Portrait of Nicholas I (1796-1855), Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias (1825-1855), 1852
Nicholas I (Russian: Николай I Павлович, Nikolay I Pavlovich; 25 June] 1796 – 18 February 1855) was the Emperor of Russia from 1825 until 1855. He was also the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Finland. He is best known as a political conservative whose reign was marked by geographical expansion, repression of dissent, economic stagnation, poor administrative policies, a corrupt bureaucracy, and frequent wars that culminated in Russia's defeat in the Crimean War of 1853–56. His biographer Nicholas V. Riasanovsky says that Nicholas displayed determination, singleness of purpose, and an iron will, along with a powerful sense of duty and a dedication to very hard work. A handsome man, he was highly nervous and aggressive. Trained as an engineer. Riasanovsky: "Nicholas I came to represent autocracy personified: infinitely majestic, determined and powerful, hard as stone, and relentless as fate." He was the younger brother of his predecessor, Alexander I. Nicholas inherited his brother's throne despite the failed Decembrist revolt against him and went on to become the most reactionary of all Russian leaders. His aggressive foreign policy involved many expensive wars, having a disastrous effect on the empire's finances. He was successful against Russia's neighbouring southern rivals as he seized the last territories in the Caucasus held by Persia (comprising modern day Armenia and Azerbaijan) by successfully ending the Russo-Persian War (1826–28). By now, Russia had gained what is now Dagestan, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia from Persia, and had therefore at last gained the clear upper hand in the Caucasus, both geo-politically as well as territorially. He ended the Russo-Turkish War (1828–29) successfully as well. Later on, however, he led Russia into the Crimean War (1853–56) with disastrous results. Nicholas was born at Gatchina Palace in Gatchina to Grand Duke Paul, and Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna. Five months after his birth, his grandmother, Catherine the Great, died and his parents became emperor and empress of Russia. He was a younger brother of Emperor Alexander I of Russia, who succeeded to the throne in 1801, and of Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich of Russia.
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