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Coins and Medals of Imperial Russia: Alexander II

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Alexander II (1855-1881)

Portait of Alexander IIAlexander II came to the throne better prepared than any other nineteenth-century Russian emperor. He was a balanced, dutiful, hard-working man of essential goodwill. In 1861 he abolished the servitude of the Russian peasants, known as serfdom, in a decree that, although not wholly satisfying to either the nobles or the peasants, was probably the most statesmanlike possible at the time. Although at the beginning the peasants faced many difficulties in the new economic situation, within forty years they owned about 50% of Russian arable land - a better record than that of most countries that had instituted similar land reforms.

If one looks only at the rubles struck during the quarter-century of Alexander II's reign, it would be easy to think that this period was fiscally and numismatically a stagnant time. In fact, there was a great deal of activity. The' decades of the 1860's and 1870's saw half a dozen foreign and private Russian efforts to take over part of the empire's coinage system, with French, German and Belgian offers to produce nickel subsidiary coins. The Paris Mint struck a substantial quantity of subsidiary Russian coins in 1861, using hubs from St. Petersburg. Copper coinage was reorganized in 1867, and in 1876 the Ekaterinburg mint, which had been in operation for 150 years, was closed down. The St. Petersburg Mint took up the slack and expanded its production correspondingly.

coin thumbnail coin thumbnailRuble from 1859, commemorating the unveiling of a statue of Alexander's father on horseback, Nicholas I, in St. Petersburg, June 25, 1859.
Collection of Coins and Medals
Yale University Art Gallery
Gift of Rev. William H. Owen
2001.87.243

coin thumbnail coin thumbnailTwo pieces from 1861, the year that Alexander II decreed the abolition of serfdom, an act by which he became known as the "Czar-Liberator". The first coin is a 2 kopecks piece.
Collection of Coins and Medals
Yale University Art Gallery
2001.87.256

coin thumbnail coin thumbnailThe second coin, 1 kopeck, shows the other side, with the inscription "A II", for Alexander II.
Collection of Coins and Medals
Yale University Art Gallery
Gift of Rev. William H. Owen
2001.87.323

coin thumbnail coin thumbnail5 kopecks coin of 1867 from St. Petersburg. Only 44 pieces of this specific type of coin from 1867 were struck. Portrayed is the Imperial double-eagle.
Collection of Coins and Medals
Yale University Art Gallery
2001.87.255

coin thumbnail coin thumbnailFaberge gold piece, announcing the opening of a Faberge store in St. Petersburg, 1875.
Collection of Coins and Medals
Yale University Art Gallery
2001.87.336

Various copper kopecks:

coin thumbnail coin thumbnail5 kopecks (1874)

Collection of Coins and Medals
Yale University Art Gallery
2001.87.321

coin thumbnail coin thumbnail3 kopecks (1867)

Collection of Coins and Medals
Yale University Art Gallery
Gift of: Eugene Schuyler
2001.87.322

coin thumbnail 2 kopecks (1867)

Collection of Coins and Medals
Yale University Art Gallery
Gift of Rev. William H. Owen
2001.87.324

coin thumbnail ½ kopeck (1880)

Collection of Coins and Medals
Yale University Art Gallery
Gift of Rev. William H. Owen
2001.87.325

coin thumbnail ½ kopeck

Collection of Coins and Medals
Yale University Art Gallery
Gift of Eugene Schuyler
2001.87.326

coin thumbnail ¼ kopeck

Collection of Coins and Medals
Yale University Art Gallery
Gift of Rev. William H. Owen
2001.87.261

coin thumbnail ¼ kopeck (1878)

Collection of Coins and Medals
Yale University Art Gallery
Gift of Eugene Schuyler
2001.87.327