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Diaries and Letters - 1917 Diary of Nicholas II

The Abdication and Beyond

Nicholas II
Extracts from the 1917 Diary of Nicholas II


March 12, Monday

Disorders started several days ago in Petrograd; unfortunately, even the troops have begun to take part in them. It is a sickening feeling to be so far away and to receive fragmentary, bad news. I did not spend much time listening to reports. During the day I took a walk along the highway towards Orsha. The weather was sunny. After dinner I decided to go quickly to Tsarskoe Selo, and at 1 o'clock in the morning [March 13] boarded the train.

March 13, Tuesday

I went to bed at 3:15 as I had a long talk with [General] N. I Ivanov, whom I am despatching to Petrograd with troops to restore order. We left Mogilev at five in the morning. I slept till 10 o'clock. The weather was cold and sunny. During the day we passed through Viazma, Rzhev, and Likhoslavl at 9 o'clock. March 14, Wednesday

During the night we turned back from Malaia Vishera, as Liuban and Tosno seenied to be occupied by the rebels. We went to Valdai, Dno, and Pskov, where I stopped for the day. Saw Ruzski.(General N. V. Ruzski, Commander of the Northern Army). He, with Danilov and Savich, dined. Gatchina and Luga, too, reported to be in possession [of the rebels]. Shame and disgrace. Failed to reach Tsarskoe, [Selo] but my thoughts and feelings are always there. How hard it must be for poor Alix [Empress] to go through all these events alone. Lord help us.

March 15, Thursday

In the morning Ruzski came and read his very long direct-wire talk with Rodzianko. According to this, the situation in Petrograd is such that a Ministry of the Duma would now be powerless to do anything, for it has to contend with the Social-Democratic Party, represented by the workers' committee. My abdication is required. Ruzski transmitted this talk to Headquarters, and Alexeev sent it on to all the commanders-in-chief. By 2 o'clock replies were received from them. The gist of them is that in order to save Russia and keep the army at the front quiet, such a step must be taken. I have agreed. From Headquarters has been sent a draft of a manifesto. In the evening Guchkov and Shulgin arrived from Petrograd, with whom I discussed the matter, and I handed them the signed and altered manifesto. At 1 o'clock in the morning [16th] I left Pskov, with a heavy heart because of the things gone through. All around me there is treachery, cowardice, and deceit.

March 16, Friday

I slept long and well. Awoke far beyond Dvinsk. The day was sunny and cold. Talked with those near me about yesterday. Read a great deal about Julius Caesar. Arrived at 8:20 at Mogilev. All ranks of the Staff were on the platform. Received Alexeev in the car. At 9:30 I went over to the house. Alexeev came with the latest news from Rodzianko. It transpires that Misha [Grand Duke Michael] has abdicated. His manifesto ends with a four-tail formula (Universal, direct, equal, and secret suffrage. There was no definite time set for the Constituent Assembly) for the election of a constituent assembly within 6 months. God knows who put it into his head to sign such stuff. In Petrograd, the disturbances have ceased-if it would only remain that way.

March 17, Saturday

Slept well. At 10 o'clock came the good Aleck (Prince A. P. Oldenburg.). Then I went to listen to the reports. At 12 I drove to the platform, to meet dear Mother, who has arrived from Kiev. I took her to my own place and lunched with her and our own family. We sat and talked a long time. Today, at last, I received two telegrarns from dear Alix. I took a walk. The weather was very bad-cold, with a snowstorm. After tea I received Alexeev and Fredericks. Toward 8 o'clock I drove to dine with Mother and remained with her till 11.

March 18, Sunday

It blew hard during the night. The day was clear and frosty. At 10 I drove to mass. Mother arrived later. She lunched with me and stayed until 3:15. I walked about the little garden. After tea I received N. I. Ivanov, who has returned from his mission. He was at Tsarskoe Selo and saw Alix. I took leave of poor Count Fredericks and Voeikov, whose presence, for some reason, has been irritating everybody. They have gone to his estate in Penza province. At 8 o'clock I went to dine with Mother.

March 19, Monday

Last day at Mogilev. At 10:15 I signed the farewell order to the armies. At 10: 30 I went into the guard-house to say good-bye to all ranks of the Staff and bureau. At my own house I bade farewell to the officers and Cossacks, of my guard, cavalry and infantry. It nearly broke my heart. At 12 o'clock I went to Mother's and lunched with her and her suite. At 4:30 1 left her, Sandro, Sergei, Boris (Grand Dukes Alexander and Sergei Mikhailovich, and Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich) and Aleck. Poor Nilov was not permitted to go with me. At 4:45 I left Mogilev; a crowd that was greatly moved came to see me off. Four members of the Duma accompanied me. Went by way of Orsha and Vitebsk. The weather is cold and windy. It is hard, painful, and sad.

March 22, Thursday

Arrived quickly and safely at Tsarskoe Selo at 11:30. But, God, what a difference! On the street, around the palace, inside the park, wherever you turn there are sentries. Went upstairs and saw dear Alix and the precious children. She looked cheerful and well. The children were lying in a darkened room, but were in good spirits except Maria, who recently came down with the measles. We lunched and dined in the playroorn with Alexei. I saw good Benckendorff. Walked with Valia Dolg (Dolgoruki)... and worked with him in the little garden, as we cannot go beyond... After tea I played a game of Solitaire. In the evening we visited all the occupants of the other wing and found them in their places.

March 23, Friday

We slept well. In spite of the present circumstances, the thought that we are all together cheers and consoles. In the morning I received Benckendorff. Later I looked through, arranged, and burned papers. Sat with the children till 2:30. Walked with Valia Dolg... accompanied by the same guard, who were today more agreeable. Had some good exercise working in the snow. Sunny weather. We spent the evening together.

March 24, Saturday

In the morning I received Benckendorff. Learned through him that we must remain here for some time. This is a pleasant thought. Continued burning letters and papers. Anistasia has earache just as the others had. From 3 till 4:30 I walked with Valia Dolg... and worked in the garden. The weather was unpleasant, windy, with 2 degrees of frost. At 6:45, we went to evening service at the field chapel. Alexei took his first bath. Called on Ania, Lilly D., (Anna Vyrubova and Lili Dehn) and the others.

April 5, Thursday

After 2 o'clock it cleared and thawed. Walked for a short time in the morning. Sorted my belongings and books, and sorted the things I want to take with me in case I go to England. After luncheon I took a walk with Olga and Tatiana, and worked in the garden. Spent the evening as usual.

April 9, Monday

We began to prepare for holy communion, but it has not started well. After mass Kerenski arrived and requested that we confine our meetings to mealtimes, and that we sit apart from the children. This, he claimed, was necessary in order to placate the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies. I had to submit so as to avoid the possibility of violence. Took a walk with Tatiana. Olga has again taken to bed with a sore throat. The others feel well. At 9: 45 I went down to my rooms. Tatiana sat with me till 10: 30 Afterwards I did some reading, drank tea, and went to bed...

April 12, Thursday

During the day a strong wind scattered the clouds. At 10 we went to mass, where many of our people took communion. Walked for a short time with Tatiana. Today was the funeral of the "victims of the revolution" in our park, opposite the central part of Alexandrovski Palace, not far from the Chinese Palace. We could hear the strains of the Funeral March and the Marseillaise... It was over by 5:30. At 6 o'clock we went to the service of the Twelve Apostles; Father Bieliaiev, all alone, bravely read all of them. The evening I spent like all recent ones.

April 20 Friday

The weather has improved and it has grown warmer. Was out of doors a long time this fine morning. During the day I was occupied with Tatiana and Alexei. The appearance of the soldiers, and their slovenly bearing have made a disgusting impression on all of us. Read a great deal. From 10:15 on I was in my own rooms, downstairs.

April 21, Saturday

Celebrated the 23d anniversary of our engagement quietly. Weather was springlike and warm. In the morning spent a long time with Alexei. Found out why yesterday's guard was so disagreeable: it was made up from among the Soldiers' Deputies. Today it has been a good guard, from the reserve battalion of the Fourth Rifles. Worked at the landing stage, on account of the mob, and we enjoyed the warm sunshine. Spent the evening as usual.

May 1 Tuesday

This is the first of May abroad, therefore our blockheads have decided to celebrate the day by parading in the streets with bands of music and red flags. They had evidently come into our park to place wreaths on the grave, but the weather turned bad. Dense, wet snow fell.. At 3: 15, when everything was finished, I came out for a walk and the sun peeped out. Worked an hour and a half with Tatiana. In the evening I began to read aloud to the children.

May 14, Monday

Wonderful, warm day. In the morning I had a nice walk. From 12 o'clock I gave Alexei a geography lesson. During the day I worked again in our vegetable garden. The sun was scorching hot, but the work is progressing. Read till dinner, and in the evening, aloud. Yesterday we learned that General Kornilov has given up his post Of Commander-in-Chief of the Petrograd Military District, and this evening that Guchkov has resigned. Both of them give the same reason: the irresponsible interference of the Soviet of Workers' Deputies, and certain other organizations that are far more radical, with military authorities. What is Providence holding in store for poor Russia? God's will be done.

June 16, Saturday

After breakfast Kerenski arrived unexpectedly from the city by motor. He did not remain with me long. He asked me to send to the Investigation Commission any papers or letters that have any bearing on internal politics. After my walk and until luncheon I helped Korovichenko to sort these papers. The rest of the day he had the assistance of Kobylinski (Korovichenko Commandant of the Palace. Kobylinski succeeded him between the 10th and' 15th.). I finished sawing the trees on the first spot. At this time the incident of Alexei's rifle occurred. He had been playing with it on the little island and the soldiers, who walked in the garden, saw it and requested the officer to be allowed to take it away, and carried it off to the guard-house. Later, it transpired that the rifle, for some reason or other, was sent over to the common hall. Fine officers these, who dare not deny the requests of their soldiers! Attended the evening service. Spent the evening as usual.

June 22, Friday Exactly three months since I came from Mogilev and here we are confined like prisoners. It is hard to be without news of dear Mother, but as for other matters, I am indifferent. Today the weather is still better-20 degrees in the shade, and 36 in the sun. There was the smell of fire in the air. After my walk, I took Alexei into my study, where it is cooler, went over his history lesson and accomplished something. Alix did not go outside. Until dinner, the five of us were together. The weather was comparatively cool. The day passed as usual. just before dinner came the good news of the launching of an offensive on the southwest front. In the direction of Zolochev our troops, after two days of artillery action, broke through the enemy's positions and captured about 170 officers and 10,000 men, 6 cannon and 24 machine guns. The Lord be praised! God grant that this may be an auspicious hour. I felt altogether different after this cheering news.

July 9, Monday

It was a glorious day. Our good commandant, Colonel Kobylinski, has asked me not to shake hands with the officers in the presence of outsiders, and not to greet the soldiers. There have already been several occasions when they refused to answer. Worked with Alexei in geography. We sawed up an enormous pine not far from the green-houses. The soldiers themselves, volunteered their help. The evening ended with reading.

July 18, Wednesday

It rained all morning; by 2 o'clock the weather improved; and toward evening it grew cooler. Spent the day as usual. In Petrograd there are disorders these days, accompanied by shooting. Many soldiers and sailors arrived there yesterday from Kronstadt to oppose the Provisional Government. Absolute chaos. Where are those people who could take this movement in hand and put a stop to strife and bloodshed? The seed of all this evil is in Petrograd and not everywhere in Russia.

July 19 Thursday

Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of troops at Petrograd remained loyal to their duty and order is again restored in the streets. The weather has been wonderful. Took a nice walk with Tatiana and Valia. During the day we worked successfully in the forest grove chopping down and sawing up four trees. In the evening I began...[sic]

July 21, Saturday

A fine, hot day. Walked all around the park with Tatiana and Maria. During the day we worked in the same places. Yesterday and today the guards from the Fourth and First Rifles acted properly in the discharge of their duties, and did not shadow us during our walk. There have been changes in the composition of the Government. Prince Lvov has gone. Kerenski is to be Prime Minister, remaining Minister of War and Navy at the same time, and also directing the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. This man is certainly in the right place at the present moment: the more power he has the better. July 24, Tuesday

In the morning I took a walk with Alexei, and when I returned learned that Kerenski had arrived. In our conversation he referred to the probability of our going south, in view of the proximity of Tsarskoe Selo to the turbulent capital. As it was Olga's name day, we attended church. After luncheon we chopped down two more trees in the same place, making altogether almost seventy trees that have been sawed up. Finished reading the third part of Merezhkovski's trilogy, PETER. It is well written, but makes a painful impression.

July 26, Thursday

The last few days bad news has been coming in from the southwest front... Following our offensive at Galich, many units, thoroughly infected by the contemptible defeatist propaganda, not only refused to advance, but in some sectors even left their position though they were not pressed by the enemy. Taking advantage of this favorable opportunity, the Germans and Austrians, with small forces, broke our lines in southern Galicia, which may compel the entire southwest front to retreat in an easterly direction. This is dishonorable and heartbreaking. Today, at last, there has been a proclamation from the Provisional Government that the death penalty is in force in the theater of military operations for persons found guilty of treason. I trust that this measure may not be too late. The day was muggy and warm. We worked at the same place, along the edges of the clearing.

We chopped down three trees and sawed up two. Am beginning gradually to collect my things and books.


November 2, Friday

Warm day. About 4 o'clock it rained a little. Now all our people who wish to take a walk are forced to pass through the city escorted by the soldiers.

November 3, Saturday

From our window we saw the funeral of a soldier from the Fourth Rifles... At the head of the procession marched a band made up of high school students which played very poorly. At 11 mass was said at our house. Sat till tea time with Kostritski. At 9 o'clock, there was a vesper service and then we made confession to Father Alexei. Went to bed early.

November 17, Saturday

In the morning I was made happy by a letter from Xenia. Much snow had fallen; I cleared a place for walking, and during the day we carried wood to the barn. It is already two days since any agency telegrams have been received. During the last two days there has been no telegraphic news, which may be due to unfortunate events in the big cities.

November 23, Friday

Another warm day - it went to zero. During the day I sawed wood. Finished the first volume of "1793." In the evening I read Turgenev's "Memoirs of a Hunter" aloud.

November 24, Saturday

Much snow has fallen. No newspapers or telegrams have come from Petrograd for a long time. At such a grave time this is serious. The girls were occupied with the swings, jumping from them into a pile of snow. At 9 o'clock there was a vesper service.

November 27, Tuesday

Birthday of dear Mother and 23rd anniversary of our wedding. At 12, there was a religious service. The choir got things mixed up and sang out of tune, probably because it had not been rehearsing. The weather was sunny and warm, with gusty winds. After afternoon tea, I re-read my earlier diaries-pleasant occupation.

November 30, Friday

The same disagreeable weather, with a penetrating wind. Heartbreaking to learn from the papers descriptions of what happened two weeks ago at Petrograd and Moscow. It is much worse and more dishonorable than before.

December 1, Saturday

There has come to attention a most incredible report that three delegates of our Fifth Army went to the Germans before Dvinsk and signed the preliminary conditions of an armistice. Such a nightmare I never expected. How could these Bolshevik scoundrels stoop so low as to carry into effect their cherished dream of proposing peace without asking the opinion of the people, and at a time when the enemy is occupying large tracts of our country?

December 3, Monday

The frost increased and the day was clear. There was disaffection among the soliders because they had not received their pay from Petrograd for three months. This was quickly settled by a temporary loan of the necessary sum from the bank. During the day I busied myself with the firewood. At 9, there was a vesper service.

December 4, Tuesday

This day of the Feast of the Presentation we had to go without church service because Pankratov (V. S. Pankratov was a Commissar sent from the Capital.) did not deign to permit it. The weather was warm. Everybody worked in the yard.

December 9, Sunday

At 8 o'clock we went to mass. This is a holiday in honor of those decorated with the St. George Cross. The city gave a dinner and other entertainments in the Community House in honor of them. Among the members of our guard were several knights whom their comrades, not members of the Order, would not relieve even on a day like this. Freedom... Walked long and much; weather moderate.

December 14-15, Friday-Saturday

Both days passed exactly alike. There has been a biting frost with sunshine. After our daily walk, we gather every day at...[sic] for rehearsal.. At 9, there were vespers.

December 16, Sunday

Alix and Alexei did not go with us to mass, on account of the cold-it was 16 degrees. All morning we rehearsed our parts in the drawing-room, where, with the aid of numerous screens and all manner of furniture, we set up something like a stage. In the evening it was all put back in place. We walked as long as there was daylight. While bezique is being played, I am now reading aloud Turgenev's "On the Eve."

December 19, Wednesday

My name day was passed quietly, and not as in former years. At noon there was a religious service. The men of the Fourth Rifles, on guard duty in the garden, congratulated me, and I them, on the occasion of their regimental holiday. I received three Saint's Day pies and sent one of them to the guard. In the evening, Maria, Alexei, and... [sic] carried off our parts in the play very nicely, and there was much laughter.

January 10, Thursday

Wonderful, sunny, warm day, with 2 degrees of frost. Remained long in the open air, both morning and evening. Learned with indignation that our good Father Alexei is being examined by the authorities and held under arrest in his house. This happened because at the Christmas service in the church the deacon referred to us by our title in the presence of the soldiers of the Second Rifles. Pankratov and his crowd probably had a hand in this, as they always do.

January 13, Sunday

Not a cold day, with a gusty wind. Toward evening, Alexei got up. He was able to put on his boot. After tea we separated, till the arrival of the New Year.

Lord, save Russia.

From "Na Chuzhoi Storone" III, pages 112-120

This text was scanned by Rob Moshein.

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