During the reign of Alexander I the Russian army has successfully stopped
Napoleon's invasion of Russia and drove the French army back to Paris (1812-14).
The captured French
banners were put in the newly built Kazan Cathedral, where the Russian Army Commander, Field-Marshall
Kutuzov, had been buried in 1813. In the Russian Imperial capital everything had to look very orderly.
It was the heyday of architectural ensembles and perfectionist "classical" designs. The Admiralty,
the naval headquarters of Russia, was remodelled in 1806-23. The complex of the Stock Exchange and the
Rostral Columns were built on the Southern edge ("Strelka") of Vasilievsky Island. Arts Square with the
Mikhailovsky Palace (1819-25) was designed by Carlo Rossi. In 1818 the construction of St. Isaac's
Cathedral began but was completed only 40 years later.
When Alexander I suddenly died in the town of Taganrog (some say, he ran away to Siberia to escape the
heavy burden of power) in December 1825, a political crisis erupted. A group of liberal young army
officers (later called the "Decembrists") started a revolt, hoping that Nicholas I, Alexander's
younger brother, would agree to sign a Constitution for the country. They brought their soldiers
to the Senate Square by the Bronze Horseman, but remained inactive. The uprising was cruelly crushed,
the five organizers were executed and the rest exiled to Siberia.
Due to the Decembrist Uprising the new Emperor, Nicholas I, adopted the most conservative policies.
Russia remained an economically backward bureaucratic state. That was well-reflected in the
Imperial capital, St. Petersburg. The desire for orderliness reached ridiculous heights.