Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) Poster

Laurence Olivier: Count Witte



  • [after learning of the "Bloody Sunday" massacre] 

    Tsar Nicholas II : Why wasn't I told they were marching?

    Count Witte : Would you have met them?

    Tsar Nicholas II : How could I?

    Count Witte : Would you have given them a Duma?

    Tsar Nicholas II : Of course not!

    Count Witte : Elections? Schools?

    Tsar Nicholas II : No...


  • Count Witte : None of you will be here when this war ends. Everything we fought for will be lost, everything we've loved will be broken. The victors will be as cursed as the defeated. The world will grow old, and men will wander about, lost in the ruins, and go mad. Tradition, restraint, virtue, they all go. I'm not mourning for myself, but for the people who will come after me, they will live without hope. And all they will have will be guilt, revenge, and terror. And the world will be full of fanatics and trivial fools.

  • Tsar Nicholas II : The Russia my father gave me never lost a war. What shall I say to my son when the time comes? That I had no pride? That I was weak? I've always thought God meant me to rule. He put me here. He chose me, and whatever happens is His will. We shall fight on until victory.

    Count Witte : There will be no victory. Only strikes and riots. You must give your people a little of what they want, sir. Not all. Just, a taste.

  • Tsar Nicholas II : I know what will make them happy. They're children, and they need a Tsar! They need tradition. Not this! They're the victims of agitators. A Duma would make them bewildered and discontented. And don't tell me about London and Berlin. God save us from the mess they're in!

    Count Witte : I see. So they talk, pray, march, plead, petition and what do they get? Cossacks, prison, flogging, police, spies, and now, after today, they will be shot. Is this God's will? Are these His methods? Make war on your own people? How long do you think they're going to stand there and let you shoot them? YOU ask ME who's responsible? YOU ask?

  • [near the start of World War I] 

    Nikolasha : Here's some wonderful news, a telegram from the Kaiser, just what we wanted, offering to mediate between us and Austria.

    Tsar Nicholas II : I knew I could count on Willie! You see? He signed it "Your very dear and devoted cousin, Willie."

    Count Witte : With all due respect to your cousin, Sire, the Kaiser is a deceitful megalomaniac. If he is offering to help, then it is time to pray.

  • Count Witte : I am old, sir. I have seen so many wars. They all seemed so important at the time, but now I don't even remember what they were called. Millions of dead men! I don't know why. Nobody knows. You could so easily stop this war, sir. All you have to do is get up, now, quietly, and go home to your family. You would be the greatest of all the Tsars.

  • Count Witte : Port Arthur has been under siege for four months. It has cost us 40,000 dead. If it - A student stopped me in the street the other day, "Excuse me, sir. But, why are we at war?" "Because, my boy, we want Korea, but the Japanese will insist on fighting us for it." "Thank you, sir. But, what does Russia need Korea for ?" "Because, my boy, we have no ice-free port on the Pacific." "I see. In that case, sir, it isn't good enough." He's right, sir. It's not good enough, at all.

  • Count Witte : Imagine, sire, imagine - that you are a factory worker. You're really poor. Your belly is never full. You freeze eight months of the year. Your children have no school. No doctor! Your country taxes you! And sends your sons a continent away to die, on a piece of land, on the Pacific. Now, sir, Japan is a third rate power. If she defeats us, if, Port Arthur falls, we shall be disgraced in the eyes of the world and here at home we shall have an insurrection on our hands.

    Tsar Nicholas II : But, people love me Sergei Yulyevich.

    Count Witte : They want a constitution and the right to vote for an elected Duma. They're angry and they're serious.

    Tsar Nicholas II : Are you advising me to give my rights away?

    Count Witte : Advising you to stop - a hopeless war.

  • Count Witte : If Russia mobilizes, there will be a war.

    Tsar Nicholas II : The Austrians are shelling Belgrade. We must be ready to defend ourselves. I'm ordering prayers for peace to be said in all the churches. But, now if you'll excuse me, I must see my ministers for armaments and recruitment.

    Count Witte : It is in our hands, not God's. He gave us minds to reason. We can talk sanity to lunatics. We can calm mad dogs. God help us if we have to start praying! We can pray when we bury the dead!

  • Tsar Nicholas II : Order the mobilization.

    Count Witte : Madness. Madness.

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