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Alexander IIof Russia

Alexander II of Russia., Nicolaevitch, Czar of Russia, son of Nicholas, and nephew of Alexander I., was born in 1818. He displayed in early life a fondness for the arts of peace rather than for those of war, and his inclinations seemed to turn towards conciliatory reforms and intellectual progress. Coming to the throne in 1855, just at the crisis of the Crimean War, he was constrained at first to adopt the military policy that Nicholas bequeathed to him. A few months later the course of events made the conclusion of peace inevitable. He then began to devote his energies to internal improvements; railways were constructed with foreign capital throughout Russia; the navy was strengthened, and the mercantile marine considerably developed; arts and manufactures of every kind met with encouragement; and, most important of all, in 1861 23,000,000 serfs were emancipated, whilst four years later elective councils were established in all the provinces. Even towards Poland some degree of liberal sympathy was extended, though the revolutionary outbreak in 1861 was put down with great severity. A spirit of anarchy had now begun to show itself in certain sections of Russian society, spreading from the native aristocracy through the students and the literary classes, and ending with the poor in the large towns. The Czar started a reactionary system, and rather aggravated than crushed the evil. In 1866 Karakozoff, a student and a Nihilist, fired at the sovereign, and almost every day revealed new plots and fresh ramifications of conspiracy. But these internal troubles did not check the progress of Imperial aggrandisement. Under Kaufmann, Lomakine, Skobelef, and other able generals, Turkestan, Bokhara, Samarcand and Khiva were successively conquered and all Central Asia was brought under Russian influence. The reduction of the Caucasus was completed, and the trans-Caucasian provinces were subjected to thorough organisation. In 1871 Gortschakoff, at the Conference of London, caused the clauses excluding Russian fleets from the Black Sea to be struck out of the Treaty of 1856. Turkey was invaded in 1877, and a war restored to Russia the portion of Bessarabia which she had ceded to Moldavia in 1S56. Nihilism, however, pervaded the country. In 1881, whilst driving in the streets of his capital, the Czar was killed by a bomb thrown by a Nihilist, Grenevitsky, who perished also in the explosion. He was succeeded by his son Alexander III., who died in 1894.