1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nicholas II.

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NICHOLAS II. (1868-), emperor of Russia, eldest son and successor of Alexander III., was born at St Petersburg on the 18th of May 1868. He received the ordinary education of Russian grand-dukes, under the direction of General Danilovitch, assisted by M. Pobêdonostsev and other eminent professors. Among these was an Englishman, Mr Charles Heath, for whom he had great respect and affection. By the death of his grandfather, Alexander II., in 1881, he became heir-apparent (cesarevich) . Though he received, like all the heirs-apparent to the Russian throne, a certain amount of military training, his personal tastes did not lie in that direction, nor did he show any inclination for the boisterous amusements of the jeunesse dorée of St Petersburg. Like his father, he was nowhere happier than in the family circle, and he was particularly attached to his sister, the grand-duchess Xenia, who was seven years younger than himself. In 1890-1891 he made a tour in Greece, Egypt, India, Ceylon and Japan, where he narrowly escaped assassination at the hands of a Japanese fanatic. On the return journey by Siberia, at Vladivostok, he turned the first sod of the eastern section of the Siberian railway, and two years afterwards (1893) he was appointed president of the imperial committee for that great undertaking. By the death of his father on the 1st of November 1894 he became emperor, and on the 26th of that month he married Princess Alix of Hesse (a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria), to whom he had been betrothed in the presence of his father during the latter's last illness. Eighteen months later the coronation took place at Moscow with great pomp, but a gloom was thrown over the festivities by the unfortunate incident of the Khodinskoe Polye, a great open space near the city, where a popular fête had been prepared and where, from defective police arrangements, a large number of men, women and children, roughly estimated at 2000, were crushed and trampled to death. Nicholas II. followed in the footsteps of his father, seeking to preserve peace in foreign relations, and continuing in home affairs, though in a much milder form, the policy of centralization and Russification which had characterized the previous reign. His pacific tendencies were shown by his systematic opposition to all bellicose excitement, by his maintaining M. de Giers in the post of minister of foreign affairs, by his offering the post, on the death of that statesman, to M. de Staal, by his restraining France from dangerous adventures, and by initiating the Peace Conference at the Hague. To these ought perhaps to be added the transformation of the Franco-Russian entente cordiale into a formal alliance, since the alliance in question might be regarded as favourable to the preservation of the status quo in Europe. In the internal administration during the first years of his reign he introduced by his personal influence, and without any great change in the laws, a more humane spirit towards those of his subjects who did not belong by language and tradition to the dominant nationality, and who were not members of the Eastern Orthodox Church; but he disappointed the men of liberal views by giving it to be clearly understood soon after his accession that he had no intention of circumscribing and weakening the autocratic power by constitutional guarantees or parliamentary institutions. In spite, however, of his desire for peace he let his country drift into the disastrous war with Japan; and notwithstanding his sincere attachment to the principles of bureaucratic autocracy, it was he who granted the constitutional reforms which altered the whole political outlook in Russia (see Russia).