|“||I am not prepared to be Tsar. I never wanted to become one. I know nothing of the business of ruling. I even have no idea how to talk to the ministers.||„|
|~ Nicholas II|
Nicholas II of Russia (Russian: Николай II Алекса́ндрович, tr. Nikolay II Aleksandrovich; May 18th, 1868 – July 17th, 1918) known as Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer in the Russian Orthodox Church, was the last Emperor of Russia, ruling from 1 November 1894 until his forced abdication on 15 March 1917. His reign saw the fall of the Russian Empire from one of the foremost great powers of the world to economic and military collapse. He was given the nickname Nicholas the Bloody or Vile Nicholas by his political adversaries due to the Khodynka Tragedy, anti-Semitic pogroms, Bloody Sunday, the violent suppression of the 1905 Russian Revolution, the execution of political opponents, and his perceived responsibility for the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). Soviet historians portrayed Nicholas as a weak and incompetent leader whose decisions led to military defeats and the deaths of millions of his subjects.
Nicholas was born in the Alexander Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire, the eldest child of Emperor Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia (née Princess Dagmar of Denmark). He had five younger siblings: Alexander (1869–1870), George (1871–1899), Xenia (1875–1960), Michael (1878–1918) and Olga (1882–1960). Nicholas often referred to his father nostalgically in letters after Alexander's death in 1894. He was also very close to his mother, as revealed in their published letters to each other.
On 1 March 1881, following the assassination of his grandfather, Tsar Alexander II, Nicholas became heir apparent upon his father's ascension as Alexander III. Nicholas and his other family members bore witness to Alexander II's death, having been present at the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, where he was brought after the attack. For security reasons, the new Tsar and his family relocated their primary residence to the Gatchina Palace outside the city, only entering the capital for various ceremonial functions. On such occasions, Alexander III and his family occupied the nearby Anichkov Palace.
As Emperor, Nicholas gave limited support to the economic and political reforms promoted by top aides Sergei Witte and Pyotr Stolypin, but strong aristocratic opposition prevented these from becoming fully effective. He supported modernization based on foreign loans and close ties with France, but resisted giving the new parliament (the Duma) major roles.
Russia was defeated in the 1904–1905 Russo-Japanese War, which saw the annihilation of the Russian Baltic Fleet at the Battle of Tsushima, the loss of Russian influence over Manchuria and Korea, and the Japanese annexation to the north of South Sakhalin Island. The Anglo-Russian Entente was designed to counter the German Empire's attempts to gain influence in the Middle East, but it also ended the Great Game of confrontation between Russia and Britain.
When all diplomatic efforts to prevent World War I failed, Nicholas approved the mobilization of the Russian Army on 30 July 1914, which gave Germany formal grounds to declare war on Russia on 1 August 1914. An estimated 3.3 million Russians were killed in World War I. The Imperial Army's severe losses, the High Command's incompetent management of the war effort, and lack of food and supplies on the home front were all leading causes of the fall of the House of Romanov.
Following the February Revolution of 1917, Nicholas abdicated on behalf of himself and his son and heir, Alexei. He and his family were imprisoned and transferred to Tobolsk in late summer 1917.
On 30 April 1918, Nicholas, Alexandra, and their daughter Maria were handed over to the local Ural Soviet council in Ekaterinburg; the rest of the captives followed on 23 May. Nicholas and his family were executed by their Bolshevik guards on the night of 16/17 July 1918. The remains of the imperial family were later found, exhumed, identified and re-interred with an elaborate state and church ceremony in St. Petersburg on 17 July 1998. The death of Nicholas and his family marked the collapse of the Russian Empire and the formation of the Soviet Union, under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin.
In 1981, Nicholas, his wife, and their children were recognized as martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in New York City. On 15 August 2000, they were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church as passion bearers, commemorating believers who face death in a Christ-like manner.