The sheer cluelessness of the last 20 years of the dynasty is just breathtaking.
Completely agree. For someone who had adequate schooling and great resources not available to the usual person, Nicholas was breathtakingly ignorant. He wasn't stupid, just stunted - by his parents, and by that reactionary tutor he had (Pobedstononev or however it was spelled). He also was just personally laconic - he showed zero interest in improving himself or informing himself as the times changed, instead going with the flow and doing nothing to change the tides. Russian history has only really gone well when the person running things has the intelligence to utilize the resources around him, see what's coming, and the stones to make the changes to avoid disaster (such as Catherine II - reading Massie's bio on her. She was gifted in these areas); Nicholas was far too passive and educationally/emotionally stunted.
But it wasn't just him:
- it was mentioned upthread about Alix's disastrous effect on events. Nicholas himself was bad; his rudderless reign with Alix as his outboard motor was a complete disaster.
- until Alix started asserting herself, Nicholas' mother was interfering with things
- add to it the interference of Nicholas' overbearing uncles, who he was completely intimidated by
- toss in some religious whackadoodle stuff, before, during and after Rasputin
- the complete lack of support from his brother and cousins - later, in some cases, in treason (even though things were so far gone by that point that it really didn't matter
- the complete change in Russian society and the effect on industrialization on their society, and Nicholas being completely out of touch with it
- the fatal blow being, of course, a war that would have happened one way or the other that exposed the twenty years of incompetent leadership during Nicholas' reign - the military was outdated, with terrible leadership, poor training, poor weapons/supplies/logisitics
- ...and the bullet points can go on forever, all of them laid at Nicholas' feet
It was a perfect storm with Nicholas as its catalyst. Even had he married someone different, I think it still would not have ended well. Too many things were set in motion before Nicholas was even born for the course of history to change. This period needed an Ivan the Terrible, a Peter, a Catherine, and poor Mother Russia got... Nicky. Yikes.
But to me, the worst thing of all was that he did not seem to care that he was taking all of his loved ones and his extended family down with him, like helpless cattle to slaughter. He knew it was coming - so many biographers have pointed that out over the last century - and he did absolutely nothing to try and avoid it. Inexcusable.