The Emperors and Empresses of Russia: Rediscovering the Romanovs

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

Emperor Nicholas I, 1825-1855

Setting the tone for her article in the very first sentence ("It would be difficult to find a more odious figure in Russian history than Nicholas I"), archivisthistorian Tatiana Aleksandrovna Kapustina presents a persuasive sketch of Tsar Nicholas I. Although she does not attempt to counter the more or less unanimous assessment found in the historical literature of Nicholas's incumbency as a period of political conservatism, she nonetheless reminds us that "it would be an oversimplification to judge the thirty-year reign of Nicholas I solely as a period of deep reaction." To be sure, Nicholas knew he was ill-prepared for the role of autocrat and this is probably why he showed little enthusiasm for assuming the throne when Alexander I died in 1825. However, Nicholas's response to the rebellion that broke out in connection with the complicated succession, the Decembrist Revolt, reinforced his belief in himself and convinced him he was destined to be sovereign. Critical of Soviet historiography that presents the Decembrists as glamorous revolutionaries in search of a liberal order for Russia, Kapustina reminds us that these misguided individuals sought "to destroy the Imperial family and dismember Russia." She likewise dismisses Soviet historians' depiction of Nicholas's sustained persecution of poet Alexander Pushkin. Taking into account the circumstances in which Nicholas implemented his policies, Kapustina suggests that Nicholas's views were important, but so were real limits to autocratic power. "Life within the framework of the obsolete system went on, quite contrary to the conservative foundations of Nicholas's policies." This is an important and provocative notion raised--but not developed--by the author. Her examples come mainly from the realm of developments in the Russian economy, where changes--ironically enough--resulted in the breakdown of the economic and social foundations on which the autocracy had been founded.

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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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