Russia History Romanov Rebellion Decembrist Revolt (1825)

Decembrist Revolt (1825)

On 16 August 1823, Tsar Alexander I signed a secret manifesto, naming his younger brother Nicholas as the heir to the throne. Not even Nicholas himself knew of the existence of this document.

The rest of the country believed that, after Alexander, the throne would pass to Nicholas’s elder brother, Konstantin. But Konstantin was excluded from the succession because of his morganatic marriage to a Polish countess in 1820.

When the news of Alexander’s death in Taganrog reached St Petersburg on 27 November 1825, Nicholas immediately swore an oath of loyalty to Konstantin. The Russian government and the army followed suit.

At the same time, in Warsaw, Konstantin and the kingdom of Poland swore allegiance to Nicholas. When the confusion was finally cleared up, the whole country prepared to take a second oath to the correct tsar on 14 December 1825.

That morning, a group of officers refused to swear allegiance to Nicholas, who was unpopular among the military. They wanted a constitution and led 3,000 men onto Senate Square in the centre of St Petersburg.

The Decembrist Revolt was harshly and quickly suppressed. Nicholas surrounded the rebels with 12,000 loyal troops and, after a stand-off lasting several hours, gave the order to open fire. A total of 1,271 people were killed on 14 December.

Five of the ringleaders were later executed, while 120 active participants were exiled to Siberia or sentenced to hard labour. The soldiers and sailors who had joined the rebellion were flogged and sent to fight in the Caucasus.

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