1855-1881






Russian Empire, 1815-1855

Administration . Foreign Policy . Domestic Policy . The Economy . Demography . Culture



A.) Administration

Czar : Alexander I. (1801-1825), Nicolas I. (1825-1855); Chairman of the Committee of Ministers : Nikolai Ivanovich Saltykov 1812-1816, Pytor Vasilyevich Lopukhin 1816-1827, Viktor Pavlovich Kochubey 1827-1832, Nikolai Nikolaevich Novosiltsev 1832-1838, Ilarion Vasilyevich Vasilchikov 1838-1847, Aleksandr Ivanovich Chernyshev 1848-1856,


B.) Foreign Policy

The Holy Alliance . At the Vienna Congress in 1813-1815 the Holy Alliance was established for the purpose of guaranteeing the new borders as well as preventing revolutions to question the socio-political order. Austria and Russia were the driving forces behind it.
When the revolution broke out in Belgium in 1830, Russia's Czar Nicholas I. ordered his Polish troops to march on Belgium and France (where Louis XVIII. had been toppled in another revolution); however, the troops revolted themselves (Polish Rebellion of 1830), a rebellion which was suppressed.
In 1848/49, Russia supported Austria in crushing the Hungarian Revolution. When Russia found herself under an attack by Anglo-French forces in 1853 (the Crimean War), the Russians expected the Austrians to come to their aid - which they failed to do. This was the end of the Holy Alliance.

The Balkans . Russia traditionally had been a supporter of tiny Montenegro, the independence of which the Ottoman Empire finally had recognized in 1799. When in the 1820es Greek freedom fighters fought for independence, Russia joined the British in defeating the Ottoman fleet in the Naval Battle of Navarino (1827). In 1830 the Ottoman Empire recognized Greek independence and autonomous status for Serbia and the Danube Principalities (Moldavia, Wallachia).
In 1853, war broke out between Russia and the Ottoman Empire over the allocation of a church in Jerusalem. The Turkish fleet was crushed by the Russian navy; the Russian army occupied the Danube Principalities (Moldavia, Wallachia). Britain was not willing to see the Bosphorus and Dardanelles fall under Russian control; am Anglo-French expedition landed on the Crimean peninsula (the Crimean War, 1853-1856).

The Caucasus . The Russian expansion into the Caucasus region had begun in 1783, when the Kingdom of Georgia accepted Russian protection. In 1805/06 most of northern Azerbaijan was annexed, as were regions adjacent to Georgia.
In 1828, after a brief Russo-Persian War (1826-1828), Russia annexed the Khanates Erevan (Armenia) and Nakhichevan, recognized by Persia in the Treaty of Gulistan.

Central Asia . In the 1820es, the Kazakhs revolted against Russian rule (since the 1730es/1740es); the revolt was suppressed, the Middle Horde dissolved in 1822, the Lesser Horde in 1824. Direct rule (gouvernements) were introduced. The Elder Horde surrendered only in 1847.


C.) Domestic Policy

1815-1825 . The Russian Empire had, in a short period of time, gained two major territories - Finland and Poland proper. When Alexander I. granted a constitution for Poland, many hoped that Russia herself would be granted a similar constitution; a number of options for such a constitution were discussed, but Alexander believed conditions in Russia (Bondage, widespread illiteracy) to be very different from those in Poland and Autocracy to be better fitted for Russia. Yet in Estonia serfdom was abolished in 1816, in Courland in 1817, in Livonia in 1819; plans to liberate Russia's serfs, however, did not materialize.
Jews had to move into concentrated settlements (referred to as Shtetl in Yiddish) where police observation was easier; in the Russian Empire the Jews had not been emancipated. The region where most of the Jews settled, former Polish-Lithuanian territory, was referred to as the Pale.
In order to keep a large force under arms, Alexander I. had Military Colonies established - settlements where all peasants between 18 and 45 simultaneously were soldiers; these military colonies at the end of his reign would account for one third of Russia's army.
In the last years of Alexander's reign, reform-oriented conspirators in secret societies , known to history as the Decembrists (Dekabrists), planned a revolution and the reorganization of society. Alexander, informed about their plans by secret agents, died before they acted.

1825-1855 . Alexander I., in his will, had appointed his brother Nicholas successor. This being unknown, his (absent) brother Constantine was first proclaimed emperor; he (who knew of the will) declined the honour and declared his allegiance to Nicholas. When the troops, in a public parade, were ro swear allegiance to Nicholas, the troops (instigated by the Decembrists) declared their loyalty to Constantine. Nicholas ordered the artillery to clear the square; the coup had failed.
The Decembrists had had two conflicting visions of a future Russian society, one Russia a federal constitutional monarchy, the serfs liberated, but without the right to vote, which would lie only with property owners; the other a centralized state with the Orthodox church as state church and Russian as the exclusive language, liberated serfs, a republic (all possible claimants to the throne removed by execution), elimination of privileges etc.
The events around the Decembrist coup were to have a lasting impact on Nicholas' reign. When in 1830 revolution broke out in France and Belgium, Nicholas ordered his Polish troops to march off and help crushing these revolutions. Instead, the Poles rebelled themselves; it took Russian forces until 1831 to crush the rebellion. This was the second time troops were openly defiant to him.
Nicholas I. was determined to stick to autocratic government. In 1833 a collection of Russia's laws was published. For a time, Nicholas considered political reforms, a secret committee lead by Victor Kochubey was to prepare. These plans were cancelled after Europe lived through the revolutions of 1848.


D.) The Economy

1815-1825 . Napoleon's invasion of 1812, Russia's scorched-earth-policy and the burning of Moscow had caused a damage that took years to heal. The government pursued a policy intending to lessen the burden on the people and to restore confidence, by forgiving unpaid taxes, reducing national debt, improve the roads and help out when the crops failed.

1825-1855 . Under Nicholas I., Russia's first railroads were built; the nation's industry expanded, but was yet far behind that of western European countries. The population increased. In 1830 gold was found in Siberia and Russia became an exporter of the precious metal.
In the latter 18th century, Russia had been the world's leading producer of pig-iron. Russia's production was overtaken by the British in 1797, by the German in 1840. By 1845 Russia's production made up less than 10 % of the British - an indication that the industrializing nations saw a production boom, while Russia's production, based on outdated technology, increased only gradually, from 110,000 metric tons in 1780 to 135,000 in 1820 and 228,000 in 1850.

Russian Government Revenue and Expenditure, 1815-1855
Source : B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics 1750-1988, pp. 796, 798, 808, 814
figures in Russian Paper Roubles, from 1840 in Silver Roubles
Year

1815
1816
1817
1818
1819
1820
1821
1822
1823
1824
1825
1826
1827
1828
1829
1830
1831
1832
1833
1834
1835
Revenue

323,000,000
347,000,000
357,000,000
367,000,000
422,000,000
447,000,000
410,000,000
391,000,000
399,000,000
380,000,000
397,000,000
390,000,000
393,000,000
384,000,000
404,000,000
393,000,000
407,000,000
451,000,000
429,000,000
430,000,000
495,000,000
Expenditure

391,000,000
428,000,000
438,000,000
443,000,000
476,000,000
500,000,000
482,000,000
456,000,000
479,000,000
417,000,000
413,000,000
404,000,000
422,000,000
407,000,000
428,000,000
428,000,000
447,000,000
497,000,000
495,000,000
528,000,000
587,000,000
Year

1836
1837
1838
1839
1840
1841
1842
1843
1844
1845
1846
1847
1848
1849
1850
1851
1852
1853
1854
1855
Revenue

520,000,000
527,000,000
543,000,000
558,000,000
155,000,000
161,000,000
173,000,000
179,000,000
186,000,000
185,000,000
192,000,000
196,000,000
195,000,000
198,000,000
202,000,000
212,000,000
222,000,000
220,000,000
213,000,000
209,000,000
Expenditure

583,000,000
573,000,000
597,000,000
628,000,000
188,000,000
196,000,000
211,000,000
212,000,000
222,000,000
224,000,000
245,000,000
245,000,000
284,000,000
270,000,000
287,000,000
281,000,000
280,000,000
313,000,000
384,000,000
526,000,000



F.) Culture

Note : Many of the various national minorities developed a culture (mostly literature) of their own; here, the intellectual life of ethnic Russia is dealt with, not that of the Russian Empire as a whole.

Russian society and the Russian state have survived the years of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Years without a major reform. Autocracy was still the prevalent system; although Czars since Catherine the Great have recognized continued Bondage (serfdom) as an obstacle to progress, they did not dare to touch the institution regarded a pillar of Russia's political system.
Censorship was in place, as the regime mistrusted intellectuals (many of whom had studied in the west and were thus 'infected' with liberal ideas, and the powerful secret police made arrests.
In the early 19th century, in Russia Novels thrived, Alexander Pushkin and Nicholas Gogol establishing a tradition that would be continued by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy and Ivan Turgenev. Trying to avoid confrontation with the censors, they described life in various places and social strata of Russian society in a language so vivid that Russian novels claimed a prominent place in world literature - novels which provided ample material for the reader to form his own opinion (critical of the system). Russia's literature was intensely nationalistic (a trend appearing in Russia later than in central Europe, triggered by the French invasion of 1812 and inspired by Romanticist novels, among others by Friedrich Schiller).
Other writers, such as Vissarion Belinsky, in his open letter to Gogol (1847) were rather outspoken in their criticism of political conditions, and a prime subject of state attention. He wrote the letter in question from Prussia; publication of the letter was not permitted until 1905 - 57 years after his death, and Belinsky died at age 37 while the secret police was on her way to arrest him. Despite being banned by censorship, the 'letter to Gogol' circulated in form of manuscript copies or illegal prints.
Another government critic, Alexander Herzen, chose exile in order to gain freedom to write as he wanted. In England he published "Kolokol", a newspaper the title of which translates to "The Bell". Both Belinsky and Herzen advocated political emancipation and social revolution. The Decembrists, who openly refused loyalty to Nicholas I. in 1825 in what was probably an attempt to force political reform, were influenced by intellectuals such as these.

After the Petrovski Theatre, built in 1780, burnt down in 1805, in its place, the new Bolshoy Theatre, the stage to opera performances, orchestra synfonies, ballet etc., was opened in 1825, providing the stage for official culture. It soon was to achieve world fame.







EXTERNAL
FILES
Decembrists in Irkutsk, from WWW Irkutsk
Biography of Czar Nicholas I., from St. Petersburg Times
Navarino, from History of the Russian Navy
My view of the History of Azerbaijan, Russian and Persian Azerbaijans 1828-1917, by Efendiev
Decembrists in Irkutsk, from WWW Irkutsk
Biography of Czar Nicholas I., from St. Petersburg Times
Russian Monetary System. Historical Overview : Alexander I. (1801-1825), Nicholas I. (1825-1855), by Andrey D. Ukhrov
Vissarion Grigorevich Belinskii (1811-1848), from Books and Writers
Nikolay Vasilevich Gogol (1809-1852), from Books and Writers
Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (1821-1881), from Books and Writers
Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy (1828-1910), from Books and Writers
Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883), from Books and Writers
Mihail Yurevich Lermontov (1814-1841), from Books and Writers
Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), from Books and Writers
The Bolshoy Theatre : History
DOCUMENTS Table of Russian Chief Ministers etc., from World Rulers by Ben Cahoon
Petr Chaadaev, Philosophical Letters Addressed to a Lady (1829), from Documents in Russian History at Seton Hall
V. G. Belinskii, [Open] Letter to N. V. GogolĄŻ (1847), from Documents in Russian History at Seton Hall
Holy Alliance Treaty, Sept. 26th 1815, from Napoleon Series and from Western Civilization II: 1650-Present
The city of Erivan in 1827, from Hewsen, Armenia : a Historical Atlas
Convention between Great Britain and Russia, 1825, from explorenorth.com, English tral., Orig. French text
Silver roubles, 1801-1825 and 1826-1858, from S. Sekine's collection
Russian banknotes 1818-1843, 1840-1865, from Wad Nensberg's Home Page
Petr Chaadaev, Philosophical Letters Addressed to a Lady (1829), from Documents in Russian History at Seton Hall
V. G. Belinskii, [Open] Letter to N. V. GogolĄŻ (1847), from Documents in Russian History at Seton Hall
REFERENCE


This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on March 29th 2008

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