New book. As the years passed, the tsar who defeated Napoleon would become increasingly preoccupied with his own spiritual salvation, an obsession that led him to pursue a rapprochement between the Orthodox and Roman Churches.
When in exile, Napoleon once remarked of his Russian rival: "He could go far. An American translator of twenty years standing, Susan Emanuel has specialized in sociology, history, cultural studies, international relations, religion, and biography. Translated into English from the French by Susan Emanuel.
Seller Inventory X1. Seller Inventory ING Marie-pierre Rey. Publisher: Northern Illinois University Press , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:.
Synopsis About this title Alexander I was a ruler with high aspirations for the people of Russia. Product Description : Rare Book Review : "Alexander's great strength was the same as his fatal flaw: unbound by filial piety or consistent ideological conviction, he considered himself to be elect, the beneficiary of inspiration denied to other men.
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Alexander I was. A ruler devious and weak A balding dandy, foe to work By mere chance in glory sheltered. The Pole Has freedom now. And we? Applause from country dames, Didactic odes, no more. Between these two judgments — from the emperor he would destroy and the poet he had sent into exile — lay the whole mess of contradictions that was the life and reign of Alexander I.
The Tsar Who Defeated Napoleon leaves no doubt about the imprint its subject has left on the liberal and, however uneasily, united Europe of today. His most lasting foreign policy achievement, the Holy Alliance, was cooked up under the influence of German mystics who had persuaded him that he was directly inspired by the Almighty.
When more practical statesmen turned it into the tool of armed conservatism all over Europe, he was as helpless as he was unprepared. He had few domestic successes to speak of, but the unerring accuracy with which he picked the wrong man for the job meant that his most daring project — a system of military col0nies he hoped would provide a path out of serfdom through communitarian discipline — became his most embarrassing legacy.
It is a truism that hubris of this kind leads reliably to disaster. At Tilsit, Napoleon, the former first consul of revolutionary France, found himself defending the moral legitimacy of hereditary monarchy against the hereditary emperor of the most patrimonial state in Europe.
His grandfather Peter III ruled Russia for only six months before his wife, Catherine the Great, overthrew him in a palace coup in and shipped him off to prison, where he was quietly murdered. Nominally, Catherine ruled as regent for her son Paul, but once he reached majority in she made no effort to transfer power to him. There it was that the conspirators who brought Alexander to power found and strangled him in First, legitimacy was hard to find; second, even if found, it was not always to the good. Yet Catherine had equipped her grandson with a whole other system of political understanding.
Even in her supposed reactionary phase, which is said to have set in as the French Revolution shaded into Terror, she found time to read the Declaration of the Rights of Man to him and explain it. The prince was devoted to him, and his lessons seem to have had their intended effect. As soon as he became tsar, Alexander put his learning to use by gathering his closest and most enlightened aristocratic friends in a council that set far-reaching liberal reforms as its central objective. It seemed to Alexander that there was no reason Russia could not be given a constitution or serfdom extirpated in a few years; after all, who was better placed to implement such things than an absolute monarch?
He was not bound to the gradualist precedent of Catherine, still less to the disciplinarian milit-arism of Paul and Peter. Russia under his watch would finally become a country of free men. Alexander soon learned just what the problem was. The subject was the unlimited power with which the great Catherine not only ruled her own empire but ordered things in other countries. I spoke of the surprise I felt at the blind obedience with which her will was fulfilled everywhere, of the eagerness and zeal with which all tried to please her. And that is the foundation of unlimited power.
But believe me, they will not obey blindly when orders are not adapted to the customs, to the opinion of the people. The question was shelved. Alexander contented himself with a decree allowing landowners to free their serfs and give them land if they happened to be so inclined. The enlightened citizen dared go no further. Napoleon provided the perfect distraction. By the end of the year, Napoleon had been crowned emperor by the Pope, and the two monarchs confronted each other as belligerents.
When hostilities finally started, he thought he would make a great general as well. Galloping at the head of the Russian cavalry, he led his forces into a catastrophic defeat at Austerlitz, where thousands of men and horses drowned in an icy pond. What makes Rey's book so poignant and vital is the way she shows what else it can produce. This is a well-done biography that is appropriate for general readers interested in European history. Highly recommended.
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See also Janet M. Yet Catherine had equipped her grandson with a whole other system of political understanding. Cosseted as a young grand duke by Catherine the Great, he ascended to the throne in after the brutal assassination of his father. Alexander I. Days : Hours : Minutes : Seconds.
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