For the first time in history a great State was suppressed, and a whole nation divided among its enemies...Thenceforward there was nation demanding to be united in a State,− a soul, as it were, wandering in search of a body in which to begin life over again.
British historian Lord Action, 1862
The death of Alexander I at the Black Sea port of Taganrog on December 1, 1825, initiated a successional crisis in St. Petersburg. It was assumed that Constantine, who was in Poland at the time, would be the new czar-king. Even his younger brother, Nicholas, believed this the case and proclaimed Constantine emperor. Upon hearing the "official" news, troops and government officials solemnly swore their allegiance to Constantine, an oath they did not take lightly.
But Constantine had no desire to become Czar, relishing his position as de facto vice-royalty in Russian Poland. The grand duke had secretly renounced his claim to the Russian crown in 1823, partly because he was morganatically married a Polish woman. Openly detesting Poland and its people when he assumed command of the Polish army ten years before, the grand duke had developed a genuine affinity for the country and enjoyed living there. Despite his newfound affection, Constantine was known as a cruel autocrat who routinely ignored constitutional boundaries. One of the more offensive habits of the grand duke was to order the heads of Polish women who displeased him shaved, causing much animosity among the chivalrous Poles.
When Constantine's decision became known in early December, Nicholas issued a manifesto declaring his claim to the throne, back-dated to December 1st, the official date of Alexander's death. The Royal Guards, who had swore loyalty to Constantine, doubted the authenticity of the absentee abdication and refused to acknowledge Nicholas as the new Czar. Most likely dissident factions in the officer core only used the confusion as an excuse to revolt as the brothers had many unfortunate similarities.
On December 14th, about three thousand soldiers led by disgruntled officers and a handful of aristocrats assembled in Senate Square and elected one of their member as interim dictator, demanding a Russian constitution that provided many of the civil liberties that Poles in the Empire already enjoyed. The soldiers, who were generally unaware of the political implication of their orders, were told to chant "Constantine and Constitution", ignoring the fact that Constantine was hardly a supporter of the Constitution, to create enthusiasm for the revolt. But the ideological groundwork was poorly laid. Many of the soldiers when later questioned claimed that they thought "Constitution" was the grand duke's wife. The so-called "Decembrist Revolution", considered the first truly revolutionary movement in Russian history since it sought to change the system of government, ended in early January when it was crushed by overwhelming military force. The mutineers were slaughtered in the Senate Square by canister shot and rifle volleys, and many of those who fled across the frozen River Neva drowned when artillery fire shattered the ice around them. Survivers were arrested and subsequently either hanged, exiled to Siberia, or flogged, depending on the degree of culpability in the revolt.
Nicholas's inauspicious ascension made a lasting impression. The young Czar rightfully feared for his life during the uprising and could not help but recall that both his grandfather and father were murdered in palace coups. Unlike his enlightened brother Alexander, Nicholas was a soldier and strict disciplinarian who made no pretenses about liberal reforms. The new Czar quickly imposed strict censorship in Russia and established a network of secret police called the Ochrana to enable his autocratic rule. Although he claimed to support the constitution of the Congress Kingdom, his new domestic policies did not bode well for Poland.
Still concerned about Decembrist activities, Nicholas launched an investigation to determine the involvement of Poles in the revolt. The fact that the Decembrists advocated reforms similar to those granted in the Congress Kingdom no doubt increased his suspicion. In actuality conspiratorial activity between the Russian revolutionists and native Poles was limited, partly because of the rapid and unexpected development of the uprising and its distance from Poland, but also because the Russians were pursuing social-political goals while the Poles were more interested in national liberation. Although no direct links were discovered, eight members of the secret Polish "Patriotic Society" were arrested and charged with high treason for their vague plans to alter society. Nicholas intended to ship the accused to Russia for speedy justice, but the Poles objected on constitutional grounds and demanded that the men be tried by a tribunal in the Sejm.
Nicholas was shocked when in 1828 the Polish deliberating body, after a lengthy investigation, returned a verdict of not guilty to treason, giving the defendants only mild sentences for lesser crimes. The fact that no hard evidence ever was produced to support the charges which was considered only a minor technicality; Russian trials were typically only formalities. The Czar expected the Sejm to confirm the Imperial acquisitions, and was offended personally when it did not. Constantine immediately suspended the verdict and ordered the deputies who rendered the decision confined to Warsaw, presumably pending their arrest. Nicholas, in all likelihood, would have launched reprisals but war, that most beneficial of international incidents, at least from the Polish perspective, prevented Russian retribution.
Russia became involved in a war with Turkey, and like 1789, the Polish legislature was left relatively unmolested while the cat was away. A special Administrative Council convened to investigate the investigation essentially confirmed the Sejm's verdict but did its best to couch the findings in such a way as not to offend the czar. Many young Polish patriots, forgetting that Nicholas was occupied elsewhere, interpreted the proceedings to indicate that the new Polish King respected the law and even tacitly sanctioned secret patriotic societies. Big mistake.
Pre-occupied with Turkey and concerned over potential conflict with Austria, Nicholas was forced to indulge the Poles, whose support or, at least, not active opposition was required at this precarious time. Polish affairs were largely left to his brother, Grand Duke Constantine. Nicholas rarely journeyed to Poland but to his credit he arranged a separate Polish coronation in Warsaw in May of 1829 and agreed to reopen the Diet the following year. It was during one of his infrequent visits to the kingdom, in which the Turkish guns used at the 1444 Battle of Varna were presented to Warsaw and the czar visited the statue of Sobieski in Lazienki Park where he commented, "There is the other fool who wasted his time fighting the Turks!"
When Nicholas presided over the opening session of the Sejm in 1830, he immediately was presented with over one hundred petitions cataloging Russian abuse. While in Warsaw, Nicholas was subjected to a steady stream of Polish complaint about censorship, arbitrary arrest, annulments of elections, suspension of public sessions of the Sejm, and the activities of at least three networks of secret police and spies in the Kingdom. The Poles were under the misguided impression that the czar was the source of justice and not the guiding force behind the oppression. Nicholas recognized that the Polish parliamentary system was incompatible with the type of autocratic rule he planned for the Empire; he only needed a more opportune time to throw off the mask.
Matters came to a head in the fall of 1830, largely as a result of events in France. During the "three glorious days" of July 26-28, the French people revolted against the government of Charles X. The Bourbon Monarchy was restored in 1814, thanks in large part to the efforts of Talleyrand at the Congress of Vienna. Although the new government originally was well received, particularly since France was granted a relatively liberal constitution, by 1830 Charles had established a number of repressive practices, such as the rigid control of the press. However, the main problem was that the French economy was in deep recession. Poor harvests caused a dramatic increase in the price of food at a time when incomes fell precipitously. Lack of sufficient food made Charles X's policies particularly hard to stomach and by the summer of 1830 unrest was at dangerous proportions; one recalls that the French Revolution of 1789 was sparked by a bread riot.
In July a crowd of unemployed workers became riotous in the streets. French soldiers, ordered to fire over the heads of the rioters, began to fear for their lives as the citizens hurled rocks, roof tiles, and pottery at their oppressors. Some of the frightened soldiers fired into the crowd, killing twenty-one of the protesters. The next day thousands of angry French, inflamed by revolutionary pamphlets printed during the night, took to the streets. The riot became a revolution, increasingly difficult to suppress once the people seized the nearby arms depot and gunpowder factory. Unable to stem the violence, Charles X was forced to abdicate. His cousin, Louis-Philippe, the Duc d'Orleans, "by the grace of God and the will of the nation", became head of a more liberal constitutional monarchy in France, but not everbody welcomed the new King. To conservatives Louis Phillpe evoked nasty memories of the French revoltuion, as he in his youth was a member of the notoroius Jacobin club and his father voted for the execution of King Louis XVI. The unrest in Europe threatened to become general as one month later a similar revolt in the Netherlands resulted in the establishment of the independent Kingdom of Belgium. Revolution was in the air.
The Poles were encouraged by the success of the French popular uprising, and on some level believed that Russia might have sympathy for the Polish cause. The Polish nation after all was given special status by the mystic Alexander I. More importantly, only the year before his brother, Nicholas I, helped Hellenic nationalists win their independence. What the Poles failed to note was that the establishment of a soveriegn Kingdom of Greece in 1829 was at the expense of Russia's enemy the Ottoman Empire and that the czar's assiatance was not a statement about new enlightenment but about old self-interest.
Ignoring his superficial idealism of the prior year, Nicholas determined to prevent further uprisings against autocratic rule in Europe, possibly even to reverse events in Paris and Brussels. The czar decided to activate Russian forces, including Lithuanian and Polish units, for a counter-revolutionary crusade. On November 18, 1830, mobilization orders were posted in Poland. Russia was under no illusions about Polish enthusiasm for the mobilization, but the czar required obedience not enthusiasm. To put down a revolutionary movement whose basic principles agreed with the not-so-subtle aspirations of the very troops asked to suppress it was provocative, perhaps intentionally so. The mobilization was a test of loyalty, which the czar may have expected his reluctant subjects would fail.
It has been suggested that Nicholas, in part, was motivated to discipline the Poles because of a growing economic rivalry between Russia and the Congress Kingdom. The revamping of Poland's state finances in the 1820s led to agriculatural and industrial success that was not matched elsewhere in the czar's empire. The disparity was agravated by tariff policies which favored Poland, which only gave the Russians more reasons to be displeased. Alexander's growing resentment of Poland's economic success led to a desire to teach the Poles their place, and the mobilization of their army against the wishes of the people provided a perfect forum for his frustration.
Even if Polish patriots planned for immediate insurrection, widespread preventative arrests and the aggressive draft forced their hand. The abuse of the kingdom's constitution could no longer be quietly accepted. On the evening of November 29, 1830, a small disorganized group of inexperienced students launched a revolt that they hoped would lead to national liberation.
In the beginning it seemed everything went wrong. A small group of civilians were assigned the task of attacking Belweder Palace and killing the grand duke. The tepid attempt failed, and the grand duke was unharmed. A large fire set in a deserted brewery was to serve as the signal for simultaneous action; however, the blaze was ignited too early, before many of the groups were prepared. Small groups of confused conspirators mingling with the firefighters began an uncoordinated series of ineffective assaults. The largest rebel group was composed of students from the cadet-officer's school, who marched towards the center of Warsaw in search of a leader. Several older Polish officers encountered along the way were offered the position, but refused. In the heat of the moment the students, by mistake, lynched two of Poland's best generals, almost decapitating the revolt at its inception. Many Polish soldiers who were sent secret orders to rush to Warsaw did not realize that an insurrection was taking place and obediently reported to their Russian superiors. But, perhaps learning from events in Warsaw in 1794 and from the recent upheaval in Paris, the students captured the arsenal and began distributing thirty thousand rifles to the population, claiming that the Russians were murdering the Polish people. The spontaneous participation of the citizens of Warsaw turned the comic opera into a revolutionary drama.
Constantine probably could have dispersed the mob with his disciplined troops, but the grand duke was unnerved by the action and chose to flee to the nearby city of Wierzbno instead. The students succeeded in launching a widespread revolt, but failed in securing, or even thoughtfully considering, leadership for the undertaking. Since no single person assumed command of the insurrection, and in the absence of any Russian military opposition, the nominal Polish government volunteered for the job. The students meekly agreed. Drucki-Lubecki, a level-headed politician whose economic policies were instrumental in the revitalization of the Kingdom, consented to direct the provisional government under the authority of the Administrative Council. Ironically, leadership of the revolt fell into the hands of men who heretofore were instrumental in cooperating with the Russian authorities.
Instead of demanding Polish independence, the patriotic but prudent Drucki-Lubecki merely asked that the constitution be more rigorously enforced. In hopes of mitigating the Russian response, he even renounced the violence and gave Constantine and his soldiers free passage from the Kingdom. The grand duke took the liberty to include in his entourage of his court, police spies, and even key political prisoners. Liberal revolutions are commonly hijacked by conservative elements after initial success, and vice versa, but in this case conservative leaders took charge of the uprising before the necessary work was done.
Drucki-Lubecki next convinced a conservative Polish officer, General Josef Chlopicki, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, to proclaim himself dictator during the crisis. Chlopicki was a stodgy professional soldier significantly pasted his prime, a dictator wholly unsuited for what the situation dictated. The general thought that the rash actions of the students was no more than a foolhardy riot that provoked a war the Poles could not possibly win. Instead of planning for victory, Chlopicki spent his time devising means of surrender. Mesmerized by the inactivity of the reluctant revolutionists, Nicholas began to believe that Chlopicki was actually organizing resistance to the uprising.
Drucki-Lubecki journeyed to St. Petersburg to present his modest demands to the Czar and negotiate a peace. The Polish politician was shocked to discover that Nicholas did not view the situation as a harmless disagreement. Nicholas was irate, refusing to receive the Polish emissary and demanding the Poles surrendered unconditionally to their master. Only after the wayward children threw themselves upon his mercy would Nicholas discuss terms of reconciliation. In the meantime, Russia prepared for war. Fortunately the large-scale mobilization for counter-revolution in Western Europe was well advanced; now those same men were unleashed on an insolent Poland. The situation was eerily reminiscent of 1794.
In a communication to Constantine, Nicholas made it known that either Russia or Poland had to perish. The remark was not as melodramatic as it might seem; without Poland, Lithuania, and the western provinces of the Ukraine, Russia was in danger of losing her great power status and reintroducing a powerful enemy on her borders that on more than one historical occasion had threatened her own sovereignty.
On December 18th, the Sejm reacted to the demand of unconditional surrender by sanctioning the uprising as the "act of the nation", justifying the violence as a reasonable response to despotic rule. Although conservative elements in the Polish nation thought the revolt was premature, they joined the movement as a sign of solidarity with the cause. By now, even moderate Poles who accepted the Vienna agreement of 1815 as a basis of national reconstruction no longer believed that Russia could live up to its terms. The insurrection was essentially a national confederation, based on principles as old as Poland itself.
Chlopicki thought the proclamation unnecessarily provocative and demanded the Sejm be dissolved. When his demands were ignored, "the dictator of deceived hopes" resigned on February 18, 1831, but not before wasting several precious months in which Poland could have better prepared for the coming storm.
As a 115,000 man Russian Army approached the Congress Kingdom's borders, its commander, Field Marshal Ivan Diebitsch, issued bellicose manifestoes demanding Polish surrender. The threats only served to stiffen Polish resolve. The Sejm ended any possibility of a peaceful resolution to the crisis when they defiantly issued a resolution on January 25, 1831, stripping Nicholas of the Polish crown and declaring Poland independent. But the Sejm tried to make clear that the act was not a rejection of the Russian people, as the dethronement was preceded by a ceremnony in honor of the Russian Decembrists who had made common cause with the Polish revoltionists.
The rejection of the Romanov Dynasty was reminiscent of Belgium's recent successful dethronement of the House of Orange-Nassua but was more significant as an independent Poland threatened Europe's carefully orchestrated balance-of-power. The Act of Dethronement was more than just a successional technicality; it was a declaration of independence purposely patterned after the work of Thomas Jefferson, an acquaintance of the Sejm Deputy, Juilan Niemcewicz, who drafted the document. The act, in part, reads:
The most sacred and solemn agreements hold only as they are adhered to by both parties. Our long sufferings, known to the entire world, our freedoms, guaranteed by two monarchs but many times violated, in turn release the Polish Nation from its allegiance to the present ruler. The words uttered by the Emperor Nicholas himself, saying that the first shot from our side will be a signal to annihilate Poland forever, deny us all hope for redress of our grievances, and leave us nought but noble despair.
Therefore, the Polish nation in Sejm assembled, declares itself an independent people, and proclaims its right to entrust the crown of Poland to one worthy of its trust, one who can be expected to keep the faith, and to safeguard unimpaired, the freedoms he swore to uphold.
In an attempt to realize this goal, or perhaps to simply secure foreign support, the crown of Poland was offered to the Duke of Reichstadt who was Napoleon's son, an Austrian archduke, and the Prince of Orange; however, no one seemed eager to accept what was in all likelihood an ephemeral throne.
The declaration was no more than the invocation of the Henrician Articles of old, which made statutory the right of civil disobedience. The idea of a social contract, usually credited to Jean Jacques Rousseau, was a part of Polish constitutional thought since at least the 16th century.
Unfortunately the revolutionists were too conventional for their own good. The Poles still supported a constitutional monarchy, partly because this form of government was legitimized by the Congress of Vienna and partly because they did not believe yet that a purely republican form of government could ever be successfully applied. But the Pole's inveterate fear of tyranny made it difficult for any one faction, or one person, to assume command, particulary in the absence of a monarch. The diet formed a new government, nominally a hereditary constitutional monarchy under the temporary leadership of Czartarisky; however, power was prudently divided three ways: the Sejm, which would remain in permanent session, a coalition National Government which consisted of appointed ministers, and the commander-in chief, who was theoretically responsible to the Sejm. Power was concentrated in the Sejm but most of the deputies in the large unwieldy body were inexperienced or had participated only in perfunctory debates over bills introduced by their Russian masters.
Characteristically, the government was hopelessly divided between conservative, liberal, aristocratic, and so-called "patriotic" factions who dithered in ethereal debates over the ideology of the revolt. The Sejm proved uninspiring, bogging down in administrative minutia and was never able to articulate a compelling national mission. The pressing issue of peasant emancipation was sidestepped, but no amount of fancy footwork could obscure the glaring omission from the lower classes, who not unreasonably demanded civil liberties in return for their military service. The arrangement was familiar to the Polish leaders as it was not unlike that which had facilitated the rise of the szlachta in "Old Poland".
The situation demanded a unifying leader to take command − unfortunately no Wladyslaw the Elbow High, Sobieski, or Kosciusko materialized. The leaders who did emerge were entirely too prosaic for the dire circumstances with many arguing that Polish grievances should be explained as a breach of the 1815 Vienna settlement that then could be adjudicated by an international deliberating body. But a revolution needs revolutionists. The measured, legalistic response led to a lethal lethargy just when the insurrection needed inspiration.
Nonetheless the majority of rank and file Poles were determined to make a fight of it. Given the circumstances, Polish victory was a realistic possibility, perhaps more so than her leaders dared believe. Resurrecting the slogan "for your freedom and ours" and mustering out to the enthusiastic singing of the "Anthem of the Polish Legions in Italy", thousands of peasants joined the uprising. The anchor of Polish military forces was the thirty thousand man Polish Army, which was trained under the harsh discipline of Constantine. The Polish Army was an experienced professional force that was well armed, wore Polish uniforms, and used Polish as the language of command. By March the Army had swelled to over eighty thousand men, augmented by eager but untrained volunteers. In Lithuania twenty-five thousand partisans volunteered for the struggle, and even the Ukraine managed to send several thousand fighters. In fact, Poles from all the lands of the former Commonwealth participated in various degrees in the uprising, suggesting that the former Republic still resonated as a homeland. The support in Lithuania was particularly impressive in that it cut across class and ethnic lines. In addition, to the Polonized nobility, peasants of purely Lithuanian stock joined the uprising in large numbers. Thousands of freedom fighters from abroad also fought for the Polish cause, including former Napoleonic officers from France, Italians, Hungarians, Germans, and British volunteers. In all, Poland mustered almost 200,000 reasonably trained and highly motivated troops. (Poland would not have an oppurtunity to face Russia on relative equal footing again until the Polish-Soviet War in 1919, when Pilsudski's leadership made a dramatic difference in the outcome.) Moreover, Russia was forced into offensive operations long distances from their supply lines, and needed to garrison areas they conquered in the middle of a hostile population, much like the North in the American Civil War.
But in 1831 the Russian opponent had several significant advantages. The Czar could rely on a much larger supply of manpower than Poland. Although the Warsaw arsenal was seized, Poland lacked munitions factories, making re-supply difficult. The Poles had an excellent core of soldiers and junior officers, but lacked competent senior military officers, and those they possessed, like Chlopicki, were often old or defeatists, or both. The Polish generals also decided to fight on Russia's terms, preferring combat in large set-piece battles despite a disadvantage in artillery and unit experience. Polish leaders rejected large-scale partisan warfare, which they deemed unseemly, despite the fact that hit-and-run tactics by Poles operating on their own terrain and supported by the local population could dramatically reduce the disparity of forces, as later events proved. The ineptitude of the high command eventually adversely affected Polish morale, leading to an unnecessarily defeatist atmosphere.
In addition, no foreign governments sent troops to Poland, despite pleas from emissaries sent by Czartoryski to all the capitals of Europe. Support was limited to symbolic gestures that little effected Poland's enemies. In the distant democracy of America, city officials in New York issued a strong, if toothless, statement of support while Boston sent standards for the Polish regiments. Talleyrand in France and Palmerstone in England indicated that their governments might assist in some fashion, but only after the Poles established their independence by force of arms, in other words, no help at all. The continent was already convulsed by the recent French and Belgium Revolutions, and no power wished to disturb the situation more. Besides, a Russian Army tied up in Poland could not march into Central Europe, as was widely feared.
Some criticisms of the Polish revolt came from unexpected sources. The pope issued an encyclical condemning the insurrection and praising the czar for suppressing it. Richard Cobden, the radically liberal anti-aristocracy British statesman, blamed the insurrection on an attempt by the Polish nobility to recover their lost status. Cobden found himself championing the righteousness of the Russian cause, whose brutal repression somehow was interpreted to be in the interests of the people. The analysis made little sense, but then again its real intent was to attack upper class sponsored policies in his government. Cobden was in the ridiculous position of supporting a brutal foreign regime whose practices were antithetical to his own principles only as a ploy to damage the reputation of oppositional elements in his own country, whose abuses, real and imagined, were an order of magnitude less than those of the regime Cobden now praised.
Czarist forces reached the Congress Kingdom in February of 1831. Encountering stiff Polish resistance, the Russians suffered heavy casualties at Grochow on February 25th in the largest battle fought in Europe between the Napoleonic and Crimean Wars. Grand Duke Constantine, observing the battle from the Russian lines, expressed mixed emotions, sorrowful at Russian loss of life but gratified at the performance of the Polish soldiers he had trained. The Russian army was not as large as was planned as over thirty thousand troops were dispatched to Lithuania to suppress a widespread armed insurrection, but they still outnumbered the Poles 59,000 to 36,000 and possessed more cannons. The Poles victory served notice that their conventional forces were more than a match for the Russian units, and that the uprising could not be crushed at a stroke as the czar had boasted.
In April the Poles won a series of battles at Wawer, Debe Wielkie, and Iganie. The conflict was in many ways no longer an insurrection but a war; more properly referred to as the "Polish-Russian War" than the more commonly used "November Insurrection". In spite of their victories, the Poles adopted a defensive posture. The Polish leaders, hesitate to commit themselves fully to the fight, believed that further Russian bloodshed would only bring other autocratic nations into the conflict or make later negotiations more difficult. But as always, there is no substitute for victory.
Instead of destroying a weakened Russian force, the leaders of the insurrection thought it prudent to negotiate, which did little but allow time for the Russians to recuperate. Command of Polish forces changed hands several times as the inept leaders made one military blunder after another, wasting the valiant efforts and lives of their soldiers. Russian leadership also suffered from incompetence until the Czar appointed Field Marshal Ivan Paskevich, a veteran of the recent war with Turkey, Commander-in-Chief. He proved a capable and ruthless commander.
Battlefield losses were met with not renewed resolve but with recriminations and riots. Several Polish generals commanding in the field were arrested on the orders of the frequently changing commander-in-chiefs who second guessed subordinates from the safety of headquarters. When frustrated Poles began to agitate in street, several prominent civilians were charged with an antigovernment plot and thrown into prison. Warsaw was seething as it seemed the Polish officials were little better than the Russians they replaced. Due to the street violence and a general lack of confidence in the provisional government, Czartarisky was forced out of office. The long standing problem of fragile Polish unity chose a poor time to reappear.
In desperation, the Sejm finally consented to a strong central government headed by General Jan Krukowiecki, who was named commander-in-chief and endowed with dictatorial powers. Krukowiecki assumed command of a large Polish military force of well armed and inspired fighters, but proved an inept choice whose only accomplishment was the negotiated surrender of Warsaw in September. The Russians surprised the defenders of the capital by marching north of the city and circling around to attack from the relatively undefended western suburbs. Although the Polish army, still sixty thousand strong, was largely intact, their spirit was broken. Betrayed by tepid leaders who failed to articulate the compelling nature of their cause, many lacking faith in final victory, divided into bickering factions, and once again outmanned by the Russians, the insurrection collapsed. In early October Polish forces, including many prominent civilian leaders, crossed the borders of Prussia and Austria to avoid capture. The revolts in Lithuania and the Ukraine already were crushed, leaving the former Commonwealth at the mercy of the Czar. Unfortunately, the czar was not particularly noted for his mercy.
 The circumstances behind Alexander's death are somewhat mysterious. Some reports claim Alexander actually died on November 19, 1835, but that the fact was not revealed until December. The confusion helped spark a theory that Alexander faked his own death, particularly when one considers that Alexander had been recently informed of unrest in the officer's core that soon developed into the "Decembrist Revolution". Alexander refused to punish the officers implicated in the investigation, stating that he had at one time shared their aspirations for liberal reforms. According to the theory Alexander realized how far he had strayed from the idealism of his youth and no longer wished to be Czar, but rather than abdicate chose to literally play dead. Hingley, Russia: A Concise History, 112. The fact that his wife "died" very soon after Alexander led some to believe that the couple orchestrated the elaborate affair and simply rendezvoused at a predetermined location. Alexander further was reported spotted boarding a ship after his supposed death. Rumors of a monk living in Siberia who greatly resembled Alexander added to the intrigue. According to some unsubstantiated accounts, to end the mystery Soviet officials in 1925 opened Alexander's crypt in the Peter and Paul fortress but to their surprise, the tomb was empty. Some believe that after living as a holy man for the last decades of his life, Alexander was secretly buried in Wawel Castle in Warsaw.
 Zamoyski, The Polish Way: A Thousand-Year History, 274. At this time the Polish cause was still popular in German lands as the fleeing troops were received by delirious German crowds. Zamoyski, The Polish Way: A Thousand-Year History, 302. Under Bismarck the Prussian partition were much less receptive to the Polish revolt in 1863.