Nicholas I

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Nicholas I,

1796–1855, czar of Russia (1825–55), third 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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. His brother and predecessor, Alexander IAlexander I,
1777–1825, czar of Russia (1801–25), son of Paul I (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 Harpe, seemed to influence Alexander.
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, died childless (1825). ConstantineConstantine
(Konstantin Pavlovich) , 1779–1831, Russian grand duke, second son of Czar Paul I and brother of Alexander I and Nicholas I. On the death of Alexander I (1825), Constantine was next in line for succession to the throne.
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, Paul's second son, was next in succession but had secretly renounced (1822) the throne after marrying a Polish aristocrat. This secrecy resulted in confusion at Alexander's death and touched off the DecembristDecembrists
, 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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 uprising, a rebellion against Nicholas, which he crushed on the first day of his reign.

Nicholas strove to serve his country's best interests as he saw them, but his methods were dictatorial, paternalistic, and often inadequate. One important achievement, however, was the codification (1832–33) of existing Russian law. A few measures attempted to limit the landlords' powers over their serfs, and the condition of peasants belonging to the state was improved. Industry progressed somewhat; the first Russian railroad was completed in 1838. Efforts were made to stabilize the ruble and reduce the growing national debt.

The motto "autocracy, orthodoxy, and nationality," expressing the principles applied to a new system of education, was also used by Nicholas in suppressing liberal thought, controlling the universities, increasing censorship, persecuting religious and national minorities, and strengthening the secret police. Intellectual life was in ferment, the revolutionary movement took form, and the two schools of thought held by Slavophiles and WesternizersSlavophiles and Westernizers,
designation for two groups of intellectuals in mid-19th-century Russia that represented opposing schools of thought concerning the nature of Russian civilization. The differences between them, however, were not always clear cut.
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 emerged. With 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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, LermontovLermontov, Mikhail Yurevich
, 1814–41, Russian poet and novelist. Given an extensive private education by his wealthy grandmother, Lermontov began writing poetry when he was 14.
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, and GogolGogol, Nikolai Vasilyevich
, 1809–52, Russian short-story writer, novelist, and playwright, sometimes considered the father of Russian realism. Of Ukrainian origin, he first won literary success with fanciful and romantic tales of his native Ukraine in
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 a golden age in literature began.

Under Nicholas, Russia gained control of part of Armenia and the Caspian Sea after a war with Persia (1826–28). A war with the Ottoman Empire (1828–29; 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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) gave Russia the eastern coast of the Black Sea and the mouth of the Danube. Nicholas brutally suppressed the uprising (1830–31) in PolandPoland,
Pol. Polska, officially Republic of Poland, republic (2015 est. pop. 38,265,000), 120,725 sq mi (312,677 sq km), central Europe. It borders on Germany in the west, on the Baltic Sea and the Kaliningrad region of Russia in the north, on Lithuania, Belarus, and
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 and abrogated the Polish constitution and Polish autonomy. In 1849 he helped Austria crush the revolution in Hungary. His attempts to dominate the Ottoman Empire led to the disastrous Crimean WarCrimean War
, 1853–56, war between Russia on the one hand and the Ottoman Empire, Great Britain, France, and Sardinia on the other. The causes of the conflict were inherent in the unsolved Eastern Question.
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 (1853–56). He was succeeded by his son Alexander IIAlexander II,
1818–81, czar of Russia (1855–81), son and successor of Nicholas I. He ascended the throne during the Crimean War (1853–56) and immediately set about negotiating a peace (see Paris, Congress of).
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See biographies by B. W. Lincoln (1978) and A. E. Presniakov (1978); P. Kurth, Tsar (1995).

Nicholas I,

1841–1921, prince (1860–1910) and king (1910–18) of Montenegro, successor of his uncle, Danilo IIDanilo II
(Danilo Petrović-Njegoš), 1826–60, prince of Montenegro (1851–60). He secularized (1852) his principality (chiefly in order to be able to marry) and transferred his ecclesiastic functions to an archbishop.
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. In 1862, after a series of frontier incidents, Nicholas was forced into war with the Ottoman Empire. Despite heroic resistance he had to conclude an unfavorable peace. He then reorganized his army. Although he rivaled Serbia for leadership of the South Slavs, in 1876 he allied himself with Serbia, intervened in favor of the rebels in Bosnia and Herzegovina, declared war on the Ottomans, and waged a successful campaign in Herzegovina. Russia's entrance (1877) into the war assured him of success. The Treaty of San StefanoSan Stefano, Treaty of
, 1878, peace treaty between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, at the conclusion of the last of the Russo-Turkish Wars; it was signed at San Stefano (now Yeşilköy), a village W of İstanbul, Turkey.
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 (1878) trebled the size of Montenegro; the final boundaries adopted at the Congress of Berlin reduced the Montenegrin gains but gave access to the Adriatic Sea. Montenegro was recognized as fully independent, and, in 1910, Nicholas proclaimed himself king. He sided with Serbia in World War I but sought (1915) a separate peace with the Central Powers after his troops had been routed. When Montenegro was occupied by Austrian troops, he fled the country. In exile, he resisted the proposed union of Montenegro with Serbia under a Serbian king. He was declared deposed (1918) by a pro-Serb assembly at Podgorica, which proclaimed the union. Nicholas succeeded in marrying his five daughters into the ruling houses of Europe, including those of Italy, Russia, and Serbia.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Nicholas I


(Nikolai Pavlovich Romanov). Born June 25 (July 6), 1796, in Tsarskoe Selo, now the city of Pushkin; died Feb. 18 (Mar. 2), 1855, in St. Petersburg. Emperor of Russia (1825–55).

The third son of the emperor Paul I, Nicholas ascended the throne after the sudden death of his brother Alexander I. After crushing the Decembrist rebellion, Nicholas began his reign with the execution of the rebellion’s leaders.

Nicholas I received an education that was limited to military engineering. He was cruel and despotic by nature. Rigid in his political views, Nicholas believed that autocracy was unshakable, and the notion of legality was beyond his grasp. In the final analysis, his personal conceptions were the measure of what was true, and hence, the principal quality that he demanded of those around him was obedience. This led to the establishment of an atmosphere of falsehood, servility, and hypocrisy around him.

Nicholas’ reign saw the apex of absolute monarchy in its military-bureaucratic form. The strengthening and centralization of the bureaucratic apparatus reached unprecedented proportions under Nicholas I; expenditures on government officials and on the army consumed nearly all state revenues. Militarylike order prevailed in all institutions, Gymnasiums, and universities. For the slightest disobedience, officials were marched off to the guardhouse and students were impressed into the army. The crisis that the feudal, serf-owning system reached in the second quarter of the 19th century was reflected in Nicholas’ economic policy.

Striving to strengthen the existing political system and mistrusting the bureaucratic apparatus, Nicholas significantly broadened the functions of His Imperial Majesty’s Own Chancery. He gave this chancery control over all major branches of government, replacing the higher state organs. The most important department in the chancery was the Third Section, which administered the secret political police.

At the beginning of his reign, Nicholas strove to reform existing state institutions. He altered legislation, creating the committee of 6 December 1826. During his reign, all legislative acts in effect in 1835 were compiled in the Code of Laws of the Russian Empire. In public education, the strict principle of separation by estate (soslovnost’) was implemented. Under this principle the dvorianstvo (nobility or gentry) was given preferential treatment (Statute on Gymnasiums of 1828 and General Statute on Imperial Russian Universities of 1835). In 1826 a new statute on censorship was introduced. Dubbed the “cast-iron” statute, this extremely reactionary measure was replaced in 1828 by a more moderate statute. However, numerous restrictions on literary activity were soon added to the new statute.

All ideology was subject to the formula “Autocracy, Orthodoxy, and Nationality.” The term “nationality” was understood to mean official patriotism—chauvinist praise of the existing regime. The most progressive Russians were subjected to persecution and repression. Among the victims of Nicholas’ arbitrariness were A. S. Pushkin, M. Iu. Lermontov, A. I. Herzen, N. P. Ogarev, N. A. Polevoi, N. I. Nadezhdin, P. Ia. Chaadaev, and T. G. Shevchenko. Among the revolutionary organizations forcibly disbanded during this period were the Petrashevskii circle and the Society of Cyril and Methodius. Nicholas cruelly suppressed national movements, such as the one led by Shamil and the Polish Uprising of 1830–31. He intensified the russification and Christianization of non-Russian nationalities and persecuted the Old Believers.

The most important issue of domestic policy under Nicholas I was the peasant problem. The monarch understood the necessity of abolishing serfdom but could not accomplish its abolition because of opposition from the dvorianstvo and because of fear of a “general shock.” Consequently he limited his efforts to such insignificant measures as the promulgation of a law on obligated peasants (obiazannye krest’iane) and the partial implementation of reforms affecting state peasants.

Despite Nicholas’ policy of preserving existing feudal institutions, however, the objective process of social development led to a number of measures that furthered the economic development of Russia. These measures included the creation of councils of trade and manufactures, the organization of industrial exhibitions, and the opening of higher educational institutions, including technical institutes. In spite of Nicholas’ wishes, the number of raznochintsy (intellectuals of no definite class) in secondary and higher educational institutions increased.

During the entire length of Nicholas’ reign, Russia’s foreign policy was conducted by K. V. Nessel’rode. A major element in this policy was the Eastern Question, which involved Russia’s desire to ensure the existence of a regime favorable to Russia in the Black Sea straits. This was extremely important both for the security of the southern borders and for the economic development of the state. However, with the exception of the Treaty of Unkiar Skelessi of 1833, Nicholas planned to achieve his ends through aggressive action—by partitioning the Ottoman (Osman) Empire. This was the cause of the Crimean War of 1853–56. An important aspect of Nicholas’ foreign policy was the return to the principles of the Holy Alliance. This was proclaimed in 1833 after Nicholas’ entry into an alliance with the emperor of Austria and the king of Prussia against revolution in Europe. While implementing the principles of this alliance, Nicholas broke off diplomatic relations with France in 1848, undertook an invasion of the Danubian principalities, and cruelly suppressed the revolution of 1848–49 in Hungary. He conducted a policy of energetic territorial expansion in Middle Asia and Kazakhstan. Defeat in the Crimean War led to the collapse of the political system of Nicholas I and to the death of the emperor himself.


Shil’der, N. K. Imperator Nikolai I, ego zhizn’i tsarstvovanie, vols. 1–2. St. Petersburg, 1903.
Kiustin, A. de. Nikolaevskaia Rossiia. Moscow, 1930.
Tatishchev, S. S. Vneshniaia politika imperatora Nikolaia I. St. Petersburg, 1887.
Polievktov, M. Nikolai I. Moscow, 1918.
Presniakov, A. E. Apogei samoderzhaviia, Nikolai I. Moscow, 1925.


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

Nicholas I

1. Saint, called the Great. died 867 ad, Italian ecclesiastic; pope (858--867). He championed papal supremacy. Feast day: Nov. 13
2. 1796--1855, tsar of Russia (1825--55). He gained notoriety for his autocracy and his emphasis on military discipline and bureaucracy
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
In 1829, a mock medieval tournament was held in celebration of the birthday of Nicholas I's wife, Alexandra Federovna.
Similarly, Nicholas I decreed the creation of a Rabbinical Commission in 1848, but it never became a permanent institution and met only six times by 1910.
Avrutin argues that the imperial state began to shift from a focus on administering territories and communities to managing populations at the individual level under Nicholas I. After Nicholas I's death and the Great Reforms, economic change and greater ease of movement produced a vast increase in the mobility of the empire's population.
"Despite the many stories of tsarist oppression highlighted in Soviet books and films," he writes, "the fact remain[s] that only five men [were] executed during Nicholas I's thirty-year reign." Lenin and Stalin ordered the deaths of millions, few of whom were guilty of any wrongdoing.
The military draft introduced by Nicholas I was greeted with horror by the empire's Jewish community, a fact that has been shown by Olga Litvak in her excellent monograph Conscription and Modern Russian Jewry.
While not denying that Jews had reason to feel threatened by Nicholas I's conscription policies, Petrovsky-Shtern points out that Jews were not treated differently from Catholic Poles and Lithuanians or Protestant Latvians and Estonians.
Though the university reforms of 1804 and 1863 serve as its chronological bookends, the study's focus is on the reign of Nicholas I. Drawing on official regulations, memoirs of former students, unpublished letters, diaries, and other archival sources, Friedman divides her study into thematic chapters.
Thus the average age of bishops at their first pre-episcopal job continually declined from thirty years in the Post-Petrine era to twenty-seven years under Catherine to twenty-five years during Nicholas I's reign.
Wortman notes that the Russian word umilenie (feeling of tenderness") frequently appeared in the record of Nicholas I's ceremonializing.
It is possible to appreciate through this lucid book something of the awesome majesty felt by Russians as they, for instance, witnessed the ritualistic triple bow to a worshipful throng from the Red Staircase in the Moscow Kremlin initiated on 22 August 1826, by the haughty Emperor Nicholas I.
Roberts argues that Nicholas I intervened in Hungary because he feared that the revolution would spread to Russia (by way of Galicia), not simply because he defended the monarchical principle in Europe.
Indeed, other scholars (such as Istvan Deak in The Lawful Revolution) dispute the claim that Polish involvement prompted Nicholas I to invade Hungary.