Alexander II of Russia

Alexander II
Zar Alexander II (cropped).jpg
Emperor of All Russia
Reign2 March 1855 – 13 March 1881
Coronation7 September 1856
PredecessorNicholas I
SuccessorAlexander III
Born(1818-04-29)29 April 1818
Moscow Kremlin, Moscow, Moscow Governorate, Russian Empire
Died13 March 1881(1881-03-13) (aged 62)
Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russian Empire
Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russian Empire
among others...
Full name
Alexander Nikolaevich Romanov
FatherNicholas I of Russia
MotherCharlotte of Prussia
ReligionRussian Orthodox
SignatureAlexander II's signature

Alexander II (Russian: Алекса́ндр II Никола́евич, tr. Aleksandr II Nikolayevich, IPA: [ɐlʲɪˈksandr ftɐˈroj nʲɪkɐˈlajɪvʲɪtɕ]; 29 April 1818 – 13 March 1881)[1] was the Emperor of Russia from 2 March 1855 until his assassination on 13 March 1881. He was also the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Finland.[2]

Alexander's most significant reform as Emperor was emancipation of Russia's serfs in 1861, for which he is known as Alexander the Liberator (Russian: Алекса́ндр Освободи́тель, tr. Aleksandr Osvoboditel, IPA: [ɐlʲɪˈksandr ɐsvəbɐˈdʲitʲɪlʲ]). The tsar was responsible for other reforms, including reorganising the judicial system, setting up elected local judges, abolishing corporal punishment,[3] promoting local self-government through the zemstvo system, imposing universal military service, ending some privileges of the nobility, and promoting university education. After an assassination attempt in 1866, Alexander adopted a somewhat more reactionary stance until his death.[4]

Alexander pivoted towards foreign policy and sold Alaska to the United States in 1867, fearing the remote colony would fall into British hands if there were another war.[5] He sought peace, moved away from bellicose France when Napoleon III fell in 1871, and in 1872 joined with Germany and Austria in the League of the Three Emperors that stabilized the European situation. Despite his otherwise pacifist foreign policy, he fought a brief war with the Ottoman Empire in 1877–78, pursued further expansion into Siberia and the Caucasus, and conquered Turkestan. Although disappointed by the results of the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Alexander abided by that agreement. Among his greatest domestic challenges was an uprising in Poland in 1863, to which he responded by stripping that land of its separate constitution and incorporating it directly into Russia. Alexander was proposing additional parliamentary reforms to counter the rise of nascent revolutionary and anarchistic movements when he was assassinated in 1881.[6]

Early life

Alexander II as a boy (George Dawe, 1827)

Born in Moscow, Alexander Nikolaevich was the eldest son of Nicholas I of Russia and Charlotte of Prussia (daughter of Frederick William III of Prussia and of 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[quantify] imagined that posterity would know him for implementing the most challenging reforms undertaken in Russia since the reign of Peter the Great.[7]

In the period of his life as heir apparent (1825 to 1855), the intellectual atmosphere of Saint Petersburg did not favour any kind of change: freedom of thought and all forms of private initiative were suppressed vigorously by the order of his father. Personal and official censorship was rife; criticism of the authorities was regarded as a serious offence.[8]

The education of the Tsesarevich as future emperor took place under the supervision of the liberal romantic poet and gifted translator Vasily Zhukovsky,[9] grasping a smattering of a great many subjects and becoming familiar with the chief modern European languages.[8] Alexander's alleged lack of interest in military affairs (as detected by later historians) resulted from his reaction to the effects of the unsavoury Crimean War of 1853–1856 on his own family and on the whole country. Unusually for the time, the young Alexander was taken on a six-month tour of Russia (1837), visiting 20 provinces in the country.[10] He also visited many prominent Western European countries[11] in 1838 and 1839. As Tsesarevich, Alexander became the first Romanov heir to visit Siberia[12] (1837). While touring Russia, he also befriended the then exiled poet Alexander Herzen and pardoned him. It was through Herzen's influence that the tsarevich later abolished serfdom in Russia.

In 1839, when his parents sent him on a tour of Europe, he met twenty-year-old Queen Victoria and both were enamored of each other. Simon Sebag Montefiore speculates that a small romance emerged. Such a marriage, however, would not work, as Alexander was not a minor prince of Europe and was in line to inherit a throne himself.[13] In 1847, Alexander donated money to Ireland during the Great Famine.[14]

Other Languages
asturianu: Alexandru II
azərbaycanca: II Aleksandr
башҡортса: Александр II
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Аляксандар II
Чӑвашла: Александр II
հայերեն: Ալեքսանդր II
Bahasa Indonesia: Aleksandr II dari Rusia
Кыргызча: Александр II
Livvinkarjala: Aleksandru II
монгол: II Александр
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Aleksandr II
پنجابی: الیگزنڈر II
русский: Александр II
संस्कृतम्: अलेक्ज़ांडर २
slovenščina: Aleksander II. Ruski
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Aleksandar II od Rusije
татарча/tatarça: Александр II
Türkçe: II. Aleksandr
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: ئالېكساندىر II
Tiếng Việt: Aleksandr II của Nga