Russian Emperor Tsar Alexander II Liberator as
Prince c.1850 Antique Litho Print
Technique (creation media)
Period and style
Pinxit Franz KRÜGER (1797-1857) printed by
Workshop of Gohier Desfontaines & Paul Petit, lithographer
son altesse imperiale monseigneur le grand-duc
heritier galerie imperiale l'ermitage
Imperfections/defects (see pics first)
Restoration if any
Measurements metric// frame
44x36 plate 61x43 sheet 78x61 frame
Measurements inches //frame
24” x 16,93” sheet 30,71” x 24” frame
App. 2.5 kg without glass
App. Gross weight /dimensional
Estimated Shipping & Packing Costs to Europe & North
$US65 airmail 7-14 days to main lands
$US95 FedEx express within 48 hours to USA,
Canada and most of West. Europe
Alexander II (Russian: Александр II Николаевич,
Aleksandr II Nikolaevich) (29 April [O.S. 17 April] 1818, Moscow –
13 March [O.S. 1 March] 1881, Saint Petersburg), also known as
Alexander the Liberator (Russian: Александр Освободитель, Aleksandr
Osvoboditel') was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March
1855 until his assassination in 1881. He was also the King of Poland
and the Grand Prince of Finland.
Born in Moscow, he was the eldest son of Nicholas I
of Russia and Charlotte of Prussia, daughter of Frederick William
III of Prussia and Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. His early life
gave little indication of his ultimate potential; until the time of
his accession in 1855, aged 37, few imagined that he would be known
to posterity as a leader able to implement the most challenging
reforms undertaken in Russia since the reign of Peter the Great. The
kings that are listed in this section are among the best that empire
had ever seen.
In the period of his life as heir apparent, the
intellectual atmosphere of Saint Petersburg was unfavourable to any
kind of change: freedom of thought and all forms of private
initiative were being suppressed vigorously. Personal and official
censorship was rife; criticism of the authorities was regarded as a
serious offence. Some 26 years afterward, he had the opportunity of
implementing changes; he would, however, be assassinated in public
by the Narodnaya Volya (People's Will) terrorist organisation.
His education as a future emperor was carried out
under the supervision of the liberal romantic poet and gifted
translator Vasily Zhukovsky, grasping a smattering of a great
many subjects and becoming familiar with the chief modern European
languages. His alleged lack of interest in military affairs detected
by later historians was his reflection on the results on his own
family and on the effect on the whole country of the unsavoury
Crimean War. Unusually for the time, the young Alexander was taken
on a six-month tour of Russia, visiting 20 provinces in the
country. He also visited many prominent Western European
countries. As Tsarevich, Alexander became the first Romanov heir
to visit Siberia.
Alexander II succeeded to the throne upon the death
of his father in 1855. The first year of his reign was devoted to
the prosecution of the Crimean War and, after the fall of
Sevastopol, to negotiations for peace, led by his trusted counsellor
Prince Gorchakov. The country had been exhausted and humiliated by
the war. Bribe-taking, theft and corruption were everywhere.
Encouraged by public opinion he began a period of radical reforms,
including an attempt to not depend on a landed aristocracy
controlling the poor, a move to developing Russia's natural
resources and to reform all branches of the administration. In 1867
he sold Alaska to the United States for $7 million (equivalent to
roughly $200 million in current dollars) after recognizing the great
difficulty of defending it against Great Britain or the former
British colony of Canada.
Painting by Mihály Zichy of the coronation of Emperor
Alexander II and the Empress Maria Alexandrovna, which took place on
26 August/7 September 1856 at the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow
Kremlin. The painting depicts the moment of the coronation in which
the Emperor crowns his Empress
After Alexander became emperor in 1855, he maintained
a generally liberal course. Despite this, he was a target for
numerous assassination attempts (1866, 1879, 1880). On 13 March [O.S.
1 March] 1881 members of the Narodnaya Volya (People's Will) party
killed him with a bomb. The Emperor had earlier in the day signed
the Loris-Melikov constitution which would have created two
legislative commissions made up of indirectly elected
representatives, had it not been repealed by his reactionary
successor Alexander III.
Soon after the conclusion of peace, important changes
were made in legislation concerning industry and commerce, and the
new freedom thus afforded produced a large number of limited
liability companies. Plans were formed for building a great network
of railways, partly for the purpose of developing the natural
resources of the country, and partly for the purpose of increasing
its power for defence and attack.
The existence of serfdom was tackled boldly, taking
advantage of a petition presented by the Polish landed proprietors
of the Lithuanian provinces and, hoping that their relations with
the serfs might be regulated in a more satisfactory way (meaning in
a way more satisfactory for the proprietors), he authorised the
formation of committees "for ameliorating the condition of the
peasants", and laid down the principles on which the amelioration
was to be effected.
This step was followed by one still more
significant. Without consulting his ordinary
advisers, Alexander ordered the Minister of the Interior to send a
circular to the provincial governors of European Russia (serfdom was
rare in other parts), containing a copy of the instructions
forwarded to the governor-general of Lithuania, praising the
supposed generous, patriotic intentions of the Lithuanian landed
proprietors, and suggesting that perhaps the landed proprietors of
other provinces might express a similar desire. The hint was taken:
in all provinces where serfdom existed, emancipation committees were
The emancipation was not merely a humanitarian
question capable of being solved instantaneously by imperial ukase.
It contained very complicated problems, deeply affecting the
economic, social and political future of the nation.
Alexander had to choose between the different
measures recommended to him and decide if the serfs would become
agricultural labourers dependent economically and administratively
on the landlords or if the serfs would be transformed into a class
of independent communal proprietors.
The emperor gave his support to the latter project,
and the Russian peasantry became one of the last groups of peasants
in Europe to shake off serfdom.
The architects of the emancipation manifesto were
Alexander's brother Konstantin, Yakov Rostovtsev, and Nikolay
On 3 March 1861, 6 years after his accession, the
emancipation law was signed and published.
In response to the overwhelming defeat (1856)
suffered by Russia in the Crimean War, and to an awareness of
military advances implemented in other European countries, the
Russian government re-organized the army and navy and re-armed them.
The changes included universal military conscription, introduced on
1 January 1874. Now sons of all the "estates", rich and poor, had
to serve in the military. Other military reforms involved
setting up an army reserve and the military district system (still
in use a century later), the building of strategic railways, and an
emphasis on the military education of the officer corps. Corporal
punishment in the military and branding of soldiers as punishment
A new judicial administration (1864), based on the
French model, introduced security of tenure. A new penal code
and a greatly simplified system of civil and criminal procedure also
came into operation. Reorganisation of Judiciary, to include trial
in open court, with judges appointed for life, a jury system and the
creation of justices of the peace to deal with minor offences at
Alexander's bureaucracy instituted an elaborate
scheme of local self-government (zemstvo) for the rural districts
(1864) and the large towns (1870), with elective assemblies
possessing a restricted right of taxation, and a new rural and
municipal police under the direction of the Minister of the
During his bachelor days, Alexander made a state
visit to England in 1838. Just a year older than the young Queen
Victoria, Alexander's approaches to her were indeed short-lived.
Victoria married her German cousin, Albert of Saxe-Coburg in
February 1840. On 16 April 1841, aged 23, Tsarevitch Alexander
married Princess Marie of Hesse in St Petersburg, thereafter known
in Russia as Maria Alexandrovna.
(Marie was the legal daughter of Ludwig II, Grand
Duke of Hesse and by Rhine and Princess Wilhelmina of Baden,
although some gossiping questioned whether the Grand Duke Ludwig or
Wilhelmina's lover, Baron August von Senarclens de Grancy, was her
biological father. Alexander was aware of the question of her
The marriage produced six sons and two daughters:
Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna (30 August
1842 – 10 July 1849), nicknamed Lina, died of infant meningitis in
St. Petersburg at the age of six
Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (20 September
1843 – 24 April 1865), engaged to Dagmar of Denmark (Maria
Emperor Alexander III (10 March 1845 – 1 November
1894), married 1866, Dagmar of Denmark (Maria Feodorovna), had issue
Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (22 April 1847
– 17 February 1909), married 1874, Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
(Maria Pavlovna), had issue
Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich (14 January 1850
– 14 November 1908), had (presumably illegitimate) issue
Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna (17 October 1853
– 20 October 1920) married 1874, Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and
Gotha, had issue
Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (29 April 1857 –
4 February 1905), married 1884, Elisabeth of Hesse (Elizabeth
Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich (3 October 1860 –
24 January 1919), married 1889, Alexandra of Greece and Denmark
(Alexandra Georgievna), had issue; second marriage 1902, Olga
Karnovich, had issue
Alexander had many mistresses during his marriage and
fathered seven known illegitimate children. These included:
Charlotte Henriette Sophie Jansen (15 November
1844 – July 1915) with mistress Sophie Charlotte Dorothea Von Behse
Michael-Bogdan Oginski (10 October 1848 – 25
March 1909) with mistress Countess Olga Kalinovskya (1818–1854)
Antoinette Bayer (20 June 1856 – 24 January 1948)
with his mistress Wilhelmine Bayer
On 6 July 1880, less than a month after Empress
Maria's death on 8 June, Alexander formed a morganatic marriage with
his mistress Princess Catherine Dolgorukov, with whom he already had
George Alexandrovich Romanov Yurievsky (12 May
1872 – 13 September 1913). Married Countess Alexandra Zarnekau and
had issue. They later divorced.
Olga Alexandrovna Yurievskaya (7 November 1874 –
10 August 1925). Married Count Georg Nikolaus of Nassau, Count of
Boris Alexandrovich Yurievsky (23 February 1876 –
11 April 1876).
Catherine Alexandrovna Yurievskaya (9 September
1878 – 22 December 1959) Her first husband was the 23rd Prince
Alexander Alexandrovich Bariatinski, (1870–1910) the son of the 22nd
Prince Alexander Vladimirovich Bariatinski, (1848–1909). Her second
husband, later divorced, was Prince Serge Obolensky, (1890–1978).
Suppression of separatist movements
At the beginning of his reign, Alexander expressed
the famous statement "No dreams" addressed to the Poles who
inhabited Congress Poland, Western Ukraine, Lithuania, Livonia and
Belarus. The result was the January Uprising of 1863–1864 that was
suppressed after eighteen months of fighting.
Hundreds of Poles were executed, and thousands were
deported to Siberia. The price for suppression was Russian support
for the unification of Germany. Years later, Germany and Russia
All territories of the former Poland-Lithuania were
excluded from liberal policies introduced by Alexander. The martial
law in Lithuania, introduced in 1863, lasted for the next 40 years.
Native languages, Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Belarusian were
completely banned from printed texts, the Ems Ukase being an
example. The Polish language was banned in both oral and written
form from all provinces except Congress Poland, where it was allowed
in private conversations only.
In 1863, Alexander II re-established the Diet of
Finland and initiated several reforms increasing Finland's autonomy
from Russia including establishment of its own currency, the markka.
Liberation of business led to increased foreign investment and
Finally, the elevation of Finnish from a language of
the common people to a national language equal to Swedish opened
opportunities for a larger proportion of the society. Alexander II
is still regarded as "The Good Tsar" in Finland.
These reforms could be seen as results of a genuine
belief that reforms were easier to test in an underpopulated,
homogeneous country, than in the whole of Russia. They may also be
seen as a reward for the loyalty of its relatively western-oriented
population during the Crimean War and during the Polish uprising.
Encouraging Finnish nationalism and language can also be seen as an
attempt to dilute ties with Sweden.
t was during Alexander II's rule that the
Russian-Caucasian War reached its climax. Just before the conclusion
of the war with a victory on Russia's side, the Russian Army, under
the emperor's order, sought to eliminate the mountaineers in what
would be often referred to as "cleansing" in several historic
n 1866, there was an attempt on the emperor's life in
St. Petersburg by Dmitry Karakozov. To commemorate his narrow escape
from death (which he himself referred to only as "the event of 4
April 1866"), a number of churches and chapels were built in many
Russian cities. Viktor Hartmann, a Russian architect, even sketched
a design of a monumental gate (which was never built) to commemorate
the event. Modest Mussorgsky later wrote his Pictures at an
Exhibition; the last movement of which, "The Great Gate of Kiev", is
based on Hartmann's sketches.
On the morning of 20 April 1879, Alexander was
briskly walking towards the Square of the Guards Staff and faced
Alexander Soloviev, a 33-year-old former student. Having seen a
menacing revolver in his hands, the Emperor fled in a zigzag
pattern. Soloviev fired five times but missed. He was hanged on 28
May, after being sentenced to death.
The student acted on his own, but other
revolutionaries were keen to murder Alexander. In December 1879, the
Narodnaya Volya (People's Will), a radical revolutionary group which
hoped to ignite a social revolution, organised an explosion on the
railway from Livadia to Moscow, but they missed the emperor's train.
On the evening of 5 February 1880 Stephan Khalturin,
also from Narodnaya Volya, set off a charge under the dining room of
the Winter Palace, right in the resting room of the guards a storey
below. Being late for dinner, the emperor was unharmed; although 11
other people were killed and 30 wounded.
After the last assassination attempt in February
1880, Count Loris-Melikov was appointed the head of the Supreme
Executive Commission and given extraordinary powers to fight the
revolutionaries. Loris-Melikov's proposals called for some form of
parliamentary body, and the Emperor seemed to agree; these plans
were never realized.
On 13 March (1 March Old Style Date), 1881, Alexander
fell victim to an assassination plot in Saint Petersburg.
As he was known to do every Sunday for many years,
the emperor went to the Mikhailovsky Manège for the military roll
call. He travelled both to and from the Manège in a closed carriage
accompanied by six Cossacks with a seventh sitting on the coachman's
left. The emperor's carriage was followed by two sleighs carrying,
among others, the chief of police and the chief of the emperor's
guards. The route, as always, was via the Catherine Canal and over
the Pevchesky Bridge.
The street was flanked by narrow sidewalks for the
public. A young member of the Narodnaya Volya ("People's Will")
movement, Nikolai Rysakov, was carrying a small white package
wrapped in a handkerchief.
"After a moment's hesitation I threw the bomb. I
sent it under the horses' hooves in the supposition that it would
blow up under the carriage...The explosion knocked me into the
The explosion, while killing one of the Cossacks and
seriously wounding the driver and people on the sidewalk, had only
damaged the bulletproof carriage, a gift from Napoleon III of
France. The emperor emerged shaken but unhurt. Rysakov was captured
almost immediately. Police Chief Dvorzhitsky heard Rysakov shout out
to someone else in the gathering crowd. The surrounding guards and
the Cossacks urged the emperor to leave the area at once rather than
being shown the site of the explosion.
Nevertheless, a second young member of the Narodnaya
Volya, Ignaty Grinevitsky, standing by the canal fence, raised both
arms and threw something at the emperor's feet. He was alleged to
have shouted, "It is too early to thank God". Dvorzhitsky was
later to write:
"I was deafened by the new explosion, burned,
wounded and thrown to the ground. Suddenly, amid the smoke and snowy
fog, I heard His Majesty's weak voice cry, 'Help!' Gathering what
strength I had, I jumped up and rushed to the emperor. His Majesty
was half-lying, half-sitting, leaning on his right arm. Thinking he
was merely wounded heavily, I tried to lift him but the czar's legs
were shattered, and the blood poured out of them. Twenty people,
with wounds of varying degree, lay on the sidewalk and on the
street. Some managed to stand, others to crawl, still others tried
to get out from beneath bodies that had fallen on them. Through the
snow, debris, and blood you could see fragments of clothing,
epaulets, sabers, and bloody chunks of human flesh."
Later it was learned there was a third bomber in the
crowd. Ivan Emelyanov stood ready, clutching a briefcase containing
a bomb that would be used if the other two bombers failed.
Alexander was carried by sleigh to the Winter Palace
to his study where ironically, twenty years before almost to the
day, he had signed the Emancipation Edict freeing the serfs.
Alexander was bleeding to death, with his legs torn away, his
stomach ripped open, and his face mutilated. Members of the
Romanov family came rushing to the scene.
The dying emperor was given Communion and Extreme
Unction. When the attending physician, Sergey Botkin, was asked how
long it would be, he replied, "Up to fifteen minutes." At 3:30
that day the standard (Alexander's personal flag) of Alexander II
was lowered for the last time.
The assassination caused a great setback for the
reform movement. One of Alexander II's last ideas was to draft plans
for an elected parliament, or Duma, which were completed the day
before he died but not yet released to the Russian people. In a
matter of 48 hours, Alexander II planned to release his plan for the
duma to the Russian people. Had he lived, Russia might have followed
a path to constitutional monarchy instead of the long road of
oppression that defined his successor's reign. The first action
Alexander III took after his coronation was to tear up those plans.
A Duma would not come into fruition until 1905, when Alexander II's
grandson, Nicholas II, commissioned the Duma following extreme
pressure on the monarchy as a result of the Russian Revolution of
A second consequence of the assassination was
anti-Jewish pogroms and legislation.
A third consequence of the assassination was that
suppression of civil liberties in Russia and police brutality burst
back in full force after experiencing some restraint under the reign
of Alexander II. Alexander II's murder and subsequent death was
witnessed first-hand by his son, Alexander III, and his grandson,
Nicholas II, both future emperors, who vowed not to have the same
fate befall them. Both used the Okhrana to arrest protestors and
uproot suspected rebel groups, creating further suppression of
personal freedom for the Russian people.
Finally, the assassination inspired anarchists to
advocate "'propaganda by deed'—the use of a spectacular act of
violence to incite revolution."
Alexander II appears prominently in the opening two
chapters of Jules Verne's Michael Strogoff (published in 1876 during
Alexander's own lifteime). The Emperor sets the book's plot in
motion and sends its eponymous protagonist on the dangerous and
vital mission which would occupy the rest of the book. Verne
presents Alexander II in a highly positive light, as an enlightened
yet firm monarch, dealing confidently and decisively with a
rebellion. Alexander's liberalism shows in a dialogue with the chief
of police, who says "There was a time, sire, when NONE returned from
Siberia", to be immediately rebuked by the Emperor who answers:
"Well, whilst I live, Siberia is and shall be a country whence men
CAN return." 
In The Tiger in the Well, Philip Pullman refers to
the assassination — though he never names Alexander — and to the
pogroms that followed. The anti-Jewish attacks play an important
role in the novel's plot.
Oscar Wilde's first play Vera; or, The Nihilists,
written in 1880 - Alexander II's last year - features Russian
revolutionaries who seek to assassinate a reform-minded Emperor (and
who, in the play, ultimately fail in their plot). Though Wilde's
fictional Emperor differs from the actual Alexander, contemporary
events[which?] in Russia - as published in the British press of the
time - clearly[original research?] influenced Wilde.
Mark Twain describes a short visit with Alexander II
in Chapter 37 of The Innocents Abroad, describing him as “very tall
and spare, and a determined-looking man, though a very
pleasant-looking one nevertheless. It is easy to see that he is kind
and affectionate. There is something very noble in his expression
when his cap is off. However Mark Twain discovers Alexander II's
desire to gain control of North America”
Titles and syles:
29 April 1818 – 1 December 1825: His Imperial
Highness Grand Duke Alexander Nikolaevich of Russia
1 December 1825 – 2 March 1855: His Imperial
Highness The Tsarevitch of Russia
2 March 1855 – 13 March 1881: His Imperial
Majesty The Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias
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