Portrait of Alexander Nikolaevich (1818-1881), Tsesarevich and Grand Duke, heir apparent of Imperial Russia (1825-1855), Emperor of Russia, Grand Duke of Finland (Alexander II) from 1855 to 1881
Alexander II (Russian: Александр II Николаевич; 29 April 1818 – 13 March 1881) was the Emperor of Russia from 2 March 1855 until his assassination on 13 March 1881. He was also the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Finland. Born in Moscow, Alexander Nikolaevich was the eldest son of Nicholas I of Russia and of Charlotte of Prussia (daughter of Frederick William III of Prussia and of Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz). In the period of his life as heir apparent (1825 to 1855), the intellectual atmosphere of Saint Petersburg did not favour any kind of change: freedom of thought and all forms of private initiative were suppressed vigorously by the order of his father. Personal and official censorship was rife; criticism of the authorities was regarded as a serious offence. The education of the Tsesarevich as future emperor took place under the supervision of the liberal romantic poet and gifted translator Vasily Zhukovsky, grasping a smattering of a great many subjects and becoming familiar with the chief modern European languages. Alexander's alleged lack of interest in military affairs (as detected by later historians) resulted from his reaction to the effects of the unsavoury Crimean War of 1853-1856 on his own family and on the whole country. Unusually for the time, the young Alexander was taken on a six-month tour of Russia (1837), visiting 20 provinces in the country. He also visited many prominent Western European countries in 1838 and 1839. As Tsesarevich, Alexander became the first Romanov heir to visit Siberia (1837). Alexander II succeeded to the throne upon the death of his father in 1855. The first year of his reign was devoted to the prosecution of the Crimean War and, after the fall of Sevastopol, to negotiations for peace led by his trusted counsellor, Prince Alexander Gorchakov.
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