In 1917, after years of political crisis, Russia is on the brink of Civil War! The Emperor, Nicholas II, is forced to abdicate the throne, ending the rule of the Romanov dynasty. Nicholas originally intended for his brother, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, to ascend to the throne. However, Michael never became the Emperor. Had Michael ascended to the throne of Russia in 1917, there would have been chaos. Although Michael was very popular with the armed forces (unlike his brother), but the Russian public was no longer loyal to the Tsarist regime.
It is believed that Michael was a liberal, he knew that the political situation in Russia was tense. In a letter to the Tsar, he wrote: "I am deeply concerned and worried by what is happening around us. There has been a shocking alteration in the mood of the most loyal people ... which fills me with a most serious apprehension not only for you and for the fate of our family, but even for the integrity of the state order. The public hatred for certain people who allegedly are close to you and who are forming part of the present government has, to my amazement, brought together the right, the left and the moderate; and this hatred, along with the demands for changes are already openly expressed." The situation would have been better had Nicholas decided to abdicate the throne after the Revolution of 1905. What if Nicholas II did abdicate in 1905, in favor of his brother Michael?
Point of Divergence
The Russian Empire was in desperate need of serious reform. The liberal education of Tsar Alexander II and distress at the outcome of the Crimean War, which had demonstrated Russia’s backwardness, inspired him toward a great program of domestic reforms, the most important being the emancipation of the serfs. A period of repression after 1866 led to a resurgence of revolutionary terrorism and to Alexander’s own assassination.
During the reign of Tsar Nicholas II, discontent and frustration with the regime was expressed not only through the growth of political parties dedicated to abolishing the monarchy but also through industrial strikes for better wages and working conditions, protests and riots among peasants, university demonstrations, and the assassination of government officials by Socialist Revolutionaries. In 1905, revolution in Russia was sparked by all of these problems and Russia's defeat in the Russo-Japanese War. After a series of nation-wide protest, Nicholas II abdicates in favor of his brother, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia. Nicholas and his family would go into exile in Austria and he would never return to his land ever again.
The new Tsar, Michael II, agreed to become a constitutional monarch and gave Viktor Chernov permission to form a new government. Under this new government, the Russian nation got the reforms it so desperately needed to survive. Wages increased and working conditions improved, Russia began to trade with the west and sought to modernize its industry, agriculture and infrastructure. The Russian government took a neutral stance in the ongoing conflict in Western Europe that would evolve into World War I.