With the Liberal reaction and strong reform movement which characterized the earlier years of Alexander II.'s reign (1855-1881) he thoroughly sympathized, and for some time he warmly advocated the introduction of liberal institutions of the British type, but when he perceived that the agitation was assuming a Socialistic and Nihilist tinge, and that in some quarters of the Liberal camp indulgence was being shown to Polish national aspirations, he gradually modified his attitude until he came to be regarded by the Liberals as a renegade.
The revolutionary movement was joined by some of the younger men, who formed local committees on the Nihilist plan, but it was strongly opposed by the Armenian clergy and the American missionaries, who saw the impossibility of success; and its irreligious tendency and the self-seeking ambition of its leaders made it unacceptable to the mass of the people.
On the very day on which this ukaz was signed-13th of March 1881 - he fell a victim to a Nihilist plot.
The socialism of this body was not, however, advanced enough for his views, and after studying the programme of the, more violent Jura Federation at Neuchatel and spending some time in the company of the leading members, he definitely adopted the creed of anarchism and, on returning to Russia, took an active part in spreading the nihilist propaganda.
The opportunity thus given for debate naturally stimulated the movement in favour of constitutional government, which received new impulses from the sympathetic attitude of the emperor Alexander II., his grant in 1879 of a constitution to the liberated principality of Bulgaria, and the multiplication of Nihilist outrages which pointed to the necessity of conciliating Liberal opinion in order to present a united front against revolutionary agitation.