Nicholas II (1868–1918) saw his monarchic duty in protecting autocracy. The early years of his reign were distinguished by Russian industrial unprecedented growth rate, exceeding that of all other countries in the world. The House of Romanov’s tercentennial anniversary in 1913 saw Russia on the rise. The outbreak of World War I in summer 1914 revealed Russia’s lack of modern military technology. By 1916, Russia was on the verge of collapse. Acute food shortages made life in cities unbearable. Revolutionaries agitated the troops against the Tsar. In February 1917, the Petrograd garrison mutinied. The Provisional Government, formed by members of the Parliament (Duma), failed to stop the revolution and save the monarchy. Nicholas II was forced to abdicate. The Russian monarchy fell. The last Russian emperor was arrested on March 8, 1917 and in July moved together with his family to Tobolsk in the Urals, and then to Yekaterinburg in May 1918, where they were shot on the order of the Bolsheviks.
The last Russian emperor, Nicholas II, was born at Tsarskoe Selo, in the Alexander Palace. The great building with its refined interiors and collections had a distinct effect on him: the history of the palace was a part of the history of his family. On 14 November 1894 Nicholas married Princess Alix of Hesse (later Empress Alexandra Fiodorovna) and moved to the Alexander Palace – the favourite residence of the imperial family. “Words cannot express how delightful it is to live as a couple in such a fine place as Tsarskoe”, Nicholas wrote in his diary. He decided to have the left wing of the palace refurbished as private apartments. The Palisander Drawing-Room, Lilac Study, Dressing Room, Emperor’s Study and other rooms were designed by the court architect Robert (Roman) Melzer. The latest technical innovations were used, such as electric heaters, telephones, a hydraulic lift, movie and slide projectors, etc. The first garage for the Emperor’s automobiles was built nearby.
During Nicholas II’s reign, all the notable anniversaries of the new century were celebrated at Tsarskoe Selo: the bicentenary of St Petersburg (1903); the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Poltava (1909); 200 years of the Tsarskoe Selo imperial residence (1910); the tercentenary of the House of Romanov (1913). The last architectural complex constructed in Nicholas II’s time was the Sovereign’s Cathedral of St Theodore and associated Fiodorov (Fiodorovsky) Gorodok not far from the Alexander Palace.
Early in the morning on August 1, 1917 Nicholas II’s family left Tsarskoe Selo to meet their death from the Bolsheviks in July 1918.