ALEXANDER III, THE PEASANTS' FRIEND
 THE atrocious death of The Liberator gave the throne to his son, who succeeded as Alexander III. The new czar was
thirty-six years old. Nicholas, the eldest son of Alexander II, had died of consumption in 1865, and, since he
had been the heir, his younger brother had not received any special training. His principal tutor had been
Pobiédonostzeff, a man who believed in autocracy. He had imbued his pupil with a deeply religious feeling, and
imparted to him a thorough knowledge of Russia's history. Alexander III was of powerful build and possessed
unusual strength. He was loyal to his word, and tenacious in his likes and dislikes. Married to Princess
Dagmar of Denmark, he was a model husband and father. His education made him a firm believer in autocracy.
The sudden and tragic death of his father moved him so deeply that he gave orders that the last wishes of the
late czar should be respected. "Change nothing in my father's orders;" he said to Melikof; "they are his last
will and testament. He issued two proclamations; in the first he announced that he would strengthen the bond
with Poland and Finland, and thus gained the support of the Slavophils and in the second, he reminded the
peas-  ants of the freedom given to them by his father, and ordered them to swear allegiance to himself and his heir.
Six men and a woman implicated in the murder of the late czar were arrested, tried, condemned to death, and,
with the exception of the woman, they were executed on April 15. The czar appointed his former tutor as
Procurator of the Holy Synod. Pobiédonostzeff persuaded his pupil that this was not the time to make
concessions. On the 11th of May, 1881, Alexander issued a proclamation in which he declared his intention to
maintain the absolute power. Melikof resigned as Minister of the Interior and was replaced by Ignatieff, the
former Russian Minister at Constantinople.
Shortly after his succession to the throne, Alexander made a journey to Moscow, and was everywhere received
with unmistakable tokens of loyalty and affection. This confirmed his opinion that the great bulk of the
population was satisfied with the form of government, and strengthened his determination to defend it.
In 1881, an anti-semitic movement was felt in Germany; that is, an outburst of hatred for the Jews broke out,
which spread to Russia. It is not generally known that of all the Jews in the world, four fifths live in
Russia in the southwest, in an area of 356,681 square miles. This is sometimes mentioned as the Jewish
territory. Few of these people engage in agriculture; they are sometimes mechanics, but more often peddlers,
store-keepers, bankers and moneylenders. The principal objection to them was that they succeed where others
fail. In May, 1881, there were anti-Jewish riots at Kief and other places. Pobiédonostzeff's motto was, "One
Rus-  sia, One Religion, One Czar;" prompted by him, Alexander did not take any energetic measures to suppress the
disorder, for he, too, disliked to see in Russia a people differing in religion, language, and outward
appearance. Ignatieff began a system of persecution by removing the Jews who had profited by the late czar's
permission to settle anywhere, and when the act which recalled the Middle Ages was hotly condemned by the
foreign press, even the Slavophils said that Ignatieff had gone too far. The persecution died out until 1884,
when the Jews were deprived of their civil rights, and an attempt was made to compel them to enter the Greek
Church. But the Jew is steadfast under persecution, and the only result was that some of them heartily joined
The public condemnation which followed these acts, induced Ignatieff to advise the czar to adopt Melikof's
scheme of a constitution. Alexander did not understand this change of views and when de Giers was appointed
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ignatieff resigned. He was succeeded by D. Tolstoï.
Misunderstandings and the clashing of interests were dissolving the triple alliance of Russia, Austria, and
Germany. This was apparent in the Balkan States which had been formed after the last Russo-Turkish war.
Charles I, King of Roumania, was a German prince who mistrusted Russia's schemes. In March, 1882, Prince Milan
Obrenovitch of Servia assumed the title of king, and the czar offered no objection. The ruler of Bulgaria was
Alexander of Battenberg who was a relative of the czar and had served in the Russian army, which may have been
the reason of his appointment. The
Rus-  sian Minister at his court was evidently of the opinion that his word, as representative of the czar, was law,
and when he found out that his orders were set at naught, he withdrew from his post, Whereupon the Russian
officers serving in the Bulgarian army, were dismissed. This gave grave offense at St. Petersburg, but the
affair was arranged, and the Russian Minister returned. In September, 1885, there was a revolution in Sofia,
the capital of Eastern Roumelia, when the crown was offered to Alexander of Battenberg, who accepted. He
hastened to inform the czar, who was too angry to pay any attention to letters or telegrams.
Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia, although united under one prince, sent deputations to St. Petersburg to appease
the czar, but were informed that their future would be decided by the great powers. Soon after Servia declared
war against Bulgaria; after a few unimportant skirmishes, they were driven back by Prince Alexander, who would
have captured the capital Belgrad, if he had not been stopped by Austria's intervention. Alexander, after
another fruitless attempt to mollify the czar, applied to the sultan, who appointed him as Governor-general
over Eastern Roumelia for five years. The czar protested and invited the powers to a conference which was held
at Constantinople on April 5, 1886. To the infinite disgust of the czar, the dispute was decided in favor of
Russia, however, had a pro-Russian party in Bulgaria. On August 21, 1886, Prince Alexander was kidnapped and
carried across the Danube, after being compelled to abdicate. At Lemberg, in Austrian territory he was set
 free. The Bulgarians rallied under the President of the National Assembly and forced the pro-Russians to flee,
after which Prince Alexander returned on the 3rd of September. Once more he made an attempt to pacify the
czar, but when his telegram remained unanswered, he abdicated three days later, rather than involve the
country in a war with Russia. He left on the same day, to the sorrow of the people.
The czar was angry. He knew that Austria would not have dared oppose him unless assured of the support of
Germany. The feeling in Russia grew more bitter when the election in Bulgaria showed a total defeat of the
pro-Russian party, and the crown was offered to Prince Waldemar of Denmark, who declined at the instance of
the czar. The Bulgarians then made an offer to Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, who accepted, and in August
made his formal entry in Tirnova. Alexander once more protested to the powers, but it passed unheeded and he
urged the sultan to expel Ferdinand. Abdul Hamid declined with thanks, preferring to have as neighbor a small
independent country to Russia. Alexander then demanded payment of the war indemnity due since the Treaty of
San Stefano, but could obtain nothing except a profusion of excuses and apologies. Soon after the sultan had
trouble in Armenia, which was Russia's latest resort to arouse public opinion against the Turk.
This is the age of colossal enterprises and combinations in every direction, in politics as well as in other
branches of human activity. In Russia Slavophilism, gave way to Panslavism, that is, the scheme to unite all
 Slav nations. Germany was quick to respond with Pan Germanism, that is, to bring all German-speaking nations
under one scepter. The czar, obeying this impulse, made every effort to convert the Baltic
provinces,—which Germany called the German Provinces,—into Slavs by making the Russian language
the only language that was taught in the schools; and Germany retaliated in the Polish provinces. Under these
circumstances friendship ceased. Russia established a protective tariff, which was a rude blow to Germany's
commerce; and that country replied by refusing to loan Russia any more money. The czar's government applied to
France which responded with unexpected generosity. From that time Russia's internal improvements have been
made with French capital.
Prudent as he was, Alexander allowed his anger and dislike to master him, when Prince Alexander of Battenberg
was accepted as suitor to a daughter of Queen Victoria. Troops were hurried from the Caucasus into Poland, but
Germany averted war by having the match broken off. When the present German emperor, William II, succeeded to
the throne, he attempted to make friends with the czar by dismissing Prince Bismarck, in 1890, but Alexander
could neither forgive nor forget. It was chiefly owing to this that Russia and France drew closer together
until it ended in an alliance.
Strong, self-willed, and masterful, Alexander did love his people in his own way. In January, 1884, he ordered
the poll-tax to be abolished, and thereby relieved the peasants of a heavy burden; he also compelled the
land-owners to sell to their former serfs the land cultivated
 by them. Since the price was payable in installments and the owners needed the money, the government assumed
the position of creditor, but Alexander reduced the total indebtedness by 12,000,000 rubles, and granted
5,000,000 rubles for the relief of overburdened villages. He calculated that the land would be paid for in
1930, when the title will be vested in the mir,—unless one of his successors should please to
appropriate the past payments for other purposes.
In the black earth belt the allotments had been according to the needs of the population, but the increase
among the people rendered them too small and several severe famines followed. The government tried to induce
the surplus population to emigrate to Siberia, but the Russian peasant lacks education and has been held in
tutelage so long that he is not fit for the life of a pioneer settler. Transportation facilities increased by
the aid of French capital, and added to the prosperity of merchants and speculators, but did not help the
moujik who did not know how to profit by them.
Alexander, as autocrat of all the Russias, did not suffer any authority but his own. The zemstvos, volosts,
and mirs, were all placed under officials appointed by him. Every shadow of self-government was destroyed.
This demanded a reorganization of the army, which was increased by 900,000 men. The reserves were called out
once a year, and drilled as in actual war. Strategic railways were built for the speedy transportation of
troops. Coast defenses were constructed and the navy was increased. In 1884, Batoum was closed as a port and
converted into a naval base, and when England protested,
 claiming that this was in violation of the Treaty of Berlin,—as it was,—Russia, referring to the
changes in the Balkan, inquired if the duty of observing the treaties was reserved exclusively for Russia.
Alexander's reign was especially discouraging for the Poles who still hoped for the revival of their country,
Poles were made into Russians; but Panslavism demanded that the German should be banished. In 1887, Alexander
ordered that, when a foreign landowner in Poland died, his estate must be sold unless his heirs had been
residents of Poland before this order was published. Germany, suffering from Pan-Germanism, collected several
thousand Russian Poles who had settled in Germany, and put them across the frontier. Russia replied by making
a law in the Baltic provinces that nothing but Russian could be taught in any school, and that no more
Lutheran churches could be built without the permission of the Holy Synod.
Then came Finland's turn. In 1890, Russian money, Russian stamps, and worse than that, Russian taxes were
introduced. There were loud protests, which received courteous answers, but the process continued. In 1891,
the Finnish Committee at St. Petersburg, which had directed the affairs of Finland, was abolished, and Russian
censorship abolished the free press. The Russian language was made obligatory, and the Finns who could afford
it emigrated to the United States and settled in the northwest.
In 1890, Alexander ordered the construction of the trans-Siberian railway, of which more will be said in the
chapter on Asiatic Russia.
 All these years Alexander had battled with nihilism and revolution. His policy neither gave nor asked for
quarter. In May, 1888, an army officer named Timovief made an attempt upon the czar's life. On October 29th of
the same year, as he was traveling in southern Russia an accident occurred in which twenty-one were killed and
many injured; it was ascribed to nihilists, but may have been caused by defects. Be that as it may, Alexander
never recovered from the shock. In March, 1890, another plot against his life was discovered. In November,
1891, the secret police came on the scent of a conspiracy at Moscow, and in April, 1894, they learned of one
at St. Petersburg. In constant fear of assassination, Alexander resided at Gatschina, twenty-five miles south
of St. Petersburg, as in an armed fortress. The never-ceasing tension wore out the strong man. He caught cold
and suffering from inflammation of the kidneys he went south, but experienced no relief. He died on the 1st of
In his private life he was essentially a good man; as czar, he acted according to his convictions. He gave
much thought to the welfare of the peasants and as such deserved the surname of The Peasants' Friend.