March 13, 1881 – Assassination of Tsar Alexander II
For Nicholas, the most dramatic proof of Pobedonostsev’s teachings against the dangers of liberalism was the brutal assassination of his grandfather, Alexander II, the most liberal of Russia’s nineteenth-century tsars. For his historic freeing the serfs, Alexander II was known as the “Tsar-Liberator”, yet his murder became preeminent objective of Russian revolutionaries. The assassins went to extraordinary lenghts. Once, near Moscos, they purchased a building near the railway track and tunneled a gallery from the building under the track, where they planted a huge mine. The Tsar was saved when his train left Moscow in a different direction.
Six other attempts were made, and on March 13, 1881 - ironically, only a few hours after the Tsar had approved the establishment of a national representative body to advise on legislation - the assassins succeeded. As his carriage rolled through the streets of St. Petersburg, a bomb, thrown from the sidewalk, sailed under it. The explosion shattered the vehicle and wounded his horses, his equerries and one of his Cossac escorts, but the Tsar himself was unhurt. Stepping from the splintered carriage, Alexander II spoke to the wounded men and even asked about the bomb thrower, who had been arrested. Just then a second assassin ran up, shouting, “It is too early to thank God,” and threw a second bomb directly between the Tsars’s feet. In the sheet of flame and metal Alexander II’s legs were torn away, his stomach ripped open, his face mutilated. Still alive and conscious, he whispered “To the palace, to die there.” What remained of him was picked up and carried into the Winter Palace, leaving a trail of thick drops of black blood up the marble stairs. Unconscious, he was laid on the couch. One after another, the horrified members of the Imperial family corwded into the room. Nicholas aged thirteen, wearing a blue sailor suit, came in deathly pale and watched from the end of the bed. The Emperor is dead.