Nicholas II: The Life and Reign of Russia's Last Monarch

Nicholas II: The Life and Reign of Russia's Last Monarch

Nicholas II: The Life and Reign of Russia's Last Monarch

Nicholas II: The Life and Reign of Russia's Last Monarch


This book is a scholarly, comprehensive, and critical biography of Nicholas II from his birth in 1868 to his execution in 1918. It features a chronological narrative emphasizing the political aspects of the Tsar's reign rather than details from his personal life--although new information about his life is revealed. Nicholas II is portrayed as a conscientious and reasonably intelligent ruler whose reign was marred by inept statesmanship and a stubborn determination to uphold the autocratic tradition of the Romanov dynasty even though he was forced to grant major political concessions in 1905. His imprudent foreign policy in East Asia precipitated a losing war with Japan. But a more cautious policy in Europe nevertheless involved Russia in a far greater conflict in 1914 that resulted in enormous casualties, economic hardship, and the collapse of the monarchy in 1917. As an individual, Nicholas was gentle and benevolent (except towards political dissidents) and proved to be a good husband and father. The serenity of his family life was disrupted by his son and heir's hemophilia, and the ensuing Rasputin scandal impaired the Tsar's image and contributed to his unpopularity. A final chapter examines his legacy and provides a theory of revolutionary causation.


During the nearly two decades that this biography has been underway, I have received moral and material assistance from many sources. Institutional support was provided by the University of Kentucky through leaves of absence and by travel funds from the research foundation. A grant from the Kennan Institute enabled me to explore the library and archival resources of Washington, D.C. Successive summer fellowships offered by the Russian and East European Center of the University of Illinois gave access to the excellent research facilities in Urbana. My trip to Moscow in the summer of 1992 was well timed, for the State Archive of the Russian Federation (the former Central State Archive of the October Revolution) had only recently become available to independent scholars.

Among individuals who have provided various kinds of assistance (aside from librarians and archivists), I thank in particular Samuel H. Baron, Robert F. Byrnes, William J. Chambliss, Ralph T. Fisher, Jr., Joseph T. Fuhrmann, Deborah Hardy, Mark Kulikowski, Alexander Rabinowitch, Mary J. Rehling, Andrei Simonov, Murat Taishibayev, George Tokmakoff, and Andrew Verner. I am especially grateful to my wife, Terry, who typed the original manuscript, among other necessary if mundane chores.

Transliteration from the Russian language always presents difficulties, but I have used the Library of Congress system, with some variations. Names are given in the Russian form except for those familiar to Western readers (thus Nicholas II, not Nikolai II).

Dates also present difficulties because Russia used the "old style" (Julian) calendar until the Bolshevik regime adopted the Western calendar on Feb ruary 1, 1918 . . .

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