Russia, which entered the World War II, was in a state of deep systemic political and social crisis, it was tormented by internal contradictions, long overdue reforms were not carried out, the created parliament did little to solve, the tsar and the government did not take the necessary measures to reform the state.
The circumstances of the unsuccessful reign of Nicholas II
The turbulent revolutionary events of 1917 were largely due to objective circumstances: the contradictions between the emerging big bourgeoisie and the autocracy, which relied on the estate class of the landowners, between the destitute peasantry and workers and owners of land and factories, the church and the state, the command staff of the army and soldiers, as well as the military failure at the front and the desire of England and France to weaken the Russian Empire. In addition, there were subjective factors associated with the king, his family and the royal environment, which had a significant impact on government.
The indecision and inconsistency of the tsarist regime, and especially the rapprochement with such a destructive personality as Grigory Rasputin, steadily destroyed the authority of the authorities. Toward the end of his reign, Nicholas II, because of his lack of will and softness, complete submission of his will to his wife Alexandra Fedorovna and the “old man” Rasputin, because of the inability to compromise in order to preserve the empire, did not enjoy any authority and was largely despised not only by all sections of society , as well as representatives of the royal dynasty.
In many ways, the tsar’s problems were associated with his wife Alexandra Fedorovna, nee German princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt, whom he married for love, which was rare in dynastic marriages. His father Alexander III and his mother Maria Fedorovna were against this marriage, because they wanted to marry their son to a French princess, moreover, Nikolai and Alice were distant relatives as descendants of German dynasties.
In the end, Alexander III had to agree with the choice of his son, because after a railway accident near Kharkov, when he had to save the family and keep the roof of a wrecked car above his head, his health was undermined, his days were numbered, and he agreed to the wedding of his son, who took place less than a week after the king’s funeral and was overshadowed by passing memorial services and mourning visits.
Further misfortunes of Nicholas II continued. On the day of his ceremonial coronation on the Khodynsky field in May 1896, to which more than 500 thousand came for the "royal hotels", a mass crush began, in which 1389 people died. The tragedy occurred through the fault of the organizers of the celebrations, who closed the pits and scours on the field with boardwalks, which, unable to withstand the pressure of the crowds, collapsed.
Then there was Bloody Sunday. On January 9, 1905, a peaceful procession of workers organized by the priest Gapon to the Winter Palace with a petition about their needs was shot, 130 demonstrators died. Although Nicholas II had no direct relation to the Khodynka crush and Bloody Sunday, they accused him of everything - and he was assigned the nickname of Nicholas the Bloody.
The war with Japan that began in 1905 was stupidly lost. In the battle of Tsushima, almost the entire Russian squadron sent from the Baltic Sea perished. As a result, the Port Arthur fortress and the Liaodong Peninsula were surrendered to the Japanese. The defeat in the war triggered a revolution that forced the tsar to adopt in August 1905 a manifesto on the establishment of the State Duma as a legislative body, and in October of that year a manifesto on granting basic civil liberties to the population and the mandatory harmonization of all adopted laws with the State Duma.
All these events did not add authority to Nicholas II, and the ruling class and the common people saw him as a failure, unable to complete state affairs.
The unsuccessful marriage of the king
The marriage of Nicholas II had tragic consequences for the entire dynasty, his wife turned out to be a strong-willed and domineering woman, and with the lack of will of the king completely dominated him, influencing state affairs. The king became a typical henpecked. Being German by birth, she was unable to establish normal relations with the royal family, courtiers, and the king’s entourage. In society, it was thought of her as a stranger who despised Russia, which had become her home.
This alienation of the tsarina from Russian society was facilitated by her outward coldness in circulation and lack of friendliness, which was perceived by all as contempt. The mother of the tsar Maria Fedorovna, nee Danish princess Dagmar, previously warmly received in Russia and easily included in St. Petersburg society, did not take her daughter-in-law for her own and hostile to the Germans. In this regard, the life of Alexandra Fedorovna at the royal court was not pleasant.
The situation was complicated by the fact that Tsarevich Alexey, who was born in 1904, suffered from a serious hereditary disease - hemophilia, which passed to him from his mother, who inherited the disease from the English Queen Victoria. The heir constantly suffered from the disease, his illness was incurable and kept secret, no one knew about it except the closest people. All this brought suffering to the queen, over time she became hysterical and more and more departed from society. The tsarina was looking for ways to cure the child, and in 1905 the royal family was introduced to the “man of God”, known as the “old man” in the metropolitan society, as Grigory Rasputin.
The influence of Queen and Rasputin
The "Elder" really possessed the abilities of a healer and alleviated the suffering of the heir. He began to regularly visit the royal palace and gained a strong influence on the queen and through her on the king. The meetings between the tsarina and Rasputin were organized by the maid of honor Anna Vyrubova, who had an influence on the queen, while the true purpose of visiting the tsar’s palace was hidden. Frequent meetings between Tsarina and Rasputin at court and in society began to be regarded as a love affair, which was facilitated by the love of the “old man” who had connections with women from the secular society of St. Petersburg.
Over time, Rasputin gained in St. Petersburg society a reputation as a “royal friend,” a visionary and healer, which was of tragic significance for the royal throne. With the outbreak of war, Rasputin tried to influence the tsar, discouraging him from entering the war. After heavy military defeats in 1915 due to supply problems weapons and ammunition, Rasputin and the tsarina persuaded the tsar to become the Supreme Commander-in-Chief and remove from this post respected Prince Nikolai Nikolayevich in the army, who sharply opposed the “elder”.
This decision was suicidal, the king was poorly versed in military affairs; in society and in the army, such a decision was taken hostilely. Everyone regarded this as the sovereignty of the “elder,” who, after the tsar’s departure to Headquarters, gained even more influence over the tsarina and began to interfere in state affairs.
Being in Stavka since the autumn of 1915, Nicholas II had virtually no longer ruled the country; in the capital, everyone was ruled by the unpopular and unloved in society queen, who was under the unlimited influence of Rasputin, blindly following his recommendations. They exchanged telegrams with the king and convinced him of the adoption of certain decisions.
As people who spoke with the tsarina at that time describe, she became intolerant of any opinion that contradicted her views, felt infallible and demanded from everyone, including the tsar, to fulfill her will.
At this stage, a “ministerial leapfrog” began in the government, the ministers fired, without even having time to get to the bottom of the matter, many staff appointments were difficult to explain, all connected with the activities of Rasputin. Of course, the tsar and the queen listened to a certain extent to the recommendations of the “elder,” and the metropolitan elite used this for their own purposes and, finding an approach to Rasputin, made the necessary decisions.
Conspiracies against the king
The authority of the tsar and the tsar's family was rapidly declining; the clan of the great princes, the State Duma, the army general, and the ruling class, turned against Nicholas II. Contempt and rejection of the king and among the common people spread. The German queen and Rasputin were accused of everything.
In the capital, all interested parties spread ridiculous rumors and obscene cartoons about the queen about her love affair with the “elder”: they say she is a spy, tells the Germans all military secrets, for this a cable was laid from Tsarskoye Selo with direct connection with the German General Staff, and in the army and government people with German surnames are appointed who are ruining the army. All these rumors were one more absurd than the other, but they believed and the Queen was ready to tear to pieces. Attempts to surround the king to remove Rasputin from him were unsuccessful.
Against the backdrop of espionage hysteria, conspiracies against the tsar began to mature in late 1916: the palace of the Grand Duke led by Prince Nikolai Nikolayevich, the general led by the headquarters of the General Headquarters General Alekseev and the commander of the Northern Front, General Ruzsky, the Masonic in the State Duma headed by Milyukov and joined him "Trudoviks" led by Kerensky, who had contacts with the British Embassy. Everyone had different goals, but they were united in one thing: to wrest the abdication of the king or eliminate it and eliminate the influence of the tsarina and Rasputin.
The grand dukes were the first to act, they organized the assassination of Rasputin in the palace of Prince Felix Yusupov in December 1916, in which the prince himself, Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich and (very likely) an English intelligence officer participated. The murder was quickly uncovered. The tsarina demanded to shoot all those involved in the murder, and hang Kerensky and Guchkov, but the tsar limited himself to expelling those involved from St. Petersburg. On the day of the assassination of Rasputin, the king dismissed the State Duma for vacation.
In the State Duma, the opposition to the Tsar united around the Central Military Industrial Committee, created by industrialists to supply the army and led by the Octobrist Guchkov, and the All-Russian Zemstvo Union, led by Cadet Lvov and the progressives (nationalists led by Shulgin). The opposition united in the "Progressive Bloc" led by Cadet Milyukov and demanded the creation of a "responsible ministry" formed and responsible to the State Duma, which meant the introduction of a constitutional monarchy. These requirements were supported by the princely group and generals led by General Alekseev. Thus formed a single block of pressure on the king. State Duma Chairman Rodzianko officially announced on January 7 the need to form such a government.
On February 9, a meeting of conspirators was held in Rodzianko’s office, at which a coup plan was approved, according to which during the Tsar’s trip to Headquarters they decided to delay his train and force him to abdicate in favor of the heir under the regency of Prince Mikhail Alexandrovich.
The spontaneous uprising in Petrograd
In addition to the plot at the “top”, the situation at the “lower levels” was seriously complicated and warmed up. In December 1916, problems began with the supply of bread, the government introduced the surplus appraisal (the Bolsheviks were not the first), but this did not help. By February there was a catastrophic shortage of bread in the cities and the army, cards were introduced, long lines stood in the streets for receiving bread from them. The discontent of the population resulted in spontaneous political strikes of the workers of Petrograd, in which hundreds of thousands of workers participated.
Bread riots began on February 21, smashed bakeries and bakeries demanding bread. The king went to Headquarters, he was reassured that everything would be fine, riots would be crushed. On February 24, a spontaneous mass strike began throughout the capital. People took to the streets demanding "Down with the Tsar," students, artisans, Cossacks and soldiers began to join them, and brutal massacres and killings of policemen began. Part of the troops began to go over to the side of the rebels, and the killings of officers and shootings began, in which dozens of people died.
All this led to an armed uprising on February 27. Troops in whole units went over to the side of the rebels and smashed the police departments, captured the Crosses prison and released all the prisoners. Massacres and robberies began throughout the city. The previously arrested members of the State Duma released from prison led the crowd to the residence of the State Duma in the Tauride Palace.
Sensing a moment for the seizure of power, the Council of Elders elected the Provisional Committee of the State Duma. The spontaneous uprising began to take the form of the overthrow of the tsarist regime. At the same time, in the Tauride Palace, State Duma deputies from the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks formed the Interim Executive Committee of the Petrosoviet and issued their first appeal on the overthrow of the tsar and the establishment of a republic. The tsarist government resigned, in the evening the Provisional Committee, fearing the seizure of power by the Petrosoviet, decided to take power into its own hands and form a government. He sent a telegram to Alekseev and the commanders of all fronts on the transfer of power to the Provisional Committee.
The coup d'etat
On the morning of February 28, Nicholas II on his train recovered from Stavka to Petrograd, but the roads were already blocked and he could only get to Pskov. Towards the end of the day, March 1, General Ruzsky met with the tsar, before that Alekseev and Rodzianko were urging the tsar to sign a manifesto on the formation of a government responsible to the State Duma. The king objected to this, but in the end he was persuaded, and he signed such a manifesto.
On this day, at a joint meeting of the Provisional Committee and the Petrosoviet Executive Committee, it was decided to form the Provisional Government, responsible to the State Duma. According to Rodzianko, this was no longer enough. It was impossible to stop the spontaneous mass of the rebels by such half measures, and he informed Alekseev about the advisability of abdicating the king. The general prepared a telegram to all the front commanders with a request to inform the tsar of his opinion on the advisability of his abdication. Moreover, from the essence of the telegram it followed that there was no other way. So the great princes, generals and leaders of the State Duma betrayed and led the king to the decision on abdication.
All telegram commanders of the fronts informed the tsar of the expediency of his abdication. This was the last straw, the tsar realized that he had been betrayed, and on March 2 announced his abdication in favor of his son during the regency of Prince Mikhail Alexandrovich. Representatives of the Provisional Committee Guchkov and Shulgin arrived to the tsar, explained to him the situation in the capital and the need to calm the rebels with his abdication. Nicholas II, worrying about the fate of his young son, signed and handed them the act of his abdication in favor of not his son, but his brother Michael. He also signed documents on the appointment of Lvov as head of the Provisional Government and Prince Nikolai Nikolayevich Supreme Commander.
Such a turn put the conspirators in a dead end; they understood that the accession of Mikhail Alexandrovich, unpopular in society, could cause a new outburst of indignation and not stop the rebels. The leadership of the State Duma met with the brother of the king and persuaded him to abdicate; on March 3, he signed the act of abdication before the convening of the Constituent Assembly, which would decide the form of government.
From this moment the reign of the Romanov dynasty came to an end. Nicholas II turned out to be a weak state ruler; at this crucial time, he could not hold power in his hands and led his dynasty to collapse. There was still the possibility of restoring the ruling dynasty by the decision of the Constituent Assembly, but it could not begin its activities, the sailor Zheleznyakov put an end to it with the phrase: "The guard was tired."
So the conspiracy of the ruling elite of Russia and the mass demonstrations of workers and soldiers of the Petrograd garrison led to the coup and the February revolution. The instigators of the coup, having achieved the fall of the monarchy, provoked turmoil in the country, could not stop the collapse of the empire, quickly lost power and plunged the country into a bloody civil war.