History has a bad opinion about this time. After the forward progress of the Napoleonic era, we’ve got “reaction” in Russia. What’s reaction? Well, it’s the opposite of forward movement, led by people called reactionaries.
Emperor Alexander, for one, ditches his liberal agenda and starts getting deeper and deeper into religious faith and mysticism. Finally, he just chucks the whole governing-the-country gig altogether.
And history is way mad at him about this.
Tolstoy? Eh, he’s not mad so much. Mostly because he doesn’t think this was some kind of weird turn for Alexander as much as just something that was inherently there in his personality all along. (And why does that let him off the hook exactly? Shmoop’s logic meter says “nice try, buddy.”)
Tolstoy’s got another bit of circular reasoning as well – if Alexander had stayed awesome and done all the good, progressive things he was on his way to doing, what would all the people who opposed the reactionary government have done? They wouldn’t have gotten the chance to be history’s heroes. (Which again...what? Just because we now think the anti-reactionaries were the good guys, that means Alexander was right to suddenly be at the head of a repressive regime? We don’t really get it.)