Nicholas II was the last Russian emperor, a representative of the Romanov family. He ruled the country from 1894 to 1917. During this time, Russia experienced rapid economic growth, but at the same time it was accompanied by the growth of the revolutionary movement. The expansion in the Far East turned out to be unsuccessful, which turned into a war with Japan. And in 1914 Russia was drawn into the First World War.
During the February Revolution, Nicholas abdicated and was under house arrest. In July 1918, in Yekaterinburg, Nicholas II and his family were shot by the Bolsheviks. The Russian Orthodox Church elevated the Tsar to the rank of a martyr and a saint. His figure, like Stalin, is one of the most controversial in Russian history. Today, even monuments are erected to Nicholas II.
However, historians have a less unequivocal opinion about this king. What was Emperor Nicholas II like? Is it all true what they say about him and his deeds? And what was Russia like under him?
Nikolai received an excellent education, knew five foreign languages. They say that the emperor had a higher military and higher legal education. However, he studied at home, having received a program slightly more expanded relative to the gymnasium in the humanities, and narrowed relative to the natural. The emphasis was really on foreign languages. At the same time, there was no question of any kind of verification of the knowledge gained, traditionally for such persons of this rank. Nikolai spoke and wrote competently, loved to read, but his intellectual level did not even reach a university graduate. And the king knew four languages, not five: English, French, German and Danish worse than others.
The tsar served in the army, receiving the rank of colonel. In fact, Nikolai never really served. In his youth, for a couple of years he was considered a real officer, while he was released from real duties. And he remained a colonel, since he was in this rank at the time of his father's death. The tsars usually did not dare to assign themselves new titles.
Nikolai was the most athletic king. The emperor really loved gymnastics, swam in a kayak, hiked tens of kilometers. He participated in horse races, skated, played hockey, billiards, tennis, swam a lot. The king loved healthy recreation, but this did not have any particular consequences for the country. Nikolai did not create or implement any special sports program for the people.
The king was modest in dress. It is believed that things and shoes from the Romanovs were often inherited. Nikolai himself allegedly wore his groom's suits until the last days. However, from numerous photographs it is clear that the king mostly appeared in public in military uniform. And he had a huge number of uniforms. Many of them are on display in Tsarskoe Selo. And the empress and her daughters in the photographs are constantly posing in different outfits. Girls of different ages and sizes posed in the same costumes, which makes them forget about the clothes "inherited". And millions were spent on the maintenance of the royal family, saving on clothes against this background would look stupid. The tsar's expenses on clothing ranged from 3 to 16 thousand rubles a year, the empress's wardrobe cost the country 40 thousand rubles.
The inheritance from his father in the amount of 4 million rubles, Nikolai spent on charity. It is believed that this amount was in an account with a London bank. The royal family had a huge fortune in securities and money. But charity spent less than one percent in spending. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna spent most of all, in the 1910s she donated up to 90 thousand rubles a year.
Nikolai granted all the requests for clemency that came down to him. In general, he opposed death sentences. It is said that fewer death sentences were passed during the reign of this emperor than in one average day in the USSR under Stalin. In fact, there were groups of people whom the tsar had mercy on entirely. For example, he forgave the Black Hundreds, who staged Jewish pogroms in 1906. But the revolutionaries and criminals did not have to wait for mercy. Until 1905, there were few death sentences, but in 1905-1913, the authorities executed more than 6 thousand people. This is clearly more than under Stalin on an average day. So Nicholas was not so saint in this regard.
They did not want to publish the correspondence between the tsar and his wife, fearing that the people would recognize them as saints. It is believed that the issue of publishing the tsar's correspondence arose when an accusation of treason was being prepared for him. In fact, a criminal case against Nikolai was never opened, he was detained without any charge, he was neither a person under investigation, nor an accused. And that correspondence was published long ago, back in the USSR in the 1920s. And for some reason this did not lead to the canonization of the married couple. Everyone learned that Nikolai and his wife loved each other and their children very much, they were attached to family joys and rest. As individuals, they were a good-looking couple, albeit flawed. There was nothing in the correspondence that would suggest the holiness of these people.
The tsar is not to blame for the tragedy on Khodynka, he provided all the victims with the necessary material assistance. Who, if not the first person in the country, should be blamed for such an incident with numerous victims? Yes, and no mourning was announced, Nicholas continued to celebrate his accession to the throne. And the family of each victim received assistance in the amount of 1,000 rubles. Families who lost their breadwinner were given his average earnings for 5-7 years. Putting this money in the bank, you could count on only 50 rubles a year.
The tsar paid 50 thousand rubles to the victims of "Bloody Sunday". During those events, only 119 people were officially killed. And the allocated amount, in fact, could not be so large - ministers received 20-25 thousand a year. The tsar allocated 50 thousand to help all the victims.
Thanks to the wise actions of Nicholas, it was possible to prevent the further development of the 1905 revolution. In fact, it is not worth talking about any reforms. The king was able to suppress the uprising at the cost of sacrifices and concessions. The country changed to become a constitutional monarchy with an elected legislature. There is no need to talk about the firm will of Nicholas during this period. His advisers note confusion and throwing, dependence on other people's opinions. The ministers of the interior Durnovo and Stolypin behaved really firmly, and they ensured the suppression of the revolution.
Nicholas created a great empire. If power must be compared in terms of the size of the army, then Russia really had no equal. But its population was also the largest in Europe. But this entire huge army could not cope with part of the forces of Austria-Hungary and Germany. Mighty Russia withstood only 2.5 years of war. The economy of Russia was the second in the world, behind the American one by 1.85 times. At the same time, a significant part of the GDP belonged to the non-commodity sector - the peasants consumed what they themselves grew. In terms of GDP per capita, Russia lagged behind almost all European countries. And what kind of empire did Nicholas create if he inherited it ready-made? But the war in the Far East deprived Russia of territories, in particular, half of Sakhalin. Until 1903, the country continued the economic course begun by Alexander III. As soon as the inertia ended, economic and political difficulties began in 1900-1907. Only in 1909 did Russia feel the upswing again, which was associated with a new generation of politicians. But this period turned out to be short, being crossed out by the world war.
Under Nicholas, the Orthodox Church became the most powerful in the world. They say that by 1913, there were about 54 thousand churches in the church, there were parishes in Asia and Africa. The Orthodox also enjoyed authority in the Holy Land. But the largest church in the world was, as it is now, Catholic. If there were about 90 million Orthodox Christians, then Catholics - 212 million. In Asia and Africa there were small spiritual missions that did not manifest themselves in any way.
Under Nicholas, Russia experienced a demographic boom. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the country really experienced a high rate of population growth. However, the high birth rate was accompanied by a high mortality rate. Such parameters are characteristic of undeveloped countries. In Europe, a demographic turn has already taken place, the population has not grown so quickly. So the rapid population growth can only be explained by poverty. This is hardly something to be proud of.
Once the king personally checked the new infantry equipment, marching with him 40 miles. Such a story really happened, no one knew about it. But that check did not help much - the infantry entered the war without helmets, which were important during shelling. The soldiers did not have hand grenades either. True, all the participating countries had equipment that was unsatisfactory for waging a trench war.
Under Nicholas, the service life in the army was reduced to 2 years, and in the navy - to 5 years. Since 1906, the soldiers served in the infantry and foot artillery for 3 years, and in the other clans - 4 years. Revolutionary events became the reason for the shortened service life. The king wanted to appease the army, which could suppress popular unrest. The soldiers were given sheets, blankets and pillows, as well as tea.
During the First World War, the tsar constantly went to the front. And even more than that, Nikolai took his son with him. Only he did not advance beyond the zone of destruction of enemy shells and aircraft, unlike the monarchs of Germany and England. Once during a review, an enemy plane appeared on the horizon. For this "courage" the tsar received the Order of St. George, IV degree.
The tsar took over command of the troops in the most difficult period of the war, without giving up an inch of land to the enemy. Nikolai took over command at the end of August 1915. At that time, the retreat of the Russian army ended, during which Galicia and Poland were lost. The German army was exhausted after 5 months of attacks, its communications were stretched. The Russians, on the other hand, reduced the front line and gathered their strength. The front stabilized, remaining so almost until the summer of 1917. However, it is difficult to attribute this success to the king. He commanded only nominally, not participating in the planning of military operations. The tsar simply liked the military environment, and his presence at the front had a positive effect on the soldiers. But there was also a second side to this story - Nikolai lost contact with the government and abandoned politics.
Even during the war years, Russia did not experience food problems. It is obvious that Russia, being one of the largest exporters of foodstuffs on the market during peacetime, was better supplied with food than other warring countries. However, by 1917, problems had accumulated. The authorities began to experiment with food appropriation, prices were fixed, which led to the departure of goods to the black market. In the spring of 1917, it was planned to introduce a rationing system. True, the real famine in Germany turned out to be much worse. But, despite the entire margin of safety available in the economy, the country survived a revolution that destroyed the tsarist regime.
Taxes were low in Russia, so workers received more than their European counterparts. The Russian authorities were forced to collect little taxes due to the poverty of their subjects. Economists pointed out that it was the country's weak economy that did not give the budget profitability. And it is wrong to talk about the prosperity of Russian workers. In 1913, a factory worker in England received an average of 440 rubles a year. At the same time, the country stood out among the developed ones for its low earnings. In Germany, for example, the salary was 540 rubles, and in America it was generally about 1000. In 1914, Henry Ford raised his workers' wages to $ 5 a day. This corresponded to 2,700 rubles per year. Domestic workers could not even dream of such earnings. In Russian industry, the average salary was 264 rubles.
Under Nicholas, a law on social insurance was introduced, for the first time in the world. Do not think that Russia in 1912 overtook the whole world in this regard. Similar laws have been in force in Germany and Austria-Hungary for 25 years. In other countries, voluntary insurance was in effect, but it was much more developed than Russian.
The American president praised Nikolai for creating the world's most advanced labor legislation. This myth first appeared in émigré literature. American sources are silent about such a phrase by President William Taft. Compared to Germany, the leader in social legislation, domestic efforts looked pale. In Europe, general insurance for old age and illness was already outlined, which was not at all in Russia.
Prices in Russia under Nicholas were among the lowest in the world. Since the mid-19th century, Russia has protected its market with high tariffs. This was supposed to help develop the domestic industry. Nevertheless, manufacturers kept prices at the maximum level, that is, at the level of import prices, which were still subject to a 35% duty. So it turns out that industrial products in the country were more expensive than in Europe, by about 30%. But in terms of agricultural products, the country, being an exporter, kept relatively low prices.
Thanks to Nikolai, the ruble began to be backed by gold. And although the monetary reform took place in 1897, the country began to prepare for it even under Alexander III and his ministers. The reform was forced - Europe switched to gold money circulation, which traded practically only with it, Russia found it difficult to remain with credit money. So external circumstances influenced this step. And you should not attribute the merit in the reform to the emperor. He himself understood little in matters of money circulation, fully trusting Minister Witte. With a negative trade balance, gold had to leave the country. The issue was resolved by constant borrowing in foreign markets. By 1914, the country owed 6.5 billion rubles, with a total gold reserve of 1.6 billion.
Under Nicholas II, there was a breakthrough in education. It is said that in 1908 compulsory primary education appeared in Russia. And by 1916 there were 85% of literate people in the country. Funding for educational institutions grew. In fact, from 1908, funds began to be paid to the zemstvos to draft a school network with primary education. According to the plans, the program was to be launched in the European part of the country in 1925-1926, and in Central Asia they did not even know when. In 1913, only 20 thousand of the 1.3 million boys received a high school diploma. The girls' picture was even worse. On the eve of the war, there were 100 universities in the country, of which the state recognized only 65 diplomas. And 9 of them were theological, and 8 were military. There were institutes in which only dozens of students studied. There is no need to talk about literacy in 85% - this indicator applies to young men in large cities. On average across the country for all ages, literacy in 1913 was 21%.
Under Nicholas, free medical care was introduced in the country. Zemsky and state medical aid has never been free. True, the services were provided at a symbolic price. The zemstvos took 20 kopecks for an appointment and a doctor's visit, and in cities residents paid a hospital fee - a ruble per year. And although medicine was open to everyone, the overload of doctors and hospitals limited their options. The state did not spend enough funds; large enterprises even maintained their own hospitals.
Under Nicholas, Russian nationalism became a powerful force, defending the interests of citizens. The Union of the Russian People was indeed a strong political organization.However, in addition to supporting the current government, the Black Hundreds were active in anti-Semitic activities. What could ordinary citizens ask for? And after 1906, these organizations did not really do anything at all, imitating patriotic activities and burning government funds. The All-Russian National Union was a political party and was engaged in activities in the Duma. Private petitioners did not get to them.
Nikolai was able to quadruple the GDP and revive the industry. Russian industry developed rapidly in the years 1890-1900. Then for three years a severe crisis came to metallurgy, machine building and coal mining. In 1904-1907, because of the war and revolution, it was inappropriate to talk about the growth of industry. And in 1909, rapid growth began again. The overall pace exceeded the indicators of developed countries. Nevertheless, industrial growth and general economic growth should not be combined. In the structure of the country's GDP, industry occupied only a quarter. The most high-tech industry, metal processing, gave the country in 1913 only 2.7% of GDP. The high multiplicity of coal mining was explained by the fact that the base was initially low. But even in 1913, Russia produced 14 times less coal than the United States. But oil production fell from 1901 to 1913, while in America it developed at a frantic pace.
In 1914, the emperor sent 2,000 Russian engineers to America to create a heavy military industry. In fact, we are talking about the bloated staff of Purchasing Commissions. Officers from the military department arrived in America to accept products made on the basis of a Russian military order. If these people had anything to do with production, they only talked about Russian standards. The Americans, who were already an advanced industrial power, had nothing to teach.
Under Nikolai, Russia became the world's largest exporter of agricultural products. If we talk about cereals, then this was true. Russia had no equal in the supply of eggs and butter. But Russia sold sugar only 1% of the market volume, and meat imports even exceeded exports. But at the beginning of the 20th century, food trade accounted for a small part of the total, no more than 3%. So Russia was poorly involved in global world trade.
Under Nicholas, Russia bloodlessly annexed many territories to itself, began to develop Siberia and the Far East. In 1900, Russian troops occupied northern Manchuria, helping to suppress the Boxer Rebellion. Only in 1902, in violation of the agreements, the army was not withdrawn. This became one of the main reasons for the Russo-Japanese War. The occupation of Manchuria was formal - the Chinese administration remained here, taxes were sent to China. The country's aggressive policy in the Far East was a personal initiative of Nikolai, who listened to the ugly clique. The country did not receive dividends from this, because there was simply no strength to defend the occupied territories. After defeat in the war with Japan, Russia withdrew from Manchuria. In 1902, the city of Tianjin was returned to China. The Uryankhai Territory (now Tuva) in 1914 began to be considered a protectorate of Russia, like Bukhara and Khiva. But this sparsely populated area was not interesting to anyone. In Persia, despite its difficult situation, the territory was not annexed. And the lands in the west (Galicia, Lvov, Chernigov) were captured during the First World War and demanded significant sacrifices. In addition, the Austrians recaptured most of the land in 1915.
The emperor personally carried out all the reforms, sometimes in defiance of the Duma. The amount of management that lay on Nikolay did not allow him not only to develop and carry out all the reforms, but even delve into their details. In Russia, a tradition has developed according to which the tsar was the coordinator of the actions of the apparatus. He appointed senior officials and resolved major differences between ministries. The tsar did not draw up any bills. He rarely appeared at meetings, usually he communicated with ministers individually. Nikolai announced his decisions briefly, without bothering to explain anything in detail. From his notes it is not clear how decisions were born and made. Rather, he simply chose from the ready-made options offered to him.
Nicholas II gave the people unprecedented freedom of speech. Until 1905, there was no need to talk about it. Books and periodicals were heavily censored. Journalists and editors were tried and exiled. After 1905, the situation softened, but the authorities continued to arrest people. Constantine Balmont was forced to leave the country for the phrase “our tsar is a wretchedness”. It was impossible to legally meet to discuss politics. Public meetings were coordinated with the authorities, and a supervising police officer was constantly present there.
Under Nicholas, the Russian gold ruble became the most reliable currency in the world, and the gold reserve was the largest in the world. Money circulation is based on trust. The higher it is to the country's economy, the less gold coverage percentage is required. In England in the 1910s, only 20-25% of the amount of banknotes was enough for gold. And in poor Russia, with an unstable financial system, there was no need to talk about trust, so they had to provide 100% gold support. The government reserved the right to issue only 300 million unsecured rubles, using it during the 1905 revolution. The world's largest gold reserve was due not so much to the volume of money as to a low level of confidence. However, these funds were withdrawn from the economy, and in part were completely employed abroad.
Nicholas II created a powerful army in Russia. The creators of this myth, as proof, say that the world's best Mosin rifles and Maxim machine guns were in service in Russia, and the 76-mm field guns had no equal. Light weapons in the domestic army were really decent. But by the time the First World War began, the rifle had already become a reliable weapon in all armies, and machine guns, although a new, but also quite workable tool. German rifles in their characteristics were not inferior to the Russians, and our light and rapid-firing 76-mm gun was adapted only for mobile combat. Against the entrenched enemy, she was powerless. The same Germans had 4 times more heavy artillery.
The king built a powerful air force in the country. In 1910, there were indeed 263 aircraft in Russia, it was the largest aircraft fleet in the world. By the autumn of 1917, the number of aircraft had grown to 700. Only with the outbreak of hostilities, all the warring countries rushed to produce aircraft. As a result, by 1918 France already had 3,300 aircraft. Russia was also very dependent in this regard on the allies, from them it received both the planes themselves and aircraft engines.
The king built a powerful sea fleet in the country. At the end of the war, the British had 33 modern battleships in service and 17 more obsolete ones. In Germany, the ratio was 18 and 22. In Russia, by the beginning of the First World War, there were only 9 obsolete battleships and 8 more were built. Thus, the domestic fleet was approximately comparable in power to the French and American, but was much inferior to the German and British.
Nicholas II built the Great Siberian Railway. In fact, Alexander III initiated this construction. It was under him that the Trans-Siberian Railway was laid in 1891. Then Nikolai was present at the ceremony, while still being the heir. His personal contribution was still considerable - she was the chairman of the Siberian Railway Committee in 1892-1903, was keenly interested in the process. The effect of its construction was not only positive. On the one hand, Siberia began to develop rapidly and connected with the European part of the country. On the other hand, one of the pieces of the road passed through the territory of China. As a result, this turned into expansion and the Russo-Japanese War. Even before 1905, there was a gap in the Transsib, as a result of which the goods had to be delivered through Baikal. And only in 1916, the road, which lies entirely on the territory of Russia, reached Vladivostok.
Nicholas II created the Hague International Court. In 1899 and 1907, with the active participation of Nicholas, two Hague Peace Conferences were held. As a result, many declarations and agreements were adopted aimed at the peaceful resolution of conflicts. The Permanent Court of Arbitration was also created. However, this did not give serious results. The Chamber did not prevent the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, the Balkan Wars, and the First World War. And even Russia, in its crisis with Japan, did not even try to appeal to The Hague. The peace initiative was buried by the creators themselves. True, some of the Hague conventions for the protection of prisoners of war and civilians allowed to show humanity during the First World War. And although the Russian emperor was the initiator of the First Peace Conference, he was not the author of all its resolutions. Regarding the rules of warfare, established international practices were simply consolidated.
Under Nicholas, alcohol consumption sharply decreased. At the very end of the 19th century, a wine monopoly was introduced in the country. It was the state that began to control the sale of cheap vodka. And this brought the country a large income - a quarter of all budget revenues in the 1910s. Consumption of pure alcohol per capita really amounted to 3.4 liters per capita, which is 5 times lower than that of France and 3 times lower than that of Germany. Today, an average of 15 liters are drunk in the country. They drank more in the cities than in the countryside. The price was such that it reduced consumption, but did not allow the development of underground moonshine. I must say that under Nicholas they drank about the same as in the 19th century. Monopoly itself and low prices were criticized. It was said that the authorities are getting the people drunk. Many advocated the introduction of Prohibition. It appeared with the outbreak of the First World War. However, Prohibition led to the creation of social tension, contributing to the formation of a revolutionary situation. That is, the tsarist government first created a smart system for selling alcohol, and then destroyed it.
Nicholas II was able to tame inflation and unemployment. With the created monetary system of circulation, focused on gold, inflation was impossible. But due to the growth in the number of households, demand exceeded supply. This led to a 59% increase in retail prices from 1897 to 1913. This primarily concerned food and consumer goods. There was practically no unemployment in the city, just many townspeople still had close ties with the countryside. If the demand for hired labor declined, then people simply returned to their villages. In fact, the authorities drove unemployment into the countryside. The area of cultivated land there almost did not grow, as a result, allotments decreased. Up to half of the labor in agriculture was wasted. The people believed that the problem was with the landowners, which led to unrest in 1903-1904. Economists see it as actual unemployment as the cause of this crisis.
Nicholas II never abdicated the throne. The abdication of Nicholas II is rather controversial. This myth was born on its basis. The abdication took place in the presence of a group of people, different in their political orientation and social status. Nicholas II signed the document in the carriage of his train. It is difficult to imagine the conspiracy of a large number of variegated persons. The eyewitnesses had no reason to doubt the falsification of the document. And Nikolai himself, in his correspondence with his mother and communication with interlocutors, directly says that he signed the act and renounced it. Supporters of myths stress on an indistinct pencil signature. However, this, on the contrary, indicates the authenticity of the document. The fact is that Nikolai always signed with a soft pencil, and then the document was certified with ink by the minister or adjutant general. The revolution actually overthrew the king. It is hard to imagine that those who had gathered in the carriage on this on March 2, if they refused to sign the document, would simply have left, leaving power to Nikolai. He would have been arrested and deposed by force. And how could it be that the forgery of the king's signature brought down a three-hundred-year dynasty?
The order to shoot Nikolai and his family came from Moscow. This story has haunted historians for several decades. Who gave the order to kill the king and his family? Today there is no doubt that the executive committee of the Ural Regional Council of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies adopted the resolution on the execution of the Romanovs. But there was no order from Moscow, from Lenin or Sverdlov. But there is indirect evidence that this could not have happened. Shortly before the execution, in a telephone conversation, Lenin directly instructed the commander of the Severouralsk military group to protect the royal family and not allow any violence. Most likely, the responsibility should be assigned to the local authorities, while arbitrariness was commonplace. The White Guards attacked Yekaterinburg. True, the tsar and his son, who announced their abdication, could no longer claim the throne.