May 01, 2011

The Real Last Tsar



The Real Last Tsar

Mikhail’s story is less told than Nicholas’, though his murder, a month before that of his brother, was equally tragic. His remains, never found, lie somewhere beneath a forest outside of Perm. A small chapel nearby commemorates his life and death, an unimposing memorial to a man who deplored autocracy and loved his country heart and soul. Thrust into a role he avoided all his life, Mikhail faced a decisive moment in Russia’s survival amidst the tumult of world war and revolution. His one day as emperor and the manifesto it created proved what history would not allow, namely the possibility of a constitutional monarchy chosen by the Russian people. That was a dangerous prospect for the Bolsheviks and likely one reason Mikhail became the first Romanov victim of the Red Terror.

Born November 22, 1878, Mikhail Alexandrovich Romanov was the youngest son of the future Tsar Alexander III and Maria Fyodorovna. At twenty, he was one of Europe’s most eligible bachelors. Blue-eyed, slim and standing well over six feet, he was an avid sportsman who followed a strict regimen of diet and exercise, drank little alcohol and seldom smoked. He preferred country living and disliked the pomp and ceremony of court. His brother-in-law, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, wrote of him, “he fascinated everybody by the wholehearted simplicity of his manner.” He was adept at piano, flute, balalaika and guitar and, as a scholar of military history, published numerous academic papers on the Napoleonic Wars.

Mikhail became next in line to the throne in 1899, following the death of his brother, the Tsarevich George Alexandrovich, during the reign of his eldest brother Nicholas II. As the dutiful heir, Mikhail seldom offered independent views or opinions. Observed his cousin, Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich, “Misha... hides behind the perception of him as a good-natured unremarkable boy.” However, Russian statesman Sergei Witte, who taught Mikhail political science and economics, thought he possessed “an unshakable conviction in his opinions…”


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