"The court gets dreadfully bad publicity because it was appallingly bad at public relations, and that was really the fault of the Tsarina herself.
"She was shy, gauche. She could sometimes be appallingly rude without really meaning to be. She'd choose the wrong people to do certain jobs, and another curious thing about that court was it wouldn't spend money. Nicholas II, for instance, use to put the stamps on all his own letters because they were too mean to pay for stamps – rather felt, that they ought probably to economize.
"Now in this very, very sophisticated, upper-class world of St. Petersburg which is very sophisticated (And I'm afraid to say, rather morally corrupt), they will titter at the gaucheries of this ugly duckling who's been sort of half-promoted to swan status as Empress of all of Russia.
"They'll titter at the tediousness of Nicholas II's private life,
"His stamp collection, his dreary conversation, and then seeing everything go wrong, they will blame all sorts of strange influences which Rasputin is an obvious one. There were endless rumors about German influences reaching up to high places. So for instance, it was always felt that because the Tsarina was of German origin, that she was listening to all these people with German names around the court; and this is something which is causing Russian policy to take directions and to be mismanaged, essentially in a German interest. There was a famous episode of this in November 1914, when Russian prisoners could simply have cut and run, and gone back, because their captors were way in advance of the German line. Instead of which, they trudge off into captivity. Later in 1917-18-19, when the Whites raised the banner of civil war and say, you know: 'One Russia.' They don't really get too much of a reaction from most of the peasants.
"The idea that there is a heartland of Russia, in which there are lots and lots of Russian patriots, is a bit of myth.
"They are illiterate. They're miles from anywhere. They're not really touched by the world of nationalism, which is largely – not entirely – but largely, an open thing. Betmann Holveig, who was the German Chancellor, went to Russian at the turn of 1911-1912, and he was taken round some of the big factories in the St. Petersburg region.
"German investors were following events, because they were closely involved. A lot of the German electrical combines, for instance AEG, had established themselves in Moscow, and they knew perfectly well what was happening in the mines of the Ukraine with all those raw materials. They could see the railway snaking around the place, and they knew that Russia was becoming a super-power. They all said it.
"Betmann Holveig said, on the eighth of July 1914, to his private secretary: 'Russia grows and grows, and preys upon us like a nightmare.' The Germans, in a way, were absolutely right in 1914, when they said: 'If we challenge Russia later, we'll be beaten. Even if it's 1917, we'll be beaten. But we've just got a chance to beat them in 1914, so let's do it now.'
"…every competent observer in Germany said: 'The Russians are getting too strong. They've got their alliance with the French. They'll crack us like a nut when the time comes.
"That calculation's going on in the Germans' brains. Maybe the Kaiser, at the end of July 1914, said: 'We'll stop it. We've made a mistake.' But by then, it's too late. Because by 1917, they will be fielding so many divisions against us in the East, that we haven't a ghost of a chance of concentrating our Army against the French. We'll be cracked. So, better now than later.' Now, of course, after the war was over, these docents vanished."