Alexander I, Emperor of Russia

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B. St. Petersburg, Dec. 12, 1777; d. Taganrog, Nov. 19, 1825. Alexander, the son of Czar Paul I (17541801) and Sophia Dorothea of Württemberg, was much influenced by his Swiss tutor Frédéric Laharpe, a rationalist. Until 1812 Alexander was inclined toward deism and was also affected by traditional Russian autocracy. After succeeding to the imperial throne upon his father's assassination (1801), he relaxed some of the rigid state controls and initiated important government reforms. During the first half of his reign, Russia was involved in the Napoleonic wars. At the subsequent Congress of Vienna, Alexander I was the most powerful monarch. Influenced by Metternich, he became extremely conservative both in domestic and foreign policy after 1815.

Alexander I was deeply impressed by rousseau's adulation of humanity and envisioned a syncretistic Christianity united under his political rule. He sought unsuccessfully to have Pope pius vii bless the holy alliance. Within his own realm, he maintained a policy of tolerance toward Latin Catholics but seriously interfered with the correspondence between Rome and the bishops. He supported the scheme, originated under catherine ii, to make the metropolitan of Mogilev a veritable Latin patriarch for Russia, with power to nominate and to dispose bishops, to inspect and even to suppress religious houses, and to be the ultimate court of appeal in ecclesiastical cases. By the decree of Nov. 9, 1801, the Czar established the Roman Catholic Ecclesiastical College, which lacked the approval of the Holy See but regulated the affairs of the Latin Church, as the holy synod did for the Orthodox Church. Alexander I pursued the policy of subjecting the Ruthenians to Latin jurisdiction. He expelled the jesuits from St. Petersburg (1815) and from the empire (1820). During his reign, however, he never objected to the conversion of his courtiers to Catholicism, and he even maintained a correspondence with Madame Swetchine. At the time of Alexander's death, General Michaud, his aidedecamp, was in Rome requesting that Pope leo xii send a trustworthy priest to St. Petersburg. It was thought that Alexander was contemplating re-union. But he died before a papal mission could be organized. The story that Alexander became a Catholic upon his deathbed lacks foundation.

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Bibliography: l. i. strakhovsky, Alexander I of Russia (New York 1947). p. pierling, La Russie et le SaintSiège, 5 v. (Paris 18961912) v.5. a. boudou, Le SaintSiège et la Russie, 2 v. (Paris 192225). m. j. rouËt de journel, Nonciature d'Arezzo, 18021806, 5 v. (Rome 192257) v.3, 4. l. koch, JesuitenLexikon: Die Gesellschaft Jesu einst und jetzt (Paderborn 1934) 3738, 157478. i. smolitsch, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 1:311312.

[r. f. byrnes]

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Alexander I, Emperor of Russia

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