Weak or stubborn? Whatever Tsar Nicholas II’s most serious flaw, it proved fatal to the Romanov dynasty and the monarchy of the Russian Empire.
Nicholas II was the last tsar of the Russian Empire. His inability to rule effectively helped to encourage the initiation of the Bolshevik Revolution and may, in the end, cost him and his family their lives. A leader blind to the political and social realities of his land, Nicholas II lived in a world of his own making.
This world that Tsar Nicholas II shaped, with the help of his wife Alexandra, was born out of a stubborn belief in the old autocratic system of Muscovy. This system, not only out of fashion by the beginning of the 20th century, was also one that was frowned upon by the citizens of the Russian Empire. Under Nicholas II, small civil rights gains that had been made by former generations were put at risk. Nicholas II refused to take the Duma (the Russian governing body), which was a necessary institution to suit the changing national and global climate, seriously. He also ignored laws, like those repealing the widespread use of censorship, much to the anger of his citizens and the detriment to his reputation.
Tsar Nicholas II was better suited to menial clerical tasks and spending time with his family than he was making important decisions for the good of the Russian Empire. Books about the Romanovs often depict photographs taken by Nicholas II of his family. While his devotion to his family was commendable, it is also evidence that he treated his responsibilities as tsar less gravely than could be expected from a monarch of such a vast and diverse realm. What conscientious ruler would make time to practice his photography in lieu of attending to the many issues facing the Russian Empire of the early 20th century?
In Nicholas II’s world, Nicholas was a “landowner” and the people under him were his servants. This metaphor did not go over well, even though in ancient Russia, the idea was acceptable. Not only were his aristocratic advisors slavish and devoted when in his presence, they were aware of his disinterest in matters of state and often took his lead. Duma members were thwarted at every turn, Tsar Nicholas II thought of himself as the ultimate autocrat, and the people of the Russian Empire were growing restless.
Tsar Nicholas II is not entirely to blame for the fall of the Russian monarchy. Even if he had been a strong, intelligent leader who listened to his advisors and the demands of the people, it is likely he would have still been overthrown. However, due to his apathy, ignorance, and disregard for the issues facing his empire and its citizens, the Revolution was no doubt given greater impetus for success.