Alexander III, Tsar of Russia

   In contrast to his father, Alexander II, Alexander III was a reactionary autocrat in domestic affairs yet instinctively cautious in his diplomacy. Recoiling from the assassination of his father, Alexander adhered to a policy of political repression throughout his reign, employing secret police against real and imagined enemies, intensifying the “Russification” of the subject nationalities of the Russian Empire, and allowing pogroms against Russia’s Jews. He had the utmost confidence in the judgment of Konstantin Pobedonostsev, his chief policy advisor and Procurator of the Holy Synod, and the competence of Vyacheslav von Plehve, his director of police and later minister of the interior. The Jews in particular suffered horribly under the “Temporary Rules” imposed in May 1882 and the increasingly violent waves of popular anti-Semitism that climaxed in the Kishinev Massacre of 1903. In the interim, Alexander issued a decree in 1890, according to which all Jews in the Russian interior were to migrate to the western provinces, where they were forbidden either to own or lease land or take up liberal professions. Meanwhile, genuine political enemies of the regime were forced to become more secretive and to form alliances of convenience across rival groups.
   Alexander sought to avoid international conflict. After 1890, he was so alarmed by the course of German foreign policy that he abandoned the tradition of the Dreikaiserbund and gravitated toward an understanding with France that in 1894 culminated secretly in the Franco-Russian Alliance only months before Alexander’s death. Alexander also promoted the development of the Russian Far East and authorized construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway. His reign was therefore a period of expansion and diplomatic realignment abroad accompanied by repression and rising political tensions at home, which led, in the reign of his son Nicholas II, to the revolutionary upheavals of 1905.
   See also <>.
    Geyer, Dietrich. Russian Imperialism: The Interaction of Domestic and Foreign Policy, 1860-1914. New York: Berg, 1987;
    Seton-Watson, Hugh. The Russian Empire, 1801-1917. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967;
    Whelan, Heide W. Alexander III & the State Council: Bureaucracy & Counter-reform in Late Imperial Russia. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1982.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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