Excerpts from a letter written by Leo Tolstoy to Nicholas II in 1902 asking that the Czar heed the cry of his people:
"A third of Russia is in a state of emergency... The army of police Ц open and secret Ц is constantly growing... the prisons, places of exile, and labor camps are overflowing... The censorship has descended to nonsensical prohibitions... Religious persecutions were never so frequent and cruel as now... Armed forces are... sent out against the people with live cartridges. In many places there has already been bloodshed between brothers, and further and more cruel bloodshed is imminent everywhere..."
"...the people who work on the land Ц those one hundred million people on whom the power of Russia is based Ц despite the excessive growth of the state budget or, more likely, because of this growth, become more impoverished every year, so that famine has become a normal occurrence. And general discontent with the government among all classes and a hostile attitude towards it has become just as normal an occurrence."
"There is one cause of all this and it is manifestly evident: namely that your advisors tell you... that just as Orthodoxy and autocracy were once natural to the Russian people, so they are natural to them now and will be natural to them till the end of time, and that therefore for the good of the Russian people it is necessary at all costs to maintain these two interconnected forms... but it is amazing that you, a free man not lacking for anything, and a reasonable and good man, can believe them and follow their terrible advice to do or allow to be done so much evil for the sake of such an impracticable purpose as halting the eternal movement of mankind from evil to goodness, from darkness to light."
But Nicholas continued to ignore the worsening conditions of his country, refusing to meet the grievances of his people. On Sunday, January 22, 1905, over one hundred thousand demonstrators marched peacefully to the Winter Palace to present the Czar with a list of complaints concerning working conditions in the factories. When the Czar failed to appear, tension mounted. In a moment of panic, soldiers opened fire on the crowd. Hundreds were killed or injured in what would become known as "the massacre of Bloody Sunday." To the peasants, the Batiushka Czar Ц benevolent Father of the Russian people Ц had become a cruelly indifferent ruler.
His hand forced by the resulting outrage, Nicholas reluctantly consented to a constitutional monarchy, though he continued to believe he was responsible only to God: "I have the firm and absolute faith that the destiny of Russia, my own fate and that of my family are in the hands of Almighty God, who has placed me where I am. Whatever may happen, I shall bow to His will, conscious that I have never had any other thought but that of serving the country He has entrusted to me."
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