GREAT EVENTS DURING ALEXANDER'S REIGN. NIHILISM
 PRUSSIA'S behavior during the Polish insurrection brought her into a close friendship with Russia. The result was seen
when Austria and Prussia, in 1864, invaded the German provinces of Denmark, when Russia prevented
intervention, and Denmark lost the two provinces by the Treaty of Vienna, October 30, 1864. Soon after Prussia
and Austria quarreled about the spoils. The countries of South Germany supported Austria. War began on June
18, 1866, and little over two months later, on August 23, 1866, it ended by the Peace of Prague, which gave to
Prussia Hanover, Schleswig-Holstein, Hesse, Nassau, and the city of Frankfort. Prussia did not annex
Wurtemburg in compliment to the czar, who was related to its king by marriage.
If Russia looked carelessly upon Prussia's growth, not so Napoleon III of France. He saw in it a threat, and
to offset Prussia's increase of power, tried to secure other territory. It was evident that nothing but a
pretext was needed to bring on war. It was found, and Napoleon declared war on July 15, 1870. Once again it
was Alexander who protected Prussia on the east, by threatening Austria which would gladly have seized the
 to avenge 1866. As a consequence France had to fight the whole of Germany; and Russia seized the opportunity
for repudiating the treaty of Paris of 1856, which forbade the construction of arsenals on the coast of the
Black Sea and did not permit any war vessels in it. None of the powers felt any inclination to fight Russia
single-handed, but Prussia proposed a conference, which was held at London. The result was that Russia was
left free in the Black Sea, but the sultan has the right to close the Dardanelles to warships.
On January 18, 1871, the King of Prussia became German Emperor, and in the following year the Emperor of
Russia, the Emperor of Austria, and the German Emperor met at Vienna, with the result that an alliance was
concluded among the three powers.
In 1867 Russia resolved to dispose of its possessions on the western hemisphere by selling Alaska, a territory
covering 590,884 square miles, to the United States. In the same year a Slavophil Congress was held at Moscow
with the czar's approval. The object was said to be to unite all the nations of Slav origin by a bond of
friendship; but the real purpose was to bring them under the rule of the czar. This was apparent when it was
resolved to send emissaries among the Slavs under Turkish rule. They met with encouragement in Montenegro,
Bulgaria, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. General Ignatieff, the Russian ambassador at Constantinople, thought that
this might be the means to bring about the longed-for annexation of the old Czargrad. He worked upon the
Turkish subjects belonging to the Greek Church, but showed his hand when, under his decision, the Bulgarians
 were released from the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople. In 1875, the Bulgarian Christians rose
against the Turkish tax-farmers. The revolt was fanned by the Russian emissaries, and it spread to Servia and
Montenegro. Ignatieff did not think that the time was ripe and interfered; but he threatened the Sultan with
European intervention and Abdul Aziz granted the insurgents the privileges enjoyed by the Christians in
Austria looked with apprehension upon the increasing influence of Russia in Turkey, and suggested drastic
reforms in a note addressed to the powers on December 30, 1875. It was approved and presented to the sultan by
the five great European powers. Abdul Aziz quietly accepted it. This was not what the Russian Slavophils
expected, and they incited the Servians to revolt. A religious insurrection followed which was put down by the
Turks with such cruelty that it aroused universal indignation in Europe, especially in Russia. In
Constantinople the Turks were indignant at the sultan's evident fear of Ignatieff. The situation became so
alarming that Great Britain assembled a fleet in Besika Bay. The triple alliance, Russia, Austria and Prussia,
demanded of the sultan an armistice and the execution of reforms under foreign supervision. The situation
changed by a revolution in Turkey on May 29, 1876, when Abdul Aziz was assassinated and succeeded by his
nephew Murad V.
Russia felt that war was inevitable and approached Austria with proposals to take joint action. The reply was
that Austria could not permit the creation of a Slav state on the frontier and that, if any changes were made
 in the Balkans, Austria must receive compensation. This was admitted by Russia. A number of Russian officers
took service in Servia, among them General Chernaiev, who had gained distinction in Central Asia. Montenegro
declared war against Turkey on July 2, 1876.
On the 31st of August, of the same year, Sultan Murad V was deposed, and his half-brother became sultan as
Abdul Hamid II. Meanwhile the Turks were victorious, and on September, 17, the Servians asked for an
The reports of Turkish atrocities aroused great indignation in Great Britain; its government was forced to
join the other great powers in a note to the sultan demanding reforms. Abdul Hamid made vague promises but
when the Servians, trusting to intervention, again took up arms, they were badly defeated and a great number
of Russian officers were killed. The czar was forced to interfere. On October 31, he demanded an armistice of
six weeks, to which Abdul Hamid replied that he would make it six months. This was declined because it would
keep the Servians too long in suspense, and the war continued. In the beginning of November Chernaiev admitted
that the Slav cause was lost unless foreign help came.
Alexander was really concerned in seeking a peaceable solution, but his high officers were equally earnest in
preventing it. Ignatieff, at Constantinople, was especially active with every means at his disposal. Alexander
suggested a European conference but before it assembled he declared publicly at Moscow (Nov. 10), that,
 as he was to avoid the shedding of Russian blood, he would act alone to support his brethren in race and
religion unless the conference brought relief.
The representatives of the powers met at Constantinople on the 5th of December, 1876. The sultan, a man of
rare ability and cunning, knew that Turkey's disintegration was discussed in its own capital. He did not
object, but made one of the reform party his Grand Vizier, and astonished the world by proclaiming a
constitution on December 25.
The conference concluded its deliberations, and presented its conclusions to the sultan who agreed to submit
them to the National Assembly, which was to meet in March, 1877. Abdul Hamid was wise. He made the first
legislature Turkey ever had,—and he had firmly resolved that it should also be the
last,—responsible for whatever might happen. The session was brief, but long enough to refuse the
conditions imposed by the powers.
Alexander demanded that the sultan make peace with Montenegro which was declined. On the 24th of April the
czar declared war. England protested against Russia's independent action, but 250,000 men crossed the Turkish
frontier. The principal incident was the siege and fall of Plevna ( July 20—Dec. 10, 1877), under Osman
Pasha. The surrender of this brave Turk alarmed England, which, however, did not grant Turkey's appeal for
intervention. It was at the battle of Senova, Jan. 9, 1878, when he captured 27,000 prisoners and 43 Krupp
guns, that Skobelef won fame. On January 23, Constantinople was at the czar's mercy.
 But this awoke England. On February 13, the British fleet passed through the Dardanelles without obtaining the
sultan's consent, and thereby ruined Russia's schemes. In vain did its government complain of the violation of
the Treaty of Paris; before the czar could make good his threat that he would occupy Constantinople,—the
object of the Russian's most fervid hope,—a fleet of British ironclads prevented its consummation.
Peace negotiations were opened at San Stefano, when Russia imposed exaggerated demands which the cunning
sultan hastened to grant, convinced that the other powers would prevent their execution. He was right. Great
Britain, Austria, and Turkey entered into an alliance. England sent for Indian troops to occupy Malta, and
called out the reserves. The war had cost Russia $600,000,000 and 90,000 men, and she was not in a condition
to fight the three powers. Thus, for the second time, Czargrad slipped out of Russia's clutches, and each time
she owed the disappointment to Great Britain.
The Balkan question was settled at the Congress at Berlin which opened on June 13, 1878, and finished its
sessions a month later. Turkey ceded to Russia a part of Bessarabia, and in Asia, Kars, Ardahan, and Batoum.
This ending of the war, so different from what was expected by the Slavophils, caused great dissatisfaction in
Russia, and the czar dissolved all Slavophil committees. This gained him the dislike of the high officers and
of the tchinovnik.
The absurd and dangerous doctrine of nihilism, that is, the destruction of everything that constitutes
society, penetrated into Russia by way of Germany. At first it
 was nothing but a theory, fascinating for young and inexperienced people such as students of the universities
who, unless properly guided, are apt to adopt any idea that appeals to the generous sentiments of youth. In
1864, an exile named Bakunin escaped from Siberia, and made his way to London where he secured employment on
the Kolokol or "Bell," a revolutionary paper published in Russia which was smuggled over the
frontier and scattered broadcast in the czar's domains. Under Bakunin's influence this paper became hostile to
society, and preached nihilism. In 1869, a Congress of Nihilists was held at Basel, Switzerland; Bakunin
proposed to create an International Committee of active workers.
Soon unmistakable signs of trouble appeared in Russia, but the government was on the alert and took strong
means of suppression. Nicholas I, the man with the iron will, had sent an average number of 9,000 persons
annually to Siberia; this number under Alexander the Liberator increased to from 16,000 to 20,000. Bakunin
urged his followers to "go among the people," and a host of young persons, male and female, many of them
belonging to the wealthy classes, adopted the life of the moujik in the villages. But the Russian peasant
possesses a degree of cunning which shows his dormant intelligence, and suspected the motives of those who
said they wanted to benefit him, and this, added to his real affection for the czar, rendered the attempt of
the nihilists a failure. The Russian peasant dreads a change in his condition, because experience has taught
him that it will end to his disadvantage. In 1876 there were still 2,000,000 peasants who preferred serfdom.
 The Turkish war, when the government was occupied elsewhere, afforded an opportunity which was not neglected
by the nihilists. On a July night of the year 1877, fifteen young amen met in the forest near Litepsk, and
formed a conspiracy against all existing institutions. Two papers, The Popular Will and The
Black Partition advised assassination as the means to gain their object. We may judge of conditions
in Russia from knowing that many good and wealthy people made contributions, well aware that arrest and
punishment would follow if the secret police should hear of it. In October, 1877, 253 nihilists were arrested,
and 160 were convicted at the trial. In February, 1878, General Trepof, Governor of St. Petersburg was openly
accused in the papers of gross cruelty toward a prisoner, and Vera Zazulich, a young woman; sought to kill
him. She was arrested, tried,—and acquitted, much to the disgust of the authorities who made every
effort to re-arrest her. Then began a reign of terror. Officials were condemned to death by an "Executive
Committee," composed of members whose names were unknown. The police did not know whom to suspect, and
therefore suspected everybody, and no one was safe. Often the condemned officer was warned of his doom by
letter or paper, but the messenger could not be found. In April, the president of the Kief University was
dangerously wounded, and a police officer was stabbed in public. In August, General Mezensof, Chief of the
dreaded Secret Police, was killed, and when the government abolished trial by jury in favor of a military
court, it seemed as if the public took the part of the terrorists. These men grew bolder. On the
 22nd of February, 1878, Prince Krapotkine, the Governor of Kharkof, was shot, and his death sentence was found
posted in many cities. On the following 7th of March, Colonel Knoop of the Odessa police, was killed, and as a
climax, on the 14th of April a school-teacher named Solovief fired a pistol at the czar. Not satisfied with
assassination, the terrorists resorted to incendiarism at Moscow, Nishni Novgorod, and other cities, and there
were riots at Rostof. In April, 1878, the government proclaimed martial law, and the most renowned generals,
Melikof, Gourko, Todleben, and others were appointed governors with unlimited authority. At St. Petersburg the
dvorniks or house janitors were directed to spy upon the residents and to report their movements
to the secret police. Executions, imprisonment, and exile multiplied until it seemed as if the government
wished to terrify the terrorists.
Still the situation went from had to worse. On December 1, 1879, as the imperial train was entering Moscow, it
was wrecked by a mine. Alexander escaped because he had traveled in an earlier section. Three days later the
"Executive Committee" issued a proclamation excusing the attempt and announcing that the czar had been
condemned to death. On February 17, 1880, an explosion of dynamite in the guard room of the Winter Palace,
just beneath the imperial dining-room, killed and maimed a large number of soldiers, but the imperial family
escaped by a hair's breadth, as the czar had not entered the room. On the 24th of the same month Louis Melikof
was placed in charge of the city of St. Petersburg, and eight days later there was an attempt upon his
 life. There was a panic in the capital, when a nihilist proclamation announced that these attempts would
cease, provided the czar would renounce his autocracy and "leave the task of establishing social reforms to an
assembly representing the entire Russian people."
Whatever may have been his motive, Melikof urged the czar to try what conciliation would effect. Upon his
advice, a large number of exiles in Siberia were pardoned, and persons imprisoned for political offenses were
released. About 2,000 students expelled from the universities were readmitted, and in several cases the death
sentence pronounced against nihilists was commuted. Only two men out of the sixteen convicted of the attempt
to blow up the Winter Palace, were executed. The effect of this new policy was so satisfactory, that on the
18th of August, 1880, the czar revoked the ukase of February 24, and Melikof was appointed as Minister of the
Interior. He advised the czar to grant a constitution, and in February 1881, placed before Alexander a plan to
effect this important change gradually. It was discussed in the Council of State. The majority approved, but a
bitter opposition was manifested by the other members. The czar himself was in favor of it, but the persons
with whom he came into daily contact caused him to hesitate. He told Melikof that he would give his final
decision on March 12.
On that day he had not made up his mind, but on the 13th, he ordered that Melikof's scheme should become a
law, and that it be published in the Official Gazette. That afternoon, as he was returning from his usual
drive, and his carriage was passing between the Catherine Canal
 and Michael's Garden, a bomb was thrown under his carriage and exploded, killing or wounding a number of the
guard, but Alexander was unhurt. He was hurrying to assist the wounded, when another bomb exploded near him
and he was dreadfully mangled. He regained consciousness for a moment while his attendants were bearing him to
the palace, but died at 3:30 P.M. without having spoken a word.
A man named Rissakof, said to be a nihilist, was arrested for throwing the bomb; but there were ugly rumors
that the assassination was committed under the direction of parties interested in maintaining an autocratic
government at all risks. Owing to the secret proceedings in Russian courts, the murder of Alexander the
Liberator still remains a mystery.
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