Nicholas II


Nicholas II
1. (Gerard) died 1061, pope 1058-61.
2. 1868-1918, czar of Russia 1894-1917: executed 1918.

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I
Russian Nikolay Aleksandrovich

born May 18, 1868, Tsarskoye Selo, near St. Petersburg, Russia
died July 16/17, 1918, Yekaterinburg

Tsar of Russia (1894–1917).

Son of Alexander III, he received a military education and succeeded his father as tsar in 1894. He was an autocratic but indecisive ruler and was devoted to his wife, Alexandra, who strongly influenced his rule. His interest in Asia led to construction of the Trans-Siberian Railroad and also helped cause the disastrous Russo-Japanese War (1904–05). After the Russian Revolution of 1905, he agreed reluctantly to a representative Duma but restricted its powers and made only token efforts to enact its measures. His prime minister, Pyotr Stolypin, attempted reforms, but Nicholas, increasingly influenced by Alexandra and Grigory Rasputin, opposed him. After Russia suffered setbacks in World War I, Nicholas ousted the popular grand duke Nicholas as commander in chief of Russian forces and assumed command himself, at the bidding of Alexandra and Rasputin. His absence from Moscow and Alexandra's mismanagement of the government caused increasing unrest and culminated in the Russian Revolution of 1917. Nicholas abdicated in March 1917 and was detained with his family by Georgy Y. Lvov's provisional government. Plans for the royal family to be sent to England were overruled by the local Bolsheviks. Instead the family was sent to the city of Yekaterinburg, where they were executed in July 1918.
II
orig. Gerard of Burgundy

born Lorraine
died July 19/26, 1061, Florence

Pope (1058–61).

Known as an advocate of reform, he was bishop of Florence before being elected pope in opposition to the antipope Benedict X. At the Lateran Council of 1059 he reformed the process of papal election, placing it in the hands of the cardinals and limiting the emperor's role. The German bishops voided his decree (1061), revealing growing tensions between empire and papacy. Nicholas brought about a diplomatic revolution, which worsened relations with Germany and its weak regent, when he sought an alliance with the Normans in southern Italy and invested Robert Guiscard as duke of Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily (1059). His legislation against clerical marriage and simony was an important part of the Gregorian reform movement.

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pope
original name  Gerard of Burgundy , French  Gérard de Bourgogne  
born Burgundy
died August 27, 1061, Florence [Italy]

      pope from 1059 to 1061, a major figure in the Gregorian Reform.

      Born in a region near Cluny, Gerard was most likely exposed to the reformist zeal of the monastery there. As bishop of Florence from 1045, he imposed the canonical life on the priests of his diocese. His efforts at reform were first steps toward the more dramatic legislation he would implement as pope.

      His election as pope was a complicated affair that revealed the challenges facing the papacy. When Pope Stephen IX (Stephen IX (or X)) (or X; 1057–58) fell ill, he requested that no election of a successor be held until his legate Hildebrand (later Pope Gregory VII (Gregory VII, Saint)) returned from Germany. At Stephen's death, however, the powerful Tusculani family orchestrated the election of John Mincius, bishop of Velletri, as Benedict X (Benedict (X)), though only two cardinals participated in the voting; the other cardinals, including Peter Damian (Peter Damian, Saint), had left Rome for Florence. Damian's departure was most damaging to Benedict's succession because, as bishop of Ostia, Damian was responsible for consecrating the new pope. In Siena the cardinals, under the influence of Hildebrand, elected Gerard pope in December 1058. The king in Germany, Henry IV, and Duke Godfrey of Lorraine, the leading power in northern Italy and brother of Stephen IX, were notified of the election, and Gerard gained their support as a result. He was escorted to Rome by Godfrey and the German chancellor for Italy, Wibert of Ravenna (later antipope Clement [III]). On the way to Rome, Gerard convened a council at Sutri that declared Benedict deposed; Benedict fled Rome, and Gerard assumed the papal throne as Nicholas II on January 24, 1059.

      Nicholas faced a number of problems, including issues raised by the irregularity of his own election. At his first council, held in the Lateran at Easter in 1059, Nicholas issued a decree on papal elections, which was intended to prevent interference by the nobility and to regularize the succession. He assigned a leading role to the seven cardinal bishops, who were to choose a suitable candidate and then summon the other cardinals. The remaining clergy and the people of Rome were to acclaim the choice; the right of the emperor to confirm the election was recognized, though it was not accepted as hereditary and had to be confirmed by the pope when the new emperor took the throne. Although the decree caused tension between Rome and the German court, which circulated its own version, Nicholas's reform was an important step toward establishing the independence of the church.

      At the Lateran synod Nicholas also promoted the reform agenda initiated by Leo IX (Leo IX, Saint) in 1049. The council prohibited simony and lay investiture, declaring that no priest or cleric could accept a church from a layman. Nicholas and the council also forbade clerical marriage and concubinage; masses celebrated by priests with wives or mistresses were to be boycotted, and married priests were not to perform the mass or hold church benefices. Supporting the goals of the Gregorian Reform movement, the synod also extended papal protection to the persons and property of pilgrims and gave papal sanction to the Peace of God (God, Peace of) and Truce of God (God, Truce of) movements, which promoted religious reform and sought to restrict warfare and protect clerics and other noncombatants in times of war. It was also at the council that Berengar Of Tours was forced to renounce his teachings on the Eucharist.

      The Lateran council was only one of Nicholas's achievements as pope. He sent legates to resolve the crisis in Milan brought about by the Patarine movement, which had challenged the established social order, clerical corruption, and the practice of clerical marriage. Of even greater consequence was his revolutionary decision to forge an alliance with the Normans in southern Italy. At the council of Melfi in August 1059, Nicholas invested Robert Guiscard (Robert) as duke of Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily and Richard of Aversa as prince of Capua, making them vassals of Rome. Both princes swore an oath of fealty to the pope and promised aid. Robert also swore to help Nicholas regain control of papal territories, to preserve Nicholas in office, and to aid the cardinals in future papal elections. Nicholas derived great benefit from the alliance; the Normans even captured Benedict and presented him to the pope in 1060.

      The alliance with the Normans led to tensions with the German ruler, whose claims to Italian territory and traditional right to protect the pope were undermined. Shortly before the pope's death in 1061, the German bishops declared all Nicholas's decrees void and broke off relations with Rome. The break may have been precipitated by the Norman alliance, by Nicholas's restatement of the prohibitions against simony and clerical marriage, or by conflict with the archbishop of Cologne; the exact cause remains uncertain, but the cooling of relations would have serious consequences. Nicholas's short but eventful reign left a profound mark on the medieval church and papacy.

Michael Frassetto
 

▪ tsar of Russia
Introduction
Russian in full  Nikolay Aleksandrovich 
born May 6 [May 18, New Style], 1868, Tsarskoye Selo [now Pushkin], near St. Petersburg, Russia
died July 16/17, 1918, Yekaterinburg
 the last Russian emperor (1894–1917), who, with his wife, Alexandra, and their children, was killed by the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution.

Early life and reign
      Nikolay Aleksandrovich was the eldest son and heir apparent (tsesarevich) of the tsarevich Aleksandr Aleksandrovich (emperor as Alexander III from 1881) and his consort Maria Fyodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark). Succeeding his father on November 1, 1894, he was crowned tsar in Moscow on May 26, 1896.

 Neither by upbringing nor by temperament was Nicholas fitted for the complex tasks that awaited him as autocratic ruler of a vast empire. He had received a military education from his tutor, and his tastes and interests were those of the average young Russian officers of his day. He had few intellectual pretensions but delighted in physical exercise and the trappings of army life: uniforms, insignia, parades. Yet on formal occasions he felt ill at ease. Though he possessed great personal charm, he was by nature timid; he shunned close contact with his subjects, preferring the privacy of his family circle. His domestic life was serene. To his wife, Alexandra, whom he had married on November 26, 1894, Nicholas was passionately devoted. She had the strength of character that he lacked, and he fell completely under her sway. Under her influence he sought the advice of spiritualists and faith healers, most notably Rasputin (Rasputin, Grigory Yefimovich), who eventually acquired great power over the imperial couple.

      Nicholas also had other irresponsible favourites, often men of dubious probity who provided him with a distorted picture of Russian life, but one that he found more comforting than that contained in official reports. He distrusted his ministers, mainly because he felt them to be intellectually superior to himself and feared they sought to usurp his sovereign prerogatives. His view of his role as autocrat (absolutism) was childishly simple: he derived his authority from God, to whom alone he was responsible, and it was his sacred duty to preserve his absolute power intact. He lacked, however, the strength of will necessary in one who had such an exalted conception of his task. In pursuing the path of duty, Nicholas had to wage a continual struggle against himself, suppressing his natural indecisiveness and assuming a mask of self-confident resolution. His dedication to the dogma of autocracy was an inadequate substitute for a constructive policy, which alone could have prolonged the imperial regime.

      Soon after his accession Nicholas proclaimed his uncompromising views in an address to liberal deputies from the zemstvos, the self-governing local assemblies, in which he dismissed as “senseless dreams” their aspirations to share in the work of government. He met the rising groundswell of popular unrest with intensified police repression. In foreign policy, his naïveté and lighthearted attitude toward international obligations sometimes embarrassed his professional diplomats; for example, he concluded an alliance with the German emperor William II during their meeting at Björkö in July 1905, although Russia was already allied with France, Germany's traditional enemy.

      Nicholas was the first Russian sovereign to show personal interest in Asia, visiting in 1891, while still tsesarevich, India, China, and Japan; later he nominally supervised the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway (Trans-Siberian Railroad). His attempt to maintain and strengthen Russian influence in Korea, where Japan also had a foothold, was partly responsible for the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05). Russia's defeat not only frustrated Nicholas's grandiose dreams of making Russia a great Eurasian power, with China, Tibet, and Persia under its control, but also presented him with serious problems at home, where discontent grew into the revolutionary movement of 1905.

      Nicholas considered all who opposed him, regardless of their views, as malicious conspirators. Disregarding the advice of his future prime minister Sergey Yulyevich Witte (Witte, Sergey Yulyevich, Graf), he refused to make concessions to the constitutionalists until events forced him to yield more than might have been necessary had he been more flexible. On March 3, 1905, he reluctantly agreed to create a national representative assembly, or Duma, with consultative powers, and by the manifesto of October 30 he promised a constitutional regime under which no law was to take effect without the Duma's consent, as well as a democratic franchise and civil liberties. Nicholas, however, cared little for keeping promises extracted from him under duress. He strove to regain his former powers and ensured that in the new Fundamental Laws (May 1906) he was still designated an autocrat. He furthermore patronized an extremist right-wing organization, the Union of the Russian People, which sanctioned terrorist methods and disseminated anti-Semitic propaganda. Witte, whom he blamed for the October Manifesto, was soon dismissed, and the first two Dumas were prematurely dissolved as “insubordinate.”

      Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin (Stolypin, Pyotr Arkadyevich), who replaced Witte and carried out the coup of June 16, 1907, dissolving the second Duma, was loyal to the dynasty and a capable statesman. But the emperor distrusted him and allowed his position to be undermined by intrigue. Stolypin was one of those who dared to speak out about Rasputin's influence and thereby incurred the displeasure of the empress. In such cases Nicholas generally hesitated but ultimately yielded to Alexandra's pressure. To prevent exposure of the scandalous hold Rasputin had on the imperial family, Nicholas interfered arbitrarily in matters properly within the competence of the Holy Synod, backing reactionary elements against those concerned about the Orthodox church's prestige.

      After its ambitions in the Far East were checked by Japan, Russia turned its attention to the Balkans. Nicholas sympathized with the national aspirations of the Slavs and was anxious to win control of the Turkish straits but tempered his expansionist inclinations with a sincere desire to preserve peace among the Great Powers. After the assassination of the Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinand at Sarajevo, he tried hard to avert the impending war by diplomatic action and resisted, until July 30, 1914, the pressure of the military for general, rather than partial, mobilization.

      The outbreak of World War I temporarily strengthened the monarchy, but Nicholas did little to maintain his people's confidence. The Duma was slighted, and voluntary patriotic organizations were hampered in their efforts; the gulf between the ruling group and public opinion grew steadily wider. Alexandra turned Nicholas's mind against the popular commander in chief, his father's cousin the grand duke Nicholas, and on September 5, 1915, the emperor dismissed him, assuming supreme command himself. Since the emperor had no experience of war, almost all his ministers protested against this step as likely to impair the army's morale. They were overruled, however, and soon dismissed.

      Nicholas II did not, in fact, interfere unduly in operational decisions, but his departure for headquarters had serious political consequences. In his absence, supreme power in effect passed, with his approval and encouragement, to the empress. A grotesque situation resulted: in the midst of a desperate struggle for national survival, competent ministers and officials were dismissed and replaced by worthless nominees of Rasputin. The court was widely suspected of treachery, and antidynastic feeling grew apace. Conservatives plotted Nicholas's deposition in the hope of saving the monarchy. Even the murder of Rasputin failed to dispel Nicholas's illusions: he blindly disregarded this ominous warning, as he did those by other highly placed personages, including members of his own family. His isolation was virtually complete.

Abdication and death
      When riots broke out in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) on March 8, 1917 (Russian Revolution of 1917), Nicholas instructed the city commandant to take firm measures and sent troops to restore order. It was too late. The government resigned, and the Duma, supported by the army, called on the emperor to abdicate. At Pskov on March 15, with fatalistic composure, Nicholas renounced the throne—not, as he had originally intended, in favour of his son, Alexis, but in favour of his brother Michael, who refused the crown.

      Nicholas was detained at Tsarskoye Selo by Prince Lvov's provisional government. It was planned that he and his family would be sent to England; but instead, mainly because of the opposition of the Petrograd Soviet, the revolutionary Workers' and Soldiers' Council, they were removed to Tobolsk in Western Siberia. This step sealed their doom. In April 1918 they were taken to Yekaterinburg in the Urals.

      When anti-Bolshevik “White” Russian forces approached the area, the local authorities were ordered to prevent a rescue, and on the night of July 16/17 the prisoners were all slaughtered in the cellar of the house where they had been confined. The bodies were burned, cast into an abandoned mine shaft, and then hastily buried elsewhere. A team of Russian scientists located the remains in 1976 but kept the discovery secret until after the collapse of the Soviet Union. By 1994 genetic analyses had positively identified the remains as those of Nicholas, Alexandra, three of their daughters ( Anastasia, Tatiana, and Olga), and four servants. The remains were given a state funeral on July 17, 1998, and reburied in St. Petersburg in the crypt of the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul. The remains of Alexis and of another daughter (Maria) were not found until 2007, and the following year DNA testing confirmed their identity.

      On August 20, 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church canonized the emperor and his family, designating them “passion bearers” (the lowest rank of sainthood) because of the piety they had shown during their final days. On October 1, 2008, Russia's Supreme Court ruled that the executions were acts of “unfounded repression” and granted the family full rehabilitation.

John L.H. Keep

Additional Reading
Dominic Lieven, Nicholas II: Emperor of All the Russias (1993; reissued 1996), is a sympathetic, detailed biography. Also of interest is Marc Ferro, Nicholas II: The Last of the Tsars (1991, reissued 1994; originally published in French, 1990). Andrew M. Verner, The Crisis of Russian Autocracy: Nicholas II and the 1905 Revolution (1990), is an authoritative study of his early reign. More popular is Robert K. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra (1967, reissued 2000). The fullest study of the Romanov family's fate, based on 160 documents drawn from Russian archives, is Mark D. Steinberg and Vladimir M. Khrustalëv, The Fall of the Romanovs: Political Dreams and Personal Struggles in a Time of Revolution (1995). Also useful are Edvard Radzinsky, The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II, trans. from Russian (1992); and Hélène Carrère d'Encausse, Nicholas II: The Interrupted Transition (2000; originally published in French, 1996).

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Universalium. 2010.

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