LAST OF THE ROMANOVS: SOME WOLFSONIAN REFLECTIONS ON THE LAST RUSSIAN CZAR ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF HIS CORONATION

Having already assumed the throne following the death of his father in November 1894, Nicholas II and his wife, the German princess, Alexandra, were crowned czar and czarina of Russia in the old Ouspensky Cathedral in Moscow on May 26, 1896.

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GIFT OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF
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During his tempestuous reign, Nicholas II would be overwhelmed by challenges to his rule. Desperate to preserve the autocratic rule he inherited, he dismissed demands for reform and steered the nation into two disastrous wars (first against Japan in the East and later against Germany and Austria-Hungary in the West). These wars would both spark revolutions; the latter one would ultimately cost him the throne and his family their lives. But when he first ascended the throne and during the earliest years of rule, things looked decidedly more promising.

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Only months after their coronation, the royal couple made a state visit to France in the fall, stopping in Cherbourg, Paris, Sevres, Versailles, and Chalons-sur-Marne.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. LONG-TERM LOAN

A Franco-Russian alliance had already been initiated by Alexander III in 1892, but the official visit of Nicholas II and Alexandra to Paris in October 1896 established ever more cordial relations. The Romanovs spoke excellent French and enjoyed escaping the parochial and restrictive Russian Court.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. LONG-TERM LOAN

France provided the Russian czar with loans to finance a program of industrialization, and Russia provided France with an ally in the East capable of countering the growing power and influence of the expanding German Empire.
Ironically, although Nicholas II resisted any attempt to curb his royal authority or weaken czarist absolutism, he was by nature and inclination poorly suited to wield such absolute power. The Russo-Japanese War ended so disastrously for the Russians that it provoked the Russian Revolution of 1905.

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THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU, MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. COLLECTION

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GIFTS OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

While Nicholas was able to stay in power by recognizing a representative assembly, and by promising constitutional reforms, he repudiated such concessions and repeatedly dissolved the Duma. With reform effectively thwarted, more radically-minded revolutionary groups, like the Bolsheviks, began to win popular support.

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GIFT OF THE HOLY TRINITY ORTHODOX SEMINARY LIBRARY

Russian participation in the Great War again demonstrated the incompetence of Romanov rule as Nicholas personally took command of the army in 1915, leaving the Czarina at home to deal with domestic concerns.

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Alexandra’s popularity at court had declined considerably, having fallen under the influence of the Russian mystic Rasputin, who arbitrarily replaced many of the czar’s competent ministers and officials with less qualified appointees.

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GIFT OF THE HOLY TRINITY ORTHODOX SEMINARY LIBRARY

In March 1917, Nicholas was forced to abdicate, and a Provisional government came to power, marking the end to Romanov rule. Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children were later transferred to Tobolsk in Western Siberia under pressure from the Petrograd Soviet that shared power with the Provincial Government in the early days of the Russian Revolution. With the aim of knock Russia out of the war, the Germans sent Lenin and other revolutionary exiles to Russia in a sealed railway car in order to foment revolution and civil war.

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In November 1917, the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin seized power from the Provisional government under Kerensky and established the Soviet state. In April 1918, the royal family was transferred to Yekaterinburg in the Urals. That summer, the civil war broke out, and as “White” Russian forces advanced on Yekaterinburg during a campaign against the Bolsheviks, the Yekaterinburg Soviet passed a death sentence on the imperial family. The Romanov dynasty was no more.

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GIFT OF THE HOLY TRINITY ORTHODOX SEMINARY LIBRARY

~ by "The Chief" on May 26, 2015.

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