Nicholas, desiring to say farewell to his troops, left Pskov on March 16th and returned to G.H.Q. He stayed there until the 21st, living in the Governor's house as before and receiving General Alexeiev's report every day. The Dowager Empress, Marie Feodorovna, had come from Kiev to join the Tsar, and she remained with him until the day he left for Tsarskoe-Selo.
On the 21st the Commissioners sent by the Provisional Government and the Duma arrived at Mohilev. They instructed General Alexeiev to tell the Tsar that on the orders of the Provisional Government he was under arrest, and that their duty was to conduct him to Tsarskoe-Selo. The Commissioners' carriage was attached to the Tsar's train and they all left together the same evening.
Before leaving G.H.Q. Nicholas II insisted on taking leave of his troops by addressing to them the following Order of the Day:
|PRIKAZE OF THE CHIEF OF STAFF TO THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF|
8 (21) March, 1917. No. 371.
I address my soldiers, who are dear to my heart, for the last time. Since I have renounced the Throne of Russia for myself and my son, power has been taken over by the Provisional Government which has been formed on the initiative of the Duma of the Empire.
May God help it to lead Russia into the path of glory and prosperity! May God help you, my glorious soldiers, to defend our Fatherland against a cruel enemy! For two and a half years you have endured the strain of hard service; much blood has been shed, great efforts have been made, and now the hour is at hand in which Russia and her glorious Allies will break the enemy's last resistance in one common, mightier effort.
This unprecedented war must be carried through to final victory. Anyone who thinks of peace or desires it at this moment is a traitor to his country and would deliver her over to the foe. I know that every soldier worthy of the name thinks as I do.
Do your duty, protect our dear and glorious country, submit to the Provisional Government, obey your leaders, and remember that any failure in duty can only profit the enemy.
I am firmly convinced that the boundless love you bear our great country is not dead within you. God bless you, and may St. George, the great martyr, lead you to victory!
The Chief of the General Staff, Alexeiev
In this sad and tragic hour the Tsar had only one desire to make the task of the Government which had dethroned Win easier. His only fear was that the events which had happened might have an evil effect on the army which the enemy could turn to his own advantage.
On the orders of the Minister of War this Order of the Day was never brought to the knowledge of the troops!
Why did Fate decree that the Tsar Nicholas II should reign at the beginning of the twentieth century and in one of the most troublous periods of history? Endowed with remarkable personal qualities, he was the incarnation of all that was noblest and most chivalrous in the Russian nature. But he was weak. The soul of loyalty, he was the slave of his pledged word. His fidelity to the Allies, which was probably the cause of his death, proves it beyond doubt, He despised the methods of diplomacy and he was not a fighter. He was crushed down by events.
Nicholas II was modest and timid; he had not enough self confidence: hence all his misfortunes. His first impulse was usually right. The pity was that he seldom acted on it because he could not trust himself. He sought the counsel of those he thought more competent than himself; from that moment he could no longer master the problems that faced him. They escaped him. He hesitated between conflicting causes and often ended by following that to which he was personally least sympathetic.
The Tsarina knew the Tsar's irresolute character. As I have said, she considered she had a sacred duty to help him in his heavy task. Her influence on the Tsar was very great and almost always unfortunate; she made politics a matter of sentiment and personalities, and too often allowed herself to be swayed by her sympathies or antipathies, or by those of her entourage. Impulsive by nature, the Tsarina was liable to emotional outbursts which made her give her confidence unreservedly to those she believed sincerely devoted to the country and the dynasty. Protopopov was a case in point.
The Tsar was always anxious to be just and to do the right thing. If he sometimes failed, the fault lies at the door of those who did their utmost to hide the truth from him and isolate him from his people. All his generous impulses were broken against the passive resistance of an omnipotent bureaucracy or were wilfully frustrated by those to whom he entrusted their realization. He thought that personal initiative, however powerful and well meant, was nothing compared to those higher forces which direct the course of events. Hence that sort of mystical resignation in him which made him follow life rather than try to lead it. It is one of the characteristics of the Russian nature.
An essentially reflective man, he would have been perfectly happy to live as a private individual, but he was resigned to his lot, and humbly accepted the superhuman task which God had given him. He loved his people and his country with all the force of his nature; he had a personal affection for the of his subjects, those moujiks whose lot he earnestly desired to better.
What a tragic fate was that of this sovereign whose only desire during his reign was to be close to his people and who never succeeded in realising his wish. The fact is that he was well guarded, and by those whose interest it was that he should not succeed.
|NOTE: It was a great misfortune for the Tsar Nicholas II and the Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna that they ascended the throne so young. Like Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, they could have said, "Guard us, protect us, Oh God! We are reigning too young!"|
History will ultimately give them their due. What was not written about Louis XVI at the time of the French Revolution? What accusations were levelled against him? Was there any calumny of which he was not the victim? Yet the children in France learn today that "he was honest and kind, and desired to do good" (Malet, Revolution et Empire, P. 312). It will be the same with Nicholas II, with the difference that he was a victim to his devotion to his country because he rejected all compromise with the enemy.
Next Chapter: XVII. Revolution as Seen from the Alexander Palace
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