TWO CENTURIES OF THE EMPEROR: ALEXANDER II IN THE MIRROR OF HISTORICAL BIOGRAPHIES

Abstract

The article contains a comparative historiographical study of the works which are devoted to the life of the Emperor Alexander II and are qualified as the examples of the genre of historical biography. The study is based on historiographical sources: works of professional historians as well as popular and fictionalized biographies. The main aim of the study is to reveal how the interpretations of Alexander’s reign and the perceptions of his personality have changed over the times.

The author argues that the personality of Alexander II aroused the interest of historians, biographers, and writers in the times which could be compared with the Era of Great Reforms: in the times of imperial modernizations in the early 20th century; during the first post-revolutionary decade; at the period of the “perestroika” and the building of the new Russian state. The biographies of Alexander II were written from the perspective of different ideologies: monarchic, liberal-reformist, revolutionary-radical, as well as from the perspective of priority of humanist values. The genres of Emperor’s biography were also varied from a solemn eulogy to a pamphlet or a romantic love story. However, the author draws attention to some constant, unchanging components of the image of the Emperor which can be traced through all versions of his biography: his sensitivity, sentimentality, and hesitancy; she points that these personal qualities of the Emperor were evaluated differently within the frames of different discourses.

The author reveals the tendency inherent in contemporary works about Alexander II: static descriptions of Emperor’s personality give way to situational analysis of his motives and practices of decision-making, as well as to attempts to reconstruct the system of political priorities of the Emperor.

About the authors

O. B. Leontieva

Samara National Research University

Author for correspondence.
Email: morenov@ssau.ru
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7045-4310

Doctor of Historical Sciences, associated professor, professor of Department
of Russian History

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