....The tzar was mightily under the influence of the tzarina, an influence which increased with the years and the difficulties....
This Hessian princess was literally possessed by
the demon of autocracy. Having risen from her rural corner to the heights
of Byzantine despotism, she would not for anything take a step down. In
the orthodox religion she found a mysticism and a magic adapted to her
new lot. She believed the more inflexibly in her vocation, the more naked
became the foulness of the old régime. With a strong character and
a gift for dry and hard exaltations, the tzarina supplemented the weak-willed
tzar, ruling over him.
On March 17, 1916, a year before the revolution, when the tortured country was already writhing in the grip of defeat and ruin, the tzarina wrote to her husband at military headquarters: "You must not give indulgences, a responsible ministry, etc....or anything that they want. This must be your war and your peace, and the honour yours and our fatherland's, and not by any means the Duma's. They have not the right to say a single word in these matters." This was at any rate a thoroughgoing programme. And it was in just this way that she always had the whip hand over the continually vacillating tzar.
After Nicholas' departure to the army in the capacity of fictitious commander-in-chief, the tzarina began openly to take charge of internal affairs. The ministers came to her with reports as to a regent. She entered into a conspiracy with a small camarilla against the Duma, against the ministers, against the staff-generals, against the whole world — to some extent indeed against the tzar. On December 6, 1916, the tzarina wrote to the tzar: "...Once you have said that you want to keep Protopopov, how does he (Premier Trepov) go against you? Bring down your first on the table. Don't yield. Be the boss. Obey your firm little wife and our Friend. Believe in us." Again three days late: "You know you are right. Carry your head high. Command Trepov to work with him....Strike your fist on the table." Those phrases sound as though they were made up, but they are taken from authentic letters. Besides, you cannot make up things like that.
On December 13 the tzarina suggest to the tzar: "Anything but this responsible ministry about which everybody has gone crazy. Everything is getting quiet and better, but people want to feel your hand. How long they have been saying to me, for whole years, the same thing: 'Russia loves to feel the whip.' That is their nature!" This orthodox Hessian, with a Windsor upbringing and a Byzantine crown on her head, not only "incarnates" the Russian soul, but also organically despises it. Their nature demands the whip — writes the Russian tzarina to the Russian tzar about the Russian people, just two months and a half before the monarchy tips over into the abyss.
In contrast to her force of character, the intellectual force of the tzarina is not higher, but rather lower than her husband's. Even more than he, she craves the society of simpletons....
[And on the other side]
The 23rd of February was International Woman's Day... It had not
occurred to anyone that it might become the first day of the revolution.
Not a single organization called for strikes on that day. What is more,
even a Bolshevik organization, and a most militant one - the Vyborg borough
committee, all workers - was opposing strikes. The temper of the masses,
according to Kayurov, one of the leaders in the workers' district, was
very tense; any strike would threaten to turn into an open fight. But since
the committee thought, the time unripe for militant action - the party
not strong enough and the workers having too few contacts with the soldiers
- they decided not to call for strikes but to prepare for revolutionary
action at some indefinite time in the future. Such was the course followed
by the committee on the eve of the 23rd of February, and everyone seemed
to accept it. On the following morning, however, in spite of all directives,
the women textile workers in several factories went on strike, and sent
delegates to the metal workers with an appeal for support. "With reluctance,"
writes Kayurov, "the Bolsheviks agreed to this, and they were followed
by the workers - Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries...."
[But the women need the men to do the fighting]
....The Women's Battalion suddenly announce their
intention to make a sortie.... The commandant is powerless to restrain
them from this hysterical undertaking.... The women soldiers do not stand
up under fire and the greater part of them surrender. The commandant of
the defence sends a corporal to report to the government that the sortie
of the women's battalion has "led to their destruction," and that the palace
is swarming with agitators. The failure of the sortie causes a lull lasting
approximately from ten to eleven. The besiegers are busied with the preparation
of artillery fire.
The unexpected lull awakens some hopes in the besieged....
[And the familiar fabrications about the treatment of women]
Immediately after the capture of the Winter Palace
rumours went round in bourgeois circles about the execution of junkers,
the raping of the Women's Battalion, the looting of the riches of the palace.
All these fables had long ago been refuted when Miliukov wrote this in
his History: "Those of the Women's Battalion who had not died under
fire were seized by the Bolsheviks, subjected during that evening and night
to the frightful attentions of the soldiers, to violence and execution."
As a matter of fact there were no shootings and, the mood of both sides
being what it was at that period, there could not have been any shootings.
Still less thinkable were acts of violence, especially within the palace
where alongside of various accidental elements from the streets, hundreds
of revolutionary workers came in with rifles in their hands.