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date: 12 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The assassination of Alexander II on 1 March 1881 ended the European myth of Russian monarchy—the narratives and imagery that had elevated Russian rulers since the reign of Peter I as exemplars of Western absolutism—and was followed by the introduction of a new governing myth idealizing seventeenth-century Muscovy. This chapter demonstrates that, by entertaining the illusion of a monarchical early Rus’, Alexander III and Nicholas II not only undermined the supra-national culture of their multi-national empire, but isolated themselves from educated society, both liberal and conservative, that looked towards political participation and the formation of a united nation-state on the model of the West. The catastrophic events of early twentieth-century Russia resulted not from a decrepit monarchy collapsing before insurgent oppositional movements, but from the clash of a monarch seeking to restore divinely inspired authoritarian rule with a Russia awakening politically and demanding to be heard.

Keywords: monarchy, Alexander III, Nicholas II, Romanov dynasty, royal ceremonial, Muscovy, medievalism, nationalism, sacralization, church architecture

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