Alexander III of Russia
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (January 2013)|
|Photograph by Sergey Levitsky|
|Reign||13 March 1881 – 1 November 1894|
|Coronation||27 May 1883|
|Spouse||Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark)|
|Nicholas II of Russia
Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich
Grand Duke George Alexandrovich
Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna
Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich
Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna
|House||House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov|
|Father||Alexander II of Russia|
|Mother||Marie of Hesse and by Rhine|
10 March 1845|
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
|Died||20 October 1894
Livadiya, Taurida Governorate, Russian Empire
|Burial||Peter and Paul Cathedral, Saint Petersburg|
Alexander III, or Alexander Alexandrovich Romanov (Russian: Александр Александрович Романов) (10 March 1845 – 20 October 1894) was Emperor of Russia, King of Poland and Grand Prince of Finland from 13 March [O.S. 1 March] 1881 until his death on 20 October [O.S. 20 October] 1894. He was highly conservative and reversed some of the liberal measures of his father, Alexander II. During Alexander's reign Russia fought no major wars, for which he was styled "The Peacemaker" (Russian: "Миротворец").
Early life 
In disposition Alexander bore little resemblance to his soft-hearted, liberal father, and still less to his refined, philosophic, sentimental, chivalrous, yet cunning granduncle, emperor Alexander I of Russia, who could have been given the title of "the first gentleman of Europe". Although an enthusiastic amateur musician and patron of the ballet, Alexander was seen as lacking refinement and elegance. Indeed, he rather relished the idea of being of the same rough texture as some of his subjects. His straightforward, abrupt manner savoured sometimes of gruffness, while his direct, unadorned method of expressing himself harmonized well with his rough-hewn, immobile features and somewhat sluggish movements. His education was not such as to soften these peculiarities. More than six feet tall (about 1.9 m), he was also noted for his immense physical strength. A sebaceous cyst on the left side of his nose caused him to be mocked by some of his contemporaries, and he sat for photographs and portraits with the right side of his face most prominent.
An account from the memoirs of the artist Alexander Benois gives one impression of Alexander III:
After a performance of the ballet 'Tsar Kandavl' at the Mariinsky Theatre, I first caught sight of the Emperor. I was struck by the size of the man, and although cumbersome and heavy, he was still a mighty figure. There was indeed something of the muzhik [Russian peasant] about him. The look of his bright eyes made quite an impression on me. As he passed where I was standing, he raised his head for a second, and to this day I can remember what I felt as our eyes met. It was a look as cold as steel, in which there was something threatening, even frightening, and it struck me like a blow. The Tsar's gaze! The look of a man who stood above all others, but who carried a monstrous burden and who every minute had to fear for his life and the lives of those closest to him. In later years I came into contact with the Emperor on several occasions, and I felt not the slightest bit timid. In more ordinary cases Tsar Alexander III could be at once kind, simple, and even almost homely.
Though he was destined to be a strongly counter-reforming emperor, Alexander had little prospect of succeeding to the throne during the first two decades of his life, as he had an elder brother, Nicolas, who seemed of robust constitution. Even when this elder brother first displayed symptoms of delicate health, the notion that he might die young was never taken seriously, and he was betrothed to the Princess Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark). Great solicitude was devoted to the education of Nicolas as tsarevich, whereas Alexander received only the training of an ordinary Grand Duke of that period. This included acquaintance with French, English and German, and military drill.
As Tsarevich 
Alexander became heir apparent (as Tsarevich) with Nicholas's sudden death in 1865. It was then that he began to study the principles of law and administration under Konstantin Pobedonostsev, then a professor of civil law at Moscow State University and later (from 1880) chief procurator of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in Russia. Pobedonostsev awakened in his pupil little love of abstract study or prolonged intellectual exertion, but instilled into the young man's mind the belief that zeal for Russian Orthodox thought was an essential factor of Russian patriotism to be cultivated by every right-minded emperor. While he was heir-apparent—1865 to 1881—Alexander did not play a prominent part in public affairs, but allowed it to become known that he had ideas which did not coincide with the principles of the existing government.
On his deathbed Alexander's elder brother Nicolas is said to have expressed the wish that his fiancée, Princess Dagmar of Denmark, should marry his successor. This wish was swiftly realized, when on 9 November [O.S. 28 October] 1866 in the Imperial Chapel of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Alexander wed Dagmar, who converted to Orthodox Christianity and took the name Maria Feodorovna. The union proved a happy one to the end. Unlike his father's, there was no adultery in his marriage.
Reign, 1881 - 1894 
On 13 March 1881 Alexander's father, emperor Alexander II of Russia, was assassinated by members of the terrorist organization Narodnaya Volya. As a result, he ascended to the Russian imperial throne (in Nennal 13.03.1881). He and Maria Feodorovna were officially crowned and anointed on 27 May 1883.
Domestic policies 
On the day of his assassination, Alexander II had signed an ukaz creating consultative commissions to advise the monarch. On ascending to the throne, however, Alexander III took Pobedonostsev's advice and canceled the policy before it was published. He made it clear that his autocracy would not be limited.
All of Alexander III's internal reforms were intended to reverse the liberalization that had occurred under his father's reign. He believed that the country was to be saved from revolutionary agitation by remaining true to Russian Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality, the ideology introduced by his grandfather, emperor Nicholas I. Alexander's political ideal was a nation composed a single nationality, language, and religion, as well as one form of administration. He attempted to realize this by the institution of mandatory teaching of the Russian language throughout the empire, including to his German, Polish, and other non-Russian subjects with the exception of the Finns; the patronization of Eastern Orthodoxy and the destruction of the remnants of German, Polish, and Swedish institutions in the respective provinces; and by the weakening Judaism through persecution of the Jews. The latter policy was implemented in the “May Laws” of 1882, which banned Jews from inhabiting rural areas and shtetls (even within the Pale of Settlement) and restricted the occupations in which they could engage.
Alexander weakened the power of the zemstvo, an elective local administrative division resembling the American county and British parish councils, and placed the administration of peasant communes under the supervision of land-owning proprietors appointed by his government. These “land captains” (zemskiye nachalniki) were feared and resented throughout the Empire’s peasant communities. These acts weakened the nobility and the peasantry and brought Imperial administration under the Emperor's personal control.
In such policies emperor Alexander III was encouraged by Konstantin Pobedonostsev, who retained control of the Church in Russia through his long Procuratorship of the Holy Synod from 1880 to 1905, and was appointed tutor to Alexander's son and heir, Nicolas. (Pobedonostsev is depicted as “Toporov” in Tolstoy’s novel, Resurrection.) Other conservative advisors were Count D. A. Tolstoy (minister of education, and later of internal affairs) and I. N. Durnovo (D. A. Tolstoy's successor in the latter post). Mikhail Katkov and other journalists supported the emperor in his autocracy – as did the novelist Dostoevsky.
Encouraged by its successful assassination of Alexander II, Narodnaya Volya began planning the murder of Alexander III. The plot was uncovered by the Okhrana and five of the conspirators – including Alexander Ulyanov, the older brother of Vladimir Lenin – were captured and hanged on 20 May [O.S. 8 May] 1887. On 29 October [O.S. 17 October] 1888 the Imperial train derailed in an accident at Borki. At the moment of the crash, the royal family was in the dining car. Its roof collapsed, and Alexander supposedly held its remains on his shoulders as the children fled outdoors. The onset of Alexander’s kidney failure was later attributed to the blunt trauma suffered in this incident.
The famine of 1891–2 and the ensuing cholera epidemic let in some liberal activity, as the Russian government could not cope with the crisis and had to allow zemstvos to help with relief. (Tolstoy helped organize soup-kitchens, and Tchekhov directed anti-cholera precautions in several villages.)
Foreign Policy 
In foreign affairs Alexander III was a man of peace, but not at any price, and held that the best means of averting war is to be well prepared for it. Though he was indignant at the conduct of German chancellor Otto von Bismarck towards Russia, he avoided an open rupture with Germany, and even revived the League of Three Emperors for a period of time.
It was only in the last years of his reign, when Mikhail Katkov had acquired a certain influence over him, that Alexander adopted a more hostile attitude towards Berlin, and even then he confined himself to keeping a large number of troops near the German frontier and establishing cordial relations with France. With regard to Bulgaria he exercised similar self-control. The efforts of Prince Alexander and afterwards of Stambolov to destroy Russian influence in the principality excited his indignation, but he vetoed all proposals to intervene by force of arms.
In Central Asian affairs he followed the traditional policy of gradually extending Russian domination without provoking conflict with the United Kingdom (see Panjdeh Incident), and he never allowed the bellicose partisans of a forward policy to get out of hand. His reign cannot be regarded as an eventful period of Russian history; but under his hard rule the country made considerable progress.
Alexander deprecated foreign influence, and German influence in particular, so the adoption of local national principles was off in all spheres of official activity, with a view to realizing his ideal of a Russia homogeneous in language, administration and religion. With such ideas he had not been able to be in cordial agreement with his father, who, though a patriot, had German sympathies, often used the German language in his private relations, occasionally ridiculed the Slavophiles and based his foreign policy on the Prussian alliance.
Some differences had first appeared during the Franco-Prussian War, when Alexander II supported the cabinet of Berlin while the tsarevich did not conceal his sympathies for the French. It had reappeared during the years 1875–1879, when the Eastern Question excited Russian society. At first the Tsarevich was more Slavophile than the government, but his phlegmatic nature preserved him from many exaggerations, and any popular illusions he may have imbibed were dispelled by personal observation in Bulgaria, where he commanded the left wing of the invading army. Never consulted on political questions, Alexander confined himself to military duties and fulfilled them in a conscientious and unobtrusive manner. After many mistakes and disappointments, the army reached Constantinople and the Treaty of San Stefano was signed, but much that had been obtained by that important document had to be sacrificed at the Congress of Berlin.
Bismarck failed to do what was expected of him by the Russian emperor. In return for the Russian support which had enabled him to create the German Empire, it was thought that he would help Russia to solve the Eastern question in accordance with Russian interests, but to the surprise and indignation of the cabinet of Saint Petersburg he confined himself to acting the part of "honest broker" at the Congress, and shortly afterwards contracted an alliance with Austria for the purpose of counteracting Russian designs in Eastern Europe.
The Tsarevich could point to these results as confirming the views he had expressed during the Franco-Prussian War; and he concluded that for Russia the best thing was to recover as quickly as possible from her temporary exhaustion and prepare for future contingencies by military and naval reorganization. In accordance with this conviction, he suggested that certain reforms should be introduced.
Death and legacy 
Alexander III became ill with nephritis in 1894, and died of this disease at the Livadia Palace on 1 November [O.S. 20 October] 1894. His remains were interred at the Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Nicholas II.
An equestrian statue of Alexander III sculpted by Paolo Troubetzkoy once stood in Znamenskaya Square in front of the Moscow Rail Terminal in St. Petersburg. It was later moved to the inner courtyard of the Marble Palace. Another memorial is located in the city of Irkutsk at the Angara embankment.
Alexander III had six children of his marriage with Princess Dagmar of Denmark, also known as Marie Feodorovna.
(NB. all dates prior to 1918 are in Old Style Calendar)
|Emperor Nicholas II||6 May 1868||17 July 1918||married 1894, Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine; had issue|
|Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich||7 June 1869||2 May 1870||died of meningitis|
|Grand Duke George Alexandrovich||9 May 1871||9 August 1899||died of tuberculosis; no issue|
|Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna||6 April 1875||20 April 1960||married 1894, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich Romanov; had issue|
|Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich||22 November 1878||c.12 June 1918||married 1912, Natalya Sergeyevna Wulffert; had issue|
|Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna||13 June 1882||24 November 1960||married first, Peter Friedrich Georg, Duke of Oldenburg; had no issue.
married second, Nikolai Kulikovsky; had issue
Titles, styles and Arms 
Alexander III of Russia
|Reference style||His Imperial Majesty|
|Spoken style||Your Imperial Majesty|
Titles and styles 
- 10 March 1845 – 2 March 1865: His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich of Russia
- 2 March 1865 – 13 March 1881: His Imperial Highness The Tsarevitch of Russia
- 13 March 1881 – 1 November 1894: His Imperial Majesty The Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias
See also 
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- John F. Hutchinson, Late Imperial Russia: 1890–1917
- Charles Lowe, Alexander III of Russia
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Alexander III of Russia|
- "Alexander III", a poem by Florence Earle Coates
- A short biography
- Another biography
- FindAGrave 'Alexander III Alexandrovich Romanov'
Alexander III of Russia
Cadet branch of the House of OldenburgBorn: 10 March 1845 Died: 1 November 1894
|Emperor of Russia
13 March 1881 – 1 November 1894
|Heir to the Russian Throne
Nicholas II of Russia