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The implementation of his plans began on 1 January 1810 when the State Council was set up. A few months later the reorganization of ministries was launched but was immediately bogged down in bureaucratic morass. Speransky’s brilliant blueprint, thought through to the last technical detail, underestimated the effect it might have on some powerful vested interests. The proposed changes affected the fundamental questions of rank, finance and power and encountered fierce opposition in the courtly circles. Only the Emperor had the authority to push through the reform and shelter Speransky from his critics. He, however, chose to be persuaded by Speransky’s conservative opponents from among the nobility and government bureaucracy to shelve his projects and to dismiss the would-be reformer from the Court.  Speransky fell from power and went into exile. 

Russian Troops Enter Paris. By A. Kivshenko

After the fall of Speransky, Russian domestic policy took a largely conservative direction. The liberal  hopes of the early period of Alexander’s reign faded and vanished. The Emperor increasingly came to be associated with reactionary  policies and the tightening-up of police powers of the state. Besides, Russia’s involvement in Napoleonic wars proved to be a powerful distraction to take Alexander’s mind off Russian realities. The success in defeating Napoleon in 1812 and the triumphant entry of the Russian tsar and his army into Paris in the spring of 1814 made Russia the most powerful and respected country on the continent. The glory of her victory  proved an excellent justification for the preservation of the status quo.

In the late period of his reign Alexander gave up plans to reform the empire’s social and political system. Yet the ideas and the principles of government reform elaborated by his ‘enlightened bureaucrat’ Speransky would continue to provide guidance to Russian reform-minded officials for many decades to come. Sixty years later, his ideas would be used to implement a liberal judicial reform. A century later, during the Revolution of 1905, his legacy would be re-examined again and inform important constitutional changes that gave Russians civil liberties  and an elected Duma.

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Alexander I


Tsarist Russia

Pre-Petrine Russia
Peter the Great
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Alexander I
Nicholas I
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Appearance of Marxism
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