The Enlightened Life and Eventual Death of Tsar Alexander II

Ref: C2345627

Tsar Alexander II came to the throne in Russia in 1855, succeeding his father Nicholas I, a hardline ruler whose domestic and foreign policies were perceived as disastrous for the country. By contrast, Alexander proved to be a reforming monarch who brought feudalism to end, reformed the legal system, vastly increased the railway network, built roads and new schools, and devolved some administrative functions to the provinces. However, he was also capable of responding harshly to dissent, viciously suppressing a Polish revolt and creating a secret police organisation to spy on and undermine revolutionary activities. But he ultimately failed in the latter, as he experienced several attempts to assassinate him and one that succeeded, in St Petersburg in March 1881. This course will look at the man and his policies and why revolutionaries were determined to murder him despite his rule being far more liberal and beneficent than that of many of his predecessors.

Course aim

How Alexander II of Russia modernised the country in the 19th century, introducing a number of major reforms, but nevertheless was the target of a number of assassination attempts and was finally killed in St Petersburg in 1881.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Explain why Russia's poor performance in the Crimean War prompted Alexander to emancipate the serfs.
  • Explain the purposes of the Trial of the 193 and some of its effects.
  • Identify the link between the unsuccessful assassination of Alexander in 1866 and Mussorgsky's composition, Pictures at an Exhibition.
  • Explain why Alexander's second marriage was considered scandalous.
  • Describe why Alexander's assassination was so disastrous for Jews in Russia.

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

You will need an internet connection, speakers, a microphone and a webcam so that you can use the online learning platform, Canvas, and access a live Zoom session. If you’d like to understand more Zoom please visit:

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

The Enlightened Life and Eventual Death of Tsar Alexander II


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