chapter  10
18 Pages

Nicholas II: A Policy of Contradictions

On January 17, 1895, Nicholas II, fated to be the last emperor in Russian history, began his reign with an address to delegations from the zemstvos, towns, nobility, and Cossacks: "I know that of late, in some zemstvo assemblies, voices have been heard of people carried away by senseless dreams of the participation of representatives of the zemstvos in matters of internal administration. Let it be known to all that I, while devoting all my strength to the good of the nation, will safeguard the principle of autocracy just as firmly and steadfastly as did my late unforgettable father."]

Russia faced a historic choice in the reign of Nicholas II. Would the country follow the path of reform or revolution? Would the old order remain standing or collapse? By the turn ofthe twentieth century, the many contradictions that were slowly gathering in Russian life had tied themselves into a single knot, making a peaceful outcome of the crisis extremely difficult. The personal characteristics and political outlook of Nicholas II, especially his uncompromising adherence to the principle of unlimited autocracy, played a major role in causing about the eventual revolution.2