Cecil Rhodes

Cecil Rhodes
Cecil Rhodes

Cecil John Rhodes was born the son of a vicar of the Church of England (Anglican) in Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire in 1853. Rhodes coincidentally was born in the year that the eighth Kaffir War, between the British and Africans of the Xhosa tribe, came to a conclusion.

These wars were a prolonged battle by the African people against the intrusion of Europeans, finally ending with the annexation of the Xhosa territories by the Cape Colony, as well as the incorporation of the Xhosa people.

After the deposition of the Xhosa paramount, Sandile, in 1851, this territory was reserved, apart from the British military outposts, for occupation by Africans. Resentments in British Kaffraria, however, resulted in the eighth and most costly of the wars.

Once again the Xhosa resistance was immensely strengthened by the participation of Khoisan tribesmen, who rebelled at their settlement of Kat River. By 1853 the Xhosa had been defeated, and the territory to the north of British Kaffraria was annexed to the Cape Colony and opened to white settlement.

Rhodes was afflicted with poor health most of his life but seemed to compensate with a mighty will. The army or navy were obviously out of the question because of his diminished physical capabilities. Like many young Victorian men, he went out to the colonies to seek his fortune, as many Americans of his generation went to the Wild West. Rhodes went to join his oldest brother, Herbert, in Natal, in eastern South Africa.

Natal Province had been settled centuries earlier by the Zulu people, as part of the great Bantu migrations, which had been caused by the growing desertification of the sub-Saharan region of Africa. Cattle herders, the Bantu sought the grasslands of southern Africa for their home. They fought bitter wars with the Boers, descendants of Dutch settlers who arrived in what became Cape Town in the 17th century.

In Natal, Herbert and Cecil Rhodes attempted cotton farming, but like the British who settled in the high country of Kenya in East Africa some 50 years later with the expectation of establishing vast coffee plantations, met with mixed success.

With their plans for cotton farming proving a failure, the two Rhodes brothers decided to seek out the diamond fields. The next 15 years saw a tremendous increase in South African diamonds. More stones were recovered in this period than had been mined in the previous 2,000 years in India.

Coincidentally, this outpouring of wealth came at a time when Brazilian deposits were starting to be depleted. The rise in wealth around the world, particularly in the United States, ensured that diamond prices stayed steady, something they had not done when Brazil overproduced diamonds for the demand in the 1730s.

By 1869 diamonds were found far from any stream or river, first in yellow earth and below in hard rock called blueground, later called kimberlite after the mining town of Kimberley. In the 1870s and 1880s Kimberley, encompassing the mines that produced 95 percent of the world’s diamonds, was home to great wealth and fierce rivalries, most notably that between Rhodes and Barney Barnato, English immigrants who consolidated early 31-foot-square prospects into ever larger holdings and mining companies

While Cecil and Herbert Rhodes became involved in the growing diamond industry around Kimberley, Cecil made continual trips back and forth to England. He managed to be awarded a degree from Oxford in his younger years and went on to become perhaps the best-known spokesman for imperialism in his time.

Although very much a believer in free enterprise, he realized the need for the imperial factor. Essentially, he needed the imperial government to protect his holdings and interests in the diamond fields.

Although intent on building his private empire within the British Empire, Rhodes also became convinced that Ireland, England’s oldest colony, ought to have home rule, a degree of autonomy from the home government of London. In this he followed the policies of William Gladstone, the head of the Liberal Party.

Rhodes’s views on the native Africans were equally complex. His treatment of the indigenous people was often contradictory. On one hand, in his speech he was often derogatory of Africans and essentially created the apartheid system that separated his African workers from white society and the rest of the world.

On the other hand, Rhodes appears to have had significant interest in both the languages and cultures of the native people, an interest and respect that was surprisingly liberal for the time.

Back in South Africa, Rhodes singlemindedly pursued his consolidation of his hold on the Kimberley diamond bonanza. Upon his return, Rhodes formed DeBeers Consolidated Mines Limited in March 1888. Rhodes controlled the company with some of the diamond barons he had formerly considered rivals. These served as life governors of the company.

By March 1890 DeBeers made a substantial profit on diamond sales, with estimates reaching as high as £50 of profit on every £100 pounds sold. By 1891 DeBeers had created a monopoly on the production of diamonds in Kimberley and, because of this, controlled virtually every other commercial venture and activity in the entire South African region.

Not content with his effective monopoly on South African diamond production, Cecil Rhodes continued to look for new opportunities for wealth and power. In 1890, mainly due to his economic position in the Cape Colony, Rhodes became the colony’s premier. Of the many projects he envisioned, the one that was his most publicized was the creation of a railway to run from Cape Colony through the entire African continent, ending in Cairo.

His premiership of Cape Colony allowed him to pursue goals such as this on a much grander scale. As premier, he lobbied for the annexation of Bechuanaland, a goal that was rebuffed due to a general lack of will in the Colonial Office.

Prevented from this goal by political means, Rhodes instead created a new company in an effort to claim lands in the African interior. The British South Africa Company gained a royal charter in 1889. Following this, the company managed to gain access to the lands of the Matabele and the Mashona, as well as other indigenous people.

In his drive for empire, Rhodes created what is today Zimbabwe when the British South Africa troops under Major Patrick Forbes raised the flag of the company over Bulawayo in November 1893, having defeated the Ndebele people. The region was first called Rhodesia in 1891.

With Rhodes’s backing, Jameson, the administrator of the conquered Mashonaland, invaded the Transvaal. Rhodes cautioned Jameson to delay, but Jameson, disregarding the request, sent as many as 600 men on horseback into the Transvaal.

This force was defeated at Krugersdorp on January 1, 1896, and the next day, surrendered. Jameson was handed over to the British by the Boers; he was tried in London, convicted, and served several months in prison. The others in the raiding party were held for a time by the Boers, and were eventually released, thanks to a large payment.

The diplomatic repercussions from the raid were significant. Rhodes was forced to resign his premiership of the Cape Colony. Undaunted, in 1896, Rhodes rode alone and unarmed into the Matopo Hills. There he spoke with the Matabele chiefs who had rebelled.

This effort forestalled another war, at least for a few years. Within three years, the Second Boer, or Second South African, War began in 1899, as a direct result of the tensions that had been growing from Jameson’s ill-fated expedition. Rhodes helped to coordinate the defense of Kimberley when it was besieged by Boer forces.

However, Rhodes would not live to see the end of the war, for he died of heart disease and was buried in April 1902 in the Matopo Hills. His estate initiated the Rhodes scholarships that educate aspiring scholars from all over the English-speaking world at Oxford University.

Louis Riel

Louis Riel
Louis Riel

Louis Riel, a man of mixed Native American (Ojibway) and French descent (Métis), sought to preserve Native land rights against an expanding Canadian government. The Canadian government wanted to assert its authority over the territory acquired from the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1869.

This agenda conflicted with the aspirations of the Métis, as they attempted to assert their right to self-government through the Council of Assiniboia, established in 1835 by the Hudson’s Bay Company and a Métis provincial government that assumed power in 1869. The legacy of Riel is a difficult one to ascertain as he has been depicted by historians as both a traitor of and a martyr for Native rights.

Riel was born in 1844 into a family that was well respected and possessed a history of protesting injustices committed against Natives. Jean-Louis Riel, Louis Riel’s father, led a protest against charges imposed on Pierre-Guillaume Sawyer, a man of mixed descent, for the illegal trading of furs. Even though Sawyer was found guilty by a jury, he escaped punishment for this crime, partially due to Riel’s protests.

Louis Riel studied at the Collège de Montréal a curriculum similar to that used in 17th-century France. He ended his pursuit of the priesthood in 1864, in part because he fell in love with Marie Guernon, whom he married on June 12, 1866.

Riel continued his father’s policies in fighting against infringements on Métis rights by protesting against surveys conducted on local land. In 1869 Riel followed up his protests against the Canadian government by confronting surveyors sent to André Nault’s farmland. The Council of Assiniboia questioned the wisdom of Riel and the Métis, but Riel professed his loyalty to the council.

Riel and the Métis followed up with armed force, taking Upper Fort Garry, a fort controlled by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Riel and others created a list of rights that demanded that an elected body of Métis people be able to formulate and enact local laws, possess the right to veto, and the right to approve all laws passed by the Canadian government. This list proposed that the Métis be entitled to elect representatives to the Canadian parliament.

On December 7, 1869, Riel and a band of Métis took possession of a store owned by Dr. John Christian Schultz and imprisoned Schultz and 48 other individuals in Fort Garry. Riel dissolved the Council of Assiniboia and formed a provisional government, assumed the presidency, and attempted to open talks with the Canadian government regarding the entrance of the Red River settlement. Riel was able to use the authority of the provisional government to keep the English and the French mixed bloods together in order to maintain unity and order in the Red River region.

Riel continued to follow a policy of aggression as he executed Thomas Scott, a prisoner involved in the Orange Order, on March 4, 1870. It is difficult to assess the impact that Scott’s execution had on the Canadian government, but it acceded to many of the Métis’s demands.

The talks between the Métis representative and the Canadian government resulted in 1870 in the passage of the Manitoba Act, which provided 1,400,000 acres for the Métis and guaranteed bilingualism in the province. The government refused to give amnesty to Riel and the others involved in the execution of Scott. Riel left for the United States when Colonel Garnet Wolseley approached Fort Garry to take possession of the fort.

John A. Macdonald, the prime minister of Canada, intended to keep the Métis calm until he could send enough settlers out to the Red River area to assimilate them. The Métis only received 500,000 acres of the land they were promised.

More settlers from eastern Canada started to settle in these regions, leading to further land surveys. The Métis in the Qu’Appelle settlement attempted to seek redress from the government by issuing demands for representation in the Canadian parliament and reforming the land laws.

These demands were followed by a bill of rights, but the Métis requests were turned down by the Canadian government. Concerned for the future of Métis settlements, the Métis asked Riel to return to Canada to represent their interests, which he did in 1884.

Riel acted on his decision to use armed conflict and demanded the surrender of Fort Carleton in March 1885, but Superintendent L. N. F. Crozier refused. This led Gabriel Dumont, an ally of Riel, to confront a small detachment of mounted police moving toward Fort Carleton. This action forced Crozier to confront the Métis at Duck Lake.

A short battle ensued in which the numerically superior Métis forced the mounted police to withdraw from the area. MacDonald was eager to put down this resistance, which led to further armed conflict in the area. A brief battle ensued at Batoche, as 800 Canadian soldiers overwhelmed 200 Métis, leading to the capture of Riel.

Riel was formally charged with treason on July 6, 1885, despite the fact that he possessed American citizenship. His execution on November 16, 1885, had a tremendous impact on the unity of Canada and the Quebecois’s perception of him. The French-Canadian and the Métis depicted Riel as a martyr who fought against the attempts of Anglo-Saxons to control the country.

Bernardino Rivadavia

Bernardino Rivadavia
Bernardino Rivadavia

One of the major figures who led Argentina to independence, Bernardino Rivadavia became the country’s first president with his belief in a nation focused on the capital, Buenos Aires. He was also the creator of many of the major institutions of the country.

Born in Buenos Aires, Rivadavia grew up under the last years of Spanish rule. Napoleon I’s occupation of Spain in 1808 led to many of Spain’s colonies establishing their own governments as the ties between them and Madrid were severed. This essentially resulted in the start of the breakup of the Viceroyalty of the River Plate, an area encompassing what is now Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

Taking advantage of this and eager for a new market for British goods that could not be sold in Europe owing to Napoleon’s control of the continent, in 1806 some British soldiers attacked and captured Buenos Aires. Rivadavia was among the inhabitants of the city who fought the British, eventually driving them out.

He also became active in the political debates that started to raise the question of Argentine independence for the first time on May 25, 1810. Rivadavia became secretary of the triumvirate that ruled the new country, and he had the task of organizing the militia and overhauling the Spanish legal system. He also used his position to end the slave trade and press censorship.

Although many people in Argentina did want independence—it was formally proclaimed in 1816—it was the nature of this new country that was to cause recurring problems throughout Rivadavia’s political career.

Some political figures saw it as a loose confederation of states, with Buenos Aires as the capital, but with each state having the right to raise its own taxes and maintain its own militia. Others such as Rivadavia envisioned a unified country centered on Buenos Aires, with a central government that would erode the power of regional juntas and caudillos.

Rivadavia had first risen to prominence opposing the British, but as secretary of the triumvirate he was eager to agree to allow British goods to be imported to Buenos Aires. He felt this would encourage British acceptance of Argentine independence and bring greater wealth to Buenos Aires.

In 1812 the triumvirate was overthrown, and Rivadavia went into exile in Europe, where he entertained the idea of some unitarists to establish a constitutional monarchy based in Buenos Aires. He also met many intellectuals and became greatly influenced by Jeremy Bentham.

Unable to find a member of the Spanish royal family eager to rule as a constitutional monarch, Rivadavia returned to Buenos Aires and became a member of the government of Martín Rodríguez in 1821. Just before this several caudillos had been successful in wresting much power from Buenos Aires, but they soon became involved in territorial disputes. This allowed the Buenos Aires government to exert its power.

It was not strong enough, militarily, to bring renegade provinces into line, but it did control the River Plate and the Paraná River and thus could institute an economic blockade should the need arise. This took place, and Rivadavia, who dominated the political scene throughout the 1820s, in 1826 was elected president of the United Provinces, the official title of what was to become Argentina.

The reforms introduced by Rivadavia drew much from his experiences during his six years spent in Europe. He extended the franchise to all males from the age of 20 and reorganized the court system to guarantee individual and property rights, as well as freedom of the press.

On the cultural scene, in 1821 he founded the University of Buenos Aires, provided generous funding for the national library, and established several museums. He also abolished religious courts, clerical immunity from taxation, and the compulsory tithe, massively weakening the power of the church and thus earning himself the enmity of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

The 1820s also coincided with an “opening up” of the hinterland around Buenos Aires. Rivadavia had sought to encourage migration to Argentina from Europe, but this was not successful, and a few wealthy families from Buenos Aires were able to establish considerable ranches destroying Rivadavia’s plan for the formation of thousands of family farms.

With the central government unable to keep up with the expansion of landholding, Rivadavia introduced the Roman system of emphyteusis, by which land taken over by farmers would be held by the government, with the farmers paying annual taxes for its exclusive use. With rent put at 8 percent for pastureland and 4 percent for cropland, the hope of the Rivadavia government was that this would move the tax base from Buenos Aires to the countryside.

This scheme was incredibly successful at changing the control of the land, but, as it did not place a cap on the land that could be alienated, and as people could take over land without paying any money, and only a small rent, speculators started registering massive claims.

This focused land in the hands of a small number of the elite. Some 122 people and partnerships took control of 5.5 million acres, with 10 of them having more than 130,000 acres each. With a weak administration unable effectively to monitor the land, few paid much in the way of taxes, which was never to exceed 3 percent of total government revenue.

In Buenos Aires, the economic life of the city was also dominated by a small number of merchant groupings. Many Britons took control of the import-export businesses as Rivadavia, eager for British investment, opened up the economy to foreign capital.

This was to lead to Rivadavia’s most controversial move: He negotiated a massive loan from Britain’s Barings Bank. Although this was used to establish the Banco Nacional (national bank) in Buenos Aires, speculators made fortunes from the heavy discounting of the loan.

In return for going into debt to the tune of 1 million pounds, Baring Brothers furnished less than half of it in cash, the rest going to middlemen and speculators who underwrote the loan. It was a massive political scandal in Argentina, and payments continued until 1904.

However, Rivadavia’s concerns were not only financial. In 1822 Brazil had declared its independence and was eager to exert its control over the eastern bank of the River Plate. This area was largely controlled by Argentine ranchers, and the two countries headed to war, with Brazil blockading Buenos Aires and forcing the government to default on the Barings loan.

At this juncture, several provinces decided to form an alliance to oppose Rivadavia’s newly enacted centralist constitution. In 1827, after being president for only 17 months, Rivadavia was forced to resign and left for exile in Europe. The constitution was nullified by his successor, but the war with Brazil did lead to a compromise: the formation of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay as an independent country.

In 1834 Rivadavia returned to Buenos Aires to face charges brought against him and was sentenced to be exiled. He went to Brazil and then to Spain, where he died on September 2, 1845, in the port of Cádiz. In 1857 his body was brought back to Buenos Aires. In 1880 his birthday, May 20, was declared a national holiday, although it is no longer observed.

Rivadavia has long been honored by the Argentine government as one of the founders of the country, and in 1864 he was the first person to be featured on an Argentine postage stamp, and stamps commemorating him were produced regularly until 1951.

Romanov Dynasty

Romanov Dynasty in 1892
Romanov Dynasty in 1892

Probably the most famous Romanovs besides Peter and Catherine the Great were Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their five children, whom the Bolsheviks murdered in 1917. The legend of the survival of Anastasia, the youngest daughter of Nicholas and Alexandra, lingered into the 21st century, strengthened by the fact that her remains and those of her brother Alexei were still missing from the mass grave that covered her sisters, parents, servants, and pet spaniel, Jimmy.

The Romanov dynasty began in turmoil, which matched its end. Evil days followed each other in dreary succession in the Grand Duchy of Moscow after the death of Ivan the Terrible in 1584. Many arguments raged over the succession and ushered in a Time of Troubles and ultimately the accession of the Romanovs, who would rule Russia from 1613 to 1917.

The House of Romanov ruled Muscovy and the Russian Empire for five generations from 1613 to 1762, then combined with the House of Oldenburg, known as Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov, to rule Russia from 1762 to 1917. The Romanovs descended from two dozen Russian noble (boyar) families, with Andrei Kobyla, attested as a boyar in the service of Semyon I of Moscow, as a common ancestor.

A giant increase in the family fortunes occurred when a Romanov daughter, Anastasia Zakharyina, married Ivan IV of Muscovy in February 1547. When her husband became czar, she became the very first czarina. Her untimely and mysterious death prompted her husband to start a reign of terror against the boyars, whom he suspected of poisoning her. He became known as Ivan the Terrible.

The fortunes of the Romanov family rose and fell during the years of the Godunov dynasty, a branch of the Romanov line, until finally the Godunov dynasty collapsed in 1606 and the Russian Assembly of the Land offered 17-year-old Mikhail Romanov the crown of Russia.

After receiving the offer, Mikhail burst into tears of fear and despair, but his mother finally persuaded him to accept the throne and blessed him with the holy image of Our Lady of Saint Fyodor. Never feeling secure on his throne, Mikhail asked the advice of the Assembly of the Land on important issues. This strategy proved successful, and the Russian population accepted the early Romanovs as relatives of Ivan the Terrible.

At first, the Romanovs did little to strengthen the Russian state. In the 1650s a reforming patriarch of the Orthodox Church nearly started a revolution when he ordered that the ritual and liturgy be revised to bring them closer to the original Greek text of the Bible.

Lesser Coat of Arms of Romanov dynasty
Lesser Coat of Arms of Romanov dynasty

This order exasperated hundreds of uneducated people who believed the Slavonic texts were sacred. For many years after that, Old Believers (Russian Orthodox) resisted the government religious policy despite executions and exile.

Besides Old Believers, the Cossacks also revolted against the czar. Cossack comes from a Turkish word meaning “free men” and is used to designate a group of people who lived in wheat-growing communities around the Danube River. The Don Cossacks were the largest group and led colonizing expeditions to Siberia.

As the czars extended their rule over Russia in the 16th and 17th centuries, they tried to integrate the Cossacks into Russia. Cossack men became eligible for military service, and the czars used them in wars against the Tartars in Crimea and the Caucasus.

The Cossacks jealously guarded their freedom and often rebelled against the czars. Revolts occurred in 1648 and 1662, but the 1670 to 1671 revolt gained the most notoriety. A Don Cossack named Stenka Razin, who became a hero of the common people, led this revolt. Eventually he was executed, but the Cossack rebellions helped Russia by leading the expansion into Siberia.

Throughout most of the 17th century, Russia often could not defend its frontiers against invading Swedes, Poles, and Turks. It did not have access to either the Baltic or Black Seas, although English merchants had contacted Moscow in the 1550s through the White Sea, and German merchants were active in Moscow.

Russia absorbed some Western technology, especially military technology, but cultural changes in the rest of Europe left it relatively untouched. The Renaissance, reformation, and scientific revolution brought ferment to the West but scarcely touched the peoples east of Poland.

Peter the Great

Peter the Great
Peter the Great

In 1689 Peter the Great, one of the most remarkable Romanov rulers, assumed the throne at the age of 17. For the next 36 years, until 1725, he transformed Russia from a feudal country into a power in Europe. He strengthened the Russian throne, expanded Russia’s borders, and Westernized Russia.

He reformed the military, political, and social institutions of his country, borrowing ideas and techniques from France, England, the Dutch Republic, Brandenburg, and Sweden. His methods were often more casual, informal, brutal, and ruthless than those of his Western counterparts, but they worked in Russia. During his reign Russia became an empire, with Peter as its first emperor.

The Russian Church became strictly subordinated to the state under a civilian official. Peter compelled the ancient hereditary nobility to serve the state, creating a “service nobility,” and he tightened the bondage of the serfs so that more than a century would pass before they would gain their freedom.

In 1707 Peter moved his government to a new city that he had built on conquered territory at the eastern end of the Gulf of Finland. He named his new city in honor of his patron saint, Saint Peter, and Saint Petersburg symbolized his work in Russia. Unlike Moscow, it did not have roots in Russia’s past, since it had been built by forced labor on Neva River marshlands.

Peter the Great’s influence proved paradoxical for Russia. On one hand he linked Russia with Europe and the rest of the world, and from his time forward Russia was crucial in the European balance of power.

On the other hand Peter’s Westernizing policy stimulated a strong nationalistic and orthodox reaction in people, leaving the Russian psyche teetering between deep suspicions of everything foreign and ardent admiration of Western technology and power. Peter’s methods are as important as his accomplishments because they created a tradition of dynamic autocracy. His reign exemplified what a ruthless and determined czar could accomplish.

Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great ruled Russia from 1762 to 1796 and came to the throne with specific goals in mind. She sought to minimize Russian connections to Europe, but she also wanted to continue Westernizing Russia in the manner of Peter the Great.

She wanted to bring the Enlightenment to Russia and read authors like Voltaire, Diderot, and Montesquieu, incorporating their theories into her ruling methods. She encouraged the publication of numerous books and periodicals and embraced the arts.

During her reign Catherine the Great worked to increase education in Russia by creating elementary and secondary schools and universities. In 1763 she established a medical commission to improve medical conditions in Russia and led the way by being the first person in Russia to be vaccinated. She helped Russian expansion through two Russo-Turkish wars, one from 1768 to 1774, and the other from 1787 to 1792.

She added Ukraine to Russia after a 1781 to 1786 war and gained portions of Poland through partition. She also gained the Crimea and most of the northern shore of the Black Sea for Russia. Catherine improved the lives of the nobility while decreasing the status and rights of the peasants and serfs.

The centuries after Catherine the Great saw several Romanov czars named Nicholas and Alexander ruling Russia. During the reign of Alexander I, Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812. The Russian winter and supply line problems forced Napoleon’s armies to depart along the same route they had used to enter Russia.

Nicholas I came to the throne in November 1825, with an agenda of Russian Orthodoxy, autocracy, and nationalism. He and others working with him published a Complete Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire, meant to make rulings more uniform throughout Russia.

One of the departments he created he put in charge of monitoring subversive groups. This was a precursor to the modern FSB (Federal Security Service). During the reigns of Nicholas I and Alexander II some of the most important Russian writers, artists, and composers enhanced the arts.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote Crime and Punishment and other works. Alexander Pushkin produced his great novels; Tolstoi wrote War and Peace and Anna Karenina. The composer Tchaikovsky wrote his scores for ballets and the 1812 Overture.

The Crimean War, a military conflict between Russia and a coalition of Great Britain, France, the Kingdom of Sardinia, and the Ottoman Empire, fought from 1853 to 1856 at the end of the reign of Nicholas I, made it obvious that Russia needed reform.

Alexander II

The next czar, Alexander II, the son of Nicholas I, helped Russia reform. Alexander ruled from 1855 to 1881 and became known as the czar liberator because he freed the serfs. Alexander II realized that forcing labor from the serfs was not an economical way for Russia to operate, and many nobles were also beginning to think that serfdom should be ended.

Just before the American Civil War began, Alexander II freed the serfs with the Emancipation Act of February 18, 1861. The Emancipation Act freed 52 million serfs, or about 45 percent of Russia’s population, but it did not solve Russia’s problem of peasant unrest.

Only serfs who had been farmers were given land, excluding house serfs. Serfs had to continue working for estate owners for two years after being freed and had to pay over a 49-year period for the land that they had been given.

Alexander II also instituted other reforms. He changed the military and shortened the required time of service for peasants from 25 to six years. He created the legal profession, opening trials and instituting equal treatment under the law.

Beginning in 1864 he instructed the Ministry of Education to create a national system of primary schools. As people, especially university students, became better educated they became more critical of the government.

University students and the populace at large began to demand changes. On March 13, 1881, an agitator threw a hand-made bomb at Alexander’s carriage. He got out of the carriage to see what had happened, and a second bomb exploded. The czar and his assassin, Ignacy Hryniewiecki, were killed.

Alexander III succeeded his father, and, fearful of his father’s murderers, he tightened the autocratic rule in Russia, reversing many of the reforms that the more liberal Alexander II had pushed through. He renewed the policy of Russian Orthodoxy, autocracy, and nationalism. Marxism began to grow during his reign, with Bolshevik and Menshevik groups forming, and leaders like Lenin, Plekhanov, and Pavel Martov emerging as revolutionaries.

Alexander’s son Nicholas II began ruling Russia in 1894, after Alexander unexpectedly died of kidney disease at age 49. Industrialism had finally reached Russia, and a working middle class was emerging. Nicholas II did not want to allow workers to unite and form unions, as they were doing all over the world.

After the czar created state-approved unions, he refused to meet a striking group from one of these and ordered his soldiers to fire upon it. The resulting massacre of hundreds of people, which came to be known as Bloody Sunday, set off a revolt in 1905 that motivated Nicholas II to endorse the October Manifest, which gave people civil liberties and created the Duma.

Russia went to war in 1914 to defend the Serbs when Austria declared war on Serbia, but the Russian armies had inadequate weapons and suffered from poor leadership. Nicholas II himself went to the lines to lead his armies, but the problems increased and many soldiers deserted.

These soldiers were instrumental in the February Revolution in 1917, which ended the Romanov dynasty. Nicholas II and his family were put under house arrest and taken to Yekaterinburg. Bolsheviks killed the last Romanov czar, Nicholas II, and his family in the cellar of Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on July 17, 1918.

In a historical irony, the Ipatiev House had the same name as the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma where the Russian Assembly of the Land had offered Mikhail Romanov the Russian crown in 1613.

In June 1991 the bodies of Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and three of their five children were exhumed from their 70-year-old graves, and the exhumers discovered that two of the family were missing. The other two graves were found in 2007.

After the bodies were exhumed, they languished for years in laboratories while Russians fought over whether they should be buried in Yekaterinburg or Saint Petersburg. Finally, a Russian commission chose Saint Petersburg, and the last Romanovs were buried with their ancestors.

The Romanov family still exists in the 21st century, with Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia having the strongest claim to the Russian throne. Despite the dissolution of the Soviet Union and zealous campaigns by her supporters to recognize her as the constitutional monarch, it is not likely that she will gain the throne because there is little popular support for the resurrection of a Russian monarchy.

Juan Manuel Ortiz de Rosas

Juan Manuel Ortiz de Rosas
Juan Manuel Ortiz de Rosas

Juan Manuel Ortiz de Rosas dominated the Argentine political scene from 1829 until 1852 as governor of Buenos Aires and then supreme chief of the confederation. Although professing federalism, Rosas was a centrist and a dictator, and his model of rule was to be followed by many of the Latin American dictators of the 20th century.

Born in Buenos Aires, Rosas’s paternal grandfather, a career soldier, had emigrated from Burgos, Spain, in 1742. His mother’s family was extremely wealthy, and Rosas’s parents controlled one of the largest cattle ranches in Argentina. Rosas only spent a year in school— apparently his teacher told him that he would spend his life in farm management and need not be troubled by books.

As a teenager, Rosas was an ammunition boy during the British invasion of 1806, and when his father died, instead of taking over the family property (he was the eldest son), he gave it to his mother to divide among the rest of the family. Rosas was determined to make his own fortune, which he did in a meat-salting plant in Quilmes, now a suburb of Buenos Aires.

In 1820 his business partner Colonel Maunel Dorrego, governor of Buenos Aires, put Rosas in charge of the provincial militia. By this time he had a loyal band of supporters gathering around him, and soon after the resignation of Bernardino Rivadavia, Dorrego became president. He was overthrown in 1828, and Rosas worked to bring down the new governor of Buenos Aires, Juan Lavalle.

At this time, Rosas was head of the Federalist Party, which sought to build up the power of the provinces against that of Buenos Aires. He managed to get the former legislature to reconvene, and on December 5, 1829, Rosas was elected governor, deposing Lavalle. In 1832 Rosas stepped down when his three-year term ended, but returned in 1835 with the promise that he would have dictatorial powers.

At that time Argentina was in a perilous state, with strong regional warlords, or caudillos, seeking to wrest power from the government in Buenos Aires. Although he still professed federalist beliefs, Rosas gradually centralized power in Buenos Aires.

During the 17 years that Rosas was dictator of Argentina, he used police and spies to destroy his political opponents. His mazorca, the political police, arrested and tortured with impunity.

His wife, Encarnación, also used the mazorca against her enemies, and a century later journalist Fleur Cowles, in her dual biography, Bloody Precedent, was to draw startling parallels between the ruthlessness of Juan and Encarnación Rosas and that of Juan and Evita Perón. Much is made of Rosas ordering his portrait to be displayed in public places and in churches.

Putting aside his treatment of political opponents, Rosas managed initially to achieve economic stability and massively increase the prosperity of Buenos Aires. The period coincided with an increase in the cattle industry, with tanning and salting works, and also a rise in migration from Europe to Argentina.

Although many French migrated to the city, their government was unable to gain for them the privileges afforded to the British, and they became liable for national service and high local taxes. This resulted in many French businesses moving their headquarters to Montevideo in neighboring Uruguay, and in 1838, a French fleet blockaded Buenos Aires.

As trade in Buenos Aires dried up, Rosas responded by tripling the amount of paper money in circulation; massive inflation resulted. It also led to regional caudillos to try to achieve regional autonomy. The British eventually persuaded the French to stop the blockade, and Rosas paid a token indemnity.

Rosas was also forced to end the blockade he had been imposing on Paraguay, allowing that nation to start trading with Britain and other countries. In 1841 Rosas was able to destroy and then kill his main political opponent (and predecessor), Lavalle, who had been leading a small rebellion in the north.

In 1845 Rosas started his own blockade of the River Paraná in order to bring some of the provinces into line. The British and French sent in their navies to reopen trade but soon had to balance the small amount of commerce with these provinces, with far greater money to be made from Buenos Aires. After two years the blockade was abandoned, leaving Rosas triumphant. However, he had made many enemies.

Paraguay was much angered by the seemingly cavalier fashion in which Rosas had been able to close the river, and it started to industrialize and then build its own arms industry. Brazil had been unable to send goods by ship to the Mato Grosso region of the country, and Uruguay became the place for many exiles from Buenos Aires.

When the blockade of the Paraná River started again in 1848, the governor of Entre Ríos, Justo José de Urquiza, who was actually placed in charge of a large part of the army by Rosas, launched a rebellion against Rosas. In May 1851 Urquiza opposed the reelection of Rosas as governor of Buenos Aires, forcing him to adopt the title supreme chief of the confederation.

Urquiza then led his forces against those of Rosas and defeated them at the battle of Caseros on February 3, 1852. As Urquiza was about to enter Buenos Aires, Rosas fled onto a British naval vessel, leaving hundreds of his supporters to be massacred by Urquiza’s men.

Rosas settled in England and took up farming near Southampton, Hampshire. He died on March 14, 1877, and was buried in Southampton. Despite his long dominance of Argentine politics, or possibly because of it, it was not until 1935 that he was featured on an Argentine postage stamp in a series that included all the famous figures of 19th-century Argentina; the series also included Urquiza.

A grandson, who shared the same name as the dictator, became governor of Buenos Aires province in 1910. In 1990 the family moved the body of Rosas from England back to Buenos Aires, and it was interred in the family mausoleum at Recoleta.

Ram Mohan Roy

Ram Mohan Roy
Ram Mohan Roy
Raja Ram Mohan Roy exemplified the new English educated class of Indians who emerged in the late 18th century. He came from a distinguished Brahman family in Bengal—the headquarters of the British East India Company. Feeling somewhat alienated from his orthodox family, he eventually became an employee of the British East India Company.

After a few years, Roy left the company to pursue humanism and religious reform. Influenced by contemporary European liberalism, he challenged traditional Hindu beliefs. In 1803 he produced a tract that denounced religious superstition and segregation. By 1815 he had begun translation of ancient Sanskrit texts such as the Sutras and various Upanishads (philosophic writings) into modern Hindi and Bengali.

He was also the progenitor of many modern secular movements in India. He actively campaigned against suttee (the burning of widows). He also argued for reform of Hindu law, upholding the rights of women, freedom of the press, more just land laws, Indian participation in the government of India, and establishment of an English-style education system in India. He opposed the founding of Sanskrit College, which he viewed as too traditional.

Roy backed his writings and views with action. In 1815 he founded a publishing house that translated the New Testament into Bengali. In 1820 he published a work on the “Precepts of Jesus, the Guide to Peace and Happiness,” the beginning of a pantheistic approach that would combine Christianity and Hinduism, eventually adopting a Unitarian antitraditional position. In 1823 Roy founded two newspapers.

In 1827 he founded the Anglo-Hindu School and a college in 1826. However, the act for which he is best remembered is establishing the Brahmo Samaj in Calcutta in 1829. This society rejected idol worship and the multiple deities of traditional Hinduism. The emphasis was on a more nationalist monotheist interpretation of Hinduism.

Roy was famous for his learning and general erudition. He spoke several languages and was a scholar in both Sanskrit and Arabic. He was much admired by Western intellectuals for his breadth of knowledge and intellectual curiosity.

He became one of the first Hindus to visit Europe in an official capacity. He came to England in 1831 as the ambassador of the Mughal emperor. In 1832 he visited Paris and then returned to England, where he died the following year.

His most enduring legacy, apart from the educational institutions he founded and his writings, were satellites of the Brahmo Samaj, which spread throughout India and then via Indian communities throughout the world. A believer in the Western method of living for India as the path for the future, Roy is considered by many Indian scholars as the founder of modern India.

Russian Conquest of Central Asia

Russian Conquest of Central Asia
Russian Conquest of Central Asia

During the 19th century as European colonization continued to expand, czarist Russia launched a concentrated campaign to extend its own empire by annexing lands in central western Asia. In Central Asia, the Russians were particularly interested in the Uzbek oasis states of Kokand, Bukhara, and Khiva, all part of present-day Uzbekistan.

Although Bukhara and Khiva suffered devastating losses to their independence and cultures during the Russian conquest, Kokand ultimately paid the heaviest price when the Russians attempted to eradicate its existence.

While Russia was most interested in expanding its empire in order to compete with Western powers, the czar viewed Central Asia as a land of untapped resources with undeveloped potential as a major trading center. The invasion of the Muslim states of Central Asia also allowed the czar to add millions of new subjects to his already large citizenry. Until the mid-19th century, Central Asia had succeeded in repelling Russian advances.

However, as Russia’s military grew stronger and more sophisticated, Central Asia was powerless to defend itself from encroachment. For some 50 years after the annexation, the invaders unsuccessfully attempted to Russify the Muslims of Central Asia.

Despite this failure, the Russians succeeded in transforming Central Asian culture in a number of ways that included new economic and education systems and major overhauls of the communication and transportation sectors.

Czar Peter I launched an unsuccessful campaign to annex Bukhara and Khiva in the early 18th century in an effort to establish a trading route between Russia and India. When he sent armed troops to Khiva in 1717, the Khivans annihilated the entire expedition.

Succeeding czars determined that they were more likely to make inroads in Central Asia by practicing diplomacy and promoting trade relations. However, little progress was made. As a result, another unsuccessful military attack on Khiva was launched in 1839–40.

At the same time that Khiva was attempting to stave off Russian attack, Bukhara established a relatively amiable relationship with the monarch. In 1847 the Russians erected a fort at the mouth of the Sir Darya, paving the way for eventual annexation of the surrounding area.

The Russians spent the years between 1853 and 1864 plotting their strategy for annexing Central Asia, where the raw cotton that Russian textile factories so badly needed was readily available. The need for Asian cotton grew even more urgent when the American supply of cotton was halted by the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861.

By the time the Russians became a real presence in Central Asia, Bukhara and Khiva already had well-established cultures that dated back to the eighth century, and both were actively involved in trade. Both Muslim states were home to diverse ethnic groups and were relatively politically and socially stable.

Neither Bukhara nor Khiva had been exposed to Western thought and culture; therefore, neither khanate had developed the sense of nationalism that might have been used to unite the people against Russian invasion. After the annexation, the Russians allowed both Bukhara and Khiva a good deal of political autonomy. As a result, less modernizing and Russification occurred in these khanates than in other areas of Central Asia.

Bukhara was wealthier and more industrialized than Khiva, with a population that was predominately Muslim. The khanate was ruled by the emir, a hereditary monarch, although day-to-day affairs came under the province of a chief minister, a treasurer, and a tax collector.

Each province of Bukhara was ruled by its own emir. Outside of Bukhara, the emir was viewed as the most powerful ruler in the area, and he was notorious for furthering his own interests at the expense of others.

When Czar Alexander II ordered his forces to attack Bukhara in 1868, the khanate was in the midst of of internal strife. Tribal conflicts had accelerated, and the peasant class was ready to revolt in response to the levying of excessive taxes.

The Muslim clergy, who strongly resented the Russian presence in Bukhara called for a jihad (holy war). Although Emir Muzaffar al-Din repeatedly attempted to negotiate terms with the Russians that were favorable to Bukhara, he was unsuccessful. The emir ultimately negotiated a treaty that essentially established Bukhara as a Russian protectorate while allowing him to continue ruling the khanate.

The merchant class reaped the greatest benefits from the Russian presence in Bukhara because trade with the outside world opened up new avenues for amassing wealth. As this new cultural elite rose to power, the gulf between the peasants and the rest of the population expanded. Today, as one of the main cities of Uzbekistan, Bukhara is a major trading center and a popular tourist destination.

The population of Khiva was more ethnically diverse than Bukhara, with the Uzbeks making up 65 percent and the Turkomans 27 percent. Other minorities included the seminomadic Karakalpaks and the Kazakhs. The Khan of Khiva possessed powers similar to those of the emir of Bukhara, but in Khiva the government was highly centralized.

Early in 1839 Czar Nicholas I announced his decision to attack Khiva, although his forces were disguised as a scientific expedition to the Aral Sea. By the end of the year, the expedition could no longer be disguised, and the attack took place.

It was not until 1869, however, that the Russians managed to surround Khiva on three sides and begin the invasion. Russian forces encountered almost no resistance as they invaded Khiva on May 29, 1873. Three months later, the Khan signed a peace treaty.

Because Khiva, unlike Bukhara, had been conquered by invasion, the Kahn’s power to rule was much more restricted that that of the emir of Bukhara. The rich history of Khiva and the preservation of much of the original khanate have made the modern-day city a magnet for tourists from around the world.

The invasion of Kokand was accomplished in 1866, and the government acted as a Russian ally against neighboring Bukhara. At this point, Kokand was allowed to run its own affairs in much the same way that Bukhara was operating. However, in 1875, civil unrest within Kokand surfaced in response to increased taxes, political repression, and a rising sense of nationalism.

When tensions exploded into outright revolt in Ozgan in July 1875, all avenues of authority disintegrated. Khudayar Khan escaped to neighboring Tashkent and demanded Russian protection. His son, Nasrid-din Bek, ascended to the seat of power and quickly established relations with Russia. Nevertheless, on August 29, the Russians military arrived, putting an end to the possibility of Kokand’s independence.

On February 19, 1876, the Russians abolished the khanate of Kokand, replacing it with the region of Ferghana, which was placed under the authority of a military governor. Before the Russians arrived in Kokand, the khanate had been a significant trade and administrative center for the Ferghana Valley region.

After the annexation, Ferghana was established as the center of Russian Turkestan and became the major cotton-producing area of the Russian Empire. In the 21st century, Kokand has regained its status as a trading center, specializing in the manufacture of fertilizers, chemicals, machinery, and cotton and food products.

Russo-Ottoman Wars

Russo-Ottoman Wars
Russo-Ottoman Wars

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Ottomans and Russians fought a series of wars over territory around the Black Sea and the Balkans. As the Ottoman Empire slowly declined, the Russians extended their control over former Ottoman territories around the Black Sea.

Russia sought access to warm water ports and entry into the Mediterranean through the Ottoman controlled Dardanelles. Russian imperial ambitions in the Balkans also brought them into conflict with the Ottomans and Austria.

In 1696, while much of the Ottoman army was fighting against the Holy League led by Austria in the Balkans, Russia under Peter the Great took the port of Azov on the Azov Sea. Russia and the Ottomans signed a separate treaty in 1700 that reaffirmed the terms of the earlier Treaty of Karlowitz of 1699, whereby the Ottomans lost territory in the Balkans and Poland moved into the Ukraine.

Russia and Austria joined together to attack the Ottomans in the mid-18th century, but under the Treaty of Belgrade in 1739 the Ottomans regained Belgrade, which they had lost in 1718.

However, the Russians slowly realized their ambitions for access to Azov and then the Black Sea. Under the Treaty of Belgrade, Russia gained some land along the Azov, but they were forbidden to fortify the area.

Following their defeat in the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774, the Ottomans under Sultan Mustafa III signed the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji (in present-day Bulgaria), with Russia led by Catherine II. Under this treaty the Russians gained ports along the Crimean and territory in the Caucasus.

The Ottomans were also forced to grant independence to the Crimean Khanate that Russia formally annexed in 1783. Russia also gained the right to serve as the so-called protector of Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman empire, thereby increasing its involvement in the domestic affairs of the Ottoman state.

Russo-Turkish War and Near Eastern Crisis

Russo-Turkish War
Russo-Turkish War

The Balkans had been effectively under the rule of the Ottoman Turks since 1389, when the medieval Serbian kingdom was crushed at the Battle of Kosovo. However, beginning in the 17th century with the Turkish defeat at Vienna in 1683, the Turks were in almost a constant retreat. Wars with Russia that had ended in 1774 with the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainardji and in 1792 at Jassy had established Russia as a diplomatic presence in the Balkans and determined to make its presence felt.

Moreover, German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had inaugurated the League of Three Emperors with Russia and Austria in 1872–73, as a way of making palatable the sudden rise to prominence in Central Europe of a united Germany after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71.

The League of Three Emperors was a de facto diplomatic understanding, or demarche, that the future of the Balkans could be settled by Austria and Russia. Bismarck felt that Germany had no real interests in the Balkans, which, in his famous phrase, were “not worth the bones of a Pomeranian [part of Germany] grenadier.”

It turned out that the League of Three Emperors could not have come at a better time for Czar Alexander II of Russia. Freed from a concern over Austria and Germany as a source of danger, Alexander was able to modernize both his army and navy.

Coincidentally, Alexander’s modernization of the Russian juggernaut came at the perfect time. In its years of decline since 1683, Turkish rule had veered from incompetent to brutal and back again, with a few efforts at enlightened reform that never lasted.

In June 1875 the Slavic Christians in Bosnia and Herzegovina revolted against Turkey, and the Ottoman Turks retaliated in force. In spite of these reprisals, the rebellion against Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II spread in April 1876 to Bulgaria. Soon the entire Balkans had risen up against Abdul Hamid II, whom many of Ottoman subjects called Abdul the Damned.

In 1876 Prince Milosh Obrenovich, although a vassal of Turkey, also declared war on the Ottomans. Like Alexander II of Russia, he had recently modernized his armed forces. With the Serbs, the Montenegrians rose up against the Turks, turning the original Bosnia-Herzegovina revolt into an all out Balkan rebellion against Abdul Hamid II.

At the same time, the doctrine of Pan-Slavism animated the Russian people to come to the aid of the South Slavs in the Balkans. Pan-Slavism had its origin in the outburst of nationalism against Napoleon I of France and held that mystical, ancient bonds united all Slavs.

Because Russia was the most powerful Slavic state, it meant that it had an obligation to help the “little Slavic brothers” in the Balkans. Since this philosophy also provided a rationale for Russian expansion into the Balkans, it received the encouragement of the czarist government. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, author of Crime and Punishment, was also a great propagandist for PanSlavism. On April 12, 1877, Alexander II declared war on the Ottoman Empire.

In one of the great defensive battles of the 19th century, the Turkish general Osman Pasha managed to hold the Russians and their new Romanian allies for five months at Plevna (Pleven), but eventually the superior Russian force compelled him to surrender. As a mark of his heroism, he was treated with great courtesy by the Russian commanders.

Once the siege of Plevna was won, the Russians and their allies kept up the impetus of their drive to the south. It appeared that they were determined to go all the way to Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, and end the Ottoman power once and for all.

However, although the British public had been aroused by the Turkish atrocities in the Balkans, the British prime minister did not want to see the Russian Bear swimming in the Dardanelles, the gateway to the Mediterranean, which had been a British lake since the victory of Lord Horatio Nelson at Trafalgar in 1805. For the same reason, the British had intervened in the Crimean War from 1854–56 on the side of the Ottoman Empire, to keep the Russians from conquering the empire and gaining access to the Mediterranean.

In February 1878 the British Mediterranean fleet was put on a war footing and sailed to a position off Constantinople, a potent reminder that the Russians had advanced as far as the British were going to allow them to. Queen victoria herself announced that “she would rather abdicate than allow the Russians to enter Istanbul [Constantinople].”

Alexander II was conscious that if a peace were not made with the Turks, the British, and also Austria, might intervene on the side of his enemy. Therefore, in March 1878, Turkey and Russia concluded the Treaty of San Stefano. The Russians sought to take full advantage of the Turks in their defeated state.

The treaty immediately aroused the envy and concern of Austria, which had its own plans for expansion into the Balkans, ultimately to the disadvantage of the Serbians. Bismarck began to realize that his League of Three Emperors was in a deep crisis as a result of the San Stefano treaty. Consequently, he invited the great powers of Europe to the Congress of Berlin from June to July in 1878.

Great Britain was reassured by the fact that the territorial integrity of the Ottomans in Europe was maintained, and the great harbor at Constantinople would not become a Russian naval base. Austria was allowed to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina, which it would later annex to its empire in 1908, causing great hatred among the Serbs, who also desired the territory.

Russia lost most of its conquests won in the war, although the Congress of Berlin did regain for Russia much of the territory given up at the Peace of Paris, which had brought the Crimean War to an end in 1856. However, because much of Bulgaria had had to be relinquished to the Ottomans, and Great Britain and Austria had coerced Russian into doing so, the Pan-Slavs considered the Treaty of Berlin as having robbed Russia of what it justly gained by right of conquest in the war.

The Treaty of Berlin, although it attempted to avert a European war, only tragically succeeded in sewing the seeds for World War I 26 years later. In June 1914, precisely 26 years after the opening of the Congress of Berlin, the Serb terrorist Gavrilo Princip would kill the heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in the streets of Sarajevo in Bosnia.