Tsar Alexander II
The Russian Emperor Alexander II the Liberator was killed 140 years ago. The sovereign was killed in a terrorist attack carried out by several members of the Narodnaya Volya organization in St. Petersburg.
This was far from the first attempt on the life of a reformer tsar.
Interestingly, with his reforms, Alexander significantly liberalized the country and society. Before his death, he worked on a new reform involving the introduction of a parliamentary system (the so-called Loris-Melikov Constitution). That is, in theory, various liberals, revolutionaries, “fighters for the people’s happiness” should have expressed gratitude to him, supported his progressive undertakings.
However, the opposite was true. The more freedom there is, the more hatred for the sovereign. Under Alexander II, a real terrorist underground appeared in Russia, the “fifth column” aimed at revolution. The emperor could, at the very first assassination attempts, crush the entire underground and restore order. But he didn’t. And he paid dearly. Softness and “reformism” do not lead to good. There are countless examples of this in history.
Oh, you are heavy, Monomakh’s hat
Alexander Nikolaevich accepted Russia at a difficult time.
Tsar Nicholas I passed away prematurely. Alexander had to end the Crimean War by agreeing to some concessions. The “world community” led by England and France was unable to implement large-scale plans to dismember and weaken the Russian Empire, pushing the Russians out of the Black and Baltic Seas.
The Black Sea Fleet had to be sacrificed, but Crimea and Sevastopol remained Russian. And the fleet slowly began to revive, already armored on steam engine traction.
They carried out a military reform, eliminated the outdated system of military settlements and recruiting, switched to general conscription and re-equipped the army. A network of military and cadet schools was created, where representatives of all classes were accepted.
We modernized the military command and control system and created military districts.
Under Alexander II, the process of the annexation of Turkestan (Central Asia) to Russia will be completed, which was a strategically correct step.
On the other hand, the Westernizers will push the idea of selling Russian America. As the future will show, this was a crime against the Russian people, a major strategic miscalculation. On the contrary, it was necessary to speed up the development of the Far East and Russian America.
Serfdom was abolished, however, the land reform was half-hearted.
We modernized the financial system, carried out reforms in education and city government, as well as zemstvo and judicial reforms.
These transformations led to the development of capitalism in Russia, developed civil society and the rule of law, but were half-hearted.
They also planned a reform of the autocracy, limiting the power of the tsar in favor of representative bodies. This reform was not carried out due to the assassination of the king.
Alexander III “froze” Russia, postponing the further decay and fall of the empire. As a result, the old problems under Alexander the Liberator were not solved. And led to the emergence of new ones. Which ultimately became the prerequisite for the disaster of 1917.
A radical modernization of Russia was necessary. But on the whole, the pro-Western course (the development of capitalism, liberal rights and freedoms, parliamentarism) only worsened the situation and accelerated the collapse of the Romanov empire.
V. Lebedev. Shot by Karakozov. 1866 g.
Attempts to assassinate the reformer tsar
Broad reforms led to the destabilization of the system that had been created earlier.
The era of “liberation” was characterized by the growth of public discontent. There was a sharp increase in the number of peasant uprisings. The peasants believed that this was only the beginning of the reform, the tsar-father would give them land. But the main benefits from the reform were received by large landowners, capitalists, who provided free labor.
Many protest groups arose among the intelligentsia, commoners and workers. The powerful liberal intelligentsia that flourished in the Russian Empire, at the same time, hated the tsarist regime.
A real revolutionary, terrorist underground. The revolutionaries believed that the assassination of the tsar would trigger a large-scale uprising, a revolution, which would lead to new social transformations.
On April 4, 1866, the revolutionary terrorist Dmitry Karakozov (a native of small landowners) in St. Petersburg at the gates of the Summer Garden, where after a walk, the sovereign went to his carriage, tried to kill Alexander.
The bullet flew over his head. Karakozov stood in the crowd and fired almost at point-blank range. The tsar could have died, but the master Osip Komissarov, who was standing next to the terrorist of nodding affairs, struck the killer’s hand. People have twisted the enemy.
When Karakozov was brought to Alexander, he asked if he was Russian. Dmitry answered in the affirmative. Then he said:
“Your Majesty, you have offended the peasants.”
Karakozov was sentenced to death by hanging.
It should be noted that at this time the Russian sovereigns freely walked in parks and along the streets. They did not have any special precautions and serious protection. It was believed that they are not required. The people as a whole treated the kings with deep respect and love.
In May 1867, Alexander II arrived in France on a visit. On May 25 in Paris, after a military review at the exit from the Lopshan hippodrome, the Polish nationalist and terrorist Anton Berezovsky (nobleman by birth) shot twice at the Russian sovereign.
The bullets hit the horse. One of the French officers managed to push Berezovsky’s hand. The jury sentenced the terrorist to life in prison in New Caledonia. Subsequently, it was replaced with a link. And 40 years later, in 1906, he was amnestied.
On April 2, 1879, the revolutionary populist (society “Land and Freedom”) Alexander Solovyov fired five times from a revolver at the king, who was walking near the Winter Palace. The sovereign, apparently, guessed that this was an attempt on his life, and dodged aside. And the shooter was bad. Alexander was lucky once again. Solovyov was sentenced to be hanged.
Unfortunately, the Russian emperor did not perceive these assassination attempts (clear signs from above) as a need to adjust his policy and strengthen security measures.
An attempt on the life of the emperor and his family in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg in 1880
The hunt for the sovereign
In the summer of 1879, People’s Will broke away from the “Land and Freedom”, the main goal of which was the elimination of the tsar. The members of the organization decided to blow up the train in which the royal family was returning from vacation in the Crimea. There were three groups.
The first, under Frolenko’s command, was being prepared near Odessa. But the undermining was not carried out. The mine was laid. However, the tsarist train changed its route and went through Aleksandrovsk.
A second group headed by Zhelyabov operated in Aleksandrovsk. The bomb was planted. On November 18, 1879, the train passed, the mine did not explode due to a malfunction.
The third group, led by Sophia Perovskaya, planted an explosive device near Moscow. The king was saved by another lucky accident. The terrorists knew that the first was the train with the luggage, the second was the tsar. But in Kharkov, one of the steam locomotives of the first train broke down. And the first to go was the tsarist echelon. The conspirators missed the first train and detonated a bomb when the second with the property was walking. There were no human casualties.
Alexander Nikolaevich was greatly annoyed and said:
Why are they following me like a wild beast? ”
However, no extraordinary measures were taken to defeat the terrorist underground. As well as measures to strengthen the protection of the sovereign.
On February 5, 1880, a terrible explosion occurred in the Winter Palace. The operation was led by Stepan Khalturin. During the renovation of the basement of the palace, the terrorists were able to plant explosives right under the royal dining room. Dynamite bags were disguised as building materials.
On the 5th, a gala dinner was planned in the palace, at which the entire royal family was to be present. The explosion was scheduled for 18:20, when the sovereign was supposed to be in the dining room. But the conspirators were prevented by another accident.
One of the members of the imperial family was late, dinner was delayed by half an hour. When a strong explosion thundered, Alexander Nikolaevich was at the security room, near the dining room. The Prince of Hesse recalled:
“The floor rose as if under the influence of an earthquake, the gas in the gallery went out, it was completely dark, and an intolerable smell of gunpowder or dynamite spread in the air.”
None of the members of the royal family was hurt. 11 soldiers of the Finnish Guards Regiment were killed (they were guarding the palace). Another 56 people were injured.
People’s Will began to prepare the next assassination attempt. Sovereign Alexander began to leave the palace less often, but he regularly went to change the guard in the Mikhailovsky Manege. This is what the terrorists decided to take advantage of. There were two possible routes for the king: along the embankment of the Catherine Canal or along Nevsky Prospect and Malaya Sadovaya.
First, they wanted to blow up the Stone Bridge, across the Catherine Canal. Demolitions, led by M. Kibalchich, examined the bridge, calculated the amount of explosives. However, in the end, this plan was abandoned, there was no complete guarantee of success. Then they decided to plant a bomb on the road to Sadovaya. If the mine does not work, or the tsar survives the explosion, there was a plan “B” – several terrorists with bombs who were on the street. Zhelyabov was ready to finish off the sovereign in the carriage with a dagger.
People’s will rented a basement on Malaya Sadovaya, opened a “cheese shop”. From the basement they dug into the street in order to lay a mine there, which was made by Kibalchich. The case almost fell through. The “cheese shop”, which had no visitors, aroused the suspicion of a neighbor’s janitor. He reported to the police. The check that came up did not find anything suspicious. But this situation caused concern among the conspirators. In addition, the police arrested one of the leaders of Narodnaya Volya, Aleksandr Mikhailov. And before the operation itself (at the end of February 1881) – Andrei Zhelyabov.
The terrorists decided to act immediately.
On March 1 (14), 1881, Emperor Alexander Nikolaevich left the Winter Palace for the Manezh. He was accompanied by several policemen and security Cossacks. After the divorce of the guards and tea from his cousin, the sovereign went back through the Catherine Canal. As a result, the mine on Sadovaya became useless.
Perovskaya, who led the conspiracy after Zhelyabov’s arrest, changed the plan. Four revolutionaries (Grinevitsky, Rysakov, Emelyanov and Mikhailov) took up positions along the embankment of the canal and waited for a signal from Perovskaya (wave of the headscarf). On it, they had to throw bombs into the royal carriage.
At three o’clock the royal cortege drove onto the embankment. Wave of the handkerchief. Rysakov throws a bomb. Explosion.
Three people were fatally injured and several others were injured. The carriage is damaged, but survived. The king was not hurt. The entourage convinces Alexander to leave the dangerous place.
He makes the last mistake, considers it his duty to look at the wounded and say a few words to them. He also wanted to see a terrorist. At this time, Grinevitsky throws a second bomb.
The explosion shattered the king’s legs. He whispered:
“Take me to the palace … There I want to die …”.
At 15:35 the people were notified of the death of Alexander the Liberator.
A total of 20 people were injured as a result of two explosions. Grinevitsky received mortal wounds and died on the same day.
Perovskaya police caught. On April 3, 1881, Perovskaya, Zhelyabov, Kibalchich, T. Mikhailov and Rysakov were hanged.
The new Tsar, Alexander Alexandrovich, was not almond-shaped. The terrorist underground was exposed and defeated. Liberal reforms were curtailed. The empire lived another generation in peace and security.
At the same time, Russia became more and more powerful economically and militarily.
Chapel at the site of the death of the emperor