The Home of the Last Tsar - Romanov and Russian History

Palace Personalities - On Nicholas II, his Character and his Duties

From "The Tsar and Tsaritsa" by Vladimir Gurko

translation from Nicholas Romanov - Life and Death by Yuri Shelayev, Elizabeth Shelayeva and Nicholas Semenov.

Nicholas II forced himself to attend to the affairs of state, but essentially they did not captivate him. The enthusiasm for power was something alien to him. Ministers' reports were a heavy burden to him... The chief distinguishing feature of his character was an all-penetrating self-sacrificing devotion to do the performance of what he considered his royal business...

Mild-natured and therefore incapable of forcing people to bow to the opinion he expressed, he was, however, far from being weak-willed and on the contrary was marked by a stubborn striving for the intentions he formed... The main reason for the outward weak-will of Nicholas II that has been mentioned was his extereme natural delicacy that did not permit him to say anthing unplesant to anyone's face...

Nicholas viewed any taking of initiative on the part of his ministers as an attempt to usurp part of his own royal power... Given the absence in the sovereign's mind of a precise boundary between ruling and directing, in practice it turned out that the more business-like a particular minister was, the more he displayed activity and energy, the stronger the thought established itself in the Tsar's mind that this was an infingement of his royal power and the sooner such a minister lost the royal trust. This was the very lot that befell two of Nicholas II's two most talented assistants - Witte and Stolypin...

While Nihcolas II did not know how to command others, his own self-command was, by contrast, complete... If nothing else, we can judge Nicholas II's self-command by the fact that no-one saw him in raging anger or joyful excitement, or even in a state of increased agitation... He took many matters very close to his heart, and some phenomena provoked him to very strong anger, which he nevertheless had the strength to hide completely behind a mask of calm and even indifference...

Exceptional self-possession gave the Tsar the strength to spend hours on end tirelessly reading the reports and detailed memoranda submitted to him. He saw this as burdensome and for him uninteresting occupation as the main performance of his duty and did not shink from it. "I shall never allow myself to go to bed," he said, "until I have completely cleared my desk."

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