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Alexander II of Russia

Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias Died Burial Born April 29, 1818(1818-04-29) Moscow March 13, 1881 (aged 62) St. Petersburg Peter and Paul Cathedral

Alexander (Aleksandr) II Nikolaevich (Russian: Александр II Николаевич, Aleksandr II Nikolaevich) (Moscow, 29 April 1818–13 March 1881 in St. Petersburg), also known as Alexander the Liberator (Russian: Александр Освободитель, Aleksandr Osvoboditel’) was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881. He was also the Grand Duke of Finland and the King of Poland .

Early life
Born in 1818, he was the eldest son of Nicholas I of Russia and Charlotte of Prussia, daughter of Frederick William III of Prussia and Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. His early life gave little indication of his ultimate potential; until the time of his accession in 1855, aged 37, few imagined that he would be known to posterity as a leader able to implement the most challenging reforms undertaken in Russia since the reign of Peter the Great. In the period of his life as heir apparent, the intellectual atmosphere of St Petersburg was unfavourable to any kind of changes, freedom of thought and all private initiative being, as far as possible, suppressed vigorously. Personal and official censorship was rife; criticism of the authorities was regarded as a serious offense. Some 26 years after he had the opportunity of implementing changes he would, however, be assassinated in public by Narodnaya Volya terrorist organization. His education as a future Tsar was carried out under the supervision of the liberal romantic poet and gifted translator Vasily Zhukovsky[1], grasping a smattering of a great many subjects, and feeling exposure to the chief modern European languages. His alleged lack of interest in military affairs

Reign Coronation Predecessor Successor Spouse Issue

2 March 1855–13 March 1881 7 September 1856 Nicholas I Alexander III Marie of Hesse and by Rhine

Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich Tsar Alexander III (Alexandrovich) Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich House Father Mother House of Holstein-GottorpRomanov Nicholas I Charlotte of Prussia


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detected by later historians could be only his reflection on the results on his own family and on the whole spirit of the country by the unsavoury Crimean War.

Alexander II of Russia
changes when he was assassinated in 1881. It is notable that after Alexander became tsar in 1855, he maintained a generally liberal course at the helm while being a target for numerous assassination attempts (1866, 1873, 1880).

His reign
Alexander II succeeded to the throne upon the death of his father in 1855. The first year of his reign was devoted to the prosecution of the Crimean War, and after the fall of Sevastopol to negotiations for peace, led by his trusted counselor, Prince Gorchakov. It was widely thought that the country had been exhausted and humiliated by the war. Encouraged by public opinion he began a period of radical reforms, including an attempt to not to depend on a landed aristocracy controlling the poor, to develop Russia’s natural resources and to thoroughly to reform all branches of the administration.

Emancipation of the serfs
In spite of his obstinancy in playing Russian Autocrat, Alexander II acted for several years somewhat like a constitutional sovereign of the continental type. Soon after the conclusion of peace, important changes were made in legislation concerning industry and commerce, and the new freedom thus afforded produced a large number of limited liability companies. Plans were formed for building a great network of railways—partly for the purpose of developing the natural resources of the country, and partly for the purpose of increasing its power for defense and attack. The existence of serfdom was tackled boldly taking advantage of a petition presented by the Polish landed proprietors of the Lithuanian provinces, and hoping that their relations with the serfs might be regulated in a more satisfactory way (meaning in a way more satisfactory for the proprietors), he authorized the formation of committees "for ameliorating the condition of the peasants," and laid down the principles on which the amelioration was to be effected. This step was followed by one still more significant. Without consulting his ordinary advisers, Alexander ordered the Minister of the Interior to send a circular to the provincial governors of European Russia, containing a copy of the instructions forwarded to the governor-general of Lithuania, praising the supposed generous, patriotic intentions of the Lithuanian landed proprietors, and suggesting that perhaps the landed proprietors of other provinces might express a similar desire. The hint was taken: in all provinces where serfdom existed, emancipation committees were formed. But the emancipation was not merely a humanitarian question capable of being solved instantaneously by imperial ukase. It contained very complicated problems, deeply affecting the economic, social and political future of the nation.

Painting by Mihály Zichy of the coronation of Tsar Alexander II and the Empress Maria Alexandrovna, which took place on August 26/ September 7, 1856 at the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. The painting depicts the moment of the coronation in which the Tsar crowns his Empress Autocratic power was now in the hands of someone with some sort of flexible thought, sufficient prudence and practicality. However, the growth of a revolutionary movement to the "left" of the educated classes led to an abrupt end to Alexander’s


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Alexander II of Russia
incompetence at the Crimea War, by "Sheffield, the steel town of the North" Radical Independent Member of the British Parliament John Arthur Roebuck. A new judicial administration based on the French model (1864); a new penal code and a greatly simplified system of civil and criminal procedure. An elaborate scheme of local self-government (Zemstvo) for the rural districts (1864) and the large towns (1870), with elective assemblies possessing a restricted right of taxation, and a new rural and municipal police under the direction of the Minister of the Interior. Alexander II would be the second monarch (after King Louis I of Portugal) to abolish capital punishment, a penalty which is still legal (although not practised) in Russia. However, the workers wanted better working conditions; prosecuted national minorities, "integrated" only in the last 50 or 60 years almost, wanted freedom. When radicals began to resort to the formation of secret societies and to revolutionary agitation, Alexander II felt constrained to adopt severe repressive measures. The idea that some moderate liberal reforms, in an attempt to quell the revolutionary agitation, will do, and the creation of special commissions as proven by an ukase he delivered would not do either. The Marxist idea of countries being liberated from capitalism and soviets of workers united for the World Revolution, but respecting their own national characteristics, was clearly out of place within the Russian land aggregation processes of the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries.

Tsar Alexander II and his wife, Empress Maria, with their son, the future Tsar Alexander III Alexander had to choose between the different measures recommended to him. Should the serfs become agricultural labourers dependent economically and administratively on the landlords, or should they be transformed into a class of independent communal proprietors?. The emperor gave his support to the latter project, and the Russian peasantry became one of the last groups of peasants in Europe to shake off serfdom. The architects of the emancipation manifesto were Alexander’s brother Konstantin, Yakov Rostovtsev, and Nikolay Milyutin. On 3 March 1861, 6 years after his accession, the emancipation law was signed and published.

Marriages and children
During his bachelor days, Alexander made a state visit to England in 1838. Just a year older than the young Queen Victoria, Alexander’s approaches to her were indeed shortlived. Victoria married her German cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg in February 1840. On 16 April 1841, aged 23, Tsarevitch Alexander married Princess Marie of Hesse in St Petersburg, thereafter known in Russia as Maria Alexandrovna. (Marie was the legal daughter of Ludwig II, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine and Princess Wilhelmina of Baden, although some gossiping questioned whether the Grand

Other reforms
Army and navy re-organization (1874), probably inspired by the 1871 British law, pushed since 1851, in view of the British military


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Duke Ludwig or Wilhelmina’s lover, Baron August von Senarclens de Grancy, was her biological father. Alexander was aware of the question of her paternity). The marriage produced six sons and two daughters: • Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna (30 August 1842-10 July 1849), nicknamed Lina, died of infant meningitis in St. Petersburg at the age of six • Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (20 September 1843-24 April 1865), engaged to Dagmar of Denmark • Tsar Alexander III (10 March 1845-1 November 1894), married 1866, Dagmar of Denmark (Maria Feodorovna), had issue • Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (22 April 1847-17 February 1909), married 1874, Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (Maria Pavlovna), had issue • Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich (14 January 1850-14 November 1908), had (presumably illegitimate) issue • Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna(17 October 1853-20 October 1920) married 1874, Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, had issue • Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (29 April 1857-4 February 1905), married 1884, Elisabeth of Hesse (Elizabeth Feodorovna) • Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich (3 October 1860-24 January 1919), married 1889, Alexandra of Greece and Denmark (Alexandra Georgievna), had issue second marriage 1902, Olga Karnovich, had issue Alexander had many mistresses during his marriage and fathered 7 known illegitimate children. These included: • Antoinette Bayer (20 June 1856-24 January 1948) with his mistress Wilhelmine Bayer; • Michael-Bogdan Oginski (10 October 1848-25 March 1909) with mistress Countess Olga Kalinovskya (1818-1854); and • Joseph Raboxicz. • Charlotte Henriette Sophie Jansen( 15 November 1844 July 1915) with mistress Sophie Charlotte Dorothea Von Behse (1828-1886) On 6 July 1880, less than a month after Tsarina Maria’s death on 8 June, Alexander formed a morganatic marriage with his

Alexander II of Russia
mistress Princess Catherine Dolgorukov, with whom he already had four children: • George Alexandrovich Romanov Yurievsky (12 May 1872-13 September 1913). Married Countess Alexandra Zarnekau and had issue. They later divorced. • Olga Alexandrovna Romanov Yurievsky (7 November 1874-10 August 1925). Married Count Georg Nikolaus of Nassau, Count of Merenberg. • Boris Alexandrovich Yurievsky (23 February 1876 - 11 April 1876). • Catherine Alexandrovna Romanov Yurievsky (9 September 1878-22 December 1959) Her first husband was the 23rd Prince Alexander Alexandrovich Bariatinski, (1870 - 1910) the son of the 22nd Prince Alexander Vladimirovich Bariatinski, (1848 - 1909). Her second husband, later divorced, was Prince Serge Obolensky, (1890-1978).

Suppression of national movements

Jan Matejko’s Polonia depicts the aftermath of the failed Polish January 1863 Uprising, crushed by Alexander II. Captives await exile to Siberia; Russian officers and soldiers supervise a blacksmith placing shackles on "Polonia", a woman representing Poland. At the beginning of his reign, Alexander expressed the famous statement "No dreams" addressed for Poles, populating Congress Poland, Western Ukraine, Lithuania, Livonia and Belarus. The result was the January Uprising of 1863-1864 that was suppressed after eighteen months of fighting. Thousands of Poles were executed, tens of thousands were deported to Siberia. The price for suppression was Russian support for Prussian-united Germany. Twenty years


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later, Germany became the major enemy of Russia on the continent. All territories of the former PolandLithuania were excluded from liberal policies introduced by Alexander. The martial law in Lithuania, introduced in 1863, lasted for the next 40 years. Native languages, Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Belarusian were completely banned from printed texts, see a , e.g., Ems Ukase. The Polish language was banned in both oral and written form from all provinces except Congress Kingdom, where it was allowed in private conversations only.

Alexander II of Russia
increasing Finland’s autonomy from Russia including establishment of its own currency, the Markka. Liberation of enterprise led to increased foreign investment and industrial development. Finally, the elevation of Finnish from a language of the common people to a national language equal to Swedish opened opportunities for a larger proportion of the society. Alexander II is still regarded as "The Good Tsar" in Finland. These reforms could be seen as results of a genuine belief that reforms were easier to test in an underpopulated, homogeneous country, than the in whole of Russia. They may also be seen as a reward for the loyalty of its relatively western-oriented population during the Crimean war and during the Polish uprising. Encouraging Finnish nationalism and language can also be seen as an attempt to dilute ties with Sweden.

Rewarding loyalty and encouraging Finnish nationalism within Russia

Assassination attempts
In 1866, there was an attempt on the tsar’s life in St. Petersburg by Dmitry Karakozov. To commemorate his narrow escape from death (which he himself referred to only as "the event of April 4, 1866"), a number of churches and chapels were built in many Russian cities. Viktor Hartmann, a Russian architect, even sketched a design of a monumental gate (planned, never built) to commemorate the event. Modest Mussorgsky later wrote his Pictures at an Exhibition; the last movement of which, "The Great Gate of Kiev", is based on Hartmann’s sketches. On the morning of 20 April 1879, Alexander II was briskly walking towards the Square of the Guards Staff and faced Alexander Soloviev, a 33-year-old former student. Having seen a menacing revolver in his hands, the Tsar fled. Soloviev fired five times but missed, and was sentenced to death and hanged on 28 May. The student acted on his own, but other revolutionaries were keen to murder Alexander. In December 1879, the Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will), a radical revolutionary group which hoped to ignite a social revolution, organized an explosion on the railway from Livadia to Moscow, but they missed the tsar’s train. On the evening of 5 February 1880 Stephan Khalturin, also from Narodnaya Volya, set off a charge under the dining room

The monument to Alexander II "The Liberator" at the Senate Square in Helsinki was erected in 1894, 13 years after the assassination of Alexander II. At that time, Finland was still a Russian province. The date "1863" refers to the reopening of the Diet of Finland. This monument, expressing the Finns’ gratitude to this Tsar, survived unharmed through many later periods of tension and war with Russia under various of its later regimes. In 1863 Alexander II re-established the Diet of Finland and initiated several reforms


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of the Winter Palace, right in the resting room of the guards a story below. Being late for dinner, the tsar was unharmed; although 11 other people were killed and 30 wounded. The dining room floor was also heavily damaged.

Alexander II of Russia
sitting on the coachman’s left. The tsar’s carriage was followed by two sleighs carrying, among others, the chief of police and the chief of the tsar’s guards. The route, as always, was via the Catherine Canal and over the Pevchesky Bridge. The street was flanked by narrow sidewalks for the public. A youth Nikolai Rysakov, was carrying a small white package wrapped in a handkerchief. "After a moment’s hesitation I threw the bomb. I sent it under the horses’ hooves in the supposition that it would blow up under the carriage...The explosion knocked me into the fence."[2] The explosion, while killing one of the Cossacks and seriously wounding the driver and people on the sidewalk, had only damaged the bulletproof carriage, a gift from Napoleon III of France. The tsar emerged shaken but unhurt. Rysakov was captured almost immediately. Police Chief Dvorzhitsky heard Rysakov shout out to someone else in the gathering crowd. The surrounding guards and the Cossacks, urged the tsar to leave the area at once rather than being shown the site of the explosion. A young man, Ignacy Hryniewiecki, standing by the canal fence, rose up both arms and threw something at the tsar’s feet. Dvorzhitsky was later to write: "I was deafened by the new explosion, burned, wounded and thrown to the ground. Suddenly, amid the smoke and snowy fog, I heard His Majesty’s weak voice cry, ’Help!’ Gathering what strength I had, I jumped up and rushed to the tsar. His Majesty was half-lying, half-sitting, leaning on his right arm. Thinking he was merely wounded heavily, I tried to lift him but the tsar’s legs were shattered, and the blood poured out of them. Twenty people, with wounds of varying degree, lay on the sidewalk and on the street. Some managed to stand, others to crawl, still others tried to get out from beneath bodies that had fallen on them. Through the snow, debris, and blood you could see fragments of clothing, epaulets, sabers, and bloody chunks of human flesh."[3]


The new monument to Alexander II in front of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow After the last assassination attempt in February 1880, Count Loris-Melikov was appointed the head of the Supreme Executive Commission and given extraordinary powers to fight the revolutionaries. Loris-Melikov’s proposals called for some form of parliamentary body, and the Emperor seemed to agree; these plans were never realized. On 13 March (1 March Old Style Date), 1881, Alexander fell victim to an assassination plot. As he was known to do every Sunday for many years, the tsar went to the Manezh to review the Life Guards. He traveled both to and from the Manezh in a closed carriage accompanied by six Cossacks with a seventh


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Alexander II of Russia
was to tear up those plans. A Duma would not come into fruition until 1905, by Alexander II’s grandson, Nicholas II, who commissioned the Duma following heavy pressure on the monarchy by the Russian Revolution of 1905. A second consequence of the assassination was anti-Jewish pogroms and legislation. Despite the fact only one Jew was involved in the assassination conspiracy, over 200 Jews who had nothing to do with the murder of Alexander II were beaten to death in these pogroms. A third consequence of the assassination was that suppression of civil liberties in Russia and police brutality burst back with a full force after experiencing some restraint under the reign of Alexander II. Alexander II’s murder and subsequent death was witnessed firsthand by his son, Alexander III, and his grandson, Nicholas II, both future Tsars, who vowed not to have the same fate befall them. Both used the Okhrana to arrest protestors and uproot suspected rebel groups, creating further suppression of personal freedom for the Russian people.

The Church of the Savior on Blood commemorates the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated. Later it was learned there was a third bomber in the crowd. Ivan Emelyanov stood ready, clutching a briefcase containing a bomb that would be used if the other two bombers failed. Alexander was carried by sleigh to the Winter Palace to his study where, twenty years before almost to the date, he had signed the Emancipation Edict freeing the serfs. Alexander was bleeding to death. Members of the Romanov family came rushing to the scene. The dying tsar was given Communion and Extreme Unction. When the attending physician, Dr. S. P. Botkin, asked how long it would be, replied, "Up to fifteen minutes"[4] At 3:30 that day the standard of Alexander II was lowered for the last time. The assassination caused a great setback for the reform movement. One of Alexander II’s last ideas was to draft up plans for an elected parliament, or Duma, which were completed the day before he died but not yet released to the Russian people. The first action Alexander III took after his coronation

Ancestors of Alexander II of Russia


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Alexander II of Russia
BrandenburgSchwedt 11. Friederike Dorothea of BrandenburgSchwedt 23. Sophie Dorothea Marie, Princess of Prussia

16. Charles Frederick, Duke of HolsteinGottorp 8. Peter III of Russia 17. Anna Petrovna of Russia 4. Paul I of Russia

1. Alexander II of Russia 18. Christian August, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst

9. Catherine II of Russia 19. Johanna Elisabeth, Princess of HolsteinGottorp 2. Nicholas I of Russia 20. Karl Alexander, Duke of Württemberg 10. Friedrich II Eugen, Duke of Württemberg 21. Maria Augusta Anna of Thurn and Taxis 5. Sophie Dorothea of Württemburg 22. Friedrich Wilhelm, Margrave of


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Alexander II of Russia
7. Louise of MecklenburgStrelitz 30. Georg Wilhelm of HesseDarmstadt 15. Friederike Caroline Luise of HesseDarmstadt 31. Maria of LeiningenDagsburg

24. Prince Augustus William of Prussia 12. Frederick William II of Prussia 25. Louise Amalie of BrunswickLüneburg 6. Frederick William III of Prussia

26. Louis IX, Landgrave of • Tsars of Russia family tree HesseDarmstadt 13. Frederika Louisa of HesseDarmstadt

See also Gallery

27. Karoline of Zweibrücken 3. Charlotte of Prussia Photo of Portrait of Tsar AlexTsar Alexan- ander II. der II wear1871 ing the great28. Charles coat and cap Louis Frederof the ick, Duke of Imperial Mecklenburg- HorseMirow Guards Regiment. circa 14. Charles II, 1865 Grand Duke of MecklenburgStrelitz 29. Princess Elizabeth Albertine of SaxeHildburghausen A monument to Alexander II in Alexander II, portrait The Monument by Konto the Tsar stantin Liberator in Makovsky. Sofia com1881 memorates Alexander II’s decisive role in the Liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.


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Alexander II of Russia House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov Cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg Born: 17 April 1818 Died: 13 March 1881 Regnal titles Preceded by Nicholas I Russian royalty Preceded by Constantine I of Russia Częstochowa, the spiritual heart of Poland. Heir to the Russian Throne 1825–1855 Emperor of Russia 2 March 1855–13 March 1881

Alexander II of Russia

Succeeded by Alexander III Succeeded by Nicholas Alexandrovich

[1] The McGraw-Hill encyclopedia of world biography, vol. 1. McGraw-Hill, 1973. ISBN 9780070796331; p. 113 [2] Radzinsky, Edvard, Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar,(Freepress 2005) p. 413 [3] Ibid.p.415 [4] Ibid. 419 • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

• Larissa Zakharova , Alexander II: Portrait of an Autocrat and His Times, Softcover, Westview Press, ISBN 0813314917 (0-8133-1491-7) • Ben Eklof (Editor), Larissa Zakharova (Editor), John Bushnell (Editor), Softcover, "Russia’s Great Reforms, 1855-1881", (Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies).ISBN 0253208610 (0-253-20861-0) • Russia in the Nineteenth Century: Autocracy, Reform, And Social Change, 1814-1914, by Alexander Polunow, Thomas C. Owen, Larissa G. Zakharova Softcover, M E Sharpe Inc, ISBN 0765606720 (0-7656-0672-0)

External links
• The Assassination of Tsar Alexander II from In Our Time (BBC Radio 4) • Insidious Siberian Persondata NAME ALTERNATIVE NAMES SHORT DESCRIPTION DATE OF BIRTH PLACE OF BIRTH DATE OF DEATH PLACE OF DEATH Alexander II Nikolaevich, Aleksandr II Emperor of Russia 17 April 1818(1818-04-17) Moscow 13 March 1881 St. Petersburg

Further reading
• Moss, Walter G., Alexander II and His Times: A Narrative History of Russia in the Age of Alexander II, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky. London: Anthem Press, 2002. online) • Radzinsky, Edvard, Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar. New York: The Free Press, 2005 . • Edward Crankshaw, Shadow of the Winter Palace : Russia’s Drift to Revolution, 1825-1917 , Perseus Books Group, ISBN 0306809400 (0-306-80940-0) . • csipubs/baumann/baumann_ch2_pt1.pdf. On the conquests in Central Asia in the 1860s by people such as General Mikhail Grigorevich Chernyayev, (Cherniaev), (Russian: Михаил Григорьевич Черняев, 24 October 1828 - 16 August 1898), a.k.a. The Lion of Tashkent".

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Alexander II of Russia

Categories: Russian emperors, House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov, Rulers of Finland, Orthodox monarchs, Russian people of the Crimean War, Murdered Russian monarchs, Assassinated Russian people, Assassinated monarchs, Russian terrorism victims, Knights of the Garter, Knights of the Golden Fleece, People from Moscow, 1818 births, 1881 deaths, Burials at Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Petersburg, People murdered in Russia This page was last modified on 19 May 2009, at 11:31 (UTC). All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. (See Copyrights for details.) Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a U.S. registered 501(c)(3) taxdeductible nonprofit charity. Privacy policy About Wikipedia Disclaimers


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