Sunday, 20 March 2016

Nicholas II of Russia (EII): Personality Type Analysis

Nicholas II was Russia's last ruling Tsar, from the death of his father Alexander III in 1894 to his own abdication during WWI in 1917. During his reign Russia went through several upheavals, including loss of international prestige at the hands of Japan and Austria-Hungary, a revolution in 1905 that led to partial limitation of the Tsar's power in the 1906 constitution, and finally Russia's entry in WWI, which he arguably also had a hand in starting.

We are fortunate to have a good description of him by Pierre Gilliard, a Swiss who for 13 years taught French to Nicholas's children and who came to know him well:

"Endowed with remarkable personal qualities, he was the incarnation of all that was noblest and most chivalrous in the Russian nature. But he was weak. The soul of loyalty, he was the slave of his pledged word. His fidelity to the Allies, which was probably the cause of his death, proves it beyond doubt. He despised the methods of diplomacy and he was not a fighter. He was crushed down by events.

Nicholas II was modest and timid; he had not enough self -confidence: hence all his misfortunes. His first impulse was usually right. The pity was that he seldom acted on it because he could not trust himself. He sought the counsel of those he thought more competent than himself; from that moment he could no longer master the problems that faced him. They escaped him. He hesitated between conflicting causes and often ended by following that to which he was personally least sympathetic.

The Tsarina knew the Tsar's irresolute character. As I have said, she considered she had a sacred duty to help him in his heavy task. Her influence on the Tsar was very great and almost always unfortunate; she made politics a matter of sentiment and personalities, and too often allowed herself to be swayed by her sympathies or antipathies, or by those of her entourage. Impulsive by nature, the Tsarina was liable to emotional outbursts which made her give her confidence unreservedly to those she believed sincerely devoted to the country and the dynasty. Protopopov was a case in point.

The Tsar was always anxious to be just and to do the right thing. If he sometimes failed, the fault lies at the door of those who did their utmost to hide the truth from him and isolate him from his people. All his generous impulses were broken against the passive resistance of an omnipotent bureaucracy or were wilfully frustrated by those to whom he entrusted their realization. He thought that personal initiative, however powerful and well meant, was nothing compared to those higher forces which direct the course of events. Hence that sort of mystical resignation in him which made him follow life rather than try to lead it. It is one of the characteristics of the Russian nature.

An essentially reflective man, he would have been perfectly happy to live as a private individual, but he was resigned to his lot, and humbly accepted the superhuman task which God had given him. He loved his people and his country with all the force of his nature; he had a personal affection for the humblest of his subjects, those moujiks whose lot he earnestly desired to better."

Nicholas II seems to embody a contradiction in that despite Gilliard's description of a gentle and well-meaning man, he resisted for as long as he could any restrictions on his absolute power. His motivation was however not an inclination for wielding absolute power, nor a clear vision of what to do with it: rather, Nicholas thought that it was his sacred duty to preserve the autocracy of the Tsar.

As a ruler, Nicholas focused on doing what he felt was his duty: that included signing countless documents himself, even on trivial matters, and eventually assuming the formal command of the Russian forces at the front, in WWI, apparently because he thought that God, with whom he felt he had a very personal connection, told him he should. But Nicholas did not really show interest in specific military, economic or foreign policies: he ruled by appointing as ministers men whom he felt were competent and in whom he could trust, and largely letting them get on with it while he concentrated on his detailed dutiful paperwork and maintaining veto over big decisions. It must be said that when left to his own devices, Nicholas II tended to appoint competent and loyal men such as prime ministers Sergei Witte and Pyotr Stolypin. Yet, he later tended to yield to his wife's advice on those matters, especially when he was at the front in WWI, and she judged people's loyalty according to whether they were favorably disposed towards her priest, Rasputin.

This also illustrates Nicholas's chief characteristic as a person: total devotion, in actions as well as emotions, to his wife and their five children, who clearly were the central focus of his life rather than his position as Tsar. By all accounts, the family was devoted to one another and that inspired equal personal loyalty in those working closely with them, some of whom paid for that with their lives.

Nicholas took personal and state decisions based on his personal relationships to the people involved, whether his immediate family, his ministers, and even his perceived personal relationship to Russian soldiers and peasants, and, arguably, to God. His stubborn defense of absolute monarchy was equally due to a sense of personal loyalty rather than any clear or consistent ideology, at any level.

He was perceived by Kaiser Wilhelm II (EIE) as a man who could be pushed around or persuaded at personal encounters, proving his point by convincing Nicholas to sign a German-Russian defense treaty the Kaiser "just happened to have in his pocket" when meeting on vacation - a treaty that he soon afterwards backed off from, due to the appalled reaction of his ministers (this illustrates Nicholas's approach to policy-making: a ruler who truly knew what he wanted would have yielded neither to the Kaiser's, nor to his ministers', pressure on such an important matter).

During WWI, the Tsar was seemingly oblivious to the increasing weakening of his political position, making no move to strengthen it, until he found himself under pressure from his own generals to abdicate. Having abdicated, and now with his family and close attendants in house arrest and internal exile, Nicholas seemed, by all accounts, perfectly calm and easily settling into a routine of spending time with his family and in simple activities such as chopping wood, showing no obvious anxiety about his precarious situation and uncertain future.

What we have, then, is a man who saw the world primarily through his relationships with individuals, even as far as his religious views were concerned. A man who exercised absolute power by virtue of his position, but who felt no attachment to power and position himself, nor seemed to understand the exercise of willpower at personal level. Who wanted to do good for his family and his subjects, but who mostly distrusted his own competence in taking big policy decisions. A man seemingly most at home making the most of daily life without focusing much on longer term trends or big-picture visions.

All of the above suggests a man with R as ego function, the Delta values of S and I, no valuing or understanding of F, who valued P rather than L but who preferred to rely on others for P. Perfectly consistent with R1, F4, P5, and Delta. That is, Nicholas II was most likely an EII.

Recommended reading and sources: my views on Nicholas II were first shaped by Robert Massie's now classic biography, "Nicholas and Alexandra", and more recently by Simon Sebag Montefiore's "The Romanovs". Pierre Gilliard's memoirs can be found online at the Alexander Palace website.

To learn more about EII, click here.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.

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