Abraham Lincoln and Tsar Alexander ; Twin Brothers of Different Mothers

All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come

Victor Hugo

While reading “Anna Karenina” I came across a very interesting subject being discussed: the problem of serfdom.

Konstantin Levin, 32 years old landowner, wants to increase productivity on his farmland.  Sees how peasants are not motivated and wonders, whether giving them ownership of his land will change their commitment to work.  Also the issue of moral justification of serfdom comes up.

“Anna Karenina” was written in the 1870s and touches on contemporary Russian problems.  At that time, Tsar Alexander ll was in power.  The serfdom of Russian peasants was a hotly discussed topic. It took the Tsar 6 years after coronation, but finally emancipation of serfs was accomplished by the imperial ukaz in 1861.  It had immense political and economical implications.   Alexander ll was killed by a bomb in 1881 in St Petersburg, not far away from the place he signed the document.

At that point, I realized that I heard this story somewhere.  Yes, it was a part of American history with Abraham Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation and his death in 1865.

When I read more about that period in history, I realize how close these countries were to each other in the second half of the 19th century.

Russia was supporting the Union in the war with the Confederates by sending war ships to the New York and San Francisco area.  She was also opposing Britain and France, who were backing the Confederates.

Slavery is as old as records can reach.  In the Bible, it is mentioned as an established institution.  The Code of Hammurabi prescribes death for everyone, who helps a fugitive slave.  Slavery flourished in classical antiquity, Middle Ages, Renaissance and Enlightenment.  Evolving political and economic systems as well as humanitarian issues were forcing a need for change.  Alexander, within a year of his coronation, announced to his advisors “I’ve decided to do it, gentlemen.   If we don’t give the peasants freedom, they will take it from below”.  After 5 years of back and forth discussions with his advisors, he decided to cut it short and did it by imperial fiat.

Lincoln opposed slavery more on a moral basis.  He also proposed a compensation to slave owners, but the bill was never voted on by Congress.

Serfdom was abolished

1811-1850 in Prussia

1848 in Austria

1861 in Russia

1864 in Poland (partitioned)

Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Declaration on September 22, 1862, and it went in effect on January 1, 1863.

Lincoln’s and Alexander’s paths had crossed, but their origins couldn’t be more diverse. One grew up in a log cabin in Kentucky, the other one in the imperial palace in Petersburg.

They never met, but exchanged letters signed “your good friend, Alexander” and “your good friend, A.Lincoln”.  Lincoln was 9 years older.

They signed their respective documents and were assassinated in the same places, Washington DC and St. Petersburg, 4500 miles apart.

Alaska was bought from Russia in 1867, two years after Lincoln’s death.  The Tsar didn’t think it was militarily feasible to defend that territory from possible British invasion.

American artist Alonzo Chappel painted a portrait of Abraham Lincoln.  He also painted a famous portrait of Tsar Alexander ll.

And there is a sculpture by Alexander Burganov of Lincoln and Alexander shaking hands.

Who would have thought that all this was possible at all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.