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Birthday anniversary of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II

18 May 1868

6 (18) May 1868 in Tsarskoe Selo, was born the eldest son of Emperor Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna, the last Emperor of Russia - Nicholas II (Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov).

Nicholas passed his childhood in the walls of the Gatchina Palace. The future emperor had been educated in compliance with accurately designed program for thirteen years. The first 8 years were devoted to subjects of gymnasium course. Particular attention was paid to the political history, Russian literature, French, German and English; the next five years were devoted to studying military affairs, legal and economic sciences, necessary for a statesman. Among his teachers were outstanding Russian scholars: N. N. Beketov, N. N. Obruchev, J. F. Cui, M. I. Dragomirov, N. J. Bunge.

In 1884 Nicholas joined the military service, in July 1887 proceeded to the regular military service in Preobrazhensky Regiment. Prior to ascending the throne, Nicholas commanded – as a colonel - the first battalion of the Life Guards Preobrazhensky Regiment.

To have a notion about public affairs, Nicholas began to attend meetings of the State Council and the Committee of Ministers from May 1889. In October 1890 he went on a voyage to the Far East. During the first 9 months, he visited Greece, Egypt, India, China, Japan, and then by land, having crossed the entire Siberia, returned to the capital of Russia.  

In April 1894 the future Emperor engaged with Princess Alice of Hesse Darmstadt, the daughter of Grand Duke of Hesse, granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England. After conversion to Orthodoxy, she took the name Alexandra Feodorovna.

October 20 (November 2), 1894 died Alexander III. A few hours before his death, the dying emperor obliged his son to sign a Manifesto on the accession to the throne.

During the reign of Nicholas II, Russia was being transformed into agro-industrial country, the cities grew, railroads and industrial enterprises were being built. The Emperor supported the decisions aimed at economic and social modernization of the country: introduction of the gold circulation of the ruble, Stolypin's agrarian reform, laws on workers' insurance, universal primary education, religious tolerance.

The Reign of Nicholas II took place in an atmosphere of growing revolutionary movements and the complexity of the situation of foreign policy (Russian-Japanese War of 1904-1905, Bloody Sunday, Revolution of 1905-1907; First World War, February Revolution of 1917).

Under the influence of a strong social movement in favor of political reforms, the Emperor signed the Manifesto of 17 October 1905, proclaiming democratic freedoms. 23 April (6 May), 1906 was approved a new edition of “Fundamental laws of the Russian Empire”, and in 1906 the State Duma established by the tsar's Manifesto started its work.

The turning point in the fate of Nicholas II was the year of 1914 - the beginning of World War I, which worsened internal problems of the country.  In Petrograd began unrests, which grew into mass demonstrations against the government and dynasty. 2 (15) March 1917 in Pskov, Nicholas II signed an act of abdication, handing power to his brother Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, who rejected the crown.

7 (20) March 1917 Provisional Government ordered the arrest of Nicholas and his wife. In early August 1917 the former emperor and his entourage were exiled to Tobolsk. In May 1918, in Yekaterinburg, in the basement of Ipatief’s house, the night of 3 (16) to 4 (17) July 1918, Nicholas II, the empress, and five of their children and some close friends were shot without charge or trial.

After years of research of the remains found near Yekaterinburg in 1997, they were solemnly buried in Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. In 2000, Nicholas II and the members of his family were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Lit.: Боханов А. Н. Николай II. М., 2008; Бразоль Б. Л. Царствование императора Николая II в 1894-1917 гг. в цифрах и фактах. Минск, 1991; Витте С. Ю. Воспоминания. Т. 1-3. Царствование Николая II. М.-Пг., 1923; Курлов П. Г. Гибель Императорской России. М., 1992. То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL.: http://militera.lib.ru/memo/russian/kurlov_pg/index.html.

From the Presidential library materials:

Николай II (1868–1918) // Династия Романовых. 400-летие Земского Собора 1613 года: коллекция.