Alexander II of Russia
b.29 Apr 1818 Gorod Moskva, Moscow, Russia
m. 13 Jul 1817
Facts and Events
Alexander was the most successful Russian reformer since Peter the Great. His most important achievement was the emancipation of serfs in 1861, for which he became known as Alexander the Liberator. The tsar was responsible for numerous other reforms including reorganizing the judicial system, setting up elected local judges, abolishing capital punishment, promoting local self-government through the zemstvo system, imposing universal military service, ending some of the privileges of the nobility, and promoting the universities. Despite these reforms, during his reign, his brutal secret police, known as the Third Section, sent thousands of dissidents into exile in Siberia.
In foreign policy, Alexander sold Alaska to the United States in 1867, fearing the remote colony would fall into British hands if there was another war. He sought peace, moved away from bellicose France when Napoleon III fell in 1871, and in 1872 joined with Germany and Austria in the League of the Three Emperors that stabilized the European situation. Despite his otherwise pacifistic foreign policy, he fought a brief war with Turkey in 1877–78, pursued further expansion into Siberia and the Caucasus, and conquered Turkestan. Although disappointed by the results of the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Alexander abided by that agreement. Among his greatest domestic 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 additional parliamentary reforms to counter the rise of nascent revolutionary and anarchistic movements when he was assassinated in 1881.