Engraving of Alexander II, emperor of Russia from 1855 to 1881, "Czar Liberator".


Engraving of Alexander II, emperor of Russia from 1855 to 1881, "Czar Liberator".



Alexander II, the oldest son of Emperor Nicholas I (1796–1855), was born in Moscow, Russia, on April 17, 1818. Alexander's most significant reform was the emancipation of Russia's serfs in 1861, for which he is known as Alexander the Liberator He also reorganized the judicial system, set up elected local judges, abolished corporal punishment, promoted local self-government, ended number of nobility privileges and promoted universities. Alexander sold Alaska to the United States in 1867, to avoid the remote colony falls into British hands. He sought peace and joined with Germany and Austria against France in the League of the Three Emperors that stabilized Europe. He fought a brief war with the Ottoman Empire in 1877–78, pursued further expansion into Siberia and the Caucasus, conquered Turkestan. Among his greatest challenges was an uprising in Poland in 1863, to which he responded by stripping that land of its separate constitution and incorporating it directly into Russia. Alexander was proposing more parliamentary reforms to counter the rise of nascent revolutionary and anarchistic movements when he was assassinated in 1881.

Alexander II was known as the "Tsar-Liberator" for his emancipation of the Russian serfs. The change spurred innovations in education and judicial reforms, an elaborate scheme of local self-government in large towns and rural districts were set up. The economy was prospering, railway construction boomed, trade soared, banks and factories sprang up across the country. In 1867 he sold Alaska to the United States for $7.2 million after recognizing the great difficulty of defending it against the United Kingdom or the former British colony of Canada. In 1880 Alexander announced that he was considering granting the Russian people a constitution. But for some his extraordinary efforts were too much while others believed he didn’t go far enough – one dramatic assassination attempt followed another. On March 13, 1881, the Tsar’s carriage was bombed in the streets of St. Petersburg by members of a revolutionary organization People’s Will. He emerged shaken but unhurt and wanted to see the site of the explosion and check on the wounded Cossacks that accompanied him. As he made his way over, another terrorist threw his bomb. Fatally wounded, Alexander died an hour later.



1855 - 1881


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