Nicholas II – #2 Worst Russian Ruler

Nicholas II

Emperor Nicholas II of Russia

Nicholas II, the son of the reactionary Tsar Alexander III, comes in as the second worst Russian ruler of all time. In my opinion, his lack of leadership, poor timing, and his clinging to a form of government that no longer fit the time, makes him one of the worst. The man was a very pious ruler but it could not make up for the pile up of bad decisions he made. The decisions led to the murder of his family and the end of over three hundred years of Romanov rule.

Now known as Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church, he was born on May 16, 1868 at Tsarskoye Selo, St. Petersburg. When he took over from his father in 1894, he represented a Russian leadership that was anything but Russian. When he was born, he was probably 97% German and only 3% Russian. To top it off, he married Alix of Hesse, another German princess which did not sit well with many in Russia.

Now, not everything that went wrong during his reign should be blamed on Nicholas as his father was the one who decided against training him for the position. This was done despite urgent pleas from Finance Minister Serge Witte. Alexander III believed that he was young and strong and that his son was too immature to handle the rigorous training. This was to prove a fatal mistake.

His list of mistakes is long starting with the decision to not go to the people after the tragedy at Khodynka Field during his coronation ceremony. From there, things only got worse. He allowed his country to go to two wars, the Russo-Japanese and World War I, despite his country being terribly ill prepared. His vacillation on the idea of forming a constitutional monarchy because of his steadfast belief in his God given right to be Emperor.

Looking back at the man, one cannot feel sorry for him as he is one of those truly tragic historical figures. Still, his ineptness led to a great deal of suffering for the Russian people with the coming of the Bolsheviks. I truly believe that he wanted to help his people, he just didn’t know how.

About Mark Schauss

Hi, I'm Mark Schauss and I an internationally known lecturer on environmental and nutritional health issues having spoken in North America, Asia, South America, Europe and soon in Australia. I also have a deep interest in history, especially Russian history because of my heritage through my mother's side of the family. Another large influence on my love of Russian History is my college professor the late Dr. Paul Avrich. His classes were always full and his passion for history was amazing. I wish he could have found out about my podcast before he passed away.

11 Responses to Nicholas II – #2 Worst Russian Ruler

  1. David
    May 15, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    I think his biggest fault was whom he surrounded himself with. Rasputin, his wife and seemingly his entire staff simply had no idea what to do to move Russia forward.

    I place 90% of his faults on his father. Worked so hard to push the country backwards without the skill or ruthlessness of Ivan IV. You can look to Nicky’s brothers as further evidence of just how bad a job Alexander did preparing for the future of Russia.

  2. James Leseke May 15, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    You have too look long and hard to find a historical figure who was as snake-bit as Nicholas II. The man had a reverse Midas touch. But he did bring some of his misery on himself. Underneath all the charm and breeding was a willfulness that only amplified his gross incompetence. Once Nicholas set his mind on something he could not be moved. Case in point his decision to move to the front in WWI and act as commander in chief. Only Nicholas thought that this was a good idea. Every one else thought it could only lead to disaster and said so. But Nicholas could not be moved and to the front he went. With that core of stubbornness, I wonder if Alexander II could have trained him for the job. My guess is that Micholas II was not suited for the job he was born into. If you read enough history you soon realized that one of the grand themes is the decay and final collapse of dynasties. Put more simply sooner or later genetics will lay an egg and you will have a king, queen, prince, margrave, etc. who is a epic incompetent. The other option is squabbling scions who manage to tear appart the inheritance beyond repair.

  3. Mark Adams May 15, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    I don’t understand how he could be aware of his ineptitude and at the same time be stubborn, he really was an enigma. Having said this, while I don’t feel sorry for him being forced to abdicate, I do for him and his family being forced to live in exile and being shifted around by the provisional government and the murder of him and his family was a completely unnecessary travesty, but I feel it echoes the actions of ancient kings and emperors in killing off rival claimants.

  4. Sasha Skvortsov May 23, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    Hello Sir,

    My name is Alexander and I am a native Russian. My Godfather suggested me this web-site because I do tour-guiding in my home town of St.Petersburg.

    I must admit you write things interestingly, though I have decided to unsubscribe from this site. As a person who studies his history I can say that you use and unfortunately so publicly open post so much false/mistaken information.

    We do love and honor our last Emperors, especially Alexander III and Nicholas II. They were godly rulers at the time of whose reign Russia was in peace and in a very high economic, political and national position.

    I have met people with likely similar sources of information that you are using and it is either Soviet era or post time. A person who is in your Worst RR list would never be proclaimed a saint by our church neither respected and loved by the Russian people.

    Please, I urge you to correct your articles and facts you claim in accordance with the true historical facts revealed tens of years ago. You may find the video course (link is above in Website section) helpful with subtitles.

    Best regards,

    • Mark Schauss May 30, 2014 at 3:27 pm #


      Sorry you feel the need to unsubscribe because of my view on Alexander III and Nicholas II. Let me point out to you that Nicholas and his family were not sanctified because he was good ruler, they were sanctified for their sacrifice for the faith. Yes, the Bolsheviks murdered the family and they kept the faith but that does not negate the many negative things both Nicholas II and his father did to Russia. Some were beyond their control and others were caused by undue stubbornness.
      I do not using Soviet sources for much of my information as I am well aware of their prejudices. My mothers side of the family was from St. Petersburg and they gave me some of the information about the problems that the last two tsars did not address. I try to be very honest with my material and try to look at both sides of the picture, I would hope you would do the same.

      Mark Schauss recently posted…Russian Generals of the Napoleonic EraMy Profile

    • Mark Adams May 30, 2014 at 9:14 pm #

      Mark Schauss is right and I like to add that there are people who think Stalin was a good ruler, but I’m sure that’s a minority.

      • Paul
        June 1, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

        Yeah, especially now. You hear some people saying things like “… but Stalin raised the country from its knees”, justifying his monstrous rule.
        Much like with Putin…

        It’s incredible how capable some people are of closing their eyes enough so that they only see what they want to see.

        (Mark, please remove my previous comment, I meant to post it as a reply. Thank you.)

    • Rajesh JHALANI November 5, 2016 at 9:53 am #

      The murdered Tsar, was a good ruler but for the dreaded disease of his son , the German origin of his wife,he could not handle the situation.Russia was developing well in terms of economic indicatiors during his regime.He did not know art of diplomacy of keeping away his nation from wars.As Russia was more than self- sufficient in terms of resources.The conspiracy of Amarican/Jews finances and Kaiser’s help resulted in he loosing his throne and head,in those difficult circumstances.His co- warriors, the Britishers also deceived him at last moment.What Russia got in
      the end, millions of people lost their lives for decades together.This also
      sowed the seeds of W.W.2.

  5. Paul
    June 1, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    Yeah, especially now. You hear some people saying things like “… but Stalin raised the country from its knees”, justifying his monstrous rule.
    Much like with Putin…

    It’s incredible how capable some people are of closing their eyes enough so that they only see what they want to see.

  6. Jonathan March 6, 2017 at 3:41 pm #

    Do your homework people…
    Several points: according to expert American and British economy evaluations of the time, Russia’s economy skyrocketed in the reign of Tsar Nicholas, at a rate greater than any other country (including US);
    Tsar Nicholas II adopted many new, state-of-the-art reforms that revolutionized the state of the Russian Army (despite the protests of his ministers);
    As James Leseke points out, Tsar Nicholas did assume the post of commander-in-chief during WW1 (again, despite his ministers’ protests); what James doesn’t know is that with the Tsar’s arrival the retreating Russian army immediately took the offensive and began gaining land and victories; the Russians’ advance was halted only by the Revolution;
    “Stalin raised Russia from its knees”?!?!?! Ridiculous. My great-grandmother (died recently at the age of 103) recounted with tears the wealth and happiness of people before the revolution, and the misery, diseases, hunger, and death afterwards;
    Alexander III was known as a hard man TO THE REVOLUTIONARIES ONLY, who committed bombings and other acts of terrorism akin to ISIS today (historical fact, guys–do your homework). To them he was truly a hard man (compare to Putin and the Somali pirate boats; the pirates don’t dare attack Russian ships after Putin’s Navy blasted them to bits);
    Tsar Nicholas II was begged for long time by his traitorous ministers to abdicate; he did so after every single person around him assured him that it was for Russia’s best interests;
    Watch some documentary videos (or read letters/written accounts of the time) to see the Russian people’s love for their Sovereign;
    Read the Tsar’s own letters to understand the purity, strong will, and incredible devotion of this man.

    From the entire post above, there is one thing only I can agree with: “It’s incredible how capable some people are of closing their eyes enough so that they only see what they want to see.”

  7. Mark Schauss March 6, 2017 at 4:38 pm #

    1st off, the Russian economy may have grown fast but when you start in the basement, the only move is up.
    Second, state-of-the-art reforms? Who cares, the men in the field didn’t have enough guns to fight, they had to get them from men who were dead in the field.
    Third point, the offensive was not stopped by the Revolution, it was stopped by guns and the Germans. The Russians lost six million men, they didn’t have enough material with which to fight. Your comment is totally unsubstantiated alternative-facts.
    Yeah, your grandmother and mine as well talked about the lost wealth. Oh yeah, my grandmother was very wealthy and she lost everything. The peasants, of which was the majority of the population, no change.
    I’ve read letters, I’ve read written accounts, I’ve even met members of the family of Nicholas II in Cannes when I was there for a month. To a person, they viewed him as a weak leader who was not capable of running a country as vast as Russia.
    Piety was an amazing trait of the man. Devotion, yet another admirable trait. Ruling an empire such as Russia, not something he was good at. Oh, and please read his letters to his wife where he says that.

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