To be fair to Nicholas, although he had no clear conception of the enormity of the events of 9 January, he at last began to see that problems had arisen which could not be solved by simple police action. At the same time he rejected the urgings of some that he should publicly dissociate himself from the actions of his troops. Svyatopolk-Mirsky was immediately replaced by Count Bulygin, a colourless orthodox bureaucrat whose thinking had reached much the same level as his master’s – namely that straight repression would no longer do, but what to put in its place? What indeed?
Nicholas was to display the poverty of his imagination almost immediately. He accepted the suggestion of his new Governor-General of St. Petersburg, General D.F. Trepov, a heavy-handed but honest police-chief, that it would be a good idea for him to meet a deputation of factory workers to assure them that in spite of appearances to the contrary he felt for them; but when the deputation appeared before him amid the eighteenth-century splendors of the Tsarskoe Selo he found himself chiding them like children, quite unable to change the old, old record; they had been led astray by wicked men, but he, Nicholas, knew that they were good and loyal at heart and would strive to make up for the harm they had done.
This meeting, and the Tsar’s words, made no impression at all, but Nicholas himself was so moved by his own unprecedented act of condescension that he easily believed Trepov (who himself believed what he had said) that it had been an epoch-making occasion.
First: Tsarskoe Selo, Catherine Palace with a view of the Cameron Gallery, Luigi Premazzi, ca. 1855.
Second: Tsarskoe Selo, Tsar Nicholas II’s working study, Alexander Palace.
Third: Tsarskoe Selo, March 1917 photograph of Tsar Nicholas II following his abdication, capture and confinement.
Fourth: Tsarskoe Selo, Alexander Palace, 2010.
Edward Crankshaw, The Shadow Of The Winter Palace – The Drift To Revolution 1825-1917 (“Impossible to live thus any longer”), London, Penguin, 1976.