Julia Safronova, Ph.D. in History, Associate Professor, Dean, Faculty of History, European University at Saint Petersburg (Saint Petersburg)
This article analyzes both the formation and functioning of the image of Alexander II as a tsar-martyr in the last quarter of the 19th century. The interpretation of the terrorist attacks against the Emperor and then his assassination on March 1, 1881 as a willing sacrifice for the “sins” of the Russian people and even as “co-crucifixion with the First Martyr Christ” was created by the
preachers of the Russian Orthodox Church. It allowed to speak about the tsar’s death not as a profound political crisis but as an act of “saving” Russia. The image of the tsar-martyr was actively used both in the official discourse and in press, not only conservative, but also liberal.
At the same time the constant use of this image had unexpected results and was accepted too literally, which led to direct demands for the canonization of Alexander II, the creation of icons with his image and the holding of religious processions with portraits of the Emperor. In the second part of the article I discuss a number of hypotheses why the canonization of Alexander II which logically followed from the discursive strategy of the Russian Orthodox Church and which found support of the flock was not realized by the political elite of the Russian Empire. Alexander II became part of the historical memory of Russia as a Tsar-Liberator, not a Tsar-Martyr.
Keywords: Alexander II, populist’s terror, canonization, martyr, representation.