Quotations: Imperial Russia and tsarism

This selection of Russian Revolution quotations pertains to tsarism and Imperial Russia before the revolution. These quotes have been sourced and selected by Alpha History authors. If you would like to contribute a quotation for inclusion on this page, please contact us.

Russian tsarism

“Autocracy is a superannuated form of government that may suit the needs of a Central African tribe, but not those of the Russian people, who are increasingly assimilating the culture of the rest of the world. That is why it is impossible to maintain this form of government except by violence.”
Leo Tolstoy

Nicholas II

“What is going to happen to me and all of Russia? I am not prepared to be a Tsar. I never wanted to become one. I know nothing of the business of ruling.”
Nicholas II

“Be more autocratic than Peter the Great and sterner than Ivan the Terrible.”
Tsarina Alexandra, to her husband 

“I will preserve the principle of Autocracy as firmly and unflinchingly as my late father.”
Nicholas II

“I pity the Tsar. I pity Russia. He is a poor and unhappy sovereign. What did he inherit and what will he leave? He is obviously a good and quite intelligent man, but he lacks willpower, and it is from that character that his state defects developed, that is, his defects as a ruler, especially an autocratic and absolute ruler.”
Sergei Witte, Russian minister 

“I am fully convinced that great and beautiful times are coming for your reign and Russia…we must give a strong country to Baby and dare not be weak for his sake…Don’t let things slip through your fingers and leave it to him to build all over again. Be firm…How I wish I could pour my will into your veins.”
Tsarina Alexandra, to her husband

“I shall never, under any circumstances, agree to a representative form of government because I consider it harmful to the people whom God has entrusted to my care.”
Nicholas II

The 1905 Revolution

“Comrade Workers, tear up all portraits of the blood-sucking Tsar and say to him: Be thou damned with all Thine august reptilian progeny!”
Georgi Gapon during 1905

“Rioting and disturbances in the capitals and in many localities of Our Empire fill Our heart with great and heavy grief. The well-being of the Russian Sovereign is inseparable from the national well-being; the national sorrow is His sorrow.”
Nicholas II, writing in October 1905

“Curse the Duma. It’s all Witte’s fault.”
Nicholas II

“The tragic aspect of the situation is that the Tsar is living in an utter fool’s paradise, thinking that He is as strong and all-powerful as before.”
Sergei Witte in 1905

“As long as I live, I will never trust that man (Witte) again with the smallest thing. I had quite enough with last year’s experiment. It is still like a nightmare to me.”
Nicholas II, writing in 1906

“I must carry through effective measures of reform, and at the same time I must face the revolution, resist it and stop it.”
Petr Stolypin, 1906

“There is no limit to the assistance I am ready to give and the concessions I am willing to make to put the peasantry on the path of cultural development. If we fail to carry out this reform we should all be swept on to the rubbish heap… The government has placed its wager, not on the needy and the drunken, but on the sturdy and the strong”.
Petr Stolypin in 1908


“Rasputin took the empire by stopping the bleeding of the Tsarevich. It was perhaps an imposture but it is also possible that by hypnotism or a similar method, he was able to produce a contraction of the small arteries… Their contraction can be provoked in the body of a hypnotised subject.”
J. B. S. Haldane, British scientist

“The power, the nervous force that emanated from my father’s eyes, from his exceptionally long and beautiful hands, from his whole being impregnated with willpower, from his mind concentrated on one desire [were] transmitted to the child – a particularly nervous and impressionable subject – and in some way galvanised him.”
Maria, daughter of Rasputin

“He [Rasputin] is just a good, religious, simple-minded Russian. When in trouble or assailed by doubts, I like to have a talk with him, and I invariably feel at peace with myself afterward.”
Nicholas II

“Our Friend’s [Rasputin’s] opinions of people are sometimes very strange, as you know yourself; therefore one must be careful.”
Nicholas II

“The appearance in [the royal] court of Grigory Rasputin, and the influence he exercised there, mark the beginning of the decay of Russian society and the loss of prestige for the throne and for the person of the Tsar himself.”
Rodzianko, chairman of the Duma

“I am obliged to report that, at the present moment, the Russian Empire is run by lunatics.”
Maurice Paleologue, French ambassador

“I wish to make known to the Russian people, to Papa [Nicholas II] the Russian mother and to the children, to the land of Russia, what they must understand. If I am killed by common assassins, and especially by my brothers the Russian peasants, you, Tsar of Russia, have nothing to fear, remain on your throne and govern… But if I am murdered by nobles and if they shed my blood, their hands will remain soiled with my blood, for twenty-five years they will not wash their hands from my blood. They will leave Russia. Brothers will kill brothers… if it was your relations who have wrought my death then no one of your family, that is to say, none of your children or relations, will remain alive for more then two years.”
Grigori Rasputin, in a 1916 letter to the tsarina