Alexander II


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Emperor of Russia (1855–81). Known as the ‘Tsar Liberator’, he was the eldest son of Nicholas I and succeeded to the throne when the Crimean War had revealed Russia's backwardness. His Emancipation Act of 1861 freed millions of serfs and led to an overhaul of Russia's archaic administrative institutions. Measures of reform, however, did not disguise his belief in the need to maintain autocratic rule and his commitment to military strength, as witnessed by the introduction of universal conscription in 1874. His reign saw great territorial gains in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Far East, to offset the sale of Alaska to the USA (1867). The growth of secret revolutionary societies, such as the nihilists and Populists, culminating in an assassination attempt in 1862, completed his conversion to conservatism. After further assassination attempts, he was mortally wounded (1881) by a bomb, thrown by a member of the People's Will Movement.

Subjects: World History.

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