(1845–1894), Alexander Alexandrovich, emperor of Russia from March 1, 1881 to October 20, 1894.
The second son of Alexander Nikolayevich (Alexander II), the heir to the Russian throne, the future Alexander III was born in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg in February 1845. He was one of six brothers and was educated alongside Nicholas (b. 1843) who, after the death of Nicholas I in 1855, became the heir to the throne. One of the most important parts of their education was schooling in military matters. This was especially important for Alexander, who was expected to occupy his time with the army and never to have to undertake anything other than ceremonial duties. His situation changed dramatically in 1865 when Nicholas died from meningitis and Alexander became heir to his father, Alexander II. The prospect of the twenty-year-old Alexander becoming emperor horrified his tutors. He had been a dogged pupil, displaying no great spark of intelligence, and had shown no real maturity during his studies. But after his brother's death, a major effort was made to enhance Alexander's education to prepare him properly to become emperor. His contemporaries commented on his honesty and decency, but they also noted Alexander's obstinacy and his reluctance to change his mind. For Alexander himself, his marriage in 1866 to the Danish princess Dagmar was more important than education. She had been engaged to his brother Nicholas before his death, and marriage to Alexander was seen by both sides as an "alliance," rather than being a love-match. But the marriage turned out to be extremely happy and Maria Fyodorovna (as his wife was known in Russia) became an important support to her husband. Alexander was devoted to his family and enjoyed being with his five children: Nicholas (b.1868), George (b.1871), Xenia (b. 1875), Mikhail (b. 1878), and Olga (b. 1882).
An assassination attempt on Alexander II in 1866 brought home to the new heir to the throne the gravity of his status. He did not relish the prospect of becoming emperor, but nevertheless engaged in the official duties that were required of him with determination and interest. While his father was implementing the Great Reforms of the 1860s and 1870s, the heir to the throne was developing views that conflicted fundamentally with those of Alexander II. The young Alexander believed firmly in the dominance of the Russian autocracy and was deeply opposed to any attempt to weaken the autocrat's grip on the country. He was especially keen to see Russian interests prevail across the empire and wanted severe treatment for national minority groups, such as the Poles, that tried to assert their autonomy. These views were reinforced by Alexander's experience of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878. He argued strongly in favor of Russian intervention in support of the Slav population of the Ottoman Empire and fought alongside Russian troops. The war strengthened his belief in the danger of weak
authority and this was especially relevant to Russia itself at the end of the 1870s. Terrorist activity was increasing and Alexander wrote in his diary of the "horrible and disgusting years" that Russia was going through. There were repeated attempts on the emperor's life and, in March 1881, terrorists from the People's Will group threw a bomb at Alexander II and succeeded in killing him. The emperor died, horribly injured, in the arms of his wife and son.
The assassination of the Tsar-Liberator confirmed the new Alexander III in his deeply conservative views. He moved very swiftly to distance himself from the policies and ethos of his father. The new emperor showed no mercy toward his father's killers, rejecting all appeals for clemency for them. In the immediate aftermath of the assassination, legislation was introduced giving the government wide use of emergency powers. At the time of his death, Alexander II had been about to approve the establishment of a national consultative assembly, but the new emperor very quickly made it clear that he would not permit limitations on autocratic rule, and the project was abandoned. The new emperor and his family moved out of St. Petersburg to live in the palace at Gatchina, a grim fortress-like building associated with Paul I. It was clear that the whole tone of Alexander III's reign was to be different. Instead of the European-orientated reforms of Alexander II, the new emperor was determined to follow the "Russian path," which he understood to be a forceful autocracy, proudly national in its actions and with the Orthodox Church providing a link between emperor and the people. Many of Alexander II's ministers and advisers were rapidly removed from office and were replaced by men with impeccable conservative credentials. Prime amongst them were Konstantin Pobedonostsev, officially only procurator-general of the Holy Synod (the lay official who governed the Orthodox Church), but who played a key role in guiding policy across a wide range of areas, and Dmitry Tolstoy, minister of internal affairs for most of the 1880s. The non-Russian nationalities of the empire were subjected to cultural and administrative Russification. This was especially fierce in the Baltic provinces of the empire, where the use of the Russian language was made compulsory in the courts and in local government and where the local German-speaking university was compelled to provide teaching in Russian. This approach also included encouraging non-Orthodox peoples to convert to the Orthodox religion, sometimes by offering them incentives in the form of land grants. In Poland, most education had to be provided in Russian and the Roman Catholic Church could only exist under considerable restrictions.
Alexander III and his ministers also tried to claw back some elements of the Great Reforms of the 1860s that had seemed to set Russia on the path toward a more open political system. The post of justice of the peace, established by the legal reform of 1864, was abolished in most of Russia in 1889 and its legal functions transferred to the new post of land captain. This official had very wide powers over the peasantry and was intended to strengthen the hold that the government had over its rural population. The land captain became a much-disliked figure in much of peasant Russia. The government also limited the powers of the zemstvos that had been established in the 1860s. These elected local councils had been given responsibility for the provision of many local services and "zemstvo liberalism" had become a thorn in the side of the autocracy, as some local councils had pressed for the principle of representative government to be extended to national government. Alexander III acted to narrow the franchise for zemstvo elections and to restrict the amount of taxation that the zemstvo could levy. These moves were intended to neuter the zemstvo and reduce the influence they could have on the population, but Alexander never dared go so far as to actually abolish the local councils. This typified the problems facing Alexander III. While he wanted to return to the traditional ethos of Russian autocracy, he was forced to recognize that, in practical terms, he could not turn the clock back. The reforms of the 1860s had become so firmly embedded in Russian society that they could not simply be undone. All that the emperor could do was to ensure that the iron fist of autocracy was wielded as effectively as possible.
Some of Alexander's policies made matters more difficult for the autocracy. At the end of the 1880s, the government's economic policies became oriented toward stimulating industrial growth. A major part in this was played by Sergei Witte, who had made his career in the railway industry before coming to work in government, and who became minister of finance in 1892. Witte deeply admired Alexander III and believed that Russia could be both an autocracy and a successful industrial power. The government, however, failed to recognize the social and political consequences of the industrial boom that Russia enjoyed during the 1890s and the new industrial working class began to flex its muscles and to demand better working conditions and political change. The emperor also had a personal interest in Russia's foreign policy. His Danish wife helped him develop an instinctive distrust of Germany and the 1880s witnessed Russia's gradual disengagement from its traditional alliance with Germany and Austria. There were important economic reasons for Russia's new diplomatic direction: Industrial growth required investment from abroad and the most promising source of capital was France. In 1894 Russia and France signed an alliance that was to be significant both for its part in stimulating Russian industry and for the way in which it began the reshaping of Europe's diplomatic map as the continent began to divide into the two groups that would sit on opposite sides during World War I. Alexander III did not live long enough to see the results of his work. Despite his large frame and apparent strength, he developed kidney disease and died at the age of forty-nine in October 1894.
See also: autocracy; alexander ii; industrialization; nicholas i; russo-turkish wars; witte, sergei yulievich
Chernukha, Valentina Chernukha. (1996). "Emperor Alexander III." In The Emperors and Empresses of Russia: Rediscovering the Romanovs, ed. Donald Raleigh. New York: M.E. Sharpe.
Zaionchkovskii, Petr. (1976). The Russian Autocracy under Alexander III. Gulf Breeze, FL: Oriental Research Partners
Considered one of the great medieval popes, Alexander III (c. 1100–1181) held the pontificate from September 7, 1159, until his death in 1181. He is remembered for instituting the two-thirds majority rule for papal elections, championing the universities, and endorsing ecclesiastical independence. A man of courage and conviction, Alexander, often forced to reign in exile, stood up to the emperor Frederick I and his antipopes. It was during Alexander's papacy that St. Thomas Becket was martyred.
Alexander III was born as Orlando (also known as Roland, Rolandus, and Laurentius) Bandinelli around 1100 to a respected Tuscan family with political roots. He became a celebrated professor of Holy Scripture at the University of Bologna, where most likely he had studied under Gratian, the "father of the science of canon law." Through Gratian's scholarship, the study of church law first became a discipline quite apart from theology; his Concordantia discordantium canonum became the basic text on canon law.
Prudent, Merciful, Chaste
The Summa Magistri Rolandi, a commentary on Gratian's treatise, is thought to have enhanced Alexander's reputation among the curia, though some scholars contest the attribution. Canon regular at Pisa from 1142 to 1147, Alexander was summoned to Rome in 1148 by Pope Eugenius III, who named him cardinal deacon in 1150, then cardinal priest of St. Mark's in 1151. It is possible that during this period Alexander completed a manuscript, Sententie Rodlandi Bononiensis magistri, based on the work of French canon and scholastic philosopher Abelard. In 1153 Alexander became vice-chancellor of the Holy Roman Church. In 1153, he was appointed chancellor, a position in the curia responsible for diplomatic relations. He would hold the post through the pontificates of Eugenius III (1145–1153), Anastasius IV (1154), and Adrian IV (1154–1159), remaining a trusted advisor to Adrian throughout his reign.
Alexander's contemporary and biographer, Boso, characterized his subject as "a man of letters, fluent with polished eloquence, a prudent, kind, patient, merciful, gentle, sober, chaste man." These traits helped ensure his success in Rome. Adrian frequently chose Alexander to lead negotiations on numerous missions between the papacy and secular monarchies in an ongoing battle to wrest power from one another. Alexander's unwavering anti-imperialist stance during these early conventions would have far-reaching effects on his own papacy.
Frederick and the Antipopes
In 1152, Pope Adrian IV crowned Frederick I of Germany Holy Roman Emperor. It was an alliance formed for the mutual support and protection of the Church and the sovereign king against their enemies, especially the Normans. But within two years, the pope had befriended the Normans and no longer needed the protection of Frederick. The pope's relationship with the emperor gradually deteriorated until finally, at the Diet of Besançon in 1157, as the pope's representative Alexander challenged Frederick I's supremacy.
The convention had been called by Frederick to hear complaints from the papal legation on his treatment of Archbishop of Scandinavia, an outspoken anti-imperialist whom he had arrested. The historical fracas ensued over the papal legate's use of the Latin word beneficium, which could connote either personal benefit or feudal concession. Frederick insisted that his authority was God-given, not something conferred on him by the pope. But Alexander remained firm among the cardinals in opposing the supremacy of Frederick I.
With an eye to influencing the succeeding pope, Frederick plotted to undermine the cardinals who opposed him. He sent two anti-papist emissaries to Rome: Otto, Count of Wittelsbach, and archbishop-elect of Cologne, Rainald von Dassel, whose appointment was never confirmed by the Holy See. The emissaries' work became evident when it came time for the twenty-two cardinals to elect the pope's successor: Alexander, though favored by a majority after three days of deliberations, was opposed by three imperialist cardinals, who voted for Victor IV. The conclave, or gathering of cardinals for the express purpose of choosing a pope, was disbursed by a horde sympathetic to the antipope Victor IV, and Alexander fled south, where he was consecrated pope at the monastery of Farfa.
Frederick believed, as protector of Christendom, that it was his duty to solve the controversy among the cardinals over the papal election. But Alexander refused to cede such authority over to the earthly jurisdiction of the emperor. After refusing to acknowledge Alexander III as true pope, Frederick was excommunicated in 1160. The schism this created would last for seventeen years, with Frederick installing succeeding antipopes Paschal III (1164–1168) and Calixtus III (1168–1178) in Rome. With Alexander in exile in France from 1162 to 1165, and in Gaeta, Benevento, Anagni, and Venice in 1167, he became the West's symbol of resistance to German domination. Frederick, meanwhile, busy defending his sovereignty, fell to the Lombard League, an alliance of the northern cities of Verona, Vicenza, and Padua, along with Venice, Constantinople, and Sicily. In 1176, after numerous attempts to overthrow the League and the pope, and after seeing his army destroyed in Rome by a fatal fever, Frederick surrendered at the battle of Legnano. At the treaty of Venice the following year, Frederick submitted and recognized Alexander as pope.
Trouble in Canterbury
While in exile in France, Alexander met Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket had been chancellor to Henry II of England, and when appointed archbishop he was hesitant to accept the position, fearing his duties as archbishop would require him to take positions unfavorable to the king. This indeed was the case, especially on issues that pitted church and crown against one another. In 1164, Becket was forced to flee England.
Alexander III, having received support from England, was hesitant to criticize Henry II, even as the king tried to shape the relationship between the church and state in such a way that the state would have precedence in certain legal issues and could weigh in on matters of excommunication. Alexander, still the quintessential diplomat, advised Becket in 1165 that he should "not act hastily or rashly" and that he ought to attempt to "regain the favor and goodwill of the illustrious English king." Scholars have both scrutinized and censured Alexander for his failure to defend Becket against Henry. Many believe the conflict did not have much resonance for the pope at the time, while others suggest that twelfth-century canon law did not support Becket's legal arguments. Still other scholars marvel at Alexander's diplomatic skills, adding that his vast experience with secular leaders told him persuasion generally yielded better results than confrontation.
In 1170, after an escalation in the conflicts between the archbishop and Henry II, the archbishop was murdered at the altar of his cathedral by four knights. Alexander canonized the saint two years later, and in 1174 humbled the British king by receiving his penance and securing from Henry II all the rights for which Becket had fought.
A Serene Sun
In an effort to repair the schism that tore at the church with Frederick's appointment of the antipopes, Alexander convoked the Third Lateran Council in 1179. Before hundreds of bishops and abbots, twenty-one cardinals, and laymen from all corners of the Earth, the pope issued a number of regulations that sealed his reputation as a gifted ecclesiastical legislator. The bishop of Assisi opened the council by praising the pontiff, declaring, "The great pontiff—who recently rose from the ocean of raging waves of persecution like a serene sun—illuminates not only the present church but the entire world with his worthy brilliance of shining splendor."
Among the pope's decrees at the council was the institution of the two-thirds majority rule for papal elections, a law extant today. Other improvements to the church included establishing procedures for canonizing saints to avoid numerous abuses of canonization, setting minimum age limits for bishops, and recommending they stress simplicity in their lifestyles and refrain from hunting.
Even Alexander's enemies recognized his intellectual and moral virtues. His legacy as an adherent of the movement to build and support universities, which became the great centers of learning in the Middle Ages, and as a champion of ecclesiastical independence are among his most outstanding accomplishments. His epitaph referred to him as "the Light of the Clergy, the Ornament of the Church, the Father of his City and of the World." Voltaire, the eighteenth-century French writer and opponent of organized religion, commemorated the pontiff by writing, "If men have regained their rights, it is chiefly to Pope Alexander III that they are indebted for it; it is to him that so many cities owe their splendor." Upon the death of Alexander III in 1181, Lucius III succeeded to the papacy.
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Who's Who in Medieval History,http://historymedren.about.com/ (October 26, 2002).
ALEXANDER III (1845–1894; ruled 1881–1894), emperor of Russia.
Alexander III reigned as Russian tsar at a time of great change for the country. He ascended to the throne in 1881 after terrorists assassinated his father, Tsar Alexander II, and died before the age of fifty, leaving the country to his son, Nicholas II, the last Russian tsar, in 1894. The thirteen years of Alexander III's reign were characterized by political reaction, in particular an almost complete crushing of the Russian revolutionary movement. Alexander also pursued policies of "Russification," that is, enhancing the role of Russian culture and the Russian central government throughout the diverse multinational Russian Empire. At the same time, it was during his reign that Russia began to industrialize rapidly, a process that would continue after his death. Alexander's reign was thus one of contradictions, of reactionary policies and the growth of the Russian economy, of a major famine in 1891 and the growth of Russian cities.
Born in 1845, the second son of Alexander II, Alexander never expected to become tsar. Physically he was a bear of a man, big, square-built, with an impressive beard. Despite his aristocratic bloodlines, Alexander preferred family life to court ceremonies, simple fare to fancy dishes, and Russian vodka to French wines. While no intellectual, the future tsar held firm beliefs in family, religion, and Russia. Alexander feared that the reforms of his father's reign had gone too far—and when radicals succeeded in killing his father, his conservative views were only strengthened.
Profoundly shocked by his father's assassination, Alexander III rapidly changed political course away from his father's semiliberal concessions. His was a policy of strict and consistent conservatism, aiming to limit the role of the public in governance, and striking hard at any sign of political radicalism. His father's assassins were hunted down and executed, including one young woman. The reforms in local government introduced by his father in cities and rural areas were scaled back, limiting participation to more well-to-do elements and favoring the nobility.
Alexander III's reign is remembered as a dark one for non-Russians. During the spring and summer of 1881, anti-Jewish attacks or pogroms broke out in the southwest (Ukrainian) provinces of the empire. While scholarship since the 1970s has shown that the government did not sponsor or encourage these pogroms, Alexander's open anti-Semitism did not reassure Russia's Jewish community. Alexander once famously remarked, "When they beat the Jews, one's heart rejoices." He then added, "It cannot, however, be allowed." During Alexander's reign, a massive immigration wave of Jews from the Russian Empire began, especially to the United States and Britain.
Alexander felt no more affection for Poles or Germans than for Jews. In Russia's Polish provinces (including the city of Warsaw), government policy restricted the teaching of Polish and required bilingual (Polish and Russian) signs for shops and restaurants. In the empire's Baltic provinces, Alexander abolished many of the privileges of the German nobility, who had long ruled over Estonian and Latvian peasants. The German-language University of Dorpat (now Tartu, Estonia) was transformed into the Russian University of Yurev in 1893. Ironically, Alexander III's policies to weaken the German upper class in the Baltic area helped to strengthen Estonian and Latvian national movements there, though this was certainly not his intention.
Alexander III's reign also saw a major upswing in Russian industrialization. In the late 1880s and early 1890s Russia began to industrialize rapidly, with large industrial plants rising up in and around St. Petersburg, Moscow, Warsaw, and other areas. Under Alexander's gruff but brilliant minister of finance, Sergei Witte, Russia managed to secure foreign loans that propelled industrialization forward. Witte's policies also enabled Russia to go on the gold standard in 1897, enabling further economic growth.
In foreign policy, too, Alexander III's reign saw a major shift. For all his conservatism, Alexander hated militarism, particularly its German variety, perhaps in part because of the influence of his Danish-born wife. The growth of Germany's industrial and military might was of great concern for Russia. In 1893 Alexander signed a military convention with France, astonishing his contemporaries. The most conservative state in Europe thereby became a military ally of the liberal French Republic. The reason was clear: both France and Russia feared Germany and hoped that by banding together they would reduce the chance of German military aggression. This fateful alliance would be one of the many factors that brought all of Europe into war in August 1914.
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Kennan, George F. The Fateful Alliance: France, Russia, and the Coming of the First World War. New York, 1984.
Naimark, Norman M. Terrorists and Social Democrats: The Russian Revolutionary Movement under Alexander III. Cambridge, Mass., 1983.
Rogger, Hans. Jewish Policies and Right-Wing Politics in Imperial Russia. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1986.
Von Laue, Theodore H. Sergei Witte and the Industrialization of Russia. New York, 1963.
Theodore R. Weeks
Alexander III (1845-1894) was emperor of Russia from 1881 to 1894. During his autocratic reign Russian absolutism asserted itself for the last time.
Alexander was born on Feb. 26, 1845. His father, Alexander II, appointed the historian K. P. Pobedonostsev to tutor the heir apparent in Russian history and law in 1861. Alexander's mind and character were largely molded by Pobedonostsev, who instilled ardently nationalistic views in his young pupil. As heir apparent, Alexander took part in the administration of the state. During the war with Turkey in 1877-1878 he held a military command.
Alexander married Princess Sophie Frederica Dagmar of Denmark (known in Russia as Maria Fedorovna) and was a devoted husband and the father of five children. He preferred country life at Gatchina to the pomp of the St. Petersburg court.
Alexander's autocratic opinions were profoundly influenced by Pobedonostsev, who became director general of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1880, and by the journalist M. N. Katkov. Alexander followed Pobedonostsev's advice in making political decisions and in appointing personnel to higher offices. Katkov's influence was exercised through his articles in the reactionary Moscow News, which Alexander read regularly.
Counterreforms and Policies
Alexander issued an imperial manifesto on April 29, 1881, which ended the constitutional reforms of his father and proclaimed the absolute power of the emperor. The law of Aug. 14, 1881, empowered the government to declare a state of emergency in any part of the realm; administrative officials in the areas under the emergency regime were vested with broad extrajudicial and executive powers: arrest, imposition of fines, and confiscation of property without trial; transfer of cases from criminal court jurisdiction to that of military tribunals; the closing of schools; the suspension of periodicals; and the removal of officials. Enacted as a provisional measure for 3 years, the law was renewed and operated until the Revolution of 1917. The law of July 12, 1889, retained the township as a peasant institution but subjected it to the control of a new official, the land captain, who was empowered to suspend or remove elective peasant officials, arrest and fine peasant officials without a trial, and veto decisions of township and village assemblies.
The act of 1890 introduced significant restrictions in the organization of the provincial assemblies. The electors who chose the members of the assemblies were segregated in three electoral colleges on a class basis: nobles, all other electors except peasants, and peasants. Women were denied direct vote but could exercise their electoral rights through male representatives. Jews were totally disfranchised. The act of 1892 limited the right to vote in municipal elections to owners of real estate of a specified value and to proprietors of important commercial and industrial enterprises.
The law of Dec. 28, 1881, made it compulsory for serfs to redeem their land allotments, although the payments were lowered. Measures were taken to promote the expansion of peasant landholding areas, and a bank was founded to assist peasants in buying land. But under the passport law of June 1894, peasant were still denied a passport—that is, the right to seek employment outside the village—without the consent of the village assembly.
The government strove to prevent depreciation of the paper ruble and to link it eventually to precious metal by building up the gold reserve. Beginning in 1880, the government took an active part in building and administering the railways, and by 1894 it had taken over 24 lines.
Alexander III is known as the "czar peacemaker" because under his rule the empire remained at peace except for minor, although costly, military expeditions in central Asia. Relations with England were greatly improved, and France replaced Germany as Russia's ally. He died on Oct. 20, 1894.
Hugh Seton-Watson, The Decline of Imperial Russia 1855-1914 (1952), thorough and well balanced, surveys both internal and foreign policies. Michael T. Florinsky, Russia: A History and an Interpretation, vol. 2 (1953), is the most complete narrative of prerevolutionary Russian history in English and is particularly strong on the 19th and early 20th centuries. □
Keith J. Stringer