Alexander I

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Alexander I,

1777–1825, czar of Russia (1801–25), son of Paul IPaul I,
1754–1801, czar of Russia (1796–1801), son and successor of Catherine II. His mother disliked him intensely and sought on several occasions to change the succession to his disadvantage.
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 (in whose murder he may have taken an indirect part). In the first years of his reign the liberalism of his Swiss tutor, Frédéric César de La HarpeLa Harpe, Frédéric César de
, 1754–1838, Swiss statesman. He went (1782) to St. Petersburg, Russia, where he became the tutor of the future Czar Alexander I, in whom he attempted to instill liberal and democratic ideals.
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, seemed to influence Alexander. He suppressed the secret police, lifted the ban on foreign travel and books, made attempts to improve the position of the serfs, and began to reform the backward educational system. In 1805, Alexander joined the coalition against Napoleon INapoleon I
, 1769–1821, emperor of the French, b. Ajaccio, Corsica, known as "the Little Corporal." Early Life

The son of Carlo and Letizia Bonaparte (or Buonaparte; see under Bonaparte, family), young Napoleon was sent (1779) to French military schools at
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, but after the Russian defeats at Austerlitz and Friedland he formed an alliance with Napoleon by the Treaty of Tilsit (1807) and joined Napoleon's Continental SystemContinental System,
scheme of action adopted by Napoleon I in his economic warfare with England from 1806 to 1812. Economic warfare had been carried on before 1806, but the system itself was initiated by the Berlin Decree, which claimed that the British blockade of purely
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. Alexander requested M. M. SperanskiSperanski, Mikhail Mikhailovich
, 1772–1839, Russian public official, chief adviser to Czar Alexander I (1808–12). The son of a village priest, he rose as a civil servant, particularly after the accession of Alexander I.
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 to draw up proposals for a constitution, but adopted only one aspect of Speranski's scheme, an advisory state council, and dismissed him in 1812 to placate the nobility. During this period Russia gained control of Georgia and parts of Transcaucasia as a result of prolonged war with Persia (1804–13) and annexed (1812) Bessarabia after a war with Turkey (1806–12). Relations with France deteriorated, and Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812. Alexander's defeat of the French made him one of the most powerful rulers in Europe. At first his foreign policy was liberal, but from 1812 on, Alexander was preoccupied by a vague, mystical Christianity, which contributed to his increasing conservatism. Under the influence of the pietistic Juliana KrüdenerKrüdener, Juliana, Baroness von
, 1764–1824, Russian novelist and mystic. Born a Livonian aristocrat, she married a Russian diplomat. She left her husband (1801) for the pleasures of literary and social life in Paris and Switzerland.
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 and others, he created the Holy AllianceHoly Alliance,
1815, agreement among the emperors of Russia and Austria and the king of Prussia, signed on Sept. 26. It was quite distinct from the Quadruple Alliance (Quintuple, after the admission of France) of Great Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia, arrived at first in
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 to uphold Christian morality in Europe. Viewing revolutionary movements as challenging to the authority of legitimate Christian monarchs, the czar now supported MetternichMetternich, Clemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar, Fürst von
, 1773–1859, Austrian statesman and arbiter of post-Napoleonic Europe, b. Koblenz, of a noble Rhenish family.
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 in suppressing all national and liberal movements. Alexander's religious fervor was partly responsible for the establishment of military colonies, which were agricultural communities run by peasant soldiers. Intended to better the lot of the common soldier, the colonies became notorious for the regimentation and near-serfdom imposed on the soldiers. Alexander abrogated many of his earlier liberal efforts. His policies caused the formation of secret political societies, and when Alexander's brother 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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 succeeded him the societies led an abortive revolt (see DecembristsDecembrists
, in Russian history, members of secret revolutionary societies whose activities led to the uprising of Dec., 1825, against Czar Nicholas I. Formed after the Napoleonic Wars, the groups comprised officers who had served in Europe and had been influenced by Western
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). After Alexander's death, rumors persisted that he escaped to Siberia and became a hermit. His tomb was opened (1926) by the Soviet government and was found empty; the mystery remains unsolved. In Alexander's reign St. Petersburg became a social and artistic center of Europe. Ivan KrylovKrylov, Ivan Andreyevich
, 1769–1844, Russian fabulist. Some of his more than 200 fables were adapted from Aesop and La Fontaine, but most were original. A moralist, Krylov used popular language to satirize human weaknesses, social customs, and political events.
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 and Aleksandr PushkinPushkin, Aleksandr Sergeyevich
, 1799–1837, Russian poet and prose writer, among the foremost figures in Russian literature. He was born in Moscow of an old noble family; his mother's grandfather was Abram Hannibal, the black general of Peter the Great.
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 dominated the literary scene. An excellent picture of Alexander's period is found in Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.


See biographies by A. Palmer (1974) and H. Troyat (1986); study by C. Cate (1985).

Alexander I,

1078?–1124, king of Scotland (1107–24), son of Malcolm III and St. Margaret of Scotland. He succeeded his brother Edgar, who had divided the kingdom so that Alexander ruled only N of the Forth and Clyde rivers, while his brother David ruled in the south. Early in his reign he decisively quelled an uprising in N Scotland. Like his mother, Alexander encouraged ecclesiastical conformity with English ways and established several monasteries, including the abbeys at Inchcolm and Scone. David succeeded him as David I.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Alexander I


Born Dec. 12 (23), 1777, in St. Petersburg; died Nov. 19 (Dec. 1), 1825, in Taganrog. Russian emperor from Mar. 12, 1801. Oldest son of Paul I. Educated under the guidance of Catherine II. Ascended the throne after the murder of Paul I through a court conspiracy. Married in 1793 to the daughter of the margrave of Baden, Louise-Marie Auguste, who took the name of Elizaveta Alek-seevna (1779–1826). His character was marked by duplicity, indecisiveness, suspiciousness, and unhealthy self-esteem. At the same time, he was well educated, and his intellect was undeniable; he was an outstanding diplomat.

Moderately liberal reforms set the tone for the first half of Alexander I’s reign. Many of them were worked out by the so-called Unofficial Committee. The reforms included granting the right to buy unsettled land to merchants, the middle classes, and state settlers; the promulgation of the edict on free cultivators; the establishment of ministries, the Committee of Ministers, and the State Council; and the opening of Petersburg, Khar’kov, and Kazan universities. The aim of these measures was to preserve the autocracy in the context of the decay of serfdom and to avert a revolutionary explosion. In 1808, M. M. Speranskii became Alexander’s closest colleague. In essence, Speranskii’s project of state reform had the same goals as the other reforms. However, the basic propositions of Speranskii’s project were never realized.

In his foreign policy, Alexander I vacillated at first between England and France, and he simultaneously concluded peace treaties with both powers in 1801. In 1805–07 he participated in the Third and Fourth coalitions against Napoleonic France. Defeats at Austerlitz (1805), where Alexander I was in effect the commander in chief, and at Friedland (1807) and England’s refusal to subsidize the military expenses of the coalition led to the signing of the Peace of Tilsit (1807) with France. The treaty did not, however, prevent further Russian-French conflicts. Successful wars with Turkey (1806–12) and Sweden (1808–09) strengthened Russia’s international position. During Alexander’s reign, Georgia (1801), Finland (1809), Bessarabia (1812), and Azerbaijan (1813) were annexed by Russia.

The tsar was with the army in the field at the start of the Patriotic War of 1812 but left because of his inability to direct military operations. Under the pressure of public opinion, he designated M. I. Kutuzov commander in chief. In 1813–14, Alexander I headed the anti-French coalition of the European powers. On Mar. 31, 1814, he entered Paris at the head of the allied armies. He was one of the leaders of the Congress of Vienna (1814–15) and an organizer of the reactionary Holy Alliance (1815), at whose congresses he was an unfailing participant.

The victory of reaction in Europe after the defeat of Napoleonic France allowed Alexander to cease playing at liberalism in the domestic politics of Russia and embark openly on a reactionary course. In place of M. M. Speranskii, who was eliminated from all official duties in 1812 and exiled to Nizhny Novgorod, A. A. Arakcheev, A. N. Golit-syn, and others became Alexander’s closest aides. The right of landlords to exile their serfs without trial to Siberia, abolished in 1809, was reinstated; military settlements were created; and progressive science and culture were subjected to persecution. Various religious and mystical organizations blossomed. In the last years of his life Alexander I fell into extreme mysticism. His sudden death in Taganrog gave birth to the legend that Alexander had escaped to Siberia under the name of the elder Fedor Kuz’mich.


Shil’der, N. K. Imperator Aleksandr I, vols. 1–4. St. Petersburg, 1904–05.
Istoriia SSSR s drevneishikh vremen do nashikh dnei, vol. 4. Moscow, 1967. Chapters 2–4.


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

Alexander I

1. c. 1080--1124, king of Scotland (1107--24), son of Malcolm III
2. 1777--1825, tsar of Russia (1801--25), who helped defeat Napoleon and formed the Holy Alliance (1815)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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