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[The Imperial Family and Its Circle]

Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (1894-1917)

  Tsar Nicholas II, in the uniform of a Royal Navy Admiral of the Fleet, c. 1909

Commonly acknowledged virtues and vices: modesty, self-discipline, deep sense of duty and devotion to family, but fatally handicapped by a lack of leadership skills and an inbred conviction that the concept of nation is a mythical attribute of the monarch. As a monarch he was devoid of strength, adaptability and vision as circumstances required.

His personally beloved traditional saying: “The heart of the Tsar is in the Hand of God.”







Alexandra Feodorovna (Alix of Hesse)

Alex with Nikolay the Second


Alix and Nicholas were related to each other via several different lines of European royalty. Nicholas and Alix had first met in 1884 at the wedding of Nicholas's Uncle Sergei and Alix's sister Elisabeth in St. Petersburg. Love blossomed upon Alix’s return to Russia in 1889:  Nicholas wrote in his diary:

"It is my dream to one day marry Alix H. I have loved her for a long time, but more deeply and strongly since 1889 when she spent six weeks in Petersburg. For a long time, I have resisted my feeling that my dearest dream will come true.”

Having to first overcome an initial reluctance to convert to Russian Orthodoxy from Lutheranism, she accepted the second of Nicholas’ proposals.

The Imperial Family 

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Alexandra was not received well by her subjects.  Russians interpreted her innate timidity and inability to warm to traditional Russian mores and manners as distant reserve. Her inability to produce a son was a major perceived liability. (After the birth of the Grand Duchess Olga, her first-born child, Nicholas was reported to have said, "We are grateful she was a daughter; if she was a boy she would have belonged to the people, being a girl she belongs to us.") When her "sunbeam,” Tsarevich Alexei, was born, she further removed herself from the Russian court:  the boy’s fragile condition (hemophilia) prompted a retreat into protective isolation, away from probing public curiosity the potential harm of worldly forces. 

Following the February Revolution of 1917 Nicholas abdicated on behalf of himself and his son. Leaders of the Provisional Government placed the imperial family under house arrest at Tsarskoe Selo.  In the spring of 1918, the Bolsheviks transferred Nicholas and his family to Ekatarinburg, more than 1,000 miles away in the Urals. As a civil war swept the newly established Soviet Union into further turmoil, the Bolsheviks decided to eliminate the family as a potential threat. With the approval of Lenin, Nicholas and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks on the night of 16–17 July 1918. The recovered remains of the Imperial Family were finally re-interred in St. Petersburg in 1998.

On 1 November 1981, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia canonized Nicholas, his wife, children and servants as sainted martyrs. On 15 August 2000 the Russian Orthodox Church within Russia canonized Nicholas and his family “passion bearers,” a title honoring believers who faced death in a Christ-like manner. 

The History of Romanov Family

Grigori Rasputin

 Grigori Rasputin (1864-1916)

Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was a Russian peasant, mystical faith healer, and trusted friend of the family of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia. He became an influential figure in Saint Petersburg, especially after August 1915, when Nicholas took command of the army fighting in World War I.

There is uncertainty over much of Rasputin's life and the degree of influence that he exerted over the weak willed Tsar and the strong willed Alexandra Feodorovna, his wife. Accounts are often based on dubious memoirs, hearsay, and legend. While his influence and position may have been exaggerated — Rasputin became synonymous with power, debauchery and lust and an easy scapegoat for Russian aristocrats, nationalists and liberals — his presence played a significant role in the increasing unpopularity of the Imperial couple. Rasputin was murdered by nobles who hoped to save Tsarism by ending his sway over the royal family.


Friend of the Imperial Family

In 1903, Rasputin's wanderings brought him to St. Petersburg, where he arrived with a reputation as a mystic and faith healer. Two years later, he was introduced to Russi

Rasputin and the Imperial couple. Anonymous caricature in 1916

an Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna, who were seeking help for their sickly son, Alexis. Rasputin quickly gained their confidence by seemingly "curing" the boy of hemophilia. This action won him the passionate support of Alexandra.

Between 1906 and 1914, various politicians and journalists used Rasputin’s association with the imperial family to undermine the dynasty’s credibility and push for reform. Rasputin helped their efforts by claiming to be the Tsarina’s advisor, and accounts of his rampant lascivious behavior emerged in the press, compounding contempt among state officials. In truth, however, Rasputin's influence at this time was limited to the health of Alexis.

As Russia entered World War I, Rasputin predicted that calamity would befall the country. On the night of December 29, 1916, a group of conspirators, including the Tsar's first cousin, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, and Prince Felix Yusupov, invited Rasputin to Yusupov's place in order to kill him. The February Revolution spreads across Russia, with mini dumas (public committees) taking control of official, government and police matters, while workers and soldiers create parallel local soviets.

Although Rasputin was gone, the last of his prophecies was yet to unfold. Shortly before his death, he wrote to Nicholas to predict that if he were killed by government officials, the entire imperial family would be killed by the Russian people. 

Rejection by the Russian people

Unlike her predecessor and mother-in-law, Alexandra was heartily disliked among her subjects. She came off as very cold and curt, although according to her and many other close 

The Russian Imperial Family, 1913. Left to right: Grand Duchess Maria, Tsarina Alexandra, Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana, Tsar Nicholas II, and Grand Duchess Anastasia. Tsarevich Alexei sits in front of his parents.

friends, she was only terribly shy and nervous in front of the Russian people. She felt her feelings were bruised and battered from the Russians' "hateful" nature. She was also frowned upon by the wealthy and poor alike for her distaste for Russian culture (her embrace of Orthodoxy notwithstanding), whether it was the food or the manner of dancing. Her inability to produce a son also 

Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna with Vera Gedroitz, 19157.jpg

incensed the people. After the birth of the Grand Duchess Olga, her first-born child, Nicholas was reported to have said:

 "We are grateful she was a daughter; if she was a boy she would have belonged to the people, being a girl she belongs to us."

When her "sunbeam" Alexei the Tsarevich was born, she further isolated herself from the Russian court by spending nearly all of her time with him; his haemophilia did little to distance their close relationship. She associated herself with more solitary figures such as  Anna Vyrobova and the invalid Princess Sonia Orbeliani, rather than the "frivolous" young Russian aristocratic ladies. These women were constantly ignored by the "haughty" Tsarina.

Significant Figures and Events