The Romanovs had ruled Russia since 1613. When the last tsar of all, Nicholas II, was appointed to the throne in 1894, there was no hint of the fate that awaited him. Many among the huge crowds that lined the streets for his coronation celebration saw him as their "little father." They believed God had supposedly appointed Nicholas to rule an empire covering about one-sixth of the earth's land area.
In 1894, Russia was at peace. Foreign investors promoted its industrialization. Russia was ranked among the world's greatest powers under the autocracy of the Romanovs.
Although well intentioned, Nicholas was a weak ruler, out of touch with his people, easily dominated by others and a firm believer in the autocratic principles taught him by his father. He ruled Russia as an autocrat. Propaganda and the teachings of the Russian Orthodox Church encouraged his people to love and respect their tsar and look on him as a father who had the right to rule them.
Nicholas II ruled a police state, called the okhrana, which responded brutally to anyone who dared question his authority. He had absolute power. He declared the law and could overrule any existing law. Political parties were illegal until 1905. There was no parliament until 1906 and even then, Russia was hostile to its existence. He was free to appoint and dismiss his advisers without giving reasons.
In 1900, the Russian empire compromised 23 different nationalities; many resented Russian rule. Russians made up 40% of the empire's 132 million people. 77% of the population were peasants; 10% belonged to the middle class, and 1% to the nobility. The remaining 12% included priests, urban workers, officials, Cossacks, and foreigners.
In the early 1900s, Russia was on the brink of crisis. Failed harvests, inflation, and economic depression saw Russia's...