Paul I

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Paul I

Paul 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. During Catherine's lifetime Paul opposed her domestic policy, which strengthened the nobility, and her expansionist foreign policy. Upon his accession he introduced a law of succession based on primogeniture to strengthen the autocracy against the nobility. Paul rescinded many of the nobles' rights, limited the power of the imperial guards, and attempted to place limits on the nobility's exploitation of their serfs. He encouraged trade and industry and attempted to modernize the armed forces. His erratic conduct and whimsical application of petty regulations, however, caused great discontent. He prohibited foreign travel, certain types of dress, and the importation of Western books and music. In foreign policy, Paul joined (1798) the second coalition against France, but withdrew from the coalition the next year. He formed an armed neutrality league of Russia, Denmark, Sweden, and Prussia to counter English interference in neutral shipping, and he ordered an abortive invasion of India. Dissatisfaction with his rule, particularly among the nobles and military officers, led to a conspiracy against Paul, and he was murdered. His son and successor, Alexander I, knew of the conspiracy but did not participate in the murder.

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