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  #1  
Old 03-16-2008, 05:33 PM
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Tsar Nicholas I (1796-1855) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1798-1860)

It seems that discussions about the Russian Revolution always center on the role of Nicholas II. Although he did play a role, the seeds to revolution were planted in the soul of the Russian people long before Nicholas I ever took the throne. Nicholas I (1825-55) also played a role through his policies and actions.
Just to provide a little background. Nicholas had two brothers in line for the throne before him. It was never expected that he would rule. But his eldest brother, Alexander I, died. His second brother, Constantine Pavlovich, was next in line. However, after a bit of a tussle, Constantine refused the throne and Nicholas I became tsar.
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Old 03-16-2008, 06:57 PM
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Well, if you want to discuss the seed/root of the revolution you are going to have to go back farther than Nicholas I.
  • Start with the landscape.
  • The climate and conditions.
  • The religious leaders.
  • The nobilty (or what ever term you prefer to use.
  • Fifth, the Tsars/Czars.
  • "Reforms"
  • What was happening in other European countries and the supposed Europeanization of Russia.
  • Finally, the most important of all: The people/peasents.
You want my opinion on the root of it:

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Tsar of Russia ruled over an immense dominion that spread from the European plains to the Pacific Ocean. In 1725, at the end of the reign of Peter the Great, the population within Russian boundaries was approximately thirteen million. By the end of the eighteenth century, due in part to foreign land acquisitions, the empire numbered over thirty-six million inhabitants. By the end of the nineteenth century, natural increase and land expansion, 130 million people were subjects of the Tsar. The Tsars ruled over all these people in an autocratic government.
The Tsar was the personal government of Russia. His power was absolute, and was considered to come directly from God. From the Tsar, power flowed downward through an army of ministers, governors, policemen, tax collectors, and bureaucrats, all of whom operated in the name of the Tsar. The people had no say in their government.
Throughout this period, the vast majority of the population lived in isolation, scattered over the plains and steppes, scratching subsistence from agriculture and pastoral activities. They were forced to pay taxes from which they received little or no benefit, and they had to pay rent or work-service to landowners. If they grumbled too much, they were flogged. Despite this misery, the Tsar enjoyed great popularity with the common people. They blamed their troubles on landlords, bureaucrats, policemen, and local governors, but never on the Tsar. He was their father, and if he knew how they suffered he would help them.

The first half of the nineteenth century produced glory for Russia, as well as a widening rift between the opposing principals of autocracy and liberalism. The apogee of glory came with the defeat of Napoleon in 1812, during the reign of Alexander I. Russia became considered to be a military giant and a world power. The people responded with national pride, and Russian literature and the arts continued the "golden age initiated in Catherine the Great’s reign. At the same time, however, an enlightened, more sophisticated population pressured for reforms. Personal freedom in Russia had always been severely restricted; there were heavy restrictions on travel abroad and on the entry of foreigners. The government outlawed foreign books and periodicals, and permitted only government-sponsored publishing. The government censored all literature and prose. And, of course, "the key issues to be faced included serfdom and autocracy, together with the general backwardness of the country and the inadequacy and corruption of its administrative apparatus." (Riasanovsky and Steinberg,263). Alexander started reforms, but backed away at any sign of dissatisfaction; in fact, he reversed many reforms, to the great dissatisfaction of the populace, whose expectations had been raised. He did succeed in greatly expanding secondary and post-secondary education for both the gentry and the emerging middle class, which helped in time to establish a corps of experts in technology and teaching.

The educated Russian population, including the military caste, went underground to organize an effort to inject liberal ideals into Russian society. Many groups formed Secret Societies to communicate their ideas for reform and even revolution. In 1825, Alexander I abolished all secret societies, but later in the year, at the tie of his unexpected death, the Decembrists attempted a coup. This unsuccessful effort horrified Nicholas I: "He was especially dismayed by the way in which sedition has broken out among the landed nobility, on which the state relied to rule most of the empire."(Hoskins, 264) Nicholas approach to reforms reflected the autocratic idea that the Tsar is the father of his subjects, and in fact the peasant fairy tales that all would be well if Tsar knew of the peoples’ troubles. His would be a personal kind of government that would not replace but override the current system. The first of his "departments" was a kind of civil service inspection agency. The second department, and most ambitious was to organize and codify the totally unorganized and often contradictory laws and rules then in existence. The third department was a sort of political police/judicial system designed to "uncover sedition, correct injustice or protect the weak… [it] was to be an instrument of vigilant and ubiquitous monarchial benevolence, reviving the moral and personal approach to government…" (Ibid, 265) This department, with its rich opportunities for abuse, was most hated by the people, who continued to work underground for improvements.

As with prior tsars, Nicholas I expanded education. He founded an Imperial School of Jurisprudence, which produced legal experts that greatly benefited the courts. An unintended effect for Nicholas, however, was that this excellent education grounded the students in liberal philosophy, which was anathema to him and succeeding tsars. It
was also in future years a gathering place for radical revolutionaries – Lenin was a student. Nonetheless, the majority of the population, full of civic and military pride, seemed to support autocracy; the Tsar was still seen as the just and benevolent ruler.
The second half of the nineteenth century produced humiliation for Russia. Russia’s loss of the Crimean War in 1855 laid bare the reality that Russia’s military and industry were inadequate for the conduct of a war. Russia dropped from a world power to a second rate power. Worst of all, political instability in the army and among the serfs threatened public order. In response, Alexander II initiated a series of reforms intended to strengthen Russian institutions. The reforms included emancipation of the serfs, reform of local civic administration and establishment of local representative government, including elected town councils. The Russian judicial system and military conscription was to be completely overhauled. There would be reduced government control of universities and curtailment of censorship. In general, the reforms yielded mixed results. The emancipation of the serfs was so watered-down that no one was satisfied. The continued reforms in education and censorship gave the population a taste of Western-style freedom and the tools to organize and communicate, thus creating greater tension between the despotic government and the populace, culminating in Alexander II’s assassination in 1881. His successor, Alexander III, reacted to the assassination by ruling as a despot. He hated all aspects of liberal tendencies, although it was revolutionaries, not liberal, who murdered his father. Russian society became more repressive, with a corresponding increase in underground revolutionary activities. However, the Imperial Court remained oblivious to the stirrings of revolution.

As I said in another thread, upon the premature death of his father, Nicholas II, weak, naïve, and ill prepared for the role he inherited, was crowned in 1894. At the feasts for his coronation, a panic broke out and many people were trampled to death. Nicholas went on with the coronation festivities. The word swept around the country – "Papa Tsar" – did not protect and did not care about his children. The stage was set for the convulsions of the twentieth century.

Voilà. There you have it. Standard. Basic. Easy to understand. Discuss.
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Old 03-16-2008, 08:01 PM
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Thank you GlitteringTiaras,
That provides excellent background for the discussion.
I noticed you quoted Riasonovsky. In Nicholas I and Official Nationality in Russia: 1825-1855, Riasonovsky portrays Nicholas I as obsessed with the details of government. Riasnovsky tags Nicholas I's rule as essentially three decades of political evolution lost in Russia and one of the causes of the retrenchment of royal authority into a rigid conservatism out from which it was never again successfully to break. W. Bruce Lincoln also presents Nicholas I as a man so obsessed with detail that he literally cannot see the forest for the trees. He presents him as a man who could not delegate and was literally burning the candle at both ends and therefore was unable to develop a vision that would help Russia evolve beyond her past.
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Old 03-16-2008, 10:13 PM
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You are quite right. Nicholas I, was truly the path to revolution. He was a, basically rigid ruler. The Autocracy, Orthodoxy and Nationality, was the creed of his reign. He may have expanded education, but he tried to supress any liberal thought. He increased censorship and persecuted religious minorties. He expanded the secret police. Yet, during his reign, authors like Pushkin and Gogol flourished. He hated constutional governments. Surpressed the contsitution in Poland and helped Austria defeat Hungary's attempt for the same. I, believe, lexi, you are on the mark with your assessment of him. Ironically, his wife was Charlotte of Prussia, who changed her name, as they did after conversion to Alexandra Feodorovna.
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Old 03-16-2008, 10:29 PM
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Well, I respectfully disagree.

There were too many factors that were building up prior to Nicholas I, and at this point I really don't feel like writing a long dissertation as to what those minute details were. Some of you were/are far more advanced that I am when it comes to Russian history, and as a current graduate student of history, not focusing on Russia, one knows all of the directions we could stray into if you or I decide to talk about it... did that make sense by the way?

Nevertheless, if you would like to talk about the details please go ahead.
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Old 03-16-2008, 10:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by COUNTESS View Post
You are quite right. Nicholas I, was truly the path to revolution. He was a, basically rigid ruler. The Autocracy, Orthodoxy and Nationality, was the creed of his reign. He may have expanded education, but he tried to supress any liberal thought. He increased censorship and persecuted religious minorties. He expanded the secret police. Yet, during his reign, authors like Pushkin and Gogol flourished. He hated constutional governments. Surpressed the contsitution in Poland and helped Austria defeat Hungary's attempt for the same. I, believe, lexi, you are on the mark with your assessment of him. Ironically, his wife was Charlotte of Prussia, who changed her name, as they did after conversion to Alexandra Feodorovna.
He was quite the reactionary. I think he believed he was serving his country well, but his ways were dictatorial to say the least. Some of the good things he accomplished include the Russian Railroad, the conditions of peasants belonging to the state was improved (if one can consider serfdom positive at all), and he did work to stabilize the economy and reduce national debt.

But he was a master at suppression. Intellectual life wasn't exactly thriving. He faced a revolt early in his reign, the Decembrist uprising.
Another author that flourished during his reign was Lermontov, Mikhail Yurevich. He wrote “On the Death of the Poet" as a protest of Pushkin's death in a duel.
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Old 03-16-2008, 10:38 PM
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Countess,
Do you remember whether or not Pushkin was in exile during the reign of Nicholas I?
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Old 03-16-2008, 10:52 PM
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I must admit I am quite tired now, but Glittering Tiaras is correct in the assumption that it all didn't stem for Nicholas I. But, rather than delve into many other areas that led up to 1917, I thought the discussion was to be held to Nicholas I. He was not the personification of evil, if that was the impression, but he held rigid and anti-liberal views. He was successful in adding territory and seaports to the empire. After the war with Persia, he gained control of part of Armenia and the Caspian Sea. At the end of the Russo-Turkish War he gained the east coast of the Black Sea and an entrance to the Danube. He blew it all in the Crimean War. He had no allies and the British and French allied themselves with the Ottomans. After the defeat at Sevastopol he was finished. Remember, he was not raised to be a Tsar. He was a third son. Perhaps, he did his best and was afraid to diviate from what he thought would hold verything together.
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Old 03-16-2008, 11:00 PM
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Originally Posted by GlitteringTiaras View Post
Well, I respectfully disagree.

There were too many factors that were building up prior to Nicholas I, and at this point I really don't feel like writing a long dissertation as to what those minute details were. Some of you were/are far more advanced that I am when it comes to Russian history, and as a current graduate student of history, not focusing on Russia, one knows all of the directions we could stray into if you or I decide to talk about it... did that make sense by the way?

Nevertheless, if you would like to talk about the details please go ahead.
GlitteringTiaras,
No one believes that any one tsar, be it Nicholas I or Nicholas II, is solely responsible for the Revolution. Many, many played a role as did the circumstances you pointed out also played a role. A few of us just enjoy discussing different aspects, personalities and the roles played that led to the Revolution. I know that I have learned so much from those type of discussions on other forums. Everyone has a perspective to offer. If that is not acceptable here, please tell me as I don't want to show any disrespect of bang my head against a brick wall.
Thank you,
Lexi
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Old 03-17-2008, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by lexi4 View Post
Countess,
Do you remember whether or not Pushkin was in exile during the reign of Nicholas I?
Pushkin was in exile twice: in the early 1820s he was sent into exile in southern Russia, and in 1823 he was ordered into exile at his mother's estate in the northern Russia. At the time, Alexander I was the Emperor of Russia.
As a matter of fact, when Alexander died in 1825 and Nicholas I became Emperor, Pushkin petitioned Nicholas for his release, and the Emperor granted it.
It is, however, true that the Russian Government under Nicholas I closely monitored and heavily censored Pushkin's works (as well as works of most of the authors of the Golden Age).
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Old 03-29-2008, 04:31 AM
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Tsar Nicholas I (1796-1855)

Reigned 1825-1855, Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias, Tsar of Poland 1822;
Son of Tsar Paul I and Maria Feodorovna, neé Duchess Sophie of Württemberg;
Married 1817 Alexandra Feodorovna, neé Princess Charlotte of Prussia (1798-1860).

pic courtesy Wikipedia, and is in the public domain.
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Old 04-03-2009, 02:07 PM
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wasnt he known as the "Policeman of Europe"??
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Old 04-04-2009, 01:26 AM
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Yes, he was. He had a fearsome reputation. But in private life with his family he wasn't at all like this according to the book Romanov Autumn.
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Old 04-13-2009, 12:18 AM
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I Will try to find it hes always interested me, has anyone heard the rumor that he Killed himself? I Dont belive that.
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Old 04-13-2009, 06:44 PM
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No, I've never heard that. He died some said from just being worn out with the Crimean War and governing Russia. The Crimean War was going badly when he died. That's more believable.
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Old 04-13-2009, 07:24 PM
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Ive heard he was reviewing troops in the Rain and got a fever also
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Old 04-14-2009, 01:55 AM
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Yes, that could well be, in terms of the specific cause of death. I think the term '' he killed himself'' is used with regards to he died from his own over exertion with regards to governing Russia, running the Crimean War etc. Reviewing soldiers in the rain would have been typical of him, in regards to his devotion to the military and to duty.
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Old 11-16-2009, 07:07 PM
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I would like to know a little more about the history of the wife of Tsar Nicolas I, and Tsar Nicolas II.
Did any of these convert and from which faith did they convert from.
I have heard that somewhere down the line there was some contention about this fact.
Another area I would like to have clarified is that of the Paley family . How did these become part of the Romanov Family circle.
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Old 11-16-2009, 09:08 PM
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Both men's wives' took the same name of Alexandra Feodorovna. They both were Lutherans. The first Alexandra was the eldest daughter of King Frederick Wilhem I of Prussia. The second was the daughter of the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt. Nicholas the I and his wife were third cousins. Their great-great grandfather was Frederick Wilhelm I. The first Alexandra was loved by the people around her, never arogant or frivolous. She had 7 children. The second who was, also, a grandchild of Queen Victoria, was distant, shy and not well accepted into the counrty. She had 5 children.

The Paley's were the second family of the Grand Duke Paul. Uncle to Nicholas II. When he remarried to Olga Karnovich, she was not deemed good enough to assume her station, so she and her decendants were made Paleys. She was the Princess Olga Paley and her children, such as her son Vladimir were Prince Paley.
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Old 02-16-2011, 03:38 PM
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Ive Alix wanted to take the name Ekaterina Aleexevina
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