Sue Young Histories

Tsar Alexander III 1845 – 1894

September 27, 2009

**Tsar Alexander III 1845 – 1894Tsar Alexander III **1845 – 1894 reigned as Emperor of Russia from 13 March 1881 until his death in 1894.

Tsar Alexander III’s son in law Nikolai Alexandrovich Kulikovsky was an advocate of homeopathy, as were his ancestors and descendents Tsar Alexander I, Tsar Alexander II, Tsar Nicholas I, and Tsar Nicholas II,

Tsar Alexander III’s advisor and Imperial Chamberlain Vladimir Petrovich Meshchersky was a member of the St. Petersburg Society of Homeopaths, and his tutor Konstantin Petrovich Pobedonostsev was also an advocate of homeopathy,

In 1882, Tsar Alexander III supported Vladimir von Ditman in his request to treat diphtheria homeopathically with mercurius cyanatus (Alexander Kotok, M.D., The history of homeopathy in the Russian Empire until World War I, as compared with other European countries and the USA: similarities and discrepancies, (On-line version of the Ph.D. thesis improved and enlarged due to a special grant of the Pierre Schmidt foundation 2001)), a request seconded by Tsar Alexander III’s Rear Admiral and Adjutant, Otton Richter,

Tsar Alexander III authorised the Alexander II homeopathic hospital on 18.10.1885, in honour of his father, and supported by Tsar Alexander III’s Rear Admiral Vladimir Basargin, his General Dmitry Tsikeln,

From Alexander Kotok, M.D., The history of homeopathy in the Russian Empire until World War I, as compared with other European countries and the USA: similarities and discrepancies, (On-line version of the Ph.D. thesis improved and enlarged due to a special grant of the Pierre Schmidt foundation 2001).  On October 18, 1885, the Highest permission to establish the Alexander II homeopathic hospital was received.

On May 8, 1886, the final agreement between the Temporary Committee and the Board of the St. Petersburg Society of the Followers of Homeopathy was signed.

According to that agreement, the Society pledged to have 6 beds free for those people belonging to the Ministry of Communications (no difference in rank). The Ministry of Interior approved this agreement on November 5, 1888.

The St. Petersburg Society of Homeopaths spent the next several years in strengthening its connection with the Tsar’s court by attracting to patronize homeopathy Rear Admiral Vladimir Basargin and a member of the General Staff, General Dmitry Tsikeln (?-1902) (both were elected to be members of the Board of the Society in 1888).

Also the appointment of Ivan Durnovo (1834-1903), who had been an honorary member of the Society since 1886, as Minister of Interior in 1889, was of great importance.

In 1890, the St. Petersburg Society of Homeopaths, which had now the right to build a hospital but did not own the land for this purpose, turned to the Tsar Alexander III asking him to cede a plot of land at Litseiskaia Street, in the center of the city. Ivan Durnovo submitted the request of the homeopaths to Tsar Alexander III and the needed plot was obtained.

Tsar Alexander III agreed to sell it for 6,000 rubles with the terms that building would start no later than 2 years after the plot’s transfer. Although the sum was not too considerable, nevertheless, it was nearly covered by a 5,000 rubles donation made by Tsar Alexander III several years later, in 1893, in order to promote the building.

The hospital was built according to the project and under the supervision of another supporter of homeopathy, architect Pavel Suzor (1844-1919), an honorary member of the St. Petersburg Society of Homeopaths since 1899.

The general budget of the building amounted to 120,000 rubles. The rest of money needed was collected by the Society during the 1890s. St. Petersberg Homeopathic
HospitalThe Alexander II Hospital comprised 35 beds, including men’s and women’s departments, and a dispensary. It opened on April 19, 1898.  The first patients were received on October, 1898.

In 1882, Tsar Alexander III passed Vladimir von Ditman’s proposal to the Medical Council. Thus, the latter had to reply.

The inquiry of Vladimir von Ditman was briefly cited in the “Decision” of the Medical Council, published in the official newspaper “Pravitel’stvennyi vestnik” (Government’s Herald).

“The epidemic of diphtheria, which has appeared in the capital city of Your Majesty, has caused heavy casualties, especially among children.

“There have been families where three, four and five children died within several days. Allopathic doctors are almost powerless in the struggle with this terrible enemy; while having no reliable medicine at their disposal, they lost as much as more than a half of all their patients.

“Since this disease […] threatens to become a general disaster, I, Vladimir von Ditman, as a father and as a doctor, have no right to remain silent. I have become convinced after 12 years of homeopathic practice that there is a most reliable homeopathic medicine [for diphtheria].

“My personal observations have been verified by a large number of observations […] made by my colleagues.”

Vladimir von Ditman asked Tsar Alexander III to provide homeopaths with an appropriate department “of several dozens of beds” at some St. Petersburg hospital, where poor sick children would have been treated with homeopathic medicines.

As allopaths usually stressed that homeopaths misdiagnosed their patients, Vladimir von Ditman insisted that one of the “distinguished specialists” confirm the diagnosis of diphtheria.

Alexander III was born in Saint Petersburg, the second son of Tsar Alexander II by his wife Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine. In disposition, he bore little resemblance to his soft hearted, liberal father, and still less to his refined, philosophic, sentimental, chivalrous, yet cunning grand uncle Tsar Alexander I, who coveted the title of “the first gentleman of Europe”.

Although an enthusiastic amateur musician and patron of the ballet, he was seen as lacking refinement and elegance. Indeed, he rather relished the idea of being of the same rough texture as the great majority of his subjects. His straightforward, abrupt manner savoured sometimes of gruffness, while his direct, unadorned method of expressing himself harmonized well with his rough hewn, immobile features and somewhat sluggish movements.

His education was not such as to soften these peculiarities. He was also noted for his immense physical strength, though the large boil on the left side of his nose caused him to be severely mocked by his contemporaries, hence why he always sat for photographs and portraits with the right side of his face most prominent.

During the first twenty years of his life, Alexander had little prospect of succeeding to the throne, because he had an elder brother, Nicholas, who seemed of robust constitution. Even when this elder brother first showed symptoms of delicate health, the notion that he might die young was never seriously taken; Nicholas was betrothed to the charming Princess Dagmar of Denmark.

Under these circumstances, the greatest solicitude was devoted to the education of Nicholas as Tsarevich, whereas Alexander received only the perfunctory and inadequate training of an ordinary Grand Duke of that period, which did not go much beyond secondary instruction, with practical acquaintance in French, English and German, and a certain amount of military drill.

Alexander became heir apparent by the sudden death of his elder brother in 1865. It was then that he began to study the principles of law and administration under Konstantin Petrovich Pobedonostsev, who was then a professor of civil law at Moscow State University and who later (in 1880) became chief procurator of the Holy Synod.

Konstantin Petrovich Pobedonostsev awakened in his pupil very little love for abstract studies or prolonged intellectual exertion, but he influenced the character of Alexander’s reign by instilling into the young man’s mind the belief that zeal for Russian Orthodox thought was an essential factor of Russian patriotism and that this was to be specially cultivated by every right minded Tsar.

On his deathbed, Alexander’s elder brother Nicholas is said to have expressed the wish that his affianced bride, Princess Dagmar of Denmark, should marry his successor. This wish was swiftly realized, when on 9 November 1866 in the Imperial Chapel of the Winter Palace in St.Petersburg, Alexander wed the Princess Dagmar of Denmark. The union proved a most happy one and remained unclouded to the end. Unlike that of his parents, there was no adultery in the marriage.

During those years when he was heir-apparent - 1865 to 1881 - Alexander did not play a prominent part in public affairs, but he allowed it to become known that he had certain ideas of his own which did not coincide with the principles of the existing government.

Alexander deprecated what he considered undue foreign influence in general, and German influence in particular, so the adoption of genuine national principles was off in all spheres of official activity, with a view to realizing his ideal of a homogeneous Russia - homogeneous in language, administration and religion. With such ideas and aspirations he could hardly remain permanently in cordial agreement with his father, who, though a good patriot according to his lights, had strong German sympathies, often used the German language in his private relations, occasionally ridiculed the exaggerations and eccentricities of the Slavophiles and based his foreign policy on the Prussian alliance.

The antagonism first appeared publicly during the Franco Prussian War, when the Tsar supported the cabinet of Berlin and the Tsarevich did not conceal his sympathies for the French. It reappeared in an intermittent fashion during the years 1875–1879, when the Eastern question produced so much excitement in all ranks of Russian Society.

At first the Tsarevich was more Slavophile than the government, but his phlegmatic nature preserved him from many of the exaggerations indulged in by others, and any of the prevalent popular illusions he may have imbibed were soon dispelled by personal observation in Bulgaria, where he commanded the left wing of the invading army.

Never consulted on political questions, he confined himself to his military duties and fulfilled them in a conscientious and unobtrusive manner. After many mistakes and disappointments, the army reached Constantinople and the Treaty of San Stefano was signed, but much that had been obtained by that important document had to be sacrificed at the Congress of Berlin.

Bismarck failed to do what was confidently expected of him by the Russian Tsar. In return for the Russian support, which had enabled him to create the German Empire, it was thought that he would help Russia to solve the Eastern question in accordance with her own interests, but to the surprise and indignation of the cabinet of Saint Petersburg he confined himself to acting the part of “honest broker” at the Congress, and shortly afterwards he ostentatiously contracted an alliance with Austria for the express purpose of counteracting Russian designs in Eastern Europe.

The Tsarevich could point to these results as confirming the views he had expressed during the Franco-Prussian War, and he drew from them the practical conclusion that for Russia the best thing to do was to recover as quickly as possible from her temporary exhaustion and to prepare for future contingencies by a radical scheme of military and naval reorganization. In accordance with this conviction, he suggested that certain reforms should be introduced.

Alexander III engaged in anti Semitic policies such as tightening restrictions on where Jews could live in the Pale of Settlement and restricting the occupations that Jews could attain. The pogroms of 1881 occurred at the beginning of Alexander III’s reign. Antisemitic policies under both Alexander III and his successor, Tsar Nicholas II, encouraged the Jewish immigration to the United States from 1880 on.

The administration of Alexander III enacted the May Laws in 1882 that imposed harsh conditions on the Jews as a people for the alleged role of some Jews in the assassination of Tsar Alexander II.

During the campaign in Bulgaria he had found by painful experience that grave disorders and gross corruption existed in the military administration, and after his return to Saint Petersburg he had discovered that similar abuses existed in the naval department. For these abuses, several high placed personages - among others two of the grand-dukes - were believed to be responsible, and he called his father’s attention to the subject. His representations were not favourably received.

Tsar Alexander II had lost much of the reforming zeal that distinguished the first decade of his reign, and had no longer the energy required to undertake the task suggested to him. The consequence was that the relations between father and son became more strained. The latter must have felt that there would be no important reforms until he himself succeeded to the direction of affairs. That change was much nearer at hand than was commonly supposed.

On 13 March 1881 Tsar Alexander II was assassinated by a band of Nihilists, Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will), and the autocratic power passed to the hands of his son.

In the last years of his reign, Tsar Alexander II had been much exercised by the spread of Nihilist doctrines and the increasing number of anarchist conspiracies, and for some time he had hesitated between strengthening the hand of the executive and making concessions to the widespread political aspirations of the educated classes. Finally he decided in favour of the latter course, and on the very day of his death he signed an ukaz creating a number of consultative commissions that might easily have been transformed into an assembly of notables.

Following the advice of his political mentor Konstantin Petrovich Pobedonostsev, Alexander III determined to adopt the opposite policy. He at once canceled the ukaz before it was published, and in the manifesto announcing his accession to the throne he let it be very clearly understood that he had no intention of limiting or weakening the autocratic power that he had inherited from his ancestors. Nor did he afterwards show any inclination to change his mind.

All the internal reforms that he initiated were intended to correct what he considered as the too-liberal tendencies of the previous reign, so that he left behind him the reputation of a sovereign of the retrograde type. In his opinion Russia was to be saved from anarchical disorders and revolutionary agitation, not by the parliamentary institutions and so-called liberalism of western Europe, but by the three principles that the elder generation of the Slavophils systematically recommended - nationality, Eastern Orthodoxy and autocracy.

His political ideal was a nation containing only one nationality, one language, one religion and one form of administration; and he did his utmost to prepare for the realization of this ideal by imposing the Russian language and Russian schools on his German, Polish and other non-Russian subjects (with the exception of the Finns), by fostering Eastern Orthodoxy at the expense of other confessions, by persecuting the Jews and by destroying the remnants of German, Polish and Swedish institutions in the outlying provinces.

These policies were implemented by “May Laws” that banned Jews from rural areas and shtetls even within the Pale of Settlement.

In the other provinces he sought to counteract what he considered the excessive liberalism of his father’s reign. For this purpose he removed what little power was wielded by the zemstvo, an elective local administration resembling the county and parish councils in England, and placed the autonomous administration of the peasant communes under the supervision of landed proprietors appointed by the government.

These came to be known as land captains, who were much feared and resented amongst the peasant communities throughout Russia. At the same time he sought to strengthen and centralize the Imperial administration and to bring it more under his personal control.

In foreign affairs he was emphatically a man of peace, but not at all a partisan of the doctrine of peace at any price, and he followed the principle that the best means of averting war is to be well prepared for it.

Though indignant at the conduct of Prince Bismarck towards Russia, he avoided an open rupture with Germany, and even revived for a time the Three Emperors’ Alliance.

It was only in the last years of his reign, when Mikhail Katkov had acquired a certain influence over him, that he adopted a more hostile attitude towards the cabinet of Berlin, and even then he confined himself to keeping a large number of troops near the German frontier, and establishing cordial relations with France. With regard to Bulgaria he exercised similar self-control.

The efforts of Prince Alexander and afterwards of Stambolov to destroy Russian influence in the principality excited his indignation, but he persistently vetoed all proposals to intervene by force of arms.

With encouragement from the successful assassination of his father, Tsar Alexander II, in 1881, the Peoples Will planned the murder of Tsar Alexander III. Though unsuccessful, among the conspirators captured were one Aleksandr Ulyanov, who was sentenced to death and hanged on 5 May 1887. Aleksandr Ulyanov was the brother of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, who would later take the pseudonym V I Lenin.

The Emperor also survived the Borki train disaster of 1888. At the moment of the crash the royal family was in the dining car. Its roof collapsed in the crash, and Alexander held the remains of the roof on his shoulders as the children fled outdoors. The onset of Alexander’s kidney failure was later linked to the blunt trauma suffered at Borki.

In Central Asian affairs he followed the traditional policy of gradually extending Russian domination without provoking a conflict with the United Kingdom, and he never allowed the bellicose partisans of a forward policy to get out of hand.

As a whole his reign cannot be regarded as one of the eventful periods of Russian history; but it must be admitted that under his hard, unsympathetic rule the country made considerable progress. He died of nephritis at the Livadia Palace on 1 November 1894 and was buried at the Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg.

Alexander III was succeeded by his eldest son Tsar Nicholas II.

Emperor Alexander and his Danish born wife regularly spent their summers in their Langinkoski manor near Kotka on the Finnish coast, where their children were immersed in a Scandinavian lifestyle of relative modesty.

An equestrian statue of Tsar Alexander sculpted by Paolo Troubetzkoy once graced Znamenskaya Square in front of the Moscow Rail Terminal in St. Petersburg. It was later moved to the inner courtyard of the Marble Palace. Another memorial is located in the city of Irkutsk at the Angara embankment.