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Birthday anniversary of Nicholas I

6 July 1796

June 25 (06 July) 1796 in a family of Grand Duke Paul Petrovich, the future Emperor Paul I, was born the third son, the future Russian Emperor Nicholas I, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Finland, an honorary member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1826).

According to the Act of Succession adopted by Emperor Paul I in April 1797, the Grand Duke Nikolai Pavlovich could not expect to ascend the Russian throne, which left a definite imprint on his upbringing and education. From earliest years he was interested most of all in construction and engineering, a passion to which he retained for life. In 1816 he made ​​several trips to some Russian provinces as well as to England. He got an idea about the internal state and problems of their country, and learned about the experience of European social and political system.

In 1817 Nicholas united in matrimony with a Prussian Princess Frederica Louise Charlotte Wilhelmina, in the Orthodox bride Alexandra Feodorovna. The following spring they had a son Alexander - the future Emperor of Russia. The family of Grand Duke led a lifestyle that corresponded to the status of Nicholas as an ordinary member of the imperial family. However, in 1819, Tsar Alexander I told his brother that the official heir to the throne, Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich intended to renounce his rights, so Nicholas became the heir to as the next in seniority.

The unexpected death of Alexander I revealed the complexity of the dynastic situation of that time. The emperor died on 19 November   (1 December) 1825 in Taganrog, and when the news of this reached the capital, troops were sworn in the new Russian Emperor Constantine I. But Constantine did not want to recognize himself emperor. Then Nicholas, knowing about a conspiracy in the army, managed to take initiative in his hands and decided to declare himself emperor in accordance with the documents signed by Alexander I back in 1823.

14 (26) December, the day of the second oath of allegiance to Nicholas I on the Senate Square in St. Petersburg, there was an armed rebellion. The emperor, showing determination, managed to crush the rebellion, and order in the capital had been restored.

22 August (3 September) 1826 in Moscow at the Assumption Cathedral of the Kremlin Nicholas I was crowned. In December 1826 he created a Privy Committee for development of major state reforms on the basis of the projects that had been preserved in the office of the late Emperor Alexander Pavlovich. He transformed His Imperial Majesty's Chancellery into a government agency in charge of all affairs of state. The greatest importance had the Third Section of the imperial chancellery, which played the role of the secret police, and also defined the government measures to curb the periodical press and increased censorship of literature and art. Head of the Third Section and the gendarmerie was General Alexander X. Benkendorf. Role of the State Council, the Senate and the central institutions of governance had diminished.

To consolidate and streamline the state power Nicholas I ordered the codification of laws. With this purpose in 1826 was set up the Second Section of His Imperial Majesty's Own Chancellery. M. M. Speransky was charged with conducting of codification. As a result of the Chancellery’s work, in 1830-1832 was published the Complete Collected Laws of the Russian Empire, from the Catholic Code of 1649. Then, on the emperor’s order current laws were selected, classified and published in 15 volumes under the name of the Code of Laws of the Russian Empire.

In 1826 was issued the censorship regulations which forbad to print almost anything that had any political overtones. In 1828 came another Censorial Statute, softening the previous one. In the reign of Nicholas I   a number of civilian agencies were organized in a military manner.

Emperor Nicholas I was against serfdom. Since the beginning of his reign he tried to resolve the question of its abolition, by creating several secret committees on the peasant issue, but in 1842 he concluded: "There is no doubt that serfdom in its present position is evil, which is obvious for all, but trying to distinguish it now would be a matter of even more disastrous." He approved the beginning of reform of the state village. In 1840s he issued several decrees that expanded personal and property rights of the serfs.

In 1830-1840-ies emperor had been reforming social sphere, as well as education. In 1831, in St. Petersburg was opened Russia's first private public museum - the Rumyantsev Museum. In 1832, Nicholas I signed a Manifesto "On establishment of a new estate of Honorary citizens." The same year "for the greater dissemination of knowledge in the Army" in St. Petersburg opened the Imperial Military Academy - military high school of the Russian Empire. After the death of Emperor it was named after Nicholas.

In 1837 in Russia was built the first Tsarskoe Selo railroad , in 1851 - Nicholas railway Petersburg - Moscow. During the reign of Nicholas I was created the first official anthem of the Russian Empire ("God Save the Tsar"), the text of which was written by the poet Vasily Zhukovsky, and the music – by A. F. Lvov. The anthem was first performed in December 1833 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Under Nicholas I, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the end of the Patriotic War and the occupation of Paris (1814) in Moscow was laid the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

In 1826, under the imperial rescript a Committee for arrangement of educational institutions was set up under the Ministry of Public Education. The policy of Nicholas I in the field of education, science and literature reflected in the so-called theory of official nationality, which declared three sacred principles - Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality as the fundamentals of existence of Russia. Its basic principles were set forth by Count S. S. Uvarov's report to Emperor when he took office of Minister of Education. Nicholas’ policy in education was based on the prior development of technical and legal educational institutions. It was during his reign that the foundations for modern engineering education in Russia were laid. At the same time, schools and universities were put under strict administrative control (uniform programs, textbooks, uniforms were introduced), the number of students was limited.  

Over thirty years of running Russia, Nicholas I has greatly expanded its territory, annexing large areas in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Far East. In 1845 the emperor approved an initiative of the Minister of Internal Affairs of Russia, Earl L. A. Perovsky regarding the establishment in St. Petersburg of the Russian Geographical Society. In 1846 the emperor signed the Charter of the Imperial St. Petersburg Yacht Club - the first official yacht club in Russia.

In foreign policy, the Emperor Nicholas I declared his intention to "put an end to the Eastern question" - the fight with Turkey for the possession of the Black Sea coast and in the end of the Bosporus and Dardanelles, and for the liberation of the Balkan peoples from the Turkish yoke. In 1826, in St. Petersburg the governments of Russia and Great Britain signed a protocol on joint actions in the settlement of the Greek question. The document was the first major diplomatic victory of the Russian Emperor and became the basis for the London Convention (1827). The victorious military operations in 1828-1829 against the Turkish forces had significantly weakened Turkey enabling Russia to annex a number of areas on the Black Sea, Caucasus, and to strengthen the Black Sea Fleet. In 1829, General I. I. Dibich seized Andrianopol, and Count Paskevich - Kars and Erzurum. In September 1829 in Adrianople, Russia and the Ottoman Empire signed a peace treaty. However, in October 1853 a new war against Turkey started (the Crimean War), during which was held the last major naval battle of the era of sailing fleets – the Battle of Sinop.

The reign of Nicholas I ended by a major foreign policy failure. The Crimea War (1853-1856) had demonstrated organizational and technological backwardness of Russia in comparison to Western powers. Severe psychological shock caused by military defeats had undermined the health of the emperor, and an occasional cold that he caught in winter of 1855 became fatal to him.

February 18 (March 2) 1855, Emperor Nicholas I died in St. Petersburg and was buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral.

Lit.: Выскочков Л. В. Николай I. М., 2003; Кипянина Н. С. Внешняя политика Николая I // Новая и новейшая история. 2001. № 1, 2; Записка императора Николая I о военных действиях на Кавказе (около 1845 г.) // Русская старина. 1885. Т. 48. № 10. С. 209-212; Записки императора Николая Павловича о прусских делах. 1848 г. / Сообщ. В. Ф. Ратч // Русская старина. 1870. Т. 1. С. 295-303; Кюстин А. де. Николаевская Россия. М., 2008; Полиевктов М. Николай I. М., 1918; Николай I и его время: В 2 т. М., 2000; Пресняков А. Е. Николай I. Апогей самодержавия // А. Е. Пресняков. Российские самодержцы. М., 1990; Рахматуллин М. А. Император Николай I глазами современников // Отечественная история. 2004. № 6; Сочинение в. к. Николая Павловича о Марке-Аврелии (Письмо к профессору морали Аделунгу). 1813 г. // Русская старина. 1874. Т. 9. № 2. С. 252-571; Шильдер Н. К. Император Николай I, его жизнь и царствование. Т. 1-2. СПб., 1903.

From the Presidential library materials:

Nicholas I (1796–1855) // The House of Romanov. The Zemsky Sobor of 1613: collection.