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© 2003 David Koeller.  All rights reserved.


Decembrist Revolt

1825

            In December of 1825 in St. Petersburg, Russia, a group of military officials staged a revolt against Tsar Nicholas I.  These rebels were liberals who felt threatened by the new ruler's conservative views.  They were, however, defeated by the tsar's forces.  As a result of this revolt, Nicholas I implemented a variety of new regulations to prevent the spread of the liberal movement in Russia.

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            The officers were driven to revolt by many forces.  To begin, they felt that Nicholas did not deserve the throne.  Nicholas's older brother, Constantine, stood to inherit the throne first, but when Constantine chose to marry a Polish girl with no royal blood, he relinquished his claim to the throne. [1]   In addition, when the previous tsar, Alexander I, wrote out his succession, it was not made public.  Instead it was hidden and only brought forth after his death.  There was confusion over whether the document was legally binding, and the rebels felt that Nicholas cheated Constantine out of the throne. [2]

            Also, the rebels were active in the new liberal movement from Europe.  They wanted a free Russian state, with a federal government and constitution, instead of government under the tsar. [3]   However, Nicholas was not known to favor these ideas, and was also less popular with the public than his brother.  These combined to give the liberals hope that their time to move had come.

            On December 14, 1825 the military was to swear allegiance to Tsar Nicholas I.  The ceremony was to be held in Senate Square, outside the Winter Palace, in St. Petersburg.  Several officers started a mutiny in their regiments, and approximately 3,000 men began open revolt against the tsar. [4]   Reluctant to begin his reign with a massacre of his subject, Nicholas and his advisors tried in initiate peace talks over the hours that followed, but to no avail. [5]   Finally, the order to open fire was given.  Lacking organized leadership, the rebels soon fell to the tsar's superior military forces.

            The aftermath of what came to be known as the Decembrist Revolt was far-reaching.  A few related uprising occurred in southern Russia, but were also easily put down. [6]   Sixty to seventy rebels died, and all that were captured were either hanged or exiled to Siberia. [7]   For Tsar Nicholas I, liberalism now appeared a major threat.  He initiated a nation-wide censorship, placing tighter controls on all aspects of public life. [8]   The Third Section, a network of spies and informers, was set up to enforce the censorship.  The restrictions forced the people's loyalty to the tsar and the Russian Orthodox Church.  A form of Russian nationalism developed, but this later led to racist suppression of minority groups. [9]   Nicholas lived in fear of liberal revolts for the rest of his life. [10]

            The Decembrist Revolt of 1825 was a conflict of interests between Russian military liberals and the conservative tsar.  Though easily put down by the tsar's forces, the revolt had far-reaching consequences for both the tsar and the Russian people.


Notes:


[1] Riasanovsky, Nicholas V. Nicholas I and Official Nationality in Russia, 1825-1855. (Berkeley, University of California Press: 1959), pp. 31-32.

[2] Ibid, pp. 32.

[3] Stone, Norman. Cambridge Encyclopedia of Russia and the Soviet Union. (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 1982), pp. 99.

[4] Riasanovsky, Nicholas V. Nicholas I and Official Nationality in Russia, 1825-1855. (Berkeley, University of California Press: 1959), pp. 32-33.

[5] Ibid, pp. 33.

[6] Ibid, pp. 33.

[7] Stone, Norman. Cambridge Encyclopedia of Russia and the Soviet Union. (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 1982), pp. 99.

[8] Ed. by Zickel, Raymond E. Soviet Union: A Country Study, Second Edition. (Washington, DC, Library of Congress: 1991), pp. 30.

[9] Ibid, pp. 30.

[10] Riasanovsky, Nicholas V. Nicholas I and Official Nationality in Russia, 1825-1855. (Berkeley, University of California Press: 1959), pp. 33.

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Bibliography: 

Riasanovsky, Nicholas V. Nicholas I and Official Nationality in Russia, 1825-1855.

             (Berkeley, University of California Press: 1959).

Stone, Norman. Cambridge Encyclopedia of Russia and the Soviet Union.

(Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 1982).

Ed. by Zickel, Raymond E. Soviet Union: A Country Study, Second Edition.

(Washington, DC, Library of Congress: 1991).
 


Written and Researched
by
Rebecca Bowman
HIST 2260: The Modern World
September 12, 2002

Text © 2003 by David W. Koeller. All rights reserved.

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