Lenin and His Rivals: The Struggle for Russia's Future, 1898-1906

Lenin and His Rivals: The Struggle for Russia's Future, 1898-1906

Lenin and His Rivals: The Struggle for Russia's Future, 1898-1906

Lenin and His Rivals: The Struggle for Russia's Future, 1898-1906

Excerpt

"Sipiagin is a fool, but Plehve is a scoundrel. "

--Konstantin Pobedonostsev's characterization of the last two Interior Ministers before the Revolution of 1905.

The last of the eighteen Romanov autocrats who had ruled Russia since the Time of Troubles (1613) was practically unique in the Western world of the 20th century. He tried his level best to be a good eighteenth century Emperor. No one can say he might not have succeeded two hundred years earlier, if only he had had the intelligence and strength of will which some of his ancestors and not a few of their foreign wives had possessed. In his own era he never fully realized the problems which faced him. His one successful political act, promulgation of the October Manifesto, was an accident whose import and effect--it was no less than to save his throne temporarily--he scarcely guessed. His family and court lived in an atmosphere of simplicity, devotion, and utter lack of comprehension of the world outside which has lent itself without difficulty to depiction by many writers as sheer fantasy. Personally he was as conscientious as he was unapproachable--probably his English collie Iman gave him as much companionship as any human being. He was too densely self-assured to be very maladroit. With his family and friends, with a common Siberian hunter or with a "man of God," he might display charm. With his own highest officials, he might be gruff and preoccupied, and only too often any kind words or unusual attentiveness to an official might be the prelude to his abrupt and curt dismissal. Industrialism was beyond his understanding, revolutionaries were to him simply manifestations of evil to be crushed at any cost, good government not an ideal to be sought but an irrelevance compared to the fulfilment of the commands of his ancestors and the maintenance of the loyalty of the Russian people to his own person.

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