Ruin of the Romanovs
The last Tsar of Russia led a fabulous lifestyle while his subjects starved, says JAMES HAWKINS
Throughout bitter winters, when Russia was struck by famine, the Romanovs continued a very privileged and ostentatious lifestyle
THIS MONTH witnesses the centenary of the Russian revolution and the bitter end of the last Russian emperor. Nikolay Alexandrovich Romanov was born into the Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov dynasty; following his father’s death he became Tsar of Russia on November 1, 1894 and took the title of Tsar Nicholas II or Nikolai II, ruler of the entire Imperial Russian Empire.
Throughout bitter winters, when Russia was struck by famine, the Romanovs continued a very privileged and ostentatious lifestyle. They spent lavishly and commissioned the greatest tradesmen of the generation to make spectacular jewellery, ornaments and silver objects, while their subjects starved.
Nikolai’s reign witnessed some of the empire’s most violent and bloody battles and the worst defeats known to the Russian Empire. A series of catastrophes saw the Russian military humiliated by much smaller enemies. The annihilation of the entire Imperial Russian Baltic fleet at the battle of Tsushima brought an end to the Russo-Japanese war.
Tsar Nikolai, referred to in some circles as Bloody Nikolai due to his disregard for the loss of life and the number of Russian casualties, personally signed the order for the execution of those he viewed as responsible for the defeat. But the common Russian man was outraged that such a rout was allowed to happen and their anger ultimately sealed the fate of the Tsar and his family.
He also acted against his generals’ advice during the violent suppression of the 1905 Revolution, while smaller defeats in Manchuria and Korea resulted in the expansion of Japanese interests in the South Sakhalin province. The Anglo-Russian Entente, designed to counter the German influence in the Middle East, ended unceremoniously.
Finally Tsar Nicholas approved the Russian mobilisation on July 31, 1914, much to the disapproval and despite advice from his senior advisors and generals. The Imperial Army’s severe losses and the High Command’s incompetent management of the war efforts led to Germany declaring war on Russia the following day.
It is estimated that around 3.3 million Russians were killed in a series of defeats in WWI. These calamities, along with the lack of food and other supplies on the home front, were the leading causes of the fall of the Romanov dynasty.
Following the February Revolution Tsar Nikolai II was forced to abdicate on March 15, 1917, immediately ending the line of succession and ending the Romanov Russian dynasty. The Romanov family was imprisoned.
In the spring of 1918, Nikolai was handed over to the local Ural Soviet; with the approval of Lenin, Nikolai and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks on the night of July 16/17, 1918. Their remains, exhumed in 1991, were finally re-interred in St Petersburg in 1998.
We have several impressive items of pre-revolutionary examples for sale at Juels’ Limited and we are very interested in purchasing any Russian jewellery, silverware or ornaments from this period.