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Tuesday, 23 December 2014
Life and Work of Emperor Alexander I Presented at Presidential Library in St. Petersburg
Topic: Alexander I

Portrait of Emperor Alexander I. Artist: Mikhail Kopyov 1947 -
To mark the 237th birthday anniversary of Alexander I, celebrated on December 23, 2014, the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library presented on its website rare materials about the life and work of the emperor. Documents are in open access.

December 12 (23), 1777 in St. Petersburg in the family of Grand Duke Paul Petrovich was born a son, Alexander, the future Emperor of Russia. The childhood and adolescence of the boy are described in detail in Nicholas Duchinsky’s “The blessed tsar. Emperor Alexander I.” There you can find the following lines: "One of the closest collaborators of the future emperor, Rostopchin, says bluntly: "You could safely say that there was no one in the world like the Grand Duke Alexander.

His soul was even better than the appearance. Never before were the moral and physical sides so well represented in one person." Alexander’s grandmother, Empress Catherine II saw him the successor of her activities, so the future emperor was given a reasonable and thorough education. She compiled herself "The Grandma alphabet" and a "Manual" for his teachers, wrote a fairy tale to be read to the child. Valuable documents describing the childhood of the future emperor have remained, such as a letter of Empress Catherine II to her friends, who lived mostly abroad. The Presidential Library website contains letters of Catherine the Great to Baron Grimm in French.

Alexander I was in a difficult situation due to the strained relationship between his father and grandmother. It is described in the book by G. N. Alekseyev "Alexander I”: «Grandmother’s grandson, he was at the same time the son of his father and found himself in a very awkward position between the father and grandmother. Those were the two courtyards, two special worlds, the moral distance between them was much wider that geographical. Alexander had to live in two minds, hold two ceremonial faces..." With the death of Catherine the ambiguous life came to an end. But Alexander I by that time held his father in distrust. At the same time, the stress in the country increased, people were outraged by the reign of Paul. March 11, 1801 as a result of a conspiracy Emperor Paul was killed. "Was Alexander Pavlovich aware of the conspiracy against his father? Undoubtedly was. The conspirators, primarily Count Panin, could not decide to eliminate the emperor without the agreement of the Grand Duke to ascend the throne... Alexander came to the conclusion that it was his duty to save the country and relatives from the growing madness of his father."

The morning of March 12 (24), 1801 was extremely delightful for the population of St. Petersburg, and then to the whole Russia. This was a day when a manifesto on the accession of Emperor Alexander I appeared. The enthusiasm of the people could not be described. According to the contemporary, ”People on the streets were crying with joy, hugging each other, as on the day of the Resurrection," says the book of Nicholas Duchinsky "Emperor Alexander I: his life and reign."

The time when Alexander Pavlovich was called to rule Russia, was an extremely important and serious. Russia occupied a prominent leadership position in international politics. The internal structure of the country was stable under the monarchy. The reign of Emperor Alexander I was marked by many great transformations. Alexander I intended to carry out a radical reform of the political system in Russia by creating a constitution which guaranteed all the subjects personal freedom and civil rights.

He sought to settle in his native country law, order and justice, to destroy tyranny and extortion. A reform of the higher and central machinery of government was carried out: ministries and Cabinet were established, the State Council was formed. At its opening in 1810 the emperor delivered his landmark speech: "All that there is solid and unshakable in the thoughts and desires of mankind, all that will be used by me to establish order and protect the empire with good laws," we read in the book of Nicholas Duchinsky. The "Manifesto of Emperor Alexander I on the formation of the State Council: January 1, 1810" with the handwritten signature of the sovereign is available on the website of the Presidential Library.

Alexander I actively took measures to expand education in Russia. "He established a special ministry of education and began to establish schools throughout Russia: in parishes, in district and provincial towns, universities in big cities. New universities appeared in St. Petersburg, Kharkov and Kazan," says the book of Nicholas Duchinsky "Emperor Alexander I: his life and reign." The emperor also sought to implement the agrarian reform, to abolish the serfdom. But the philanthropic monarch was not destined to fulfill this dream of his life, as most of his confidants believed that farmers were not prepared for the reform.

During the first fifteen years of the reign of Alexander Pavlovich there were hostilities almost without interruption. Confrontation with Napoleon involved Russia in the wars with Sweden, Turkey and Persia. As the result of the wars the corresponding peace treaties were signed. But the conflict with France was not exhausted, so in June 1812 the Patriotic War began. The Emperor of Russia took an active part in it. According to the book of Sofia Makarova "Alexander I Blessed” written in 1873: "The Emperor himself was at our army, and saw that the soldiers would not exhaust themselves during the maneuvers, that there was enough food and that everybody had his full serving of food." The same book describes the bravery of the monarch, manifested during fierce fighting: "The Emperor Alexander was under enemy fire, exposed to great danger. Grenades around him struck both horses and humans, but Alexander did not leave the battlefield."

Descriptions of the military exploits of Alexander I can also be found in the 1827 rare edition, "Selected features of memorable sayings and anecdotes of the august Emperor Alexander I, the peacemaker of Europe": "All plans for military actions in 1813 and 1814 belong to the Emperor Alexander I, though his modesty was hiding it; but he was not only a skilled and experienced commander; his fearlessness on the battlefield was witnessed by his soldiers whom he encouraged with his own example, filling them up with new courage."

The war with Napoleon was completed in 1815 with the capture of Paris. After the expulsion of the French from Russia, the Emperor Alexander I decided to continue the war in order to free the whole Europe from the yoke of Napoleon. According to the book of Nicholas Duchinsky, "The blessed tsar. Emperor Alexander I»:« He dearly loved his people. But he could not remain indifferent to see misery, suffering, injustice, which fell to the share of other nations either." Europe was liberated. Russia and Europe praised their deliverer. And since then Alexander I was called the Blessed. In September 1815, Alexander I initiated the establishment of the Holy Alliance - a prototype of international organizations, which was a kind of guarantor that the resolutions of the Congress of Vienna were observed.

At the same time Alexander I had an uneasy relationship with Alexander Pushkin. Welcoming the reign of the emperor, the poet wrote: "Great start of Alexander’s days..." But after a while other lines appeared, sarcastic and satirical, “A weak and wicked lord, bald dandy, the enemy of labor..." The emperor was also secretly depicted by Pushkin in "The Queen of Spades" in the guise of a lieutenant, Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Tomsk. For such a frank voluntary statements Alexander Pushkin was repeatedly sent into exile by the emperor.

The Emperor died in 1825 in Taganrog during a trip around Russia and was buried in the family vault of the Romanov dynasty - the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. 
© Yeltsin Presidential Library. 23 December, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 3:48 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 23 December 2014 3:55 PM EST
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