When Alexander II was crowned, the Russian Empire was dealing with economic decline and the consequences of the defeat in the Crimean War. With the thunder of social unrest drawing closer than ever and the gap between Russia and the leading European economies growing more evident, an immediate action was required.
The abolition of serfdom was one of the most radical steps toward liberal economy. Also, Alexander introduced local self-government organs called ‘zemstvos’, which were authorized to provide roads, medical and schooling services. St. Petersburg obtained a radically new self-government system.
Meanwhile, there was a growing public dissatisfaction with the reforms as being not sufficiently liberal and therefore failed to overcome the conservative trends that inhibited the country’s social and economic development. The government’s oppressive policy resulted in the appearance of the Narodnaya Volya – a clandestine terrorist organization, whose members assassinated Alexander II on March 1, 1881. The beautiful Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood was erected right at the murder site. Infuriated by his father’s assassination, Alexander III took an extremely tough line against radical organizations and curtailed all liberal reforms.
In the late 1800s, St. Petersburg became a capitalist city with national and foreign enterprises growing and banking systems developing. In the 1890s, construction was booming and blooming, and the city’s architecture began to grow taller. Liteiny bridge was built, and it was the first place in St. Petersburg to be equipped with street lights. It was the time when monuments to Catherine and Nicholas I were erected. Also, the first monument to the poet Alexander Pushkin was built.