Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich of Russia (November 18, 1856 – January 5, 1929) was a Russian general in World War I (1914–1918). The son of Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich of Russia (1831–1891), and a grandson of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia, he was commander in chief of the Imperial Russian Army units on the main front in the first year of the war, during the reign of his first cousin once removed, Nicholas II.
Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich of Russia (1831–1891) was named after his paternal grandfather, the Emperor Nicholas I, was born as the eldest son to Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolaevich of Russia (1831–1891) and Alexandra of Oldenburg (1838–1900) on November 18, 1856. His father was the sixth child and third son born to Nicholas I of Russia and his Empress consort Alexandra of Prussia (1798–1860) a daughter of Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia and Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
Nicholas’s mother, (Alexandra of Oldenburg) was the daughter of his father’s first cousin, Duke Constantine Peter of Oldenburg (1812–1881) and Princess Therese of Nassau (1815–1871). His maternal grandfather was a son of Duke Georg of Oldenburg and Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna of Russia, daughter of Paul I of Russia and Maria Fedorovna of Württemberg. (Catherine Pavlovna of Russia, was later remarried to Wilhelm I of Württemberg.)
His maternal grandmother, Princess Therese of Nassau-Weilburg, was a daughter of Wilhelm, Duke of Nassau (1792–1839) and Princess Luise of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The Duke of Nassau was a son of Friedrich Wilhelm, Duke of Nassau (1768–1816) and Burgravine Louise Isabelle of Kirchberg. His paternal grandparents were Duke Charles Christian of Nassau-Weilburg (1735–1788) and Carolina of Orange-Nassau. Carolina was a daughter of Willem IV of Orange and Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange. Anne was the eldest daughter of George II of Great Britain and Caroline of Ansbach.
A very tall man (1.98m / 6′ 6″), Grand Duke Nicholas was the first cousin once removed of Emperor Nicholas II. To distinguish between them, the Grand Duke was often known within the Imperial family as “Nikolasha”: the Grand Duke was also known as “Nicholas the Tall” while the Emperor was “Nicholas the Short.
On April 29, 1907 Nicholas married Princess Anastasia of Montenegro (1869–1935), the daughter of King Nicholas I of Montenegro and sister of Princess Milica, who had married Nicholas’s brother, Grand Duke Peter. They had no children. She had previously been married to George Maximilianovich, 6th Duke of Leuchtenberg, by whom she had two children, until their divorce in 1906. Since the Montenegrins were a fiercely Slavic, anti-Turkish people from the Balkans, Anastasia reinforced the Pan-Slavic tendencies of Nicholas.
Nicholas was a hunter. Ownership of borzoi hounds was restricted to members of the highest nobility, and Nicholas’s packs were well-known. After the revolution, the dogs in his kennel were sold off by the new Soviet government. In his lifetime, Nicholas and his dogs caught hundreds of wolves. A pair of borzoi were used, which caught the wolf, one on each side, while Nicholas dismounted and cut the wolf’s throat with a knife. Hunting was his major recreation, and he traveled in his private train across Russia with his horses and dogs, hunting while on his rounds of inspection.
Grand Duke Nicholas was educated at the school of military engineers and received his commission in 1873. During the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78, he was on the staff of his father who was commander in chief. He distinguished himself on two occasions in this war. He worked his way up through all the ranks until he was appointed commander of the Guard Hussar Regiment in 1884.
He had a reputation as a tough commander, yet one respected by his troops. His experience was more as a trainer of soldiers than a leader in battle. Nicholas was a very religious man, praying in the morning and at night as well as before and after meals. He was happiest in the country, hunting or caring for his estates.