воскресенье, 20 сентября 2009 г.

The mystery and controversy of Alexander I

Emperor Alexander I was one of the most enigmatic and controversial characters in Russian history.

Alexander Pavlovich Romanov, or Emperor Alexander I, was born on December 12, 1777. His grandmother, the Dowager Empress Catherine II named him after Alexander Nevsky, the heavenly patron of St. Petersburg. Pinning high hopes on her beloved grandson, Catherine spared no time and effort to bring him up as a future Emperor and someone who would pick up where Peter the Great had left off… The imperious and iron-willed Catherine proved a doting and sentimental grandmother to Alexander finding very special enjoyment in washing the boy’s clothes, caring for the boy, making sure he was getting the very best education money and power could buy, and even writing textbooks for Alexander. In private life Alexander displayed many loveable qualities, was affable, disciplined and very artistic too. He also displayed an enviable penchant for languages learning to speak English even before he did Russian.

Catherine wanted to pass on the throne to her eldest grandson, not the Heir Apparent Pavel whom she dismissed as too glum and unfit for power. The 10-year-old Alexander told Pavel about Catherine’s intensions and pledged allegiance to his father. Another whim of Fate… On March 11 1801 Emperor Pavel I was assassinated in a conspiracy. Alexander knew about the plot and even helped prepare it. Many historians assert that Alexander did not actually want his father killed, only to remove him from power to end the reign of tyranny and whip-cracking in Russia. Pavel’s death left his successor in a state of deep shock and forever tormented by stinging qualms of conscience…

Many of Alexander’s contemporaries who got to known him from an early age all attested to his controversial character: intelligent and well educated, Alexander shirked his stately duties which he thought were too difficult for him to perform. At the same time, dealing with political matters, he could be firm, flexible and sometimes even cunning using for the purpose his inborn artistic talent. Always suffering from an inferiority complex, Alexander tried hard to get rid of it asserting himself as a statesman and a war captain. He just couldn’t help looking up at Napoleon’s overarching persona and all the happier he felt winning occasional victories against the larger than life military genius of his French counterpart. Alexander’s private life was equally problematic. He justifiably considered himself a decent man when dealing with women. Really, given his high official status, handsome presence and the affability and charm of his address, the Emperor was a real heartthrob ladies invariably fell in love with, even against his will. They even fell for Alexander when he was nearing 50, getting shortsighted and going deaf. For his part, the Emperor remained largely indifferent to the attentions heaped on him by members of the fair sex keeping their intercourse down to benign pleasantries, nothing more. That’s in a nutshell, the man who was destined by Fate to lead a great nation like Russia.

The new Emperor differed very favorably from his late father. All authorities combine in praising the certain simplicity of his ways and tastes, his accessibility and seemingly genuine sincerity. Never before had the Petersburgers seen their Emperor walking in the streets all by himself politely returning the greetings of his subjects instead of whizzing past in a gilded carriage in the company of a posse of rigged out courtiers.

Strange as it may seem, deep inside, the young Emperor was a republican and a zealous proponent of the French Revolution, which he hailed as a sign of the changing times and a symbol of human progress. During his coronation which was held in Moscow on September 15 of 1801 Alexander, a liberal and a Jacobin, felt ill at ease about all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the grand ceremony, his thoughts being all about the much-needed reconstruction of the Russian Empire which he wanted to emulate the political system they had in Europe. He ordered a detailed action plan to be drawn up and in late 1809 the draft was already in place. Approving the blueprint, Alexander never implemented it though apparently scared off by what he saw as a too radical reform plan. Still, a raft of domestic and foreign policy changes he authorized were directly or indirectly aimed at strengthening the Russian state.

After the victorious war against Napoleon however, Alexander’s political priorities changed dramatically and the Russian Emperor, in his new capacity of the head of the Holy Alliance of leading European powers, was now working flat out to stave off the growing revolutionary movement in Europe.

Alexander I spent the last months of his life as a crestfallen and conscience-bitten man trying desperately to sort out his controversial sociopolitical agenda. Never too eager to take up the throne, he later had the heady feeling of being Europe’s foremost leader who, at the very same time, never managed to abolish that curse of Russia – serfdom.

On November 19, 1825 the Tsar of all the Russians died in the city of Taganrog. Soon after it was rumored that a monk in Siberia was really the former Emperor and that someone else had actually been buried in his stead. Whatever the truth, these recurrent rumors fully reflect the controversial nature of the man who ruled Russia for nearly a quarter century…

Source:The Voice of Russia

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