The Abdication of Nicholas II


The English translation of the abdication manifesto of Nicholas II.
Photocopy and the original text in Russian.

The English translation of the renunciation by Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich of the adoption of the supreme power:


A heavy burden has been laid on me by my brother's will in transferring to me the imperial throne of All Russia at a time of unprecedented war and unrest among the people.

Inspired by the thought common to the whole nation, that the well-being of our homeland comes above all, I have taken the hard decision to accept supreme power only in the event that it shall be the will of our great people, who in nationwide voting must elect their representatives to a Constituent Assembly, establish a new form of government and new fundamental laws for the Russian State.

Therefore, calling on God's blessing, I ask all citizens of the Russian State to obey the provisional government which has been formed and been invested with complete power on the initiative of the State Duma, until a Constituent Assembly, to be convened in the shortest possible time on the basis of general, direct, equal, secret ballot, expresses the will of the people in its decision on a form of government.



3/III   -   1917.

The chain of events


In 1916 Russia had drifted into a continuous internal turmoil. The Tsarist regime was generally expected to collapse. The Cabinet had actually lost its power despite various efforts to improve its authority. On the 17th of December (New Style) the self-proclaimed monk Grigory Rasputin, who exerted great influence on the Empress and through her on the Tsar, was murdered.

The State Duma (Parliament) was reassembled on Febr. 27, 1917 after the respite ordered by the Tsar. The street riots broke out on the 8th of March. An especially significant event was the lock-out by the Putilov factories which brought 30,000 people to the streets. When the turmoil continued the Cabinet tried on the 11th of March to stabilise the situation by redissolving the Duma it saw as an instigator to the riots. Formally the Duma was dissolved but continued still convening at the premises. The Chairman of the Duma Mikhail Rodzianko (1859-1924, Belgrad, Jugoslavia) a right wing (Zemstvo-)Octobrist* manor owner, sent numerous telegrams to the Tsar who was staying at Army HQ in Mogilev, that a revolution has begun and only an immediate change in the Cabinet could save the dynasty. Rodzianko received no answer. Duma set up an Executive Committee as a provisional cabinet. Simultaneously the Menshevik leader Nikolai Chkheidze (b. 1864 Kutaisi, Georgia - d. 1926, Leuville-sur-Orge, France) and then leader of the Trudoviks, barrister Alexandr Kerenski (b. 1881 Simbirsk - d. 1970 New York) - originally a Socialist Revolutionary, "eser" - started to cooperate with the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, a rival to the Duma. Both continued working at the same building, the Tauride Palace. The Provisional Government moved a few days later to the Mariinsky Palace.The revolution continued when one military unit after another joined the rebels. In Tsarskoye Selo, on the orders of the Provisional Government the Tsar's life guard, already joined to the rebels, took the Empress and her children into custody on the 13th of March. The children were bedridden suffering from measles. England and France recognised the Provisional Committee set by the Duma as the legal government of Russia on the 14th of March.

Nikolai IIThe Tsar left for Petrograd by train from Mogilev. The railway track northwest from Malaia Vishera 160 km to Petrograd (on the Moscow line) was already taken by the rebels. Nicholas rerouted the trip to the HQ of the Northern Army led by Adjutant-General Nikolai Ruzski (1854-1918, executed by the Bolsheviks in Piatigorsk) in Pskov. On the 14th of March the train arrived at the station where the reception was icy. Ruzski acted only on the orders of the Provisional Government.

During the night before the 15th (2nd Old Style) of March the executive committees of the Duma and the Petrograd Soviet agreed on the deposal of the Tsar, new Cabinet and other measures. The Prime Minister in the new government was to be Prince Grigori L'vov (1861 Popovka, near Tula -1925 Paris). The Attorney General was Alexandr Kerenski. The previous Cabinet was imprisoned. On the same night at 2 o'clock the Tsar made it known that he had given a new manifesto about forming a new Cabinet enjoying parliamentary confidence. This was sent using a teleprinter (Hughes machine) to Rodzianko who refuted this telling Ruzskii that the Tsar had to abdicate. At 3 o'clock p.m. the Tsar signs a manifesto of his abdication in favor of his son. At 10 o'clock p.m. two emissaries of the government (Guchkov, 1862-1936 and Shul'gin, 1878-1976) arrive and demand a total abdication. At 11:15 o'clock p.m. the Emperor signed a third manifesto in which he abdicated in favor of his brother. The minister of the Imperial Court, Count Freedericksz (1838-d.1927 in Finland) countersigned the signature. All documents carried the same time marking 3:05 p.m.

The bourgeois ministers in the Cabinet approved the abdication in favor of Mikhail, but Kerenski threatened to dispose the whole Cabinet with help of a workers' and soldiers' bataillon if this was to be the resolution. The Cabinet then convened at the residence of the Grand Duke. Nekrasov (1879-1940) drafted a renouncement manifesto which was then inspected by two public law experts, V.D. Nabokov and Baron B.E. Nol'de. The document was signed by Mikhail Alexandrovich on the evening of March 16th.

RodziankoKerenskiChkheidzeG. L'vovRuszki

*) The parties in the Duma of 442 seats were: Bolsheviks (5 seats), Mensheviks (7), Trudoviks (10), Progressists (47), Kadets (57), Left Octobrists (20), Zemstvo-Octobrists (65), Centre (33), Progressive Nationalists (20), Nationalists (60) and the Rights (64). Source: Raymond Pearson, "The Russian Moderates and the Crisis of Tsarism 1914-1917", Macmillan, 1977.

Other sources:

  • Verner Humble: Den stora ryska revolutionen. Helsinki 1917 ("The great Russian revolution", in Swedish). A compilation of contemporary newspaper reports.
  • Alfred von Hedenström: Venäjän historia. Helsinki, 1922 ("History of Russia", orig. in German)
  • Paul N. Miliukov: The Russian Revolution. Academic International Press, 1978. (orig. "Istoriia vtoroi revoliutsii", Sofia, 1921)
  • Robert K. Massey: Nicholas and Alexandra. Finnish edition, Helsinki 1968
  • Furstinnan Paley: Minnen från Ryssland 1916-1919. Helsinki 1923 (Princess Paley: "Memories from Russia 1916-1919", in Swedish).
  • The Sunset of the Romanov Dynasty. Mikhail Iroshnikov, Liudmila Protsai and Yuri Shelayev, Terra Publishing Center, Moscow, 1992. A fine book with a multitude of previously unpublished photographs.

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