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The Great War
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The Redemption of Nicholas and Alexandra
Robert K. Massie
"Both Alexandra and Nicholas were, in their religious faith, very fatalistic.

"Nicholas said over and over again: 'As God wills.' It wasn't as God wills. He had made mistakes and he was leading Russia in the wrong direction, but he thought he was doing the right thing. And then when bad things would happen, he would say: 'As God wills.'

"The fact is, that actually after they were imprisoned, and as they sort of started on this steep downward path towards the final cellar, they both behaved magnificently. They didn't complain. They encouraged their children. They didn't know that they were going to be killed in such a brutal fashion. But toward the end, they began to suspect something like this would happen, and they maintained their faith. They said their prayers. You could say: 'Well, what a silly thing!' or 'How stupid!' But I find it, and I think that many people find it, noble.

"In other words, the way they ended their lives was a redemption; a redeeming for much of the way they lived it before.

Battle Scene
Tsarina Alexandra
"That's the way many Russians feel. They feel that Nicholas was not a great Tsar – that he permitted Communism to rise, that he is to blame for this, that, and so forth – but the way in which he faced imprisonment and death was redeeming. And they're considering martyring not only the family, but Nicholas because of this.

"The war was the final element in the destruction of the imperial dynasty. I mean Nicholas, the mistakes that he made, were sort of very helpful in bringing down his own regime. But the last biggest mistake he made was to take Russia into the First World War. He did this because of the Franco-Russian alliance, which had been created and signed by his father. And the Franco-Russian alliance was a product of the hegemony of imperial Germany.

"Russia and France were afraid of Germany.

"Germany had a preponderant military power. And to balance that power, democratic France (republican France) and autocratic Russia signed an alliance. When the war began, and the whole series of events leading to war – the crisis in the Balkans; the Austrian attack on Serbia; Russia's defense of Serbia; Germany's defense of Austria; the German decision that if they were gonna have to fight Russia and France, they would strike at France first because it was a definable object, (and they launched the Schlieffen Plan: the attack on Paris) – Russia loyally declared war on Germany.

"[Russia] came into the war, and sent the Russian army in a thrust towards Berlin; and the Russian army was very badly defeated at Tannenberg. But, the thrust into East Prussia and towards Berlin diverted enough German troops from the march in Paris to make that fail. So that in a sense, a very real military sense, the Russian army and the Russian Empire saved France, saved Paris."

 
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