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April 29, 1818
March 13, 1881 (aged 62)
Father Nicholas I, son Alexander III
Alexander II was born in Moscow, Russia, on April 17, 1818. He was the oldest son of Emperor Nicholas I (1796–1855) and his wife, Alexandra Fyodorovna. Alexander was taught many different subjects by the liberal romantic poet and gifted translator Vasily Zhukovsky. Alexander’s youth and early manhood were overshadowed by the overpowering personality of his dominating father. Also, Alexander had various military and government jobs throughout his younger days.
At the age of 36, Alexander II ascended to the throne in 1855, following the death of his father. Russia was weakened by an ignominious defeat in the Crimean War, and the new emperor had to introduce reform for drastic change. Alexander's most significant reform as emperor was emancipation of Russia's serfs in 1861, reorganizing the judicial system, abolishing corporal punishment, imposing universal military service, and promoting university education. The keynote of these reforms was the modernization of Russia. Alexander sold Alaska to the United States in 1867.
In 1866 Alexander II became the target of revolutionaries, or people who fight for change in St. Petersburg. After many assassination attempts, a member of a terrorist group murdered Alexander II on March 1, 1881, in St. Petersburg, Russia. His death caused a great setback for the reform movement.
Alexander's reign called as the "era of great reforms" in Russian history. His greatest legacy was the freeing of Russian serfs in 1861.