After Catherine’s death in 1796, her son Paul I assumed power and began to steer the Russian Empire down the bureaucratic road. In an effort to blindly follow the Prussian policy model, Paul I aggressively exercised ultra-conservative policies. His assassination phobia forced him to build what is known today as the Mikhailovsky Castle, which proved to be of little help in the end. He was assassinated in his own bedroom on March 12, 1801, not without his son’s – Alexander’s I – assistance, who had sworn to continue Catherine’s line of policy.
After the coronation, Alexander began to reform the governmental system. He introduced ministries and the State Counsil and thus laid the foundation for bureaucracy and tough police order to flourish for decades. It was the time when St. Petersburg underwent significant tailoring to meet strict perfectionist requirements. Several major pieces of architecture, such as the Admitralty and the Naval Headquarters, were restructured. The Rostral Column and the Stock Exchange appeared on the southern edge of Vasilievsky Island. A lot of work was done by Carlo Rossi, an outstanding Italian architect, who designed the Mikhailovsky Palace and Arts Square. Auguste Montferrand, a French architect, designed the St. Isaac’s Cathedral, which was intended to be the Empire’s main church.
Right after Alexander’s death in December 1825, thelong- glowing political crisis exploded in a revolutionist action sketched by a group of liberal army officers – the Decembrists – who expected Nicholas I to officially introduce constitutional monarchy. They lined up on Senate Square, not taking any radical steps. Most probably, it was the shot by Kachovsky, killing General-Governor Miloradocitch, that triggered the violence. The revolt was crushed and five of the activists were sent to the gallows.
This event drove Nicholas I to tighten the current conservative regime and militarize nearly all spheres of political and social life in St. Petersburg and the rest of the country.
Despite the tough regime, the Russian culture flourished. It was during Nicholas’s reign that Alexander Pushkin, Fiodor Dostoyevsky and Mikhail Glinka created their most outstanding masterpieces. It was the time when the first railroad appeared in the country, which connected St. Petersburg with Tsarskoye Selo. It was the time when the first permanent bridge was built in St. Petersburg.