Nikolai Aleksandrovich Romanov was born on 18th May 1868. He was the first child of Alexander, son of Tsar Alexander II and heir to the Russian throne, and his wife Maria Feodorovna. Nikolai’s mother had a very nurturing nature and he was much loved and cherished. His father instilled his own values into his son and Nicholas firmly believed that the Tsar was ruler by divine right and should rule autocratically.
When Nicholas became Tsar in 1894 he chose to rule according to his father’s philosophy and rejected all moves to reform Russia. Shortly after he became Tsar Nicholas married Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Alexandra of Hesse-Darmstadt. Alexandra also believed that the Tsar should be an autocratic ruler and put additional pressure on Nicholas not to agree to any attempts to westernize Russia.
Unfortunately for Nicholas there were many reformists in Russia that did not agree with the Tsar. These reformers were educated and had read the works of Marx and believed that the existing system should be overthrown, by popular revolution if necessary and tried to stir up the people to revolt. Initially they had little success, but in 1904 when Russia suffered heavy losses in the war with Japan people began to be more critical of Nicholas’s rule.
Nicholas had tried to make Russia a more industrial nation and many factories had been established. Those who worked in the factories worked long hours for low pay and began to strike for better pay and conditions. Father George Gapon formed a trade union to help the workers improve their lot.
On Sunday 22nd January 1905 Father Gapon led workers in procession to the Winter Palace where they would present a petition to Nicholas II. However, as they approached the Winter Palace the Cossacks opened fire on the demonstrators killing 100 people and injuring 300. The event, known as Bloody Sunday caused an outrage and added to the growing discontent with the Tsar.
In 1905 the Russian sailors stationed in the Kronstadt region protested at being served rotten meat for dinner. The commander of the ship ordered that the protestors be shot but the firing squad refused and the commander was thrown into the icy sea.
Nicholas’s son and heir, Alexei had the blood disease, haemophilia which prevents the blood from clotting. This meant that if Alexei had a bad fall or cut himself he could bleed to death. The Tsarina was desperate to find a cure and enlisted the help of the holy man Rasputin. However, it was not publicly known that Alexei was ill and the people believed that the Tsarina was having an affair with Rasputin and her popularity as well as that of the monarchy began to fall.
Heavy losses during World War One were the final straw and in February 1917 the regime was overthrown, Nicholas was forced to abdicate and a Provisional Government was put in place. In October 1917 the Communists led by Lenin overthrew the Provisional Government and Lenin became leader of Russia. The royal family were moved firstly to Siberia and then to Ekaterinburg and in the early hours of 17th July 1918 they were murdered.