The Death of Reform

On March 13, 1881, Alexander II, Tsar of Russia, was assassinated by a bomb in St. Petersburg.

Unlike many of his predecessors (and the tsars who came after him), Alexander was fairly liberal minded. He freed the serfs, earning him the nickname Alexander the Liberator, moved to develop Russia’s natural resources, and attempted to reform all branches of government. On the very day he was killed, he signed the Loris-Melikov constitution, which would have created two legislative commissions made up of indirectly elected representatives. Sadly, his enraged son and successor, Alexander III, repealed this and some of his father’s other reforms.

Despite being a fairly good guy, Alexander was the target of at least four assassination attempts, one of which ended up killing eleven people and wounding 30. The final, successful, attempt was carried out by a member of the “People’s Will” movement, which called for such reforms as universal suffrage, representation, communal self-government, gradual placement of factories under the control of workers, and freedom of speech, press, and assembly. Nikolai Rysakov first threw a bomb underneath the tsar’s carriage, which was bulletproof. A Cossack was killed and the carriage driver was seriously wounded (as were several onlookers), but the tsar was unharmed. As the shaken Alexander emerged, a second member of People’s Will lobbed another bomb, which landed at Alexander’s feet and wounded him. He was carried back to the Winter Palace, where he bled to death.

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