Putin’s negative assessment of Nicholas II

Putin’s attitude to Nicholas II

During his presidency, Vladimir Putin has spoken negatively about Nicholas II on more than one occasion, describing his role as a ruler “erroneous” and “absurd”. Putin believes that Nicholas II ruled the country incorrectly, made many mistakes, which is why Russia lost the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) and later lead Russia unprepared into the First World War. Putin further believes that during the war, Nicholas II personally made a number of errors of judgment and policy, which forced his highest ranking military officers to seek his removal from the throne by forcing the Tsar to abdicate. The main conspirators were mainly military leaders and self-serving politicians of the Duma.

Vladimir Putin has also publicly referred to Russia’s last tsar as “Bloody Nicholas” on more than one occasion. His negative attitude towards Nicholas II, however, does not reflect his assessment of other Russian monarchs, including the Emperors Peter I, Nicholas I, Alexander II, and Alexander III.

“Nicholas the Bloody”

A video has been circulating on YouTube for some years now, in which Putin is caught on camera making an insult towards Nicholas II. Entering his Kremlin office (probably on the day of his first inauguration on 7th May 2000), Putin responds to these words spoken by one of his aides: “From this roof [Grand Kremlin Palace], Nicholas II looked out over Moscow.”

“Well, he had nothing to do, so he ran across the roofs,” Russia’s new President remarked contemptuously.

During a meeting with members of construction teams in Sochi in the summer of 2011, Putin referred to the Tsar as “Nicholas the Bloody”. This epithet runs counter to both the position of the Russian Orthodox Church, which canonized Nicholas II on 20th August 2000, and with the ideology of the Russian authorities during the past 20 years.

Then, on 4th March 2014, during a press conference in Novo-Ogaryov on the events in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, Vladimir Putin once again, used the Soviet propaganda epithet “Nicholas the Bloody”. He was responding to a question by a journalist of the Interfax news agency, Putin said the following: “A simple Ukrainian citizen, a Ukrainian man suffered both under Nicholas the Bloody and under [Leonid] Kravchuk …”.

Then again, on 15th March 2014, the day marking the anniversary of the bloody February coup of 1917, in which Emperor Nicholas II  was forcibly removed from the throne, and who accepted a martyr’s crown on 17th July 1918, Putin during a press conference boorishly insulted the popularly revered Tsar-Martyr, referring to him as “Nicholas the Bloody”.

PHOTO: The inauguration of Russian President Vladimir Putin is held in the Andreevsky Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow. The thrones of Emperor Nicholas II, Empresses Alexandra Feodorovna and Maria Feodorovna, can be seen in the background.

Why is Putin negative about Nicholas II?

Vladimir Putin probably has a negative attitude towards Nicholas II, because he grew up in Soviet times, where, in principle, Nicholas II was presented as an unambiguously negative character, who refused to progress and generally failed any undertakings. It was during the Soviet years, that Russia’s last tsar was more often than not, referred to as “Bloody Nicholas” – old habits die hard.

During the Stalin era, documents and photographs which depicted the last tsar were seized and destroyed, as they were deemed as “ideologically harmful”. It was Joseph Stalin who ordered the Romanov archives closed and sealed. They were even off limits to historians, unless for propaganda purposes. Up until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, these private documents and photographs effectively lay untouched.

Russian historian Pyotr Multatuli notes: “Stalin forbade any mentioning of the hideous crime in Ekaterinburg, because he was well aware that it was working against his regime.

“Stalin, too, was building his empire, but it was an empire that did not have anything in common with the Russian Empire. Stalin’s empire did not pursue the interests of the Russian people. What was the nature of the Russian monarchy? There was God, the Tsar as the father of the people, and the people were his children, whom he loved, but whom he could also punish.”

Perhaps the key to unravelling Putin’s negative attitude towards Nicholas II lies in his words, spoken during a press conference on 22nd December 2010, when Putin served as Prime Minister of Russia under President Dmitry Medvedev:

“And, frankly speaking, he was not an important politician. Otherwise, the empire would have survived. Although this is not only his fault.”

Putin believes, that Nicholas II, as an autocrat, bears the main responsibility for what happened during his 22+ year reign, which resulted in the collapse of both the monarchy and the Russian Empire.

Putin is the only top Russian official who speaks out negatively against Nicholas II. The rest of the top officials, for example Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and Russia’s former Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky, have both only spoken positively about the last Tsar.

PHOTO: President Vladimir Putin posing in front of a portrait of Nicholas II, in the Museum of His Majesty’s Lifeguards Cossack Regiment in Courbevoie, France in 2008.

The Russian clergy evaluate Putin’s epithet

Putin’s criticisms of Nicholas II have offended both Orthodox Christians and monarchists over the years, however, Archpriest Valery Rozhnov of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), issued the following statement dated 7th March 2014:

“Since the words of the president in Russian political culture are often perceived as political truth, the phrase about the “Nicholas the Bloody” can have far-reaching consequences.

“As you know, the epithet was part of Soviet propaganda, which was based on many human lives during the reign of the last Russian emperor. However, after the collapse of the USSR, the rhetoric changed, and Nicholas II began to be presented as a victim of circumstances and a tragic figure. It was only when the Russian Orthodox Church canonized the tsar as a saint, that the authorities began to reassess Nicholas II. President Boris Yeltsin, for example, even participated in the burial of the tsar’s remains in the Peter and Paul Cathedral [17th July 1998].

“Through Putin’s words, Soviet rhetoric once again returned to official discourse. This can have serious consequences both for the Russian Orthodox Church and for Ekaterinburg, where Nicholas II became a figure of meaning. Ekaterinburg as a place of the execution of the royal family and a place of repentance for this crime has become a center of pilgrimage and tourism. There is a monument to the imperial family in the city; a church and a monastery were built in their honour. If Nicholas II is again declared “Bloody” and not saint, then this entire industry may be called into question.

“Whether the phrase dropped by Putin is yet another sign of the return of Soviet propaganda clichés, or is this just his personal opinion, which does not claim any ideological status, the position will become clear in the future. In particular, the rhetoric of Russian officials in relation to Nicholas II and tsarist Russia in general will be of particular interest, especially given the century since the beginning of the First World War.”

PHOTO: In 2016, Putin visited an exhibition dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the artist Valentin Serov, held at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. He was photographed admiring Serov’s iconic portrait of Emperor Nicholas II (1900).

Putin denounces Lenin for murder of Nicholas II

Since Putin’s rise to power, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church has proclaimed the last tsar, his wife and children, as saints, which was viewed with fear in a country where the Imperial family are still victims of a century of myths and lies, much of which are based on Bolshevik propaganda. In addition to canonization, the Church also decided to build a grand church on the site where the family was murdered in Ekaterinburg on 17th July 1918. In 2003, during a visit to the Urals, President Putin visited the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg.

Despite the negative comments made by Putin, he has also made a number of positive gestures regarding Nicholas II, which left many people surprised. During a state visit to France in 2008, Putin visited the Museum of His Majesty’s Lifeguards Cossack Regiment in Courbevoie, where he posed in front of a portrait of the tsar.

On 25th January 2016, while speaking at an inter-regional forum of the All-Russia People’s Front, Vladimir Putin denounced Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, for “brutally executing Russia’s last Tsar along with all his family and servants”. Putin further criticized Lenin, accusing him of placing a “time bomb” under the state, and sharply denouncing brutal repressions by the Bolshevik government, murdering thousands of priests and innocent civilians.

In the weeks leasing up to the 100th anniversary of the death and martyrdom of Nicholas II, rumours in the Russian media speculated that Putin would attend the Patriarchal Liturgy, to be performed by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill on the night of 16/17 July 2018. Sadly, this was not to be, instead, he flew to Helsinki, where he met with US president Donald Trump. More than 100,000 people from across Russia and around the world descended on the Ural capital to honour the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs.

Putin’s presence on the eve of the centenary, would have indeed been an historic event, one which perhaps would further seal post-Soviet Russia’s condemnation of the Bolsheviks for committing regicide, but also shedding the century of myths and lies, which perpetuated during the Soviet years.

Sadly, the 100th anniversary of the Romanovs’ deaths passed with little notice in Russia. The Russian government ignored the anniversary, as it surprisingly did the year before, when Russia marked the 100th anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution. No prominent state museums or venues hosted events to mark the anniversary. The few exhibitions and other events organized were tellingly modest.

PHOTO: On 17th July 2019, members of the State Duma for the first time observed a minute of silence in memory of the last Russian emperor Nicholas II, and all those killed in the Civil War (1917-1922)

On a more positive note, on 17th July 2019 – Russia’s State Duma for the first time observed a minute of silence in memory of the last Russian emperor Nicholas II and all those killed in the Civil War. (1917-1922)

According to Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, “reconciliation begins when we all understand that this cannot be repeated and this is unacceptable.”

“Today we are making a proposal to honour the memory of the last Russian tsar, to honour the memory of the innocent victims – all those who died in the crucible of the Civil War,” the speaker addressed his colleagues, who after these words, rose from their seats.

It should come as no surprise that members of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, did not comply with the moment of silence.

The fact that this is the first time in the history of Russia’s State Duma, that they honoured the memory of Nicholas II is truly unprecedented! The minute of silence was repeated in 2020 and will be repeated each year from hereon.

Also, in 2019, in an unprecedented move, the Russian media reported that President Putin had urged the Russian Orthodox Church to “reach a verdict soon” on the Ekaterinburg Remains.  

PHOTO: portraits of Nicholas II and Vladimir Putin, by the contemporary Georgian artist David Datuna

© Paul Gilbert. 15 March 2021

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Dear Reader

If you enjoy my articles, news stories and translations, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. Thank you for your consideration – PG

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