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Saint Nick

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An excerpt from, “From the Disarmament Proposition of 1898 to the Willy-Nicky Telegrams: Looking at Nicholas II as Peacemaker of Europe” By Grace Larkin, Vulcan Historical Review: Vol. 21, Article 10 (PDF): 

The fall of the Russian monarchy remains a tragically sad event in the scope of history. With scholarly attention focused on violence, the rise of Bolshevism, and the ensuing Soviet Union, the final tsar fades into the tapestry of Russian history as a tarnished reminder of bloody rebellions, pogroms, and war. As Nicholas II attempted to institute political and social peace within his homeland and Europe, the variegated inf luences on the tsar reveal themselves through considerate examination of the Russian political situation at both international and domestic levels, the complicated nature of Nicholas II’s personal life and its effect on his public persona, and early twentieth intellectual sources. This paper aims to present the final tsar as a peacemaker through deliberate understanding of his motives and the effects of political, familial, and personal influence upon his public persona and reign. Despite his nickname of Nicholas the Bloody, Nicholas II can be remembered as a surprising innovator for the cause of European peace because of his Disarmament Proposition of 1898 which led to the first Hague Conference and his attempt to prevent World War I with the infamous Willy-Nicky Telegrams.

An excerpt from, “Nicholas II and the Rescript for Peace of 1898: Apostle of Peace or Shrewd Politician?” By John Mack, Russian History, Vol 31, Summer 2004:

On August 28, 1898 the world was stunned as it received word of a proposal put forward by the Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, through his Foreign Minister, Count Michael Muraviev, to the international community. Popularly known as the Rescript for Peace, in it Nicholas advanced a strident call for an international conference on world peace, clearly indicating his desire “to put aside these incessant armaments and to seek the means of warding off the calamities which are threatening the whole world.”

The Rescript begins with a philosophical justification for the call to peace. Muraviev (on behalf of Nicholas) writes: “The maintenance of general peace, and a possible reduction of the excessive armaments which weigh upon all nations, present themselves in the existing condition of the whole world, as the ideal towards which the endeavors of all Governments should be directed.” The conviction that peace is the accepted goal of all ‘civilized” governments is continuously referred to in the Rescript. “The preservation of peace” and “the desired pacification” is described as the “object of international policy,” the purpose of “powerful alliances” and the only acceptable reason for the maintenance of “military forces.” According to Nicholas’ interpretation of current events, it is precisely because the buildup in armaments no longer serves the goal of peace that it should be halted. In the strongest worded section of the entire Rescript, Nicholas warns: “It appears evident, then, that if this state of things were prolonged, it would inevitably lead to the very cataclysm which it is desired to avert, and the horrors of which make every thinking man shudder in advance.”

An excerpt from, “Peace Conference at the Hague 1899: Rescript of the Russian Emperor(1) August 24 (12, Old Style), 1898″ Yale Law School, The Avalon Project:

The maintenance of general peace, and a possible reduction of the excessive armaments which weigh upon all nations, present themselves in the existing condition of the whole world, as the ideal towards which the endeavors of all Governments should be directed.

The humanitarian and magnanimous ideas of His Majesty the Emperor, my August Master, have been won over to this view. In the conviction that this lofty aim is in conformity with the most essential interests and the legitimate views of all Powers, the Imperial Government thinks that the present moment would be very favorable for seeking, by means of international discussion, the most effectual means of insuring to all peoples the benefits of a real and durable peace, and, above all, of putting an end to the progressive development of the present armaments.

In the course of the last twenty years the longings for a general appeasement have become especially pronounced in the consciences of civilized nations. The preservation of peace has been put forward as the object of international policy; in its name great States have concluded between themselves powerful alliances; it is the better to guarantee peace that they have developed, in proportions hitherto unprecedented, their military forces, and still continue to increase them without shrinking from any sacrifice.

All these efforts nevertheless have not yet been able to bring about the beneficent results of the desired pacification. The financial charges following an upward march strike at the public prosperity at its very source.

The intellectual and physical strength of the nations, labor and capital, are for the major part diverted from their natural application, and unproductively consumed. Hundreds of millions are devoted to acquiring terrible engines of destruction, which, though today regarded as the last word of science, are destined tomorrow to lose all value in consequence of some fresh discovery in the same field.

National culture, economic progress, and the production of wealth are either paralyzed or checked in their development. Moreover, in proportion as the armaments of each Power increase, so do they less and less fulfill the object which the Governments have set before themselves.


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