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Nicholas II - Twilight of the Empire

The basic premise of Dominic Lieven's book "Nicholas II - Twilight of the Empire" is that "it is worth presenting to the public a view of the life and reign of Nicholas II very different to the one commonly held either in the West or in Soviet Russia." (Lieven ix) Lieven's view of the life and reign of the Russian Tsar Nicholas II is a more sympathetic view than the one commonly held in the West or in Soviet Russia. Nicholas II - Twilight of the EmpireLieven does not see Nicholas II mainly as a remote, autocratic figure who brought the Russian Revolution and his and his family's assassination on himself and his country. Instead, Lieven takes the view that Nicholas II was hemmed in from responding to the political crises the Russian monarchy and its government faced by the bureaucratic and involuted nature of the Russian monarchical and government offices which had been built up in the centuries of the Romanov monarchy's rule over Russia. Any impulses Nicholas II may have had in trying to deal effectively with the growing crises he faced or actions he may have taken were for the most part impeded, watered down, or distorted by government ministers or other officials at various levels.

Nicholas's own shyness, insecurities, and inexperience also contributed to the Russian government's inability to effectively defuse the growing crises which eventually erupted into the Russian Revolution. Lieven's generally sympathetic view grows out of his analysis of the historical, traditional, and bureaucratic factors which more than the personality of Tsar Nicholas, were responsible for the Russian Revolution and the executions of Nicholas and his family. While this is Lieven's primary argument, he doe not overlook the point that Nicholas I was "by personality and temperament in many ways ill-suited to the task which fate called upon him to perform." (Lieven ix) Lieven does not portray the Tsar as someone who was always acted upon by events, the indifference or intrigue of his ministers and government officials, and the forces of history already at work when he took the Russian throne. Although Nicholas can be seen as a sympathetic figure in that there was little he could have done to prevent the Russian Revolution considering the nature of the Romanov dynasty and its related institutions, the last Tsar nonetheless bears the "responsibility for a number of important errors committed during his reign." (Lieven ix) Nicholas II is portrayed not as passive although he was shy, withdrawn, and hesitant, but as an active player in the last years of the Romanov dynasty before it was swept away finally by the Russian Revolution of 1917.

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