February Revolution: the Tsar’s diary entries (1917)

These entries in the tsar’s diary describe the days leading up to his abdication on March 16th:

Monday March 12th

“Disorders started several days ago in Petrograd; unfortunately, even the troops have begun to take part in them. It is sickening to be so far away and to receive fragmentary bad news. I did not spend much time listening to reports. During the day I took a walk… the weather was sunny.”

Tuesday March 13th

“I went to bed at 3.15am as I had a long talk with [General] N.I. Ivanov, whom I am despatching to Petrograd with troops to restore order… I slept to 10 o’clock. The weather was cold and sunny.”

Wednesday March 14th

“During the night we turned back… as Gatchina and Luga, [were] reported to be in the possession [of the rebels]. Shame and disgrace… Failed to reach Tsarskoe, but my thoughts and feelings are always there. How hard it must be for poor Alix to go through all these events alone. Lord help us.”

Thursday March 15th

“In the morning Ruzski came and read his very long direct-wire talk with Rodzianko. According to this, the situation in Petrograd is such that a Ministry of the Duma would now be powerless to do anything, for it has to contend with the Social-Democratic Party, represented by the workers’ committee [Soviet]. My abdication is required. Ruzski transmitted this talk to Headquarters and Alekseev sent it on to all the commanders-in-chief. By two o’clock replies were received from them [as to what I should do]. The gist of them is that in order to save Russia and keep the army at the front quiet, such a step must be taken. I have agreed.

From Headquarters has been sent a draft of a manifesto. In the evening Guchkov and Shulgin arrived from Petrograd, with whom I discussed the matter, and I handed them the signed and altered manifesto. At one o’clock in the morning [March 16th] I left Pskov with a heavy heart because of the things gone through. All around me there is treachery, cowardice and deceit.”

Friday March 16th

“I slept long and well. Awoke far beyond Dvinsk. The day was sunny and cold. Talked with those near me about yesterday. Read a great deal about Julius Caesar. Arrived at 8.20am at Mogilev. All ranks of the Staff were on the platform. Received Alekseev in the car. At 9.30 I went over to the house. Alekseev came with the latest news from Rodzianko. It transpires that Misha [Grand Duke Michael] has [also] abdicated. His manifesto ends with a four-tail formula [universal, direct, equal, and secret suffrage] for the election of a constituent assembly within six months. God knows who put it into his head to sign such stuff. In Petrograd, the disturbances have ceased — if it would only remain that way.”