Nicholas II, the last Russian Emperor, was the eldest son of Alexander III and was born on May 6, 1868. He ascended the throne after the death of his father on October 20, 1894, and was crowned on May 14, 1896. The ceremony in Moscow was overshadowed by a catastrophe on Khodynskoe Field, where more than a thousand spectators were crushed to death.

He married the daughter of Grand Duke Ludwig of Hessen, Alice Victoria Eleanor Louisa Beatrice (Alexandra Feodorovna), and had five children. The Czarevich Alexei suffered from hemophilia and was a permanent invalid. There were four daughters. Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. According to contemporaries, Nicholas was gentle and approachable. Those who met him easily forgot that they were face to face with the Emperor. In private life, he was undemanding but had contradictions in his character, tending to weakness and inconsistency. A stubborn supporter of the right of the sovereign, despite growing pressure for revolution, he did not give way on a single issue, even when common sense and circumstances demanded it. He struggled desperately to hold on to power during both the 1905 and 1917 revolutions. Freedoms accorded to people in his manifesto of October 17, 1905, were soon annulled.

In foreign policy, Nicholas II took steps to stabilize the international situation, initiating two peace congresses at The Hague. During his reign, Russia was involved in two wars. In 1904-5, the country suffered a heavy defeat by Japan -- 400,000 men were killed, wounded or captured, and material losses were valued at 2.5-billion gold rubles. Even greater losses, however, were suffered in World War I, which Russia entered on the Allied side on August 1, 1914. Loss of territory, massive casualties and confusion at home were the main reasons for the Second Russian Revolution in February 1917. On March 2, 1917, Nicholas II abdicated.

After the abdication, the royal family first remained in Czarskoe Selo then, by decision of the interim government, were transported to Siberia. In April 1918, the Bolshevik government decided to move the Imperial family to Ekaterinburg in the Urals. Here, they were all shot on July 17, 1918. The bodies were hidden and have only recently been found and identified.

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