On This Day: Emperor Alexander II was Born in Moscow Topic: Alexander II
Portrait of Emperor Alexander II, wearing the greatcoat and cap of the Imperial Horse-Guards Regiment
Note: this article has been edited and updated from its original by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
On 29 April (O.S. 17 April), 1818 the family of Grand Duke Nicholas Pavlovich (future Emperor Nicholas I) and the Grand Duchess Alexandra Feodorovna (born Princess Charlotte of Prussia) welcomed a new son into the world. Alexander Nicholaevich was born in the Small Nicholas Palace, located inside the Moscow Kremlin. The older brothers of his father, Emperor Alexander I and Tsesarevich Konstantin, did not have any heirs in the male line, thus Alexander Nicholaevich was a long-awaited successor of the Romanov dynasty.
The future Emperor Alexander II was well educated. The famed Russian poet V. A. Zhukovsky was his mentor; among the tutors: public figure and statesman M. M. Speransky (legislation), geographer and ethnographer K. I. Arseniev (statistics and history), Archpriest Gerasimus Pavsky (religion and holy history), Finance Minister E. F. Kankrin (economy), diplomat F. I. Brunov (foreign policy), German botanist K. B. Trinius (natural history). Military instructor of Alexander was Captain K. K. Merder, the main educator – General P. P. Ushakov. The heir’s personality was formed under the influence of his father who wished his son to be a military man and also of his tutor who wanted to make the future monarch an educated man. Both influences left a deep mark on the heir’s character, inclinations, world outlook and impacted his reign. By nature Alexander had an excellent memory, a sober mind, was responsive and sympathetic, cheerful and benevolent.
From 1834 to 1842 Alexander Nicholaevich was sequentially made a member of the Senate, Holy Synod, State Council and Ministers Committee. In 1837 he travelled over the European part of Russia, visited Transcaucasia, and Western Siberia. In 1838-1839 he travelled over Europe. At the same time he was promoted in his military career. In 1836 he was given the rank of major general, in 1844 – of general, and in 1849 Alexander became the Head of military and education institutions. During the Crimea campaign of 1853-1856 when Petersburg province was declared in martial law, the heir to the throne commanded all the capital’s troops. In 1841 Alexander married Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine, known in Russia as Maria Alexandrovna.
In 1855 Alexander II mounted the throne and reigned until 1881. On 13 March (O.S. 1 March), the Emperor was mortally wounded by an explosive thrown at him on the Catherine Canal embankment in St. Petersburg.
Two years later, in October 1883, Emperor Alexander III issued a decree for the construction of the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood” (Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ) on the place where Alexander II had been mortally wounded in St. Petersburg. The cathedral was built as a memorial to the emperor-reformer and a symbol of repentance of the Russian people of his murder.
Shakhty Unveils New Monument to Emperor Alexander II Topic: Alexander II
Monument to Emperor Alexander II in Shakhty
A new monument to Emperor Alexander II was unveiled yesterday in the Russian city of Shakhty, situated 75 kilometers northeast of Rostov-on-Don.
The installation of the monument is a tribute to Alexander II in the modern-day city of Shakhty, which from 1881 to 1920 was named Aleksandrovsk-Grushevskii in honour of the emperor, who was killed by an assassin in 1881.
The overall height of the monument is 5.7 meters, which includes a 2.4 meter bronze figure of Alexander II on a pedestal made of dark granite. The front of the monument contains the simple inscription "Alexander II. King - Liberator", while the back side contains a brief biographical note on the ruler.
Veliky Novgorod Hosts 'Alexander II and Tsarskoye Selo' Exhibition Topic: Alexander II
The Museum of Fine Arts in Veliky Novgorod is currently hosting the exhibition Alexander II and Tsarskoye Selo. It presents about 160 exhibits from the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Palace Preserve, including costumes, weapons, and the personal items of Emperor Alexander II and his family.
The name of Alexander II is closely associated with the creation of one of the first provincial museums in Russia. The emperor, arrived in Novgorod in 1862, where he participated in the celebrations marking the 1000th anniversary of Russian statehood. According to some reports, the emperor expressed his wish to establish a museum here. Three years later, in 1865, the museum was established. As a result, Emperor Alexander II is recognized as its founder. A reception was held in his honour in the Imperial Hall of the Nobility Association, which was attended by the emperor.
Alexander II, is considered one of the most beloved and respected figures of Russian history. His life and reign are closely associated with the history of Tsarskoye Selo, where he lived for many years with his consort Empress Maria Alexandrovna and their children in the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace.
The exhibition includes a number of uniforms worn by the emperor. It is a miracle that the uniforms survived. During the Great Patriotic War, many valuable artefacts were evacuated to avoid theft and destruction by the Nazis. The museum staff lacked wrapping material, so in haste, the uniforms of Emperor Alexander II and other members of the Russian Imperial family were used to wrap the palace treasures.
The exhibit also features numerous personal items - dishes, candlesticks, clocks, inkstand, among other items, plus portraits depicting the family of Alexander II, among other paintings which once decorated the interiors of the palace rooms.
Visitors to the exhibition are also invited to watch a film which showcases the exquisite watercolours of the interiors of the private apartments of Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna, painted by E.P. Hau, L. Premazzi and K.A Ukhtomsky.
The Novgorod Museum-Reserve have issued a richly illustrated catalogue of the exhibition, it can be purchased in the art salon of the Museum of Fine Arts.
The exhibition Alexander II at Tsarskoye Selo runs until June 7th at the Museum of Fine Arts in Veliky Novgorod.
Bulgarians Bring Flowers to Monument to Alexander II in Sofia Topic: Alexander II
Monument to the Tsar Liberator – Alexander II, is situated in front of the National Assembly, in Sofia, Bulgaria
The Bulgarian national holiday – Liberation Day – was celebrated on March 3, marking the 137th anniversary of the liberation of Balkan country in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. Government officials, members of the clergy and other residents of Sofia laid flowers at the Monument to the Tsar Liberator – Alexander II, which is situated in front of the National Assembly of Bulgaria.
Wreaths were laid on behalf of President of the Republic of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev, Bulgarian Patriarch Neofit, Chairperson of the National Assembly Tsetska Tsacheva, Mayor of Sofia Yordanka Fandakova, the Minister of Defence, the Council of Ministers, ministries, the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) and the parliamentary groups.
Anatoly Karpov, President of the International Association of Peace Foundations, read a message from State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin to the participants of the ceremony. The message was read in Russian without a translation.
Earlier in the day Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria held a solemn service at the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia. Along with high-ranking members of the Bulgarian clergy, priests, representatives of the Russian and Romanian Orthodox Churches with the Bulgarian Patriarchate, Patriarch Neofit said prayed for the souls of all Russian, Romanian, Finnish, Ukrainian and Belarusian soldiers and members of the Bulgarian volunteer corps who died for Bulgaria’s liberation.
In Moscow on March 3 a memorial service was held at the chapel built in honour of Russian soldiers who died during the Siege of Plevna. On this date each year a service is held in honour of the Russian and Bulgarian soldiers who gave up their lives during the war.
On March 3, 1878, the Treaty of San Stefano was signed, putting an end to the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, a conflict between the Ottoman Empire and an Eastern Orthodox coalition led by the Russian Empire, and re-establishing the Bulgarian state.
Monument to Emperor Alexander II Restored in Novaya Usman Topic: Alexander II
A monument to Emperor Alexander II has been restored in the village of Novaya Usman, situated on the banks of the Usman River, 8 km south-east of the Russian city of Voronezh.
The monument was originally erected in 1882. The funds for its construction were gathered by local farmers, in gratitude for their liberation from serfdom. It was one of the first memorial monuments to Alexander II to be erected in Russia after his assassination in St. Petersburg in 1881. The inscription noted his merits for the benefit of the Fatherland, and regrets over his death at the hands of terrorists.
During the Soviet years, the bas-relief and inscription were filled in with plaster. It was only during the 1990s, when builders carrying out the reconstruction of the Church of Our Saviour in Novaya Usman, stumbled upon it by accident. Workers chipping away at the plaster on the pillar discovered letters in Russian and old Slavonic. When the plaster was fully scraped, it revealed the memorial stone to the Tsar-Liberator.
Surprisingly, the text on the plate was well preserved, but the bronze bas-relief image of the sovereign required restoration. The monument is the only surviving to Alexander II in the region which has been preserved from pre-revolutionary times, it is located at the entrance to the Church of Our Saviour in Novaya Usman.
This lithograph depicts the chaos of the moment the second bomb exploded, mortally wounding Tsar Alexander II.
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the November 26th, 2014 edition of The St. Petersburg Times. The author Gus Peters, owns the copyright of the work presented below.
Visitors to St. Petersburg are often surprised when they see the Savior on the Spilled Blood church abutting the Griboyedov Canal a short walk from Nevsky Prospekt. Amidst its European surrounding, this homage to Russian culture is distinctly out of place. Yet its purpose in Peter’s city is a reminder of a pivotal point in Russian history that precipitated the end of the Romanov dynasty.
Tsar Alexander II took the helm of the Russian Empire in 1855 and made arguably the most significant decision to that point in the Empire’s history. In 1861, Alexander II abolished serfdom, freeing millions from their enslavement to the land and creating an entirely new social class overnight. “It is better to abolish serfdom from above than await the time when it will begin to abolish itself from below,” the tsar said of his decision.
Yet despite this and several other important reforms, he was a frequent target for assassination. The group that most notably set out to end his life was called Narodnaya Volya, or the People’s Will, who advocated a peasant revolution and believed terror was the most effective way to force change and undermine tsarist authoritarianism. It would be members of this group who would eventually succeed in killing the reform-minded tsar.
On Mar. 13, 1881, as he traveled to the Winter Palace in his carriage, a bomb was thrown at him. Although the bomb failed to injure Alexander, several of his guardsmen were injured and the tsar stepped out of the ironclad carriage. As he stood on the snowy street, a second bomb was thrown. This one did not miss its mark: the tsar was mortally wounded and his shattered body was taken to the palace, where he died several hours later.
Alexander II’s death is ironic in several ways. For one, the group responsible for his death advocated for the power of the peasantry, which accounted for a majority of the Empire’s population. Yet of any tsar, it was Alexander II who did the most to improve their social condition, even if he never meant to do so as a way of undermining his own supreme authority. On the day of his death as well, Alexander II had agreed to the creation of a national commission of elected representatives that would act as a consultative and advisory group for the tsar, a nascent form of representative government within the autocratic system. However, Alexander III would dismiss the idea of the commission during his vicious response to his father’s death.
The repercussions of Alexander II’s death would reverberate for years and harden the Romanov’s own determination to uphold the values of autocratic rule, a decision that would doom them.
Monument to Alexander II Restored at Buturlinovka Topic: Alexander II
The monument to Emperor Alexander II at Buturlinovka
Photo Credit: Moe Online
On September 5th, a monument to Emperor Alexander II has been restored in the Russian city of Buturlinovka, situated about 180 km southeast of Voronezh. The life-size bronze monument to the Tsar Liberator was created by Voronezh sculptor Maxim Dikunov. It was installed in Freedom Square - facing the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral - on the very spot where it originally stood more than a hundred years ago.
During Soviet times, the monument was destroyed, on the granite pedestal stood a monument to Vladimir Lenin, later - Joseph Stalin.
The first monument to the Tsar-Liberator at Buturlinovka appeared in 1911 on the 50th anniversary of the abolition of serfdom, paid for by the descendants of the peasants. The original inscription on the pedestal of Finnish granite read: "Tsar Liberator Emperor Alexander II. Grateful peasants of Buturlinovka 1861-1911."
The monument to Alexander II stands in Freedom Square - facing the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral
- on the very spot where it originally stood more than 100 years ago. Photo Credit: Moe Online
The sculptors of the restored monument, Maxim Dikunov and his father Ivan Dikunov failed to re-create an exact copy of the lost statue because historic photos or drawings did not survive.
The current monument was paid for by donations of citizens and patrons of Buturlinovka. Evdokia Bondarenko, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Buturlinovsky district said: "He, as then, more than 100 years ago, built on the people's money, that is, the means of donations, that is no funding from the municipal budget for this monument was used. We think that it will be a recognizable place in our city. I think it connects our past with our future."
Emperor Alexander II Monument Restored in Novgorod Region Topic: Alexander II
A monument to Emperor Alexander II has been restored in the village of Lyubytino
A monument to Emperor Alexander II has been restored in the village of Lyubytino, located on the Msta River in the District of Novgorod Oblast.
The ceremony which took place on August 8th, was attended by the Governor of the Novgorod Region, Sergei Mitin; Chairman of the Novgorod Regional Duma, Elena Pisarev; His Eminence Ephraim, Bishop Borovichsky Pestovskij, and members of the local clergy.
His Grace Bishop Ephraim performed the blessing of the monument, chanting the words: "O Lord, save thy people and bless thine inheritance ..." he then sprinkled the monument with holy water.
“On behalf of the Government of the Novgorod region, I am grateful to all those who participated in the restoration of this monument and I hope that this event will be a significant contribution to the education of the younger generation," said Mitin.
At the end of the solemn ceremony, Bishop Ephraim, distinguished guests and villagers of Lubytino, laid flowers at the monument to the Tsar Liberator.
A pre-revolutionary photo of the monument to Alexander II in Lubytino
The monument to the Tsar Liberator first appeared in Lubytino in 1911. The bust was cast at St. Petersburg by Edward Nowicki in 1906, the 25th anniversary of the death of the emperor. The event was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the liberation of peasants from serfdom. The monument was lost during the Revolution. It was found in 2000 in the storage rooms of the Museum of History in the city of Borovichy. In 2012, residents of the area appealed to Governor Sergei Mitin for the restoration of the monument.
Alexander II is widely remembered in the Novgorod region. It was Alexander II who issued a decree on the establishment of the "Millennium of Russia" monument at Novgorod, thus recognizing the special role of the city in the history of the state. The Emperor also opened the Noble Museum's collection of antiquities, today it houses the Museum of Fine Arts. Before the Revolution, there were more than a dozen monuments to Alexander II in the Novgorod region.
Carriage for Children of Emperor Alexander II on Display in Moscow Topic: Alexander II
A beautiful miniature carriage built for the children of Emperor Alexander II has been restored and put on display at the State Historical Museum in Moscow. Restoration work took place between 2010 - 2014 years, and included a full restoration of the metal, wood, leather and textile elements of the historic children’s carriage.
The carriage is a miniature copy of the Russian Court ceremonial coupe carriages of the mid 19th century. Similar to the parade carriages, however, it was designed for children. It includes five windows with lifting facetted glass, and window blinds which could be closed for privacy. Inside, the interior is richly decorated with silk and velvet. The seats are upholstered in patterned fabrics with folding footrests, the ceiling is decorated with moire embroidery.
The exquisite golden-silver-blue draperies successfully combine with the blue body of the coach - decorated with the symbol of the Order of St. Andrew, the main award of the Russian Empire, which was awarded to the royal children at birth. In addition, the coach has four glazed candle lanterns and springs for maximum comfort.
As members of the Imperial family the carriage was decorated with the heraldic symbols of the dynasty - imperial crowns and overlaid gilded coats of arms of the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Poland, but also the personal monogram of its August owners, which are located on the doors and side panels of the carriage.
Museum experts believe that the carriage was made in 1847, a gift marking the fifth birthday of *Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna (1842-1849) - the eldest of the children of Alexander II, by the Moscow carriage master, Timothy Orlovskim. The carriage was designed solely for entertainment purposes, Alexandra and her brothers, Nicholas and Alexander (the future Emperor Alexander III), used it for riding through the palace park. It was pulled by tiny horses, sheep or goats, and the children were always accompanied by servants.
*Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna died from infant meningitis just weeks short of her seventh birthday on 16th June, 1849. She was buried at the Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral on 19th June, 1849.
In 1861 the children’s carriage was moved to the **Court Stables Museum in St. Petersburg, a building constructed to house the collection of the finest sleds, coaches and carriages of the Russian Imperial family. Due to the events of 1917, the carriage was one of many carriages evacuated to Moscow, and transferred to the Manage of the Neskuchnii garden, which then housed the Museum of Furniture. In 1927, the carriage was transferred to the collections of the Historical Museum, where it has remained to the present day. The miniature carriage of the children of Emperor Alexander II is now on display in room number 33 of the Main Building of the State Historical Museum, located on Red Square in Moscow.
**For more information on the Court Stables Museum, please refer to my article (10 pages with black and white illustrations), The Museum of Imperial Court Carriages: A History of the Collection, published in Royal Russia Annual No. 4 (2013) - click on the link below to order a copy of this issue