Alexander III, Tsar of Russia, 1881-1889
Alexander III of Russia was born on 26th February 1845. Clumsy and gruff as a child, he grew up to be a man of great physical strength. Everything about him suggested imperial power. He was six feet four inches tall, broad and very strong. Stories circulated about Tsar Alexander bending (and then restraightening) iron fire pokers, crushing silver roubles in his fingers, and tearing packs of cards in half for the entertainment of his children, and about the occasion in 1888 when, after the imperial train was derailed by terrorists at Borki, he held up the wrecked carriage’s roof on his shoulders while his family escaped. (It seems that Alexander’s kidney disease dated back to this incident.) The first tsar to wear a full beard since the time of Peter the Great, whose Europeanising reforms changed fashions to such an extent that untrimmed facial hair had become a sign of a lack of western sophistication, Alexander suited the imperial Russian stereotype. He could be rude and blunt in conversation, and was terrifying when angry. He used foul language when frustrated and senior officials were intimidated by him, though they felt secure when working for him, partly because they were confident of his personal support and partly because Alexander’s physical and personal strength heightened the sense of autocratic might surrounding him.
Alexander was the second son of Tsar Alexander II, and as such was not provided with the education necessary for an emperor. His tutor, Konstantin Pobedonostsev, neglected Alexander in his early years because he considered him unintelligent. Even when Alexander’s
Alexander appointed Nikolai Bunge as Minister of Finance as Russia’s industry and economy wobbled towards modernisation. Under Reutern the Russian economy had developed surer foundations, but major cities were expanding quickly (Kiev doubled in size, 1861-74) and at the same time the incidence of urban strikes doubled....
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