The Emperors and Empresses of Russia: Rediscovering the Romanovs

By A. A. Iskenderov; Donald J. Raleigh | Go to book overview

Emperor Alexander I,
1801-1825

Complex, elusive, cunning, shy, insincere, enigmatic, and contradictory are just some of the mystifying appellations that observers and historians alike have used to describe Tsar Alexander I, who came to the throne in 1801, following the deposition and murder of his father, Emperor Paul I. Hailed as a liberal by some and a tyrant by others, Alexander has puzzled generations of historians, because of the unfulfilled promise of many of his endeavors and the psychological paradoxes inherent in so many of his actions. Whereas some of the Russian authors represented in this collection have sought to rehabilitate the tarnished reputations of their protagonists, Moscow University historian Vladimir Aleksandrovich Fedorov presents a disparaging description of Alexander I, "a republican in words but an autocrat in deeds."

Like many writers, Fedorov places great importance on Alexander's formative years, when he was torn between the two worlds of St. Petersburg ( Catherine II) and Gatchina (Paul I). The result was an insincere heir to the throne. And one who did not like Russians. "Extremely proud, mistrustful, and suspicious, Alexander took clever advantage of people's weaknesses and knew how to play at 'sincerity' as a reliable way to control people and subordinate them to his will," writes Fedorov. The author supplements this none-too-flattering characterization with flashes of a suspicious Alexander monitoring his subjects' mail, and a cruel ruler who brutally cut down a peasant who dared to cross his path. Fedorov also assesses the emperor's foreign policy, his attempts at would-be reform, and the period of religious obscurantism and mysticism that prevailed during part of his reign.

In Fedorov's view, Alexander's tenure did not mark a return to Catherine's "Golden Age" for the nobility or a total rejection of his father's policies. Not a

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The Emperors and Empresses of Russia: Rediscovering the Romanovs
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The New Russian History ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • About the Editors and Contributors vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • Emperor Peter I, 1682-1725 3
  • Empress Anna Ivanovna, 1730-1740 37
  • Empress Elizabeth I, 1741-1762 66
  • Emperor Peter III, 1762 101
  • Empress Catherine II, 1762-1796 134
  • Emperor Paul I, 1796-1801 177
  • Emperor Alexander I, 1801-1825 216
  • Emperor Nicholas I, 1825-1855 256
  • Emperor Alexander II, 1855-1881 294
  • Emperor Alexander III, 1881-1894 334
  • Emperor Nicholas II, 1894-1917 369
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 403
  • Index 405
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