Nicholas I (Russian: Николай I Павлович, Nikolaj I Pavlovič), (6 July, 1796 – 2 March, 1855), was the Emperor of Russia from 1825 until 1855, known as one of the most reactionary of the Russian monarchs. On the eve of his death, the Russian empire reached its historical zenith spanning almost 5 billion acres. He was also King of Poland until his deposition in 1831.
Nicholas refused to abolish serfdom during his reign, since it enabled the landlords to govern the peasants-something the relatively small Russian bureaucracy was unable to do directly. However, he did make some efforts to improve the lot of the state peasants (serfs owned by the government) with the help of the minister Pavel Kiselev.
Despite the repressions of this period, Russia experienced a flowering of literature and the arts. Through the works of Aleksandr Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Turgenev, and numerous others, Russian literature gained international stature and recognition. Ballet took root in Russia after its importation from France, and classical music became firmly established with the compositions of Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857).
In foreign policy, Nicholas I acted as the protector of ruling legitimism and guardian against revolution. His offers to suppress revolution on the European continent, accepted in some instances, earned him the label of gendarme of Europe. In 1825 Nicholas I was crowned and began to limit the liberties of constitutional monarchy in Congress Poland. In return, after the November Uprising broke out, in 1831 the Polish parliament deposed Nicholas as king of Poland in response to his repeated curtailment of its constitutional rights. The Tsar reacted by sending Russian troops into Poland. Nicholas crushed the rebellion, abrogated the Polish constitution, and reduced Poland to the status of a Russian province and embarked on a policy of repression towards Catholics In 1848, when a series of revolutions convulsed Europe, Nicholas was in the forefront of reaction. In 1849 he intervened on behalf of the Habsburgs and helped suppress an uprising in Hungary, and he also urged Prussia not to accept a liberal constitution. Having helped conservative forces repel the specter of revolution, Nicholas I seemed to dominate Europe.
Russian dominance proved illusory, however. While Nicholas was attempting to maintain the status quo in Europe, he adopted an aggressive policy toward the Ottoman Empire. Nicholas I was following the traditional Russian policy of resolving the so-called Eastern Question by seeking to partition the Ottoman Empire and establish a protectorate over the Orthodox population of the Balkans, still largely under Ottoman control in the 1820s. Russia fought a successful war with the Ottomans in 1828 and 1829. In 1833 Russia negotiated the Treaty of Unkiar-Skelessi with the Ottoman Empire. The major European parties mistakenly believed that the treaty contained a secret clause granting Russia the right to send warships through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits. By the London Straits Convention of 1841, they affirmed Ottoman control over the straits and forbade any power, including Russia, to send warships through the straits. Based on his role in suppressing the revolutions of 1848 and his mistaken belief that he had British diplomatic support, Nicholas moved against the Ottomans, who declared war on Russia in 1853. Fearing the results of an Ottoman defeat by Russia, in 1854 Britain and France joined what became known as the Crimean War on the Ottoman side. Austria offered the Ottomans diplomatic support, and Prussia remained neutral, leaving Russia without allies on the continent. The European allies landed in Crimea and laid siege to the well-fortified Russian base at Sevastopol. After a year's siege the base fell, exposing Russia's inability to defend a major fortification on its own soil. Nicholas I died before the fall of Sevastopol, but he already had recognized the failure of his regime. Russia now faced the choice of initiating major reforms or losing its status as a major European power.
The Marquis de Custine was open to the possibility that, inside, Nicholas was a good person, and only behaved as he did because he believed he had to. "If the Emperor, has no more of mercy in his heart than he reveals in his policies, then I pity Russia; if, on the other hand, his true sentiments are really superior to his acts, then I pity the Emperor."
Nicholas is involved in an urban myth about the railroad from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. When it was to be constructed, the engineers proposed to Nicholas that he draw the path of the future railroad on the map himself. So he is said to have taken a ruler and put one end at Moscow, the other at Saint Petersburg, and then drawn a straight line - but his finger was slightly sticking out, and this left the railroad with a small curve. In fact, this curve was added in 1877, 26 years after the railway's construction, to circumvent a steep gradient that lasted for 15 km, and interfered with the railway's functionality. This curving had to be rectified in the early 2000s when the speed of the trains running between the two cities had to be increased.
|Tsar Alexander II||April 17 1818||March 13 1881||married 1841, Marie of Hesse and by Rhine; had issue|
|Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna||August 18 1819||February 21 1876||married 1839, Maximilian de Beauharnais; had issue|
|Stillborn Daughter||22 July 1820||22 July 1820|
|Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna||September 11 1822||October 30 1892||married 1846, Karl of Württemberg|
|Stillborn Daughter||23 October 1823||23 October 1823|
|Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna of Russia||June 24 1825||August 10 1844||married 1844, Landgrave Friedrich-Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel|
|Grand Duchess Elizabeth Nikolaevna of Russia||7 June 1826||c.1829|
|Grand Duke Constantine Nikolaevich||September 91827||January 13 1892||married 1848, Alexandra of Saxe-Altenburg; had issue|
|Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich||July 27 1831||April 13 1891||married 1856, Alexandra of Oldenburg; had issue|
|Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaevich||October 13 1832||December 18 1909||married 1857, Cecilie of Baden; had issue|
Many sources state that Nicholas did not have an extramarital affair until after 25 years of marriage, in 1842, when the Empress was forbidden from sex, due to her poor health and recurring heart-attacks, by her doctors. Many facts dispute this claim. Nicholas fathered three known children with mistresses prior to 1842, including one with his most famous, and well documented, mistress Barbara Nelidova.
With Anna-Maria Charlota de Rutenskiold (1791-1856)
With Varvara Yakovleva (1803-1831)
With Varvara Nelidova (d. 1897)