Museum complex

Russia in the time of Emperor Nicholas I. Autocracy and society

Nicolas I inherited (1796–1855) the State "with the disorder of internal control and loss of influence in international Affairs", social unrest and the weakening of the prestige of the Throne. The Emperor saw protection and enhancement of enlightened autocracy, based on the tradition of Russian statehood, as a guarantee from new future shocks. Strengthening of "Orthodoxy, autocracy and nation” – the idea gained from N.M.Karamzin and finally formed by Count S.S.Uvarov, seemed to be able to provide a new strong thrust to Russian life. Nicholas I did not exclude gradual reforms, but without "sharp turns" and intervention of "public initiative".
By the end of the 1830s, the agricultural and financial crises were resolved. The introduction of protective tariffs and monetary reform revitalized industry and trade. More than 100 decrees aimed at improving the status of serfs were introduced, but people's unrest and disagreement of landowners would not permit to radically solve the "peasant question".
Russian society was going through a period of intense search. In the late 1830s there were several ideological movements: the Westernizers, the Slavophiles and radical. One of the founders of Slavophilism A.S.Khomyakov arranged in his Moscow home at the Dog Park (area near the Arbat street) a "talking shop" where Slavophils and Westerners had heated discussions about the fate and distinctive way of Russia and its relations with the West. Here "spoke" Aksakov, Kireev, Granovsky, Chaadaev, Herzen, Pogodin and others.
The Eastern question was major priority concern of foreign policy of the Nikolas era – the international problem connected with decline of the Ottoman Empire, extensive possessions of which were "a bone of contention" for the European powers. The actions of Nicholas I, who personally defined the strategy of the foreign policy course, were very successfully in the beginning. The Adrianople of 1828 and the Unkiar Skelessi of 1833 treaties with the Ottoman Empire became a true manifestation of undoubtful success.
Another attempt to resolve the Eastern issue was the Crimean (Eastern) war of 1853–1856, in which Russia had to face a coalition of European Countries. The heroic defense of Sevastopol for 11 months attracted the attention of the whole world and would remain forever in the annals of Russian military glory. The sad result of this war lost by Russia, which ended the reign of Nicholas I, were loss of the Black Sea Fleet and a long-term international isolation.
A special role in the international relations of the XIX century played the Caucasus. Since ancient times it was considered to be the gateway from Asia to Europe. The interests of three neighboring empires – Russian, Ottoman and Persian – collided here. In two wars with Turkey and two with Persia, Russia defended its rights for Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as part of the Circassian and Dagestan lands, but this was only the prologue of the Caucasian war of 1817–1864.
A quarter of a century the struggle of the peoples of Chechnya and Dagestan against Russia was led by Imam Shamil, who in the 1840s won a number of major victories over Russian troops. Only in 1859, the resistance of the highlanders had been suppressed; Shamil had to surrender; the Imamate he created broke up. The Northern Caucasus became part of the Russian Empire.

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Современники Николая Васильевича Гоголя (1809 1852) видели в писателе художника, создавшего «настоящий портрет» России. По словам литературного критика В.Г. Белинского, художественные образы, созданные Гоголем, стали глубоким проникновением в сущность российской жизни. В главной книге писателя, поэме «Мертвые души», прочитывается не только горький упрек российской жизни, но и видна «удалая, полная силы национальность» (А.И.Герцен). В начале XX в. поэт Андрей Белый писал о Гоголе: «Непостижимо, неестественно связан с Россией Гоголь, быть может, более всех писателей русских…»
Гоголь в своем произведении наметил главную идею для всей последующей русской литературы и российского общественного сознания идею очищения и воскресения человека и его души.
Актуальная мысль об общественной значимости писателя, его ответственности перед Отечеством выразилась во взволнованном обращении Н.В. Гоголя: «Русь! Чего же ты хочешь от меня? Какая непостижимая связь таится между нами? Что глядишь ты так, и зачем все, что ни есть в тебе, обратило на меня полные ожидания очи?..» Горячий отклик у публики вызывали произведения И.С. Тургенева, в которых воспевалась исключительная одаренность русского народа, его духовность. Многие писатели обратились к теме, ставшей краеугольным камнем общественной мысли: Россия и Запад.