Reform followed by Reaction is a dangerous strategy for any government to follow and the best example of this are the governments of Alexander II and Nichols II. Both Alexander and Nicholas were inconsistent in their policies However; Alexander had the qualities of an autocrat while Nicholas didn’t. Nicholas was small compared to his Romanov Family members and his was too kind and quiet. He “had no insides” and in the face of danger, he would fun out of fear unlike his grandfather Alexander who would simply tighten his grip on Russia.
Also, unlike Alexander, Nicholas was never around his people. Even though both Alexander and Nicholas didn’t mingle with the peasants, Alexander stayed in Russia and knew what was going on with his people. Alexander II was a passionate reformer. Other than freeing the serfs, he wanted to revise the judicial system, extend education, reform the military, increase foreign trade, and spark the growth of industry. But, from 1861till his assassination, Alexander II was repressive.
He had grown tired of the open criticism of the government and how people had begun to assert their opinions on him. Alexander’s repressive policy was driven by fear. In 1866 there was an attempt to kill the tsar by extremely radical liberals. The liberals felt that Alexander had not done enough with his reforms and when they asked Alexander to continue his reforms, Alexander said no. Alexander felt that his reforms would cause a revolution so he decided that he would stop trying to reform the country to protect his position as tsar.
This change from progression to regression was so sudden that instead of making few enemies through simple progression, Alexander made everybody his enemy through regression, which untimely lead to his assassination in 1881. In October, Nicholas II allowed the creation of a Duma with the October manifesto. The creation of the first Duma quelled harsh feelings toward the government and led to the end of the 1905 revolt. Then, Nicholas changed his mind and in may1906, Nicholas passed the fundamental laws. These laws gave the Tsar absolute power over Russia and dissolved the Duma.
The people were outraged so in June 1907 there was a second Duma created. Nicholas didn’t like that one either so he dissolved it. Finally, later in 1907, there was a third Duma but it was a joke and an illusion to democracy in Russia. It had not real power and its only purpose was to keep the people quiet. This constant back and forth would lead to the first revolution of 1917. Both Alexander II and Nicholas II had incompetent generals and people who carried out their orders. When Alexander II reformed the Courts, judges would take bribes to change the ruling on cases.
During the Russian-Japanese war, Nicholas tried to prevent the Japanese from overrunning Port Arthur by sending the Baltic fleet. However, the fleet was incompetent and their incompetence caused serious humiliation to the Russian navy and the government. This led to the beginning of the 1905 riots. Even during WWI, most of Nicholas’ generals were Incompetent and believed that the bayonet was superior to the machine gun. During both their reigns, Alexander and Nicholas had to deal with incompetence. Alexander was a direct reformer. Every reform policy came from him and he made sure they went through.
Nicholas had no real reform but his Prime Minister Peter Stolypin had some reform. Stolypin tries to help the presents gain land in order to counter revolution. He sold state owned land and lifted restrictions on peasants over land ownership and travel. However, on September 14th, 1911 he was assassinated for his reforms like Alexander was for his. Nicholas didn’t die because he didn’t reform. Alexander did. Alexander handled Terrorism directly. In 1861 after the attempt on his life, Alexander ended his reforms and began hunting terrorists.
Nicholas had Peter Stolypin deal with Terrorists. Nicholas used Stolypin to handle something which Nicholas was to afraid to handle himself. When Alexander reacted to terrorism, he didn’t cause the entire country to hate him. He had the support of people in his government and some peasants. When Nicholas reacted to terrorism, everybody except the most loyal turned against him. This was because Alexander was well liked by most in his country and Nicholas wasn’t/ Nicholas was never in the winter place and thus he never had real control over his people like Alexander did.
Nicholas was never in the winter place. His wife, Alexandra, hated St. Petersburg and was not very fond of the Russian people. She kept Nicholas isolated. Alexander was always in Russia, which tuned out to be a bad thing seeing how it was easy to assassinate him. Because Alexander stayed in the winter palace, he was able to know what was going on in his country. Nicholas never really saw the hate brewing in Russia. By not staying in the winter palace, especially during WWI, Nicholas never had a handle on his country and allowed it to fall faster into chaos.
Alexander was constantly terrorized by radical factions because his reforms were destroying their cause and the only way to get their point across was by killing Alexander. Nicholas had to face the entire country. The humiliating Russian-japanese war in 1904, the flip-flop involving the October manifesto in 1906, and finally the utter destruction of Russian forces during WWI made everybody hate Nicholas. There was no way to contain this hatred except give into the people, which still didn’t work since he was assassinated in 1917 by the Bolsheviks.
Nicholas was unfit to be a Tsar. He had no backbone and couldn’t control his own people. Alexander was Tsar material, but his inconsistent policy caused his downfall. The reign of both Alexander II and Nicholas II clearly show that being a reformer then a reactionary in the same reign is very dangerous. However, it was more dangerous for Nicholas since he was a weak leader than for Alexander. Alexander had control, Nicholas didn’t. Still no matter how reformist or reactionary either Nicholas or Alexander were, Russia was going to hell anyway.