Monument to Alexander II
Unveiled in Ulyanovsk
by Paul Gilbert

Source: Телекомпания НТВ. Language: Russian. Duration: 3 minutes, 27 seconds

A new monument to Alexander II in the Ulyanovsk region of Russia marks the
150th anniversary of his manifesto which abolished serfdom in Russia in 1861.

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A new statue of the Emperor Alexander II has been unveiled in the town of White Key (Белый Ключ), situated in the Ulyanovsk region of Russia. The monument marks the 150th anniversary of his manifesto which abolished serfdom in Russia in 1861.

The statue was originally erected at the expense of the local peasant community in the 19th century; however, it was destroyed by the Bolsheviks after the revolution.

Sharpudin Houten, director of the Committee for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of the Ulyanovsk region noted that the original base and pedestal were found in a nearby marsh last year: "The exact location is unknown, but in the end, a dedicated group of volunteers, including local residents and a youth group organized the removal of the pedestal and carried out further excavation of the site."

The new statue is by Denis Stritovitch, a local sculptor. His reproduction is based on documents of the original found in the local archives. It was paid for by donations from local businesses and private individuals.

The town of White Key has a small population of only about 300 people, mostly retirees. A half-century ago, it was part of Simbirsk, a wealthy parish. It was here that one of the first monuments to Alexander II was erected in Russia, a gift from the common folk, in gratitude for his manifesto abolishing serfdom.

Together, the local peasants raised 3,190 rubles for the monument over a period of several years. The amount raised was very impressive for the time. Back then, these funds could buy 400 cows. Once the funds had been raised, they then had to determine the best location to erect the monument. A nearby hill which overlooked the whole village was selected. The villagers believed that this was an ideal location whereby the Tsar-Liberator could watch over his subjects.

Emperor Alexander II was 44 years of age on February 19, 1861, the day when he issued his famous manifesto. This historic document is largely his personal merit. He began to push for reforms alone, seeing his manifesto pass into law, despite resistance from landowners and policymakers.

During the February Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks sought out to destroy everything connected with imperial Russia. The statue itself was destroyed. However, the podium survived, remaining a local landmark until the 1960s, and later buried nearby.

When the pedestal was found, it appeared that no one knew what the actual sculpture looked like. With some difficulty, a unique image of the original draft was found. Sometime later a single photograph of the original monument was also found. Together, they helped Denis Stritovich, build a copy of the original.

The only difference between the original and the newly created two-meter statue of the Tsar-Liberator is that it is made of bronze instead of cast iron. 21st century technology proved to be too complicated and expensive to recreate the 19th century original cast in iron.

“The figure of Alexander II stands out amongst the Russian monarchs," said Sergei Morozov, the governor of Ulyanovsk. "His contribution to Russia cannot be measured in words. The emancipation of the peasants, judicial reform, the revolutionary changes in the army, the qualitative changes in education, urban and land reforms radically changed people's lives, and the state itself. They allowed our country to make a significant leap forward to catch up with leading Western countries.”

by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
Sources: РИА «Новости», Телекомпания НТВ
29 March, 2011