Smithsonian Russian Revolution Series: The Abdication of Czar Nicholas II

Czar Nicholas II under guard after his abdication in 1917

The March article in my monthly series for Smithsonian Magazine about the Russian Revolutions of 1917 is about the abdication of Czar Nicholas II, which took place nearly 100 years ago on March 15, 1917. Since becoming Czar in 1894, Nicholas II had remained in power through a number of crises including Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904 and Bloody Sunday in 1905. The difference in 1917 was that Nicholas II lost the support of the military during the First World War and his generals urged him to abdicate in the interests of continuing the war on the eastern front.

Click here to read “The Abdication of Nicholas II Left Russia Without a Czar for the First Time in 300 Years” in Smithsonian Magazine

Sources and Further Reading:

After his abdication, Czar Nicholas II caught up on reading, completing War and Peace  by Leo Tolstoy for the first time while under house arrest. My article begins with a quote from the novel from Part 2, when Napoleon invaded Russia during the reign of Czar Alexander I.

Key documents concerning the abdication of Nicholas II including the telegrams from his generals, announcements by the Duma and the abdication manifesto itself are translated and reprinted in The Fall of the Romanovs: Political Dreams and Personal Struggles in a Time of Revolution

 The Complete Wartime Correspondence of Tsar Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra has been published in its entirety. Excerpts from the Imperial couple’s letters are also printed in A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story

Dominic Lieven’s latest book discusses The End of Tsarist Russia: The March to World War I and Revolution. He is also the author of a political biography of Czar Nicholas II entitled Nicholas II: Twilight of the Empire

The impressions of foreigners resident in Saint Petersburg during the Russian Revolutions of 1917 feature in Helen Rappaport’s new book, Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge. Rappaport is also the author of a number of other excellent books about the last Imperial family including The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra and The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg

In The Last of the Tsars, historian Robert Service examines Nicholas II’s political views and his conversations with his household and guards after his abdication.

Numerous members of Czar Nicholas II’s extended family, household and social circle survived the Russian Revolutions of 1917 and fled abroad, where they wrote their memoirs about Russia’s last Imperial family. I include excerpts from three of these works in the article: The Education of a Princess by Czar Nicholas II’s cousin, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, The Real Tsaritsa by Empress Alexandra’s friend, Lili Dehn and Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by the Imperial children’s French tutor, Pierre Gilliard.

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Smithsonian Russian Revolution Series: Russia’s February Revolution Was Led by Women on the March

Skobelev Square during the February Revolution by Aleksandr Gerasimov, 1917

My latest article in my monthly Russian Revolution series in Smithsonian Magazine is about the February Revolution, which precipitated the downfall of the Romanov dynasty. Women played a key role in this political unrest.

“In the country’s urban centers, with men on the battlefield, women took on new roles in the workforce, as they did throughout Europe during the war. Between 1914 and 1917, 250,000 more women began working outside the home for the first time. By the outbreak of the February Revolution, close to one million female workers lived in Russia’s cities, but were paid half the wages of men and endured substandard living conditions. The journalist Ariadna Tyrkova wrote, “Day by day, the war has changed attitudes about woman. It has become increasingly clear that the unseen effort of a woman and her labour often support the entire economy of a country.””

Click here to read “Russia’s February Revolution Was Led by Women on the March” in Smithsonian Magazine 

Click here to read all my articles in the Smithsonian Magazine Russian Revolution series. 

Sources and Further Reading:

The quotation at the beginning of the article is from The Lower Depths, a play written by Maxim Gorky in 1901-1902, which became especially popular following the Russian Revolutions of 1917.

The letter to King George V from Czar Nicholas II quoted in the article is reprinted in A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story. For more information about the relationship between King George V, Czar Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm II during the First World War, see George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I by Miranda Carter.

Czar Nicholas II’s abdication manifesto, the telegrams from the Czar’s generals requesting his abdication, correspondence between Nicholas and Alexandra in February and March 1917 and documents concerning the Provisional Government’s assumption of power are available in The Fall of the Romanovs: Political Dreams and Personal Struggles in a Time of Revolution (Annals of Communism Series)

The description of women persuading the workers at the Nobel Engineering works to go on strike is reprinted in Women in Russia, 1700-2000 by Barbara Alpern Engel, p. 134.
Excerpts from the writings of journalist Ariadna Tyrkova are available to read in Russian Women, 1698-1917: Experience and Expression, An Anthology of Sources

An excellent book about Russian women’s lives prior to the Russian Revolutions of 1917 including legal status, political influence, fashion and daily life is Women in Russian History: From the Tenth to the Twentieth Century by Natalia Pushkareva

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Peter the Great and the Building of Saint Petersburg begins at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies on March 14, 2017

Peter the Great in 1698

In March, April and May 2017, I will be teaching one of my most popular courses at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies: Peter the Great and the Building of Saint Petersburg. Click here to register

When Peter became czar in 1682, Europe had become quite foreign to Russia. Fascinated by the West, Peter was determined to transform Russia into a great European power. In this course, we’ll discover the traditional Russia of Peter’s childhood, his Grand Tour of Europe and his subsequent dream of building St. Petersburg, a new city to match his vision of the country.

With images of the city and accounts of his drive to create it, we’ll see how the city emerged as a symbol of his power and of Russia’s hopes. We will look at the lasting impact of his reign, and find out how and why Russian president Vladimir Putin takes Peter as a role model. Join us for a discussion of the architectural and political legacy of one of the world’s most influential figures.

19th century portrait of Peter the Great interrogating his son, Alexei

What You’ll Learn:

  • Explore the rise of Russia as a world power in the 18th century.
  • Understand the impact of Peter the Great on Russia’s past and present.
  • Follow the founding of St. Petersburg as capital of Imperial Russia.
  • Examine the role of St. Petersburg in Russia’s relationship with the West.
  • Appreciate its influence on Russian culture and society.

Click here to register for Peter the Great and the Building of Saint Petersburg at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies

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The Table of Contents for Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

The Table of Contents of my forthcoming book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting is now available online:

Table of Contents

Introduction  Raising a Royal Child

1     Edgar “the Peaceable” (c. 943-75) and Elfrida of Northampton (c. 945-1001)
2     William “the Conqueror” (c. 1028-87) and Matilda of Flanders (c. 1031-83)

Genealogical chart depicting King Henry II of England and his children

3     Henry II (1133-89) and Eleanor of Aquitaine (c. 1124-1204)
4     Henry III (1207-72) and Eleanor of Provence (c. 1223-91)
5     Edward III (1312-77) and Philippa of Hainault (1314-69)
6     Richard III (1452-85) and Anne Neville (1456-85)

Charles I, Henrietta Maria and their two eldest children

7     Ferdinand II of Aragon (1452-1516) and Isabella I of Castile (1451-1504)
8     Henry VIII (1491-1547) and Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536)
9     Frederick V, Elector Palatine (1596-1632) and Elizabeth of England and Scotland (1596-1662)
10    Charles I (1600-49) and Henrietta Maria of France (1609-69)
11    Peter I “the Great” of Russia (1672-1725) and Catherine I (1684-1727)
12    Anne (1665-1714) and George of Denmark (1653-1708)
13    George II (1683-1760) and Caroline of Ansbach (1683-1737)

Nicholas and Alexandra present their daughter, Olga to Queen Victoria

14    Louis XVI of France (1754-93) and Marie Antoinette of Austria (1755-93)
15    Victoria (1819-1901) and Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (1819-61)
16    Nicholas II of Russia (1868-1918) and Alexandra of Hesse-Darmstadt (1872-1918)
17    Juliana of the Netherlands (1909-2004) and Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld (1911-2004)
18    Elizabeth II (1926-) and Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark (1921-)
19    Prince Charles (1948-) and Lady Diana Spencer (1961-97)  20    Prince William (1982-) and Catherine Middleton (1982-)

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte arrive in Canada

Epilogue    The Future of the Royal Nursery

Acknowledgements
Notes
Further Reading
Index

Click here to pre-order your copy of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

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Smithsonian Russian Revolution Series: On The Eve of the Revolution, A Palace Coup Seemed Inevitable

Czar Nicholas II, his wife Empress Alexandra and their five children in 1915

The 3rd article in my Russian Revolution series in Smithsonian Magazine discusses events in Russia in January 1917, 100 years ago, when revolution was imminent. The murder of Rasputin in December 1916 divided Czar Nicholas II’s extended family and there was widespread speculation of a “Rising of the Grand Dukes” that would lead to a palace coup. The concerns of the elite, however, were dwarfed by the discontent among Russia’s working class, who were facing food shortages in the cities. Despite the tensions in all social classes, Vladimir Lenin, who would eventually rise to power during the Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917, speculated that older people might not live to see the revolution.

Click here to read “On the Eve of the Russian Revolution, a Palace Coup Seemed Inevitable, But Where Would it Come From?”

Click here for links to the previous articles in my Russian Revolution series in Smithsonian Magazine

Sources and Further Reading:

 From Supplication to Revolution: A Documentary Social History of Imperial Russia is a volume of primary sources revealing changing conditions among all social estates in Russia, from the reign of Catherine the Great to the reign of Nicholas II.

Excerpts from the diaries and letters of Czar Nicholas II, his extended family and members of the diplomatic corps during the First World War are included in A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story

The letter between Czar Nicholas II’s brother-in-law, Grand Duke Alexander and his own brother, the historian Grand Duke Nicholas is quoted in The Flight Of The Romanovs: A Family Saga. Grand Duke Alexander survived the revolution and wrote two volumes of memoirs, Once a Grand Duke and Always a Grand Duke

The Court of the Last Tsar: Pomp, Power and Pageantry in the Reign of Nicholas II by Greg King provides detailed mini-biographies of Czar Nicholas II’s family and household.

The conversation quoted in the article between Czar Nicholas II’s aunt, Maria Pavlovna and Duma Chairman Mikhail Rodzianko is discussed in From Splendor to Revolution: The Romanov Women, 1847–1928. Rodzianko also wrote his memoirs: The Reign of Rasputin: An Empire’s Collapse.

Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky’s biography of Czar Alexander II focuses on his reforms and eventual assassination.

The 1917 demonstrations on the 12th anniversary of Bloody Sunday of 1905 are discussed in A Brief History of 1917: Russia’s Year of Revolution, which examines the Russian Revolution from the perspective of ordinary people.

Helen Rappaport’s biography of Lenin, Conspirator: Lenin in Exile examines his years as an exiled revolutionary before returning to Russia and assuming power in 1917. Lenin detailed his philosophy in Essential Works of Lenin: “What Is to Be Done?” and Other Writings

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Advance Reader Reviews of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

Readers who received advance review copies of my forthcoming book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting are sharing their reviews on goodreads. Raising Royalty will be published by Dundurn Press in Canada in April 2017 and in the USA and UK in May 2017.

Here are excerpts from some of the reader reviews:

“Raising Royalty is a comprehensive study of how…Kings and Queens have raised their children. Twenty families with their widely varying parenting approaches from Anglo-Saxon times to the present are studied.
While the book is a thoroughly researched subject by a scholar, it is a joy to read. It provides a clear picture of how parenting in the rarefied atmosphere of castles and palaces has evolved and, perhaps more importantly, why. Boys were brought up to fight and rule, and girls for dynastic/political marriages. Princes and princesses had no choice one thousand years ago and, one also sympathizes, today their futures are still fixed in stone but with a little more leeway.
Carolyn Harris, the author, has done an excellent job of writing this book for general readership and it will open eyes with the detail and surprises. Recommended for history buffs and royal watchers.” — Julie Ferguson

“I was expecting the book to be entirely be about English royalty, but was pleased to find that it covered enough of Europe to give it some diversity.
Filled with a lot of interesting facts and written in a way that held my attention.
Both well researched and written.” — MissyLynne

“I was expecting a list of “advice” and “lessons” and was pleasantly surprised.
Ms. Harris presents a HUGE amount of history in this book and her skill at writing in a way that keeps the reader engaged and interested is refreshing.
Anyone with any interest in royal families will love this book. It’s a great read. ” — Michelle Griswold

Click here to view all reader reviews for Raising Royalty on goodreads

Click here to pre-order your copy of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

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Excellence in Teaching Award from the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies

dscn08641I am honoured to be a recipient of a 2016 Excellence in Teaching award from the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. The award recognizes sustained dedication to the delivery of adult education.

My course about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution begins at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies on January 11. Click here for more information and to register. 

In the Spring of 2017, I will be teaching one of my most popular courses: Peter the Great and the Building of Saint Petersburg. Click here for more information and to register. 

 

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Countdown to the Russian Revolution: The Murder of Rasputin in Smithsonian Magazine

Empress Alexandra Feodorovna with Rasputin, her children and a governess.

Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (standing at the right) with Rasputin, her children (top left to right: Anastasia, Alexei and Olga; bottom left and middle: Maria and Tatiana) and the children’s nanny, Maria Vishniakova (bottom right).

December 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the murder of Grigori Rasputin, the controversial holy man, faith healer and adviser to Czar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra. Rasputin’s presence at the Imperial court undermined popular confidence in the ruling Romanov dynasty and he was ultimately murdered by members of the Czar’s extended family and the political elite. Rasputin’s life, reputation and murder are the subject of the December installment of my monthly column in Smithsonian Magazine. I examine Rasputin’s rise to power, theories concerning his ability to alleviate the heir to the throne’s hemophilia and what really happened on the night of his murder.

Click here to read The Murder of Rasputin, 100 Years Later in Smithsonian Magazine

The previous article in my Smithsonian Magazine Russian Revolution series: “What You Need to Know First to Understand the Russian Revolution” is available here.

Sources and Further Reading:
If you are interested on learning more about Rasputin and his impact on the collapse of the Romanov dynasty, I strongly recommend Douglas Smith’s 2016 biography,Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs. During the research for his previous book, Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy, Smith found that almost every prominent Russian in the last years of Czar Nicholas II’s reign had an opinion about Rasputin and his influence. Smith therefore draws on an unprecedented range of source material to determine how Rasputin came to be introduced to the Imperial family, his role at the court of the last Czar and how he developed the larger than life reputation that persists to the present day.

Smith reveals that much of what we think we know about Rasputin is legendary but in the political and social conditions of early twentieth century Russia, what people thought they knew about “the Mad Monk” became even more significant than his actual behaviour. Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs far surpasses all previous biographies of Rasputin and is essential reading for anyone interested in this controversial historical figure.

The quote at the beginning of my Smithsonian article is from the description of Father Zosima, a character who plays a key role in Feodor Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov. Zosima dispenses advice and is treated with reverence in the novel, giving a sense of the role of holy men in late Imperial Russian society.

An excerpt from Nicholas II’s letter to his Prime Minister, Peter Stolypin about the first meeting between the Imperial couple and Rasputin is published in A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story, a selection of diary entries, letters and memoir excerpts written by Nicholas and Alexandra and the people closest to them. The Complete Wartime Correspondence of Tsar Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra: April 1914-March 1917 (Documentary Reference Collections) has also been published.

Nicholas II’s sister, Grand Duchess Olga, who witnessed Rasputin praying by the bedside of her nephew, Alexei, survived the revolution and eventually settled in Canada. During her last years, she dictated her memoirs to Ian Vorres, which were published as The Last Grand Duchess: Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna. There is also a popular biography of Olga, Olga Romanov by Patricia Phenix.

Empress Alexandra’s lady-in-waiting, Sophie Buxhoeveden, also survived the revolution and wrote three sets of memoirs about her time at the Russian court. before the Storm discusses the possibility that Rasputin employed peasant faith healing techniques. Buxhoeveden also wrote The Life & Tragedy Of Alexandra Feodorovna, Empress Of Russia. A Biography and Left Behind: Fourteen Months in Siberia During the Revolution, December 1917-February 1919 about the Imperial family and her own experiences during the Russian Revolution.

 In Les Romanov: Une dynastie sous le règne du sang (Biographies Historiques) (French Edition), French historian Hélène Carrère d’Encausse discusses the theory that Rasputin’s success in alleviating the heir to the throne’s hemophilia symptoms was his insistence that the doctors leave the child alone and stop giving him medications, which may have included aspirin.

The traditional exaggerated account of Rasputin’s murder, including his supposed immunity to poisoned cakes and superhuman strength in his last moments comes from Lost Splendor: The Amazing Memoirs of the Man Who Killed Rasputin by Prince Felix Yussupov. The Prince was the only one of the murderers who discussed the deed publicly and his sensationalized account remains the most widely known description of  Rasputin’s death, informing popular culture.

Rasputin’s daughter, Maria, was the only member of his family to escape Russia after the Revolution. She became a circus lion tamer and cabaret dancer before settling down as a Russian language teacher in the United States. She wrote a number of books about her famous father, including Rasputin: The Man Behind the Myth – A Personal Memoir by Maria Rasputin and Patte Barham.  Maria Rasputin has been the subject of numerous historical novels including Rasputin’s Daughter by Robert Alexander.

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My new monthly Russian Revolution column in Smithsonian Magazine

The Russian Imperial family in 1913

The Russian Imperial family in 1913, four years before the abdication of Czar Nicholas II.

My new monthly column in Smithsonian Magazine discusses the events that led to the Russian Revolutions of 1917: the abdication of Czar Nicholas II in March and the Bolshevik seizure of power in November. One hundred years later, the events of 1917 continue to have a profound impact on Russia and the world. The column discusses events in Russia as they unfolded month by month 100 years ago.

Click here to read the first article in the series: “What You Need to Know First to Understand the Russian Revolution”

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Advance Praise for Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

Advance Praise for my 3rd book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting, which will be published by Dundurn Press in April 2017:

“Today‘s parents think they have it tough, monitoring screen time and shuttling kids to soccer matches. Imagine being King William I, the Conqueror, who in 1079 had to fight his firstborn son on the battlefield; or Henry II, whose villainous son, John, is today best known as Robin Hood‘s arch enemy. Carolyn Harris‘s history of royal child rearing is a must read for anyone interested in the never-ending saga of royal families and a fascinating read.” (Mark Reid, Editor-in-Chief, Canada’s History Magazine)

“Carolyn Harris has taken an innovative approach with this engaging new work, bringing together a millennia of royal parenting from Edgar “the Peaceable” and Elfrida of Northampton right up to the present day with the children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Harris has deftly woven together the history of various rulers, evaluating their relationships with their children and bringing in wider trends in parenting in different eras. She notes both rivalry and tension between parents and children, as aptly illustrated by the Hanoverian monarchs of England, as well as evidence of affection and strong bonds between rulers and their offspring. Any reader with an interest in the history of monarchy or parenting itself will find this an absorbing read, both accessible and replete with interesting information. A real strength of this book is that it puts our present-day fascination with current and recent monarchs and their children in a long-term historical context.” (Dr. Elena (Ellie) Woodacre, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern European History Postgraduate Student Coordinator-Faculty of HSS University of Winchester, editor of The Royal Studies Journal)

“How to raise the kids? It is a question that has confounded parents for centuries. Imagine how parenting has been for royalty throughout the ages? Royal historian Carolyn Harris’s newest book focuses on this very topic. In Raising Royalty, Harris’s detailed research [explores] how royal parenting has evolved throughout the last thousand years. Harris focuses on twenty royal parents – from Edgar the Peaceable and Elfrieda of Northampton to Prince William and Catherine Middleton. This book is delightfully readable, infused with the brilliance of pure scholarship.” (Marlene A. Eilers Koenig, author of Queen Victoria’s Descendants)

“Carolyn Harris’s encyclopedic knowledge infuses Raising Royalty with fascinating insights into the lives of Europe’s Royal Families. Moving through the centuries, Harris highlights unique and evolving family dynamics and traditions right up to our present day. An essential addition to any royal enthusiast’s collection, Raising Royalty provides a captivating look at the families occupying the centre of some of the world’s greatest monarchies.” (Nathan Tidridge, author of Canada’s Constitutional Monarchy)

Click here to pre-order your copy of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

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