Alexander II

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Alexander II,

1818–81, czar of Russia (1855–81), son and successor of Nicholas INicholas I,
1796–1855, czar of Russia (1825–55), third son of Paul I. His brother and predecessor, Alexander I, died childless (1825). Constantine, Paul's second son, was next in succession but had secretly renounced (1822) the throne after marrying a Polish
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. He ascended the throne during the Crimean War (1853–56) and immediately set about negotiating a peace (see Paris, Congress ofParis, Congress of,
1856, conference held by representatives of France, Great Britain, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), Sardinia, Russia, Austria, and Prussia to negotiate the peace after the Crimean War. In the Treaty of Paris (Mar.
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). Influenced by Russia's defeat in the war and by peasant unrest Alexander embarked upon a modernization and reform program. The most important reform was the emancipation of the serfs (1861; see Emancipation, Edict ofEmancipation, Edict of,
1861, the mechanism by which Czar Alexander II freed all Russian serfs (one third of the total population). All personal serfdom was abolished, and the peasants were to receive land from the landlords and pay them for it.
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). This failed, however, to meet the land needs of the newly freed group and created many new problems. In 1864, a system of limited local self-government was introduced (see zemstvozemstvo
[Rus., from zemlya=land], local assembly that functioned as a body of provincial self-government in Russia from 1864 to 1917. The introduction of the zemstvo system was one of the major liberal reforms in the reign of Alexander II.
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) and the judicial system was partially Westernized. Municipal government was overhauled (1870), universal military training was introduced (1874), and censorship and control over education were temporarily relaxed. In Poland, Alexander initially adopted a moderate policy, granting the subject nation partial autonomy. When revolt broke out in 1863, however, Alexander reacted with brutal suppression, imposing severe Russification. The Western powers were sharply warned against interference. Prussia's support of Russia during this diplomatic crisis led to a Russo-Prussian rapprochement, and in 1872 the Three Emperors' LeagueThree Emperors' League,
informal alliance among Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia, announced officially in 1872 on the occasion of the meeting of emperors Francis Joseph, William I, and Alexander II.
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 was formed by Russia, Prussia, and Austria-Hungary. Throughout his reign Alexander promoted vigorous expansion in the East. The conquest of the Ussuri region in East Asia was confirmed by the Treaty of Beijing (1860) with China. Central Asia was added to Russia by the conquest of Kokand, Khiva, and Bokhara (1865–76). Alaska, however, was sold (1867) to the United States. In 1877–78 Russia waged war on Turkey, ostensibly to aid the oppressed Slavs in the Balkans (see Russo-Turkish WarsRusso-Turkish Wars.
The great eastward expansion of Russia in the 16th and 17th cent., during the decline of the Ottoman Empire, nevertheless left the shores of the Black Sea in the hands of the Ottoman sultans and their vassals, the khans of Crimea.
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). Meanwhile, in domestic affairs, Alexander's reforms, while outraging many reactionaries, were regarded as far too moderate by the liberals and radicals. Radical activities increased sharply among the intelligentsia, resulting in a reassertion of repressive policies. When the populist, or "to the people," movement arose in the late 1860s (see narodnikinarodniki
, Russian populists, adherents of an agrarian socialist movement active from the 1860s to the end of the 19th cent. Influenced by the writings of Aleksandr Herzen, the narodniki
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), the government arrested and prosecuted hundreds of students. Many radicals responded with terrorist tactics. In 1881, after several unsuccessful attempts, a member of the People's Will, a terrorist offshoot of the populist movement, assassinated Alexander with a hand-thrown bomb; this on the very day (Mar. 13) that Alexander had signed a decree granting the zemstvos an advisory role in legislation. He was succeeded by his son Alexander IIIAlexander III,
1845–94, czar of Russia (1881–94), son and successor of Alexander II. Factors that contributed to Alexander's reactionary policies included his father's assassination, his limited intelligence and education, his military background, and the influence
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See studies by D. Footman (1974) and D. Lieven (1989).

Alexander II,

1198–1249, king of Scotland (1214–49), son and successor of William the Lion. He joined the English barons in their revolt against King John of England in 1215. Though he made his peace with John's successor, Henry III, in 1221, there was later friction that almost led to war. In 1237, Alexander agreed to give up his claims to overlordship in old Northumbria and to exchange lands he held in central England for lands in the north. At home Alexander was firm in quelling disorder.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Alexander II


Born Apr. 17 (29), 1818; died Mar. 1 (13), 1881. Emperor of Russia from Feb. 19, 1855. Oldest son of Nicholas I. General P. P. Ushakov was in charge of Alexander II’s education; his tutor was the poet V. A. Zhukov-skii. Married in 1841 to the princess of Hesse-Darmstadt, Maximiliana Wilhelmina Auguste Sofia Maria, who took the name of Maria Alexandrovna (1824–80). Married for a second time (morganatically) in 1880 to Princess E. M. Dol-gorukaia (Princess Iur’ievskaia). The most influential high officials at various times during his reign were la. I. Rosntovtsev, S. S. Lanskoi, P. A. Valuev, A. M. Gorchakov, P. A. Shuvalov, D. A. Miliutin, and M. T. Loris-Melikov.

Alexander II was a conservative in his political views. However, the course of the country’s economic development, the defeat in the Crimean War of 1853–56, the social ferment, and the revolutionary upsurge forced Alexander to implement in the 1860’s and 1870’s a series of bourgeois reforms: the abolition of serfdom, the establishment of the zemstvo (district assembly), and the enactment of judicial, municipal, military, and other reforms.

The fall of the revolutionary wave after the suppression of the Polish uprising of 1863–64 made it easier for Alexander’s government to move to a reactionary course. The immediate occasion for this was the first attempt on Alexander’s life, by D. V. Karakozov on Apr. 4, 1866. There were a number of other assassination attempts: by A. Berezovskii (1867), by A. K. Solov’ev (Apr. 2, 1879), and by the Populists, who organized the explosion which struck the tsar’s train in the autumn of 1879 and the explosion in the Winter Palace, carried out by S. N. Khalturin (Feb. 5, 1880). At the end of the 1870’s repression against the revolutionaries intensified. In 1880, Alexander established the Supreme Administrative Commission, headed by Loris-Melikov, to struggle against the revolutionary movement. Its program, in addition to repressive measures, provided for a series of reforms.

In foreign relations, Alexander II maintained a Ger-manophile orientation; he revered his uncle Wilhelm I, the king of Prussia (from 1871, the emperor of Germany). The so-called Eastern Question, in particular the struggle to abolish the conditions of the Treaty of Paris of 1856, occupied an important place in his foreign policy. In 1877, in the attempt to strengthen Russian influence in the Balkans, Alexander began a war with Turkey.

On Mar. 1, 1881, in Petersburg, Alexander II was killed by a bomb thrown by I. I. Grinevitskii in accordance with the sentence of the executive committee of the People’s Will.


Lenin, V. I. “Goniteli zemstva i Annibaly liberalizma.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 5.
Lenin, V. I. “’Krest’ianskaia reforma’ i proletarski-krest’ianskaia revoliutsiia.” Ibid., vol. 20.
Tatishchev, S. S. Imperator Aleksandr II: ego zhizn’ i tsarstvovanie, 2nd ed., vols. 1–2. St. Petersburg, 1911.
Zaionchkovskii, P. A. Krizis samoderzhaviia na rubezhe 1870–1880 gg. Moscow, 1964.


Alexander II


Died 1605. King of Kakheti from 1574.

Alexander II attempted to reestablish fortified cities and monasteries in order to strengthen the country’s defense; he purchased guns in Moscow and enlisted gunners and gunsmiths. Kakheti’s commercial ties with European and Asian countries expanded during his reign. He fought to strengthen the centralization of power. Interested in an alliance with Russia, Alexander adopted an oath of loyalty to Tsar Fedor Ivanovich in 1587. He was murdered upon the instigation of the Iranian shah Abbas.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Alexander II

1. 1198--1249, king of Scotland (1214--49), son of William (the Lion)
2. 1818--81, tsar of Russia (1855--81), son of Nicholas I, who emancipated the serfs (1861). He was assassinated by the Nihilists
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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