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Tsar Nicholas II

Nicholas II and his wife
Alexandra and Nicholas II by Unknown


Where did Nicholas II grow up?

Nicholas II was born the son of the Russian Tsar Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna. His full given name was Nikolai Aleksandrovich Romanov. Since he was the eldest son of the Tsar, Nicholas was heir to the throne of Russia. He was close to his parents and had five younger brothers and sisters.

Growing up, Nicholas was taught by private tutors. He enjoyed studying foreign languages and history. Nicholas traveled quite a bit and then joined the army when he was nineteen. Unfortunately, his father didn't get him involved in Russian politics. This lack of on the job training would become an issue when his father died young and an unprepared Nicholas became Tsar of Russia.

Becoming Tsar

In 1894, Nicholas' father died from kidney disease. Nicholas was now the all powerful Tsar of Russia. Since the Tsar needed to be married and produce heirs to the throne, Nicholas quickly married the daughter of a German Archduke named Princess Alexandra. He was officially crowned Tsar of Russia on May 26, 1896.

When Nicholas first took the crown he continued with many of his father's conservative policies. This included financial reforms, an alliance with France, and the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railroad in 1902. Nicholas also proposed the Hague Peace Conference of 1899 in order to help promote peace in Europe.

War with Japan

Nicholas was determined to expand his empire in Asia. However, his efforts provoked Japan who attacked Russia in 1904. The Russian army was defeated and humiliated by the Japanese and Nicholas was forced into peace negotiations.

Bloody Sunday

In the early 1900s, the peasants and lower class workers in Russia lived lives of poverty. They had little food, worked long hours, and had dangerous working conditions. In 1905, under the leadership of a priest named George Gapon, thousands of workers organized a march to the Tsar's palace. They believed that the government was at fault, but that the Tsar was still on their side.

As the marchers peacefully advanced, soldiers from the army stood guard and tried to block a bridge approaching the palace. The soldiers fired into the crowd killing many of the marchers. This day is now known as Bloody Sunday. The actions of the Tsar's soldiers came as a surprise to the people. They now felt they could no longer trust the Tsar and that he wasn't on their side.

1905 Revolution and the Duma

Shortly after Bloody Sunday, many of the people of Russia began to revolt against the Tsar's government. Nicholas was forced to create a new government with an elected legislature, called the Duma, which would help him rule.

Nicholas commanding his soldiers during the war
Photo by Karl Bulla

World War I

In 1914, Russia entered World War I on the side of the Allied Powers (Russia, Britain and France). They fought against the Central Powers (Germany, Ottoman Empire, and Austro-Hungary). Millions of peasants and workers were forced to join the army. They were forced to fight even though they had little training, no shoes, and little food. Some were even told to fight without weapons. The army was soundly defeated by Germany at the Battle of Tannenburg. Nicholas II took over the command of the army, but things only got worse. Millions of peasant men died due to the incompetence of the Russian leaders.

Russian Revolution

In 1917, the Russian Revolution occurred. First, was the February Revolution. After this revolt, Nicholas was forced to give up his crown and abdicate the throne. He was the last of the Russian Tsars. Later that year, the Bolsheviks, under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, took total control in the October Revolution.


Nicholas and his family, including his wife and children, were being held prisoner in Yekaterinburg, Russia. On July 17, 1918 they were all executed by the Bolsheviks.

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