There are many who say that among the numerous peoples of an exceptionally large empire, it is rare that a powerful bond should form between them, and that a spirit of nationalism should be born to them. And the Empire of Tsars, was indeed the largest in the world.
Although Alexander II availed himself of the love of the little people of Russia by emancipating the serfs throughout his empire, which roused in them some sense of patriotism, the greatest impact that he would have on the history of his realm would be to sow the seeds of its dissolution and its reformation, as the promotion zemstvo was the first step on the road to a nearly absolute decentralization of government in the Russian Empire.
His approval of independent governance across the realm exacerbated the continental exodus of the nineteenth century, and soon, the vast majority of the working class had fled most of the central territories and its factories to settle in the ports of the coasts, which soon had to adapt by creating localized economies to sustain themselves and evolve into fully autonomous communities. This revitalized most of the Russian economy as a whole through the activities of shipyards, ports, and refineries.
By the time Nicholas II sat the imperial throne, only the mining and textile industries were allowing a few landlocked cities to survive, and many coastal regions in Murmensk, Kamchatka, Chukotka, for instance, were either clamouring for independence or simply seizing it. The Tsar had little choice but to accede to the demands of most local governments.
However, tensions with French Germany, as well as the British Empire, were keeping many a newly constituted republic from fully seceding, for they were still reliant upon the might of the Imperial Russian Army.
And so, it was the wars of the beginning of the century, like the Northern War, that allowed the Russian Empire to remain standing and more or less whole. It is also what motivated thousands of settlers to move to Alaska to fully colonize it and solidify Russia’s claim to the territory. Although Nicholas II tried to use these wars to keep his Empire together and stir up patriotic feelings for the fatherland by mobilizing the army and putting forward broad conscriptions through the newly-formed Duma. Such measures may have worked had the Russian navy been able to achieve more successes against the European powers: the string of defeat that he personally suffered, coupled with the efficiency of his Scandinavian and Japanese allies, nearly discredited the dynasty, and the mere shreds of authority that it had left were only saved by the Tsar personally wrestling a few victories from the hands of France’s own marginally impressive navy, as well as the removal of the mystic Grigori Rasputin from court.
Nevertheless, an enduring unification of Russia was not to be, as all of the Tsar’s measures were largely countered by the rise of the soviets throughout the empire. These councils further precipitated the dismemberment of the empire by gradually seizing more and more power from the Duma and the Emperor himself. The slow evolution of darwinium-refining and submarine technology also exponentially accelerated that process, as workers kept moving to the coasts to profit from the exploitation of deep sea mineral veins.
There was little keeping the multitude of regional governments along the coasts united in any concrete manner: they maintained small scale economies, traded among each other like neighbouring nations, and many had even drafted their own constitutions.
Nicholas, meanwhile, was only willing to surrender authority up to a certain extent, and he soon found himself at odds with the representatives of the soviets. In the years following the Northern War, the number of strikes escalated as unrest was rising across the Russias, whose plurality at that point cannot be overstated. The Tsar was wary of his people being roused by numerous independentist agents provocateurs, and did his best to garner support from those among the nobility whom he thought still had some influence within their domains, but such a strategy proved unsuccessful. Indeed, the majority of the nobles had lost the respect of the commoners, who lent more credibility to the members of the soviets than even to the deputies of the Duma.
The distrust of the people and the efforts of the said deputies to promote independence eventually led to an angry mob storming the Winter Palace and, despite the valiance of the 2nd Moscow Women Death Battalion, taking it over. And within a few months, the near-bicentennial empire of the Tsars was torn apart, and the royal family became little more than figureheads of a disjointed yet sprawling colonial empire.
– Friedrich von Adelung, excerpt from The Rise and Fall of House Romanov