RUSSIA UNDER THE PRESENT CZAR, NICHOLAS II
 "NEGLECT nothing that can make my son truly a man!" This was the instruction given by Alexander to the tutors of his
son. Consequently, Nicholas in his youth was allowed to indulge in manly exercises and sports, while special
tutors taught him mathematics, natural philosophy, history, political economy, English, French, and German,
besides his native language. Destined for the throne, he began his military career at the age of thirteen as
hetman of the Cossacks, and passed successively through the different grades. In 1889, at the age of
twenty-one, he was appointed president of a committee to prepare plans for the trans-Siberian railway, and the
following year he made a tour in the Far East, visiting China and Japan. In the last-named country he was
attacked and wounded by a police officer who had been brooding over the wrongs which his country had suffered
at the hands of Russia. Nicholas recovered and proceeded to Vladivostok, where he initiated the building of
the great continental line. He returned to St. Petersburg by way of Siberia and Moscow, and was the first czar
who had ever visited his Asiatic empire.
Born on May 18, 1868, he was twenty-six years old
 when he was called to the throne. He announced that he would "promote the progress and peaceful glory of our
beloved Russia, and the happiness of all our faithful subjects." On the 26th of November, 1894, the czar
married Princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, who, on entering the Greek
Church, received the name of Alexandra Feodorofna. The czar retained his father's ministers, except that
Prince Khilkof, who had learned practical railroading in the United States, was appointed Minister of Public
Works. Pobiédonostzeff continued as Procurator of the Holy Synod.
Nicholas showed greater leniency toward Poland and Finland than his father had done. He revoked several of his
father's ukases and seemed to be willing to treat them fairly. Finland's forests are a source of great
prosperity and the Russian officials have long been anxious to secure a share. When the Secretary of State for
Finland resigned, General Kuropatkin became Minister of War, and he wished to introduce Russia's military
system. General Bobrikof, a brusque and haughty man, was appointed Governor-general with instructions to
proceed with the conversion of the Finns into Slavs. He convoked an extraordinary session of the Diet, January
24, 1899, and submitted Kuropatkin's scheme, with a strong hint that it must pass. The Diet ignored the hint
and rejected the scheme, whereupon Bobrikof ignored the Diet and published it as a law to go into effect in
1903. An imperial ukase of February 15, 1899, reorganized the Diet according to a plan drawn up by
Pobiédonostzeff. Bobrikof increased the rigor of the press
censor-  ship, but the Finns remained within the law. A petition was circulated which in ten days secured 500,000
signatures, and a delegation was sent to St. Petersburg to present it. The delegation was not admitted.
In January, 1895, the czar received a deputation of all classes of his subjects who hinted that the zemstvos
might be used as the germ of a constitutional government. He replied that he believed in autocracy and that he
intended to maintain it as his predecessors had done. On the 26th of May, 1896, he was crowned at Moscow with
more than usual splendor, and in the same year he and the czarina made a tour through Europe. After visiting
the German Emperor and Queen Victoria, they went to Paris where the czar, after reviewing 100,000 soldiers
declared that the Empire and the Republic were united in indissoluble friendship. The visit was returned by
the President of the French Republic, M. Faure, in August, 1897. On this occasion the world received notice
that an alliance existed between the two powers, and that, if one of them was attacked by more than one power,
the other would assist with the whole of its military and naval strength, and peace could be concluded only in
concert between the allies.
Two great reforms are noticeable under the present reign. The sale of spirits has greatly decreased since the
government took the monopoly of the manufacture and sale of liquor. The French loans made the establishment of
the gold standard possible and speculation in Russian paper money ceased.
The completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway aroused great expectation for the future of Russia's commerce.
 The war with Japan has prevented the possibility of estimating the effect it will have upon oceanic trade. But
Russia's manufactures have had a wonderful increase; its effect is shown in the population of the cities. In
1870, Russia contained only six cities with a population of over 100,000; their number was doubled in 1897.
Warsaw, the old capital of Poland, had 243,000 inhabitants in 1865; in 1897, they had increased to 615,000.
Lotz, also in Poland, rose from 12,000 to 315,000. This cannot fail to exert a powerful influence upon the
future of the empire; first, on account of the creation of a middle class which, even at this early day,
numbers nine per cent of the population; and next, because the mechanics and factory hands are recruited from
among the peasants, who thus are brought into daily contact with more intelligent people, and acquire new
ideas and new necessities. The official class is bitterly opposed to this new departure, because it
foreshadows the day when the drag upon Russia will be cast off.
Nicholas seems to have reversed his father's policy in the Balkan States. He also acted in concert with Europe
in 1896, when trouble arose between Turkey and Greece. It began in Crete, where Turk and Christian could not
agree. Stories of massacres infuriated the Greeks and the king had to choose between a revolution and a
declaration of war. In April, 1897, an army of 80,000 men under Prince George crossed into Thessaly, but was
driven back by a Turkish army of 150,000 men. Prince George had invaded Crete in February, but the powers
compelled him to evacuate the island. The czar interceded with the sultan, and the absurd war was ended.
 The Slavophils, after their failure in the Balkan provinces had excited the Armenians in the provinces near
the Russian Caucasus. They attacked the Kurds, a nomadic tribe of Mussulmans, when the Turks took the side of
their co-religionists and treated the Armenians with no soft hand. The Panslavists demanded autonomy for
Armenia, but this did not suit Prince Lobanof, who had succeeded de Giers as Minister of Foreign Affairs,
because he feared trouble in the Caucasus. In 1895, Russia, France, and England, presented a note to the
sultan, suggesting the appointment of a high commissioner, the abolition of torture, and reforms in taxation.
Turkey agreed, but Shakir Pasha, the high commissioner, failed to restore order and the disorder threatened to
become a revolt. Even in Constantinople a condition of anarchy prevailed.
The atrocities committed by the Turks aroused indignation everywhere, when the Armenians seized the Ottoman
Bank, but the conspirators were forced to flee from the building and to seek refuge on an English yacht. The
Turks were furious and killed more than 5,000 Armenians. Again the powers remonstrated; but at this time it
began to dawn upon the public that the Armenians were a least quite as much to blame as the Turks, and the
interest subsided. Russia had discovered that the Armenians are undesirable citizens, and sent back some
40,000 of them who had settled in the Russian Caucasus. Germany, intent upon securing concessions from Turkey,
left the sultan a free hand; meanwhile the British public was engrossed by the Boer war, and the Armenians,
seeing that they were left to their own devices, subsided.
 The civilized world was startled when, on August 24, 1898, Russia issued a note to the powers, declaring that
"military and naval budgets attack public prosperity at its very source, and divert national energies from
useful aims," and suggesting a conference to discuss the subject of displacing war by an International Court.
The note received generous applause, especially in the United States and Great Britain, the two foremost
nations devoted to the arts of peace. The several governments agreed to participate in the proposed
conference. The place selected was The Hague, the capital of the Netherlands, where the sessions opened on May
Of all the great powers, the United States was the only one unreservedly in favor of an arrangement whereby
war would be prevented. Most of the other powers looked upon an International Court as visionary, and so far
as the ostensible purpose is concerned, the conference was a failure. Still, it bore fruit in defining and
adding strength to international law. Among its most important results is the clause that "When a conflict
seems imminent, one or several powers shall have the right to offer mediation, and its exercise shall not be
regarded as an unfriendly act." A permanent Court of Arbitration was established at The Hague. It is composed
of judges selected from a list on which every country is represented. On the 29th of July, the delegates of
sixteen nations signed the protocol embodying the conclusions; it was afterwards signed by sixteen more. It
remained, however, with the United States, to give vitality to an institution which was looked upon with ill
favor by many governments.
 Although the reign of terror from the nihilists has passed, political murder is still rampant in Russia, and
recent events in the Far East have caused a renewal of the agitation for reforms. In 1904, the
Governor-general of Finland was assassinated, and soon afterwards, the hated and dreaded Minister of the
Interior de Plehve shared that fate. His successor seems to be anxious to grant greater liberties to the
people. The united action of the zemstvos, and the final issue of the war in the Far East, may have important
results. Nicholas II, amid all his perplexities, was made glad by the birth of a son and heir, who received
the name of Alexis.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics