Alexander III, czar of Russia

Alexander III, 1845–94, czar of Russia (1881–94), son and successor of Alexander II. Factors that contributed to Alexander's reactionary policies included his father's assassination, his limited intelligence and education, his military background, and the influence of such advisers as Konstantin P. Pobyedonostzev and Mikhail N. Katkov. On his accession he discarded the modest proposals for reform made by Count Loris-Melikov. Alexander increased the repressive powers of the police and tightened censorship and control of education. He limited the power of the zemstvos [local assemblies] and the judiciary, increased controls over the peasantry, subjected the national minorities to forcible Russification, and persecuted all religious minorities, especially the Jews. Perhaps the only enlightened policy of Alexander's reign was pursued by his energetic minister of finance, Count Witte, who used governmental pressure and investments to stimulate industrial development and to begin construction of the Trans-Siberian RR. The czar and his foreign minister, Nikolai K. Giers, worked for peace in Europe, although Russian expansion in Central Asia almost led to conflict with Great Britain. In the Balkans, Russia's attempts to make Bulgaria a satellite proved unsuccessful and led to a final break with Austria–Hungary, which also had interests there. The Three Emperors' League of Russia, Austria–Hungary, and Germany was replaced (1887) with a Russo-German alliance. This was not renewed in 1890, and a Franco-Russian entente grew after 1891 (see Triple Alliance and Triple Entente). Alexander was succeeded by his son Nicholas II.

See studies by C. Lowe (1972) and H. W. Whelan (1982).

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