Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia - Increasing Public Unrest

Increasing Public Unrest

Michael, and other members of the imperial family including Grand Dukes Alexander, George, Nicholas and Dimitri and Grand Duchess Elizabeth, warned against the growing public unrest and the perception that Nicholas was governed by his German-born wife Alexandra and the self-styled holy man Rasputin. Nicholas and Alexandra refused to listen. In December 1916, Dimitri and four of his friends killed Rasputin. Michael learned of the murder at Brasovo, where he was spending Christmas with his family. On 28 December, according to the French ambassador, there was a failed attempt to assassinate Alexandra; the lone assailant was caught and hanged the next day. The Duma President Mikhail Rodzyanko, Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna and British ambassador Buchanan joined calls for Alexandra to be removed from influence, but Nicholas still refused to take their advice. Plots and gossip against Nicholas and Alexandra continued to build.

In January 1917, Michael returned to the front to hand over command of his corps; from 29 January he was Inspector-General of Cavalry stationed at Gatchina. General Aleksei Brusilov, Michael's commander on the south-eastern front, begged him to tell the Tsar of "the need for immediate and drastic reforms", but Michael warned him, "I have no influence ... My brother has time and time again had warnings and entreaties of this kind from every quarter." Brusilov recorded in his memoirs, " was an absolutely honourable and upright man, taking no sides and lending himself to no intrigues ... he shunned every kind of gossip, whether connected with the services or with family matters. As a soldier he was an excellent leader and an unassuming and conscientious worker."

Through February, Grand Duke Alexander, Duma President Rodzyanko, and Michael pressured Nicholas and Alexandra to yield to popular demands. Public unrest grew, and on 27 February in Petrograd soldiers joined demonstrators, elements of the military mutinied, and prisoners were freed. Nicholas, who was at army headquarters in Mogilev, prorogued the Duma, but the deputies refused to leave and instead set up their own rival government. After consulting Rodzyanko at the Mariinsky Palace in Petrograd, Michael advised Nicholas to dismiss his ministers and set up a new government led by the leader of the majority party in the Duma. His advice was supported by General Mikhail Alekseyev, Nicholas's chief of staff. Nicholas rejected the suggestion and issued futile orders for troops to move on Petrograd.

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