Nicholas II – “almost a laureate” of the Nobel Peace Prize

Yet another forgotten or little known page from the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, is his nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, in recognition for his efforts to limit armaments and promote peace among the great powers.

After Nicholas II ascended the throne in 1894, his foreign policy focused on strengthening the Franco-Russian Alliance and pursuing a policy of general European pacification, which culminated in the famous Hague Peace Conference in 1899.

The First Hague Conference came from a proposal on 24 August 1898 by Emperor Nicholas II, who along with his Minister of Foreign Affairs Count Mikhail Nikolayevich Muravyov (1845-1900), were instrumental in initiating the conference. The conference opened on 18 May 1899, the day marking the Tsar’s 31st birthday.

This conference was convened with the view of terminating the arms race, and setting up machinery for the peaceful settlement of international disputes. The treaties, declarations, and final act of the conference were signed on 29 July of that year, and they entered into force on 4 September 1900. What is referred to as the Hague Convention of 1899 consisted of three main treaties and three additional declarations.

The results of the conference were less than expected due to the mutual distrust existing between great powers. Nevertheless, the Hague conventions were among the first formal statements of the laws of war. Nicholas II became the hero of the dedicated disciples of peace. In 1901 he and the Russian diplomat Friedrich Martens (1845-1909) were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the initiative to convene the Hague Peace Conference and contributing to its implementation.

According to the web site of the Nobel Prize organisation: ” Nicholas II initiated the First Hague Peace Conference in 1899. The Emperor’s intention was to seek agreements to limit armaments and the financial burden of excessive armament, and to improve the prospects of peaceful settlement of international conflicts and to codify the laws of war.”

The nominators included Count fr. Schonbruun (Austria), the Austrian Inter-parliamentary Group (Pirquet), Count Nigra (Italy), Heinrich Lammasch (Austria) and Ritter Wladimir von Gniewosz-Olexow (Austria).

In a comment Schönbrunn explained that he wanted the Norwegian Nobel Committee to bestow an honorary peace award on Emperor Nicholas II of Russia for his initiative that resulted in the 1899 Hague Peace Conference. In addition, Schönbrunn wished that the Nobel Committee would divide the prize money between some worthy peace workers, namely William Randal Cremer, Frédéric Passy and Bertha von Suttner.

The first prize in 1901, however, was awarded to Frédéric Passy, who had been one of the main founders of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and also the main organizer of the first Universal Peace Congress. He was himself the leader of the French peace movement. In his own person, he thus brought together the two branches of the international organized peace movement, the parliamentary one and the broader peace societies.

For more information about Nicholas II and the Hague Conference, please refer to the article Emperor Nicholas II. Initiator of Global Disarmament by Pyotr Multatuli, published in Sovereign No. 3 (2016), pg. 25-34.

“At the time, the Emperor’s revolutionary step didn’t receive the appreciation it deserved and remained under wraps for the most part of the 20th century. The new Bolshevik regime – which took all the credit for Russia’s peace initiatives – couldn’t allow the public to view the murdered Tsar as the driving force of world disarmament.” The first English translation of this article appears in this issue of Sovereign.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 October 2020

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