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Alexander I

Life time: 1777-1825. Russian emperor since 1801. Prince Royal of Paul I and great princess Maria Fedorovna.

At the beginning of his rule, he carried out moderately liberal reforms, developed by Private committee and M.M.Speransky. In foreign policy he maneuvered between the Great Britain and France. In 1805-1807 he participated in the anti-French coalitions. In 1807-1812, Alexander I temporarily became close to France. He waged successful wars against Turkey (1806-1812) and Sweden (1808-1809). Under his rule the following territories were annexed to Russian Empire: Eastern Georgia (1801), Finland (1809), Bessarabia (1812), Azerbaijan (1813), former Warsaw duchy (1815). After patriotic war of 1812, he headed in 1813-1814 anti-French coalition of European powers. Alexander I was one of the heads of Viennese congress in 1814-1815 and one of the organizers of Sacred union. Russian emperor from 1801 till 1825.

Alexander I came to the Russian throne, intending to carry out a radical reform of Russian government by creation of constitution, guaranteeing personal freedom and civil rights for all citizens. In the first days after accession to the throne, Alexander declared, that he would rule the Russia "by laws and spirit" of Catherine II. On April 5, 1801 Permanent council was founded, it was the law-making body at the sovereign, it received the right to appeal against action and decrees of the Tsar. By the time of his crowning (in September 1801), the termination of distribution of state peasants to private hands had been declared. The further consideration of peasantry question resulted on February 20, 1803 in appearance of decree on "free plowmen", allowing landowners to liberate peasants and to give them land as property, that for the first time had created a category of personally free peasants. Parallel with it Alexander I carried out administrative reform and reform of education.

Alexander made closer to himself at first A.A. Arakcheev and later M.B. Barklay de Tolli, who became in 1810 a Minister of War, and M.M. Speransky, whom Alexander entrusted with development of new project of the state reform. During 1810-1811, in the State Council plans of financial, ministerial and Senate reforms, offered by Speransky, were discussed. Realization of the first of them resulted in reduction of budget deficit; by summer of 1811 transformation of ministries had been finished. Meanwhile Alexander felt strongest pressure of court circles, including members of his family, who tried not to allow any radical reforms. Factor of Russia's world status had great value: growing tension in relations with France and necessity of preparation for war, enabled opposition to view reformatory activity of Speransky as being antistate, and declare Speransky the Napoleon's spy. All this resulted in the fact that Alexander, inclined to compromises, though not believing in Speransky's guilt, fired him in March of 1812.

On coming to power, Alexander tried to carry out the foreign policy in a new way. However, already in 1803 the peace with France was proved to be unprofitable for Russia, in May of 1804 Russian side recalled ambassador from France and began to prepare for a new war. Alexander refused to ratify the peace treaty with France signed in June of 1806; and only defeat at Friedland in May of 1807 compelled the Russian emperor to complete the agreement. Russia contracted alliance with France and agreement on section of influence zones was signed too. As further development of events showed Tilzit agreement turned out to be more favourable for Russia, it allowed to collect forces. At the meeting with Alexander in Erfurt (September 1808) Napoleon recognized the right of Russia to seized during the Russian-Swedish war (1808-1809) Finland, Russia in its turn acknowledge the right of France to Spain.

However, already at that time relations between the allies began to get worse. In 1810, Alexander signed the decree on neutral trade, which actually brought to nothing the continental blockade. On June 12, 1812 French armies crossed the Russian border. Patriotic war of 1812 began. Alexander considered intrusion of Napoleonic armies on Russia not only as the greatest threat to Russia, but also as the personal insult. Alexander left the army and returned to St. Petersburg. After Smolensk city was abandoned to intruders, emperor gave in to the public opinion and appointed M.I.Kutuzov commander-in-chief. After banishment of Napoleonic forces from Russia, Alexander returned to army and was there during foreign campaigns of 1813-1814. Victory over Napoleon strengthened Alexander's authority; he became one of the mightiest rulers of Europe. According to decisions of Viennese congress (1815) Russia acquired the territory of Great Warsaw duchy, and monarchy was restored in France. Russian emperor, in particular, managed to get support of his idea of constitution introduction in Poland. However, the strengthening of Russian influence in Europe caused counteraction of allies. In 1825 the Holy union fell to pieces.

Alexander undertook next series of reformatory attempts even in internal policy of post-war time. Back in 1809, the Great Finnish princedom came into existence. In May of 1815, Alexander declared granting of constitution to Polish Empire. In 1817-1818 a number of close to emperor people (including A.A. Arakcheyev) were engaged, on his order, in development of projects of step-by-step serfdom liquidation in Russia. In 1818 Alexander gave N.N. Novosiltsev the task to prepare the project of Russian constitution. In 1817, instead of the Ministry of Public Education, the Ministry of Religion Affairs and National Education, led by the chief-public prosecutor of the Holy synod and head of the Biblical society A.N. Golitsyn, was set up. Under his management, Russian universities were actually destroyed; severe censorship was established. In 1822 Alexander prohibited activity of secret societies in Russia and ratified the Senate proposal, allowing landowners to exile peasants to Siberia for "bad behavior".

The last years of his life Alexander again quite often told the relatives about his intention to abdicate and "to leave secular world", so after his sudden death from typhoid fever in Taganrog there appeared a legend about 'old monk Feodor Kuzmich'. According to this legend, not the Tsar but his double died in Taganrog, while the Tsar lived long as an old monk-eremite in Siberia and died in 1864. But any documentary confirmations of this legend do not exist.


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