Portrait of Alexander I (1777-1825), Emperor of Russia (1801-1825), Grand Duke of Finland (1809-1825), King of Poland (1815-1825), 1820
Alexander I (Russian: Александр I Павлович; 23 December 1777 – 1 December 1825), reigned as Emperor of Russia from 23 March 1801 to 1 December 1825. He was the son of Paul I and Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg. Alexander was the first Russian King of partitioned Poland, reigning from 1815 to 1825, as well as the first Russian Grand Duke of Finland. He was born in Saint Petersburg to Grand Duke Paul Petrovich, later Emperor Paul I, and succeeded to the throne after his father was murdered. He ruled Russia during the chaotic period of the Napoleonic Wars. As prince and emperor, Alexander often used liberal rhetoric, but continued Russia's absolutist policies in practice. In the first years of his reign, he initiated some minor social reforms and major, liberal educational reforms, such as building more universities. In foreign policy, he changed Russia's position relative to France four times between 1804 and 1812 among neutrality, opposition, and alliance. In 1805 he joined Britain in the War of the Third Coalition against Napoleon, but after the massive defeat at the Battle of Austerlitz he switched and formed an alliance with Napoleon by the Treaty of Tilsit (1807) and joined Napoleon's Continental System. He fought a small-scale naval war against Britain between 1807 and 1812. He and Napoleon hardly agreed, especially regarding Poland, and the alliance collapsed by 1810. The tsar's greatest triumph came in 1812 as Napoleon's invasion of Russia proved a total disaster for the French. As part of the winning coalition against Napoleon he gained some spoils in Finland and Poland. He formed the Holy Alliance to suppress revolutionary movements in Europe that he saw as immoral threats to legitimate Christian monarchs. He helped Austria's Klemens von Metternich in suppressing all national and liberal movements. In the second half of his reign he was increasingly arbitrary, reactionary and fearful of plots against him; he ended many earlier reforms. Alexander died of typhus in December 1825 while on a trip to southern Russia. He left no heirs, as his two daughters died in childhood. Both of his brothers wanted the other to become emperor. After a period of great confusion that included the failed Decembrist revolt of liberal army officers, he was succeeded by his younger brother, Nicholas I.
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