James W. Meng

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Units: Foreword 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6


Russia during the first half of the 19th century.
6.1. Internal politics during the reign of Tsar Alexander I.

Politics during the reign of Tsar Alexander I were primarily influenced by tense international conditions. Almost half of his reign fell to wars, resulting in massive material and human costs.

The emperor's views and personal qualities also played a role to some degree. In his youth, Alexander adhered somewhat to Enlightenment ideals, but also took the views of his father, who condemned the "liberal" order, into account. His reform plans therefore generally lacked an high level of commitment and perseverance.

Alexander I's reign was considerably influenced by the circumstances under which he came to power. While he seemed largely to believe in an historical justification for his father's murder, he nevertheless lived in fear of another palace coup to some degree all throughout his reign.

The beginning of Alexander I's reign marked the return of the philosophy of "enlightened absolutism" to politics in Russia. Tsar Alexander I restored all articles of the grant-charter, abolished by Pavel, to the nobility; he stopped preparations for a military campaign against India and lifted a ban on trade with England.

Tsar Alexander I took a number of measures to alleviate the peasants' conditions. He stopped the process of allocating peasants to landowners in 1801, increasing the proportion of free peasants in Russia to nearly 50% by 1861; signed decrees on the right to purchase land (without peasants) by merchants and bourgeoisie, putting an end to the monopoly of the nobility on the land; passed a law on "free grain farmers" in 1803 to allow serfs to independently work landowners' lands. Only a few ultimately received the "goodwill" of their landlords - by 1861, the number was roughly 114,000 people. In 1804-06, the abolition of serfdom in the Baltic region began.

At approximately the same time, reforms of state management began. In 1802, in place of the Colleges, eight ministries (Military, Naval, Foreign Affaris, Finance, Public Education, etc.) were established, continuing the bureaucratization of society.

In efforts to make a major change to the basic construction and principles of the state system, Tsar Alexander I further instructed M.M. Speransky to draft a program of radical reforms to the state based on the liberal principle of separation of powers (legislative, executive, and judicial). Plans were made to create an elected all-Russian legislative body - the State Duma. In its place, in 1810, the State Council was created and endowed with legislative functions. Generally, there was a lack of interest in Russia in transforming major political forces.

The second stage of the reign of Alexander I (1814-25) begins after the defeat of France in the Napoleonic War. At this time, Tsar Alexander I still chose to retain some elements of the liberal course. Drafts for the abolition of serfdom continued to be developed, and the peasant reform in the Baltics was completed.

In 1815, Poland, which had become part of Russia, received a liberal constitution that presupposed its self-government. In 1818, the Charter of the Russian Empire was drafted, presupposing its transition to constitutional rule. But following the victory over Napoleon, Alexander I decided not to implement any changes.

Gradually, the government's policies took a reactionary course proposed by the armed forces minister A.A. Arakcheev. The army returned to the use of corporal punishment. Closer regulation of universities began, and censorship increased. In 1822 Tsar Alexander I reintroduced the right of landowners to sentence peasants to exile in Siberia or to penal servitude.

Of particular importance was the creation of military settlements intended to reduce the impact of the army on the overall budget. State peasants lived in these settlements and simultaneously carried out military service while performing agricultural work. They were subject to military discipline. Hard living conditions on these settlements led to a number of uprisings.

Ultimately, Alexander's tendency to plan and then subsequently refuse to implement reforms led to opposition against the autocracy among the nobility. Increasingly apathetic, Tsar Alexander I began to consider abdicating the throne. In the autumn of 1825, during a trip to the south, Alexander I suddenly fell ill and died in Taganrog.

6.2. External politics during the reign of Tsar Alexander I.

In the early 19th century, in order to expand its access to world markets, Russia aspired to strengthen ties with the most developed country of the time - England. At the same time, Russia participated actively in the solution to the "eastern question" in wars with Persia and Turkey, and fought for the establishment of a regime for free passage of ships across the Black Sea straits of the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. Above all, Russia opposed Napoleonic France and sought to prevent its dominance in Europe and in the East.

Napoleon, having defeated the Russian-Austrian coalition armies in 1805, forced Russia to sign the Tilsit Peace Treaty with France in 1807, under which Russia was obligated not to trade with England. Through trade isolation, facilitated by a continental blockade, Napoleon hoped to finally defeat England - his main enemy.

But the severance of trade ties with England sharply worsened the economic situation in Russia, forcing a violation of the blockade, which Napoleon in turn used as a pretext to start another war. In the Patriotic War of 1812, Napoleon intended to topple the Russian army in a border battle, achieve a strategic victory and then impose a treaty on Russia that forced entry into an anti-English union and excluded it from governing a number of territories.

In furtherance of this goal, Napoleon created a powerful army - up to 600,000 people - which included the armed forces of virtually all of Europe (Austria, Prussia, the Netherlands, Italy, the Dutchy of Warsaw, and Germany). Russia, meanwhile, had only two armies on its western borders: those of M.B. Barclay de Tolly (120,000) and P.I. Bagration (50,000).

On the 12th of June 1812, Napoleon's troops crossed the river Neman, intending to rout the Russian armies separately. The Russians managed to connect near Smolensk, but were forced out of the city after a bloody battle. Then, yielding to the broader mood of society, Alexander I appointed M.I. Kutuzov as commander in chief. While Napoleon did capture some Russian territory, he never achieved a decisive victory - and soon, peasants and townspeople began to rise up against the invaders. The war rapidly acquired a nationalistic character.

In light of the mood of the army and of the general population, Kutuzov decided to give the enemy a decisive battle. On the 26th of August 1812, during the Battle of Borodino, both sides suffered heavy losses. Napoleon therefore did not achieve his goal of defeating the Russian army, though the Russians departed their positions the following morning, lacking the strength to continue the battle. Kutuzov and his armies regrouped in the outskirts of Moscow, and then retreated to a camp near Tarutino.

Napoleon, meanwhile, entered Moscow, which was engulfed in fire. His troops faced a difficult situation: short of food, they began to rob civilians. And so began the dissolution of the "Great Army". Napoleon attempted to make peace with Russia, but Tsar Alexander I rejected the proposal. Napoleon then attempted to leave Moscow and move southward. Following a battle at Maloyaroslavets, the French were forced to retreat to the Smolensk road devastated by the war, where they were both driven back by the Russian army and attacked periodically by partisans throughout the route.

Suffering great losses, Napoleon retreated. In later battles near the village of Krasnoe and on the Berezina river on the 28th of November, the French army was finally defeated. On the 25th of December, Tsar Alexander I proclaimed the end of the Patriotic War.

In January 1813, Russian troops crossed the border and, with the support of the allied armies of Prussia and Austria, subjected Napoleon's army to a final defeat.

At the Congress of Vienna (1814) the victorious countries met to agree on post-war geographic and political arrangements. As a result of the agreement the bulk of Poland became part of Russia, which had taken the brunt of the war's hardships. At the Congress of Vienna the "Holy Alliance" of Russia, Prussia, and Austria was established, with intent to protect the established borders in Europe and suppress revolutionary and national liberation movements. Russia thus became the primary guarantor of the Vienna system of international relations that grew out of this war.

The Patriotic War of 1812 led to considerable losses, in human, economic, and cultural senses. But it nevertheless unified Russian society and caused a resurgence in national identity and culture. At the same time, it strengthened Russia's ruling class and provided a rationale for limiting social change.

6.3. The Decemberist movement.

The unusual nature of this movement - whose name came about precisely because it opposed Tsarism - arose among representatives of the nobility in December 1825, primarily among army officers who had served in the war of 1812. Reflecting on their privileged position in the country, many of the revolutionaries began to perceive quite painfully the lack of rights of the Russian peasants who had saved their homeland from invaders. As true patriots and citizens of their country, they felt that the preservation of serfdom and its accompanying lack of political freedom was both unfair to the people and dangerous to the future of Russia. As such, the Decembrists called themselves "children of 1812".

When Tsar Alexander I refused his planned course of reform, there was a public outcry from many people who were determined to do what the emperor had failed to do. Ideas of the European Enlightenment and the French Revolution, which defended slogans of freedom, equality, and fraternity, played a significant role. But the Decembrists did not rely overly on any one stratum of society, nor did they seek to find support from the people. They adhered to the slogan: "everything for the people, but without the people". The movement became known as the first organized, sensible and armed action against autocracy and serfdom.

The first Decembrist organizations - the "Salvation Union" and the "Prosperity Union" searched for ways to achieve freedom and equality across social classes, and argued over methods of toppling the autocracy. The government's refusal to implement the promised reforms led to the creation of new, more united organizations that were more inclined than previously toward a potential armed struggle.

The "Southern Society" movement (1821-25), headed by P.I. Pestel and S.I. Muravyov-Apostle was organized in Ukraine. His program - Pestel's "Russkaya Pravda" - advocated for the abolition of autocracy and serfdom; and for the establishment of a republic based on the principle of separation of powers, equality and political rights of all citizens.

Meanwhile, the "Northern Society" movement (1822-25), headed by N.M. Muravyov, S.P. Trubetskoi, and K.F. Ryleev was organized in Saint Petersburg. Their "Constitution", written by Muravyov, advocated for the introduction of a constitutional monarchy, the abolition of serfdom, and the provision of due process of law with its associated rights and freedoms to all citizens. Unlike the "Russkaya Pravda", however, it was not intended to transfer farmland to peasants.

In the summer of 1826, the "Southern" and "Northern" societies agreed on a joint platform for which they intended to advocate. But the childless Alexander I died in November 1825. The throne was intended to have passed to his brother Konstantin, who had instead secretly renounced it in 1823 in favor of his younger brother Nikolai. Unaware of this, the Senate, the Guard, and the army swore their loyalty to Konstantin, after which the oath was overturned in favor of Nikolai.

The Decembrists then - availing themselves of the interruption in governance and the general dislike among the Guard for the throne's heir apparent - planned to raise the Guards regiments, collect them on the Senate Square and force them to consider the "Manifesto to the Russian People" on the abolition of autocracy and serfdom and the introduction of new freedoms. The head of the uprising - its "dictator" - was Prince S.P. Trubetskoi.

On the 14th of December, officers - members of the "Northern Society" - managed to bring out several military regiments to the Senate Square (roughly 3,500 people). The soldiers and sailors present were urged not to swear allegiance to Nikolai, but to Konstantin. But by that time the senators had already sworn allegiance to Nikolai and dispersed. "Dictator" Trubetskoi did not attend, increasing the confusion among the protestors.

Tsar Nikolai I surrounded the square with loyal troops (12,000 people and four artillery guns). The rebels repulsed the attacks of the cavalry, after which the artillery was put into operation. Once the protest had been suppressed, mass arrests began. Five leaders of the movement were hanged. Many participants were sent into exile in Siberia.

Having suffered defeat in the political struggle, the Decembrists nevertheless won a spiritual and moral victory in many minds, having shown an example of true service to their Fatherland and people. In a broader sense, they had made a major impact on the eventual course of the Russian liberation movement.

6.4. Internal politics during the reign of Tsar Nikolai I.

Upon coming to power, Nikolai I (1825-55) faced various external threats, as well as the problem of the country's general lag in development relative to Europe. Without affecting the foundations of serfdom, he sought to accelerate the development of industry and, in so doing, strengthen the country's military might.

At the same time, it was in this era that Russia's historical opposition to the West began to arise - something which, in the opinion of the authorities and of Russian nationalists, grew in response to the assertive nature of capitalist ideology and the rise in revolutionary movements.

The political course of the reign of Tsar Nikolai I was itself deeply influenced by his personal qualities. He was a deeply religious person and a reliable patron of the church who defended the Russian language and customs. At the same time, Tsar Nikolai was military in spirit and in upbringing, and sought to strengthen order in the country. A strongwilled, severe, and straightforward man who was unpretentious in everyday life, Tsar Nikolai declared his need for obedience among the people and strove to ensure the well-being of the country and its political system by imposing strict discipline in the country.

In the view of Tsar Nikolai I, only a strong autocratic monarchy could preserve the unity of the multinational Russian Empire, protect it from revolutions, and carry out necessary social and economic transformations. In furtherance of these intentions he made efforts to improve the mechanisms of the autocracy, creating the second and third branches of His Imperial Majesty's Chancellery. The second branch was given the task of collecting into a single corpus the entirety of the laws of the empire - the "Complete Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire". This measure was intended to firmly establish the principle of the rule of law throughout the government - to subordinate the actions of all officials to uniform rules, to eradicate bribery, etc.

Tsar Nikolai I understood that serfdom delayed the economic development of the country, and to that end, he issued over 100 decrees related to serfdom in order to reduce its cruelty as an institution and to limit its negative impact on economic development: prohibitions on the sale of serfs when it involved division of families; their use as payment for debts, and etc. While the emperor considered serfdom evil, he feared the social upheavals that would almost certainly result from its abolition. Yet the actions of the government under Tsar Nikolai I prepared the conditions for the serfs' eventual liberation.

The state became more active in relation to villages. A reform of 1837-41 ordered land allocation to free peasants, strengthened peasant self-government, and led to the opening of rural hospitals and schools.

The government, through greater issuance of state orders and loans, also sought to stimulate economic development through entrepreneurship. Construction of the first Petersburg-Moscow railroad began, opening for use in 1851.

As a result, under Nikolai I the development of the state continued, while all aspects of life came under tighter grip of the state. At the same time it was difficult, in the absence of well-developed representative authorities, for the emperor to ensure a high level of control over officials' activities. Arbitrariness and corruption grew both in the center and throughout the country.

6.5. External politics during the reign of Tsar Nikolai I.

The main goals of Russia's foreign policy during the reign of Tsar Nikolai I were to preserve Russia's existing power in international relations and to solve the "Eastern question" in its interests: to annex new territories in the Middle East and to gain control over the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits. During this period, Russia's primary political rivals in the international arena were England and France.

In the 1820s, Russia supported Greece in its struggle for national independence from the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

Having defeated Persia (Iran) in the war of 1826-28, Russia then annexed the territory of Eastern Armenia. Shortly thereafter, following the completion of a war with Turkey, it also took South Bessarabia and the eastern coast of the Black Sea - finally securing the desired routes for Russian and foreign merchant ships.

Revolution broke out in France in 1848 and in other European countries. Russia, in accordance with its international obligations as a member of the Holy Alliance, suppressed revolutionary activities in Hungary thereby saving the Austrian empire from collapse.

In the early 19th century, Russia was faced with a problem presented by the mountain Muslim peoples of Dagestan and Chechnya: detatchments periodically raided the bordering territories of Russia and Georgia. Their conquest resulted in a long war. At that time, a state (Imamate) was established under the administration of Imam Shamil (1834-59). Having established full power, he declared gazavat (jihad) - a holy war against the unfaithful. But his government rapidly acquired an heavily despotic character, and the greed of his comrades-in-arms repelled ordinary people. Following an 1859 offensive by Russian troops and the subsequent capture of Shamil that same year, the war was over and the territory of the North Caucasus was annexed to Russia.

For Russia, the most difficult war of this era was the Crimean War of 1853-56, another result of the "Eastern question" - the struggle by leading European powers to partition formerly Turkish lands, as well as the desire of Britain, France, and Austria to prevent Russia from penetrating the Balkans. This particular occasion for war was a dispute between the Orthodox and Catholic churches for the right to control Christian religious sites in Palestine: the Orthodox Church was backed by Russia in the dispute, and the Catholic Church - by France.

At the beginning of the war, the Russian army brought a series of defeats down upon Turkish forces and then withdrew to the Danube. At Sinop, the Black Sea squadron of P.S. Nakhimov completely destroyed the Turkish fleet - this was, in fact the last battle in the history of sailing ships.

Russia's success in the war aroused not only the discontent of England and its eternal enemy, France, but also their joint entry into the war on behalf of the Ottoman Empire - something unimaginable to the Russian diplomatic apparatus of the day. In September 1854 the Anglo-French army landed in the Crimea, which then became the main theater of the war. The Russian army was defeated, leaving Sevastopol defenseless. Defense of the sea fortress was taken over by sailors, led by admirals V.A. Kornilov, P.S. Nakhimov, and V.I. Istominym; all three died. The Russians heroically defended the city and only in August 1855 did they leave its southern part behind.

During the siege, the Anglo-French army suffered massive losses (73,000) and did not have the strength to continue the war; the Russian troops also achieved success on the Caucasian Front. But internal crisis and reform plans forced Alexander II to agree to peace negotiations. Under the resulting Treaty of Paris (1856), Russia gave up the mouth of the Danube and lost the right to keep its navy and fortified outposts on the Black Sea. The Russian defeat is generally attributed to weak economic development, manifested particularly in the armament and transportation of the Russian armies. Diplomatic mistakes contributing to Russia's eventual war with the coalition also played a role. But perhaps most significant is that the defeat forced the authorities to begin preparing for the abolition of serfdom and other reforms.

6.6. Russian culture during the first half of the 19th century.

During the Alexandrine era, the culture of the nobility was at once increasingly removed from that of the common people, and yet - and particularly after the war of 1812 - it began to show greater interest to popular and historical culture. From this interaction between noble and popular culture, many of the best works of the era were created. Russian culture then not only borrowed from world achievements, but began to contribute uniquely to their development.

At the beginning of the century, the system of higher education that impacted and informed the "liberal" spirit of reforms offered by Tsar Alexander I, was experiencing a recovery. Under Nikolai I, autonomy of universities was eliminated and high fees for education were introduced. But at this time several new universities, which now received considerable autonomy, were opened - such as the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum in which A.S. Pushkin studied. The requirements of the developing economy led also to the emergence of new technical educational institutions, such as the Moscow craft school (future MSTU) and others.

The development of science and the needs of the economy contributed to the organization of the first Russian expedition to circumnavigate the globe under the command of N.F. Krusenstern and Yu.F. Lisyansky (1803-06), which studied the islands of the Pacific Ocean, Sakhalin island, and Kamchatka peninsula in great depth. The expedition of F.F. Bellingshausen and M.P. Lazarev (1819-21) studied Antarctica.

The Russian mathematics school became world famous. The discovery of non-Euclidean geometry by Lobachevsky radically changed scienfic notions of space. Chemical science, meanwhile, developed closely with industrial production. N.N. Zinin developed an aniline synthesis technology for use in the textile industry. In 1839 the astronomer V.Ya. Struve built a renowned astronomical observatory in Pulkovo, near Saint Petersburg.

Significant progress was also made in medicine. N.I. Pirogov laid the foundations of military field surgery. He was the first to use ethereal anesthesia and antiseptic drugs during operations, and introduced a fixed gypsum bandage. A.M. Filomafitsky developed theories of blood transfusion. Engineer P.L. Schilling created the first electromagnetic telegraph in 1832. A father and son team of two bonded serfs, the Cherepanovs, built the first railway at the Ural factories of the Demidovs and, in 1834 - the first locomotive. For their work, they were freed.

Literature occupied a special position in culture. In the absence of political freedoms, it served as a conduit for social and political ideas and projects, manifesting the most direct link between noble and popular culture.

The second quarter of the 19th century marked the birth of Russian realism, which reflected the lives of people across all classes, and the social and moral problems of society. Early works in this genre include A.S. Griboyedov's "Woe from Wit"; A.S. Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin" and "The Captain's Daughter"; M.Yu. Lermontov's "Death of the Poet" and "Hero of our Time"; and N.V. Gogol's "Dead Souls" and "The Inspector-General". In the 1840s and 1850s, writers set out on a route that realized its peak in the second half of the century with the works of writers N.A. Nekrasov, I.S. Turgenev, M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin, F.M. Dostoevsky, and L.N. Tolstoy.

Development of fine arts during this period was associated primarily with the emergence of romanticism and realism. But in the Academy of Arts, classicism still played the dominant role. Especially prized were paintings on historical themes, such as "The Last Day of Pompeii" by K.P. Bryullov. A.A. Ivanov worked for over 20 years on the painting "The Appearance of Christ to the People". Carried out entirely in classical technique, it combined ideals of both romanticism and realism over the basis of a classical theme.

The father of domestic realism was P.A. Fedotov, who became well known for "Young Chevalier" and "Matchmaking of a Young Man".

As in Europe, in Russia the Empire style dominated in architecture, finalizing the development of classicist architecture. It became an ubiquitous sort of spokesman for Russian achievements: the Kazan Cathedral in Saint Petersburg by A.N. Voronikhin; the Admiralty building by A.D. Zakharov; the Palace and Senate squares; and the Mikhailovsky Palace of K.I. Rossi.

During the second third of the 19th century Empire gave way to a new direction in architecture, known as eclecticism, that arbitrarily combined elements of different styles: the Saint Isaac's Cathedral of Montferrand in Saint Petersburg; and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior of K.A. Tona, who became known as the father of the Russo-Byzantine style of architecture.

It was also during this period that the Maly Theatre in Moscow and the Alexandrian Theater in Saint Petersburg were founded. Also to develop significantly during this period was the national school of musical composition, which was largely free of European influence. M.I. Glinka, for example, laid the foundations of what would become the two important areas of Russian opera classics: the folk musical drama, e.g., "Living for the Tsar" and the fantasy-epic genre, e.g., "Ruslan and Lyudmila".