Alexander I. (Russia)

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Emperor Alexander I of Russia
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Alexander I Pavlovich Romanov ( Russian Александр I Павлович ; * 12 . Jul / 23. December  1777 greg. In Saint Petersburg , † November 19 . Jul / 1. December  1825 . Greg in Taganrog ) was emperor of Russia (1801- 1825), King of Poland (1815–1825), first Russian Grand Duke of Finland (1809–1825) from the house of Romanow-Holstein-Gottorp and from 1801 to 1807 and from 1813 to 1818 Mr. von Jever .

Childhood and adolescence

Alexander I was the eldest son of Emperor Paul I and his second wife, Maria Fjodorovna, nee Princess Sophie Dorothee von Württemberg .

Soft and sentimental, he showed himself to be benevolent and enthusiastic about ideals, but also weak and inconsistent and his willingness to push aside everything unpleasant began early on. His father Paul I, emperor since 1796, treated Alexander suspiciously and arbitrarily. His grandmother Empress Catherine II took care of his education . He was educated according to Rousseau's principles under the direction of the liberal Swiss Freemason Frédéric-César de la Harpe . He could not finish his plan to train the young Grand Duke in statecraft. Tsarina Katharina thought it more important to consider dynastic questions about the future. As early as autumn 1792, she had two Baden princesses come to Saint Petersburg "for inspection".

On September 28th, Jul. / October 9, 1793 greg. Grand Duke Alexander was married to Princess Louise of Baden at the age of 15 . The bride was 14 years old and after converting to the Orthodox faith, she was given the name Elisabeth Alexejewna.

Catherine II died in 1796, and Alexander's father ascended the Russian imperial throne as Paul I. From this point onwards a time of humiliation and harassment by his father began for Alexander. Now he was slowly coming under the influence of his mother, which would last all his life.

Emperor of Russia

Emperor Alexander I around 1801, painting by Wladimir Lukitsch Borowikowski

When Alexander the assassination of his father on 12 jul. / March 24, 1801 greg. When he came to the throne, although he had neither known nor approved of the murder, he was initially dependent on consideration for the murderers of Subov , on Pahlen and on Bennigsen . They all went unpunished. Ernst Lubitsch filmed the circumstances of the conspiracy in 1928 under the title Der Patriot .

Later, the so-called triumvirate " Pawel Stroganow , Nikolai Novossilzew and Adam Czartoryski " had the most significant influence on him.

Reform activity

In accordance with his personality, his efforts were primarily directed towards the internal development of Russia. In the first half of his reign, especially during the first few years, he endeavored zealously to regulate the finances of his empire, to promote intellectual education, and to soften the hard lot of the serfs. Estonia , Livonia and Courland owe him the abolition of serfdom and the introduction of a peasant order associated with the institute of communal courts. Exhibiting serfs for sale or listing them in the newspapers was forbidden in 1801, and their release and settlement in the cities was made easier. In order to be able to devote his diligence to these and other reforms, the Emperor Alexander initially tried to avoid military interference in European affairs.

Foreign policy attitude up to the peace treaty with Napoleon

As early as 1802 he concluded with King Friedrich Wilhelm III. From Prussia a cordial bond of friendship (meeting in Memel , June 1802), to which both remained loyal to the end of their lives.

Reception at the Peace of Tilsit 1807: Foreign Minister Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord , Napoleon Bonaparte , Emperor Alexander I, Queen Luise and her husband King Friedrich Wilhelm III. of Prussia . Painting by Nicolas Gosse .

At the same time, Emperor Alexander entered into close political relations with Napoleon Bonaparte , then First Consul of the French Republic , in order to conduct the affairs of Europe peacefully after mutual agreement. In 1804 there was a break with France. Alexander supported Austria in 1805 , but resigned from the Bund against Napoleon after the Battle of Austerlitz in order to renew the fight in 1807 in favor of Prussia , but only after his ally had already lost most of his territory.

When the Prussian and Russian troops were pushed back over the Memel, Emperor Alexander brokered the peace of Tilsit . Its conclusion was preceded by the famous meeting of the Russian and French emperors on June 25, 1807 (in a pavilion built on two rafts in the middle of the Memel ), and Alexander, who had the greatest admiration for Napoleon's brilliant personal qualities, let himself go win this over for the second time for the idea of ​​joint management of European affairs.

During the Erfurt Prince Congress in October 1808 the union with France was renewed and Alexander promised possession of Turkey , against which he victoriously continued a war . Given the widely diverging interests of the two states, however, this unity did not last long, and in 1812 there was another break.

War against Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna

Emperor Alexander I, painting by Franz Krüger (1812)

At first Russia seemed to have to succumb to Napoleon in the Russian campaign of 1812 , and after the capture of Moscow Alexander almost despaired of continuing the war. In the meantime, the unbroken optimistic Freiherr vom Stein managed to change his mind and fuel his enthusiasm. Alexander declared that he did not want to lay down his arms until Napoleon was overthrown. Its peace offers were rejected and the religious and national enthusiasm of the Russians aroused. The French army, giving way to hunger and cold rather than arms, was hard pressed on its retreat and almost annihilated.

Alexander's decision to continue the war favored the uprising of Germany, which would hardly have been possible without his support. In the Wars of Liberation , Alexander exercised great influence as the most powerful of the allied rulers, both in military operations and in the gentle treatment of France and the repatriation of the Bourbons .

In 1814, at the Congress of Vienna , the emperor tried to achieve unity among the princes and to establish a firm order. As a representative of liberal views at the time, he tried to work personally and through Baron von Stein to regulate German conditions through the Vienna Final Act . He also ensured that Switzerland's neutrality was recognized and gave the Ionian Islands republican independence (see Republic of the Ionian Islands ). In the same vein he gave Poland , which had come to him through the decision of the Congress of Vienna, a free-thinking constitution.

Attitude and reputation during the last years of government

Skeptical of Freemasonry, Alexander I commissioned an expert opinion on the activities of the Masonic lodges . It was made by Ignaz Aurelius Feßler , who was appointed professor of oriental languages ​​and philosophy at the Alexander Nevsky Academy in Saint Petersburg in 1809, Count Rasumowsky, Minister of Education, Balashev, Minister of Police, and Michail Michailowitsch Speranski, the Democratic State Secretary . As a result, Freemasonry was approved in Russia in 1810, and Alexander I himself joined the league.

Emperor Alexander I in 1824. George Dawe , 1826, Peterhof Palace .

Under the influence of the great events of this time and at the suggestion of Juliane von Krüdener , who pulled him into her mysticism at the time, the pious Christian tsar first developed the idea of ​​the Holy Alliance , through whose realization he established the peace of the world on one of the previous political alliances sought to establish a widely differing basis, which, however, was only the handle for the political reaction and, instead of calming the minds, only increased dissatisfaction with the existing order. Alexander I, frightened by this and, it seems, mistrusted by malicious whispers against the peoples, tried violent antidotes with other princes. The congresses in Troppau (1820), Laibach (1821) and Verona (1822) were discussed and decided in this regard , and Alexander willingly offered his hand to suppress the political progress of the peoples with the uprisings.

In Russia, censorship and strict supervision of book imports were reintroduced, science, literature and teaching were hindered, investigations into demagogic activities were initiated, mission societies were suppressed and all plans for reform and training were gradually abandoned. The network of an open and secret police , which blocked all traffic, spread over the whole empire . The experience that the spirit of resistance could not be banished by all these measures embittered the emperor, who sought diversion and satisfaction partly in the distractions of a gleaming, lavish and celibate court and partly in religious mysticism.

Under constant pressure from Metternich , the emperor turned against his own friends a few days after the visit of the fanatical monk Photius, and on August 6, 1822 the order was issued to dissolve all secret societies and also the Masonic lodges.

The development of the Greek uprising since 1821 also brought the emperor's policy into enormous contradiction with public opinion. His people were fond of their Orthodox relatives; Alexander, however, disapproved of the revolt of the Greek people because he saw in it only a rebellion against their rightful overlord. His own ideals of national liberalism were a thing of the past and he refused to make any concessions to the changed outlook on life.

Death and legends

The terrible flooding that struck Saint Petersburg in 1824, as well as the fear of a Russian-Polish conspiracy against the House of Romanov , contributed to further darkening the state of mind of the emperor. Physically suffering and full of thoughts of death, he was reconciled with his wife, who, despite all her husband's missteps, had always remained his friend. In the summer of 1825 the Empress's health deteriorated and the doctors advised her to stay in the south for a long time; Alexander decided to go with her. In mid-September, the two began a trip to the Crimea , where the Crimean fever, named after the peninsula, befell him . Concerned about his condition, he was taken to Taganrog , where he was born on November 19th . / December 1, 1825 greg. passed away.

The palace in Taganrog , where Emperor Alexander I died in 1825

The circumstances and the place of his death led during the restrictive, strict, mistrustful government of his successor Nicholas I to the formation of legends that Emperor Alexander did not die but voluntarily withdrew from the reign as a hermit; Alexander was seen as an ancient man. He lives secretly in a hidden place and advises some of the greats of the empire from there. These legends lasted for decades; they led to the transfiguration of the monarch in parts of the Russian population. Reinhold Schneider processed the end of the tsar literarily in his stories Taganrog (published in 1946) and The Truth (published in 1948).

An article in the newspaper Die Welt gives these legends more meaning. Accordingly, there were strange events in connection with the death of Alexander I. An autopsy of the corpse was only carried out 32 hours after death for no plausible reason for the delay. The result of this autopsy contradicts the findings of Justus Christian Loder , the Tsar's personal physician, regarding the condition of his spleen. On the instructions of his widow, the dead man's face was covered with a cloth and the body was embalmed. No one was allowed to look into the coffin on the long way back to St. Petersburg. These events contributed to the creation of legends about the death of the tsar. Later a "Starez" (holy man) is mentioned, who called himself Fyodor Kuzmich and who had detailed knowledge of the processes at the Tsar's court at the time of Alexander I. Some conspiracy theorists targeted that this man should have been identical to Alexander I. However, that remains in the realm of speculation. However, the legend of the end of the Tsar was substantiated in 1866. At that time, the tsar's nephew and second successor, Alexander II , wanted to get to the bottom of the matter and ordered the coffin to be opened. The result was: An empty coffin was found. This fact proves two things. First, the tsarist family, at least under Alexander II, was not informed about an irregularity in the death of Alexander I, otherwise Alexander II would hardly have ordered the opening of the coffin, and secondly, the fact that the coffin was empty proves that something strange must have happened . (The source of this paragraph is an article from the world , see below.)

Of the many monuments that immortalize the memory of Emperor Alexander in Russia, the Alexander Column (erected in 1834 on Palace Square in Saint Petersburg) is particularly well-known. In 1805, Alexanderplatz in Berlin-Mitte was named after him. He is also the namesake for the Antarctic Alexander I Island .

Position in history

The power of Russia grew considerably under Emperor Alexander I. The Peace of Vienna and the wars against Sweden , Persia and Turkey that ended very happily led to the acquisition of the Kingdom of Poland , Białystok , Finland , Greece , Shirvan and Bessarabia with a total of around 10 million inhabitants. Also important were the internal strengthening of Russia and the influence it gained on European affairs.

A while after Alexander's death, The Great Game began , the historic conflict between Britain and Russia for supremacy in Central Asia.


Her marriage to Empress Elisabeth Alexejewna , née Princess Louise von Baden, gave birth to two daughters who died early:

  • Maria Alexandrovna (May 18, 1799 - July 27, 1800)
  • Elisabeth Alexandrovna (November 3, 1806 - April 30, 1808)

Emperor Alexander I fathered numerous other illegitimate children, of which he recognized nine, including three children with Princess Maria Antonovna Naryshkina (1779-1854) between 1806 and 1813 .


Karl Friedrich of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf
Peter III from Russia
Anna Petrovna of Russia
Paul I of Russia
Christian August von Anhalt-Zerbst
Catherine II of Russia
Johanna Elisabeth of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf
Alexander I of Russia
Karl Alexander of Württemberg
Friedrich Eugen of Württemberg
Marie-Auguste von Thurn and Taxis
Sophie Dorothee of Württemberg
Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg-Schwedt
Friederike Dorothea Sophia of Brandenburg-Schwedt
Sophie Dorothea Marie of Prussia

Awards and honors

Individual evidence

  1. In contemporary linguistic usage as well as abroad it remained customary until 1917 to continue to speak of the tsar , which has been preserved in the consciousness of posterity. This aimed less at the current dignity of the empire than at the continued existence of the specifically Russian reality in the form of the Moscow tsarist empire, which served as the basis of the new empire. In the 19th century, this led to a conceptual language in literature that was not appropriate to the source and to an outmoded conceptual apparatus in German literature. Cf. Hans-Joachim Torke: The Russian Tsars. 1547-1917 . P. 8; Hans-Joachim Torke: The state-related society in the Moscow Empire . Leiden, 1974, p. 2; Reinhard Wittram : The Russian Empire and its shape change . In: Historische Zeitschrift , Vol. 187 (1959), Issue 3 (June), pp. 568-593, p. 569, ISSN  0018-2613
  2. ^ Heads of State of Finland
  3. ^ Geneviève Lüscher : Obstetrician of neutral Switzerland . In: NZZ on Sunday April 19, 2015.
  4. a b Eugen Lennhoff, Oskar Posner, Dieter A. Binder: Internationales Freemaurer Lexikon . Herbig Verlag, 5th edition, ISBN 978-3-7766-2478-6
  5. ^ Manfred Hildermeier : History of Russia. From the Middle Ages to the October Revolution , CH Beck Verlag, Munich 2013, ISBN 9783406645518
  6. Leopold von Zedlitz-Neukirch : New Prussian nobility lexicon, Volume 2: E-H . 2nd edition Reichenbach Verlag, Leipzig 1842, page 95


  • Frank Bauer: Tsar Alexander I of Russia. “The Liberator of the Nations” (= Small Series History of the Wars of Liberation 1813–1815, Special Issue 4). Edition König und Vaterland, Potsdam 2008.
  • Grand Duke Nikolai Mikhailovich : Император Александр I. (Emperor Aleksandr 1) . Bogorodskii Pechatnik, Moscow 1999, ISBN 5-89589-011-3 [reprint of the 1914 edition].
  • Alan Palmer : Alexander I - Napoleon's opponent . Bechtle, Esslingen 1982, ISBN 3-7628-0408-7 .
  • Daria Olivier: Alexandre Ier. Le prince des illusions . Fayard, Paris 1973.
  • Catharina Raible (edit.): Tsar Alexander I of Russia and the Kingdom of Württemberg . Family ties, state politics and emigration 200 years ago . House of the homeland of Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-00-019735-4 .

Web links

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predecessor Office successor
Paul I. Emperor of Russia
Nicholas I.