Effects of the Serf Emancipation 1861

Advantages and Weaknesses of the Emancipation of the Serfs 1861 and later Household Serfs in 1866 within Tsarist Russia.

  • Created by: Justin
  • Created on: 18-02-14 15:30

Effects of the Serf Emancipation 1861


  • Social - The decline in Gentry was controversial and hastened opposition to the Tsar.
  • Social - Landlords still got money from peasants through redemption payments.
  • Military - A trained army reserve made up of Peasants was now possible with greater numbers available to join.
  • Military - The noble's power over conscription was removed with emancipation allowing for a series of Military reforms.
  • Economic - Emancipation is seen by some Historians as a vital stage in the transition towards a Capitalist economy.
  • Economic - It encouraged growth of railways, banking and industry etc.
  • Economic - It also encouraged a freer atmosphere in Russia and prompted an entrepreneurial initiative amongst the educated Peasants and Proletariat.
  • Judicial - Lords legal powers were removed which prompted legal reforms which were desperately needed.
  • Political - Growth of liberalism amongst forward thinking gentry, some were open to further reform.
  • Administrative - Old abuses now questioned.
  • Administrative - New local government structure deemed necessary to replace Lord's role because peasants were still reliant.
  • Administrative - With the reliance of peasants came a stronger Mir.
  • General - New atmosphere of change and reform gained momentum for further reform.
  • General - Old assumptions challenged; previously faults were just accepted, they now received criticism.
  • General - More of a democratic process concerning politics. Peasants had discussions with Nobles which politically awakened some of the upper class towards liberalism.
  • Process - Some serfs had already been freed voluntarily or by Alexander I in the Baltic Region.
  • State Peasants - Liberated with land in 1866 on better terms.
  • Finance - Peasants in theory had to pay 20% of cost of land direct to the Lord which often was not paid.


  • Social - Peasant discontent continued over new terms of emancipation.
  • Social - The desire for a 'Second Emancipation' developed amongst the peasant class.
  • Social - Ministry of Interior reported 647 Peasant riots in first four months following the emancipation. 70 Peasants were killed by troops in Bezdna in 1861.
  • Social - Peasants lost land.
  • Social - Terms of land from nobles on similar terms as under Serfdom.
  • Social - Peasants still had special courts and did not possess full citizenship rights.
  • Social - The massive population growth following the Emancipaton put extreme pressures on agricultural land.
  • Economic - Flow of peasants between towns was restricted by the Mir.
  • Economic - Agricultural production did not develop because Gentry were indebted so didn't feel obliged to upgrade machinery and Peasants were impoverished through Redemption payments.
  • Economic - A strict Mir retarded agricultural change and allowed primitive methods to continue.
  • Economic - Most peasant farms did not produce a natural surplus; in 1861 about a quarter of farms were not even self-sufficient which rose in 1900 to about half of all farms.
  • Economic - Peasants were burdened by redemption and other payments so there was no demand for goods from the largest proportion of Russian society.
  • Political - Gentry's loss of power over their serfs caused some to demand compensation in the form of greater political power through the assembly.
  • Political - The Gentry's new role in the Zemstva was not seen by some as sufficient.
  • Political - Most Gentry however, were conservative and resentful of change. The government had forced them to rally behind them with the threat of revolt looming from the Peasants.
  • General - Some nobles now questioned autocracy.
  • Process - Initial proposals were modified to appease nobles and were enacted on the whole by hostile bureaucrats.
  • Process - 1861 Emancipation Edict did not renew terms of land acquisition.
  • Beggar Allotments - Optional scheme of allotments which were not enough to live on so they ended up looking for alternative plots instead.
  • Land losses - Losses from landlords was a large proportion of land for very little gain for the peasants.


For Tsar Alexander II and his officials the emancipation was successful from the international aspect because the title of the policy alone showed Russia from a democratic view was stepping forward and the policy is most probably all other nations would have known of it. Politically speaking the Emancipation had not been successful for the Tsar, he had lost the willing support of his nobles who now supported him out of fear of a peasant uprising whilst some nobles had been sucked into the momentum of further reforms and liberalism. Whilst he had freed the serfs which opened up the consumer economy massively for industry which was needed, he now had the problem of them wanting more reforms because they had not got the terms they were promised to begin with.The peasants came off reasonably well because they were at least out of serfdom and had some hope of further reform.They had however been impoverished by the Tsar with redemption payments, small plots and no improvement within agricultural methods but these conditions were not much different than what they had before other than they were free to manage themselves and were not punished physically like under serfdom from their lords and through conscription. There was a perceived loss of ground towards the Tsar because they were promised more and now had the means to criticize which they never had before. On the whole the most significant advantage of the emancipation of the serfs was just that because it was a very big change which did outweigh the mass of disadvantages it had brought upon peasants which on the whole weren't new, they just had not been addressed by the emancipation.


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