Nicholas I was born on May 25, 1796, in Gatchina near St. Petersburg, the third son of Emperor Paul I. Not considered likely to succeed to the throne, he received an education in military engineering. In the 1820s, he held the post of inspector general of the army's engineers. He also became Commander of the First Guards Division.

Nicholas I came to throne after the death of his older brother Alexander I and the refusal of the second brother, Grand Duke Constantine, to accept sovereignty. His first measure as Emperor was the execution of the participants in the uprising of December 14, 1825. He was crowned on August 22, 1826, in the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.

His reign saw the flourishing of absolute monarchy in military and civil areas. He strengthened and centralized bureaucratic structures to an unprecedented degree. Harsh and despotic by nature, he had little time for abstract ideas. Any sign of liberalism in Russia was brutally suppressed.
The principal issue in foreign policy was the "Eastern Question," maintaining pro-Russian regimes in the Black Sea Straits. Nicholas attempted to resolve this by the partition of the Ottoman Empire. The result was the Crimean War of 1853-56, in which Russia suffered a bitter defeat at the hands of a coalition of Western European states and Turkey.

He married Frederica Louisa Charlotta Wilhelmina (Alexandra Feodorovna), daughter of King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, and had seven children.

Nicholas died on February 18, 1855. Many researchers believe he poisoned himself after receiving news of the defeat of Russian forces at Evpatoria. He was buried in the Cathedral of the St. Peter and St. Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg.

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Text compiled by Alexei K. Levykin
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