Did Nicholas II Really Abdicate?

Members of the Duma arrive at Pskov and board the Imperial train where Emperor Nicholas II awaits his fate.

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On March 16th, 2012, I reported on my blog about a Conference on Tsar's Abdication Held in Moscow. I noted that there is a theory among a growing number of historians in Russia who claim that the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II was actually fabricated and that the manifesto document itself was forged by his enemies, anxious to see an end to his reign and the monarchy in Russia. The debate on this theory has actually been garnering headlines in the Russian media over the past year, including the following article. - Paul Gilbert

When the events of February-March of 1917 are discussed, almost everything is called into question and debated. Was the labor lockout at Putilovo Iron Works just a stupid move on the part of the management or a provocation? Was there any conspiracy among the generals, or the latter were not smart enough to assess the situation? Was MP Shulgin really a monarchist if he tried to persuade the monarch to abdicate? Was there food in Petrograd or was the capital city really threatened with famine? Did opposition to the royal family make a difference, or did nobody really care?

Questions seem to never end – even the exact date of the February bourgeois revolution in Russia is disputed. On March 12, spontaneous popular uprisings evolved into a political riot and led to the formation of the State Duma’s interim committee. In the evening of the same day the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies claimed power and on March 14 the Provisional Government set to work, so what is the reference date?

Even if one does not go deep into details which might help analyze discrepancies in the memoirs of those involved in the coup, alarming questions suggest themselves even at the most superficial glance.

On March 15 the so-called abdication took place…

Unlike many other events of those restive days, nobody has doubted the validity of information about what happened in the car of the royal train. With the rare exception, professional historians are unanimous that the abdication in fact took place, assuring us that the document was authentic. The political establishment nod in agreement.

Such unanimity in our polarized society is at least as strange as the said document.

Recollections of all those who were somehow involved in that matter help us reconstruct this historic event. After long persuasions to abdicate, the Czar reported his consent to devolve the crown first to his son, then to his younger brother Michael; after that he left the meeting compartment. The Emperor rejected as defective the text of the manifesto proposed to him by MPs Guchkov and Shulgin. The monarch came back with a sheet of paper with a typewritten text addressed to the Chief of Staff and signed with a pencil. The attesting signature of the court minister, Count Frederiks, was also inscribed with an inked-in pencil to the left of the date.

But who typewrote the text: the emperor himself, Frederiks who was rather advanced in years, or a secretary hidden in the study?

Usurpers of power as nobody else are prone to use any chance to legitimize the stolen rights and this is what Bolsheviks did without fail. It seems strange that in this case they did not produce the person who was typewriting this fateful letter on March 15, 1917, to the broad public.

Nicholas II signature written in pencil is located in the bottom right hand of the abdication manifesto,
dated on 15 March 1917 (2 March, Julian Calendar), at 3.00 pm.

During the 23 years of his reign there wasn’t a single case of Nicholas II signing his documents with a pencil. He sometimes used a slate pencil, when papers were more like notes. Could not he find an ink pen on such a momentous occasion?

And how come that there were no official forms, including some for manifestos, which were always present in right numbers at His Majesty’s Chancellery, be it in stationary conditions or on the road?

Something is wrong with the addressee as well. Who is this Chief of Staff to whom this momentous document was addressed? If this was General Alekseev, the Emperor had a different way of heading such papers. The Czar is known to be a rather punctilious man, always following his habitual ways of doing things. Why change them at the moment, when his mind was preoccupied with more important matters, and when minor acts are done instinctively and automatically?

Moreover Nicholas II never confirmed the groundbreaking event that allegedly happened in Pskov on March 15, 1917, not even in his diaries which he kept year after year with enviably consistency.

There are more than ample grounds to conclude that the abdication manifesto was forged; we have not listed all of them. Another question also arises: if abdication was simulated, what forced Czar Nicholas to agree to this role? Maybe he was blackmailed by the conspirators, or just feared for his family, or lost self-control for a moment, or was confident that the situation would reverse if he dawdled along with his brother Michael with whom he could have discussed that turn of events just in case? Probably he hoped that should the old order returned all those papers and abdication manifestos would prove invalid?

Quite likely there was no simulation at all and both the manifesto and the entire scene in the Czar’s car were the fruit of someone’s fantasy? All subsequent narratives of those involved in that play could be edited with the purpose of convincing everybody that abdication indeed took place!

The new authorities, especially those that came to power after the October coup, did not try to persuade the Nicolas to write out the manifesto fair under the camera lens with his proprietary page header, in spite of their notorious cynicism, because they knew for sure he would not sign it…

It is debatable whether Nicholas' enforced abdication was actually legal, and whether he had the right to abdicate
on behalf of his son. Some historians contend that Nicholas remained the Tsar, at least in theory, until his death.

Source & Copyright: Russkiy Mir Foundation

1 April, 2012