Fact of the day: 15th March

On this day in 1917 Tsar Nicholas II of Russia abdicates the Russian throne and his brother the Grand Duke becomes Tsar.

At the end of the “February Revolution” of 1917 (February in the Old Russian Calendar), on 2 March (Julian Calendar)/ 15 March (Gregorian Calendar) 1917, Nicholas II chose to abdicate. He first abdicated in favour of Tsarevich Alexei, but swiftly changed his mind after advice from doctors that the heir-apparent would not live long apart from his parents, who would be forced into exile. Nicholas drew up a new manifesto naming his brother, Grand Duke Michael, as the next Emperor of all the Russias.

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Grand Duke Michael declined to accept the throne until the people were allowed to vote through a Constituent Assembly for the continuance of the monarchy or a republic. The abdication of Nicholas II and the subsequent Bolshevik revolution brought three centuries of the Romanov dynasty’s rule to an end. The fall of autocratic Tsardom brought joy to Liberals and Socialists in Britain and France. The United States of America was the first foreign government to recognise the Provisional government, and entered the war early in April. In Russia, the announcement of the Tsar’s abdication was greeted with many emotions. These included delight, relief, fear, anger and confusion.

It is debatable whether Nicholas’ enforced abdication was actually legal, and whether he had the right to abdicate on behalf of his son. As Nicholas had already abdicated he was therefore merely a subject of his son, and only Prince Michael as Regent had the right to change the succession. Some historians contend that Nicholas remained the Tsar, at least in theory, until his death.

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