in Pushkin town



* Over the course of Nicholas's life, two calendars were used: the Old Style and New Style dates, Old Style Julian Calendar and the Old Style and New Style dates, New Style Gregorian Calendar. Russia switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar on 1 February (O.S.) / 14 February (N.S.) 1918.



* * * * * * Massie, Robert, ''Nicholas and Alexandra'', London: Pan Books, 1967
online free to borrow
* * * * * *

Further reading

*Antonov, Boris. ''Russian Czars'', St. Petersburg, Ivan Fiodorov Art Publishers () * Baden, Michael M. ''Chapter III: Time of Death and Changes after Death. Part 4: Exhumation'', In: Spitz, W.U. & Spitz, D.J. (eds): ''Spitz and Fisher’s Medicolegal Investigation of Death. Guideline for the Application of Pathology to Crime Investigations (Fourth edition).'' Charles C. Thomas, pp.: 174–183, Springfield, Illinois: 2006 * Emmerson, Charles. "The Future's Bright, the Future's Russian" ''History Today'' (2013) 63#10 pp 10–18. Optimism prevailed in 1913. * Ferro, Marc. ''Nicholas II: The Last Tsar'' (1993
online free to borrow
* Dominic Lieven, ''Nicholas II: Emperor of All the Russias''. 1993. * Lyons, Marvin. ''Nicholas II The Last Czar'', London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974 ) * Maylunas, Andrei, and Sergei Mironenko, ''A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas & Alexandra'' 1999 * Multatuli, P. "Emperor Nicholas II and His Foreign Policy: Stages, Achievements and Results." ''International Affairs: A Russian Journal of World Politics, Diplomacy & International Relations'' (2017) 63#3 pp 258–267 * Bernard Pares, "The Fall of the Russian Monarchy" London: 1939, reprint London: 1988 * John Curtis Perry and Konstantin Pleshakov, ''The Flight of the Romanovs''. 1999. * Edvard Radzinsky, '' The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II '' (1992) . * Mark D. Steinberg and Vladimir M. Khrustalev, ''The Fall of the Romanovs: Political Dreams and Personal Struggles in a Time of Revolution'', New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995. * Anthony Summers and Tom Mangold,'' The File on the Czar''. 1976. * Tereshchuk, Andrei V. "The Last Autocrat Reassessing Nicholas II" ''Russian Studies in History'' 50#4 (2012) pp. 3–6. DOI 10.2753/RSH1061-1983500400 * Verner, Andrew M. ''The Crisis of the Russian Autocracy: Nicholas II and the 1905 Revolution'' 1990 * Wade, Rex A. "The Revolution at One Hundred: Issues and Trends in the English Language Historiography of the Russian Revolution of 1917." ''Journal of Modern Russian History and Historiography'' 9.1 (2016): 9–38.

Primary sources

*''The Complete Wartime Correspondence of Czar Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra, April 1914 – March 1917''. Edited by Joseph T. Furhmann Fuhrmann. Westport, Conn. and London: 1999 *''Letters of Czar Nicholas and Empress Marie'' Ed. Edward J. Bing. London: 1937 *''Letters of the Czar to the Czaritsa, 1914–1917'' Trans. from Russian translations from the original English. E. L. Hynes. London and New York: 1929 *''Nicky-Sunny Letters: correspondence of the Czar and Czaritsa, 1914–1917''. Hattiesburg, Miss: 1970. *''The Secret Letters of the Last Czar: Being the Confidential Correspondence between Nicholas II and his Mother, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna''. Ed. Edward J. Bing. New York and Toronto: 1938 *''Willy-Nicky Correspondence: Being the Secret and Intimate Telegrams Exchanged Between the Kaiser and the Czar''. Ed. Herman Bernstein. New York: 1917. *Paul Benckendorff, ''Last Days at Czarskoe Selo''. London: 1927 *Sophie Buxhoeveden, ''The Life and Tragedy of Alexandra Fedorovna, Empress of Russia: A Biography'' London: 1928 *Pierre Gilliard, Thirteen Years at the Russian Court New York: 1921 *A. A. Mossolov (Mosolov), At the Court of the Last Czar London: 1935 * *Anna Vyrubova, ''Memories of the Russian Court'' London: 1923 *A. Yarmolinsky, editor, ''The Memoirs of Count Witte'' New York & Toronto: 192
*Sir George Buchanan (British Ambassador) ''My Mission to Russia & Other Diplomatic Memories'' (2 vols, Cassell, 1923)

External links

Nicholas II and the Royal Family Newsreels // Net-Film Newsreels and Documentary Films Archive
Photos of the last visit of Tsar Nicholas and family to France, to Cherbourg 1909
from contemporary Magazine, Illustration

EyeWitness to History.
Brief Summary of CzarAlexander Palace Time MachineNicholas and Alexandra ExhibitionFrozentears.org
A Media Library to Nicholas II and his Family.
Ipatiev House — Romanov Memorial
detailed site on the historical context, circumstances and drama surrounding the Romanov's execution
The Murder of Russia's Imperial Family
Nicolay Sokolov. Investigation of execution of the Romanovs in 1918.
Nikolay II — Life and Death
Edvard Radzinski. Later published in English as ''The Last Czar: the Life and Death of Nicholas II''.
Memoirs: The reign of Nicholas II 1–1213–3334–4546–52
Sergei Witte Count Sergei Yulyevich Witte (; ), also known as Sergius Witte, was a Russian statesman who served as the first Prime Minister of Russia, "Prime Minister" of the Russian Empire, replacing the Tsar as head of the government. Neither a liberal no ...

Sergei Witte
. It was originally published in 1922 in Berlin. No complete English translations are available yet.
New Russian Martyrs. Czar Nicholas and His Family
A story of life, canonisation. Photoalbum.
Russian History Magazine
Articles about the Romanovs from Atlantis magazine.

– November 2010 (''Smithsonian'' magazine)
The coronation of Emperor Nicholas II. 26 (14, old style), may, 1896. Historical photos.
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