Maintaining Order
The Reign of Nicholas I has been marked with war. He grew up in a time when war was the accepted norm of
Russia. As a child he saw his brother fight against the evil, which was Napoleon. With war being part of
Nicholas everyday life he quickly became infatuated with it. “He always remained an army man, a junior officer at
heart, devoted to his troops, to military exercises, to the parade ground, down to the last button on a soldiers
uniform (Riasanovsky, 323)” Nicholas time growing up in Russia had an immense influence on him. He
observed strategy’s like those of Prince Michael Kutuzov, and learned only with proper order can one fully
achieve military dominance. Three major conflicts accurately describe how Nicholas I used his military. The
Polish uprising illustrate his demand for proper order throughout Europe. The Crimean War displayed his love
for the Christian faith, and what he would do to protect Orthodoxy. Lastly, the conflict between Greece and
Turkey described how Nicholas I would act when a culmination of his ideas, conflicted with one another.
Investigating how Nicholas I inherited the throne will give one an explanation on why he was so frightened by
liberal thought. Nicholas I was basically forced to inherit the throne because, Constantine declared it was not in
the best interest of Russia for him to succeed to the throne. On the day Nicholas I was to be inaugurated a
peasant uprising manifested. This rebellion named the Decemberist’s put much more than a damper on
Nicholas I afternoon. The revolt caused Nicholas I to never fully trust peasants throughout his reign. ” No doubt it
also contributed to the emperor’s mistrust of the gentry, and indeed of independence and initiative on the part of
any subjects (Rias, 324).” From that day froward the Emperor would put down a law by the name of “Official
Nationality (Rias, 324).”
To fully comprehend how and why Nicholas I chose to run his foreign policy the way he did, one must delve into
how his Empire was run at home. Nicholas I was influenced heavily by Christianity. Christianity drove him to
believe that Official Nationality was the path towards Russian salvation, and only under this system could Russia
maintain order. Official Nationality was a conservative system, which consisted of three principals; Orthodoxy,
autocracy, and nationality. “Orthodoxy referred to the official church and it’s important role in Russia, but also to
the ultimate source of ethics and ideals that gave meaning to human life and society (Rias, 324).” This meant
nobody under his reign could steer from these principles, and anybody who was caught would be severely
reprimanded. Police held Russia under a microscope, in a coup like state. Committees like the “Third Section”,
and a “Statute on Censorship” also assisted Nicholas in knowing exactly what his people were doing (Nicholas,
51). Nicholas I fear of liberal thought drove him to not have a reign of reform, but rather one that would merely
maintain order. Even issues like serfdom, which he knew was morally wrong, Nicholas’s did not enact reform
because of his fear of losing autocracy. ” A single stroke of the sovereign Emperors pen can turn serfs into free
men; but no foresight can predict the consequences of such a sudden change, and no power’s will be sufficient
to restore order and security amidst general anarchy (Reader, 66).”
Nicholas I foreign affairs were run like a carbon copy of how he ran his nation. Alexander influenced him heavily
by signing what was called the Holy Alliance. “Signed on September 26, 1815, by Russia, Austria, and Prussia,
and subsequently by the great majority of European powers, the alliance simply appealed to Christian rulers to
live as brothers and preserve peace in Europe (Rias., 314).” Nicholas felt that it was his duty to preserve
everything that this treaty stood for. He was going to police Europe. Nicholas I did not work alone when
representing Russian views. Count Karl Nesselrode helped him police any wrong doings throughout the
continent. Nicholas I would have two standards in which he would defend a country. First, he would defend a
country if Christian Orthodoxy was being questioned. Secondly, he would defend a country if revolutionaries
were trying to break the bondage of conservatism. Both of these issues represented the newfound order in
Europe, and Nicholas I would defend this at any cost. “Nicholas I was determined to maintain and defend the
existing order in Europe, just as he considered it his sacred duty to preserve the archaic system in his own
country (Rias., 330).”
An excellent example of a country that was in disarray, due to revolutionary uprisings, was the debacle with the
Polish State. In 1815 under Alexander’s rule the Poles were stripped of many of their civil liberties. By the early
1830’s the Poles were absolutely sick of the tyranny, which had governed them for the last 15 years. A revolution
began. This rebellion actually worked and the Poles were free for a short amount of time. Before long the
Russian Empire reconquered the nation, and Poland became an invisible part of the Russian Empire. Nicholas I
knew that simply conquering Poland was not enough to keep their aggression at bay. He tricked Poland by
enacting the “Organic Statute” of 1832, which made the Poles believe they had some sort of democracy in their
Nation. (Rias., 332) ” The Statute itself, with it’s promises of civil liberties, separate systems of law and local
government, and widespread use of the Polish language, remained in abeyance while Poland was administered
in a brutal and authoritarian manner by it’s conqueror, the new Prince of Warsaw and Nicholas’s Viceroy
Paskevich (Rias., 332).” Poland would be under Nicholas I watchful eye for many years. Order would be
maintained.

No other war better exemplifies Nicholas I infatuation with Orthodoxy than the Crimean War. This war, which
eventually brought the downfall of Russian international relations, was fought on the Crimean peninsula between
1853 and 1856. The war arose from the conflict of great powers in the Middle East and was more directly
caused by Russian demands to exercise protection over the Orthodox subjects of the Ottoman sultan. Another
major factor was the dispute between Russia and France over the privileges of the Russian Orthodox and
Roman Catholic churches in the holy places in Palestine. Nicholas I really had no idea what he was getting into
when he first began the campaign against the Turks. Nicholas I felt the English would support him because of
discussions they had previous to the invasions. England took these discussions as simply conversations
between two nations, and felt there was no binding agreement. “Nicholas I and his associates considered it to
be a firm arrangement of fundamental importance, the British apparently thought of it more as a secret exchange
of opinions not binding on the subsequent premiers and foreign ministers of Her Majesty’s government (Rias.,
336).” As the Crimean dispute began to unfold, England joined many other nations in the fight against the
Russians. The resulting Treaty of Paris, signed on March 30, 1856, guaranteed the integrity of Ottoman Turkey
and obliged Russia to surrender southern Bessarabia, at the mouth of the Danube. The Black Sea was
neutralized, and the Danube River was opened to the shipping of all nations. Nicholas I faith caused his country
over 250,000 men (Britannica). Nicholas I was blind towards the outcome of a war that was virtually not
winnable. His obsession with faith caused a near downfall of a nation that was the most powerful empire in the
world. If Nicholas I would not have imposed his religious intolerance on other nations than Russia would have
been able to maintain power for a longer period of time.

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In 1821 Nicholas I entered a conflict that had both religious and revolutionary significance. This conflict between
the Orthodox Greeks and the Turks eventually led to the aforementioned Crimean War. Nicholas I had a difficult
decision on his hand because he would either have to side with the Orthodox Greeks or the Turks, which were
the status quo at the time. One could see what Nicholas I valued more, religion or order. Nicholas I decided to
side with the Greeks, making the Ottomans sign the Treaty of Adrianople in 1829 (Rias.,330).
Nicholas I rule reflected in a striking manner both his character and his principles. The new regime became
preeminently one of militarism and bureaucracy. The entire machinery of government came to be permeated by
the military spirit of direct orders,
Absolute obedience, and precision. Nicholas I ideals are what kept him from fulfilling the expectation people had
of him. His main goals were to conserve autocracy and religious certainty, which Alexander had manifested
years before. Nicholas I policy abroad hurt his Empire tremendously. His ignorance towards the possibility of
maintaining order without Orthodoxy led his country into complete dissaray, and eventually his death.

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