The Trans-Siberian Railway

Igor Slepnev on the fin de siecle project that yoked together the Russias of Europe and Asia.

In 1891 an extraordinary picture was reproduced in newspapers all over the world. Far from imperial St Petersburg the Tsarevich Nikolai, the young heir to the Russian throne, was depicted pushing a wheelbarrow full of earth while his suite looked on with calm, even joyful approval. The date was May 19th, and the place, Vladivostok: construction on the Trans-Siberian Railway had begun.

In an edict directed at his son and heir, Emperor Alexander III emphasised that with this step Russia had begun to bring its eastern territories into active exploitation. When a monument was later unveiled to the 'Creator of the Great Siberian Way' in St Petersburg, Alexander was not wearing the regal garments of the Tsar of All the Russias, but a railway conductor's uniform.

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