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Stalin/Nicholas was sitting in his study, reading once again, which was one of his favourite hobbies. He stopped for a moment as he suddenly realized that he could look back on over a decade of rule. He had to say he had done quite well. Russia was growing stronger by the day and with the second Five Year Plan he had decided to take it slower to let the Russian people recover, not to mention the Imperial treasury.
His victory in the Russo-Japanese War did have one undesired side effect as the alliance system started to shift. An Anglo-German reproach was starting to take shape and he saw the threat on his border grow.
In family life he was doing well now. At first he had difficulty adjusting to life at court with the stiff protocol and all and he suffered from several tantrums, most notably against his father Alexander III, whom he considered to be a fool. He had settled in and was now father of five and happily married. He had clashed with his wife once a few years back with him calling her ‘meddlesome’ and she calling him ‘negligent’ in a fight over government affairs. In the end, he had made it crystal clear to her that he would not tolerate her interference and that she should concern herself with the children.
He heard the laughter of children and looked out the window. Sure enough, the eldest was playing soldier again, inspired by the bed time stories he had undoubtedly heard hundreds of times by now. He would turn nine years old in December and was already a promising Tsarevich. He was intelligent, strong and eager to learn more.
“Lunch is ready!”, the nanny shouted to the children who were playing games. Stalin/Nicholas heard it as well and went downstairs as he was hungry too. A lunch with the entire family seemed a good idea and the nanny made good food as Stalin/Nicholas had found out after tasting one of her pastries on her insistence. She was also responsible for the cake that had been eaten on his last birthday.
“Hello, Katinka.”, he said as he entered the dining room, “What have you made for us today?”
“I made something Italian today.”, she smiled, “Salami sandwiches.”
“Excellent.”, Stalin/Nicholas said as he sat down.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you. We’re eating outside today.”, she said. Stalin/Nicholas frowned. This was unusual and he didn’t like that. ‘Ah well, the weather is good.’, he thought.
He looked on approvingly as she readied the makeshift table standing outside and followed her.
“Your Imperial Majesty, where is your spouse if I may ask?”, Katinka suddenly asked.
“She is paying a visit to her mother-in-law in St Petersburg with little Alexei. She’ll be joining us tonight at the party.”
“Ah.”, she replied. Stalin/Nicholas smiled. He knew that she and his mother didn’t get along well as they were both somewhat bossy, thinking that their way was the best solution to any given problem. Fortunately Alix was now in charge of the household.
“Hello, papa.”, the children said almost in unison.
“Hello.”, he said with a smile, “What did you all do today?”
Joseph was the first to respond.
“I played chess inside and then went out to play tag.”
“And your studies?”, Stalin/Nicholas asked.
“I studied this morning.”, Joseph replied with a grin.
“And what did you do today?”, he asked the girls.
“We helped Katinka.”, they replied with a big smile. Stalin/Nicholas had to admit that Katinka had a way with the girls that he would never understand. He contemplated this as he ate his sandwich and made himself a jelly sandwich while he was at it.
Stalin/Nicholas walked down the stairs and as he approached the crowd, they raised their glasses and cups and toasted on their Tsar. He mingled with the crowd and chatted with some important people. The man he was really looking for was Count Lambsdorff.
“Ah, Vladimir, there you are.”, he said.
“Your Imperial Majesty.”, he said as he made a slight bow.
“How are negotiations with the Japanese going?”, Stalin/Nicholas asked.
“Very well. They’re grovelling before us like worms.”
“Excellent. Ask for nothing less than the complete renunciation of any Japanese claim on Korea and Manchuria.”
“That was the plan.” Lambsdorff said with a smile. Stalin/Nicholas smiled back. Everything was well and soon Russia would be in the the most powerful of positions in Asia.
→ Forward to Chapter 8.