The orderly appearance of a marching army was Nicholas's ideal. Military order was everywhere.
Even civil educational institutions (colleges) were treated as military schools.
Paradoxically, culture flourished under such an oppressive regime. Alexander Pushkin wrote some of
his best poetry, before being killed in a duel in 1837. Mikhail Glinka, one of the first great Russian
composers, wrote his best operas and chamber music. Feodor Dostoyevsky lived in St. Petersburg starting from
1837 and in 1844 started his career as a writer.
Despite her obvious economic backwardness, which resulted in a humiliating defeat in the Crimean War
(1853-56), Russia was gradually moving down the road of technical progress. In 1837 the first Russian
railroad has opened.
It connected St. Petersburg with the royal residence of Tsarskoye Selo (modern-day Pushkin).
In 1851 another railroad connected St. Petersburg with Moscow. In 1850 the first permanent bridge across
the Neva River was opened. Before that there were only temporary (pontoon) bridges which could not
operate in the winter. St. Petersburg was becoming more and more majestic. The ensemble of Palace Square was
completed with the construction of the General Staff building (1819-29), Alexander's Column (1830-34)
and the Royal Guards Staff building (1837-43). In 1839-44 the Mariinsky Palace (nowadays the
City Hall) was built for Nicholas' beloved daughter Maria. St. Isaac's Cathedral, the main temple
of the Russian Empire, was finally completed only in 1858, when Nicholas I had already died and his
son Alexander II was on the throne.