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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Tyler

Towards the Abyss: Alexander III 1881-94

The reign began in bloodshed. Alexander III's father, Alexander II, was assassinated by home grown terrorists. The new Tsar's reflex action was to retreat into a policy of repression.

But could such a policy work in the late 19th century, as ideas from Democracy to Marxism began to circulate in Russia, let alone nationalist sentiments rising amongst Russia's subject races, notably the Poles and the Ukrainians?

For the length of his reign Alexander III's policy did keep revolution at bay. There was even progress on the industrial and infra-structure fronts, yet underneath this outward normality revolution was brewing.

Alexander based his policies on the three pillars of Autocracy, Russian Nationalism, and Orthodoxy. As Orlando Figes has written these proved 'unstable pillars'. Autocracy, Romanov style, was deeply at variance with contemporary European culture, Russian Nationalism ignored the other nationalisms within the state, and Orthodoxy led to persecution of other faiths, the most violent being the anti-Semitic Pogroms of this reign.

Change was in the air and revolution couldn't be far off when the Tsar died at the relatively early age of 49.

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