1825 When Russian officers returned home from Europe after the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, they brought back ideas about human rights, opposition to serfdom, and interest in democracy. The officers and their upper-class brethren made demands for a representative government and talked of overthrowing the current government until Tsar Alexander I died at age 48 in 1825.
Constantine (1779-1831) was next in line, but he gave up his right to the throne despite the army's sworn allegiance to him. When his younger brother, Nicholas (1818-1881), was named tsar, a group of 3,000 Russian officers and soldiers, wanting a liberal constitution, refused to swear their allegiance to him. In December 1825, the Decembrists—they adopted the name of the month their revolt took place—staged a revolt in Senate Square in St. Petersburg. Though their demands were modest and the rebellion easily suppressed, Nicholas was deeply alarmed by the events.
The Decembrist Revolt had lasting effects on how Nicholas ruled. He formed the Third Section, a secret police of spies and informants. Religions, apart from the Orthodox Church, were suppressed, and literature critical of Russia was censored. The revolt was the beginning of a revolutionary movement that would lead first to the abolition of serfdom in 1861, then to the overturn of the tsarist government by communists in 1917.