Historians and media sources continue to rehash revolutionary myths and slander about the Emperor Nicholas II. Meanwhile, many former revolutionaries and liberals who slandered the Tsar repented in the years which followed the 1917 Revolution.
With the exception of Fondaminsky, who died at Auschwitz in 1942, the men and women featured in this article—all of whom supported the overthrow of Nicholas II and the monarchy in Russia—died in exile.
Ivan Fedorovich Nazhvin (1874-1940)
Author of numerous novels in which he denounced the monarchical state system
In the days of my youth, the role of a “conscious personality” and ‘struggle for the people” was demanded from every young man. At that time, not only representatives of the bourgeoisie, like me—we all know the names of the Ryabushinskys, Tretyakovs, Konovalovs, Savva Morozov, etc.—joined the ranks of these—alas! personalities, but also aristocrats, like Prince. P.A. Kropotkin, Count Leo Tolstoy, princes Shakhovsky, Khilkov, Chertkov, Chicherin, etc….
“The red stupor grew by leaps and bounds; while the Russian man demanded for himself “the sky in diamonds”. I also suffered from this social disease. I also wanted the sky in republican and socialist diamonds. Entering public life as a writer, I did not hesitate, of course, that only the “leaders”, can steer Russia’s affairs, and everything that is alien to us is subject to anathema and must be thrown into the historical rubbish heap… The first revolution of 1905 cooled my revolutionary aspirations, and the second in 1917 completely extinguished them forever. But I was still possessed by the “old regime” and I looked upon its leaders with much dislike. To my great regret, Tsar Nicholas II was among them.
“When I began to examine Russia’s past for my novels, I became more and more convinced that the Tsar was not at all “stupid or weak-willed”. He was “stupid” only because he did not share our delusions, and we imagined him to be “weak-willed” because he did not possess our main and serious vice—over self-confidence (“we know everything”), but on the contrary, he was infinitely modest. My frequent conversations with L.D. Korsakov, who observed the Tsar’s life at close hand, finally convinced me that we, “social activists”, were impassable mules and that we are responsible for the death of the unfortunate Imperial family, who had been persecuted by all of us.
“I dedicated a whole volume to this terrible tragedy. But someday it will be published in our time of troubles! And death does not wait: I am already 65; and therefore, without postponing matters, I consider it my duty of conscience to repent of my gross and cruel social error now: it was not the Tsar who was to blame before us, but we before him, who suffered for us.
“We suffered severely for our mistake, but still there is no suffering with which we could completely atone for our criminal frivolity and wash away the blood of our victims, the poor Emperor and his loved ones from our hands and souls.
“I very much ask my readers, if they come across in my volumes harsh reviews about the deceased Tsar, Tsarina and their loved ones, to interpret these my sins in the light of this letter to “everyone”: I am guilty of this terrible mistake and am ready to atone for it again and again.”
25th April 1939
(Quoted from: “Sentinel”, 1951, No. 304; “Bulletin of the Temple-Monument”, 1981, No. 241)
Ilya Isidorovich Bunakov-Fondaminsky (1880-1942)
One of the leaders of the terrorist organization of the Socialist Revolutionaries
Moscow statehood rested not on strength and not on subjugation by the power of the people, but on the loyalty and love of the people for the bearer of power. Western republics rest on popular recognition. But no republic in the world has been so unconditionally recognized by its people as the autocratic monarchy. The left-wing parties portrayed tsarist power, as the Bolsheviks are now portrayed. They assured us that “despotism” led Russia to decline. I, an old militant terrorist, say now, after the lapse of time—it was a lie! No power can last for centuries based on fear. Autocracy is not violence, its basis is love for kings. After all, Russia is a state of the East. The monarchy was a theocracy. The Tsar is God’s Anointed One. And there were never any uprisings against the Tsar. Not during the Muscovy period, but also the imperial period—the Tsar was almost God.”
(From the speeches at the meetings of the newspaper “Days”, the society “Green Lamp” and the socialist immigrants in Paris in 1927-1929—Quoted from: “The Two-Headed Eagle”. 1929. No. 25. S. 1186.)
Let us conclude this collection with the confessions of several prominent “Februaryists” for their anti-monarchist revolution. Their words refute the popular opinion of liberal democrats that the Bolsheviks “distorted the gains of progressive freedom-loving February.”
Sergei Petrovich Melgunov (1879-1956)
Member of the Organizing Committee of the People’s Socialist Party, appointed by the Provisional Government Commissioner for the survey of archives and the development of political affairs
After everything that has now been published in recent years, the assessment of Nicholas II has to be changed. Undoubtedly, the idea of the completely exclusive political influence of the “Friend” [Rasputin] is also greatly exaggerated. The right-wing public menacingly instilled that tsarist power would be shaken and that Russia, torn apart by party strife, would perish. Alas! so far, this has largely turned out to be right, just as the Narodnoye resident [L.A. Tikhomirov] was right, after he wrote in his diary: “The monarchy is heading towards destruction, and without the monarchy an inevitable slaughter lasting ten years will follow.”
No element can justify those who, in a revolutionary storm, have undertaken to navigate the state ship. At first, they all, consciously or unconsciously, indulged the elements and fanned the flames of the great bloodless revolution. The disorganized coup, not organized victory.
(Melgunov S. On the way to the palace coup. Paris. 1931. S. 61-63, 225).
Prince Georgy Yevgenyevich Lvov (1861-1925)
First Minister-Chairman of the Provisional Government.
Until the very end he [Lvov] blamed himself for everything: “After all, it was I who made the revolution, I killed the tsar and everyone … all because of me” … he said in Paris to his childhood friend Ekaterina Mikhailovna Lopatina-Yeltsova. ”
(Quoted from: F. Stepun, The Past and the Unfulfilled, New York. 1956. Vol. II. P. 32).
Pavel Nikolaevich Milyukov (1859-1943)1
Leader of the Cadet Party, Minister of the First Provisional Government.
After his removal from the Provisional Government in the spring of 1917, he said in an address to his associates:
In response to your questions, how I look at the revolution we have accomplished, I want to say that what happened, we certainly did not want. We believed that power would be concentrated and remain in the hands of the first cabinet, that we would stop the enormous devastation in the army quickly, if not with our own hands, then with the hands of the allies, we would achieve victory over Germany, we would pay for the overthrow of the tsar with only some delay in this victory. We must confess that some, even from our own party, pointed out to us the possibility of what happened next. Of course, we must acknowledge that the moral responsibility lies with us.
You know that we made a firm decision to use the war to carry out a coup soon after the start of the war, you also know that our army had to go on the offensive, the results of which would fundamentally stop all hints of discontent and cause an explosion of patriotism in the country and jubilation. You understand now why I hesitated at the last minute to give my consent to the coup, you also understand what my inner state should be like at the present time. History will curse the leaders of the so-called proletarians, but it will also curse us, who caused the storm.
What to do now, you ask. I don’t know, that is, inside we all know that the salvation of Russia lies in the return of the monarchy, we know that all the events of the last two months clearly prove that the people were not able to accept freedom, that the mass of the population, not participating in rallies and congresses, were disposed to the monarchy, and that many, many who voted for a republic did so out of fear. All this is clear, but we cannot admit it. Recognition is the collapse of the whole business, our whole life, the collapse of the entire worldview, of which we are representatives.
(Quoted from: PN Milyukov’s letter of repentance, Russian Resurrection, Paris, 1955, April 17, p. 3).
Fyodor Avgustovich Stepun (1884-1965)
After the February Revolution, he was the head of the Political Directorate of the War Ministry.
In his later memoirs, he describes how he, along with other revolutionaries, was placed in the rooms of the Grand Palace: “My soul was vague and unwell: I was ashamed being in the royal chambers, as if I had robbed someone and did not know how to hide stolen goods in order to forget about the theft…” “Whose fault before Russia is more serious—ours, the people of ‘February’, or the Bolshevik—a difficult question …”
(Fr. Stepun, The Past and the Unfulfilled, New York. 1956, T. II, S. 154, 7).
Ariadna Vladimirovna Tyrkova-Williams (1869-1962)
One of the organizers of the Cadet Party, participant in the February Revolution.
“When the crown fell, many noticed with amazement that it ended, the central vault of Russian statehood was supported on it. The Cadets were unable to fill the devastation.”
(Quoted from: Grani, 1980, No. 130, P. 118.)
© Paul Gilbert. 24 September 2020. Used here with permission.