90 years since Russia ceased to be monarchy

Russia is remembering one of the most dramatic events in its history. On March 13 ninety years ago Tsar Nicholas the Second abdicated from the throne, sealing victory for the forces behind the February revolution of 1917.

Tsar Nicholas the Second was a family man. Letters to his wife show so much love and care and devotion. But being a perfect husband or a perfect father doesn’t always make one a perfect tsar.

Nicholas the Second was a hesitant and impressionable person lacking the iron fist and cunning of many Russian tsars before him.

“He wasn’t a very strong person. He was a person with moral principles, a very devoted Christian. But he wasn’t very strong. When he faced the betrayal, it crushed him,” Larisa Bardovskaya of Tsarskoye Selo State Museum near St. Petersburg thinks.

As uncontrollable crowds were rallying in Petrograd, Nicholas the Second was hundreds of kilometers away from the capital at the Russian army headquarters. How well he was informed about the events in Petrograd is still debated.

In early March, the tsar received a telegram from one of the key politicians: “The situation is serious. There is anarchy in the capital…Random shots are heard on the streets. It is essential to immediately order people with the confidence of the country to form a new government. Any delay will be deadly. I pray to God that in this hour the blame does not fall on the crown.”

But Nicholas the Second ignored this warning.

Up until very last day, Nicholas the Second refused to believe that his people had risen against him. He was receiving numerous letters and telegrams from the local authorities telling about the infinite love Russian people reportedly had for their dearest monarch. The tsar didn’t know that these numerous letters and telegrams were sent at the request of his interior minister.

Some historians believe the tsar’s decision to leave the capital at this fateful time was the ultimate reason of his fall.

“The emperor’s main mistake was that he took over the command of the army and left the capital. That led to the collapse of power. There were essentially two governments: one at the army headquarters and another in Petrograd. And communication between the two left much to be desired,” believes Nikolay Lukyanov from the Museum of Russian Imperial Family.

When the tsar finally decided to return to Petrograd, this journey changed everything.

The last Russian tsar was a true patron of trains. During his reign, about 80,000 kilometers of railroads were laid across Russia – that’s 10 times more than before him.

But despite all his efforts, trains played a fateful role in his life.
It was in a train detained by revolutionary forces that Nicholas the Second abdicated the throne both for himself and his son. When his train finally arrived to Petrograd, there was no return ticket.

Who won in the February revolution? Historians still argue about that. 

“All these politicians like Guchkov who wanted just to take power, to speak, to speak, to feel important and so on, they in fact triggered such changes which were uncontrollable. And the whole process just threw them away from Russia,” says Andrey Fursov, from the Institute of Russian History.

For many centuries, tsars were considered God’s ministers on Russian soil. And just a few years after Russia lost its last tsar, it would also lose its religion.

Nicholas the Second was a very devout Christian. When he signed his abdication manifest, he entrusted himself to God’s will. But the clergy were among the first ones to turn away from him. Just days after his abdication, churches were already offering prayers to the new government.